“I’m here to find who killed my family.”
There a brief silence before John spoke up. “Well, I hadn’t thought you’re the vengeful type, my lady. I remember meeting you when you were much younger, while I had been training under your family. Your father was so protective of you. I thought you’d never walk in his footsteps… but here you are. Ready to fight with everything you’ve got.”
“Well, I’m not going to battle blindly, sir Lockwood. I said find. I didn’t say I’m going to kill those Roués.”
“Oh? Are you sure?” He seems amused.
“I want to ask that person why and how he’d done it.”
“Don’t we all,” John muttered before peering down on his phone. “I have to make another call. I’ll be right back.”
“Who are you calling, sir?” Kaleb finally jumped in as he sat at the furthest possible location from our Lycan guest.
“It’s not your parents if that’s what you think,” John lightly informed. “I’m calling my superior to report what happened today. She’s keeping tabs on us, seeing as she also sanctioned this mission.”
“Mistress Morgan? She’s keeping tabs on us?” Kaleb looked surprised by this information. “She’s a tough lady. I nearly groveled getting her approval for this.”
“You asked, lady Morgan?” I interjected, stunned at the revelation. Kaleb hadn’t told me the two of the four members of the ten Custodian royals he asked to allow this mission. And knowing one of them was Morgan, head of the Curatrix, it did come as a surprise.
Though Eliza Morgan is only a decade older than me, twenty-eight years old, her reputation within the Custodian community was very well-known. She took over as head of her family at the young age of twenty-one after her mother’s untimely death. And since her father had died when she was young, she had been the only heir. She and I were somewhat alike, being the only heiress of their family’s name and losing her parents early with unfortunate circumstances. However, it’s the only thing we had in common. She had to earn and work hard for her to keep her place in the Order. There were other prospects who would have taken her place – like her father’s brother – but Eliza didn’t bend. The woman was a stone cold ice queen.
The one time I met the woman, I felt a shiver run down my spine from only a look. Not once she spoke to me in the duration of the brief meeting. I’m not one to judge a person after one meeting, but that grilled a lasting first impression.
Looking at Kaleb’s expression, we both held the same level of fear for Eliza Morgan.
“I did. Since we’re heading close to her territory, it was etiquette I had to ask for her permission.”
“Right,” I stated like I knew what he meant.
As John left to make a call, Cole and I stayed with the rest of the group in the living room. After the cat was out of the bag, Ash started looking at me differently. I didn’t mind his stare. It was Cole who I was concerned with. But he looked calm.
“Cole, do you have anything to ask me?” I inquired when he remained quiet for a few minutes.
He watched me for a second before he spoke. “I understand why you hid it from me. However, I’m more concerned on what you thought of my family and I. You used to live here. I think you already did the calculation. My family had been residing in this area for nearly five generations.”
“You think I’m wary that your Clan had something to do with my family’s death?” I plainly stated his concerns.
He could only nod, looking cautious around me for the first time.
To ease his worry, I gave him a subtle smile. “After meeting your mom and you, I don’t think you’re responsible for what happened to them.”
“How could you be sure?”
“Because a guilty man wouldn’t throw himself in the line of fire.”
“What if my father was part of it and hid the truth from me…?” Rather than inciting the idea to me, the look of realization crossed his face. “What if he knew?” He muttered softly.
“Your dad wouldn’t have the resolve to hide something that big, Cole. He’d easily crack with one look from your mother.” Ash assured.
Slowly, reason came back to Cole’s expression. “You’re right. He isn’t the type to do something like that.”
“But, do you think he might have known something about that night?” Ash inquired, the idea floating in his consciousness.
“I don’t know…”
There was a brief silence before I suggested. “How about we ask him?”
Everyone looked at me in surprise. But it was more of Kaleb looking astonished-with a hint of disbelief-than Cole staring at me like I was a genius.
“I don’t think that’s a great…” Kaleb started but Cole interrupted him.
“I think that’s a great idea. We should go there now while the sun is still out.”
“You love any indication of getting her back to your territory, do you?” Kaleb huffed in frustration after Cole finished talking.
