Fit for Fire - Book cover

Fit for Fire

Vera Harlow

Not Alone


“No, we take her back to the pack,” Zach said finally. Then he turned to me.

Wait a minute. Did he say they’re going to take me somewhere?

I began struggling, fighting against the wolf who held me in his grip. But he was too strong, and I was no match for him.

Zach knelt down in front of me, and my frightened eyes met his soft brown ones. For some reason, my wolf wanted to relax under his gaze. But I forced us to keep thrashing.

He studied me, interest etched across his face.

Then, with a thrill of fear, I saw him produce a syringe from out of nowhere. I knew he was going to use that on me, and I fought even harder.

Before I could so much as snap my teeth, he reached out and plunged the syringe into my wolf’s shoulder. I felt a pinch of pain, and then a fog of exhaustion rolled over me.

“You’re coming with us,” Zach said roughly as the darkness overtook me.


When I woke up, I was surrounded by strange faces. Faces that swam in and out of view. I was on my back, and the bright white light overhead blinded me.

I tried turning my whole body away, as I felt like I was burning, and those white lights must have been the cause.

“She’s waking up! Hold her!” a woman yelled out.

Arms grabbed me from all directions, holding me down.

“Ugh. She’s not healing! She’s losing a lot of blood!” the same woman’s voice rang out in frustration.

An annoying beeping started up next to me. That was strange. It seemed to be in time with my heart. Part of me felt like I should know why that was.

I felt like only half of me was here in this moment. The other part of me had gone away. Perturbed, I tried to struggle against the arms holding me.

Part of me was missing, and I didn’t know if these people had taken her or if they were trying to bring her back.

“Jeremy! I need you to help hold her!” that woman yelled again.

A bowl filled with bloody rags was lifted up and over me.

I watched it until it went out of view, which was only a couple inches from me, as my head had decided it no longer wanted to move.

“What did you give her? She should be healing already! You know some rogues aren’t as strong,” the woman asked.

A familiar voice answered, “This one is. You should have seen her fight.”

That voice. I had heard it before, hadn’t I? I couldn’t be sure because there was an unnatural ringing in my ears.

Someone from behind me had taken a warm rag and started to clean my face off. The same person cleaned my neck and chest. They moved to my uninjured shoulder.

“She’s unmated,” someone announced.

That voice again. What did that mean?

Why couldn’t I remember where I was? Something bad had happened, and now I was here.

“Hey! Hold in there, little rogue! Hey, Doc, I think we’re losing her.”

Losing me? Didn’t he know that part of me was already lost? He should know. He helped take her. The light got dimmer, and my eyes started to close.

The ringing faded away just as I did.

My eyes slowly opened. The lights were dim overhead, and for some reason, I believed they should be brighter.

They had been earlier. Earlier? Had I been here before? My whole body felt heavy. I tried to move my arms, but I couldn’t.

My fingers wiggled, but I couldn’t lift my arms.

Turning my head, I looked over at my arm. It was held out at an awkward angle, strapped to a re-positional armrest.

Tubes were taped to my wrist. Following the tubes, I saw an IV bag hanging overhead. It took tremendous effort to flip my head to the other side.

My opposite arm was similarly strapped down, my arms stuck out like wings on either side of me.

Trying to move my legs, I felt the same thing. I could wiggle my toes, but I could not move my legs.

I should have been concerned, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to care. I knew this was bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything.

“How is she?” I heard from somewhere in the room. A man’s voice.

“Her deltoid muscle was torn and her cephalic vein nicked. The bite was pretty close to the radial nerve, so she may have nerve damage if she doesn’t heal correctly.

“She wasn’t healing. Her tissues slowly started fusing together a few hours ago. Other than that, her condition seems steady,” a woman answered, sounding angry.

Were they talking about me? I wasn’t healing?

“You never should have used that drug. It’s still in its experimental stages,” the woman said, not giving the man a chance to answer back.

Someone, the man I think, sighed.

“I thought it would be a good way to minimize damage. She was not about to just come with us quietly. Girl’s a fighter. We had her pinned, and she was still going,” the man responded.

They must have been talking about me.

“We’ve recovered her vehicle,” a different voice interjected from somewhere in the room. “It looks like she lives an hour east of here.

“How did we miss her?” the first man asked.

“I don’t know. It looks like she’s been there a couple years,” the second voice stated.

“A couple of years?” replied the first. “I find it hard to believe she hasn’t been noticed by anyone until now.”

I heard footsteps approach. I tried to turn my head to see who was coming, but I couldn’t tell what direction they were coming from. Everything was echoing.

“She’s awake, but she is still very out of it. I doubt you gentlemen will get your answers tonight,” the woman’s voice announced.

A warm hand stroked my head.

“You’re looking a lot better,” she whispered to me as she walked toward my arm.

I turned my head toward my hand with the IV in it. I saw an older woman in a white jacket and blue scrubs, her salt and pepper braid hanging down her back.

