It was broad daylight, yet the forest was eerily quiet when we arrived. There hardly was any sound of animals or a gush of wind. The creepy stillness made each strand of hair on my arms stand.
Suddenly, my earpiece screeched and gave me a jolt. It was John.
“Are you in position?”
There was a brief pause before Kaleb spoke.
“In position. Two targets incoming on the east.”
“Red and black coming up in the rear. One target sighted,” I followed monotonously.
“Vantage point. I see five targets in total inside the perimeter.” Tony’s voice cracked in after mine.
“I got the two,” John stated lastly before we’ve all gone radio silent again.
From where I stood, hiding behind a pine tree, the quietness was an advantage. In fact, it was what I needed to specifically pinpoint my target. With swift movements, I took out my handgun tucked inside my leg harness. Like a dance, I sidestepped with my back to the tree trunk and kept my presence hidden as a Lycan and a Roué ran towards my direction. I bent my knee in preparation, like a panther waiting to pounce on its prey. As the Roué nearly leaped within my line of sight, I skidded towards it and swirled away from its attack.
With my gun in hand, I didn’t think twice and aimed towards its leg. The creature shrieked in pain and rolled into a halt. While my target still distracted, I hastily stood up and surveyed my handiwork. The Roué stopped making a noise yet its breathing was faint. I fired the necessary three bullets, two hitting the head and one towards the heart, ending its momentum of pain.
Before I could regroup and called out Axel from his hiding spot, another Roué nearly caught me off guard and leaped from my blind spot. With my heightened senses, I was able to dodge its teeth snapping in my direction. I fired in its direction in a fluid movement. The bullet ricocheted as the Roué evaded it. But the second shot wasn’t something he anticipated.
BANG! It grazed its ear, making the Roué bark in rage.
As the creature was able to balance on the ball of its feet, I grounded my stance, ready to aim for the kill. The Roué bared its teeth and charged in my direction with an intent to end my life. Unfazed by the imminent death, I held up my gun and aimed.
Three consecutive shots echoed in the darkness. BAM!
Within seconds, a mere arm’s length away, the Roué stopped and sluggishly knelt down in front of me. It’s piercing dark eyes dulled after it let out one last breath.
Contented I finished the job, I returned the dagger I held in my other hand, which was useless throughout the fight. I looked around for a quick scan to be sure no more surprises were coming my way. However, I spoke too soon.
“My lady!” Axel’s yelled.
My senses sharpened again. I felt rather than heard another group running at top speed in our direction.
“Damn! What is this? Did we pick the wrong spot?” I grumbled under my breath while taking out my other gun clipped securely on my leg harness.
With two handguns, I was at a disadvantage with close combat. But if I saw a Roué ten feet away from me, it’ll end up like the two that are currently burning slowly into ashes – a trait Lycans have when they died with pure silver bullets coated with a Curatrix’s elixir.
Hearing their huge paws running closer and closer, I readied my stance. One, two, three, four, five, six, I mentally counted the numbers incoming towards us.
“My lady, I can’t stay hidden. There are too many of them.” Axel finally showed himself and positioned behind me.
I fought back the urge to glower at him and kept a steady watchful gaze in front of me. “Damn it, Axel! I already killed two. While you handled the sniper, it’ll be an easy target killing six Roués.”
“I’m sorry, my lady. I can’t watch you fight in the kill zone. It’s gone against my family’s oath and my lineage to protect a Knightley at all cost.”
“I’m not dying, Axel. Don’t be so dramatic.” I huffed in frustration and stopped mid-rant. “They’re here,” I stated low and stern a second later, knowing he could hear me clear as day.
For a moment, we were alone. Then suddenly three Lycans emerged from the shadows behind one of the tall trees around us. On my back, facing Axel, I knew three more stood in that direction. There was a brief second when my heart lurched with fear. But it quickly quieted as my mind blocked out the feeling. Both my hands automatically raised and aimed at the Lycans in front of me. With only two guns and three enemies, the likeliness of the remaining one reaching me was relatively high. However, for nine years, I trained how to use a gun. It had become a part of my arm now. Like a muscle, I could easily point it at the remaining target the moment I killed its two companions.
