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    astone2292
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Rising in the Shadows - 29. Chapter 29: Inconsolable Inferno

Tossing the keys onto the coffee table, Wagner got the message. Didn't expect it though. It's a damned good opening!

His denial as enforcer bothered him, regardless of the reason why. Is this why he chose to do it now? To have these powerful emotions? Yeah, that's it. Alpha Vonder is smart, but this is really smart!

With his mind swimming, Wagner debated on taking a shower. No, I can't. It will give me time to cool off. I need to do this now!

Scrolling through the contact list, he found Snyder's number. The memory of the business man hitting him up about the shady deal years ago came back. What does he want with pack financial information?

Thumbing out a message, Wagner remembered Rick's lessons. Manifest your emotions into the text. Strategically placing exclamation points, he reviewed his work. Satisfied, he sent it.

It's just past midnight. He might be asl—

The phone vibrated. The message was short. Call me in the morning.

Wagner growled, "That's not going to work!" He pressed the green symbol and put the phone to his ear.

"I said in the morning! I'm with my—"

"I told you I lost my status at the inauguration. I still have access to files now. Not tomorrow, now!"

Silence came over the line. The delta waited anxiously. Did I already fuck it up?

A whisper came over the line, "I have to take this, Clara. No, no. Keep going." Wagner winced at the awkwardness, but retained his focus when Snyder continued, "You were turned away from your role? Why?"

"I wasn't given a reason, but it's probably from my incident with a Kentucky alpha."

A mumble went ignored before the businessman cleared his throat, "I heard about that. Alpha Bolton, right? Short shadow mage. Guess Alpha Vonder doesn't fall far from Scott's noble behavior.” A sigh could be heard, giving Wagner a sense of regret for calling.

“Get me everything you can, Alex.”

The delta’s grimace curled into a smile, “What’s in it for me?”

“More company shares and stock you can dream of, kid. We’ll make a fortune off that damned panda!”

The call ended abruptly, but that was fine for Wagner. I have Snyder’s goal. Now I just need to find out the how and why. He pulled out the flash drive Alpha Vonder slipped him at the inauguration. I don’t know what’s on this, but I’m sure it’s necessary.

Unplugging his laptop charger, he inserted the drive. Clicking on the storage disk, it held numerous documents. One file stood out at the top. Read first. Opening it, he found a letter.

Alex,

This drive is full of false documents, of which are very similar to actual pack records. Feed these to Snyder. I already had your username and password to the pack servers deactivated secretly. Bundt confirmed there was no hacker in our databases, but this should be enough to convince Snyder of your loyalty.

It is absolutely crucial this drive remains in your possession. Protect it with your life. Do not connect it to anything other than your personal computer. Don’t worry, Bundt already has it protected and on surveillance from any outside force.

As of now, you can not contact anyone from the pack. Not me, Kaplan, Bundt, or any of your trainers. There is a drop system for any information you collect. I’ve persuaded the EC to lend their services. At night, leave the oven light on, a barbell on the coffee table, a pair of shoes at the foot of the recliner, and a notepad including the information in the bathroom cabinet. A shadow mage will collect the pad by morning.

Take your time. We’ll get him, Enforcer.

-CV

A sense of pride swam in Wagner’s heart. I’m… still an enforcer? He grinned and examined the rest of the drive.

***

Packing up their suitcases, Vincent and Mason did a final sweep of the room. “Got everything?”

“Yep.” Mason pulled a twenty dollar bill and set it in front of the TV. They probably get paid decently, but I want to make sure they’re appreciated. Leaving the room, they saw Caleb and Remis stepping out of theirs. “Sleep well, guys?”

Caleb rubbed his eye and growled, “What do you mean? We didn’t go to bed. Mac here wanted to go bar hopping and insisted on recruiting me as a wingman."

Remis snickered, "Boy, if you didn't have a mate, those two girls would have been yours! It was pure class the way you let them down though."

The lion laughed, "I don't know what you were thinking about bringing me along! I died laughing when they thought your accent was fake."

"Oh, feck off! I knew I should have kept the kilt on."

"That would've sealed the deal for sure, lover boy."

Mason tried his hardest to hold in his chortle. Those two are hilarious together. What a bromance! "Do you two know if Dave and Stacy are on their way?"

