The Council Ch. 15byJazCullen©
Rafe watched his Alpha out of the corner of his eye as he drove them towards the compound. The girls were in Cedar's car in front of them and Jared's gaze was intent on the vehicle as if expecting something to happen. There was a tension in the car that confused Rafe. He knew his Alpha was worried about Ashleigh and Loretta but the tension felt as if it related to something else.
Once the vehicle crossed the compound boundary, Jared pulled the Jeep over and stopped. "Walk with me, Rafe," he said in a quiet voice, stepping out of the car and surveying the surroundings quickly, scenting the air to ensure there was no one around.
Rafe uncurled his big body from the Jeep and followed his Alpha into the trees until they stopped in a small clearing. The night was warm with a faint breeze rustling the leaves in the large oaks surrounding them. The sounds soothed his unease a little as he waited for Jared to tell him what was on his mind.
Jared took a deep breath and turned to face Rafe. The big man had become invaluable to him over the last two years. He knew he could count on his adopted brother to do anything for him. Anything but the one thing he was about to ask of him. But there was just no avoiding it any longer. Tonight had proven that. Rafe was just going to have to accept the inevitable whether he liked it or not.
He wondered if his Beta would lose control of his wolf, if they would fight over what he was about to tell him. They had come close a few times in the past as Rafe's latent Alpha abilities instinctively warred against his command. He hoped not but it was a possibility which was why he had wanted to do this alone, somewhere quiet.
He ran a hand through his long black hair and sighed deeply. "Rafe, we need to talk about what happened at Caleb's," he said in a quiet but firm voice. He knew his tone was telling the other man that he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear.
Rafe's brows drew down in a confused line, tension filling him at the determined expression on Jared's face. "About which part?" he asked carefully. A lot had happened at Caleb's. It was difficult to tell what Jared wanted to discuss.
"About how the mated vampires reacted to you," Jared clarified. "You did notice how they reacted, didn't you?" He raised a querying eyebrow as he watched his brother intently.
A trickle of unease started to invade Rafe's mind and he looked away from his Alpha, trying to recall the events of the last hour. His wolf prowled within him, satisfaction roiling from his beast as his human side tried to block out what he didn't want to remember. His wolf was having none of it though, becoming more forceful within him.
Rafe remembered Andrei flipping out, remembered the fury that had gone through him when the vampire had injured him. He had shouted out in pain and anger. The mental image of Andrei's snarling face came to him, the expectant expression in his eyes. Alexei wearing that very same expression and also Nors.
He felt his heart begin to thump wildly as denial ripped through him and he started shaking his head, backing up from Jared. "No," he ground out loudly. "Don't even go there, Jared. We've had this conversation a hundred times before and the outcome is always the same."
Jared's blue eyes hardened and his lips tightened in a straight line. "Yes, we have and always I've conceded to you because the time wasn't right," he answered firmly. "All that has changed now, Rafe. You can't run from this any longer. You can't deny what you are. You are an Alpha and it is time for you to step up and take care of your responsibilities."
Fury blazed through Rafe, fury and denial. His big body quivered with rage and it was all he could do to hold his wolf back and not shift and attack his brother. He held on precariously as he fought to get some control, fought to deny the truth. "I am not an Alpha," he roared out furiously.
Jared's lips quirked in a little smile as he stared at Rafe. There was no one who was more of an Alpha than the man before him. In that very moment his command tone was ringing through his words, his whole stance telling any Were who was in the vicinity that he was an Alpha. He could deny it all he wanted with words but he couldn't deny his sheer presence. He gave him a moment to work on his temper and then he sighed softly.
"You can say those words until you're blue in the face, Rafe. You can utter the denial over and over again but it will not change the fact that you are an Alpha and you always have been," Jared said quietly. "You've had your own little mini pack within my pack for a long time. Hell, before the war you had half of my Betas following you." He smiled sadly, remembering the friends they had lost during the war.
Rafe too remembered his friends, Ben, Mike, Pete. They had died protecting Lacey, his mate. They had always been at his side along with Aaron. He had always just put it down to friendship even when Jared had joked that they would answer Rafe's command before they answered their Alpha's. Thinking of his friends soothed his fury a bit and he was able to control himself.
