MoboReader> Horror > Bound

   Chapter 3 No.3

Bound By Julie Embleton Characters: 17037

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:01


When the drifting smells of the spoiled brunch began to irritate Nyah she rolled off her bed and went back downstairs. "What a waste, " she muttered, grabbing plates off the table and letting them land with a loud clatter against the granite worktops. Her anger began to build as she scraped the cold bacon straight into the bin. A mountain of congealed scrambled egg followed and she slammed the empty dish down onto the worktop, scowling at the building pile of wasted food. When the sound of Karen's feet landing on the bedroom floor above sounded out, Nyah gritted her teeth and finished clearing off the rest of the table. She didn't know how she was going to even look at her when she came down.

"Nyah, I'm so sorry. Why didn't you wake me?" Karen groaned sleepily as soon as she came into the kitchen.

Nyah remained silent as she dumped the dirty dishes into the sink, repeatedly telling herself that everyone was entitled to their own opinions – even if they were ludicrous.

"Why didn't you wake me?" Karen asked again, briskly rubbing her upper arms as her shoulders shook off a shiver.

"I don't need your help. I can clean up by myself."

"I don't mean cleaning up – I mean why didn't you wake me for brunch? Nyah, I'm so sorry – and all the trouble you went to." Karen rounded the counter and came to stand beside her.

"It's fine."

"It's not fine, you're angry with me. I didn't mean to – will you stop!" Karen grabbed the plate of muffins about to be tipped into the bin. "Stop throwing out all the food!"

Nyah allowed the lid of the bin to slam shut.

"Okay." Karen set down the plate of muffins and lifted her hands in surrender. "I am so very, very sorry. I was really looking forward to our brunch – I don't even know why I fell asleep. I'm sorry Nyah. Don't be -." Karen's words faded into a grunt and she squeezed her eyes shut. Pressing the heels of her hands onto either side of her head she let out a groan. "Man, I have such a headache."

Nyah drew in an impatient breath and returned to cleaning up. How could Karen behave as if everything she had said didn't count, didn't hurt?

"I hate that you're angry with me, " Karen said after a long silence.

"Maybe you shouldn't have announced your undying devotion to Simon so, " Nyah answered, forcefully scrubbing a handful of cutlery.

"What?"

When Nyah turned around to face her, Karen had a genuine look of puzzlement on her face. Nyah could feel her temper flaring again.

"Hold on, rewind – my what to Simon?" Karen spluttered.

Nyah flung the cutlery back into the sudsy water and fixed the most venomous stare she could manage at Karen. But then something about Karen's demeanour registered with her. Karen was pale. Her face had a light sheen of moisture, and her hand, as she lifted it to rub the side of her head again, was shaking. "Are you okay?" Nyah asked, reluctant to be concerned.

"No, I don't think so actually." Karen leaned back against the counter and closed her eyes. "I really don't feel well. My head is throbbing."

"Did something happen to you on your run?" Nyah wondered, peeling off the rubber gloves and coming to stand before Karen. She took hold of her face and gently lowered it as she searched her head for signs of an injury. "Did you fall? Did you get into a fight?" she asked.

"No, I - I don't think so, " Karen answered.

"Can't you remember?" Nyah released her head and stepped back to look her over. It was only then when she realized Karen was still wearing her running gear. There was mud on her knees. "Did you not phase?"

"I. . ." Karen looked down at her tracksuit pants and shrugged. "I can't remember."

"What do you remember?" Nyah said, taking her arm and leading her over to the couch.

"Um. . ." Karen sat down heavily and gingerly rested her head back. "I remember leaving here, I remember crossing the street and walking down the side of Billy's house towards the forest and I remember walking into the forest. . . but then. . . um. . ."

"You don't remember anything else?"

Karen shook her head. "Only waking up a while ago. It's. . ." she paused. "It's a bit weird, isn't it?"

"And you don't remember what you said earlier, about Simon?"

"What did I say about Simon?" she said hesitantly, lifting her head up.

Nyah shook her head. "Nothing. Rubbish, you were talking rubbish."

"I feel rubbish, " Karen moaned, allowing her head to fall back against the headrest again.

Nyah looked down at her. Werewolves rarely became ill, and while Karen was showing no obvious symptoms of disease or trauma, it was still concerning to see her looking so pale and shaken. "When did you start feeling like this?" Nyah asked. "Before or after your run?"

"Just now – when I woke up, " Karen answered, sitting up with effort. "You know, I think I'll go back to bed for a while. I feel a bit wobbly."

"I could get the doctor for you."

"No, I think I'll be okay. It's probably just the stress of being cooped up for the last few days."

Nyah helped her to stand and followed close behind her as she climbed the stairs.

"Just make sure to wake me before the Show of Hands, " Karen reminded her as she reached her room.

"Of course, I promise. And if you need anything just shout."

"I will."