Caleb shook his head, "I'll send them—"

They all turned as the door opened, witnessing Dave and Stacy carrying their luggage. Hickies on both necks were apparent. Mason kept the thoughts to himself. They’re moving along well! I wonder how much longer it will take.

Joined at the hip, the two smiled and greeted the others with rosy cheeks. They rode the elevator down and ventured out to the street. “Dirk will be flying back with us. He’s ready to move into his new home.”

Stacy gawked at him, “Wait! The big driver guy? He’s moving to Owensville?”

“Yep, same with Alpha Scott; the guy Cyrus took over for. He’ll be moving next week since his house just got finished.”

As the human gasped, Vincent asked, “Does he need help with moving? I can carry stuff around pretty fast.”

Thinking about his mate’s magic, Mason shrugged, “I’m not sure. You might want to text and ask. He’s probably having movers bring everything, but I wouldn’t mind lending a hand.”

A black SUV pulled into an open spot and honked. “There’s Dirk. Let’s go home, guys!”

***

I won’t turn it down! Thanks, Vincent. Tell Mace and everyone sorry I didn’t get to see them last night. Sending the message, Tierney set his phone down and sipped from the glass tumbler. Everything was boxed up and packed with care. All he had left to do was light cleaning.

Sighing, he leaned against the counter. His time in New York was coming to a close. Over the last few days, numerous parting gifts were mailed to him from various members of the city. He really appreciated the bottle of Pappy from the mayor. He’s an ass, but fuck! The fifteen-year? Shit goes for a couple grand nowadays. That makes two in my collection. Can’t wait to drink this one!

Regardless, the alpha couldn’t help but feel somber. I spent a decade here, giving this city my all. Looking around, memories revisited him. Many nights working on policies. A few parties and soirees. He chuffed. Can’t remember how many partners went into that bedroom.

Glancing at the door, his brows furrowed. Just wish I could’ve brought Morr here. I think she’d like it. Would’ve given me a reason to open a bottle of wine. I need to make sure I stock up on her favorites when I move in.

Setting the glass down, he lurched forward. Back to it, I guess. I won’t get there if I keep dragging my feet. Looking at the black backpack on the couch, he growled. Yeah, I need to get going. As soon as I get to Owensville, my investigation starts.

***

Unlocking the door, Vincent walked into the house and was blasted by the musty air. On his way to the thermostat, he blasted chilled magic every way possible. That’ll help until the AC kicks on. He backtracked, but frowned as Mason carried both suitcases inside. “I was coming back for that.”

“Don’t worry, hot stuff. Did you want to start unpacking while I fire up the grill? Dirk’s coming over in a bit after he gets situated.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Mason gave him a peck before raiding the kitchen. Staring at the suitcases, Vincent grinned and fell into the shadows. I’ll just knock this out real quick. In a blink of an eye, he grabbed the luggage and zipped into the bedroom. Opening them, he grabbed bundles of clothes and sorted them in the hampers. Their dress shoes were placed neatly in the closet. After placing the toiletries in the bathroom, he took the empty trunks and stowed them in their proper place.

Venturing to the porch, Vincent emerged and watched as Mason turned on the propane tank. “Hey, big guy! I’m done unpacking.”

“What?” Bewildered, Mason stood straight. “You used your magic, didn’t you?”

Vincent nodded with a toothy grin.

“You sure you should be using your powers for trivial reasons?”

“I have a while before meeting with Yakob again. He wants me to explore the world, so I need to get used to moving at a faster speed in the shadows.”

Mason shrugged, “Fair enough.” He ignited the grill and closed the lid. “You got stuff to make your mac and cheese?”

“Yeah, I got enough for a double recipe. If you’re wanting that, then hold off on the burgers for half an hour.” The mage went inside to start preparing the pasta.

Just as Vincent slid the dish in the oven, a knock came from the front door. Opening it, he saw Dirk holding a foil-covered platter and a case of beer. “Hey, Dirk! How’s the house coming along?”

“Still boxed up but good so far. The contractors finished patching the roof last week and are working on killing the weeds in the backyard.” Entering, the bear aimed for the kitchen, “Is that mac and cheese? Hope you made enough.”

“I hope so too! You can set that on the counter. Mace is out back. Let me put that in the fridge for you.” Vincent took the large box and stuffed it in the crammed appliance. He followed Dirk through the back and saw Mason on the phone. I wonder who it could be.

