“He’s in Sweden?” I raised an eyebrow.
“No, he’s still here,” Leif shook his head. “The pack is in Sweden.”
“I don’t understand. Why is he still here? If they’re gone, why didn’t he just come home?” I asked, and Leif and Ezra exchanged a look. “What? Why won’t Peter leave?” I looked at Ezra since Leif didn’t answer.
“Us,” Ezra said thickly. “The pack will track him if he leaves and follow him back to us.”
“If they’re so good at tracking, then why haven’t they killed him yet?” I asked, ignoring the implications.
If they could follow him across the Atlantic, then they could find one vampire in their own territory. Why would they leave him alive, especially after all this time?
“They like to play with their food,” Ezra said, and Leif looked at the ground. “They want him to wait in fear, wondering when they’re going to strike, jumping at every noise. Eventually, he’ll either go mad or come home, which is a prize itself.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked as nausea welled up inside me.
“Why don’t you explain it to her?” Ezra growled at Leif.
“It’s not my idea.” Leif looked ashamed. “I’m here, telling you this, at risk to myself.”
“You didn’t do anything to stop it, did you?” Ezra took several steps toward him. This time, Leif didn’t back down. “You wouldn’t have said anything to us if you hadn’t seen us.”
“I couldn’t stop it! I can’t go up against them.” Leif shook his head. “This is my pack. Peter’s just a stupid, arrogant…”
Leif rubbed his neck, and Ezra sighed, repressing his urge to fight him. Regardless of what Leif had or hadn’t done, he was the only one trying to help now. If we were going to find Peter, he’d be our best bet.
“I still don’t understand what you want with keeping Peter alive,” I said.
“Peter has a death wish, otherwise he wouldn’t be here,” Leif explained. “Killing him would give him satisfaction, and they want him to suffer. They’ll make him watch as they kill everything he cares about. That’s his real punishment. Gunnar won’t even kill him in the end, because sometimes, living forever is worse.”
Jack, Milo, and Mae were sitting at home, alone, unguarded. Ezra and Peter were here, thousands of miles away from them. A cold shudder ran through me.
“Are you sure the pack’s in Sweden?” I asked, hearing my voice tremble. “They didn’t go anywhere else?” Ezra caught onto what I was saying and narrowed his eyes at Leif.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Leif looked bewildered, but then it dawned him. “No! They didn’t think you had anything to do with Peter. If they did, they would’ve killed you already, and left your bodies for him to find.”
“We need to get out of here,” I said. Even if he was telling the truth, the thought had been put in my head, and I was desperate to see Jack, to know he was safe.
“Where is Peter?” Ezra asked.
“I can tell you the area he’s in, but I can’t take you there,” Leif said. “They’ll smell my scent mixed with yours, leading you to him.”
“Where is he?” Ezra repeated.
“He’s about a kilometer and a half east, past a small lake. He’s been hiding in a little cave in the ground.” Leif pointed in the direction he’d told us, the direction he’d been walking from.
Without waiting for me, Ezra raced towards Peter. I knew I’d have to rush to keep up with him, but I paused. Leif looked so apologetic and forlorn, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to him.
It wasn’t until that moment, when I looked directly at him, that I realized what it was that I liked so much about him. He had eyes just like my brother’s.
“Thank you,” I told him earnestly.
“Just go. Get him. Get out of here.”
Ezra was already a blur in the trees ahead of me. He had a far better sense of direction than I did, so I had to catch up with him.
I’d made great strides in grace lately, but at this speed, it became impossible to maintain. I slipped and stumbled over everything and hit my head on several branches. By the time I came to the small lake, I was covered in snow and pine needles.
Ezra stopped sharply, and I didn’t notice him until it was too late. I slid on the ice and slammed right into him, which was like running into a brick wall. Bouncing off his back, I fell to the ground. I crouched, preparing to stand up, but then I glimpsed something through Ezra’s legs and I froze.
His eyes were unmistakable, but they were even greener than I remembered. Peter stood a few feet in front of Ezra, looking mangy. His chestnut hair hung down to his shoulders, growing several inches in the last few weeks. Thick stubble covered his face, but wasn’t quite a beard. His clothes were filthy and ragged, and Peter had always prided himself on his appearance.
He still looked gorgeous, and somehow, I had expected that to fade. But it turned out that he was just plain stunning, and that had nothing to do with whether I was bonded with him or not.
I waited, expecting that intense pull at the sight of him. But nothing happened. Even when his eyes briefly met mine, I never had to remind myself to breathe. He no longer captivated me.
“You brought her?” Peter asked Ezra, but it wasn’t lined with that familiar disgust and contempt he tried to hold for me. Instead, he sounded nervous and concerned.
“She insisted on coming,” Ezra said.
An odd tension brewed between them. I had thought Ezra would just come up and say something like, “Alright, that’s enough Peter, let’s go home” but he barely said anything. He almost seemed afraid of Peter.
I stood up and brushed myself off. Hiding on the ground behind Ezra just didn’t feel right.
“She can’t fight them,” Peter said. When I came around Ezra, he avoided looking at me
“We’re not here to fight,” Ezra said.
“Did you come here to die then?” Peter looked pained and pale under the moonlight, and his words echoed off the trees around us. Somewhere, the owl hooted and took flight again, sending shivers down my spine.
“Peter,” Ezra tried to reason with him, but Peter wanted nothing to do with it.
“I can’t believe you did this. I’ve been staying here, going through all of this, so they would stay away from you. They’re going to kill you, Ezra! Do you understand that? They’re going to kill you and Alice and everyone!” Peter paced, and he’d started to unravel.