Though I  sometimes more than reluctant to admit it, there are a lot of advantages to being a werewolf.  Granted I was crouching bloody, bruised and sore, in the bushes of some random backyard because of what I was, but at least I was alive, and for that I was not complaining. There’s nothing like a near-death experience to make you grateful for what you have, and right now I was glad the lycanthropy I’d been born with meant that I could withstand such a brutal beating from my so-called pack. Glad that the wounds all over my body would fade away without a trace, without even a scar to remind me that I had nearly died. Hours ago- though in my mind it felt like more than that- I had dragged my broken body away from my attackers with much help from the wolf who shared part of my soul. Like I said, there were a lot of advantages. Now here I was; as wholly intact as I could possibly be, about to risk my life again and attempt for the fourth time to break into some strange human’s house.

Why? I mean, I’m a werewolf, right? Why would I need to break into a human’s house, when all I had to do was shift and find my way on four paws?  Everything I could possibly need to survive could be found in my wolf form; I would be warm and protected from the cold that pressed at me from all sides as I hid in the tiny backyard, my toes wriggling in the dirt to keep the blood flowing to them. Aside from that there was plenty of vermin around to satisfy my hunger if I was really that desperate. Which, to be totally honest, I wasn’t. My wolf might appreciate it, but I wasn’t fond of dead bird or rat. Or cat, for that matter, as my ears pricked up to the sound of one yowling mournfully a few yards over. I sniffed the air excitedly, taking only a moment to catch the scent of the cat. It was male, and a territorial one at that. Fairly young too, which meant he would probably fight rather than run. I grinned in the darkness. He would be fun to chase…

I shook my head in an attempt to clear it, wincing as the movement re-opened a gash on my neck. See Lacey, that’s what happens when you get distracted. I couldn’t help it. With the full moon so close and my body already fighting to heal, it was taking more effort than usual to keep my wolf under control. Especially in a place with so many scents floating like cotton candy in the air…

I raised a hand to my neck and felt the stickiness of drying blood. The gash had already sealed over again, but it like all my other wounds was taking too long to heal. I was so tempted to become wolf; it would be a lot faster than healing as a human, but that little luxury would put me in a worse situation. To shift forms right now would more than likely get me caught. And then killed, if I was lucky. I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that there were wolves following my scent at this very moment, and shifting would send out a burst of magical energy that they would sense within a few kilometres radius. I had already made that mistake a few hours earlier, and if I hadn’t been able to make such a quick getaway, I had no doubt that I would be dead. So no more shifting, at least not until I’d gotten rid of my pursuers. If I wanted to escape I had to do it in the boring, old fashioned human way, and that meant blending into my surroundings and running as fast as I could with my (not so proverbial) tail between my legs. Easier said than done.

The small red-bricked house I was eyeing stood dark and deserted in front of me as I ran my plan over again in my mind. First things first; I needed to find a shower to wash off the all the blood I was covered in. A creek or river would have done just fine, but the only one I’d come across had been badly polluted by oil that had probably come off the road in a recent rain shower. I’d figured if all signs of life had deserted the little pond it was probably a good idea for me to do the same. I would have come out of the water covered in gunk and oil, and looking even worse than before. It was bad enough already that I looked like something straight out of a gory slasher movie, and if I wanted to move around unnoticed by humans, well then the blood just had to go. At least I was no longer leaving a crimson trail where I walked.

It was a silver lining, right? My stomach roared defiantly in reply, the pain almost making me double over for a moment. I was so starving from trying to heal myself as quickly as it was possible in my human form that my control really was lessening and I was at risk of going full blown wolf in the middle of suburbia, which was a bad idea in more ways than I could count. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to control my wolf if she did emerge to take over for a while. Hungry predator werewolf plus soft, vulnerable and unsuspecting human’s equals… you get the picture. Not good. If I did lose control I would be putting unknown lives at risk, as well as my own. Though admittedly, there’s not much that can kill my kind, and humans weren’t all that equipped to kill with their bare hands anyway. Their nails were too brittle; their teeth not sharp enough, their skin too pink and soft. Of course, they had their guns. Humans are in the habit of shooting things they don’t understand, especially if that thing was a wolf bigger than a bear with long sharp teeth and claws. A bullet to the brain would take me down, but unless it was silver, I would heal. I would also be vulnerable and susceptible to an attack from those chasing me. It would be kind of ironic for me to have survived so far only to be brought by a human. Not the ‘ha ha’ kind of irony, the kind that makes you want to kick things. Repeatedly.

I shivered a little in the bushes and looked up at the slightly cloudy sky. I was far enough from the city that I could see a spread of flickering stars and the bright, lovely moon. It was only a week until the full moon; something I usually welcomed. This time around, however, the moon’s presence couldn’t be any more inconvenient. Werewolves lose control at the full moon, and since my control was already wavering…. *insert scene from one of those black and white horror movies, the kind with the screaming violins playing in the background*.  Get the picture?

Besides all that, my clothes were quite literally ripped to shreds. My jumper was so frayed that you could see bare patches of my pale, blood-stained skin in some places, gleaming eerily in the moonlight as it flickered in and out of the light smattering of clouds. Underneath the jumper my singlet was long gone and my underwear was practically non-existent. That was another reason why I was hiding in the itching leaves. I was pretty sure there was some kind of law against exposing too much skin in public. At least my pants were still partially intact. Well, they were better off than my jumper anyway. I had ripped the bottom of my jeans off at the knee when they’d hindered my running, and now my shins were a mess of healing cuts and bruises.

In retrospect, it was no wonder why it had been so hard to hitchhike here. Exhausted from running, I had stopped to shift back to human in a strip of dense trees that grew along a highway. If I hadn’t been able to flag down a man in his run-down green Toyota Ute, I would have been caught. I’d almost been able to feel my pack breathing down my neck, and in my panic I hadn’t stopped to check my appearance. The blood had run out of the elderly man’s face so fast when I’d climbed into the passenger seat next to him that I’d thought he was going to pass out over the wheel. He seemed to have been made of tougher stuff though, and to give him credit he hadn’t kicked me out and sped away, tired squealing, like I’d expected him to. I can turn on that whole ‘helpless-young-woman’ facade when I need to though, my black eye making me look even more vulnerable and terrified. He’d even offered to take me to a hospital and call my family. Of course I couldn’t tell him that I’d never been in a human hospital because I was a werewolf, or that the only kind of family I had left were out to kill me.

So I’d politely refused his kindness several times, but thanked him when he dropped me off in this little suburban area about an hour before sunset. He’d offered food, money, but I didn’t want to involve him in my life any more than I had to. The men in my pack didn’t hold much regard for human life, and would have no issue with killing him once they’d found out all they could. I couldn’t have that on my consciousness. Despite the myths and legends, not all of us werewolves are monsters.

I moved again and tried not to make a noise as a bout of pins and needles attacked my legs. I don’t know how long I’d been crouching there, building up the courage to move out of my hiding spot and towards the house. I needed to break into it soon so I could shower, eat and find some clothes before the couple made their return. Yeah, I know I should feel guiltier, but it wasn’t like I was going to steal their television or anything; I had no interest in money, just some basic necessities. My wolf and I could live without materialistic things. In fact, my wolf didn’t want for anything but a place to sleep and something small and furry to hunt and sink her teeth into. The thought made my stomach growl again painfully in reminder. I had to do this, and hope karma didn’t kick me in the shins for it later. I promised myself that I would feel more shame for what I was about to do when I was showered, fed, and not running for my life.

I shivered again- more violently this time- sending the bushes I was hiding in into a rustling frenzy. Mosquitoes, usually less common in these colder winter months, were suddenly swarming around me, attracted to all the blood on my skin and beneath it. Werewolf blood isn’t as sweet as human blood, but they didn’t seem to mind the difference as they began their ferocious, unrelenting attacks. I swatted at a couple as they bit me on the more sensitive parts of my skin and pushed a black mass of tangled hair from my eyes. The street I was in was relatively quiet, and the young couple who owned the house had left ages ago, unknowingly leaving me huddled in their backyard. They had no dog- not that it would be a problem for me if they did- and from what I could see they had no kind of security system. Excellent. The first house I’d tried had had a burglar alarm that I’d accidentally set off trying to get through an open window; the piercing warning sound had kept my ears ringing even as I surveyed my next target. Sensitive hearing and high frequency alarms were not a good mix for werewolves, but I would not make that mistake again, not now that I knew what to look for. It was now or never. I listened intently, hearing nothing but a slight rustling as the air caressed the trees with icy fingers, and of course, my own slightly erratic heartbeat. Since my body was trying to recover from my bashing, my heart was beating a little faster than usual, pumping that wonderful healing magic all the way to the tips of my fingers and slightly numb toes. Of course, the adrenaline I was gaining from breaking into houses might have had something to do with it. It wasn’t every day I broke the law. Granted, it wasn’t every day I nearly died, either.

Sigh. My name is Lacey Corvell, and as you can see, I’m in a hell of a lot of trouble.




Winter is a nothing kind of event in the usually heated city of Brisbane. It was cold, but because of the constant humidity in the air, it never snowed, and so being outside was quite bearable. Soothing, in fact, after the long and stifling summer I’d endured miserably. Still, though lycanthrope temperatures ran higher than normal humans and our skin always felt like we were running a mild fever, it was evident that tonight was going to get a lot colder. I could feel it in the icy air as I breathed it in; there was a crispness to it as it filled my lungs that was only detectable in the colder winter months. I would most definitely need something warmer than the tattered remains of my clothing since I had to spend my time in human form.  So when it came to breaking into someone’s home, I really had no choice. I know I was just trying to make myself feel better for breaking the human’s laws. It wasn’t like it was something I was used to, at least, not outside of my pack. Pack law was different, and human police were never involved in our matters. But I was in the human’s world now, and I had to be wary. I would only take from the deserted house what I needed, and hope that stopping for a short while to clean myself up would not give my hunters  an advantage. I was pretty sure I’d lost them at the highway; werewolves could run fast but I doubted they could have kept up with a truck going over a hundred kilometres an hour. They had been injured too, just not as badly as me. It gave me some kind of vicious satisfaction to know I’d been able to hurt them, even if it had been four against one.

The couple whose house I’d been eyeing had been gone for long enough for me to be sure they weren’t coming back, and I couldn’t delay any longer. The occupants in the previous house had come back just as I’d been attempting to raid their fridge and I’d had to bolt again. I’d had no luck so far, but every wolf deserves a break, right? If I had room inside me amongst the fear and anger to feel more apprehension at what I was about to do I would have, but this was about surviving now. I had to keep my human emotions to the side and let my wolf’s instincts take control, and that meant there would be no room for guilt or sympathy. There would be plenty of time for that later, if I lived.

Half bent over so I presented as small a target as possible, I shifted silently forward in the darkness and was rewarded with ghostly remnants of pain as branches scraped my side. The gash that had nearly exposed the contents of my stomach had mostly healed, but I still winced in memory of it. I could still feel the claws as they cut me open with no mercy, only rage. They hadn’t even given me the chance to shift out of my weak, human form; instead they attacked me as four, fully grown men, one of them becoming wolf so he could use those razor sharp claws against my flesh. My heart raced faster in my chest as flashes of the fight burst in my mind, making me choke on air as I remembered my throat being torn. I would have been able to handle one of them on my own, maybe even two, and only because I’d grown up having to fight for my place. But four? That wasn’t a fair fight- that was murder. I was lucky to have escaped, though my mind was still hazy trying to remember exactly how I escaped. The last thing I could recall was feeling the soft skin on my stomach being ripped open and thinking that finally, it was the end. In that kind of situation, death is all you can wish for to stop the pain. I’d wanted them to just hurry up and finish it already, but that wasn’t their intention, not when they’d been waiting for the opportunity for so long. If they wanted to simply kill me, they would have put a silver bullet in my brain, or for something a little more painful, my heart. They had wanted me to cry, scream, beg, and plead. I didn’t give them the satisfaction, even before one of them ripped my throat out.

After a while nothing hurt anymore, and it was like I was there but not there, knowing I was still receiving blows but not feeling them. It was almost peaceful, those few moments. Then my wolf took over as the human part of me finally lost consciousness, and when I came to she was running as though her life depended on it- which it did- wounds and all. Even with one broken leg she kept going. She had always been the stronger part of my soul.


Most werewolves would have preferred death than escape; a wolf without a pack is nothing, and a wolf that has been exiled might as well be dead. A pack is meant to be closer knit than family, meant to be there as a lifeline. I’d never been all that close to the other members of my pack or its new Alpha, which is why I seemed to be surviving the exile. A lot of wolves who were disconnected in such a complete and final way seemed to lose a little of themselves as the pack ties were ripped from them. But here I was, alive and still kicking. Well, not kicking exactly, but you get my point.

I shook my head and brought myself back to the present and all its problems. Scanning the yard one last time, I stalked low to the ground towards the back of the house, my bare feet making no noise on the dew drenched grass. The aroma of the people who lived there slowly filled my nose, but it was slightly stale, and that reassured me all the more. I imagined it wouldn’t be a comforting sight for anyone if they saw me in this horrific state. Blood had flattened my hair to my skull and dried that way hour’s ago, and every time I moved crusty reddish brown flakes of it fell around me. Any normal person’s reaction would be to either scream, run, or attack- and I really didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I knew they were out there somewhere still looking for me, or at least my body.


As I climbed the back steps, I was delighted to find a door that had a dog flap, and it appeared to be big enough for me to squeeze through. Finally, something seemed to be going my way. I was sick of scrambling up onto window ledges to find security screens, scraping my shins on bricks and concrete, and though I’d spotted a window to my left without one, smashing a window felt too risky. The noise could easily alarm a neighbour, and if the police came… well like I said, I looked like something from a horror film. How would I explain my appearance? Werewolves were still living very much hidden among the human race, and as far as I knew, none had the desire to expose us to the humans. Werewolves, and other shape shifters, weren’t as glamorous as other preternatural creatures like vampires or fey, and in the past my kind was regarded with fear and treated like vicious monsters.  People tended to want to kill what they didn’t understand, so I did not want the attention of any local law enforcement- or their guns.

Unfortunately, it seemed my luck ended at the presence of the dog flap. While it did not have a lock, the owners had boarded it up with planks of wood from the inside, probably to stop stray cats from entering and marking their territory. I sighed internally; I was going to have to break something after all, but at least it wasn’t a window. Glass shattering in the silent night was much more likely to get attention; it screamed burglary. So I squared my shoulders, and sent a fist straight through the wood. It instantly splintered and buckled and I froze, straining my ears for any sound of movement or alarm. There was nothing but the lethargic chirping of insects and the sound of a car passing on the road at the front of the house. I closed my eyes and took two deep breaths to calm myself, then proceeded to remove the remains of the planks quickly and easily. Once the dog flap was clear I pushed my head inside, and at first glance I could tell that I was in a laundry. A slightly rusty washing machine was churning in front of me, making a whirring noise as it spun the clothes inside it. The sharp odour of washing powder stung my nose and made me sneeze several times before I could silence myself by covering my mouth with a slightly dirty hand. The scent of human was stronger, but it still had that staleness to it that told me the house was empty. I could also tell a lot more couple that lived there; there were two distinct scents, one male and the other female, with a slight trace of sickness underlying the females’.  They were probably in their mid-twenties, and the musky tang of sweat told me that one or both spent a lot of time exercising. There was also the faint scent of a cat in the air, and my wolf perked up. She’d found something small to play with, and if it didn’t want to play, well she could always eat it instead. I shook my head again to clear it. My sense of smell wasn’t as strong when I was human, but it was still distracting. I could have sat there with my head inside the house all night and analysed the scents bombarding my nose, but I couldn’t afford to linger, and I felt incredibly vulnerable with my butt sticking out into the night. Instinct told me I had to keep running, that I wasn’t quite safe yet. And my instinct was always right.


I pushed the rest of my body easily through the flap, ignoring the slight pain as my hips scraped along the sides. I am quite petite, and all my life people have mistaken that for weakness, that is until I proved them otherwise. I’m not small in that fragile, pre-pubescent-boy kind of way; I have my womanly curves, I just didn’t grow that tall. It was a disadvantage growing up around men who towered over you and thought that meant they could push you around. Still, for once I was glad of my small stature as I crawled through on my hands and knees, ignoring the bits and pieces of wood that clung to me and stabbed through the skin of my legs. I cleared the door and pulled my stiff muscles into a full standing position, the cold, green and blue patterned tiles soothing on my sore feet. I kicked the bits and pieces of wood into a small pile by the dog flap; just because I was breaking in didn’t mean I had to make a mess of the place. Some of the smaller splinters jabbed into the soft skinned arch of my foot, but I didn’t care. They would come out when I healed.

I finally got all the pieces together, rubbing a hand across my eyes as I looked at the room around me. The small enclosed room was making me feel nice and claustrophobic, its blue green walls seeming to close in on me as I stood there. My wolf reared up in my mind; she wanted me to run, fight, whatever needed to be done to get out of the small space and be free. I tried to take no notice of the adrenaline pumping through me and moved towards a plain white painted door, twisting the doorknob with a slightly sweaty hand and swinging it open, sighing with relief as an empty hallway greeted me. My wolf calmed, and though I was no longer struggling against the ‘fight or flight’ instinct, I still carried the wolf’s natural weariness. People see wolves and think they are aggressive creatures, but in truth they are very shy and mistrusting of humans. I usually had much more control over my wolf, but I was a little more on edge than usual. I was using all my energy to heal instead of controlling my wolf. It meant I had to get what I needed and get out of suburbia- fast, before my body forced the shift upon me.

It had only been a few hours since my near-death, but it felt like a lifetime and then some. I hadn’t even had time to properly mourn my father’s passing. Pretty much as soon as the position of Alpha had been given over to Merrick, he had propositioned me in a way that my only choice was to leave the pack, my home, my father’s territory. At the time he’d taken my rejection pretty well, as though it hadn’t meant much to him either way. I’d always been bullied behind my father’s back, but it was still a shock to find out Merrick had given the orders for my death. Had sent his followers to attack.


I padded down the carpeted hallway, savouring the softness and hoping I wasn’t leaving tracks on the clean whiteness as I looked around at the little arty sculptures and vases full of fake flowers that were perched here and there on little wooden tables . The house felt a lot bigger than it had seemed from the outside, but maybe it was just because I wasn’t meant to be there. There were several identical doors along the way, and I opened them as I went along, peeking into the rooms curiously. In five minutes I’d come across a study, a spare bedroom and a room that was full of all kinds of exercise equipment. I had been right about them being exercise addicts- the thought bringing a triumphant grin to my face- but I couldn’t keep my head in the room for long before the sour scent of human sweat forced me back to fresher air. I continued down the hallway, keeping the lights off because turning them on was too much of a gamble; though enough moonlight shone through the windows anyway. Besides, my vision was much stronger than a human’s. Another little werewolf advantage.

The next door I opened I found a large closet full of bags and suitcases; I spent a few minutes rummaging through them until I discovered an ancient looking, dust covered black and navy backpack. It had been shoved away up on the top shelf and smelled old, so I figured it wouldn’t be missed. I shook it out a little before I slung it over my shoulder and continued my search, looking curiously at the photo frames that were arranged here and there on the walls. Most of them were of the young couple, smiling in various poses and scenarios. She was a slender, model-like blonde-hair-blue-eyed combo, but even in the photo’s there was a strong glint of intelligence in her eyes. And it wasn’t hard to see that the man loved her deeply, his hazel eyes always on her. My stomach wrenched painfully, and I had to tear my gaze away from them. The less I knew, the less guilty I would feel, simple as that. It sounds callous doesn’t it? Well, sometimes I had to be callous. It’s how I survived so long.

The next door revealed unceremoniously what had to be the main bedroom. While the man’s scent was strong in here, the room could have passed as a young girl’s. The decor was predominantly white lace and pretty pink things and delicate pillows. The huge bed resembled a fluffy fake pink wedding cake, minus the bride and groom. It was all layers of pink and white blankets and cushions and teddy bears, and it looked… uncomfortable. Sickly. Though, that may have just been my imagination. Even the pink lace curtains matched the baby pink wallpaper and the off-white carpet. Good grief.

Once again, I got that whiff of sickness, but I pushed it out of my mind. I didn’t want to know anything more about these people then I had to, but still, a part of me wondered if she knew she was sick.  Then I saw several pill containers positioned on a white lace doily on one of the bedside tables, and my question was answered. Pity swirled in my stomach before I could push it away. Lycanthropes never get sick, and they can’t contract the deadly diseases like human’s can. Which is why it is discouraged for wolves to take a human mate; they age a million times faster, and can die so much more easily. Werewolves age normally until we hit puberty and the rest of our powers emerge. My father had been nearly a hundred and sixty when he’d passed, yet he’d only looked to be in his forties. Something her scent told me this woman wouldn’t ever reach that age.

I didn’t go near the pill containers. I didn’t want to know.

There were two separate doors in the large bedroom, and the first I found to be a walk in wardrobe. Good; I dropped the newly acquired backpack in the doorway with the plan to come back and find some clothes after I was free of the dried blood; no point ruining the woman’s clothes; that would be just plain rude. The second door revealed what I had hoped for- a small bathroom- and I nearly cried with delight. Sure I needed food, but if I was desperate I could hunt. I wanted rid myself of all the dirt and all blood that clung to me, like a morbid reminder of all that had happened. Everything was a wonderfully clean, crisp white, from the shower bath to the pile of soft looking towels on the shelf next to the door. The mirror was large but plain and hung over a bench that had perfumes and makeup strewn around the basin. It was the only thing I’d seen in the house so far that was even slightly messy. But that wasn’t the point right now, and I was delaying the fact that I had to see myself in the mirror. Though I knew I looked a mess, I didn’t know just how horrible. I swallowed hard, and moved to face my reflection.

It was only my eyes that were really recognisable. One eye was a deep, honey-brown, like the colour of molten amber. The other was a shocking icy blue, peeking out from the swollen blackness. The rest of my face was covered in more blood than I had thought possible, caking in thick patches in some places. Some of it was mine, but I was proud that not all of it was. It had taken four, fully grown men… well, werewolves to take me down, and you’d better believe I’d left my marks on them. And that was part of the reason why Merrick had wanted me either as his mate or dead; because I was strong. Doesn’t make sense does it? Well female werewolves aren’t meant to be stronger than the males. Sounds sexist and outdated, but it’s how packs work, and it’s the reason why we’ve survived so long. There are three main levels in a werewolf pack; the top level is the Alpha, the head wolf. Without an Alpha a pack is lost, weak, and susceptible to being taken over by another pack. The alpha is the leader, and his word is law. The males are the Alphas, never the females; it is just how werewolves were made. The middle level is called beta; they are the fighters, the food bringers, and are always in competition to be the next seconds or thirds for the Alpha. The lowest level is omega, and they are pretty much there to follow orders. The female wolves can be omegas, but that’s about it. Our position in the pack is to breed and be protected, and the only time we are higher up than a male is if we’re mated, then we take the same position as our mate. The females are meant to be valued above all, because they are rare, and without them werewolves would have died out a long time ago. But because of some freak of nature (I know, werewolves alone are freaks of nature) I was born an alpha, and I was born to fight, to lead, and the men of the pack didn’t like that someone like me could beat them so easily. They hated me, and feared the potential of my power at the same time. Merrick, even before he’d become the new Alpha, had thought he could harness my power, that together we’d be the ultimate Alpha pair. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being his mate, and therefore being subservient to him. He didn’t want me because his wolf was attracted to mine; he wanted me for my power.

Merrick didn’t like be told he couldn’t have what he wanted.


My dark hair was long, almost to my waist, but so tangled and matted with blood that I couldn’t comb my fingers through it as I stood staring at my pale reflection A gash was still healing down one side of my face, but at least the bones in my cheek couldn’t be seen anymore, and it wouldn’t scar. Werewolves rarely scar, unless the wound is made by silver and goes untreated. Sick of staring at my healing wounds, I whisked off the remainder of my clothes and looked around the bathroom for a place to hide them. Sooner or later they would realise a stranger had been in their home, but I would rather that it was later, when I was long gone. That way if those who were chasing me came to question them, the couple would have no idea and the men would leave them alone. Hopefully. I ended up stashing my clothes, minus my underwear, behind the clothes basket that was next to the shower bath. I hesitated before turning on the water- the sound could mean that I would not hear if anyone came home, but it was what I came here for, and I had to get the wretched blood off my body. Everything else could wait. A girl has to be clean, right?


I turned the hot water on and breathed deeply as the steam rose to meet me, my hands turning slightly pink as the water grew hotter and hotter. The first thing I did was wash my underwear. I was fine borrowing a stranger’s clothes, using their shower and eating their food, but I drew the line at panties.  Besides, they were the only thing I had left that wasn’t torn to shreds. As part of the werewolf ‘magic’, clothes disappeared when we shifted, but for some reason sometimes our clothes didn’t survive the time we spent as wolves. Finally, when I was satisfied my underwear was clean; I wrung them free of water and hung them up over the shower railing so they could finish drying while I washed.  As soon as the boiling water hit my body, I could feel my muscles instantly relax, as though they’d been tied up in tightly wound knots. There was a light stinging as my wounds were cleansed and healed under the water; though it would take a day or two for my body to be fully mended after the beating I’d taken. It felt so good to let the scorching water saturate my hair and then run its course down to the tip of my toes, pooling for a moment before emptying down the drain.

Even though it was dark, I could see the water turn a rusty colour as it slithered off my pale skin, taking away all the dirt and blood with it. My hair fell down my back like liquid tar as the water untangled it, brushing over the still healing and sensitive skin on my back. At that moment I felt calm, for the first time since my father had passed, as that warmth covered me. All I wanted to do was stand there under the water for hours and hours, but soon my skin was tingling and itching with nervous energy, and I began fighting the urge to look over my shoulder at invisible predators. My instincts told me I was running out of time; I had to get out of this house and out of suburbia before my pack caught up with me, or the full moon did. I could feel my wolf pacing inside, eager to escape, eager to run, eager to hunt. How she longed to feel the earth beneath her paws again, longed to leave behind all the human problems and just… run. Life as a wolf was uncomplicated- I had lived as my other form a few times before- there were no human difficulties like money or enemies or anything like that. A wolf didn’t need guilt, or pity, and as predators there were few natural things that we were fearful of.  All a wolf really needed was a pack. A pack brought shelter, and food. Without a pack… well I’d done alright on my own so far. My wolf could live without others, as long as there was a place to run and be free. As soon as I thought of running through imaginary trees and underbrush, chasing some small furry creature, my wolf found a hole in her cage and squeezed through. It didn’t hurt, but the feeling was unpleasant, like my ribs were being squashed by a large invisible hand. I felt my canine teeth lengthen and my jaw shift to become wolfish. I looked down and saw that my nails had stretched and sharpened to develop into wicked claws. Crap. This was not supposed to happen. For starters, I was an Alpha; I was practically the epitome of control. Changing like this was to be expected of a new werewolf, a young werewolf, but I was born this way, and had learned to contain my power. This didn’t feel right, either. This wasn’t a full blown shift into wolf form, something every werewolf could do. This was the stronger, more monstrous half-and-half form that only the more powerful could achieve, the kind of form Hollywood portrayed in horror movies. Only I wasn’t doing it on purpose. And that was bad. Very, very bad.

I tried to concentrate on reining in my wolf, but it wasn’t working; too much adrenaline and werewolf magic was running through my veins, mingling in my blood. There was no time for this, and if anyone was following me they would now know exactly where I was. I ran my half-clawed hands through my hair, rushing now to rid myself of all the blood, bits of my hair falling to the wet tiles as my claws sliced through. Oh well, the hair would grow back- if I got caught, I would be losing more than my hair. The hot water wasn’t so comforting now, and the steam felt thicker and suffocating as it swirled around me, but I forced myself to stay there until the water ran clear.

The bath towels were soft, but I didn’t stop to appreciate them as I hurried to dry myself, running the towel through my hair a couple of times to soak up most of the moisture. There must have been remnants of blood in my hair because even in the low light I could see reddish stains on the otherwise clean white towels. Oops. So much for trying to make as little mess as possible. Soon I could feel the cotton beginning to rip under my nails, and I gave up trying, discarding the towel and moving back to the mirror to examine myself more closely. But as I scanned my reflection, I could see no signs of my wolf. What the? I opened my mouth, but my canines had retracted and there was nothing wolfish at all about my face. I held my hands up closer to my face so I could examine them properly, but it was clear that they were just human hands. My healing was also a lot further along than it should have been; the eye that had been black and puffy a moment before was now only surrounded by a faint shadow. All that remained of the scratches and gashes were thin, slightly raised pink lines barely visible on my skin. The room spun slightly around me. What was going on? As an Alpha I could heal faster than most, but certainly not this fast. I’d also never achieved the half-and-half form, and the only werewolf I’d known who could do it successfully was my father. I felt panic begin to bubble in the pit of my stomach; I was all alone, and I was experiencing uncontrollable changes. There was no one I could go to for help and even if there was anyone from my old pack who would be willing to help me, they were too far out of reach. Besides, if any of them were caught talking to me, they risked expulsion or punishment from the pack, even death. I was as good as dead to them.

I grabbed my underwear from the shower rail and walked naked back to the bedroom, leaving slightly wet footprints on the carpet. I should have stopped and cleaned them up, but I was no longer in the mood to be polite. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I was the kind of person who liked knowing. I hoped it was a one-time thing, but my gut told me it wouldn’t be, and the need to get out of suburbia grew. Not just because of the full moon, but because now I risked exposing myself to society. Not good. Not good, not good, not good.

In the wardrobe I managed to salvage an old pair of jeans and a shirt that wasn’t pink, thank god. I needed a bra, but it appeared the woman wasn’t very big in the chest department, and let me tell you there is nothing more painful than wearing a bra that is too small for you. The metal underwire digging into you is a right pain in the ass, and I would really rather go without. Okay, I get the irony; I can handle being nearly torn apart by my pack, but I can’t take a little pain from some ill-fitting underwear. Go figure.

I threw the clothes on hurriedly, and grabbed a couple more shirts and a jumper to shove into my stolen backpack. The jeans were a little long so I had to spend an annoying few minutes trying to roll them up to my ankles. Shoes? Nah, I had run through forest with bare feet so many times that the soles were calloused and hard. I could go without shoes as well.

I left the bedroom and wandered further towards the front of the house, keeping to the shadows as headlights from passing cars illuminated the rooms ahead of me.  The hallway gave way to a large living area that included a spotless, gleaming kitchen, and I moved eagerly in the direction of the fridge.  It beeped as the door opened and I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the light inside. My stomach roared in approval at the sight of food and it was all I could do to stop myself from just grabbing everything and shoving it into my mouth. The mental image made me giggle, the sound echoing slightly off the walls. I had to stay calm, keep my head clear. Even if there was so much food in front of me I was at risk of drooling on the clean kitchen floor.

The plate of cold chicken caught my eye first. I pulled it out eagerly and sat it on the counter, grabbing a piece and beginning to eat as I turned and started investigating the cupboards. The chicken was good, better than good, but I needed food that would last in case I found myself in a position like I was now. I found a box of biscuits and some muesli bars, and these I shoved hastily into my backpack with the spare clothes. Now that I had all that I needed, I could relax just a teensy bit. And eat.

A soft mewing dragged my attention from the food and I looked down, startled, to find a white fluffy cat sitting expectantly at my feet. I had been so involved with eating that I hadn’t heard or smelled the little creature approach. Frowning, I kneeled down and held out a hand to it, feeling surprised when the cat began rubbing its head against my hand. Most non-canines reacted with fear and aggression towards us; they knew what we were and that we weren’t, well, natural. But this cat was purring, a little bell on its collar tinkling slightly as it continued its show of affection. I couldn’t help smiling; at least something somewhere liked me, even if it was just a slightly overweight housecat. I stood and began to devour the chicken, breaking off little bits to feed to the little fluff ball, who ate them rather ferociously.

I felt bad when I finished off the plate, but I couldn’t deny that my stomach was quite satisfied. I’m sure the people who lived in the house wouldn’t mind if they knew their food was going towards a good cause, if keeping me alive was a good cause, but part of me wanted to leave them something in return. I didn’t even know these people, but I owed them substantially. Feeding their cat what had probably been their dinner would not win me favour points, but at least the cat was happy. It sat there cleaning itself slowly and contentedly. I felt slightly jealous of the simple creature; it had a comfortable home and was clearly well cared for. I had neither of those things.

I left the plate of bones on the kitchen counter because I couldn’t find a bin and, feeling very full and tired; I hoisted my backpack over my shoulder and made my way back towards the laundry and to freedom.




I smelled the werewolves before I saw or even heard them. Crap! I pressed against the closest wall, letting the shadows cover me as a fresh wave of adrenaline pumped through me. I could tell straight away who they were, and I knew they were after me. Pack. The familiar scent of them whirled around me and caused conflict between me and my wolf, making me feel safe and full of rage at the same time. Godammit! They had caught up to me faster than I’d expected. If I had been in wolf form I probably would have struggled to decide whether or not to wag my tail or growl menacingly with my teeth bared. But I had my human brain running right now, and I knew they weren’t really my pack anymore, despite the slight calming effect their scents still had on me. The human part of me had never felt safe in the pack, and that’s what helped me push away that urge to rejoin them. I hadn’t ever been close to the two wolves that were outside the door- too large to fit through the dog flap like I had- even before they had tried to kill me, and I wondered why they, of all werewolves, had found me. Justin and Ramirez were two of the dumbest- but cruellest- men I had ever had to endure; they were simply in the pack to be Merrick’s henchmen. All they had to do was fight and kill and let the other wolves do all the brain work. My father had never trusted them, and his instincts were always right. They were bad, right down to the core. If my father- and now Merrick- hadn’t been around to control them, they would have raised a death toll so high that we would have been exposed. Could I take them on? Most definitely. Did I want to? My wolf did; she was eager to sink her teeth into flesh again, eager to hurt them in revenge for what they’d done to me, but I knew this time I had to run, not fight. It was the smart thing to do. Yeah, I was afraid, but these men had nearly killed me. I crept forward along the wall, hoping their keen senses didn’t hear my moments as I risked getting a little closer to the back door, straining my ears so I could hear them arguing.

I recognised Ramirez’s gruff voice, currently tinged with frustration, “Merrick said we weren’t supposed to break anything. That means the goddamn door, stupid. He doesn’t want us to leave a trace that can be followed.”

“By who? We all want her dead. The humans will just think some vandal tried to break in. Merrick was clear; he wants her taken care of. Do you want to go back and explain to him a door stopped us from doing our job?”

Silence for a moment, though I could feel the hostility between the two men. And the fear. They’d already failed once and I’d escaped, and they couldn’t return to Merrick without my head on a platter.

“We don’t even know the bitch is inside.”

“Don’t be an idiot. You and I both sensed a shift, and there isn’t a pack registered in this area. Besides, I can smell her. She’s here.”

“You’re the idiot. It’s your fault she got away in the first place. I shoulda told the boss that, and you would be doing this by yourself.”

Growls and snarls interrupted then, but I’d heard what I needed to hear. I padded quietly back towards the front of the house, hoping that my scent would be lost underneath the rest of the aromas but knowing it wouldn’t. I would have to chance going out the front door and exposing myself to the street. If Ramirez and Justin had any clue, they would have positioned themselves at the front AND back, but I was willing to bet my life that they hadn’t thought that far. Well, I guess it really was my life on the line, wasn’t it?

I took a deep breath once I reached the front door, and on the count of three grasped the doorknob with slightly sweaty palms and pulled it open to meet the shocked faces of the couple who owned the house; the man’s hand was reached towards me as though he’d been about to put his jangling keys in the lock. Shit.

I didn’t give them a chance to register me in their minds before I shot between them and down the front steps onto the slick, wet lawn. I could hear the woman’s frightened squealing and then the man yelling obscenities as I shot across the lawn and across the road into someone else’s yard.

“That’s her!”

I didn’t have to turn around to know the two werewolves were chasing me, plus any hesitation would only slow me down. The ground passed as a green smear at my feet as I bounded through random backyards, over so many fences and across so many roads that I had no idea which direction I was going in. Surprised noises reached my ears as people saw me and my pursuer’s race through their property so quickly that we probably looked like blurs to them. The men were fast, but I was faster, and soon they fell behind. But I kept running as fast as I could for a few more minutes before I skidded to a stop and hid in the shadows of a fence, panting and trying to catch my breath, knowing I had only seconds before they caught up to me again.

The bottoms of the jeans I’d borrowed were now covered in mud, but it could have been worse. If at the end of the night all I had were dirty jeans, I would be more than happy. I quickly tore off the bottom of the jeans so that they ended halfway down my shins. Not very fashionable, but I was going for practicality not appearance. In fact, it would have been much easier for me to run if the pants were reduced to shorts, but the whole point was to keep myself warm tonight. Though, the whole plan of staying human was shot to hell now that I’d partially shifted. Dammit. Times a million.

It was soft growling that brought my attention to my surroundings. I was in another yard; the modern looking house stood looming and lit up like a big Christmas tree, and I knew if I took one step I would be visible to anyone living there. But my attention wasn’t on the house, it was on the three huge Rottweilers stalking tentatively towards me, their hackles raised and teeth bared as they recognised me as a threat in their territory. God, I was just on everyone’s bad side tonight. The one closest to me barked ferociously, giving me a warning not to move. I smelled enough like wolf to be a menace to them, beside the fact that I was intruding on their territory. The dog to my left let out a vicious snarl that let me know it was too late to get on my back and play submissive, and soon they would attack. Saliva literally dripped from their jaws as they watched me with glittering black eyes, waiting for me to give them an excuse to lunge. I did not have time for this; any moment Justin and Ramirez would find me and I really didn’t want to know what would happen to me after that. I stepped into one of the fighting stance’s my father had taught me and released the power I held inside of me, the power that made me Alpha. It swirled around me and I closed my eyes, riding the wave of power as the wolf inside me let out a metaphysical howl that reverberated through the night, commanding obedience. Justin and Ramirez would feel it too, but it didn’t really matter now. Instantly the three began whimpering, backing away from me with their tails between their legs and their heads close to the ground. I went to say ‘good dogs’, but all that came from my throat was a low howl, and that sent the dogs running as though the devil himself was after them. An outside light flicked on suddenly, completely illuminating the entire yard and stunning me for a second.

“What the….?”

An old man was peering out one of the windows, his eyes bulging so wide it looked as though they would pop out of his skull. I didn’t need a mirror to know that my mouth was slightly wolfish again; I could feel my nails lengthen as they grew from my fingers. It was time to bail.

I vaulted swiftly over the fence and would have kept running; only now I was facing Justin and Ramirez. It was evident that both of them had felt the impact of my power; I could smell fear emanating from both of them and I breathed it in deeply, my wolf relishing the sweet scent. Their fear gave me such wonderful satisfaction, and knowing that they hadn’t expected my substantial change and rise in power was like icing on the cake. A warning growl quivered through my lips and forced the two of them to take a cautious step back. Neither of them could hide their surprise as they surveyed my slightly transformed figure. Only the more powerful wolves could do what I was doing, and let’s just say neither of them was anywhere near strong enough. Granted, I wasn’t in control of it, but they didn’t need to know that right now. Oh, their fear was like candy on my tongue, it was so delicious. I wanted more. I wanted them to be terrified of me, like I’d been terrified of them as a child, and as they’d tried to kill me.


I growled again, and the surprised look turned back to a look of pure dread. They were good fighters, but with Justin being too tall and lanky and Ramirez being too arrogant of his own abilities, they wouldn’t have been my first pick to send out on a mission, let alone take me on. But then, neither I nor they had expected this strange increase in power.

Both men looked ragged, dirty. They’d obviously been tracking me since I’d escaped. The smooth olive skin on Ramirez’s face was ruined by a slow healing gash that ran from his temple to the corner of his mouth, and there was blood soaked into the collar and down the front of his shirt from where I’d nicked an artery in his neck. Justin looked only slightly better, but there was a patch of his deep red hair missing from the side of his hair from where I’d ripped it from the roots, making him look a little deranged. I felt a little happier at seeing my handiwork on two of the men who’d tried-and failed- to kill me. I hoped it hurt like hell.

I growled even louder and bared my teeth, showing off my fangs. In a voice that was deeper than my regular voice I growled at the two men, “Get out of my way, or I’ll kill you both.”

Justin raised his hands as if to show me he was unarmed, “uh, we just want to talk.”

I could smell the lie like a strong, sour odour, “Bullshit,” I snarled, “last time I saw you, you ordered Ramirez to rip my throat out so you could cut me without me screaming.”

Justin’s wary grey eyes flicked towards Ramirez, whose faced was unusually blank, “Lacey…”

I took a step back, breathing their scents in deeply. I could still smell their fear, their adrenaline and… Something metallic… something…

Gun. Ramirez had a gun. I felt my heart stop in my chest. That’s why Merrick sent them. He didn’t need to send brute strength after me; that had obviously failed in the past. He needed to send callous killers, and that’s what they were. They didn’t care how they did it, they just wanted me dead. Despite their earlier attempts, I felt shocked to learn of their coldness. My father had never encouraged this kind of ruthless killing; a fair fight to determine rank in a pack was normal, even a fair beating for punishment if the crime was bad enough, but this… this was the kind of brutality I had always seen in Merrick. If he couldn’t have my power, no one could. Right then I hated that man more than anyone else in my entire life, and I was glad that he wasn’t smart enough to think to force a mating ritual on me. I would have stabbed myself in the heart with a silver knife rather than be permanently tied to him. The very though made me shudder internally.


I knew without a doubt that the gun held silver bullets. Silver was the only thing that could really harm a werewolf. It stopped our healing, and a silver bullet in the brain or even the heart was a sure fire way to kill us, aside from full decapitation. Gross, I know. Even in a shallow wound, if the silver stayed there our body wouldn’t heal and we’d become as vulnerable as a human. I had a split second to react.

As Ramirez drew the gun, I once again released the power inside me again, the power that was responsible for all the trouble I’d gone through. I figured I might as well use it and find out just why Merrick wanted me dead so badly. It pulsed from me in thick, palpable waves, forcing the men to their hands and knees. It was as though an invisible hand was pressing down on them; their eyes rolled up to look at me, faces filled with mixture of fear and hatred. And I loved it.

“Why are you here?” I demanded, using my power to push them further into the dirt. Oh, it felt so good. Eat dirt, you bastards.

“To… to talk,” Justin stammered, fighting against my hold, “that’s all I swear.”

“Liar,” I pushed out more power, ignoring Ramirez as he whimpered, sweat beginning to plaster his dark hair to his forehead, “tell me the truth.”

The alpha magic commanded them, forced them to do as I wished. They may have been Merrick’s men, they may have been Merrick’s pack, but I was stronger now, and they had to obey me.

“To kill you, any way we could,” Justin panted finally, and Ramirez let out a low, mournful howl, “Merrick doesn’t want anyone else to figure out they could pair with you and share your power,” the words were tumbling out of his mouth as though he had no control, which he didn’t. His eyes bore into mine, rage crystal clear in those grey depths, but he could not stop speaking, not while I commanded it.

“Merrick believes that now your father and his powerful influences are gone, you are rightful leader of the pack. And that you will be able to steal the pack from him. We all fear what you will do if… you had us all under your control.”

“I don’t want any of you,” I hissed, “My father would be ashamed of you both for what you’ve done in his pack’s name. You’re not even worth the revenge.”

Neither of them answered, and I didn’t force them to as I let the insult seep in. To say a foe is unworthy of retaliation is to say they are nothing. I stepped back slowly, my attention focused fully on the men, knowing that once I broke concentration they would be free from my power. I could make them mine; make it so they couldn’t return to Merrick without my mark on them, but I wasn’t that cruel. And I didn’t want them, or anyone else from the pack, except for one. The rest were all as good as dead to me.

Without giving them any warning I broke the lines of power and ran, jumping over the nearest fence.




It took a few moments for the effects of my power to wear off, and as I jumped another fence (misjudging the height in my rush and very nearly tearing a hole in my pants and my butt in the process), I heard panicked shouting as the gun began to go off. Crap! I should have grabbed the gun from Ramirez! Stupid mistake, Lacey, stupid! Something sharp grazed my side, but I didn’t dare stop to check if I was bleeding. I felt like a stupid idiot; I’d been so incensed with my own power that I’d forgotten about the gun and the silver bullets. It was a mistake that I would pay for. The gun fired again and again, the sound cracking through the air and making my ears ring. This time I felt searing pain as one bullet hit me hard in my shoulder, causing me to veer to one side and stumble blindly for a few steps as I tried to regain my balance. My right arm went dead almost instantly; the bullet had hit the joint of my arm and shoulder blade, probably shattering the bone. Nausea rose like an unstoppable tide and I shrieked in fury as the silver’s poison began to spread into my flesh, slowly killing me from the inside. I kept going, adrenaline making my legs pump even harder despite the ache that was beginning to set into the muscles that were still sore from my bashing. I jumped another fence, falling ungracefully with a loud ‘oomph’ as another bullet found my calf, the shock of it taking the breath from my lungs. I lay face down in the dirt for a split second, the wave of pain surging through me, making my whole body seize. Oh god, it hurt. The pain was excruciating, but I knew it would be a hell of a lot worse if I stayed lying on the ground, my fists clenched around clumps of dew-drenched grass. I managed somehow to scramble to my feet, limply heavily as I just continued to run as fast as I could, the knowledge that if I stopped I would be dead fuelling me further. More bullets flew past me, shattering fence palings, and one more skimmed past my ear, narrowly missing my head and forcing a surprised whimper/curse from my lips. The new wound stung in the chilled air before the warmth of fresh blood gushed down the side of my face, mingling with the pain induced tears streaming down my cheeks. Shit, they were getting closer by the second. I called the strength of my wolf and forced my legs to keep going even though I could now feel the blood running from the wound in my calf, flowing faster and faster as my heart raced frantically. It felt as though my injured leg was on fire as I ran, and I could only hope I could keep going long enough to lose the men. I could feel the silver burning inside my flesh, poisoning me with each painful throb, and my vision was beginning to blur from loss of blood. I could hear the men’s panting slowly fading as I finally began to out run them, but fear had now lodged itself into the pit of my stomach like a disease, making me hysterical, and I wanted to be far, far away from them. The hysteria dumped more adrenaline through my veins even as my werewolf strength faded, stopping me from collapsing right then and there in the middle of nowhere.


I don’t know how long I ran for, my wheezing breath the only sound in my ears as I gulped down the painfully chilly air. The ground was a dark blur at my feet in my unfocused eyes, but I didn’t stop until the fences grew further and further apart, and the area around me grew denser with trees and bushes. The area was unfamiliar, but I could tell by the sounds and scents around me that I was no longer in densely populated suburbia. The areas around the outskirts of the central city of Brisbane were littered with patches of dense bushland, so that in a five minute drive you could go from being in a heavily overdeveloped area into complete and utter wilderness. It would be a lot harder for the men to track me here, if only I could stem the blood that was leaving a trail before I passed out. I finally stopped, panting heavily, and listened to the sounds around me. The night was deathly quiet except for the sound of insects and birds as they shuffled around in the sleepy trees. If there were any other animals around, they were staying away.

Looking around, I really could see no lights, and no sign of civilisation. Maybe I was hallucinating, but I assumed I was in one of the compact, ranger-guarded forests that surrounded many of the suburban areas. Exactly where I was, I had no idea, as I had never been this far north of the city. I breathed in deeply, trying to catch a scent of my pursuers, but I could smell nothing but eucalyptus and the dry odour that the Queensland bush seemed to have all year round. When I was sure enough that they were no longer closely on my tail, I crumpled at the base of a thick gum tree, startling myself as dry leaves were crushed noisily beneath my weight. Something slithered hastily away from me, probably a snake or a lizard, but I ignored it. My arm flopped uselessly beside me, a faint, dangerous tingling beginning to run from shoulder to fingertip. Despite the fact that I was sweating profusely, my skin was so chilled that the blood that was still flowing freely felt hot and sticky. I wouldn’t heal while the silver bullets were in my system; there was only one possible solution, and it had to be done before my body was completely in shock.


I moved gingerly around, trying not to bump my useless more than necessary, until I was sitting cross-legged and could see the back of my right calf. The entry wound was wide and messy; bullets rotate when they are fired, so a lot of the time a bullet wound looks less like the neat holes you see on TV, and more like a bloody, raw mess of skin and muscle. In the moonlight I could see a glint of bone and silver, which meant that the bullet had been too soft to go all the way through my leg. I would have to go digging. Jesus. I was already feeling light headed and woozy, but I was nothing if not practical, so I took a deep breath through clenched teeth and poked one still-clawed finger into the bleeding, torn hole.  Pain seared up my leg as the claw touched the top of the bullet; I concentrated on breathing slowly and evenly as I manoeuvred my nail between the silver and my flesh and bone, but my teeth began to chatter from the pain of it. Silver is like acid to us, so if you’d like to envision pouring acid into a bloody hole in your leg, that’s kind of what it feels like, only a thousand times worse. I gritted my teeth to stop from screaming as I edged the bullet slowly upwards, feeling it scrape against the inside of my flesh, the world spinning around me haphazardly as the bloody metal began to emerge. It finally popped free of my calf with a sickening slurping, sucking sound, and I flung it away into the darkness as fresh blood gushed from the wound, flushing out the remaining fragments of silver. I rolled over and promptly lost the contents of my stomach in the grass, but at least I’d gotten the bullet out. I’d have to wait for my stomach to settle before attempting to extract the second one. When there was no longer anything left in my stomach and the dizziness finally passed, I sat up and wiped a hand across my sweaty forehead, leaning back against the cold bark of the tree as I shook uncontrollably. Okay. Okay, okay. One down and one to go. Simple as that, right?

The silver bullets were softer than usual ones, so they didn’t exit my body completely. That was kind of the point when hunting werewolves; if silver stays in our bodies for too long it can poison us, leaving us weak for a long period of time. We can even lose limbs, or the power to change. They’d done that on purpose. If the bullet had been steel coated in silver, it probably would have gone all the way through to the other side. But I had a feeling the bullets were predominantly silver, and it itself was too soft. The bullet in my shoulder had broken the bone, but I didn’t think it had gotten past the fragments and into the muscle beyond. I began to panic; if I could not reach the bullet it was more than likely I would die out here. Kind of funny actually; I’d survived being torn apart by my own pack but it was a stupid bullet that would finally bring me down. I actually giggled, and it echoed hauntingly through the trees, rousing sleeping birds from their nests and causing them to take flight. My head flopped back against the tree, strands of hair tangling in the bark, as the world took me for another spin. I was in so much pain, and my body seemed as though it was beginning to lose feeling all over. I closed my eyes and tried to slow my heart rate as I felt my wolfish appearance disappeared, a side effect of the silver poisoning. If I could stop my blood pumping too quickly through my body it would take longer for the effects of silver to spread. Maybe someone would find me out here in the desolate wilderness. Yeah, right. All of a sudden I felt too tired to care; my limbs were heavy and it seemed so easy just to close my eyes. Sleep. Yeah, sleep was good.


