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The Alpha’s Prey

Gemma is just your average model from New York who has found herself in a remote Canadian forest. Caleb is the Alpha of his pack, and he’s been looking for his mate for a long time. When he finds Gemma in his territory, he knows she’s destined to be with him. He’s determined to claim her for himself, but will Gemma be able to accept her fate?

Age Rating: 18+

 

The Alpha’s Prey by Maron Williams is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy novels.
Ali Albazaz, Founder and CEO of Inkitt, on BBC The Five-Month-Old Storytelling App Galatea Is Already A Multimillion-Dollar Business Paulo Coelho tells readers: buy my book after you've read it – if you liked it

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

Summary

Gemma is just your average model from New York who has found herself in a remote Canadian forest. Caleb is the Alpha of his pack, and he’s been looking for his mate for a long time. When he finds Gemma in his territory, he knows she’s destined to be with him. He’s determined to claim her for himself, but will Gemma be able to accept her fate?

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: Maron Williams

GEMMA

“Are you sure the car is alright?” I couldn’t help but ask for the third time. The engine of the old pickup sounded like it could explode any minute and I loved my life too much to die because of such a rolling pile of junk.

My uncle lovingly caressed the dashboard.

“She is an old lady, she is allowed to have an attitude.”

“As long as her, attitude‛ doesn’t get me killed …” I mumbled.

“I bet you wouldn’t find such a beauty in the big city,” he chuckled.

Damn right he was and I was glad about that.

Several times uncle Pete tried it with small talk like really tried, yet we didn’t manage to exchange more than a few sentences.

As a fifty-something plumber from rural Canada and a twenty-four-year-old model from New York we basically had nothing in common except our DNA.

On top of that an hour ago when my uncle had picked me up from the airport it was actually the first time we had met.

Over the last months, we had spoken on the phone a couple of times but we had just talked about my mother’s condition, so we ended up settling for mutual silence for the rest of the three-hour drive to Amber Grove.

My mother had run away from home when she was sixteen, wanting to escape a mundane small-town life and become a Hollywood Starlet. A classic. In the end, she only landed some minor parts in TV productions.

Still, that’s how she had met my father, the renowned – and married – actor Steve Cortega. It wasn’t love, for either of them. It was a moment of pure Lust that should never have happened, but it did and here I am.

Long story short: The scandal almost ruined the career and marriage of my father and my mother couldn’t handle having earned the reputation of a slutty homewrecker thanks to the media and started getting into drugs.

When I was thirteen, she went to rehab, but that was only her first visit of many. In the end, her body couldn’t take it anymore, her organs started to fail.

Her final wish had been to die where she was born, being reunited with her estranged family at last.

My uncle, her younger brother, had kindheartedly granted her this wish, that was half a year ago. I had come to Canada for her funeral.

Amber Grove was your typical rural small-town: a bunch of tiny independent shops lined the “main street” with corny names like Becky’s Bakery or Shakespeare’s and Company.

I couldn’t spot one single building with more than three levels and according to the sign exactly 1351 people lived here, which I had serious trouble wrapping my head around.

It felt like stepping into a strange parallel universe, a world that to me up until this point had only existed in children’s books or tacky movies. I had always been a city girl.

Being born and raised in the bustling Los Angeles it was all I knew. Currently, I was living in New York when I wouldn’t have a shooting at a metropolis somewhere around the globe.

So to me, this trip was an experience, to say the least.

“Here we are. Home sweet home,” my uncle happily chanted when he pulled in to park the pick-up in front of his garage. His house looked old but one could see it was looked after and kept in shape with love.

The front porch was decorated with lanterns hanging from the roof, two rocking chairs, and a couple of flower pots sending off a cozy welcoming atmosphere.

My uncle growled heavily as he lifted the two big suitcases that I had brought with me out of the trunk. Lucky for him I had decided against a third one at the last minute, considering I would only stay here for three days.

Originally, I had planned it to be just one night and then head back to New York right after the funeral tomorrow.

But Pete had invited me to stay with him and his wife Susanne a little longer since they would celebrate the birthday of their oldest son James this weekend.

