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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel - 23. Chapter 23

Here kitty, kitty, kitty......
Fasten your seatbelts.

A hush blanketed the forest surrounding them. The woodland creatures were quiet, watching and waiting from a distance. Not a single note from a songbird could be heard. There were no chittering sounds of squirrels arguing among the branches of the trees overhead. The leaves on the forest floor remained still. Not a single small animal skittered through them. Even the sound of the river in the distance seemed quieter than normal.

Caleb ignored the urge to swipe at the unfamiliar, itchy heaviness of the camouflage paint covering his face as he blended into the green and brown backdrop of trees and brush. Asa crouched beside him, as unmoving as a statue.

His earpiece crackled with Andrew Faulkner’s voice. The first wave of Huntington’s soldiers was expected to crest the ridge and break through the pass within ten minutes.

The falcon shifter, Nat Chusi, and Roberto Mata volunteered to fight with them. Andrew immediately offered to fly reconnaissance. The anaconda and bear shifter joined them on the frontline.

They were down to the final moments before the storm of Huntington’s fury was unleashed. Caleb reached for Asa’s hand and laced their fingers together.

“We got this,” he whispered.

Asa nodded, then leaned in to give Caleb a soft, chaste kiss. God, he loved this man. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for him. They were going to come through this. They had to.

Asa cocked his head, his eyes darting along the tree line and up the ridge. “Did you hear that?”

Caleb listened. Nothing. No, wait—there it was, the unmistakable sound of feet climbing over rocks. He heard the clatter of loose pieces of shale as the advancing army dislodged them.

It was go-time.

His body hummed with anticipation as he remained still. Next to him, he felt Asa quiver, whether in excitement or fear; he wasn’t sure.

Luck was on their side, and the prevailing wind put them downwind of Huntington’s advancing troops. He smelled them before he saw them. Rancid was putting it mildly. Caleb was sure they hadn’t bathed in at least a week. Ew. He fought the urge to sneeze. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Asa wrinkle his nose. His mate’s face scrunched up adorably, making it hard not to laugh.

A moment later, two of the newly created reptilian monsters wearing massive shock collars, followed by four wolf shifters holding onto thick chain leashes attached to them, came into view as they crested the pass.

Caleb knew Enya was hiding behind an outcrop of rocks a hundred yards behind them. Elijah and Ashton were concealed in a thicket to their right. Tyler and Austin hunkered behind an enormous cedar to the left. They needed to wait for more of the enemy to be exposed.

Defensive strategy was always a gamble. Caleb was aware if they moved too soon, Huntington could easily pull back, and their efforts would be for nothing. Too late, and they could suffer needless losses. It was a delicate balancing act.

Caleb’s earpiece crackled again. “Charlie-Alpha-Tango, hold position and get ready on my mark.”

Tapping his microphone, Caleb whispered, “Roger.” He and Asa were designated Charlie-Alpha-Tango. Caleb-Asa-Team. The irony wasn’t lost on them that the letters spelled out CAT. Not very imaginative, but they were here to fight, not cater to a Hollywood audience.

The first group of enemy shifters halted to scan the surrounding area. Caleb and Asa didn’t move a muscle, not even to breathe or blink. They knew the rest of their group was doing the same. It was a risk, assuming Huntington didn’t outfit the first wave of his army with thermal cameras. From his vantage point, he couldn’t tell.

They watched breathlessly as the enemy numbers swelled to over one hundred. Perfect. Caleb gently pressed his palm against Asa’s thigh, signaling that he was ready. Asa squeezed back.

Caleb’s heart hammered in his chest. He was surprised no one heard it. When the column of soldiers advanced toward them, he narrowed his eyes determinedly, then nodded at Asa, waiting for the signal. They didn’t have to wait long. A moment later, Wayne’s voice ordered them to GO!

Simultaneously, they stood and directed a blast of blinding light toward their enemy, blanketing them with its brightness. Tyler and Austin threw shade a fraction of a second later, cloaking them in darkness.

All hell broke loose as they took turns alternating with the shadow shifters, blazing them with light, then plunging them into darkness. The two couples glowed with an ethereal aura.

From behind, a concentrated stream of fire streaked toward one of the reptile monsters, striking it dead center between the seam of two scales over its cold-blooded heart. The creature’s scream cut off abruptly as it exploded in a massive fireball, spewing blood and body parts across a wide radius.

Caleb! Behind you!”

