MAN TROUBLES (part 11)
a short story by Alexis Morgan
Silas stepped out the back door of the restaurant armed with nothing but his temper. For now, he kept his claws sheathed and his teeth human. That could change at any second if Bjorn decided to break yet another of the long-held rules of their kind: No shifting where humans will see.
If he did, Haakon and his wolves would kill the bastard for endangering their pack. After all, this was their territory. None of the other twin-souled packs would question Haakon's right to protect his own against renegade outsiders. It would also put an end to Silas's former pack for good. Any survivors would have to petition other alphas for the chance to be adopted into their packs. The females and cubs would have no problem finding a new home. New bloodlines were always welcome. The adult and juvenile males would have a much harder time of it.
Bjorn and his buddies arranged themselves in a semi-circle facing him. His brother stepped out from the others. "I found you."
Did he expect Silas to applaud? "Congratulations. Took you long enough. The question is why you were even bothering to look."
He gave the other men a hard look. "You all wanted me to leave, so I did."
Turning his full alpha stare back in his brother's direction, Silas sneered when Bjorn automatically glanced down in submission before he could stop himself. Having made his point, Silas kept his next comments more conversational in tone. "I would think as a new alpha, you'd have more important things to do. You know, like shoring up your support among the members of the pack to convince them they'd picked the right brother to lead them. Can I at least safely assume you and this fine bunch of hunters you're so proud of made sure everyone would have enough to eat next winter before leaving on this ridiculous expedition?"
Several of the men exchanged glances and looked a bit guilty. So, they hadn't filled the freezers with enough meat for the pack to make it through the long months of bitter cold. He wished he was surprised, but then Bjorn had never been one to worry about anyone other than himself.
He turned his attention back to his sibling. "You didn't answer my question, baby brother. What do you want?"
The answer wasn't long in coming. "I want you dead."
Even though Silas had already figured that much out for himself, it still hurt to have his closest blood relative hate him so much.
Although he could guess. The female Bjorn had accepted as his mate had taken it as a personal insult when Silas had refused her determined efforts to end up in his bed. She'd turned to his brother next, maybe hoping to make Silas jealous. When that effort failed, she'd pushed Bjorn hard to challenge Silas for control of the pack.
"The pack is mine now, but they question my every order."
Bjorn stalked toward him. "Do you know how tired I am of having your name thrown in my face every time I issue an order they don't like? 'Silas wouldn't do it that way.' 'Silas never made us do that.'"
He spit on the pavement. "The only way they'll ever accept me as their alpha is when the old alpha is dead. That would be you."
Time for the gloves to come off. "In other words, your mate is unhappy because she settled for second best. Not that she'd have any real basis for comparison. When she showed up uninvited in my bed, I threw her naked ass out in the snow."
He paused for effect before adding, "Three times. Seems she's a bit slow on the uptake at times."
Bjorn's face was bright red by that point. Was it embarrassment or temper? Not that it mattered. Either one would mess with his ability to fight. He'd never learned that cold logic was more effective when it came to winning battles. And right now, Silas was all about winning this one.
At his lowest point, back right after he'd been banished, Silas might have even welcomed death. Not now, not with Lydia waiting for him. Meeting her had changed everything.
"So, what are you going to do now, baby brother? Shoot me? And why are your buddies with you? Our tradition has always been two wolves fighting for dominance, winner take all. Are they here as witnesses or are they here to help you kill a stronger wolf if you can't do it on your own?"
When Bjorn didn't immediately deny the second possibility, his friends took several steps back. Leif, one of the stronger beta wolves in the pack, spoke up. "We're here as witnesses only, Silas. Bjorn claims you have been working behind his back to retake your position as alpha."
"That's a lie. When the pack turned its back on me, I walked away and swore not to return. I've never broken my word."
Silas waved his hand in the air to indicate their surroundings. "I would point out that we are not in the pack's territory."
"No, you're all in mine."
Haakon and a dozen of his fighters joined the party. Bjorn and company had been so focused on Silas that they'd failed to notice they were no longer alone. Haakon walked past Bjorn to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Silas.
"Bjorn, you and your pups are in my territory without permission and without the good manners to contact me to ask for it. Not that I would have given it, you understand."
Bjorn pointed toward Silas. "He's here, and I don't hear you complaining."
"There are a few important differences, boy, that you don't seem to understand. One is that I respect your brother and consider him a personal friend. He's always been welcome in my territory, and I did know he was here. In fact, we just had lunch together. Second, you've brought your blood feud to my doorstep, something I do not appreciate and will not tolerate."
He met the gaze of each of Bjorn's wolves in turn and held it until they looked down and to the side, acknowledging his superior standing. Bjorn tried to resist Haakon's power but could only maintain the connection for a few seconds before breaking off eye contact.
Haakon finally turned his attention to Silas, treating him as an equal. "So, friend, how do you want to handle this? Personally, I'd just as soon drag the whole bunch out to the woods and kick their asses for them. Then I'll box up what's left and ship them back where they belong."
