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Choose Me or Lose Me

From the author of The Wolf Wars!

Megan Russell wants to backpack in Australia before college, but her dad convinces her to visit her ex-stepmom Maria in rural America instead. As close as the two are, Maria is hiding a HUGE secret from Megan, and it has something to do with why she’s forbidden Megan from entering the woods surrounding her house. When Megan accidentally wanders into those woods, she discovers a world beyond her wildest imagination—not to mention a gorgeous yet terrifying man who can’t take his eyes off her.

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Abuse, Violence)

Warning: this book contains material that may be considered upsetting or disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

 

Choose Me or Lose Me by Michelle Torlot is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

Summary

From the author of The Wolf Wars!

Megan Russell wants to backpack in Australia before college, but her dad convinces her to visit her ex-stepmom Maria in rural America instead. As close as the two are, Maria is hiding a HUGE secret from Megan, and it has something to do with why she’s forbidden Megan from entering the woods surrounding her house. When Megan accidentally wanders into those woods, she discovers a world beyond her wildest imagination—not to mention a gorgeous yet terrifying man who can’t take his eyes off her.

Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Abuse, Violence)

Warning: this book contains material that may be considered upsetting or disturbing.

Reader discretion is advised.

Original Author: Michelle Torlot

Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

When I woke, this wasn’t where I expected to be. If I was honest I didn’t expect to wake up at all.

My face was resting on something hard and cold. Stone or concrete. I gingerly opened my eyes, taking in my surroundings. It was a square room. The walls were solid concrete as well as the floor.

Except for a small window near the ceiling, which wasn’t actually a window at all, but bars. The door was similar, made of thick metal bars. A cell of some description.

I should have listened to my step-mum. If I had, I wouldn’t have ended up here.

It had been a long trip. Cooped up in a plane for over eight hours, then another four hours by bus. It had been my dads idea. I was going to take a gap year after before.

I’d wanted to go backpacking round Australia, but my dad wasn’t keen. Instead he suggested a trip to see Maria, my step-mum. We’d always got on great. Maria was American.

When they first met, they were hopelessly in love. But Maria didn’t adapt well to city life. She was used to the big outdoors, mountains and forests. She begged my Dad to go back with her.

He was always a city person. Star-crossed lovers he would say. They still loved each other, I was sure. They just couldn’t be together.

When they separated I kept in touch with Maria, she was the only mother I had ever known. She kept asking me to visit, so when my dad suggested this she jumped at the opportunity.

They even shared the cost of the fare. The first thing they had agreed on in years.

When I finally arrived, I really wanted some fresh air. Maria agreed, but made me promise to stay clear of the woods. I didn’t know why, but I agreed anyway.

I just wanted to stretch my legs for ten minutes anyway.

As usual I got distracted, I heard the sound of a stream so I decided to investigate. I hadn’t gone very far into the woods when I realised, and was about to head back.

That was when I heard a growl behind me. I wasn’t sure what it was, you don’t get many growly animals in suburban England.

Glancing over my shoulder I had seen a massive grey wolf. I kind of freaked. I’d seen pictures of wolves and TV programmes but they were never as huge at this. I shrieked and ran for my life.

I didn’t get far before I felt something crash into my back, sending me flying to the floor. I let out a sob as I felt warm breath on my neck, and heard another growl.

It felt like a heavy weight was pressing on my back. It didn’t take a genius to realise that I was pinned down by the massive wolf.

That wasn’t the worst of it. I lay on the ground with my cheek resting in the soil. I could barely breath due to the pressure on my back and my panic.

That was only made worse when I saw another wolf out the corner of my eye. This one was huge as well, but was a dark brown colour. I let out a sob, and screwed my eyes shut.

They would have stayed shut if I hadn’t heard an almighty crack. When I opened them I saw two large bare feet where previously the wolf had been.

Glancing upwards I realised the man was naked, not only that but huge, at least six and half foot, with muscles the like I had never seen.

My mind struggled to comprehend what I was seeing. So it shut down. My eyes rolled in the back of my head and I welcomed the darkness.

Now I lay on the cold concrete floor trembling. Not with cold, I kind of welcomed that I could feel something like that. It grounded me. The realisation of what I had seen, what I thought I had seen.

Then heard footsteps, I closed my eyes. I couldn’t bear to look. Afraid of what I might see. They stopped outside the door. I took in a breath and held it, hoping that whoever it was would go.

Then I heard footsteps again, they were retreating. Who ever it was, or whatever it was had walked away.

I let out the breath I had been holding and opened my eyes. There was no one outside the door. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath.