He took a deep breath and then sank down onto a fallen tree stump and buried his head in his hands. He didn't want to be an Alpha. He had never wanted it, had always fought it. The arguments he and Jared had had over this very issue had been legendary. He just wanted to be with his mate, be part of the Hanlon pack where he now felt as if he belonged. He didn't want to lead like Jared did.
"You can't fight what you are, Rafe," Jared said soothingly coming to sit down beside him. "You have always been an Alpha and up until now it has been convenient to allow the status quo to remain while you adapted to your new life and found stability. But that's changed now. We have vampire hybrids among us. They don't follow my command but they do follow yours as we witnessed tonight. You are their Alpha, Rafe. They may hate it and you may hate it but the wolf part of them recognises you as their Alpha."
The big man groaned and shook his head again in denial even though he knew he was denying the truth. He had seen the look in the mated vampires eyes, he had known what it had meant at the time but had ignored it. All three vampires had been waiting for his next words, his next command. His one bellow of rage had managed to halt Andrei's madness, contained the mercurial vampire as he tried to rip everyone apart to get to his mate.
"I don't want this, Jared," he finally groaned raising his head with a tortured expression on his face. "I have never wanted this."
Jared smiled sadly at him. "I know that, my friend," he sighed softly. "And that is why you will make a good Alpha. You will always think your decisions through carefully to ensure that you reach the right one for your pack rather than your own needs." He really felt for Rafe, but he was also extremely confident in him too. He would probably make a better Alpha than he was at times.
Rafe wanted to argue more, wanted to keep denying it but he knew Jared's words were true. The time for fighting was over now. He had to accept the inevitable. He thought of his mate and wondered how she would react to this when he told her. Lacey had almost been killed by one vampire and beaten endlessly by another and now he had to go home and tell her that she was to become an Alpha Bitch to three vampires? He didn't know if his mate could handle it.
Jared stood up and laid a hand on his brother's shoulder. "We can talk more about this later, about how we're going to work it out," he said. "I'll give you time to let it sink in. Come find me when you're ready, Rafe." He could sense the other man was at the point of accepting what he really didn't want to accept. He knew Rafe needed time to come to terms with all this would mean to him.
He turned and headed out of the clearing, a small smile crossing his face as he scented the delicate fragrance of lavender and jasmine. He stopped when he reached the little redhead standing just within the trees. She always seemed to know when her brother needed her.
Rhianna looked up at Jared and then gave him a quick hug which he returned silently. He dropped a quick kiss on the top of her head and then released her and headed back to the car. If anyone could help Rafe reach inner peace with himself it was his sister.
Rafe looked up and stared at Rhianna with troubled eyes as she stood just within the clearing. He smiled a sad smile at her and dropped his eyes again to stare at the forest floor. He felt his sister approach even though she moved so silently.
"It will work out for the best," she said softly, wrapping her arms around his neck and climbing onto his lap as she was wont to do when he was struggling with something. The physical contact always eased him slightly and he wrapped his arms automatically around her slender frame.
Rafe groaned and cradled his sister against his chest, leaning his chin on the top of her head and resting back against the tree behind him. He felt a feeling of peace wash over him. He always felt that in Rhianna's presence. She was the only other person who could soothe his soul as Lacey could.
"You heard everything?" he asked quietly, even though he knew she probably had. Vampire hearing was so much more acute than even Were hearing was.
"I knew it at the house," she answered quietly. "Caleb did too. I think everyone else was too shocked at the time to notice." Rhianna tilted her head back to look up at her big brother. His expression was so sad that she had to stroke his cheek gently to try and ease his sadness.
"You shouldn't doubt yourself so, Rafe," she smiled gently. "You will be a fabulous Alpha. Instead of looking at this as something bad you should look at this as something positive."
