The pack suddenly went quiet. Only two sets of footsteps could be heard as the Alpha and the Prince descended the stairs. I always hated how similar Trystan looked to Father, with his blond hair and cold expression. His eyes were blue though, not green like Father’s. I was the only one who inherited Father’s eyes.
They nodded their greetings to the pack, looking very serious and noble. I slurped my hotpot loudly simply out of hate for that display. It earned me a smack over the head from Yuri. I yelped and rubbed the back of my head, even though it didn’t hurt at all, glaring at my best friend with fake anger.
“You are such a child, Reid.” He rolled his eyes at me. Maybe I was, but it did the trick. The pack started chattering again, probably talking about my horrible manners.
“Careful Reidy-boy, our little prince doesn’t take well to having his spotlight stolen. Trystan might just drown you in the hotpot.” Scott snickered and stole a piece of my bread.
“Fuck I would be more afraid of Katashi. I don’t think he’d see me as a delicious ingredient.” I shuddered jokingly, which made everyone around laugh.
My own laugh was cut short when I saw Father talking to Nikolai in the corner, away from the crowd. Just like his son Nikolai was tall and big with light blue eyes and salt and pepper hair. Father was talking quietly and calmly as always, but judging by the way Nikolai was frowning and nodding, they weren’t talking about the weather.
Father noticed me staring and squeezing Nikolai’s shoulder, he walked away. “Hey, I’m gonna leave you here for a bit, okay?” I ran my hand through Matt’s hair, enjoying the softness of it. When he nodded I took our empty bowls and carried them to the kitchen, then I went to find Father.
He wasn’t surprised at all when I stopped him on his way into the living room. “Shouldn’t you be taking care of your mate?” he asked, but changed direction for the back porch. Father of course had to know Matt wasn’t my mate, but he seemed content to pretend he was.
“He’s got Lowell and Ivan fawning over him, he’ll be fine,” I said and followed him.
“Is there any chance of you actually listening if I told you to just let it go and enjoy today’s hotpot?” he asked as he opened the back door for me.
“Not in the slightest.” I shook my head. The chattering grew quieter as Father closed the door, gazing over the snow covered forest behind the house.
“I thought so.” He sighed and leaned against the porch fence.
“So what’s going on?” I sat down on the steps, digging the tips of my boots into the snow.
“Even Baltazar’s assistant has stopped taking my calls.” He frowned at the distant trees. “If it keeps going like this, we’ll just have to show up in his territory unannounced and with the way things are, that might be the start of war.”
“Well it was unavoidable from the start…” I said, though I had hoped there would be a better solution to all of this. “If he was innocent there would be no need for him to avoid us like this. The vampires are obviously guilty, war is unavoidable.”
“Don’t say that like you know what war is!” he snapped at me, anger burning in his eyes. “You are a child of peace, you have never seen a war between wolves and vampires.”
“Sorry,” I said, feeling like a scolded child.
He didn’t say anything for a while. Dark clouds were gathering across the night sky promising more snow. “You have some friends among vampires don’t you?” he asked eventually.
I shifted uncomfortably on the steps. Having vampire friends wasn’t something the pack approved of and to be honest sometimes I wasn’t sure I could call Daniel a friend. As a kid I was quite enchanted with the guy… He was tall, with black hair, he wore ripped jeans and leather jackets and he had quite the shameless attitude. Naturally I wanted to be just like him. Well I wasn’t a teenager anymore. Still Daniel leaked some info on Baltazar to me and allowed me to go into the vampire territory to find the mercenary. Of course he made sure I knew I owed him for all that. For the last one I specifically owed him my blood… I was doing quite a good job of avoiding him for the last two weeks.
“I guess you could say that… But my friend’s loyalty is fickle at best.” And he wouldn’t do anything for free.
“So there is no way your friend could talk Baltazar into meeting us?” Father asked.
“I could ask, I guess… But I don’t think he has enough of an influence in the clan to do that.” Daniel was a Walker though, one of the few chosen vampires who were close enough to Baltazar to be allowed to draw on his power and thus roam free even in daylight.
“Do that,” he ordered, pushing away from the railing. “We need to do everything we can to avoid war.”
“I get that you have lived through numerous wars and you don’t want that kind of death and suffering again,” I said, stopping him before he could disappear inside. “I don’t want that either, but what is your end goal here?” I asked. “Let’s say Baltazar meets with us and he admits he hired the mercenary. Do you think he’ll just come with us and let himself get killed peacefully? What will you do then?”
Father clenched his hands into fists, looking at the back door with a hard expression. “I don’t know…”
He left me dumbfounded on the porch, just staring at the spot he stood on just a second ago. Why did he sound so defeated? Did he think the pack stood no chance against the clan? I myself thought we were pretty strong… In the end both me and Father could use the power of Cŵn Annwn that flowed in our veins. Now that I had Yuri and Scott and Matt I believed they could bring me back from the edge of madness. Hearing Father talk like we were fighting a losing battle baffled me. Was I underestimating our enemy yet again?