Fear gripped Lorelai’s heart as she caught the scent of something delicious.
It was him. Again. And so close to home, too. How had he found her? She’d been so careful. He’d been here recently, in this very spot of the forest. His scent was overwhelming, her body’s response to it more so.
She was only about a mile from the packhouse, and the woodlands were rich with the scent of her family. It gave the unknown wolf a clear trail back to her home. To Liam.
How had this happened?
She’d barely left the house in the past week since she first smelled him, and if she had, it was only for a run to stretch her legs. Never more than a mile from home, always with precautions taken.
She didn’t understand.
Forcing herself to remain calm, she considered her options. Going straight home would be foolish. If the wolf was following her, which she was sure he was, it would lead to disaster. She could just run as far and as fast as she could and take her chances. She’d catch up with her family when she could and it would keep them safe while she led her mate on a wild goose chase.
She’d already settled on the third option before she knew what she was doing.
Turning on her heel, she ran to the river, where her scent usually ended. Her paws padded against the ground as she deliberately brushed against trees and rolled against the ground.
This time, upon reaching the familiar stream, she did not dive into the water. Instead, she lay in the grass, groomed herself on the river’s banking and took a slow walk along the water’s edge in the opposite direction of her home.
Her heart raced constantly, jumping at every sound as though the unknown wolf might be laying in wait for her. Still, she continued her slow meander along the river’s edge until she was sure she was far enough away. Shifting back to human, she gathered some rocks and leaves, compiling what could look like a den, stepping back to admire her work.
With one last shift back into a wolf this time, she settled on the makeshift bed and watched the horizon. How long she lay there, she wasn’t sure. She groomed and moved constantly, making sure her scent covered the area and when the skies were dark, moved back to the river.
Even with her thick fur, the water chilled her to the bone. She pushed on, swimming upriver, back to her usual path. Her stomach growled with hunger, but she ignored the instinct to hunt. There would be plenty of time for food later once she confirmed everyone else was safe.
Her legs ached with weariness as she hauled herself out of the water. Water ran down her fur, the weight of it making her whine. It wasn’t far now. On the horizon, she could see the thick plumes of smoke from the chimney of their home.
Finally, there was a break in the trees, and her home came into view. She lingered back, sniffing the air for any hint of anything unusual. The scents of familiarity washed over her, and she smiled inwardly, her heart soaring in relief.
Walking towards the house, she let herself relax.
This was a close call, but she realised she panicked over nothing. She must have been careless on one of her outings. The unknown wolf hadn’t found her home. She was safe. Her pack was safe.
Killian, who stood on duty, barked his greeting to her as she approached. She bowed her head to him, nuzzled his neck in greeting. Moving past him, she flopped down in the garden, landing in an exhausted heap. Though not as physically taxing, the day had certainly taken its toll on her and, as her eyes closed, she couldn’t summon the energy to make it into the house.
She forced her eyes open, glancing at Killian and relaxing. She could afford a short snooze. He’d keep her safe. Five minutes max.
The angry snarl woke her from her slumber.
Still groggy, she didn’t know how long she slept. But the smoke from the chimney had died, and the air had a stillness that only came from the dead of night.
She pushed herself to her feet, looking to the source of the snarl.
Killian stood buck naked, his back to her. She took a moment to admire his tight butt before his angry words redirected her focus.
“What the fuck were you thinking, Brooke?”
Lorelai pushed herself to her feet, looking past Killian to where Brooke stood in front of him, her head hanging low. Even from her position, she could see guilt written all over Brooke from her stance. And as she focused properly, she understood why.
The strange wolf was beautiful, there was no denying it. Looking like an overgrown fox, his coat comprised shades of rustic red and muted oranges. His eyes were a shocking shade of amber, and while he stood taller than Brooke, he was sleek with a slight frame.
But his beauty did nothing to calm the fear in Lorelai’s heart. For all the beauty in the world didn’t change the fact that her mates’ scent lingered all over him.
Brooke. What have you done?
Shifting to her human form, she approached Killian, anger boiling in her veins. It was Brooke! Her best friend in all the world had led the very man she was trying to avoid right into her home.
“Transition back, Brooke,” she demanded, her tone leaving no room for argument. “Now!”
“Woah, Lor. It’s okay,” Brooke said as she faced her as a human. “This is Scott, and he’s one of us. A rebel without a home.” Green eyes met blue as Brooke pleaded with her friend to understand. “I couldn’t leave him when-.”
“Of all the stupid, reckless things you have done, this is the worst!” Lorelai spat her words, turning away from Brooke to scan the forest line. It was quiet out there, but it did nothing to calm her nerves.
He was out there; she knew it.
