I could hear my own heartbeat as Charles started dragging the guy from his corner towards a steel chair. It was oddly positioned underneath the only source of light in the room. Cole, Kaleb, and Ash’s father were the only ones permitted to enter. Kaleb couldn’t be bothered to be excluded. Since Axel normally listens to me, it was easier to persuade him. Tony is lethargic when it comes to on-hand interrogation. He doesn’t have the stomach putting on a poker face for a longer length of time.
The silence came to a stop when Charles pulled off the tape from the prisoner’s mouth.
“F*CK YOU! I’M NOT TELLING YOU SH*T.”
“Are you sure that’s your decision?” Charles challenged.
The Roué glared at Charles. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.” He angrily remarked.
“But do you?”
In his silence, the Roué continued his piercing stare at Charles. Cole finally stepped forward and confronted the enemy.
“Here is how it will go for you,” he coldly started. He sounded threatening. “If you don’t tell us anything, you’ll be spending a lot of downtime in a small dark room with little to no air ventilation and once a month supply of water - and with your rude behavior, I’m not letting you have a decent meal.”
“If you want to kill me, just do it already!” He spat back.
“Dying is too easy for someone like you. Your fellow Roués had done a lot of damage in our lands.” For a second, I could literally feel the weight of his threat. But it subsided as he reached out at my unguarded hand, giving it a little squeeze - like he was assuring me.
After Cole was finished with his piece, Charles took over again and restarted with another round of questions. Each time, the Roué continued to spat insult after insult towards him. I don’t know how long we were in there. But it was long enough to put Kaleb on edge. He finally walked up to Cole and me. His eyebrows furrowed in annoyance.
“This is wasting our time. There’s nothing we could acquire from this vermin. We have a higher chance of finding the answers out there than in here.”
“I understand how you feel, Kaleb. But we have one of our answers here. We can’t just turn away and not try,” I argued.
“We’ve been trying for nearly three hours now. And this little trash is not budging,” he grumbled under his breath.
“Don’t worry. He’ll eventually cave in. I could feel it,” Cole interjected. Kaleb glanced at him but otherwise didn’t make a comment.
But the Roué never did. I had to applaud his tolerance. Though slowly Kaleb’s mood was rubbing off on me. As we reached the four-hour mark, Charles finally stopped and called in reinforcements. I turned and watched as five men marched inside, with a black bag, handcuffs and packing tapes in hand. Without as much as a verbal signal or a flinch, they surrounded the prisoner and untied him from his seat before cuffing him up, putting tape over his mouth, and covering a black cloth over his head. He looked like a prisoner from a mafia movie. Before I got to see them hauling him out of the chair, Charles and Cole guided Kaleb and I back out towards the main room.
Upon seeing us exit, Tony and Axel jumped from where they sat on the floor and met us halfway.
“Did you get anything?” Tony was the first to ask.
“How are you, my lady?” Axel followed.
“I’m fine. We didn’t get anything from the Roué,” I replied. “Though at least we got one prisoner, which wasn’t a total waste of effort.”
I hadn’t noticed Cole still holding my hand until he squeezed it again. I peered up at him and gave him a faint smile.
“I think it’s best we take the rest of the day off. This isn’t a matter we could solve in a day,” Charles started and then turned to me. “But I assure you, Rhoane, we’ll try again tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Charles. It means a lot.”
We hadn’t remained in the area long and quickly headed back towards the house. Once we got there, I noticed an increasing number of unfamiliar faces standing outside the house. Though the whole compound consisted of loyal members of the Blackwell Clan, Charles was being cautious with his security - especially now that we were involved as well.
As soon as we got inside the house, no one wanted to return to our respected rooms. So we all lingered in the living room and discussed what we were going to do for the upcoming weeks - seeing as our cover was already blown. But there wasn’t much for us to do since a lot of the work was done by the Lycans. And if we were to do something, we couldn’t do much with Roués possibly on our trail. Helpless and a bit defeated, we patiently waited until we got more information. But we didn’t have to wait long.
It was three o’clock at the crack of dawn when someone knocked on my door. I was barely asleep from the paranoia of thinking Roués might attack us any minute. So I was quick to open the door and entertained the person interrupting my sleepless night.
“Hey, sorry to wake you,” Cole greeted before gesturing towards my room. “May I come in?”
I lingered by the door, hesitant for a moment. “No… Ah yes, sure, please come in.” I stuttered. “Is there any reason why you’re here so early in the morning?”