“She suggested it. I’m only agreeing to her wishes, unlike you.” Cole quipped.
Seeing the tension rising between them, I stepped in their line of sight, cutting off their deathly gaze. “Okay, I’m only suggesting the thought. It doesn’t have to be now. We’re still in a middle of something anyway, and we need approval from sir Lockwood.”
Like on cue, the man himself returned looking grim. I felt my stomach knot as I asked him what’s wrong.
“It would seem my Mistress Morgan asked me to head back and get the information I needed. And she wanted me to tell her what happened this morning. With the sudden Roué attack during daylight, it’s better she get those account from me personally… which means, this mission would be temporarily put on hold until I get back.”
“What? What do you mean ‘temporarily put on hold’? I’ve been waiting for this for nine years! I’m not stopping for anything!” I felt all my nine-year frustration exploding like a grenade.
“My lady, I apologize. I didn’t mean to make this sound like this mission isn’t important. I speak to all my Kynigan brethren; half of our heart and mind are always out there trying to find justice to what happened to your family. I promise you, this isn’t the end.” John avowed.
“Roe,” Kaleb called out when hadn’t responded to John’s word.
My heart felt like it was trying to burst out of my rib cage and the air had been knocked out of me. I knew I was overreacting. I’ve dealt with the rejection for years from the minister, Viktor Hunter. And suddenly I finally got what I wanted. It was within my grasp, only to be taken away from me too soon.
“It’s only a short break, Roe. We aren’t going anywhere. I promise you,” Kaleb stated again while I remained immobile, fighting for control.
“My lady, do you need some air?” Axel finally stood up from where he sat and reached out to me.
However, it wasn’t his touch that did the trick. The moment Cole took my hand, giving it an assuring squeeze; the wrath that slowly bubbled inside me dwindled. I saw reason again.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go off on you, sir Lockwood. The last thing I want to hear right now is people trying to pull me away from my goal.”
“I understand how you feel. No need to apologize, my lady.”
Cole kept his hand intertwined with mine to keep me from being an emotional wreck while Kaleb asked for more details about John’s conversation with his superior.
“I’ll be away for only a few days. And while I’m gone, I don’t want you four roaming around in an unfamiliar area now we know Roués are actively watching the place.” He gravely said.
“That’s understandable.” Tony agreed, nodding along at John’s terms while he wouldn’t be around.
“Can I ask a question?” Cole raised his free hand after the Custodian finished grilling John for information and instructions.
“Sure, go ahead.” John nodded.
“Would it be okay if Roe comes and go from our Clan’s compound? I assure you, no one would harm her. If they did, I won’t hesitate to take action in order to protect her.” From the look Cole had as he said those words, he was dead serious. Neither Ash nor Dan seems to look betrayed at how their Alpha declaring to protect a Custodian over his own kin.
“I hadn’t said I doubted you, little Blackwell,” John smirked. “But I’m not confident having the last surviving Knightley surrounded by Lycans either. So let’s take this by stride.”
“If it makes you sleep better at night, they could all come along as well. Roe and I need to talk with my father and mother. They might know something about her past and what’s happening between us now.” Cole pressed.
John regarded his words for a moment before sighing in defeat. “If you put it that way, I couldn’t really say no. However, not today, since your father’s adjusting security and expanding the perimeter.”
“Does my father know about Roe?”
From the tone of John’s voice, it would have been the same question I’d ask him.
“Of course. He personally helped out the Custodian during the investigation the next morning after the untimely tragedy in the Knightley mansion.”
“I see. Well go and meet with him tomorrow then.” Cole declared.
“Good, then I’ll leave you all here since I’ve already booked my flight tonight. I won’t be gone long.” John stated as he slowly backed away towards the main door. “And I’m leaving Axel in-charge when you’re with the Lycans. I’m sorry, Lord Hunter. I don’t entirely trust your sense of judgment when you’re around Lycans.”
Kaleb gave him a feigned smile in reply. “I couldn’t deny that observation.”
John gave him a respectful nod before opening the door. “Axel, take care of her.”
