War. It affects everyone. Either you fight or you watch your loved ones leave. You stare at their backs with tears burning your eyes, wondering if that was going to be the last time you would ever see them. Your heart pounds in your chest and fear flows through your bloodstream. A sense of panic washes over you, but there is nothing you can do.
I glanced over my shoulder, and up the stairs, before completely flattening myself on the floor. I froze for a few seconds and closed my eyes. Wooden floors were the best creation, in my opinion. You could feel everything on them if you paid attention.
When I didn't feel any vibrations coming my way I opened my eyes.
I forced my breath to become so shallow that I couldn't hear it myself. I took slow intakes and barely any exhales that my heart rate became so slow it was almost disturbing.
Only when I was sure no one was aware I was down there, I descended across the floor. I used my knees to push and I pulled myself forward with the palms of my hands. Walking wasn't an option because of the sound sneakers made against the floor. I couldn't afford to be caught over something that stupid.
My eyes were glued to my destination: the back door. The light above the kitchen island reflected off the glass and I saw myself in the sliding door. My shoulder length chocolate brown hair was woven in a braid. It succeeded in keeping most of it out of my face. Although, not all of it. There were a few stray strands that framed my face.
I continued to slither across the floor until I finally made it to the other side. I slowly pushed myself up and sat on my knees as my hands began to undo the lock that kept me hostage in my own house.
"Where do you think you're going?"
My entire body went tense as my father's voice entered the kitchen.
I glanced down at the reflection in the glass door. My father was standing in the hallway. His broad shoulders were tense and his arms were crossed over his abs. He was a tall man with muscular features. His hair was as dark as sunset and his eyes glowed like the sun at noon.
Everything about him said werewolf.
His tone had been amused, but I knew that he wasn't pleased. Just by his stance in the archway I could tell that he was trying to keep from lashing out at me. The majority of his weight was on his right leg and every muscle along his back was tense. He was ready for a fight – violent or verbal.
"I was just going out for some air." I lied gracefully. It wasn't that I lied a lot, but since I grew up with male werewolves I understood the need to be able to lie without being caught.
My dad straightened himself out until he stood at his total 6"7. I slowly turned on the balls of my feet and sunk my knees down on the floor.
"Elaine." It wasn't a threat, it was a warning.
I narrowed my eyes right back at him in the form of a challenge, "I just wanted to see you guys off. I don't see how that is wrong."
"You don't need to see it." His response was instant. It was practically a rehearsed conversation. Dad and I had been having this argument for days.
Neither of us was backing down. We were both too stubborn to admit defeat.
"Josh gets to go." I had the feeling that I was backing myself up into a corner even as I spoke.
"Josh is older than you."
Wasn't that the truth? My brother may look 24, if that, but in reality he was passing 24 for the third time. He looked like that when I was born and that was 16, nearly 17, years ago!
"It's not like I'm going to fight! Or even go past the clearing!" I started to stand, but stopped when my father took a dangerous step towards me. I sunk back down to the floor, "Besides, Martin and Odolf get to go. They're around the same age as me."
I inwardly reveled in the fact that my father's ears were turning red. It may sound twisted, but I always loved pushing a werewolf's buttons. It was one of the few dangerous things that I didn't get punished for doing.
"They're closer to the change than you."
That wasn't the reason they got to go and I didn't, and we both knew it. It was because I was a girl. I had been treated differently by the pack my entire life. Not only was I still in my human years, but I was the only female in the entire pack that had been born and not changed. I didn't really know what that meant, but by the way a lot of the pack members talked about it, it must be something important.
I groaned out my frustration. I didn't feel like fighting with my dad anymore. He would be leaving in about an hour. I didn't want him to leave with him mad at me.
My groan turned into a sign quickly as a thought entered my mind. Dad was only going to get more defensive with every verbal attack I sent.
So, I changed tactics.
"Dad," I lowered my jaw and took on a loosely submissive stance before continuing; "I just want to say goodbye to everyone. I'll come home before it gets dark."
Dad continued to shake his head, "You're not going. You can say goodbye to everyone before we leave Bewdley."
Anger welled in my chest and I opened my mouth to argue.
He gritted his teeth and took another step towards me, "That is the end of this discussion."
I stood when he got within an arm's length of me and met his gaze bravely. It was an incredibly stupid thing to do, considering my father's rank and the state of his temper, but I couldn't help it.