“Yeah, she can come.” The alpha looked over to his mate, who had a raised eyebrow. He mouthed, “Ingle, Shaw, and Poll,” to him.

Vincent whispered, “Tell them to bring ice. Dirk brought beer.”

“Mind picking up a bag of ice? Awesome. See y’all in a few.” Tucking the phone away, Mason sliced open the package of patties, “They heard their newest officer arrived in town and wanted to say hi.”

Dirk crossed his arms, “Are they good people?”

“Ingle’s pack, Poll is his partner, and Shaw’s the detective.”

“The chief said I’d be the detective’s partner in a few months. Isn’t he the fuck that interrogated Vincent?”

Vincent shook his head, “Yes, but it’s water under the bridge. He’s a great guy.”

The bear grumbled and looked around, “If they’re bringing ice, where do you keep your cooler?”

“Under the camping gear in the garage.” Vincent watched Dirk head inside, only to come out moments later with the large red container and the beer. “Wow! That was fast.”

Dirk shrugged, “I thought I remembered seeing it when I scoped the place back in August.”

Good memory! The three sat under the porch’s awning, enjoying a beer and listening to the meat sizzle. When sounds of the gravel shifting in the driveway, Vincent launched a sight ward to confirm who was arriving, “It’s them. I’ll lead them this way.” He twirled his fingers and sent the cloud to face the vehicle. As the three stood in awe of the magic, Vincent slowly moved his ward towards the fence gate.

Ingle and Shaw entered first, “Relax, Terry. That was Vincent’s ward. It lets him see.”

The detective scratched his head, “Like a security camera? That’s cool!”

Not seeing Poll, Vincent returned his magic to the front of the house, “Is Poll coming?”

“Sarah’s making a quick call. Her dad’s Alzheimer's is acting up.”

Feeling movement in the shadows, the mage noticed the officer coming towards them. Just as he heard the gate open, Dirk’s chair squeaked. The bear was instantly on his feet. “Dirk? You good?”

He was silent. Nostrils flared and the bear’s breathing grew heavy. He turned as Poll came into view. “Sorry about that! Dad calls me around this time.”

Ingle darted his eyes between her and the delta, “No problem. Is this Delta Wescott?” He walked up to Dirk as the bear descended the stairs, “Nice to meet you. I’m Ing—”

Dirk clearly ignored the greeting and walked towards the ginger officer. Vincent saw the trembling muscles on the broad back. What the hell’s going on?

The man and woman stared at each other until Dirk whispered, “Hi, I’m Dirk.”

A weak smile came to Poll’s face, “I’m Sarah.”

“Do… Do you know about these guys?”

“That they’re wolves, yeah.”

“So it won’t bother you to say I’m a bear?”

Poll blinked several times before shaking her head.

Dirk smiled, “Would you like a beer?”

As the ginger politely accepted, the bear was quick to snatch the bag of ice from Ingle’s hand. With expert motion, he ripped and poured it evenly in the cooler. He popped a can open and handed it to Poll with elegance.

Vincent watched the exchange in pure confusion. He’s all over her! I didn’t know Dirk became so friendly with humans. In the quietest of whispers, he leaned towards Mason, “Are you seeing this?”

“Yep. He’s changed.”

Something seemed off. I’m sure Dirk would have introduced himself to Ingle and Shaw, so what’s going—

His eyes bulged, realizing what had happened. Holy shit! “Mace? Can you help me with the macaroni?”

Furrowing his brows, Mason turned to him, “What do you need me for?”

“I… uh, forgot where the potholders are. Just come here!” Dragging the hunk inside, Vincent bolted past the kitchen. “Mace! Do you know what’s going on?”

“Other than us passing the potholders?”

Palming his forehead, Vincent’s excitement boiled over. “No! Poll is Dirk’s destined!”

Mason’s jaw dropped. His eyes darted towards the back of the house. “Holy… Okay. Let’s go back out there like nothing’s happened.”

“Nothing? Dirk just found his destined mate!”

“Yes, and I need to keep an eye on things. He should know to announce it to me as Alpha, but I want to give them time to talk things through. That’s Dirk’s right and responsibility, pup. Get it?”

Vincent nodded. Right, like how he did with me. “Got it. But the second it comes out, I’m howling!”

