The Council Ch. 13byJazCullen©
"Stop!" Loretta screamed out hoarsely as she struggled in the painful grip of the vampire who held her so effortlessly. "She belongs to Nors Eriksson! The Ancient! He'll gut you all alive if you hurt her!" She clutched at the only thing she could think of which would protect her friend, Nors' status among his own kind.
All three vampires appeared to freeze for a second and then the one who was holding Ashleigh suddenly released her as if she was burning his hands. She collapsed to the ground, her hand going automatically to her throat where blood trickled down the side of her neck from the vampire's talons.
Loretta pulled against her own abductor and he released her to round on his companions. The Beta immediately reached for Ashleigh, pulling her close and urgently checking her neck. Her wounds were shallow thankfully but she appeared to be in a daze, almost catatonic.
"Ash," Loretta whispered urgently against her ear holding her close. "Lean on the strength of your wolf. Don't shift but let her come forward to help you. I'll tell you when it's time to shift. If our wolves think we may have a chance for freedom they'll take over and we'll only get ourselves killed. Be strong, honey. You know you have it in you. Do it for Nors."
Her Beta's urgent words sank into Ashleigh's terrified mind. She took a deep shuddering breath, amazed that she was still alive and could do so. She had to be strong, for Nors. She didn't want to let him down. She was alive and she needed to stay that way. She wanted to see her vampire again.
She took another deep breath and then called her wolf forward until she was hovering very close to the surface. She immediately felt less frightened, her eyes clearing as she met Loretta's and gave her a shaky nod.
The vampires were arguing furiously, not the least concerned that their captives were unguarded. They knew if the wolves ran they would hunt them down in an instant.
"He never said anything about fucking with the Ancients!" the blond vampire who had been holding Ashleigh was exclaiming loudly. "If the wolf belongs to Nors then I'm not touching her. One of you kill her!"
"The bitch is probably lying to save her friend," the first vampire argued. "Have any of you even scented Nors? How the fuck would any of us know if what she's claiming is the truth or not?"
The last vampire turned to look down at the two women kneeling on the ground. "I was at the Council ceremony," he said in a cold voice walking over and hauling Ashleigh unceremoniously to her feet. His foot shot out and kicked Loretta in the ribs when she tried to intervene.
Loretta gritted her teeth as the blow landed and managed not to cry out. The kick had been hard but not enough to do any significant damage. Obviously they had been instructed to bring her back alive and undamaged for the most part. She watched the vampire scent Ashleigh deeply before he dropped her back to the ground and turned back to his friends.
"She bears the Ancient's scent," he growled in irritation.
The blond one hissed loudly. "Fucking great," he muttered angrily. "What are we supposed to do now? We can't let her go. If we kill her we're going to have an Ancient on our ass. I'm not even going there!"
"We'll just have to take her with us too," the vampire who had scented Ashleigh said. "Let Roberto decide what to do with her. We can't piss about here all night, someone will come along and then we'll have to kill them to keep them quiet." He appeared bored at the thought rather than concerned that they'd need to kill someone else. The dark haired vampire at his side strolled over and pulled the two women up. "Get rid of the car," he said tersely before he hauled the wolves further up the road towards a waiting van.
He hissed loudly at them. "If you run I'll kill this bitch no matter who she belongs to," he warned Loretta in a cold voice. It was obvious the brunette was the higher ranking of the two women and the one that really needed to be watched.
Loretta tried to call to Andrei again mentally but received no response. She would never run and leave Ashleigh to her fate and there was nothing they could do to escape together so the only option left was to resist as little as possible. They had to stay alive long enough for Andrei to realise something was wrong and come looking for them. She had no doubt that he would; she just didn't know how long it would take him.
Her heart twisted in her chest as she remembered how abrupt she'd been with him when he'd called her. She had still been annoyed at their fight and not quite ready to kiss and make up. She didn't want Andrei's last memories of her to be of them fighting. She didn't want him to think that she had died being angry with him.
The vampire forced them into the back of the black van and snapped chains tightly around their ankles and wrists. Ashleigh's face was pale but determined, her eyes meeting Loretta's and only showing a little of her inner fear.
