“Is that all you said?”
“It’s what’s important that you know,” Sorin said vaguely.
“I am not so fragile that you can’t tell me the truth.” Elle decided to open the bond that she had been blocking, hoping to show him that she wasn’t going to run again.
Sorin pulled back abruptly to look down at her. She could see the hope shining in his eyes, as well as the compelling way he needed her.
“Have you gotten your markings as well?”
“I don’t know. Where would they be?”
“Anywhere,” he answered seriously. Elle was impressed at his mature ability to pass up the opportunity for a naughty joke.
“Maybe I should check.” She stood from his lap and walked toward the bathroom.
“Let me know if you need assistance,” Sorin told her with a twinkle in his eye.
Ah, there's the man in him, Elle thought.
“I think I got this, Guardian,” She snorted as she closed the bathroom door.
Sorin was taken back that she had called him Guardian. He had not been called that in a long time, though that had been his job when Fane was a child, guarding the future Alpha of their pack. That had been his sole responsibility.
If he were being honest, once Fane had no longer needed him as his Guard, Sorin had felt a little lost as to what his place in the pack would be. Now, finding Elle, he had a purpose again. Behind those bathroom doors he had a future, and for the first time in a very long time he actually felt at peace about what that future held.
It was after midnight when Vasile and his group arrived at the Carpathian Mountains. He drove the van down an old road that wound through the mountains, finally coming to stop in exactly nowhere, as far as Jacque could tell. They all filed out of the van, stretching out after the long drive, which had been undertaken with as few stops as possible.
“How are you holding up, love?” Fane asked as he wrapped his arms around her waist. Jacque laid her head on his chest and soaked in his warmth and scent.
“I’m good as long as I’m with you.” She leaned back and grinned up at him.
Fane chuckled. “That was a good one.”
“I know, right? Good and mushy.”
Fane leaned down and kissed her softly before stepping back and taking her hand in his. They turned to face Vasile and Alina as everyone else had done.
“I know that you all are tired,” Vasile addressed them, “and I don’t think I really made it clear that we will be hiking and sleeping in the great outdoors.”
Jacque held back a groan, barely.
“We are going to hike tonight for about an hour, then we can call it a night. We are going to need to keep our wits about us the deeper into the mountains we go. There are supernaturals that take shelter in this forest and it would be wise of us to not draw their attention.”
“No offense, Alpha, but we have three Alpha males hiking with five females. How exactly were you planning on keeping us incognito?” Jacque asked.
“Good point, Jacque. I did think of that. Believe it or not, we males can think ahead occasionally,” Vasile teased. “Adam should be arriving soon and he will be cloaking us. He said that he might not make himself known to us right away, but would be covering us from afar. In fact, he might already be in place. I trust him to do his best.”
Jacque gave him the thumbs up. “Good call, V. I knew you were Alpha for a reason.”
“So glad I have your approval.”
Jacque looked over at Alina, who was trying to hide her smile.
“He has mastered sarcasm way too quickly.”
Alina laughed. “You have no one to blame but yourself.”
“Oh no, I’m not taking sole responsibility. Jen is probably guiltier than I am.”
Everyone mumbled their agreement as the males began unloading the van and distributing everyone’s packs.
Once everyone was armed with their survival gear, the group set off. Vasile took the lead, with the others following in a single file line arranged so that each female was walking between two males..
They hiked steadily up a path that hadn’t been used in a very long time. Jacque looked into the dark forest around them and, as usual, was shocked at how well she could see. Having her wolf surface had some serious pluses.
She felt the cool night breeze blow on her face and shivered when she sensed something unnatural and unsettling that she just couldn’t place.
Crina, who was walking behind her, whispered, “Do you feel that?”
Jacque nodded. “It feels like we’re being watched.”
“Exactly,” Crina agreed.
“Fane, do you feel it?” She reached out to him.
“Yes, it’s putting my wolf on edge.”
“Rachel, do you sense anything?” Gavril asked her quietly, but aloud so that the others would know.
“I do, but it doesn’t feel evil.”
“The pixies aren’t evil,” Vasile said from the front of the line. Everyone’s sensitive ears, even Rachel being a dormant, were able to hear him just fine. “They are neutral until they choose a side. They might decide to test us, so keep your eyes and ears open.”
The rest of the hour, the forest was quiet as they climbed deeper and deeper into the mountains. The only sounds were the soft rustling of leaves and foliage as they passed.
After what seemed like the longest and most uneasy hour of Jacque’s life, they finally stopped. There was a small clearing to the right of the crude path. A few large rocks enclosed the area, giving the illusion of cover. The guys dropped their packs and immediately started gathering wood for a fire. The girls began organizing spots for sleeping gear; no tents. Jacque had asked why and Fane had replied that, “You can’t see your enemy through a tent.”
So that was how they slept, as close to the fire as possible without getting burned. The guys took up rotation of keeping watch through the night, a night that would become the last memory of peace for a very long time – a memory they would reach for in the coming darkness.
“Sometimes what you think is true, what you think is safe and good, is actually evil in disguise. Evil so enticing, so deceiving, that you don’t know it’s evil until its wrapped you up and caressed you as a lover. You gaze into its eyes, enraptured by the pretty words it whispers softly in your ears, realizing too late that the pretty words were all just twisted lies.” ~ Jacque