My father's family had always treated me like shit so I was quite skeptical towards this invitation at first, wanting to decline. To me, family was equivalent to rejection, insults, and sadness.

On the other hand, I knew my horrible experiences in that field were not in the least representative and if I ever wanted to get over them, what better way than to make some new good experiences in that department, right?

Okay, those had been the words of my shrink, but they sounded reasonable so I eventually agreed.

It was also the least I could do to thank my uncle and my aunt for taking care of my mother those last months even though she was basically a stranger to them.

“Wait up, I’ll help you, dad!”

A young man stormed out of the house – my cousin James I assumed. He was about my age, just a little taller than me, and wore jeans and a red shirt with the logo of a football team.

In comparison to his father, he was of slim build, but they both had the same short blonde hair.

“You must be Gemma. Nice to meet you. I am James,” he greeted me with a soft smile on his lips.

“Hi, James, nice to meet you too.”

“Wow, did you wear that stuff for the whole trip?” he asked, openly staring at my outfit. I wore a blue strapless blouse with puffy long sleeves, white trousers with a huge belt around my waist, and red high heels.

“I mean don’t get me wrong, you look gorgeous, but man does it look uncomfortable.”

He didn’t sound insulting, he was just honest and I immediately liked that about him.

I shrugged.

“Beauty knows no pain. You get used to it. Thanks for the compliment, by the way.”

He winked at me.

“You are welcome.”

He grabbed one of the suitcases.

“Holy crap, did you put stones in there?”

“Should I have left them at home?” I teased.

He shook his head while muttering “woman”.

As soon as I went inside the house the smell of meatloaf hit my nose. My aunt had prepared dinner.

Susanne was a small, curvy woman with long straight brown hair that she had twisted in a neat bun. Their second son Mason studied in another state and would join us tomorrow.

“Do you want to change into something more comfortable before we eat, honey? Frankly, my eyes hurt just looking at you,” my aunt asked after she had introduced herself.

Now I knew where James had gotten his outspoken nature from. “There’s no need to impress anyone, we are family after all.”

I got to stay in James’ old bedroom since he had his own apartment twenty minutes away and didn’t mind.

I quickly changed into something more casual – black leggings and an oversized grey shirt – before I joined the other three in the dining room.

The food was delicious. Mashed potatoes and green beans completed the meal. Susanne beamed with pride when I praised her cooking skills.

“I am glad you like it.”

“We feared you’d only eat greens or fancy stuff like caviar,” James admitted, almost sounding a bit disappointed. “But no, you are practically a normal person.”

Uncle Pete threw me an apologetic look but I knew James was just joking. Besides I had already heard far worse in my life.

“What do you mean practically?”

“You live in a big city by choice.” He made a face as If he had just bitten into a lemon.

I laughed.

“Yeah, crazy, right?”

It was easy to talk with James and Susanne and I unexpectedly found myself taking them into my heart quite fast.

Both didn’t take themselves too seriously so even though we didn’t see eye to eye in a lot of things it worked out. They respected my point of view and I respected theirs.

We continuously teased each other in a playful manner while kindhearted uncle Pete watched and occasionally reminded his wife and son to not take their jokes too far.

After dinner, Pete showed me the guest room mom had stayed in to organize her belongings. Her bed was still there as were the machines she had been hooked up to.

It was a bright room with a huge window that gave a nice view of the garden. It was a good place to go. On the wall beside the window stuck a collage of photos.

My mom in some of her roles, my mom at the Oscars, my mom together with some celebrity friends of hers – and a whole bunch of photos of us together or me alone.

Our relationship was strained to say the least, yet seeing that she had cared enough to put me up there I couldn’t help but gulp.

“She really loved you, kiddo.” My uncle came up behind me, putting a hand on my shoulder to console me.

“She might not have shown it to you the way a parent should, but you were the most precious thing she had. She talked a lot about you and how proud she was of you.”

“I was a cash cow and a punching bag to her, nothing more and nothing less.” My voice was hard.

“Never once did she ask me what I want. It was all about her. Her dreams, her sadness, her success … She was selfish, and I can’t bring myself to forgive her for that.”

