There's no prompt this week but I hope you'll enjoy the chapter anyway!!
“Oh! and we’re mates now. Really? That’s how you tell us?” Kraig smacked my arm. “I can’t believe you! Poor Ritch, marrying an idiot like you.”
“Hey!” I pushed him away, ignoring Deke’s rumble of warning. I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t hurt him. And you’ve seen us roughhouse harder than that, hell, you even got in on it.”
“That was before.”
“Before he got his own fangs and claws. Pretty sure Kraig can take care of himself.”
Deke raised one eyebrow. “Okay. How about we see if Ritch wants to tussle?”
The rising timber of my growl startled even me, and I was glad Ritch was in the bathroom. “No one touches him.”
“Exactly.” Deke leaned back, satisfied with himself.
“Well then tell him to stop harassing me.”
Ritch stopped at the end of the hallway. His mouth was open slightly and he tilted his head. “Did you just whine?”
“Like a big ole baby.” Kraig sauntered over to the chair and sank down on Deke’s lap, snugging in.
“Oh shut up.” I held out my hand for Ritch. “My brother was tormenting me, and Deke won’t let me make him stop.”
“And what is he doing?”
I rubbed my hand up and down the outside of Ritch’s arm after he sat down next to me. “Teasing me about how I told them we had become mates.”
“Ahh. Well, when you have a habit of putting your foot in your mouth, then you have to expect some teasing,” Ritch said dryly.
“Oh shit, he’s got you.” Deke started laughing, and Kraig actually giggled.
I bared my fangs but didn’t say anything because Ritch looked so proud of himself. Eventually they got tired of insulting me and the topic moved on to the incident that had prompted my territorial instincts.
“There have been no reports of anyone near our borders,” Deke said. “I think it was just a coincidence. Specialized investigators from the lead alpha council have been combing through the materials recovered from Trein’s territory. It appears the doctor was working alone when he traveled through different territories, collecting samples and testing once Kraig was supposed to be reject from the experiments.”
Kraig shuddered, and Deke curled his arms around him and pulled him closer.
“What about the humans? There were a lot of ferals with him, turned humans. They can’t all have gone missing unnoticed.” I shuddered, remembering that room full of slavering ferals, knowing how they ripped apart my mom apart.
“There are a lot of human homeless,” Ritch countered. “Bonded werekin tend to stay away from urban human areas. Alphas and betas are aware of every single member living in their territory. That’s now how humans work.”
“So it’s entirely possible the human government wasn’t involved,” Deke concluded.
“I think that’s shortsighted. It has to be more. This can’t all just be over.”
Ritch turned on the couch to face me. “Why not? There’s no one left to fight. I’m safe. Kraig is safe.” He looked down and took a deep breath. “I think you’re looking for danger and someone left to be the enemy so you don’t have to face what you lost. It’s over, and you need to face that there’s no one left to punish for your mom’s death.”
His words hit me like blows, and I couldn’t hide my flinch. An immediate denial sprang to my lips, but then he put his hand on my arm and I couldn’t deny it. But I couldn’t admit it either, especially with Deke and Kraig looking at me like that. Like I was broken. Pitiful.
I jerked up and bolted from the room.
“Park!” Ritch called.
“No. Let him go.”
Deke’s command was the last thing I heard before I took off. At the edge of the woods I tore off my shoes. I needed to run, to feel the earth beneath my feet.
The habit of years took over, and I headed for the perimeter.
Two days later, I crept up on my porch. I could feel Ritch’s distress and sadness, but I couldn’t process it. His words had unlocked a swirling maelstrom inside that consumed me. It hurt, a physical ache in my stomach that made me sick. Added to the emotional burden, and I had gone slightly feral; it was the only way I could handle it.
The sun had fallen behind the trees, and twilight created long shadows. There was a lone light on in the living room, and it flickered—the TV. I peered in the window. Ritch was curled up on the couch, the blanket off my bed wrapped around him.
A gun sat starkly on the coffee table, the matte black glinting dully in the blue light.
Why did he have that? I nearly barreled through the front door, but I stopped with my hand on the doorknob. He had a gun in arm’s reach. The last thing I wanted to do was startle him. I eased the door open and winced when the alarm beeped. I rushed over to the alarm to shut it off, glad my feet were bare so I could move silently.
I stalked over to the couch, but when I peeked over the back, Ritch was asleep. I took the gun and moved it to the kitchen counter. Then I sat down on the table facing him.
“Ritch?” I rubbed his shoulder. “Ritch, wake up.”
He stirred. “Park?” he asked sleepily.
“It’s me. I’m back.”
He blinked slowly, a line folded between his eyebrows as he frowned. Then his eyes flared open wide. “Park!” He bolted off the couch and into my arms. “You’re home.” His chest heaved as he shuddered. “You’re home.”
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