Loretta managed a reassuring smile even though she was just as frightened and worried as the younger woman. They both knew there was a very good chance they weren't coming out of this encounter alive. The vampires wanted them for something; once they had that something there would be no need to keep the wolves alive any longer.
"Ash," she whispered urgently when the vampire closed the door and disappeared briefly. "When I tell you to shift do so immediately. They want me to get to Andrei which means they'll probably try and get me to reveal secrets we don't want revealed. They're not going to be gentle about it either. The only way to ensure we don't talk is to be in wolf form so we can't talk."
Ashleigh swallowed hard and nodded her understanding of what her Beta was explaining. She knew she was surplus to requirements, that the vampires would most likely use her to get to Loretta to talk. They couldn't reveal anything about the matings; they couldn't endanger Nors and Andrei.
She swallowed again and felt her wolf lend her some of her strength. She didn't want to die but, more importantly, she didn't want anyone to use her to hurt Nors. The vampires had taken everything from her already and there was no way in hell she was going to allow them to take her mate. She felt an almost serene feeling of calm suddenly overcome her.
"No matter what they do to me, Loretta, protect them," she said fiercely, her eyes flashing with determination. "Don't let them use me to make you talk. I'd rather be dead than have anything happen to Nors."
Loretta felt tears well up in her eyes, a huge rush of pride for the younger woman overwhelming her. Ashleigh understood exactly what was about to happen and she was standing strong, her love for her vampire giving her the strength to meet it head on. "They'll come, Ash," she managed to get out through a long shaky breath. "Just keep remembering that, honey. They will come and when they do, they'll rip these bastards to shreds for even thinking about laying a hand on either of us. They'll come."
Ashleigh nodded through her own sudden tears, closing her eyes as they spilled over down her cheeks. Nors would come. He always came when she needed him. She would be strong for him until he did so, no matter what the vampires did.
Rhianna looked around her sitting room marvelling at how many people were actually fit into it. It was so strange to see so many people in her home but she found she kind of liked it. It made her think about maybe having a proper gathering once the issue with the matings was all sorted out.
Her gaze slid to Caleb who was off to one side with Demetri talking quietly. Her lips curved in a little smile as she imagined his reaction to her suggestion for a formal party of some kind. He wouldn't like that idea at all but she was sure she could talk him around.
He usually liked to keep his home private, somewhere where he felt safe and inviolate. Which was why he was announcing the news of the matings being possible here, he was confident that there was no chance of any eavesdropping occurring in his home.
He looked up suddenly, his gaze connecting instantly with hers as his lips curved into a slow smile, his golden brown eyes losing their intense look to become softer, gentler. She felt her heart skip a beat as it always did when her vampire shared a moment with her. He didn't try to hide the love in his eyes; he wanted the whole world to know that she was his without a shadow of a doubt.
Rhianna heard Demetri snort an amused laugh and broke her gaze with Caleb to turn to look at the dark haired vampire. His beautiful face was full of amusement as he rolled his eyes at her in mock exasperation but she could see his love lurking in the depths of his gorgeous green eyes. She adored the mercurial vampire and returned his smile before turning her gaze once more around the room.
Her brother Rafe was standing with Mara and Jared at the table Caleb had added to the far wall to house food for those who ate and various drinks for those who didn't. She didn't listen in to their conversation, merely watched for a moment with a soft smile curving her face.
They were all her family in one manner or another. She may only share a blood link directly with Rafe but she loved them all as if they had been family for all their lives.
Finally she turned to the newer members of her immediate circle, the unknown quantities. Well, Cedar was hardly an unknown. The blonde wolf was sitting beside Nors and his sister Freya on one of the large sofas. Alexei was hovering at her side, perched on the arm of the sofa with one arm draped along the back of it. Cedar was unconsciously leaning back into his embrace which wasn't exactly an actual embrace.
Nors had finally given up on trying to work out whether or not he liked or disliked Rhianna. He'd settled on liked after she had helped with Ashleigh, giving the little blonde wolf a job in her bookstore to ease her back into living again. Their friendship was growing on a daily basis now and she was sure that soon she would look on him as another member of her extended family.
