Yes, here is only half of the chapter because I'm still working on it! The second part will be the actual confrontation so I've got lots of action lined up for you. As usual, this is an unedited draft, so pardon the mistakes.
Oh yes, for those who asked -PB is tied to the Hunters in the sense that it explains how the project of the hybrid 'Hunter' is crafted. But PB precedes The Hunters so don't confuse them! I just brought the characters to the American soil to allow for the transition.
Eian held his daughter for as long as he could, taking in the sweet scent of her hair and… what the hell?
That damn pup had sunk his teeth into his daughter’s neck! How dare he mark her?
His eyes lifted to meet Alex’s gaze; his stare like a hot knife through butter. To his defense, Alex remained calm despite the threatening look his Alpha was giving him. Both men knew that when it came to Keona, it was always going to be a constant battle between them.
I will rip your throat out if she even drops a single tear.
At the gentle kiss on his cheek, Eian softened a little as he pulled apart to look into the same malachite-green eyes as his but everything else was Fiona’s –his mate. From the stubborn tilt of her chin to the apple cheeks and pouty lips –Keona was almost a split image of her mother.
And he was fiercely protective of both of them. So, he ought to be excused if he decided to growl a little…
Okay, a lot.
“Daddy…” a gentle warning from his daughter muted the growls. Smiling, he let her slip out of his hands to stand beside Alex. But her eyes were no longer focused on either of them but on Alaron; guilt etched on her face. She didn’t know how to express her hurt, disappointment and failure.
“We don’t blame you sweetheart,” a feminine voice soothed her; a warm hand on her shoulder. Keona smiled at the petite figure of Erika and was grateful for that one ounce of forgiveness. She nuzzled closer to the female presence, suddenly aware of her longing for her own mother.
“I’ve figured out a way to work around this problem. Keona, keep quiet and think of empty walls,” said Alex firmly. When she turned around to look away, he began to share everything that he had learnt from Keona’s mind. The gasp and horrified roars echoed his own sentiments.
The room was brimming with males itching to draw blood.
“Keona cannot tell us anything about what she’s doing but I think she can talk about Marine because that’s not part of her operation.”
Turning back to face her mini audience, Keona nodded. “Marine’s being held at the same location as I am but her role is simply as bait.”
“Where’s this location?” Eian’s voice was calm but the undertones bore a controlled temper.
“I am not sure exactly…” Her eyes shut for a moment because the blinding pain of trying to reveal the location hurt. “But find my blouse and jeans…I… I folded them somewhere and hid them near the grass…”
Eian didn’t respond but looked straight at his two Beta Weres who were already on their way to the door.
“Hourly reports,” said Dominic and the two left immediately.
However that much revelation had made Keona weak somehow and she leaned slightly against Alex.
“Keona, let me take a look at you,” said Alaron, coming closer. The young woman may have been half Were but she also had Vampire blood and his healing senses was telling him she needed something fixed. “Can you see where you’re hurting?”
She shook her head slightly –the pain was like needle pricks on her brain. As her Vampire uncle came closer, she noticed Alex and Eian moving in tandem, as though they were preparing for a sudden attack.
She was spoilt.
The thought made her grin but then she grimaced the moment Alaron touched her arm. Her sudden squeal caused the two Weres to turn feral.
“No… I’m fine. Go away you two,” she hissed. Alaron just rolled his eyes.
“Okay princess, I need you to watch how I do this. I know you can see me in your head.”
“Yes,” she nodded. She had done this a couple of times when they were younger but since he moved to America, their lessons have stopped. But Keona could still recall the familiar tingle of Alaron’s mind as he melded with hers; coordinating his ability with hers.
She watched as he ‘searched’ her blood vessels for ruptures before moving up her mind to see the actual damages.
Keona knew that he had seen something frightening when he gripped her hand so tight, she was sure his nails pierced her skin. Yet, she didn’t move but allowed him to assess her cranial injuries, feeling the healing warmth flow through her veins and up her spinal cord.
Then he released her.
“Why’d you stop?” she asked in surprise. Alaron didn’t reply her but looked to his brother instead.
“You have got to see this. It is a freaking labyrinth…”
Draven nodded and came closer. He had been training both his own daughter, Naira and Keona since they were children so he would know best if anything happened to their minds. After all, it was him who had given them their mind reading abilities.
“Just relax.” Draven cradled her head gently between both his palms and tried to take a peek at her mind. He was expecting to see the usual grooves in her mind as he had seen in the past years but the sight of a complicated layer of memory bank followed by an extensive compartmentalized brain pattern surprised him.