So I calculated my course of action. At that moment, I didn’t realize I knew the Lycans standing in front of me. As I was about to fire, the Lycan who stood in the middle barked loud and clear. The sound snapped me out of my concentration. It was then I noticed its familiar black fur and ocean blue eyes.
It was the second time I’ve seen his beast-like form. Then I remember that first time. There was no fear. After days that conspired after I saw his Lycan form, it gave me an insight as to why I wasn’t afraid. Now, looking at his majestic black fur and ocean eyes, I understood what I felt when I first saw him. I was in awe. My mate was beautiful.
“My lady, do we shoot?” Axel’s strained voice brought me out of my dreamlike state.
Confident that the threat wasn’t on my end, I walked around and studied the three Lycans in Axel’s direction. Analyzing their glowing eyes, their monstrous-like teeth all bared, ready for battle, without hesitation, I aimed and fired six consecutive shots at their direction. It took a moment for Axel to react, which gave the one Lycan I hadn’t shot a chance to attack. But the reinforcement behind us had already made their move.
The huge black Lycan collided with the enemy. With their teeth bared, there was a brief struggle as the two beasts rolled and clawed at each other. But it was easy to see who’d win the fight. The Roué was outweighed and outnumbered. Even if the black Lycan had the slightest possibility of losing, I could finish the job with three bullets.
When the Roué was pinned down, the black Lycan hesitated on making the finishing blow. Though his teeth were close to its neck, he hadn’t moved an inch and gone for the kill. I raised my gun bewildered by the pause. So I readily aimed if ever it broke away. Once the black Lycan moved a muscle, I anticipated him to snap the Roué’s neck. But he slowly moved away. My finger inched closer to the trigger. Suddenly, the two Lycans within our group blocked my view. Noticing their familiar fur color, I addressed them by name.
“Move it, Ash, Dan.”
The dark gray Lycan, which I knew was Ash from the last time I saw him in his wolf form, turned towards me and subtly shook his head, telling me no.
“You can’t allow that Roué to go, Ash,” I argued even though I knew I’d never get a verbal response from him.
Ash only glared at me before turning around and flanking behind Dan, who stood close to the Roué.
Reading the situation, I huffed in exasperation and put away my weapon. Axel, who silently watched and stood beside me, took a few steps closer towards the enemy in a defensive stance.
A loud bark erupted in the direction of the black Lycan, something I hadn’t expected. However, the brief exchange made my frustration grow. I watched as the enemy stood up and slowly started limping away from our group. My empty hand balled into a fist while the other still clenched on the gun I held.
After making a sound judgment that no enemy was coming and ambushing us, I glared at the three Lycans.
“What the hell was that?” I burst in rage.
I hadn’t gotten a response right away. The black Lycan abruptly ran behind the trees and disappeared for a good minute before a man emerged from the same direction. Walking towards us was Cole, shirtless and bared feet.
“I had to let him go. My dad’s orders,” he replied. His voice loud and clear.
“Any reason why he asked you to do that? Because that’s a Roué. And we don’t mercifully let them go even if they begged us.”
“We don’t ask questions when ordered.”
“Not a great excuse,” I sarcastically quipped.
“I’m not making an excuse here, Roe. I don’t like what I just did, but I don’t have a choice.”
“Right. Heard you the first time.” I snorted and turned to Axel, nodding my head as a signal we’re heading out.
As we were about to leave the group, a hand gripped my arm and halted me mid-stride. Even though the touch wasn’t skin-to-skin, my gut knew who it was, which only annoyed me even more.
“We’re going, Cole. Let go of my arm.” I stated.
“Why were you alone in the kill zone? Why isn’t he with you?” He grimly asked, glancing briefly at Axel.
“I think I’ll use your answer for that. It’s my job.”
Cole’s eyes twitched while holding back his irritation. When he hadn’t said anything, I tugged my arm away from his grip.
“We need to head back and report,” I informed, feeling a bit guilty about the tension between us. But that’s the Mate connection talking, something I couldn’t ignore.
Cole and the rest watched Axel and I walked away without a word.