I caught the scent of werewolf as a chilled breeze stirred me from my unconsciousness. First thing I thought as my eyes painfully snapped open was ‘not pack’. That could be a good thing, and a very, very bad thing. I was in unknown territory, territory I had not been invited into. Sure, I didn’t know it was inhabited by a pack, but that wouldn’t be a good enough excuse if they decided I was unwelcome. Which they would when they found out what I was, and what I could do.

I strained my eyes in the darkness, trying to see my visitors, but I’d lost too much blood and my vision was suffering. The hair on the back of my neck was raised, and a low warning growl escaped my cracked, dry lips. Three shapes emerged; men, all of them, and that alone put my wolf in a fit of rage. She was tired of being picked on by male werewolves and wounds or not, she wasn’t going to take it again. They formed a kind of semi circle around me, standing in a low crouching position as if they thought I would attack them. They growled in unison; the one in the middle let out a piercing howl that broke the darkness.

I got shakily to my feet; almost falling down several times before I got my balance, swaying slightly as I assumed a fighting stance. I was bluffing, and by the looks in their eyes they knew it. If I had been thinking clearly I might have taken a submissive position to show I was no threat, but the silver was clouding my mind, and my body was responding with animalistic fear and aggression. I could take them. I’d taken on more and survived.

The man who had howled was drawing closer, watching me with piercing gray eyes, his silver-blonde hair hanging loosely to his waist and shining eerily in the moonlight. Another growl ripped from my throat, a growl that reeked of threats and danger, but the man didn’t even flinch. In fact, he stepped towards me cautiously, never breaking his gaze. I reached for the alpha power, but the silver was too far spread and I was weak. The power wouldn’t come. I could feel sweat pouring down my face, cooling before it even had a chance to drip from my skin, tinged red with my blood. I gathered my remaining strength to pounce; thinking that I would go for his jugular first. If I could injure him, their apparent leader, then maybe the others would back off. He let out another howl, and this time someone howled in response. Five new werewolves emerged from the trees, emitting short snarls as they came closer. Oh shit. Well, I always said I’d go down swinging, but as I went to launch myself to my death, my body finally gave up, and I blacked out.




I guess it’s only natural that we outlive our own parents. Still, as I watched the flames slowly strengthen to consume my father’s corpse, I couldn’t comprehend that his time had come so soon, and that I’d been left alone before I’d barely reached the age of twenty; parentless, friendless, and pretty much without a pack. My father, the Alpha, was  receiving his final wish. He had always been there to protect me when things truly went to hell, to teach me how to stand up for myself, to teach me how to fight. He’d been wise, and strict, and sometimes unforgiving, but the whole pack mourned his passing, even the ones who’d been on his bad side. His passing was the end of an era that had spanned for decades, and while he’d had his enemies in the pack, they all knew none could ever be the great Alpha that he was. As the flames licked higher, seeming to reach for the rising sun, howls erupted in unison behind me.  But I couldn’t bring myself to join them.

Merrick stood to one side of me, his arm sitting a little too smugly around my shoulders, a look of respect and sadness painted on his face. It was a lie; he’d been after my father’s position since we found out my mother had been unable to have another child, and therefore unable to provide an heir to the Alpha’s line. Me? I was a woman. Unfair, but unavoidable. I couldn’t be Alpha of the pack, not that I wanted to be. I had planned for years to leave once there was nothing left holding me here, and now that was the case. No mother, and now no father. Poor little orphaned werewolf girl. The Alpha power would be passed on to Merrick through the proper rituals, and he would take over everything that was truly, and rightfully mine. His earlier offer ran through my mind, and I resisted the urge to shudder repulsively against him. No, my bags were packed, and as soon as my father’s ceremony was over, I was gone. I would die before I let Merrick take me to his bed, die before we were mated and he took a slice of the power that sung in my veins, waiting to be released.

The fire continued to burn rapidly, ashes now being gently picked up and spread apart by the cold morning breeze. The sun was rising higher, and the heat of it was beginning to burn the skin of my face and neck, but I stayed there. I would not leave my father until his very last wish was fulfilled, until every last ash had been swept away, forever bound to his territory and the place he loved.




I awoke slowly, coming out of unconsciousness groggily with my head pounding and my eyes stinging with fresh tears. I sat up straight, alarm bells ringing frantically in my mind, to realise instantly that my wrists and ankles were chained tightly to the warm metal table that I was lying on. It took a moment for that fact to sink into my slightly numb mind, as though I couldn’t comprehend why in the world I would be chained to anything. The skin underneath the chains was stinging and slightly blistered, so they had to be made of diluted silver. I blinked at this discovery and the room spun a little, making me jerk a little against the restraints. I let out a hiss as the silver cut into me, but the pain was distant, as though I wasn’t really feeling it. What was wrong with me? I shivered as the cool air hitting my feverish skin registered in my mind, and found that I was wearing what appeared to be a thin, backless hospital gown, with only my underwear on underneath. What the hell? I blinked again, furiously, trying to un-cloud my mind so I could focus. I was in a small, grey windowless room, the only light coming from a dim yellow light bulb hanging precariously from the ceiling, swinging slightly in an invisible breeze. I was surrounded by what could only be described as a floor to ceiling metal cage, made entirely of pure, unprocessed silver. The sensation of it rippled across my skin uncomfortably, as though it was only affecting me now that I’d noticed it. The room smelled like fear, pain and violence, and if I was in my wolf form I would have had my hackles raised for sure. I could also sense the shifting magic; it hung heavily in the air like an invisible blanket, rousing my wolf to the surface of my mind. If I didn’t know any better, I would have to say this was a shifting room. Back home we’d had one in my father’s basement for the werewolves who weren’t in control of their animal, so they couldn’t escape and attack any unsuspecting humans. It didn’t happen as often as it used to, but the risks were still there, especially if the commanding Alpha didn’t have enough power influence or the wolf in question was simply too strong.

I shifted slightly and found my body to be aching and stiff. I knew I was supposed to be dead. The silver should have killed me by now, but here I was. I looked over my right shoulder could see thick white gauze covering my gunshot wound underneath the paper-thin gown, a small round circle of blood staining the padding. I checked my leg and discovered my calf had also been bandaged. My heart raced inside my chest painfully, feeling as though it beat against my ribcage, trying to escape. Everything still felt sluggish and slow, like I’d been drugged. Had I been recaptured by my pack? Something inside me highly doubted it; I would probably be well and truly dead by now if they had.  And they probably would have let me die a slow death of silver poisoning instead of ending it all quickly. Merrick was a malicious son of a bitch.

I struggled pointlessly with my shackles as I looked around the room, trying to figure out where I could be. There were two doors; one to my cage that was heavily padlocked and wrapped with silver chains, and one to get to the outside. There was about five metres between the heavy, silver coated walls and the cage, enough space for some big burly werewolf to stand and look in to see whoever was being held captive. I could sense even from a distance that the door to the outside was coated thickly with silver. There were three other cages identical to mine, except that their door were open and did not contain any werewolves. Yep, definitely a safe room. No wolf would risk having so much silver around unless it was to hold another wolf. The walls around the cage were also coated, so my skin felt like it was crawling, trying to leave my body as it was accosted from all four sides. So I was right, it was a room specially made for containing werewolves, which pretty much ruled out capture by humans. No one really believed we existed beyond myth and legend; sure there were a handful of foolish humans that spent their lives trying to hunt us and other preternatural beings, but they either ended up in a psychiatric ward in a hospital or they ‘mysteriously disappeared’. Either way, the general public was content on thinking we were simply made-up creatures, things of nightmares and badly made horror films, and that’s how we wanted it to stay.

So where was I? There was only one other option I could think of, and that was I had been taken by the unknown pack I had encountered. I couldn’t remember their scent because my mind was so muddled, so it was useless to try and match it to the one in my nose, which was such a confusing mix of anger and fear that I couldn’t tell whether there had been only one werewolf in the room with me, or twenty. All I could do was wait and find out, and hope to god that I wasn’t in even more trouble. Though knowing my luck, I was mostly likely to now be neck deep in it.


I don’t know how long I lay chained to the metal table, slipping in and out of a woozy sleep. Since the only light was artificial, I couldn’t tell whether it was still night or it had passed into the day. It was disconcerting in the least; how long had I been unconscious? If I hadn’t been surrounded by so much silver, I might have been able to sense the moon and whether or not it was full yet. The silver pretty much blocked those kind of in-built powers though, and every time I tried to sense anything I was rewarded with a wave of dizziness so severe I had to lay back down or risk throwing up on myself.

Soon my stomach was grumbling angrily, and I wished desperately that I still had my stolen backpack. As if on cue, the huge door began to open with a slow, grinding screech, and I tensed, waiting for an attack.  I didn’t even see her at first; I was gazing towards the top of the six-foot door frame, waiting for some huge, hunkering male werewolf to emerge. The clanging of chains and the sound of a key turning in a lock drew my eyes down to an older woman as she dropped the heavy looking coils loudly to the floor, rummaging through a ring of keys one-handed so she could open what looked to be a second silver lock. She was at my side before I could realise, and I jumped in my chains, a high pitched whine escaping my lips. Yeah, I’d definitely been drugged, for me to miss her movements like that. Ignoring me, she placed my stolen backpack and a pair of beige coloured pants at the end of the table, and with gloved hands, took off my bandages and began examining my shoulder. I don’t like being touched by strange people. I like being ignored even less.

“Where the hell am I?” I snapped at her, but she didn’t even flinch- she just kept prodding the area where I’d been shot. I felt no pain, just her gloved fingers pressing gingerly into my flesh. I increased my efforts to move away from her; a difficult feat when I was chained to the table with silver, until finally she sighed and stepped back so I could see her.

She was small, shorter than even I was, with curly, wool-like brown hair cut close to her round, slightly wrinkled face, telling me she was in her late forties. She wore simple teal coloured hospital scrubs, and her honey coloured eyes were watching me with such a stern expression that I suddenly felt sheepish, like a misbehaved child.

“Honestly child, I’m just trying to make sure you have healed properly. You were quite a mess when they brought you in, I didn’t think you were going to survive.”

Her voice was warm, with a slight lilt to it that made me think she was from Scotland or somewhere around that area. I blinked at her, and she took it as an indication to continue. She began inspecting my calf, poking and prodding much like she had done with my shoulder, and my annoyance grew with every touch. She seemed both pleased and satisfied when she finally finished, pulling the bandages completely free to expose the new pink skin. She then swiftly removed my chains, not cringing away from the silver as she pulled them away from my skin. Strange. She wasn’t wolf. I sniffed the air and smelled only human mixed with disinfectant and blood. I should have noticed. It was another sure sign there was something in my system that shouldn’t be there.

“These pants should fit you,” she gestured to the pile of clothes, “your old ones were covered in blood and dirt. The clothes in your bag are undamaged”

This meant they had gone through my backpack and found my stolen shirts and food. It didn’t surprise me; I would have done the same. I could have been carrying weapons.

“Who are you?” I asked tentatively as she moved back towards the door of the cage, “and where am I?”

“I’m Dr. Lillian,” she closed the door behind her and slid a heavy bolt into place, making me feel very much like a prisoner. She knocked sharply on the outer door as she watched me, “I took the silver bullets out of you.”

I broke away from her stare and looked down at my freed hands, “I… thanks.”

“It’s my job,” she replied as the door swung back open and she left me alone once again.

I sat on the table for a moment in the dim light, my mind trying to make sense of my surroundings as I rubbed the sore spots on my wrists and ankles. The silver chains lay limply next to me. Had I been violent? Had I transformed? Had I attacked someone?

I stretched my limbs slowly, testing their mobility. Everything seemed fine; there was no numbness from silver poisoning, no paralysis. There should be, not that I was complaining. Still, I sat there for a few minutes moving each individual muscle, right down to each finger and toe. Amazing. I knew I was strong, but even I shouldn’t be able to withstand two shots of silver in my body for any length of time. I had a nasty feeling that was the whole point of Justin and Ramirez finding me; even if I got away I wouldn’t have lived to see the morning. But I knew better than to hope the search had been called off. Merrick would not be happy until my body was found and then buried six feet under. It gave me quite a bit of satisfaction to know that he’d be furious to discover I was alive and well. I grinned to the empty room. I did not envy Justin and Ramirez having to tell Merrick that I’d gotten away.

I slid off the table and examined the pants. They smelled clean, and when I put them on they were so big I looked like a kid who’d dressed up in their parent’s clothes. I felt foolish and a little giddy-probably the after effect of whatever drugs I’d been given- and I spent at least five minutes rolling up the bottoms so my feet peeked out from underneath the soft cloth. They were comfortable though, thank god, and I opened my backpack to retrieve one of the shirts I’d stolen, wondering briefly if those people whose house I’d broken into had found my bloody clothes yet, or discovered a few of their forgotten items were missing. Even if they called the police, I doubted they would ever find me anyway. Forensically, our blood appeared normal under microscopes-unlike vampires- and any fingerprints I’d left would come up without a match. Even if they did somehow come after me, it wasn’t like any kind of prison could hold me- unless they had silver coated bars. Oh well, bad karma for me.

The shirt I pulled from the backpack was old and baggy and had a gaudy EXPO 88 logo plastered across the front, but it was thick and warm and I was grateful as I pulled it over my head. The scent of the sick female filled my nose, combined with a similar but older, more floral odour that was probably her mother. There was a thick coating of dust all over it though, so it hadn’t been worn for at least a few months, maybe a year. The older scent clung heavily to the thick cotton, so the shirt had probably been the mothers before being passed down to the sick woman. I shook my head to clear it. Sense of smell could distract me so badly that I could get lost in the many aromas around me. Usually though, I was in more control of it. Had becoming pack-less increased my powers? If only there had been someone I could ask about all this. Mother was gone, father was gone, and back home I had only enemies. Merrick knew nothing, even if he did now possess my father’s Alpha power. If I thought I’d been alone before, I was a lot worse off now.

I dug into the bag and retrieved a handful of muesli bars I’d taken from the cupboard. My hands literally shook as I tore apart the plastic wrapping and shoved the food into my mouth in a very unladylike way. I was starving. I’d eaten five bars before my stomach registered it was receiving food, and then the sickly feeling of hunger slowly began to vanish. Thank god. Part of me knew I should save food in case of an emergency later, but I couldn’t stop myself as I downed the rest of the bars, barely chewing them enough to swallow. Besides, a starving werewolf was a dangerous one, and I wasn’t about to create any more trouble for myself. Werewolf metabolisms are much, much faster than humans, and as soon as I’d licked the last bit of muesli from my finger, I was eager for more. Maybe a nice rare steak, or a rabbit, still warm and fresh from the kill…

I shook myself roughly and reached into the bag for the box of biscuits I’d been holding myself back from. Oh well, so much for saving some for later. I finished them in seconds flat, my stomach finally content and full of food. Still, my wolf and I couldn’t live on muesli and biscuits; we needed meat. There was no such thing as a vegetarian werewolf, it was just impossible to deny our other halves their natural food source. My wolf settled down almost grumpily in her metaphysical cage and I knew I’d have to hunt later. Or she’d make me. I wasn’t stupid enough to make that kind of mistake; I’d gone without hunting for nearly a month when I was younger, grossed out because I’d killed and eaten a creek rat while in my wolf form for my very first hunt. In the end my wolf had forced her form on me, and I’d ended up attacking some poor farmer’s flock of chicken. I’d woken up the next day covered in chicken blood and feathers, and it wasn’t an episode I wanted to repeat. It was foolish to try and dominate and control the wolf side; we had to cooperate.

My hair had been tied into a messy, out of the way ponytail while I was unconscious, and now that I was reasonably full I spent a few minutes running my fingers through the strands to untangle it. More hair came loose from when I’d accidentally shredded it with my claws back at the house. Sigh. I’d needed a haircut anyway, and there was no need to cry over spilt milk. Still, every girl loves her hair, and holding back my despair was becoming increasing difficult. I swallowed back tears; it was only hair after all, right? No, it wasn’t just hair. It was everything I had ever lost, in the form of my hair. God, I felt stupid getting all teary. I hated feeling sorry for myself. Hated it.

I pushed my emotions aside and began to pace the small room, calling for my wolf for some company. She moodily poked her head out of my subconsciousness, so strong that it drew a gasp from my lips, only it came out more like a growl instead. She paced in her prison, sending an angry roar my way when I slammed the wall back down. She was stronger than she should have been at this time of the moon cycle. Stronger than I’d ever felt her, to be honest. What drug had they put in my system? And how long had I been unconscious? Deep down my instinct, despite the heavy silver buffer, told me that the moon still wasn’t completely full. My power had strengthened so much in the last few minutes that I could now tell the moon was closer to being full than I remembered, which meant I’d lost a day or two. My stomach gave a sickening lurch, and I began to pace faster. I was really going to lose it unless someone told me where the hell I was and what the hell was going on. I reached for the caged door and began to bang on it with as much strength as I could muster, making it rattle noisily; the skin on my hands blistering and burning as they touched the pure silver. I barely felt it, even when my blood started to stain the cage, I kept hitting it.

I was taken by surprise when the outside door actually swung open, and then my cage door was flung wide; it pushed me back so fast I fell on my backside, and I let out an angry noise as I flounced to my feet, my hands itching and healing now they were no longer in contact with the silver. I looked up… and up and up, until my eyes locked onto a familiar face. My mind did one of those flashbacks; I’d been slumped against a tree, weak and dying, and this man as well as two others had come forward. And then, when I’d posed to attack, more had come. Hands had tugged at my body, lifting me out of the dirt stained with so much of my blood. They’d carried me away, each step jolting me and encouraging new waves of pain, and I’d fought them like an animal in a bear trap. White lights, beeping noises, and still I fought as people held me down. Then… blissful nothingness.

I got to my feet slowly, stepping back awkwardly, with my gaze still on the stranger. His silvery blonde hair was tucked behind his ears and cascaded down his back; it seemed to gleam even under the moon light coming in from outside. Grey eyes watched me as wearily as they had when we’d first met, and I had to crane my neck just to meet them. He was huge; not just tall but built like an athlete, so that I felt tiny in comparison. But it wasn’t enough to intimidate me; I’d been around men like him my whole life. It seemed to come with the werewolf genes, and boy was I glad it skipped me.

So I put my hands firmly on my hips and stared straight back at him, “Where am I? I want some goddamn answers already, and if you won’t give them to me then I’ll go through you and find someone who will.”

He raised his eyebrows in disbelief, as if surprised that something as small as me was bold enough to speak like that to him, “threatening me is not going to get you anywhere, pup,” his voice was pleasant and managed somehow not to be condescending as he looked down at me with a slight smile in the corner of his mouth, “it’s thanks to me you’re alive anyway. How’re you feeling? Did you know your eyes are freaky? I never saw no one with two different ones like you.”

I glared at him and ignored his comment, “Will you at least tell me where I am?”

“Say pretty please,” he crossed his arms over his burly chest, his body blocking the exit completely. The white shirt he wore strained against tanned muscles as though it would fall to pieces any moment, and I knew he was doing it on purpose. Female werewolves are naturally attracted to shows of strength and power. I felt my face redden with anger and frustration, but instead of punching him like I wanted to, I tried to be polite.

“Look mister… whatever your name is…”

“Steele,” he interrupted me, “go on.”

I blinked, “Steele? Are you serious? That makes my name seem normal.”

He glowered down at me, the smile disappearing, “It’s German, short for Steelich. It’s an honour in my family to be given this name,” he suddenly realised he was sharing too much and frowned, “For someone who wants answers, you sure are being a bitch.”

“Okay, sorry…” I fought to make my face serious again, “Look, I appreciate you and that woman saving my life. How did you find me? Where are we now? You’re in a pack, right?”

“Why should I tell you?” his face was weary again as he slouched against the door frame, “for all we know you’re some rogue wolf working with the outsiders to bring down our pack.”

Outsiders? What outsiders? Territory disputes just plain did not happen anymore- there was plenty enough land to share, especially in Australia where werewolves weren’t as… common. But if this pack was being taken over, it wasn’t my business. I scowled at him, “I’m not a rogue wolf.”

“Then why can’t I smell your pack on you?”

That information surprised me, and I resisted the urge to sniff myself. I didn’t know how long I’d been unconscious, but at most it had been only a couple of days. How could I have lost the pack scent so quickly? But that was the werewolf magic thing for you.

“How are your hands?” he asked suddenly, drawing my attention back to him. I shrugged, but in a fluid motion that made my head swirl, he leant down and grabbed my wrists in his hands. I let out a growl, but he ignored me, and his grip was like iron. He held my hands up closer to his face, forcing me to stand on the very tips of my toes. Then he licked at the blood that had dripped down my arms, his tongue warm and leaving wet trails that chilled in the air. I stared at him, wide-eyed and unable to pull away.

“What are you doing?” I managed to choke out, though the sensations of him lapping at my skin had my wolf rolling contentedly in her cage.

“There was blood found where our pack was attacked,” he said tersely in between licks, “yours doesn’t match theirs.”

“Why are you still licking me!”

He grinned, “Because I can, pup. And I need to be certain. You don’t smell like pack, but your blood will tell me if you belong to the ones who attacked us.”

“I didn’t attack anyone!” I squirmed in his grasp, “let me go!”

“Sorry if I don’t believe you straight away.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but he suddenly straightened up and let me go, his face becoming even more serious. I fell to the floor again, surprised by my sudden release.

“Steele, get out of the way,” a low, angry voice reached my ears before Steele shot me an apologetic look and obediently stepped sideways and away from the doorway. I caught a glimpse of muscle and auburn hair before a thick hand was around my throat and I was being slammed up against the back wall of my prison. And then the hand began to squeeze.





Green eyes glared at me with rage, and I could feel my attacker’s power coming off him in waves, hitting me with such heat that I squirmed under his grasp. He snarled at me ferociously and pressed down harder on my windpipe until I struggled to pull in air.

“Clem, get back! Her blood doesn’t match!” Steele had come up behind the man, putting a hand on his shoulder as if to pull him away, but the man snarled again and he withdrew his hand.

“That proves nothing! Who are you working with!?” he spat at me, pinning me harder against the silver coated cage. The bare skin that touched the silver began to burn uncomfortably, but I had bigger problems; I couldn’t breathe. White spots had begun to burst in my vision and my power began to boil under my skin, growing stronger fast as it recognised another source similar to its own. I began to claw at Clem’s arms, and was pleasantly surprised when he swore vehemently and released me; I slid down the cage wall and landed in a crumpled heap, my head spinning as air rushed back into my lungs. Clem was towering above me, his forearms ripped to reveal tendons and gushing blood. My head spun a little. Had I done that to him? I looked down at my hands to see my nails had once again return to claws, and they were covered with skin and thicker things. Clem roared with pain and dove for me, but I came to my sense and rolled free of his body easily, bolting towards the open door.

“Grab her!” Clem bellowed, and half a second later Steele’s huge body wrapped itself around my legs, making me fall face first into the floor. I growled and bucked furiously; I heard Steele grunt as my legs connected with a softer part of his body and his grip loosened. I scrambled to my feet and found myself staring up at Clem’s livid face. I was unwilling to hurt them, but for some reason this man was intent on hurting me. I ducked a blow from his huge fists and tried to avoid a well aimed kick, but in doing so I ended up further back in the room.  Clem and Steele stood in front of me, panting, the skin on Clem’s shredded forearms slowly knitting back together as he stood there. A threatening growl seeped through my lips, a growl that warned them to keep away. To them I was a lone female werewolf, so they shouldn’t be seeing me as a threat. I’d already surprised them with my power, but I wouldn’t be able to surprise them a second time. I’d fought more werewolves at once and won, but they had been wolves I’d grown up with, wolves that were predictable in their fighting moves. And I hadn’t been worried about hurting them. These wolves had something to do with saving my life, even if one of them was now acting like he wanted my head on a platter.

I shifted on my feet and flexed my hands; my claws were still extended and I could feel sharp fangs in my mouth. Both men took a step forward as I stepped backwards, thoroughly blocking my escape. Clem was itching to grab me; I could tell it by the scent of adrenaline filling the room. Steele was uncertain about me and didn’t want to hurt me, but certain about following the other man’s orders. He was slightly submissive to the angry man, that was obvious, but I could also tell that Clem wasn’t the Alpha, and probably was a lower rank in the pack than Steele. Too unpredictable, too incensed to fight with a clear mind. There was a small gap between the two, and I was small enough and fast enough to get between them.

“Don’t even think about it, bitch,” Clem glared at me, “even if you get past us, you’ll have to get past the rest of the pack. And they will kill you.”

I did the only thing left to do that I could think of without hurting them; I got down on my knees in front of the men and tilted my head to expose my neck and throat. It was meant to show them that I recognised them as my betters, and that I was weak and unworthy. It was a common act in werewolf community, and I thought it might calm down the situation. I was a great fighter, but I also knew when I had to play defeated. Clem didn’t get the idea, and I only had a second to brace myself before his open hand hit the side of my face and I flew across the room, slamming once again into the wall. My entire left arm lost all feeling instantly, flopping uselessly as I scrambled away from another fist. Steele let out an angry yell- he had seen me throw up the proverbial white flag- and yet Clem had still hit me. My wolf was angry now, and she began to rise again beneath my skin, shrieking in pain and rage.  She would not stand by anymore and watch me being brutalised by men. I tried to harness her, but my own fury at being hit when I was trying to be submissive was mingling with hers. Steele made another attempt to grab me and I screeched in defiance, the sound a horrifying clash of human and animal, reverberating in the room before it echoed through the trees outside. To hell with not hurting them; the wolf wanted to sink her teeth into them, to tear their flesh from their bones. Make them hurt, make them pay, for hurting me. I flung Steele away from me with so much force that the ground trembled when he landed, and my half-formed muzzle could smell the fresh blood as he lay motionless. Clem let out another roar and I whirled to face him, the only thing between us was the metal table I’d woken up on. I watched him as his canines grew past his bottom lip as he began to shift; it should have worried me since he was bound to be bigger than me in wolf form, but I was calm. I could tell that I was stronger than him, even without the use of one arm, and in one on one combat I would be the winner.

“One last chance,” he panted, touching his fangs with his tongue in anticipation as auburn fur started to sprout across his body, “who are you working with?”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” my voice was hoarse from the slight wolf change as I glanced between the man and the door.


He crouched lower, preparing to pounce. I did the same, my arm hanging painfully. There was no noise except for the sound of our breathing. He launched himself at me.

“Stop it! Stop it both of you!”

I didn’t have time to look for the source of the voice as I sidestepped Clem and he hit the ground, scrambling to his feet in a fluid motion to lunge at me again. This time he connected, but I was ready, taking the blow and rolling with him so that he ended up flat on his back with my small body on top of him. He tried to buck me off, but I had one clawed hand at his throat. Thin lines of red appeared, and the sight and smell of the blood incensed my wolf to go for the kill. To just squeeze and make the blood come faster… Do it! She roared in my mind, full of rage. Do it and make sure he never hurts you again!

“Stop it now, or I’ll shoot!”

I raised my other clawed hand, preparing to swipe, but the cold metal tip of a gun made its way through my hair to touch the back of my neck.

“It’s loaded with tranquilizer and enough silver nitrate to knock you on your ass for a week. Get off.”

I lowered my hand and used it to push myself of the man, his eyes full of anger as he watched me move. I turned and found myself staring at a slightly messy Dr. Lillian. She had a sturdy grip on the handgun, but it was her bloody hands and forearms that made my eyes widen. Her scrubs were also covered in red. I sniffed; werewolf blood. I met her eyes and they were tired, weary.

“I had it under control, Doc,” Clem growled as he got to his feet, his fur disappearing with his canines, “you didn’t need to interfere.”

“I was willing to shoot you too, Clem. Who told you to attack her? The Alpha will be furious. And anyway, from where I’m standing, it looked like you were going to need help.”

He glowered at her, “I can take care of the bitch on my own. I don’t need no human help.” He spat the word ‘human’ like it had a bad taste.

“You’re an idiot,” she replied coolly, “get out of here.”

“You can’t order me to do anything.”

“Do you want to explain to the Alpha why you tried to kill the only link we have to the attacks?”

Attacks? That pulled me out of my werewolf frenzy as efficiently as a bucket of ice. Oh crap. I was in enough trouble already without being a suspect in attacks on another pack. I longed to ask her what had happened but I knew it would be sensible to keep my mouth shut, at least until Clem was gone. My face was still stinging from the hit earlier and I did not want to encourage him to hit me again. Even if my wolf was keen for another round.

“The Alpha will want her dead too,” he spat, but the anger in him was lessening now that he could no longer aim it at me.

“The Alpha will give the order if it is his decision. Unless you think yourself of possessing higher judgement? So far, no one is dead, Clem. Instead of bothering the girl, maybe you should be with your brother.”

The last line visibly stung him. What was wrong with his brother? He knew he was defeated, but he wasn’t at all gracious. He stormed out of the cell, slamming the door so hard behind him that the whole place rattled. Dr. Lillian closed her eyes for a moment, as if trying to calm herself internally, and then focused her full attention on me.

“I hope I’m not going to get any trouble from you?”

I shook my head, “I know there’s no silver in that gun, though I suppose you need to bluff when you’re hanging around werewolves.”

“You must be more sensitive to silver if you could tell that.”

“Not usually. I can just sense it if I concentrate. I shouldn’t be able to tell in room with so much silver, but…”

She looked at me with curiosity for a moment before she clicked the safety back on the gun and placed it on the metal table. Without another word to me, she moved towards Steele’s still unmoving body, wiping her bloody hands on her scrubs as she went. If she’d had to examine a human, she would have had to wash her hands, but we lycanthropes can’t catch diseases, even ones transmitted by blood. She tottered around him for a moment, but when she didn’t give any indication of his condition, I cleared my throat.

“Is he going to be ok?” my voice was back to normal now that the excitement was over. My wolf retreated begrudgingly, and I knew I would have to keep an eye on my power or risk a full blown transformation.

She looked back at me and gave a small half-smile, “he’ll be fine. I gather it was your doing?”

I nodded, embarrassed, “I didn’t mean to be so rough. They were trying to hurt me.”

Dr. Lillian studied me thoughtfully for a moment, “do you know why?”

“I have absolutely no god damn idea. I don’t suppose you’re going to explain?”

She moved away from Steele and started examining me, saying nothing as she scanned me for injuries. Without warning she shoved violently on my shoulder, pushing my dislocated arm back into its rightful position. I whirled away from her, snarling viciously as I nursed my throbbing arm.

She shrugged, “You mend yourself so rapidly it was going to heal in the wrong position. If you had left it that way you could have eventually lost the use of it. It was the same when I had to remove the bullet from your shoulder. You had actually healed around the silver. We had to re-open the hole.”

I frowned, “I’ve never healed that fast before, and especially not with silver in my body.”

“It is both a good thing, and a burden. The Alpha is the same.”

“That reminds me,” I rubbed my shoulder furiously, “Why would your Alpha want me dead? Who has been attacked? Why are you covered in werewolf blood?”

She sighed, “You really don’t know? Because some of us were hoping you were behind these attacks so we could get some answers. If you really aren’t… that leaves us back at square one.”

“If I did know, I wouldn’t be asking. I would like to know why the hell two men were just trying to beat me to death.”

Steele stirred, and Dr. Lillian returned to his side, “I do not have the authority to answer.”

“Well then bring me someone who will!”

“Will someone make her shut up?” Steele’s voice was groggy, “bitch gave me a massive headache.”

“Now Steele,” Dr. Lillian scolded, “just because Clem speaks to women with a foul mouth doesn’t mean you must.”

“I’m used to it,” I muttered dryly, “I have been called worse.”

“I can see why,” he mumbled, “no one has been able to throw me like that since I was a pup.”

“I’m sorry…”

“That was a compliment.”

I was taken aback, “oh.”

“Can you stand, Steele?” the doctor interrupted, checking his pulse.

“Sure, Doc.”

She wasn’t much use helping him up; the huge man could have pushed her through the floor of the cell without breaking a sweat. As he stood I could see the gash on his face knit back together until only a smear of blood on his skin remained. Of course, his white shirt was ruined with blood that ran from the collar to the hem that touched his jeans. Oops, my bad. When he reached his full height he shook out his long silver hair so that the tangled mass once again fell smoothly to his waist. The hair was beautiful and made me regret my own choppy mess, but he somehow still managed to look masculine; his muscles rippled even as he stretched, and I couldn’t help gazing from the smooth tanned chest down to the line of silver hair that ran from underneath his navel. He caught me staring and grinned, “Like what you see, pup?”

“What I see is a man who tried to attack a woman a third of his size,” I replied coldly, but my blushing ruined the effect.

He shuffled his feet, still grinning, “I was just trying to stop you from escaping. Clem says ‘jump’, and I gotta jump.”

“Really? Because it seems to me that you’re higher ranked than him. So he should be following your orders. Though he was that mad I doubt he’d listen to anyone’s orders,” I added as an afterthought.

The man gaped at me, a nice change from the cocky grin, “how did you know I outrank him?”

I looked at him, thinking for a moment before I realised, “I don’t know.”

And I really didn’t. I’d just known that it was a lie and that Steele outranked him. Just like I’d known there was no silver in the doctor’s gun. Now I was beginning to worry. There was no such drug that could give a werewolf new powers. I was doing this all on my own.

There was a sharp ringing noise, and both Steele and I glanced back at the doctor. She plunged a stained hand into the side pocket of her pants and produced a small sleek phone. She flipped it open; her eyebrows raised, and lifted it to her ear.

She didn’t speak, and I strained my ears to try and hear the other end of the conversation. I wasn’t close enough to catch any words, only to find out that the caller was male. Steele on the other hand, was closer, but his face showed no emotion.

“I will bring her now,” Dr. Lillian replied, and snapped the phone shut.

“What’s going on?” I demanded, “Where am I going?”

“Steele, please handcuff her.”

He pulled a pair of the silver handcuffs from their joint on the metal table and moved towards me, not wincing as the combined silver and metal began to sting his hands.

“What? No! Tell me what’s going on!”

The doctor sighed, “Child, we do not have permission. We are taking you to the Alpha.”

I looked between her and Steele, feeling like a trapped rabbit, my heart beginning to pound again. Had they found out what I was? Instead of exiling me, would they kill me instead?

“I don’t trust you, I don’t trust anyone. You could all be planning to kill me. God knows Clem has already tried.”

Dr. Lillian looked slightly exasperated, “if the Alpha wanted you killed, you would have been dead already. And Clem isn’t exactly thinking clearly at the moment.”

“Then why the handcuffs?”

“So you don’t run away before the Alpha can ask you questions. If you are behind these attacks, that is. If you’re not, you shouldn’t have a problem with this.”

I gave up, “fine. Fine! Put on the damn handcuffs.”

“Now is that so hard?” Steele asked. I wanted to wipe the patronising grin off his face, but it would only get me into more trouble. It would be worth it, though…

Steele moved behind me and clicked them into place. They stung enough to make me aware of their presence, but it was more the fact that my arms were behind my back and therefore unusable that irritated me. Growing up in a hostile pack meant I had to constantly be on my guard and ready for an attack. Mind you, I could still fight without my hands, it just made me feel so restricted, and both my wolf and I hated to be restrained. She grumbled under the surface of my skin, itching for another attack. Pacing in her cage, looking for a hole big enough to escape through, and full of pent up power that hadn’t been there before. Something strange was happening to me, and the fear of it was a heavy weight in my stomach.

Dr. Lillian led the way out of the cell. It was dark outside, but my vision was good enough to see that we were surrounded by a dense forest of trees and shrubs. I should have felt claustrophobic, with all that nature pressing in on me from all sides like a heavy blanket, but after being in a room of silver anything was a better alternative. My skin still tingled from the after effects, making me want to scrub myself clean.

I breathed in all the lovely, pure night smells, my wolf relishing in the freedom of being outside. Eucalyptus was thick in the air, sweetening the combined scents of all the different trees and animals. Underneath it all was the scent of dry dirt that hadn’t seen any rain for a while. Overall it was beautiful, peaceful. I’d forgotten what real nature was like, away from the bright lights and pollution of the city.

It should have surprised me that we were in the middle of nowhere, but then, I had passed out in an area like this. I’d just assumed it was their territory. There were still a fair few packs that inhabited more rural areas, though most territory’s had quickly become developed, stripping my kind of their hunting grounds. My pack had only an acre of grass out the back of my father’s house to run in at the full moon. But I’d found, after I’d been blackmailed to not change at the full moon, that little patch of grass was better than nothing at all.

I followed the doctor, looking around at my surroundings curiously. My bare feet crunched the dry grass and twigs; a couple of them bit into my skin, but it was a pain I welcomed, a pain I associated with freedom. I soon stopped in my tracks, however, Steele bumping me heavily so that I nearly dropped to my knees and he had to steady me with his heavy hands on my shoulders.

“What is it?”

“The moon,” I whispered, gazing up at the sky through the treetops, spellbound by the sight of the wondrous shining orb, “I was unconscious for at least two days. Why?”

Dr. Lillian patted my arm sympathetically, “You fought us from the moment we found you, dear. And then, when we removed the silver, you tried to transform on the operating table. We had to call the Alpha just to hold you down so we could give you a tranquiliser to keep you from injuring yourself even further. We had to keep you under, just in case there were some complications from leaving the silver bullet in your system for so long. I admit we were maybe a little enthusiastic with the sedative, but we had to ensure our own safety.”

It felt strange knowing that I’d missed even only a couple of days. What had happened while I had been under? Had my pack stopped looking for me? No, I would bet my life they wouldn’t have. Merrick would not stop until I was no longer a threat to his power base. I was simply stronger than him, especially now, and though I’d never had dreams of running a pack I hated, he was convinced I would rise up in the ranks and kill him. I should have done it already and saved myself all this trouble, but I didn’t take killing lightly. Even if he was a murderous bastard. Still, I had been made to feel like an unwanted, vile disease my whole life, and I didn’t expect to be treated any different by this pack once they found out what I was.

“You alright pup?” Steele ruffled my already tangled hair with one huge hand; I pulled away from his reach and turned to glare at him, “don’t do that.”

He grinned, “You were staring so intently at the moon I thought you’d gone in some kinda trance.”

“I’m fine,” I snapped, irritated by the man and turning back to the doctor, “let’s go already.”

We were quite literally surrounded by thick, seemingly impenetrable forest. It seemed to pulse in the night, feeling like it had a life and mind of its own under the silver light of the moon. Once upon a time, human’s had been able to sense the magic of nature too, but that was before cars and skyscrapers. Werewolves were different; when you share your soul with an animal, you have no choice but to listen to and respect the nature around you. I wondered how I’d been able to keep my wolf reigned in for so long, denying her even the change at the full moon. Maybe she just knew it was a sacrifice to stay alive.

I continued to follow Dr. Lillian as she trudged confidently through the dark on a thin dirt path, pushing branches out of her way as they reached for her like thin, fragile hands. I wondered how such a small woman had come to be so intimate with a pack of werewolves, since it is against law to share our secrets with humans. I sensed no magic from here, so she wasn’t a witch or some kind of fey. She wasn’t a shifter of any kind, and she definitely wasn’t a vampire. My knowledge of other preternatural creatures wasn’t impressive, but I knew a supernatural being when I was staring at one. Maybe if I survived whatever was in store for me, I would ask her.

After a while the dirt path gave way to a well-lit, tidy looking clearing. I couldn’t help gasping in awe; it was like stumbling across a mini civilisation in the middle of nowhere. There were four sets of one story, rectangular buildings- like the kind of buildings you’d see at any standard Australian school- set in a semi circle around the clearing. It was clear that someone had tried to make a couple of the buildings look a little more homely; little touches like chairs and flowerbeds had been added to brighten up the otherwise plain looking buildings. I thought it was a pretty feeble attempt; the concrete buildings looked cold and impersonal against their surroundings. But each to their own.

“What is this?” I asked out loud, glancing between the doctor and Steele. He just shook his head at me, unwilling- or unable- to explain, and Dr Lillian simply stepped into the clearing and made her way towards one of the plainer, less decorated buildings.

“After you,” Steele made a sweeping gesture with his arms; I rolled my eyes and followed the doctor. The dirt was soft under my feet, a slight relief from the constant jabbing of twigs and sticks. There was no one in the clearing, something I should have noticed straight away, before the feeling of dirt on my feet. I knew better than to walk into a new area unaware and with my guard down. Scents in the air told me werewolves frequently came out here, but none could be seen. Why? It put me on edge, and my wolf growled anxiously in my mind, verbalising a warning I was already aware of.

Dr Lillian had stopped in front of a building with large, steel doors. She rapped twice on the metal with one tiny, slightly blood stained hand, and the sound echoed eerily through the trees, making their branches rustle as night birds took flight.

“It’s me, with the young woman and Steele,” she called, and the door opened outwards so that I couldn’t see who it was from where I was standing. She beckoned me to come inside and disappeared; I looked back at Steele questioningly.

He shrugged and nudged me forwards so that this time I really did fall to my knees. The fall jolted my spine, and I knew that the impact would leave bruises on my knees. I knew that any bruises would have all but healed by the time I got to my feet, but it annoyed me. One thing I hated more than being tied up was being pushed around by men. My wolf launched herself forward, ready to protect, and fight, and maim. I growled at him and felt my fangs touch my tongue hard enough to draw blood. Yes, that’s what my wolf wanted; blood. Their blood, spilling into my mouth as I tore them all limb from limb.

Steele put his hands up, frowning as his gaze shifted between my eyes, “you need to get more control of your wolf, pup.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!” I growled louder and strained at the silver cuffs, standing up and moving into a fighting stance. I could take him, even with my hands behind my back. He put his hands on my shoulders and bent over a little so he could look me in the eyes properly.

“Get control of your wolf,” he demanded, and I felt his power lick feebly at my own, trying to calm it, silence it, but it was no use. I was stronger than him, and my wolf knew it. She’d been held back for far too long, and she wanted out. No more being pushed around. I whirled away from him and landed a jump-kick in the centre of his chest before he could brace himself for the hit. He went down but he didn’t stay down; as he was getting to his feet I aimed another kick to the side of his face, but this time he caught my foot in one of his hands and flipped me so that I landed on my ass in the dirt. I let out a roar of frustration. No more games; I wanted to sink my claws and teeth into something, anything. I was moving to get up when a large hot hand wrapped itself around the back of my neck and lifted me effortlessly off the ground.

“Stop fighting,” a deep, commanding voice rumbled in my ears and instantly, amazingly, my wolf disappeared. My fangs and claws retracted and I hung limply in the strong grasp. For the first time in my life I felt peaceful, even as I was suspended in the air. I was lowered gently to the ground and I collapsed in a relaxed heap on my back, gazing up at the man towering above me. I knew straight away who he was, his power delicious as it swirled around me. The Alpha.





The Alpha’s power was so warm it seemed to encase me like a thick blanket so that I felt safe at his bare feet. I shouldn’t feel safe, and something in the back my mind screamed at me, but I ignored it and focused on the beautiful power. I could practically taste it in the air around me as I lay with my eyes closed, basking in it as though it were rays of a mini sun. My wolf didn’t want to attack this power, not yet anyway. She wanted to roll around in it, to bathe in its warmth. Merrick’s power had never tasted this good. Not even close.

“Steele, are you hurt?” the voice asked in that commanding tone, and I rolled so I could stare at the other man curiously, licking my lips. He was on his feet, rubbing his chest gingerly, with his head down out of respect for his leader, “No Samuel. She packs quite a kick for such a little thing though. Like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

“She’s strong alright, and don’t you forget it. Go back to the house and stay with the others; tell them I will be up there soon, but do not tell them what has occurred here.”

Steele nodded once and disappeared into the surrounding forest. I made a move to follow him but felt those warm hands around my arms, stopping me in my tracks.

“I don’t think so,” Samuel jerked me back, almost as if I was an eager puppy attached to a leash for the first time. But I still felt calm; there was no anger. There should be anger… I hated being pushed around.

Suddenly, the thick warm power was thrown off my body as my own power seemed to re-awaken from the Alpha’s spell. He had me pressed tight against his chest before I could even react, pinning my arms to my chest so tightly I thought they would snap.

“Let me go!” I fought him, kicking any part of him I could reach as hard as I could, and still he didn’t flinch.

“Not until you calm yourself.”

“You tried to control me! You used your Alpha powers to subdue my mind and my wolf!”

“Your wolf is out of control. You are attacking everyone around you. You attacked my doctors on the operating table, and now you’re attacking my men. You either get a grip on it, or I’ll make you get a grip on it. Choice is yours.”

“Clem attacked me,” I snapped, and I struggled for a little bit more out of pure stubbornness. His arms did not lessen their hold; in fact they tightened even more, forcing air out of my lungs. It finally dawned on me as my anger weakened that if I wanted answers I had to cooperate. I stopped kicking and he soon set me down. I turned sulkily, my arms crossed, to get a good look at the man.

He was as tall Steele, and just as well built in his blue singlet-and-jeans combo. At a guess I had to say he was in his mid to late twenties in werewolf years; so very young to be head of a pack, but his face held infinite knowledge and wisdom as he gazed down at me like I was a naughty child about to be disciplined. He had not been in the forest when I’d collapsed, that’s for sure. I would have noticed him straight away, would have been drawn to him. I’d been drawn to Steele, but not like this. His eyes were periwinkle blue and seemed to be more alive than the sky itself. They were bright in contrast to his midnight black hair, but it was what you saw in those eyes that made you stare.

Power. Power I hadn’t seen even in my father. The kind that made you feel tiny and insignificant, like when you stare at the stars at night and realise the universe wouldn’t care if you didn’t exist. I blinked and looked away from those eyes as they switched their gaze curiously between my two different coloured ones. I did not want to accidentally fall under his command again.

“Will you answer my questions?” I asked as demanding as I dared, rattling my cuffs, “and please can I get the hell out of these handcuffs?”

“I’ll answer them if you answer some of mine.”

I watched him scrutinisingly, “and if I don’t want to answer?”

“That’s your choice. Although, things would be a hell of a lot easier for you if you stopped fighting everyone.”

I ignored his comment. What did I have to lose, anyway? Well, my life, but I’d done a pretty damn good job staying alive so far.

“What do you want to know then?”

He didn’t answer. Instead, he opened the metal door and held it for me to enter. I took a deep breath, and against better judgment, I stepped inside; I was instantly blinded by fluorescent lights reflecting off white… white everything. White tiles, white walls… It didn’t take me long to realise what I was standing in. White-sheeted beds lined the length of a wall, divided by white curtains and surrounded by various monitors and screens that beeped loudly every few seconds. A few of the beds were occupied with werewolves, young and all unconscious. Dr. Lillian was examining a patient with another male doctor and made no move to show she knew I was there. I didn’t have to get closer to find out that the male doctor was a werewolf as well. Hmmm, interesting. Why bring a human doctor into a pack that already had a werewolf one on call? I tried pushing the question away; it really was none of my business. Still, I couldn’t help wanting to ask. Curiosity was one of my flaws I guess.

I recognised Clem’s form sitting hunched over one of the beds, his shoulder length auburn hair hiding his face, and I took a subconscious step forward towards him. The werewolf in the bed next to him was hooked up to the medical equipment, his face pale as he slept. He looked younger than I was, maybe fifteen or sixteen, and I could tell that there was both old and new blood underneath his bandages. He hadn’t even begun the usual healing process- werewolves rarely ever need actual medical equipment- and the only reason for it would be the presence of silver. What had happened here? I took another step forward and Clem turned to look at me, his expression filled with so much pain instead of the blind rage that I’d seen that it shocked me.

I turned to Samuel, “what is going on here? Why are those boys injured?”

“How dare you come here!” Clem was off his chair and hurling himself towards me before I could blink. I braced myself for impact, but Samuel stepped in front of me and stopped the angry man in his tracks.

“Control yourself, Clem,” he growled, and once again his warm power filled the room. This time I recognised it though, and my own power acted as a shield against it. Clem was his pack, however, and he was forced to drop to his knees in front of Samuel, his head bowed to expose the back of his neck.

“I gave the order that she was not to be harmed until I was able to question her. Did you not understand the order or is this the second challenge against my authority tonight?”

“No Alpha, please…I apologise. I… I lost my head for a moment.”

The young boy in the bed made a noise of discomfort, and Clem looked up imploringly at Samuel, his emerald coloured eyes glimmering with tears and filling me with pity.

“You will not be punished for your disobedience- this time,” Samuel’s power whipped forward, making the other man cringe, “Do not disobey me again. Now, go back to your brother,” Samuel said softly, his commanding power fading but not disappearing completely, “he will need you by his side tonight.”

Clem nodded and returned to the bedside. I could not tear my eyes away from the pale boy as his face creased with pain even as he slept.

“You have seen enough here, come with me,” Samuel clasped my shoulder and steered me back outside into the cool night air. I sucked it into my lungs but it felt thick in my throat, and I had a brief fear of suffocating. I pulled away from Samuel’s grasp and froze at the steel doors. My wolf had made me move without my permission, and I hadn’t even felt her rise up in my mind. I wanted to go back and look at those poor kids, find out what was wrong with them. It was my wolf wanting to establish a new pack, and the young wolves needed to be protected, looked after. She wanted to stand guard like a mother would her pups, and I stood there fighting her for a moment, Samuel watching me with a frown etched on his face.

“Something the matter?”

I shook my head, concentrating for a moment longer to push my wolf back in her cage. She went, reluctantly, and I knew I would pay for it later. She had never fought me like this before, ever. I felt slightly breathless when I met Samuel’s eyes, and I could feel a headache begin to throb behind my eyes from the strain. He waited, as if expecting me to speak and explain myself, but I crossed my arms and stared back at him defiantly. I wasn’t going to give anything away to this man, who so easily controlled me even when I was aware of it. Well, I would be concentrating on keeping his power at bay from now on.

Finally, he gestured for me to leave the clearing and re-enter the bushes, though this time there was no trail to follow. I felt a stab of worry as I walked deeper and deeper into unknown territory, not having any clue as to where I was going, his huge form close behind me the entire time like an implied threat. My mind wandered to thoughts of escape plans as I trudged, tree branches whipping my face and arms painfully. I couldn’t fight him; he was so strong that I really didn’t know if I could win, plus I was still handcuffed. There was no way I would survive a fight with him without the use of my hands, so that option was out. Running? No, somehow I got the impression that he knew the forest very well, and I had no idea where I was going. Maybe if I shifted I could slip out of my handcuffs… and then what? I was heading to the middle of nowhere, and even as a wolf I didn’t know how long it would take for me to reach civilisation. One day? Two days? A week?

“Stop,” Samuel barked suddenly, and I turned to face him, trying not to cringe as he towered impressively over me. I was really getting sick of being so short.

“Why are we out here?” I asked tentatively, proud that I kept my voice from showing my fear. He frowned at me for a moment, as if he was undecided about something.

“There is something I wish for you to see.”

He didn’t say anything further, just stared at me with a thoughtful frown on his face. I fidgeted, glancing around at my surroundings as his eyes bored into me. It made me uncomfortable, and most of all, it made me afraid. I had not been under an Alpha’s power since my father passed, though Merrick had tried and tried to make me his personal slave. And I don’t mean personal slave as in picking up groceries and cleaning the house, I mean personal as being in his bed whenever he wanted, as his mate and as his tool for bringing an heir into the world. When I had refused, that’s when he really lost it. I suppose he thought that if I was his then my power would combine with his and make him stronger. He already had my father’s Alpha power, and yet it wasn’t enough; he wanted mine as well. If he couldn’t have me, no one could. And to think I’d thought he had willingly let me go. Nah, he had just wanted to rip my new found freedom from me as punishment before his men took my life.