I was too close to the door for my liking, so I scooted as quietly as I could to the farthest corner of the cell.

As I leaned against the wall I winced. My back hurt, it felt hot, the coolness of the cold wall on my bare skin eased the pain. I hoped it was just bruised.

I shouldn’t have been surprised after having half a ton of wolf on my back. Yes it was definitely a wolf, just a wolf, nothing else. I tried to convince myself.

But I knew what I’d seen, I couldn’t unsee it. I was just trying to convince myself that I’d imagined it. In reality I knew I hadn’t. Normal wolves didn’t drag you into a cell.

I pressed my knees into my chest and wrapped my arms around them in an attempt to stop me from trembling, it didn’t work.

I was still wearing the clothes I had travelled in. Cut off jeans, a crop top and some trainers. If I’d been wearing something more substantial, maybe my back wouldn’t have been hurt so bad.

I pressed myself a little harder against the wall, ignoring the pain, when I heard the footsteps returning. I couldn’t see much, just a huge silhouette of a man against the barred door.

Then I heard the footsteps retreating once again. I glanced up and who ever had been there was gone.

I unwrapped my arms from around my legs and let them slide down. I wrapped my arms around my chest, to try and ease the pain I was feeling in my chest.

“Breath Megan,” I whispered to myself, as I closed my eyes.

They quickly snapped open when I heard the sound of metal scraping. I quickly put my hand over my mouth to stop myself from screaming.

I stared at the man who entered the cell, silently praying that he wouldn’t get any closer. He was massive. I knew I wasn’t very tall but he towered over me.

He was completely dressed in black, his tight fitting tee-shirt showed his bulging muscles. He could have snapped me in two with a flick of his wrist.

I ignored the pain in my back as I pressed myself hard against the concrete wall.

He looked at me and frowned. I immediately looked at the floor.

I heard him sniff the air.

“Food,” he huffed, as he put a metal tray on the floor next to the door. Then I heard the sound of the door scraping closed and a loud click.

I didn’t look up until I heard the sound of his footsteps retreating.

I had no idea how long I had been here. I’d arrived at Maria’s house around four pm. She said she would prepare food while I went for a walk.

By the empty feeling in my stomach, and the light coming through the barred window, I guessed I had probably spent the night here already. Maria would be panicked I was sure.

I wondered if she had contacted Dad, or more importantly the police.

I stared at the tray, I desperately wanted the food, but I couldn’t find the courage to move towards the door. Instead I buried my face in my hands and let my tears flow.

Trying to keep my sobs as quiet as possible. I didn’t want to alert the guard, or cause him to come back in here if at all possible.

He must have been on some sort of patrol, as I heard footsteps a while later. He grumbled something under his breath, and I heard his footsteps retreating once again.

I rotated my body slightly and leant my head against the wall, my back was now to the door. I wrapped my arms tighter around my body, to try and stop the shaking.

I kind of wished the wolf had killed me. It would be better than this. This unknown fate.

All I could think about was my life back home, how I wished I’d gone backpacking in the outback now. It would have been a darn site less dangerous than this.

I froze as I heard the door open again. I didn’t turn to look this time. I couldn’t bear to. Not when I heard the footsteps come closer.

“Are you not hungry little human?” a deep voice asked.

It was different to the previous one. It scared me more, the fact that he called me human, meant he wasn’t and what I had seen was true.

I whimpered and shook my head quickly, not daring to look at the new monster that was close to me.

He hummed.

“It’s really quite good,” he urged.

I didn’t move. I couldn’t, I was frozen in place.

I heard the sound of metal scraping on concrete. It wasn’t the door, I could tell.

“How about I move it a little closer.”

Then I heard him shuffle backwards. I sensed he wasn’t as close as he had been before.

I glanced over my shoulder. A metal cup and plate were only about a foot away from me. I turned my body slightly. I could see him standing just inside the doorway, watching me.

He was huge, larger than the previous man. He stood there shirtless. His bronzed skin showed the outline of every single muscle and veins stood out on his biceps and forearms.

His dark hair was slicked back on his head as he stared at me expressionlessly. His chiselled jaw sporting just enough stubble to give him that rough sexy look.

I probably would have been impressed if I wasn’t so terrified. Right now muscles meant strength, and strength meant he could hurt me, kill me even. I also realised what lurked beneath.

His whole demeanour screamed dominance. Was he the one in charge? Did he hold my fate in his hands?

I quickly grabbed something off of the plate and snatched it towards me. I must have looked like I was some timid animal. I sniffed what I had taken, it was a piece of chicken.

I quickly ate it without really tasting it, I just needed to feel something in my belly.