There wasn’t much that happened after John left us. It was awkward enough to have Custodians and Lycans in the same room, so to ease the tension I picked up the phone and ordered in some take-out since it was nearly dinnertime. As we ate, a light conversation floated in the room – thank Ash and Tony’s effort, which seemed to slowly grow friendly with each other. Axel was loosening up as well. However, Kaleb and Cole seemed to be brooding about something. Though Cole had a better chance of hiding it, Kaleb was so obvious how he was shooting daggers at Cole’s direction whenever part of our arm touched. Even the slightest brush and bump, I could feel Kaleb’s steely gaze on us.
When it was time for them to go, I felt both relieved and saddened. Today had been the longest time I’ve been with Cole since the Mate bond had been established. When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the connection between us grew more visible the longer we stayed close to each other. Now that we were about to separate again, the pain was no longer a mental concern. I felt like needles were pricking my heart.
Unconsciously, my hand reached out to him like it knows what it needs to soothe the pain. In sync, Cole accepted my outstretched hand, finally putting me in a tight embrace. All of these took place in the middle of the living room with everybody present.
“Hey, I’m here. I’m not going too far…” Cole whispered by my ear as he continued to hold me.
“This is bad. Why is this getting difficult?” My voice was muffled as I buried my face on his chest.
I could feel his body vibrate as he chuckled silently. “I’m asking myself the same question. Believe it or not, I’m also new to this as you are.” He admitted.
“My logical sense tells me I shouldn’t be hugging a Lycan right now. But my body tells me otherwise. It’s really a battle in my head and heart right now.”
“And which one is winning?”
“I’m hugging you so…”
Before the conversation crossed a line I could never go back, Tony cleared his throat, bringing my logical senses back in control. I slowly pulled away from Cole and kept my gaze away from the onlookers.
“So I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He lingered in front of me for a few seconds while Ash and Dan headed out first. His searching eyes studied my face before meeting my gaze and smiled. With one last goodbye, he followed the two out of the apartment.
“Well, I never thought you’re the clingy type, Roe,” Tony remarked cheekily, breaking the awkward silence in the room.
Now I turned and met my friend’s gaze. Tony looked amused, Axel still in his poker face, and Kaleb finally relaxed. My face flushed as what I had done dawned on me.
“I apologize for the uncomfortable scene. I’m still wrapping my head around this…”
“Roe, do you feel like you’re forced to feel that way towards him?” Kaleb abruptly asked. The way he said him had an edge to it.
“I won’t lie and say it wasn’t. However, I’m slowly getting more…”
“No. You don’t have to tell me how you feel about him. I’m just making sure you aren’t forced to make those actions.” Kaleb expressed.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” I muttered with slight uncertainty.
“As much as I’m happy for you, Roe, I can’t completely root for you and the Lycan prince, though I know it’s a losing battle for you.” Tony jumped in, reverting the good mood.
“My lady, it’s been a rough day. I suggest we all head to bed. I’ll be taking tonight’s guard shift,” Axel interjected, entirely shifting the conversation.
“I think we should take turns. I don’t want you losing sleep, Axel.” I argued. Looking at his sluggish expression, I’m not sure he’d make it through the night.
“I’ll take the second shift by two in the morning.” Tony offered.
“Are you sure?”
“Don’t worry. I’m reliable as well, my lady.” He cheekily stated.
I rolled my eyes and gave the boys one last goodnight before heading back to my room. After I’ve freshened up and laid down in bed, sleep didn’t take hold of me until it was nearly midnight.
Then a different and fresher nightmare visited me.
‘Where am I?’
I pinched myself, trying to feel something other than nothingness. But as I looked down to assess, I found out I wasn’t completely blind. Instinctively, I pulled out my 9mm Glock and expertly checked on the ammo before getting into a stance. Though I couldn’t see anything, I stretched my hearing for any incoming threat.
Out of nowhere, a loud thump caught my attention and then I felt a cold breath caressing my cheeks. Chills ran up and down my spine as I took a hasty step back.
On cue, a pair of red-shot eyes opened in front of me. Its reflection showed my horrified expression. Then a rumbling sound followed as the monster showed its white teeth. For a moment, I forget the weapon in my hand. But as reason came back to me, I raised the gun and aimed at the monster at point blank range. However, it hadn’t moved even if the threat was close to it. The monster only smiled triumphantly.
