Knowing that revelation left me speechless. But it was heresy. There wasn’t any proof whether one of my distant cousins would want to plot and take down my family. The Whitmore’s are the strongest family with the most Kynigan members. Though the Knightley’s took control based on lineage, the Whitmore family are like the military of the Custodian Order. They're unlikely the Custodian family to lose their grip of control.
“I’m sorry, Lady Morgan. I know you’ve taken so much risk already just to be here, but what you’re telling me is too much… John told me some names you’ve already suspected, but the Whitmore family – Lucian Whitmore, a man who I consider family, wouldn’t do such a thing.”
“You trust him, yet had he once since your parents died tried to reach out?” Eliza inquired. Though her words were harsh, she had a point.
Kaleb remarked, bringing our attention to him. “I met Lucian once when I traveled with my father two years ago. I can’t say that I like the guy.”
“But he’d always sent me presents on my birthday,” I argued, which wasn’t a great argument.
“He might have ordered someone send you those presents to save face,” Kaleb argued back. “When my father mentioned you, the man didn’t even look the least bit worried. He seemed content that you were staying with us rather than with him. I’m glad my dad didn’t send you away.” He muttered the last sentence mostly to himself.
“Okay, you can’t judge him based on those accusations. And what’s your defense, Lady Morgan?” I turned back to her.
“I’ve met Lucian as well. He’s a man of a few words. Since we’re leaders of the two fractions, we’ll always be in constant communication. But that man doesn’t like doing the menial task of the job. There’s always someone from his family representing him during our meetings. And these are mostly done through online video conference. Though I’ve offered to visit, and once I did without prior notice, he still only met me once in greeting and allowed the business to talk with his representative. Do you know who that person is?”
“Don’t tell me…”
“John informed me he’d told you all the names we were investigating quietly. And yes, that man is Damian Allen. He’s also the man who’s keeping tabs on me by sending Kent Maiden as part of my official staff.”
“Lady Morgan, I think there’s more to this than what you’re telling us.” I finally concluded.
“There is. But telling you will put you more in harm’s way…”
“I’m constantly battling for my life. What’s another?” I interjected.
“All the more reason why I should tread lightly.”
I pursed my lips, unable to find a better argument. But our conversation was cut short by a knock on the door. Dan hastily checked who it was before opening the door wide enough for us to see who interrupted. It was Tom. There was some tension from his stance. Yet his expression didn’t give it away.
“What is it? Did something happen to Cole?” I broke the brief silence and asked. From my choice of words, in the corner of my eyes, I could see Kaleb’s distaste. His eyes twitched.
“No, miss. But my Alpha wants to talk to you right now.”
“I’m sort of in the middle of something right now, as you can see…” I sarcastically retorted without dramatically pointing at Lady Morgan standing closely behind me.
“What is it, Thomas?” Finally, Eliza Morgan spoke. For a brief moment, we weren’t sure who she was referring to until Tom replied.
“I’m not supposed to say…,” he paused briefly as his calm demeanor shifted to irritation. “Alpha Lowell just gave me the approval to tell you the news. They’ve tracked the remaining Roués that attacked my Alpha and the young miss’s convoy a few hours ago.”
“They found Maddox?” Now that’s a news I’ve been waiting to hear. “Where is he?” I pressed further, not waiting for his response.
“I don’t...” he started again but paused as his expression changed yet again. I’m hinting that Tom wasn’t usually this disorientated during normal days. “Alpha Lowell is already assembling a strike team downstairs. If you want…”
“We’re going!” I declared and hastily headed out of the room.
“Wait! Roe! Are you insane?” Tony protested at the same time Kaleb shouted, “No!”
“You both are in no position to order me that…” I turned and glared at them, who already flanked behind me.
“But I am.” Eliza interposed before Tony and Kaleb could respond. Axel took a second to regroup his understanding of what I said.
I stared at Eliza with slight surprise. “Lady Morgan, please hear me out. I need to…” I spurted out, but she didn’t allow me to finish as she rose her hand, gesturing for me to stop.
“You haven’t even heard what I was going to say, Rhoane.” She bleakly smiled.
I bit my lips to hold my emotions. I patiently waited for her to continue.
“I know you’re only in this country for an investigative mission. There was also an underlying reason why I agreed to it. I know you’re ready. I know you can fight back. But these aren’t the reason why I agreed. I want you to be better. I want you to find peace as I had while finding out what happened nine years ago. So I’m asking you. Would killing Maddox Blackwell give you any peace?”
Her words weighed more than the tension of everyone’s eyes on me. I stood there in silence for a whole minute, trying to contemplate about it. But in my gut, I knew my answer. From how Eliza looked at me, I knew she knew as well. Nonetheless, what I’m trying to do wasn’t simply killing someone. Though I’ve killed before for defense and offensive attack to protect my own, this time it’s different. It’s for myself. The blood would be on my hands.
But I gave her an answer I know I won’t regret.
As we headed down the lobby, we exchanged a quick pleasantry with Eliza before she had to go. Per her alibi, she was supposed to be at a meeting with a trusted comrade. She was now on her way back to the mansion to assess the damage from the arson.
