Chapter Twenty

Too Much Trouble

The next day, Elli, Desmond, and Peter were cleaning out the study on the first floor, while Noah and Jasper were at work and Kate, Richard, and Addy were in class. Jasper worked at the video game shop and Peter worked with Addy at the 24 hour grocery store, but had the day off. There was still a lot of work to be done before the new housemates would have their own rooms. Elli wasn't sure how she felt about that… On the upside, the study would be done much sooner than the spare room upstairs. There were so many repairs needed up there.

"Elli, can we talk?" Blake's voice carried. She paused a moment in her packing to locate him in the house and then realized how difficult that was. He didn't need to breathe and he had no heartbeat.

"I'm in the attic," he informed after a minute or two had passed with no response.

"Sure," she whispered back, knowing that he would hear it. She stood and stretched, having spent most of the morning packing up the books on the bottoms of the shelves.

"I'm going to go check on Blake," she informed them both, although the sentence was mainly to let Desmond know where she would be in case something happened.

"Okay," her best friend replied.

Peter nodded in acknowledgement, but didn't say anything. He didn't seem comfortable around anyone other than Addy and Peter. Maybe he just had good instincts.

She exited the room and went up to the attic. He hadn't added anything to the room since she had last entered it. He lounged on his bed.

"What's up?" she asked him. He turned his head to glance her way and she noticed how pale he was, even for a vampire. His eyes narrowed at her and before she could blink, he was up off the bed. Her brain didn't even have time to register what was happening; he had her pushed up against the wall so quickly.

"Gods, Blake. Just tell me," she muttered. She flinched as his teeth sunk into her neck once again. She wished Jasper were in the house, because she knew his heartbeat would calm her down, but he wouldn't be back for a few more hours at least.

Slow, deep breaths. Slow, deep breaths. Slow, deep breaths. You can control this. You can control yourself. You've got it.

She closed her eyes and kept repeating it to herself, doing exactly as she instructed. That might not be the best strategy, considering the scent of vampire was driving her inner wolf mad. Gods, this arrangement was not going to work out.

She started to feel faint and let out a growl. "Stop."

He didn't.

"Blake, you need to stop," she said, hearing the panic leak into her voice.

When he continued to ignore her, she squirmed, struggling to escape. His grip on her wrists tightened, becoming painful.

"Blake," it came out as a snarl this time. She was losing control. The wolf was coming out.

A key turned in the lock downstairs as someone entered the house. The sound registered in her mind with the hope that it was Jasper, but the sound of her mate's heartbeat did not come to her ears.

Her legs buckled beneath her. Blake shifted his grasp to support her dead weight. The door opened with a bang.

"Blake," her brother snarled. Her eyes snapped open, but her vision was blurred. She fell to the ground as the vampire released her. She saw him lunge at Noah but couldn't focus on what was happening there. Her vision doubled.

For the love of the Gods, don't pass out. Don't do it.

She struggled to push herself up. As she collapsed back down, she felt her claws scratch the floor. Her claws were out. They were always the last thing to shift. She ran her tongue along her teeth and sure enough, her canine fangs were out. Maybe if she passed out, she wouldn't do anything at all? Not that it mattered. Unconscious or not, she would have no memory of whatever transpired. Her only hope was that if she was out, she wouldn't do any damage. She was already shifted. It was too late to stop that, so she gave in to the blackness.

Thanksgiving was coming up fast and Richard missed his family the most during the holidays. He knew his sisters flew in for the week and decided to surprise his family with a visit. Kate was the only person around when he headed out, so he let her know where he was going before beginning to walk to his parents' place. The distance was almost ten miles, which wasn't too bad except for the snow outside. Richard didn't mind the weather. He was always dressed for it anyways.

As he walked, he thought about the last time he'd seen either of his sisters. He had seen Holly over two years ago at his high school graduation. She had managed to get the time off from work to come down. The last time he had seen Tracy had been the Christmas before his graduation, almost two and a half years ago. He had never been that close with his eldest sister, but he missed her, too. Heaven knew he wanted to see his parents again. It would be a nice visit, even if his family thought he was crazy.

Distracted by thoughts of his family, he didn't hear the footsteps behind him until it was much too late. Someone grabbed him from behind and a cloth covered his mouth and nose. He briefly struggled before the chloroform took effect and he went limp in his attacker's arms as he lost consciousness.

When he came to, he had no idea where he was but he knew he was in trouble. He sat in a wooden chair, his hands bound behind his back and his legs tied to the chair. He tugged lightly at the ropes to test their strength, but there was no give. He would not be escaping any time soon.

The room was dark and he had a hard time making out anything. His eyes roamed the room, trying to see something. It looked like there was a window in front of him, with curtains drawn shut. There appeared to be a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. There was a door on his right, which let in a small amount of light through the cracks. That was all he could see.

The door opened with a creak and the lights came on.

"Morning, sunshine," an unfamiliar voice said as Richard blinked, adjusting his eyes to the sudden brightness. He looked at the gentleman who had opened the door. He was in his late forties or early fifties, tall with blue eyes and graying black hair. Richard didn't recognize him.

"Any idea why you're here?" the stranger asked.

He shook his head. "Too many possibilities."

"It's mostly just poor timing on your part. We're not after you."

He was actually afraid of that. If they had been after him, it would all be over at this point. Instead this was only just the beginning.