He towered over me. My dad was a very intimidating person. He stood over two heads taller than me and his arms were thicker than my neck, but I couldn't back away from him. I wouldn't.
Werewolves were all about rank. Knowing your place in the pack ensured survival. – Not only your own but the pack's.
The pack was run by a hierarchy. First there was the Alpha pair. They were the leaders of the pack. They earned their place through both physical and mental tests. Only the best reigned. Next was the Beta pair. They were the muscle of the pack. They backed up what the Alpha's said and ensured that everyone followed their orders.
The mid-ranking pair came next. My mom and dad were the mid-ranking pair. Their jobs were to discipline the more subordinate wolves of the pack and to create the illusion that there are more wolves in the pack then there really are, like during runs. They receive their orders from the Alpha pair and alerted the pack when there was danger.
The elite team of hunters was next in line. They called themselves They Luperco: "They Who Frighten off Wolves". Their one and only job was to protect the pack, mainly the Alpha.
Last, but definitely not least, were the specialists: the hunters, the nannies, and the much misunderstood omega pair. The hunters got the food. The nannies cared for the pups. The Omega pair was responsible for keeping the pack cool and calm. They were to stop fights from breaking out any way that they could: running in between the sparing wolves, saying a joke, or even tackling the wolf that was in the wrong. Their duty was boundless and they tended to act more like clowns than aggressive werewolves.
I decided that my new tactic wasn't working. So I threw caution to the wind and squared my shoulders, "I don't see why I can't just see you off!" On some level I knew that I sounded like a whiney kid, but I didn't feel like that. I was just trying to be heard.
"He doesn't want to have to worry about you." My brother, Joshua, answered for dad as he jogged down the stairs. When he finally came into my view my throat closed up.
My brother was part of the Luperco. There was a black etching of a howling wolf tattooed on his left wrist. He was literally ready for battle. An iron breastplate covered his torso while a sword hung at his side.
"You'd be fine in the clearing with us all there, but what would happen once we left? You'd be left alone in the dark." He chided me like I was still a kid and my anxiety was replaced with more frustration.
"I'm not three years old, Josh. I know how to find my way home." I seethed at him. A low growl vibrated in my chest on instinct.
Werewolves, especially born werewolves, age incredibly differently than humans. Their metabolism was so fast that they heal daily, meaning they could very well live for hundreds of years without the appearance of an old man.
"That doesn't matter, baby girl." I growled at the nickname, which only made Josh laugh. "We'd still worry."
"And we can't be worrying while were on the field." Dad concluded.
I growled openly at the victory I heard in my father's tone. It wasn't hard to see that he'd won.
I hated them both at the moment and wanted nothing more than to get away from them. I knew they were right, but I was so sick and tired of being treated so differently than everyone else.
With difficulty I lowered my jaw in submission.
"Call for me before you leave." I turned my torso as I walked past my dad so I didn't dump into his shoulder, and then once I was out of the kitchen, I bolted upstairs.
I knew, at least a little that I hadn't really had a chance of making it to the clearing, but that didn't make me feel any less upset. I wanted to be there. I wanted to wish my pack well as they left our territory and ran towards the outskirts of Europe.
It was a war that was taking my family away from me. It was a long battle that soaked the earth in blood and cracked the hope for it ever ending.
I had grown up being taught that there were three different types of werewolves. One: they lived in the city believing that with so many people around, they could blend in easier. Two: they lived in Hicksville where not many humans were, so they wouldn't be noticed at all. And Three: they denounced their human sides completely and lived as a wolf in the outskirts.
But there was a fourth category.
Four: they lived filled with rage and hatred and blamed humans for their own unhappiness.
The fourth category of the werewolf kind was the ones my people fought against. They were mostly werewolves who had been turned and not born. They hated themselves for what they became or had been taught that humans were their enemy. They spent their lives killing any human that came their way without thinking twice.
My pack's alpha, Alexander Durand, and two other likeminded and equally aged werewolves created an alliance between their packs to stop the fourth category. They had been working together for at least two hundred years.
At the beginning the fourth category was few and far between. Not a lot of werewolves turned humans so there weren't a lot of angry werewolves out there. However, as the humans attacked the werewolf kind more frequently the more werewolves began to hate the human kind. They fought back and didn't care how many they killed for they believed that all humans were the same.
