I stood on the edge of the party on the packhouse’s back lawn. It was Lea’s birthday, so Liam of course was throwing her a big bash. Most of the pack was here. Lea and Lily were sitting at a table on the small stage with Felix standing by as always. I swear that guy was everywhere. I tapped my foot impatiently checking my phone again. V was late. He promised he would be here to save me from this torture. I loved Lea and Liam like my real parents, but I was tired of being the adopted Alpha kid. I would never be Alpha, no that responsibility would go to Junior. But there were still so many expectations and un-ending gossip.
V was different though. He and his dad just joined the pack 2 years ago and he didn’t care about all that stuff. He didn’t treat me like an Alpha kid or care about the gossip. He was cool and down to earth. I checked my phone again. No text, no call. Where was he?
The popular girls walked by, together in their little clique. I didn’t fail to notice their giggles and side glances. I rolled my eyes and turned to walk away. I walked towards the tree line. Maybe I would go for a run instead of waiting for Vlad. Letting my wolf out and letting her take control for a couple hours seemed like a great escape.
My phone dinged as I got close to the tree line. I looked at it hopefully only to see a text from Liam.
Where did you go? It's time to sing.
I sighed. I know Liam and Lea didn’t deserve my attitude, but I couldn’t help it. Being me was suffocating sometimes. Now that baby number three was on its way, that is all the pack could talk about. That and how if this one was a girl that Liam and Lea wouldn’t care about me anymore. As much as I tried to ignore the hateful rumors, it wasn’t always easy.
I stopped a few yards into the tree line. I buried my phone in my pocket and started to undress. There was movement from the forest stopping me. I looked around, trying to see the source. Someone was walking towards me. The familiar silhouette came into view and I smiled.
“You didn’t want to wait for me?” he said fondly.
“You couldn’t even text me that you were going to be late?” I said irritated.
“Sorry. My dad held me up. But I am here now,” he said. He stopped about a foot away from me. “Want to get out of here?”
“That is what I was just about to do,” I said.
“Come on. Forget shifting. Let’s go somewhere,” he said.
I sighed. My wolf was excited to be getting out. I was so sure that Vlad was going to be my mate. He was absolutely perfect in almost every way. In a few months’ time, we would know too. My wolf wasn’t as sure. For some reason, he didn’t like shifting. He mentioned it had something to do with their old pack but he never explained it further. “Alright, let’s go,” I said. He held out his hand. I grabbed it and we headed towards his car.
Liam texted Missy but got no reply. “I am sorry, Little Luna. She isn’t answering and I can’t link her. I think her block is up,” he said tenderly.
I rubbed his arm soothingly. “It’s okay. She seemed upset earlier,” I told him.
“That is no excuse. She should be here,” he said. He was agitated now. He and Missy had been at odds lately over her boyfriend, Vlad. I hadn’t seen him around the party yet, although I probably wasn’t the best frame of reference as I have not been allowed to leave my chair. Liam’s uncle, Doctor Ron, had put me on ‘lite duty’ with the pregnancy progressing and Liam was taking it very seriously. Last night he had stopped me from helping Leo pick up his toys because I was bending too much.
“Let’s just cut the cake,” I said. “It is really okay.” He gave me a sad look. I knew he was trying so hard to make me happy; he always did. Junior came over with tears in his eyes. “What is wrong, sweetheart?” I asked, concerned.
“What happened to my boy?” Liam said scooping him so I couldn’t.
“Delilah tripped me,” he sniffled. He pointed to his knee that was scraped up pretty bad. Poor thing hated blood. The smallest cuts were the end of the world.
“Why did she do that?” Liam asked him gently.
“We were playing and I won the game. Lucas teased her for losing and she got mad,” he said.
“Junior, was it maybe an accident?” I asked him. He just shrugged his shoulders.
