Chapter 71: The Mountain
I stroll down the stairs of the main sweeping staircase after I am done eating with Sierra, feeling heavy
with everything we talked about. It’s almost noon and the house is eerily quiet, but noises of the busy
village outside are filtering through on the now open windows on the light breeze. It’s still raining, but it
has promise of a brighter day again and the schoolhouse is getting its first proper use today, now it’s
almost complete. No more children in the great hall at all from now on and I squint that way as male
wolves begin streaming out of the double doors at the far end of the hall as I step the last tread.
It’s where Colton has convened the sentinels from patrol, his best packs, and they have been
discussing everything to do with continuing to maintain our peaceful and safe existence. Supply runs,
financials, as we still have to bear the weight of our pack, even with severance from the main Santo
millions. Luckily Colton had his own inheritance and his own trust fund that Juan couldn’t touch and
with some of our adopted packs from the mountain, they too brought in funds to help keep us afloat for
a very long time. We have investments and share sin the human world and we seem to be ticking over
nicely, despite the loss of Colton’s rightful wealth. Wolves don’t need the things humans do to survive,
but it’s easier to feed and clothe a pack than it is to hunt , forage, and live like wild animals.
I yawn and stretch out as I make my way past the flood of departing Lychens, receiving the lowered
nods and mumbles of ‘Luna’ in passing. Showing their respect and I smile and wait until the passage is
clear enough for me to proceed. I will eventually get used to this change in how I’m treated but it still
sits kind of funny in my stomach. I’m getting better at taking hold of my role and accepting it now, but
always forever will be that unworthy girl with her doubts circling in my stomach. The awkwardness at
the respect shown my way is still strange.
I push into the now partially empty great hall, with its multitudes of military straight seats, all facing the
front podium where our sub pack are lounging around in various positions. On seats, on the floor, and
Colton is sat on the edge of the podium with his legs hanging free, looking like a teen boy hanging out
at lunch break in high school. They’re huddle close enough that I can tell they’re summarizing their
meeting and discussing something further. I wander closer and pick up on their lowered tones easily.
“We limit supply runs to daylight hours, mid-day, only. We have to be alert more than before as we don’t
know what they are capable of.” Colton carries on, glancing my way with a quick smile to acknowledge
me and it’s clear they are talking about the presence of the witch or witches in the woods.
“Does daylight really help?” I ask with a smile as I hop up next to him on the ledge and he instinctively
slides his arm around my shoulders and kisses me on the temple.
“No, but it means they aren’t any straying vamps and we might hold our own against witches with a
little more effect.” He smiles and shoulder nudges me with that cheeky gorgeous smile of his and I
wrinkle my nose back at him. Always melting at his briefest of expressions and I sigh at how lovestruck
I still am for this boy.
“Good Morning, Hemara.” Meadow cuts in, pulling my attention to the only other wolf in the pack that I
love spending all my time with equally. Her usual title of sister warms my heart, as does her loving
smile, and I beam her way with my obvious affection for her.
“Good morning. So, what was so important that you had to kidnap my breakfast partner from me this
fine day?” I lean into Colton’s neck, nuzzling snugly under his chin as I watch the uneasy shift in my
pack. The instant change in tension and atmosphere as Cesar and Jesus both glance to Colton with a
subtle flicker of apprehension. My stomach plummets, my chest tightens, and my suspicion is instantly
What is it? I link Colton immediately, feeling his own rise in stress levels and knowing this is something
I NEED to be told. He hesitates slightly, that raise in his heartbeat has me all wide eyes and I sit stiffly
to eyeball him from my lower position.
“We had new incoming before dawn. Runaways from the mountain. We put them in the guest wing in a
room for now, but they brought some news about how things are over there, and we don’t quite know
what to believe.” Colton stares over my head at Meadow and I catch the communication glance.
Something neither is wanting to say out loud, but they are both so obvious it’s painful.
“Is it bad? What is it?” I blurt out, instantly anxious, nerves rising into panic and Colton tightens his arm
around me, leaning in to nuzzle against my temple.