Samuel was still staring at me, his arms crossed over his chest. I was beginning to grow impatient. This was the man who could answer my questions, and he was saying nothing.

I sighed, “Are you going to question me or what?”

“Yes. I’m trying to figure out if you are behind the attack on my pack.”

“What attack!? I’m getting a little pissed off that no one will answer my goddamn questions!”

“Be quiet,” he snapped, reaching into the pocket of his pants to reveal a key. He moved behind me and removed my handcuffs, letting them fall to the ground, forgotten. “I am Alpha of the Mt Glorious Pack. You will treat me with respect and you will give me your full cooperation whilst in my territory. Is that clear?”

I nodded a little begrudgingly, rubbing my wrists where the silver had touched, “crystal.”

“How are your wrists?” his voice softened a little, “my people are a little on edge, they may have been a little overzealous.”

“They’re fine. Apart from Clem, everyone has been fine,” I let my arms fall to my side, “what exactly do you want to know?”

He eyed me for a moment, “Some of my pack would want any excuse to put the blame on you for all of this.”

“Like Clem.”

He nodded, “like Clem. I apologise for the way he has treated you. Now, I want you to smell something.”

I looked up at him quizzically, “smell something?”

He beckoned me to follow him over to a broken gum tree I hadn’t noticed; it appeared to have been hit by something so hard that its roots had been ripped from the ground, clutching clumps of dirt as it sat shivering in the air. I noticed straight away a rusty stain smeared along the trunk, as though someone had fallen against it, and I dropped to my knees in front of it without hesitation.

“One of my men managed to grab one of the attackers. That is their blood.”

I lent closer and the sweet smell of blood invaded my nose. My whole body stiffened as I recognised the person’s individual scent first, and then the underlying pack scent. Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no.

Samuel noticed my reaction before I could mask it, “What is it?”

I closed my eyes, harsh regret making my stomach turn over and over. This had been my fault all right; I really was the one to blame for Clem’s unconscious brother.

“What happened in the attack?” I asked shakily, wrapping my arms around myself, suddenly feeling cold. I didn’t want to know, but I had to know.

“Lucas, one of my top hunters, had taken a few of the younger boys out for their first tracking test. They were ambushed by two men.”

“Did they say anything?”

“No, they just attacked.”

“With silver bullets.”

“How did you know?”

I shook my head frantically, and held up a hand as he made a move towards me. I leant forward and ran my tongue across the smooth bark of the tree, tasting the blood to confirm it. Ramirez. His blood was mingled with the taste of bark, but it was him alright, and the hint of the pack’s connection didn’t lie. I sighed and stood, brushing the dirt from my clothes, trying to stall, “you’re not going to believe me.”

His face was hard, mistrusting, “try me.”

I felt hopeless as I looked up at him. What would he do when I told him that my pack was responsible for this? So I didn’t carry the pack scent anymore, but would that be enough? No, it wouldn’t. Because if I hadn’t come here, this wouldn’t have happened. I still hadn’t answered him, and if I didn’t explain myself soon, the pent up rage from being unable to stop his pack’s pups being hurt evident in his bright eyes might spill out onto me.

“This is all my fault, but it’s by accident I swear.”

He didn’t speak, just stood there watching me. I breathed out a breath of relief that he hadn’t erupted, and continued, “These men were after me, not your pack.”

“You know who they are.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes,” I replied slowly, “but I didn’t think they would find me. I mean, I don’t even know where I am!”

“So you brought them here.”

“Unknowingly, yes, but how was I to know they would track me this far?” my throat felt choked, and it was as if everything that had happened in the last few days came crashing down. I felt my eyes water. No dammit, I would not cry in front of a strange Alpha. I would not show weakness. Weakness would get me killed. I took a deep breath and tried to speak without my voice wavering, “they tracked me here, and it is my fault. I’m sorry.”

Samuel’s face showed no emotion, “I can feel your sadness and regret, but I can feel your guilt as well. You truly feel responsible for this.”

“Yes,” I whispered, hugging myself tighter, “I should have just….”

“Just what? Let them do to you what they did to my pack? That is why you have run away, is it not?” He closed the space between us and peered down at me, but I avoided his gaze. He’d hit the mark all right. The last thing I wanted was sympathy; it would push me over the edge into a crying, blubbering mess. I shook my head again, not trusting my voice. I kept thinking of the werewolves in the makeshift hospital, Clem leaning over his fragile looking brother. My doing, all of it. Should I have let Justin and Ramirez kill me? If they had, innocent people would not have been hurt. That sickened me more than anything they’d ever done to me.

“Why were they tracking you?”

I just shook my head, but grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to look at him.

“My wolves are hurt, and you are going to tell me why,” he barked, shaking me a little. My wolf reacted again like a sudden burst of fire and I was lunging myself at his chest, the unshed tears blurring my vision a little. It took him by surprise enough for me to get him on the ground, my full weight on his arms and torso, my extended fangs inches from his throat.

It took a moment to register that the man was laughing. The sound was deep and soothing and shocked me out of my rage. I withdrew slightly from his throat, confused.

“Impressive, you could give my men a run for their money.”

“You don’t seem too concerned for someone who has been pinned,” I growled, my claws digging slightly into the skin of his strong forearms, his tanned skin showing through the rips I’d made.

“That’s if you think I’m really pinned.”


In one smooth, fluid motion he rolled me underneath him so that before I could react we’d switched positions. Shit, he really was strong. No one, not even my father, could escape once I had them pinned. I was small, but I was strong. Samuel held himself off me as if he thought he would crush me with his chest, “you may be a good fighter, and you’re very strong, but your wolf controls your emotions. You make mistakes. One of them being you under-estimate your opponents. You have never fought me before and you do not know my strengths; you left me too much room to escape. Now, if you’d actually had your teeth around my jugular, it would have been too dangerous for me to roll you like that without risking having my throat torn out.”

I glared at him, “thanks for the lesson,” I said through gritted teeth as he got up, offering a hand to help me. I ignored the hand and got to my feet, trying to get the dust and dirt off my back, “you shouldn’t have shaken me like that,” I muttered, my teeth itching as they returned to their regular size.

“You should have more control over your wolf. My pack is my family. I have a right to know why some of them are hurt.”

“Because they want me dead, all right?” I burst out angrily, avoiding his eyes, “ Satisfied? They are tracking me to kill me. I don’t know why they attacked your pups, but they want to put a silver bullet in my brain.”


“That part is none of your business.”

“I could offer you protection. A pack. I can tell you’re on your own. You don’t have to be.”

I looked at him, really looked at him for a second. He was offering sanctuary to me? Even though it was my fault Justin and Ramirez had shot his young wolves with silver bullets? I gave myself a mental slap. It had to be some kind of trick; why else would he offer such a thing? Werewolf packs rarely took in loners; they were too much of a liability. I didn’t trust him.

“Sorry, but I should leave your pack as soon as possible. They won’t stop until I’m dead, and too many people have been hurt already.”

“Where are you going to go?”

I shrugged, “away from here, away from your pack. They might catch up to me eventually, but it’s better if I’m alone when they do. That way no one will be caught in the crossfire again.”

“You nearly died the last time they shot you. I saw the condition you were in; I had to hold you down so the doctors could remove the bullets. What happened to your pack? Why aren’t they protecting you? I can’t smell them on you.”

“Look, Samuel,” I threw my hands up in the air in frustration, “I’m not going to spill my guts to you, okay? I told you what you needed to know. I’m sorry members of your pack have been hurt, if I can avenge them I most certainly will. And I’m grateful that they saved my life. But this is better if I am on my own; I don’t want to worry that people are being hurt because of me. It’s not how I do things, with all due respect, Alpha.”

“I can take care of my pack. For you to imply I cannot is an insult.”

I sighed, “That is not what I’m implying at all. If it were a fair fight, I wouldn’t be worrying, because I can tell already that your pack is stronger than the ones after me. But we’re talking about silver bullets here. These men don’t care who you are, and they won’t care who they hurt to get to me. You know as well as I that hurting the young is a crime punishable by death, and yet there are four pups in your hospital, one of them dying,” I scrubbed a hand across my eyes, “Look, my decision is made. The people after me won’t stop until I am dead, okay? The further I am away from your pack, the better.”

He folded his arms and frowned at me for a moment, as if I were an intricate puzzle he couldn’t quite figure out, “Fine. At least stay in one of the cabins for the night, think things over. I can drive you wherever you wish to go in the morning if that is what you truly wish.”

“Is that your word, Alpha?”


“Then that’s what I’ll do.”

We stood in silence for a moment, staring stubbornly at each other. Then he turned abruptly and began to stride in the direction of the forest. I followed wordlessly, almost jogging to keep up with his long pace, the silver handcuffs left forgotten in the overgrown grass. I had to force myself to keep my eyes off the rippling muscles underneath his singlet as he moved fluidly through the trees, like he was a part of them; last thing I wanted was him to catch me staring at him, especially after he’d rolled me so easily in our little scuffle. I didn’t want him to get any funny ideas that he had a hold on me just because I was a woman. Female werewolves in a pack have a main goal of finding a mate and reproducing little werewolf pups; a stereotype I’d fought against my whole life. I found the whole thing pretty sexist and my father had given up trying to persuade me years before he’d died. ‘You have to pass the power on,’ he’d say, ‘make strong pups for the next generation’. I don’t think so. Considering this power was what had gotten me into trouble in the first place, why would I want to pass it on? So my child could live the same, horrible life that I had? Of course, if I had a boy and he inherited my power, he’d probably be treated like royalty. But there was a fifty-fifty chance that it would be a girl, and she would live a cursed life like I had so far. I wasn’t going to risk it.

Still, I couldn’t take my eyes off him, off the way the trees seemed to fold back from him as he stalked through them. It was as though there was a mutual respect between him and the forest, and I wondered just how long he’d lived out here. My wolf enjoyed being in his presence; that much was clear to me. And he could control her sudden outbursts in a way that I couldn’t. Dammit.

We finally reached the clearing, and he showed me to one of the empty cabins, opening the heavy door to reveal even more darkness. He flicked on a light, and I had to shield my eyes for a moment while they adjusted. I looked around blearily. The room was small; my stolen backpack sat on a single army-like bed that stood next to the only window and an old wooden desk and chair sat in the corner. Everything was wooden and natural, except for the cold concrete walls. It was more than I deserved. Besides, I hadn’t slept in a bed in days. I was even more delighted to see that the cabin had its own cramped little bathroom, complete with a shower. I could have hugged Samuel a thousand times for that small gift. I didn’t.

“You can stay in here tonight.”

“Thank you.”

“I will be back here in the morning. It would be a good idea for you to stay here until I return.” It wasn’t a suggestion, I could hear the underlying command- stay here or else. I tried not to take it personally; after all, I was an intruder who had inadvertently caused an attack on his pack.

“Where are you going?”

“I own a house further up the trail. This place is mainly kept for emergencies if any of my wolves need a place to stay.”

“Oh. Okay… well… goodnight then, Alpha.”

“Call me Samuel, please. And… I never asked you your name.”

I blushed, “Uh. Lacey.”

I had always been embarrassed by my name. It had been my mother’s choice, and father had always found it amusing. Such a girly name did not suit someone who’d been wrestling the other werewolves ever since her potential power had reared its unwanted head. Lacey was a name given to a delicate, polite little girl; one that didn’t play in the mud or cut her hair to look like a tomboy. Though he hadn’t known I’d done those things just to spite them both for expecting me to be someone I couldn’t be. If only I’d been normal and not some freak of nature. I’d have a pack, and a home, and probably a mate by now. I always cringed when I told people my name, always waited for some smirk or comment about how it wasn’t at all fitting. Samuel didn’t even flinch. Brownie points for him.

“Lacey,” he gave one nod of his head, a sign of respect that I didn’t deserve, “have a good night.”

“Wait,” I said suddenly as he turned to leave, reaching out to grab him. He looked at me expectantly and I felt slightly foolish, but both my wolf and I had to know. I let my hand drop, feeling his eyes burn into me.

“Why isn’t Clem’s brother healing?”

Something crossed his face before he could stop it, but the expression was too quick for me to catch it, and his face was once again set in a serious mask.

“We don’t know why. The doctors removed the bullets but he has failed to heal. Unless he does soon, he will die.”

My heart dropped deeper in my chest and I felt tears well up again. All my fault. Samuel looked for a moment like he was going to say more, but he just shook his head, pulling the door closed behind him. Very suddenly I was alone, and the realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks. I stood there for a moment, almost unsure of what I was meant to do with myself as I stared at the closed door, tears leaking down my face. I hated to cry, but if I wouldn’t cry for myself, than at I at least owed it to the young wolf in the hospital. I sat on the bare bed, my face in my hands, my wolf howling pitifully in my mind. It was one of those moments where I found myself to blame for everything. If I had just accepted Merrick’s offer none of this would have happened. But I knew deep down that I could not have been mated to a man I found so despicable and slimy that I shuddered at his touch, and I knew his only interest was power. Once we were paired and he had a bite of my power he probably would have killed me, after I’d given him an heir anyway.

I sighed and scrubbed at my eyes; wiping away the tears and feeling the after crying tiredness take their place. Looking around at the small room, unfriendly room I felt the familiar claustrophobia in the pit of my stomach, and it chased away my misery as well. The room smelled of unfamiliar werewolves, and it did nothing to sooth my nerves, in fact it put my wolf even more on edge. She knew that more often than not the scent of a werewolf meant I had to be on guard; she’d seen too many years of being ambushed by pack members who thought it would be funny to roughen up the freak female. To make it worse, the only scents I picked up were male- none female. It only made me more and more agitated.

I got to my feet and paced the room, straining my ears for any sound that didn’t belong, part of me wishing Justin and Ramirez came back so I could give them what they deserved. My wolf was pleased with that thought; revenge was something she could understand and carry out. Ramirez and Justin had been injured, and I had no idea why they would attack another pack in the first place. Surely Merrick could not be so stupid?  I hadn’t known Samuel for more than an hour or so, and yet I could tell he was strong, and smart, and knew how to run a clean pack. Part of Merrick’s problem was that he’d gotten to be Alpha by blackmail and lies, not by strength and leadership. Oh, my father would be so sad if he was still around to see his pack go to shambles. If only he’d had a son and not a daughter, right?

I scolded myself; if I kept up with that kind of thinking I would end up crying again. I hated crying. I’d never cried in front of the men in my pack because it had only made them laugh and hurt me even more. The women in my pack? They were so few, and they too treated me like something diseased, though they never actively did anything to hurt me. They just didn’t do anything to help, which was even worse in a way. They knew I was being abused, and still they stood by and watched. Well, that didn’t matter anymore.


There were folded blankets and a couple of pillows on the stiff army bed; they were a little scratchy and reeked of dust, so I spent a few moments shaking and beating them until the scent of them didn’t make my nose itch. At least I had something to keep me warm tonight.  I made the bed slowly, procrastinating because though I was tired, I didn’t want to sleep. But I turned off the light and was swallowed by the kind of darkness you can only get away from the city, the kind that seems clean and natural. To my wolf, the darkness meant a better hunt, but she would have to wait for another time. I climbed into the bed- dirty clothes and all- and while my wolf was screaming at me to stay alert and focused, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and hope I didn’t dream of being torn apart.





I knew straight away that I was in another nightmare. I knew, but there was nothing I could do about it. I would have to ride it out, again. My feet were moving, moving in a memory that I could never change. It would play out just as it had happened, and the familiar nausea began to grow in the pit of my stomach. I was walking through a forest, but my surroundings didn’t really matter. The original attack had been in an old industrial area filled with empty warehouses, but maybe my mind was trying to soften the blow. There was a heavy duffel bag over my shoulder, full of what little possessions I had that I could escape with. I wanted to scream at the memory of myself, warn myself that they were coming. I should have known Merrick hadn’t taken the rejection as calmly as he’d pretended. But even after all those years of torture and abuse, I was naive. I thought he’d let me go. I was wrong.

The forest was a suffocating blanket around me, not natural and free like the forest I’d walked through with Samuel. No, this forest was a figment of my imagination, and I prepared myself for the horror that was about to come.

            I should have been more aware of my surroundings. I should have sensed the men as they approached me from all sides. But I was too happy at finally being free. Now maybe I could live like a real person. Now I wouldn’t have to look over my shoulder every five seconds, bracing for the attacks that always came when my father wasn’t around to see.

Justin stepped out onto the path in front of me, two metres away at the most. My heart sank to my feet; part of me had hoped that maybe the nightmare wouldn’t play out the same as what had really happened. I had no such luck, and once again I was being forced to watch my own attempted murder. As if the first time round wasn’t bad enough.

Justin had a malicious grin on his face, his red hair curling around his face in an invisible wind. I felt myself stop, confused.

“What are you doing here?” I felt my mouth move, and the grin on his face widened, sending feelings of dread to the pit of my stomach, “Merrick let me go.”

Justin pretended to look thoughtful, “he let you go… but he didn’t say anything about letting you staying alive.”

The weight of his words hit me, made me take an involuntary step back. Disbelief flooded through me, and I knew what was coming next. But it was too late to run, too late to do anything but watch.

            There was a sound behind me and I whirled to face Ramirez, an identical grin to Justin’s plastered on his face. I could feel the realisation dawn on me all over again. Two more men revealed themselves, this time emerging from the trees on either side of me. Jobe, Merrick’s younger brother, and Kane. There was hesitation in Jobe’s blue-green eyes as he looked steadily at me. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to do this. I tried to tell him with my eyes that I didn’t blame him for this, tried to tell him that I knew Merrick had commanded he participate in this attack. An initiation. Lucky me.

Kane was full of eagerness, like the others. My duffel bag was dropped to my feet, and I assumed a fighting stance. It was pointless though, and that knowledge was as heavy as lead in my body. I couldn’t watch all four of them at once. Maybe two against one I could hope to get away, but not four. I yelled at myself to wake up, but it was useless. I was a hostage in my own body, my own mind.

I gave Jobe a small nod, giving him permission for what he was about to do. Merrick knew that the only person I’d ever given a damn about was Jobe; he was my age, born a few months after me. He’d had his own struggles in the pack, being a weaker, and omega wolf. He had to live with being a disappointment, a ‘weak’ male, and now he had to face that his horrid brother was Alpha with complete control over him. Jobe and I had shared our pain together. He’d been given grief about being a submissive from the other men, just as I’d been punished for being stronger than I was supposed to be.

            His eyes were glistening, but I never saw that first tear drop. Kane lunged, hitting me in the middle. I clawed at his skin with my nails, and he loosened his grip enough for me to land a punch on his jaw. He hissed, eyes full of rage, as Justin and Ramirez laughed. I saw Jobe approach in my peripheral vision and kicked out hard, sending him back into the trees. I hoped I’d knocked him out- hurting me would be a double edged sword for him, and I wanted to save him from it. In my distraction, Kane managed to knock me down and get a hand over my throat, his big body pressing down hard enough for me to know that hurting me was turning him on. I shoved the heel of my palm up into his face, aiming for his nose like my father had taught me. The feeling of cartridge shattering against my palm was somewhat satisfying, and he rolled away from me, clutching his bleeding nose and howling. If I’d done it well enough, then he’d be down for maybe two minutes until it healed.

            Justin and Ramirez were no longer laughing. They were going to have to get their hands dirty after all. They both went for me, not even a split second between them. I took the blow to the face from Justin and struck out at Ramirez, opening a gash down the side of his face. His skin split like butter underneath my nails, and for a moment I was shocked. But then he roared and lunged again, and I had to duck. He hit Justin and they both hit the ground- the downside to fighting with more than two people, sometimes you hit your ally instead of your enemy. I ran, leaving my duffel bag in the dirt, and was tackled around the ankles moments later. I looked back as I kicked out, trying to loosen the grip. Kane’s eyes were black, manic, and full of the need to kill. Blood was still streaming from his nose, but obviously he’d overcome the pain. I kicked out even more ferociously, but he hung on like his life depended on it. Which it probably did. If I escaped they would all be in for a beating.

“Jobe, get over here,” Justin appeared in my vision, a cut healing above his eyebrow. He and Kane rolled me onto my back and I struggled, reaching up to yank a handful of red hair from his scalp. He hissed and hit me in the face, fist closed. The world spun again, and for a second I hoped for unconsciousness.

“Ramirez, hold her Goddamn hands,” he commanded, and I heard Ramirez and his shuffling limp as he came over. Then his hands were like manacles around my wrists. This was it. Oh please, please wake up.

“Jobe!” Justin snapped again, “now, or your brother will hear that you were unwilling to complete your task.”

Jobe appeared, his eyes avoiding mine, “what do you wish for me to do?”

It was against our laws to order an omega wolf to inflict violence on someone else, especially a female. But since when had Merrick played by the rules?

“It’s okay, Jobe,” I panted, and was rewarded with another blow from Justin’s fist.

“Shut it, bitch,” he barked, “hit her, Jobe.”

I saw the Adam’s apple in Jobe’s throat move as he swallowed heavily. He finally looked at me, and there was an apology in his eyes. But I understood. He had to save his life, too.

            I tried to imagine myself in another place as the blows hit me, over and over. I didn’t notice when Justin joined in, I just remember looking down into Kane’s eyes and seeing murderous jealousy. He wanted to join the beating, but he was a lesser wolf, and he’d been commanded to hold my feet. In a way, it was his lust and need for violence that scared me more than anything else.

When the blows stopped, I thought for a second that maybe, just maybe, I’d died. I chanced a look at Jobe and he was panting, his eyes unreadable. Merrick didn’t know it yet, but he had ruined his brother. Forcing an omega wolf into this kind of brutal activity was like forcing a child to kill their first pet. Omegas could fight to defend their pack, mate or offspring, but they were not outwardly violent. There was a crazed look in Jobe’s eyes that broke my heart. He was not my Jobe, not anymore.

“Justin, you son of a bitch,” I growled through gritted teeth, “you will pay for this. All of you will pay for this.”

“Ramirez, shut her up,” Justin grinned at me, and I could see his fangs protruding as he began shifting, “as much as I want to hear her scream, I don’t want to be interrupted in case someone hears.”

Ramirez glared at me, so much hatred in his eyes, “this is for Antonio, you bitch.”

Before I could protest, Ramirez swiped at my throat, ripping it open and destroying my vocal chords. I choked, drowning in my own blood as I tried to breathe through a shattered wind pipe. Justin grinned down at me, in wolf form now, his sharp teeth so close to my face that I would have screamed if I could have. He lunged at my stomach, and I thought he meant to bury his mouth in my abdomen, but instead he ripped open my shirt to reveal soft flesh. Now I knew why he had made Ramirez stop me from making much noise. He put one clawed paw on my stomach and pressed, his claws piercing the unprotected skin. I felt the blood well up around his claws, and then, so slowly, he began to rip open my stomach.

In my mind, I screamed. I screamed and screamed and screamed. This was the part where I expected to wake myself up, drenched in sweat, my throat hoarse. But I didn’t wake, and the horrible pain continued. I tried to move away from Justin’s claws, but they held me down, stopped me from escaping. I close my eyes and begged myself to wake up, but when I opened them I was still there, squirming in their grasps. The pain was becoming unbearable, and I welcomed the feeling of my mind fogging over. And then… nothingness. The pain was still there, but I was detached from it now. My wolf was stirring in her cage, willing me not to give up. But giving up was so easy now. So easy.


            Someone was howling; a long noise full of rage. My mind moved sluggishly, on the verge of unconsciousness, except I wasn’t in control of it. I felt myself break free of their hold with strength I hadn’t thought possible. I tried to focus, but it was though a thick fog was unfurling in front of my eyes. I could feel my body moving, feel claws ripping and teeth tearing, but it wasn’t me. And then I realised the howl was coming from my lungs. How was this possible? I could hear the men scrambling to get away from me, and something dark inside me rejoiced at the sound of Justin shrieking in pain. Fresh blood filled my nose and mouth as I tore into soft flesh. Something distant in my mind recognised Jobe’s voice, telling me to run, that the others were down and badly injured. He was asking me to hurt him as well, because he couldn’t be the only one left standing. A part of me understood what he was saying, and while usually I struggled with the idea of hurting him, I wasn’t in control. The rage was, and here was another man who’d hurt me. I attacked, felt the wind whoosh from his lungs as I hit him squarely in the chest. More blood. None of them would be getting up anytime soon. I ran, licking my blood-soaked muzzle, savouring the taste. 




Pale sunlight was streaming through the little window of the cabin, but I knew it wasn’t what had woken me from the nightmare. For a moment I felt panicked as looked around the unfamiliar room, but then my memory came back to me in a rush that left my mind reeling. Bile rose in the back of my throat as I remembered all that blood, and how I enjoyed it. I shuddered. A thin layer of sweat covered my skin; chilling quickly in the frosty winter morning air and making me shiver uncontrollably. I kicked the covers off me and wiped my forehead with the back of my hand. Despite my efforts, I’d had a night full of nightmares. Being literally torn apart by your own pack will do that to you. That kind of pain will linger in your mind, and I knew I would always remember the moment when I thought I was really going to die. That one had been the longest, most vivid one I’d ever had, and my body throbbed with ghostly memories of the pain. I shuddered again, lifting my shirt slightly to see the area of my stomach that had been ripped open. Nothing remained-not even a scar- but even so, I could still feel where claws had torn, almost as if the wound was still fresh and bleeding. It would probably be that way for a while; werewolves healed fast on the outside, but it took longer for us to heal the things that really hurt us. Emotional scarring.

The room smelled like sweat and fear- my fear. It was like a thick perfume, staining the air around me. At least it chased away the scent of all that blood. I’d never dreamed like that before. I guess now I knew what had happened after the human part of my lost control. And what my wolf was really capable of.

I ran to the bathroom and was sick. There was no food in my stomach, but all I could taste was blood. Justin’s blood, Jobe’s blood. My stomach heaved again. I knew Justin and Ramirez were okay- a little worse for wear- but okay. What about Kane and Jobe? Had I killed them? I remembered licking the blood from my muzzle, enjoying the sharp, slightly metallic taste. Oh, god.

I sat there clutching the cool porcelain for a good twenty minutes, fighting the nausea as it rose again and again, like relentless waves. When I thought I was finally okay, I got shakily to my feet and moved to the basin, splashing cold water on my face to wash away the perspiration. There was a tube of toothpaste on the sink, and I emptied a quarter of it into my mouth, trying to get rid of the taste of bile. My stomach hurt, my throat hurt, and I was exhausted, but I was too awake to try and get any more sleep. Besides, I couldn’t trust my mind not to torment me while I slept. I know, I know, nightmares can’t really hurt you, but I was just too reluctant to re-experience what I’d thought to be the last few moments of my life, and then the carnage that followed. It couldn’t hurt me now, and I had to focus on the things that could. And boy, there were a lot of them.

I stood up and stretched, yawning loudly in the empty room, a slight pain in my stomach as the sore muscles strained. It was still chilly and slightly dark, too early to expect Samuel’s return, so I decided to have a shower to make myself feel better and to kill time. I was disappointed that the cabin shower only had cold water, but if that was the worst thing that happened to me today I could deal with it. I stripped and climbed in, my teeth chattering until I adapted to the stinging cold. Sigh. I could really have used a boiling hot shower, especially in this cold weather. My muscles were wound tight with stress and the heat would have helped me calm down. The water felt good anyway; it washed away all the dirt and sweat, making me feel fresh, clean and alert again. I wondered how long that would last. I wrapped a towel that was scratchy and dusty smelling around myself and went and sat in the patch of sun that was now filtering weakly through the window, sighing as I began to feel the warmth soak back into my skin. I felt chilled to the bone, and it wasn’t just from the icy shower. The nightmare had really shaken me. Not because of what had happened to me, but because of what I’d done. The memories rose again and I shoved them away, refusing to see them anymore. I couldn’t change what had happened. I couldn’t.

My hair looked as black as pitch against the paleness of my skin, and I ran my fingers through its tangles. I liked my hair long, even though it was a hazard in a fight. There was a small patch of short, spiky hair right at the back of my head where my hair had been ripped from my scalp and hadn’t fully grown back yet. Before mother had passed I’d kept my hair boy-short partially just to annoy her, but I didn’t need to do that anymore. I’d also kept it short because the men who picked on me weren’t above using my hair to pick me up or swing me around. I’d been able to grow it again after my father reprimanded the pack and the bullying lessened to just threats of violence and not actual beatings.

When I’d finally sun-dried I got back into the slightly dirty pants and another shirt; the last clean shirt from my backpack. It was gray with little yellow flowers printed all over it. Believe it or not, it was one of the least girly shirts I’d been able to grab. It was a little small, sitting snugly across my chest and stopping just under my belly button, showing a large amount of skin. Dammit. There shirt was tight enough so that my lack of bra was a little noticeable, so I also slipped on the baggy jumper I’d stolen, revelling in its warmth though it smelled like flowers and mothballs. Not my most favourite of odours, but oh well, it was better than wearing just the too-small shirt. Clothes were clothes, and I’d never been one to think otherwise.

Though the sun was now rising and the world was awakening around me, there was still no sign of Samuel. It’s didn’t really worry me, so I spent a few minutes tidying up my mess, listening to the birds call back and forth across the trees above the little cabin. Some I recognised, like the magpies and the crows, but the others were all foreign to me. Then the kookaburras began their strange cackling sounds and I couldn’t help but smile along with them. My father’s pack hadn’t been in the heart of the city, but it had been close enough. There hadn’t been enough land spare for a measly park to run around in. My wolf felt so content out here; there was so much space to roam, and explore, and hunt. And run, oh… you could run for ages out here and not run into another living being. The air was sweet and pure and without the fog that hazed around the city of a cold morning, and there was no sounds of building construction to pollute and drown out nature’s sounds.

I wasn’t sure exactly how early in the morning it was and I had no idea when Samuel would return to take me back to civilisation. I had nothing to do while I waited… except explore. What can I say? I have always been too curious for my own good. If I was in my wolf form I would have pranced eagerly at the exit of my cabin, like a puppy about to go for a walk. I was itching to get outside and look around; I just hoped to myself that nobody was around to stop me. I opened the door of my cabin as quietly as I could and peeked out, sniffing the air for a few seconds. Trees, eucalyptus, dirt… and then there were all the small animals that were scurrying about. There was a young possum scaling the huge gum tree to my left; its racing heart loud in my predatory ears as its fur brushed the dead shredded bark that was clinging precariously to the branches. A koala was dozing in the branches of a eucalyptus tree right above me, its claws making an audible scratching sound as they gripped the tree. My senses were overloading with all the sights and sounds and smells of the bush. This had never happened back home. Then again, my wolf hadn’t been so out of control back then.

No one was around, but it was peaceful and quiet so I stepped outside the cabin and closed the door behind me. There was a layer of fog hovering over the ground and the rays of sun were barely getting through the thick canopy above, so I had to guess it was early morning, maybe an hour and a bit after dawn. The air was so cold it stung my nose, and my feet were instantly numb from the crisp morning dew, but I walked around the clearing, looking into the windows of the other buildings, the bottoms of my pants soaking wet and clinging to my ankles. Most of the buildings were pretty much identical to the one I’d stayed in, though one had a lingering scent as though someone had been there recently. Another one was like a storage room, filled with boxes and folded chairs. Curiosity killed the cat, not the werewolf, right? Anyway, if Samuel had anything to hide down here I wouldn’t have been left on my own; I would have had big, burly, testosterone-filled males watching my every move with distrust. Did I deserve distrust? Well, I guess I did. But now that I’d thought of it, it was strange that I had been left to my own devices. I froze and listened keenly to the noises around me, trying to catch the sound of breathing, or the rustling of clothing or fur. Birds chirped above me, continuing to greet the day with various songs and calls, but other than the sounds of nature, I caught nothing. I hadn’t received much training in tracking back home; even though I’d begged father to let me join in the training, the others hated the idea of dragging me along. So they made my life hell until I stopped insisting. End of story.

I thought I was at least good enough to figure out whether I was being watched by another wolf. Still, I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder as I walked. The hairs on the back of my neck were raised, and I felt horribly exposed in the small clearing. The air had a kind of ‘calm before the storm’ feel to it, as though the world was waiting with bated breath for trouble to find me. Or maybe I was just being stupid. Paranoid. Well, I had a right to be.

I reached the miniature hospital and hesitated at the double doors. I hadn’t meant to come back here, and I knew it was my wolf’s doing. She… well, I wanted to investigate. A push against the heavy doors told me that they were unlocked, a knowledge that made me frown with concern. Shouldn’t there be guards? Maybe there are guards, and you just can’t sense them. I shoved the thought away.  With another quick look over my shoulder to check that I was still alone, I went inside.



Thankfully, the fluorescent lights in the miniature hospital had been turned off and the room still held that early morning dimness. When you have enhanced werewolf sight, anything too bright was a little painful for the retinas. I welcomed the low light as my eyes adjusted without hurting or causing me a headache. My nose itched from the smell of disinfectant mingled with blood, and that sickly odour that every hospital seems to have. Other than the scents of the young boys, there was a male, musty scent in the mixture, and it took me only a second to find the source. Clem was sitting slumped over in a plastic chair next to his brother’s bed, so deeply asleep that his wolf hadn’t sensed my entry. Wow, he must have really been exhausted. Our instinctual side meant that we never really properly slept. Part of us was always alert, always waiting for an attack, just like our wolf counterparts. Just like any animal who understood their part in the food chain. Wolves were predators, but there were things that could hurt them, too. There was always something bigger, scarier, and meaner.

I had a better chance to examine the room now that I was pretty much alone. There were six beds in all, four of them occupied by the young, injured wolves. There were white curtains hanging on steel rods from the roof-to give privacy I suppose- though all of them were swept back against the wall and tied there. I noticed there were barely any windows- they were small and rectangular and set near the ceiling, so it was impossible to look outside. I had a nagging feeling in my stomach that they were one-way windows, so you could see outside but not in. It was an understandable precaution, though completely moot due to the fact that the doors had been left unlocked and unguarded. Surely Samuel hadn’t left me unguarded with easy access to his packs young. It was too easy. My mind worried at the thought, causing me to glance apprehensively towards Clem. Nope, he definitely asleep. There was even a small line of drool seeping from the side of his mouth. I suppressed a childish giggle and turned away.

There was only one other set of doors that might have led back to a washing up area, or maybe even the doctor’s quarters. There were no doctors there now though; just me, Clem, and the four sleeping-or unconscious- boys. Earlier, all four of them had been attached to bright, beeping machines and monitors, but now only Clem’s brother was. Shouldn’t he have healed by now? Strange. Colour had returned in the faces of the other three, and they were considerably less bandaged. So what was wrong with Clem’s brother?

I padded silently over to the beds, my wet feet sliding a little on the linoleum floor. While I knew I should have woken Clem, I really needed to see the faces of the wolves that had been hurt because of me, and I didn’t expect him to understand that, not after his reaction to me. It was the least I could do to settle my conscience. Besides, he would probably only attack me again. No, there was no ‘probably’ about it. He would attack me again, and I would have no choice but to defend myself, and frankly I’d done enough damage here already. I took a deep breath and left him asleep, moving quietly closer to the sleeping wounded.

It filled me with anger to see that the boys were really only kids. Sure, I was barely even twenty myself, but my life had made me older mentally. I’d probably seen more violence and turmoil in my short twenty years than they would in their whole lives. I could see the innocence in their faces, even as they slept. These four boys really were just… boys; inexperienced in their fighting and controlling their wolves. What the hell had Justin and Ramirez been thinking? I didn’t like either of the men, in fact I hated them both, but I wouldn’t have expected them to attack innocent kids, especially not those of another pack. Four men against a woman was nothing to them, but I knew attacking pups would have-should have- left a big black stain on their conscience. Had Merrick upped the stakes? As Alpha, he could command them to do anything he wanted, which was why the role was never taken lightly. If the Alpha told you to do something, you did it whether you wanted to or not. You had absolutely no choice in the matter. You could argue, but really it was pointless. I’d never really had to face that kind of mindless control, thanks to the combination of my powers and my father being the Alpha. That’s why I’d been so angry when Samuel calmed me so quickly. It wasn’t a good feeling to know someone could control you without even blinking.

Merrick was a bad, bad man, I knew that. But was he so desperate to destroy me that he was willing to start a war with another pack? There had to be something more, to make him so ruthless.

Clem’s brother was probably the oldest, and definitely the most injured of the four. The others appeared to have been shot, or in the very least clipped by the bullets, but I could tell that they were healing, even if only painfully slow. Clem’s brother wasn’t, in fact I could have sworn he looked worse than the last time I’d seen him. His closed eyes looked sunken in their sockets and his skin was beginning to develop a sickly greyish tinge. I could smell new blood in the air, which meant his wounds had not yet even begun to close and heal. How was this possible? I tiptoed quietly over to his unconscious form, feeling my heart wrench at the pain imprinted on the young face. Yes, he was definitely worse. I pressed two fingers gently to the vein in his neck; his pulse was there, but it was faint and erratic, and I knew he wouldn’t last more than a few hours. Probably less. His skin was clammy to the touch, and his hair was saturated with sweat as he suffered though the fever. I froze as his pulse hesitated under my fingertips, but then it started again, and I breathed out in a whoosh of air I hadn’t realised I’d been holding. I glanced up at Clem, saw his nose twitch and thought for a moment he was going to wake up. But he didn’t; for once it seemed something was on my side.

I looked back down at the sleeping boy, my fingers still pressed against his pulse. And then I felt it. Felt it pulsing against my skin. Silver. It was still in his body, somewhere, poisoning him slowly and painfully. Fragments from the bullets must have gotten into his bloodstream before the doctor could get them out. That kind of thing didn’t happen often, unless the bullets were designed that way. And since those bullets had been originally meant for me, they probably had been meant to shatter. I had to do something. I don’t know what I could do, but I had to try. It was my fault this had happened, so I was going to rectify it, somehow. I hastily tore off my jumper and dropped it unceremoniously on the ground- it was so baggy that the sleeves came over my hands and got in the way, and for this I needed all my concentration.

My hands hovered over his body and I closed my eyes, urging my wolf forward to help me. A vague thought that I should call for help, or at least wake Clem, swam across mind, but my wolf dismissed it; there was no time, and he would only make things difficult, impossible even. The man was too emotional, too hard-headed to accept that I could help save his brother, and that would be the killer. My wolf knew that. She pushed out eagerly, but didn’t force me into a full-blown shift. No, she knew I still needed to be partially human to help save the pup, and she gave me some control on how far into wolf form I needed to go, something that had never happened before. Her anger swirled around me as she grew stronger; attacking the young was a cowardly, worthless thing to do. In a pack, it was a severely punishable offense.

We’ll get them, I promised her, and knew suddenly that I really would. When I found the two men, I would punish them for this. I didn’t care so much about punishing them for what they’d done to me; I just wanted them out of my life. But as I looked at the boy dying beneath my hands, I knew I would punish them for this.

I shook the distracting thoughts out of my mind, knowing my wolf would call me on my promise when the time came. For now, I had to concentrate harder on finding the silver.

My skin tingled and the thin, light layer of white fur that had spread over most of my body like a brush of air stood on end. My natural instinct was to move away from the silver, so to find the source all I had to do was find the spot I was repelled from the most. It wasn’t hard- silver reacts so badly with werewolves that I was feeling slightly nauseous just being near it in my half-half form, and it wasn’t even in my body. I seemed to have developed a heightened sense of it lately, which was worrying me. Though it meant right now I could detect it when others couldn’t.

There. My clawed hands paused and I opened my eyes to find them lingering over the boy’s collar bone. I touched a finger to his skin and felt the throbbing pulse of the deadly silver in his body as it poisoned him. I took a deep breath, and with a clawed finger, cut swiftly into the boy’s flesh. I hesitated, expecting a whimper as blood flowed freely down his arm, but he didn’t make a sound. His heart, however, began to beat more frantically, pushing the blood out in little gushes. My own heart pounded just as frantically in my chest as I tried to find the silver in the wound, but there was too much blood. There was nothing I could do to stem the flow, or soak up the blood so I could at least look into the wound. Did surgeons have this much trouble? No, they didn’t, because they had those little hoses that sucked the blood away. Oh crap. Oh crap. I scrunched up my nose, preparing myself before I did the only thing I could think of; I lowered my mouth to the cut and sucked as hard as I could.

For a moment nothing happened. Nothing but the coppery taste of blood as it ran down my throat. I swallowed convulsively, and instantly my stomach protested and heaved. Even worse was the fact that a part of me enjoyed the taste, the texture. I closed my eyes, fighting the nausea, trying to ignore the taste and at the same time searching for that tiny, tiny piece of silver. I tried to tell my brain that no, it wasn’t blood, it was just strange tasting, slightly-thicker-than-usual water. But my wolf was there too, and there was no way she would let me pretend. It was the blood of a young wolf- forbidden- but still blood. My stomach heaved again and I nearly had to pull away this time, gagging a little on the blood. I told myself harshly to get a grip; another life was on the line here. A life that I had put in danger. That was a sobering thought, and I returned my concentration to the wound.  Then, thank god, my tongue began to burn as the shard of silver hit it, and I pulled away, coughing the piece into my hand.

Two things happened at once. The first was the young boy cried out pitifully into the silence, making my heart jump into my throat. I’d hoped that he was so deeply unconscious that he hadn’t felt anything. The second was definitely the worst part though; Clem woke up. He woke up and found me standing over his brother, my hands and mouth bloody. I felt my heart sink to my feet.

Oh, shit.

“Get away from him!” his bellow was slightly guttural as he launched himself from the chair half transformed,  slamming into me with enough force to make my teeth rattle dangerously inside my head. I couldn’t even collect myself before his big hand was around my throat, lifting me into the air. I kicked at him, but he was so incensed with rage and fear for his brother that, unlike earlier, he was immune to my strength. He squeezed and I felt the odd sensation of my wind pipe being crushed. All of a sudden, before I could stop it, I was diving into that memory. Ramirez tearing at my throat, stopping me from screaming as Justin shifted into his wolf form, my body grower weaker from the huge amount of blood I’d lost.  And then, out of bleary eyes, I saw Justin raised his clawed paw, and I knew what was coming… knew he was going to cut me open right then and there. Oh god, not again, please not again. The claw punctured the skin, and I screamed through my ruined throat as that claw began to slice…


I pulled myself from the vicious scene and released my alpha power, feeling it smash with the force of an army tank into Clem’s body. I felt it encase him, suffocate him, as he dropped me to the ground, fighting it for all he was worth. I scrambled on all fours, gasping for air through my broken wind pipe. Tears were streaming down my face- it had been like the attack all over again- and I fought a panic attack as it rose in my chest. I couldn’t… couldn’t think through the phantom pain in my stomach. Through the feeling of that claw cutting open my gut like a surgeon’s knife. I retched horribly but managed not to throw up all the blood I’d swallowed. The silver in my hand was beginning to burn through my flesh, giving me a welcomed, sharp distraction from my terror. It cleared my head a little, enough for me to focus of Clem’s slightly blurry shape. Blood spilled out of my fist and down my arm- but something instinctual told me to hold onto it.

Heal dammit! I commanded myself, but I couldn’t do two things at once. Either I used my Alpha power to control Clem, or I used it heal. Since white spots where beginning to burst in front of my eyes, I chose the latter.

Clem roared as I released him; I crawled desperately under one of the makeshift beds, sobbing uncontrollably, but he grabbed at my feet and dragged me out so fast that the back of my head slammed against the floor. The room swirled around me dangerously, and I tried to yell for somebody, but only gurgling reached my ears. Unfamiliar voices began to shout in surprise and I sat up, chancing a look over my shoulder to see that the commotion had woken the other young boys. Well, at least their bodies weren’t carrying shards of silver. But they could be hurt now if Clem and I didn’t end this fight. He didn’t look like he was in control of himself at all, and the boys would just look like enemies to his wolf while he was in this state. No, I had to stop this before anyone else got hurt.

I flung my power out with all my strength, just in time to stop Clem’s slightly wolfish fist in mid air, inches from my face. He froze above me, his eyes wide as he tried to fight me, to fight the command. The boys watched from their beds, open mouthed and wide eyed, unsure of whether to stay still or join their pack mate, their brother. My wolf rose further and called to them, but not to control them like Clem. Sure, their eyes glazed over a little and they stopped shouting, but I told myself it was better than them getting hurt in the crossfire. It was for their own safety, honest. My distraction allowed Clem’s fist to inch closer to my face, and I pushed harder; a howl ripping from his throat as he took a single step back, leaving me room to shuffle out from underneath his towering form. Clem dropped to his knees, his eyes wide and making him look slightly deranged as he continued to try and disobey me.

I heard the doors fling open and I tore my eyes away from him to see Samuel standing there, Steele and another man I hadn’t seen before standing slightly behind him. Power rippled from him, almost visible like a wave of heat in the air surrounding his body. Since he was Clem’s true Alpha, it freed him from me, and as he grabbed for me again I flung the silver towards Samuel’s feet.

And waited for Clem’s fist to hit me.

Clem, stop!

Samuel’s voice resonated with power through the room, seeming to stop everything in its tracks. I was pulled abruptly to my feet and turned to face Steele, and he frowned as he took in my dishevelled, bloody and slightly transformed appearance.

“You alright, pup?”

I nodded, slightly hysterical, “I had to get the silver out,” I rasped, and then clutched at my throat. It still hadn’t healed properly, but I’d used so much power stopping Clem and keeping the boys safe that I wasn’t surprised. I went to remove myself from Steele’s grasp but stumbled slightly, tipping head-first towards the ground before he snatched me back.

“Clem, what is the meaning of this!” Samuel’s voice was dangerously low, and his power beat Clem down much easier than mine had. The werewolf pups had come out of their stupor and were watching Samuel with silent awe as he loomed over Clem. I understood their thoughts. The man was pure power.

“M-master,” Clem gasped, struggling under the heat of it, his wolf sinking back into his skin so that only a man remained, “when I woke up, she was standing over Cole; she had his blood all over her mouth! Look at her!” he pointed wildly at me, “That’s his blood!”

Samuel swirled and strode over to me; Steele let go of me immediately like I was diseased and stepped back, leaving me to face the angry Alpha alone. With his eyes burning into mine, he leant forward, and for a moment I thought he meant to kiss me. I went to move back instinctively, panic still bubbling under the surface of my skin, but his hot hand wrapped around the back of my neck.

“Stay still,” he growled, and I was suddenly too afraid to disobey. I stilled, my muscles tense, like I was prey trying to avoid being seen by some fearsome predator.

He leaned closer and swiftly licked the side of my mouth, taking in the blood and tears. I didn’t dare flinch as his warm breath hit me, just waited as he took another taste. Then he stepped back, and the look in his eyes was so dangerous my wolf tucked her metaphysical tail between her legs and retreated further into her metaphysical cage. He thrust the shard of silver under my nose, his palm blistering only slightly from the touch of it, “explain yourself,” he barked.

I swallowed thickly, resisting the urge to scratch at myself as the light layer of fur disappeared back into my body, “I found that in his shoulder. It seems fragments of the bullet got into his bloodstream. That’s why the others have healed and he has not. He was dying. I did what I had to.” I was proud that I’d managed to stop my voice from shaking, and tears were no longer streaming down my face. The panic was still there though, in the pit of my stomach, and I knew he’d be able to smell it.

The look he gave me was incredulous, “you’re telling me you somehow knew where to find this tiny piece of silver when over a dozen x-rays revealed nothing?”

I shrugged, feeling helpless, “it could have been hidden by bone. I don’t know; I’m not a doctor.”

“You expect me to believe you just innocently wandered in here and happened to find silver in the boy?”

“It’s the truth.”

“I don’t believe you.”

I crossed my arms over my chest, beginning to feel angry and defiant as the adrenaline left me to fend for myself, “You’re Alpha, you’d be able to sense if I was lying.”

“You’re not my pack, so you could be lying. You’d have to be very good at it, but who knows what you can do.”

I tried not to flinch from the insult, “Then let me prove it. The boy is better, but there must be more to stop his healing like this. I could… I could taste the poison in his blood. Let me find it.”

His eyebrows arched as he studied me for a moment.

“Boss, you can’t really think she’s telling the…” Clem protested, moving towards us. Samuel signalled Steele and both he and the other wolf moved to Clem’s side, stopping him in his tracks.

“She won’t be able to harm your brother while I’m here, Clem,” Samuel said slowly, “and you know the pack rules. Everyone has a chance to prove their innocence before they are judged.”

The hair on the back of my neck rose with the words. I was on trial here.

Samuel turned his full gaze on me, “if you can prove what you said is true, go ahead.”

I didn’t hesitate. I stumbled over the boy’s bed, relieved to find that the cut I’d made in his shoulder had stopped bleeding, and the rest of his wounds were following suit. Still, something told me there was silver left inside his flesh, and part of me was relieved. Part of me was horrified that I was going to have to do it again. Nausea threatened to rise again but I simply was too scared to let it overtake me again; if I couldn’t prove my innocence, then something very bad would happen. I closed my eyes and focused again.

“What is she…” Clem began, but was quickly silenced.

The only sound I could hear was the sound of my heart as I ran my hands over the still-sleeping form. There was another piece of silver there, somewhere, and I had to get it out. I fought to find the pulse of silver, concentrating so hard I thought my skull would crack straight down the middle of my eyes. But it didn’t, and after a few painful minutes I found what I was looking for. I didn’t need to look at my hands to know I once again had claws, and with as much accuracy as I could muster I sliced a thin line underneath the boy’s ribcage. Clem let out a sound but it was muffled, and I looked over my shoulder to find him now in the grasp of Steele and the other werewolf. The look in his eyes was confused, angry, and fearful. Pleading.

I turned back to the wound and hesitated a second too long before lowering my mouth to his skin, feeling Samuel’s eyes bore into me as blood began to flow into my mouth again. I desperately tried not to choke in revulsion as I retrieved the silver, spitting it out quickly onto the clean bed sheets. Oh god, it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever had to do in my life. But I had saved the boy. My wolf was triumphant, her silent howl reverberating through my mind and making me sway so badly that I had to clutch at the now stained bed sheets to stop from falling. I think I was just plain tired. The blood I’d ingested was sloshing sickeningly in my stomach, and I clenched my fists as another wave of nausea hit me. I was losing control. Too many beatings and not enough rest. The drama was getting to me at last.

I looked up at Samuel’s towering form and swallowed saliva and blood, “There is no more silver. He should heal now.”

The colour was already reappearing in the boy’s cheeks, and as I watched the cuts I’d made in his flesh knitted together like an invisible hand was sowing them up. I looked cautiously into Samuel’s eyes and found nothing to reassure me, suddenly feeling very aware of the blood on my face.

“How did you do that?”

I could only shake my head as I fought to force down the bile that was again rising in my throat, “I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like that before.”

He eyed me for a moment, but surprisingly there was no suspicion. Curiosity yes, and intrigue. And something else I wasn’t quite sure of.

“Bromley,” he said suddenly, and the dark-skinned werewolf reluctantly let go of Clem, brushing thick brown curls away from his slightly wolfish yellow eyes. Hmm, I knew what that meant. If we spend too much time in our animal form, sometimes we don’t change completely back. I’d never seen it before, but the man called Bromley had definitely spent too much time as his wolf.

