RomanceScience Fiction & Fantasy

Fit for Fire

Vera Harlow

Orphaned young and passed from foster home to foster home, Adeline has spent the last nine years alone and harboring a secret: she is a werewolf. When she unknowingly takes a run in pack territory, she is labeled a rogue and soon discovers that finding her own kind is not all she hoped it would be. When she meets the alpha holding her against her will, sparks fly. But can he see her as anything other than a rogue? Or will she always be his prisoner?

Age Rating: 18+

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Fit for Fire - Book cover
RomanceScience Fiction & Fantasy

Fit for Fire

Vera Harlow

Orphaned young and passed from foster home to foster home, Adeline has spent the last nine years alone and harboring a secret: she is a werewolf. When she unknowingly takes a run in pack territory, she is labeled a rogue and soon discovers that finding her own kind is not all she hoped it would be. When she meets the alpha holding her against her will, sparks fly. But can he see her as anything other than a rogue? Or will she always be his prisoner?

Age Rating: 18+

1: A Run to Nowhere

Adeline

The wind whistled through my ears, the irresistible scent of damp earth and rain flooding my senses. Trees, bushes, and rocks all blurred past me as I ran. My lungs burned, and my legs ached.

The crisp night air invaded my lungs and flooded my senses, driving me forward. I needed to run faster. I had to push harder.

The feel of dirt shifting under my paws was my new addiction as, digging my claws in, I kept my body low and launched myself faster still.

A rabbit ran out from under a nearby bush. Giving an excited yip, I chased the bushy-tailed beast back to its burrow.

Moonlight shifted through the trees, causing the shadows of the forest to leap out at me in the dim light.

I continued to run, imagining shadowy hands stretching across damp earth, bony fingers extended and reaching for my tail.

I twisted my lithe body between the trees, enjoying the agility and prowess this form held. I jumped over a fallen log, and then raced the pale golden glow of the moon to a small clearing.

Reaching the clearing, I slowed to a brisk walk before sitting in the soft grass.

I panted, trying to catch my breath while staring up at the celestial body that often seeded my already flourishing imagination.

There was always something about the moon that I felt drawn to. Although I had been taught my whole life that it held no supernatural power of its own, I always believed it did.

I liked to think that there was a celestial goddess staring down at me right now. Guiding me.

Besides, the same people who taught me that believing in magic and goddesses was wrong would be the same people who would adamantly deny my very existence.

If they could only see me now.

Lying down, I continued to look up, studying the stars. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a chance to enjoy a night like this.

You couldn’t see this many stars in town, and the numerous lights stunted their brilliance.

To be honest, even if they hadn’t, I doubted I would have seen much of them. I was often guilty of what most of us were. I was usually too busy looking forward to stop and look up.

My mind wandered, and I marveled at where the day had brought me. I should be home right now.

I had gone shopping today, and on the way home, I had been stopped at a stop sign. A large green sign sat in front of me.

I could turn right and go home or head toward the tree-hidden valley roads to the left.

In that moment this irresistible urge to turn left, to drive away and never stop, overtook me, and in a split second, I had pointed my wheel toward the forest and had my foot on the gas.

It had been amusing to imagine that I was just going to leave it all behind and start out on my own adventure. That nothing behind me mattered as much as what was in front of me.

It had been fun, but I had known it was a lie. I had worked too hard to get where I had to just abandon it. That, and no matter how hard I wanted to believe otherwise, I knew there was nothing out there for me.

Nothing I couldn’t have where I was.

Still I kept up the ruse. I drove farther, not caring that I had never ventured this way before.

Not worried about the setting sun I had put in my rearview mirror. The monsters in the night didn’t scare you as much when you were one. At least that was what I told myself.

Something deep inside me had this insatiable urge to break free. I was scared by the strength of it. I hadn’t run in months, and my inner monster had remained dormant. Until now.

She wanted to take over. She whispered promises to me, in her moment of overwhelming need. She whispered of power. Of the strength to no longer have to be afraid.

She promised her wisdom, her intuition and connection, which only her paws biting into the soft earth could bring.

Then she promised me the dirtiest of all her covenants.

Acceptance. The opportunity to be whole in myself.

I had been a vessel half full for too long. She would pour into me, complete me and urge forth the beautiful being I was, the woman I deserved to be. I held tight to her whispers.

Though they were wisps, they felt heavy in my hands. Pulling off the road I did something I almost never did: I let my guard down in a strange place.

I stripped, tucking my car keys in my back passenger wheel well, and I changed.

I let the woman fall away and the wolf emerge. Thick hair sprouted where skin once was, nails became claws, as hands and feet became paws.

The dull roar of bills, chores, and never-ending schedules exploded into frenzied heartbeats, scurrying feet, the whistling of birds.

I heard the music the wind made when it maneuvered through the leaves and slithered through the blades of grass underfoot.

Could I really have forgotten how wonderful this feeling was? Could I really have been oblivious to how truly beautiful the world was? Or had I lied to myself?