It felt good having said that out loud to someone other than my psychiatrist for once.

“Your mother made some poor choices and failed to deal with them. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also only human,” Pete defended his sister. “She was alone and she didn’t know better. Don’t be too harsh on her.”

I managed a wry smile.

“I'll try.”

Uncle Pete nodded and left, giving me the opportunity to calmly look through the few things my mother had brought with her and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

When I was finished, Susanne offered me to join her on the front porch with a warm tea. Since the night was drawing close it got a bit chilly. Muffled up in a cardigan I took place in the big rocking chair beside her.

“Susanne?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Thank you. Taking care of my mom all these months, hosting her funeral, … You are good people.”

She took my hand and squeezed it for a long moment.

Suddenly the howl of a wolf cut through the night.

“Have you ever seen one?” I wondered. “A wolf I mean.”

“I have.” A strange shimmer lay in her eyes. “They are truly mesmerizing creatures.”

“I am actually more of a cat person,” I confessed. I got bitten by a dog when I was a toddler and never managed to get over my fear. Every sort of dog just freaked me out.

Susanne laughed.

“Well, everyone has their flaws …”

***

The mortician had outdone himself preparing my mother for her last journey.

The traces of years of drug abuse and the last painful months were covered under a thick layer of make-up.

Her strawberry blonde hair that I had inherited from her fell in soft waves around her face and she wore a bright red dress that went just barely over her knees combined with red high heels.

She would have liked it.

“Bye, mom.” For the last time, I took her cold hand in mine. “I love you.”

Despite everything, she was my mother and I knew she had somehow cared about me in her own twisted way.

Up until this point, I couldn’t bring myself to cry over her loss. It would take some time for me to fully realize that I will never see her again, never hear her voice again.

My mother’s addiction had isolated her, more and more of her friends had turned away over the years until she had been all alone in the end, which was why I was the only American here and the guest list quite modest.

The oldest brother of my mother and his wife, a handful of cousins, three aunts, and an uncle plus Pete, Susanne, James, and I attended the ceremony which summed up to fourteen people in total.

Still, more than I had anticipated.

Pete introduced each family member to me and I exchanged polite greetings with everyone but I instantly felt they couldn’t stand me.

They eyed me contemptuously when they thought I wouldn’t look and I knew they were whispering about me behind my back.

Granted, I might not be completely innocent about that because the looks I gave them probably weren’t that charming either and if I had a friend with me, I would have gossiped about them as well.

To my defense: They were pretty much the embodiment of rednecks. It was almost satiric.

Everything about them, from their clothes to their language to their faces screamed country pumpkin and that just wasn’t the kind of people I would normally socialize with.

I didn’t understand their world and they sure as hell didn’t understand mine. It was hard to picture my mother had once been one of them and I began to understand why she had run away.

“You just need some time to warm up to one another,” Susanne tried to cheer me up but I could tell she wasn’t really convinced about that herself.

After my mother had been laid to rest everyone headed to Pete’s house. Since it was a lovely summer day, we had a barbecue in the garden.

Uncle Pete and his brother were the pitmasters, sweet James entertained his great-aunts, and aunt Susanne was busy looking after everyone else while I just awkwardly sat on a cheap lawn chair and watched the scene.

“Oh, Gemma, honey, would you mind getting a new bottle of ranch from the refrigerator?” Susanne suddenly turned to me.

“Not at all.”

I was actually glad to be given a task for once.

When I entered the house, I heard two voices from the kitchen and instinctively stopped. Uncle Benji, the oldest brother of my mother, and his wife.

“… Pete is an effing saint. No idea how he managed to deal with our sister for half a year. Probably because she was on meds and couldn’t do much but rot away in bed.

Served her right, that arrogant whore,” Benji snarled before taking a big sip out of his beer bottle. “And that girl is just like her mother. A big city bitch who thinks she is too good for us ordinary people.

I would never welcome such a slut in my house.“

“You want me to take that little bitch in? Are you out of your mind, Steve?” Angela snarled, pointing furiously at the thirteen-year-old me and my suitcases.

