“Lieutenant, how did Elder Easton escape?” I asked angrily at the man when I caught sight of him as I entered my office. He was standing at the window pensively looking out at the garden. Thankfully someone had managed to get the man to my office before I even made it back. He stood tall and foreboding as if I was the one inconveniencing him. I hadn’t issued the order, so I can only assume the Alpha Mate or my new assistant, Rafael, had done the honors. The hide of me wanting to speak to the man after my father escaped on his watch, not to mention the injured young guard.
“It was a shift change, and your father overpowered the guard before the others had arrived,” he answered dismissively. Oh, I’m going to… something this asshole.
“Do you like your position here, Lieutenant?” I asked sternly with a growl. “I got the impression at the welcome dinner you wanted to stay on. Is that true? Or is it my age that’s a factor? My experience? Because your dismissive attitude tells me that you’re not happy in your position.” The Lieutenant grunted a non-specific rebuttal. “You can be relieved of your duty, just say the word,” I said while carelessly moving things around my desk. I wanted him to think I wasn’t concerned about replacing him. I’m not going to fight for someone who doesn’t want to be here. He’d be hard to replace, sure. It’s not about my pride; it’s about the entire Pride. How safe are we with someone in charge of warriors and the royal guard who doesn’t like their job, nor do they give a shit.
“I don’t like what you’re implying, Alpha Rush. Do we have a problem?” his snooty attitude tipping me off-kilter. Not that it would be a hard feat since I’ve been constantly two seconds from an anxiety attack since I arrived at Sentinel Oaks Pride. “It’s not my job to babysit an Elder, even if he is your father.” Again, with the snarly father comment. I.will.smack.this.prick.
“Your job,” I said through gritted teeth, “includes overseeing the warriors and Royal Guard. I would think you’d want to know what’s going on throughout the Pride, not to mention keeping an eye on any potential danger. Have you not been informed of his escalating behavior? Have you not been warned he has made threats? Tell me, how do you see your involvement as the Lieutenant?”
The man’s jaw ticked slightly; a giving tell he was hanging onto to his composure by a thread. He leaned forward with a hand on my desk, his neck extending to full capacity as he got in my face. “Listen here, you snot-nosed brat. I’ve been in this position for over two decades and never once did King West ever second guess me or question my int–”
“That’s enough, Lieutenant,” the Alpha Mate entered the office without announcement, and I’ve never been happier to be interrupted in my life. “You have overstepped here. Due to the circumstances and the importance of the task at hand, you should have been on point. Your job is to protect, and don’t think I haven’t noticed the lax in the security detail when it comes to the Easton’s. Yesterday I saw Alpha Rush and his second leave this building without a guard, not one. Care to explain how that happened?” the Alpha Mate stood tall, jutting her chin, and her eyes like steel.
“No, Lieutenant. There is no explanation to suffice these infractions. I suggest you go to the clinic to see after the injured guard – as I assume you have not yet done so – then take the next forty-eight hours to think long and hard if this where you want to be. If you can not respect the incoming king, maybe this isn’t the right place for you.”
Narrowing his eyes with another tick in his jaw, he glanced my direction then back to the Alpha Mate. “You’re banishing me from the Pride?”
She shook her head. “No, not at all. But we can’t expect you to take charge and lead the warriors nor the Royal Guard to the best of your ability either, can we?” The Alpha Mate took a moment giving me an assessing look. “If you decide not to stay in your position as Lieutenant, it will be up to Alpha Rush whether you can stay within the pride.”
I was quick to put that question to rest. “Of course you’d be able to stay, there’s no reason why you should not. Your entire life is here. I’ll leave that decision between you and your family.” I watched the Alpha Mate for her reaction; as usual, she gave away nothing. “For now, please take the time given to consider your future. The job is still yours. But, if you do decide to stay in your position, I’ll expect you to bring a lot more than I’ve seen so far.”
“Alpha Mate,” he bared his neck, then me, “Alpha.”
We watched as he left the room, leaving enough time for him to be out of earshot I sighed audibly. “Will it always be like this?”
