Installment No. 49
German moved with Sofia, trailing her while keeping his two feet on the floor, and not on the table as his red she-wolf had done. He had to hand it to her, though. A wolf leaping up then stalking down the center of the long table was impressive, even to those who were the wolf-people. Apparently, they’d been too long out of touch with their beasts because every eye followed the red wolf gliding past them. Some jaws were even a little slack with wonder—despite beliefs to the contrary, that the wolf should be shunned, locked away beneath the skin, repressed.
Their trailing eyes gave away their respect, as well. Not only had they watched her passing, but they’d averted their gazes ever so slightly. A human would have never noticed. But German had never been human, not even when he walked upright. Sure, he played at it and was good enough no one ever suspected, but his wolf was ever present, pacing just behind his eyes, watching everything with a predator’s keenness.
He halted halfway down, behind the other Alpha’s chair, which put him directly across from the fourth Alpha and the head of Security. With his position centered, he could divide his attention across the four directions, with Sofia being his lodestar. He wouldn’t, couldn’t veer his focus from her no matter how many angles he was trying to keep track of. Not only was she his mate, the female he was compelled to protect at any cost, but he’d sworn a promise to her.
He would not be every other person in her life. By some miracle, she trusted him. She had opened her heart to him, trusting that he would not betray her. The evidence? Burned pure in her silvery gray eyes whenever she looked at him. She might have been on her own all those years, amassing emotional injuries, but she’d endured. Courageously she had given him her scarred and sacred heart.
Him. A wolf-man practically rogue himself. A lone wolf who had spurned his pack in order to stay true to his own heart. A heart which recognized itself in the woman it claimed as its life mate. Who, for the love of Luna, was now standing up for him, risking herself without a thought. Instinctively facing their shared enemy. For him.
She humbled him with her devotion, with her concern for someone like him. He didn’t feel worthy of her, not until she shook his very soul with her gaze. When she looked at him, he felt like the greatest wolf alive, like he could do anything. For her, he could. The proof stood along the wall holding his collar and chains. He would have worn them for her.
But not now. Not when his beautiful mate threw away the very thing she’d always wanted in order to protect him. He’d honor the generosity of her great heart, and would not call her back. He would stand to defend her. To defend them.
So much for going down quietly. So much for going down at all.
In a move that left no question of his dominance, he dug his fingers into the shoulders of the Alpha seated in front of him, forcing the man deeper into his chair so he couldn’t escape. For all the display, German knew where the real threat came from: Bryce. The wolf-man standing at the other side of the table. The wolf who was ultimately in control of those chains.
Amber eyes stared back without lowering.
If German wasn’t so worried about Sofia, he’d appreciate his opponent. During their cub-hood, Bryce had nearly been his equal, had forced German to dig deeper, to fight harder, to plot cannier. In Bryce, German could have had a friend.
If the wolf didn’t stand on the polar opposite side of German’s beliefs. Where German believed with all his soul that their wild wolves should be nurtured, Bryce believed with as much fervor that their wolves should be tamed.
Older and at an impasse, they’d parted. German to nourish his wolf, and Bryce to uphold the New Order. As he was now prepared to do. German watched, his spine radiating so much heat as to liquefy his bones, to turn his muscles into rivers of lava. Ever the wary predator, he caught Bryce’s brief glimpse to the head of the table, where he looked to the real power in the room. He looked to Kyrenn.
Before he’d been mated, German would have followed that look, he would have turned to see what his mother would do. Just as his red wolf had done, German would have turned his back on the other three, on the Alphas who didn’t matter.
But he was mated, and for inexplicable reasons, he’d been forewarned by the very woman Bryce was looking to for direction. A trickle of unease wormed its way to his stomach, tightening it. Had he misread his mother’s change of heart? He thought she’d been warning him, but was there something he’d missed?
Sofia trotted toward him, cutting a graceful path down the center of the table, as mesmerizing as a wolf loping along a river’s uneven edge. She was breathtaking, her red fur lifted along her back like the razor peaks of a mountain chain. Wild. Untamed. There was a reason he attributed the natural world to the red wolf when he gazed upon her. His Sofia didn’t belong here any more than he did.
So, they would leave. But not with their tails tucked.
As if she harkened to his resolve, the red wolf trained her intimidating gaze on his mother. Protecting his flank. Beautiful wolf. Didn’t she know he’d rather have her a hundred miles from this scene? What if she wound up being the one imprisoned in those chains?
Well. Blood would fly now, wouldn’t it? Her capture would not be tolerated. It was one thing for him to bear the punishment for his life of disobedience, but it was abhorrent for his mate to do so.
The thought of the red wolf in chains turned his veins to ice, cooling the blood burning through him. With a calculating eye, he faced the wolf-man across from him, trusting that Sofia watched the other wolf at the head of the table, the one who mattered.
“Do not do this, Bryce.” German raised his palm, indicating the men lined up along the wall. “It’s truly not necessary.”
Amber eyes slid back to hold his. “I have my orders.”
So he did. And Bryce had ever been the one for following orders. “Doesn’t mean you can’t, just this once, ignore them. We’ll go in peace.”
Bryce’s eyes narrowed, as if he were actually considering German’s proposal. Huh. Maybe the wolf had grown less rigid in his maturity. “Remove your hand from our Alpha.” Or…maybe not.
German stepped back, hands in the air, fingers aimed for the vaulted ceiling.
German fought the twitch of his lips. Bryce remembered well their days of play. He knew how quick German could be. Sofia’s tail lifted, her ears laying back, ready to act now that he’d ceded his advantage to the other wolf-man.
“Your mate, too. Get her off the table or—
They growled in stereo, cutting off the threat. “Or you’ll what?”
Bryce looked from one head of the table to the other.
“Undecided, or is there a tennis match going on I’m not aware of?” Tennis his ass. He and Sofia were in the middle of a showdown and they weren’t the players. Pawns. They were pawns, he realized, his mother’s intentions sparking clear. She’d truly wanted no part in his punishment this time.
Imagine that. Maybe his mother was growing soft in her maturity, too. Gift horses and their mouths and all that.
The Alpha he had in his clutches hissed his opinion. “Just let them go, for Luna’s sake.” With the man’s back facing him, German couldn’t catch his expression. Not that he needed it. The man wafted the pungent scent of fear. Those sitting close to the Alpha leaned back or to the side, their bodies subtly shifting away from the nervous wolf-man. As though his cowardice were a thing to catch. Or they were like rats on a sinking ship.
If only. The New Order had its fans who wouldn’t be quick to abandon the idea just because a figurehead lost his balls in the soup. “Leave us be, and we’ll do the same.” He meant it, too, even though the urge for revenge rode him hard. Finally, he challenged the Alphas. The victory might be small, but it was no less sweet. His wolf wanted the other man flat on his back on the floor. Decisions, decisions.
But he was being funny, reveling in the rift in leadership. What he really wanted was Sofia off the property and heading wherever it was she wanted to go. If she said Siberia, he’d purchase tickets, no questions asked. No kidding. She’d trusted him and he owed it to her to make sure he didn’t harm that trust any more than he had already.
“Red?” He didn’t take his eyes off Bryce or his attention from the feuding Alphas. The thugs with their chains remained along the wall like obedient soldiers. “Ready to go?”
Sofia’s vault off the table conjured gasps, but the attention lasted only until her paws hit the carpet. After that, it was as if she had never existed, as if German had never threatened an Alpha. The greater drama was still unfolding, and like a riveting play, the audience sat enrapt, forgetting the rest of the world existed beyond their seats.
German and Sofia slipped out of the room.
~Final Installment coming Saturday, May 3,