I feel a strength inside me that I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Is this what she meant by the gift of healing?
Thank you, Selene. But that wasn’t all she said…
She told me that I have to escape…
And that I have to find my mate.
I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking, but he sure as hell isn’t here.
I struggle with my chains, but even though the silver isn’t irritating my skin like before, it still stings.
I hear a door open at the top of the stairs and uneven footsteps as someone stumbles down them.
That will probably be Curt, drunk again. He loves to torment me when he’s wasted.
But he doesn’t know that I’ve regained my strength. I can use this to my advantage.
“You’re finally awake, mutt. Good. We’re gonna play a little game,” he says, slurring his speech.
Curt grabs a silver collar and clamps it around my neck, undoing the chains around my arms.
He yanks the chain attached to the collar on my neck, forcing me to my knees.
“We have some guests upstairs, and you’re going to entertain them,” he says with an unnerving smile.
Guests? So, there are more hunters upstairs then. I’ll have to be careful. I might have my strength back, but I’m still outnumbered.
Curt stumbles as he starts climbing the stairs, pulling me behind him.
If they’re anywhere near as drunk as Curt, then I might actually have a chance…
“Get a move on, bitch! I want to show off my finest specimen. You’re proof that you really can teach a filthy mutt new tricks,” he says, tightening his grip on the chain.
Good. Hold tight, you hateful bastard.
Growling, my wolf comes to the surface, and I yank the chain as hard as I can muster.
Curt loses his footing and flies backward, tumbling down the staircase like a rag doll.
At the bottom, I hear a loud crack as his back snaps from the impact.
I calmly walk to the bottom of the stairs and stand over his body, as he looks up at me, pleading for mercy.
I dig into his pocket and find the key to my collar. I unlock it, letting it fall to the floor.
I stare into his cold, gray eyes. The eyes I’ve seen every day for the past two years as he’s experimented on me.
The eyes that have kept me going. If only that one day, I’d rip them from his head.
My claws lengthen from my fingertips.
“Filthy wolf. I’ll kill you. I’ll kill all of you,” he mutters, as blood trickles out of his mouth.
I plunge my claws into his face and rip them back out in one swift motion.
“You won’t be hurting anyone else ever again,” I say, wiping his blood on the thin rag of a dress that I’m wearing.
I feel something inside me, but it’s not the strength of the Goddess. No, this is something different…
I’m seeing red. My mind is hazy. I’m losing control.
Each step that I take up the stairs, I feel more and more unbridled rage.
What…what’s happening to me?
I don’t just open the door at the top of the stairs…
…I tear it off its hinges.
I walk down an empty, sterile hallway until I get to a closed door.
Party music is blaring on the other side, and I can hear several men—at least five—drunkenly dancing and carrying on.
I kick through the door and snarl, raging and feral, ready to kill.
The men look up at me, stunned, as my eyes flicker from one hunter to the next.
“Who’s first?” I growl, drawing my claws.
One of the hunters pulls a gun from his holster, but he’s too slow, and I knock it out of his hand before I tackle him and start ripping through his flesh with my claws.
I’m double-teamed by two of them as they jump on my back, but I swing around and slice both of their necks open.
They grasp their throats as the blood seeps through their fingers, and they crumple to the ground next to their companion.
The fourth hunter grabs a knife from his boot and charges at me, screaming. He stabs at my face and the blade breaks my skin, producing a small cut.
As the blood rolls down my face like a lone teardrop, I touch the spot where he cut me and feel it already closing up.
His eyes widen with disbelief. “H-how d-did you?”
I wrench the knife from his hand and plunge it into his chest. He falls to the floor, his eyes still bulging out of his head.
I want to stop and take a breath, but my body won’t let me. I’m running on pure adrenaline…or something else, but I don’t feel in control.
As I turn around to look for the exit, I see a young hunter holding a gun. His hand is shaking as he points it directly at me.
Fuck. Five. I forgot there were five.
I feel a silver bullet rip through my thigh, but it doesn’t leave the other side, instead remaining lodged in my leg.
Without a moment of hesitation, I pounce on the young hunter and break his neck, but a searing pain shoots through my body as I stand up.
Shit, how does this healing thing work? This is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life!
As I look around at the carnage that I’ve caused, I can’t help but wonder what the Goddess would think. She told me to escape, not to murder everyone in the building.
Is that why my healing isn’t working now?
I grab a nearby lantern and limp toward a ladder that leads to a hatch, and climb up it, through a dark tunnel.