Rafe snorted, scowling blackly. "How can there be anything positive to this, Annie? I don't want it. I don't want to leave the Hanlon pack. I don't want to be an Alpha to the bloody Romanov twins. And what about Lacey? How do I go home and tell her that she now has to lead vampires after all that species has put her through in the past?" His burst of anger waned as he spoke of his mate, his tone turning more anguished. He wanted to protect his Lacey at all costs. How could he do so by subjecting her to vampires?
Rhianna sighed and climbed out of his lap to stand before her brother. He really was going to go into full self pity mode if she didn't do something about it. She could see him talking himself down into a spiral of doom and gloom. She loved Rafe so much but sometimes she wondered which one of them was supposed to be the grown up between them.
She smiled fondly at him. "You don't have to leave the Hanlon pack, you just need to branch it out a little. Jared wanted a compound closer to Wicked after what happened to Aaron and the length of time it took to get him medical help. You can just go with that initial idea. You may not be able to call it the Hanlon pack because there is one here but how about the Armand-Hanlon pack? That way you are still affiliated with this pack and you can even still call Jared your Alpha if you really want to. You could run the satellite pack but turn to Jared if you need any help."
Rafe blinked slowly at his sister, surprised by her suggestion. It had merits he supposed. If he could still count Jared as his Alpha and come to him if needed then it would help ease some of his negativity towards being an Alpha himself. It would keep the ties with the current pack too and allow the two to mingle easily. His lips twitched in a little smile. "Armand-Hanlon pack?" he asked with a hint of amusement in his voice.
Rhianna blushed a light shade of pink and grinned back at him. "Okay, so I'd get a certain amount of pleasure out of our family name being used," she answered with a tinkling little laugh.
Rafe had adopted the Hanlon name after he had technically 'died' to the human world. He had to admit to himself that being able to use Armand again held a certain pleasure for him too. His little Annie made sense and it really was a good suggestion. One he could put forward to Jared later on.
"Okay, Einstein, solve the rest of my issues for me," he remarked drolly but his spirits were starting to lighten at his sister's enthusiasm and smart suggestions.
Her grin widened and her lavender eyes sparkled. "You don't want to be an Alpha like Jared? So don't be," she said simply as if it was the most logical thing in the world. "Jared's style of leadership works for him and that's fantastic but it doesn't mean it has to be the stance you take too, Rafe. You've always been more of a subtle type of leader. You point out the obvious and let people find their own way. You can be that kind of Alpha with your pack.
People follow you because they want to, not because you demand it of them. You might have a few issues with the vampires at the start but once they realise that you're not going to be forcing them to do what they don't want to, they'll adapt pretty quickly."
Again he sat there stunned at how easy Rhianna made it all sound. It was as if he had placed a brick wall between them and she was knocking each brick out with her wisdom, breaking down every obstacle he set in his own way. "What about Lacey?" he asked quietly, his eyes clouding with worry.
Rhianna sighed and rolled her eyes, her hands on her hips as she peered down at him. "You really should have more faith in her, Rafe," she answered with a slight edge in her voice at her brother's stupidity. "Lacey is one of the most amazing women I've ever met. She is so strong and adaptable. You should give her more credit, brother. Talk to her before you decide how she's going to react to this. Let her tell you how she feels about it, don't anticipate her feelings as being negative."
It was Rafe's turn to flush a light shade of pink at his sister's words. He knew she was right, that his mate was one of the most amazing women to walk the planet. Lacey's capacity to love and forgive were two of the qualities he loved most about her. The level of compassion she exuded rivalled even that of the little redhead standing before him.
Rhianna moved to hug her brother again to take the sting out of her words. He pulled her back into his lap and hugged her tightly.
"You pack will be a mix of people who have suffered greatly from one thing or another, Rafe," she sighed quietly. "Lacey, you, Ashleigh, Loretta, the vampires. You will all have something in common which will bind you together and make up a new pack that will be different from other packs. That doesn't make it a bad thing but a good thing. Change has come Rafe, and you have it within your power to make something special out of that change. There is no one more suited to do so than you."
He felt his heart swell with love for this precious little woman he held so tightly in his arms. His Annie, his beautiful little sister, the daughter he had claimed in every way except biologically. Always she spoke with such wisdom that was far beyond her years. Always she helped him see things from a completely different angle.
