“Roe, are you okay?” Cole inquired the moment Axel and I reached the gate. Ash, Dan and him kept their distance throughout the drama, which was a good decision.
However, I could feel that he nearly took action, ready to protect me if something were to happen. But I knew Kaleb. Even if he hated my guts at the moment, he’d never dream of laying a hand on me – which ironically a few moments ago I didn’t. That alone made me guilty.
“I’m okay. Kaleb wouldn’t do anything rash even if I was wrong,” I defended.
“Roe, you don’t have to make excuses for him. And you have the right to choose who you tell your secrets to. Kaleb was overreacting.” Axel comforted me.
“Kaleb is family. I should have told him sooner, but I was just worried… what if he’ll think differently of me when I tell him?” For the first time, I voiced out one of my concerns.
There was a brief pause before Axel reassured me. “I know for a fact he won’t because I feel the same way.”
I hinted an underlying tone to his words, but we were interrupted when Cole abruptly turned his back to me. His shoulder tensed. Beside him, in unison, Ash and Dan followed with a guarded stance.
“What’s wro…?” I didn’t finish my question when I saw a Lycan approaching us a good mile away.
Even though Cole blocked most of the view, I knew it wasn’t a shadow. The Lycan walked closer and closer in our direction, making the three Lycan’s in front of us edgier.
“Is that one of your…?”
“No. It’s one of them.” Cole answered before I could finish. His word felt like ice as he said ‘them’.
From those words, an alarm went off my head. Suddenly my stance changed as well. Beside me, I felt Axel inching closer beside Cole. My hand automatically flexed towards my gun, but then I found my leg harness was empty. I mentally cursed when I remembered we’ve left them back in the car. However, I remember leaving my father’s dagger in my boots. So I had my body slightly arched downward, ready to reach it and take offensive action.
“Cole, stand down. He isn’t here for you,” a familiar commanding voice made us jump. Behind us, Charles Blackwell strode towards the front of the group.
As he passed by his son, he lightly gave him a tap on his shoulder, which automatically made him relax. However, none of his words or his Lycan trickery would work on me. Then, another person joined our group.
“What are you still doing here? You shouldn’t be here, Roe.” John sounded rattled as he joined us. It was a tone I didn’t dream of hearing from the man known as a Calvary in the battlefield.
“We were… I was…” I stuttered, unsure how to explain it to him.
“Where are Kaleb and Tony?” He dismissed my attempt and barked another one instead.
Slowly, the pressure of the situation was dawning on me. “They are… I don’t…”
“They’re a few miles out, east from here. They will be back.” Axel came to my rescue as he returned to my side.
Even with a sound response, it didn’t break John’s mood. He swore underneath his breath as he looked ahead at the incoming possible threat. Even after I killed three Roués earlier in the morning, watching the enemy in front of us still put me on edge. Before I could catch a breath, the Lycan suddenly disappeared as it passed by a thick tree. My heart lurched, thinking it might make a surprise attack while we were distracted. So I glanced around the area for a quick assessment. But there was nothing but open field and a run-down mansion.
“Don’t worry. This place had been secured already by the Blackwell Clan,” John reassured, now back to his calm and collected self. In the corner of my eye, I noticed him intently staring from where the Lycan disappeared. “He’s shifting to his human form.” He added when I remained silent.
Like on cue, a man reappeared from where the Lycan had hidden. He hadn’t said anything until he was a good ten yards away from our group.
“Brother, I see you are looking well and healthy.” The man finally spoke. His voice was loud and clear.
There was a moment of silence before Charles spoke. “And I’m glad to see you are as well, Maddox.”
Like a gearshift, the man’s eyebrow furrowed as he continually glared at Charles. “You’ve always been chummy with Custodians, even now. Even though I’m your blood, you’d readily throw me away like I’m some garbage…”
“As I’ve said, you made your choice, Maddox. You know how drastic criminal actions could sever our ties. And what you did had more than criminal intent,” Charles interjected.