“No, Alpha, things will get better, they’re just… testing you, I think. Big paws to fill as you know.” She smiled fondly at the memory of her mate. “Not everyone will agree with you nor disagree. The trick is to find a happy medium and, first and foremost, do what’s best for the pride. Even if you don’t like it.” She blessed me with a motherly smile, warm and fond. I wonder if my mother would have been this supportive and wonderful.
“Thank you for stepping in. I fear due to my own shortcomings the argument was getting out of hand,” I offered her the visitor’s seat waiting for her to be seated across from me before dropping into my own. “Please,” I said while opening the bottom draw reaching for the unopened bottle of whiskey I’d found a week or so ago.
Alpha Mate sat down elegantly with a light chuckle. “Maybe, but you’ll get better at tempering yourself as you go. King West was loved; they don’t trust you yet.” She assessed me for a moment or two. “I think you’ll be just fine, Alpha. You remind me a lot of my late husband.”
I rolled my eyes. “Please don’t say that in front of my mate?” I asked with a smirk.
“Oh, spirits no.” she laughed at her statement, although nodding her agreement when I held up the bottle for her to see.
“RAFAEL!” Ouch! My head.Probably shouldn’t yell when my skull feels like it’s about to explode. Massaging my temples, I tried to block overly obnoxious loud voices bouncing off the walls of my office.
The shifting of the crown is only several days away and there is still so much to do; not to mention half the pride want an audience with me before I become King. Ninety-eight percent of this crap can wait until after the ceremony and celebration. Still, they all seem determined that it has to be now. I’m not sure what difference it’s going to make.
My new assistant, Rafael, came bustling through the door winding around the 4 million people in my office that were all talking over each other at me. The sheer volume only furthered the drilling in my head. He put down a bottle of water and a small medicine cup with aspirin. The spirits are going to gift Rafael in his next life, mark my words. The man is a freakin’ saint.
“Take those then block your ears,” he commanded in a way that assistants are the real bosses and they know it. I did as I was told, once my hands covered my ears Rafael rounded two fingers in his mouth letting out one hell of a high-pitched ear-piercing whistle. “Shifters, if you’ll follow me, we can get to everyone in due time. Thank you.” The man is worth all the… everything, he’s worth everything. Once the last person left the office, he turned to me. “Anything that isn’t life or death, or tied with the shifting of the crown will be rescheduled. I’ll give you a few minutes to at least let the aspirin kick in.” He squeezed my shoulder. “Let me know if you need anything, Alpha.”
“Bless you, Raf.”
I like Rafael, so far he’s been professional and is very good at his job. When we are alone he treats me as a person, not royalty. I like that. Like just now it’s unacceptable for anyone to touch the King or royal family in any way, but the man is tactile and willing to comfort since we were alone. In company he is the height of professionalism. I’ve also noticed he’s tough, no nonsense. I’m going to enjoy watching him bang heads with my brother. The middle aged man has a fatherly way about him, considering who my father is I can certainly use a father figure with good intentions.
After enough time for the aspirin to lessen the hammering in my head to a dull thud a gentle tap, tap, tap, came from the door. Rafael entered then holding the door for a beta man that I had yet to meet.
“Alpha Easton, may I introduce Sheriff Robert Petrone,” stated Rafael before leaving the room closing the door behind him.
“Nice to meet you.” I stood as the beta shook my extended hand with slight baring of his neck.
“You also.” He sat in the chair I invitingly gestured. Crossing his ankle over his knee picking imaginary lint from his pants, he made himself comfortable. He’s big for a beta, his body a total mass of muscle. Obviously he works on his fitness, in his job though is that really a surprise. I would estimate his age to be somewhere in his thirties, young for a man in such a position. He’s objectively good looking but I wouldn’t say he was gorgeous like my mate, more… average, appealing but not typically attractive.
“How can I help you?” I asked sitting down behind my desk giving him my full attention.
What the hell is going on today? I haven’t even been shifted the crown and it’s already insane. Three meetings down and I’m ready to start strangling shifters. The first had been with the head of the Royal Guard about security for the ceremony. Another for the crown with a side of complaints about my father’s rude and unruly behavior – in their opinion. The last, a meeting with the Sheriff’s Office, also with a nice dose of putting me in my place. Something I learned in that meeting is that the Sheriff gets testy if you call it the Police Dept. The sheriff’s response to my error had my new assistant Rafael retreating from my office faster than I’ve ever seen anyone move. The man didn’t intimidate me in the slightest and I let him know. That’s going to be a strained relationship going forward. It doesn’t help that he was there to lay down the law about something Beckett had done to piss him off. Since Beckett is Beckett, I’m guessing the sheriff and myself are going to go toe to toe. A lot.