“It’s Carmen….. She arrived here with her mom this morning, minus their father” he pauses waiting for
my reaction and I tense all over. My heart lurches into my stomach and my heartbeat seems to thump
through my brain as my throat runs dry.
It’s not like I have anything to worry about when it comes to Carmen, it’s just I hate her, and our history
isn’t great. She’s his ex-lover, ex almost mate, and I almost lost him to her, thinking he marked her
months ago. I know I shouldn’t feel anything, but it’s complicated with our history and my green-eyed
side piques. Jealousy consuming me almost in a nanosecond as my body is engulfed in heat and
anger. Carmen is a prize bitch and in no way a person I will ever like.
“Send her to go find somewhere else to hide. She chose to stay and now what, we’re conveniently here
when it goes to shit.!” I attempt to pull away, hackles rising but Colton holds me tight and doesn’t relent.
Keeping me lassoed in his embrace and persistent with his hug so I can’t get away from him. He knows
how to handle me when I flare up and he doesn’t let go or shift in any way to give me a slight chance of
dodging his grip. He knows I may self-combust if I am let loose to pace and rant.
“I did think about it, trust me, I did. She’s not the main issue and I can’t throw her mom out. She never
did anything wrong…. Lorey, it’s not about her. My dad has the mountain in chaos, the people are
suffering ….” Colton tries to soothe but I butt in angrily.
“What about her dad? Isn’t he Juan’s second in command? Won’t he come looking for her and put our
people in danger!” I huff impatiently, grinding out words from clenched teeth, knowing I am being stupid
over this, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to walk into. She just killed the rest of my mood in
one fell swoop.
“She said that’s the reason they left. The wolves have somehow gained access to our memory shares
and are passing them through the mountain. All of it…. what he did to your family, my mom, everything.
They are starting to see him for what he really is, and Tawna couldn’t stay by the side of a mate who
betrayed the people and supported an alpha who murders his own. They are here for our protection,
not our judgement.” Colton’s stern tone, just a step away form his alpha gift and I glare at him with a
threatening dare to even use that on me. He frowns at me and seems to recoil his commandeering vibe
a little, knowing only full well I will erupt if he tries to control me.
“Juan is losing control; the mountain is weak and that leaves the rest of our people weaker. He’s so
focused on trying to keep the ones that are left, he’s ignoring the threat of the Vamps. Their attacks are
as frequent as ours and they’ve lost many from his carelessness.” Meadow pipes in sorrowfully, pulling
my heated rage towards her genuine angst-ridden expression and it completely sobers my mood. Her
care for those people mirrors my own instinct as Luna to want to help them. The thought of the wolves
trusting him to keep them safe and yet dying at his hand’s tugs at my stomach and heart and cools my
jealous pang almost immediately. As Luna of my people, their care and protection is my goal in life, and
it pains me to think of the vulnerable left behind who are afraid every second. I know what living as a
possession under Juan’s rule was like.
“She said he’s locking them down like it’s a prison camp and any who get caught trying to leave are
punished severely. We’re talking beat downs in the isolation tank, torture…. He’s unhinged and he’s
forcing them to stay with him.” Radar is the one to add fuel to the fire with his snarly tone, rage obvious
in his words, and I shake my head in disbelief.
“We always knew he would use any means to retain power.” I nod sadly and try not to picture how
many children and femmes we left there to be controlled and abused by them.
“More are coming this way; we gain every couple of weeks and we won’t have the space to keep them
all if it carries on. Now we’re limited to the rune boundary we can’t expand outwards further, unless
Rema Santo knows how to apply protection beyond the boundaries. The village is full, the house is
once again filling as newcomers are faster than our ability to build. He will be sat with an empty
mountain, while we’re crammed in here unable to breathe.” Matteo is the one to bring this detail to light,
standing as he moves closer and perches on the back of Domi’s seat and Colton sighs heavily.
“We can’t turn them away. Fractured pack or not, those are our people. By right’s, I’m their alpha, it’s
my job to care for them even if circumstance made them stay behind. We have to find a way to
accommodate them and hope more come out before it’s too late.”