Karen closed over her bedroom door and Nyah went back down to the kitchen. A bitter mixture of relief and worry was creeping through her and as soon as she had finished tidying up she crept back up to Karen's room to check on her again. She relaxed a little when she saw Karen was sleeping deeply and a light shade of pink had returned to her cheeks. Perhaps it was just stress; being locked inside for the last couple of days had meant keeping their wolves bound too, which was never a good thing. It was possible Karen's wolf had pushed her too far on the run leaving her body to take the brunt of its exertions.

Hoping this was the source of Karen's muddled mind, Nyah left her to sleep. There were still another four hours before the Show of Hands and not feeling like she could cope with anything more strenuous, she sank onto the couch and turned on the television.

Just before eight o'clock Karen emerged from her room.

"How are you feeling?" Nyah asked, urging her under the overhead light so she could take a look.

"A bit better, " Karen answered, wincing under the glare of the bulb. Her porcelain skin still seemed a little too pale for Nyah. "My head feels a bit cotton-woolly, but not as bad as it was earlier."

"I have to wait for Michael to bring me across to vote, why don't you come with us?"

Karen shook her head. "No, I'll go now; it'll only take a few seconds. I really want this over with."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Nurse Nyah, " she said, with an attempt at a grin. "I'll be straight back."

Nyah watched from a slit in the curtains as Karen walked across the street. She disappeared into the house and re-appeared a few minutes later. She was rubbing her temples when Nyah opened the front for her. "Are you okay?"

"Uh huh." Karen came inside and flopped onto the couch. "I'm fine."

"What's the atmosphere like over there?"

"Hmm?" Karen looked up at her, her drooping hazel eyes looking feverishly glazed again. "Over where?"

"In my - in the pack house. What's it like? Tense?"

Karen stared sleepily towards the window and shrugged. "How would I know?"

"You've just been in there, voting. Were there many gathered?"

Karen frowned. "I haven't voted yet. I've just come down from my room."

"Oh no, " Nyah murmured.

Karen began to lean over to one side. "I just want to rest for a minute. I'll go as soon as I have the energy to peel myself off this couch."

"Why don't you go back up to bed?" Nyah suggested lightly. "There's plenty of time to vote. I'll call you in a while."

"Would you? That would be great. I think I got out of bed too fast, I'm so dizzy." Karen stuck out her hand and Nyah heaved her off the couch.

"You'll be right as rain in the morning, " Nyah told her, guiding her towards the stairs.

"No, don't let me sleep through, " Karen insisted. "I have to vote."

"I'll wake you."

"Make sure you do. It's very important that I vote."

"I know."

"The future of our pack depends on it, " Karen sighed, rubbing the sides of her forehead again, Nyah hanging close behind her as she climbed the stairs with heavy movements. "Stop hovering, " she grumbled, "I can walk up the stairs on my own."

"I don't want you to fall,

" Nyah pointed out as Karen's hand missed the banister and grabbed at nothing but air.

"I won't, " Karen assured her with a slurring smile when she reached the landing. "I can hear Michael coming, go and answer the door to him and stop fussing over me."

"Fine, " Nyah relented, as Michael's knock sounded out. She waited until Karen was safely walking across the landing before turning and running back down the stairs.

"Ready?" he asked as soon as she opened the door to him.

"Yeah, let's hurry though, " Nyah urged and stepped out onto the porch. She quickly told him about Karen as they walked across to the pack house and he agreed if she was no better in the morning the doctor would need to be called.

"It's probably nothing, " he assured her. "Everyone's wound up in one way or another, she'll be fine."

"I hope so, " Nyah replied, purposely moving closer to him as they approached the front door of the house.

"Simon has been and gone, " he told her. "Not without a bit of trouble though, " he added as they stepped into the hall. "Blake and I had to break up a few scuffles."

The regular front room layout for pack meetings had been cleared to allow one large table holding the ballot box to be placed at the top of the room, while another table, equipped with blank squares of paper and a box of pens, was surrounded by a screen sitting in the far corner. Contrary to what the Show of Hands title suggested, it had been decades since packs had voted that way.

Nyah quickly slipped behind the screen, grabbed a pen and clearly wrote 'Alan' on a piece of paper. She folded it in half and came out from behind the screen, crossed the room and placed her vote into the ballot box being watched over by three pack members. They each gave her a respectful nod and Michael put his arm around her shoulder as she turned to leave.

"We're all here for you, Nyah, " he said. "And no-one wants the memory of Alpha Morgan disrespected. Simon hasn't a hope in hell, don't you worry."

She was back inside her home moments later wishing she could enjoy seeing the look on Simon's pinched face when the pile of white slips with Alan's name sat beside a space that held nothing with his name. She checked her watch. At nine o'clock, fifty minutes from now, the result would be known. With only thirty-two members in their pack, the counting of the votes would take just minutes, then, as was customary, the pack would gather outside the pack house and the name of the next Blackwater Ridge Alpha would be announced. It couldn't come soon enough she decided, perching on the arm of the couch to count down the minutes.