As I opened the door big enough for him to pass through, I scanned the empty hallway before closing the door behind me. Cole stopped in the middle of the room and studied my unpacked bags by the foot of the bed. When he still hasn’t responded to my question, I asked again.
“Ah… yes, sorry,” he muttered. “I wanted you to be the first to know they finally got to make the Roué talk.”
“And? What did they get?”
Cole didn’t directly give me an answer, instead, he walked up to me, taking my hand and pulling me towards him, engulfing me in a tight embrace. My body responded to his warmth. I slowly relaxed and accepted his embrace.
“Cole, is there something wrong?” I finally asked.
“No… But there’s something that’s been putting me on edge with what the Roué had told one of our interrogators.”
“There were ordered to follow you. Not Hunter, or your right-hand man, they were following you.”
“Me? Why me?”
“I don’t know. But I assure you, I will find out why.”
I wanted to ask and probe him for more information. But the stressful look on Cole’s face silenced me. I allowed him to continue holding me. Not only because he seemed he needed it, but also I wanted the feeling of protection that the Mate connection had. Because right now, in my gut, I knew I was on the right trail. In my heart, I knew I was close to finding the answers I’ve been looking for.
By morning, I hadn’t realized I had fallen back to sleep. I was woken up by a heavy knocking on my door. As I was brought back to consciousness, the memory of that morning came back to me. Then I found Cole lying comfortably on the bed. His arm still wrapped around me with half of his weight on my side. Normally, I would jerk way. But my heart was calm. His presence alone gave me a sense of relief. However, the knocking started again and brought me back to reality. It was then Cole groaned and twisted, slowly waking up.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” Cole asked, his voice a bit hoarse from sleep.
“I should,” I stated. Cole let go of me as I got out of bed.
I didn’t ask who it was - which wasn’t probably best in that situation - and opened the door. It took about a millisecond for Kaleb to notice I wasn’t alone in my room.
“What the hell is he doing in your room!” He glared at Cole, who was now sitting by the foot of the bed.
“Would you not scream? You’re making my head hurt…” I countered dryly, unfazed by his outburst.
Kaleb pursed his lips, his eyes twitching in annoyance. But then his gaze hastily shifted towards Cole. “They’ve been looking for you downstairs. It seems we finally got something out of the Roué from yesterday.”
“Thanks for delivering the message,” Cole replied, unaffected by Kaleb’s intimidating glare. “I already told Rhoane about the news.”
“When did you tell her?”
“Earlier this morning.”
“And what’s your excuse for staying in her room?” Kaleb’s voice had a bit of edge to it.
“Not really your business to know, Hunter.”
“What’s going on with her is my business, Blackwell. And you are becoming an eyesore.”
“And you think you’re not?”
The tension between them was palpable. I blocked Kaleb’s view of Cole, which wasn’t much since he was taller than I am. But it did the trick and averted his attention back to me.
“It wasn’t all his fault. I let him in my room, Kaleb.” I affirmed.
“Right. Of course, you did,” he muttered before heading towards the stairs. “Breakfast’s downstairs if you need it.” He called out one last time as he descended.
I lingered by the door for a moment before turning around and studied Cole. He was still by the edge of my bed. “I’ll wash up and we’ll head down.” I offered.
“I’ll wait here.” He nodded, looking unfazed by Kaleb’s visit.
I shook my head at his disinterested look before entering the bathroom.
We silently headed downstairs to the dining area, which was the only part of the house that was crowded. The dining table was packed and everyone was indulged in a light conversation since the mood in the room. However, like a lightning bolt, all eyes were on us and the ambiance was gone. I felt slightly responsible for the change of mood.
“Morning,” I greeted, trying to return a bit of the good vibe.
“Good morning Roe,” Tony replied at the same time Axel nodded and asked, “good morning, my lady. How was your sleep?”
Before I responded, I could see Kaleb’s creased eyebrow in the corner of my eyes. He sat beside Tony. “I slept fine, Axel. Thank you for asking.”
“Did Kaleb tell you about the news?” Tony jumped back in.
“Actually…” I trailed off as Cole finally spoke up behind me.
“I told her what happened this morning.”
“Oh, you were in there…” Tony inquired by stopped himself as he glanced briefly at Kaleb, who continued eating his breakfast. “I see. Got it.”
“Right. So, what’s for breakfast?” I hastily changed the conversation.