As I emerge, I hold up my lantern to find myself in what looks like an old barn.
So they were hiding in a secret facility underground this whole time. No wonder no one ever found me…
I’m about to push through the massive barn doors and leave this hellhole forever when I spot several kerosene containers in the corner.
I can’t let this place be used for evil again…
I dump the kerosene oil all over the barn and smash the lantern onto it, creating an instantaneous and raging inferno.
As the fire spreads, I feel triumphant, but that feeling immediately turns to dread when I see the fire moving toward something covered by a tarp in the corner—a pickup truck.
My feet lift off the ground, and I fly backward through the splintering wood barn doors.
I land on my back, and a searing pain shoots through my body. The twinkling stars in the night sky begin to turn into blurry black spots.
As smoke billows into the clearing and the scent of burning oil overwhelms my senses, I feel myself slipping away.
The cool night air feels perfect as I sip my beer on top of the old water tower, overlooking the woods.
Technically, it’s outside of pack borders, but it really is the best place to get away from it all—the politics, the pack business, the pressure.
I glance to my right and see that Dominic has already finished off four beers, and he’s starting on his fifth.
Damn, I need to catch up.
“Since when did you become such a lightweight?” Dom asks teasingly.
“You know, all that beer is giving you a beer belly. Maybe that’s why you’re still unmated,” I shoot back, nudging him in the ribs. “Your destined mate took one look at that gut and went running for the hills.”
“It’s called a dad bod, Alex. They’re totally in. She-wolves love them,” he responds, grinning.
Dom has been my best friend since we were pups, but as much as I enjoy teasing him, I can’t help but think that I’m holding him back.
“You know you’re free to go look for your mate whenever you want. I can hold down the fort just fine on my own,” I say, in a serious tone. “Don’t stick around on my account.”
“Alex, we’ve been over this, and my answer is still the same. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Look, man, I know that I’ve been in a bad place for a while, but I promise that I’m okay now,” I say, trying to sound convincing.
“The grieving period has passed. It’s been six months since Olivia…since she…” My voice trails off as my throat goes dry.
Just saying her name aloud makes me feel like someone dropped a load of silver bricks on my heart.
“Really, I’m fine,” I say, turning and wiping away the tears welling up in my eyes.
“Real convincing,” Dominic says, sighing as he puts his hand on my shoulder.
“Alex, you lost your destined mate. It was sudden, and you didn’t even get to say goodbye. You don’t just bounce back from that, and that’s okay. It’s not a fucking race.”
I know he’s right. Olivia’s death created a hole in me. It’s like my very core has been ripped from my body, and now I have a dark void that can’t be filled.
No amount of healing can close up a gaping wound like that.
“Look, Dom, I appreciate that you’re trying to be here for me, but if it’s at the expense of your own—”
I spill my beer all over myself as a massive explosion rocks the already rickety water tower.
A pillar of black smoke billows out of the forest in the distance as the embers of a fire tint the sky red.
I turn to Dom. He looks just as shocked as me.
“I’m going,” I say suddenly.
Maybe it’s the beer, or maybe it’s all this talk about Olivia, but for some reason, I feel like I need to do this.
“Alex, are you crazy? That’s way outside of pack borders. I can’t allow you to do that,” he says, grabbing my arm.
“You can’t allow ~me~?” I ask in a tone that reminds him exactly who gives the orders around here.
Dom growls in submission. “Shit, why do I even try? Alright, if you’re going to insist on being an idiot, I’m going with you.”
“No, go get backup and bring a squadron of warriors. Someone needs to alert the pack.”
Dom growls again and leaps over the railing, hanging from the side of the tower. “Fine, just don’t do anything stupid,” he says, before disappearing into the treetops.
I’m nearly out of breath as I reach the clearing where the explosion happened. It’s easy to track the burning scent, but there’s something else…definitely a wolf.
I crouch down in the bushes bordering the clearing, looking for any sign of rogues, but this wolf doesn’t smell like a rogue.
The scent is a pleasant one, honey mixed with blackberries.
Through the heavy screen of smoke, I see someone lying on the ground.
I leave my hiding spot to get a closer look and my eyes widen at the sight in front of me…
A girl, covered in blood and ash, lies completely still, broken and bruised. A ray of moonlight cuts through the smoke, lighting her like a fallen angel.
As I step closer, only one thought crosses my mind…
Who is this beautiful she-wolf?