It was like looking into the mind of Elder Aiden who had been sentenced to a life of imprisonment many years ago. The Vampire not only had the ability to control the minds and decisions of others but was also eerily organized with self-made mental barriers to contain his memories.
Keona’s mind had none of the barriers that Aiden had but Draven was certain that her mind had an inventory of at least a hundred existing Vampiric abilities. It looked like a filing cabinet that was overstuffed with too many folders; on the brink of bursting. She either needed to expand her cranial capacity or she would explode each time she took a ‘file’ out of her mental cupboard.
Keona honey, I’m going to walk with you into your mind and… help you push the boundaries of your mental capacities. It’s going to hurt but I need you to trust me…
Keona opened her eyes slowly. Alaron was already holding onto her other hand as though he knew what Draven was about to do. Looking up, she saw the anxious expressions of her father and her mate… and knew that everything will be fine.
And then everything when black…
Keona was in a strange place.
It was extremely dark but she could see. It was as though she had the eyes of a nocturnal animal and could navigate in the inky blackness.
She took a step –wait, four steps… yes, on padded feet!
Keona tried to look down but she couldn’t see her feet and yet she felt it –one careful paw at a time. It was… exhilarating.
Was this her wolf?
Ah… perhaps she was dreaming of it. After all, Keona had been dreaming of shifting into her own wolf form for her entire life and yet she never managed to.
So this had to be a dream.
It doesn’t matter. Dream Keona the wolf was happy but most importantly, she felt free.
At the back of her mind, Keona could feel something moving; being pushed and prodded but she seemed indifferent to it. The wolf liked being in this void and reveled in the endless space; leaping and bounding as it played to its heart’s content.
Her feet began to move and Keona soon found herself running; a cool breeze ruffling her pelt, something like solid earth warm beneath her paws.
She was running towards something –or at least her wolf was. But what?
Where are we going?
Keona wasn’t expecting an answer but then she received one. It wasn’t really a verbal reply but she knew what it was.
Just beyond the darkness was a horizon of sunlit skies and endless meadows. Keona needed to reach that place… because –because what?
Just a little more Keona. Push those boundaries.
The drive up to Lake Tahoe took the two Beta wolves about an hour and a half but neither of them complained about it. In fact, Mike was already in his wolf form even before he could slam the SUV door shut.
Rubbing noses with his other pack mate, the two dashed off in search of Keona’s scent –if there was one.
It has been gnawing at him as to why the Alpha’s daughter was missing a scent but then it occurred to him that perhaps they were searching for the wrong scent. Keona was Alex’s mate and the realization had hit him a few hours ago when he scented his own son on Keona.
Mates –whether or now they have completed the mating bond always smell like each other. It was a way for the pack to acknowledge the mated pair and for the unmated wolves to stay away from either of them.
We’ve searched this place at least five times in the past two days.
Mike looked up to Dominic’s blue wolfish eyes and nodded. Find Alex’s scent. There has to be traces of it on her clothes.
Dominic looked up and Mike caught the smile in those blue eyes. Mated to the Alpha’s daughter eh?
Mike let out a playful growl. He has the balls for it.
The wolves grinned at each other and began the search. Although Alex hadn’t been home for a long time, both Betas knew the pup’s scent intimately, having raised him.
However, since Alex had been on the hunt with them, his scent was also heavy in the air; confusing them into taking double rounds at certain areas. But eventually, they found it –the neatly folded garments buried very close to the roots of a sycamore tree.
The smell of earth made it very difficult to uncover any of Keona’s scent but Alex’s was a warm and steady trace.
Did Keona say she buried this before she entered the facility?
But… there’s nothing here. There’s no door…
There’s that air vent.
It’s too small!
The two wolves stared at each other. Indeed, the vent was too small for a human or a wolf…
Keona can’t shift… right?
I don’t know… Mike was about to continue when his ears perked up as though sensing movements. Someone’s coming!
Maintaining their wolf form, the two Betas hid in the shadow; eyes glowing watchfully for the intruder. The remained still as a young and handsome Vampire came into view. He appeared so frail and gentle that they registered no threat emanating from his scent.
They continued watched as the young Vampire got to his knees and began searching the ground for something –very likely for the clothes that Keona had hidden.
Do you think he’s looking for this?
Dominic tightened his grip over Keona’s clothes. They shouldn’t take chances when it came to Vampires. It had taken them years to trust the Culzeans and it was only because their Alpha was mated to one and the Pureblood Draven was mated to another in their pack. But to trust an outsider –another Vampire was beyond them.
