As Dorian’s image appeared on the screens, a thin smile spread across Marshal’s face as he saw panic in Levi’s eyes.
“What was so urgent you called me in after closing time, Dorian?” He moved to take his usual seat. “It’s date night with Lance and Heather before seeing who moans the loudest.”
“You will remain standing, Levi. It’s time we discuss something that’s been going on for years.” Dorian looked unusually serious, as he sat behind his desk with arms folded.
“Excuse me? Remain standing?” He cocked his head, puzzled by his alpha’s demeanor. “What the fuck’s going on? You never act like this towards me?”
“I’ll cut to the chase. I know about the silver nitrate poisoning.”
“Poisoning? What are you talking about, Dorian?” His well tuned mask faltered for a moment, as he took a step back. “You’re not making any sense.”
“The constant pain I was in, my aggressiveness and downright viciousness towards our neighbors, towards my former bear and avian friends, my being a downright asshole to people. The brutality I showed my own wolves during training. It was caused by silver nitrate in my system.”
“I still don’t understand what you’re talking about. Are you saying someone’s been poisoning you?” Concern covered his face.
“We both know I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m not stupid either. Well, maybe I am for not opening my eyes sooner and listening to what people were saying. Once I got it out of my system, I could see clearly what you’d been doing for years. What I stupidly allowed you to do with my stamp of approval. Pulling people loyal to the pack out of key positions and replacing them with ones devoted to you and your family.”
Levi crossed his arms and stood his ground. “I replaced corrupt people with ones I could trust to do the job. We talked about each of those before the changes. You approved them all. Should I get the orders out of the file so you can see your signature?”
“Yes, ones you could trust. Unfortunately, not people I or the pack as a whole could trust. You were always meticulous about presenting me with hard facts and letting me come to the decision you wanted. I’ve been watching things around here since the congress last year. I didn’t want to believe it when I figured out who was doing this to me. But there was no other conclusion I could reach.” He pounded his fist on the desk. “Goddamn it, Levi, you’ve been my best friend since we were pups. The fabricated documents, lies, and manipulative security briefings. Fuck, all those allies I attacked over your security briefings and urging to bring them into our pack for the good of all. Everything I’ve done that went against what I once believed in.”
“Dorian, you can’t really think…”
“CUT THE BULLSHIT, LEVI. I sent the fuckin’ cookies to a lab last year.” His eyes flashed with rage. “I know that’s why you never touched them. I also know your aunt falsified my lab results to say there was nothing in my blood. It’s the only way you could keep feeding me that poison in ever-increasing doses.
“She and I had a long, private talk this morning. I’m sorry for your loss, she didn’t survive past giving her signed confession. I guess we could chalk that up to the aggression you and your mother caused. Pity I couldn’t get ahold of her for a little chat today and ask about her baking. Your dad didn’t know where she was. Don’t worry, I told a couple trackers and hunters loyal to me she is in danger. They’re trying to find her as we speak.” He leaned back and took a deep breath.
“You killed my aunt? What have you done with my father?”
Dorian ignored the man’s growling query. “As to your original question of why I called you in so late, this meeting is to tell you your services as beta are no longer needed. In other words, you’re fired. I’m giving you the option to walk out that door and leave the territory. If you do, no action will be taken against your family as they also quietly move away. That will include your dad’s release.” Dorian’s stony glare hardened even more. “Otherwise, we settle this in the challenge ring and I’ll drag your sorry ass there right now. You should put your affairs in order if you go that route. I suspect that cowering fur ball in your mind just pissed himself.
“Right now, your family controls the pack’s finances thanks to the companies you’ve given them power over. The warriors and hunters back me, though I don’t know why with how I’ve treated them, so I’ve got the Army and Marines. If I hit send to a text on my phone, we’ll have a civil war before morning. My guys know how to fight. Has anyone in your family even killed a deer? I can’t remember you even catching a rabbit. Guessing you buy your meat from the butcher, when you’re not too busy sucking it.” Dorian smirked. “Let’s settle this like adults without involving innocent bystanders. You’ve lost, Levi. Accept my offer and leave.”
Levi ran his hand through his hair, pacing around room. Shoving his hand into his pockets, the right one came to rest on something he always carried as insurance against a stronger wolf. He stepped to the bar behind Dorian’s desk and poured a good amount of whisky in the glass. Pulling out his phone, he tapped out a quick text.
“From the sound of it, you’ve chosen the civil war option. I should probably kill you right now for what you’ve done.” Dorian kept his back to the man he once thought of as his friend. “But we both know with that text you sent, someone will be waiting outside. I doubt I’ll survive the walk to my truck before a silver bullet finds the back of my head. Even with the hunters, I won’t be able to defend myself from your entire family and allies before one of their mercenaries kill me.
“I guess assassination is a family favorite of yours. Pushing Alpha Clark into a challenge to remove him. Trying to stab Alpha Wagner once Clark was dead but getting me instead. Shooting Randy and the leadership not sympathetic to your family. And finally, making your move to eliminate me once you’ve lost control of the situation. Each time a McKinney was hiding in the shadows to run things behind the scenes. And every time your family has ultimately failed to maintain control. Watching you all these years, I’ve learned your family plays the long game. I have too since I’ve had over a year to prepare for today and try to set some things right. By the way, I never intended to let you or your family live.”
