nineteen

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A/N: on the seventh day of christmas gen10 gave me to me, another chapter of gentle predator..... (let's pretend it rhymes). To get everyone into the holiday spirit, and to count down the last 12 chapters of this book, I thought I'd post a chapter a day until christmas! Merry Christmas you guys!

As Illyria and Keon neared the compound angry voices drifted towards them, all of the warriors stood around glaring at the prisoners and talking amongst themselves. Alpha Logan, his Beta, and Pierce stood in a group, their discussion looking heated. Illyria prepared herself for the backlash of running away... and coming back with Keon.

Stepping forward she stepped on a branch which cracked on her weight, the warriors nearest to her instantly alert. She stepped forward, out of the trees and into the clearing, all eyes on her. Alpha Logan and Pierce approached her immediately with worried, and slightly angry looks on their faces. "How reckless are you?" Alpha Logan asked while Pierce, much angrier, yelled, "are you trying to get yourself killed?"

Illyria opened her mouth to speak, but instead felt a presense standing at her flank. The warriors all jumped to attention, growling and baring their teeth at the stranger. Alpha Logan's eyes swam with black, feeling Keon's dominance. He began to talk, "Illyria. Step away from-"

"With all due respect, Alpha Logan, Keon wants to help us find Jess."

Alpha Logan growled stepping forward as though to challenge her, his Alpha power washing over but evidentally not having the desired effect. He began to growl but a hand on his shoulder stopped him, making him turn as though to protect something, someone. "Let him help Logan, Illyria isn't a stupid girl, i-if she trusts him, I do."

Illyria smiled at Rachel who looked much better wrapped in her mate's coat than she did when Illyria found her. Illyria felt her smile melt into nothing more than a grimace; regretting her hasty actions. She should've stayed with the Lunas, especially Luna Claire who was basically her mother. Her one track mind in that moment cost her that chance to help and guilt almost swallowed her whole. "Darling-"

"No Logan, trust her," Rachel uttered the phrase with an almost motherly command and as Alpha Logan groaned in defeat Illyria felt tempted to make a whip sound effect. Oh, the love of a mate bond, she sniggered. Alpha Logan straightened, bringing his arm around his mate and pulling her into his chest, he looked at Illyria, "we are packing up now, we leave in fifteen." His eyes shifted to Keon, sizing him up and pining him with a harsh glare. "You may help, but these are good people. Don't think I trust you."

Keon nodded stiffly, his face a blank and emotionless mask betraying nothing that he felt. Illyria wondered if that hurt his feelings, how Logan brushed him off. Many of the warrios began agrily whispering to eachother, shooting Keon daggers which he happily returned. Uneasily Illyria felt herself pulled forward into a tight hug by noneother than Pierce.

"Where is she?" Illyria asked, her eyes scouring the clearing for Luna Claire. Pierce sighed, "she's in bad shape Illyria." Illyria felt her heart clench but looked up at him with pleading eyes. "She's over there with Alpha Nick's Beta," his arm pointed to a figure weighed down with a coat that was much too large and huddled on the ground. Illyria felt her feet move in that direction and she took two steps before stopping and turning back to Keon.

"I'll be right back, are you okay with staying here?" Keon just shrugged, Illyria bit her lip, "Alright, just," she sighed, looking out at the uneasy men around the clearing, she turned back to Keon. "Just say out of trouble," A ghost of a smirk danced across Keon's lips and he nodded, "as you wish Luna." She scoffed and chuckled, turning away and walking to the other side of the clearing towards Luna Claire.

As she neared the motherly figure she slowed, seeing Luna Claire slumped over, covered in dirt and dried blood, it yanked at her heart strings. Taking a steadying breath she approached slowly, finally drawing the attention of Luna Claire and the Beta. Luna Claire's eyes widened before she jumped up, surprisingly quickly and pulling Illyria ino a hug tigher than Illyria thought possible.

Illyria released the tension in her muscles, wrapping her arms around Luna Claire's shoulders and squeezing gently. Luna Claire sighed, "oh, Illyria my darling," there was a sadness in her voice and Illyria tightened her grip. "I'm-" tears started to well in Illyria's eyes and Luna Claire started rubbing calming circles on her back, 'shushing' her quietly. "I'm so sorry," Illyria finally whispered, nestling her face into the crook of Luna Claire's neck, inhaling her familiar and calming scent. "It's not your fault," Luna Claire whispered back, her voice cracking as she too began to cry. "I feel like-"

A loud growl and the sound of cracking bones filled the clearing, men began to yell and Illyria turned to face the spectacle. Keon stood with his hands by his sides, another warrior growling at him in wolf form. Keon begins to growl back, the disrespect causing his wolf to push to the surface. Illyria felt her chest tighten. Luna Claire let go of her grip on Illyria, who then rushed forward only to be stopped by Pierce.

"Let them go Ill," Pierce warned as Illyria struggled in his arms, her eyes wide as she watched the warrior wolf lunge at Keon. She was struck as she watched them move, that it was much like a dance. One lunge, a dodge, a swipe of a paw, the low growls, the pounding of heavy paws on the ground, the breaking of bones as Keon shifted. Illyria felt herself growing frustrated, her pleas drowned out by the growls of the duelling wolves and the encouraging cheers of the others.

Illyria felt something snap inside of her, her wolf reaching the surface in an almost feral way. "Stop!" Illyria yelled, her voice echoing through the trees as the men paused. Her yell caught Pierce by surprise and his grip loosened, she took advantage of it by pushing him to the side and stalking forward until she stood right infront of the two duelling wolves. The warrior bowing to the ground and revealing his neck in a surrender while Keon sat on his haunches, watching her curiously.

"You should all be ashamed of yourselves," Illyria yelled again, her voice taking on a darker tone as she turned to face the spectators. "He is an ally," Illyria growled, her eyes slowly turning green once more, not as light a green as usual, reminding the men that her wolf was still present. "He's here to help us."

"We don't need the help!" One of the warrior's yelled, earning a few cheers from some of the warriors; most of them standing quietly looking both ashamed and frightened as their Luna stood scolding them. "If that is what you truly believe then you are a fool," Illyria growled again, turning to face the yeller. "He has done nothing to you-" Illyria turned back to the warrior who initiated the fight, "and what did you do? You attacked him." Illyria ran her hands over her cheeks, turning back to the spectators, "Is this how you treat our allies?" She looked from face to face, no one daring enough to meet her eyes, "that's what I thought."

Illyria began to push through the crowd of spectators towards Luna Claire, "absolutely morons," she muttered, shaking her head as she approached Luna Claire, who looked at her with a mix of pride and amusement. When Illyria noticed the look she raised her eyebrows, "what?" she bit out, rolling her eyes as she watched the men scurrying around getting their gear. "That was quite a show," Luna Claire commented, grabbing Illyria's hand and squeezing it tight. "You're going to be a wonderful Luna."

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