The more werewolves attacked humans the more changed werewolves there were. They followed their makers and adopted their way of life.
There rested the problem.
Their numbers were rapidly growing and their attacks grew more savage.
It was starting to seem like the war would never come to an end.
I blinked hard and brought myself back to reality. My mom was standing in her doorway. Her soft hazel eyes were locked on mine; filled with concern as well as her own anxiety.
At that moment she didn't look like the warrior I had grown up with and had been trained by. She was wrapped in a soft terrycloth robe and her dark brown hair was curled around her face instead of twisted into a braid like it usually was.
"It's going to be alright, you know?" She was determined and completely sure of herself. "We know what we're doing."
My mom always knew what to say. She was so sure of herself all the time. She always had the answers.
I bit down on the insides of my cheeks and stepped into her warm and gentle embrace. I clung to her, "I love you." I whispered into mom's locks. Her hair smelled of honey and ginger. It was the scent of her body lotion, which told me that she must have just finished with her shower.
"I love you too." Her hold around me tightened.
"Run fast." Hot tears itched my eyes, but I blinked them away. I had to be strong. I couldn't break down, especially not in front of the pack.
"Run free." She replied immediately, as she always did. She spoke firmly. I had never known my mom to get this emotional, especially over a battle. Fighting was what she did. It was who she was.
Mom pulled back first and went back into her room. I stayed in the doorway and watched her move around the room with grace. She was agile at home and on the battlefield.
"Don't you ever worry about what could happen?" I finally asked.
I almost hadn't. It wasn't that I had grown up in a house that believed that kids should be seen and not heard, but I often hesitated when asking serious questions. The war was a touchy subject with everyone and I hated to bring it up.
My mom momentarily paused as she pulled out her armor. She kept it in the truck at the foot of the bed. I had snuck a peak inside it once. Weapons of all kinds were laid out carefully on the bottom and my parent's uniforms were folded over top.
Mom called it their treasure chest.
"I try not to." She briefly glanced at me as she walked over and placed her clothes on the top of the dresser. "Because, if I'm too busy worrying than I could miss something important."
"Like on the battlefield?" I wanted more information. She had gotten my interest.
Mom shrugged, "And at home." She laid out her clothes and stared at them for a long minute. "When I'm here I like to be here."
Growing up mom and dad had been gone a lot. I remember one time they didn't come home for six months. I was only nine and I had been so scared that they weren't coming back.
"I miss enough when I'm gone. I don't want to miss stuff when I'm here too."
For a second I saw regret flash through her eyes, but as soon as she blinked it was gone.
"I need to finish getting ready." She straightened her robe subconsciously.
I nodded and closed the door. When the door clicked into place I leaned my forehead against the doorframe.
My desire to protect my pack was so strong that it hurt, because I knew that I wasn't allowed to help. At home no one listened to me. I was someone to be protected, but never given the chance to protect anyone else. I thought that, maybe on the battlefield, it would be different.
I closed my eyes and the picture of me earning the mark of the Luperco entered my mind.
I sighed and pushed the thought out of my head. Until my first change no one was going to let me near a battlefield.
I dragged my feet as I walked down the hall to my bedroom. Downstairs, I could hear dad and Josh talking, but their voices were too low for me to hear what they were saying.
I left my door open and plopped down at my desk. The light from my lamp, which I had forgotten to turn off earlier, burned against my skin as it glared down at me. I didn't move to turn it off though. I just stared at my hands.
I was helpless during this war, and I hated it.
My eyes snapped open when I heard the front door open. No one had knocked, but that was normal. Members of the pack were always coming in and out of our house.
I was currently lying on the floor beside my bed. I had positioned myself so that I could see the stairs when I lifted my head. That way I would know when mom was leaving in case the men of the house didn't call for me.
The first thing that popped into my mind was to jump up and run to the stairs railing to see who was here.
That's what I normally did. But, I thought better of it. Whoever it was wouldn't talk of official stuff if I was in the room.
I would learn more if I made myself look scarce.
"Quentin, Alexander is ready." It was Michael.
While growing up I thought it was so weird that Michael never addressed Alexander as dad, or father. It was strange. But when I thought about it, I guessed that after saying it so many times over the years the title just got tiring.
Like Josh, Michael didn't look his age. He looked older than my brother, like he was pressing 30, but that didn't mean anything.