“Do you think I look forward to this?” my father snapped. “Believe me, I hate that girl as much as you do, but you know the media is watching us. I can just picture the headlines: Steve Cortega, the coldhearted superstar who rejects his own daughter. We don’t have a choice, Angie!”

That stilled her. She pouted her lips and closed her arms over her fake breasts.

“Fine,” she bit out. “And how long will we have to put up with her?”

Out of the corner of my eyes, I spotted Pete’s car keys hanging on the wall and without much thinking, I grabbed them before rushing out the front door. I couldn’t stay here another minute. I just couldn’t.

It took me a few tries to get the engine of the old pickup started. On the first crossroad, I turned in the direction of the woods that surrounded Amber Grove.

A place with no humans was just what I needed at the moment.

Like a maniac I drove deeper and deeper into the woods, only thinking about getting away from society as far as possible. It wasn’t my fault I was born out of wedlock!

It wasn’t my fault my mother raised me in a big city far away from our relatives and became a junkie in the end! I didn’t ask for any of this bullshit!

A loud puff ejected from the engine and the car abruptly came to a halt. Smoke emitted from the hood.

“Great, just when you think it can't get any worse …,” I cursed and got out of the pick-up to examine the damage. That’s when I realized the road had morphed into a dirt track by now.

I must have driven pretty far. I was literally in the middle of nowhere and to make matters worse I didn’t have my cellphone with me.

I searched the driver's cab but all I found was a pack of old gum, some dirty rags, a flashlight, and two water bottles. I flashed my eyes at the little Jesus-figurine hanging from the rearview mirror.

“Was that really necessary?” I snarled at him. “What have I ever done to you?”

Exhausted, I rested my head against the steering wheel, fighting back the tears and trying to pull myself together.

I took a deep breath and decided to walk a little along the track. Maybe there was a hunter cabin out here somewhere or a camping ground or something like that.

Sitting here and pitying myself certainly wouldn’t get me anywhere.

Luckily, I was a high-heel prodigy thanks to my job so I was used to walking in them for a while. It wasn’t the most pleasant feeling though.

After a while, a rustling rang out from the trees on my left side as if something was rushing in my direction.

I took off my sunglasses and turned around to make out the source of the noise – and immediately cursed myself for not staying in the car. A huge dark something was running towards me with inhuman speed.

At first, it thought it was a bear but at second glance I realized it was a wolf. The animal was huge – at least four times the size of an ordinary congener.

I stumbled backward, my legs shaking like crazy. The monstrous wolf came to a halt but only a mere meter separated us.

Almost peacefully he stood there for a couple of seconds, doing nothing but staring at me out of his big dark eyes. Then the beast jumped and I screamed.

It went for my neck, pushing me to the ground beneath it. I tried to shove at the monster but of course, it was hopeless. The beast let go of my neck though almost immediately after it had bitten into it.

Now the animal hovered over me, watching me again with those dark black irises as if it meant no harm. With trembling fingers, I lunged at my aching throat.

They came back full of blood. Petrified, I locked eyes with the beast.

What do you want? Just finish what you started already! What are you waiting for?

I slowly tried to crawl away but as soon as he noticed the wolf let out an angry growl baring his teeth at me. A warning not to move. I had no choice but to obey.

I don't know how long we stayed like this. Maybe ten minutes. Maybe twenty. Maybe half an hour.

All I know is that at some point I started to feel a strange itch inside my body that grew until it was replaced by a pain so excruciating all I wanted was to die on the spot.

I felt like molten lava was running through my veins while all my bones started breaking one after the other. I screamed and cried as my body seemed to fall apart. I was in hell.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

GEMMA

Thankfully I lost my consciousness at some point. When I came to wake up again every single cell of mine was aching and the wolf wasn’t hovering above me anymore.

Instead, the beast stood beside me and whined, his muzzle anxiously nudging mine. It took me a bit to process that indeed I now seemed to have a muzzle of my own.

I tried to say something but all that came out was a faint howl. Holy fuck, I was howling!

Despite the pain, I tried to move. That’s when I realized something felt odd. I could feel the dirty ground not only on my legs and arms but all over.

I managed to raise my head a little to confirm my suspicion and what I saw had me almost faint again. Yes, I was naked, but that wasn’t the worst.