I heard him hum, and then I heard his footsteps as he retreated from the doorway, and closed the cell door.

Each passing moment I was feeling more like a caged animal. Maybe that was what I was, to them.

There were other things on the plate. A bread roll and a cob of corn. There was no cutlery, nor anything to wipe my hands on, so instead I licked them clean. I had no idea if I would get fed again.

Maybe this was my last meal. I grabbed the metal cup and drunk down the contents. It was water, I was grateful for that. My throat was so dry I would have drunk anything.

I put the cup on the empty plate and slid it across the floor so that it was closer to the door. The last thing I needed was someone coming in to get the plate and getting near me.

I’m sure they would eventually but right now I was too panicked to think about it. Instead I curled up in a ball in the corner, my knees tucked into my chest, and rested my head on my arms.

I closed my eyes.

The stress of my situation must have exhausted me as I drifted off to sleep without even hearing anymore footsteps.

I had no idea how long I slept for. I was surprised I had slept at all. When I woke I was shivering, not with fear but with cold.

I couldn’t understand why I was so cold, when I could feel the sweat almost dripping from me.

That wasn’t the only thing, my back felt like it was on fire, and every single joint and muscle felt the same. I’d never felt in this much pain. Then the realisation hit me. The food, the drink.

They’d poisoned me. He’d poisoned me.

Then I heard it. It was faint, but I recognised her voice. Maria.

I tried to sit, but my head spun and my vision blurred.

“Maria!” I yelled, but my voice was barely above a whisper, “help me!”

The effort was to much as I fought the darkness that was bearing down on me, all to no avail.

 

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2

Beta Tobias

The human female had been brought in the previous night. She shouldn’t have been there. I knew who she was. Maria had been told. Alpha Bryn had been adamant.

She could visit but on no account was she to set foot in the forest, nor was she to be told of our true nature. It wasn’t that difficult. It seemed however, that it was.

The patrol had found her, chased her down when she screamed and ran. If she hadn’t seen them, I may have been able to let it pass. She had seen them though, seen them shift.

That had been too much for her tiny human mind to comprehend, so now she was in the cells, waiting for the Alpha to return. He would decide her fate.

In some ways it was better that she had lost consciousness. A conscious human being dragged to the cells screaming wouldn’t have done anyone any favours.

There were no other humans this far out, but you couldn’t be too careful. Hence the patrols. In a way she was lucky the patrol had found her.

We had a few rogue problems lately, if they had found her there would have been nothing left.

The guards had told me when she had woken, they had given her food which she had refused.

That wasn’t strictly true. When I went down to check she was cowering in the corner, visibly shaking. I could smell her fear. My wolf could smell something else, but I shut him down.

He had been restless just lately. I was twenty five and still to find my mate. Every female he came across from outside our territory he became excited, only to be disappointed.

This girl was human after all, the likelihood of her being our mate was remote. Besides she wasn’t even from this country.

She was pretty though, for a human. Long blonde hair, and beautiful blue eyes. Her skin was pale. I wasn’t sure if it was always so pale, or whether the shock of her circumstances had made it so.

She was thin too. Or maybe humans were supposed to be that way. I’d never really come across any. She did smell different though, different to the she wolves.

We really wanted to find our mate though, if only to stop the unmated she-wolves throwing themselves at me. A beta of the largest pack in Arizona would be quite a catch.

I could have any one of them, but they weren’t mine. I could be stealing someone else’s mate, and that would be wrong.

Bryn was in the same situation, that was why he wasn’t here. He was visiting other packs in hopes he would find his mate. I had done the same thing last year, sadly to no avail.

He offered me the chance to go with him this year, but someone had to stay behind, deal with the rogue threat. He would be back in a few days.

I sat in my office, going over some paperwork. I was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Come,” I growled. Annoyed at the interruption.

One of my warriors walked in a little sheepishly.

“I’m sorry Beta, but Maria is outside demanding to see you.”

I frowned, “Why?”

“She demanded to see the Alpha, something about a girl. When I told her the Alpha was away she demanded to see you.”

I leaned back in the chair and sighed.

“Very well, I’ll talk to her.”

Not that she would be happy with what I was about to say.

I walked outside of the pack house, and she was standing there, she looked like she was about ready to shift, the anger in her face apparent.

“Where is she? What have you done with her? I demand you release her,” she growled.

I folded my arms over my chest.

“Only the Alpha can decide her fate, and he is out of the territory. In the meantime she is being held here.”

Maria glared at me, then her eyes snapped towards the cell block.

