Teddy knew something wasn’t right when he opened his eyes. His own body felt better than it had in ages—the pain was still there, but it had become something dull and easy to ignore. Grey was tucked into his side on the bed, her warm breath tickling the little hairs on the nape of his neck.
Alex was in the room, too, sprawled out on the armchair by the window with his mouth hanging open in the unselfconscious manner of sleep. Early morning light filtered through the blue curtains, painting the room a cool shade. It looked overcast still, but not the raging storm it had been the last time Teddy remembered waking up.
“You’re awake,” said a voice and Teddy glanced over to find Kol standing in the doorway. He looked solemn as he regarded Teddy and the blonde immediately moved to sit up, fighting a groan as the movement shifted some of his injuries uncomfortably.
Kol didn’t tell him to take it easy; Teddy wasn’t sure if he was thankful for that (because injured or not, he wasn’t some invalid), or if it simply added to his unease. “What’s going on?”
“Your phone,” Kol said in explanation, which served only to confuse him more. Teddy reached for it on the bedside table, careful not to jostle Grey.
“What about it?” Teddy asked as he put in the password.
“There was a message,” Kol said, “I didn’t read it—just, the plants…they said it was serious.”
Teddy’s brows scrunched together as he finally noticed that there were plants on the table as well—a cactus, it looked like, with a smaller grassy-looking one beside it. “Your plants can read text messages?”
Kol shrugged. “I don’t know if they read so much as understand when things are about to get serious. It’s…complicated,” Kol explained. “Plants are good at finding connections, or roots, I guess. They seem to know that whatever is on your phone is going to change things.”
“Interesting,” Teddy began, trying to quiet his pounding heart as he finally opened his text messages. Sure enough, there was a message from Ariana and the words seemed to still his heart and send his brain cascading down a tunnel of fear so strong, he wasn’t sure how he managed to continue breathing.
Shepherd has Julian.
“Grey!” he shouted, and the girl nearly shot out of bed at the urgency in his tone. Alex, too, startled out of sleep, groggily rubbing at his face. “We have to go.”
Teddy wasn’t anywhere near ready to get out of bed. Nevertheless, he started pushing himself up from the mattress. Kol barely managed to catch him before his legs bent dangerously beneath him. “Jesus, Teddy—how much do you weigh?” he groaned, shifting Teddy’s arm so that it was across his shoulders.
“What’s going on?” Grey asked, tripping in her haste to get out of bed and help hold Teddy up. Alex helped steady her.
“Jules…” Teddy gasped, tears stinging his eyes. How had they been so stupid? Of course Shepherd was going to use Jules against them; they knew he would. They’d even said it was a possibility the night before, when they were planning their next steps. Instead of taking steps to get him safe, however, they’d decided sleep was more important at the time. They thought they had more time than this. How could they be so wrong? And now Julian was going to pay the price. “Shepherd has him. He…he must have somehow taken him from the hospital. Oh god, what are we going to do?”
Grey’s face paled at the realization. “No…” she gasped.
“Did she send anything else?” Kol said, ever the voice of reason. “A location?”
Teddy handed his phone to Kol, who looked at the confusing jumble of a map she had sent following the message about Shepherd having Julian. Clearly, she wasn’t going to make this easy. But more than that, how did she even know about where he was? There was only one possibility, and none of them wanted to admit it: Ariana must be working for Shepherd. She probably had been all along. It was a wonder that she had actually saved Teddy, instead of delivering him directly to her master. Teddy suddenly remembered her telling him to thank the others for her—he realized now what she had meant. It was because Shepherd hadn’t known that willing sacrifices were more effective in passing on power, and they had given her the missing piece of a puzzle they didn’t know she was working to put together. He knew now why her smiles had seemed poisonous to him. They had left their friend, their best friend, in the hands of Shepherd’s lackey for what—a month? Five weeks? And none of them had even thought, not once, that she might be connected to the supernatural in a bad way. They’d trusted her implicitly because she’d been taking care of Julian all along.
“He’s too weak still,” Alex said solemnly, giving his friends a sympathetic look. “There’s no telling…even if we rush out right now and get him back, we don’t know he’ll be okay. You need to be prepared for that.”
“Fuck you,” Teddy spat in a rare display of aggression. “There is no ‘preparing’ for something like that. How could you even…”
“Teddy,” Grey said, her voice trembling but with just the edge of Lycan authority painting the word. “He’s just trying to help.”
“Maybe instead of telling us that our friend might be dead no matter what we do, he can come up with a solid plan that will help us succeed instead?” Teddy said, patronizing. “Wouldn’t that be more helpful?”
Alex’s cheeks tinged a light pink and he quickly looked down, effectively chastised.
“Know what else isn’t helpful?” Kol chirped in. “Standing around yelling at each other. If we’re going to make it to this place, and be in fighting shape, we need to get started. Alex, can you make a poultice or something so that Teddy’s injuries won’t slow him down too much? He’s already on his way to healing, so it should be more effective now than it was before.”
“Y-yeah,” Alex said, perking up at the thought of being useful. “I can do that.”
Alex scurried downstairs. Kol sat Teddy back down on the bed. “We’re not going to be able to do anything if we rush off half-cocked. You sit here, wait for the poultice, and when that’s all set up we’ll head out. I know the place—I can get us close.”
“What about me?” Grey said. “What should I do?”
“I want you to help me find weapons. Magic is helpful, and so is being a werewolf, but considering that our opponent is a stronger werewolf than we currently have and can have any number of allies we don’t know about, having weapons might give us the edge.”
“What kind of weapons?” Grey asked uncertainly.
“Why? Have something in mind but afraid to say it?” Kol asked.
Teddy glanced between them, not sure what kind of weapon they could be talking about. He wanted to get going; he needed to get to Jules. What could he be going through now? Was he even still alive? He had to be; he served no purpose to Shepherd dead. He wasn’t sure if that was comforting or not though; there were worse things than being dead.
Grey sighed. “Silver collars,” she said eventually. “The ones that witches used to use to control us. I don’t know how Shepherd survived the silver poisoning, but it’s the only weapon I can think of that might actually hurt him. For all we know, though, he’s immune to silver now.”
Kol was shaking his head. “There’s no way. He may be tougher and able to handle a lot more, but those collars are enchanted. Even if the silver alone isn’t enough to hurt him, they will prevent him from transforming at the very least. I think I know where to find some, too.”
“You do?” Grey asked, narrowing her eyes. Teddy wasn’t sure how he felt about that information, either.
“We had to be prepared…you know, in case it came to war,” Kol said, looking almost repentant. “So…Alex and I may know a guy.”
As if summoned by his name, Alex arrived, carrying a cauldron that smelled horrible. Teddy and Grey both made faces at the assault on their noses. “What the hell is that?” Teddy asked.
“Poultice,” Alex admitted. “It smells bad, but it’s really effective.”
Kol took Grey’s arm. “You take care of that. Make sure all his wounds are dressed. Grey and I are going to go get the collars. We should be back soon, and then we’ll all head out.”
Teddy wanted to argue. He wanted to say they didn’t have time for all this. But if he was going to be of any use to Julian, he had to let Alex treat his wounds and they needed weapons. He knew the next few days were going to be hell. He just hoped they could manage to survive it and get Julian out alive.
“Let’s do it,” he said.