I’m going to take this back to Alaron’s place. You stay here and watch that bloodsucker.
Mike blinked; his onyx eyes almost invisible in the dark of the night. As soon as Dominic left, he returned his gaze to the Vampire.
Frail was perhaps the right word for him. His skin looked like it had never seen sunlight and his eyes were almost glowing red in the night. Mike would have said the Vampire was an albino except that his hair was a lovely shade of sandy blonde.
Bloodsucker as he was, the Vampire was still a child –a non threatening one. His protective instincts told him that the child was harmless. Against his better judgement, Mike stepped away from the shadow into the moonlight and caught the Vampire’s gaze.
For a moment they just stood staring at each other. The Vampire youngling knew Mike was a Were but he made no attempt to attack or defend himself. Instead he just smiled and gave a slow nod as though acknowledging Mike’s presence.
The wolf approved. This was neutral forest and they both had the right to be in it.
“My name is Kendall.” He gave another nod and waited.
Mike hesitated for a moment. Vampires could not hear Werewolf thoughts unless they were mates and he didn’t think it was wise to bare his naked self in front of a child –Vampire or not.
Instead, he moved closer, nudging his snout into the Vampire’s palm. The youngling scented of much innocence and yet held knowledge way beyond his few decades of life.
Mike looked up into Kendall’s eyes –a beautiful sky blue with a tinge of red –and peered curiously, as though asking him what he was doing there.
Kendall turned his palm gently and patted Mike’s head. If he was afraid, he did a good job of hiding his fear. With his gentle smile, he shook his head as though saying that he couldn’t give the Were any answers.
Mike knew there was no reason to linger anymore. They would simply stare at each other; circling carefully. He intended to step back into the shadows when Kendall started to speak.
“Please tell Keona to be safe.”
Every fibre in his body tensed at the words. But before he could shift to his human form and demand answers, the youngling was gone.
Kendall knew it was a mistake the moment he said the words but he couldn’t help it. He liked Keona and wanted her to return safely. Connor’s blood oath had taken a toll on her and he wasn’t sure if she could make it back to the lab in time.
But Kendall had a plan. While his expressed ability was an avid memory, he had another ability set that was underused and therefore not picked up by Keona during their training. His ability to pick up memories of others through touch was something he had kept hidden even from his own brother.
That was why he had been adamant to help Keona with her task. He had been slowly gaining access to her memory banks to help figure out the pieces in case she was unable to see them for herself –he didn’t blame her. She was strong but she was still young and had her limits pushed past her ability to cope.
It was in those memories that Kendall had seen her entire pack and knew the second he set eyes on the Were that he belonged to the MacFarlane; one of the top Betas. His presence here on American soil also meant that he was not alone. Kendall had scented another Beta with him and faint traces of another more dominant wolf mixed with a host of Vampiric scents.
Keona was getting help…
That was enough for him.
When Dominic returned to Alaron’s house with Keona’s clothes, he wasn’t precisely sure if he was ready to face her. He’d always known that the Alpha’s daughter was special –reserved and quiet –but she was the strong and silent type. However, he had been thinking about the small vent and racking his brains as to how she entered and his only conclusion had been that she could shift.
A pup would have been able to fit into that vent and if she had indeed shifted, why then had she kept the secret from the rest of the pack? Was she ashamed of her Were abilities?
The protective nature inherent of a Beta clenched at his heart. Dominic knew that whatever reason Keona had, it would soon be exposed –and he prayed that it wouldn’t break his Alpha’s heart. As one of the Betas, he knew how much it had disappointed Eian to know that his little girl wasn’t able to shift.
With a deep sigh, he knocked on the front door and waited for it to open.
It didn’t take long.
It took an even shorter time for the males in the room to pounce on him and demand for answers.
“What did you find out?”
“Was there a scent?”
“Did you get in trouble?”
Dominic raised his hand to calm them all down and instead lifted the scraps of materials that belonged to Keona. Turning towards her, he gave her a serious look.
Keona’s eyes went wide but before she could reply Eian had spoken up.
“You raise your voice even before answering our questions?” His voice was gentle but everyone in the room could feel the threatening undertones. Eian was Alpha and even without making the effort, he exuded dominance.
The Beta understood that. “My apologies Eian… but I think there’s something Keona should tell you herself.” Shifting his gaze to her once more, he continued, “You know where we found this and we should all be told how you got into the facility. Marine’s inside there sweetheart and she’s not as strong as you.”