“Let’s go clean this knee up,” Liam said. “We can sing to mommy when we are done,” He gave me a sympathetic look before leaving with Junior. I sighed as they left. I looked across the yard where Damien was talking to an angry Delilah. She was stomping her foot as she angrily explained something to him. She was the biggest daddy’s girl and Damien was absolute putty in her hands. He and Liam were amazing fathers; Lily and I really had hit the jackpot with mates. Lily was walking towards me rolling her eyes.
“Some days, these kids really test my patience,” she said. I laughed at that in total agreement.
“Who lost this time?” I asked her.
“I think Delilah and Leo. She is over there complaining to Damien about how it was unfair, and someone cheated,” she said.
“When Liam gets back, he wants to do cake,” I told her.
“That’ll calm the kids down temporarily,” she said.
Damien came over with Delilah on his back. “Where did Liam go?” he asked.
“Went to get a band-aid for Junior. How’s Delilah?” I asked.
“She is fine,” he said.
Liam finally joined us and called the pack to attention. The whole pack sang ‘Happy Birthday’ then we cut the cake and passed it out. Even though it was my favorite flavor and looked delicious, as soon as a piece was placed in front of me, the smell made me nauseous. I tried to hide it, but Liam knew better. He rubbed my back soothingly apologizing.
“Liam, you couldn’t have known. It’s okay,” I told him. “Let’s just wrap this up and go to bed,” I told him. I wanted a little one on one time with him after we got the kids to bed. “Have you seen Missy?” I asked him.
He gave me a guilty look. “No. Maybe we should send out a few warriors to look for her…” he trailed off. I knew he was probably linking whoever oversaw patrol for tonight. I turned around to Felix who still never left my side.
“Have you seen her since the party started?” I asked.
He nodded. “She went towards the woods maybe 45 minutes ago,” he said.
“Liam,” I said trying to grab his attention. “Maybe she went for a run. Felix saw her go towards the woods.”
He sighed and looked at me. “Okay. If she isn’t back by 11, then we are sending out someone to find her. And she better not be sneaking off with Vlad,” he said, spitting out her boyfriend’s name with venom. He really didn’t approve.
“Okay, my Alpha,” I said, giving him a sweet smile. That always did the trick. His eyes got a shade darker, and his posture relaxed slightly.
I sat on our large bed waiting for Liam to come back. He was tucking Leo in and reading him a bedtime story. I decided to try texting Missy; her phone was basically attached to her hand anyway.
Please let me know where you are and that you are okay.
I waited a few minutes and sure enough, I got a reply.
I am fine. With V.
I sighed. Of course. She was always with him. Vlad and his father had come to the pack about 2 years ago, looking for a new home. They had left their old pack under murky circumstances, but Liam and I had allowed them to join. Missy had immediately taken a liking to Vlad. Something always just felt a little off about him and his father but they had been model pack members, so we had dismissed it eventually.
Please be home by midnight. We were worried.
I knew Liam wouldn’t go to bed until she was back in the pack house.
I sighed. Teenagers were so much fun. I was not looking forward to all of this with the younger ones. Although, I was sure that Junior and Leo would be a cakewalk compared to Delilah. She was the feistiest of the group. Liam finally came into the bedroom. He looked tired. I opened my arms for him, and he gave me a grin and came right over to me. He crawled up on the bed, wrapped his arms around my middle, and rested his head on my tiny baby bump.
“How’s my little girl doing?” he asked.
“Liam, we don’t know if it's a boy or a girl yet!” I scolded him.
“I just know. It's going to be a little girl and she is going to be just as perfect as her momma,” he said softly. He was so in love with the idea of having a girl.
“Other than making me nauseous at every turn, your baby is fine,” I told him. He snuggled his face into my belly smiling. “Missy texted me. She is fine and promised to be home by midnight,” I told him. He sighed. He had gotten up early and worked extra this past week to help Lily put together the party for me tonight. I ran my fingers through his hair, lightly massaging his scalp. I am sure he didn’t want to stay up until she was back. “Why don’t I make sure she gets home tonight?” I said.
