Zach has stayed away from his mate for years because he had to, but only in the last few months against his will. He had to help his sister, but he knows he hasn’t done it the right way. Still, he has no way to get away from Stan, his sister’s mate, or at least that’s what he thinks.
Kameron, just like almost every other member of the pack, has known something was wrong with Zach for months, but as the Alpha, he didn’t have the possibility to do much about it while he had other and more pressing emergencies on his hands. Now that everything seems to be fine finally or as close to it as it can be, he finally looks for Zach, and what he finds nearly crushes him.
Even after Kameron rescues Zach and his sister from months of abuse, old and new problems rise on the horizon, problems that will put a on strain their budding relationship. Will it be strong enough to resist even Kameron’s bad faith, or will the newly formed couple crumble under the pressure?
Zach jumped, his heart racing at the thought that Tom or Stan had found him. He turned, his knees buckling when he saw it was only Xavier. The human looked worried, and Zach couldn’t blame him. He had seen himself in his mirror that morning, and his two black eyes and the split lip weren’t pretty. “Hi.”
Xavier moved closer, one of his hands rising as if he wanted to touch Zach. “What’s happening to you, Zach? Who’s hurting you? I know we don’t know each other, but I could help you.”
Zach shook his head, his now too-long hair flying everywhere. He didn’t mind the length, actually, even if he had never worn it this long. It was useful when he wanted to avoid looking at someone in the eyes since it fell just under them. “There’s nothing you can do, not without putting yourself and others in danger. I can’t let you.”
“You could talk to Kameron, or if you can’t, to Andy or Nick. They want to help you—you know that, right? Even Jonah is worried.”
It was tempting. Zach desperately wanted to get away from the men who were hurting him, to tell someone what was happening. He finally wanted to be able to claim his mate. He couldn’t. He couldn’t, not if he wanted the few people who were important to him, the few people he cared for, to be safe.
He had thought everything would get better when Kameron had defeated Alpha Erskine. He had been wrong. Things were even worse for him than they had been when the old Alpha had been alive. At least then, he was still free to do what he wanted. He had even somehow managed to get closer to his mate without Erskine noticing anything.
He was in love with his mate, and he had hoped they would bond since it looked like his feelings were reciprocated. Then his world had fallen apart.
“Zach? Are you okay?” Xavier’s voice was so full of worry and tentative friendship that Zach was tempted to accept the offered hand and tell him everything.
Then he thought about Andy, Xavier’s mate, and the little boy who had started living with them a few days before, and he knew he couldn’t. He couldn’t put even more people at risk. “I’m…fine. Thank you.”
Zach avoided Xavier’s eyes as he finally moved away from the tree he had been leaning against and started walking away.
“Wait! Please, Zach, I want to help you!”
Zach ran away. Xavier’s insistence made it that much harder to continue resisting and he couldn’t stand it one more second. He heard Xavier protest again, but by then he was too far for the human to follow him.
Zach ran, tears flowing from his eyes at the thought of what he had lost. He ran as fast as he could, and as much as he wanted to continue running, to run until he exited pack territory, he knew he couldn’t. So when the path leading to Stan’s house appeared, he took it.
Zach slowed down when he got to the house. He listened, trying to figure out if Stan was in the house, but he heard nothing. He opened the kitchen door, scowling at the pile of dishes in the sink when he saw it. He would have to wash them before Stan came back from work if he wanted to avoid a beating. At least the pig wasn’t going to touch Ellie, and that was the only reason why Zach was doing this. He needed to protect Ellie.
He moved around the house, slowly opening the door to his sister’s room. She was on the bed, her baby bump clearly visible by now. It made Zach smile, that is until he remembered that if he didn’t find a way to get them out of this situation, Stan would start hurting Ellie again as soon as she had the baby. He would probably hurt the baby, too, and that wasn’t something Zach could let him do.