Ididn’t know if I liked this guy. I didn’t know if I trusted him, even if Eliza did. He was an enemy and way too familiar with Eliza. He kept touching her, something that was driving me absolutely crazy. I couldn’t stand the man’s hands on Eliza, but she made it clear that he meant something to her. Did we not?
I didn’t know where I stood with her all of a sudden and I truly didn’t like that feeling. Patrick had shown up out of the blue and changed things.
Patrick thought that his pack would hit the Pullers Ranch first, which meant we needed to get this information to Sterling. I didn’t know if I trusted Patrick or not, but if there was even a slight chance that he was right, we had to warn Sterling.
Calvin stayed with Eliza and Patrick, while I tried to get ahold of Sterling. He wasn’t answering, probably busy with the new mate. She seemed to keep him constantly busy. Everyone joked about it, but now it wasn’t so funny. We couldn’t just leave them there to be attacked in the night. We had to go warn them.
Eliza was just as worried as I was. We’d told Sterling that if anything happened with Eliza being there, we would take responsibility for it. At the time, I didn’t that was something we would ever have to do.
I pulled her into my arms and kissed her. I needed to remind myself that she was still mine and that this Patrick guy wasn’t going to change anything. I couldn’t stand the idea of it.
I could see the fear in her eyes and held her close. “No one is going to hurt you or take you away. We are never going to let that happen.”
Eliza shook her head. “I am not worried for myself. I am worried for all of your people. I brought all this trouble to them and if anything happens to anybody here, it’s going to be my fault. I wanted to be long gone before any of this happened and they found out where the Dark Riders were.”
There was a very good possibility that somebody was going to get hurt tonight, and that meant it was guaranteed that she was going to take on some horrible guilt.
There was so much that I wanted to say to her to make Eliza see that this wasn’t her fault. We had been fighting them a lot longer than she had even been alive. How could one rejected mate be so much trouble?
“We need to get going,” Patrick said, and we all got ready to go to Pullers Ranch.
* * *
We got there aboutfifteen minutes later, but we were already too late. I saw a lot of death and destruction, but at least it was not my people. Patrick said that Amos’s long game was land acquisition, but he seemed surprised that all of the horses had been slaughtered. Millions of dollars in assets gone. When we got into the barn where the prized stallions were kept, of them were dead.
Sterling and his mate were in the stables, looking over the damage, and he had look on his face that was anger and fury and vengeance.
“Tell me that this isn’t you two. Because of her.” Sterling then looked from Eliza to the person standing next to her.
“Who are you?!”
Patrick did not back down at the hostility emanating from Sterling. It was hard not to, because Sterling was a scary guy. His new mate had possibly softened him some, but that was gone at the moment. His mate was devastated, and Sterling was looking for someone to blame.
I stepped up. “This is Patrick. He’s from the Bransom Country pack wand he’s here to help.”
Sterling was not accepting of an enemy. He was on Patrick in a flash, but the older man held his ground. Sterling had him by the throat, his feet practically off the ground, but Patrick just stayed calm.
“Well, I will be the first to state the obvious, Patrick. You are a little late. Your people are here and they have devastated my ranch. Are you sure you weren’t here for sabotage and not help?”
Patrick explained how he had just found out and got here as quickly as he could. He was then let go.
Patrick could have attacked at any time, probably should have, the way Sterling was reacting to him, but instead, he had calmly waited for Sterling to get understand. I didn’t know if I would have been able to be as calm as he was. I still didn’t like that Eliza was attached to Patrick in some way, or that he was attracted to her, but I had to admire his resolve.
After the tense moments were over, Eliza moved out of my arms and towards Patrick. Sterling looked like he had a whole lot of questions that were more personal that he wanted to ask Calvin and me, but thankfully, he didn’t ask any questions out loud, even though I know he was dying to. It would be a conversation for another time, whether I was looking forward to it or not. He was going to have to know what was going on soon enough, but I don’t even know what the hell was going on at the moment. First, we had to get through these attacks, then we could see what was on the other side of it. Right now, getting through was what mattered most, and also seemed to be the hardest.
A meeting was called, and in about an hour, everyone was at Pullers Ranch. The Dark Riders were used to attacks. We’d been attacked many times in the past and we were gearing up for a war with the Bransom Country pack anyway. It was just unexpected and a bit disconcerting to find out that we were on the defensive for the first time in a long time. It took a lot of balls for somebody to attack our pack, as big as it was.
Sterling must have trusted Patrick a little bit, because he let the man speak in front of everyone at the meeting. There was a lot of open hostility towards Patrick for who he was, as well as Eliza when they found out that she was an enemy as well. It wasn’t as bad because she was a woman, but she got a lot of negative looks. There were a lot of people who did not want the extra trouble, but Sterling shut those people down immediately.
“We all knew that we were going to have to take care of the Bransom Country clan eventually. I was trying to put it off, because bad peace is better than good war, but these people don’t want to live in peace. We know how they’re going to attack because of Patrick and we know what their abilities are, as well as their weaknesses. We are going into this with more information than we would have any other time, and I am going to take that as a positive. Everyone here is to leave Eliza and Patrick be. They are under my protection. I see your looks, I know how you feel, but they are here to help us. We can end this tonight, or as quickly as possible. We are not here for revenge; it never ends well. We are here to take care of the people who wish us harm, and we are to use any means necessary to stop them.”
Worry spread across Patrick’s face at that. He loved his people, like any other shifter. Eliza, though, didn’t seem to be bothered one way or another. After all they had done to her, Eliza had no intention of saving them. I couldn’t blame her, but it also made me feel sad. Eliza needed somewhere to belong. When this was all over, we needed to figure things out. She deserved to belong, and I wanted to be the one to help her. Eliza deserved to be in a pack that would love her. Talking to Sterling when this was over would be my first priority.
For now, though, we all needed to focus, and even though it was hard to do, I was going to do my best to do just that. The plan was set. We were ready for the next attack, as long as the information we were getting was good. I really hoped it was. Not for Patrick’s sake, but for Eliza’s. I didn’t want to see her hurt. I had to protect Eliza. No one was going to touch her.