“No, Little Luna. You are growing my pup and still taking care of the boys every day. Plus, you have been handling things at the Inn. I can stay up to make sure our miscreant teenager gets home,” he said.
I laughed. “Miscreant? Hardly. She is just pushing our boundaries. We just need to hold firm and make sure she knows we will always love her,” I said. He grumbled into my belly. “Just get some sleep. You did a wonderful job with the party. I had a great time.” I continued to scrape my fingers against his scalp, knowing that I would win this. I let one of my hands travel down and gently rub the back of his neck. He relaxed against me.
“Okay. Just this once. But if she is a minute late, you wake me up to go find her. You do not go out and look for her,” he said protectively.
“Okay,” I told him. I had no intention of waking him up. I would just call someone to help me find her or wait for her to get home safely. I continued to rub my wonderful mate and within a few minutes, he was dozing peacefully holding tight to me. Each pregnancy he had developed the habit of laying on my belly like this, close to his pup. I grabbed a book off the nightstand and settled in to read.
I texted Missy at 11:30 to check on her and see if she was on her way home. She gave me no response. Liam had rolled over giving me mobility once more. I got up to use the restroom and brush my teeth. I came back out to the bedroom and sat down on the couch to check my phone once more. I absentmindedly rubbed my bump while looking at the conversation with Missy. It was not even showing she had read it. I sighed. I got up and left the room, making my way to Missy’s. Her door was locked but I used the master key we kept unlocking it and let myself in. There were a few clothes and books scattered about the room but otherwise it was tidy. I sat on her bed and ran my hand along the bed spread. I thought about the day I took her to pick it out. We let her completely redecorate her room for her 13th birthday. Lemon had gone to the store with us, and Missy had been so excited. Liam had kept the boys that day and it had been all about Missy.
I checked my phone again. 12:07. She had never been more than a few minutes late walking into the pack house. She may push our boundaries and be pulling away, but she was still a good kid. She had a good head on her shoulders and never did anything too troublesome. I got up and decided to go down and get a cup of tea, hoping she would be walking through the door any minute. When I got to the kitchen, I made myself some tea then went to the front door. I sat on one of the squishy benches in the foyer and sipped my drink.
The pack house was quiet; everyone was sufficiently partied out after this evening. Although I didn’t have wolf hearing, my hearing was better than an average human so I would be able to hear if she came in through the back door with the relative silence around me. I drank most of my tea before checking the time again. 12:36. I was starting to get worried. She still had not checked my message. I tried again.
You’re late. Please let me know you’re okay?
I wait a few more minutes with no reply. I sigh and dial the number of one of the nighttime patrol wolves. He answers quickly. “Yes, Luna,” he says.
“Hi, Sean. Has anyone seen Missy tonight?” I asked. When I first completed my Luna ceremony, I tried to insist that everyone call me Azalea and not be so formal. Some had gone along, but many still used my title. Eventually I just accepted it even though I wish they would just call me Azalea.
“No, Luna. Is she missing?” he replied.
“She was supposed to be back by midnight, and I am just a little worried,” I told him.
“I will have the patrols see if they can track her down within the pack land anywhere. Do you have any idea where she may have headed?”
“I really don’t know unfortunately. I know she was with the boy she is always hanging around with, Vlad. She never told me where she was going though,” I told him.
“We will do our best to find her Luna. But, it won’t be any easier trying to track him with his indistinct scent,” he explained.
“What do you mean?” Without a wolf, I could smell better than a human would but for the most part, the only scent I could always pick up on was Liam’s.
“I talked to Alpha about this a couple weeks ago the first time he sent us after them. The boy doesn’t have a discernable scent like wolves should. He doesn’t smell of a rogue but also not identifiable in any way.”
“Wow, that is strange.”
“Maybe you should call up to the Inn. See if someone saw them around town?” he suggested.
“Thanks. I think I will. Please let me know if you find them. Also, don’t wake the Alpha, please? He was exhausted tonight, and I would really like him not to worry.”