‘You can’t kill me, little lady.’
I gasped as I heard clear words coming out from the monster’s mouth. They’ve never talked to me, even in my dreams.
‘You’ll die before you could pull the trigger from that gun.’ The monster added.
Like a puppet, I felt my body stiffen as I started yelling to shoot.
‘You’ll die no matter what.’ His words continued to echo in the darkness.
‘You’ll die in your lover’s arms, little lady.’
Before I got to regain my control, I watched as its bare teeth snapped towards my head.
I gasped for air.
“What was that?” I muttered to myself.
Not sure what to make of it, I peered over the clock on my bedside table. It was three in the morning. Sleep was yet a lost cause after my nightmares. So I rolled out of bed and grabbed a jacket in my closet. I sneakily headed out of my room and studied the empty living room, listening to the light snores of my friends. I forgot one of them was on guard duty as I exited the apartment.
“Where are you going this early in the morning, my lady?”
My heart jolted turning around to see Tony leaning by the railing across the door.
“Tony? Of course, I forgot you’re here.” I mumbled in realization. “I thought you needed some company.” I skillfully added a lie.
Tony studied my expression and I knew what he saw. I couldn’t take a minute to check my appearance after waking up from a bad dream. Based on earlier experiences, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Thankfully, he played it cool.
“Do you want me to brew some coffee? Or do you prefer tea?” he offered.
“No. I’m fine. I just needed some fresh air.”
“While looking like you’re about to bolt on us?” he slyly observed, arching his eyebrow as he studied me from head to toe.
“I’m not going anywhere, Tony.”
“Are you sure? Because if you need to go somewhere…” Before Tony could finish, a familiar voice interjected him.
“Roe, are you okay?” Tony and I turned around in unison.
We hastily relaxed at Cole’s appearance. Just looking at him, my mood gradually got better. Cole gave both of us a curt wave before walking up to us.
“It looks like prince charming couldn’t sleep either,” Tony whispered underneath his breath, which I overheard clearly.
I didn’t mind his comment.
I met Cole halfway. Like it was expected, he opened his arms as I sank into his embrace. His warmth and his touch pushed aside all worries from the nightmare. Cole waited for me to calm down first before he asked again.
“Is there something wrong?”
“No. I’m fine now that you’re here. And since we’re in the topic, why are you here?” I half-heartedly inquired. Whatever reason it was, I’m glad he came. This was one of the upsides of having a magic blinding me into believing I’m okay. Even though I knew this wasn’t right, I didn’t care. I finally found a way to keep myself sane after a rough nightmare.
“I couldn’t really sleep. So I patrolled the area surrounding your place. It was then I felt something was wrong so I came here to check on you.” He admitted. Not even ashamed as he vaguely informed he was lightly stalking me.
However, the idea wasn’t what brought my interest. “You could feel I was troubled?”
“Just a little bit. The connection had gotten a bit stronger after I spent a considerable length of time with you yesterday.”
“So it wasn’t just the need for each other’s company? I might feel what you feel, and vise versa?” I asked with both interest and shock.
“If you were a Lycan, this would take effect the moment we knew and validate our connection. After we’ve mated, it will strengthen and we would no longer have secrets with each other…”
As my brain processed what he was saying, I pushed and stepped away from him. I watched as a slight hurt showed from his expression but he quickly hid it behind a poker face.
“Wait. Wait. You can’t just drop that bomb on me. And what do you mean after we’ve mated?”
He arched his eyebrow. “Do you really want me to spell what those words meant for you?”
He waited patiently as I understood his words. “Oh hell no!”
“I didn’t say we have to do it soon…” He added like it would make it better.
“I’m not having sex with you!”
I didn’t wait for his response and turned around to find Tony glancing between Cole and me with interest.
“Shut your mouth or you won’t see tomorrow again.” I threatened him before marching back inside the apartment.
To think I already have enough problems to think about. Now I’m thinking about giving up my chastity to a Lycan.
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