He swung around, and a searing pain tore through his cheek as the razor-sharp claws of one of the lizards slashed twin furrows in the soft flesh. Blood poured down his face as he roared in shock and pain. Instinctively, he shifted, narrowly missing another swipe, and his wolf leaped up to latch his mighty jaws onto the tough scales of the thing’s throat. Try as he might, he couldn’t breach the impenetrable hide.

“MOVE!” A female voice hollered with an authority that made his wolf let go. As soon as he did, fire streaked above his head, and the lizard incinerated before his eyes. Its body writhed and twisted as it burned until finally, it stilled, the flames reaching skyward before turning into oily black smoke. The white wolf lifted its leg and let loose on the smoldering remains.

Caleb shifted again and sought out Asa. Relief washed over him when he saw his mate concentrating his light on the advancing troops.

All around them, shifters engaged in battle. They underestimated the number and types of shifters Huntington had recruited. Tigers, panthers, jaguars, rhinoceroses, and even a few pandas wielded teeth, horns, and claws against them. The influx of soldiers never ceased pouring through the pass. Despite this, and because of the terrain's advantages, they took out many of them before they made it very far.

As the battle raged, it began to take its toll. Caleb counted at least forty of their own either killed or seriously wounded. With all the chaos, it was hard to tell who the victims were. He was too busy keeping himself and Asa alive.

Caleb! Asa! Fall back!” Enya cried.

Caleb spun around and then blanched as blood poured from a large gash on the girl’s temple. He and Asa rushed over, and he caught her as her knees gave way. Gently, Caleb picked her up and carried her into a more protected area behind a large boulder left behind by the retreat of a glacier eons ago.

Asa pushed him out of the way and skimmed his hands over her, assessing for other injuries. “It’s just the head wound.”

Caleb sagged. “Thank fuck.” He held Enya still while Asa worked his magic.

Enya winced as the flesh pulled shut. “Shit! That stings!”

The gaping wound knitted itself together until all that remained was a thin pink line. His mate was barely winded.

“Sorry,” Asa apologized as he examined her head. “Any headache or blurry vision?

She shook her head.

During their many briefings, Sebastian drilled into them that Asa was to use his healing ability only on critical members of the pack. Enya was number one on that list because she was crucial to eliminating the lizard crossbreeds. Caleb and the shadow shifters were next. He hadn’t necessarily agreed that his life was more important than anyone else’s, but he understood that his light-shifting ability was essential to their goal. He absolutely agreed that Asa was the other top priority to keep safe.

“We’re good to go,” said Asa. He stood and offered his hand to Enya. She ignored it, popped up to her feet, and shot him a sassy wink as she brushed off the seat of her pants.

The battle continued to rage as they jumped back into the fray. By his estimates, Caleb determined Huntington must have close to six hundred shifters at his disposal. He must have had a contingency here in the States. It was more than they counted on, and the sheer numbers hindered their defenses.

In the distance, among the trees, Caleb caught sight of Hunter and Kellan in wolf form, grappling with several enemies. Ben and Zev joined them, fighting tooth and nail, scrambling for purchase on the slippery leaves of the forest floor. No one was going to survive unscathed.

Asa hollered for his help. As Caleb turned, his mate directed a concentrated bolt of light directly at a cluster of opponents. The mob steadily advanced despite the brightness pointed directly at them.

“Caleb, help me!” Asa cried. “There’s too many!”

Overhead, a bird cried out. Thinking it was Faulkner, Caleb looked up and saw a crow. It swooped above their heads and cawed again as if it were encouraging them to fight harder. Caleb focused his light energy directly on the oncoming group of shifters. His light flickered but didn’t go out. Tiredness was seeping into his bones. As he advanced, he moved into a patch of waning sunlight, giving him the boost he needed. They had been at this for hours now, and both sides had suffered significant damages and losses but were still evenly matched. Nightfall was swiftly approaching. It was pure luck that pale full moon was already visible above the trees. Asa assured him that as night fell, it would be enough to enable them to continue.

Worst of all, there was still no sign of Huntington. The lion shifter was either too chicken-shit to show up or was watching from safety outside the fighting zone. Caleb had his money on the latter. He had Kasar pegged as the sort of individual who would sit back and let his minions do his dirty work for him, but when it was time to bask in the glory, he would want to be close by to gloat. If Caleb had his way, he would never get the chance.

Finally, the long, hard hours they’d put in practicing close-range combat were starting to pay off. Even the remaining lizard creatures were growing weary. Their side practiced tag-teaming, alternating close-range hand-to-hand combat with long-range tactical maneuvers meant to wear down their opponents slowly. It was working.

