Bound to My Mate Ch. 18byDoctorWolf©
Okay, okay I was rude and completely callous. However, the cliffhanger got me tons of comments, which I'm addicted to. Thank you to everyone that wrote or commented. I'm working desperately to translate my wacky brain waves into something you all will enjoy.
In response to the question "How much more?" I'd guess two more chapters.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone that reads or takes the time to say something. Please enjoy this next installment - DW
Joel inhaled deeply as he watched me. Before I could blink the metal of the vehicle screamed as he pulled the door off the truck. Joel threw the twisted frame behind him and it skidded unceremoniously off the road. From my other side I heard Dia's panicked sounds as she struggled to get out.
Joel took a step back and stood glaring into the truck. The shift came on him rapidly. His face elongated and his fierce canines were easily visible. A tortured howl erupted from his throat and those deadly claws slid out ready to do battle.
Joel didn't scare me, he never had, but he was acting crazy. If anyone else had done what he just did, I might have had enough adrenaline to make a defensive gesture. As it was I just sat and stared at him, too shocked to move.
It struck me to wonder if I hadn't pushed him too far this time. If I had, I realized it would surprise me. I was positive Joel would never be violent with me and would always forgive me.
Suddenly, my mate seemed to regain control of himself. With obvious effort he reigned in the beast and pulled it back inside. He ran both hands through his hair and stepped hesitantly toward me again.
"Mate," he asked in a strained voice, "where are you hurt?"
My stupor didn't pass quickly enough and Joel looked toward the other side of the truck for an answer.
"The stomach, Alpha Latro," Dia whispered hoarsely, "and I think she took several rounds to the upper leg from a machine gun."
I looked over and Dia was outside the truck. Will had wrapped his arms around her and he was whispering soothing words in her ear. He was either giving her a bear hug or keeping her from running. The way she struggled against him I guessed the latter.
"Elizabeth," Joel said to me softly, bringing my attention back to him, "can you talk to me?"
"Of course, I can talk to you," I huffed weakly watching him. "What is wrong with you? Were you planning on attacking me?"
Joel shook his head at my question and refused to answer further.
He seemed like he wanted to touch me and didn't want to touch me all at the same time. I would have sworn his hands were trembling slightly.
"When did this happen?" he asked finally, peeling the bloody wet shirt up to examine my stomach.
Joel dipped his head to examine the wound and his scent washed over me. He smelled so good, so comforting. It was okay, I was safe. I felt my eyes sliding closed and I started to drift again.
"Just need to sleep," I mumbled when I heard him yelling my name a moment later.
He would not just let me rest. Instead he stood barking orders at the men around us.
"Shh," I mumbled reaching out and stroking his arm, "just be quiet, please, and let me sleep."
"Not yet," he murmured in my ear. "Stay awake a little longer."
I fought to open my eyes and he smiled at me. "Good girl, keep them open, I need to move you."
Joel reached a hand under my back and legs and started to remove me from the truck. I cried out in surprise as the pain reared its ugly head. Sharp lancing stabs ran through my stomach and through my leg. Struggling made it worse, but I couldn't help myself.
I begged Joel to put me down, put me back, or at least to please stop moving. He ignored me and walked us over to a Suburban. Joel sat me down in the front passenger seat. When I was settled he walked around the truck and took the wheel.
We were alone together and for once the silence between us felt awkward. My muddled brain realized there had to be a reason he met me in the middle of the road. I should ask him, but suddenly I feared the answer.
We were close to the den, but not too close. Had he been going to say I couldn't come home? Was I being cast out of his territory and barred from the den for defying him?
I was panting slightly, now from pain and mounting worry. It was irrational, I prayed I was just overreacting. I had been so sure he would just get over his anger. It had never occurred to me to be worried about what would happen if he didn't forgive me.
Joel broke the silence between us.
"When did it happen?" was all he said.
"In the security room they shot me in the stomach," I said remembering. "One almost hit me in the face. I got lucky, it just grazed my cheek."
Joel put the back of his fist against his mouth, but didn't say anything.
"We ran to the roof and the guy in the helicopter got me in the leg when I tried to jump on it. Dia tried to distract the guy, but he kept gunning for me," I finished.
