Book 2 of The Feral Wars Series
Ever since her father was killed in a hunting accident, Tally Murdo has felt a stronger affinity for the wolves she cares for in her father’s sanctuary than other people. But when she meets the handsome Alex and they find themselves unable to stay apart, something dormant awakens within her: Tally is a werewolf!
Age Rating: 18+
Book Two: The She-Wolf
Ever since her father was killed in a hunting accident, Tally Murdo has felt a stronger affinity for the wolves she cares for in her father’s sanctuary than other people. But when she meets the handsome Alex and they find themselves unable to stay apart, something dormant awakens within her: Tally is a werewolf! Welcomed into Alex’s pack, Tally at last finds the community she’s longed for. So, when a group of hunters bent on wiping out werewolves starts killing Tally’s new packmates, she is determined to do what she can to protect everyone, even if it means confronting secrets from her past...
“Tally! Bring me a blanket!”
I spun on my heel and did as my father asked. I ran through the dark forest and came to his side.
I kneeled and passed him the blanket, watching him as he wrapped it around the fragile body in front of him.
“Dad? What’s wrong with it?”
My dad turned to me; his expression was unreadable in the darkness.
“It was shot by hunters.” My dad turned back to the wolf in front of him and shook his head. “It’s a shame, my darling, but we can save him. They’ve only nicked her leg.”
My dad and I carried the wounded wolf back to our home on the edge of the forest. My mother met us there; she remained stone-faced as we laid the wolf out on our kitchen table.
My mother got her kit and started to work at once. She was no stranger to wounded animals.
I watched for hours as my mother removed the bullet and stitched up the wolf’s leg. She was focused, completely lost in her task. This is why she surprised me by asking. “Are you watching, Tally?”
I nodded vigorously. “Yes, Mom,” I replied quickly, hoping to show off how attentive I was being.
She turned to me, her dark eyes sparkling. “I know you’re young, my darling girl. But you have to learn. You’ll have to do this one day. Do you understand?”
“I’ll have to take care of the wolves?”
My mother sanitized the wolf’s leg and nodded, holding the wolf down firmly as it twitched.
“Yes, there are people who want to harm them. It will be your job to save them.
“Your father’s family and mine have been involved with the protection of wolves for generations. You’ll be the next to keep them safe.”
“From hunters,” I stated, trying to grasp the entire concept.
My mother nodded patiently. Her fingers didn’t shake as she wove the thread under the wolf’s skin, pulling together tough fur and destroyed muscle.
“From hunters and others more sinister.”
“Why do they want to hurt the wolves?” I dug my small fingers into the wolf’s dark brown fur and frowned.
I couldn’t comprehend it. I had spent my whole life in the company of wolves and had never seen them attack without provocation or out of necessity.
“They fear them, my darling. And men kill what they fear.”
I frowned. “But they don’t hurt anyone!”
My mother sighed and started to clean up her kit.
The wolf on the kitchen table was panting, its body starting to relax into the sedative. I continued to stroke the wolf’s fur, already growing fond of it.
“I know, but not everyone knows them like we do. I’ve lived near these woods since I was a child.
“My father and his father before him all worked with the wolves. And no matter how much we try to tell them, the men in the cities just don’t understand.”
“I can make them understand,” I squeaked.
My mother kissed my head, pausing there for a moment. “Up to bed. It’s nearly two in the morning and you have school tomorrow.”
“But Mom, I can’t go to school, not now. The wolf needs me.”
My mother’s face was stern. “The wolf is not a pet, Tally. She will recuperate just fine without you.” She had made it her duty to teach me the laws of the wild early.
“Come on now, Kate. Tally was brave tonight. She ran right into the forest with me, even though gunshots had been ringing through the air a moment before,” my dad reasoned as he stepped into the room.
He took off his orange baseball cap. “Let her stay with the wolf, just for tomorrow.”
My mother pursed her lips together. She hated it when my father tried to undermine her authority.
Finally, she cracked a smile. “Fine, but don’t get close to her, understood?”
I nodded and flashed my parents a gap-toothed smile. “Understood!”
The wolf we saved that night came to be known as Nala. For weeks, I stayed with Nala while she recuperated, against my mother’s wishes.
And four months later, when she was ready to be released back into the wild, I went with my father to get the job done.
We stood there for hours, but Nala wouldn’t leave me. She stayed by my side, even when I attempted to shoo her away.
My father suggested Nala wouldn’t leave because she was young and without a pack, but I knew there was more to it than that.
I had bonded with her. I had cleaned her wounds, fed her, bathed her, made sure she was safe. And to thank me, she rewarded me with her loyalty.