I had tried several times to find out how old Michael was. Each and every time I got a little further, but I always stopped. When it came to older werewolves it was just best not to ask about their age. It only gave me a headache, and sometimes it was just plain creepy when I found out.
I sat up so I was sitting crossed legged, and waited. I wanted to know what else Michael had to say before I went down there.
Michael was the pack's only Beta. He hadn't taken a mate since years before I was born. I had no idea what happened to her. I only knew that she died. However, Michael never seemed broken up about it. He was the most level headed out of his three brothers, and he and his only son, Gregory, managed fine alone… or at least I thought they did. They didn't fight a lot or anything.
Most people thought that Michael was Alex's oldest son, because he was being trained to take over the pack whenever/if ever Alex stepped down or passed. But in all actuality Michael was the second son.
Nathaniel was the oldest of the Durant brothers. He had no interest in being Alpha and lived in London with another pack.
"Gabriel and Cassiel will be over soon." Gregory, who was around Josh's age, spoke next.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on their voices. I didn't want to miss a thing!
"They're not very happy about being left behind." Michael sighed, though there was some amusement in his voice.
Dad sighed too, "Neither is Elaine."
"She's trying to grow up too fast." Michael pondered aloud.
I snapped my eyes open and glared at the wall. I did not like Michael's assumption. It was stupid and not thought out. How would he like it if everyone else went to fight and left him behind?
I froze when Greg cleared his throat. I gave him my full attention. "I can see where she's coming from, though. She just wants to help."
I rapidly nodded my head and smiled. I always got along with Greg. He wasn't like most of the male werewolves. He actually listened to me.
"It doesn't matter if that is her intention or not." Dad grunted, "She needs to learn to listen and take my orders with questioning me."
My brother started laughing and I rolled my eyes.
"She's too stubborn." Josh interjected.
I crawled across the floor and peered through the posts of the banister. I could see them all standing around the foyer. They were all ready for battle. Michael and Greg both wore the sign of the Luperco on their arms, which they kept open for all to see.
Michael was the head of The Luperco and tattoo was aligned with gold ink.
"Yeah, she hung out with you too much growing up." Dad frowned lightly at Josh, which shut the male up.
There was a minute of silence before the front door opened again. I crouched down further so I wouldn't be seen, and crawled over to the banister.
The first thing I saw was a head of blond hair – Cassiel, which was closely followed by black hair – Gabriel.
I did know how old they were. Gabriel was born in the late middle 1700's, during the Revolution with the United States. That makes him incredibly old to me, but young to a lot of other werewolves. His age is a very touchy subject with him. He hated there being such a gap between him, Michael, and Nathaniel.
Then there was Cassiel. He was in the same boat as me. He was mostly human, considering the fact that both of us were practically raised by the television, and was fourteen years old. He was two years younger than me and insanely younger than all of his siblings.
He was my best friend. Growing up we were the only ones who were outcasts to the rest of the pack: me, being female, and him being the youngest of European werewolf legends.
As kids we kept each other sane. We still do that, but not in the same way.
"Elizabeth," Dad called up the stairs for mom, "They're ready."
In unison with dad, as he looked upstairs, I stood up. I leaned against the banister and locked eyes with him. I wasn't sure if he knew that I had been standing there. He didn't say anything, so I didn't either.
"I'll be one minute." Mom called back.
I glanced over my shoulder at mom and dad's bedroom door, before walking down the stairs. I kept my face carefully neutral. I didn't need any of these guys lecturing me, or prying into my feelings.
When Michael met my gaze I stoned up even more out of reflex. I didn't do that because I didn't like him, I did it because of who he was.
Michael, being Beta, could be a hard ass. He normally wasn't, at least with me and Cassiel, but I knew he could change to his duel personality as fast as I could flip a coin.
As soon as I reached the foyer I dropped to my right knee and touched the floor with the tips of my fingers. It might sound medieval, but that was how we greeted the Alpha and Beta pairs.
I raised my gaze from the wooden floor as I stood. My eyes went straight to Michael's. I saw a light grin tugging at the edges of his lips, but I couldn't return the gesture.
"We'll be alright, El." Greg tried to assure me. He was leaning against the wall beside the way. His dark hair normally hung around his ears, but he had it hidden under his bandana. "We've done this plenty of times before."
He had the end of his sword on the floor, and was spinning the weapon around in a bored fashion. I recognized that as his nervous habit. Greg always had a problem with staying still for too long, especially on days like today.