Slumping into my chair with a sigh of relief as the Sherriff exited, Rafael announced that I had the last royal garment fitting with the crazy tailor for the Pride in half an hour. Falafel, as Tanner says. My munchkin isn’t big on cursing, yesterday morning when we were in the throws of some wonderfully passionate and hardcore fu… love making, I screamed, “Fuck!” the wily little leprechaun clamped his butt muscles around my dick so hard I thought he was going to rip it off. Lesson learned, no F bombs in the bedroom, well, it wasn’t exactly the bedroom but more over my office desk. But still, I’ll be watching my tongue.
A quick succession of taps then the door opening got my attention.
“Uh… Alpha. Um, there’s a situation…” Rafael seemed rattled wringing his hands in front of his body.
“What’s the matter Rafael, have they found my father?” I still can’t believe the rat bastard managed to escape the confines of the guest house. I’d punish the guards but at the moment it’s not my job. If it were up to me they would be out of jobs. How hard is it to guard one asshole sociopath. Hmpf, I think I answered that for myself, he’s the master of manipulation if you don’t know him well enough to evade his tactics.
Rafael glanced away quickly; I could almost hear him cursing. “No Alpha, i-i-it’s your mate, no, your brother.” Tilting his head staring into nothing for a moment gathering his thoughts. “He, they, appear to have, um… taken the doc hostage?” his voice rising in pitch as he finished his sentence.
“What?” Ow, ow, ow, damn useless aspirin. I stood from my chair too quickly making my brain rattle against my skull. Trying to appease the now rapid and constant thumping I massaged my temples. I attempted taking a deep breath hoping it would help my head but to no avail it’s not going to happen. “What do you mean, Rafael? Hostage?”
“Yes, Alpha. Tanner or your brother, maybe both and their friends, um,” he said wincing at the mention of my sibling, “well, they found a young man beaten in the woods yesterday and took him to the doctors clinic.” Rafael shook his head. “That’s all I really know so far. A few of the Sheriff’s deputies were called to the clinic by the doc’s assistant stating there was a hostage situation.”
“For the love of all spirits. Call Nash back from the search for Elder Easton and have him meet me at the clinic, please. Contact the pride tailor and apologize, I’m going to have to reschedule. If he needs compensation for his time let me know. I don’t want him losing any money or business just because who we are.” Snatching my phone from the desk as I rounded it toward the exit and Rafael who appeared to be writing as fast as I spoke; ready to do my bidding without question. “Also,” I sighed stopping, “you better let the Alpha Mate know… well, because she should know and because she may be of some use getting Tanner to calm down. I haven’t quite found the trick to that yet.”
“Of course, Alpha.” He stepped aside baring his neck waiting for my departure from the room before he did so himself.
This is turning into a three-ring circus. We’ve barely had time to get our bearings; yet time enough for everything to go to shit. First my father losing his grip with reality, finding my mate – not unhappy with that part – who’s absolutely perfect in every way. The fact that he’s an actual he works for me plenty good; I’d been resigned to the fact I’d be mated to a woman. Seems the fates were smiling down on me because it’s a lot to come to terms with if it isn’t your cup of tea; so to speak. And, then like I just said, my father. I’ve no idea what’s going on with that man, but in no way is it making me look competent to rule all shifter kind.
The thundering feet on the ground had me turning my head to see what the fu… flippin’ hel… heck is behind me. I recognized Nash loping flat out in my direction, a few feet away Nash slowing to my pace.
“Hey,” he bared his neck, “what the fucks going on?” Nash asked a little out of breath.
“Any luck finding Elder Easton?”
After the Lieutenant took his leave I’d called Nash from whatever the hell he’d been doing to take the lead in looking for my father. It seems the guards were a little pissed with that decision so they’ve been slow to respond with my security, not that it was much of a change from under the Lieutenants command.