Mason snickered as he ushered Vincent outside. They saw Shaw manning the grill as Dirk stood next to Poll. Ingle walked up to them, “Who is this guy? Just blows past me to get to my partner. “

Smirking, Vincent whispered, “Don’t take it personally. We think we know what’s going on, so give him the benefit of the doubt.”

“And why would I do that?”

As to give a clue, Vincent wrapped his arm around Mason’s waist, “Let’s just say love’s in the air.”

Ingle’s brows furrowed, but he glanced at Dirk and Poll, only to bring his head back around. He whispered, “No… you’re pulling my leg.”

Vincent chuckled, “Makes sense now, doesn’t it? Does she know about mates and stuff?”

“Yeah, Sarah knows everything about shifters. We talked a lot when she became my partner. Damn, man! That’s what’s up! Can’t be mad at the guy for finding his true love.”

Mason joined the hushed conversation, “How do you think she’d take the news?”

Ingle crossed his arms, “Not sure. She hasn’t dated since she moved here, but she usually goes with the flow with everything. I don’t see this being any different.” He turned and chortled, “You better take back the grill. Shaw likes his burgers crispy.”

“Oh, fuck…” In a sudden hurry, Mason fled towards the human.

Once the burgers were saved and the macaroni finished, Vincent brought out plates and utensils. The shifters cut back on their portions to allow Shaw and Poll to have some, but Vincent knew there would be an additional meal later. He wasn’t surprised to see Dirk sitting next to Poll. What did surprise him was her forwardness. They’re already acting like they know each other! Were Mace and I like this?

The three wolves were doing their best to avoid the occasional glance from Poll, but halfway into the dinner, she pointed a finger at Ingle, “Alright, spill it! You’re hiding something.”

Poking at the macaroni on his plate, he raised an eyebrow, “My dimple’s showing, isn’t it?”

“Yep!”

Vincent looked between Mason and Ingle, prepared for a proverbial standoff. Who starts this conversation?

Ingle set his fork down, but Dirk cleared his throat, “I think it’s obvious to the shifters what’s going on. Alpha Wilson, may I explain?” Mason nodded and the bear turned in his seat to face Poll, “Do you know about destined mates?”

“That’s the thing where someone is meant for another, right?”

Dirk smiled, “Right. I’m not one for mincing words, and I hope that’s okay with you. I… I think we’re destined.” Poll’s eyes widened as the bear continued, “When I caught your scent, I knew it was meant to be. Even now, my bear wants to protect you.”

Mason reclined and kicked his leg up, “Sounds about right to me. I felt the same way when I smelled Vinnie at Greenthumb.”

With her hands clenched on the armrests, Poll exhaled slowly, “So, we’re meant to be together?”

Quickly, Dirk’s voice softened, “I’m not going to push anything onto you, Sarah. We just met, but I’d like the chance to get to know you.”

Everyone sat in silence, waiting for a response. The scent of anxiety was pouring off her. She closed her eyes as her arms waved, “I-I can’t do this.” Poll stood, scooted her chair, and stumbled down the porch stairs.

Dirk stood, but Ingle raised his hand, “Let me talk to her.” The officer jogged after his partner.

“Did I do something wrong?”

Vincent saw the signs of sorrow on the bear’s face. “No, you didn’t. I think I know what she’s going through. When I was human, all I felt was my attraction to Mace. You guys knew instantly, but it’s different with non-shifters.”

“So… what do I do?”

Mason gripped his beer, “It’s not as simple as you think. Just because you’re destined, doesn’t mean everything falls into place. I had to gain Vinnie’s trust, especially after stalking him that first night. Give Ingle some time to work with her. He’ll hopefully get Poll calmed down.”

It seemed the answer was not good enough as Dirk raised. “I need… I don’t know.” He walked towards the treeline and took off his shirt. The moment the pants were tossed to the side, he shifted and strolled into the forest with his head hung low.

Vincent’s wolf whined in his mind. Dirk mate no want? Can mate do that?

I’m not sure, bud. They haven’t started anything with their bond. I didn’t feel anything about Mace until a week after I met him.

Bond takes time? What… what happen to Dirk if lady leaves.

Unsure of the consequences, he turned to Mason, “What happens if Sarah doesn’t want Dirk?”

Mason sighed, “I’m not sure. I haven’t heard about a destined couple not working out.”

“I’m a little lost,” Shaw interjected, “So there’s a perfect person out there for every shifter?”