“If the mountain is weaker, and Juan has lost control, then why don’t we just take it back? We are
strong, our warriors are many. He lost majority of the sub packs when we left and they’re no match.”
Melody stands up, that stubborn jut of her chin and eyes alight with the fire to fight. These past months,
the frequent attacks has brought out a ruthlessness in our fighters, a fearless need to take action.
Meadow has been a huge asset to the fight against the invaders and we all have tried to ignore the
urge to go home and take back what is ours for so many months.
“He won’t give it up without killing him, and we all know that’s not on the cards, ever. His loyal will never
turn and I’m not risking a single wolf’s life in a bid to fight a hopeless battle. We have enough
bloodshed and upheaval. Not to mention the fact we would leave the homestead unprotected if we
marched against the mountain. We don’t have enough wolves to do both at once. Our priority is and
always has been the protection of this village and its people. To keep the vamps out and to keep life
stable for the pups to grow and feel secure.” Colton is in protector mode; his words make sense but it’s
eating me deep down inside. So torn between two halves of our pack and the night to day existence
they are living. All of them deserve the relative safety and peace we have built here, and my heart
wants to chase them down and bring them all home.
“There are children on the mountain who have no choice but to stay. Do they feel safe… are they safe?
Or are they just pawns that Juan clings onto in a bid to feel he retains some control and would throw
them to the vamps in a heartbeat to instill fear into those left.” I verbalize my frustration knowing fully
that Juan never cared in any way for his people. Colton exhales heavily, letting me go as he stretches
his arms out behind his head and scrubs his scalp in frustration, letting his breath out loudly as he does
so and it’s not hard to tell he’s finding this stressful to talk out. Despite everything that has happened,
Colton’s heart still sees his father inside the monster, and it leaves him conflicted anytime we talk about
“Tell me what to do…. I honestly have no fucking idea. We have a split pack. We have two vulnerable
communities. Our priority should be here, but I get what you’re saying…they need us too. It’s just ……”
He drops his arms and grabs my hand, shrugging as his words tail off, and I pick up on that familiar
distress as his emotions war in on themselves.
“Maybe we could recon the mountain, see what’s going on. Figure out weakness, get a lay of the land
and if it’s as bad as Carmen said.” Remi stands up, also frustrated with this talk, and stretches out
before pacing to the edge of the room where the water coolers are and gets himself a drink. The whole
sub pack is uneasy and on tenterhooks and their emotions are filling my space like a dark heavy
invasion. Sometimes I curse this ability to feel people’s emotions, especially right now while I am
drowning in overwhelm.
“You know we’re the fastest in the pack, we could scope it out and be back in under two hours, before
dawn.” Domi agrees with his twin, a brightening glance between the two and Colton frowns as though
thinking about this. His whole posture loosens slightly.
“You know that’s not a bad idea.” Cesar leans in and I know without looking at Colton that he’ll agree.
He listens to his pack, especially Cesar, the wise and influential brother he never had and now with the
others nodding, I can sense his caving. His sub pack have always held this power over him and with
some gentle coaxing can influence him for good, no matter the topic.
“Okay, but only to scope it out, and keep your distance. Watch, report via link and when we have
enough of an idea what’s going down, I want you back here. Fast. Watch your back, be home before
dark and keep in mind, the vamps have witches out there now. Be extra aware.” He commands.
“We won’t make decisions until we know for sure how things are at the mountain, right?” Meadow
confirms what I’m thinking and Colton nods. Sighing again as though this whole thing has made him
weary and listless. It feels like a bad dream that none of us can wake form sometimes.
“Right. We see what’s up, then we figure out our next move. I need to patrol the village and see if we
can squeeze more space out of the building works for those we’ve settled in the house, today. We need
to keep them moving out so we can accommodate the incoming, for now. There are still three times as
many wolves at the mountain than we have here…. We need to really think about this. We’re at
capacity almost and from what you said, Carmen thinks more will run soon.” Colton stands and makes
it clear he’s dismissing the sub pack, ending this conversation for the time being, as though they are all
somehow agreeing to leave this as is, they get up to move. I linger, waiting for Colton as they nod their
respect and leave in an almost single file until only Meadow trails behind.
