A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 11
Vivian held Declan's hand in a death grip as Logan maneuvered the SUV along the narrow gravel road leading straight into the heart of the wolf pack's territory. A mile farther in, they would round the last bend in the road and be in sight of the gate. She'd already spotted movement in the trees off to the left, no doubt some wolves patrolling the outside perimeter of the property. The heavily armed guards that Logan had seen earlier were evidently just one of the layers of protection that Rolf had in place. It would be interesting to know if he always kept things on high alert or if this was a welcoming committee meant just for them.
"So, do I pull up to the gate and hope they'll let us in?" Logan slowed to a stop and glanced back over his shoulder at Declan. "Or should I drive right through the gate and announce our presence with a little more flair?"
Her wolf companion's answering laugh had more than a little growl in it. "While I do love to make a dramatic entrance, I wouldn't want you to damage the front end of the SUV for no good reason. We might need it to make a quick exit at some point."
Logan smiled, his fangs on full display. "I think getting the Alpha's attention would be a perfectly good reason. And in case you haven't noticed, I have a reinforced grill and bumper on the front end."
He glanced into the rearview mirror. "Viv, you're the only one who has been down this road before. Is there a straight stretch up ahead where I can build up enough speed to do a little gate crashing?"
While it had been some time since she'd been in the compound, this was where she'd grown up. "Yeah, there is. Be careful to only take out the gate, though. If anyone gets hurt, it won't earn us any friends in the pack."
"Don't worry. I'll rev the engine good and loud to get their attention and then lay on the horn as I make the final approach."
As Logan set the vehicle in motion again, Declan leaned in closer to her ear and whispered, "Are you ready to declare your freedom?"
His warm breath sent a small shiver of awareness right through to the heart of her. "From Rolf, definitely."
Declan's expression turned more serious. "Just to be clear. When I've eliminated Rolf from the picture, it will be your choice what happens afterward. If I tried to force the mate bond between us, I would be no better than him."
She knew he meant every word. His confidence in his ability to defeat Rolf was impressive, but dominance fights were brutal. Accidents happened, and sometimes the lesser wolf managed to win. The mere thought that Declan might not survive the night had her own wolf rising to the surface. She might not be able to change, but that didn't make her any less of a she-wolf who would fight to the death to protect her mate. Even if she hadn't already figured it out already, that powerful urge to keep Declan safe at all costs made it clear how much he'd come to mean to her in such a short time.
It was time to admit the truth, to stake her claim. "I have every faith that you will defeat Rolf. Even if you let him limp away, everyone concerned will know he has no hold on me. And not simply because I rejected his claim, but because I have found my rightful mate."
Then she unfastened her seatbelt and made a quick move to straddle Declan's lap. She stared down into the amber glow of his eyes, letting both man and wolf know they were hers. She suspected her own eyes had taken on the same golden sheen, her inner wolf joining her in staking her claim. Then she kissed him, saying without words everything he needed to know about how she felt about him.
After a few seconds, Logan cleared his throat. "Sorry to interrupt this touching moment, kiddies, but the gate is in sight. You might want to buckle back in about now."
Ordinarily she would have been embarrassed to put on such a sensual display in front of a third party, but this wasn't a time to worry about delicate sensibilities or discretion. There was no way she was going to let Declan face off against Rolf and the others without knowing where the two of them stood—side-by-side, together not just for tonight, but forever.
He grinned up at her and gave her one more quick kiss. "Hold that thought. We'll pick up where we left off as soon as we're behind closed doors—ones with stout locks and no nosy vampires staring at us in the rearview mirror."
Logan protested. "Hey, safe drivers always keep an eye on what's going on behind them. It's not my fault that my mirror was full of two overheated wolves."
By that point, Vivian's face burned hot, but she wasn't about to apologize for what had just transpired. After sliding off Declan's lap, she smiled at the unrepentant vampire. "Well, you know what they say: Those who can, do. Those who can't evidently just watch."
Declan roared with laughter as the vampire winced. A few seconds later, Logan gave in and laughed along with him as he met her gaze again. "Viv, remind me to never get between you and your mate. I think he's been a bad influence over you. In all the time I've known you, I never once suspected you'd been hiding a big old mean streak."
He was kidding, but she also wanted to remind Logan of how much he meant to her. She leaned forward to lay her hand on his shoulder. Giving it a quick squeeze, her expression sober, she said, "Logan, I'm not sure I would have survived this long if I hadn't had the good fortune to meet you. Your friendship means everything to me."
He patted her hand and then gave it a soft squeeze. "Right back at you, Viv. Now, let's get the party started."
That's when she realized they could see the gate a short distance down the road. Logan took a deep breath and said, "Hold on tight. We're about to make an appearance these folks won't forget for a long damn time."
"There's one thing I need to tell you both. Last night I reached out to both my brothers and my father to let them to know what was going on. I told them everything in case things don't turn out like I think they will."
He leaned forward to direct his next comments to Logan. "I've declared you a friend of our pack. If you ever need anything, big or small, they will be there for you. They vowed it on the family honor."
The look on Logan's face was priceless. Finally, he jerked his head in a sharp nod. "I am honored, Declan Lyell. That goes both ways. If they ever need me, they just need to ask."