“Yeah, but the chance of coming across them is nearly impossible. Usually, it’s something to be celebrated.”

Vincent nodded, “A lot of shifters look at it as Aliz’ way of rationalizing our increased power and lifespan. Look at it this way; if Dirk decided to stay in New York, it would’ve been a slimmer chance he would have run into Sarah.”

The human scowled, “Somewhere in my life, I could’ve made a decision and missed out on meeting my soulmate?”

“Or the decision hasn’t been made yet.”

“Sounds like a crappy thing to hold out for.”

The detective’s conclusion irked Vincent, “It’s hard for me to judge, but if you ever come across your mate, you’ll understand, Terry. I would never imagine being with someone like Mace, but I can’t think about life without him.”

A low growl came from his left as Mason’s fingers interlocked with Vincent’s, “It’s absolutely worth holding onto the hope. I just hope Dirk and Sarah can work everything out.”

“Hey, guys?” They turned to see Ingle with an arm around Poll’s shoulders, “Where did Dirk go?”

“He’s in the woods.”

Sarah looked towards the forest, “I… I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings or anything.”

Vincent sighed, “I know you didn’t. Dirk’s a big boy; he can take a hit.”

“It’s just—” She sighed, “I had a bad experience a long time ago. It’s taken a long time for me to get used to shifters, but I… I was shocked when he said we’re supposed to be together.”

“I’m sorry you went through something, but Dirk’s a nice guy. He’s a little hesitant around humans.”

Mason chimed in, “Speaking as an alpha, I recognize Dirk’s work ethic and behavior. He’s beyond trustworthy.” He rose from the chair, “Do you want me to go find him?”

She took a deep breath and nodded, but Vincent put a hand on Mason’s thigh, “I got him. He didn’t go far.” Falling into the shadows, he tracked the slow and lumbering pressure. As Vincent approached, he saw the black bear brushing past the trees, scraping his hide against the bark. Moving a few yards ahead, Vincent emerged and stepped out in front of Dirk, “Hey!”

The bear’s head shot up. Dirk snorted and started to turn away.

“Sarah wants to see you.”

His words caused the bear to halt. He growled, She does?

Vincent smiled, “Yeah. Ingle talked with her. She was a little blindsided but got cooled down.”

Dirk lurched forward, She want see me? When the mage nodded, the bear circled around, I go.

“Hang on a bit! Let me go get your clothes. Don’t need you standing naked in front of your mate just yet.” He made the world go gray and zoomed to the backyard. By the time he got back to Dirk, the bear was in the middle of his shift.

“Thanks, Vin!” The bigger man was hastily pulling on his clothes, clearly anxious to see Poll. Once his shirt was on, he sprinted towards the house.

Smiling, Vincent followed his friend in the shadows.

***

Waving, he bid Ingle goodbye and fished his keys out. That was a lot of fun! I didn’t expect to stay out all night, but I’m glad I did. That Dirk guy is really something! Bodyguard to the New York Alpha? If he’s going to be my partner, I won’t be disappointed!

A mental itch came to his mind, “Yeah, I’ll have another.” Setting the keys on the metal table, Shaw pulled out the cigarettes and lit one. Inhaling, he savored the mellow tobacco flavor. Exhaling, he rode the beginnings of the incoming headspin. Oh yeah, that’s a good one. Combined with the lingering effects of the few beers he had, the detective felt like a brand new man.

Leaning on the metal railing, he enjoyed the gentle breeze. Not cold enough to warrant a coat but enough to cause the man to shiver. Almost done, then I’ll go inside. There should be a game on TV tonight. Flicking the excess ash off, Shaw stared at the street. The passing cars made him smile. Tossing the butt into the half-filled can and unlocked his apartment.

He turned on the lights and took a few steps, but halted as his TV lit up. Shaw’s heart stopped. He saw that his remote wasn’t in the usual spot on the armrest. A puff of black smog appeared over the recliner. “Hello, Detective Shaw.”

Shaw swallowed nervously, “Stefan. What do I owe this pleasure?”

“I’ve been quite pleased with your involvement with Little Vinnie and that mate of his. Having a good time, I’m assuming?” Stefan's bony finger curled along his chin. With a leg crossing over the other, the mage looked imposing, yet relaxed.

“Yeah, and it’s given me the opportunity to slip you information. Not sure what it meant when Vincent’s able to manipulate his magic.”