Telling myself it wasn’t this magnificent to hide the fact that having this side of myself made me abnormal.

To punish myself for not fitting into the role I was supposed to play.

For being supernatural in a world that only worshipped nature when it was locked behind bars and when it was safely behind glass.

A sudden breeze had me rising to my feet. The wind tickled my fur, and my body grew stiff.

I raised my nose into the sky to verify that I had indeed smelled the presence of another. Not just one other presence, but many.

They all smelled different but kind of the same. My nose crinkled. It confused me. I had never encountered anything like this before.

Part of me was curious. I wanted to know what I was smelling; the other part of me was on edge. I wasn’t prepared to face an unknown threat in unfamiliar territory.

The scent got stronger, and I knew it was time to run again.

Leaving the clearing, I ducked through the brush of a newly fallen tree. The green glow of the eyes of small animals peered out at me from the bushes on either side of me.

Their nocturnal gaze reminded me of ghost lights, leading me deeper into the trees. Shaking off the eerie chill that crept up my spine, I ran quickly.

I tried to dismiss the way the headwind now felt like ghostly fingers winding their way around the fur of my neck.

Heading away from the scent, I tried to veer off toward the west, hoping to get out of their path.

Perhaps they were just hunting. If I didn’t interrupt their hunt, and if I didn’t take from the area, perhaps they would leave me be.

I tried to look for landmarks as I ran. I would need to remember how to get back to my car.

So far all I had was tree, tree, bush, tree, tree. At this point I was worried that I would get lost out here and end up spending days trying to find my way out.

Jumping over a rock, I marveled at the graceful stealth I possessed. God how I missed this.

I continued to run for a few minutes, but I still wasn’t free of the scent. Continuing west, I kept up my pace, not wanting to have to deal with a run-in with a territorial animal.

I definitely hadn’t missed that.

Somehow it was still getting closer. Soon I picked up on another scent. This one was coming from the woods in front of me.

It was similar to the scent I smelled before. I was positive I was smelling wolves, although their scent was strange.

What was this? A pack? I didn’t know wild wolf packs could be so big.

Usually a lone wolf would never dream of approaching me. I was much bigger and a lot stronger than they were.

They got a lot braver in a pack though. Normally, they avoided me, and I avoided them.

Wolves were incredibly territorial, so when I smelled them, I tried to leave the area quickly, not wanting to aggravate them.

This tactic, which ordinarily would have worked for me, was failing.

The smell was everywhere now. Feeling surrounded, I took a sharp left. My powerful legs ached with the strain being placed on them.

Faster. I needed to go faster. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep running at this speed.

My ears twitched as the soft thud of running paws and breaking twigs was heard. Crap. A growl cut through the darkness behind me.

They’re hunting me! I mentally screamed before my instincts kicked in. My thoughts became distant and my emotions numbed as the animal inside me took over.

I hated when this happened. It made me feel like I was driving while a stranger held a gun to my head.

I was still driving but had no real control. I had become the narrator in my own story, and although

I was participating, I felt like I was watching the event from somewhere else.

As I heard the thunderous thud of running paws and seeing the shifting forms in the trees around me, my heart sank.

There would be no more running. I slid to a stop. The hair on my body stood straight up, and my lips raised to bare my teeth.

Lowering my head and growling fiercely, I made my message clear. Do not mess with me. They needed to understand that if they chose to fight me, only pain would await them.

A large gray wolf launched himself at me from the trees. I dodged.

Straightening himself from the attack, he made a few steps toward me, his hair standing on end and his razor-like teeth glistening with saliva.

Another wolf hit me from the side, knocking me on my back. Not wanting my belly exposed, I bit into the side of his neck, ripping into him viciously before using my legs to push him off me.

With my head down low, I snarled and growled. Blood dripped from my mouth as I shook a piece of the last wolf that attacked me out of my open jaws.

The large wolf attacked again, latching onto my back leg. I yelped out and twisted, catching him off guard as I latched myself onto his shoulder with my teeth.

A surge of adrenaline had me throwing him away from my body. It was in that moment I was glad my wolf was in control.

A voice rang out over me from deeper in the trees.

“Take her down but don’t kill her. We want her brought in alive.”

A human? Bring me in? Where? Was I being hunted by humans? Were these wolves taking orders from them?

Looking around I noticed these wolves were much larger than your average wolf. Could they be…

Suddenly a stabbing pain erupted from my left shoulder, stopping my train of thought. A wolf had pounced on my back, his weight and my shock bringing me to the ground.

I whipped my head to the side, jaws snapping as I tried to get a chunk of my attacker. His muzzle stayed just out of my reach.

He pulled his head back sharply, latching his teeth deeper into my shoulder muscle.

When I tried to stand up, the wolf warningly put pressure on my shoulder and put his paw on my back, growling his intent.

Other wolves surrounded me, their heads down and their teeth bared.