"You were already injured when you ran from the house," Joel surmised.
"Yes," I said quietly.
The pretty green scenery was lulling me to sleep.
"My men watched you run. You were so fast, none of them saw your injuries," Joel said, but kept his eyes on the road.
The tiredness was back again, worse this time. I just wanted to rest so badly. My mate was close. I was safe. The animal in me desperately needed to curl up and sleep. The SUV was warm and comfortable. It felt like I was laying in a field drowsing on a lazy summer day.
"No," cut through my haze and I was up again, woken from my weird peaceful dream. "Stay awake, Elizabeth, no sleeping right now."
I whimpered in protest, but stayed conscious. It was a relief when we finally pulled in front of the den. I was so glad to see home, perhaps I could sleep just a little bit now.
The vehicle was barely stopped when Joel jumped out. I howled my displeasure at being moved again as Joel pulled me from the car. He tucked me to his chest and ignored my irritated sounds.
The den was alive with activity. Everyone got out of Joel's way, but they were all craning their necks to see me.
As we made our way deep into the den I saw the line of injured waiting for the infirmary and Sarah's attention. Joel strode past to the front of the line without hesitation. The wolf that would have been next stepped back giving Joel room to pass him.
"That's not fair," I said struggling in Joel's grip. "I don't want to butt anybody. They were here first."
"Silence, mate," Joel growled and kicked the door to the infirmary to open it.
Within moments I saw Sarah hovering over my face. She deftly cut my outfit off. I tried to explain to her I wasn't next, but she didn't listen to me either.
I must have faded out for a second, because when I opened my eyes Will was suddenly there, too. Joel had been yelling my name at me.
"How did you run like this?" Will asked when I focused on him. "How did you carry my mate?"
"I had to protect the human, she wouldn't survive the blast," slurred out of my mouth.
Luna, I was so tired. I couldn't even begin to care that they were picking and digging in my wounds. I tried to struggle away to find a spot to rest. Suddenly, I felt myself tied to the table.
My brain started to work again, a least better than it had been. Unpredictable or usually young warriors couldn't be expected to control their shift during the manipulation necessary to heal them. I didn't fight the restraints, it was for the protection of the healers.
Will looked down at me as he spoke and pulled my last limb tight to the table, "I will care for you, Madam Alpha. Rest now, we will help you heal."
Joel stood at my other side glaring down at me. He was angry or frustrated, I couldn't tell which. Being next to him back at the den felt safe, though. I let myself fade out watching him.
I woke up and I could hear Joel talking. It sounded like he was on the phone. Opening one eye and then the other I looked around our bedroom. He had put me in our bed, that had to be a good sign.
Joel seemed to be talking to someone about the source magic. From the sound of it, he was in his office. That gave me a minute to figure out what was going on, without facing him.
Soft blankets were wrapped around my naked body cocooning me in our bed. The sun was just beginning to rise in the sky outside. Stretching out I felt stiff, but otherwise fine.
I moved my legs slowly one at a time, expecting a chain to be wrapped around at least one of them. They moved freely and no new metal 'jewelry' was to be found. That disturbed me, the chain was the punishment I expected.
Perhaps I wasn't healed enough for his punishment yet. Unwinding from the blankets, I passed a hand over my belly and the skin was perfectly smooth. My leg was also healed, although there was a small dip in the flesh on the front. For all the damaged I'd suffered it was remarkably little scarring.
I heard Joel end his conversation and put the phone down. There was so much to be said and so much I was afraid of hearing. My mind whirred to what I should say if he wanted me to leave. I wasn't ready for this conversation.
Maybe if I played like I was still asleep I could get out of the inevitable for a few hours more. Shutting my eyes, I lay perfectly still on the bed. Breathing slow and deep I concentrated on doing anything to fool him.
Soft footsteps told me Joel came to stand beside the bed. He wasn't leaving and he wasn't moving. When I felt warm lips running up my neck, I figured I was caught.
"I'm awake," I told him softly while opening my eyes.
Joel was leaning over me and took his time nibbling at my ear.
"You are a terrible actress," he said quietly. "Silly me, thinking my mate would submit, just because I'd yelled at her. If I'd paid you any attention at all, I'd have known you were up to something when you left the security suite."