"Who then?" he wondered. It could be anyone in the house, though he doubted it was Addy or Kate, he couldn't narrow it down further. Blake, Elli, Noah, and Desmond were all fleeing from hunters. He assumed the hunters had found one of them.

"The Sullivans, of course. Although there are others you know as well."

"So why am I here?" He had to ask, even if the answer terrified him.

"Because you left the house alone."

He frowned. That told him nothing, which was perhaps a good thing, but he still needed to know. "What do you want with me?"

The hunter smiled coldly. "Information, of course."

"I'm afraid I can't help with that." The siblings had deliberately kept things from their housemates in the apparently-not-so-unlikely event that something like this happened.

"Oh, I'm sure you can. There are certain things that anyone living with a pair of werewolves would be able to tell us."

He sighed. "Like what?"

"Just little details. You'll see." He left the room for a moment and Richard shuddered. Nothing good was going to happen. The hunter returned with an object in his hand. Oh, that really wasn't good.

The object was a collar and he quickly snapped it around Richard's neck.

"Now, you could just tell me what I want to know, but I know it's not that simple. Few people will betray their friends right off the bat, but I'm a patient man. I can wait."

"What does the collar do?" So many questions that he knew he had to ask, but didn't want answered.

"Hopefully it provides incentive for you to tell me what I wish to know."

"You're good at answering questions without giving information."

The man smiled. "Let's hope that you aren't."

"What do you want to know?"

"Well, mainly I'd like to know where to find them, because Seth somehow managed to ascertain that you were all living together but doesn't seem to know where that is. But we'll get there eventually. There are other things I'd like to know first."

"Like what?" he repeated.

He walked behind Richard and grabbed something heavy, moving it to the front. It was a chair which he plopped himself into. "Why are they still here? Noah was spotted in Washington months ago. We came to track him. I didn't expect to find them still here."

Richard fell silent, deciding not to answer this question or any of the ones that followed. It's not like he really knew anyways. He suspected it was because they had mated, but he had no way of knowing that for sure.

Another smile spread over the man's face. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."

He simply stared at the ground, studying the hardwood floor. It wasn't well-maintained, but it might have been nice once. Richard's best guess was that they were in an abandoned house somewhere. Unfortunately, there wasn't an abandoned house anywhere in Black Wood that he could think of and who knew how long he'd been out. They could be anywhere.

"I'm so glad you're not working with me. It gives me a reason to use this." He pulled a small remote out of his pocket and pressed the button. Richard let out a sharp cry of surprise and pain as the collar sent a shock through his body.

"That's the low setting, you know. It only gets worse."

Of course it does, he thought to himself, but continued his silence.

"I've got plenty of time. We can do this for weeks."

He hoped they wouldn't. Maybe Elli and Noah would get wind of the hunters and run. God, he hoped they would run.

The hunter sighed. "I wonder if they'll miss you. Will anyone notice you're gone?"

Someone would, but it would take a while. They thought he was with his family. They wouldn't be concerned until weeks went by with no word from him. He was in so much trouble.

"They won't, will they? Well then that just gives us more time."

It occurred to him that he could die here in this house. He hadn't seen it, but that didn't mean it wouldn't happen.

"So what keeps them here? It can't be each other. They've gone three years apart. But they never stay in one place for very long. This would be precisely why. So what changed for them?"

He stayed silent and another, slightly more painful shock shot through him accompanied by another yelp of pain. Expecting it didn't help anything.

"Such an odd question not to answer. Unless, of course, there's someone keeping them here. A mate perhaps?" Something clicked in his mind. Richard could see it in the man's face. "Are you protecting them because Elli mated with you?"

"No," he quickly denied, because it was the truth. He wasn't Elli's mate, but his rapid denial merely confirmed it in the hunter's mind. That might have been for the best. Better the man believed that than the real truth- the truth Richard had been denying himself for weeks.

He had dreamed of futures where he was with Noah. He had seen the good times and the bad times, but he didn't believe it was possible. He couldn't be with someone with his powers. But then he had met Blake and that had given him hope. He still hadn't known for sure until he had woken up this morning and found himself snuggling with the wolf, his face half buried in Noah's soft fur. Naturally, that had triggered a vision and Richard could no longer deny it. He was Noah's mate. He knew that didn't mean a happily ever after, but it was something and if he was honest with himself, he'd been crushing on Noah since the furball had arrived. He just knew how to hide his feelings.

Of course, none of that mattered now. Now, he was hoping and praying and wishing that he would never see Noah again, because that would keep the werewolf safe and alive.

The hunter smiled at him. "I wonder what she would do to get you back."

He wondered that, too. She might do something stupid, if more for Noah's sake than his. "Probably nothing."

"You underestimate the bond between a wolf and her mate. She would die to protect you."

"What would you know about that bond?"

"More than you, it appears. But we've gotten off topic. You still haven't told me much. Some, but nowhere near what I want to know."

Richard sighed and went back to staring at the floor. He had nothing more to say to the hunter. It would cost him, but he would remain silent.

A/N: So, a couple things about this chapter. FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING GOOD PLEASE DON'T KILL ME. Ahem... Seriously though, please don't. I know this was a sad chapter, but if you kill me, I can't keep uploading and you won't find out what happens to everyone so yeah.

On a more positive note: Richard knows about Noah! So that's good. Really, that's like the only good thing in this chapter. I mean, plot, but well, yeah... I'm sorry. No I'm not.

So...yeah... I hope you somewhat enjoyed and hopefully I'll update next weekend.