The Italian chuckled under his breath, “He can now conceal himself among the magical community. Mastering it is a mark of an adept wizard.” He whispered, “Combined with his transformation, he’s become a worthy opponent.”

The detective didn’t know how to take the statement. Opponent? Is that what he’s after? He wants to fight Vincent? “I don’t follow. You want to fight him?”

“No, I don’t.” Clicking his tongue, Stefan stood, “I’m offering him the chance for revenge. It’s the least I can do for my error.”

“Your error?” Shaw’s blood boiled, “Error? Killing his parents wasn’t a fucking error! If you had any self respect, you’d turn yourself in.”

“Oh? What happened to your resolve to arrest me?”

“It’s still there, but I’m thinking you’re just fucking with me.”

The mage laughed, “Such a noble man. You fit your career choice well. My only question is whether the line of loyalty has been blurred.” Stefan’s eyes squinted, “I’m not sure what to do with you, Detective.”

“What do you mean? I’m giving you information, just like you asked.”

“Yes, you are. My only concern is your pace. Why should I rely on you when I can move at the speed of light?”

Shaw bit his cheek, “So you don’t get your hands dirty.”

“Precisely.” The mage moved a clenched fist downward and unfurled the fingers.

Confused by the gesture, he couldn’t react fast enough. The sound of a click froze his blood.

A loud explosion came from behind him at the exact moment pain erupted in his right knee. He fell screaming, slamming his head against the carpeted floor. All of the oxygen in his lungs vanished as Shaw tried to calm himself. Shot. But… by who?

He lifted his head just as Stefan launched a fireball, igniting the couch. “You’ve served your purpose, Detective.”

“My… my purpose?”

“Yes. But now it’s time to say goodbye.” Whipping an arm down the hallway, another arc of flame was sent flying.

Grimacing, he looked at his leg. Can’t move it! Losing too much blood. He grunted and tried to see behind him. Who the fuck… shot m—

Trailing up the black shoes and pants, the figure was familiar. No. It can’t be! Seeing the assailant’s face, Shaw didn’t believe it. The gun lowered and discharged, forcing another wave of pain in his shoulder. Yelling, he clutched the wound and fell on his back.

“Careful, now. We don’t want too much evidence.”

“I know. Just make sure everything’s torched."

Stefan smirked, "As long as he dies."

"He should bleed out or die from the smoke."

"You don't want to kill him now?"

"Nah, let this mutt-lover die slowly."

Shaw grimaced. Stay awake, Terry… they leave and I can call for help.

The gunman looked at him and clocked him with the pistol's butt. He felt his pants being searched. As his phone was taken, he chuffed and spat blood. "How… did you—"

Cackling, Stefan threw another line of fire across the dining table, "My new accomplice can read minds, Detective. A useful skill, if I may say so."

Coughing from the growing smoke, Shaw yelled. His wounds caused a wave of torture. This isn't good!

"With that, we'll take our leave." Stefan stooped to meet the human face to face, "See you in Hell, Detective."

He barely distinguished the difference between the smoke and the black smog. Shaw was alone. Sweating from the intense heat, his mind raced. Stand. Stand up! Huffing and pushing through the agony, he stood on his good leg.

Hope faded as he saw the front door was pitch black. What the fuck? The knob wouldn't move. Slamming on it made no sound. Searching for a way out, he saw the window was treated the same.

Coughing, his training kicked in. He laid down on the floor, desperate for any remaining air. This can't be it. No… not like this! His breathing grew haggard.

My gun! He started crawling for the bedroom, but stopped. The hallway was ablaze. Plans to make noise were futile. Drowsiness sat heavily on his mind. His eyelids grew heavy. He knew time was limited. Pulling himself towards the wall, he dipped into the bleeding leg, gasping at the pain. The arm was shaky, but he needed to leave a message. Can't… remember if this will stay.

Shaw was fading. No… can't get the full message. Barely able to lift his finger, he saw the wall darkening. Drawing a vertical line, he coughed. Poking into the wound once more, he yelled.

Smoke rushed into his lungs, sending him into a spasm of coughs. His hand pressed against the wall, pouring every ounce of remaining strength into his arm. He nearly finished the first letter before succumbing to the body's need to sleep.

***

"Pup. Vinnie!"

He was shaken awake by Mason. "Wh-what?" Vincent was concerned by his mate's look of dismay. Guilt flooded through the bond, signaling something was wrong. "What's going on?"