Even though the fall air was cold and crisp, sweat ran down his back in a steady river. His hair was soaked and matted. A quick look around told him his fellow combatants were in the same state. Still, they continued to fight with all they had.

A flash of gold at the top of the pass caught his attention. A booming voice rang out a moment later, halting everyone in their tracks.

“SEBASTIAN MCTIRE!”

Sebastian’s wolf stepped forward, front and center, and stood proudly, staring directly at the lion shifter in a blatant challenge. Huntington stood at the crest of the mountain pass flanked by several of his reptilian monstrosities held in check by his minions.

“You will concede defeat and surrender,” Huntington demanded. “Should you refuse, I will release my pets upon the humans in the towns closest to here.”

Caleb and Asa had inched closer to Sebastian and heard the growl rumble through the giant wolf. Oh fuck! That’s not good. He laced his fingers through Asa’s, drawing strength from his mate as they waited for the Alpha’s response.

Sebastian shifted with such force the air cracked so loud it sounded like a ruler coming down on a wooden table. The icy coldness in his eyes bespoke his annoyance.

“Fuck off, Kasar! You’ve already seen we can turn your little alligators into crispy purses. Why don’t you get your ass down here and fight your own battle? We’ve already eliminated most of your little—what did you call them? Pets? Now it’s your turn.”

Huntington laughed. “Oh, dear Sebastian. You didn’t finish your homework.” He stepped to the side, and at least three dozen monsters and their handlers rushed over the pass and started running at them. “I’ve been a busy kitty!”

Kasar Huntington’s laughter echoed off the rocks.

Once again, they found themselves engaged in the fight of their lives. Caleb and Asa worked side-by-side with Elijah, Ashton, Tyler, and Austin to give Enya the best chance at targeting the new wave of lizard creatures Huntington unleashed upon them. The two couples were relentless in their pursuit of the enemy. He and Asa were hard-pressed to keep up. The strobe-light effect was powerful enough to cause severe seizures among the feline shifters. Several died as a result.

Elijah played dirty, shifting into different pack members to confuse their adversaries. He even took on Huntington’s countenance and issued orders to his men, contradicting what they were already told.

In their wolf forms, Sebastian, Reilly, Hunter, and Kellan tore a swath through the menagerie of shifters, preventing any of them from returning to the pass where Huntington was hiding. Ben and Zev, with the help of a troop of especially vicious pixies, blazed their way through the forest, felling rivals left and right. Dryads clotheslined the enemy, allowing Sebastian’s army to dispatch the unfortunate soldiers when they fell. Wayne, Jack, and Donovan were equally busy leading squads of shifters against other groups of attackers.

Even though the moonlight cast enough light to rival a cloudy day, Caleb’s strength was waning. This shit needed to end. But how? One glance at his mate told him Asa was in the same predicament. There was no way they could sustain this pace for much longer.

So far, Enya had killed roughly half of the monsters Huntington had sprung on them out of the blue. It was taking its toll, though. The girl’s skin was pale, and the area below her eyes was smudged with dark circles. Even the strength of her fire was starting to weaken. She accidentally discovered their nostrils were as effective as the gap in their breastplates as a means of frying their circuits to a crisp, but they were a more challenging target to hit, constantly moving. She tried targeting their eyes, but the hooded lids proved an effective shield.

To add insult to injury, Huntington had disappeared again. Fucking coward.

“AUUUUUUUGGGHHHHHHH!”

A blood-curdling cry pierced the air. Caleb’s heart skipped a beat as he looked around frantically. Relieved to find Asa unharmed beside him, they scanned their surroundings for the source.

Motherfucker!

Caleb took off at a dead run with Asa on his heels. He skidded to a stop, scattering leaves in all directions as he dropped down next to Reilly. The young shifter was in human form, and he was grievously wounded.

He had been eviscerated.

Sebastian had one of the lizards in a headlock. The creature struggled fruitlessly, its legs kicking out, trying to find purchase where there was none. A roar bellowed from Sebastian as he twisted the thing’s neck, snapping it like a pencil, then dropped the lifeless body on the ground before sprinting to his mate.

Reilly’s intestines spilled onto the ground. The gash cut across his entire midsection, allowing his innards to fall loose. Blood rapidly colored the dirt and leaves.

“No!” cried Sebastian. Tears flowed freely down his cheeks as he cradled Reilly’s head in his lap.

