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Chapter 24: Trust

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At one o'clock in the morning, I hear Theo enter the house. I leave our bed where I've been lying sleeplessly for hours and hurry downstairs in my nightgown. Elise is staying in one of the guest bedrooms—we'd decided it was too risky for her to walk home alone during a possible attack—so I lent her clothes and a bed, and from the black under the guest room door, I assume she's asleep.

As I speed down the stairs, Theo's footsteps carry down the hall but pause. I fold over the railing and see him looking back at me.

"What was it?" I question immediately. "An attack?"

He motions for me to come to him, so I finish the steps. Just as I reach him, he confirms, "Rowan attacked, didn't get very close to our border, but we didn't have much time to meet him. The first wolves that met his side were slaughtered, but they gave us enough time to catch up."

"H-how many?"

"As of now, sixteen. There are probably a few more deaths that have yet to be accounted for."

"Goddess," I murmur. "What ended it?"

"Rowan retreated. I'm sure he was also losing too many men." Theo sighs. "What a mess."

"What now?"

"Now I contact Belrose and secure a loan of warriors to finish Rowan off," he says bitterly.

"You're sure Alpha Belrose will?"

"He owes me—he knows it."

I cross my arms. "Well, there are leftovers in the fridge. Elise is staying in one of the guest rooms—I didn't want her to leave the house. Are you coming to bed?"

"I should get to work. I need to retaliate as soon as possible."

"Just for a couple of hours?" I coax. "You should rest."

Theo runs a hand down my bare upper arm. "Alright. For a couple of hours."

I walk first up the steps, and Theo follows. I glance back every time I speak. "You aren't hungry?"

"No. I lost my appetite."

"I'm worried about the families of the fallen men. How do they find out about the deaths?"

"Those who know, break the news, but all losses are compiled after the attack, and official notices are given along with a recompense, as indifferent as that sounds. There isn't a guiltless way to go about it."

"Was my father there?"

"Yes. He's alive."

"It's not fair," I admit, "that I get to protect him while others have no control, no way to protect the ones they love." I go right into the bedroom. "It feels wrong."

"You don't want me to stop protecting him and the Beta," he says outright though it sounds like it should be a question. "The next attack is the last; this won't go on for much longer."

I turn to him, and the bedroom door shuts. "You're going to kill Rowan?"

He glances at me in stride to the closet—a silent 'yes.'

I sit on the end of the bed and drop my head into my hands. "What happens to my family once he's dead—if their pack collapses?"

"They can come here," he says from within the closet.

I lift my head. "They won't. My father won't let my mother, and Ben won't let my sister."

"I'll give them the opportunity to join our pack, but if they choose otherwise, I can't change that."

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