A dark-haired man walked through them. As he stood over me, I noticed his scent was masked by the wolves surrounding me.

He was huge, all muscle. He leaned over me, something shiny in his hand. The human part of me noticed it for what it was.

A syringe. He leaned down, and panicked, I started to struggle, trying to break free.

What would they do to me? Kill me? Dissect me for their studies? My heart was going to burst out of my chest as fear flooded through me.

My wolf was slowly retreating. I was slowly gaining control, which also meant that my emotions were coming back at full force.

The pain in my shoulder was becoming numbed by the fear of discovery. Another pain, a pinching sensation in my neck, came and went, and I felt myself growing weak.

I fought until an odd sensation came over me. I could feel my fur give way to flesh, the wolf’s teeth now sinking farther and deeper into my shoulder.

I yelled out, and he adjusted his grip to fit my smaller form, but he did not release me.

Next, I could hear the cracking of my bones moving back into place. I tried out in my panic, on the verge of hysteria.

The pain from my forced shift was too intense. I tried to curl in toward myself as another surge of pain rocked my body.

My paws shook before my balled fists burst forth. My fingers unfurled and twitched over the earth, searching for anything to hold on to.

My feet dug into the ground as the bones broke, desperately burying themselves as if my foothold could ground me.

My claws receded back under the delicate skin on my fingers and toes, shortening to their normal human length.

My spine snapped as my back straightened and my vertebrae shifted. The sudden jerky movement almost ripped me from the wolf’s jaws.

My shift was tearing the wound on my shoulder wide open. I screamed as the combined sensation started to become unbearable.

The wolf choked up on my shoulder and clamped down again in an attempt to hold me still.

Please let go! I screamed internally .

The wolf whimpered.

“Release her until she’s finished her shift,” the man commanded as if he had heard me, running up beside me.

He knew what I was doing. I was shifting back in front of them, and I was powerless to stop it.

The wolf was holding my upper body up by his hold on my shoulder, so when he released me, I fell to the hard forest floor.

I could feel the dirt and pine needles stick to my blood-coated back and abdomen as my shoulder continued to freely bleed.

The smell of my own blood was so strong that I gagged back a wave of bile that fought for release.

When I swallowed, my mouth suddenly felt empty as my teeth became small and blunt. I whimpered as my snout contorted and became my human nose and mouth.

My jaw painfully snapped into place last.

I panted and tried to push myself up, but I fell, no longer able to move.

The cold night air felt good on my feverish body, and aware of the eyes on me, I tried to curl into myself.

The wolves all growled around me and moved closer. I could make out feet as they stopped in front of my face.

“Stand down. She’s no longer a threat,” the man said.

I tried to move my head to see him better, but I could only move it forward an inch.

Dirt and small pebbles made my face feel grimy as they stuck to my face, which was wet from my endless stream of tears.

“Jeremy, do you recognize this rogue?” the man called out.

Another man moved toward me out of the darkness. My breathing picked up, as the first man bent down next to me.

I winced as his hand neared my face and whimpered.

The man grabbed my cheeks firmly without hurting me and turned my face so the man, Jeremy, could see it better.

Jeremy towered over me. Shadows fell over his face, making his features indecipherable. He knelt down on the other side of me to get a closer look.

I tried to curl tighter into myself, but I only managed to twitch. The ground underneath me had been biting into my flesh, but the feeling had started to fade.

“Relax, little rogue. No one’s hurting you tonight,” Jeremy said as he pushed the hair out of my face. “I don’t recognize her. I don’t think she’s in our records.”

Records? Rogue? The world around me was fading away, and it was getting harder and harder to understand things.

I was starting to care less and less about being captured.

“How is that possible? We have every rogue in the area on record,” the other man said.

“This one could just be passing through, Patrick.”

“Guess we’ll find out,” the man called Patrick responded. “We may never know unless we get her to medical soon. She’s bleeding all over the place.”

Patrick stood up, and I was relieved.

I thought he was going to walk away when he came into view again. He pressed something to my gushing wound and applied pressure trying to staunch the blood.

I hissed at the sudden pressure, but as everything was growing numb, it didn’t bother me for long.

“Hold this,” Patrick said, and I saw Jeremy’s dark face swim back into view as he pressed the fabric against me.

Something draped over my trembling form. It smelled like the man who stood over me. Large, warm hands slid under me.

“Brace yourself,” Patrick whispered as he lifted me into his arms.

Stars flashed in front of my eyes at the sudden movement.

My body settled against Patrick’s bare chest, and I realized that he had covered me with his jacket and used his shirt to stop my bleeding.

I remembered that I was naked, but I couldn’t even bring myself to care anymore. My vision started to fail me as darkness moved like storm clouds over my eyes.

I could feel it when Patrick started walking, and I could hear the men talk, but soon their voices became nothing but static.

I could keep my eyes open no longer. The last thing I saw before my eyes finally closed was the moon.

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