Reilly’s breathing was shallow and irregular.

“Stay with me!” Sebastian pleaded as tears streamed down his face. He stroked his mate’s matted, sweaty hair.

Caleb saw the dilemma in his mate’s eyes and knew what he would say before he said it.

“If I heal him, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do anything else.”

Reilly shook his head. “Let me go,” he whispered. “Others more—” He took a shaky breath, “—important.”

Sebastian had made it crystal clear that he and Reilly were not on the list of those who took priority. Asa looked at Caleb. They needed no words or gestures. Reilly’s lifeblood was a river overflowing its banks during the spring floods. Sebastian needed his mate. There was no other choice.

Defying the high Alpha’s order, Caleb gritted his teeth as he pushed the tangled mass of intestines and other body parts into Reilly’s abdomen as best he could. Then he held them there with one hand while he gripped Asa’s shoulder with the other, letting his mate draw whatever energy he needed from him.

Elijah, Tyler, and the twins rushed over and surrounded them in a protective circle. Their auras glowed brilliantly. The additional light was a power booster.

As the flesh rearranged and reorganized itself into its proper position, Caleb withdrew his hand as the skin started to pull together. Reilly cried out in pain during the healing process but settled when it was over.

Asa hadn’t had enough energy to complete the healing fully, even with drawing on Caleb for extra support. The events of the day had taken too much from him already. He healed the worst of the damage, wanting to do more, but it was enough. Reilly would be fine. His wolf could aid with the remainder of what needed to be done. He would most likely be sore for a few days, but he would make a full recovery.

Sebastian ran his hands gently over his mate’s body, still sniffling back tears. “Oh, my god. I thought I lost you. I love you.”

Reilly smiled at him. “I love you, too.”

When Sebastian looked at him, Caleb dipped his head and met his Alpha’s gaze. “Thank you for disobeying me. I don’t think I could live without my mate.”

Slow clapping above them got their attention. Standing on a rock ledge, Huntington looked down at their entourage, sneering as he mocked them. “How touching. What a shame. We were so damn close. My soldiers in Texas had better luck.”

Before anyone could blink, a massive black wolf with white paws, white-tipped ears, and a tail threaded with white, mahogany, and silver, plus blond streaks in his ruff, bolted up the rocky hill toward the lion shifter. When he reached the ledge a few seconds later, a tawny golden lion was ready and waiting for him.

Sebastian’s wolf charged forward, teeth bared and hackles raised. Growling and snarling, he lunged, sinking his teeth into the feline’s flank.

The lion roared. His claws slashed and missed. Twisting his body, he swiped again, drawing blood as he connected with the wolf’s shoulder.

Back and forth, they battled, evenly matched. The wolf panted. The lion huffed.

In the background, the remaining fighters on both sides paused to watch the two leaders duel for the upper hand.

Elijah stood next to Caleb, so he was the only one who heard the young shapeshifter mutter, “He needs a good look in the mirror.”

Caleb had no idea what he meant until a moment later, he saw two Huntington lions on the ridge. One seemed startled to see the other one there.

One of the lions shifted, and the other followed suit.

“What the hell?” Huntington One exclaimed as he stood naked, staring at the other Huntington, who seemingly appeared out of thin air.

“I was going to tell you that,” Huntington Two said with a shit-eating grin.

Caleb chuckled and turned to Asa, “Elijah’s having fun with this.”

Asa smirked back. “You think?”

They watched with amusement as the two Huntingtons tossed insults back and forth. Well, Huntington One would say something snarky to Huntington Two, and Huntington Two would parrot his exact words back to him. Huntington One got increasingly fed up. Seeing frustration roll across the real Huntington’s face in waves was gratifying.

Caleb grew apprehensive. He knew Huntington would snap. Elijah needed to be careful. Sure enough, things came to a head when Elijah teased Huntington in a sing-song voice. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”

Huntington lunged for the shapeshifter's throat. Elijah barely managed to leap back in time as he found himself face-to-face with a pissed-off lion. Caleb was relieved when their friend had enough sense to shift into a bird and take flight out of reach.

It was the signal for the fight to resume. The diversion allowed Sebastian’s wolf to get his second wind. It was obvious Huntington was struggling, but the mangy lion was tenacious. He remained a threat with sharp teeth and lethal claws.

Huntington didn’t waste time. He headed straight for Sebastian and Reilly. Caleb and Asa stood protectively between the recovering wolf shifter and the charging lion. Seconds before he reached them, something completely unexpected happened.