My whole body was covered in red fur and what once had been my hands were now two gigantic paws. I had become a beast too!

Don’t worry, everything will be fine. Our mate is here. He will protect us, someone tried to calm me.

The strange voice came from within me and for some reason, I knew that I could trust it. I felt my pulse calming down, my breath becoming steadier.

I don’t understand what you mean. What mate? And who are you? I asked.

Everything will be fine, the voice repeated right before the agonizing pain returned with all his might. My bones broke again and my stomach felt like it was torn in half.

I must have blacked out again because the next thing I could remember was strong arms holding me against a warm muscled chest while I was slightly moving up and down.

Someone was carrying me. I desperately tried to open my eyes but I was too weak. I was so tired. So tired …

I lay on a bed and someone was holding my hand. I still hadn’t gathered enough strength to open my eyes though.

“Is it true, Alpha? Is this human girl really our Luna?” a male voice reached my ears.

“Yes, she is my mate,” another man answered. The man was close to me, probably the person that was holding my hand. “And she is not a human anymore. She is one of us now.”

“You changed her? So the legends are true. Some humans can be changed … Is she alright?”

He sounded worried.

“She survived her first full shift and her vital signs are stable. She'll pull through.” He softly caressed the back of my hand with his thumb.

“My congratulations, Alpha. This is a great day for the pack!”

“Since her wolf has yet to fully settle in I´ll …”

I tried to stay awake, but I stood no chance against the darkness that approached me once again.

***

I looked into a mirror, but something seemed a little off. No, I wasn’t looking into a mirror, I was looking at another me, I realized.

“I am sorry for causing you pain,” the other me apologized. I knew that voice. It was the same voice I had heard back in the woods. “But our mate is calling me. Our mate needs me, and I need him.”

“Who are you?” I asked again.

“You know who I am.”

Yes, I knew who she was. I didn’t dare to think it, but I knew I was right.

“Are you … are you a wolf?”

The other me smiled before transforming into a big wolf with red almost fox-like fur.

“I am your wolf,” she corrected me. “Don’t be afraid. I am still you and you are still me.”

“I don’t want to be a wolf,” I said because I knew she would have picked it up in my mind anyway.

The wolf slightly bowed his head to the right.

“Why?” she wondered.

“Because … Because normal people don’t have wolves, and I like being normal!”

“But normal people don’t have a mate.”

“What is this mate-thing you are talking about all the time?”

“I can smell him. Can't you smell him? He calls me …”

The wolf jumped at me …

and the pain returned.

“It's alright, I am here.”

The man who had held my hand now caressed my sweaty temple.

“It's going to be alright. Breathe. You need to breathe!” he ordered.

Make it stop! Please, just make it stop!” I desperately begged while I held my burning stomach, tears running down my cheek.

“Breathe, my love, you need to breathe!” he repeated. “You are doing great!”

My bones began to break again and my voice was taken from me, replaced by a wolfish howl.

I felt my body stretching, my muzzle and my tail growing, my hands and feet transforming into paws. The last thing I felt was a hand tenderly caressing my head.

“Don’t worry, I am here. I am here …”

***

When I regained consciousness, I was glad to see I was my human self again. Had I really turned into a wolf – twice? I still felt like I had been hit by a truck, but to me, that wasn’t proof enough.

I mean, come on, a freaking werewolf? That’s insane! While my brain tried to make sense out of all this I looked around.

I was in a spacious room with grey walls and no other furniture than the bed I was lying in and a simple nightstand. Only two small windows had been installed right under the ceiling with metal bars in front of them.

I was in some sort of basement it seemed, the kind of basement that could easily be the set of a horror film. That didn’t bode well.

A man – probably the same who had comforted me during my last pain stroke – sat on a chair beside me and was sound asleep while still holding my hand, his head resting on the covers.

As soon as I tried to slowly withdraw my hand, he was suddenly wide awake.

“How are you feeling?”

He sounded genuinely worried even though his face didn’t show any emotions.

The guy was quite the eye-candy: bright green eyes, tousled night-black hair, a face of a young god and under his white shirt, a muscled torso was showing.