“Yes boss?” his voice was a deep, pleasant growl that made my wolf prick up her eyes in interest. He glanced at me as if he noticed, those eyes piercing and predatory. But not threatening.

“Retrieve Lillian and Forster from the house. They need to check his vitals just in case.”

Bromley nodded and exited in a blur of movement that was very animal-like and made me want to chase after him. I resisted, forcing myself to turn to Samuel again, my eyebrows drawn together in thought, “how did you even know I was here?”

“Bromley was on guard. He was ordered to call me if you moved out of your cabin. It seems you have a habit of getting into trouble.”

I blushed but felt a tinge of annoyance at the fact that I had not sensed Bromley watching me. I should have; mistakes like that would get me killed. I would have to be doubly on guard from now on.

“Don’t blame yourself for not sensing him, pup,” Steele had a small smirk on his face even though it was clear he was struggling to restrain Clem without any help, “Bromley’s the best at staying hidden. If he doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be.”

I chewed at my lip but didn’t reply; I was too busy thinking that I should not let my emotions play so visibly on my face. I knew better than that. Sure I could be forgiven because of recent events, but I had to watch myself. God, I was making so many mistakes.

I looked back at Clem’s brother. He was healing all right- and it seemed ironic that I had saved him, because really I was the one to blame for his near death. The taste of his blood was still in my mouth though, sweet and coppery to my wolf. I would have given anything right then to have something to wash my mouth out.

“Steele, let him go,” Samuel commanded.

There was a rush of air and Clem was at the boy’s bedside, hands frantically but carefully removing bandages to reveal healing wounds. I stood there, not sure of what I was supposed to feel about it all. On one hand, what I’d done was amazing and had saved the young pup’s life. On the other hand, it was a scary slap in the face. My powers were increasing dramatically, and I had no idea why. It was so incredibly dangerous. I had to leave this place before anything else happened.  Before anybody else was hurt.




I scrubbed a hand across my mouth, trying to remove the fresh blood while everyone’s attentions were turned from me. Well, mostly everyone’s. Clem had muttered a low, slightly embarrassed ‘thank you’ in my direction before he, Samuel and Steele began talking quietly over his brother’s healing body. But the other young, now healed wolves were looking at me with a mix of awe and horror in their expressions, making me feel like a sideshow attraction. I suddenly wanted to be alone. I turned to walk away, but a big hand clapped down on my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks.

“We need to talk,” Samuel said gruffly.

I turned to him, my hands now fully human as I planted them on my hips, feeling annoyed at my fouled getaway.

“Fine. Shoot.” I winced at the thoughtlessness of my words, glancing at the young werewolves sitting in their beds, “I mean, talk about what?”

He took me by the elbow and quickly pulled me outside. As the door swung closed I caught a glimpse of Steele’s face, gazing after us with interest and a little too much curiosity. I yanked my arm out of Samuel’s grasp, taking a deep breath of fresh air. It seemed to settle my stomach a little better than the stuffy air inside.

“You guys are really into the whole rough, man-handling women thing,” I muttered, rubbing my elbow, “can’t you just ask when you want me to do something?”

“Fine. Can we return to the cabin? Please. It would be better if we talked privately,” He replied flatly, though I could see a smirk hiding in the corner of his mouth.

“Since you asked so nicely,” I returned sarcastically, trying to hide the familiar panicky feeling as it rose again. I began trudging in the direction of the cabin, trying not to sway on my feet. I really wasn’t feeling my best, and twice Samuel had to grab my arm to stop me from falling, his contact making my wolf stir eagerly within her cage. Strange.. I guess using my power came with a price. What a surprise.

Once we were inside he locked the door, this simple action making my heart race faster in fear. I didn’t like being trapped. And this man, he called to my wolf. Even now, there was a heat in his eyes I didn’t understand. No man had ever looked at me with anything other than an expression of hate, except for my father. No, I was pretty sure his was an expression of disappointment. There had never been kindness, love, or even lust. I paced, wringing my hands as I fought my nerves, fought my nausea, and fought my thoughts.

“Sit,” he commanded, gesturing to the bed. I sat obediently, my hands on my lap so he didn’t notice that they were shaking. He eyed me for a moment, and then strode into the tiny bathroom. I heard water running, and then he was back, a small, damp towel in his huge hands.

“Here,” he said a little more softly, handing me the towel, “put this on the back of your neck. It will make you feel better.”

I did so, gratefully. The towel was icy from the water, but it was soothing and I felt the panic begin to ebb away a little, taking some of the nausea with it, “thank you, Alpha.”

“It’s Samuel. You look ill.”

I shrugged, and the gesture unsettled my stomach again, “I’m fine.”

“That’s a lie, Lacey,” he’d used my name, and it cheered me up when it shouldn’t have. I swallowed, but it only made my stomach tense more and the nausea worsen in such a way that I knew I could no longer fight it. I stood abruptly, the towel falling forgotten onto the bed, and all but ran to the bathroom where I promptly lost the contents of my stomach all over again. At some point between heaves I noticed Samuel holding the hair back off my face in a strangely sensitive gesture. He’d retrieved the towel and was wiping the back of my neck in slow, calming strokes. His magic swirled around me, making me feel better, but I wasn’t mad at him for it this time. Before he’d tried to control me; now he was using his power to try and make me feel better. It almost made me want to cry, the pure kindness of it. It was so foreign to me.

I tried to stand on my own, failed, and was then helped to my feet. I moved to the small basin wordlessly, not game to open my mouth again. The skin on my cheeks had begun to itch from the dried blood, and for a few moments I stood helplessly in the tiny bathroom, surveying my appearance apprehensively in the slightly dusty mirror. I looked ghastly. Not only was there blood around my mouth, but it had caked in the lines in the skin of my neck and stained the collar of my shirt. I went to pull it off, and realised Samuel was standing quietly behind me. A silent understanding seeming to pass between us, and he went hastily to the other room to give me a moment of privacy. The old army bed creaked in protest as he sat down on it, his small sigh audible in the small, confined cabin. Now that the nausea had mostly passed, some small part of me wanted to go to him, to find him sprawled out on the bed, a body of pure muscle. The image appeared in my mind, uninvited. I shook my head, confused at my feelings. I didn’t know why my wolf and I were so attracted to him. It wasn’t just his appearance; it was his wolf, his magic, his scent and his aura. Suddenly I wanted desperately to have his bare skin against mine, a feeling I’d never had before. Maybe it was the fact that he’d used his power twice on me now. Yeah, that had to be it. I couldn’t give in to the call of his wolf. It was a dangerous urge. Men were dangerous and untrustworthy in the werewolf world- I couldn’t fall into the man’s arms just because he had an unusual affect on me. No matter how badly I wanted to.

I tugged my shirt over my head and turned the cold water on in the little sink, letting it rinse the blood from the material. The water turned that rusty colour as it swirled down the drain, and I realised it felt like a lifetime since I’d washed the blood from my hair in the house I’d broken into. So much had happened, and I was beginning to feel the oncoming’s of weariness. Werewolves are naturally more aggressive, hotter-headed and resilient than humans, but I was a woman. That sounds sexist I know, but I shouldn’t have had to deal with all this male ego bullshit. My voice sounded whiny even in my mind, and I gave myself a mental slap. No feeling sorry for myself; that was the second rule. The first rule, of course, was staying alive.

Cupping my still-shaking hands, I splashed the cool water repeatedly over my face. The dried blood on my cheeks came off slowly, in flakes, so that I grew frustrated and began scraping it with my nails. Having my own blood on me was one thing, but there was something about the frailty of that young pup that made me feel slightly sinister to have his blood staining my face. So I kept at it until the only thing on my skin was fading scratch marks from my nails. Finally. Now that all the blood was gone, I was beginning to feel a little less shaky and nauseous. Though I really, really needed some clean clothes. I mean, I could rough it, I could handle being covered head to toe in dirt and blood and all that stuff. But to a certain point; I was still a woman after all. I hastily pulled the damp too-small shirt back on- glad that in all the commotion the cotton had managed to stretch it a little- and wandered tentatively out to Samuel.

It was hard not to take an audible breath as my eyes fell onto his form. He lay sprawled across the bed, his knees bent slightly upwards so that his feet didn’t dangle awkwardly over the edge. He’d taken off his shirt… he’d taken off his shirt… and it lay discarded on the small wooden desk, one arm resting innocently across his muscled stomach. His skin was slightly golden and smooth looking; I wondered what it would be like to run my hands down his chest, or rub my face against his neck. I swallowed thickly and couldn’t help but follow the dark line of hair that ran from his navel to disappear under the waistband of the jeans that sat snugly and a little low on his hips. The other arm propped his head up, so that a ray of light from outside fanned across his face. It made his dark hair sparkle like it was filled with black diamonds. His eyes were closed, but the slight lift to the corner of his mouth meant that he knew I was there, and that he was confident of his affect on me. I blushed furiously and paced, trying to shake the image of him out of my mind. It wasn’t working. God help me.

“When did your new powers develop?” he asked suddenly, his arms crossing over his muscular chest as he opened his eyes to watch me move from one end of the room to the other when it was clear I wasn’t going to get any closer to him. I had crossed my arms over my chest protectively and now I felt his eyes roam over me…

I stopped and stared at him, mouth open a little, “how did you…?”

“You’re too strong for a female,” he interrupted, tilting his head back leisurely, as though this was an ordinary conversation he was having with one of his wolves. I couldn’t help noticing the strong line of his jaw. He was doing this on purpose, he had to be. He knew he was having an effect on me. Part of me knew it wasn’t because he’d used his powers on me, though I knew that could happen and I’d partially hoped these feelings were a result of it. But it didn’t happen this quickly, and not this strongly. It was all me. Or rather, all him.

“None of the women in my pack have anything close to the powers you posses, same goes for most of the men,” he continued, pulling me from my frantic thoughts, “and you have next to no control over your wolf despite the fact that you’re pure born and not bitten. I can sense her rising up against you. Besides, I saw the way you handled Clem. You shouldn’t be able to do that. And the thing you did just then for Cole… well I’ve never seen anything like that in all my life. Never even thought something like that was possible.”

I slid down the wall onto the floor and buried my face in my hands. This was it. Stupid, stupid idiot. Instead of trying to seem normal, I just had to go and pull a stunt like sucking silver shards out of the kid. I just had to use my powers on Clem and the other wolves. Stupid. I could have gotten away with just being oddly strong, but now everyone knew I was more than that. Maybe it was for the best. I had planned to leave today after all, and maybe they’d just let me go. Maybe they didn’t have to be like my old pack.

Samuel waited patiently while I raged at myself, but I could feel the heavy weight of his eyes on me. What would he do now? Exile me from his territory? That would be the best I could hope for. The other options, in my experience, mainly included my death.

I took a deep breath, clutching the soggy front of my shirt like it was a lifeline, “most of my powers have emerged since… since I left my pack,” my voice was a little shaky, but I continued, “I don’t know how, or why.”

“Most of them. But not all.”

I sighed and looked at him, “No. My father was Alpha of the Stafford Heights Pack. I am his only child. For some strange reason, I carry his line.”

Samuel’s eyes widened and he sat up straight on the edge of the bed, “that’s impossible.”

“You did see what I just did in that other building didn’t you? That should have been impossible as well.”

He sat thinking for a moment, as if trying to swallow what I’d just told him. I understood his disbelief. Female werewolves just weren’t made to be Alpha’s. It just didn’t happen.

“Say you really do carry the Alpha line, hypothetically. Did your pack…?”

“They knew,” I answered bitterly, “They made my life hell.”

“The new Alpha didn’t want your… power?”

I laughed, “Oh, he did all right. He wanted us to be mated. When I refused, when I asked permission to leave his territory, I guess he lost it,” I shrugged, “if he can’t have my power, no one can.”

“Why not kill you then and there?”

I gave him a dark look, “they tried. Why do you think I’m here? ”

Suddenly he was kneeling down right in front of me, reaching out to touch the spot where the silver bullet had hit my shoulder. I hadn’t seen him move, and I flinched unwillingly away from his touch- I was still shaky from the after effects of re-living my near death twice already that morning.

“Now can you see why I have to leave?” I whispered, hating how my eyes filled with fresh tears as I pleaded with him, “They’ll keep coming until I’m dead. Your pack will get caught in between. More will be injured, and possibly killed. I can’t have that on my conscience. I can’t. Please, let me leave, and promise me you won’t tell anyone about me and these horrible powers.”

“You’re not giving me much credit as an Alpha, and I can tell you right now that you can trust me,” he frowned, brushing his fingers across my jaw so that they came away slightly wet. The touch made me feel wanted, cared for, made me feel safe. For the first time in my short life, here was someone who didn’t raise his hand to hurt me, but to help me. My wolf nuzzled her way to the front of my mind, and when he reached up again I pushed my cheek into his slightly calloused palm. His skin smelled like forest and fire and rain all combined in one delicious aroma, and I breathed it in deeply. It was the kind of smell you could wrap yourself around in until you felt safe. My wolf howled in my mind, and in that instant his wolf flowed through his fingertips to meet her, joining the two beasts in a roll of metaphysical warmth.

His hand sprung away from my face as though he’s been electrocuted. My wolf roared in protest, and I clutched at my head, fighting the pain as she tried to force her form on me. When I finally looked up, Samuel was on the other side of the room, panting as heavily as I was, his eyes wide and showing too much white.

“What was that?” I asked a little breathlessly, bringing my knees up to my chest in an illusion of safety.

He shook his head, his blue eyes bright from the rush of power we’d both experienced, “I’m not sure. That has not happened to me before now. I knew there was an attraction between us, between our wolves, and I wanted to test it. But I didn’t expect that.”

I stayed in my little spot, staring resolutely at the floor while he gathered his composure, my wolf yelping mournfully in my head. After the silence had stretched for what felt like hours, I spoke, “will you still give me a ride into town?”

“No,” he was abrupt, and when I met his gaze he was back to being Alpha again, “full moon is in a couple of days. It is my duty to make sure no one in the area is at risk of harm by my wolves. And with your unpredictable powers, you’re too much of a danger for me to release,” his voice softened slightly again, is if he thought his harsh tone hurt me, “besides, I can’t let you go knowing there are others trying to kill you. While you’re in my territory, you’re under my protection. You’re my responsibility.”

I raised an eyebrow as I stood, feeling a little better now that I didn’t have to crane my neck so far, “you’re going to keep me captive?”

Heat stirred in his eyes, making my wolf lunge at her barrier again, “you will be no danger to my pack if you lose control here. I don’t know why you’re having so much trouble, since you’re pure born. But now that I know what kind of powers we’re up against, we can be on guard.”

“And I’ll just stay here until the full moon passes.”

“You will sleep in the guest room up at my house. It will be safer for all if I can keep a close watch on you.”

My stomach flipped as a wave of excitement passed through me, but I kept it from showing on my face. Instead I crossed my arms and glared at him, “you’re making me a prisoner.”

He was in front of me again, towering over me, forcing my heart into my throat. Damn, he was quick. I felt the warmth of his power spill onto me as his anger rose.

“I am keeping you safe,” he growled, and I noticed he kept from touching me this time, “try and be a little grateful.”

He turned and left the cabin, slamming the door behind him so hard the pane of glass in the window rattled dangerously.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. Whoa. That had been intense. My skin still tingled with warmth as I sat there in my huddled form, but it wasn’t at all unpleasant. To crave the touch of another werewolf was completely natural and most of the time, unsexual; it was part of our animal nature to be close. It was only our human inhibitions that kept packs from sleeping in big, naked puppy piles. The wolf wasn’t embarrassed by exposed skin; to them it was a haven of safety and warmth. My wolf was rolling around in her cage, delighting in the sensations of being near Samuel and knowing I could have them again. I frowned and rubbed the goose bumps from my arms, pushing away the thought that didn’t seem to come entirely from my human side. What the hell was going on with me?

If only father was still around. He knew so much about werewolves, he would have helped me, maybe even comforted me. I was not the son he wanted, but I was still his, and he would have torn the world apart looking for the answers. I had always gotten the impression he’d felt guilty for my predicament, like it was his fault I’d been born to be his heir. He’d been strict but fair, the Alpha and my father at the same time. I had never really been alone with him around, and while he thought I had to fight for my position in the pack like the males did, he was always there to box them around the ears if I came home too roughened up. I was still his little girl, still his only child. He wanted to protect me from the men’s side of the pack, because the men’ side was brutal and cold.

Of course, there were a lot of beatings he never heard about, and a lot of things he never saw.






I sighed and moved across the floor to the window, watching as the sun continued to slowly gather itself for the day. Though the dew had long ago begun to evaporate, the winter sky appeared cold and unfriendly. Or maybe that was just my current frame of mind. I was confused, I was tired, and I was on edge. The Alpha was playing games with me, and I was enjoying them. Clem tried to beat the proverbial stuffing out of me every time we met, and I had just saved his little brother. And those were just the problems from the last few hours.

There was a soft tapping at my door, making me jump slightly. I scolded myself again for not being on alert. I knew better then to let someone sneak up on me.

Opening it a crack, I was surprised to see Clem’s muscular form hovering at my door step. I closed it with a snap and groaned audibly against the wood. I was tired; physically and mentally. And the man at my door had attacked me three times in the last twelve hours.

“What do you want?” I grumbled through the door. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath, almost as if he was preparing himself.

“May I… come in?” reluctance was thick in his voice, and I heard him shift from one foot to another. What was his deal? Whatever it was, I wasn’t giving him the chance to attack me for the fourth time.


A low growl rumbled through the heavy wood. I sighed, and banged my forehead against the door. Obviously he was here against his will, so if he could be civil, then I could at least hear what he had to say. But I was not going to let him in; whatever he wanted to say could be said with him on the other side of my door frame.

I opened the door, gazing up and shielding my eyes as sunlight gleamed off his auburn hair. He wasn’t looking at me, in fact he seemed determined to glower at his feet, his jaw clenching briefly.

“You’re not going to attack me again, are you?” I shot at him, and then bit my tongue. Real mature, Lacey. God, I was really showing my age right now. I crossed my arms over my chest, and waited for him to say something.

His glare seemed to intensify, “you deserved it,” his deep emerald coloured eyes-like miniature jewels- flicked to mine briefly before returning to stare at his feet.

“If that’s how you feel, then fine,” I snapped, and went to close the door, but he reached out quick as a flash and wrapped warm fingers around my wrist, yanking me back with enough force to pull my arm from its socket.


I looked down angrily at his grasp, and then back up at him, “let me go,” I growled, feeling my wolf emerge along with my anger, “now.”

To my surprise, he let me go as if I’d burned him. He held up his hands in an effort to show he was harmless. Yeah right. A harmless werewolf.

“Look, just listen to me for a moment.”

I barked out a laugh, “You’re kidding right? First of all, you try to kill-”

“Please,” he interrupted, and the look in his eyes was similar to what I’d seen in the little hospital earlier. They pleaded with me. Dammit. I sighed and re-crossed my arms. Part of me still wanted to slam the door in his face, but I wasn’t that immature. At least, not at that moment.

He seemed to struggle with himself as I watched. His eyes were huge windows to his thoughts, and in seconds I saw anger, sadness, relief and reluctance. “I wanted to… properly thank you for… helping my brother.”

I raised my eyebrows, but I had the grace to act mature, and it was obvious he was making an effort, “it’s… no problem. It’s the least I could do.”

He nodded and shifted awkwardly, “well I’m glad. Cole is…” he shook his head, “I mean… it is your fault that he was hurt in the first place. We know you didn’t do it, but if you hadn’t come here…”

I glared at him, angry at Samuel for sharing that information, “Don’t you think I know that? Now that you’ve made your point, are we done here?”

Anger crossed his face, and he made a visible effort to breathe and calm himself. This man had serious anger issues. I didn’t make the same effort. I was seething, and part of the reason was because I didn’t blame Clem at all. I wanted someone to blame, but it seemed like the only wolf I could point it at was myself. And that made me angrier. I agreed with what he’d done and would probably have done the same in his position, but I suppose it was just easier to be mad at him.

“Look, I’m not sorry for…”

“Beating up a girl?”

He had the sense to look embarrassed, “you sure don’t fight like a girl.”

I rolled my eyes, “I get it, okay? You’re not sorry for attacking me, because it is partially my fault. I brought those men here. And you don’t really see why you have to thank me either. So why are you here?”

“Samuel… suggested it,” distaste was evident on his face, and probably on mine too. Forcing Clem to apologise made me look weak, and suggested that I couldn’t fight my own battles. Why the hell was the Alpha sticking his nose in?

“Well you’re off the hook,” I threw my hands in the air abruptly, thoroughly annoyed now, “Frankly, I don’t want you to apologise, and I don’t want you to thank me either. I didn’t do it for you; I did it for the kid. I don’t owe you a thing, and you don’t owe me. We’re even.”

He nodded, looking relieved, as though he expected me to push for an apology, “there is one more thing.”


“My brother wants to see you. I told him it wasn’t a good idea but…”

I felt my face pale. I didn’t want to face the boy, and I certainly didn’t want him thanking me. Everything that had happened to him had been my fault. Finally, I shook my head, “I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. How is he though?”

“He’s completely healed.”


“Are you sure you won’t see him? He made me promise to insist.”

I looked up at him, “I don’t want to be reminded any more of what I’ve done. And I think it would be a good idea if everyone here forgets about me. Once the full moon is passed and Samuel lets me leave, I’m going after the ones who attacked your pack, and you’ll never have to deal with me again.”

“Will you kill them?”

The question took me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about retaliation, just survival. And they’d tried their hardest to kill me, so why shouldn’t I return the favour? I suddenly felt nauseous all over again, and I had to grab the door frame to stop from swaying in front of Clem. That’s what all this would come down to. Either I died, or they did. Otherwise I’d be running for the rest of my life.

Clem was watching me intently, and I realised I hadn’t answered.

“I… don’t know.”

“Like you said, you don’t owe me nothing. But… could you… make them pay for what they did to my brother?”

Though I didn’t like the man standing in front of me, an understanding passed between us. If he couldn’t avenge his brother, then could I? Yes, I could. Even if my human side was queasy about the idea, my wolf wanted to sink her teeth into those responsible. She- I- felt a strange mothering feeling towards the pups who’d been hurt.

I nodded, “they will pay. I promise.” If not for what they’d done to me, for what they’d done to Cole and the other boys.

He cleared his throat and straightened up, looking as relieved as I felt to have this conversation over with.

“Since you’re not returning to the hospital…” he let that hang in the air for a moment, as if he thought my guilt would make me change my mind, “Samuel asks that you gather your things and follow me up to the main house. He said you’re to stay there from now on.”

I sighed and retrieved my backpack, clutching at the still slightly stained collar of my shirt self consciously. He looked me over once; eyebrows raised a little, then gestured for me to follow him. I was glad no one else was in the clearing. I could hear voices coming from the little hospital and hoped desperately that no one would emerge while I was plainly in sight. You’d think I’d be used to people looking at me like they hated me, or like I was some contagious freak. But no, the thought of a whole new group of stares was more than I could bear. If Clem noticed my anxiety, he didn’t react, or maybe he just didn’t care. I’d say the latter.

I finally breathed when I was once again surrounded by the thick bushland. Clem trudged a clear path, his huge frame holding back tree branches from hitting me in the face if I stayed close enough to him. The birds were louder now, calling back and forth over our heads, and to my right I glimpsed something bounding away from us. It was probably a kangaroo, startled by our sudden noise. Sure enough, when I raised my nose to catch the scent, the musky odour confirmed my guess. It also told me the kangaroo had a baby in her pouch. Hmmm. Kangaroos were fun to chase, but that was about it. They were dangerous if you caught them; their powerful legs packed a brutal kick that could really hurt even a powerful, full grown male werewolf, and their claws were like sharp little daggers capable of slicing through fur and flesh. Most thought kangaroos were cute, harmless animals, but they had formidable weapons.

Sigh. I missed running around in my wolf form. It was such a wonderful feeling, being accosted with so many scents and sounds and sights. To just let loose and give yourself over to the simpler, animal mind. Sometimes you might come across a pack of wild dingoes or dogs that had run away and turned feral, and you could blend in with them and just spend a day being a wolf. Now that was freedom.

“Stop it,” Clem stopped suddenly so that I bumped into him awkwardly, blushing furiously when I realised I’d touched his rear with both hands.

“What?” I was angry through my embarrassment, and my face burned even more as he turned to face me.

“I can feel your wolf,” Clem tapped his head, “in here. She wants to run.”

I gaped at him, too stunned to speak. Now my wolf was pushing her feelings onto others? Sure, my father had been able to calm down young wolves if their first change wasn’t going too smoothly, but it took a lot of his energy and power to do it, and he’d never been able to share his emotions with his pack.

“What are you?” there was curiosity etched in his gaze, but deeper in his eyes was that same old fear of the unknown. The same old fear that would turn to anger, and then to hate. I had seen the transition more times than I could count.

“Can we just keep moving?” I snapped, but the damage was well and truly done. I was powerful, and I was developing new abilities. People who saw power either wanted it for themselves, or they wanted to destroy it.

“Not until you give me an answer,” he towered over me, but men had been doing that my whole life, and I wasn’t fazed.

“You really want another fight?” I asked him as threateningly as I could. I may look like a petite, fragile young woman on the outside, but this man had already seen what I could do. He opened his mouth to speak, but obviously thought better of it, because he whirled and began stomping across an invisible track again.

I followed, a little smugly. Sure, at first I’d thought this man was just a brute, handy muscle for the Alpha. But he had a brain in there underneath all that anger and hostility. I wondered what had happened in his life to make him like this. Then again, it wasn’t my business. I wouldn’t be involved with him for much longer.

So instead of thinking deeply about the man in front of me, I kept my eyes, ears and nose trained on the forest around me. I had no idea how Justin and Ramirez had snuck up on the Alpha’s best tracker, so it was in my best interest to stay alert. Stay alert, and stay alive. My father’s voice rung in my ears. But there were other ways to die that didn’t involve a lapse in concentration and alertness.

He’d taught me that.








Soon the bushes began gradually thinning out, in front of us, until Clem and I finally burst unceremoniously into another open clearing. The house that stood in front of me was a traditional ‘Queenslander’ home; beautiful and delicate looking with archways and lattice work and wooden railings. It was raised slightly off the ground, and the front steps opened up to a deck that seemed to surround most of the house. The simple but elegant windows appeared to open outwards, like French doors, and I imagined the place would be airy and cool in the summer. The whole thing was a pale creamy colour, outlined in dark mahogany, and though it was neat and modern it somehow seemed to fit in with the scruffy bushland around it. It just seemed so… comfortable. I sighed audibly and followed Clem up the wooden-planked steps. I could see Samuel walk towards the glass front doors as I emerged at the top, and I had a chance to examine him. He was barefoot in faded jeans, their slight bluish tinge bringing out the blue of his eyes even more. He wore no shirt, despite the early morning chill, and I tried desperately to look elsewhere. In his temper earlier, he’d left the shirt he’d discarded in my cabin. I’d left it there, not to be petty but because I simply did not know what to do. The man that walked towards me was pure Alpha, his natural magic warming my skin as he came closer. I ducked my head in respect. Respect? From me? I guess an old dog can learn new tricks.

“There were no problems, I trust?” his voice showed a hint of weariness, but the sound still made my wolf take a metaphysical leap at the bars of her cage. I cringed at the force of it, and then noticed Samuel was waiting for an answer from me.

“No, no problems at all,” I replied politely. A brief look of surprise crossed Clem’s face before he hid it from his leader. So he’d expected me to complain about it? Come on, I wasn’t that petty. Sure the man had caused me some grief, but nothing that I didn’t expect and understand.

Samuel turned to Clem, “You will be taking Cole back home now?”

He nodded, “he insists on seeing… uh…” he gestured at me awkwardly.

“Lacey,” I corrected him.

“Yeah. The other boys told him about what happened. He’s real interested in…”

“Seeing the freak,” I finished for him curtly, and felt my heart sink when he looked at his feet in silence. Should this have surprised me? No. Did it? Yep.

“You may go, Clem. Make sure he gets plenty of rest.”

“Thanks boss,” the man sounded relieved as he turned and trotted quickly down the stairs, disappearing quickly into the forest, probably to retrieve his curious brother. I was looking at my feet, blinking furiously, trying not to be upset over my sideshow freak status. This was the second- or was it third- time that I’d been emotional around the Alpha. That was not me; I’d pushed that weak, self conscious girl away from me a long time ago. Still, I couldn’t help showing my feelings around the man, and that was bad.

Samuel didn’t seem to know what to say, because he soon cleared his throat and said gruffly, “I’m sorry I lost my temper before. I… seem to have trouble with my wolf around you. I’ll show you to your room.”

I raised my eyebrows at his admission but said nothing. An Alpha never likes to be reminded of a weakness, and I was surprised he’d even told me, a stranger. I put it aside and followed him inside, letting the slightly warmer air from a heater wash over me. Looking around, I briefly marvelled at the polished wooden floors and shining surfaces. Boy, it was a nice house. Everything was old fashioned but well kept, right down to the ornate furniture and huge oriental rugs. Painted portraits hung here and there on the wallpapered walls, mostly of mountains and valleys that were dotted here and there with grazing horses. They were beautiful.

“My great-great-grandfather built the original structure when he came here from Scotland,” Samuel said conversationally when he noticed my interest, “He contracted lycanthropy and thought Australia would be remote enough that he would never see his family again. His main concern was keeping them and the rest of the world safe from his beast. So he bought enough land around here to make sure no one would stumble across him at full moon.”

“Not many of our kind have that much consideration for the rest of the human race,” I said as we passed what appeared to be a huge living area. There was a large fireplace that contained still slightly smouldering tree logs, sending warmth through the rest of the house, and part of me wanted to sit in front of it and bask in the heat.

“His resolve didn’t last long,” his voice jolted me back to following him, “He fell in love with a woman in town one day after venturing there to get some supplies, turned her himself, and well… long story short, this house was given to whoever the lycanthropy chose next. I added the cabins further down in the forest when I became Alpha.”

“They definitely come in handy,” I murmured, as we entered a more secluded hallway. He stopped in front of a closed door and opened it brusquely, revealing a reasonably sized bedroom decked in various shades of blue. There was a large window that showed a view of the sun peeking over the treetops, and from the looks of it the window opened up onto the wooden balcony beyond. The soft white carpet felt wonderful on my feet as I entered, and though I’d been grateful for the army bed the night before, I was delighted to sink onto the slightly stiff mattress.

“Is this alright?”

“Oh definitely,” I said breathlessly, and clutched at the collar of my shirt again, “only… I don’t have any clothes.”

Samuel actually blushed, “one of my wolves, she is about the same size as you. I asked her to purchase you some… underwear.”

“Oh! Thanks… I don’t know what to say. I don’t have any money though.”

“I didn’t think you would,” he actually looked awkward standing in the doorway, “and I have some of my ex-wife’s old clothes you can wear, if you don’t mind.”

I just gawked, “you were married?”


He didn’t elaborate, so I assumed it was a touchy subject. I looked at my hands in the silence.

“Look, Samuel, I don’t deserve this.”

He made a move as though he was going to move closer, then thought better of it, “I said I could protect you. I would do this for any one of my pack.”

“But I’m not pack. In fact, I’m the reason your pack was targeted, and your young were shot with silver. You should be exiling me from your territory, or ordering your men to attack me. I have powers I don’t even know existed. I am dangerous to everyone, including myself.”

“None of it is your fault.”

“That doesn’t stop people blaming me. I’m a freak, I get it. I can do things that I shouldn’t be able to. Controlling werewolves like I’m their Alpha. Locating silver in that boy’s body when before I could only sense the stuff if it was touching me.  My wolf’s reaction to yours… and now Clem being able to feel my wolf’s emotions…”

“What did you say?” he interrupted sharply, forgetting his earlier resolution to not come closer. He was on his knees in front of me, his hands on the bed. My wolf recognised him instantly and pushed at her boundary, wanting to be closer. I held up my hands to hold him off.

“Not too close. I can’t… concentrate.”

My voice sounded breathier than I meant it, and I blushed. He moved back, but only a little, a smug grin fighting at the corners of his mouth. When it seemed that it was as far as he was going to get, I began.

“On our way here I was thinking about running through the forest, in wolf form. I haven’t been able to shift for a long time… and my wolf is restless… well anyway, Clem said he could feel my wolf, in his head… meddling with his own emotions.”

Samuel appeared to be thinking, hard. When he didn’t say anything, I had the urge to lick the side of his mouth. I pushed it away quickly before he noticed my sudden tension. My wolf wanted the Alpha’s attention, and that’s how it was done in a pack when we were in wolf form. But I was not his pack, and I was not his mate. Right?

“My father will know more than I about all this. My powers increased when I became Alpha, and if this has been happening since you were exiled, then you would just be acting like a lone wolf,” he frowned, “but that would not explain the new powers…”

I was trying not to breathe in his scent, “you have to move back,” I managed to get out through clenched teeth.

But he didn’t. Instead, he reached out slowly towards me.

“Don’t,” I protested, making his hand stop in midair, “I know what you’re trying to do.”

Blue eyes pierced mine, “oh? And what would that be?”

I spluttered, my cheeks growing red again, “You’re trying to… enthral me.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Because… because you…” I began, but he touched a single finger to my cheek. Instantly it felt as though an electric current was surging from his fingertip, and our wolves responded with a howl that only he and I could hear inside our minds.

“Amazing,” he drew back, leaving me longing for his touch, and it was evident he had realised something, “I knew it. It’s nature, after all…”

“What do you mean?” I demanded, trying to be angry. Truthfully I wanted to curl up in his arms, to breathe in the scent of rain and forest and fire and be safe, finally. I shook my head to clear it, but the man was too close.

“Power attracts power,” he replied simply, straightening up and stretching out. I tried not to notice how his shirt clung a little to his muscles…

“I don’t understand,” I said, returning my gaze to my hands so that I would not be tempted to stare at him again.

He was silent for a moment, “I think,” he began slowly, “that while you strangely carry the Alpha line, you’re still a female wolf and the fundamentals are the same. The strongest female is attracted to the strongest male, because they will have the strongest pups.”

I blushed furiously, determined to avoid his gaze, “so our wolves are… recognising each other’s power?”

“It seems so.”

I didn’t know what to say. The pull between me and Samuel was new because my wolf had never found someone’s power worthy enough. My father was strong, but he was my father and that’s the end of that. I never had that pull to Merrick, but my wolf and I both knew he was weak. So what do you do when your wolf picks your mate for you?

“What now?” my blush was disappearing, and I chanced a look at Samuel; he stood with his arms crossed and a thoughtful expression etched deeply on his face.

“I will discuss this with my father,” there was a brief knocking sound and I jumped, startled. Samuel sniffed the air, “that must be Marie with your things. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Like I was going anywhere. I heard his footsteps retreat and moments later I heard a woman speak. I couldn’t make out what she was saying from this distance, but I could smell her. Wolf, probably older in human years than Samuel, but not pure born. By werewolf standards, she smelled new. She’d had a child recently. I wondered if the child had been born with its mother’s lycanthropy, and if so, what would that mean for them? Did its father know his offspring might turn into something not so human at the full moon?

I heard Samuel reply, and then a door close. He made his way back to me, but on the way he must have gone into another room, because I heard rustling as he rummaged. I waited, my hands clasped in my lap, until his footsteps grew louder and louder and I couldn’t help but watch the doorway eagerly for his return. I had a fleeting thought that this time I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but then he was there, and I was happy. I didn’t like that one bit, but my wolf owned half of my soul. I guess that meant she owned half of my feelings too.

He looked a little dishevelled, holding a large cardboard box under one arm and a plastic bag under the other.  He dumped them a little haphazardly on the bed next to me, and then ran his hands through his dark hair, shaking a little dust from it.

“Underwear is in the plastic bag, and there are some clothes in the box you can wear.”

Curious, I leant over and sniffed the box. Ugh. After my nose had gotten past the layer of dust, it was met with so much mingled perfume that it was hard to get to the person’s scent underneath. I sneezed, and Samuel chuckled.

“It will do for now,” his voice was full of amusement, “do you need anything else?”

I put some distance between myself and the box, “I should thank… Marie…. for going out of her way, especially with the baby and all.”

The look he gave me with a mix of surprise, excitement and… Pride? “You’re good. What else did you get?”

“She’s not born wolf, she was turned. Maybe… five years ago. Yeah.”

“You got all that from so far away?”

I nodded, “It’s something I’ve always been able to do to some extent. I can tell if a wolf is dominant or submissive, bitten or pure born, even if I can’t see them. I know all Were’s have a keen sense of smell, but as far as I have always had more ability in that area,” I shrugged, feeling embarrassed all of a sudden, “Some people give off more information in their scent then others. I couldn’t really tell with the child. He is…?”

“Yes. His father is pure born.”

I shifted awkwardly as silence fell between us, avoiding Samuel’s heated gaze, not understanding it one bit.

“I still want to thank her; I’m not her pack, after all.”

“Well you can tonight, at the meeting.”

My eyes shot to his face, “meeting? What meeting?”

He moved to the doorway and looked back, his eyes heated but showing just a little pity, “a pack meeting. To discuss… your position here.”

My brow furrowed, “my position? I will be leaving here after the full moon.”

“Would it be so bad if you stayed here?”

“Until I stop my old pack from hurting everyone around me, yes. The men I grew up with are not the type to just quit. Aside from that, isn’t it whatever the Alpha says, goes?”

He shook his head, “I try to run a fair pack here. I don’t know what it was like for you at home, but I give my wolves a chance to speak their minds. It will be fine. Please think about my offer. You’ll need a pack eventually; lone wolves don’t survive long on their own. I can protect you.”

My heart sank as he disappeared down the hallway, his words sprouting hope despite my repeated attempts to squash the feeling. Somebody wanted me. Somebody thought of me as something other than a freak.


I wondered what it would be like to live in a pack that didn’t pull ‘practical jokes’-as they liked to call them- whenever my guard was down. A pack that spoke to me and shared stories with me and liked me even though they knew I was different.  I shook the thoughts out of my head. I knew what would happen. The other wolves would hear about what I’d done, and what I could do, and decide I was a danger to them all. The only thing I was uncertain of is whether they’d let me leave, or attack me.

Well, I had to be honest with myself. I’d known it was only a matter of time.









A little while later- after I’d sat staring silently at the blue wall of my room in a mildly depressed state- I gathered my clean clothes somewhat half-heartedly and prepared to escape the little room to find a shower. There was no point sitting around feeling sad and sorry for myself until the meeting later on, and there was nothing I could do if the pack members wanted me out of their territory. Frankly I could understand if that’s what they wanted, because so far I had caused them nothing but trouble and pain. I had no doubt that the news had spread about my abilities and strange powers. I could only hope that Samuel kept his promise and not told anyone about the fact that I was an Alpha. Could I trust him? I shouldn’t. Trusting others had only ever caused me strife, and often resulted in me being beaten up. I had to shake this feeling that he caused, because I couldn’t afford to let it get out of control. And I couldn’t afford to be controlled- not even my father as my Alpha had been able to command me as a real Alpha should. I’d had a taste of Samuel’s power, and it was scary. Not only was it dominating, but my wolf liked the taste of it and had no desire to fight it. That was dangerous. So many confusing thoughts flew around in my mind so that I could feel the oncoming’s of a tension headache. I wanted to leave, but because of this strange connection with Samuel, I wanted to stay. He’d offered me something I’d never had once in my entire life: a place where I was wanted, a place where I wouldn’t have to cower and dodge men twice my size. Aside from that, my wolf wanted the company of his, something I’d never experienced before and had no idea how to handle. He’d said power attracted power. If that was the case here, what did that mean for me? Though he was young for an Alpha, something told me he could help me find answers. But on the other hand, my presence was a danger to him and his pack, and it would stay that way until I either left or somebody ended up dead. Preferably Merrick.

My human instincts said ‘run’. My wolf instincts said ‘stay’. Sigh. Sometimes having two parts to your soul was just one huge pain in the ass.

I clutched my bundle of clothes to me and got up off the bed. I wanted a shower. If nothing else, it would make me feel better. I crept quietly out of the room, straining my ears for any sound. There was a TV on; the sound of guns and explosions coming from the direction of the living room I’d passed on my way in. I could smell two wolves as well amongst Samuel’s strong scent. One was Steele, of that I was certain, and I was pretty sure the other was the man who’d had yellow, slightly wolfish eyes. Bromley, I think his name was. But neither of them gave any sign that they’d noticed my movement, and I continued on. There were several other rooms along the long hallway through Samuel’s house; some of them looked like extra bedrooms, including one that had to be his. I managed a peek as I walked by and saw the huge frame of a dark, wooden four poster bed. It was worn with age and oddly masculine, and like Samuel himself, it demanded attention as it stood surrounded by gleaming wooden floorboards. His scent tried to lure me towards the room, but I was aware of his effect on me now, and I ignored the frustrated calls of my wolf. Instead, I continued down the hall, running my hand across the slightly bumpy wallpaper as I walked, the floor smooth on my roughened heels. At the end of it was a bathroom, thank god. As I neared it, the door opened and Samuel stepped out, his hair still wet from a shower and dribbling down his neck and onto his naked chest. A shirt was held scrunched in his hands. I found myself ducking my head shyly. Damn it, Lacey. Anyone would think you’d never seen a man before.

“There are fresh towels in there,” he informed me, his voice a little more strained than usual. I could see why, if his wolf was acting up due to being so close to me like mine was. I half expected mine to tear out of me, they way she was trying to claw her way closer.  It was unreal. Never in my short life had my wolf been so animated, so wilful. I didn’t know what to expect, or how to deal with her and the more animal part of my soul. I just knew, as I watched Samuel walk away without an answer from me, that she would drive me crazy if I kept her away from his wolf. Why couldn’t I just have a normal life? Why did it have to be full of all this… drama. I mean, I get that being a werewolf is kind of a hazard to your health, but really, some days I thought it would be more effective if I banged my head repeatedly against some hard surface. Now I had this weird thing with Samuel to deal with. It was beginning to feel like too much.

I stepped in and closed the door, annoyed to find that there was no lock on the inside. I felt a little numb, and at the moment I just wanted to be alone. As alone as I could possibly be in the house of a strange Alpha. My anxiety was getting the better of me for once. I was shook up about the meeting, that’s for sure; my nerves making me wring my hands as I subconsciously paced the bathroom. I mean, it’s not like I’d ever been accepted before, so why should this pack be different? Why did I want to be accepted? I frowned at my reflection in the mirror for a moment. My wolf. She was clouding my judgement and putting thoughts into my head, and I had let my brief connection with the Alpha fool me into thinking I might belong in a place like this. Truthfully, I knew my wolf had already relaxed into these surroundings, and that had made me drop my guard. Other werewolves, especially the men, could not be trusted; I of all people should know that well enough already. And still, my wolf pined for contact with Samuel’s so badly that it was making me nauseous. God, what had I gotten myself into?

I sighed and undressed, grateful to be free of the blood stained shirt and dirty pants. I’d dug into the plastic bag and found that Marie’s size was indeed a close match to my own, and I now had clean underwear and a comfortable looking bra. I was endowed enough to need a bra, and while it had been the last thing on my mind in the last few days, the simple garment cheered me up immensely. For the moment. I know, I know, it was pretty pathetic. I, vicious Alpha heir, was comforted solely by a bra that fit. Go figure.

I hadn’t been as keen when I’d searched through the box of clothing that had been left by Samuel’s ex-wife. I’d sneezed repeatedly as I’d rummaged, trying to find clothes that smelled the least like the perfume section in a department store. It was difficult enough without having my nose run commentary on what I’d found, but sometimes I can’t ignore it. So I knew his ex-wife was older than I but younger than he was, and that she had red hair. She was business-like, though I could tell that by some of the dress suits I pulled out and not by scent. She liked to exercise, and she had owned a horse at some point. And a cat or two. There was no trace of sickness that had been evident when I’d broken into the young couple’s house, but there was something else. It wasn’t fear, and it didn’t taste like adrenaline. And yet it had somehow reminded me of my own mother.

But beggars can’t be choosers. I’d picked out a pair of slightly worn jeans that were a little loose on my hips, and a plain black singlet. They would do, as long as I didn’t get into anymore fights.

Hah. And pigs would fly.

I turned on the hot water and climbed in- it was one of those combined bath-and-shower types- and pulled the plain white curtain closed around me. The boiling water burned me instantly, but I didn’t bother adjusting the cold tap; instead I waited for my skin to heal and get used to the heat. Hot water helped me relax. I needed it.

My black hair stuck to my skin as the water pounded from above, and I closed my eyes and let it run down my face in rivets, mingling with tears that had suddenly appeared. Stupid, Lacey. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t help those ‘woe is me’ thoughts from entering my mind. I was so alone, and that was the theme of my life. I’d had my father, but I knew he’s wished I was someone else as well. If I was male, I would have been the apple of his eye, fit to take over his pack. Instead I was more like a consolation prize; accepted by him but not really valued in any way. Everywhere I went, I was shunned. And yet, here I was being welcomed by Samuel with open arms. I was getting my hopes up, and that was stupid. I was a liability, a dangerous one, and it was an Alpha’s responsibility to get rid of those who would endanger the pack. That was me, in a nutshell.

I didn’t realise I’d been clenching my fists until the scent of blood hit my nose. My nails had dug deeply into the skin of my palms, and it pulled the skin with a slightly odd sensation as I wrenched them free. Superficial wound; it began healing as soon as my nails were removed from the skin. Stupid. I sighed and reached for the soap, lathering my hair with the sweet, sandalwood scented stuff that also smelled faintly of Samuel. Everything smelled of Samuel, and didn’t my wolf just love it? She was content with the situation; there were no current threats, no enemies and no one to protect. She didn’t hold much regard for the past, and held even less for the future, as long as there was food and shelter, and maybe a mate. I was the one who had to deal with all the other crap. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like to just live as my wolf, permanently. I had run away once when I was thirteen, and stayed in my wolf form for about three days before my father’s second in command had tracked me down. It was easy, being in that form. I hadn’t had to think about all the things that had happened to me, why I had run away. There were a lot of them.

A heavy knock on the door made me yelp in surprise, and I accidentally dropped the soap onto my feet. I growled through the curtain at the door, annoyed that I hadn’t heard an approach, but happy because of whom it was. Samuel.

“I have business that I have to attend to,” he rumbled through the door, giving no sign that he’d heard my embarrassing yelp. I peeked through the shower curtain at the door, half of me hoping that he would come in. No, bad Lacey, those were the thoughts I was supposed to be avoiding.

There was the sound of him clearing his throat, and I realised with some embarrassment that I hadn’t answered, “Okay,” I replied meekly, a blush crawling up my cheeks. I gave myself yet another mental slap.

“Bromley and Steele will be here. I will be back soon.”

They were here to make sure I didn’t leave, I’ll bet. Footsteps retreated, and then a door somewhere clicked shut. I wondered how far I would get if I made a run for it as I rinsed my hair, the water beginning to gradually run colder. I’d stayed under the hot water for longer then was polite, and now it was running out. Oops. Oh well, I’d suffered through a freezing cold shower earlier. I’d deserved the boiling heat.

I had no doubt that if I escaped now I would eventually find my way out of the forest, but Samuel and his men would probably catch up first, and then I would be made ever more of a prisoner. He would know his territory like the back of his hand, and I was really just a pup out of place. Besides, Justin and Ramirez were probably still lurking out there somewhere, and I needed to collect my bearings and figure out a plan of attack. It was evident that someone had to die for this to finally be over. Whether it was Justin, Ramirez, or Merrick. Or me. I knew that they would just keep coming. I wanted peace, whether it was their deaths or mine.

So I was staying here, even if Samuel was trying to take away that choice; it made me feel better to think that I wanted to stay here, and that I could leave anytime I wanted. I shuddered at the thought of all the wolves that would be at the meeting, their eyes on me; the freak. I wasn’t a coward, really. I just didn’t like being stared at by a pack of hungry wolves. Pun intended.

I got out of the shower, drying myself with one of the folded dark blue towels Samuel had left on the sink. Something told me very obviously that Samuel’s favourite colour was blue. The towels were so soft and smelled so good my wolf wanted to roll around in them and revel in the scent. I pushed her away roughly and dressed myself, feeling lethargic from the effort of controlling her. If she kept pushing me I would definitely have to shift at the full moon, just to make her shut up. Since I was pure born, I’d gained control of my wolf years ago, and I didn’t have to become my wolf at the full moon. The moon would always have a hold on my kind, but it was a lot worse for those who weren’t in full control. It messed with their moods and they could become violent and unpredictable at the peak of every cycle. I still felt the moon and her influence, but I was no longer forced to shift. Still, I loved having a night of just romping around as my wolf. It made the both of us happy. I don’t know how the humans did it, all the stress of life without the calming presence of an animal soul. Without the opportunity to escape into that animal’s form and forget all the trivialities and drama. Most of my kind saw lycanthropy as a curse, but I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

The big mirror over the sink had fogged over from the steam, so I swiped at it a few times with my slightly damp towel until I could see my reflection clearly. Well, being on the run definitely didn’t have a great effect on me. My cheekbones were more prominent than usual from the sudden weight loss (werewolves had killer metabolisms, it’s what helps us heal so fast) and my different coloured eyes looked huge as they stared back at me, slightly sunken in my face and surrounded by circles so dark my skin looked bruised. My skin was so pale that I looked eerie and slightly sickly. I looked like a drowned rat standing there with my hair plastered to my head and dripping all over the clean floor. At least I wasn’t covered in blood this time.

Woe is me, indeed.

Since I was now making a conscious effort to stay on alert, I was fully aware as Steele made his was down the hall. His footsteps were slow, stealthy, and overly confident. His power bristled along my skin as he got closer, and his scent filled my nose; spicy and masculine. But there was no hostility in his scent, and when I opened the door he faced me, that boyish grin etched on his face. I couldn’t help smiling at him; he just had that kind of effect. He was dressed in faded jeans and a white singlet that showed off his tanned muscles; fully intentional of course. Though I would be stupid to think he was just for show; something dangerous ran under the surface of his skin, ruining the innocent, boy-like expression he always wore. I may have bested him earlier, but he had been trying not to hurt me. I bet that in a full blown fight he could give me a run for my money. He noticed my staring and crossed his arms over is chest so that his muscles bulged further.

“Hey pup,” his silvery hair was swept back off his face today, drawn together in a long plait that hung over one shoulder and did nothing to distract from his manliness, “Samuel asked us to look after you for a bit. You hungry?”

My stomach growled loudly in response, making me blush as I looked down and away from the man, “a little. Where’s… uh… Bromley?”

“Taking a run around the perimeter, making sure your wolves ain’t anywhere near the area. He’s a little paranoid, you know.”

I bristled, and my power lashed unexpectedly out at him, “they aren’t my wolves,” I said through gritted teeth.

He grinned even more, closing his eyes and letting out a long whoosh of air, “Clem said your power felt nice. I didn’t notice before, but now it tastes sweet,” he set those piercing gray eyes on me, only now they were slightly wolfish, predatory. I took a sudden step back, wrapping my arms around myself, feeling startled. He noticed my expression and the grin faded a little, the eyes returning to normal as I watched.