It was Ash who answered and escorted Cole and me towards a buffet style table with an array of food to choose from. After we ate, we gathered again in the living room, waiting for Cole’s dad, who we’ve just learned was back in the house outside of the compound - the training field - questioning the Roué again. But the wait didn’t last long. He entered the room half an hour after we’ve finished eating.
“Did you get more information from him, pops?” Cole inquired the moment his father walking in.
Charles briefly shook his head in dismay. “But at least he gave us something,” he reassured.
“What do we do now?” I asked as I leaned in anticipation at the edge of my seat.
“As an Alpha of this Clan, it’s not my duty to mingle with problems that don’t concern my people…” Charles started but was cut off by an irritated Cole.
“She’s as much part of this Clan as I am, father.” He firmly avowed.
“I didn’t mean it like that son.” He defended. “However, as a friend of your father and my son’s Mate, I will help you.”
I watched Cole breathe a sigh of relief before waiting for his father to share his plans. “Based on what we had gathered; we are positive that an information was withheld from us about the weeks following that night. The Custodian who was assigned for the investigation was a comrade of Lockwood, a Morgan Kynigan.”
“Morgan? In Texas?” I inquired.
“Yes. It was from the Morgan family who took over the investigation.”
“Are you inferring a member from the head of the Curatrix was withholding vital information? You know that accusation wouldn’t do well between the Custodian-Lycan treaty.”
“I’m not naming any names,” Charles interjected.
“Yes, but you’re still accusing someone of treason - from one of our own people. That’s a serious accusation, Mr. Blackwell.”
I saw Charles narrowing his eyes but otherwise kept his cool. “I know what I’m saying, Rhoane, which is why I haven’t said anything to the Custodians yet. I’m only telling you since I feel you’re capable of taking action without alarming a high ranking member of your Order.”
“Are you saying I’m not someone important?” Kaleb butted in, finally speaking up after the fiasco this morning in my room.
“I know you’re next-in-line, Mr. Hunter. However, I’m well aware you’re not currently in a position of power - seeing that Lockwood had given the task to Rhoane’s right hand.”
I could see Kaleb’s distaste at the truth of Charles words. It shut up him once again. However, the mood quickly shifted as Tony took control of the room, gathering all our attention to him.
“Okay, you’re saying that someone from the Morgan family is guilty of withholding information about the death of Lady Knightley’s family. And you’ve got this information from a Roué you’ve captured, who might be lying to us to buy time and skirt around the obvious that someone is currently looking for the last surviving Knightley,” He quickly paused to catch his breath. “Tell me if I’m wrong on my conclusion.”
“But what do they want from me?” I interjected.
“Maybe they want to finish an unfinished business. You’re like a loose thread or something.” Axel offered.
“If it is so, they would have found many ways to dispose of me for the past nine years. Why now? Something might have changed or triggered it.” I questioned.
There was a long, drawn-out silence in the room as we all started thinking of a reason. But, as usual, we came up with nothing but more questions. Then finally Tony offered something a madman might think of in a high-pressure situation.
“Why don’t we just head to Texas and find this mystery, Custodian? There couldn’t be that many people who were part of the investigation from nine years ago.”
Charles nodded. “There were around five investigators who stayed a bit longer after a team of Custodian, bagged and sampled everything for forensics. I might still have the list of their names somewhere in my office. I always try and keep track of the Custodians who entered close to our territory, to be cautious.” He added the last in his defense, sensing a slight hostility from my friends.
“Thank you so much for the help, Mr. Blackwell,” I said to lift the mood a bit. “We appreciate what we can get.”
“It was my pleasure, as always, Rhoane.”
“So what now? Are saying we should go to Texas and find this so-called ‘treacherous’ Custodian?” Kaleb grumbled in annoyance as he continued pacing to and fro in the living room after Charles left.
“Do you have any alternatives or leads?” I inquired, his emotions rubbing off on me. “We should take what we can get, Kaleb. And they’ve already done enough for us.”
“And you believe that someone - especially from the head of the Curatrix, the Morgan family, would betray the ruling Kynigan’s family?” He pressed.
“Whether it’s true or not isn’t my concern, I’ll deal with it when I get the evidence. As long as I have a lead, I’ll take the path and find out myself.” I vowed.
“So Texas it is!” Tony declared and abruptly stood up. “If we’re going, I suggest we make a call to John as early as now.”
“Wait… no,” I held up my hand as a thought crossed my mind. “I think we shouldn’t tell anyone we’re going anywhere. It’s best to keep this within the group.”