"I can't begin to tell you how much I love you, baby girl," he whispered softly, his voice thick with emotion. He was so proud of her, so constantly amazed by how wonderful she had turned out.
"I love you too, Rafe," she whispered back, clutching him tightly and smiling as she felt the last of the tension leave his big body. She knew he was going to be okay now. Sometimes he just needed pointing in the right direction. Once he was, he picked up the reins and moved forward. Her brother was going to be an amazing Alpha, the best Alpha to walk the planet in her eyes but she knew she was pretty biased about it.
"Can I join your pack too?" she asked with a little giggle escaping her as Rafe threw his head back and laughed loudly.
"Well we can't have an Armand-Hanlon pack without the last remaining Armand being in it, can we?" he chuckled when he got his laughter under control. "Though what Caleb will have to say about you suddenly becoming pack, I have no idea."
Rhianna snorted delicately, her lavender eyes twinkling with amusement. "I've always been pack and he knows it," she laughed softly. "I'm just switching packs to one with my name in it."
Rafe smiled fondly down at her and dropped a quick kiss on her forehead. "Come on then, Annie, let's go tell Jared what you've coerced me into," he smiled, his own eyes twinkling with amusement as he stood up swiftly and lowered his precious little sister to the forest floor.
"Race you!" she called, laughing as she took off at supernatural speed into the trees.
He growled and rolled his eyes, taking a more leisurely route back to the compound. There was little point racing his vampire sister, she won every time. He didn't see the point in ruining another set of clothes just so she could kick his ass again.
His thoughts turned once more to Loretta and Ashleigh and his eyes flickered to the left, towards the city far off in the distance and the building that housed The Vampire Council. A worried scowl crossed his face and his wolf growled ferociously deep inside him. He wanted to be with the vampires. He wanted to be helping to take down The Council, to rescue his pack mates. To rescue his pack members!
His eyes widened at the thought. If he was Alpha to the vampires then that meant he was Alpha to their mates too. Loretta and Ashleigh were his pack now and he was stuck at the compound unable to help them. His wolf howled mournfully inside him and he swallowed hard. He would make it up to them somehow when they were brought home safely.
Had the fight started yet? Had their friends been able to rescue the two wolves? He trusted Caleb with his own life, knew his brother in law would move heaven and earth to secure the girls' safe release. He knew that Andrei and Nors would fight to the death to free their mates. He knew all that and yet he still ached to be there to help his friends.
Sighing deeply he reached the central compound. He put his arm around his Annie who was waiting patiently for him with her own concerned expression on her beautiful face as if she could sense where his thoughts were leading him. Together the siblings headed into Alpha's house trusting that their loved ones would come safely to them.
***** Freya's words whispered in Nors' mind and he turned his head to nod briefly at Caleb. His gut clenched hard, every part of him wanting to be with his sister at that moment. He wanted to see Ashleigh, touch her, scent her, and know that she was all right. Instead he had to stand with the other Ancients.
He had always had a strong sense of responsibility when it came to the welfare of his people as a whole. He knew that what was about to happen in the Council chambers was momentous and would change the vampire nation forever. He knew it was his place as an Ancient to ensure that the change came about as smoothly as possibly.
His little blonde wolf blew that all away though. She usurped everything and everyone. It took ever ounce of self control for him to remain standing beside the other Ancients.
Daniel glared at the Ancients and their followers. His fury knew no bounds as he stared at them with a vicious glint in his eyes. "You have no right to be here!" he hissed loudly. "This is Council business. Leave now!"
In answer to his demand, Caleb walked forward slowly to come and stand just in front of Andrei and the others. His cold amber gaze connected with Daniel's and his talons lengthened on their own. He pointed one long talon at the Elder.
"I thought I had warned you all what would happen if you proceeded to fuck with the Hanlon pack," he said in a cold deadly voice. "Did none of you learn from Graves' mistake? Did you really think that because you were Council members that you could take what was under my protection and get away with it?"