“Didn’t mean to anger or scare you, pup. Just wanted to see for myself,” he scrubbed a hand across the faint stubble on his chin and eyed me curiously, “you sure are something else. Is that why you’re on the run?”

I sighed, “It’s more complicated than that, but yeah.”

“Well I guess I’d better get you fed then. Samuel won’t be too happy if he comes home and I’ve let you starve. You’re practically skin and bones,” he gestured for me to exit the bathroom and I ducked around him awkwardly as he reached out and ruffled my hair.

I growled, “Told you not to do that yesterday.”

He chuckled, enjoying the teasing, “I guess you did. Funny that.”

I stalked down the hall, my still-wet feet squeaking on the wooden floor. Steele followed silently, his presence heavy against my back, making the hair on the back of my neck stand up and the spot between my shoulder blades itch. I’d learned never to turn my back on a male werewolf. It was all I could do to resist turning and snarling at him, though he’d done nothing all that bad to me to make me wary of him. It was just habit, I suppose, but I thought it was a good habit to have. After all, you can never really trust anyone at your back. It’s too easy for them to stick a knife-or two- in.

The kitchen and dining room was closer to the front door; I must have missed it earlier when Samuel had brought me through, though I don’t know how. It was like something out of some home magazine. The counters were gleaming reddish brown marble, the cupboards a slightly lighter, complimenting wood. All the appliances were stainless steel, and the whole scene looked like it had never been touched, let alone used to cook a meal. A big wooden table sat to the right, in front of those floor-to-ceiling window/doors that opened up to the deck. They revealed quite a view. I stood tentatively to the side of one of the counters and looked from my clasped hands to the outside landscape while Steele opened the fridge and ducked his head inside, rummaging for a moment.

“We got some ham in here; is a sandwich alright?”

I shrugged at his back, then realised he couldn’t see me. I cleared my throat, “that would be fine, thanks.”

He retrieved a huge leg of ham on a plate and shut the fridge door, placing the food on the spotless bench. My stomach growled again and I chewed my lip as I breathed in the scent of the meat, shifting my weight onto my other foot impatiently. I hadn’t realised how hungry I really was until there was food right in front of me.

“No need to be all polite, pup, sit down,” Steele gestured to the wooden stools that were grouped around the countertops before opening a cupboard and bringing out a loaf of bread so fresh I could smell it through the plastic bag it was wrapped in, “I ain’t going to bite you.”

I swallowed thickly and sat down awkwardly on one of the wooden stools. It was surprisingly comforting.

“I’m not really used to…” I waved my arms around while I tried to think of how to explain what I was feeling, “this…”

Steele had procured a carving knife from somewhere, and I tore my gaze from the meat to watch in fascination as he began sharpening the blade. The steel gleaming and flashed as he did it, sending reflected light across the walls. Then, before I could grow impatient he began to carve the ham so quickly and expertly that his hand was a blur.

“You’re not used to ham sandwiches?” his gaze was quizzical as he set down the huge knife and began to speedily fix me a sandwich.

I blinked, “no I mean…”

He chuckled, and I found that already I was fond of the noise. It was like his carefree laugh warmed something that had been cold for a very long time.

“I know what you mean, I was just teasing you. S’not every day I come across a lone wolf as pretty as yourself, I can’t help it. I think old Bromley is the only true loner to ever come into this pack. You were really beaten up when I found you, you know. I gathered you had a hard time with your old pack.”

“Something like that.”

He nodded and passed me the sandwich, “You’re a bit of a wonder. I can imagine that might rub some wolves up the wrong way. ‘Specially us men. We’re meant to be the tough ones, and it don’t look good when a woman can beat us up.”

I didn’t answer, but bit into my sandwich instead and tried not to groan with pleasure as I savoured the fresh ham. My wolf rumbled a little, satisfied at the meal. Of course, she preferred her meat to be hot and bloody, but food was food. I was silent as I ate; Steele fixed his own sandwich and watched me curiously as he attacked it with vigour.

“Boss said you’d be a prized possession in any pack, but he wouldn’t tell me why,” He said through a mouthful of food, “s’ far as I can tell, you’ve got some special kind of power. You made Clem obey you like you were his own Alpha.”

I shrugged, trying not to show on my face just how close he was to the mark, “Samuel can control any of you, it’s no big deal.”

He began to fix me another sandwich as I finished up my first, “Samuel is Alpha. You’re not. Besides, you’re female. I can sense power you shouldn’t have. I saw you suck a shard of silver out of Cole when the x-ray machine couldn’t even pick it up. Samuel couldn’t do that even on a good day. When I found you, you had been shot with silver, and yet you still fought us all when we tried to take you in. The silver should have knocked you out- it didn’t. It should’ve.”

He sucked in a breath, and it seemed he’d been waiting to ask me since I first met him, “Samuel’s wolf is attracted to yours. Mine is, and so are Clem’s- even if he won’t admit it- and Bromley’s. And the three of us are strong, not trying to boast or anything, but if your powers are calling to us instead of the other way around… Wherever these powers came from, it’s only just scratching the surface.”

I considered what he’d said for a moment, and then sighed tiredly, “I only knew about Samuel’s wolf, though I know Clem could sense and feel my wolf’s emotions. But my wolf has no attraction to anyone’s but…”

“Samuel is the most powerful wolf here, so that’s only natural. Power attracts power. Your wolf seeks out the strongest mate.”

“He said that, too,” I hesitated, “I don’t really know how to deal with the… uh… attraction? It’s all very new to me.”

He made a sound of disbelief, “no one in your old pack…?”

“They attacked me on a daily basis. It’s hard to be attracted to that.”

Something flickered behind his gray eyes, disappearing before I could recognise what it was, “Yes, I imagine it would be.”

I looked away from him awkwardly, “He also said you’re having a pack meeting, tonight, about me,” I said quickly, changing the subject, “I guess I’m on my way out of here after the full moon.”

“Only if that’s what you want. I don’t see why anyone would want you to leave. I mean Clem doesn’t think before he acts, and yeah he’s a bit of a dick. But the rest of us don’t have no reason to want you out.”

“Once they see how… abnormal I am…”

“Pup, you’re a werewolf. There’s no such thing as normal for us. You’re old pack must have really done a number on you for you to see yourself that way. Samuel speaks like you’re some lost treasure he’s pulled from the ground. We’re a pack of misfits,” he grinned, “you’ll fit right in.”


He passed me the second sandwich, and then quickly made another for himself. He chomped down on it, chewing furiously for a moment before he continued, “we don’t banish wolves just because they’re different. Hell, most of us are weirder than your average wolf. This is the… fifth pack I’ve been in. Samuel is the only Alpha that’s been able to completely control my wolf,” he shrugged, “Bromley was going crazy as a lone wolf before he found Samuel. And Clem… well… Samuel is probably the only one left that would take him and his brother in. Honestly though, if some of the pack is a little antsy about you being around, it’s only because of those men shooting our pups like that. And your power is a little too unpredictable, so you can understand why some of the others would feel a little anxious. Personally, I’d like you to stay here. Samuel likes everyone to have an opinion, that’s why we have these little meetings. But everyone knows what he say’s goes.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Despite your power, you smell like fear. You want to run away. From me, from my pack, and most of all from Samuel.”

I ducked my head, annoyed at myself for letting him read me so well, “I think it would be best for everyone.”

“Maybe, maybe not. You’d sure come in handy around here. ‘Specially if those two decide to come back for more.”

“I’ll take care of them myself,” I finished my food and brushed bread crumbs off my hands, “it’s my duty.”

“Just saying I’d help you if you need it. We’re not all big bad wolves, you know. I mean, Clem is a brute, but he wouldn’t attack nobody unless he had a reason.”

“I would have done the same in his position,” I offered, “I already spoke to him about it when he came and apologised. Besides, I’m used to that kind of treatment.”

“That really is a damn shame. Female’s are meant to be protected in a pack, not brutalised.”

“Well, I suppose they thought I was a threat to them.”

He scoffed, “s’not an excuse. It’s still our job to protect… speaking of protecting… you find anything out there Bromley?”

I turned, sniffing the air. Sure enough, the other wolf- in his gigantic wolf form- nosed his way through the front door and padded towards us on feet the size of my face, his pink tongue lolling out of his mouth as he panted. His fur was a deep chocolate brown, so shaggy and long that from a distance, to the untrained eye he could be mistaken for a very, very large bear. Only bear’s didn’t exist in Australia. It was only when you got close that you noticed the teeth, and the claws, bigger than any bear or wolf that existed. Bromley the wolf sat next to me and let out an impatient huff of air, his yellowish eyes intelligent and fixed expectantly on me. He was so big that even though I was sitting on a stool, my head only came to his shoulders.

I glanced at Steele, “what do I do?”

He cut a huge chunk of ham off the bone and handed it to me, “he likes to stay in wolf form a lot. He used to belong to an Aboriginal pack a little north of here, but there was a little inter-pack war, and Bromley left them after his father and brother were… killed. He wandered around by himself for a couple of years before he made his way down here and asked Samuel if he could stay with us. Go on, feed him.”

I held out a piece of meat and Bromley took it delicately between his teeth, and then swallowed it whole. He wagged his tail eagerly and I fetched him another piece, “He was in human form earlier?”

“Yeah, sometimes Samuel orders him to shift back. If we stay in our wolf form for long amounts of time, we can lose touch with our human counterparts. It can become very dangerous, ‘specially if that wolf becomes a rogue. Samuel doesn’t want to have to… you know…  get rid of him if that happens, so he forces him to be human every so often.”

I nodded and held out the last of the meat for Bromley. He snapped it up, and then licked my fingertips with a warm, damp tongue, wagging his tail in appreciation. He seemed to be completely oblivious to our conversation, or maybe he just didn’t care.

So he was damaged, like I was.

“Longest I stayed wolf was three days,” I reached up and patted the soft fur on the top of his head, “I can understand the appeal.”

“We’d all like to escape from our lives sometimes,” Steele tidied up his mess and put the meat back in the refrigerator, “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”

I thought about that for a moment, playing absentmindedly with Bromley’s velvety ears. Just because I could keep running, didn’t mean that I had to. I’d spent my life dreaming of running away, and to be quite honest, it wasn’t as good as I’d imagined.

“I guess it depends what happens tonight,” I said suddenly, but Steele must have been following my train of thought, because he grinned.

“If Samuel wants you here, he ain’t going to take any notice if the rest of the pack says no.”

“It’s strange that anyone would want me here,” I confessed, “I’m not used to being treated like a real living person.”

“You ain’t with your old pack anymore, pup. No one here is going to treat you like that. Now I got no idea what they did to you, but I can see the weight of it in your eyes. We ain’t like them. Not even a little bit.”

I gave him a small smile, but didn’t tell him it was hard to believe him. Bromley nipped my hand and gave a short, rumbling bark as if to agree with what Steele had said. I looked up into those bright intelligent eyes and knew that he had had it really tough, too. I patted him again on the head before letting my hand drop back to my lap, “how many people in your pack?” I asked Steele curiously, biting my lip.

“’Bout fifteen, not including our pups.”

I nodded; it was a pretty standard size for an Australian pack. My father had told me that packs overseas were often much, much bigger; the average pack apparently being between thirty and forty wolves. I couldn’t imagine the rivalry that would exist in such large packs, and I definitely didn’t envy the Alpha’s who ran them.

I sighed, “Great. Where did Samuel go?”

“He wouldn’t say,” Steele was cleaning up the bench while Bromley stretched out on the wooden floor, looking like some huge mountain of living fur, “and when he tells me to mind my own business, I mind my own business. But if I had to guess, I’d say he’s gone to visit his father, the old Alpha. He resigned before I came here, but he’s a grumpy old brute. Real old-fashioned type of wolf. Samuel goes to him occasionally for advice. This time it’s probably about you.”

I sighed and slid off my stool, “so what am I supposed to do until this meeting?”

“Well…” Steele thought for a moment, “you look real stressed and I was thinking… Samuel said we had to keep a close eye on you, but he didn’t say we had to stay inside.”

“What do you mean?”

“Clem said he could feel your wolf’s anxiety, said she needed to run. I can feel her too, like a pressure on my chest. God only knows what it’s like inside your head right now. Samuel owns acres out here, so we could go running and nobody will see hide or hair of us. It will distract you, help you relax, and you can see that we ain’t nothing like your pack,” his cheeky grin was back, and there was a mischievous glint in his grey eyes.

My heart leapt in my chest and my wolf stirred, keen for a romp in the woods, “won’t he be mad?”

I could taste fear briefly in the air as Steele considered it- he truly feared his Alpha’s power, and yet I hadn’t seen the man raise his hand to any of his wolves so far, “he never said you couldn’t leave the house. He can’t punish me if I ain’t disobeying him.”

I grinned at him, and then felt the warmth of Bromley’s tongue again as he eagerly licked my hand in approval. Steele didn’t need my answer; power rose quickly in the room and thick, silvery fur- the same colour of his hair- began to sprout all over his body, running across his skin like liquid. As I watched he fell forward onto his knees as his bones crunched and cracked loudly, rearranging themselves into a completely different form as he grew larger. Shifting is entirely painless, thanks to the weird werewolf magic; otherwise we would probably never do it.  That same magic made Steel’s clothes disappear into his fur as his nose and mouth lengthened into a wolf’s snout and his ear’s moved up the sides of his head. He grinned at me with sharp teeth and wagged a long bushy tail, narrowly missing the wooden stools. There were a few more sickening sounds as his legs and arms completed the change, and then he was a full blown werewolf. He looked monstrous standing there, several inches taller than Bromley, who was about the three times the size of a dairy cow himself.  After shaking out his shaggy fur, he trotted lightly past me, brushing my body with enough force to make me step back.

I grinned at him. Now it was my turn.







Standing in Samuel’s kitchen I summoned my own power, feeling my fur brush across me, as refreshing as a cool breeze. I had long ago gotten used to the sensations of the shift, so there was no nausea as my bones rotated in their sockets and my organs rearranged. It was a weird feeling, especially when my teeth grew and made my mouth itch like millions of spiders were running across my gums. I let out a huff of air as I landed on my hands- hands that were now dainty but dangerously clawed white paws.  As a female wolf I was naturally smaller than both Steele and Bromley, but those who had underestimated me in the past had realised I was no pushover.  They were watching me with shock and curiosity, and I knew what they saw. My coat was pure white, except for black smudges around my eyes, ears and muzzle, as well a blurry looking gray and black line that started at the top of my head and ended at the tip of my tail. I knew that my eyes looked intimidating, the icy blue and amber colours contrasting against the black to give me an almost owlish appearance. I had never seen a wolf with the same patterned coat as me. My father had said it was a rare colouring amongst our kind, but to me that just mean it was one more thing that was abnormal about me.

I stretched out my limbs slowly, feeling my wolf’s impatience.  She wanted to be out running, feeling the dirt under her paws and the wind in her fur. And for once, I wanted the same thing. I gave a small yip and bounded over to them, ignoring the way the wooden floor boards creaked under my paws and nipping Steele on the side of his furry cheek. He responded with a huge yawn, showing off his gleaming teeth in a mouth that could have swallowed my whole head if I’d been human. But just because I was small didn’t mean I wasn’t as strong or as fast as him. Sure, he had an advantage because of his sheer size and weight, but I had gotten used to being a small pup around the big monsters. Before he could blink I shot underneath his belly at his hind legs, biting and pulling in a fluid motion so that they came out from underneath him and he fell to the floor with an ungraceful crash, making the windows rattle in their frames. Bromley let out a bark that sounded like a laugh, amusement glittering in his eyes as Steele scowled at me from the floor. He tried lunging at me, but he missed, and all of a sudden we were running, our claws skittering on the wooden floor as we shot out the front door with enough noise to wake a small army of the dead, shoving each other in a bid to be the first one out. We were simply too big to fit through the door all at once.

Not bothering with the stairs, the three of us leapt over the balcony like a tidal wave of claws and fur. There was a split second after we landed where we paused to gather our bearings, and then we were running again; me in front with the other two close at my heels. Dirt flew up around our paws and a moment later we had reached the forest, diving into it without a second thought. Then the game became all about who could run the fastest through the thick bush; tree’s came at me from all sides as I dodged and weaved around thick trunks and fallen logs. Because I was smaller, I could run faster and with more agility than the other two, and they soon fell a little behind. For once, I wasn’t fighting my wolf, and she wasn’t fighting me. We ran as we were meant to; as two parts of a soul,

separate but combined at the same time. A howl ripped happily through the air behind me-Bromley I think- and I ran faster, euphoria rushing through me at all the sights and sounds and smells of the forest.  Something moved to my left, catching my attention, and the scent of prey bit into my senses.

Feral rabbit. I could all but feel its tiny heart on my tongue, beating so fast in its terror. It only took a moment, and then my mouth was around its furry, fragile neck, its whole body in my huge mouth. Oops. I hadn’t been paying attention, and my wolf had snuck up on me. I struggled with her for a moment; she wanted me to sink my teeth in and rip its flesh, and let the blood flow out of its jugular. Though I held it as gingerly as I could, it was incredibly still- playing dead- so after a while my wolf began to lose interest, making it easier for me to put the poor thing down. Bromley and Steele approached, panting heavily, but they just stood and watched as I nudged the shivering creature encouragingly with my nose. It took a few hesitant hops, then all but dove for the nearest group of shrubs. I hoped I hadn’t caused it any permanent damage, but really all I’d done was let it live so another predator could have a meal. Just because I had a human conscience and didn’t like to eat in wolf form didn’t mean the rabbit’s next encounter with a predator would be so lucky. There were plenty of feral foxes and cats around, though there seemed to be no sign of them at the moment. No surprise. Most animals didn’t like being anywhere near us.

My tongue lolled out of my mouth as I returned to Bromley and Steele, butting Bromley with my head in an attempt to get him to play. Wolves may look more vicious than dogs, but they are still part of the same canine family, and they like to play too, just like the big wild cats like to pounce and roll around as much as their domesticated cousins. For the wolves- like the big felines also- playing is a way to learn how to fight. In my old pack however, it had never been a harmless play fight between me and whichever male decided it would be fun to rough me up. As the three of us wrestled in the dirt and dry brown grass, it was hard not to feel threatened, hard not to think that any second they were going to really try and hurt me. It was two against one- sounds unfair, but it’s hard to fight with another without getting in their way, and neither wolf had managed to pin me. On the other hand, it wasn’t like I was ‘winning’ anyway, just managing to stay away from their teeth and claws like I had been taught. I was fighting in a purely defensive way, but when Steele finally had me pinned-his jaws around my throat- something in me snapped. Suddenly it was no longer Steele that was pinning me, but Justin instead, his grey eyes filled with hatred. I knew he was going to rip my throat out; I could feel it in the pit of my stomach and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I panicked.

I bucked ferociously, throwing Steele off me and into the nearest tree, his impact tearing it from its roots. The look in his eyes was pure puzzlement as he got to his feet, winded, but it didn’t register with me. I turned on Bromley and lunged, knocking him over and managing to draw blood as I swiped at his side. He let out a yelp of surprise and pain as he hit the ground, Steele immediately planting himself in from of him, warding me off. I glared at them both, my hackles raised, my teeth bared viciously, a long warning growl emanating from my throat. Something in my mind was trying to pull at my consciousness, but I could only think with fear. They were going to kill me, Justin and all the rest, and they were going to make it as painful as possible.

Bromley got to his feet; his wound had healed almost instantly and now he was a threat again. I snarled and started for him again, but this time neither of them could be taken off guard. Bromley dodged, snapping at one of my ears as I passed him; I felt blood begin to seep into my fur and howled; now even more enraged. Both of them took the chance to tackle me, grabbing me by the scruff so that my legs bowed underneath their combined weight. No. I could not let them kill me. The weight of them was so surprisingly strong, I felt the panic begin to boil out of control as I struggled to get them off, but they hung on. I kicked out desperately, my claws tearing flesh, trying to throw my attackers. And then…

Power swirled around me, angry and calm at the same time. The weight was lifted from me, freeing me, and I finally collapsed to the ground, shivering uncontrollably. I could hear a high pitched whine, and it took me a moment to realise it was coming from me. But that was okay, because his power wrapped around me, and I knew he wouldn’t let them rip my throat out.

“Boss, we were just having some fun, and the pup flipped out,” a voice said in between gasping breaths, “we didn’t do anything, but when she started attacking us, we had to pin her down. She just.. she just lost it.”

“This is why I wanted her to stay in the house.”

“With all due respect boss, you never said…” the sentence dropped, but I didn’t care why. I was safe.

Feet appeared in my vision, and then Samuel was kneeling in front of me, a hand out cautiously, as if he was worried I would attack him as well. I licked it gratefully, breathing in his wonderful scent.

“Lacey, can you shift?” he asked me in that deep, soothing voice. But I didn’t want to. No, this way I could stay safe from them all, this way I would be harder to kill.

“I don’t think she’s all there, boss. Look in her eyes; it’s her wolf in control in there, not her.”

“Quiet, Steele. I am not in the mood.”

Calloused hands wrapped around my face and forced my head up. Samuel gazed down into my eyes, a frown creasing the skin between his eyebrows.

“I’m sorry Lacey, but you can be angry at me later for this, if you want.”

The taste of his power grew stronger, until I could almost feel it pulsing through my veins, spreading through my body with every beat of my heart. And then, with foreign magic in my veins, I began to change back, forced by his power.

At some point during the shift, my full mind re-awoke, shoving my wolf back deep inside my mind. I lay fully healed and human, curled in the foetal position in the dry dirt. I was still shivering slightly with my eyes clenched tightly closed as Samuel’s power left me. Then it dawned on me what I’d done.

“Steele… Bromley… I’m sorry,” I mumbled into the ground, wrapping my arms tightly around myself, “I don’t know what happened.”

“No harm done, pup,” Steele said from somewhere behind me. I opened my eyes and found myself looking into Samuel’s. I expected anger from him, but his eyes were clear and concerned. He stood and offered a hand, which I took, and he pulled me so swiftly to my feet that I had to lean against him for a moment.

I sighed, breathing in that delicious combination of fire, rain and forest, and then forced myself to step away.

“I’m sorry, Alpha,” I kept my eyes down and my posture submissive, “It’s my fault. We were just playing, and all of a sudden I was back with my pack… and they were…” my voice choked in my throat and I felt my eyes begin to water. There was a slight rustling sound and then the scent of Steele and Bromley left me as they silently exited into the trees, making themselves scarce. I knew they would have been following an order, and I was about to ask when suddenly the Alpha’s arm’s were around me; strong, kind, protective. I was home.

“Don’t apologise because of what your pack did to you,” I could hear his voice as it rumbled through his chest, and it somehow managed to calm me, “they should all be punished.”

I nodded into his now tear-stained shirt, “she took over for me again, my wolf I mean. It was like I was on autopilot. I didn’t mean to hurt them, but she saw them as she’d seen my pack. She was protecting me. She did the same thing when they… tried to kill me. I couldn’t remember it at first… but she went nuts. She… I… could have killed them all.”

He released me, and I furtively tried to wipe my tears away, “now do you see why I have to keep you close?” he asked gently, pushing a strand of hair off my face. I expected my wolf to raise her head at his touch, but she was tired and thankfully silent, “I’m the only one who can calm you down when this happens.”

“Yes, Alpha, I do. I just didn’t realise how weak I am when it comes to controlling my wolf.”

He shook his head, and with one arm around my shoulders, began steering me back in the direction of his house.

“You’re not weak, Lacey. Not many wolves could have survived what you have and stayed sane. And please, call me Samuel.”

“Samuel. I should be angry about you forcing me to shift, but I’m not. You know, you’re the first one who’s ever been able to do that? Not even my father could. My new Alpha didn’t have a hope in hell. I’m beginning to kind of understand why they tried to kill me you know. I’m dangerous.”

“All of us are dangerous. It comes with the fact that we’re half animal. And I can only think of one reason why I can control you when no one else could.”

I looked up at him curiously, “why?”

He frowned, “you’re probably not going to like the answer, little wolf. And I can tell part of you wants to run away. You’re afraid of us because we’re not what you expected. You’ve never been treated with kindness, and instead of liking it, you cower before it as though it will strike you down,” he pulled a leave from my once again tangled hair, “the bottom line is, I think our wolves are mates. Power attracts power.”

I was silent for a while as we trudged through the bush, trying to comprehend what he’d said. Our wolves were mates? It would explain so much. Why his power tasted so good to me, why a single touch brought my wolf roaring to life. I had to face the obvious. His power kept me and my wolf sane. I didn’t know about him, but no one had ever had that effect on me before.

I sighed, “You know, this is not going to make any of your wolves want me in your pack.”

He chuckled, “I don’t plan on telling them. I’m Alpha. I want you to stay.”

Our eyes met, and I knew then and there that he wanted me. Heat burned in his eyes, making my heart beat faster than the rabbit I’d nearly eaten.

I smiled at him, not caring as a blush crawled across my cheeks, “Thanks Al- Samuel. Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” he rumbled pleasantly, and I let him lead me back to the house, savouring the weight of his arm around my shoulders. He didn’t remove it as we neared the house, and I didn’t ask him to.




There’s a few pretty good reasons why werewolves have coincided so well with humans for so long. One of them is that we try to avoid grouping together anywhere near society. Most humans are ignorant when it comes to sensing our powers or other supernatural things, though occasionally one will emerge who is strangely able to know by sight that we are something more than human. They are usually ‘gotten rid of’, whether it’s by the werewolves, the shifters, the vampires, or any other preternatural beings. Anyway, other than the odd human, society is generally unaware of us. But when we get together in groups, even the most mundane human can sense that something isn’t right. Sometimes something embedded deep in their brains warns them that we are predators, but a lot of the time it is simply the massive amount of magic and power that we generate. And the more werewolves together, the more power that seeps out onto unsuspecting humans. Humans naturally can’t handle our particular brand of magic, and just a little taste can result in extremely heightened anger and aggression. So it’s best that when we get together, it’s in a place where there isn’t a lot of people, otherwise things can get out of hand.

Which is why I was on edge, pacing the little blue room I’d been given like it was a prison cell and I was waiting for the electric chair. There was at least ten werewolves gathered in Samuel’s living room already; I could hear them talking quietly amongst each other, knowing I was too far away to hear them clearly. Their power was making my skin crawl uncomfortably, sending shivers up my spine at regular intervals and making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I took a deep breath and tried to calm my nerves, but they were shot to hell. The last time I had been around this many wolves wasn’t what I’d call a good experience. Truthfully, I was tired. Tired of who and what I was, tired of being scared, tired of being hunted, and tired of these realistic flash backs. I was still shaky from the one earlier, and I was fretting that I hadn’t been able to properly apologise to Steele and Bromley. I reached up semi-consciously and touched my ear, where Bromley had ripped it in retaliation. It was fully healed, and hadn’t scarred, just like their wounds wouldn’t have. I knew I hadn’t done any permanent damage, but I still felt horrible. Despite my attempts, I could feel myself warming up to them, even though they were exactly what I’d learned to stay away from. Part of me knew that they were nothing like the men of my pack, but I’d survived so long by being cautious and mistrusting. And I was alive, wasn’t I? They’d had several chances to kill me or worse. And yet they hadn’t. I wasn’t used to this.

There was another knock on Samuel’s front door, drawing me abruptly out of my thoughts. I recognised by scent one of the three new visitors as being Marie, the woman who had so kindly brought me some underwear. She had her infant with her; I could smell the little thing even from so far away, and it brought up that wistfulness I got whenever I thought of children and how I couldn’t risk ever having one. I shoved it away and concentrated on the third wolf; he was pure born, but a submissive wolf, which wasn’t uncommon. He was clearly Marie’s mate- he carried her scent and she carried his. The baby boy started bawling as they stepped over the threshold, probably sensing the power worse than I, and I pitied the poor thing. It was probably affecting him as efficiently and completely as a bucket of ice. The three joined the other wolves; all of them unfamiliar except for Bromley, Steele, the werewolf doctor Forster, and Clem, though there was a wolf that smelled slightly like Clem. There was also the slightly staler scent of human- Dr. Lillian. I was still puzzled by the fact that she was not wolf, and yet somehow connected to the pack. It was unheard of. Then again, so were Alpha females, so who was I to talk?

I stopped pacing, counting in my head the number of wolves. Steele had said there were fifteen in the pack, not including the four pups and the baby. Thirteen had arrived, not including Steele and Bromley, and Samuel was in the forest getting more wood for the fireplace. I counted in my head that there were sixteen wolves in the living room, plus the very human Dr. Lillian. I felt confused. Samuel had said that the pups weren’t old enough for the meetings, so who was the extra? Slowly, I put two and two together and realised Clem had brought his younger brother along with him. His scent gave it away, being almost a twin to Clem’s. Damn it. I’d wanted to avoid the pups as much as possible. The way they’d looked at me after my show of power had made me feel vulnerable and even more of a freak than usual. It wasn’t their fault. I’d been responsible for their injuries. As if I didn’t feel guilty enough already.

I looked out my window at the sun setting over the treetops- the orange and red rays making it look as though the trees were alive with a great fire. It was a feeble attempt to calm myself, but it worked a little. That is, until I noticed that Samuel was emerging from the forest, two long and heavy looking tree trunks being carried effortlessly over one shoulder. He looked up in my direction and winked, the subtle gesture making me blush from head to toe. I hoped desperately that his vision wasn’t good enough to see my cheeks redden. I really didn’t like how he affected me so intensely. I prided myself on being independent, and here I was- wanting to curl up next to him and let him take care of everything. It was a dangerous attraction, even if my wolf couldn’t see it. He was everything I had to stay away from. Male. Dominant. Alpha.

Still, I couldn’t tear my gaze away as he dumped the heavy logs on the ground and began breaking them with his bare hands as if they were matchsticks. The act of strength incensed my wolf even more, and I watched the muscles in his arms with a kind of longing I should not have had for a man I knew less than a couple of days. The skin on his bare chest and back glistened with sweat, making me swallow thickly as my breath caught in my throat. Once again, I suspected he was doing it on purpose, but I still couldn’t look away. Soon though, Samuel finished with the wood and gathered the chunks up swiftly before continuing towards the house. Before he left my line of sight, he looked up at my window and caught my gaze, those piercing blue eyes shooting right through me, making something shift excitedly in my stomach. Yeah, he was doing this on purpose. Or rather, he wasn’t fighting his wolf’s attraction like I was. But then he was gone, and I could hear him climb the front steps to the front door. Now I could breathe again, but not for long. Footsteps came my way-Steele’s heavy scent reaching my nose- and my nervousness rose like a sickening wave in the back of my throat. He knocked lightly on the door before opening it and peeking through, “You alright, pup? You look like a deer caught in headlights. You okay?”

I nodded wordlessly, feeling better with the amount of concern that was clear in his eyes. Nothing was going to happen while Steele- or Samuel for that matter- was here. I let a breath out that I didn’t realise I’d been holding, and gave Steele a small smile.

He grinned back, “it’s time, pup. We’re waiting for you.”

I followed him anxiously down the hall, my eyes on the floor as we approached the pack in Samuel’s living room, trying to look as harmless as possible. Their power grew stronger and stronger as I neared them, making the tingling on my skin almost painful and unbearable, like somebody was rubbing sandpaper all over me. My wolf paced, hackles raised and teeth bared in her metaphysical cage, even edgier and tense than I was. There was complete and utter silence now, but I could tell by scent that some of the wolves were annoyed, some of them a little fearful, some of them just excited to have something interesting happen. I sneaked a glance and confirmed that Clem had indeed brought his brother along, then fixed my gaze back on my bare feet.

“This is Lacey,” Samuel’s voice rumbled from somewhere to my left, “she comes from a difficult pack. I have gathered you all here to discuss your opinions on giving her a permanent place here. As you know, it was her old pack that was responsible for the attack on our young. There is a chance that they will come after her again. She needs protection from them.”

I bit my lip as voices mumbled to each other, then forced myself to look up at the werewolves in the room. There were mostly men, which wasn’t at all unusual in a pack as the females are a little rarer; most of the time females contract lycanthropy by bite and not by birth. I noticed Marie straight away; she really was a petite, fragile little thing, the baby clutched to her chest as her young pretty face creased with a mixture of worry and concern. Her brown hair was coming out of its makeshift bun, falling into her face and making her look, if possible, more breakable. The man that was her mate stood by her protectively, fierce golden eyes scanning me to ascertain whether or not I was a danger to his mate and pup. He was clearly older than her by five or so years- there were streaks of lighter hair at his temples that made the rest of his hair look darker- but his face was kind and I could tell by his posture that he would take a silver bullet to the brain for her if he needed to, even if by nature he was a submissive wolf. He didn’t appear weak by any standards; he was as tall as Clem and quite muscular, it was simply because he was born to follow rather than lead that made him not so threatening to my radar.

Clem sat, scowling a little, with his brother in the corner. If I hadn’t known already that they were brothers, I wouldn’t have guessed without using my nose. While Clem’s hair was auburn, Cole’s was a pale, innocent strawberry blonde. And while Clem’s eyes were a brilliant emerald colour, Cole’s were hazel flecked with gold. The young boy was staring at me eagerly, literally on the edge of his seat. Clem’s scowl deepened as he noticed his brother’s keen interest, and he pulled him back into his seat with a jolt. The boy didn’t seem to notice the man’s roughness, or maybe he was just used to the treatment. The man had serious mood problems. Steele had moved from my side and he and Bromley stood on either side of Samuel, like henchmen, though Bromley was still in his monstrous wolf form. He looked my way and gave me a wolfish grin, showing off his glistening teeth and letting me know there was no hard feelings. I smiled back at him and felt some of my nervousness fade.

Dr. Lillian sat on the other side of the room in one of the comfortable chairs, a calm look on her slightly wrinkled face and a medical bag at her feet. She gave me a brief nod and a slightly wry smile before returning her gaze to a thick book in her lap. My curiosity rose again. For her to be at a pack meeting meant she was highly valued; humans were usually strictly forbidden. I couldn’t sense any magic from her, so she wasn’t a witch, and she definitely wasn’t a vampire. Nope, she was just a human. Odd.

So that left nine other wolves. Seven of them were male- one I recognised as the other doctor that had been in the hospital-Dr Forster- and two were female. One of the women- a curvaceous brunette- was sitting on the floor, her arms wrapped possessively around the ankles of a burly blond man sitting on the lounge. Another mated pair. Both regard me with simple curiosity, and I was relieved to see no hostility in their eyes. The other woman, a pale and freckled red head who was also sitting on the floor with her arms crossed, was frowning at me in between glances at Steele. It didn’t take much to realise this woman regarded me as competition in her bid to be Steele’s mate, and I gave her a tentative smile, trying to show that I was no threat. She didn’t return it, however, in fact her pretty brown eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched.  So I guessed she wasn’t going to warm up to me straight away. Oh well.

The remaining five men mostly watched me like I was the most interesting thing in the whole world, and I could tell why. My wolf saw them as potential mates, and no doubt they were considering the same thing. I glanced shyly at Samuel, who seemed to be pleased at the reaction I was getting. None of them, except for Clem, was outwardly angry at my presence, though the little red head was definitely irritated, and a man with dark dreadlocks was sitting with his arms crossed. I let out the breath I’d been holding, but my body still stayed tense. I didn’t want to let my guard down and have one of them attack me. I knew I was being paranoid, but you can never be too careful.

Someone cleared their throat, and my eyes were drawn to one of the younger looking men with bronze coloured skin and eyes, “I’m Kevin,” he introduced himself hesitantly when he caught my eye, “What happened to your old pack?” he asked, glancing at Samuel as if he was worried his question would anger the Alpha. He was only a young wolf, a few years older than me but bitten, not born. A submissive omega wolf, too, that was clear. I could tell by the way he kept his head slightly ducked and his shoulders slouched over. Omegas weren’t weak however, and their position in a pack was important. If a pack was full of dominant Alpha’s and beta wolves, there would be constant fighting and war. Omega’s are followers, and are there to offer no challenge to the other wolves.

I looked at Samuel, who nodded encouragingly, and I sighed inwardly, unwilling to answer the lanky wolf’s question. Still, if I wanted to be accepted, I had to tell them what they needed to know.

“They tried to kill me,” I said simply. It sounded better than ‘they let me leave and then tried to tear me apart’. There was a young boy in the room after all.

The red headed woman who clearly had a thing for Steele piped up, a slightly nasty edge to her voice, “what did you do to deserve that?”

“Delilah,” Samuel barked a warning, “mind your tongue.”

Delilah looked chagrined and appropriately apologetic, but it wasn’t sincere. Ha. That explained why she was still on her own. Usually female werewolves were snapped up instantly since the ratio of them to males was about one for every ten. She was young, immature and jealous. The question needed to be answered though; for all they knew I had murdered half my pack. I didn’t have to tell them about being an Alpha, however. Samuel had warned me against it earlier.

“When my father passed, the new Alpha wanted me as a mate. He took the rejection pretty hard.”

Clem’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t say anything. It wasn’t a lie, I just wasn’t telling the whole story. Samuel gave me another, slight nod, so I knew I’d done the right thing. The whole ‘female Alpha’ thing wasn’t something I wanted or needed to share at that moment. I could explain away my powers with a few ‘I don’t knows’ here and there, but coming out and saying I was an Alpha would put everyone on edge. A werewolf pack rarely had more than one Alpha, and usually it meant a challenge. They might think I was there to take over their pack, just like Merrick had thought.

“So how’d you end up here?” the man with long, dark dreadlocks, was watching me from in front of the fireplace with a slightly cynical expression, his arms still crossed over his chest, as if he didn’t quite believe my story.

“I was being chased,” I bit my lip again nervously; “they shot me with silver bullets. They followed me here and attacked your young- for that I am very sorry.”

“You saved my life though,” Cole spoke out, and was rewarded with a glare from his brother. He ignored Clem however, and was once again so far on the edge of his seat that I expected him to fall off it any second.

“I thought I was going to die. They told me when I woke up that you got the silver out of me.”

“She’s also responsible for you being shot in the first place,” Clem growled, “she brought those men here.”

Clem,” Samuel’s voice was dangerously low, accompanied by a warning growl emanating from Bromley’s throat. The room went completely still as power washed over everyone, warning them that Samuel was staking a claim on me and would not tolerate this kind of behaviour. I didn’t know what to think at that- usually a male wolf only staked his claim on a female if he intended to become her mate. Clem’s jaw clenched, but he said nothing further- to do so would be to contest Samuel’s position as Alpha. I knew then and there that if Samuel wanted me to stay, nothing anyone else said would matter. What the Alpha decided was the law; he might have been letting them have their opinion, but at the end of the day, it was his decision. I had to stop myself from smiling smugly in Clem’s direction, like a petulant child. It was hard not to.

Cole’s face had paled under the influx of power, but he was still watching me with determination.

“I didn’t know that they would follow me,” I said, somewhat helplessly to the silent pack, “I was unconscious for days with no knowledge of where I was. I take responsibility for the attacks, but it isn’t entirely my fault.”

My face crumpled and I began to bite my lip repeatedly, trying to stop the emotion from baring its ugly head. I would not let them see me upset. I would not.

“Look what you’ve done Clem, you’ve gone and upset her,” Marie’s voice was stern, mother-like, and for the first time Clem looked ashamed. Marie handed the baby boy to her mate and stepped around the other wolves to get to me. She was slightly shorter than me, and I was taken aback when she wrapped me in a warm hug. My muscles released their tension and my nerves began to evaporate the longer she hugged me. That was a little strange. I pulled away politely and looked at Samuel suspiciously as it dawned on me, “she’s an empathetic omega, isn’t she?”

Samuel beamed as Marie chuckled at me, both of them pleased. I had never met an empathetic wolf before, but my father had told me about them. They were pretty rare and highly valued in a pack; they could affect the emotions of whole packs without even trying. It dawned on me that Marie had been keeping the pack calm all through the meeting, most likely at Samuel’s request. God, I hated to see what Clem was really feeling if his angry emotions were currently being restrained.

“Samuel said you were smart,” Marie smiled kindly at me, and I couldn’t help smiling back, “not many can tell what I am straight away. You’re gifted too, aren’t you?”

“Gifted?” Delilah interrupted sharply, her voice full of such jealousy she didn’t bother- or couldn’t bother- to hide, “gifted how exactly?”

I shrugged her off, “I don’t know. I can just do things that I shouldn’t be able to.”

The other woman, the brunette who was mated with the blonde, spoke up, “our son said he saw you shift into the part-human-part-wolf form that most of us can’t achieve. He also said you could hold Clem still, to stop him from hitting you,” she shot a venomous look in Clem’s direction, “though he should know better not to hit women.”

Clem growled in response, “know the whole story before you speak, Carla, and get your facts straight.”

“Don’t dare speak to my wife that way,” the blonde man snarled, getting to his feet despite his mate’s attempts to tug him back down.

“Maybe you should teach your mate to speak only when she is asked,” Clem shot back, earning a very angry look from everyone in the room. I stood there, shocked. Obviously Clem wasn’t the most liked person in the pack. So it wasn’t just me. He was mean to everyone.

“Quiet, all of you,” Samuel snapped, his power hitting us all like an invisible whip, “Clem, get out of here and cool down. You should know better than that. Just because your father was a sexist bastard doesn’t mean you can pull that kind of crap in my pack.”

Clem’s expression was distorted with fury. For a moment I thought he was going to attack Samuel, but then he stood up quietly and abruptly left the room.

“Richard, please sit back down,” Samuel told the blonde man, “is it too much to ask for a civilised conversation?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Cole whimpered, his eyes wide and fearful, “He’s not right at the moment.”

“It is not your fault,” Samuel said calmly, and then turned to Steele, “go after him and try to talk him down. I’ve had enough of him. Last thing we need is an angry werewolf so close to full moon. You’re too big for him to want to try and take a swing at you, and he knows you’ll hit him back.”

“Yes, boss,” Steele followed Clem’s path; Delilah watching him wistfully as he left.

Marie patted my shoulder, “don’t fret. This always happens when we get together. We can’t help ourselves. And Carla likes to bait the man, don’t you Carla?”

The brunette grinned sheepishly but didn’t answer, wrapping her arms back around Richard’s ankles. I appreciated the sentiment, but it was only partially true. If I wasn’t here, Clem wouldn’t be so twisted up.

“I’m sorry if I’m disrupting your pack,” I told them all, “I think it would be best if I left as soon as the moon passes.”

“Nonsense, girl,” Carla waved away my apology with a jewelled hand, “Clem is always this way. Sorry Cole.”

“No offense taken,” the boy grinned, “he can be a bit of an idiot; he’s had a hard… well, you know. When I heard he’d attacked you, I was pretty embarrassed. He doesn’t think before he acts.”

“He was worried about you, and he thought I was the one attacking you,” I said, a little taken aback by the boy’s maturity and insight, “I do understand his frame of mind.”

A hand clasped my shoulder, sending warmth through my body. Samuel. I looked up at him gratefully, and an understanding passed between us. He wasn’t going to let me go, not matter how many tantrums Clem threw. I thought it would make me feel trapped, this knowledge, but it didn’t. It made me feel happy. Marie had powers that could be considered dangerous, and she was perfectly fine in this pack. Was it too much to hope for that they would accept me for being Alpha?

I sighed, “Denying my new Alpha was not the only reason they tried to kill me. I am not normal, even by werewolf standards,” Samuel’s hand tightened on my shoulder, but I wasn’t going to tell them I was an Alpha. Not exactly, anyway. Though would it be so bad? They already had an empathetic wolf in their midst; granted, an Alpha female was a lot more unusual and dangerous. I doubted Samuel had even told Steele and Bromley.

“I am stronger than I should be. I have powers I shouldn’t have,” I told them, but instead of the angry reaction I was anticipating, I got nothing.

“Surely you can already tell we’re a bunch of misfits,” Carla studied me, and I found myself liking her immensely, “most of us come from other packs that didn’t want us.”

“I don’t understand,” I said suddenly, “my pack hated me for what I was. They made my life hell. And now you’re saying it doesn’t matter?”

“Of course it matters,” the dreadlocked wolf spoke up, “if it endangers the pack. But from what I can tell, nothing so far has been your fault,” he shrugged, making the movement look oddly graceful, “I don’t know your old pack, but they sound medieval. That whole ‘women are supposed to be weak baby-makers’ thing.”

“That’s pretty much it,” I chewed on my lip for a moment, “Merrick, the new Alpha, only wanted to be mated to me so he could have a slice of my power. He sent those men after me because he doesn’t want anyone else getting that slice. He thinks I’ll go back and take over his pack.”

Dreadlocks snorted, “Yeah right. There’s no such thing as female Alpha’s.”

I nodded, realising I’d said a little too much. I looked up at Samuel, and he squeezed my shoulder once. ‘Not yet’ his eyes told me.

“Does anyone object to Lacey staying in our territory?” he asked formally. No one spoke up, though Delilah and a short, slightly balding male didn’t look like they were too keen on the whole idea.

“Where will she be staying?” Marie was heading back to her mate and baby, now that the whole thing was mostly over. Her mate gently gave her the now sleeping boy-though how he’d slept through most of the meeting I had no idea- and put a protective arm around her shoulders, leaning down and kissing her once on the shoulder.

“Here, in one of the spare rooms,” Samuel replied tersely, earning a reproachful look from Delilah and a few of the other males, “until we can determine the men who were after her are out of the area.”

“They could still be around?” the bronze-skinned omega-Kevin- asked worriedly, and a few of the others showed the same concern.

“If they are, they are outside the territory. Lucas, Bromley and Steele will be doing regular runs,” Dreadlocks nodded dutifully, so I assumed he was Lucas, the tracker that had been with the boys when they’d been attacked. That explained his reluctance towards me.

“If they pick up their scent, they will immediately inform me. Just try to avoid going anywhere where you will be alone and an easy target.”

“As far as I know, they’re just trying to get to me,” I pointed out, “if you stay away from me…”

Delilah scoffed- I was really starting to dislike her- “why should we deal with your mess? Why should we risk ourselves for a wolf we don’t even know?”

The slightly balding man nodded, earning a stern look from Samuel. Delilah didn’t seem to care anymore however, and ignored him, “you’re putting us in danger for something we have nothing to do with. Why should we care?”

“Oh Delilah, shut up,” Carla snapped, “We all had to deal with your baggage when you came here. Get over yourself.”

Delilah glared daggers at the other woman, but closed her mouth. Obviously, because of her mate, Carla was higher up in the pack compared to Delilah. She had to obey.

“I don’t blame anyone for feeling that way…” I began, but Samuel silenced me with another squeeze on my shoulder.

“It’s settled then. Lacey will stay with us. I will hear no more arguments against that fact.”

I felt a brief touch of Alpha magic in those words, like a binding contract, and my wolf leapt excitedly. The more human part of me interfered, telling me not to get my hopes up. Something always goes wrong.

Footsteps approached us and I turned to see Steele return with Clem in tow. I could still taste his anger as it flowed from him, but at least the scowl was gone from his face. Without it, he was pretty handsome. The auburn-hair-emerald-eyes combo was exotic, even if he was the moodiest man I’d ever met.

“I apologise for my behaviour,” he said quietly, “I will accept any and all punishment for my actions.”

Samuel moved over to the man, and I was afraid for a moment that he would hit him. But he patted Clem on the back, shaking his head as the huge man flinched, expecting a blow.

“No harm done, Clem.”

Clem looked surprised for a moment- obviously escaping punishment from the Alpha was a rare thing, but then he gazed at me, and there was still a spark of defiance in his eyes that made me smile to myself. He nodded once, accepting me, before returning to his brother’s side. Delilah looked a little disappointed at the lack of confrontation.

“Lacey,” Samuel turned to me, “you can sit down now.”

I couldn’t stop a smile from breaking out as Carla patted the piece of carpet next to her, inviting me to sit. My wolf let out a contented sigh as I settled down on the floor, surrounded by the others. I wasn’t technically part of the pack yet- that involved a ritual with the Alpha on the night of the full moon. But for the first time, I felt like I belonged. A little voice in the back of my mind warned me that this feeling would not last, but for once I ignored it and basked in my own happiness.






The meeting continued, though I couldn’t really join in now that they had moved on to other topics. They discussed everything from the pack’s income to the education of their young pups. And all the while I sat, chin in hand, trying not to stare at Samuel as he talked. It wasn’t just his power; he was charismatic, soothing everyone’s qualms as he resolved every issue. At first I’d thought it was only my wolf that was drawn to him, but as I sat there I realised I was drawn to him as well. I knew deep down that this wasn’t good, but at the moment I couldn’t seem to care. I swear he could sense my longing for him, because every so often he would look at me with such heat in his eyes that it would feel like, for a moment, we were the only two in the room. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but by the time the meeting was over and the pack was slowly filing out, Delilah was looking a little more cheerful and the other men slightly discouraged.

Marie stood back with me while Samuel said goodbye to the others, her mate a heavy presence at her shoulder. The baby boy was sucking his thumb sleepily, and I had to resist the urge to coo at him.

“I wanted to introduce you to Lawrence, my husband,” Marie smiled at me as her husband held out a hand. I shook it hesitantly, but he didn’t seem angry, just wary.  He was very protective of her; more so than a usual mate. But it would be impolite to ask why.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, feeling his energy pulse along my hand and up my arm. He was testing me, trying to see how good I was at sensing power. I sent a little of my own energy back and watched a little smugly as his eyes widened slightly.

“This is Jacob,” Marie added, oblivious to our exchange. I dropped my hand and looked away from Lawrence and into the baby’s huge blue eyes as it blinked up at me, now fully awake. I’d never seen a werewolf baby before.

“Has he… does he shift yet?” I asked, lightly touching the baby’s soft forehead.

“Oh, all the time, dear. I must admit it was quite a shock the first time. I went in to feed him on the night of the full moon and there was this little wolf pup lying in his cot,” She sighed, shifting the child in her arms, “some things still surprise me. He likes you though, usually he bites strangers.”

“He’s adorable,” I said softly, “I was the youngest in my pack; I’ve never seen another baby wolf before.”

She chuckled, “you’re not missing out. He’s a terror. I’m dreading the teething stage. I don’t know what I’d do if I was able to keep him calm most of the time.”

Lawrence’s golden eyes were still boring into me, but I ignored him, stepping back from the baby. Thankfully, Samuel returned at that moment, clasping the man’s shoulder, “do you need a lift home?”

“No, no, Samuel, Lawrence drove here,” Marie waved him off, “thanks for having us,” she shifted Jacob in her arms again and stood on her toes to give Samuel a peck on the cheek, “make sure you invite us around again soon,” she winked at me and headed towards the front door, Lawrence right behind her.

Samuel and I stood there awkwardly as we listened to the last of the car doors slam and engines turn on. Bromley, Steele and Lucas had left for Samuel’s cabins, preparing to start their roster of running the perimeter. I cleared my throat awkwardly, “he’s a strange man.”

“Lawrence? He’s just a little too protective. He still blames himself for Marie’s turning.”

“Why?” I followed him into the kitchen where he pulled out two mugs from the cupboard and turned on a small kettle.

“Because he’s the one that did it. He lost control one full moon, and she nearly died because of it.”

My mouth dropped open as Samuel began searching the cupboards for something, “and now they’re mated?”