I kept my mouth shut. Meeting his eyes, I just lay still and waited.
Joel broke the staring contest to sit heavily on the bed beside me. He looked out the window deep in thought. One of his hands found mine and he wound our fingers together.
"I washed you," he told me. "I knew you'd hate to lay in our bed covered in blood, dirt, and potion."
That hadn't been what I was expecting.
"Thank you, Joel, that was very considerate. I'm glad you took the time."
We sat silently for several more moments and I wondered what I should be doing. If he expected an apology, I wasn't going to give it. Despite what I knew he felt, I thought I'd done the right thing.
"You didn't answer me," he said.
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear the question," I said assuming I had gotten lost in thought and not heard him.
Joel's gaze stayed outside the window as he spoke, "After the fight, I calmed down and tried to contact you. You didn't answer me and I couldn't push into your mind. I thought you were blocking me. Anthony's police friends found the truck you and Dia were in and followed it until you reached the forest."
Joel turned to watch me, "I didn't know why you wouldn't talk to me. I took great offense at first and then I became afraid. You are my mate. You are an Alpha with a valid opinion. I ignored you and spoke to you disrespectfully. I wasn't sure what you would do."
"Joel, I wasn't ignoring you. I don't even remember hearing you," I said sitting up.
I searched my memories and couldn't remember hearing anything from him once Dia and I reached the truck. Granted I was in and out of consciousness. Still, it seemed I should have heard something.
"I thought you would leave me," he said softly. "It would be painful, but it can be done."
Now I was on my knees on the bed grabbing his face. "No, I wasn't leaving you, Joel. I swear. I went there to protect you. Why would I leave you? Dia and I were coming back to the den. I was in and out of consciousness. I never heard you. Please, believe me."
Joel smiled a sad smile and kissed my palm. "I know that now. Dia told me she couldn't keep you awake. I couldn't reach you when you were unconscious. I know I treated you badly and I am sorry."
I didn't know what to say to him. I couldn't imagine how horrible he must have felt. Just imagining calling out to him and finding a blank space made me physically ill.
"I wanted blood," he continued, "I didn't want to sneak in and take the source. After everything we've been through, I wanted to prove we were stronger. However, they anticipated that. Rushing in with an army, like I had planned, was what they expected. Stealth was a far more effective tool."
I was still focused on his earlier comments and sought to console him. "But it all worked out," I said stroking him. "Nobody's leaving, right? You aren't worried about that anymore, are you?"
"No, love, I'm not worried about that anymore."
I hadn't meant to make him think that. My brain wouldn't come up with anything logical to say.
"Well," I groused, "I don't understand why you had to meet us with a roadblock. It scared Dia. You knew I wasn't leaving. I was obviously heading home."
Joel laughed humorlessly before he spoke, "When I realized you were heading for the den, I felt relief and then apprehension. I thought you wanted to fight with me in person. You told me you prefer to speak as humans. I wanted to get it out before we got in front of the pack," he said watching me. "I was embarrassed."
I thought about the way he had approached the car. He had kept his strides purposeful and measured. Joel had wanted me to see his calm resolve before we argued. He hadn't expected me to be injured, which explained why his wolf leapt to the surface when he smelled my blood.
"Oh, well, I didn't want to fight. I just wanted to sleep," I admitted.
"You needed to sleep, but Will and Sarah needed to remove the shrapnel from your wounds so they would heal properly," he said stroking my thigh. "I'm sorry I couldn't let you rest when you wanted to. It was dangerous for us when you went to sleep like that. If you woke up agitated, you could have lashed out."
Of course that made sense. I cringed thinking of the danger I'd put Dia in. I knew injured wolves were dangerous, especially so in that netherworld of sleep and wake. They tended to lash out to defend themselves without hesitation. It just hadn't crossed my mind to think of myself that way.
Joel looked so miserable. He had dark circles under his eyes and his face held an uncharacteristically sad expression. My hands moved to his face and shoulders to comfort him.
"This is all screwed up," I said stroking him. "You're supposed to be angry with me, not hurt. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just didn't want the pack to suffer."