I knew what she had heard, I heard it too. The faint voice. Not faint because it was so far away. Our enhanced hearing saw to that. It was faint because there was something wrong.

“You put her in a cell?” Maria hissed, “A werewolf cell!”

I rolled my eyes.

“Where did you expect me to put her? If the Alpha was here and she was any other human she would have been killed.”

Maria sighed.

“But she isn’t just any human, is she? She’s my step-daughter. She’s the daughter of my mate,” she hesitated, her voice cracking, “please Tobias, she’s innocent. She didn’t know.”

I shook my head, “She was your responsibility Maria. I will try and make her comfortable until Alpha Bryn returns, but her fate is in his hands, not mine. A report on the incident has already been filed.”

Maria ran her fingers through her hair, “what am I supposed to tell her father? He sent her here because he thought it would be safer. Safer than backpacking in the outback, now my own people are about to execute her.”

A tear trickled down her cheek.

“I’m sorry Maria. I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises.”

Maria nodded, “Can I…Can I see her?”

I shook my head.

“It’s best that you don’t, especially if she doesn’t know who you are, what you are.”

She nodded again and walked away. Heading back to her cabin on the outskirts of town.

It was a werewolf town. Humans occasionally passed through, but rarely. Even more rare was one stopping. There were shops and schools, but no hotel. It would be rare for anyone to stay.

The police department was run by werewolves. It was more of a front, or to keep the juvenile wolves in line. It also helped to move on any errant humans who thought about stopping.

If a huge muscular cop pulled you over, you didn’t argue. Especially if he was sending you on your way with a warning not to linger.

I could never understand why Maria had left. She put in a formal request to the Alpha, saying she wanted to find her mate. He agreed of course.

He had no idea she would fly across to the other side of the world. He was slightly disgruntled when she decided to stay there. It lasted longer than anyone thought it would.

She promised not to divulge who she was, so Alpha Bryn agreed that she could stay there, even though he was human. Maria didn’t cope well with being in a city. No werewolves do.

She couldn’t persuade her mate to return with her, and somehow managed to make him reject her. She accepted it and came back to us. We could see what the pain of the rejection did to her.

It took her years to get over it. We didn’t think that keeping in touch with her mates daughter was wise, but it was what she wanted. It was the closest thing she would ever come to having a pup.

That was the only reason why the Alpha had permitted the visit. In hindsight he should have said no.

I headed back into the pack house, grabbed a blanket and headed to the cells. Maria was right in a way.

The cells were no place for a human, but we had nowhere else to hold her, and she had seen too much.

When I reached the cell that the human had been put in, I half expected to be met by the stench of fear. I wasn’t, it was ultimately worse. The smell was putrid and it reminded me of rotting flesh.

I looked at her pale skin. She was shaking, despite a the sheen of sweat which covered her skin. Her breathing was shallow. She was sick.

As I moved closer, I almost gagged on the smell.

Had no one noticed the claw marks on her back. I hadn’t noticed yesterday, but then I hadn’t got too close. They were noticeable today.

Mostly because of the thick yellow discharge which seeped from them. Some sort of human infection.

We had learnt about humans in school. How they were weak because of their slow healing. How the slightest injury could kill them. Our cuts would heal in minutes, theirs could take days, even weeks.

Had the patrol not had the presence of mind to inform someone that her skin had been broken?

Maybe they thought there would be no point if she was due to be executed, or maybe they hadn’t seen the depth of the cuts. There was no point trying to second guess.

I put my hand on her forehead, she was hot.

As my skin touched her own, I felt a shock pass between us.

I snatched my hand away.

No! This wasn’t possible. I was a Beta. How could the moon goddess give me a weak human mate.

My wolf growled

Mate.

I put my nose against her neck and sniffed. Now I could smell her. I was close enough so the putrid smell of death didn’t overtake her own beautiful smell.

I shook my head. If I hadn’t seen her, smelt her or touched her, I would never have known. My wolf didn’t care she was human. He only cared that we had found her.

I could reject her, or if Bryn executed her. It would hurt, but not as badly as if I had marked her. The closer I was to her in the next few days the stronger the bond would become.

It was weak right now. Mostly because she was human. She wouldn’t even know. Could I reject her? My goddess chosen mate.

I quickly wrapped her in the blanket, avoiding anymore skin on skin contact. The less I touched her the less chance of the bond becoming strong.

I quickly carried her to the pack doctor.

He frowned when I walked in.

“The human they brought in last night, she has become infected. You need to treat her, until the Alpha decides her fate.

I laid her on an empty bed.

“I will send guards to make sure she doesn’t escape, I suggest you shackle her to the bed.”