"That just means you could get cocky." I hadn't meant to snap at him, but it was out of my mouth before I could stop it.
I stood beside Cassiel, who was backed against the stairs, and folded my arms stubbornly over my chest.
"We'll come back." Greg turned serious.
I couldn't say anything. He didn't know that they would come back. He could only hope that they did. Greg had no more control over what happened on that battlefield than I did.
"El," Greg's eyes were normally olive, but at that moment his wolf was coming out and his eyes lightened until they were hazel. That was a sign that he was losing control of his anger.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Michael move. He stood next to his son and put a hand firmly on Greg's shoulder.
Greg stared at me for a second and I watched his eyes return to normal. It was like watching ink being poured into water. It swirled, making the eyes cloudy, before going back to its original color.
He told me once that he had two colors in his eyes because his mom had such vibrant green eyes, that they couldn't remain dormant even though his wolf demanded that he have the golden eyes of a predator.
Greg stepped out from under his father's hand and walked over to me.
I hated to admit it, even to myself, but I could feel tears entering my eyes. The tears were hot and large, and were begging to be let out.
I glanced down at my hands and furiously blinked back my sadness.
Greg wrapped his arms around me and I was instantly surrounded by a blanket of warmth. His arms were long and full of muscle and held me tight against him.
"Howl for us tonight." He whispered to my ear. His voice was deep, and smooth, and everything that a man's voice should be.
I buried my face into his chest and squeezed my eyes tightly together.
"Always." I whispered my promise into his chest. The leather of his waist coat was warm and soft, and I didn't want to let go of him.
But, I let go of him first.
After a peck on the cheek, and giving Cassiel a one-armed man hug, Greg shoved his sword back into his belt and left.
I felt Josh's arm brush against mine, but I didn't turn to him. I knew that he wouldn't say his goodbye until the Beta took his leave as well.
"Take care of yourself." Michael scolded me, playfully.
I forced myself to laugh, "You take care of Josh." I was secretly glad that Michael wanted to make light of the situation. There were only so many teary goodbyes that I could handle.
"Not myself?" He chuckled at the familiar line of banter. These lines were the same ones we had exchanged the last time he had left.
"I don't worry about you." I told him, as if reading off a script.
I hated to admit that I did fear for the Beta. I'd just never tell him that.
Michael stood tall, as tall as dad, and held out his arm. I stared at it for two seconds before walking up to him and grasping his forearm. We stood like that for a moment before Michael nodded tightly and released me.
I was about to take a step back, but Josh was directly behind me.
Michael nodded to my dad once before taking his leave. I let out a shaking breath and closed my eyes for a second. I hated goodbyes. All I wanted to do was run up to my bedroom, hide under my bed, and scream until this damn war was over.
After a few seconds I turned around. I expected Josh to say something, but his attention wasn't on me. I followed his gaze and found myself staring into my father's hazel eyes.
He stood like a stone for a second. His eyes were flaring and I knew that this was as hard for him as it was for me, even if he didn't show it.
Like father like daughter, I guessed.
Then he pushed himself off the wall. He closed in the space between us in less than two strides. Then, he loosely took hold of my arm similarly to how Michael had.
"I love you." He whispered against my hair as he kissed my head. "Be good."
For one second his eyes were soft. He looked like any other father who was saying goodbye to his daughter. However, after exactly two seconds, his edge returned. He straightened his back and dropped my arm.
He grabbed his sword, which was leaning against the wall, and swung open the front door. "You have two minutes." He told Josh without glancing back. Then, without any more tender moments he left the house.
I could hear his boots pound on the deck. I subconsciously memorized every step he took before I could no longer hear him, because he had jumped onto the grass.
He hated goodbyes more than me. He hated any kind of emotional moments. He hated showing any kind of weakness.
But the look in his eyes, no matter how brief it had been, made tears come back into my eyes and throat.
I forced myself to smile as I turned around to face my brother. He nicked my shoulder with his knuckles, "You can't forget about me."
"No one can forget about you, Josh." Gabriel grunted, "You're never quiet long enough." I jumped inwardly. I hadn't even seen him standing in the shadows of the dining room archway. He looked right at home in the shadows. He was adorned in a black beater and cargo pants. His black hair was messy, like he had just ran his hand through it that morning, and his usual frown was etched into his features.
