So many around me were covering their ears and grimacing in shared pain with the animals that were being torched. I did not block out the sound of suffering, but instead used it as a reminder. That was going to keep me moving forward, exactly the direction I needed to go in.
I saw movement beside me, moments before the attack. I felt pressure on my neck and the sharp pain was followed by from the feeling of blood running down my neck. I wasn’t going to let it slow me down. The brief splash of pain just reminded me that I had to fight harder. The attacker was dispatched quickly, and that gave me a moment to look around at what was going on. I couldn’t see Sterling anymore, but I did see Calvin fighting one enemy after another. He started to take another on, but was then jumped from behind by another.
Going into the fray, I snapped at one wolf that was attacking Calvin. We had fought side by side before and had learned to rely on that teamwork. The two of us took out several more that came out of the woods. I had no idea how many there were, but it was obvious that Amos brought most of his pack. That just meant he was going to lose more of his people.
I looked for Eliza when I got a moment to breathe. She had a personal vendetta to take care of with the woman who was taking her place as queen, Sondra. What they had between them was a lot more than that, of course—she had done horrible things to Eliza. I figured that’s wherever that woman was, that’s where I was going to find Eliza. Like Sterling, she was here for someone in particular. Sterling was going for the head of the beast, but Eliza was going for the appendage that had personally hurt her. Getting emotional at times like this could sidetrack a person and I worried about her.
Calvin must have been looking for her too, because he got my attention and then pointed her out in the distance. There was an immediate sense of relief that she was still okay. But then worry because I saw that she had found her mark and the two were going at it. It was obvious that whatever happened next, one of the two was going to die.
I scanned the dark forest, squinting against the fire and shadows, and watched as Sterling ripped Amos’s throat out and stood over his dead human body. A sudden shiver went through all of our enemies who were still standing. They had all felt their alpha get killed.
Some of the remaining Bransom Country pack members ran. The fight that they had with the Dark Riders was done. They were only there because their Alpha had forced them to be.
Others, like the woman Eliza was fighting, went into a blood-hungry rage and started to attack without any thought of the outcome. Eliza was quickly being overtaken, and Sondra looked like she was bound and determined to go in for the kill. If we got peace out of this and lost Eliza, it would not be worth it. I started running towards her, determined to get there before Sondra delivered that finishing blow.
I could just see it all playing out so horribly wrong in my head. There was no way to shake the feeling that I was about to lose her. All I could think about was that I was just a few feet away and I was going to lose her, unable to get to her in time.
Then, like I was watching it all in slow motion, Sondra was on top of Eliza and clamped her jaw around Eliza’s throat.
I got to them as quickly as I could and ripped Sondra off of Eliza. She went about ten feet, sailing into a tree, bending in an unnatural way. I didn’t think she was dead, but she wasn’t going to be moving for a while.
I turned and focused all of my attention on Eliza.
Ithought everything was going well. I was going to get the better of Sondra and finally have my revenge. For everything she had done to me, she deserved to die. Honestly, I felt like they all did.
I lost hope when I felt the popping pain in my throat. Then the blood gushing out of me. I knew then that I was done for. All I could think about was how unfair it all was because I hadn’t gotten my revenge. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. I felt it so strongly that I truly couldn’t believe what had happened. This was not how it was supposed to end.
Darkness swallowed me, but then there was this warm light all over my body, heating up every chilled part of me. I had never felt as good as I did in that glowing light, but then seconds later it was back to darkness, remembering the pain of my injury.
I felt a burning sensation, especially in my neck and shoulders, much like the feeling I got when I healed someone and that power went through me. I opened my eyes and saw Eddie standing over me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
The expression on his face changed to one of surprise. It came to me then that I shouldn’t be able to talk. I shouldn’t be able to get up, to be held in his arms and kissed and cried over. I should have been dead. I had never healed myself before. I didn’t know if it was some life-saving switch that got thrown when I was dying, but I was breathing. I wasn’t ungrateful, but I was definitely shocked.
Most of the remaining Bransom Country pack ran off, no longer willing to fight. They had just lost their Alpha and their queen. That was the kind of loss that could destroy a pack. Half of them were dead on the ground, and I felt both happy and sad that so many of them were gone.
Sondra was still alive, getting up and shaking off an injury. I had to imagine it was Eddie who had done it, he had such a fierce protective look on his face. I really loved him in that moment.
I looked back at Sondra and knew I couldn’t let her leave. She was hurt and wouldn’t be able to fight back, but I didn’t care. Everything she had done, the years of pain and suffering I went through because of her, it all worked up inside of me and made killing her far easier than it should have been. It was quick and most likely painless, and for just a moment, I wanted to be just as evil and dark as she was.
Sondra was dead at my feet and I couldn’t believe it was finally over. Was it normal to feel relief when so many were dead? But when I remembered that I had almost been killed as well, that I had to rely on my body’s instinct to heal itself, I would be dead by Sondra’s hands. That took away any guilt I might have felt.
* * *
Everything was strange afterwards.Patrick was happy that we had won, but he was sad that he had lost most of the people he knew and loved. Maybe I would have felt differently if I had been treated like he had.
When Patrick came to me with the idea of going back, I laughed at him. Somehow, he was next in line to be alpha, and the remaining pack members wanted him to take over. He felt like it was his duty to do so. I tried to remind him that he had a duty to his mate.
To say that I wasn’t happy, would have been an understatement. I felt betrayed. Patrick offered again for me to become the queen of the Bransom Country pack, like I was always supposed to be. He didn’t get it, though; I wasn’t leaving the Dark Riders. They accepted me and it was the first time I had felt like I belonged anywhere. There was no way I was going to get rid of those feelings.
I insisted Patrick go back without me. It was obvious that was where he wanted to be, fixing all the problems Amos had caused. All I cared about was never having to deal with them again.
I found out I was pregnant from Sterling, of all people. I thought he was just joking when he said it.