He chuckled. “Won’t even refer to him as your father? And, nope. He’s vanished, Alpha. No one can pick up his scent, there’s no sign of him. Not even a foot or paw-print. I don’t know how he did it but whatever or whoever helped him…” Nash trailed off shaking his head in disgust.
“The only thing he is to me at this moment is an escaped prisoner. All he had to do was apologize to my mate and open his mind or keep his tongue.” I shrugged. “Too much for him apparently.”
“Hmpf,” he grunted in acknowledge. “So why’d you need me?”
We marched along together stride for stride.
“Oh,” I answered roughly running my hand through my hair, “apparently my mate and brother are keeping the Pride doc hostage.” Totally not funny even though it sounds ludicrous even to my ears.
“What? Why?” he screeched looking more than a little guilty.
“I’ve no freakin’ clue,” I huffed. “I haven’t seen my mate since yesterday when we were chasing them through the woods. His heartbeat is a little elevated but nothing out of the ordinary for him. He tends to get excited easily.”
Nash raised an eyebrow at me as we approached the clinic.
“He sent word that he’d explain and I trusted that he would, I still do. I do find it hard to believe he’s holding anyone hostage, more a case of someone else has blown everything out of proportion,” I said as we reached the clinic. Nash opened the door letting me enter before him; something he would never have done before my impending crown shift. I knew I could count on him to do the right thing for me. He’ll always be honest but respectful in other company. Spirits, please make my friend stay. I’m not sure I can do this without him.
“Alpha,” Nash said grabbing my shoulder gently once we were inside the clinic pulling us both to a stop, “what do you want to do about Elder Easton?”
“Hmm, I don’t know to be honest. Let’s deal with this,” I thumbed forward into the clinic, “then we’ll come up with a plan.”
“Yes, Alpha.” Nash let me go flanking one step behind and to the side, two royal guards I’d even forgot were following me allowed for his presence. I wonder why they hadn’t reacted when Nash was boring down on me outside. Curious. They’ve been lax of late, but that was a blatant disregard for my safety. I’m going to address that later with the head of the royal guard.
Nash and I moved at a dead run as soon as we heard the arguing, the roar of a lion in pain, and more shouting. Fuck this day. As we rounded the corner, there was the scene in front of us – complete chaos. My munchkin was yelling at his sister, Annette, while she stood defiantly in front of him in a Deputy Sheriff uniform. Trek had been the one with the pained roar but now worked up into a rage was trying to get at the doctor while my brother Beckett had him pinned to the floor by his lion. Milo’s face bright red with anger blocking Trek and Becks from the doctor while he shouted at the man. A crowd of angry pride members yelling at the motley crew off to the side.
Just as I was about to do a partial shift and command they all stand down the Alpha Mate appeared from nowhere in lion form with a roar of her own. Immediately everyone shifted back to human form baring their necks. Any already in human form dropped to one knee baring their necks, including Nash and myself.
The whole place went silent not a word spoken, the only apparent noise was the pained whimpering coming from Trek.
What the actual fuck happened here?
Alpha Mate shifted back, a guard stood in front of her as a nurse handed him a set of scrubs for her to dress in. A moment later she thanked the guard stepping around him to start her interrogation. And thankfully she started with her daughter.
“Annette, what are you wearing?” she asked, a look of curiosity flooded her face.
The young woman jutted her chin out. “I managed to acquire a job mommy. I’m a Deputy Sherriff.”
“No, you can’t Annette. You don’t want to work for that bluster–” Tanner screamed at his sister swivelling his head in a ‘no’ gesture before his mother cut him off.
“Tanner,” she scolded, “you mind your manners, young man. You are not the boss of your sister. She’s a grown woman, if Annette want to work she may do so in any vocation she chooses.”
My poor mate bared his neck to his mother answering thoroughly reprimanded. “Yes, Alpha Mate.” Tanner’s shoulders slumped in defeat as he turned away from his mother. The second his eyes landed on me they bulged out of his head like they were on springs. He opened our bond and all his feelings and thoughts overwhelmed me at once. If it hadn’t been for Nash standing next to me to support me I would have ended up on the floor. My mate was hurting, not physically but emotionally. Empathy coursed through his tiny body. He sagged into my arms clinging to me as he sobbed, not for himself but for… his friend. Trek.