Dominic’s last sentence was delivered gently –to remind the youngling that he wasn’t reprimanding her but simply expressing his authority. Time was running out.
Keona blinked several times and nodded. She knew that this day would come.
“Perhaps it is better if I show you,” she whispered, flicking her eyes from her father to her mate and then to everyone else in the room. Finally, she closed her eyes and tried to focus on the image of Alex’s wolf form –black glossy pelt, strong and sturdy legs and a sharp pointed snout that was characteristic of his tracker breed.
And then she opened her eyes.
Everyone was staring at her –or at Alex’s wolf rather –but one look into her green eyes and they would recognize her. Furthermore, Keona’s new ability to mask her scent allowed her to cloak her own and take on the exact same scent as the animal she was shifting into.
She refused to look into her father’s eyes. No, I’m not done.
Focusing next on the short-haired cat she had imitated a few days earlier, Keona shifted into the next animal and then another and another –all the while without needing to return to her original human form before a shift. That and she was fully clothed.
In her final form, Keona stood straight as a giant grey wolf –an exact replica of the Alpha himself with stunning green eyes to match.
Eian was by now already seated on one of the chairs; speechless. He had watched his daughter shifting seamlessly into all those various forms and pain tugged at his heart. He had considered it his failure when Keona was unable to shift into a wolf unlike the other pups her age. He had accepted that it was his fault that his mating with a Vampire had caused some sort of loss of Were abilities –and now, his baby girl was showing him otherwise.
This is not mine Daddy… it is not the same.
Eian sighed and beckoned her wolf form to come close, allowing her to rub her snout tenderly against his palm.
Shifting isn’t about what you turn into my love… it’s about being pack, being one, communicating at a secret level with your family.
The grey wolf slowly shifted back into its human form and moved forward to hug the Alpha. “I love you,” she whispered before turning to face everyone else. “I don’t think they are aware that I can shift… and no I do not have a specific wolf to shift into. I have to touch and ‘see’ the animal’s DNA somewhat to try and replicate them. The vent that I entered through is big enough for a small wolf but its weight might alert the others within the facility.”
“Do you remember another way in?” asked Dominic. “We tried to look for it but nothing.”
“There was an exit that Marine was supposed to have taken. It was in the northeast corner of the place I think because the vent was definitely south. I remembered coming from the east because that’s where the shelter is.”
Dominic nodded and then turned to his Alpha, who was already on his feet.
“There was someone else looking for your clothes Keona. It was a Vampire… but a very young one. Mike stayed behind to keep watch on him.”
“How young? What did he look like?”
“He… I’d say he was a good looking boy. Frail but had a gentle face that wasn’t threatening. However, looks can be deceiving because I am sure he was looking for your clothes Keona. And how could he know that?”
“I… I don’t know.” Keona was stumped. It sounded like Kendall but she couldn’t be sure. Had he picked up something during their trainings together and reported her to Connor?
Connor –shit! Time was running out.
“I think we should focus on the problem at hand. I have less than 24 hours right now.”
This time, Draven spoke up, “The blood oath is solid. Any attempt to go against the orders will result in immediate death. I’m sorry Eian.” At the Alpha’s forlorn face, Draven added slowly. “However, I think he forgot that the other half of Keona isn’t really Vampire so the effect gets diluted; in this case halved –which is why she’s able to detract from the mission for some time now.”
“Wait… so you’re saying that there might be a way to break out of this… problem?”asked Eian hopefully.
Draven’s lips twitched slightly. “I wouldn’t say it would be easy. Every time she tries to resist the instruction, a part of her brain will bleed –but Alaron will be able to heal her if we try to reverse the blood oath slowly.”
“It’s worth a try Daddy…”
Eian looked at his daughter then at the two Vampires he’d consider family. “I trust you with her life… but don’t make me regret it.” Turning to Alex, he continued, “Stay here with her. At the first sign of any problem, do not hesitate to call for me.”
Alex nodded. His bond with his Alpha would mean that even the faintest cry for help could reach Eian within seconds.
“But where will you be going?” he responded.
“I’m going to try and find the entrance to the facility. Following Key’s direction and the vent’s location, we will try to scent it out. Mike might have more information.”
“I want to go,” said Alaron immediately. “I want to rip out that bastard’s throat…”
Eian interjected, “No, you have to stay here and break the blood bond holding Keona back. I promise we won’t enter until everything’s settled here.” Putting one hand on Alaron’s shoulder, he whispered, “Don’t worry. You’ll have the honours of tearing off his head. I promise.”