He was the most attractive man I had ever met – and since I was a model myself that was saying something! He looked a little older than me like he was in his late twenties.

“Who are you? And where the hell am I?” I croaked, my voice still hoarse from sleep.

Basics first.

“My name is Caleb,” he introduced himself. “I know you must have a lot of questions and I will answer all of them.”

Caleb squeezed my hand to calm me but it had the opposite effect. I didn’t like a stranger touching me in such an intimate manner so I tried to get out of his grip again.

He hesitated a moment before he reluctantly let me go, a sad look in his eyes. “But your health comes first.”

“I feel great. Never felt better,” I lied. My body ached all over and I had a queasy feeling in my stomach but one had to set priorities.

“Health check is done, so let’s get to the interesting stuff.”

“Don’t lie to me,” he growled, his gaze cold as ice. Suddenly there was nothing gentle about him anymore.

“Where does it hurt?” he asked again.

I gulped and told him.

“It was your first shift so that’s normal. The pain will last for a couple of days I fear, but it will get easier with every change.

Soon you won’t feel more than a slight prick when you´ll be welcoming your wolf,” he calmly stated. “Is the pain bearable or do you want me to get you some pain meds?”

There it hit me: candid camera. That had to be it! I almost started to laugh at my own stupidity. Yeah, werewolf, sure!

Did they really expect me to believe this whole becoming-a-wolf thing actually happened? I was blonde but I wasn’t that blonde.

“Okay, look, I don’t want to be a spoilsport but you had your fun. Whatever sick candid-camera show this is, I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”

Tears sprang to my eyes although I tried my best to keep my cool. I was embarrassed, pissed, and relieved at the same time – too many emotions at once.

“I am confused and scared as fuck and frankly pulling such shit on me right after I buried my mother is just outright shameless. Do you guys have no conscience at all?”

Caleb frowned his features hardening.

“I know this must be quite a lot to take in, but denying it won’t make it any less real. You are a werewolf, whether you want it or not.”

“Werewolves don’t exist, that’s impossible!” I screamed, my patience running out.

Caleb rose and without another word started to undress right in front of me.

“W-what are you doing?” I asked, quickly averting my gaze.

“Look at me,” he demanded.

When I wouldn’t listen, he forcefully grabbed my wrists and pulled my hands to the side. I let out a fearful squeak.

“Look. At. Me,” he roared.

Frightened, I obeyed his command. Shocked, I watched his whole body vibrating, then expanding, fur covering every inch of his skin in mere seconds until a giant black wolf gazed down at me.

It was official: I was insane!

The wolf drew closer and gently nudged my cheeks as if he wanted to catch the tears that had started to escape my eyes. I was too flabbergasted to do anything but sit there like a statue.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. Werewolves were real, and to make matters worse I obviously was one of them now.

He changed back to his human form and calmly put his clothes back on as if it was daily business to him, which it probably was.

“Why?” I finally managed to ask. “It was you that changed me, wasn’t it? Why did you do that? It seems you have your wolf-form under control. Why did you do this to me?”

Caleb took place at the edge of the bed.

“Because you are my mate, Gemma. As soon as my wolf smelled you, I couldn’t contain myself. I waited so long to find you …,” his voice broke.

This word again. Mate.

“What does that even mean, mate?”

“That means it’s the will of the moon goddess that we are life partners, husband and wife if you want to use the human terminology.

Every werewolf has one she-wolf that is destined for him, and I knew you were mine the second I smelled you,” he explained.

“You … you want me to be your wife because you think it’s the will of some ominous, moon goddess‛ ?” I summarized incredulously.

“That about sums it up, yes.”

“What if I don’t want to be your mate?” I countered. “I mean we literally met like a day ago and haven’t spoken a single word with each other up to this point, yet you want us to devote our lives to one another, that’s absurd!”

“For us werewolves this is natural.” He shrugged. “We will start getting to know each other now.”

“But I am a human,” I emphasized.

“Not anymore,” he mercilessly declared.

“So what? You expect me to throw away the life I have in New York overnight to play wolf with a stranger?” I asked, sarcasm in every syllable.