Silas knew laughing wouldn't help the situation, but he couldn't help himself. "Sounds like a plan as long as I get first crack at my baby brother. Seems he needs a lesson in manners."
Haakon signaled his men, who moved in closer. "Escort the whole bunch to the vans. You know where to take them."
Leif protested. "But our motorcycles—"
The door to the restaurant opened, and Lydia stepped out to stand between Haakon and Silas. She gave his hand a quick squeeze as she studied the collection of twin-souled wolves in her parking lot. "Your bikes will be fine where they are for now. If they're still here in the morning, I'll call the police and have them towed."
He should have known the stubborn woman wouldn't stay down in the apartment where she'd be safe. "I told you to stay out of sight."
"Yeah, well, that wasn't working for me. I wanted to see what kind of mangy slime balls would come pounding on my door and making threats. I've gotta say, I'm not impressed."
Then she smiled at Haakon and pointed toward Bjorn and his increasingly unhappy companions. "For the record, I'm not talking about you and your men, Haakon. Just that bunch."
The older wolf actually laughed. "Thanks for that much."
Then he nodded to his beta. "I'll bring Silas with me."
The other wolves immediately headed toward three large vans parked on the street on the far side of the parking lot.
Haakon motioned for Bjorn to follow after them, but he remained right where he was. "I'm not leaving until he does. I don't trust him not to take off again."
"Boy, I repeat-you are in my territory. If you want to live long enough to face off against your brother, you will do what you're told."
Bjorn crossed his arms over his chest and growled, "No."
Two seconds later he was flat out on the ground with deep claw marks on his cheek dripping blood. Haakon stood over him. "Now, either get your ass over to those vans or die here. It's your choice, although personally I'm hoping you'll pick door number two. I'd like to get this over with and go home to my wife."
Then to add insult to injury, he turned his back on Bjorn to emphasis he didn't view him as any kind of threat. "And who is this lovely lady?"
"Haakon Wolfson, this is Lydia Bartok. She's my employer, my landlady, and my mate."
"The hell she is."
The three of them ignored Bjorn's reaction to that last bit.
"Nice to meet you, Lydia. Sorry about the circumstances. This is a helluva way to get introduced to our world."
She held out her hand to Haakon. "Nice to meet you, too. Maybe you and your mate would like to come to dinner here at my restaurant soon. I'd love to meet her, and my chef makes a mean lasagna."
"We'd like that."
Bjorn was back at it. "Seriously? I've offered a blood challenge, and you're standing around making dinner plans."
Haakon's eyes flashed red. "Like I said, pup, get your ass over to the van or die."
Lydia tensed up at the real threat in the alpha's voice, but she made no move to retreat back to the safety of the restaurant. Bjorn snarled in Silas's direction but then stalked away. He glanced back over his shoulder several times as he crossed the parking lot, clearly checking to see if Haakon and Silas were coming. It made him look weak.
Regardless, it was time to end this.
Haakon waited until Bjorn had almost reached the vans. "I'd better go after him. My beta is not happy about being dragged away from the football game he was watching. If your brother shoots his mouth off to him, it'll get bloody."
He smiled at Lydia again. "I'm betting you and my wife hit it off, Lydia. She doesn't have a lot of patience with fools, either."
When he was gone, Silas wrapped his arms around his woman, taking strength from her acceptance and warmth. He kissed her long and slow, not caring that he was holding up the rest of the wolves. Finally, he rested his forehead against hers.
"I know you'll worry anyway, but I'll be all right. Now that Haakon is there to oversee the challenge, it will be just me against Bjorn. My brother thinks brute strength is the great equalizer, but it's not when it comes to fighting a stronger wolf. I might have walked away from the pack, but I can still draw on its strength. I'll be back."
"I know you will, but I'm coming with you."
Like hell. She was still new to the world of the twin-souled. Her first real experience with pack politics shouldn't be a bloody-to-the-death fight between brothers.
"I won't be able to concentrate as well as with you standing there."
She actually rolled her eyes. "Don't give me that, Silas. Haakon will keep me safe."
"I won't insult his honor by denying that, but I don't want you watching if I have to kill my brother, which seems highly likely."
The pain that thought caused had him praying to his parents to forgive him for what he might have to do.
Lydia hugged him again. "Fine, but don't think I'll always hide on the sidelines, Silas. That's not how relationships work."
"And you still want to have a relationship with me?"
"You called me your mate. Did you mean that?"
"Then you answered your own question." She rose on her toes high enough to kiss him one last time. "While you're heading to wherever you're going, you have another decision to make."
"When you defeat your brother, what are you going to do to heal your pack? We both know you never wanted to abandon them in the first place. You'll need to find a way to forgive yourself for walking away and them for letting you."
Then she gave him a gentle shove. "Go. The sooner you leave, the sooner you'll be back."