"Riana? Riana, honey? I...You need to wake up."
Riana started awake from her nest on the bed, blinking at her dark-eyed sister. She wondered what had April so scared, so worried, when she'd been so happy earlier, dressing for her date, messing with her hair, putting on her lipstick.
Riana barked, tail thumping in welcome, even though she wasn't sure what was going on.
"I think I messed up, sister. I'm afraid messed up so bad." Her sister sat on the bed, fingers twisted together. "You know that Russet asked me to marry him, right?"
Riana wagged. Yes. April was stupid for Russet, silly for the big male. Riana had peeked at him a few times, when he was there, visiting April. She supposed he was pretty enough. He looked at her sister like she was the sun. Riana liked that a lot.
"Well, if we get married, he'll find out about you, you know? And no one here knows, so I told him."
She tilted her head. Told someone about her? No one knew her. She'd stayed here, just as her mother had asked, her entire life. Mother said it wasn't safe for white wolves in the Pack. The other wolves would hurt her; the other predators would hunt her.
Mother had said her sister would protect her.
"He'll be my mate one day, Riana. At least I hope he will. We haven't formed the bond yet, but this should help, huh? Me being honest about you..."
Riana rubbed her muzzle against April's wrist. April was the oldest sister. April was her protector. April wouldn't hurt her.
April would never hurt her.
A knock came to the door, past her room, in the main house, and April jumped, then frowned. "Stay here, honey, okay? Quiet as a mouse."
She panted, wagged. Quiet as a mouse.
Riana curled around the threadbare stuffed bunny that she'd had since the beginning of time, since before she'd lost her milk teeth.
"Russet? Did you forget something?"
Riana could smell April's worry.
"Honey, you have to know that I didn't mean to..."
"Where is she?" That was a voice she didn't know, low and furious. "Where have you been hiding her?"
"Hiding who? Russet? What are you doing?"
Riana frowned, that was fury, not fear, in her sister's voice.
"This isn't about you, honey. This is about Pack. He's my Alpha. I had to tell him that you had the other one of the Pair. I'm so fucking sorry."
"Russet..." April's voice was full of tears.
"I know. Where is she?"
"Running. I sent her away."
Riana's head went up. Away? April was going to send her away? Where? This was her room, her place, her home. Where would she go?
She stood, shivering, ears laid back.
"Bullshit. Tell me, girl. Now!"
"Markus, easy. April, no one wants to hurt her. He just wants to meet her. Ilia's son is like her--white and wolfen. They could be mates." Russet was crooning, obviously trying to make April listen to him and not be mad at him. She'd heard men talk like that on soap operas.
"She's gone. I sent her away. I don't have room for her now." Now that was a lie. April was telling her something.
Riana went to the window, nosed it, trying to get outside, trying to understand the warning that April was giving her. The lock wasn't latched, and she pawed it open.
"Do it this way," April had said. "If there's a fire, you open it and you run fast."
She slipped out, yelping in pure surprise as strong arms caught her, wrapped around her and held fast. Riana struggled, yelping in pure fury. No! No! April!
"I have her, Markus."
No! April! She growled and bit, fighting to get free. Help me!
The arms tightened around her and the low growl frightened her. "She's freaking out, man! Where's the sedative?"
"You assholes! Leave her alone! Riana!" April's scream rang out, muffled by low words, rumbles. "Russet, --you--No! Riana!"
It was April's fear that gave her strength, and Riana tensed, head twisting, and bit hard. The arms dropped her and she zoomed toward April, toward safety and love and home.
"No, Riana, run!"
The prick of something sharp hit her flank, the sting startling her, and she almost immediately began to slow, her legs so heavy.
She saw April tear away from Russet, come to her, "Oh, Ri. Oh, goddess. What have I done?"
April. April, please...
A face appeared over April's shoulder, a woman with eyes like flame. "Finally. I knew she was here. I knew the moon did not lie! The pair will be ours, Alpha!"
Tears fell on her face. "Ri. I love you. I'm so sorry."
It was the last thing she heard for a long time.