Mason bit his lip, "Shaw's dead."

Shock rushed through his body. Sh-Shaw? "What happened?" He rushed to his feet, flinging the comforter across the bed.

"His… His apartment was torched. A few others were burned and had smoke inhalation, but… he couldn't get out."

Refusing to believe it, Vincent grabbed a pair of shorts and a shirt.

Mason grabbed his keys, but Vincent was already in the shadows, traversing through the night. Arriving at the complex, he gasped.

The apartment was pitch black, despite the surrounding flashes of red, yellow, and blue strobe lights.

"Vincent!"

He blinked and saw Ingle. Dressed in jeans and a tank top, the mage quickly assessed he was called out of bed. "Ingle…"

The officer had clearly been crying through the bloodshot eyes.

"Can we… go in?"

Ingle nodded and ushered him forward. Flashing a badge to the firemen, they ducked under the yellow tape and walked towards the remnants of the building.

A wave of calmness washed over his mind. Vincent halted and basked in the feeling. He gripped Ingle's arm. "Alpha?"

His lips trembled. His wolf snarled. The lingering magic was unmistakable. He whispered, "Stefan."

Releasing the officer, he flew back to Mason's. Reemerging in the driveway, the mage was overwhelmed with emotion. Through willpower alone, his legs moved to the front door. It opened before he could reach the knob, "Vinnie?"

Brushing past Mason, Vincent had one thought on his mind. Entering the bedroom, he opened the top dresser drawer and filtered through his socks.

Seeing the object of his angered desires, he grabbed the flip phone.

This concludes Rising in the Shadows. Thank you, readers, for joining me on this journey. Your comments mean the world and give me the boost to continue with this addicting hobby. A very special thank you goes to @tigg615 for being a wonderful editor. I can't wait to work with you again!

At the moment, I plan to finish Cernunnos, then work on the revision of Love in the Shadows. It may take a few months, but be on the look-out for the third and final installment of this series, Death in the Shadows.

If you enjoyed this story, please consider leaving both a recommendation and a review. I thoroughly appreciate feedback and I love hearing from my readers.

Copyright © 2021 astone2292; All Rights Reserved.
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41 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

OMFG, I can't believe a chapter that started with so much promise ended like this.  I do think that Stefan knew this would enrage Vincent.  And I do think his ally might be tied to Stuerm; but still don't understand who it is specifically.  I do hope that Shaw's last message is noticed and understood by someone.  HIs sacrifice should not be in vain.

Thanks for commenting, centex. It means a lot that you've followed this story since its inception.

Stefan is a smart man. There's no doubt this was a calculated move. But who is the gunman? Pesky plot holes...

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Wow I did not see that coming up, but you are known throw us some serious curve balls, so Shaw died like he lived on the edge, he just chose the wrong side and he paid a hectic price, I cannot wait for the next part to this truly amazing story , thanks for entertaining me with this rollercoaster journey.

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I wonder who that guy with Stefan was. Shaw seems to know him already. Maybe it was the chief, Henry?
Just as I started to like Shaw too. It's gonna be torture to wait for the conclusion...

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4 hours ago, Kitt said:

Oh no you don't! You can NOT  leave us hanging for the better part of a year why you re edit an older story!!! 

 

Ok gang, I am sharpening the pitch forks. Who is making the torches?

I am sure you get that this comes from a place of true appreciation for your UNFINISHED story.

I can sew and will make the sacks to kidnap and hold him hostage until the next book is ready.  We cannot wait months!

2 hours ago, mikedup said:

Wow I did not see that coming up, but you are known throw us some serious curve balls, so Shaw died like he lived on the edge, he just chose the wrong side and he paid a hectic price, I cannot wait for the next part to this truly amazing story , thanks for entertaining me with this rollercoaster journey.

I don’t really think Shaw chose the wrong side.  I think he was working as a double-agent and was just caught up with someone who was more powerful than he could handle.  Ingles just doesn’t understand who/what they are dealing with and set Shaw up in a losing battle.

I am worried about Alex.  He’s getting involved in some dirty dealings.  Hopefully, his reputation and Cyrus will help keep him safe.

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9 hours ago, astone2292 said:

The flip phone has one number, and possesses one use. If Vincent's going for it, then he must be either confident... or reckless.

