“Are you okay?” I asked Kraig after everyone left.
He shook his head. “I don’t know how to be okay. With the things they... my dad?” He put a hand over the mark still livid on his wrist. “How could he?” His voice broke, and Kraig looked at me with so much pain.
It was almost impossible to suppress my rage. Only the fact that Kraig needed me here, needed me to suppress my instincts to kill everyone who hurt him, kept me sitting. “I don’t know. We’re going to find out though.”
“Can I... can we talk to my mom?”
My heart sank. Lydia. She was still here, so odds were she wasn’t part of whatever Henry was up to. But to be sure? “I’ll have to do it.”
“You saw my father submit streak members before. That power, it comes with being Alpha. If I’m going to trust your mother, I will have to submit her. To know for sure.” I searched his face. “I don’t want to do it. I don’t use this unless I have to.”
Kraig put his hand on my cheek. “I just don’t want you to think I’m a monster,” I said.
“You promise?” The question came out in a whisper.
His hands tightened on my face. “I promise.”
I searched his eyes, looked for any hesitation, any doubt. I let out my breath slowly. “Okay. Let’s call your mom.”
Kraig wanted to stay downstairs with me, but I wouldn’t let him. Mostly, was that I wanted him safe. That was the reason I gave him that he finally gave me my way. A part of me still feared he’d see what I was about to do to his mom and hate me for it.
Lydia’s car stopped at the end of the driveway. She got out slowly. “Come here,” I called. A thread of power in my voice was all it took.
“What is going on, Deke?”
“Alpha.” I layered my voice with power, with the bond between me and a member of my streak. Lydia blanched and wavered.
“Alpha,” she repeated. She swallowed.
“Where is Henry?” I asked.
Her eyes widened. “Gone. On a task for you to talk to a man.”
“The truth.” I hit her with the command and took her will from her forcing her to submit.
Lydia gasped and fell to her knees. She held a hand to her stomach. “Gone. For you.”
“Did you put a drug in Kraig’s food?”
She gasped. “No.”
My stomach churned, and I was sickened by the questions, by the way I was getting answers. “Did you have anything to do with Kraig being kidnapped? With the experiments on him?”
Tears poured from her eyes. She hunched, one hand keeping her up as she gagged and then vomited, bile puddling in the gravel under her. She shook her head.
“Answer me.” I’d never used so much power. My head throbbed, and I was seconds away from throwing up myself.
“No!” she screamed. “I’d never hurt my sons,” she sobbed.
I collapsed in front of her, pulling back on the power linked between us. “I’m sorry,” I said. My throat burned and I swallowed repeatedly. “I had to be sure.”
“Sure of what?”
The last thing I wanted to do was tell her, but she was owed an explanation, at the very least. “We have evidence that Henry was involved with the people who hurt Kraig. Not only when he was taken, but when he went feral at your house.”
“What did you say. Henry...” She clamped her lips together and shook her head. “No. He couldn’t do that to his own son.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s true.”
Tears streamed from her eyes. She sank back, the stripes on her cheeks dark against her paling skin. “Oh god.” She looked up. “And you thought I...?”
“There’s nothing I won’t do to keep Kraig safe. Nothing.” No matter what the damage to me, to my streak. Submitting her, forcing the truth from Lydia, was hurt her less than what she could’ve done to Kraig if she was part of the plot.
I watched helplessly as she fell apart. Lydia wept quietly, one hand shoved against her mouth as she rocked. “I’m sorry.” I couldn’t say it enough times to show how guilty I felt for using a power that I never wanted to have, much less use, on my people. She sucked in a deep breath and held it, her shoulders shaking. She let it out slowly, and then took another. The trembling gradually slowed.
She wiped her face with both hands. “Why do this here? Now?”
“Kraig wants to see you. We’re both looking for answers, and all we have is more questions. He needs you.” I could only hope that she wouldn’t hold my need to protect her son against him. I looked at the house. “He’s inside.”
Lydia struggled to her feet, but I didn’t dare off her help. She brushed the dust off the knees of her jeans. “Let’s go in through the kitchen so I can clean up first.” As much as I could tell she was trying to act like she was fine, Lydia kept both arms wrapped around her middle.
I pulled the keys from my pocket and unlocked the door. Not that a locked door would stop a bonded werekin, but it would slow them down, especially one as slight as Lydia. I held the door open and gestured for her to come inside. She slid by me carefully.
Pain and guilt combined to create a dark mark on my spirit. In the animal world the strong survived and ruled the weak, but I remembered this woman taking care of me, loving me, since I was a boy. If I’d broken that between us?
She washed her face and rinsed her mouth. Holding on to the counter, she took a deep breath. “Okay. I’m ready to see him now.”
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