“Tally!” I jumped slightly as I was shaken from my reverie. I watched as Avery bounced over to me, wearing a large smile as usual.
“Hey, Ave,” I greeted. She rolled her weight to her left foot and started to drum her fingers on her thigh. She was a ball of energy.
“Don’t you remember what day it is?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Should I remember?”
“Yes, you should!” Avery yelled. The kids that milled around us outside Astoria’s local high school stopped and stared at her. Avery was loud.
I blinked a few times and rubbed my tired eyes. “Fill me in then.” I looked up at the school, dreading the day ahead of me. There was only ten minutes until the first bell rang.
“It’s the day of the student election. Or did you forget that I’m running to be the junior senator?” Avery tilted her head to the side, waiting for my reaction.
“Oh, Ave! I’m so sorry, I’m just totally out of it today.”
I had forgotten that today was the day we were to vote for the student council. Since we were freshmen, Avery had been trying to get her way onto the board.
Last year, she was secretary, which meant she fetched people things and took notes.
This year, she was running to be junior senator, which meant she would represent the entire eleventh grade.
Avery sighed and sat down on the picnic bench beside me. Her blonde hair flew in the wind and whipped my face. “What happened last night?”
“We heard a whole bunch of howling so we ran outside, but it wasn’t any of our wolves. Nala jumped up; she noticed something was off.
“My mom and I went into the forest with Nala and searched for hours but found nothing. We kept hearing the howling though. Nala was anxious all night. Something’s weird.”
Avery bit her lip. “Maybe it was just really loud howls from far-off?”
“Maybe,” I said with a shrug. Avery jumped up when the bell rang and almost bounced up and down. She had been campaigning since last spring and was more than excited for the vote.
“Come on, Tally. We don’t want to be late!”
I laughed. “Of course, not today! We have to go sign our ballots. Are you allowed to vote for yourself?”
Avery smiled. “I sure hope so.”
We walked together into the school and we stopped by many students who wished Avery good luck.
The students in this school only had eyes for the popular blondes like Avery. At times, I wondered why she wanted to be friends with me.
Of course, I wasn’t totally ignored. People howled at me, called me nicknames like “wolf girl” or “wolfy.”
I was used to their teasing; not all the people in Astoria liked the local wolves. Even fewer liked my father.
Of course, when he was alive, people left me alone. But when he passed a few months after we’d found Nala, I was an open target.
“Thank you, Chris! The good luck is welcome,” Avery said. The boy smiled and walked off. Avery seemed pleased with the vote he had promised. “The people love me, Tally.”
I chuckled. “As I can see.”
The second bell rang and Avery turned to me, her face suddenly frantic. “I’m nervous, Tally. What if I don’t win?”
I looked at my friend, so pretty with her blonde hair and blue eyes, and was baffled how she could be nervous. Even if she lost, she would still be loved.
“You’re going to win,” I told her. “I promise.”
She smiled and hugged me tightly before running off to her locker.
I wandered to my own locker and got my books, then hurried to my first class and took my seat.
Soon after, we were handed our ballots. Quickly, I marked the box beside Avery Scott with an X and handed it back to my teacher.
We were to vote in the morning and then the results would be revealed at the end of the day.
My next classes flashed by, and suddenly, I was standing in line at the cafeteria.
I zoned out as hordes of teenagers whirled around me, talking and laughing. Sometimes, I felt isolated from them, different, alone.
“Hey, wolf girl, mind moving up in line?” a boy asked from behind me.
I looked down and stepped forward silently. I was used to the nickname.
“I heard howling last night. I wish someone would just shoot all those stupid things already,” the boy drawled.
“I know, right, like, aren’t they dangerous?” a girl added.
The boy nodded. “Yeah, my father told me they once ripped the face off of this hiker.”
I turned around to see that the boy was Lance Bay, son of Harry Bay who was famous for his collection of stuffed animals. Beside Lance was Amber, his on-again, off-again girlfriend.
“I wish my father would just go and dispose of them all.”
“They aren’t dangerous,” I said. I blanched as soon as I realized the words had come out of my mouth. I watched as Lance’s face turned purple.
Off to my right, there was a large outburst of laughter and chatter, but I ignored that and kept my eyes on Lance.
“Aren’t dangerous? Haven’t you ever heard the tale of Little Red Riding Hood?” Lance sneered. He bared his yellow teeth and leaned forward, his lanky blonde hair falling onto his forehead.
“It’s a fable,” I said immediately. “A stupid story. Do you still believe in fairy tales, Lance?”
“You should know when to shut up, Redskin. Learn your place.”