Karen was still sleeping at nine o'clock and Nyah let her be. Gently closing the front door she sat on the porch steps and waited. Michael came across to her just as Alan and Simon came out from her father's house. He took her hand and brought her onto the lawn where she whispered how she wanted to stay at the back, out of view of Simon.

"The tally of votes for the Show of Hands is as follows, " announced Blake to the gathered pack, no pause being made for short speeches.

Nyah inched out from behind Michael's back to peek at where Blake stood on the porch.

"Alan Stenson, twenty-eight votes, Simon Northfell -."

Simon's tally wasn't heard. A massive cheer went up and immediately people ran forward to drag Alan down from the porch steps. He was lifted onto two sets of broad shoulders as whistles and cheers rose into the air.

"Four votes?" a voice close to Nyah said. "Who in the hell voted for Simon?"

Nyah wondered the same, but at that moment she didn't care. She released a long, slow exhale of relief, and for the first time in three days felt as if she could breathe again. When she stepped out fully from behind Michael's back, Alan had been set down and she watched as Simon strode up to him, holding out his hand in congratulations. When their handshake ended, Simon gave one last lingering look at the pack, flashed a brief, agreeable smile and walked proudly through the parting crowd. Even though he cut an isolated figure as he disappeared into the night alone, Nyah felt nothing but happy to see his figure fade into the shadows.

"Alpha Female, " Nyah smiled when the crowd surrounding Alan and Tanya thinned and she stepped into Tanya's waiting hug. "How does it feel?"

"A little overwhelming, " Tanya admitted. "But I'm so happy for Alan and I'm so proud of him."

"We all are, " Nyah told her as Alan, Michael and Blake approached. When Alan opened his arms wide towards her, Nyah gladly stepped into his embrace.

"Congratulation, Alpha Stenson, " she smiled up at him once they pulled apart.

"Thanks, Nyah, " he said, giving her shoulders a gentle squeeze. "I know this has been difficult for you, so I just want to say thanks for your support."

Feeling suddenly awkward about his appreciation, Nyah used the approach of Blake and Michael as a distraction. "It's the Grizzly Brothers, " she smiled, as they came to stand beside their new Alpha. Their nick-name had been in place since they'd been young boys. With their equal bear-like height, build and identical curly black hair, it was hard to believe Alan's next in command weren't brothers.

"Maybe things can get back to normal around here now, " Blake said, indicating the point where Simon Northfell had faded into the night. "That's his plan scuppered."

"Thankfully, " Tanya murmured, an involuntary shiver shaking her small frame. Alan put his arm protectively around her shoulder and drew her closer to his side, pressing a lingering kiss to the top of her head. "Michael -, " he said, "your first act as Beta is to escort my mate home, " he declared.

"It would be my pleasure, " Michael smiled, holding out his arm to Tanya.

Before she could move to link with Michael, Alan rested one palm to Tanya's swollen middle. "Goodnight my little pup, " he said softly. "Don't keep your mama awake with your kicking tonight."

Nyah turned to Alan as they watched Michael lead Tanya away. "You know, I think I'll sleep better tonight than I have in a long while."

Alan nodded, releasing a breath that confirmed he was enjoying the growing relief of his being elected too. "Four votes, " he said quietly. "I was prepared for one, because obviously, Northfell was going to vote for himself - but four?"

Nyah glanced at the pack members still gathered on the lawn at the front of the pack house. Faces were lit with happiness, voices were full of optimism; relief was emanating from her pack mates like heat from the sun, and nowhere did there appear to be the faintest sense of disappointment. "I don't know, " she said with a shrug. "But it doesn't matter; because come Thursday night you'll be Alpha."

With the arrival of another small group of well-wishers, Nyah gave him a final quick hug and turned away from the pack house. People continued to linger on the street, glad of the freedom to be outside again. Chatter and laughter had replaced the eerie silence that had hung in Blackwater Ridge for the last few days and Nyah savoured the excited atmosphere, feeling a sudden wave of lightness rush through her. The sense of stasis which the Lamentation Phase had pressed upon them was finally lifting and the liberation was exhilarating. So as she crossed the street towards her house, she was surprised to hear the angry whispers of an argument coming from a couple standing farther down the street.

In the pool of light cast by a street lamp, she recognised the curly, wild hair of Leanne Stone, jabbing her finger into the chest of her mate, Eddie, who stood with his hands pressed against the side of his head.

"You'll be thrown out of the pack if they hear you!" she hissed. "Shut up!"

Nyah ducked her head, not wanting to intrude on their privacy while they argued. As she turned into her driveway however, the voices continued to reach her ears.

"No." Eddie flatly answered Leanne. "I won't shut up."

"Yes you will!" she replied, "Say one more word about him and you'll have more than a blinding headache to worry about!"

"He wants what's best for this pack, " Eddie said calmly, "and his bloodline is strong."

Nyah's feet came to an involuntary stop and she spun towards the direction of Eddie's strangely monotone voice.

"Our pack could grow to be the largest and most powerful pack this continent has ever known, " he said, echoing Karen's exact words from earlier. "Our potential is incredible."

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