Josh narrowed his eyes at him, but ignored the comment.
I took a second to take in my brother. He looked so much like our father. He had the same strong build, height, and hard rugged look to his features. He was definitely a warrior through and through.
Josh chuckled and hooked his arm around my neck. "I'd be more concerned about you. You're spending all this time, practically alone, with Gabriel."
That broke through some of the built up tension and I cracked a real smile.
Gabriel resembled a brick wall; not only in strength, but in his personality. There was no moving him. He was solid and just as stubborn as I was. Because of that we clashed a lot.
That didn't mean we didn't like each other. Hell, I thought of Gabriel like another brother. We annoyed each other like siblings did. That was just our relationship. We were each other's outlets.
I wiped away the two tears that had fallen down my face. I hoped that no one had noticed them.
I had no such luck.
"Hey," Josh drew me closer. He wrapped his other arm around me and rested his head beside mine. "No fear." He whispered into my ear.
There was such a big age gap between Josh and me that we never had a normal brother-sister relationship. We didn't fight a lot. Most of the time, growing up, I thought of Josh more like a favorite uncle that spoiled me with car rides and candy than an older brother.
Then, after one last hug, Josh followed his packmates.
I choked up.
The next pair of arms that wrapped around me belonged to Cassiel or Cassie as I called him.
Even though he was two years younger than me, he was still a head or so taller than me. I always picked on him about it.
I turned into his embrace, but only stayed there for a few seconds. Cassiel and I shared moments like that. I wasn't afraid to cry in front of him. But that wasn't the time. I'd melt down later.
I picked myself up and mentally put on a mask. Hopefully I wouldn't really cry until later that night, when I would be alone, in the dark, and under my bed.
I turned and Gabriel was right there.
He opened his mouth and I waited for a snide remark.
"You want a stiff drink?" I think that he was only partly joking, because he walked past Cassiel and I, into the kitchen. Faintly, I heard the refrigerator door swing open.
Cassiel gave me a small smile before walking out onto the deck. I looked past him, crossing my arms protectively over my chest, and watched the men of the pack form three sections near the tree line.
Cassie sat on the porch steps. His eyes were glued on the pack.
I had a feeling that he was searching for a peak at his father before he left.
I was about to tear myself away from my agony and join him when I heard my mom jog down the stairs. She came up behind me. I could feel her warm breath against my neck, and she wrapped her arms around my waist from behind.
"Josh is right, sweetheart." She rested her chin on my shoulder.
I bit down on my lip.
Mom and I could pass for sisters. We were the same height, with the same slender and toned bodies, and long legs. At that moment the only real difference was our attire. She wore leather and armor, with weapons along her belt, and I was in jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt.
You can't have any fear." She whispered, "It is bad luck. You have to believe that we're all going to be great." She, again, avoided using the word fine. None of them really thought that fine was a positive word. They only used it when they were lying; when things really weren't great.
I nodded tightly. I was close to breaking down. This conversation was just too much.
"I do." I sniffed, "I really do."
Mom's lips were light and gentle against my cheek when she kissed me, "I love you, baby girl."
Someone cleared their throat on the left side of the deck. Both mom and I glanced over to the railing. Michael was standing there. I couldn't read his face. He was in his military mode, but it was obvious that he wanted to talk to one of us.
I glanced over at mom, who had stepped up so she was standing at my side, and saw a weird grin gracing her lips. I didn't like it and I narrowed my eyes suspiciously at her. She was up to something.
She kissed my cheek again before I could even open my mouth to question her on it. "You'd better take care of my baby girl." She said as she walked off the porch.
Gabriel's voice came from directly behind me. I glanced back to see him taking a long swig from a beer.
I made a face, but didn't say anything.
I just slowly walked away from him and went over to where the Beta was standing. He had his back pressed up against the fence that aligned the porch. His hands were holding tightly to the railing, making his arm muscles bulge.
I wasn't sure what to do, so I just leaned against the railing next to him and waited.
"Listen to Gabriel, okay?" Michael sounded frustrated about something. My insides melted when a dangerously low growl erupted in the center of his chest. It warmed me to my toes.
"I will." I replied, still staring at my shoes.
Michael made a disbelieving sound in the back of his throat, "I mean it, Elaine."
"I said I would." I replied tightly. My head snapped up and I finally looked him in the eyes.