He gave me a stern look, and then buried his head back in the cupboards, “they were already together. From what I know, they had a huge fight the night of the full moon. Marie is an empathetic wolf, so she can change people’s moods. It was the same when she was human, only she didn’t know it… ah I knew I’d put it here” he retrieved a packet of cocoa, triumphant, and began spooning the sweet smelling stuff into the two mugs, “anyway, sometimes when she’s feeling an emotion particularly strongly, she can project it onto others without meaning to. During their fight, they were both very angry, and Lawrence ended up with a double dose of anger.”

“Right on the full moon,” I concluded, feeling a little shocked, “he must feel horrible.”

Samuel nodded and turned the kettle off as it began to whistle, “But so does she. She accidentally forced his wolf into a rage. They love each deeply, though; it’s the only thing that has saved them.”

I shook my head, “that’s crazy.”

The scent of cocoa became stronger as Samuel poured the hot water into the mugs. I was silent as he stirred; that longing rising up in my chest again as I watched. He had to sense it, and I couldn’t help blushing when he caught my eye, his own full of that wonderful heat again. He passed me a mug calmly though, and I noticed he was avoiding letting our fingers touch.

“Do all the wolves live within the territory?”

He nodded, “it’s easier that way. There hasn’t been a territorial dispute in decades, but it pays to be careful. I can keep an eye on everyone that way.”

I played with the handle of my coffee mug, the porcelain growing hot underneath my fingertips, “it was the same back home to…”

“Go make yourself comfortable on the veranda;” he said softly, “There is a wonderful view. I will be out in a minute.”

I nodded and carried my cup of cocoa- wincing slightly as it burned my hands- out the front door and onto the porch that surrounded most of the house. I followed it around until I found a big, soft looking lounge that looked out over the forest, and sat down wearily. I hunched into myself against the chilling air; my breath coming out in puffs of warm mist. Despite the cold, I looked out across the night sky and sighed peacefully.

Out here, you could really see the stars, not like back… home. They spilled across the sky like a sparkling blanket, twinkling merrily against the blackened sky. I gripped my hot chocolate, taking a huge gulp and savouring the heat as it warmed my hands and stomach. I was home sick. Not for my pack, but for my father, my mother. It made me feel sick to think that my father’s territory was now in Merrick’s slimy hands. That my father’s home… was probably now his.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Samuel was suddenly near me, a mug of his own cocoa in one hand and a blanket in the other. His eyes seemed, to me, to be even brighter than the stars above. I swallowed and dropped my gaze respectfully, nodding in response, “it really is. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He moved over to me silently, dropping gracefully into the seat next to me, “No matter how many nights I come out here, it looks different every time. I love it out here.”

“You’re lucky,” I looked back out over the horizon, “you have so much… freedom.”

“It comes at a cost,” he replied, and I wondered again what happened to his wife, and why she’d left.

I took another gulp of my cocoa and sat thoughtfully for a moment.

“What is the deal with Clem?”

Samuel sighed and spread the blanket over our laps, “he had a very abusive father. He would beat his wife, wait for her to heal her wounds, and then do it again. He beat the life out of the poor woman; took away her will. Clem was eighteen when his mother killed herself- she’d tried a few times but it’s hard to get rid of a werewolf. She stabbed herself in the heart with a silver knife. Clem found her, but her heart had been stopped for too long. He couldn’t revive her.”

“After that, his father started on Clem and his younger brother. Cole was only eight. I think Clem finally snapped one night when he came home to find Cole unconscious with silver burns all over his body. He killed his father. My own father took them in when no one else would, and they’ve been pack pretty much ever since.”

I was silent. I understood now, and I felt slightly sick. No wonder he was so intent on keeping Cole away from anyone who could be a danger. We weren’t so different.

“I guess I’m not the only one with a messed up past.”

He was silent at my words, and I took the chance to ask a question that would probably make him mad, “What happened to your wife?”

The muscles of his body stiffened all over, and for a brief second I stupidly thought he was going to attack me. Then he relaxed, and my heart stopped racing inside my chest.

“Sorry,” I ducked my head, fuming at myself, “that was a personal question.”

“We were married for two years,” he began slowly, ignoring my fumbled apology; “I met her during a time when I was trying to deny what I was. I was trying to play the ‘normal’ human, back when my father ran the pack and I had no obligations to it. Holding my secret was just too big a burden on our relationship.”

“You never told her?” I gawked, “well that was stupid.”

He growled, and I cowered into myself, “I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. Please continue.”

He glared at me for a moment, “She… she wanted to have a baby. We tried but… the lycanthropy will not let a half breed to be created…”
“What do you mean?” I interrupted, “people get bitten and turn into werewolves all the time.”

“That is different,” he said, somewhat impatiently, “even though the bitten ones are not as strong as the pure born, they carry the full lycanthropy strain. A baby born to a human and a wolf would not. It’s a way of keeping our kind strong.”

“So she couldn’t get pregnant… to you.”

He sighed, “No, she couldn’t. And she was beginning to realise I was hiding something from her. We were already falling apart, and my inability to give her what she wanted was the final straw.”

His voice was raw, and I had to fight the urge to hug him, “I’m sorry, Samuel.”

“We were never going to work,” he admitted, shrugging, “I was just trying to be someone I’m not. At least now she can be with someone who can give her what she deserves.”

I fell into silence, mulling over his words, when he hit me with his own question.

“What about you? Do you have a mate in your old pack?”

I snorted, “As if. A handful of the men liked to torment me when I was a child. They just loved to come up with new ways to hurt me, physically and mentally. I knew how to fight dirty by the age of seven, and sometimes I’d hurt them just as much as they hurt me. But they always outnumbered me.”

I took a deep breath, unwilling to continue. His eyes were kind though, and to be fair he had shared his pain. I was important, this sharing between us, though I didn’t know why. Now it was my turn.

“Female wolves are pretty rare,” his voice carried the same disbelief Steele’s had, “once you’d come of age… surely some of them took an interest.”

“They did,” I said quietly, the old memories rising up to hit me in the gut, “I’ve never really spoken about it before.”

His eyes met mine, “what did they do?”

There was a slight growl to his voice, and for some reason it gave me courage. Whatever had happened, I was sure that Samuel wouldn’t let it happen again as long as I was with him.

“When I was about seventeen, they started to realise I was a woman and not a kid anymore. At first it was just teasing and rude comments, but it escalated quickly. One night, I had had an argument with my father and I’d run out of his house. When a car pulled up beside me, I’d assumed my father had sent them to retrieve me. He had not,” I felt shaky from the memory of it, but my voice kept on, “They blindfolded me, and bound my hands and feet with silver. They all had masks on, but I’d grown up with them all; I knew them by scent. They all stood around laughing while one of them… Antonio… raped me. It was just another way for them to dominate me; there was nothing romantic about it. In fact, they had argued over who should do it. None of them wanted to touch me. I remember retreating in my mind, letting my wolf come forward so I wouldn’t have to… well she attacked Antonio, and I escaped. I still don’t really know how. I think I was in shock at the time.”

I was shivering uncontrollably, and I flinched slightly when Samuel put a strong arm protectively over my shoulders.

“Did your father find out?” there was a deep, possessive growl in his voice, and my wolf relished it, despite the fact that I was reliving yet another horror. But this one was years old, a fading memory. It couldn’t hurt me anymore.

“Yes. I didn’t even have to tell him. I came home, bruised and in shock. He could smell Antonio on me, and knew straight away what had happened. He was… furious isn’t a strong enough word. I had never seen him so close to losing control. It was the only time I was ever truly scared of him. I remember cowering in our living room with my mother- she was still alive then- as he picked up the lounge and threw it through the front window. My mother took me away to be tended to, and he went out. I found out later that he found Antonio and killed him on the spot. The others he rounded up- they couldn’t lie to him of course- and beat them to an inch of their lives for being a part of it, for not saving me. My father was getting old then, but he reminded everyone that night that he was still Alpha, and no one touches the Alpha’s daughter. But by then it was too late.”

“He should have killed them all,” Samuel burst out roughly, “the male wolves are meant to protect the women, not…” he trailed off, his words slurring into another growl. I leant into him appreciatively, breathing in his scent to calm myself. His arm tightened around my shoulders, and my wolf gave a delighted yip.

“Did they leave you alone after that?”

“Mostly. They didn’t try hurting me anymore, but they still whispered threats whenever they could. They still made my life miserable in any way they could find. I couldn’t go out on the full moon runs anymore, because they ganged up on me. And when my father died, I no longer had protection. Oh, Merrick offered it to me, in exchange for being his mate of course, and when I refused well… the others were delighted. They beat me like my father had beaten them. Only he hadn’t wanted to kill them. At first I wasn’t even sure how I got away, all I know is I gave myself over to my wolf seconds before I’d passed out. Now I can remember what she- I- did to them. When I came to, I was running in wolf form and well, the rest is history.”

“You don’t seem to have any luck, do you?”

I laughed bitterly, “nope. I mean, the stuff with my pack is bad enough, but I was used to it. For as long as I can remember they hated what I was, and Antonio’s attack was just another escalation. But now I’m causing trouble for your pack as well. I should have done everyone a favour and killed myself years ago.”

There was a rush of movement and a sound of porcelain shattering, and then I was sitting his lap, my mug of cocoa broken a few feet away and the warm blanket lying limply on the ground.

“Don’t say that ever again,” he growled, his eyes boring into mine with such fire that I fought not to flinch.

“Do you hear me, Lacey?”

I couldn’t help myself; I whimpered, “yes, Alpha.”

His eyes softened, “Samuel. Please, call me Samuel. I don’t want you to ever be afraid of me,” he released his grip a little so I could feel the blood flow through my arms again, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. My control is not as strong around you. I’m as bad as…”

“No. Not in a million years.”

Silence passed between us, and I was suddenly very aware just how close we were. So very, very close. My heart was pounding as he leant forward and brushed his lips, so softly, against mine. My wolf used this moment of weakness to burst through, pushing me harder against him so that another growl escaped his mouth into mine. Only this time it wasn’t a growl of anger or annoyance. He at clutched at me like he was drowning and I was his last hope for oxygen. And I kissed him back just as desperately, my hands clutching his shirt, pulling him to me. I wrapped my legs around his waist and suddenly he was standing, his lips moving to my neck to kiss the skin there as he made his way clumsily back into the house.

“Samuel…” was all I could say as he stumbled through the house, his teeth beginning to nip at me in frustration. I scraped my nails down his back, ripping through his shirt, and he howled to the sky with pleasure. Then, I was on my back on his huge four poster bed and he was towering over me; his blue eyes bright as he panted with excitement. I reached up and ripped through the material of his shirt until it came away easily, running my hands over his muscled chest. His mouth returned to mine, and I savoured him eagerly, nipping at his lip until he growled for me again and tore my singlet over my head, pausing for a moment to look down at me in something like wonder. Then his hands began to run over me, burning my skin where he touched and sending my wolf into a heated frenzy. He grabbed my hips, and then I could feel all of him pressing against me; a high pitched whine of eagerness escaped my throat, incensing him even more. He reached the waistband of my jeans and pulled; my breath caught in my chest as the cold air met my bare skin, but I wasn’t afraid. Samuel licked a wet line over my collarbone, making me shiver excitedly underneath him.

“Uh, Boss?”

A voice cut through our minds and I froze, sniffing the air. Steele. Samuel snarled in his direction, his wolf just as furious at being interrupted, but Steele had come here for a reason. He smelled like fear.

“It’s important Boss. They’ve got Marie and the baby.”





Samuel ripped himself from my body with an angry roar and tore out of the room, leaving me in my underwear, feeling shocked. Marie and the baby. They’d been here less than a half hour ago. My heart was feeling frozen in my chest as I stared wide-eyed at nothing. Marie and the baby. Marie and Jacob. They hadn’t done anything to deserve this. I was going to kill the bastards. No, I was going to make them pay first, especially if they hurt either of them. Then I was going to make them wish they’d never started this war.

I scrambled off the bed, pulling on my jeans and my slightly ripped shirt. I must have looked a mess; I could feel stinging where Samuel had bitten me in pleasure only moments before, but it would heal. I shot out of the bedroom and found Steele and Samuel heading towards the front door.

“I’m coming with you,” I panted, still trying to button up my jeans.

“No,” Samuel’s voice was full of barely contained rage and his power lashed at me without warning, making me drop to my knees.

I fought his power, threw it off me with so much effort that my own power stung me a little, but by the time I was free they were already down the front steps. I caught up to them in a split second, slipping through them to block their way.

“I am coming with you,” I knew my voice sounded dangerous, and my fangs were protruding from my mouth, a sure sign that I was close to losing control, “this is my fault! I am going to make it right.”

“You will be falling into their trap,” he all but shouted at me, losing his composure completely. Steele placed a hand on his shoulder but he shook it off angrily, “I will not let you play into their hands. You will stay here. Steele will guard you.”

“I am not your pack yet,” I hissed, “I will do what I want. And I’m coming with you whether you like it or not.”

“There is nothing you can do! Lawrence couldn’t stop them. Stop being a stubborn child and get back in the house.”

I glared at him, not letting him show I was hurt, “You didn’t think I was a child a minute ago. And I know these men. I might be the only chance you have to get them back.”

“Boss, she has a point…”

“Shut your mouth, Steele,” Samuel exploded, and this time I really did cower in front of him. He was like a man possessed, and I could understand why. Two members of his pack had been kidnapped- a mother and her child- right from under his nose, and right now he was powerless to help them. An Alpha doesn’t like to feel powerless. An Alpha doesn’t like to be bested by anyone. But Samuel was logical, and deep down he knew I was right.

“Fine,” he spat at us and turned heel; I followed him to a huge red truck parked semi-hidden by bushes and trees. Steele vaulted easily into the tray and I got into the front seat, having barely enough time to slam my door closed before Samuel was speeding off on a dirt track. I hurriedly clicked my seatbelt into place, and then clutched at the dashboard as we went over a bump in the road. I wasn’t a fan of driving. Sure I’d survive a car crash, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t afraid. I let out a yip of pain as my head hit the roof, and Samuel shot me a withering glare, his power lashing at me again. I had had enough of that kind of treatment, and I hit back with my own. I hadn’t had time to feel angry, but now the shock was wearing off and the rage was festering in the pit of my stomach. So much rage, like black poison. I didn’t notice I was shifting until my nails began to penetrate the dashboard.

“Lacey! Calm yourself!” Samuel yelled over the roar of the engine, and I looked over, surprised to see he was changing as well, though it was clear he was resisting. A howl cracked the air and I looked behind me to see that Steele had transformed into the half-and-half form; a slight layer of silver hair flushing over him as he let out another howl, his long fangs glistening in the light from the moon. His eyes showed he was in pain. Not as much as I was. Not even close.

I was shoved into the side of the car as Samuel sped around a corner, narrowly missing an ancient looking gum tree. I had no idea where we were, but it didn’t matter. Samuel was going to lose control of his wolf at any moment, and we would probably crash shortly after. It’s hard to drive with paws and claws.

“Lacey! Calm down!” his voice was a distorted roar, “your rage is forcing our change!”

I looked back at Steele, and his wolfish face was still crumpled with pain as he tried to shift back. Oh god, what was I doing? The horror of forcing someone to change shocked me out of my rage, and I felt it run from me like air from a balloon so that I felt deflated and empty. I felt my fangs shrink back, my claws returning to normal human hands as I calmed a little.

“Good, good girl,” Samuel panted, sending me sideways into the door again as he swung around another corner.

“I didn’t mean to…” I began, but Samuel cut me off by raising a now human hand up in the air.

“Not your fault. I should be in more control of my temper.”

“Stop doing that! It is my fault!” I shouted back, and felt myself shifting again. The rage hadn’t disappeared; it had just been locked away.

“Lacey, just calm down,” he turned the wheel violently so that I nearly ended up in his lap, “I can’t take care of you on top everything else.”

I fell silent, sitting back and clutching my seat as the truck flew over a particularly large bump in the road. There was a loud bang from the tray and I looked again in Steele’s direction, finding him flat on his face, his cheeks red with embarrassment.

“Try and give me a little warning next time,” he yelled at us, scrambling to his feet as Samuel increased his speed. We flew along the dirt road, the trees a green blur at our sides.

A house was suddenly visible through the trees, and the tires screeched as Samuel slammed on the brakes. I all but flew from the car, following Samuel with Steele at my heels. The front door was hanging slightly off its hinges, and I suddenly felt sick. Stepping over the threshold, it was hard to miss the carnage. There was blood in the front foyer, soaking into the carpet and staining the walls, and I tried to avoid looking at it all as we strode quickly through the house looking for any sign of life. It looked like the fight had started at the front door and then gone on to ravage the rest of the house. Oh god, where was Lawrence?

“Back here!” a voice called, seeming to read my mind. I tried to grab a scent but I couldn’t seem to concentrate through all the blood as we entered a room that looked like it had been a nursery. Had been a nursery. The blue wallpaper with little yellow ducks was hanging in shreds, and it looked like the cot had been hurled into the wall, getting stuck halfway through the plaster. Lawrence was surrounded by rubble on the floor, beaten and bloody, Lucas kneeling by his side. I stood there, shock overcoming any of the rage that was left from before. This had been planned. When I’d found out Justin and Ramirez had shot the pups, I thought it might have been a mistake. But this was so clearly on purpose, I felt bile swell in the back of my throat, forcing me to grab hold of the door frame only to pull away when my hand hit fresh blood. My stomach heaved in warning. Oh god, what had I done?

“Lawrence,” Samuel got down on his knees next to the man, glancing at Lucas, “have you called…?”

“The doctors are on their way,” he confirmed, raising a bloody hand to wipe the sweat off his forehead. Despite the freezing temperature, Samuel’s heated power was filling the room, filling the house. He was trying to make everyone calm, trying to distract his men from the scent of blood and the need for revenge.

“Steele, search the perimeter. They’ll be long gone by now, but maybe you can find something to track them with.”

Air shifted behind me as Steele left to search, and I took a step further into the room, my heart in my throat. Lawrence’s pulse was weak, but he was alive. His eyes were fluttering as he raised a bloody hand, his throat gurgling as he tried to breath. The hand pointed in my direction; Samuel and Lucas looked at me expectantly. I really didn’t want to get any closer, didn’t want to see just how badly he was injured. But this was my fault after all, I owed him this much.

I knelt down in the rubble, tears springing to my eyes as I saw close up what they’d done to him. Here and there was a glint of white bone, a glimpse of tendon… I choked, and the hand fell to the ground with a sickening thwack.

“Do something!” I pleaded to Samuel, “Make him change so he can heal!”

He shook his head, “My power is too violent; I can’t do it while he’s in this condition. Maybe the doctors…” he trailed off, and my heart sank. He didn’t think Lawrence would live.

“Lacey…” Lawrence whispered through his torn throat, “Please… get them back.”

I nodded furiously, tears spilling over onto my cheeks. There had to be something we could do. There had to be something!

“Samuel… please… you can make him shift, can’t you? Like you did with me, remember?”

It had only been that afternoon, but now it felt a lifetime ago. He looked at me, expression full of grief, “You weren’t badly injured. I don’t the skill to shift him without hurting him further. I would kill him if I tried.”

No… This couldn’t be happening. I had to do something! I was an Alpha, for god’s sake. Surely I could… even if it meant exposing myself…

“But what about me!”

Lucas looked up sharply, “what can you do?”

I ignored him, “If I can do what I did to you and Steele before, I mean that was the two of you at once! If my Alpha powers can force a shift on the both of you, maybe I can start the shift for Lawrence. If I run out of energy, then you can finish it for me. I know my power was hurting Steele, but that’s because he was fighting it! It didn’t hurt you! I can do this!”

Lucas scoffed, “There’s no such thing-”

Samuel held up a hand to silence him, his eyes focused intently on mine, a smidge of hope glimmering in the blue depths, “it didn’t hurt me. But that could be because we… well, we could try. It will weaken you, but if it works…”

“Boss, what makes you think she can do it if you can’t?” Lucas’s voice sounded strange, “she’s not an Alpha. I mean, come on. She’s not.”

“Not now, Lucas,” Samuel sighed, “go and get Steele. We’re going to need help if we’re going to try this- he’ll be uncontrollable if we get him in his wolf form.”

Lucas’s mouth was gaping, but when Samuel glared at him he got to his feet and marched out of the room.

“Lacey, you’ve exposed yourself,” Samuel said softly, his eyes still on mine.

“I don’t care,” I shot back, “if we can save him, it will be worth it.”

“And if we can’t?”

“We will.”

Lawrence took another gurgling breath, and I could tell he didn’t have much time left. His pulse was weakening, his skin gaining that ruddy, sickening colour. God dammit, why did everyone around me get hurt? I blinked back a fresh set of tears as footsteps approached. Lucas had returned with Steele, but now they were accompanied by Clem and Bromley- in human form- as well.

“Is it true?” Clem began, “is she an Alpha?”

“Not now Clem!” Samuel’s voice rose, “the doctors aren’t going to make it here in time. If we are going to try this, you need to help. If it works, and we get him back into wolf form fully healed, he’s going to be out of his mind. You need to restrain him if Lacey is weak enough to need protection. Got it?”

The four men nodded and spread themselves around the room. Samuel looked at me, his eyes brighter than usual, “Are you ready?”

I nodded and reached forward, putting my hands on Lawrence’s skin. Not that there was much of it left. I tried not to think of that, tried not to focus on the meaty substance under my palms. Instead I concentrated on the feel of Samuel’s hands on my shoulders.

I breathed out a long breath of air nervously, “okay. Let’s do this.”

I closed my eyes and called my power, feeling relieved as it rushed through me like an unstoppable tidal wave. It was stronger than last time, and the realisation sent a fleeting feeling of panic through me. But I couldn’t think of what that meant right now. Concentrating hard, I focused the power gently down my arms and into my hands, feeling it pulse against my palms like a second heart beat. Samuel’s hands were like an anchor, keeping me still as the power grew and grew with its own force. It was all I could do to stop it from bursting outwards; I had to imagine that all my power was being held back by a thick, steel metaphysical wall. This had to be controlled, gentle, or Lawrence wouldn’t make it. Samuel’s squeezed my shoulders gently, nervously; I felt his power pushing against me, mingling slightly with my own where our skin touched, and reminding me that his was there in case mine wasn’t enough. But I knew it would be enough. It would be more than enough. Samuel was strong, more powerful than me, but I was used to healing horrible wounds. My power had had enough training in that area.

Pain started to throb in my temples as I fought to control it, and then when I thought I couldn’t hold it any longer, I spread my fingers and let the power flow as gently as possible into Lawrence’s broken body. He let out a whoosh of air as my magic filled his veins and I opened my eyes. For a moment, nothing happened, and my heart dropped to the floor. And then he began to change.

Dark grey fur began sprouting painfully slow across his torn skin, avoiding the places where flesh was revealed. The men around me gasped- Samuel’s hands tightened- but I ignored them. I closed my eyes as bones began to shift and crack, feeling my power beginning to drain as I pushed it into him, willing him to heal faster but not wanting him to hurt. Samuel’s hands were becoming slick with sweat on top of my shoulders, but I kept at it, urging Lawrence’s shift with as much force as I could muster. When I opened my eyes again, I could see his skin beginning to stitch together slowly. So slowly. I was doing it. My power was not only making him change, it was healing him too. The pain in my temples was pounding horribly, white dots beginning to burst in front of my eyes as I forced every bit of my magic into that body. It felt as though a white hot iron was being pressed into my skull as the last bit of magic I could spare left my fingertips, leaving me feeling so horribly cold. And then I slumped back against Samuel as everything went red, and then finally black.







When I woke I was lying amongst rubble on a hard, slick floor. I sat up abruptly, and then wished I hadn’t when pain thumped fresh and clear in my temples. I groaned and fell back on to the ground, clutching my head as nausea hit me in the stomach. What the hell? There was noise around me, crashing and yelling and the sound of things breaking, but it was though I couldn’t connect them to anything. My vision was blurry, and I startled horribly when a face appeared above my own. Samuel.

“You’re awake,” he said softly, “how do you feel?”

I massaged my forehead, trying to think, then sat straight back up, nearly hitting heads with Samuel. Lawrence, was he okay? My heart leapt in my throat. What about Marie and Jacob? I tried to scramble off the floor; my foot slipped on something warm and wet and I fell ungracefully back down, wincing as the impact reverberated in my head.

“Stay down, please,” his voice said softly. I obeyed as something flew over my head and crashed into the wall behind me.

“Where is Lawrence?” my voice was slightly muffled with my face against the sticky floor, but Samuel heard me.

“The others are trying to restrain him,” he replied as something heavier, more like a body, soared past us.


“There has been some… difficulties,” he pressed his body over mine, like a protective shield as more yelling reached my ears. Dark paws padded across my line of sight- Bromley, back in his wolf form- before disappearing at a run in another direction.

“Four against one wolf?” I breathed under his weight, feeling a little claustrophobic but safe. Samuel’s men should have had Lawrence under control by now, but it was clear that they were struggling.

“Lawrence is not in control- his wolf is. And my men do not wish to hurt him.”

“Why aren’t you…?”

“I’m making sure you’re safe,” he growled in my ear, sending a thrill through me even as a piece of wall landed only inches from my face, splattering me with plaster dust, “this would be the perfect time for those who took Marie and the baby to come after you, while my men are distracted with Lawrence.”

I swallowed. Marie and Jacob, kidnapped, all my fault. God help me if I couldn’t get them back.

“They didn’t intend on killing Lawrence- they knew that if he was healed you would have your hands full trying to stop him from destroying everything in sight.”


“But it worked? I healed him?”

“Yes, you did,” there was a proud note in his voice, despite our surroundings, “and I thank you, Lacey. I couldn’t have done that. I am not strong enough.”

I heard the bitterness, and rolled onto my back to face him, “you are strong enough. I’ve just lots of practice when it comes to shifting when I’m too injured to move.”

“Boss! We got him!”

Samuel rolled off me, and got swiftly to his feet, pulling me up so that I was still partially covered by his body. He was taking this guarding thing pretty seriously, but as I looked at the room around me I could see why. Before the scene had seemed surreal, but now that the shock had worn off, I could see just how much blood stained the room around us. Not all of it was Lawrence’s though, and I was viciously happy at that realisation. Now that my head was a little clearer- though throbbing painfully- I could smell the men that had been here. Justin and Ramirez had been joined by Kane, and another wolf by the name of Justin. Justin was a thug- no more, no less- and just the type of wolf Merrick would send if he wanted to inflict as much damage as possible. He was Merrick’s second in command, and despite that fact that he was a brute, he’d never joined in on the fun when it came to bullying me. For that, I didn’t hate him, and for him to have had a part in this horror meant that Merrick was desperate. Justin never strayed far from Merrick, because Merrick was not a strong fighter. He needed Justin there at all times to protect him and do his dirty work.

Samuel ushered me through the house, which seemed to be even more destroyed after Lawrence’s rampage. We found the men in what looked like it had once been a living room, glass and bits of furniture scattered all over the room. The flat screen television sat face up, a huge hole punched through its centre so that I could see the ground underneath. A ceiling fan had been ripped from the roof and now lay on its side on a ruined couch, its blades bent and mangled. All the men were covered from head to toe in plaster dust and rubble as they worked about restraining the gigantic wolf that took up most of the space in the room. They’d tied thick ropes- thicker than my arms- around the wolf’s front and hind legs, so that it was forced to lie on its side. The ropes wouldn’t hold him for long, but they would be enough to restrain him until he was inside Samuel’s safe cell. A pink tongue lolled out of its mouth as it panted, its dark grey chest heaving with every breath. Those golden eyes looked at me, and there was no one home. No one human, anyway. Lawrence’s rage had subsided a little, but as I gazed into those golden depths I saw only wolf. I reached out slowly and touched the tip of his wet nose; it felt like soft velvet under my fingers. He let out a high pitched whine full of despair and exhaustion that wrenched my heart before he slowly closed those beautiful eyes.

I turned to Samuel, worried, “is he alright?”

He looked grim, “as alright as he can be with his mate and baby missing. He’s just unconscious now- the healing shift is usually enough to knock us out- but he went berserk as well. He will wake in a few hours, most likely.”

I moved closer to Lawrence, touching the lighter fur that sprouted in front of those huge ears, comforting myself. He didn’t even flinch. I sighed and wrapped my arms around myself, staring at the unconscious wolf but not really seeing him. I chewed my lip, scenting the air and thinking as the men spoke around me. I took no notice of them, and with my mind made up, I ducked under Samuel’s arm and bolted for the door.

It took a moment for them to realise I was no longer in their midst. I heard Samuel yell as I reached the front of the house, slipping slightly on all the blood and falling to my hands and knees on the cool tiled floor. In a split second I was up and out in the chilly night, running flat out, following the scent in my nose. I didn’t care whether or not I was being chased; I just focused on my prey, focused on finding those that did this. I was going to end this, once and for all. I could feel my wolf rippling with fury under the surface of my skin, ready to break out, ready to rip and tear and slash.

“Ramirez!” my shriek sounded alien as it broke through the night air, breaking apart the night’s silence as I ran, faster, following the scent of blood.

I stopped suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, a growl rising in my throat as my eyes caught up with my nose. Wolf. Blood. Pack.

Kane lay hunched against the base of a large gum tree, his face ghostly pale and slick with sweat as he tried to keep the contents of his stomach from spilling out into his hands. I growled again, and he looked up at me blurrily, his eyes unfocused with pain. I grinned triumphantly, and I knew my teeth had lengthened as I stalked towards him, like a predator who knows its prey will not be getting up again. Recognition seemed to stir in those black eyes, and then they flashed with terror. He tried to back up, but the tree was in the way, and he only ended up hurting himself even more. He knew I was going to kill him- it was written all over his face. I breathed in deeply, relishing his fear as it caressed me like a lover.

“Lacey… please…” he began, his voice weak, but I took no notice, edging closer to him and the scent of blood and death.

“Lacey, stop,” a voice commanded, but I ignored that too, lowering myself into a pouncing position. He was not the one I wanted, and his blood would not satisfy my craving, but this one was not innocent, either. Someone had to be punished, and he would do for now. I just wanted to savour the fear in his eyes just a little longer…

“Lacey. Listen to me- we can use him,” a hand fell on my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks. I whirled, fangs bared, ready to fight this rival for my prey. He would not take this from me. I lunged at him, but something caught me around the middle, forcing me face first into the ground. I shrieked in defiance, trying to throw the heavy weight off my back as the rival approached my prey, my prey! I could feel myself beginning to shift, but my arms were wrenched behind my back and forced roughly into handcuffs. Silver. The pain as it burned the skin on my wrists almost immediately brought me back to my senses, and my shrieks turned into loud, racking sobs that echoed pitifully through the trees. My cries sounded half animal as I was lifted from the ground, my hands still bound behind my back, but I didn’t care. I had been so close to enacting my revenge, could have felt it on my fingertips, and now the moment was gone and I was still the victim. The prey. I wanted to be the one, for once, to inflict pain on those who deserved it. And Kane deserved it, many times over.  But Samuel took me away from him, holding me tightly to his chest so that I was barely jostled as he headed back towards the mess that was Lawrence’s house. Part of me, under all the rage and pain, was grateful. I wasn’t a killer. I’d been haunted enough by what I’d done when they’d tried to kill me- if I’d done something to Kane, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

I was still crying even while Samuel instructed his men about how to transfer the still-unconscious wolf that was Lawrence, and our new captive, back to the safety cells. Lucas had his own truck with a silver containment cage on the back, so he and Clem volunteered to take the prisoner. I had a sneaking suspicion that both men just wanted to be away from me, but I couldn’t have cared less at that moment. Now that we had Kane, it would give us more leverage over Merrick. At least, I hoped it would. A part of me knew I wouldn’t be surprised if Merrick left Kane out in the cold. I didn’t tell Samuel my thoughts; I was afraid to burst his bubble. But the truth was that Merrick wanted me so badly I doubted he’d give a second thought to sacrificing Kane. The young wolf was going to find out very soon that he’d given his loyalty to the wrong man.

I was quiet by the time Samuel put me gently in the front seat of his truck, removing my handcuffs so I could be comfortable. I sat there numbly as the men went about the task of lifting Lawrence into the tray, trying not to think about how close I’d come to killing. About how much I’d wanted to do it. About how much I’d enjoyed seeing the fear in his eyes. I realised I was shivering, but it wasn’t from the cold. Well, not the cold from being outside anyway. It was as though there was a piece of ice in my stomach, chilling me to the bone. I wasn’t strong enough to end this, not if someone’s death was the solution. Merrick’s death.  I didn’t want to be a killer. I just wanted to stay alive and not have to worry who was coming to get me next. Was it so much to ask? Maybe it was. Maybe I was destined to be hunted all my life. Or maybe I was destined to kill.

The sound of the engine starting brought me from my thoughts. I hadn’t even noticed that Samuel had gotten in the truck. I kept my eyes focused out the window as he drove- a lot slower now- back the way we came. The truck was slightly sluggish with a full grown werewolf and two men perched in the tray; the tires slid slightly as we turned the corners, but I was too numb to be scared of crashing now. I was feeling wonderfully detached from myself, and something warned me in the back of my mind that I was going into shock. Oh well. If it meant I didn’t have to think, or feel, then so be it. I was sick of doing both. All I wanted to do was curl up in a warm ball and sleep for the rest of my life. I was tired. Not even twenty yet, and I felt like I’d lived a hundred years. Werewolves had a longer lifespan then humans, but if this was what it was going to be like, then I wanted to quit now.

The world went by in a green and brown blur, unbeknown to my problems. I knew without a doubt that I would hand myself over to Merrick now. To let one more wolf be injured in my place was just plain selfish. It was if Samuel read my thoughts, because without taking his eyes off the road, he reached over and resting one large, warm hand on my back.

“None of this is your fault,” he said in a low voice, almost a growl.

“Your pack won’t see it that way anymore,” I sighed bitterly, resting my forehead against the cold glass of the window, “and I don’t blame them.”

“You healed Lawrence. He would be dead without your help.”

“And he wouldn’t be that way in the first place if I hadn’t been here.”

“They can’t blame you for trying to save yourself.”

I looked at him sharply, “Can’t they? I know I would if I were in their shoes. This is their territory, their home, and now they’re all in danger.”

“We’re werewolves,” he growled, “it comes with the job description. We can pretend to live normally among the humans, but we aren’t humans. We’re animals.”

“Only half,” I corrected him as his hand fell away from me. I immediately missed its warmth, “and just because we are doesn’t mean we should act like…”

“A pack of wild dogs,” Samuel finished for me, and I fell silent, returning my gaze back to the scenery around us.

Samuel didn’t speak again, even as we reached the safety cells, only seconds ahead of Lucas and Clem. I stayed in the car while the two wolves were moved- I couldn’t bear to see either of them; Lawrence, because I was responsible for what had happen to him and was the reason why his wife and child were now missing. And Kane because I was afraid of what I’d do if I saw him again. I had really wanted to kill him. Not just hurt, but kill. Samuel was right about one thing; we truly weren’t human. A human wouldn’t itch to sink their teeth into their enemy- at least not a sane one. My wolf saw him as a threat- a threat that had to be removed. If I relied solely on my hate and anger, I would have no second thoughts about going into that safety cell and killing the man. But I didn’t. And I struggled with the idea of taking his life, no matter what he’d done to me.  Even with Antonio- Ramirez’s older brother and the man who raped me- I had not harboured enough rage to see him dead. My father did. Which was why I was weak, and he was not.

The men didn’t return to the house with me and Samuel. No, someone had to guard the prisoner to make sure no one came for him. Bromley and Steele would still be running the perimeter, but the other two had their work cut out for them. The safety cell would hold Kane, I had no doubt about that, but I was more worried about Lawrence. Sooner or later he would regain consciousness, and then all hell would break loose. His wife and child missing, and one of his attackers in the same room. Yeah, the men sure had their hands full. I didn’t envy them.

The truck’s engine stopped, and I opened the door, sliding off the seat and onto the ground. I began to move towards the darkened house, but suddenly Samuel’s arm was around my waist, shoving me behind him as he moved into a defensive crouch. I froze, my mind still numb from the earlier events, and tried to sense something, anything that would tell me why Samuel was suddenly all tense. But I must have been more out of it than I thought, because I heard nothing but a high ringing in my ears.

“What is it?” I whispered to Samuel, and I knew there was really something wrong with me because I had to fight the urge to giggle.

“Someone is in my house,” he replied, his voice full of barely contained rage. You did not enter an Alpha’s house without permission, and whoever was in there was going to get a rude shock.

“Stay here,” he commanded, and began stalking in a low crouch towards the house. I followed him.

He turned to face me, “what are you doing?” his voice was a hiss, his eyes like two twin lights to lure me through the dark.

I shrugged, a grin on my face. That’s it, I was beginning to crack. Or the shock was really setting in, I don’t know, but Samuel grabbed me roughly around the shoulders, shaking me a little.

“What’s wrong with you?”

The grin faded from my face a little, his rough hands bruising and enough to push back whatever was going on in my mind for the moment, “I feel safer with you,” I said simply, “there might be someone out here, too.”

He looked at me, as if trying to figure out a good enough reason to make me stay. He didn’t come up with one it seemed, and he released me so abruptly that I stumbled, and he turned back towards the house, keeping to the shadows as he edged closer. I followed, my ears pricked for any kind of noise, trying not to imagine that someone was creeping up behind me, my heart beating as though it would break from my chest at any moment. I was sure anyone in the house would be able to hear it, as though the tell-tale heart itself were under their feet. It was difficult to pick up the intruder’s scent- he was obviously a lesser wolf, and hiding under the strong scent of the Alpha. Very clever. I wondered if Merrick had thought up the plan all by himself. It didn’t matter if he sent a lesser wolf to the Alpha- a silver bullet is a silver bullet, no matter who fired the gun. Merrick had made it very clear he wasn’t going to fight fair.

We climbed silently up the front steps to find the door wide open, like a gaping mouth. Samuel paused, once again putting himself in front of me, guarding my body.  He knew I could hold my own in a fair fight, but maybe he knew this wouldn’t be fair, or maybe he sensed something wasn’t right with me. I was not used to this kind of treatment, but I didn’t take offense. At the moment, I was weak.

“I am Alpha of the Mount Glorious pack,” his voice was low, but whoever was inside would hear it loud and clear, “whoever is in my home, this is your chance to come out now, and save yourself. If I come in there, this will not end well. Come out, and you may live.”

The air hung heavy with his threat. It was smart of Samuel to lure the intruder out into the open- to enter the house meant that they would have the advantage of surprise, especially while they hid under Samuel’s scent.

“I’m coming out,” a familiar voice said softly, and I only had moments to gather myself before Jobe emerged from the shadows, his hand held up to show he was harmless. My heart almost broke. Jobe had been the closest thing I’d had to a friend growing up; he was an omega wolf, bullied by his brother Merrick for being ‘weak’. Jobe kept his eyes away from mine, as if he was afraid I’d see the hardness in his blue-green eyes that had begun to form the day Merrick forced him to try and kill me.

“Jobe,” I whispered, taking an involuntary step forward. Samuel’s arm shot out in front of me, holding me back.

“Stay behind me, Lacey,” he ordered me, his voice full of his anger and just a touch of jealousy at my reaction to the other man.

Jobe seemed saddened, “he’s right, Lacey. Don’t come near me. Please.”

“Who are you, omega, to come into my territory uninvited?” Samuel ignored his request, still holding me back with that strong arm.

Jobe bowed his head, a sign of respect, showing the back of his neck, “I meant no insult, Alpha, I merely…”

“You meant no insult, and yet here you are; an intruder in my own home. Give me one good reason not to tear you to pieces.”

“Samuel, no,” I begged, but he ignored me. Jobe’s eyes flicked to me once, surprise showing in their depths, before returning their focus on Samuel.

“I am here to deliver a message. Merrick, of the Stafford Heights pack, wishes to meet.”

“No,” Samuel growled, and Jobe cringed slightly.

“He says…” Jobe faltered, “He says that if you do not meet him at the big lake on the border of your territory, the woman and her child will be killed.”

“Son of a bitch!”

I grabbed Samuel’s arm, trying to calm him as he made a move towards Jobe, “Samuel, please, he is just the messenger.”

Jobe barked out a bitter laugh, “Lacey is right. I am nothing but a messenger. To kill me would mean nothing to my Alpha. In fact, he most likely expects you to do so. It would save him the trouble.”

I looked at him, shocked, “but he is your brother… he…”

“Lacey, be silent!” Samuel roared, before turning his attention back to Jobe, “and what of your soldier Kane, is his life more of value?”

Jobe closed his eyes, “sadly not. My Alpha wants Lacey. He is obsessed. He does not care who is lost in the process.”

Samuel swore, and in his distraction I ducked under his arm and moved to Jobe, gazing up into his eyes, trying to search for the only man who hadn’t ever willingly raised a hand to me.

“I’m sorry, Lacey,” he reached out and gave my hand a squeeze, “I can disobey my brother no longer.”

“Stay with me,” I pleaded, “I can protect you.”

“You have to protect yourself right now,” he looked back at Samuel, whose eyes were now filled with as much jealously as there was rage, “Do you know of the lake on the border of your territory?”

Samuel snarled, “you insult me by implying I don’t know my lands.”

Jobe ducked his head, letting go of my hand, “be there an hour after sundown tomorrow. Do not bring your pack. It is to be only you and Lacey.”

“Your Alpha is playing a dangerous game, wolf.”

“To be honest, it is one many of us hope he loses.”

“Tell your Alpha we will meet him, but he will not have Lacey; she is mine. Now, get out of my sight, and get out of my territory. You will not be let go so easily again if my men find you on my land tonight.”

Jobe bowed his head in respect again, and gave my hand one last squeeze before he slid past Samuel and down the stairs. I stood, gaping at Samuel. He had just claimed me as his mate. Why? Merrick wouldn’t care if I belonged to someone else; he was past that stage of rationality.

“Jobe!” I called just as he reached the edge of the forest. He turned, his eyes glittering like the ocean.

“I’d forgive you for what you had to do,” I said softly, “but I never blamed you. He made you do it, and for that alone I will make him pay.”

It seemed something heavy was lifted from his shoulders. He gave me one last nod, before disappearing into the night.







For a few minutes, there was no sound but the chirruping of crickets as I stared out at the dark forest that surrounded us, not really seeing the trees that stood there. My eyes were glued to the spot where Jobe had vanished, and half of me wished he would reappear. Samuel’s hand on my shoulder was a comfort, but it was though I’d lost something important. Something that had meant more to me than the old pack. Jobe had been such an innocent, shy omega wolf, and his brother had forced him to bloody his hands. With my blood. Now he would never be that same, wide-eyed man again. He would forever be tainted, scarred. If only I could take him away from his brother, and make sure he would never get his hands on Jobe again. But I couldn’t, not while I had my own mess to cope with.

I turned, burying my face in Samuel’s shirt. I didn’t care that it was stained with dried blood- Lawrence’s blood- I just needed the comfort. He wrapped his arms around me, protectively, his cheek resting on the top of my head. It should have felt awkward, this strangely intimate embrace, but it didn’t. My world had been shattered all over again tonight, and this man made me feel like it was all just a bad dream I was waking up from.

“He was the closest thing I had to a friend,” I murmured into Samuel’s chest, “and Merrick made him try and kill me.”

“He sent an omega to kill? That is not…”

“There’s no law against it. See what happens to the people around me?” I pulled away and looked up into those lovely blue eyes, willing him to understand the danger of being close to me, “everyone gets hurt.”

A slow, cocky smile pursed his lips, “I think I can handle it.”

I shook my head, “no, not if there are silver bullets involved, and not if you’re distracted because you’re trying to protect me. I’ll go to meet Merrick on my own. I can’t risk anyone else being hurt.”

That smile turned quickly into a frown, “no, I will not allow it.”

“It’s not your choice, you are not my Alpha.”

His anger enveloped me, warming me in the chilly night air, “I have claimed you, in front of another wolf- a wolf of an enemy pack. If you refuse to obey me as a member of my pack, obey me as my mate.”

I swallowed thickly, “you never asked me…”

“I said I would keep you safe, didn’t I?” his power began to ebb, the anger fuelling it fading away. He turned from me abruptly and went inside the house, switching a light on here and there as he went. I followed, feeling like a stupid child.

“So you did it just to keep me safe?” I asked tentatively when he didn’t turn around. All of a sudden he was right in front of me, forcing me to back up against the wall. Damn it to hell, he was quick. My heart felt like it was in my throat as I stared up at him like a rabbit would a wolf.

“Why?” he growled, and something wobbled in my stomach. He didn’t let me answer- instead he claimed my lips in one swift, unexpected movement that turned the wobble into a full-blown earthquake. I kissed him back, relishing his forcefulness, his neediness. There was no part of me that was afraid of him, no part of me that hesitated. He wasn’t like the men who had made my life hell. He wanted me, freak powers and all. I gripped his shirt like it was a lifeline, forcing him closer to me, nipping his lip in the process. I heard howling, and it took me a second to realise it was our wolves, wrapped in their own metaphysical embrace, joining as one power. Something told me that Samuel had fortified his claim on me- made it stronger as he combined his powers with mine. I didn’t care. I couldn’t care, not as his hands pulled me to him, his fingers bruising my hips with the force of it. Couldn’t care about Merrick, about Kane. Couldn’t care about Ramirez, or…

I pulled away from the kiss, breathless, “we can’t do this, not while Marie and Jacob are missing.”

Samuel rested his forehead against mine, touching my nose with his in a very intimate, wolf-like gesture. He sighed, “You’re right. I forgot myself for a moment.”

We stood there for a moment longer, breathing in each other’s scents. Then he pulled away, and my wolf mourned the loss of contact. We both did. But I would feel guilty being with this man while Marie and the child were missing, so I forced myself not to reach out for him. My skin tingled from the combining of our powers, almost like pins and needles, but more pleasant.

“Go take a shower while I get us something to eat,” he said, and his voice was slightly hoarse. I nodded and watched him leave in the direction of the kitchen, tempted to invite him to join me. I shook myself mentally. Whatever he’d done to me, it had increased my attraction to him. Or maybe I’d done that part all on my own. I had no idea- it wasn’t like I’d been claimed before, let alone shared a part of my power. I wandered towards the bathroom, biting my lip. What would happen if somehow, this mess was pushed aside? If Merrick was killed- because I doubted he would give me up- and my old pack decided to leave me alone? I would be able to stay here, wouldn’t I? Technically I was now pack- because of my new bond with the Alpha. So if I managed to get out of this alive, could I start a new life here?

I couldn’t get my hopes up. Wouldn’t. I was far from being safe, and Merrick was definitely still very much alive. His men were still out there, unpunished for their crimes. No, I had a lot to take care of before I let myself think I could finally be free.

The hot shower was a small comfort, but I was too restless and tired to really enjoy it. My head was still pounding from the effort of healing Lawrence, and I could feel pain in my temples every time my heart beat. I’d never done anything like it before, and I didn’t know how badly I’d hurt myself in the process. Did it matter, if Lawrence was okay? I spent the whole time under the boiling water wondering if Lawrence had regained consciousness, and mulling over his last words to me. “Get them back”. I would, I swore it to myself. If it meant turning myself over, so be it. God help them though if Marie and Jacob had been hurt. I would make them all pay, I knew I would. The realisation felt like ice water in my stomach. Would I kill for myself? I didn’t think so. Would I kill for innocents? Yeah. I would kill for Marie, and Lawrence and Jacob. I would kill for Cole and his friends. I would kill for Jobe. A quick death would be a mercy to Merrick, after all he’d done. If my father had been alive to see it all, he would have torn the world to bits to get to Merrick, would have made him suffer. I always knew I was more like my father than my mother. Mother was quiet, peaceful. If someone wronged her the worst she would do would be to feel sorry for them. She’d always been the water to cool my father’s fire. Now they were both gone.

I dried myself slowly as though I was on auto-pilot, still deep in thought. I would go alone tomorrow, against Samuel’s orders. I would tell Merrick that I would surrender once Marie and Jacob were released. If I got close enough, I would attack Merrick. I figured I was fast enough to do fatal damage before any of his guards came to his aid. I hoped I was fast enough.

How would I convince Samuel to let me go alone? He was hell bent on protecting me, but I’d grown up defending myself, and that had worked alright so far. But maybe I didn’t need to be the one to convince him. Once the pack heard- if they hadn’t already- of this new attack, they would agree with my plan. And though he was Alpha, he couldn’t ignore his pack, no matter how badly he wanted to.

Wrapping my towel around me tightly, I stepped out of the bathroom and tiptoed quickly down the hall to the little blue room where all my clothes were. The clothes I’d been wearing had been covered in Lawrence’s blood, funny how that kept happening, so they were ruined. At the doorway I paused, a low murmuring reaching my ears. Steele had returned from the safety cells, and Bromley, though he was now back in his wolf form. I was beginning to understand that more and more. How wonderful it would be to live as my wolf, live without any of this human crap.

I rummaged through the box of old clothes, not really paying attention to what I was pulling out. I didn’t really matter. I would be meeting Merrick tomorrow, and I would bet any money that my clothes wouldn’t come out of that encounter unscathed. I didn’t even know if I would be coming out of it at all. There was a kind of sickening kind of feeling in my stomach at the knowledge that I would soon be surrendering myself to my enemy. There was nothing I could do about it, and there was no point turning into a blubbering, hysterical mess, even if there was a part of me that thought that was a pretty good idea right now. It would get me nowhere. All I could do was wait and see what happened, and hope that I would be able to get out of it all alive.

I pulled the clothes on- baggy sweat pants and a shirt- and wandered out in the direction of the deep, reverberating voices. The conversation stopped abruptly as I drew closer- they’d sensed me, so I had no chance to eavesdrop on their conversation. I found the two men- and one very large, monstrous wolf- standing around the kitchen counter, faces serious, eyes on me.

I chewed my lip nervously under the weight of their gaze, “Any news yet?”

Steele shook his head, his hair dishevelled and falling out of its plait, “Lawrence is still out of it. We’re hoping he can tell us what happened when he wakes.”

“What about…” I hesitated for a moment, “what about Kane? Has he said anything?”

“Nothing that Jobe didn’t tell us,” Samuel answered, glancing at Steele with a look in his eyes that made me think he was hiding something he didn’t want me to know. He pushed a plate of cold pasta along the bench in my direction, “eat. You need the strength after the healing job you did on Lawrence.”

I approached him and took the bowl tentatively, feeling better when Bromley sat down beside me like a huge, shaggy security guard, “I hope it was enough.”

“Was like nothing I’ve ever seen, pup,” Steele voice was its usual pleasantness, but there was something else underneath, something that made me weary, “I thought it was impossible for a female werewolf to be an Alpha.”

“It is,” Samuel looked expectantly at me, and I forced a forkful of pasta into my mouth. Somewhere in my brain I registered the taste, but I was too distracted to notice. I swallowed heavily and put the fork down.

“It’s not, I’m proof of that.”

Samuel shook his head, “When I was out earlier, I went and saw my father.  He knows why you inherited the Alpha power.”

I blinked, “What? What do you mean? I don’t even know your father.”

His smile was grim, “Apparently my father and yours were friends for years when they were pups. Small world, huh?”