“Will you be okay?” I asked as she halted a few steps out of the elevator.
“I’m tougher than I look,” she jested.
“You already look tough, my lady. It’ll be unfair to know you’re also that hard to take down.” Kaleb playfully remarked, but his light tone didn’t match his mood.
Eliza turned to Kaleb and smiled. “You’re no longer the same young man I’ve met, Lord Hunter.”
“Lord Hunter is my father, my lady.” He countered a bit strongly.
“He won’t be for long… you’ll do good, Kaleb. You’re a good man.” She then turned to me and held my hand. “If you need anything at all, call John and he’ll safely deliver me the message.”
I looked up towards the man himself, who was suddenly quiet as he stood behind Eliza. From his stance and how his gaze swiftly looked everyone except us, I knew he was on duty.
“Thank you again for taking the risk and time tonight, Lady Morgan. I appreciate it a lot more than you know.”
She smiled and squeezed my hand that she still held. “Take care, Rhoane.”
Eliza made a quick exit towards a waiting dark tinted SUV outside. It was then I noticed the lobby was empty. The crowd that was there an hour ago was gone. However, the lobby wasn’t completely empty. Per Tom’s words, Henry had gathered a few men.
There were too little that I’m doubting whether we’ll make it through the night.
“Ten? Just Ten men? Are you insane, Henry? You know Maddox had already gathered more Roués by now. Those we fought in the middle of the street were just the tip of the iceberg. I know his kind. He wouldn’t take his chance doing something risky without the numbers to back him up.” I argued after he finished the final prep with his team.
“I know what you’re thinking and I’m not completely unaware of who Maddox Blackwell is. Even this far south, nobody likes his guts.” Henry reassured. “I know what I’m doing, Lady Knightley. I may have failed you from that surprise attack, but my men aren’t half bad when it comes to retaliation. He just declared war on us. I’m not going half-assed.”
The fire in his eyes was enough for me to be convinced. And his words added the guarantee that I needed. Upon all the mistakes I’ve done, the path I chose may put nothing but hate and pressure in my future. I don’t want this to be a failure. Not this time.
“Roe,” I snapped out of my trance as I heard and felt Kaleb place his hand on my shoulder. “I know you’re not going to listen to reason, but at least for those who still care for you, please – I beg you – please reconsider. You’ve already done enough tonight. And as much as I hate to say this, if Cole was here, I know he would be begging in my place. So please… don’t go.”
“I know you mean well, Kaleb. I know I’m being unfair to you. I’ve neglected your good-heart and consideration, but I have to go. I have to do this.”
“No, you don’t. You don’t have to go.”
“You’re right. I don’t have to… I need to go.”
I watched as pain and regret crossed his dejected expression. There was a brief pause as he slowly took small controlled steps closer to me.
“I want you to be safe,” he breathed. “I want you to feel secure. I want to see you happy. And your smile, your laugh, how long has it been?” he stood close enough that we were chest to chest. It was then I also noticed him slowly enveloping me in an embrace. “I’ve been cautious. I’ve kept myself close to you all this time. But even so, without me knowing and in front of my eyes, you’ve completely disappeared beside me.”
“Kaleb, I’m not gone. I’m still here…” I choked out the words, unsure why he was saying all of this.
But Kaleb didn’t say it. Instead, his lips slowly and softly touched mine. Before I could react to the kiss, he leaned back and walked away as nothing happened. He left me there, shocked and surprised. Though the kiss was for only a second, I could still feel his soft lips on mine. I thought it wasn’t possible to feel anything towards anyone anymore after being soul bounded with Cole. However, I’m not mistaken on the feeling in the pit of my stomach and the sudden rise of my pulse as the heat rose up to my cheeks.
It was awkward to look at people in the eyes after what Kaleb did. Looking at Tony and Axel was the most uncomfortable since those two might have known how Kaleb felt for me.
“Wow! I didn’t think he had the guts to do it. There were times I’ve had a bet with him to finally spill the beans, but… wow! Just wow!” Tony remarked after I regained my composure.
“Shut up, Tony,” I muttered in annoyance as I walked past him.
“My lady, are you okay?” Axel inquired out of courtesy.
“I’ll be fine, Axel,” I answered out of habit.
“So what are you going to do now that your other prince charming take off his mask and declared his undying love…?” Tony playfully asked, but I cut him off before he could finish.
“I’m going to get some new gear and kill some freaking Roués.” I hissed in exasperation.
The drive to the location was shorter than I expected, which made me edgier knowing how close they were again. My hand balled into a fist as we trekked to the terrain forest on the balls of our feet, being as discreet as possible. With each step I take, my heart suddenly grew heavy. This time it wasn’t from worry. It was with anticipation. For the first time, I felt like I was a young girl again, but no longer defenseless. I’m stronger now. I could fight back.
The further we moved in, the quieter it got. Not a sound could be heard. Even the trees stood still against the light breeze of the cold dawn. A few yards away from where I am, in pitch black, I finally saw a speck of light reflecting from the moon. Breast like eyes glazed past me and unable to pinpoint my location.