“Is that why you’ve called me out after all these years?” He paused as his gaze swiftly fixed on me. “I’m not stupid, brother. I know that little Custodian girl standing behind you.” His words were chilly. He was hiding his distaste upon addressing my presence. “Don’t think I won’t notice when one of them finally step foot in this place.”
“If you continue this Maddox, I won’t hesitate anymore,” Charles warned.
“Finally.” He grinned gleefully.
I saw a shift in Charles stance as Maddox stepped close. He crouched down and leaped, his clothes ripping apart as his body grew bigger, hairier, and muscular. My eye grew wide upon seeing a Lycan shift as the sun peeked behind the horizon. The change was quick, but I could see each fiber of his human form turning into a beast.
My heart stopped as Charles charged forward and shifted in front of us as well. Without a warning sign, I saw rather than heard a pack of Lycans running in the west and east side of Maddox, cornering him. Charles charged towards him, while Maddox, in his burgundy Lycan form, was distracted by the reinforcement.
Outnumbered and outmatched, Maddox bared his teeth at his brother with rage before swiftly turning back around and bolting at top speed away from us. The new addition to our team followed him closely until they disappeared in the distance.
“They won’t follow him far. They’re making sure he’s out of our lands.” It was the first time I heard Cole’s voice again after the sudden confrontation.
I’m not sure he was saying it to assure me or inform John. Either way, it served its purpose by informing us of what was happening.
“Since your father can’t tell me the situation, I presume you’d fill me in,” John stated, breaking his gaze away from where the enemy had run off.
“Who the freaking hell was that man? Is he your…?” I interjected, still in shock.
“Yes, he’s my Uncle. Maddox Blackwell.”
John stared at him for a moment before mumbling into a series of profanities. When he slightly calm down, he asked another one. “Is he the leader of those Roués? Is he a…?”
“My father banished him from our Clan years ago. And yes, he’s the leader of those Roués who attacked us.” Cole evenly answered his question.
“Banished? Are you kidding me? And you didn’t give us a heads up about this?”
“He hadn’t shown himself in this territory since that day. So we weren’t sure until father got a connection from one of his men, who formerly was also a member of our Clan.”
John glared at him. “How many? And how bad was it that you banished your own kin?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have the answer to that. You need to ask him,” Cole nodded in Charles direction that lingered in his Lycan form.
John turned his piercing stare at Charles’ before looking at Axel and me. “You two find Kaleb and Tony and head back to the apartment. Don’t do any detours or play hero by chasing after Roués, do you hear me?”
I cleared my throat before answering. “Yes, sir.”
“Axel, keep an eye on her,” John commanded, not even embarrassed I was there. “She’s precious cargo.”
“I’m not that precious,” I muttered in disagreement, but John ignored the remark.
“If it’s okay with you, may I join them as well? I can’t be apart from Roe, especially when I know there is danger close by,” Cole jumped in before Axel and I separated from them.
John peered at Cole in surprised, then his eyes briefly glanced in my direction and then back at him again. “Damn it! And I thought this was one of the easy workloads I’ve been tasked to do.” He said his thoughts aloud.
“Let’s not talk about this right now. As long as you’re safe, I’m not judging who’ll willingly protect you, Roe.” He declared.
I nodded in reply.
“Axel, I’ll put you in charge. If Kaleb has a problem with your company, tell him to suck it up.” John ordered.
With that, John walked past Cole and came face to face with Charles in his Lycan form. Even though the man was tall, he looked Lilliputian beside a beast. And for the first time, I saw a vulnerable side of John.
“Come on, let’s find Kaleb and Tony,” I ordered and nudged Axel’s arm as he finally looked away from John’s retreating back.
Axel walked closely on my right while Cole took my left side. Behind us, Ash and Dan strode close by. It hadn’t taken long to find the two. The property was bordered with brick walls at least fifteen feet high. Upon seeing us heading towards them, Kaleb grew alert again. But it was quickly pushed aside when Axel hastily gave him a brief rundown of what just happened.
“But we were only gone for a few minutes.” Tony huffed in disbelief after hearing the short description of the confrontation.
“A few minutes could run like hours in our world, you know,” Axel remarked dryly.