I stared at him, shocked, “I had no idea… my father never mentioned…”

“They had a falling out before you were born. He’ll be coming over tomorrow…” he glanced at his watch, “well… tonight now, to explain it to you.”

I shook my head, “I’m meeting Merrick at sundown. I won’t be able to.”

Samuel exchanged another glance with Steele, “I told you, my men will take care of this. They’ll get Marie and her child back, and make sure Merrick won’t bother you again.”

I turned to Steele, “and how do you feel about this?”

The man looked confused for a second, “You are the Alpha’s mate, and that makes you pack. We protect our pack.”

“No!” I pushed the bowl of food away from me, causing a low growl to rumble through Bromley’s chest. For some reason he’d designated himself to me as some kind of bodyguard, “I will not risk any more lives for my own!”

“You don’t have a choice,” Samuel said coolly, “I command it.”

I glared at him, “No. No! Your pack will not agree to this.”

“And why wouldn’t they?” his voice was low, dangerous. If I thought he would hurt me, I would have been scared, but that wasn’t the case.

My voice was bold, “I am the cause for all the attacks. They will be furious over the kidnapping of Marie and Jacob, and soon they will know I’m an Alpha. They will want me gone from here. They will be happy to trade me over to Merrick, and you know it.”

There was a glimpse of panic in Samuel’s eyes before it disappeared again, “They will do what I say,” he said, but there was less conviction than before.

“I will do as my Alpha commands,” Steele said proudly, and I half expected him to thump his fist against his chest in salute, “and I don’t mind protecting you, pup, it ain’t your fault you’re an Alpha.”

“You don’t get it!” I moved away from the comforting warmth that was Bromley, throwing up my hands in frustration, “I can’t have any lives on my conscience. I’ve done enough damage to your pack already,” I started to cry, and I just couldn’t help it. Samuel stepped around Bromley, who had moved towards me as well and was now nudging my hand with his wet nose. Samuel pushed my hair back off my face, lifting my cheek so I looked up into his eyes.

“You weren’t the cause. You didn’t make them attack my pack. They did it of their own free will.”

“He’s right, pup,” Steele’s voice came from my left, but I couldn’t look away from Samuel’s eyes, “you ain’t done nothing wrong. Though maybe you should have told us a little earlier that you were an Alpha.”

“I was afraid you’d send me away,” I said weakly, “especially since my powers seem to be getting stronger.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Samuel said sternly, his eyes boring into mine as though he were trying to persuade me with his gaze, “if you weren’t what you are, Lawrence would be dead. Cole would be dead.”

“But it is all because of me.”

Samuel sighed wearily and let me go, stepping away from me and scrubbing a hand across his face, “It’s late. The pack will be here in a few hours, and you need rest,” he turned the Steele, “are you and Bromley right to run the perimeter until then?”

Steele nodded, “no problem, boss. Lucas and Clem are guarding the safety cells as well, so if one of us gets tired, we can switch with them.”

“Fine. Tell them that you’re in charge, and they are to listen to your orders.”

Bromley nudged me again, and I reached up to touch his muzzle; he licked my hand happily, a high pitched whine coming from his throat.

“What’s wrong with him?” I looked at Samuel worriedly, my fingers still entangled in Bromley’s shaggy dark fur. It was a small comfort, like a child holding onto a favourite stuffed toy.

“Nothing, he is simply showing his support,” Samuel replied, “don’t you understand that my pack would protect you?”

“I can’t ask them to involve themselves in my problems.”

“We already are, pup, whether you like it or not,” Steele turned from me and headed towards the front door, seemingly done with the conversation, “we’ll run the perimeter until the pack arrives, boss.”

Samuel nodded, “Thank you,” he looked at me as Bromley followed Steele silently on gigantic paws, nosing his way out the front door and disappearing into the darkness, “Lacey, you will be safe for now. You should get some rest.”

I looked at the remaining cold pasta and knew it would be impossible to stomach any more of it. But could I sleep? I highly doubted it. I felt my face crumple with weariness, “I don’t think I’ll be able to.”

He put his arm around my shoulder and drew me out of the kitchen, turning off the light and leaving the cold pasta forgotten on the bench.

“Steele and Bromley are out there, and they want to keep you here safe as much as I do. And even if anyone gets through them, I’m here.”

I looked up at him as we passed the little blue room where I was meant to be sleeping, “You saw what they did to Lawrence. I know he’s an Omega, but they…” I trailed off, the image of Lawrence’s torn and bloody body flashing in front of my eyes, burned into my mind forever, “if Steele and Bromley were attacked, I don’t know if I have the strength to heal them both.”

“You’ve never seen them in combat, Lacey. You’ve been up against Clem, and Steele, but for the most part they weren’t trying to hurt you. Steele has been jumping from pack to pack his whole life because none of the Alpha’s could control his prey drive. He is so dangerous in a fight, the other Alpha’s were afraid of losing their position to him. Bromley, well he’s more wolf than man. Don’t ever, ever underestimate his ruthlessness.”

We stopped at the door to his bedroom and he turned, placing his hands on my shoulders, “and me? Well, there’s a reason I’m Alpha of this pack,” he growled then, and I shivered not from fear, but from excitement.

“I’m not afraid of you.”

There was a ghost of a smile on his face as he took my hand gently and led me to the big four-poster bed. He lay down in a half-upright position against the pillows- slightly askew from our romp in them earlier- and pulled me into his lap, wrapping his arms around me and resting his chin on the top of my head. There was nothing sexual about it; we merely enjoyed the comfort of being close as we stared wide-eyed and alert at the open door, ready for an intruder.






I didn’t realise I’d fallen asleep until I woke up partially naked in a tangle of sheets, perspiring slightly despite the winter chill in the air. My heart was racing as the last images of the nightmare leaked from my memory like water through a sieve, but I knew the gist of what it had been about. Lawrence, Marie and the baby, Jacob. Torn and broken, with blood stained bones visible under my hands, glistening against all that red… meat. They hadn’t even looked like people anymore. I sat up, wrapping the sheet around myself and distracting myself by wondering why I was devoid of everything but my underwear. I had fallen asleep fully clothed and on top of the covers, safe in Samuel’s arms. I climbed out of the bed quietly and tiptoed over to the floor to ceiling windows that were hidden behind heavy, royal blue curtains. I peeked out and found the world outside was bathed in feeble morning light, which meant I had only had a few hours of sleep. Horrible sleep. Images from my dream came back to me as I let the curtain fall back into place, sending the room back into that early- morning dimness. I saw Lawrence again, bleeding all over the floor, and tried to fight the nausea in my stomach. There was a reason we weren’t meant to see the insides of a human. No, the things on the inside were meant to stay inside. I would never, ever be able to wipe away what I’d seen. Even the memory of Kane holding the contents of his stomach was too much to bear, and I hated the man.

“You’re awake,” a voice said softly. I squealed and dove for the covers, flinging them over myself as I was chased by Samuel’s chuckling.

“Why don’t I have clothes on?” my voice was muffled by the covers, but I was too embarrassed to emerge.

“You had a fever during the night,” Samuel plucked the covers off my head, and there was a trace of worry in his expression, “you really did a number on yourself yesterday, you know. We should have had the doctors check you out. No one has ever seen or done what you did yesterday, I should have realised it would have a heavy toll on your body.”

I glared at him, determined to stay angry and not embarrassed, “why aren’t you in bed then?”

“Is that an invitation?” he teased, chuckling again when I blushed. But then his face was suddenly serious again, “I’m not really sure why you ran a fever. I thought you were getting sick, but you know werewolves don’t get sick. So I took off your clothes to cool you down, and then you got really, really cold. You were shivering, mumbling in your sleep and I couldn’t wake you. I rang Forster and Lillian and they told me to get you under the covers and keep you there, even if your temperature ran high again.”

I blinked at him, “you’re serious.”

“I should have expected something like that after seeing how much power you went into healing Lawrence.”

“But he’s okay, right?”

“He’s still sleeping it off in the silver holding cell. He’s fully healed, but he expended a lot of energy fighting everyone off. He should wake up soon, but whether or not he can shift back yet is another story.”

I knew it had only been a couple of hours, but I had to ask, “And Marie and the baby?”

Samuel sighed, “no sign of them yet.”

“This is all my fault. I should have just… I don’t know. How many more people have to get hurt because of me?”

Samuel sat down on the bed, brushing my hair off my face, “I don’t know how many more times I’ll have to say this before I can convince you. You didn’t do this. They did this,” his voice was stern, “I won’t hear you blame yourself anymore. We will get Marie and the baby back, don’t worry. If they hurt either of them, they’re signing their own death warrants. Alpha’s all over the country will be after their blood.”

I nodded, “I don’t think hurting them is what they had in mind, since they’re going for an exchange. If either Marie or Jacob are hurt, it is your right to demand blood from them in return. Merrick wants my death all to himself, so he’ll have to hand one of his men over to take the punishment. Though knowing Merrick, he probably won’t care. He never really regarded pack law unless it benefited him.”

Samuel growled, “We will think of something, some way to get them back without handing you over.”

“And then what? Who will they hurt next, Samuel? Steele? Bromley? You? I can’t live with that. It’s not going to stop until I’m gone. They won’t stop until I’m dead.”

“Or until they’re dead,” he brushed a stray tear off my cheek and leant in to brush his lips against mine, “I can’t let you go,” he murmured, cupping my face in his hands, “and I won’t. You’re mine now. I will figure something out,” he kissed me again and then drew away, sniffing the air for a moment before standing up.

“The pack is beginning to arrive,” he was back to Alpha mode, all tenderness gone in a blink of an eye, “go shower and dress.”

“Why are they..?”

“They have heard what has happened, as I knew they would. They have come to demand action from their Alpha.”

“What are you going to do?”

He paused at the door, “what I said I would do. Get my pack members back, and keep you safe.”

“You can’t do both. You can’t.”

His eyes burned with defiance, “Yes I can. And I will.”

He left me sitting there, feeling helpless. He was so determined, so convinced that he could save us all. I didn’t know whether he was naive, or simply stubborn. Either way, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that things weren’t going to end so well.

I climbed off the bed, the cold air hitting my bare skin so harshly it made me start shivering uncontrollably. Samuel wanted me to shower and dress, but I had something I had to do first. I spotted my clothes lying folded and neat on a huge wooden trunk in the corner. I shoved the sweat pants and shirt on as quickly as I could without falling over myself, and padded quietly over to the big double windows. I pulled back the heavy curtains and peered out at the deck that I knew surrounded most of the house. The windows were hinged in the centre and weren’t bolted, so I lifted the latch and swung them open silently, stepping out onto the cold wooden deck floor. I paused, trying to hear if I’d alerted Samuel or anyone else. I could hear voices but I was too far away to distinguish who exactly was speaking to Samuel, or what they were saying. Now was my chance. I closed the windows behind me and looked both ways before hurrying to the wooden railing and vaulting over it in one swift movement. There was about a two metre drop to the ground below, but I landed easily on all fours without a sound, not even rustling a hair. A normal human would have hurt themselves. But I wasn’t normal, or human.

I straightened up and strained my ears for any indication the Samuel had noticed I was gone. The scent of the fiery red-headed woman- Delilah- arrived on the wind, smelling of rose petals and vanilla. Good. Samuel would be distracted for a while longer. I ran to the edge of the trees, crouching in their slowly disappearing shadows as I circled the house, trying to find the hidden path while staying out of sight. I finally found a spot in the trees that was covered in the mingled scents of Samuel’s pack, and I pushed through, relieved to find the trodden dirt path that I knew led the Samuel’s cabins, and then to the safety cells. I ran because I knew I didn’t have much time, the path and the trees just a jumbled blur in my vision, my breath fogging in the air in front of me. No one stopped me, though I knew Steele or Bromley had to be around somewhere, patrolling the territory like they’d been ordered. I didn’t question my luck; I just kept running, passing the cabins where I’d stayed and the little hospital that was now deserted. The cold air was beginning to hurt my nose and my feet were wet with from the still-dewy ground when I realised there was no path from the cabins to the safety cells. Steele and Dr Lillian had followed some invisible line, and at the time I had been suspicious. Now I was just frustrated. But I was a werewolf, and just because I couldn’t see the path, didn’t mean it wasn’t there. I couldn’t shift as everyone would sense the burst of magic, but even in human form my sense of smell was incredible. The scents of all those who had gone down to the safety cells were as clear to me as footprints, even through the aroma of dirt, eucalyptus and all the animals that had ever been in the area. I had to force myself to stay focused once I paid attention to my nose; there were so many distractions and so many things to smell. There was a snake entangled around the base of a small shrub, tense and ready to strike if I got to close to its hiding spot. My wolf knew that it would be fun to chase, but was weary of it at the same time. A snake’s poison could kill a normal wolf. As far as I knew, there was no snake poisonous enough to kill a werewolf- our healing capabilities were just too rapid for the deadly toxins- and Australia boasted some of the most deadliest snakes in the world.

I took a deep breath and shook my head. I had to focus on the scents that were important. Forgetting the snake, I started running again, following my nose. Branches scraped at me, grabbing at me like tiny wooden hands intent on slowing me down. I shoved some away and was rewarded with a deep gash down my palm. I growled, angry at the pain of it, but kept going anyway, despite the amount of blood now gushing from my hand as I held it to my chest. It wasn’t that bad though, and sure enough a faint itching sensation told me that it was beginning to heal. Stupid trees. Now I would have to throw away this shirt, too. I had to stop getting blood on everything.

It wasn’t until I neared the safety cells that I remembered that Lucas and Clem had also been put on guard duty. Huh. Lucas I wasn’t sure of, but something told me he had been was suspicious of me, and that was before he found out I was an Alpha. And Clem? I was pretty sure the man hated my guts. I hadn’t remembered them in time to try and disguise my scent, so they would have been fully aware of my presence by now, especially since Lucas was Samuel’s best tracker. Dammit. I could only hope they would let me do what I needed to do, though with my history with Clem, I doubted they would. In fact, knowing Clem’s attitude towards me, he would try his hardest to make sure I didn’t get to do what I wanted. And I was right. As I drew closer to the door of the cells, he emerged, crossing his arms over his burly chest. He glowered at me, though I was starting to wonder whether it was just me, or if he glowered at everyone. If only he smiled, those emerald eyes would light up and make his face shine.

“Why are you here?” he didn’t need to speak loudly; I could hear him even from across the clearing. I stepped forward, passing through rays of sunlight as they filtered through the trees.

Why was I here? I wanted to see the man who had nearly died because of me; I felt I owed him that much. But more than that, I wanted to confront the one who had nearly succeeded in killing me. The desire to see him behind bars, imprisoned, was so strong I could taste it. I was sure Clem could feel it too; there was a strange glint in his eyes as I neared him that I was sure was identical to my own. I was broadcasting my emotions- not in the way an empathetic wolf would, like Marie, but in the way an Alpha would project his feelings through his pack. Only Clem wasn’t my pack. Samuel had made a claim on me, but there had been no exchanged of the blood that was required to join me to him.

“I’ve come to see the prisoner,” I said softly, hoping that if I showed the scowling man kindness he wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass, “I may be able to get more information from him.”

Clem grinned, but not in a nice way. His expression was pure malice. I was willing to bet that Kane had not enjoyed his time as captive so far.

“I think he’s told us all he… can.”

Damn. He was going to be difficult. Fine, two could play at that game. I called my power gently and let it lick at him like tiny flames all over his body. He struggled against it, but he couldn’t harm what he couldn’t see.

“I demand to see the prisoner,” I said, and my voice was slightly distorted. I moved towards him until I was so close I had to tilt my neck all the way back to keep eye contact, and if either of us took a deep breath we would have touched. Someone else in my position may have been intimidated, but I was used to being a small woman among monstrous men, and I wasn’t afraid. Clem was, even if he was trying not to show it. The scent of it rode the air around us.

“Get away from me, you freak!”

What was meant to be an insult merely brushed by me, like a light touch of air. I was too incensed with power to be angry, too content with it running through my veins like a drug. It was addictive.

I closed the distance between us so that we were now touching. He flinched, and it made me smile. No one had ever been scared of me, and yet this man was cowering before me like I’d struck him.

“You’re just a bully,” my voice was low, almost a whisper, “Your father made you feel powerless, weak. Now you get off on doing the same to others.”

His face contorted with rage, and that pleased me even more. If the flames of my power weren’t holding him back he would have hit me, and I found I actually wanted him too. I was itching for a fight. I was angry, scared and I wanted to take it out on someone. I had meant to aim it at Kane, but if this man was so desperate to stand in my way, then so be it.

“So your daddy hit you, big deal,” I continued, and I knew I was being cruel, “that’s nothing special. Get over yourself.”

His eyes were wide, showing too much white. I was in dangerous waters, and I took an involuntary step back, knowing deep down I’d crossed some invisible line. But was I sorry? No. Not in the slightest. I was enjoying myself.

I thought he would struggle, thought that he would try to lunge at me. I wanted him to; adrenaline now coursing through me alongside my power. But to my disappointment, his face slackened and he stopped fighting the hold I had over him. For a moment there was panic in those emerald depths, and something else that made the towering man seem young, vulnerable.

“You know nothing of my past. You’re not the only one who had to run away from their home, you know. My father beat my mother so badly that when she could take it no longer, she took to her wrists with a silver knife,” his voice was flat, devoid of emotion, “when that failed, she plunged it into her heart. I found her, but I couldn’t save her. I tried, for hours while my brother cried in the corner. My father blamed us for her escaping him, said we let her do it. He attacked my brother. I still had my mother’s blood on my hands. I killed him before the blood had had a chance to stain my skin.”

I swallowed, and felt my power snuff out as though I’d been doused in iced water, “I… I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know.”

“Well now you do,” his voice was still empty, and it scared me more than it had when it had been filled with rage, “do you know why I hate you so much? It’s not just because you put my brother in danger. It’s not because I can relate to your problems. Your power, your aura, makes us all feel safe. We should be calling for your blood for what has happened, and yet instead we are trying to protect you.”

“I… I don’t do it on purpose.”

“I know!” he shouted it at me, and I couldn’t help but cringe. Here was a man who was tormented, tormented by his past, tormented by the urge to destroy me and save me at the same time. There was a commotion behind him; the cell door opened and Lucas suddenly appeared, halfway into his wolf form. He saw me and his face held the same expression I’d seen on the faces of the men in my pack. A mixture of fear, aggression, and hate. But he didn’t attack me, and even with my power receded, neither did Clem. They just stood there; Clem panting as though he’d run a mile.

“Every time I feel your power, it grows sweeter,” Clem said softly, and I was relieved to find life back in his face, “It is dangerous, because I find myself needing to be around you. Needing to wrap myself in your power, to claim it, protect it.”

“But this never happened with my old pack,” I found myself pleading to him, of all people, to believe that I wasn’t doing this on purpose. Was my power manipulating those around me? It was though it had a life, a mind, of its own. It scared me. It chilled me to the bone.

“You’re a freak of nature,” Lucas’s voice was a half-growl; his transformation had stopped in between forms, “what you can do is unprecedented. Samuel is keeping you here to keep you safe, but to keep the rest of us safe as well,” he glanced at Clem, “some of us are more affected than others. You shouldn’t be here. Why did you come?”

“I have to see Kane. I have to see Lawrence.”

“No,” Lucas said flatly, “Samuel doesn’t think you had anything to do with this, but how do I know you didn’t plan all this? How do I know you and Kane aren’t in it together? Maybe your pack wanted an excuse to steal our Marie and her powers.”

Clem held his hand up, silencing the man, “let her through.”

“You do not outrank me. I am in command here.”

“And the Alpha is in command of us all. He says she is innocent. Let her pass.”

Lucas glared at him for a moment, and I thought there would be a fight between them. But then Lucas began to shift back to human, and the tension was over.

“I will stay out here,” Lucas spoke through a clenched jaw, making it clear that he wanted nothing to do with me. Obviously whatever power was affecting Clem was not affecting him. Or was it? Clem still wanted me gone from his pack, but at the same time couldn’t stay away from my power. Maybe Lucas was just a stronger wolf? But then, what about Bromley, Steele and most of all, Samuel? It was as though they were flies, and I was the sweet smelling honey.

Lucas’s power fizzed along my skin as I passed him and entered the cell with Clem. He had to have been angry for his power to leak like that, but it wasn’t my problem right now. If he attacked me it would be, but from what I could tell he was a lot more in control of his emotions than Clem was. And that meant he was a lot more dangerous.






The heavy outer door of the safety cell closed behind me, shutting off the flow of fresh air. Immediately my nose was accosted with the scent of the two captive wolves inside, a sour mix of fear and aggression. It stung as it filled my lungs and brought my wolf growling to the surface, forcing my canines to lengthen inside my mouth.

“Calm yourself, or you’ll wake him,” Clem gestured to the first cell where a gigantic wolf slept. I recognised the dark grey fur, and the two lines of lighter grey fur sprouting from the wolf’s temples. Lawrence slept curled around the metal table I’d awoken on only two days earlier, his huge paws twitching every few seconds.

“The doc was here last night and gave him a tranquiliser. Samuel thinks its best he doesn’t wake up, so they got to come down here every few hours to keep him sedated.”

Lawrence’s jaw twitched and a low growl sounded through the room. I pressed my hands up against the cage, ignoring the sting of the silver, “He must be so worried….”

“He won’t be feeling anything right now.”

I pulled away from the cage and rewarded him with a glare, “how can you keep him like this? His family is missing!”

“Have you ever seen a wolf that has lost a mate? It’s worse than a rogue.”

I shook my head, “it’s not right.”

“It’s not your decision. Besides, it was your pack that did this.”

He was trying to bait me again- apparently he’d reached his limit of politeness for the day. But he’d reminded me what I was here for, and I moved towards the cell at the other end of the room.

Kane glared at me from atop his own metal table, silver chains wrapped around his wrists and ankles and attached so tightly to it that I could smell the skin burning even from where I was standing. His stomach wound had healed, but unlike me he had not been given clean clothes or a gown, and he was stained head to toe in dry, flaking blood. A mixture of his blood and Lawrence’s. There was fresh blood too, and I knew that Samuel’s men had probably used unorthodox ways to get him to talk. He snarled, showing his canines, and they two were stained a rusty, copper colour. My face was neutral, and I knew my eyes held no kindness or compassion for the man.

“When I get out of here, I’ll kill you all.”

“Somehow I doubt that.”

He growled and pulled at his restraints, burning himself further. While the silver was in contact with his skin, he couldn’t shift, and the realisation that he would have healed painfully slow brought a satisfied smile to my face.

“Bitch. You’ll be the first.”

My smile turned into a grin, “You couldn’t take me one on one, and you know it. I would have killed you if they hadn’t stopped me, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.”

Fear crossed his face before he could mask it, “Merrick and the others, they will help me. We did a nice job of your weak omega; imagine what they’re doing to the bitch and her pup right now. You hurt me, and you’ll be getting the two of them back in pieces.”

There was a snarl from behind me; Clem strode forward angrily and I knew he was going to hurt the imprisoned man. I stopped him with a hand on his arm, and when his eyes met mine an understanding passed through us again. Kane was trying to make us attack him- it was clear in his eyes as he looked between the two of us. We would not rise to his bait.

“Merrick won’t risk harming the innocents,” I said coolly, “he knows it would be suicide. And you? You know he won’t risk losing his chance to kill me to get you back. You’re expendable. You’re as good as dead, and you know it.”

He knew I was right- even more he knew what Merrick was really like. Merrick was selfish, arrogant, and only out to help himself. If losing Kane meant he could have me, he would not think twice.

“I have information that could be useful to you.”

“He’s lying,” Clem growled, “he doesn’t have anything left to tell. We got all we could out of him.”

“You do not know my Alpha,” Kane’s voice was confident, “nothing you could do to me would be as bad as what he’d do if he found out I told you. And like dear Lacey said, I’m as good as dead anyway.”

He spoke my name as though it was poisonous, but at that moment I didn’t care. I turned to Clem, “he’s right. Merrick is a bad, bad man. If he forbade Kane to talk under oath, then no amount of torture would have made him speak.”

Clem clenched his fists and made another move towards Kane’s cage, “We’ll see about that.”

“Wait,” I moved my body in front of him so that to get to Kane, he would have to push me aside. Maybe yesterday he would have done it without a thought, but something about my power made him hesitate, stopping him from raising a hand to me. Or maybe it was sharing his past with me. Either way, he stopped trying to get past me.

When it was safe, I turned my attentions back to Kane, “You know Merrick will kill you if he finds out you talked. You know you will be punished by this pack if harm comes to either Marie, Jacob, or me. The Alpha has claimed me as his mate, so any harm to me is a personal insult to him. There is no way out for you.”

He glared at me, “If I escape and return to Merrick, I will be safe.”

“Until he does something else to put you and the rest of the pack in danger. And he will. He was never meant to be Alpha.”

“Why do you think he wants you dead so badly?”

I rolled my eyes, “because I carry the Alpha line, and he thinks I’ll come back and take the pack. I don’t want you though. He’s just a paranoid, murderous bastard and my father would be ashamed of all of you.”

Kane cringed, “That is not the full reason behind Merrick’s madness. And your father was a great Alpha. His presence is greatly missed.”

“Liar. You hated him ever since he punished you for your part in Antonio’s crime.”

“No, he was right to punish us. He was strict, but fair, and our pack was never in any kind of trouble under his reign. I regret that the pack had to change hands.”

I frowned, “You were one of the people behind Merrick becoming Alpha. Why the change of heart?”

“Look at where I am, at the position I’m in. I never liked you, but I wouldn’t have tried to kill you without an order. Merrick… he is not stable. He is killing our pack to get to you.”

“At least you’re honest. So what is the real reason?”

Kane glanced at Clem, chewing his lip, “I want to get out of here with my life.”

“She’s not the Alpha here, wolf, she can’t bargain with you.”

I had an idea, “No, but I am the Alpha’s mate. He claimed me, so doesn’t that mean I am his equal in rank?”

Clem scowled at me, “Samuel will be furious if you let the prisoner go. He had a part in the kidnapping, in Lawrence’s near slaughter.”

“I didn’t say I was going to let him go free,” I turned the weight of my gaze back onto Kane, quite pleased when he flinched, “If no harm comes to Marie or Jacob, or the rest of the pack for that matter, you will be released when they are safely back in our hands.”

I didn’t add that he would only be released, not given a free passage out of Samuel’s lands. And I knew it was very unlikely that Merrick would be able to resist harming anyone. It was a raw deal, but this man had tried to kill me, orders or not. In my mind, and to my wolf, I was being quite fair. She wanted to tear him limb from limb for what he’d done, not just to me but to the innocent wolves of the pack. So really, Kane couldn’t complain.

He made a face, “that’s it?”

“It’s the best you’re going to get,” I replied coldly, “I could offer you nothing. Your information might not even be worthy.”

Kane swallowed, “fine. I suppose that’s the best I could ask for. Could I ask for enough time to vacate this territory without harm?”

I looked at Clem, felt his beast rumbling under the surface of his mind, eager for the hunt, for the kill. Could I deny him the justice of hunting down one of the men that was responsible for all of this? He hadn’t gotten to get revenge for his brother yet, either. No, I could not deny him. I didn’t want to.

“I can guarantee you won’t be harmed by me, but I can’t speak for the rest of the pack.”

His face paled, and knowledge of his death was like a ghost in his eyes, “Okay… I ask for a quick death then, if I am to be hunted. If it is Merrick who kills me, it could last weeks. Please, Lacey, please show mercy.”

I gazed at him for a moment and felt nothing, not an ounce of pity or compassion. But I was not a monster like him, not yet.

“You can have your quick death, if that is what you wish. You have my word.”

Clem growled, “it is more than he deserves.”

“It is,” I agreed, “I have not even taken into account his crimes against me.”

“I was acting on orders!” Kane protested, straining at his chains again, “Merrick would have killed me- or worse- if I had refused.”

“Then you would have died a good man,” I snarled, “my father would have died rather than let harm come to anyone of his pack, especially if it was a woman. But you did as he bid, and what’s worse, you helped him torture his own brother, an omega wolf!”

Kane looked away, avoiding my eyes and the truth of my words. He might have been a dominant wolf, a beta wolf, but he was a coward. All bullies are when you turn the tables on them.

“Fine,” his voice was low, defeated, “I will tell you why Merrick hunts you so desperately. When your father died, the Alpha power was meant to go to Merrick, his second in command. It did, but only partially. We have to obey him, obey his commands, but Justin and Ramirez reported what you did to them. How you kept them from attacking with nothing but your power. Merrick cannot do this. You are, by birthright, the true Alpha of our pack.”

“That explains it…” I said softly, more to myself then to the two men, “I thought my powers were because I was exiled, detached from a pack. But it’s because my father’s power descended to me after his death. It should have gone to Merrick,” I looked sharply at Kane, “can it be reversed? Can I remove myself as your Alpha?”

He shook his head, “I don’t think it is as easy as that. The Alpha power is passed on by death.”

“Which is why Merrick wants me dead so badly,” I thought for a moment, “what if I was joined to another pack?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know much of rank politics. I am Merrick’s fifth at best; I am not even that strong a beta wolf. I will never be an Alpha.”

My face fell, “but Samuel claimed me, so the power should have shifted…”

“His claim isn’t complete, is it?” Clem asked suddenly, surprising me with his eagerness.

“No… I mean… how do I know it’s complete?”

“For a pack member, it is merely a blood exchange on the night of the full moon.”

“That’s tonight,” I paused, “what about a mate?”

He looked at me, his eyes burning with something that made me take a cautious step back, “The ritual is more… personal. Private.”

I frowned, thinking hard. Then it dawned on me, and I blushed furiously, “you’re kidding.”

He raised his eyebrows, “do I look like I would kid?”

“No. Absolutely not,” I scrubbed my eyes with my hands, feeling suddenly fatigued. I’d come here with the intention of venting my rage on Kane- instead I’d found out more than I’d wanted to know. Technically, the man in the silver cage was my wolf. Merrick owned the pack by the oath he’d taken when he’s become Alpha, but truthfully, magically, they were all mine. I didn’t want them. God help me I never wanted to see any of their faces again. Except for Jobe. Maybe, just maybe I could use this new found information to save him from his brother at last.

“What about tonight,” I said suddenly, “what does Merrick have planned?”

“What will it get me in return?”

Clem growled, “how about I don’t tear you limb from limb, how does that sound?”

“I have Lacey’s word. You can’t.”

I tilted my head, staring into Kane’s eyes as his confidence in me faded, “You seem to take my word seriously despite how much I hate you and yours for what you have done to me. What is to stop me going back on my promise?”

His lip actually trembled slightly, “you are your father’s daughter. You have honour.”

I laughed, but there was no joy in it, and it echoed emptily around the room, “tell me what Merrick has planned, and I’ll change the deal. You have free passage out of this territory, but,” I held up my hand as Clem let out a furious snarl, “once you pass the border, you’re free game. Anytime, anywhere, Samuel’s men can get you. You can live out what’s left of your life shrinking from the shadows and peeking around corners, like I have done my whole life. How does that sound?”

I could see the rage in Kane’s eyes, the rage at me and the fact that he was in my control. He hated me, and I had no doubt he would try and kill me again if he could. But his life was worth more to him than anyone else, and any chance of keeping it was worth swallowing his hatred for me. He nodded, and I waited for him to calm himself. I could feel his wolf’s fear, anger and defiance mixed with his own emotions. He knew he was powerless, and not as strong as some. In a one on one, fair fight, I could take him easily. He was right when he’d said he’d never be an Alpha. Beta wolves could sometimes take over the pack, but only if there was no Alpha in the area. But Kane was just too weak- he would die in the infighting. For him to be going against Merrick like this meant he was already worried about his position in the pack. What had Merrick been doing since I’d left?

“Merrick has no plans to hand over the woman and her child,” Kane began, “at first he was going to use them as leverage, but then we discovered she was empathetic, and that the son is most likely going to inherit that trait. Merrick will be bringing them to the meeting, but they will be guarded.”

“By who?”

“Ike and Jimmy.”

I frowned. Neither wolf had ever joined in my beatings, but they hadn’t tried to stop it either. Still, they were a good choice for guard work; strong, silent, obedient. They were dominant wolves, but they flew under the proverbial radar when it came to pack ranks. That was probably a smart thing; I could sense they were a lot stronger than they were, and Merrick didn’t like having anyone around who could be a threat to him. I was a prime example.

“Who else will be there? Theo, Ramirez and Justin will be by his side, but what about ambushers?”

“I do not know who Merrick has planned to sit in ambush. Some of the wolves turned him down when he ordered them.”

I was taken aback, “they refused him?”

“Like I said before, he is not really our rightful Alpha. His power over us began to slowly lessen after your display to Justin and Ramirez. He is getting desperate, and some of us didn’t want to go up against the Mt Glorious Pack. Samuel- and more so his father- are known for their strength.”

“So why did you attack Lawrence?”

Kane glared at me, “I am his fifth. I fought long and hard to gain that rank, I’m not going to throw it away.”

My lip curled in disgust, “I’d almost forgotten what a bastard you were. Pack rank is not worth your honour. You should have refused Merrick, even if it meant losing your place.”

“The wolves that refused were bound and cut repeatedly with silver knives, then left to heal human-slow.”

“Merrick should be killed,” I felt sick to my stomach, partially because I could see why Kane would obey his orders. Sometimes, when it came down to your torture or the torture of someone else, you couldn’t help wanting to save yourself first. Especially if the other person was someone you had no connection to, or was an enemy. I dug my fingernails into my palms angrily. I would not let myself see reason in this man- it was better to see him as a heartless, conniving bastard. Which he was. But I didn’t want to discover that he had real feelings, real fear, like me.

“Then why don’t you kill him?” Clem’s voice was even, as though he was asking me what the time was or whether or not it was sunny outside. It bothered me. I was not a killer.

“I don’t take killing lightly.”

“You swore to me you would get those who harmed my brother,” now his voice did rise, in anger, “there is the man responsible! Why don’t you kill him now?”

“I was not part of the attack on the pups. That was Justin and Ramirez. They thought it would make the Mount Glorious pack so angry that they would either kill you themselves, or force you back into our hands.”

Clem lunged at the cage, roaring, his fangs and claws protruding even while he was in contact with the silver, “Son of a bitch! I should tear your head from your shoulders for what you did to my brother! He nearly died!”

Kane actually looked terrified, and for good reason. Clem’s fangs glistened and his eyes had lost their human touch. I shrunk away from him, trying to make myself small as to not attract his attention and his rage. He was clawing at the silver cage, blood pouring from half-formed paws. If he’d been in his right mind, he would have simply unlocked and then opened the door, but he was being controlled by his wolf, and the wolf knew nothing of locks and latches.

There was a sound behind me and Lucas tore into the room, his eyes scanning frantically for the threat, the danger. His gaze fell on Clem, and something close to exasperation crossed his face. He shook his head, his thick dreadlocks swinging over his shoulders, “Clem! Calm yourself!”

But Clem was no longer home. The half man, half wolf turned his rage on Lucas- triumph in his emerald depths when he saw that there was no silver cage between them. Now Lucas’s expression was worried as Clem stalked towards him, all predator, reddish-brown fur sprouting over his body and dagger-sharp claws springing from paws bigger than my head. I did the only thing I could do to stop him- I released my power.

Clem was full blown wolf by the time my power hit him, his huge form blocking the exit as he snarled at Lucas. I could feel it wash over his body, covering from him head to foot, and for once he didn’t fight it. He welcomed it, like an addict would welcome their drug of choice. I breathed out the breath I’d been holding slowly, still trying not to make any sudden movements in case he wasn’t properly under control. But then he turned and his eyes- oddly bright in his wolf face- were back to human. There was intelligence; not the kind you’d see in a blood-thirsty predator, but the kind that was able to reason, decipher, decide. He kept those beautiful green eyes on me as he slowly got down on his haunches and rested his head on my bare feet, his breath hot on my skin as he let out a long sigh.

“They were telling the truth,” Kane’s voice was full of a mix of wonder and fear, “I thought Justin was making excuses because you escaped, but you really can control us.”

I ignored him, watching Lucas’s expression. His face was half hidden by those dark dreadlocks, but he wore an expression I’d seen before, too many times. It mirrored to looks I’d gotten from the men of my pack. It was alright for them to be controlled by a male Alpha, but a female? Sexist, I know, but then I didn’t write the rules.

Lucas’s nostrils were flared, his body tense and his dark eyes just a little too wide. I would have prepared myself for an attack if I hadn’t had Clem at my feet; though the man hated me, he couldn’t help trying to protect me too. He was trapped, and right then and there the true dangers of my powers hit me like a tonne of bricks. Clem must have sensed my sudden panic, because he lifted his head lazily and sent a warning growl in Lucas’s direction.

“You put my own pack mate against me,” his voice was calm, his emotions in check. That alone told me he was more dangerous than Clem, more cunning. Clem wore his heart on his sleeve, and his emotions blinded him in a fight. Lucas’s was much more controlled, and he face betrayed nothing.

“He would have attacked you anyway,” I replied, just as calmly. I’d learned very quickly my own version of a poker face; if the men of my pack knew something affected you, they used that to punish you. I was very good at hiding myself when I needed to.

Lucas’s eyes were cold, “I would have handled it.”

I shook my head, reaching down to touch the soft fur on top of Clem’s head. He wasn’t as big in wolf form as Steele, and maybe not as big as Bromley, but even so his haunches were level with my waist even with him lying flat on the floor.

“It didn’t look like that from where I was standing. It was in his eyes. He would have killed you simply because you were there to take the brunt of his anger.”

He knew I was right, but he wasn’t about to admit it.

“Why do you keep such a volatile wolf anyway?” I continued, and Clem let out an unappreciative huff at my question, nipping my fingers slightly, “he’s dangerous.”

“That’s none of your business. As soon as this is over, you’re gone from our pack, and everything can go back to normal. You shouldn’t speak of volatile wolves; you’re the worst of us all. Look what you have done to Clem. The man wanted to kill you when you came here. And now look at him. He’s ruined.”

I tried not to cringe at his words, at the way Clem snarled at his pack mate. He was right- I had done something seemingly irreversible to this man. I had turned a dominant wolf into something… subservient.

“Poor Lacey,” Kane’s voice crooned mockingly from behind me, “nobody wants you, do they?”

I ignored him, “I haven’t done any of this on purpose.”

Lucas scoffed, “well that makes you all the more dangerous, doesn’t it? You’re…” he trailed off, tilting his head as if he was listening to something. After a second, I knew what he was sensing. Samuel. And he was angry. Shit.






Samuel’s anger made me want to crouch down and hide behind Clem’s huge form, but I knew it would be no use. He would sense me. Still, the idea was so tempting, even if it made me feel like a child.

He burst through the door a moment later, his power almost like a visible aura around his body. His anger hit us all, forcing Lucas to his knees, forcing Clem’s nose to the floor. Even Kane flattened himself as best he could while chained to the metal table. Only I stood tall.

Samuel was in front of me before I could blink, his eyes boring into mine. We weren’t touching, but his body was so tense that I knew it was taking a lot of will power not to grab me and shake me like he wanted to. I trembled with the effort of not flinching, of not lowering my gaze from his. And I trembled from the close proximity of his power and his wolf. I wanted to bury myself in his scent, feel his skin against mine. His eyes told me that he was struggling with the same idea.

“How dare you leave without informing me,” his voice was clipped, and dangerously low, “do you have any idea what I thought had happened?”

I swallowed nervously, “You wouldn’t have let me go if I’d told you.”

His anger rose, hitting me so that this time I couldn’t help but flinch in front of him. In the depths of his eyes, his wolf began to rise. Tonight was the night of the full moon, and even he was having trouble controlling himself. But I wasn’t scared of his wolf; the need to wrap him around myself increased so strongly that the room spun slightly around me.

“You could have been taken. You could have been killed. Not only were you risking yourself, you were risking our chances of getting Marie and Jacob home safe and sound. Did that even cross your mind?”

There was a growl at my feet- I’d forgotten Clem in the heat of the moment. His was still flat against the floor, but the noise was full of defiance. I found myself reaching for his fur without realising it. Samuel grabbed my wrist, pulling my hand away, “until we are officially mates, you are to stay away from Clem. Is that clear?”

His eyes were all Alpha, all command. There was no softness or understanding. I nodded somewhat numbly and drew my hand back to myself. He held on for a moment before letting me go, my wolf mourning the loss of contact. But she was not in control here.

“Alpha, you cannot mean she is to be our pack,” Lucas’s voice was tentative, but there was anger underneath the surface of his words, “after all that has happened…”

“That is not your concern. Leave here Lucas, now. We are about to have a pack meeting. Clem can remain guard.”

I hesitated, “are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Samuel glared at me, “are you defying my authority again? In front of a prisoner?”

Kane barked out a laugh, “It’s nothing new.”

“Shut your mouth,” Samuel snarled, and the laughter was cut short, “Lucas, I gave you an order.”

Lucas ducked his head, but his eyes were full of fire, “as my Alpha commands.”


Lucas strode from the room, throwing me a withering glare as he shut the huge door. Samuel didn’t seem to notice the man’s anger, or maybe he just didn’t care. He squatted down and reached for Clem, ignoring the whine that escaped from the wolf’s throat. Clem didn’t want to change back. I didn’t know how I knew that- it was a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew then and there that Clem was a miserable man. He, like me, and like Bromley, felt more at home as a wolf. Human problems couldn’t touch you when you had four paws to run on.

Samuel grasped Clem’s face, and the power in the room rose a few notches. Slowly the huge wolf at my feet began to change; the reddish-brown fur sinking back into skin as his form shrunk and twisted back into a human form.

Clem looked up at his Alpha, panting heavily, “I could have guarded the prisoner as my wolf,” his voice held protest; “you didn’t have to force me.”

Samuel shook his head and stood, holding a hand out to Clem to help him up, “her power affects you more when you are your wolf. That is why Bromley is so taken by her.”

I felt as though I’d been winded. I took a few steps back, away from Clem and the man that had claimed me as his mate. What was I doing to these people? I watched numbly as Clem got to his feet, grasping Samuel’s hand as though it were a lifeline. It was clear in his body language that he didn’t want to be anywhere near me now that his wolf was back in its cage, didn’t want to be anywhere near my apparently seductive power. My heart pounded in my chest, and my stomach rolled with nausea.

“Looks like you’re on your own again,” Kane’s voice taunted from behind me, “maybe I won’t be the only one hunted out of this territory.”

I turned, snarling at him, “at least I’ll have the comfort of knowing you won’t last long.”

His face paled, and I looked away, feeling satisfied. I was done here; I’d gotten all I needed to know. I’d also discovered more than I’d wanted. And I was angry. I was angry at myself- and at my father for leaving me to deal with this all on my own. Angry at Clem and all the rest for being affected by my power. And angry at Samuel for not telling me what he knew.

But mostly I was angry at myself.

I pushed past Samuel and Clem, pulling away from Samuel as he reached for me.

“Don’t touch me,” I snapped at him, reaching the huge door and throwing it open against the wall so that the whole building shook. Bushes and trees faced me, a mingling of browns and greens. The sun was climbing the sky, its rays were warm on my face as I ran along the invisible path back to Samuel’s cabins. There was a voice behind me, and then I was grabbed roughly and pushed up against the bark of the nearest tree. My eyes met those blue depths with hostility.

“What did I say about running off?” Samuel’s voice was barely a growl, his body pressed against mine in a very intimate way. My wolf was wide awake in her cage now, and she fuelled my anger.

“Let me go,” I snarled, pushing at his chest, but to no avail. I was stronger than most, but so was he. His sheer size made it impossible for me to squirm from his grasp.

“Not until you listen,” he grabbed both my wrists in one of his hands, stopping me from trying to hit him. A growl emanated from my chest as I felt my fangs lengthen.

“Stop it,” he demanded, pressing against me harder so that the bark cut into my clothing, “I’m not trying to hurt you. Just listen.”

“Why should I? Why didn’t you tell me I was…. doing that to everyone’s wolf?”

“I wasn’t completely sure at first,” his voice was slightly strained as I fought harder, “Lacey, please. It’s not your fault. They’re just responding to your power.”

I stopped fighting, “and what about you? Are you just attracted to my power?”

He kissed me, and there was nothing gentle or tender about it. He kissed me like it was the last time, crushing me to his chest a though he thought I would disappear if he didn’t hold me tight enough. And then our wolves rose, combining in such a complete, final way that it made power rush through our bodies, like a constant electrical current. I knew what this was. My father had told me about it once. Our wolves had chosen each other, and nothing I or Samuel did would make them choose another. He broke away from me, eyes bright with the power we’d created, “does that answer your question? Bromley and the others are only reacting to you this way because you’re a strong, unpaired female. It will be this way until you are paired.”

I nodded, my skin still tingling pleasantly. He let me go, pulling away so abruptly that it made my wolf, my soul, hurt. I stayed against the trunk of the tree, not knowing whether or not my legs were strong enough to move, and not trusting myself enough to try. Silence fell between us and I felt awkward, avoiding his gaze as he began to pace in front of me.

“You know what this means now, don’t you?” he said suddenly, turning his attention back onto me, “Our wolves are paired. I can’t let them take you.”

He was right, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Once two wolves were paired… well that was the end of it. A permanent bond was forged, a link that bound the two together, and nothing else mattered after that, not for the wolves anyway. They could not be separated. I bit my lip, “but we have to save Marie and the baby. Lawrence will not survive if they are taken from him permanently.”

Samuel scrubbed a hand across the dark stubble on his chin and jaw, “I know. Why do you think I have his sedated so heavily?” he sighed tiredly, “this is not an easy situation to get out of.”

I opened my mouth to speak but he held up a hand abruptly, cutting off my words, “don’t even think about saying it’s your fault. I don’t want to hear it.”

I frowned, crossing my arms, “I was only going to say that I got some useful information out of Kane, that’s all.”

His eyebrows raised sceptically, “how? Lucas and Clem… questioned him for hours.”

I shrugged, “I just helped him realise the situation he was in. He knows Merrick, knows that he’ll be sacrificed if need be. He wanted a deal. Granted, the one I offered him wasn’t all that fair, but he’s a coward. He spilled his guts for the chance to keep his life.”

A howl sounded in the distance, coming from the direction of Samuel’s home. It sounded like Bromley, but it didn’t sound troubled or fearful. More like an alarm.

“We’re late for the meeting,” Samuel frowned at me, “do you think you could tell me the rest on the way back?”

I nodded, pulling away from the tree and finding my legs were now stable. He held his hand out and I took it, enjoying the surge of electricity that passed where our skin met. I wondered what it would be like if all our skin was touching, and found myself blushing furiously at the thought. A grin broke out across Samuel’s face, as if he knew exactly what I’d been thinking. Maybe he did; father had never really gone into the after-effects of being paired. But the questions would have to wait until later. Right now, we had to get Marie and her baby back. I let Samuel pull me along the path towards his house as I told him everything that Kane had told me.





I was met with silence when I entered the living room in Samuel’s home, a silence so thick I could almost reach out and touch it. The remaining pack members sat huddled on the lounge chairs and on the floor, their gazes determinedly avoiding mine as I looked around at them. The room felt empty; neither of the two doctors was present, nor were Clem and his little brother; Samuel had told me all the young wolves had been evacuated to a safe house closer to the mountains until this was all over. Good. The last thing I wanted was more of the pups being hurt.

My eyes fell on Lucas, standing with the young omega Kevin and the balding man who had been against me staying the day before. Kevin looked frightened, but the other two held that same look I’d seen so often throughout my life. My heart sank in my chest. I would never be accepted here now, not after this. Maybe turning myself over to Merrick was a good choice for all, except for me of course, and now Samuel. Not even the curvaceous Carla spared me a reassuring glance as she sat once more on the floor, clinging her husband’s legs. It was clear that any pity they had felt for me before had disappeared with Marie and her baby, and I would have felt horribly alone if Bromley and Steele hadn’t taken their places at my back the second I’d stepped in the door. Bromley’s breath was hot on my neck- he was in his wolf form as usual, nudging me with his cold wet nose, trying to give me comfort. I grasped Samuel’s warm hand harder, fighting the urge to run out of there and away from the eyes that refused to look my way. No one spoke. Not even Delilah, the snarling red-head, though her pretty face was contorted with disgust and fury as she stared down at the carpet. The space where Marie’s little family had stood last night stood out ominously in my vision, sending waves of guilt through me all over again. I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to warm the chill that was setting deep in my bones. The room screamed of their absence, forcing me to face what I had caused, even if none of it was on purpose. I knew I had to hand myself over to get them back, knew that the remaining pack members would never accept me if I didn’t.

I stood quietly as Samuel informed them all about what Kane had revealed to me. Felt their rage grow as they discovered our enemies had never intended to return their prisoners. I shouldn’t have been able to feel them, but at that moment I couldn’t care less about my ever growing powers. Their anger swirled around me, fed my wolf with its sweetness.

“This is what we’re going to do,” Samuel’s voice drew me from my thoughts, “Richard, you’re in charge of getting everyone who’s not dominant to the safety house,” he held up a hand as the man looked to protest, “you have a wife to protect. Take her, Kevin, Jackson, Lacey and Delilah to where the pups are. Do not come back here, under any circumstances. Understand?”

“Yes, Alpha,” Richard was furious at being kept from the fight, but Carla was opposite. She felt selfish for wanting him safe with the rest were in danger, but she felt relieved to. She met my gaze, eyes wide, and somehow she knew I was encroaching on her thoughts, her feelings. I took a step back, bumping my head on Steele’s hard chest in the process. Steele liked the contact, and like Clem felt duty bound to protect me. He was disappointed the Alpha had claimed me, because he would have liked a chance in my bed. I pulled away from him, my heart racing. What the hell was going on?

“Are you alright?” Samuel’s eyes were full of concern. He would do anything to protect me, even put his own pack in danger…

I clutched my head, “I think… I think I’m reading everyone’s feelings.”

“How is that even possible? She’s not our Alpha,” Delilah’s voice lashed at me painfully, making me wince. She didn’t like me in her territory, didn’t like the way all the men looked at me like I was something sweet and sugary to be eaten. She knew what I was, knew I was dangerous. Everyone should have listened to her to begin with, maybe then Marie and Jacob would be here…

“Our wolves are paired,” Samuel took my hand again, and the feeling, the little snippets of thought I was receiving, lessened, “she is experiencing a power that is my own.”

“I won’t go with Richard,” I said suddenly, now that I could think freely, “Merrick wants me; I’m the only hope you have of getting them back. I have to be there.”

“She’s right,” the balding man, who I assumed was Jackson as there were no other wolves in the room, spoke suddenly, “she got us into this mess, she should get us out of it.”

I agreed with him, but the comment still hurt. The young omega wolf, Kevin, was watching me, as if gauging my reaction. He was the only one in the room whose eyes weren’t hardened when they looked at me.

“What will they do if you hand yourself over?” he asked softly, his strange bronze-coloured eyes on mine.

“Merrick will kill me, eventually anyway,” I rubbed my eyes tiredly, “but I won’t save myself at the risk of your pack members. I will get them back.”

“Lacey, be quiet,” Samuel growled, and I could feel his anger rising. If we really were paired by our wolves, then my death would most definitely affect him. I didn’t know how much or how badly, but after seeing Lawrence’s reaction… and his mate wasn’t even dead, just missing.