“Lorelai, you’re overreacting,” Brooke said, folding her arms over her chest. “Where would we be if we didn’t recruit new members? Rachel and Bethany, Lucas. They were newcomers, too at one point.”
“Rachel and Beth didn’t stink of my mate,” Lorelai said, growling her words.
Brooke, at least, had the decency to pale, while Killian immediately shifted to his wolf form, snarling at the other male. Despite the ferocity of Killian’s stance, the stranger remained calm, regarding them all as though they bored him.
Standing on his hind legs, he shifted and stood before Lorelai as a man. He chuckled darkly, rubbing the back of his neck.
“I guess the secret’s out,” he said, his accent thick. He was local. Brooke turned to him, frowning.
“Sorry, lass,” he said, not appearing apologetic at all. “I had my orders.”
“You used me?” She asked, anger blazing in her eyes.
“If it’s any consolation, you’re a great fuck.”
Lorelai closed her eyes as the weight of his words lay heavy on her. Brooke had sold her out for a simple fumble with a stranger.
“You want to call your guard dog off?” Scott said, nodding towards Killian. “He’s giving me a headache.”
“Fuck you,” Lorelai said, baring her teeth at him. He smirked as he ran his eyes over her naked form.
“Man. Evan is going to love you,” Scott replied. “He likes them with a bit of spunk.” Her blood ran cold at his words. What was she supposed to do here? She didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of her and while Scott appeared to be on his own, her wolf was whining in need, telling her everything she needed to know.
Her mate… Evan. He was close by.
“I’d like you to leave now,” Lorelai said, congratulating herself on her steady tone.
“And I’d like you to hop on my dick, gorgeous. But we don’t always get what we want.”
Killian snarled, launching himself at Scott. Quick on his feet, Scott phased into a wolf faster than Lorelai could blink. From the corner of her eye, she could see lights coming on in the house. She could hear the distant sound of activity over the angry growls of the two fighting wolves.
“Lorelai? What’s going on down there?”
Someone, she wasn’t sure who, called from the window.
“Shit. Get the others!”
No! No, this wasn’t what she wanted.
Before she could voice her protest, light erupted onto the scene as the door to the packhouse flew open. One by one, her family flew past her in a flash of fur and snapping teeth.
Bethany, with the purest white fur. Rachel with her brown tones. James and Sophia, a perfect compliment to one another. Nathan, a perfect replica of his brother and Lucas, as black as the night sky. All of them. Everyone she loved.
They surrounded Scott, baring their teeth, pawing at the ground. Scott whined and barked at them while they left Brooke and Lorelai on the sidelines to watch. And then it hit her. Liam wasn’t with them.
“Lor, I’m so sorry-.”
“Save it, Brooke, we’ll talk later.”
This was too easy.
Why was it this easy? Where was his pack?
Panic threatened to engulf her as she thought about Liam out there in the woods. Had they found him? Is that why he wasn’t here? She would never forgive Brooke if something happened to him.
Desperate to know, but unwilling to speak his name, she scanned the surrounding area once more, searching for any hint of her love. In the distance, she could see someone running towards them. A wolf, similar in appearance to Liam. She held her breath, holding on to hope, clinging to it.
When the wolf barked, she had her answer.
Without concern for her safety, she set off at a run, past her pack and towards the wolf, who had his eyes set on Killian’s exposed neck. She shifted into her wolf form mid-run, launching herself at the stranger and knocking him to the floor. Her teeth found his neck as he snapped at her side.
Vicious snarls filled the air, echoing around the land they had claimed as their home. Lorelai held on to the man, feeling the ground beneath her vibrate as Brooke screamed.
“Lorelai, look out!”
With a whine, Lorelai released her captive and felt her heart sink at the pack that ran towards her. Some as wolves, others as men.
And they outnumbered them completely.
Brooke was by her side in an instant, a wolf once more. With someone to watch her back, she looked behind her, towards her pack. She whined at them, shaking her head. They couldn’t win this fight. Not without casualties.
Bowing down to their Luna, the pack released Scott, who joined the ranks of his members. Her small band of wolves joined her, a united front, with Killian and Brooke on either side of her.
“What do we do, Lor?” Brooke’s voice whispered in her mind.
“We fight!” Killian. Of course. There were murmurs of agreement among her pack. No one backing down.
“They’ll kill us,” Lorelai replied. “Look how many there are.”
“Then we die together,” Lucas said, nuzzling her side. “We won’t allow them to take you.”
Lorelai took a breath, turning her gaze to the massive pack waiting for their move.
“Make sure you take as many of them down as you can,” she said. “Let’s teach these bastards they can’t take what they want.”
Crouching down, ready to launch, Lorelai snarled.
She wouldn’t go down without a fight.