“I know you don’t want to fight our people again. Or him. I know how much it hurt to have to do that….
But sometimes, Hermano, you have to do horrible things for the greater good.” She pats him on the
shoulder, rubbing his clavicle with her thumb for a second before kissing me on the cheek feather soft,
and departs with a sad smile. We watch her go before Colton turns his attention to me fully.
“She’s right… I don’t want to fight my people again. It was hell to do it once, I can’t even get my head
around doing it again.” Colton breathes out when we are alone and his despair washes over my
instantly, tainting the air I inhale. Always at the heart of his decisions are his pack, even the ones that
are not technically ours. My heart bleeds for him, a tight heavy pain that constricts my ribs, because I
understand. I don’t want to hurt our people any more than he does. Most of them never did anything to
“You heard what they said…. the people are turning. The memory being shared. I don’t think Juan has
the command to make them fight like he did. Only his loyal would take up arms and they’re a lost cause
anyway. When you take down the king you have to take down his circle of trust, or you leave betrayal
as an opportunity. Didn’t you learn anything from the history teachers.” I nudge him lightly with my
shoulder against his and he relaxes a little, that cute boy half smile coming my way as my words
“How did I get so lucky in finding a mate who’s beautiful and smart…. You make every day easier; you
know that?” Colton leans in and brushes a kiss across my lips, warmly soft and yet he still ignites
butterflies; lingering a moment to rub his nose against mine and my insides melt and combust all at the
same time. It never ceases to amaze me how responsive I am to his touch and I hope it never stops
being this way. Six months on and he still gives me fireworks.
“The fates knew you needed someone to keep you in hand!” I giggle, running my fingers over that
squared off clean shaven jawline and melt a little when he smiles, all full-on dazzling dreamy.
“Really? Keep me in hand… I think that’s a little backwards. I most definitely run dampener on your
temper sometimes, baby. My feisty headstrong Luna.” He kisses me again and I can’t say that I can
argue with that, losing myself in the pressing of his lips as he lingers longer than the last one. Colton
draws back without pushing it further and fixes a serious look on me.
“Are you really not okay with carmen being here?” There’s a serious glimpse of unease in his eye and I
exhale breathily, making a show of sighing dramatically and shrug. An inner war cascading around and
green-eyed jealousy showing face as I try to rationalize my feelings.
“I don’t know. I know she can’t come between us; I know you don’t have feelings for her…. It’s just …. It
was a time that sucked, and she was a major part of it. Maybe I need to get used to her being here. I
know I have nothing to worry about at all, that she can’t do anything to hurt us, to separate us. She
won’t be half the bitch now that I’m Luna and she knows her place…. and the consequences for
disrespecting me.” I growl lightly with the last six words, venom infused in the real threat I put out there
and Colton chuckles at my show of fierce.
“Baby, that temper, ouch.” He touches me and makes a mock sizzle noise before blowing his fingers
dramatically. It does nothing to damper my fury.
“Well, she better take note, because I will tear her a new one if she annoys me.” I smirk, simmering,
and Colton holds up mock defensive palms. His eyes alight with sudden laughter, seeing as his
everyday hobby is to tease and taunt me and it always brings back his sunnier side.
“Scary! You’re cute when you’re a little feral. Wanna make out?” Colton disarms me with his humor and
playfulness, a wink, and aims a grab on me that bursts the mood completely and gets me giggling. He
pins me down on the podium, flipping me onto my back so he can lay on top of me and starts nibbling
on my neck and jawline, heading for my face as I squeal and fight him with futility. It’s hopeless as he’s
stronger, faster, and completely relentless when he wants to be, plus he weighs twice what I do. I was
never a match in human form for this heavy, solid, Latino lover.
“Do you ever manage just one hour without needing to molest me?” I bat his face away as he goes in
for a kiss and then give up completely and kiss him instead with a chaste peck to cool his jets. Pressing
face to face and smiling as our lips collide. He grins despite being joined at the mouth and chuckles.
“Hour? I can’t manage ten minutes, baby.”