For a moment, Kaleb looked guilty for leaving us. But when his gaze turned to Cole, it was gone. “And why is he with you? I presume John asked us to hurriedly go back.”
“I asked permission from your leader to stay with Roe,” Cole declared.
“Of course, you have the etiquette to ask,” Kaleb remarked sarcastically.
“Kaleb, can we not do this here?” I warned, starting to get annoyed at his attitude.
He peered between Cole and me then gestured towards the exit.
“Let’s go then.”
Since there was only a limited amount of seat in our vehicle, Cole insisted we make a short detour back to the Blackwell compound. Kaleb was against it, obviously. However, John placed Axel in-charge, and Axel makes his decisions based on mine. So he didn’t have much choice but to follow me.
Reaching back to Cole’s place, what used to be a quiet front porch turned into a mini gathering area. For a moment, I’ve grown weary at my choice of being here. After what had happened, the Lycans in the Blackwell Clan would be in high alert.
As we parked the car beside the jeep Cole drove this morning, the man himself appeared before I got to open my door. Like a gentleman, he opened the door for me. Seeing his face, with no imminent danger in sight, my heart softened and suddenly the pull grew a bit stronger. Unconsciously, my body started to move on its own. I reached out and took his hand so boldly, unaware of the audience looking at us with interest.
Once our hand was intertwined, Cole’s face softened as well and a smile tugged at the edge of his lips. Then all I could see was his lips. What would it feel like on mine now?
Before my mind fell deep in the gutter, a familiar voice called out to us.
“Honey! Goodness! I’m glad you all are alright.” Clarisse pushed passed a couple of bystanders blocking her way until she reached us.
She gave Cole a brief hug before turning to me. Like this morning, I stiffened at the sudden contact. But I didn’t make any movement to push her away. I knew she means well.
“Where’s your father, Cole?” Clarisse inquired after letting me go.
“He’s securing the perimeter again.” Cole vaguely answered.
Clarisse stared at her son for another second before turning her attention to me. A small smile tugged at the edge of her lips. “I’m glad you’re okay, honey. When I heard that you’ve gone with the boys, I nearly had a heart attack. But I know Cole won’t let you out of his sight.”
“He didn’t,” I assured.
“Good.” She beamed at her son proudly. “Oh! Since everyone is here, would you like…?” Her expression quickly turned serious.
“Not now, mom. We’re actually in a hurry. Roe needs to head back to a secure location.” Cole briskly answered.
“Why don’t you stay here instead? There’s nothing more secure than the center of the country’s strongest Lycan Clan.” Clarisse offered.
“No, mom. She needs to be far away from here.” Cole argued though he sounded like he was frustrated at the vague reply.
“Why? Did something happen out there?” She pressed.
Before Cole could argue back, Axel joined us. “Excuse me. I apologize for suddenly waltzing in without any announcement. But we are in a hurry. Our supervisor had tasked us to head back. And we’re already a few minutes late.”
“Thank you for the offer, Clarisse. I’ll be safe at our place.” I added, seeing as she was about to argue Axel.
She studied my expression before sighing in defeat. “Okay. But please visit again. I’ll make a proper meal and introduce you to the family.”
Not sure how to respond to her offer, I nodded in reply. With that, we hastily switched cars and took the two jeep – since it looked sturdier. Riding with Cole and I was Axel and Kaleb, while Tony had gone with Ash and Dan. The drive back to the apartment was suffocating. At some point, I tried to lessen the tension with small talk instead it worsened. So I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the way.
Arriving at the parking lot of the apartment, I hadn’t waited for Cole to put the jeep into a full stop and jumped out. I had enough with the three of them. I kept on walking and led everyone to our place. Ash’s jeep arrived a minute later and the rest of our group went inside. Having six grown men in the living room made the place look smaller than it was. In an actual sense, the place was stifling. So I excused myself and headed to my room for a breather. Feeling a bit gnarly, I quickly changed clothes and I laid down on my bed, trying to gather my cluttered thoughts. What now?