“What’s the point, Roe? The Lycans already know we might be going. Why are you being so defensive towards our own people?”
“Because one of those people is a treacherous slimeball. So, yeah, don’t tell a soul from the Order we’re going for a visit. We want our enemy caught off-guard. We don’t want them prepared and ready to ambush us.” I retorted.
Kaleb pursed his lips but otherwise didn’t comment further on my choice. Though I understood his loyalty towards our fellow Custodian, the idea that someone - especially our own kind - had plotted to kill my family was unsettling. It was better to think the monsters looked different from you. That way it’s easier to spot them. But a wolf in sheep’s clothing is troublesome.
As we were deciding when and how to get there, Cole finally joined in on the conversation. “Ash, Dan and I want to escort you to Texas. If you’re hiding from the Custodian, we know a Lycan Clan who I’m sure would keep us in low profile.”
Kaleb arched his eyebrow. “I don’t think getting another Lycan Clan involved would serve us any good. Your Clan is enough as it is.”
Cole glared in his direction. “We might have our flaws as well, Custodian, but we are loyal and noble species. And the Clan in Texas, the Lowell’s, are my mother’s previous Clan. The Alpha is my cousin.”
“Henry Lowell, Alpha of the Lowell Clan in Texas is my cousin.” Charles declared.
“Well, that’s not surprising,” Tony muttered with slight sarcasm.
“And he’ll help us?” I inquired, ignoring Tony’s comment.
“He’s family. He will help us.”
“Okay then, looks like we’re going to Texas, everyone.”
It was a nitty-gritty exit plan as we made our way towards Kalispell Airport to take a flight to Texas. But to my surprise, the Lycans were efficient at their job and not once had I heard nor seen any problems. But I did occasionally catch Cole’s expression going blank or a bit irritated. I knew we weren’t completely out of the war zone just yet.
The waiting was slightly excruciating. We were in high alert, our eyes scanning the busy airport for any possible threat. And having no viable weapons with us, which we didn’t really need as we were trained with hand to hand combat, we felt a bit more on edge. As we boarded the plane, we relaxed a bit. However, there wasn’t a direct flight to Texas. So, we had to make a stop at Denver, which made everyone impatient.
By the time we’ve arrived in Dallas, it was past noon. The sun was up, bright and hot. Yet it no longer held the same security it once held for me. Even if we were miles away from Montana, where the Roués might still be circling around looking for me, I still felt someone was watching. Like my premonition becomes real, I sensed a dead stare at our direction as we exited the airport. Directly, I noticed it was a Lycan.
Dark-haired, angled jawline, clean cut gray suit, and deep ocean eyes. The man had ungodly handsome features. He reminded me of my first impression of Cole the first time I saw him. Then it clicked.
“Henry!” Cole called out to the handsome guy, giving him an enthusiastic wave. However, rather than rushing and giving the man a friendly greeting, he turned to me and grabbed my hand. “Would it be okay if I introduced you to him?”
My heart jolted that he even bothered to ask. Then a small smile tugged at the edges of my lips. “Why do you have to ask when you look like you’re going to do it anyway?”
“Right. Of course,” he muttered shyly before dragging me with him towards his handsome cousin.
“Cole! It’s been a while,” Henry greeted as we were an arm’s length away. It was then I noted he wasn’t actually alone. I abruptly stopped and assessed a dozen Lycans creating a perimeter of security around us. For a moment, I was in awe.
Cole tugged my arm, bringing me out of my trance. “I would love you to meet my Mate, Rhoane. Roe, my cousin, Henry Lowell. He’s also the CEO of Lowell & Bateson Incorporated.”
Henry offered his hand with a dashing smile. His blue eyes seemed to get lighter the closer I got to him. “It’s an honor to finally meet my cousin’s future, Luna. A pleasure, Rhoane.”
I accepted his hand, ignoring the last tidbit of his words. I briefly shook it before letting go. “The pleasure is mine, Mr. Lowell.”
He nodded and turned to his cousin again. “So I heard this isn’t a normal visit.”
“I’m sorry I’m asking this of you when you’re already busy growing an empire.” There was a slight sarcasm in Cole’s tone.
“Oh please, I can make more money even when I’m asleep,” he jested, humoring Cole. And like the previous conversation hadn’t existed, his expression shifted into business mode. “So, who are we hunting?”
“For once, not a Roué.”
“That’s news. Let’s hear it.”
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