Arriving back at our rendezvous, I caught Tony’s subtle look before he glanced away and returned to his laptop, checking the satellite scan for Roués in the area. A few paces away from him, Kaleb lingered underneath a tree with his arms crossed. His eyes were scanning the area. Not once he peered in my direction, which was a sign he wasn’t in the mood to talk.
“Where’s John?” I spoke up, breaking the silence.
“Hadn’t heard from him since our last check.” It was Tony who answered.
A bit worried, I used the in-ear communication and personally called for him. “John, where are you? The team is all here.”
There was nothing but silence for a few seconds.
Then he replied. “Meet me at the Knightley compound.” His words were brief. He didn’t even bother explaining where he was and why he was late.
Rather than asking questions, since the task wasn’t done, we all huddled out and took the car that Tony hid close by. The drive to the location was quiet, which was expected. If one of them started sprouting out what they wanted to say, we would be breaking protocol and lose concentration of the mission. Reaching the site, I could see it wasn’t only me who felt choked from the silence.
We all filed out of the car, leaving it a few yards away from the abandoned compound. When we got to the gate, everyone grew alert. We all knew we weren’t alone. Kaleb took the lead while Tony and Axel flanked beside me.
“Can’t we catch our breath before seeing one more of those beasts?” Tony couldn’t hold back his remark.
None of us seconded his words, but our silence spoke volume. We weren’t a fan of seeing Lycans in the middle of the day. It felt unnatural since they are described as creatures of the night.
A few yards from the burnt remains of what used to be my childhood home was John and a few men. It wasn’t until we were a good distance I noticed they were all barefooted except for John, who wore identical outfits like the rest of us.
“John,” I called when none of them looked in our direction once we approached.
Their voices were hushed and low that our heightened hearing couldn’t even catch. What was the use of the extra in-born gift if you couldn’t use them when needed?
When John finally turned, the group with him slowly dispersed and headed in a different direction. The three of us stiffen, waiting for something to happen. But nothing.
“You’re here. Good,” John stated rather than greet us. “Did you get them all?”
“Yes, sir,” Kaleb answered, who was first to ease up.
I paused for a second before answering. “We took down four. But one got away.”
John at me and arched his eyebrow. “What?”
“One of the Lycans let the Roué go,” I admitted.
John looked unsure he heard me clearly. “What do you mean one of the Lycans let a Roué go?” He felt my answer wouldn’t be substantial, so he peered at Axel.
“One from the Blackwell Clan waltzed in our spot. We took down four, but they allowed one to go.” He explained in my stead.
“Who let it go?”
John contemplated. He then turned towards the men who remained behind him. I noted only a handful stayed with us. And from the wrinkles of their eyes and the creases on their forehead, they were the oldest in the group.
“Would you care to explain that, Beta Mikael?” John addressed the man closest to him.
My ear perked up at the title and name he used at the Lycan. Beta Mikael, he must be Ash’s father.
“I’m not ordered to answer that, Sir Lockwood. But my Alpha assured me nothing bad would come of it.”
“Huh! Right,” John sarcastically remarked and snorted. He turned back to us and nodded his head, both a sign of dismissal of the mission. His look of disinterest had an underlying tone of distrust towards our Lycan company.
I could feel everyone hesitating to go, but John looked calm when he started talking with the Lycans. Confident no one from their kind looked hostile, I turned and tapped Axel’s arm before heading back towards the car. However, halfway towards the entrance of the compound, I saw a familiar group waiting in front of the gate. Even with great distance between us, his piercing blue eyes caught my line of sight. It brought me to a halt.
“Roe…” Axel called and stopped beside me.
“Who does he think he is coming here after what he did?” Kaleb grumbled as he stood by my other side.
“Kaleb, it’s not like…” I said but trailed off when I realized I was defending a Lycan.
Without looking in my direction, he muttered in irritation. “From what I saw in that room a few hours ago, it looks like what it is. And he pulled a stunt like letting a Roué go. What the heck were you doing with a Lycan? With him, for that matter?”
I was about to properly explain the gist of it when he continued walking towards Cole’s group. For a second, my body became rigid. Once I regained my control, I rushed to his side and grabbed his arm.