That settled, Declan turned to Vivian. "They know who you are and what you mean to me. My father added you to the rolls of our pack. They will stand beside you, offer you a permanent home, and your enemies are now ours."
Her eyes glistened with a sheen of tears. "Why would they do that?"
"Because that's what family does, Vivian. They care what happens to you because I do. Promise me you'll go to them. A wolf needs a pack. Let them be yours."
He braced himself for an argument, but she surprised him. "I will, but we'll be going together, Declan."
He'd have to be satisfied with that. "Okay, let's do this."
Then he braced himself when, as promised, Logan revved the SUV's big engine, putting Rolf's pack on notice that they were coming in. While breaking through the barrier would have made for a more dramatic entrance, Declan was almost relieved when the two halves of the gate swung open before it came to that. He didn't make the mistake of thinking that Vivian's old pack was rolling out the red carpet in welcome. The heavily armed guards pouring out of the various buildings made that perfectly clear.
"I guess that answers the question if Brenda warned Rolf we might be paying him a visit."
Vivian's voice might have sounded calm, but he could tell she was anything but. Tension showed in the set of her shoulders and the deep lines bracketing her mouth and eyes. He took her hand in his, keeping his touch gentle. "It doesn't change anything."
She briefly leaned into his shoulder offering as much comfort as she took. Then she sat up straighter to study the gathering crowd. "I don't see Rolf."
Logan slowed the vehicle to a crawl. "He's probably waiting to make a dramatic entrance. Want to bet he's told the guard towers to turn the spotlight on him? I'll be seriously disappointed if he isn't wearing a sparkly cape like those wrestlers on television have when he finally puts in an appearance."
Leave it to the vampire to keep cracking jokes at a time like this. "Pull through the gate but don't drive any farther into the compound. I'll get out there and announce my challenge."
Vivian wasn't having it. "No, Declan, I won't stay in the car while you face off against all of these idiots by yourself."
"What she said goes for me, too." Logan drove through the gates just far enough that they could close behind them. "I didn't come all this distance to sit on the sidelines."
There was no use in arguing with either of his stubborn companions. He'd known telling them to stay out of the line of fire was futile, but he'd had to try. "Fine, but hold back long enough to allow me to speak first."
Vivian was slow to agree, but she finally nodded. He gave her a quick kiss before reaching for the door handle. "That one was for good luck."
Then he was out of the car facing off against a pack of pissed off wolves. He rolled his shoulders and flexed his hands as he stared into the eyes of one wolf after another, holding their gaze until they looked away, accepting his dominance. "My name is Declan Lyell. I'm looking for Rolf Jantzen."
The closest wolf sneered. "I'm Phil Burke, the Beta of this pack. You can tell me whatever it is you want to say to the Alpha, and I'll see that he gets the message."
Declan crossed his arms over his chest and widened his stance. "Fine. I'll keep it simple so you don't have to take notes."
Then he swept his gaze across the compound before focusing his full-on Alpha stare back on the Beta. He loved that the idiot took two steps back before he could stop himself. "Tell Rolf that I'm here to challenge him for control of this pack."
When that stirred up a flurry of shocked whispers, the Beta put a stop to it. "Shut up, you idiots. He has no standing here."
Without looking taking his eyes off the Beta, Declan held out his hand, signaling Vivian it was time to join him. Logan followed, but remained a couple of steps behind them. When she stood beside him, he threaded a lot of growl into his voice. "I'm sure you remember Vivian Channing, your late Alpha's daughter and heir."
Phil barely spared her a glance. "We heard you were in the area, Viv. It's about time you came crawling back."
Declan had a sudden urge to teach Phil some respect, but Vivian took that into her own hands. She studied the man in front of her as if he were some interesting new species of bug. "First of all, Phil, I didn't crawl back. I came to claim my rightful place in the pack. This was my family's home for generations. That's more than you can claim. As I recall, your previous pack kicked you to the curb for…Let's see, what was it now? Oh, yes, theft, drunkenness, and general stupidity."
Phil's face turned bright red as he glared at Vivian. His mood wasn't helped by the ripple of laughter that came from the back of the crowd. "Shut your mouth, bitch. You need to be taken down a notch or two. It's not my place to do that, but that's okay. You're going to get what's coming to you as soon as your rightful mate gets here."
Declan rejoined the conversation. "But that's just it, Phil. You see, her mate is standing right in front of you. She chose me of her own free will, and that gives me the right to challenge Rolf. I'm guessing the coward never told you that she rejected his claim as was her right."
Once again, he gave the crowd a hard look. "That bastard locked her in a cage when she said no. He abused her. What kind of weak wolf does a thing like that?"
Inserting even more growl and strength into his voice, he spoke loud enough to carry to the farthest corners of the compound. "An Alpha is supposed to protect his people, not abuse them. An Alpha is supposed to bring honor to the pack, not embarrassment. And above all, an Alpha is supposed to enforce the rules that have guided us for generations, not twist them to suit his own warped needs. A wolf like Rolf brings shame to your pack. Vivian deserves better. You all do."
"That's why I'm here with my mate. To reclaim her heritage and redeem the honor of this pack. Once again, I am here to challenge Rolf Jantzen for control of this pack. Where is he? I'm guessing he's hiding in that cell in his basement."
He followed that insult with a howl of challenge. Then silence fell across the compound as everyone waited to see what happened next.