A blue-gloved hand raised to my IV tube, a syringe in hand. She inserted the syringe and then opened the tube of the IV.

A few seconds later, I felt a cold burning sensation rush through my veins. A warm hand went back to stroking my head as I fell into a deep sleep.

I was cold. Really, really cold.

My body ached, and the cold made it hurt more. I squeezed my eyes shut tight to block out the light that was beginning to filter into my unconsciousness.

Clutching at my covering, I pulled it up to my chin, trying to trap the retreating warmth. A loud metallic banging snapped me out of my drowsiness and into full-blown consciousness.

When I opened my eyes, I was blinded by bright white lights. It hurt my head and my eyes.

I tried to cover my eyes with my hand, but as I lifted my arm, a pain traveled down my shoulder and into my arm, stopping me short.

The pain brought back the realization of what had happened. I had been captured, but how did I end up here?

I only remembered bits and pieces of the night before. I definitely remembered being taken though. Sitting up, I pushed myself backward as far as I could go.

My back hit something cold and hard, and looking around, I realized I was in a small concrete cell with a large metal door.

The door had a small rectangular window in it. The cell was well-lit with large fluorescent lights. I was on a small metal bed with an incredibly thin mattress on it.

I was also completely naked.

My breathing sped up as I clutched the thin blanket to myself. I attempted to cover as much of myself as I could, but the thin sheet did nothing to ease my nerves.

It also did next to nothing to protect me from the cold. Timidly, I attempted to lift my arm again. I could only extend my arm out so far before my shoulder began to hurt.

Turning to inspect my injury, I noticed that someone had cleaned and bandaged it. While I had been naked. Naked and unconscious.

My cheeks burned. I felt violated and terrified, and I just wanted to go home. Was that even an option anymore?

These people had to know what I was. They must have known the whole time if they had been after me.

What were they going to do with me?

The sudden sound of footsteps broke me out of my thoughts. Pulling the blanket around myself tighter, a million scenarios popped into my head, none of them good.

To my horror, the footsteps stopped outside my door, and a man looked in at me through the window. I tried not to look as scared as I felt.

Look scary, I thought. ~Look vicious.~

The door started to open, and a small scream escaped my lips. I groaned internally. So much for that plan.

I pulled the blanket up to my chin as a very large, very tan man entered.

He was all muscle, and I knew if I was anywhere else but here, he would have elicited an extremely different reaction from the one I was having now.

My eyes looked to the door as he shut it behind him. I saw nothing but concrete walls and more fluorescent lights behind him.

Mentally, I tried to come up with some kind of game plan as he turned to face me. Some kind of excuse that would somehow make sense.

I imagined myself trying to explain to this man that he hadn’t just seen me transform from a wolf into a woman.

That I was perfectly normal and that this was incredibly illegal so we should all laugh this off and go home.

Judging by the hardened expression on his face, though, I could tell that wasn’t going to happen.

The man looked me over, and a look of both disgust and pity crossed his face. I looked him over, his face triggering a memory.

Was he one of the men from the forest? Leaning against the metal door, he flexed his arms menacingly. Even though I was terrified, I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes.

Okay. You’re huge, and scary, and probably eat baby bunnies for breakfast. We get it.

Finally, after his mini gun show was over, he said, “You shifted and were running on pack territory. What were you doing, and where are the others?”

I blinked a few times, slightly surprised, and also slightly screwed. He definitely knew I could change.

“Ex-excuse me, what?” I asked as politely and evenly as I could. I swear even my vocal cords were shaking.

“You changed on our land, and you were up to something. What is your mission, who are you with, and where are the others?” the guy asked sharply, already sounding irritated.

I felt like I was in one of those dreams when you are suddenly back in high school, you go to class, and you are taking a test you’ve never studied for.

“P-please. I have no mission. Shifted? Others? I was alone when I was abducted,” I answered, fighting back the sudden anger that had started to burn within me.

The man pushed himself off the back wall and was almost yelling as he walked toward me.

“We watched you take wolf form and run on our territory. We shifted and chased after you. You know what you did. Now you are going to tell me what you are doing here, or I will rip it out of you!”

His voice bounced off the cool concrete walls. I flinched at every word. He sounded serious, but for some reason, I could only focus on one thing. He had said “we shifted.”

Did that mean…?

The man’s teeth elongated, and I stared at them in fear and wonder. I stood up and reached a tentative hand toward his mouth.

I stopped myself when the man growled. The man had a shocked look on his face, clearly surprised by my reaction.

“You can do it too? Shift?” I crinkled my nose slightly at using his phrase.

Taking a step back, he looked me over again. “Yes,” he replied softly, not sure what to make of the situation.

“What were you doing here?” he asked again, still using a soft voice.

“I just wanted to run,” I answered truthfully.

He shook his head, trying to clear it. “You’re a rogue. Are you alone, or do you usually run with others?”