“Kaleb, don’t do anything stupid. You don’t understand…” I started again. But I couldn’t get the whole word out as he tugged his arm back and confronted Cole.
There was a shred of composure to Kaleb’s demeanor as he stopped just a good distance before Cole’s group. However, if a fight broke out, they were only a couple of strides away.
“What sort of magic did you conjure, allowing you to touch her? And who gave you the freaking right to endanger her by letting a Roué leave?!”
I flinched as Kaleb’s voice grew louder word per word. I peered around for a quick look, worried the other group of Lycans behind us heard him. To my confusion, they were nowhere to be found. However, John was still there. He had his back to us with a phone by his ear. Relieved no one would see Kaleb’s moment of regret, I turned back to him and grabbed his wrist.
“Kaleb, for goodness sake. He didn’t do anything, okay? It wasn’t his fault.” I answered in Cole’s place, a bit proud at how easily the lie slipped off my tongue. Of course, he did something in order for me to feel the Mate Bond. It was cheesy how this all started from a kiss. But I couldn’t justify his actions on letting an enemy go.
“I’m not an idiot, Roe. I know how this works with their kind and superstitions. We both went to the same Custodian school.” I’m happy to hear a bit of sarcasm back in him. But the crease between his eyebrow wasn’t going away.
“I won’t treat you like an idiot if you stop acting like one,” I scolded. “I’m the one having a hard time wrapping this around my head for three days…”
I bit my lips at the slip. “Can we just find a more private place? I’ll tell you the whole story. I promise.”
“What do you mean by three days, Roe?” He pressed and ignored my plea.
My heart sank as guilt started clawing up my chest. “I’ve known about Cole and my connection a few days ago.”
“What connection? I thought the mutt just like taunting you. I thought he knew what you are…”
Feeling stupid as I realized Kaleb couldn’t piece anything at all, I stayed silent.
“What connection, damn it, Roe?!”
“We’re soul mates!” I finally blurted out.
Then he spoke. His voice low and controlled. “How long did you know?”
He cussed underneath his breath. Enraged, he turned around and looked between Tony and Axel, who I knew wasn’t fazed at the news.
“From the look on your faces, I presume you knew about this before today,” Kaleb stated.
“Axel knew about it longer than I had,” Tony lamely defended.
“Not a good excuse, Tony,” Axel softly commented.
“When are you going to tell me?” Kaleb roughly asked.
“I was going to tell you soon. But I didn’t know how to tell you…”
“You say that, yet you didn’t think twice upon telling these two idiots!”
“Hey, I’m more reasonable than you are,” Tony butt in again. Sometimes he had no regards with grim situations.
“Shut up, for now, Tony. I’m pissed you didn’t at least give me a hint,” Kaleb picked on him before turning back on me. “Is that really your excuse, Roe? It seems too shallow, even for you.”
“With your behavior right now, you’re the one looking like a shallow and shitty friend,” I argued back, feeling hurt by his words.
“Of course I’ll start being a shitty friend when you’re the one keeping things from me!” He blew up again.
“Don’t be a hypocrite! You hid things from me as well! Do you need me to remind you?” Before I’d regret hitting him, a hand gripped my wrist as I was about to go for it.
“Roe, I don’t think you’ll be happy after you’ve done it,” Axel stated before letting my hand go. “And Kaleb, don’t be such a grouch. Do you think Roe likes what’s happening to her right now?”
Kaleb glared at Axel but otherwise didn’t give him a response. Finally, Tony gathered back his wits after being shut down by Kaleb. He grabbed him by the shoulder and nudged him away from the group.
“Come on, man. How about we get some fresh air and get away a little bit?” Tony suggested.
Kaleb peered quickly between Axel and me before his eyes trailed towards the gate, where I could still feel Cole’s eyes boring through me. Without a word, he turned around and headed on the west side of the compound, which away from the Lycans standing by the gate.
I kept still while watching Kaleb and Tony walking further away from us. A minute later, Axel nudged my arm, breaking me from my trance.
“He’ll come around, Roe. Don’t worry.”
“I know. But this is all on me.”
Thank you so much for your patience. Will update tomorrow on time. I've been busy for the weekend until yesterday. Happy reading!
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