“You never belonged there. A wolf belongs to his pack and his mate. You are home now and you will stay.”

His voice was hard, definite. I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Oh yeah? We will see about that because unless you imprison me down here there is no way I´ll stay here another minute!”

With that, I climbed out of bed and went for the door. I didn’t get very far though before a strong hand held me back by the wrist.

“Let me go!” I hissed at him, trying to get out of his grip, but he wouldn’t budge.

“Until you learn to control your wolf you could shift any time,” Caleb warned. “You could hurt yourself or others, do you want that?”

I let out a raspy laugh and pointed at my neck.

“Talk about the pot calling the kettle back!” I mocked.

He let out a frustrated sigh.

“That was an exceptional situation and I am incredibly sorry that I overran you like this,” he genuinely apologized.

“But I searched for you for so long and then suddenly finding my mate like this … It was overwhelming, to say the least.”

He looked at me like no one has ever looked at me before. Like I was his whole world. I felt a warm tingle running through my wrist where he still held me and broke free in shock with one strong pull.

“Okay, I get that I have to learn to control my wolf, but I would feel more at ease if a woman would do it,” I proposed after clearing my throat.

He shook his head.

“I am your mate. It's my duty to guide you. My wolf wouldn’t allow anybody else near you while you are this vulnerable, not even a woman.

I have also yet to claim you as mine to make you definitely a part of the pack so the other wolves will accept you.”

Claim me? What is that supposed to mean?”

He threw a meaningful glance at the bed and I immediately understood.

“You … you want me to have sex with you?” I answered my own question. I realized just then that I was wearing a long white nightgown, which could only mean one thing: He had dressed me.

“It's for your own good,” Caleb tried to soothe me. “Only then you’ll be safe in the pack. It’ll also be much easier to control your wolf that way.”

He came a step closer and I immediately took a step back, instinctively holding up my hands in defense.

“I won't force you, Gemma. I will never hurt you again, I promise. I am not a monster.” Caleb gently placed a hand on the side of my head.

I gritted my teeth and clenched my hands into fists but put up with it. “I´ll wait until you are ready. I understand that you need some time to process all of this, and I´ll grant you that time.”

“What about me? Don’t I have a say in all of this?” I furiously glared at him. “What if I don’t want a mate?”

“We are destined to be.” His green eyes bored into mine as if they could look right into my soul. “You don’t have a choice, and neither have I.”

“Too bad I don’t believe in destiny,” I replied unimpressed. “I believe in something called free will.”

I was having enough of this religious and sexist bullshit so I stormed past him and aimed for the door for the second time. Of course, Caleb held me back again.

“Didn’t you say you would never hurt me? Just so you know: That grip hurts!”

He loosened his grip a little but wouldn’t let go.

“I am sorry, but I can’t allow you to leave.” His features were devoid of any emotion and I knew he wouldn’t change his mind, no matter what. “Don’t make this harder on us than it already is.”

“Let me go!” I demanded. “Let me go!

He did, just to propel me into his arms the next second and carry me back to the bed.

“You are still weak, you need rest. Try to get some sleep as long as I am gone. We will continue our talk later when you’ve cooled down a little.”

Before I could say another word, he was out of the door and I heard the sound of a key being turned. I still checked to make sure whether I was really locked up. I was.

Help!” I screamed and hammered against the thick metal door after I had waited a couple of minutes. “Please, is anybody out there? Help! Please help me, I was kidnapped! Help me!

Nothing happened. Well, at least I tried.

I went back to the bed and sunk against the pillows. Unfortunately, Caleb was right about one thing: I was tired. If I wanted to get out of here and stand a chance against him, I would need all my strength.

***

A warm hand was placed on my forehead and startled me out of my sleep. Caleb had returned.

“Your temperature has gone down, that’s good,” he noted. “I brought you something to eat. You must be hungry.”

He pointed at the nightstand. A tray had been placed there with what looked like a bowl of soup, some pieces of bread, a plate with fruits, a glass of water, and another glass that held a bunch of daisies.

I suspiciously eyed the meal. I didn’t really like the idea of having to eat something he gave me but the food looked decent and it was not like I had any other options.