I recoiled from the derogatory slur. I blinked a few times. I’d never been targeted because of my ethnicity.
I had always been proud to be half Native American. Never did I think someone would use it against me.
“You should watch what you say.” I looked up to see a tall boy with a head of tousled brown hair and icy blue eyes. His stare was locked on Lance, his eyes slightly narrowed.
“Who are you to tell me what to do? I’ve never even seen you before,” Lance said.
“Let’s hope for your sake you never see me again,” the boy thundered.
It was then that I realized how intimidating his eyes were. Lance looked over at the boy and seemed to weigh his options before he stepped out of line and towed Amber away with him.
“Thank you,” I said gruffly, dropping my gaze to the floor.
“You shouldn’t let him talk to you like that.”
By the time I looked up again, the boy was gone.
“The new sophomore senator is Julie Grane!” the voice crackled over the old PA system.
“Now, your new junior senator is”—I held my breath as the voice paused for a moment—“Avery Scott! Congratulations!”
I grinned as I heard Avery’s name over the announcements. The rest of my classmates erupted into either harsh whispers or whoops of celebration.
My teacher hurried to fill us in on all the homework before the bell rung, but even at full speed, he couldn’t speak fast enough and was cut off halfway by the last bell.
We all rushed from the class, and instead of going to my locker like I usually did, I ran straight down the front hallway to Avery’s.
Only, she wasn’t there.
I looked around, confused as to why she wasn’t where she always was.
And then I heard a bubble of laughter and turned to see her talking with Lance, Amber, and the rest of their group.
I felt a sharp pang in my stomach and dropped my head as I waited for her to finish speaking with them. When she had, she walked over to me with a huge grin stretched across her face.
“I won!” she yelled. “I’m junior senator!”
“He called me a redskin,” I snarled.
Avery blanched. “What?”
“Lance, he called me that today at lunch, in the cafeteria. You were supposed to meet me for lunch and never did.”
“I-I didn’t know. I won’t talk to him again. Sorry, Tally.”
I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Congrats, by the way.”
Avery smiled but I could tell she was upset I had ruined her triumphant moment. “Thanks.”
“Want to come over to my house? My mom will make us her famous fried bread topped with cinnamon and sugar just for your victory.”
When we were kids, Avery and I used to munch on my mother’s fried bread until our bellies bulged.
“Not tonight, Tally. I have other plans,” Avery said, not sounding the least bit saddened.
I frowned. “Oh, I thought we’d celebrate your win together.”
She shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.” She stuffed some books into her bag and gasped suddenly. “Hey, did you see all the new kids today? Tons of them, like thirty or so, transferred.”
I frowned. “I didn’t see anyone new.” I bit my lip as I remembered the boy who stood up for me in the cafeteria.
“Well, of course you wouldn’t, you don’t notice anyone,” Avery said.
“That’s not true,” I argued.
“Yeah, sure. Anyways, I have to go.”
I swallowed. “Oh, all right. I’ll see you tomorrow, Miss Senator.”
Avery flashed me a tight smile before taking off.
I shoved my way through the crammed halls and made it to my locker where I grabbed my books and shoved them into my bag.
I cursed as the bottom of my bag fell through, littering the halls with books, loose sheets of paper, and half-eaten pens.
“Nice going, wolfy,” a boy sneered at me as he passed.
I blew my bangs from my face and started to gather my things. Now that my bag was ruined, I had nowhere to put them.
My mother would be furious that my bag was broken. Ever since my dad had died, money was tight. Really tight.
“You really shouldn’t chew on your pens,” I heard a voice grumble.
I looked up to see the same boy from the cafeteria holding out some of my things. I dropped my gaze to the floor, not wanting to look him in the eye.
“Old habit,” I mumbled. The boy took the bag from my hands and surveyed the tear at the bottom. Without hesitation, he took the bag from his back and handed it to me.
“Take it,” he insisted when I made no move toward it.
“No, thank you,” I said.
He sighed and shook the black bag. “Please, you need it,” he argued.
I looked around at all of my things and realized he was right. I took the bag from him and opened it up to find it empty.
The boy noticed me staring and said, “It’s my first day here. The bag was more for show than for carrying books.”
I smiled. “Thank you.” I began to pack my things in the new bag and discarded my old, broken bag to my locker.
“You should look people in the eye,” the boy said randomly.
I made sure my eyes were cast downwards. “I’m not the confrontational type.”
“You act as though you’re beneath everyone. Look me in the eye,” he said slowly.
I shook my head. “I should get going.”
“Look at me, please,” his voice wavered as if he were under physical strain. This shocked me and made me look up at him.
When my eyes locked with his, the world seemed to collapse.