With my eyes on the Alpha Mate as she watched Tanner be enveloped in arms I flicked my chin at the now whimpering alpha. Only one thing could make an alpha give this public dispay of emotion. Their mate.
“What happened, munchkin,” I whispered.
He tilted his head meeting my eyes with his red puffy orbs as he sniffled.
“The doc is going to destroy Trek’s mate.” He swiped at his runny nose with his sleeve adorably like a vulnerable kid. “Like he’s a damn injured wild animal or something.” The latter said as he glared angrily at the doctor.
Taken aback I steeled my eyes at the man in question.
“Is this true?” I demanded more than asked.
The Pride doctor crossed his arms over his chest defiantly.
“Yes, of course,” he answered. “He’s a hybrid, he must be destroyed and a male omega to boot. It’s protocol, it’s only right. He’s a danger to the Pride.”
Well didn’t that answer start off the cacophony of yelling, screaming, and crying. The sounds bouncing of the walls and echoing down the hallways. My head started thumping to the rhythm of the tension and rumbling. As I went to massage my temples again, Tanner, launched himself in the direction of the doctor. Luckily I have quick reflexes grabbing him before he even moved a foot away from me.
“Munchkin, calm down.” I kissed the side the top of his head, i squeezed him holding him tight against my body. “Good man, breathe munchkin.” I held onto him with a death grip so as to keep him still and not attack anyone.
An earpiercing whistle had everyone grabbing their ears as Rafael stood in the middle of the fray with his fingers in his mouth. The area fell silent again with all eyes on my new assistant.
He focused his attention on the Alpha Mate. “May I?”
“Please,” she answered sighing with relief giving him the go ahead.
“Deputies,” he started, “please clear the area, then you may return to the Sherriff’s Office. The situation is well in hand and will be dealt with by the Alpha Mate. Thank you.” Rafael had a commanding presence about him. He’d obviously been doing this long enough to know when to step up and take the lead without overstepping. Every time I thought the meek beta couldn’t shock me he’d do something like this and take charge taking the burden away from those around him. I truly envy his grace under pressure.
Raf addressed the nurse standing behind the doctor. “Can we please get a sedative for our friend here?” he gestured toward Trek, now a defeated mess in Beckett’s arms. “This is just cruel, if you could please take care of him.”
“Mr. Trenton, sir, young Milo,” Rafael cleared his throat, “can you please explain how this happened?”
Milo stood tall, not to intimidate but to display his alpha nature. It was all instinct, someone was questioning his behavior, as an alpha he would no doubtedly defend himself and the people he cares most about to the death.
“We,” he said blowing out a breath, “found a man in the woods yesterday out by the beaver habitat. The only reason we knew he was there because Trek scented his mate. He’d been beaten so badly he wasn’t even conscious. We managed to get him here to the clinic, the doc here,” he flung his arm angrily at the pride doctor, “gave him somethin’ to induce a shift to help him heal…” he trailed off trying to reign in his anger while Trek let out another pained whimper.
Rafael frowned at Milo waiting for him to continue, Tanner started sobbing into my chest after I had just had him calmed enough to be able to stand. The nurse walked between everyone to give Trek a sedative, finally. I leaned over to Nash.
“Make sure we ask to review policy, protocol, and procedures in standard care for the clinic. This is unacceptable so far and we don’t even know what happened,” I murmured to Nash so he and Tanner would be the only ones that could hear me.
“I agree, Alpha,” Nash answered staring daggers at the doctor.
Milo gave Rafael a pleading look. I’m not sure if it was to not finish or to just help, I really can’t tell.
“Please, Milo, continue,” said the Alpha Mate, her tone soft and comforting, yet still demanding. “What happened when he shifted?”
Milo bared his neck in respect; an automated response it seems. He quickly wiped away a stray tear.
“He’s a liger, Alpha Mate.”
Things are starting to heat up in Sentinel Oaks. I'm wondering how much longer the doc is going to be on pride land now that he's shown his true feelings. Wes won't tell me anything.
Any who, hope you all enjoyed Rush's hectic chapter.
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