Freya she didn't know at all and was quite happy with that circumstance. Caleb didn't like the other woman which automatically made her feel some antipathy towards Nors' sister. Freya was here under sufferance and it was obvious for all to see that. Nors wanted her here as did Caleb because she was an Ancient. Her expression said she wanted to be anywhere but there.
The last person in the room was the one that concerned Rhianna the most. Andrei was standing with his back to the room staring out the French windows into the garden. His entire body language screamed piss off and everyone was leaving him to his own devices, including his twin.
Andrei had barely nodded to Caleb, glared at Demetri was a dark scowl, and shared a few quiet words with his brother before he took his stance at the glass doors and proceeded to ignore everyone else.
It was obvious his mood was not good and Rhianna could understand why. The changes he was going through were happening too fast for him. He'd gone from being his normal self to mated to a wolf and an expectant father quicker than he could blink. She suspected Loretta and he had had some words too which probably wasn't helping his mood any. It was going to be a very interesting meeting.
Caleb suddenly moved to face the room and Rhianna gravitated to the large armchair beside him. Her vampire stood behind the chair and placed his hands on top giving everyone a quick glance to make sure he had their full attention.
"Ashleigh and Loretta are running a little late but we'll start anyway," he said firmly. "They can catch up when they get here. The object of this meeting is to discuss the interspecies matings and to impart information which I have discovered fairly recently."
He shot a quick look at Jared and gave him a slightly sheepish smile. "It wasn't my intention to hold this back for any length of time," he said speaking directly to the Alpha. "I only found out when we were in Europe which was why it took us a little longer to get back than I'd intended."
Jared pierced him with a hard gaze and then rolled his eyes. "It never is your intention to withhold information, Caleb, but you always manage to do so," he rumbled in a slightly aggrieved tone. "I'm getting tired of you doing so when it concerns my pack though."
Caleb nodded, conceding his point. "It concerned my kind too, Jared," he answered. "The pack will adapt to this a lot better than the vampires. I had to weigh the ramifications of it all and also start to work towards finding some way to stop a bloodbath when this comes out. You know this will tear apart my people. Silence was necessary for a period of time."
He didn't want to be at odds with his friend and hoped Jared would see his point. The lessening of the tension in the Alpha's body and the brief nod of his head told him that Jared understood.
"I wanted more time but certain 'things' have occurred which means we've effectively run out of time and need to be working proactively from now on," Caleb continued after a brief pause. "Vampires and Weres can mate fully but it's not a particularly easy thing to accomplish."
The room was completely silent for a moment as stunned faces stared at the Ancient.
Cedar turned to look at Alexei, excitement shining on her face as he looked down at her with a little frown. He felt a thrill of excitement too but Caleb's words also gave him some pause. His eyes turned to his brother who hadn't moved from his stance at the glass doors. Andrei had known this and kept quiet about it. That only served to enhance his disquiet.
"Explain," Nors said, breaking the silence. He was sitting forward alertly, his green eyes intent on Caleb's face. He wanted to mate with his wolf so badly but he was worried about what it would involve to achieve it.
"Andrei inadvertently bit Loretta yesterday morning, effectively mating with her fully," Caleb announced as there were loud gasps in the room and Rafe and Jared automatically growled loudly.
He held up his hand for silence. "Thankfully, the conditions were already in place for them to be able to mate and his venom didn't harm Loretta," he added quickly. "So please don't go biting your mates, Alexei, Nors, or you will kill them. The set of circumstances that need to take place for a mating to be possible are very extreme."
Alexei watched the Ancient and then looked at his brother again, his mind whirling frantically as he tried to piece it all together. He had read so much about Weres that surely there was something in what he'd read that could point to why Andrei could fully mate with his wolf while he couldn't?
"Andrei healed Loretta," he said quietly, watching his brother stiffen slightly at his words. "It's something to do with that isn't it? That's the only difference they share with the rest of us."