“Lucas, Steele and Bromley will come with me to meet with Merrick and his men,” he continued, ignoring my comments, “from what the prisoner has told us, he will have three guards with him, and two guarding Marie and her child. Bromley, you will take out the two guards and secure Marie. Take her and her child straight to the safety house, no matter what.”

“Ike and Jimmy are strong,” I interrupted, earning a withering glare from Samuel, “they could overpower Bromley.”

I felt warm air as Bromley huffed in defiance, an annoyed growl vibrating from his chest. Samuel smiled grimly, “Bromley is more than enough for the two men. He will be fine.”

I wasn’t convinced, “Ike and Jimmy aren’t Merrick’s right hand men, but not for lack of strength. They’ve stayed under the radar to avoid Merrick’s jealousy. Don’t underestimate them.”

“And don’t underestimate Bromley,” Samuel replied, and I looked around at the rest of the pack for confirmation. Nearly all of them were still avoiding my gaze, all of them but the young bronze-eyed Kevin. His eyes held the horror of what he’d seen Bromley do when a hunter had come into the territory and tried to take out Samuel. I shuddered, feeling his emotions even while Samuel kept my hand. I nodded, “okay, I believe you. Merrick needs to see me though, it will distract him enough for you to take a hit.”

“For the last time, no,” Samuel snapped, and I pulled my hand away, glaring at him, “you will go to the safety house with the rest. Lucas and Steele will be with me. We will deal with Merrick.” He was becoming exasperated with my stubbornness and the way I took the world on my shoulders. He wished that I would let him protect me.

“No,” Lucas’s voice was soft, but full of that same rage he’d shown me earlier. Yeah, he was dangerous all right. I knew that now that I could feel the emotions he’d hidden earlier.

“You would disobey the orders of your Alpha?” Samuel’s voice was low, deadly, as he turned from me to look at the man. Lucas’s eyes were bold, too full of rage for him to think clearly before he spoke next.

“If my Alpha was so foolish as to be blinded by another pack’s bitch.”

There was a split second of silent horror before Samuel moved- a blur of motion to fast for my eyes to follow- and Lucas’s body was flying across the living room. He crashed heavily into the television; glass and blood spattering the rest of us as we stood there, partially in shock and partially in fear.

Lucas roared and got to his feet, his body beginning to shift even as he lunged a second time towards Samuel. I didn’t even see Samuel move, didn’t even see him raise a hand; I only heard the sound of impact and then Lucas’s figure was flying through the air again. He got up, slower this time, his face torn and bleeding as it shifted sluggishly into a wolf’s muzzle, his sharp teeth glistening in the light. I wanted to yell at them to stop, that I wasn’t worth this, but I forced myself to keep silent. Lucas had challenged his Alpha with an audience of the entire pack, minus a few. The challenge had to be met. It was pack law.

Samuel stood there, not a mark on his body, power rushing from him with so much force that it swept my hair back and made me feel like I was standing outside in the wind. And Samuel hadn’t even started shifting. He was a lot stronger than he had let on. For him to have this much power without me noticing meant that he was incredibly good at shielding.

Lucas was bracing himself, getting ready to launch another attack, but his dark eyes were already dull with defeat. To quit now though- to be able to walk away- would show cowardice. One of them had to be on the ground before the fight was over. Lucas lunged again, and this time Samuel caught him easily by the throat, lifting him so his feet dangled in the air, like he was as light as a small child.

“I am your Alpha,” Samuel said calmly, squeezing the man’s windpipe so that he had to gasp for air.

“You will do as I command, for you have proven today that you will never be strong enough to challenge me.”

He flung the man to the side as though he were some toy that he’d suddenly gotten sick of. Lucas didn’t get up this time; he just lay there in the rubble with his face pressed to the ground and his eyes downcast, his pose as submissive as he could make it. He was scared of Samuel, more scared than he had ever been before.

“You will stay behind and guard the prisoner. Clem will take your place, for you are no longer worthy to fight by my side. Does anyone else wish to challenge me?” Samuel spoke to the rest of the pack, and anyone who’d even thought of protesting his orders lowered their eyes from his. Steele’s form was tense behind me, and he was emanating fear in thick, heavy waves that I could taste on my tongue whenever I inhaled. It occurred to me that maybe Samuel had been hiding the extent of his powers from the rest of the pack. He was a fair man, and tried to run his pack out of respect rather than fear. But sometimes respect isn’t enough, and you have to be willing to shed blood to prove you are strong enough to be their leader.

I cleared my throat and tried to speak without my voice trembling, “Samuel, I have to do this alone.”

He turned to me, and those bright blue depths were wild with power.

“I have claimed you as my mate. Our wolves are paired, and I am bound to protect you. I will not give you over to those who will surely kill you.”

“A claim can be broken,” I said as calmly as I could with his eyes burning into me, “it is only our wolves that are paired.”

Something stirred in the wildness of his eyes, something heated and masculine. It tightened things low in my stomach, and I had to fight not to break my gaze. I knew what was coming. Part of me was scared; part of me was terribly excited.

“Everyone, get out, do as you have been ordered” his voice was a growl, the words barely audible. But no one needed to be told twice. Richard picked up Lucas and helped the battered man stumble out of the room. Another spurt of fear burst through me as I felt Bromley and Steele’s presence leave my side. I was alone. The Alpha’s attentions were all on me now as the pack emptied from the house so quickly I half expected a bomb to explode. No one was going to disobey another order from Samuel, not after what he’d done to Lucas.

“You’re stronger than I thought,” I managed to get out, taking a step back without thinking. His eyes were still bright, and power ran across my skin as he looked at me. But it didn’t hurt. I felt good.

“I hide my powers from my pack,” he stalked towards me, as though I was his prey. In some respects, I was, “I don’t wish for them to fear me.”

I swallowed, “I wondered why you weren’t threatened by me. Why you weren’t afraid of my powers like the others.”

He was so close now that if I breathed in too deeply, our skin would touch. He towered above me, but I didn’t feel small. I didn’t ever feel like a freak around this man, and now I knew why. He had just as much to hide as I did.

He raised a hand and held it barely an inch from my cheek. His power didn’t push against mine like it would have if it was anyone else; it was warm, soothing as it mingled with my own. Our powers were matched, just like our wolves. It should have scared me, should have sent me running for the door. But the man in front of me had never invoked such fear in me.

He breathed a sigh of relief, his breath sweet and comforting as it swirled around me, almost dizzying me, “I don’t have to hide with you. It’s… refreshing.”

I closed my eyes, basking in his aura, his scent, “but I have brought too much trouble to your pack. I have to make amends. I must hand myself over to Merrick.”

“No,” the one word held so much rage, so much contained violence. But not towards me.

“Samuel, please,” I touched his cheek, felt the roughness of stubble underneath my fingertips, “it has to be this way. I’m tired of running, and tired of bringing people into my mess. It is best if we’re not paired, you won’t be hurt that way.”

My touch seemed to spark something further in him, and his eyes darkened at my words, “we’re already paired. Our wolves have chosen. Your death may not kill me like it would kill Lawrence if Marie died, but it will leave my wolf scarred, Lacey. Wolves mate for life.”

I reached up further, wrapping my hand around his neck to bring his face down to mine. His lips brushed mine softly, sending electricity through every pore.

“I will not let you go,” he growled against my lips, and then he let go of his control. His mouth claimed mine fiercely, violently, as he unleashed all that carefully controlled power. His hands trapped me against him, lifting me from the floor and pressing me to his body once again. I squirmed without meaning to, in memory of the horror caused by Antonio, and his hands held me tighter, almost daring me to fight him. His mind was all predator at that moment, so I did the only thing I could. I stopped resisting, and gave myself to him.

A triumphant growl rose from his throat, making thing wobble low in my stomach. I bit his lip gently in reply, and the growl turned in a desperate, needy sound. I didn’t know I was being carried until I was dumped unceremoniously onto a familiar bed, looking up into his eyes as they ran over my body, as if trying to decide a place to start. I reached up to grab his shirt, only to find my nails went right through the thick material. I didn’t care, not while he stood half naked above me. His skin looked darker in compassion to my own milky white as I ran my hands over the hard planes of his chest. There was another growl, but it was from me this time.

“Patience, little wolf,” he pulled my hands away and stepped out of reach, shucking away the tattered remains of his shirt. Though mine was still intact, I followed suit without a second thought. Now that more of my skin was bared, his power seemed to caress me with even more strength, sinking into me and filling my veins with delicious sweetness. I knew my eyes must have been wild with the combination of our powers, knew that he was feeling the force just as strongly. He grinned wickedly and toyed with the top of his jeans, pulling them down so slowly that I growled again in frustration. And then he stood before me, so very masculine and so very ready. I shivered, but not from the cold. As he neared me again, his power increased in intensity, washing over me in heavy thick waves. My vision blurred for a moment, and when it cleared he was crouched over me, his breath warming my face, my neck. His eyes shone like beacons, only now they had a slightly wolfish look to the pupils. I didn’t know whether it was from the power we were calling or because the full moon peaked that night, but I knew my eyes were probably the same. He reached for me, and the moment his skin touched mine the power in the room leaped higher, encased us with heat and brought our wolves wild and clawing to the surface. His hands burned me as they ran over my bare skin, drawing a sound from my throat that was more wolf than human as it echoed in the empty house. When his lips finally returned to mine, my mind was filled with the sound of howling, so that it seemed my wolf was everywhere at once.

“Samuel,” I whispered against his lips, “once we do this, there’s no going back.”

For a moment he didn’t reply, and my heart shuddered to a stop in my chest.

His hands reached to top of my pants, “I know,” he growled, as he yanked them off me in a movement that was barely a blur, “you are mine now, Lacey. Heart and wolf and soul.”

My wolf howled again in triumph at his words as he thrust himself inside me without warning and we were joined, as intimately as two people can. With so much of him touching me, the power was an overwhelming pleasure, crawling over our skin, crawling inside of us. My other senses blurred as his touch became the most important thing in the world, building me up and winding me tighter and tighter as he moved until I thought I would explode from the pressure of it. His lips made my skin tingle where they touched, and when he bit down gently I felt as though I would go out of my head from the sensation, crying out into the empty house. I didn’t even care if any of the pack remained to hear me. This was… magic. Our combined powers filled us, forcing us to move against each other as it grew and grew until I thought it would burst from my skin. I dug my nails into his shoulders as he moved and was rewarded with a guttural growl that made my stomach quiver in excitement. His piercing blue eyes met mine, making it so much more intimate as I stared into their slightly wolfish depths. He began to move faster, the feeling making me throw my head back with a moan that seemed to incense him further, seemed to tip him over the edge of his control. My mind was filled with the sound of our wolves. One more touch, one more kiss, one more stroke and I was suddenly blind with pleasure, my hands digging into Samuel’s back as I held him to me, my throat straining as I howled it to the skies. A second later and his howls echoed mine, and then it was over. Samuel collapsed at my side as an almost eerie silence fell around us, like the calm after a mighty storm. The power we’d called between us had vanished, seemingly satisfied, leaving me exhausted but content.

I rolled onto my stomach, letting out a sigh as my skin touched Samuel’s again. He chuckled tiredly, and the sound made my heart flutter with happiness. He was mine. And I was his. It was a connection right down to our wolf souls, stronger and more permanent than anything I’d ever dreamed of. I should have been scared; the human part of my brain should have been concerned that I was attached so deeply to a man I barely knew. But the doubts were drowned out by my wolf. It didn’t matter how well I knew him, not to her, not to the more basic, animal instinct. We were paired, and that was the end of it. His hand played along my spine, a gentle pattern that had me even more relaxed and closing my eyes before I could realise.

At the edge of sleep, I felt something sting my back, almost like a bee or a wasp had jabbed me. But then those fingers where playing on my skin again, caressing away the pain, and I let myself sink down into darkness.





I awoke suddenly to a night-darkened room, disorientated and very alone. I clutched the bed sheets to my chest as my eyes adjusted, my heart sinking as I felt with one hand the patch of cold space where Samuel should have been lying. He’d disappeared. I closed my eyes, feeling really drowsy, and wondered where he’d gone. Clearly he was not in the house; I could tell by the slightly stale smell that he was gone. Another wolf- his scent unknown to me but with the same slight eucalyptus smell that linked Samuel’s pack- remained, probably to guard me. Strange, I thought I had met all of the pack. I could smell the stranger as he paced slowly around the house; he probably knew already that I was awake. Where had Samuel gone? My brain felt slow, sluggish, and there was something in the back of my mind that was trying to remind me of some forgotten matter. It was a frustrating feeling, and I knew it was something important. Something to do with why I was lying here in Samuel’s bed, naked and content. Something to do with why I was all alone in this house. Something… I sat up straight, the sheets falling to my lap and my head spinning so badly that I thought I would be sick. I pushed the nausea aside. Merrick. He was here, in Samuel’s territory, ready to offer a trade. Me, for Marie and the child. I was going to hand myself over and put a stop to all this madness. I was pretty sure Merrick would kill me now- he just couldn’t risk leaving me alive, not now that Samuel had so aggressively staked his claim on me. But if Samuel showed up with all his men and not me… Merrick’s men would kill Marie and her son Jacob. I had no doubt in my mind they would- not after what they’d done to Lawrence. They would make it a slow and painful death, and they would make sure everyone knew it. Merrick was deadly when he was this desperate. And Lawrence would not survive the death of his wife and child. My stomach wrenched at the thought of them hurting Marie and that poor baby boy.

I looked over at the luminous clock on Samuel’s wooden bedside table, and my heart missed several beats. It read 5:49. I counted back in my head; I’d been dead asleep for over eight hours. Impossible. I couldn’t have slept that long without waking, at least not without help. I suddenly remembered the stinging feeling on my back before I’d fallen asleep. I thought it had been a bee or a wasp even. A needle had never even crossed my mind. Samuel, he must have drugged me, to stop me from turning myself over to Merrick. Fury began to boil in my stomach at the betrayal, and I raged at myself. This is why you could never trust men. I was such a fool to let my guard down so badly. My chest felt so constricted that for a moment I thought I might hyperventilate. Calm down Lacey. Deal with this later. There are more important things to worry about. Lives are at stake. I took a deep breath and tried to shove my feelings aside for the moment. I could be angry at him later, when Marie and Jacob were safely home. When he was back at my side.  Merrick had demanded to meet at the small lake on Samuel’s property at six, an hour after the winter sundown. He wanted the cover of darkness as an advantage, but it was an advantage for Samuel as well. I didn’t trust it. Merrick’s men we good- all credit to my father of course- but Samuel’s men were better, faster, and stronger. And none if it would matter when Samuel showed up without me. This wouldn’t be a fair fight- Merrick didn’t play that way. His men would probably be armed to their canines, and I wouldn’t put it past him to kill Samuel if he had the chance. Samuel’s territory was much, much bigger than Merrick’s, and that would really grind on his nerves. Merrick wanted power, and killing Samuel was a quick way to get it. I didn’t care if Samuel thought his men were unstoppable fighters. Merrick was ruthless. He didn’t care about rules.

I tried to get out of the bed too quickly and got tangled in the sheets. I swore loudly as I fell in a very ungraceful, unladylike way to the floor. Obviously Samuel’s drugs were still in effect. My mind didn’t seem to be completely connected to my body, and a frustrated growl escaped my lips, resonating in the darkness. Samuel wanted to keep me safe, but it was my life to sacrifice, my mess to clean up. He wasn’t my Alpha, and he had no right to try and take my decision away from me. And as a mate? Well, he hadn’t really confirmed it after the confrontation with Jobe, apart from the sex. And I was starting to wonder if the sex had merely been a way to distract me, a way to slip me the drugs without me noticing. My heart hurt to think it as I sat naked on the cold floor, trying to reassemble my limbs. I felt groggy, and it wasn’t just from the sex. I managed to crawl along the cold floor to my discarded clothes, pulling them to me gratefully. At least he hadn’t hidden them. Maybe he just didn’t think I’d be awake in time. I looked to the window I had escaped from earlier and was crestfallen to see they had been chained and locked with silver. Yeah, he knew I would wake and that I would find him gone. I guess he figure taking my clothes as well would have been an added insult. Like I wasn’t already pissed off by the fact that he had knocked me out. I wasn’t imagining it- it was the same sense of detachment I’d had when I’d first woken up in his safe cells. My arms didn’t want to co-operate as I struggled to pull my shirt on over my head, and I let out another exasperated noise. The footsteps pacing the house suddenly stopped and I froze, straining my ears and nose to sense the one who was guarding me. Nothing. I shook my head; maybe it was the drugs. Damn it Samuel! How was I supposed to fight when I couldn’t even dress myself!? Damn it to hell!

It took a few long minutes of squirming and a lot of cursing under my breath before I was finally dressed. I sat with my back against the bed, panting slightly as I tried to figure out what to do next. This was going to be hard. I had to get to Merrick before he did something dangerous- like hurting Marie and Jacob or even Samuel and his men. But how? I doubted I could even fight my way past whoever was guarding me. I scrubbed a slightly numb hand across my eyes, trying to think. What about my power? Would it work even with my body still drugged? I wasn’t sure, but it couldn’t hurt to try. I straightened up and crossed my legs, placing my hands on my knees. I’d never called up the power without a reason. It was like adrenaline- it kicked it when I needed help. This was going to be a whole new experience for me.

I closed my eyes and called to my wolf. She was there, but just as sluggish as I was. I needed her to wake up if this was going to work, otherwise I was screwed. But she wasn’t interested- she was fully content staying with staying in her metaphysical cage for once. Come on, I urged, but she didn’t budge, and tears sprang in my eyes. More people were going to get hurt if I couldn’t do this. Lawrence would wake up and find himself without a wife and child. God knows what Merrick would do to them. Would she suffer like I’d suffered? Would they attack her and beat her just because of her powers? Yes, they would. And they would let us know it. I hated Merrick more than I ever had at that moment, and I had a sudden realisation that if he left Samuel’s territory with his captors, I would hunt him down and kill him. This had to stop. Before anyone else got hurt.

Oh god, he was meeting Samuel right now. Samuel was strong, but Merrick would kill him without a second thought. All it would take is a silver bullet to the brain or heart.

Something sparked in my wolf, and a jolt of power ran feebly through my body. She knew her mate was in danger, and that’s all it took for her to raise her head. I blinked furiously in the semi-darkness and tried to stand, falling to my knees hard enough to rattle the teeth inside my head. Come on! I yelled at myself, at my wolf, Samuel’s in danger!

A second spark ran through me, stronger than the first, and I managed to get unsteadily to my feet, my hands clinging to one of the wooden bed posts.

“Come on, you can do this!” I urged myself in a whisper, calling my wolf with all my mental strength, making my head spin with the effort. This time, she responded with a weak sounding howl that brought the power swirling once again around me. Good. It wasn’t strong, and I didn’t know how long it would last, but I managed to step away from the bed, stumbling a little until I made it to the door. Clutching the door frame, I took a deep breath, trying to catch the scent of the wolf guarding me. It certainly wasn’t anyone I’d met before, but still felt a little familiar in an ‘on-the-tip-of-my-tongue’ kind of way.

I made my way- so slowly- down the hall towards the living room and kitchen area. Nobody stopped me, in fact I couldn’t hear a sound. It worried me that somebody could hide from me this way. It may have been the drugs, but I wasn’t certain. I could still smell everything else around me; still hear the birds screeching in the trees that surrounded Samuel’s house. I actually made it to the front door without falling once, only to find that the doors were also locked and bound with silver. I hit the wooden frame with exasperation, thinking that maybe I could go around the locks and just break through the damn wall. I was seriously contemplating it when a small scuff sounded behind me.

“I don’t think Samuel would like it much if you wrecked his house, lass,” the man’s voice had a slight lilt to it, reminding me of somebody else. I whirled around to find myself almost face to face with an older man, so close that I would have to only reach out to touch him. He’d moved so fast! My head spun again without warning, forcing me to steady myself on the doorframe.

I gasped, “who the hell are you!”

The man smiled pleasantly, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners. They were bright, almost as bright as Samuel’s…

“You’re your father’s daughter, all right,” he studied me curiously, taking in my dishevelled appearance with one quick sweep of his gaze, “you’ve got his spirit. Those eyes though…” he sighed, and it sounded sad in my ears, “you poor girl. I did warn him. He never took much notice of anyone else back then though.”

“What are you talking about?” I was confused. Who was this man, and how did he know who I was? How did he know my father?

“I apologise, Miss Corvell,” he actually bowed, until I could see the back of his head and that his hair was a dulled red. It was also a gesture of respect, though why he did it I had no idea. I didn’t even know the man.

“Look,” I was getting impatient, “I have to go. Can you let me out?”

He shook his head, “Samuel wants you safe. He will take care of the problems.”

A low growl sounded, and I realised it was coming from me, “I have to go, really… they’re all in danger, you don’t know what my old pack is like.”

The man chuckled and turned his back on me, “my son will take care of it. You may as well preserve your energy. I’m not letting you out.”

Anger hit me so suddenly that I didn’t even register his words. The drugs were actually starting to wear off- thanks to my fast metabolism- and my wolf was awakening faster than I was. My power struck out at him with full force, and my voice was distorted when I snarled, “let me out or I’ll break down the damn walls.”

He turned around, seemingly unaffected. That annoyed me. More power flowed through me and I flung it at him, wanting to see him flinch. He didn’t. Instead, he smiled again at me, though this time it was somewhat cold and didn’t reach his eyes.

“Where do you think he gets his powers from, dear girl?” he said steadily, and hit back with his own.

At first I didn’t even know what had happened. My senses were so overloaded that I felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing. Up was down and down was up. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t breathe. My wolf was cowering, a whimper sounding in my head. And then it was gone.

I realised I was on the floor, the wooden floorboards cool against my cheek. Slowly my senses came back to me, and I realised a hand was being held out for me to take it. I stared at it, my mind not really comprehending what I was seeing. My stomach flipped unpleasantly, and for a moment I thought I would be sick. Then a pair of eyes replaced the hand, so bright and blue that I thought for a moment that Samuel had returned. No, my mind told me, it’s his father.

“I told him half the regular dose of tranquiliser would be enough,” the voice boomed in my skull, making me cower and put my hands over my ears, “Sorry about that, lass. I didn’t know he’d given you so much.”

“What did you do?” I gasped, having trouble getting air into my lungs. The eyes looked concerned, and I was reminded again of Samuel. But his scent reminded me of someone else, too.

“I gave you a little taste of my power in return for yours. Really lass, you should have more control of your temper. But then… your father was the same.”

“You knew my father,” I said softly, closing my eyes, “he’s dead.”

There was silence for a moment, wonderful silence.

“I know, lass. He was a good man, despite his flaws. I’m sorry.”

I groaned as his words hit me like a sledgehammer, “what did you do to me?”

The man chuckled a little, “why, you don’t think you’re the only one with power, do you? Never underestimate someone, even if they appear weak. They could just be shielding their powers.”

“Like Samuel.”

“He learned from the best.”

Samuel. He was in trouble. Of that I was certain. I could feel it like a weight in my stomach.

“I have to go help, Samuel’s in trouble,” I tried to grab the man, shake him until he realised I was right, but my hand hit air and then fell to the ground with a loud thump.

“He can take care of himself,” he soothed, “come lass, let’s get you back to bed so you can sleep this off. I may have been a little enthusiastic with my power.”

“No!” I shrieked suddenly when he touched me, “you don’t know Merrick! He has silver bullets! He will shoot your son!”

At that moment, pain hit me in my right shoulder, so hard that it felt like I’d been shot. I yelled a bunch of curses as something burned in my skin, in my flesh. Oh god, it hurt. Make it stop, please make it stop!

Samuel’s father was holding me down, ripping the sleeve of my shirt to try and see where I was injured. When his hands came back clean and unbloodied, he paled a little.

“You’re paired with my son, aren’t you?”

I nodded through the pain, “yes,” I said through clenched teeth, “believe me now?”

He didn’t answer, just placed a cold hand against my now-feverish forehead, “stay still for a moment while I do this.”

“Do what?” I began, but the man’s power washed over me again. This time, however, it wasn’t painful. It ran gently through my veins, soothing me and taking away all the hurt. I closed my eyes, relaxed, as my mind began to clear and the drugs vanished from my system. God, this man was strong. How much was Samuel hiding?

His hand left me, and with it the cool touch of his power, “feel better?” he asked, and now there was urgency in his tone.

“My shoulder still hurts,” I rubbed the spot gently, cringing. There was no bruise, not even a tiny scratch, and yet it hurt so much.

“Samuel’s been shot,” his father pulled me to my feet, trying to avoid my shoulder, “you’re feeling his pain- sharing it actually- it’s what happens when you’re paired. It’s so if one of you is injured in a life-threatening way, you can survive because half of what you feel is passed on to your mate.”

My breath caught in my throat, “we have to go!”

He began undoing the silver chains on the front door, “would you listen to me if I told you to stay?”

“No way.”

He chuckled, “I didn’t think so. Samuel is going to have his work cut out for him with you.”

My hands on my hips, I opened my mouth to retaliate, but at that moment he freed the doors from the silver and flung them open. Cool night air rushed in, but I didn’t stop to enjoy it as fur began to sprout all over the man’s skin. He was shifting. Better to do it now than wait until we were closer to Merrick- he might not sense us this far away. Not even pausing to shake out my fur, I followed his huge dark form. Though his hair had been red, his wolf’s fur looked like ink in the darkness. I had to pick up my pace just to keep at his hind legs, he was so fast. No wonder Samuel was so strong. I was actually afraid of his father’s powers, keeping my posture submissive as we ran through trees and jumped over logs and slight ditches, my claws scraping the dry earth. I was strong, and I was fast- faster than most- but even I struggled to keep up with him. We had only run for five minutes before I was panting, my tongue lolling out of my mouth.

Thankfully he soon slowed, his paws making no sound as he stalked in what had to be the direction of the meeting. I tried to mimic his silence, the graceful way he moved without jostling a single leaf or blade of grass, but no matter how hard I tried I looked like a clumsy pup in comparison. When all this was over, I had some serious training to do.

Voices reached my ears as we got closer, and Samuel’s father looked at me, the order clear in his eyes. I was to stay behind him at all times. I dipped my muzzle in understanding and he gave a satisfied huff before slowly creeping forward again.

A man stood in front of us, completely hidden by the bushes as he waited, his gun trained on someone I couldn’t see. Ambush, I thought, but before I could act Samuel’s father was on him, knocking the man in unconsciousness before he could make a sound. He was fast. I hadn’t even seen him coming. Neither, obviously, had the man. I neared him and nudged the limp form with my nose, recognising the scent. Alex. Another omega. He was one of Jobe’s friends, and he smelled like old blood. I wondered if Merrick had tortured him to make him do this. Omega’s would never kill so coldly, so ruthlessly, unless someone was after their loved ones. Merrick was crossing a big line here. If it got out that he was forcing Omega’s to go against their nature, he would be in big trouble. But if I got to him now, that wouldn’t matter. And I had every intention of taking him out here and now.

I was actually looking forward to it.





Samuel’s father and I continued on, circling the perimeter. Aside from Alex, we found only two other wolves waiting in ambush. We- well, by ‘we’ I mean Samuel’s father- took them out and dragged them together in a little pile. I don’t know what he’d done to them, but they were not waking up anytime soon, one even had a trickle of blood oozing from his ear. I felt sorry for them. All three of them were Omega wolves. Where were the other dominants? Had Merrick chased them away? Or had they left of their own accord?

The voices grew louder as we circled closer, Merrick’s yelling crystal clear in the silence.

“I told you to bring the bitch to me!” he shrieked, making me cringe. I was going to hand myself over to this man? Yes, yes I was. To save the others.

“She’s gone,” Samuel’s voice was calm, but I could feel the pain in his words. I could feel the throb in my shoulder as though I’d been shot. I couldn’t see him yet, and I was growing impatient with his father’s procrastination. I darted closer when the older wolf wasn’t paying attention, slipping through the trees until I found myself staring at Merrick’s back. I licked my muzzle eagerly. This was it. Merrick stood with Theo, his second in command, on his left side. Theo didn’t want to be there. He’d always been loyal to Merrick but he could see the man was losing it. He’d resigned himself to stay with him until he was dead. I shook my head, surprised. I was getting those weird feelings again, and I gazed at Theo’s hunched, stocky form, feeling a little pleased. Merrick was killing the pack- Kane had been speaking the truth. Justin and Ramirez however, well they had no problem. They were killers, just like Merrick. They both stood to his right; Ramirez had a gun and was pointing it at Samuel, his finger on the trigger. Shit.

At least Samuel was still standing, Steele and Clem by his side and no Bromley in sight. I desperately hoped Bromley had found Marie and Jacob and gotten the hell out of there. If everything went to hell now, they’d at least be out of the firing line.

I looked at Samuel more closely, and if I could have frowned I would have. I could smell the blood oozing from Samuel’s shoulder, but that wasn’t what I was concerned about. It was the night of the full moon, and Samuel was actually struggling for control. I didn’t know whether it was from the silver in his system, but if he started to shift he would be dead. The gun trained on him made that a certainty.

“How stupid do you think I am?” Merrick continued, and though I couldn’t see his face I could hear the smugness in his voice, “I can sense her in your territory. Where are you hiding her?”

Samuel caught my gaze, his jaw clenching a little. He shook his head, telling me to stay, and with a nod from Merrick, Ramirez fired the gun. It hit him in the thigh this time, and I fought to keep from yelping as the pain hit me as well. Samuel managed to stand his ground though, perspiration breaking out in little droplets on his forehead despite the winter chill in the air. Merrick, you bastard, I cursed silently, creeping forward a little more. Something nipped at my heels, and the scent of Bromley filled my nose, soothing my anger just a little. I turned to find that he was a little roughened up- a gash was red and bloody across his muzzle and he was limping slightly- but otherwise he seemed okay. Samuel’s father was behind him, glaring at me with those big blue eyes. Oh well. Let him be angry at me. But later. I jerked my head towards Samuel and he nodded, a little bit of panic showing in that gaze.

Without warning them, I made up my mind and started shifting back to human.

I heard Merrick laughing happily as I changed, “she’s come to me! I knew she couldn’t stay away! Ike, Jim! Grab her!”

No one moved, and Bromley gave a pleased huff. Looking at his injuries, part of me wondered what Ike and Jimmy looked like.

“Ike!” Merrick shrieked, losing some of his control, “You and Jim better get out here or I swear I’ll bind you with silver so tightly it will burn you to your bones!”

Still no one moved; Justin and Ramirez looking around with confusion. Bromley licked my hand and grinned, his huge teeth glistening and still a little covered in blood that wasn’t his.

Merrick was growing desperate; I could taste it in the air. His plan was going to hell, and there was nothing he could do about it. Snatching the gun from Ramirez, he pointed it at Samuel and fired again.

Samuel went down- and I nearly did too, feeling like someone had smashed my kneecap into a thousand pieces. He was alive though. But not for long if I didn’t do something.

“They’re silver bullets, Lacey,” Merrick called, “want to see how many I can put in him? Come out now, or I’ll do it again.”

I didn’t even hesitate. I stepped from the bushes, fully human, my hands raised up to show that I had no weapons. Merrick turned to face me, his blue-green eyes full of delight and something much darker. It sickened me to think he shared the same blood with Jobe. The brothers were nothing alike. This man was just evil.

“So glad you could join the fun,” he drawled, taking me roughly by the arm and dragging me forward. I didn’t struggle. I didn’t want to do anything that would give him an excuse to shoot Samuel again.

Merrick pulled me closer to him and I tried desperately not to shiver with revulsion. He truly sickened me. Samuel caught my gaze, his eyes full of defiance, and I nodded in understanding. Merrick hadn’t won just yet. Not by a long shot.

“Your guards are gone, Merrick,” I said smugly, “so are the omega’s you set in ambush. Let them go, and I’ll come home. Willingly.”

Samuel growled, but Merrick pointed his gun and he fell silent, “oh, I was right about you. So much power in that little body of yours,” his hand skimmed over me, making me grit my teeth, “the omega’s wouldn’t have been much of a fight, but I knew you were more than special when you got away from my little goodbye party.”

He didn’t even care that his wolves were hurt. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to knock that sneer off his face so hard his head rolled off. Not yet, I told myself, just wait a little more.

“I hope there are no hard feelings?” he chuckled, “you are to be my mate after all. I can’t have you running off on me all the time. Justin, Ramirez- circle the perimeter and make sure Ike is being careful with the prisoners. Bring them to me- I want the Alpha to see what I stole from right under his nose.”

I breathed slowly through my teeth as the two men vanished, hoping they got what they deserved when they came across Bromley and Samuel’s father, “anything you want, Merrick. Just let them go.”

Merrick handed the gun to Theo and out of my reach, as if he expected me to grab it. No, I think I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. It would be a lot more satisfying.

He continued to pin me against his body, practically groping me as I struggled not to move. He pulled my hair off my neck nuzzled the exposed skin there, but I was too repulsed to find it pleasurable in the slightest. I caught Theo’s eyes and he looked away, embarrassed. He was disgusted in his Alpha. Revolted.

Samuel was fighting a different kind of emotion. Seeing Merrick’s hands ravage me was tearing at his control, and any moment I expected him to lunge at us. His eyes widened as Merrick licked a long, slow line from my collarbone to my earlobe.

Merrick froze. Then a low, furious growl emerged from his throat and suddenly I was flung to the ground.

“You little bitch,” he spat, kicking me hard in the stomach, “been busy with another wolf, have you?” He kicked me again, and this time a sound escaped my lips. It seemed to incite him further, and he pulled me up from my hair so that I was on my knees. I could barely breathe; he had kicked me so hard. I only had a moment to recover before he backhanded me across the face, making me fall into the ground again. I tasted blood, but I didn’t attempt to check whether my lips were cut. Moving would only make him angrier- I knew that from experience.

“Who’d you pair with?” he kicked me again and I took it, trying not to make a sound. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Steele take a step forward, and I tried to tell him to stop. But Merrick saw, and gun in hand again he turned on Steele, “is this him?” he shouted at me, “did you fuck him, Lacey? Or maybe you got all three of them?” his gun shifted from Steele, to Clem, to Samuel and back again, “I always said you were a teasing little whore.”

He went to kick me again, and this time I couldn’t help but flinch away from him. He grabbed my arm and wrenched me upright, breaking it in the process. I couldn’t help it; I cried out in pain. Merrick smiled, “that’s what I like to hear. Do it again. Come on,” he twisted it harder and my head spun, my legs going weak and no longer able to support my weight. Merrick dropped me, disgusted. I clutched my arm to my chest, trying to breathe as pain lanced through me.

“I’m disappointed in you, Lacey. They told me you put up a good fight. I don’t think I’ll keep you after all. Once I have your power, I’ll put you to sleep,” he chuckled, “of course, I have to deal with this pairing problem first. Maybe I should just kill all three of them to be careful.”

“Uh… boss?” Justin’s voice came from behind us, and we turned to find him emerging from the bushes, a little battered, Bromley’s huge form close behind him. Ramirez hadn’t fared much better; Samuel’s father was nipping him hard enough to draw blood every the man stopped moving.

Merrick looked shocked for a moment before swinging his attention back to Samuel, “I said no pack!” he hissed, “now I’ll kill all of you!”

His gun went off the same time Samuel lunged for him. I didn’t see if the bullet hit, because suddenly Theo was in front of me, his claws extended as he began to change. I felt sorry for him. He had no choice. If he didn’t take me down now, Merrick would punish him later. He attacked; swiping at me with hands that were now paws the size of my face. I dodged, too bruised and weak to attempt to bring my power forward, too weak to even shift. And then he was gone.

I looked around, confused, to find Theo lying on the ground. Bromley was hunched over him, his teeth bared and bloody. Theo was dead. He was dead.

I looked around, my heart racing as I spotted Steele, on the ground and bleeding from a chest wound. Merrick had shot him, but he’d missed his heart. He was still alive; Bromley stood over him protectively as Ramirez approached. Clem was exchanging blows with Justin, Samuel’s father in the background, ready to step in if needed. I couldn’t find Samuel, panicking until I realised that he was the giant wolf that Merrick was trying to fend off with the gun. It went off again with a loud bang that reverberated through the trees as Samuel lunged again.

“Theo! Get over here,” Merrick yelled, his voice full of panic. He wasn’t a fighter, he never had been. I saw the realisation of his lose in his eyes as he shot Samuel again, point blank, before turning tail and bolting into the trees. Samuel sat on his haunches, shaking his head, and I sighed in relief. He was okay. And soon, Merrick wouldn’t be. I chased after him, my wolf’s prey driving instinct kicking in. Now that his sole protector was… gone… panic was clear on Merrick’s face through the blood that gushed from a scalp wound. Justin looked worse when he emerged from Merrick’s left; his arm dangled at his side and I could see a glint of bone through a cut on his leg. What about Ramirez? It didn’t matter. I chased them, dodging bullets as Merrick fired at me. I didn’t care when a bullet hit my side, sending pain up through my ribs- I wanted Merrick and I was going to end this all right now, no matter what. They reached a dark car half-concealed by trees and scrambled to get in, a shout from me sending them into a frenzy. They were afraid of me. Good. I stalked towards them, enjoying the panicked look on their faces as they couldn’t get the car to start. That’s right; Ramirez was the driver. Looks like they weren’t going anywhere. I grinned, showing teeth.

Something hit me sideways and I rolled, gasping, my bullet wound sending paralysing waves of pain through me. I could barely room. Ramirez, I could smell him on me. Son of a bitch! All I could do was lie there in the dirt and try to breath as Merrick took one more shot at me- missed- and got into the car, the tires squealing against the dirt as the it sped away from me, from my grasp.

“No!” I screamed into the night, “Get back here you bastards!”

But of course, they didn’t.



I sat in the dirt for a while, looking in the direction the car had vanished. They’d gotten away. They’d gotten away. I was meant to stop them, meant to enact my revenge. Meant to end this, so that no more people would get hurt. I cried silently to myself, my broken arm throbbing and my side spilling blood in tiny gushes that were in sync with my heart beat. I couldn’t stay here now. I had to leave this place until I could find Merrick and kill him. Otherwise he would be back. I knew he would. And now that he knew I was paired, he’d go after the men as well. Samuel. Steele. Bromley. Clem. I was even afraid for Lucas, despite his clear dislike of me. What a mess I’d made. What a complete and utter mess.

I smelled Samuel before his wet nose nudged my tearstained cheeks. He’d shifted, and in his wolf form he was almost identical to his father. Aside from his scent, the only difference was in the eyes. The same bright blue, but Samuel’s held a possession of me, held concern and caring as he looked me over, growling at my broken arm and bullet wound. I kept crying. The image of Theo’s headless body emerged in my mind to become a permanent stain in my memory. He hadn’t wanted to be there. Bromley had just been protecting me. What a mess… what a fucking mess.

Samuel tried to comfort me, but it was a little difficult since he was a humongous wolf without hands and a mouth full of teeth. But… what about the silver? He shouldn’t have been able to shift after being shot so many times. I ran my one working hand through his fur, finding that the bullets were still in his body, only he’d healed over them. Like I nearly had when Ramirez had shot me.

I startled when huge shapes emerged from the darkness, but it was Samuel’s men. Samuel didn’t seem to realise though; he planted himself in front of me, his hackled raised and teeth bared.

“Samuel,” I tugged at his fur, “it’s okay; it’s just Bromley and the others.”

He didn’t seem to hear me, a warning growl ripping from his throat when Steele took a step towards as.

“What’s the matter with him?” I asked, feeling stupid when I realised they were all in wolf form. When Samuel’s father stepped through the trees, fully human, I sighed with relief. Samuel still didn’t calm down though, snarling at the man as though he was the enemy.

“His wolf is in control, and he’s guarding you,” the man said calmly, “this happens to him if he gets too injured. We need to get those bullets out of the both of you. Do you think you can coax him into walking to the doctor’s quarters? Lillian and Forster are there waiting to treat you.”

I looked at Samuel, “he doesn’t seem to hear me.”

“Stand up if you can, I’m pretty sure he will follow you.”

I stood, wincing as every muscle, every bone ached. Samuel huffed disapprovingly, his wet nose nudging me again when I tried to walk.

I patted him on his muzzle, “its okay,” I said numbly, “we have to go home so they can take the bullets out of us,” I gestured to my side where I was still bleeding, “you can’t heal me with claws.”

He huffed again, but seemed to understand what I meant. He nudged me forward and I followed the others back, resting against Samuel when the dizziness got the better of me.

It seemed to take forever to get back to Samuel’s little cabins, Dr Lillian and Dr Forster waiting outside of the building I’d thought of as a little hospital. I was exhausted, and so was Samuel. His head drooped and his paws dragged on the ground as he walked. When they tried to separate us he began to snap and snarl again, but his father intervened and used his power to soothe him into submission. He was given to Dr Forster, and I got Dr Lillian. She smiled wryly as she helped me up onto a gurney, since I could only use one of my arms.

“Are we going to make this a habit?” the slight lilt in her voice warmed me, “because I think Samuel should pay me more if we are.”

“Not if I can help it,” I sighed, closing my eyes as she injected me with something to stop the pain and began to dig around in my side for the bullet.

She chuckled, “I think you’re just one of those people, dear. You can’t help it. Trouble just seems to find you.”

The painkillers were starting to slow my brain, but I suddenly knew where I recognised the lilt in her voice, “You’re related to Samuel?” I mumbled, wincing a little as the bullet popped from of my skin, “You sound like his dad.”

She hesitated for a second, “his aunt.”

I tried to make sense of that, “but his dad is at least as old as mine, and he was nearly a century and a half old. How can that be possible?”

She sighed, “you probably won’t remember this when you wake up, but I don’t carry the full lycanthrope strain. I was born to full blooded parents, but somehow the virus morphed in my DNA, and I ended up with half of the werewolf traits instead of all.”

I blinked, the room a blur around me that I couldn’t focus on anything, “that’s why you smell human? You can’t shift? But you age slowly?”

“Very good,” she replied in answer, and I felt the slight tug of a stitching needle, “these stitches will fall out once you heal, but for the moment they’re holding the skin together. I had to cut you open just to get the bullet.”

“Does it run in the family?” my voice sounded strange in my ears, and I found I couldn’t lift my arms.

“Rest, Lacey,” she urged, “You need it.”

That was a pretty good idea, actually.





We drove towards the city in complete silence, the sun still rising in the sky. Not even the radio was on to ease the awkward tension between us. Just me and Samuel, with nothing but the knowledge of all that had happened in the last few days. It had felt like weeks. And yet, it hadn’t nearly been enough time with him and his wolf. I know it was stupid, becoming attached to someone I barely knew, but apparently that’s how it is with us werewolves. My father had never told me. I turned to the window of Samuel’s truck, concentrating on holding back tears for the millionth time that morning. My reflection was almost unrecognisable in the glass of the window. Earlier that morning Lillian had helped me cut off most of my hair, and it was tied back in a very neat bun. It was very unlike me. I was also contacts- a deep brown colour- to hide the true colours of my mismatched eyes. I was even wearing perfume Lillian had given me to hide my scent a little. I knew my old pack rarely ventured into the city, preferring to stay on the south side, but things could change now Merrick had lost his second and was now so very vulnerable. Samuel thought it a necessary precaution to disguise myself, in case any of Merrick’s wolves wandered into the city, and since he’d argued with me about leaving I decided to do whatever he wanted to make him feel like he was in control. I’d fought him though when he’d suggested taking Steele as a guard; I had made enough of a mess in the pack already. So I let Samuel convince me to change my appearance. Of course, he would have preferred it if I stayed in his territory, but Merrick would be back to try to kill me again, and when he did I couldn’t be near anyone else that he could hurt. Even if my wolf saw him as her mate, I couldn’t burden him any longer. I wouldn’t.

Samuel sighed, his gazed fixed on the road ahead, “there’s nothing I can do to convince you?” his voice was empty, flat. Not like him at all.

I swallowed, “it isn’t safe until Merrick is out of the picture. Once he is….” I trailed off. Maybe Samuel wouldn’t want to wait. Maybe I was screwing up the best thing that had ever happened to me.

“Damn it, Lacey. I can protect you. Have some faith.”

“You said it yourself; you can’t protect your pack and me at the same time. I will come back. I will. I have to. Unless you ever change your mind…”

He shot me an exasperated look, “we’re paired now. Your pain is my pain. I thought that would be evident by now.”

I blinked back tears, “it’s just until I can make sure no harm will come to your pack whenever I’m near them. I’ll let Merrick know that I’m back; it won’t take long for him to find me.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he let out a whoosh of air, “he’s not stable. He won’t fight fair. I saw what he did to you,” his words cut off as he gripped the steering wheel, “I can help you. And if you come back with me, you can talk to my father about why you inherited so much power. You forgot to ask him. He wouldn’t tell me.”

I let out a dry laugh, “I was kind of busy. I’m sorry, Samuel. Please, let me do this.”

The pain so clear on his face made my heart wrench. I was hurting him, but by staying I would be responsible for much worse. They’d pulled five bullets from his body. Five. They only reason he’d survived is because he had me to share it with. Otherwise he would be dead. Like Theo.

“What will happen to Kane?” I asked suddenly, reminded by the image of Theo’s body in my mind, “I made him a deal, you know.”

Samuel sighed again, “I know, and I will honour it. I will tell him to tell Merrick that we killed his omegas and his two dominants in retaliation for their crimes.”

I blinked, “What will really happen to them?”

“They want to be pack. They are not bad men. They don’t want to be tortured anymore.”

I looked out the window and fell silent. We were nearing the city now; I could see the gathering of tall buildings growing larger as we inched closer. I guess I hadn’t been the only one unwilling to be subservient to Merrick. I wondered what he would do if he ever found out Samuel had taken five of his pack. And then I hoped he never did.

“And Marie?” I asked softly, “how is she? I didn’t get to see them before I left.”

Samuel took his hand off the wheel and gently squeezed mine, “well you were so intent on leaving straight away. You could have waited. We can go back.”

When I didn’t speak, he sighed again and put his hand back on the wheel. I immediately missed the warmth of his touch. I didn’t say anything. This was hard enough already.

“Marie and Jacob are perfectly healthy. Everybody is safe, and no one else was hurt.”


We didn’t say a word to each other for the rest of the drive. Brisbane City was a busy place; so much traffic around me, and not just on the roads. People crowded the sidewalks, making me cringe inwardly. Wolves didn’t like the hustle and bustle of the more populated areas. It made us nervous.

When Samuel found a park, we sat there for a moment, and I found I couldn’t even look at him. I kept telling myself it was only for a little while, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

He cleared his throat, “do you want me to walk you to…”

“No, its okay,” I said quickly, trying to slow my heart down, “thank you again for finding it for me on such short notice…”

“It’s small, and I only stayed there a few times when I was younger. I knew it would come in handy one day.”

I nodded, looking at my hands in my lap. I didn’t want to go. I knew if I stayed I would be endangering him, but god help me I wanted to be a little selfish. My wolf agreed.

“Before you go… I got something for you.”

Despair hit me in the stomach, “Samuel… you didn’t have to do that.”

“Here,” he interrupted me, pulling something out of his pocket and slipping it into my hands. It was a little blue box the size of my palm. I stared at it, not knowing what to say.

“Open it later when… if you want to that is.”

I nodded, leaning across to him so I could kiss him, gently, knowing that if I started I wouldn’t want to stop.

“Thank you.”

Before I could change my mind, I reached for the door handle and swung myself down out of the truck. It was early in the morning, and still people bumped into me as they passed me on the sidewalk. That was going to get old very fast.

I closed the door, hoisting my bag on my shoulder and turning to give Samuel one last look. His face was pained, “Lacey, you don’t have to do this. I can take you home right now, and we can pretend this was just some horrible nightmare. The pack wants you. I want you.”

I smiled sadly, my eyes once again stinging with tears, “You know why I have to do this. As long as I’m near them, your pack will be in danger. You will be in danger. I have too much power for my own good, and Merrick isn’t going to stop until he has his share of it,” I sighed, my heart wrenching in my chest. I so badly wanted to get back in his truck, wanted him to take me back to that pretty house in the middle of nowhere, where the stars shone brighter than anything any human could create.

I forced myself to turn away from his eyes, clutching the box in my hand, “I’ll see you soon, Samuel.”

I walked away from him and into the bustling stream of people on the sidewalk. None of them noticed the tears running down my face. I didn’t look back.





The apartment Samuel had found for me was small, little more than a room with a bathroom and a small kitchenette added as an afterthought. A layer of dust covered everything, including the stale scent of Samuel, and already my too-keen hearing detected sounds of life from the apartments next to mine. Still, it was more than I could ever ask for, and I was grateful. I had left my old pack with no money to my name, and while he was desperate to stop me from leaving, he wouldn’t face the idea of me living on the street. So here I was. I’d spent the day roaming the city, trying to keep my mind off of everything as I took in everything from a busking band to a mime that followed people around. Now it was night, and though I was a werewolf, I didn’t feel safe being out there all alone. I know, I was paranoid. So what?

I’d dumped my bag onto the exposed mattress of the old metal framed bed earlier and now I looked around, breathing in the scent of the place. This place was mine for now, and yet it wasn’t home. It never would be. No, my home was wherever Samuel and his wolf waited, willing my return. I pulled the little blue box from where I’d placed it in my bag, and now looked at it curiously in my hands. With a deep sigh I opened it.

Inside was a little note; ‘It’s pewter, not silver’ it said in scrawled block letters. I lifted the little piece of paper to find a pretty little pendant and chain. The pendant was in the figure of a wolf. I touched it tentatively and felt my chest tighten painfully. My wolf was already pining for her mate, but it just couldn’t happen. God knows I had put Samuel’s pack through more than enough already. I had to stay away until Merrick was dead. I had to.

I moved to the only window in the room and pushed it open, relishing the fresh night air that spilled inside with the bright rays of the waning moon. Below me, strangers bustled past in a world so very separate from mine, some so intoxicated that they had trouble finding their way along the path. Car horns beeped, music pumped, people yelled. And yet I felt so very apart from it. Alone. Again.

I gently pulled the necklace from its box and let it fall into the palm of my hand. The little wolf stared up at me, its blue eyes glittering and making my heart wrench again in memory of Samuel. I wanted to put it on, but tonight I would sleep in wolf form, and the delicate chain would snap during the change. I placed the necklace on the patch of floor that was illuminated with moonlight from the open window, and shifted.

I felt warmer, safer in my wolf form. Curled up in the little patch of moonlight, I also felt more connected with Samuel. I could feel his power caress mine with ghostly fingertips. Feel his wolf touch my own.

I smiled to myself and closed my eyes, settling down with my muzzle on my front paws. I would see him again, and soon. It wouldn’t be so bad.

Merrick, I vowed to myself, you’re a dead man.


In the distance, a dog howled.











Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this journey. Without all those kind words of encouragement I would have given up on my dream a long time ago. Also to all those who took the time to read my drafts and offer feedback, it helped a lot. Special thanks to Katya Gladiadis for understanding what it’s like to be a writer, and for all her advice. Also to Jasmine Dunn, just because she understands how my mind works and is always there when I need to vent. Thanks to Charlene Woodcock for the wonderful cover art she made for me.

Thanks to my family and especially to my mum for letting have the time to work on this and fulfil my dream so early in life.









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