Ithan Holstrom crouched, a hulking wolf among the rain-lashed shadows outside the Astronomer’s building, monitoring the few people in the alley braving the storm.
No word had come from Pangera. Just a mention of an explosion at a lab outside the city, and that was it. He didn’t expect to hear anything from Bryce and the others at least until the next day.
But he couldn’t help the urge to pace, even as he guarded the doors across the alley. He’d seen no glimpse of the Astronomer. No patrons had entered. Had Mordoc dragged the wretch off for an interrogation about why Ithan and his friends had visited him? And left the mystics here—unguarded and alone?
He’d fucked up guard duty with Hypaxia. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. Not with the mystic caged beyond those doors.
Another Fendyr heir to the Prime. An Alpha to challenge Sabine.
Something moved in the shadows far down the alley, beyond the neon glow of the signs above the tattoo parlors and bars. Swift and hulking and— He sniffed the air. Even with the rain, he knew that scent. Knew the golden eyes that glowed in the rainy darkness.
Ithan’s growl rumbled over the slick cobblestones, his wet fur bristling.
Amelie Ravenscroft, his former Alpha, only snarled back, sending whatever patrons were on the streets scattering into the buildings, and melted into the dimness.
Ithan waited until her scent had faded before letting out a breath. He’d been right to come here, then. If he hadn’t been here … He glanced to the doors again.
He couldn’t stay here indefinitely. He’d need others to keep watch while he rested.
His phone rang from where he’d left it on the stoop of an alley doorway, and Ithan shifted into his humanoid body before answering. “Flynn. I was about to call you.” To beg for a massive favor. If Sabine came here, or Amelie returned, packs in tow …
The Fae lord didn’t reply immediately. Ithan could have sworn he heard the male swallow.
He stilled. “What is it?” Flynn’s breathing turned harsh. Jagged. “Flynn.”
“Shit went down.” The Fae lord seemed to be struggling for words. And to hold back tears.
“Is …” He couldn’t face this. Not again. Not—
“Ruhn and Athalar have been taken prisoner by the Asteri. Dec saw it on the palace feeds. Tharion called from the Depth Charger pod to say Cormac’s dead.”
Ithan began shaking his head, even as he contemplated the risk of discussing this on the phone. Breathing was somehow impossible as he whispered, “Bryce?”
A long, long pause.
Ithan slid to the soaking ground.
“She disappeared. You … you gotta come hear it from Dec.”
“Is she alive?” Ithan’s snarl tore through the rain, bouncing off the bricks.
“The last we saw her in this world … she was.”
“What do you mean, in this world?” But he had a terrible feeling that he already knew.
“You have to see it for yourself,” Flynn croaked.
“I can’t,” Ithan bit out. “I’ve got something to do.”
“We need you,” Flynn said, and his voice was full of an authority that people outside the Aux rarely heard. “We’re friends now, wolf. Get your furry ass over here.”
Ithan peered toward the towering doors. Felt himself being pulled apart by Urd herself.
“I’ll be there in fifteen,” Ithan said, and hung up. Slid his phone into his pocket. Stalked across the street.
A blow from his fist dented the metal doors. The second one broke the locks. The third sent them crumpling inward.
No sign of the Astronomer. Too bad. He was in the mood for blood tonight.
But Ithan stormed to the nearest tub. The wolf mystic floated in the murky, salt-laden water, hair spread around her, eyes closed. Breathing mask and tubes back in place.
“Wake up.” His words were a low growl. “We’re going.”
The mystic didn’t respond, lost to wherever her mind took her.
“I know you can hear me. I need to go somewhere, and I’m not leaving you behind. People are lurking out there who want you dead. So you can either get the fuck up right now or I can do it for you.”
Again, no response. His fingers flexed, claws sliding free, but he kept his hand at his side. It was only a matter of time until someone came to investigate why the doors had been ripped open, but to tear her from that dream state … she’d been so tormented the last time.
“Please,” he said softly, head bowing. “My friends need me. My … my pack needs me.”
That’s what they’d become.
He’d lost his brother, his brother’s pack—the pack that would have one day been his—but this one …
He wouldn’t lose it. Would fight until the bitter end to protect it.
“Please,” Ithan whispered, voice breaking. Her hand twitched, the water rippling. Ithan’s breath caught in his throat.
Her brow furrowed. The feeds on her tank began blaring and beeping, flashing red. The hair on Ithan’s arms rose.
And then, lids fluttering, like the Alpha fought for every inch toward awakening, the lost Fendyr heir opened her eyes.