He wiped his face with his hand in an irritated way, "Yeah well, I know you." He chuckled, but not in a nice way. "You'll say that, but when Gabriel gives you an order you'll agree and turn around and do whatever you want."
"I do that with everyone." I shrugged in attempt at keeping the subject light.
"I know." Michael growled openly.
We both glanced over our shoulders to see Alexander standing at the head of the pack. He pointed at his son and then to the floor at his feet.
"Two seconds!" I was shocked to hear an almost desperate tone buried in Michael's tone.
Michael turned back to me and, like he could wait any longer, he grabbed my arm and pulled me against his chest. "Don't do anything stupid while we're gone." He growled into my ear.
I could sense his frustration, his anger, and his annoyance and I clung to him. I held onto him as tightly as I could and remembered all the other times we had stood like this.
I hadn't always tried to distance myself, and my emotions no matter how deep they were, from Michael. For many years he had been my rock. He had always been there when I need someone. And most of the time he listened when I needed to vent.
Only recently did I start pulling away from him. Things had gotten so weird between me and the males of the pack when I turned 16 last year. It was hard to explain, but no one was acting the same way around me. It bothered me. So I just kept everyone at arm's length, except for the few people that hadn't changed like Josh, Cassiel, and mom.
Michael tensed suddenly. He gave me one last squeeze before his arms fell to his sides.
"Take care of yourself." I choked out. I had attempted to sound upbeat, but I failed horribly.
A light grin took some of the struggle out of Michael's features. He kissed my forehead.
When he turned away from me I watched his military personality take control of his features. He became the Beta within seconds, and ran off the porch to where his alpha was waiting.
My hands were trembling from the energy I was putting into not crying. I took a seat in-between Cassiel and Gabriel on the porch.
We probably looked like a bunch of sad sacks.
Cassie wrapped his arm around my back, "Hey," Cassiel started unsurely. I looked up until I was looking into his gold eyes. "How much do you want to bet, that if those guys walked through Hollywood in the U.S. that they'd be cast for they next Gladiator movie?"
He succeeded in making me laugh.
"We should reach the clearing by night fall." Both of us turned to the sound of Alex's voice. His voice made chills go down my spine. He had just a presence, an aura, about him that just made you want to obey him.
I watched him walk out of the crowd. He was dressed in the same type of armor as my parents: leather, with brass holding the tab skirt in place, and a breastplate.
He was a little taller than Michael, which would make Alex about 6"8, and had the same dark brown hair as his second son. From here I could see some stubble along his chin.
Alex really resembled Russell Crowe in The Gladiator at that moment.
I glanced past the men of the pack and saw some of the other packmates standing out of the way. They were the turned or human wives of the men going out to battle. A few teenagers were in the group as well. Most of them were following the men to the clearing, which was the farthest they were allowed to go.
I growled in spite.
"I wish I could go."
Neither of the guys beside me replied, but I didn't care. It didn't matter.
Then, Cassiel jabbed me in the ribs. I swung around, to yell at him, but stopped before I started when I saw the look in his eyes. I followed his gaze and saw Alexander watching us.
He was looking at us from over his shoulder.
Cassiel and I waved to him.
He grinned back at us. His eyes were full of determination and pride. He sent us one wave before leading the pack into the woods.
The pack ran after him. They ran through the brush, around the trees, and were soon invisible to me. I leaned onto Cassiel and he held onto me. I could tell that both of us were close to a break down.
"I'll start dinner." Gabriel, with his beer to his lips, stood.
I barely noticed him walk around Cassie and I and up into my house.
My eyes were glued on the last place I saw my pack, my family.
"Do you want to watch a movie?" Cassiel asked quietly, as if he were afraid something would happen if he broke the silence. "Maybe we could get Gabriel to watch Blood and Chocolate with us." His voice wasn't fully mature, but was still deeper than most teenage boy's. "It's the most authentic werewolf movie I can find."
I stood up and he followed me, probably thinking that I had just accepted his offer.
"I'm going on a run."
I jumped over the remaining steps and jogged through half the lawn before I heard Cassiel protest "Is that really such a good idea? The pack just left."
"I'll be back before dark."
With that I took off into the woods, opposite where the pack had gone, and let my dormant wolf side take over.
I lifted my head and howled as I ran. I pushed myself so hard; thinking that the faster I ran the most likely my pain was to go away.