A knock on my door brought me back to high alert again. And it started to make me weary. With disinterest, I called the person in. As the door cracked open, Cole’s head peered in before he opened it further.
“Hey, I didn’t want to intrude. I just wanted to see if you’re okay after today.”
“Thank you for asking. But I’m fine, Cole.”
“Good…” he nodded and lingered by the door for a moment. “Actually, that’s not all I came here for.”
“I’ve guessed as much,” I stated and gestured to the only chair in my room by my desk. “Please take a seat.”
Cole finally closed the door behind him and settled on the chair. Once he was comfortable, I waited patiently for him to bring up his concerns.
He cleared his throat first. “There are a lot of things I want to clear out before something happens again…”
I nodded. Not sure what to say.
“You already know that I’m an Alpha. I have territorial issues when it comes to you being around another male whether human, Lycan, or Custodian. As an Alpha, I’m also drawn to you and being away from you for a longer length of time isn’t great for my Clan. They’ll feel most of the backlash of it.”
“So, I wanted to clear it out and hope you’d consider having me close to you. I don’t know what’s it like on your end, seeing as you aren’t a Lycan…” he trailed off, weighing his words.
“It’s more or less the same for me, Cole. But I was trained to have self-control. And I’ve been pushing that control nearly at its limit.” I finally admitted. “To tell you the truth, I’m tired already.”
“You don’t have to fight it, Roe. I’ll meet you half way. I’m not going anywhere, seeing as I can’t. I will be there, or anywhere you need me to be. That’s part of what it means to be soul mates.”
“I don’t think you should be promising anything to me right now, Cole. Even if we are destined and bounded, we still have our free will.”
“Not for us.” He muttered softly, but it wasn’t low enough I could mishear.
However, I couldn’t argue his testament when I got another knock on my door. This time rather than waiting for my reply the person burst in uninvited. Kaleb opened the door wide enough that I could see everyone uncomfortably sitting in the living room.
“Sir Lockwood is here.” It was the only thing he said before turning back around, leaving the door open.
A bit annoyed at his behavior, I rolled my eyes and stood up. “Let’s talk about this some other time, Cole.”
“Of course. I’ll wait until you’re ready.” From how he said those words, it had double meaning like a vow and promise.
We both rejoined the group in the living room. With them was John, who I saw just finished a phone call. He studied Cole and me before asking the obvious question.
“So, what’s with the two of you? Are you together or something? I’ve never thought you’d date a Lycan, my lady.”
Cole looked confused for a second but kept quiet.
“Remember a few nights ago I’d ask you about the Mate principle, Sir Lockwood? Well, it’s more of that than my willingness to be with one.” I pointed out.
“Wait… no. Are you two…? Soul Mates?” John looked between Cole and me awestruck.
Cole nodded while I answered. “Yes.”
John huffed in frustration. “Damn! This would complicate things.”
“Have you told him about why you’re here?” He disregarded my attempt to ask him what’s wrong.
“No, sir. And he doesn’t know about my lineage as well.” I firmly replied.
Now that got Cole’s attention.
“What do you mean about your lineage?”
I turned to John, waiting for him to answer him. He let out a heavy breath and studied me for a moment. “I told your father about our real situation. And I’m glad he had kept it from you for now…” he trailed off as he pulled out his phone from his front pocket.
“What?” Cole was starting to get frustrated.
“You see she isn’t just some normal Custodian, little Blackwell. She’s an important member of the Custodian Order. Consequential. Valuable.”
“I never thought you think of me that way, sir Lockwood.”
“Of course, all Kynigans know who you are, my lady Knightley.”
As John finally addressed me with my real family name, Cole had become quiet again.
For the first time, the other Lycans in the room spoke up. Well, more like Ash made his presence known. Dan remained like a shadow lingering by the hallway leading to the main exit.
“Knightley? Isn’t that the Custodian family who used to reside in that old burnt compound we were at?” He inquired, and then he finally connected the dots. “Is that why you’re here? Are you trying to find out what happened to your family?”
“I already know what happened to them, Ash. I was there that night,” I stated darkly. “I’m here to find who killed my family.”
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