POP!

A tall female warrior with a long, black braid thrown over her shoulder, wearing black armor from head to toe, including an ebony helmet with two shiny black horns, stood at the top of the ridge.

Mór-ríoghain, also known as Morrigan, the Goddess of War.

Sebastian shifted and dropped to one knee. Everyone in his army followed suit.

Huntington grinned. “Milady! I knew you would come after I saw you by the river washing your armor.” The lion shifter turned. “Prepare to meet your demise, Sebastian. I knew today would be your last.”

The air crackled and sizzled. Cassiel appeared and stood beside Morrigan. He bowed at the waist. “I am forever grateful you honored my request.”

Cassiel rose and altered his stance to address Huntington. “You should brush up on your mythology.” Stepping out of the way, he nodded once in Morrigan’s direction.

The air surrounding them grew heavy. It was as if gravity increased tenfold. Caleb’s ears popped, and he thought his lungs would collapse. Several others in his immediate vicinity, including Asa, choked as they fought for breath. Was this how it ended? He groped blindly until he found his mate’s hand and grasped it tightly.

There was a deafening BANG and a flash of light brighter than either Asa or he could create. Screams rent the thick air, although the sound couldn’t travel far. Caleb likened it to being underwater. Fog obscured their view. Just as he was on the verge of unconsciousness, everything cleared. Silence hung over them, and time stopped for a second or two.

Then, like Dorothy opening the door of her black and white Kansas farmhouse onto the technicolor world of Oz, the world began to spin again. Bright moonlight broke through the branches overhead. Startled birds erupted into song, and the nocturnal sounds of the forest resumed their routine.

Caleb blinked and wondered if he was indeed alive. A squeeze from Asa’s hand tethered him to reality. It wasn’t a dream. Looking around, he watched as moonlight burned away the remnants of the lingering haze. The rays of reflected sunlight struck his face, and he felt a new burst of energy.

Around them, their fellow shifters slowly stirred, many shaking their heads in disbelief. It took a moment to process the carnage that remained. Corpses littered the forest floor and uneven rocks. Every last member of Huntington’s army lay dead, including the gator-vamps.

Lifting his gaze to the last place they’d seen Huntington, Caleb spied the lion shifter’s body on the ground. His blond hair was no longer a bright mane. His eyes stared, unseeing, upon the results of his conceited pride. Ding Dong, the wicked cat, is dead. The cowardly lion got what was coming to him.

“No!” The anguished cry preceded Elijah running to Huntington’s body. “Godammit! I wanted to kill you!” He kicked Kasar’s head so hard that everyone heard the snap of his neck. If he wasn’t dead before, he certainly was now.

Cassiel walked over and placed his hand on Elijah’s shoulder. The shapeshifter tried to shrug him off, but the Fae prince held firm.

The Fae pushed the body away from them with his foot and caught Elijah as his knees buckled. He held the young man, letting him spill his tears on the shimmering fabric of his tunic. Ashton, Tyler, and Austin silently surrounded them. As the five stood there, a bright light enveloped them, swirling in gentle ribbons, weaving and bobbing between them before finally bolting through each of them and then disappearing skyward.

Kage.

Caleb was positive they had just witnessed Kage’s energy touching those he loved and protected. He would have never believed it if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. Asa brushed away his tears before they could fall.

“Why?” Elijah whispered.

Cassiel drew back so he could look at the young man. “Kage would not have wanted Huntington’s blood to stain your soul. It was my fault he was subjected to the circumstances that led to his demise. Therefore, it was my responsibility to exact retribution. I beseeched Mór-ríoghain to intercede on my behalf. Our laws prevent me from interfering but do not apply to her. Even so, she could not intervene unless the Veil was jeopardized. Huntington did that when he threatened to unleash his creatures onto the humans. I could not allow it.”

“I still wish it were me.” Elijah swiped at his nose with the back of his hand.

“He never would have allowed it. Even from the afterworld, Kage protected you. Look around. You, Tyler, and your mates are the only ones not harmed in the battle. He was, and always will be, your Guardian.”

A solitary, silver tear slipped from Cassiel’s eye and fell in slow motion, landing on Elijah’s chest. The young man gasped. If Caleb were to guess, he would say the droplet landed exactly where Elijah sported the scar Kage left. Elijah had told Caleb and Asa about the matching scars when they discussed how they had gained the shadow-shifting ability he, Tyler, and their mates had suddenly acquired.