“Looks good for prison food,” I commented snippily.

“You won’t have to stay in the basement for long,” he promised. “You should be able to gain control over your wolf within the next two weeks.”

“So you’ll let me go even though you didn’t – what did you call it? – claim me?”

“When your wolf comes out it will long for its mate, so your wolf will probably take this decision out of your hand,” he honestly replied.

“You … you want to do it when we are wolves?” He had to be joking! “That is just sick!”

The mere thought of it gave me goosebumps. Bad enough that I would be forced to turn into an animal. Having sex as one on top of that … Gross!

“No, I would prefer to lay with you as human for our first time and because you want me to,” he said and I could hear he had had to fight to keep his voice calm.

“But if you keep resisting the bond between us it will eventually lead up to this and I wanted you to know.”

“Thanks for the warning, but I’ll take my chances.”

“Suit yourself. As I said, I won’t force you.” He slipped to the side to make space for me. “You should eat before it gets cold.”

The soup tasted surprisingly good. I finished the whole bowl and even ate some grapes and mango for dessert while Caleb quietly watched.

“I am glad to see you have a healthy appetite. You’ll need all your strength for the days to come. Your body isn’t used to the shifts yet so they’ll take up much more of your energy than they will later on,” Caleb explained.

“When … when will it happen the next time?”

I was terrified. I never ever wanted to go through such pain again, but if it was inevitable, I at least wanted to know as much about the process as possible.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “The first few times the shifts usually happen randomly.

Only after your senses have started to sharpen will you be able to feel them coming and after some practice eventually control them to your liking.

Have you noticed anything different concerning your smelling or hearing?”

I shook my head.

“It can be confusing when it first occurs,” Caleb warned. “You’ll smell, hear and see far better than you have before and that takes some getting used to. Your physical strength will increase as well.”

“This becoming-a-werewolf-thing includes gaining superpowers as well?”

I couldn’t deny that that sounded kind of cool.

Caleb flashed me a reserved smile.

“It does.”

“You said I’ll learn to control the shifts. Does that mean I won’t have to change at all if I don’t want to?”

“During full moon nights our wolves are the strongest so that could pose a challenge, but theoretically yes, you wouldn’t have to change at all,” he confessed.

“I know this must sound unimaginable for you at the moment, but you will grow to enjoy your time as a wolf. Some even fancy their wolf over their human body.”

“So it would be possible for a werewolf to live among humans?” I asked excitedly.

His faint smile faded and his gaze darkened.

“I guess so, but no werewolf would ever freely leave his pack, let alone his mate, and deny himself to embrace his wolf whenever he wants to.”

I would! I immediately thought, mentally dancing with joy at the prospect of returning to New York. As if he read my mind Caleb let out a tired sigh.

“Don’t you even want to give this – us – a chance?”

“Why would I?” I coldly replied.

I don’t want to stay in this dark lonely place forever, and I don’t want you to hurt our mate anymore, my wolf whimpered.

The next instant my stomach began to painfully turn and I let out an agonized cry.

Your wolf will probably take this decision out of your hand, I fearfully remembered Caleb’s words.

No, I wouldn’t allow my kidnapper and this damn wolf monster he put inside of me to have their way!

I grind my teeth and tried to fight back. I tossed and turned on the bed, tightly wrapping my arms around me.

Back off, you monster! Leave me alone! I yelled at the wolf in my head and used all my willpower to concentrate on sending him back where he belonged, even though the pain almost drove me mad.

My pulse hammered as I felt my teeth growing and my hands turning into paws, but my efforts weren’t in vain: I managed to slow the process down, I could feel it.

Stop fighting me! I am a part of you, you can’t win! the wolf begged.

Then get lost! Go! Just go!

I let out another scream as the bones in my right arm broke in slow motion, but I wouldn’t back down.

“Gemma, stop fighting it! You are only making things worse!” Caleb demanded.

“Promise … Promise me … no … claiming,” I bit out.

He let out a curse.

“Alright, I promise, okay? I promise! Now stop resisting the shift and let go!”

“Y-you … promised!” I reminded him before finally letting my wolf take control.

 

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