“Of course, Luna.” He hung up the phone and I let out a long breath. Now I was getting worried. She wasn’t back yet and this thing about Vlad?
I splashed Vlad in the face and ducked under the waterfall. We were in our place. It was this beautiful little clearing with a small pound that was fed by a small waterfall. There were flowers everywhere and the lightning bugs made it glow up at night. It was peaceful and away from the pack without being too far.
“Oh no you don’t!” he yelled coming after me. I giggled and tried to get out of his grasp, but he caught me. “You can’t run from me princess,” he said with a charming smile.
“How do you move so quickly?” I complained. He held me up in his arms and I wrapped my legs around his waist, the water holding up most of my weight. He slowly walked us back towards the bank where our outer clothes lay discarded.
“I guess that is my secret,” he said. He was always so cocky and sure of himself. It was incredibly hot if I was being honest. He peppered small kisses on my face making me giggle again.
“Okay, enough!” I said. We had been swimming and playing in water for a while now. It was really late, and I probably needed to get back to the pack house. If I was late, Lea and Liam would be worried out of their minds. Even if I didn’t always love our pack, I loved Lea and Liam. They were good parents.
Vlad brought us up on the bank and set me down. He flopped himself down and laid back, looking up through the trees at the stars above us. “Come on, we should get dressed. I left my phone in your car, but I am sure we should be getting back. Don’t you have a curfew?” I asked him.
“Nope. My dad isn’t like that. Come, lay with me for a bit. We should let our under clothes dry out before we get dressed anyway,” he said. I rolled my eyes but couldn’t resist. I laid down next to him, putting my head on his shoulder. I couldn’t wait to turn 17. Vlad’s birthday was right after mine as well so it would be perfect. We would know that we are mates, and both feel the bond quickly. We had even talked about moving away from the pack after high school to get away from it all. I hadn’t said anything to Liam and Lea about it yet because I knew they would freak out.
“It’s so peaceful here,” I sighed.
“The view is pretty great too,” he said. I peeked my eyes up at him and he was looking directly at me. I blushed and looked up at the stars again.
“Missy…” Damien’s voice floated into my head. Shit.
“Uh, what is up, Beta?” I linked back.
“Where are you right now? Do you know what time it is?”
I shot up to a sitting position. Vlad looked at me concerned. “What is it?” he asked.
“We have to go, now!” I said scrambling up. I scooped up my clothes and started getting hastily dressed. Vlad was not moving as fast. “V, Damien just linked me asking where I am and if I know what time it is. That means I am late, and Liam is going to come looking for me. We need to go now!”
“Okay, okay. We’ll go princess. Just tell him you lost track of time and you will be back shortly. I can get us back in like 20 or so minutes,” he said calmly.
“Just hurry!” I urged.
“Sorry. Totally lost track of time and my phone died. Heading back now. Call off the search party,” I tried to joke.
“Your phone is ringing before it goes to voicemail,” Damien said. I knew I was so busted this time. I had always managed to get back right in time except once. Vlad had set up this super cute movie date out here and we fell asleep watching the movie. One of the patrols had found us and I had promised Liam I would never be late again.
“Damien, please tell me Liam is not out looking for me!” We were rushing back to V’s car now. He found his key and we got inside. I quickly checked my phone. I had multiple messages from Lea, a missed call from her and 4 from Damien. Nothing from Liam though so that might be a good sign.
“Luna let him sleep and assured him she would make sure you got home safely. She is now pacing the front hall in the middle of the night distraught. She called the night patrol who informed me that you were missing,” he linked.
“V, step on it. Lea is pacing around the pack house waiting for me. She had to fight Doc on putting her on bed rest for the baby. Please hurry, I am going to be in so much trouble if Liam wakes up because she is stressing out. Her emotions are like 20-fold while she is pregnant!”
“Shit. I am going,” he said and pressed his foot to the accelerator. We got out to the main road quickly and he took off even faster.