It was I who took a step backward this time. The hands clutching my blanket to me were shaking with the rest of me as the sudden swell of desperation and anger hit.

Emotionally I was raging, my wolf lashing out inside me, wanting to fight her way out of this cell, wanting to survive.

It made everything I was already feeling so much more confusing.

“Listen. I don’t know what a rogue is. I’m sorry I was trespassing or whatever, but that doesn’t give you the right to take whoever the fuck you feel like.”

I started shaking harder, and I silently prayed that I didn’t anger this man, but I was only partially in control by this point.

“I don’t run with anyone. I’m alone. It’s just me. I’ve never met anyone else like me.”

After looking me up and down, the man turned to leave.

“Wait!” I cried out, desperate. “Please, what is this place? If it’s some laboratory or something, I don’t belong here. I’ve never hurt anyone. Please. I won’t tell anyone. Just let me go home.”

Small tears filled my eyes. My wolf was furious. To her, this wasn’t the time to submit. The man just looked me over with soft eyes and walked out the door.

I stood and stared at the door for a moment before I collapsed back on my bed, silent tears streaming down my face. It was over. They knew what I was.

I didn’t know what to make of this situation anymore.

Who knew what they would do to me. What if they didn’t believe me? What if they wanted to find others and I couldn’t give them that?

Would I be worthless to them? What would they do if I had no value to them?

I curled up back into my original position, my legs pulled to my chest as I shivered. It was still freezing, and I was still naked.

How hard would it have been to throw me a shirt? The whole time I had been sitting here, I kept bouncing back and forth between being terrified and excited that I had discovered someone else like me.

The thought had crossed my mind that there had to be others. I couldn’t be the only one, I wasn’t arrogant enough to think that.

I just never thought I would come across them. Especially not a whole group of them.

Being in the system and in and out of foster homes since I was a baby meant that not only did I lack long-term relationships in my life but also the necessary skills to build them.

I was used to people being temporary. Used to people saying nice things they didn’t mean and making promises they didn’t intend to keep.

So at sixteen, when I first changed, no one really noticed a difference in me. No one recognized that I was struggling to make sense of this newfound part of myself.

I saw this as another reason to put distance between myself and others.

Even if I was somewhere long enough to make friends, it never felt real. I had this secret to keep.

Since I never truly opened up to anyone, I didn’t really expect anyone to open up to me. That meant no one would know my secret and I wouldn’t know theirs.

I would run alone for the rest of my life. If I ever did find myself with someone, I had promised myself that I could never tell them.

I didn’t know what they would do or what this secret would mean for my, or anyone else’s, future. For their safety, I would have to stay quiet.

Meeting someone else who could change, who knew that I could as well, was a welcome and unexpected surprise. That meant I could be myself with someone.

Too bad this discovery came at the cost of my safety, my freedom, and my damn clothes! Getting up, I wrapped the blanket around me and started pacing.

I couldn’t stop the shivering that racked my worn form. Moving should help me warm up. I could not remember ever being so cold. I usually stayed pretty warm.

While others were dressing in heavy layers to fight the cold, I would normally need just my coat. Sometimes I added a layer to look normal to the people around me.

Although that was uncomfortable, I gathered I would rather be warm than cold.

The other women at work bundled up, bemoaning the cold in the winter, and then complained about “women’s winter” all through the summer.

At this point I believed that being a human woman meant you were always cold. I had been thankful I didn’t have to experience that.

Until now. I had a feeling that my heightened body heat had something to do with my inner she-wolf. I had been injected with something last night.

Perhaps it was messing with my wolf? Was that why I was so cold? Thinking of my wolf made me think of changing into one.

I would be a lot warmer, and a lot less naked covered in fur.

Stopping my pacing, I seriously contemplated making the shift. Everyone here already knew what I was capable of.

They had seen me change already. The damage had already been done. I didn’t need to freeze while I waited to find out what would become of me.

I probably had a better chance of fighting them off and making it out the next time the door opened if I was in my wolf form.

Would they even open the door if they looked in and saw that I was a wolf, or would they wait for me to shift back?

There was only one way to find out. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I closed my eyes, urging the shift to come. Then I stopped.

Remembering how painful changing back had been scared me. I hadn’t experienced pain like that since the first time I changed back.

Last night’s change had been violent and unpredictable. I hadn’t initiated it, and I couldn’t stop it. I had felt so out of control.

The sound of my spine snapping made me grimace all over again.

Closing my eyes, I calmed my breathing. I was in control now. I chanted that mantra in my head until I believed it.

After I had become relaxed, I could start to connect with the wolf that lay dormant just under my skin.

After a few minutes, I felt... nothing. I shook my head in frustration and tried harder, but still nothing happened.

The most frustrating part was that my wolf was not gone. She was clawing at the surface, begging me to free her, but I couldn’t.

Opening my eyes, I realized I couldn’t change. A new kind of fear washed over me. I was completely helpless.

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