Caleb nodded. "To mate, the vampire has to heal their intended mate in a very intrusive manner," he announced. "Ingesting blood will not do so. There has to be a direct, internal blood to blood transfer and like 'normal' human/vampire Siring, the wolf has to be close to death at the time."
The room was silent for another long moment before Alexei finally spoke again. "So what you're telling us is that if Nors and I want to be able to fully mate with our wolves then we have to hurt them to the point of death first and then heal them?" His tone was devoid of all emotion as he felt Cedar stiffen beside him slightly.
"That's exactly what he's saying," Andrei said quietly, his back still to the room. "In my case Sandro had already done the damage and I just did the healing part. You will need to all but kill Cedar to be able to mate with her."
"But we will be able to fully mate," Cedar interrupted, excitement in her tone as she looked up into Alexei's scowling face. "It's not so different from other vampire matings, Alexei. It won't hurt for long and we'll be fully joined." God, she wanted that so much but she could tell from the expression on her vampire's face that he was going to be difficult about it.
"This is something that we all need to consider, Cedar," Jared said quietly. "Don't get me wrong, I don't want to deny you your mate but we have to think about this rationally. What if something went wrong? What if Alexei was too late to save you? As Alpha I have to put the welfare of my pack members first so until such times as we've all had time to think this through then I'm afraid I have to forbid you from attempting a full mating." He didn't use his command tone but it was clear that he would if it was necessary.
Alexei was in quandary. Part of him wanted to mate with his wolf so badly and yet another part automatically rejected the possibility of hurting her in anyway. He didn't want to deny her either and her Alpha's edict irritated him too.
He wanted to tell Jared to fuck off and stop ordering his woman around. He could see Cedar's disappointment in her eyes. She would obey her Alpha's command even though she didn't want to. He felt no such compunction to do so. But if he argued with Jared then he was effectively agreeing to hurting his Cedar and he couldn't agree to that no matter what the end result was.
"There is more," Caleb said somewhat dryly, interrupting the little pack debate going on. He hadn't intended to announce the last remaining bombshell but Jared's words had touched a chord. The Alpha deserved to know everything that affected his pack.
Andrei turned slowly from the window to look at Caleb with a hard glare. He knew the Ancient was about to reveal everything, that everyone would know that Loretta was pregnant. Fury exploded inside him, the wolf part of him rearing up as well as his vampiric nature.
Loretta wasn't even here and Caleb was going to tell the others about the child before his mate even knew about it? He had held his peace, kept secrets from his wolf and hurt her all for nothing? What right did the Ancient have to discuss his business with others when his own mate didn't even know?
"Caleb!" he growled loudly, feeling rage surge through him wildly. His sudden fury seemed to be mitigated with something else which was fuelling his anger. Something was gnawing at his gut, a deep wrenching ache which was driving him insane. He unconsciously clutched at his stomach, his eyes burning with his fury.
An urgent need to be with Loretta overcame him. It was violent and left him feeling nauseated in a way he had never felt before. Where the fuck was Loretta? Where was his mate? Why wasn't she here by now? Andrei hissed loudly, fighting not to change to full vampire mode.
Rafe stared at Andrei his eyes narrowing at the wild expression in his eyes. Something sparked deep within him, a sudden feeling of unease. "What's wrong?" he asked, breaking the vampire's gaze from Caleb. "Tell us what you're feeling, Andrei." There was a quiet command in his tone. As Jared's second in command he was used to being obeyed.
Andrei glared at Rafe, fighting the urge to cross the room and rip the wolf to pieces. "Rage," he suddenly ground out, hissing loudly. "Panic, anxiety, the need to kill." His eyes turned wilder as the emotions within him escalated. "Loretta," he growled. "Where the fuck is she? Why isn't she here yet?"
Immediately the three wolves became alert. Cedar stood reaching for her cell phone and dialling the compound without anyone saying anything.
"Jared?" Caleb asked quietly, tensing as Andrei appeared to become even wilder before his eyes. Alexei was rising and crossing the room to his brother concern etched across his face, Demetri close behind him.
Freya was looking at Nors with a slightly worried expression on her face but her brother appeared to be fine, not reacting the way Andrei was to his mate being absent.