"Elizabeth, do you know what it would do to me to lose you? Do you understand the pain I would feel? In the future, since it is evident you hold very strong opinions about our pack, let's talk through our decisions. I won't shut you out and you won't run off on your own. Can we agree to do that?" Joel pleaded.
"No more running off," I promised him.
"And no more shutting you out," he promised in return.
We sat in silence for a while as he looked at me and I looked at him. Finally he spoke with a small smile, "I know we didn't plan to work together, but we made a good team."
"You liked having a man on the inside, didn't you?" I teased lightly.
"You are stronger than I thought you were, love. I'd never want to put you in harm's way, but you could certainly handle yourself in battle," Joel complimented. "I do need to teach you how to avoid getting shot, though. I never thought that needed to be part of your training."
We sat watching each other for a moment before I couldn't wait any longer to ask.
"Did you destroy the source?"
"Yes," he told me, "you saw me crash the helicopter. The witch inside had a case containing the last of the source's parts. I threw them into the fire after the initial explosion."
"How did you get away from the blasts?" I asked.
"Well," he said moving me to sit on his lap, "I have a mate that is incredibly fast. I've spent the last several months trying to get quick enough to catch her. All that work on my speed turned out to be very beneficial overall."
Joel sat watching me on his lap. He smelled so good, I burrowed my face in his neck.
"Don't you want to know who the witch was?" he asked stroking down my spine.
"I don't know any witches," I mumbled. "That information will probably be lost on me."
"Really, I was under the impression you had met Davonna," he said twirling my hair with his fingers.
My mind flashed back to months ago. The aged black women that Joel had invited over after Ryana had tried to poison me. She and Althea had given me a protective potion to drink every day. It stopped Ryana's spell from working in the clinic. I did know Davonna.
I gagged suddenly. That potion was source magic. I had been drinking bits and pieces of the decaying werewolf. My stomach turned and I groaned into Joel's shoulder.
"Nasty, nasty, nasty I was drinking Linda's dead body for how long before you stopped me? Oh, that is so gross," I complained.
"You get side tracked by the oddest things, love. You eat dead things every day," Joel laughed. "Are you curious if her friend, Althea, was involved?"
I asked the required question and Joel told me no. Althea still lived in the same tiny house she always had. Her bank accounts never showed any change. Joel's contacts told him she was in no way connected to the company they found that handled the money for the potions.
"Where was Davonna?" I finally asked. "How do you know it was her?"
"Except for the gunman you saw me remove, she and the very unlucky pilot were the only other occupants of the helicopter. You should have seen the look of shock on her face," he said laughing. "She never expected us to stop her. She tried to hurl spells at me, but that obviously did not work."
"Where was the source?" I asked.
"In a case attached to her wrist, which I removed," he said proudly.
I sat on his lap and watched his dancing eyes for a moment. "Do you mean you removed her wrist?" I asked stupidly.
"With great pleasure," he said eyes no longer dancing but glowing. "She suffered mere moments of pain before the fire took her worthless life. The witch deserved much more for what she has put our family through."
My stomach turned a little at the image Joel painted. He didn't seem to notice and continued on with the story.
With the new information of Davonna's involvement the hackers took their search in a different direction. They were merciless with the witch's accounts. Soon the computer guys had directly linked her to the money from all the different web sites that sold the potions. She was most definitely the person benefiting from the sale of the spells.
Gossip in the witch community was that Davonna had cut ties with all her old friends when she came into money. She had told them an elderly relative had died, leaving her a fortune. She had nothing to do with any of her old cronies.
"Do you think she and Ryanna were working together?" I asked.
That made sense but he somehow doubted it. Joel had said Ryanna bought the potion she used, not that it was given to her.
"I don't think so," he told me. "No way to know now, though. I grabbed the case with the source's parts and let Davonna die with her possessions."
"Why did she do it?" I pondered. "Why did Davonna hate you all so much?"
"I doubt she hated us anymore than she hated anyone," Joel said stroking my arms, "from what we've determined she was always very money oriented. She's tried multiple get-rich-quick schemes over the years. She's bankrupted several times due to poor investing. It seemed she knew the source magic would be unbeatable and was interested in the money selling it would bring."