The doctor nodded.

“Of course Beta Tobias, do you want to be kept informed?”

I hesitated.

My wolf paced around in my mind. He knew I was thinking about rejection, and he was annoyed.

Our mate

He growled.

“Yes, send a written report to my office… So I can keep the Alpha informed,” I added quickly.

I quickly left the infirmary, running my fingers through my hair.

My wolf growled, so I blocked him.

Was I a coward? A bad mate? What if the moon goddess had chosen an Omega for me. Would I have rejected her too?

There was only one person who I knew had a human mate, and that was Maria. Did I really want to talk to her given the circumstances? Her pairing hadn't worked out particularly well.

I needed to clear my head, so I headed out of the pack-house and towards the woods. I quickly shifted and ran. I kept running until I reached the lake. Trying to take my mind off my current dilemma.

 

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Monsters in the Dark Series

From New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author Pepper Winters comes the Monsters in the Dark series

Tess Snow has everything she ever wanted: one more semester before a career in property development, a loving boyfriend, and a future dazzling bright with possibility. For their two year anniversary, her boyfriend Brax surprises her with a romantic trip to Mexico, but their little bit of paradise is shattered.

Kidnapped. Drugged. Stolen. Tess is forced into a world full of darkness and terror.

Captive and alone with no savior, no lover, no faith, no future, Tess evolves from terrified girl to fierce fighter, but that alone can’t save her from the horror of being sold. Can Brax find Tess before she’s broken and ruined, or will Tess’s new owner change her life forever?

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: Pepper Winters

This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

The Luna’s Secret

Bellona has a dark and terrifying secret she’s been keeping from almost everyone in her life. She thought she could hide it, until the day she met her mate… or, should we say, mates! Now she has to face the fact that things are going to change forever, whether she wants them to or not.

Age Rating: 18+

Casanova at Law

Connor Matthews has it all: good looks, money, charm… Not to mention an incredibly lucrative career as an attorney. The public and the press both adore him—so much so that the tabloids have dubbed him Casanova At Law. Karina Monroe is a law student working three jobs to support herself and her sick mother; she doesn’t have time for nonsense or fun. The two of them should never get along, let alone like each other, but Connor doesn’t take no for an answer, and he’s set his sights on Karina.

Age Rating: 18+

Raised by Vampires

When pureblood vampire Rose Mcnoxnoctis adopts a human baby orphaned in a car crash, her family and friends are sure she’s lost her mind. Little Eleanor grows up surrounded by danger, her sweet-smelling blood a temptation to those who love her most and a lure to those intent on her death. But unknown to the powerful monsters who lust for her blood, Eleanor carries a secret destined to transform vampire society forever…

Age Rating: 18+

Hated by My Mate

Aurora is just a lowly maid, she didn’t think she would be the destined mate of a handsome and powerful alpha. Her mate, Alpha Wolfgang thinks the same, Aurora will never be his Luna. He refuses to acknowledge their mate bond and sets out to make her life miserable. Unknown to Aurora, though, the Moon Goddess has a greater destiny in mind for her…

Age Rating: 16+

Infinity

Lux’s mate is all she can think about since the very first day she caught his scent. She tries to imagine what he looks like, tastes like…but she knows that even her wildest dreams don’t do him justice. From sun-up to sun-down, Lux’s mate is always there, lurking in the shadows, just out of reach. She doesn’t even know what species he is. All she knows is his name: Soren

Age Rating: 18+

Grasping Fate

Faery Alessandra was a child when her village was destroyed, her family killed by lyncanthropes. But for some reason, one of them saved her. Now eighteen, she’s dared to go into the Celestial Forest, and comes face-to-face with a monster. He seems to know her, though…what is this connection between them?

Age Rating: 18+

Note: this story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

Confessions of a Naughty Nanny

When a famous music producer moves to Lake Starlight it can’t just be a coincidence. It’s the universe helping to move things along in the right direction so that Griffin Thorne can discover me.

I have to confess—I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Confession #1: I may have overhead that he was in search of a nanny. What can I say? My brother has a big mouth.

Confession #2: It’s possible I helped along the assumption that I had nanny experience. Hey, babysitting my nieces and nephew counts, right?

Confession #3: There’s a good chance I oversold my qualifications. But my Grandma Dori backed me up, so it’s not completely my fault.

And it worked. He hired me. Only for me to find out that he left the business.

I guess it’s on to Plan B.

When he accidentally overhears me singing, I expect nothing from him. Then he asks to work with me on a song for our town’s Founder’s Day Parade and it feels like a dream come true. Until…

Confession #4: I’ve fallen for him.