Do we know whose number is in the phone and I forgot? Cyrus? Tierney? Yakob?

Great chapter! While I understand you have priorities, I was sorry to hear we have to wait so long for the next installment.

Edited by Geemeedee
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The black shoes could be a clue. Police wear black shoes. It would also fit with Stefan's pattern.

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8 minutes ago, Geemeedee said:

Do we know whose number is in the phone and I forgot? Cyrus? Tierney? Yakob?

Great chapter! While I understand you have priorities, I was sorry to hear we have to wait so long for the next installment.

If you recall, the EC uses these type phones exclusively. 

 

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5 hours ago, Kitt said:

Oh no you don't! You can NOT  leave us hanging for the better part of a year why you re edit an older story!!! 

 

Ok gang, I am sharpening the pitch forks. Who is making the torches?

I am sure you get that this comes from a place of true appreciation for your UNFINISHED story.

I'll bring the axes to take down any doors that are in the way !!

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22 minutes ago, Geemeedee said:

Do we know whose number is in the phone and I forgot? Cyrus? Tierney? Yakob?

Great chapter! While I understand you have priorities, I was sorry to hear we have to wait so long for the next installment.

I THINK Stephan gave him that phone for when he felt he was ready to fight him, but I could definitely be wrong, it could be from the EC.

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17 minutes ago, 1brokNangel said:

I THINK Stephan gave him that phone for when he felt he was ready to fight him, but I could definitely be wrong, it could be from the EC.

I am thinking you are right.

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Oh @astone2292Aaron, how could you do this to us? 😒

What a cliff hanger and such a sad ending - poor Shaw! 😢

As for Stefan and that goddam good for nothing TRAITOR - they are going to deserve everything that Vinnie (and everyone else) does to them. 💥☠️

Anyway get those fingers working on Cernunnos so then you can get working on DitS (hopefully there's not a part 4 with Zombies - think about what that would make the acronym!). 🥰

We all love you really!

Mark

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3 minutes ago, Howzat said:

Oh @astone2292Aaron, how could you do this to us? 😒

What a cliff hanger and such a sad ending - poor Shaw! 😢

As for Stefan and that goddam good for nothing TRAITOR - they are going to deserve everything that Vinnie (and everyone else) does to them. 💥☠️

Anyway get those fingers working on Cernunnos so then you can get working on DitS (hopefully there's not a part 4 with Zombies - think about what that would make the acronym!). 🥰

We all love you really!

Mark

Fox Tv Fire GIF by Bob's Burgers

How could I do this? Easy. Content! 

OMG... ZitS. Now I'm interested... Vincent would be the powerhouse in the survival team, being capable of detecting incoming shadows. The question is simple; who would be in the starting survival team? Which of our beloved characters would be turned/killed? Uh oh... I think I'll have to add a short side story to this series...

Thanks so much for commenting, Mark! I'm glad to see you're enjoying this series!

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The biggest cliffhanger here is in the afterword note; that’s a significant impact multiplier.

I suppose any further comments can be planned using the farmers almanac, as the next harvest season for ‘Into the Shadows’ is now 2022; that’s literally into the shadows of…Inactive Story.

I guess it’s a subtle way of disclosing that Vinsy has a new affinity…invisibility.

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4 minutes ago, Philippe said:

The biggest cliffhanger here is in the afterword note; that’s a significant impact multiplier.

I suppose any further comments can be planned using the farmers almanac, as the next harvest season for ‘Into the Shadows’ is now 2022; that’s literally into the shadows of…Inactive Story.

I guess it’s a subtle way of disclosing that Vinsy has a new affinity…invisibility.

I wouldn't say 2022. Death in the Shadows might make an appearance before then. 

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6 hours ago, astone2292 said:

I wouldn't say 2022. Death in the Shadows might make an appearance before then. 

We certainly hope so! :heart:

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14 hours ago, Philippe said:

The biggest cliffhanger here is in the afterword note; that’s a significant impact multiplier.

I suppose any further comments can be planned using the farmers almanac, as the next harvest season for ‘Into the Shadows’ is now 2022; that’s literally into the shadows of…Inactive Story.

I guess it’s a subtle way of disclosing that Vinsy has a new affinity…invisibility.

I'm with Philippe, as usual. 

It was amusing watching the virtual uprising among your loyal readers. 

I hope you enjoyed it, too, Aaron.

Zeke

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