Levi took a gulp of the amber liquid and pulled the syringe from his pocked, as he rounded on his alpha. The needle found its mark at Dorian’s neck, and the beta pushed the plunger.
Pain shot from the alpha’s neck to his leg as he felt a burning sensation spreading through his body. “Why, Levi?Why?”
An indignant Levi watched as paralysis took Dorian’s body. “Why? You really want to know? Because you saved Alpha Wagner’s life.”
“That was so long ago, and we’ve accomplished so much together since then. Wolves don’t attack the injured like that. I acted out of instinct the way my father taught me. All these years we’ve never actually been friends, have we?”
“Spare me the wolves fight honorably speech. It’s bullshit and you know it. Doesn’t seem very honorable when a big, powerful alpha kills two grieving teenage pups and steals their uncle’s pack at a funeral. Or threatens to kill all the males in a family if they don’t join the pack. The consolation was that manipulating you was even easier than it was with Clark. He just got greedy and overstepped the authority my family granted him. Randy did well for the pack, but he wouldn’t bargain when he was approached, and threatened to expose the family. A bullet to the head works wonders in a negotiation.
“You’re really a fuckin’ idiot, Dorian. Friends? Us?” Levi laughed hysterically. “You never figured I only kept you around as a bodyguard so the other low lifes like you didn’t mess with me? Well, that and you’ve got a great cock. Too bad the poison took some of the steel out of it.” Levi paced around the office as he continued his rant. “When you saved that man, you took away my family’s position in the pack. My uncle had a new alpha picked out and waiting to take control when Randy died from the stabbing, but he and my cousins were exiled because of what you did. You nearly destroyed my parents due to their apparent loyalty to Alpha Clark. We almost lost everything. You and your family, who were barely more than omegas before Randy took over, gained prominence when your bloodline wasn’t deserving. You don’t have the fur of a leader like my family.”
He turned Dorian’s chair and leaned right into the man’s face. “Cannon fodder making it to captain of the hunters? What an insult to the Corps. I never imagined you’d become alpha after the family assassinated your beloved leader. It sucked that Marshal moved and survived the one meant for him. They didn’t know you’d be off duty that day. You should have been standing with Randy like you always did to accept the bullet we bought for you. It would have solved some early problems until I got you under control. You had to fuckin’ insist on handling the transition of power and do it by the book. Fuckin’ boy scout. You were never supposed to survive that challenge. Thad and Wade really fucked that night up for us by helping you. We had the surviving council in our pocket until you killed them.
“It was hard to stomach you sitting behind this desk for so many years, but knowing I was the one pulling your strings made it bearable. In a way, it was a benefit to me. Anything bad that happened was the fault of the alpha’s orders since you had the final say in everything.” Levi moved away from the chair and laughed hard. “Fuck, Dorian, I had my hand so far up your ass making your mouth move, you’d think you were a Muppet. You never realized who was running the show each time we added territory, or I moved someone loyal to me into an important position.”
Levi sat on the edge of the desk with a gleeful smile on his face, savoring his victory. “Yes, for years I’ve been giving you the poison to keep you in line. To manipulate the aggressiveness I caused, so you’d move against neighbors, giving my relatives territory to manage and exploit. I’ve had time to rebuild my family far beyond what we were. I didn’t lie when I said Mom always baked those cookies special, just for you.
“If you’d stayed ignorant, I’d have let you live while I continued to run the pack. Maybe even allowed you to mate that bitch and suggest you move to her territory while I run things here. Since you know, there’s little point in keeping you alive. The one gold lining is seeing that hurt look in your eyes now.” Levi theatrically wiped a nonexistent tear from his eyes. “It’s time for me to take over as alpha. Not that I haven’t already been for years. To faithfully serve the people in memory of my dear best friend. And to show the McKinneys have always owned this pack.”
Dorian was barely able to move his eyes as his body felt frozen. He managed to gaze at Levi’s face, seeing nothing but evil staring back at him.
Levi’s back was to the camera. “In front of the pack, I’ll announce your family has been offered a home elsewhere to make a fresh start. Someplace they can be away from the sad memories of their lost son, brother, and uncle. Sadly, there’ll be a traffic accident during the move. Very soon, your bloodline will be extinct. Can’t risk one of them coming back for revenge if someone suspects I killed you. Tempting to see if your brothers fuck as good as you once did. Might still find out. Your little brother was always the hottest one in the family.” He shoved his hand into Dorian’s crotch. “I should have gotten you hard before the injection took hold. Taken one last ride.” Straddling the alpha’s legs he looked directly into the man’s eyes. ”Your sisters and nieces will survive long enough to provide some entertainment to a group of wolves who’ve been very supportive of my family. You know… Spoils of war and all that.”
Alpha Jackman’s body stilled as the sound of his heart stopped. His eyes eerily remained open in a defiant glare.
Levi moved off Dorian’s lap once he was satisfied the man was dead. He picked up the alpha’s cell phone and pocketed it to destroy later. He began searching the office as the shot on the screen changed. The timestamp at the bottom was highlighted to show a little over an hour had passed. Levi finally called 911. “Dorian’s not breathing. I need help now.” There was a momentary pause. “He feels cold. I think he’s dead.”