Cassiel brushed a light kiss on Elijah’s forehead. “He will always be with you. He loved you.”

Elijah choked back a sob. “He loved you, too.”

Cassiel gave a curt nod and stepped back, allowing Ashton to comfort his mate. Elijah threw his arms around Ashton and held him tightly.

“What did you mean when you told Huntington he should have brushed up on his mythology?” Ashton asked.

Cassiel grinned at Sebastian, who had joined them. “Would you like the honor of explaining?”

Sebastian chuckled. “You are aware Morrigan is the Goddess of War?”

Ashton nodded.

“According to the legend, visions of her can foretell the victor or loser. If Huntington had bothered to look beyond his own image in the mirror, he would have realized seeing Morrigan washing her armor in a river portended defeat.”

“How does she appear to the winner?” Austin inquired, stepping next to his brother.

Caleb smiled. “As a crow.”

Cassiel nodded once, then let out a soul-piercing whistle. Trees rustled as the dryads returned to their realm. The pixies lost four of their own. Their collective keening as they gathered their fallen brethren was loud enough to drown out the sounds of Sebastian’s troops. A moment later, they were gone.

Sebastian bowed and then placed a hand on the Fae's shoulder. “Thank you for everything.”

Prince Cassiel returned the bow and stepped back, disappearing with his signature pop!

Someone brought several bags of sweatpants and t-shirts to a small clearing, and Caleb and Asa each pulled on a fresh set. The area was bustling with activity as they began dealing with the battle's aftermath.

Whoever brought the clothes also dropped off several cell phones, Caleb’s among them. He snatched his and stepped out of the way to find a quieter place to call Giles. Relief flooded him when the call was immediately answered.

“Are you okay?” he and Giles asked simultaneously.

“We’re fine,” Caleb assured his new Alpha.

“We are, too. I had to send Corbin and the boys to the panic room. A bunch of Huntington’s goons parachuted in. Thanks to the security upgrades, we were ready before they hit the ground. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Jorge broke his leg, but he’s on the mend. Another few shifts, and he’ll be as good as new. Everyone else is safe and sound, although Mikey is pissed one of them launched a Molotov cocktail through the kitchen window. It scorched everything badly before we got the fire under control. I promised her free rein and a generous budget for renovations.”

A shaky sigh of relief left his lungs. Asa’s arms wrapped around his waist and gave him a reassuring squeeze. Thank fuck their boys and new family were unharmed. Caleb gave Giles a quick rundown of what transpired and promised to call him later.

Around them, shifters were busy taking care of everything that needed doing. Injured people received strict orders from the Alpha to shift as necessary to heal their wounds. Donovan was immersed in caring for the shifters who needed extra attention. Logan, one of the twins, suffered a nasty blow to his head and was being transported to the clinic at the lodge. Cooper had difficulty holding it together, so Ben and Zev were going with him for support and to help Donovan.

There was still much to be done before they could call it quits. Sixty-two of the nearly six hundred shifters who started the battle had been killed. Most belonged to Sebastian’s pack, but at least a quarter were from the other packs who offered their help. Their Alphas needed notifying. The wounded needing more care were taken to the clinic, where Donovan and several volunteers created a triage area. Nearly everyone had been injured. Luckily, shifting could fix most of them.

They gathered the bodies of Huntington’s army and brought them to a vast meadow far away from the lodge and main house. Volunteers dug multiple trenches to create mass graves. They also built several funeral pyres to give their dead pack mates a proper send-off. They would be lit after all the families were notified and given a chance to say goodbye.

Sebastian ordered Huntington’s body to remain where it was. He wasn’t worthy of a burial or funeral pyre. Scavengers would feast on his innards and pick his bones clean.

It was nearly dawn when Caleb and Asa finally stepped under the stinging hot spray of the shower. Dirt, sweat, and blood washed down the drain, along with a bone-deep weariness. Caleb had never been so tired in all his life.

Wrapping his arms around his mate, they held each other, as much for support as for comfort.

“Are you okay?” Caleb asked, ghosting his lips over Asa’s pale, wet hair.

His mate let out an exhausted sigh. “I am. What about you?”

“As long as I have you, I’ll always be okay.”

Asa smiled at him. Caleb shut off the water and grabbed two towels.

Whatever else they needed to deal with could wait until they woke. His pillow was calling him right now, and he wasn’t about to ignore it.

What a fucking day it had been.

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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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