Then everything suddenly felt hazy like I was swimming through dark, stormy waves. Though my heartbeat was calm and my breathing even, in my field of vision, I could only see that – red. I was about to aim for the kill shot – happy to put an end to the beast without further bloodshed. Then someone from our side made a mistake. I heard a loud crack, which alerted our enemy. For a split moment, I was angry. But even in times where life and death were at stake, we were still human in some ways. We hadn’t put into account our imperfections.
Before we knew it, the forest grew alive. And the smell of death was in the air. I could hear the sound of cries from the trees being knocked down, and from my Lycan companions, who are fighting back the real monsters in our midst. Before the eyes of the innocent, we were all part of the nightmare.
I was able to snap out of my trance and shifted into gear before a Roué’s teeth snapped at my arm, holding up a gun. I rolled sideways, avoiding death by an inch. The Roué got back on his footing. I aimed and shot him through his head and heart. Like instinct, my body reacted quickly to the situation as I started shooting at the enemy who was coming my way. If one of the Lycans in Henry’s team was in my line of fire, I wouldn’t notice their difference. In my eyes right now, anything that looked like a beast wolf was on my hit list. However, one, in particular, was on top of that list.
I had only one focus. It was all I could think about, him. Maddox Blackwell. All of those sheer concentration and will. Then the haze shifted, my world sharpened into clarity. Finally, he was there. I found him.
Maddox in his Lycan form was surrounded and flanked like a coward general in the middle of battle. His personal security kept close to him, which made it harder to make my move. Plus, with the Roués creating havoc around us, it took everyone’s hands away from the real battle. With that judgment and no Roués snapping in my direction, I kept a steady watchful gaze on the enemy while moving closer and closer, using the darkness as cover. Once I got close enough to the pine tree near him, I steadily held my breath while aiming for the center. However, my bloodlust gave away my position.
Maddox’s gaze snapped in my direction as I fired one shot. Though he had fast reflexes, he wouldn’t be able to dodge most of it. The bullet grazed his snout, making him bark in rage. Now I got their attention, all of his personal security’s gaze fell on me. Then suddenly my position was at my disadvantage.
The Roués surrounded the bottom of the tree. They started to jump high enough to crawl me out of the thick bark I was standing. On their second attempt, I heard the tree snapping slowly at their weight and assault. Not to waste bullets, I took a deep breath and timed myself. As the Roué jumped one last time, I ran and fired multiple shots, aiming the back of the head of Maddox’s security team. When I neared the ground, I rolled into a fetal position. The impact knocked the breath out of me, causing me to be disoriented for a moment. With the current position I’m in, on the ground surrounded by the enemy, I was in a tight pinch.
It was then I heard Axel calling out to me as I lay down to take my breath. “Run, Roe! RUN!” His voice rose above the noise of the battle.
But I didn’t listen. Instead, I shouted back. “COVER FOR ME!”
Before I got up for more, three Lycans jumped in my midst, fighting the remaining member of Maddox’s security. Now, he was defenseless. For the first time, I saw his wolf form in action. My hand clutched one of the guns that I was still holding.
“MADDOX!” My own voice sounded foreign in the forest.
The sound of bullets and growls were echoing around me. Lycans and a handful of Custodians battle it out for their lives against his men. But all I could see was him, waiting to be colored in red.
“MADDOX!” I shouted again when he continued pushing back Lycan after Lycans, Henry’s men.
When he ignored me the second time, my body quickly responded as I joined in the battle between Lycans. Though I may look small standing close to them, I was armed. That’s enough to get their attention. I fired three consecutive warning shots between Henry’s men and Maddox. Now, it got his attention. Upon noticing me holding two combat issued Custodian handguns, I watched Maddox’s cold gaze shifted between me and the weapon. But I didn’t allow him to get any ideas.
My screams of rage were drowned as I fired multiple shots in his direction. One of his men who had gotten away from a fight lunged at my hand for the gun. But the bullets were faster. I dodge him quickly as Axel, in the distance, shot him down. His body limped dead a foot away from me. While expertly changing the magazine of bullets on my gun, Maddox was a step ahead, a mistake I made for letting my emotions get the better of me.
I heard bullets passing by without ever hitting me since I wasn’t its target. Even then, Maddox was able to get away almost unscratched. But there were too late.
“GGGAAAHHH!!!” I took me a moment to scream as rolls upon rolls of pain stunned me breathless.
His claws successfully took away one of my weapons, putting a huge and deep scar on my forearm. As I was recovering from his attack, he didn’t give me a moment to regroup and bared his teeth toward my shoulder.
My other hand wasn’t out of commission.
I felt his sharp teeth sink in my shoulders. His hot breath so close to my face. I emptied the round of bullet on my gun to his head.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
The impact made him clinch deep in my flesh. But this time I didn’t shout. I bit my lips and waited until I knew he was completely gone.
Is he dead?
I didn’t know for how long I sat there covered in blood, with a dead Lycan’s teeth still sank deep on my shoulder blade. But it was long enough for me to see the sun slowly peeking out on the horizon as another day arrived.
My memory became hazy again. Then darkness finally took me.
I did it.
Thank you for reading! Will be updating on Wednesday next. There are two more chapters left for the story.