Chapter 1: Red Birthday
“Happy Birthday!” The room erupted in cheers.
Adeline froze, her pale blue eyes widened as her pack members flung confetti in her direction. A wide smile spread across Adeline’s face as her cheeks grew warm. Finally, after waiting fifteen long years, she was of age. Shifting age.
“Happy birthday, pumpkin.” A heavy, calloused hand was placed on her shoulder. Turning around, Adeline wrapped her arms around her papa. With her cheek squished up against his broad chest, she breathed in his warm, welcoming scent. As wolves, pups could identify their parents by a unique scent that no other could sense, and, to this day, she could still smell the unique scent: cinnamon and something smoky.
“Thank you, papa,” Adeline said before pulling away to hug her mom, who was in front of the celebrating pack.
If the Southern Pack knew anything, it’d be how to throw a party. They used anything to throw a party. Oh, did your grandma die? Maybe you’ll feel better if we threw a party in her honor. You're dying from a mysterious disease? We’ll still throw a party (in your honor of course).
'Yeah, we like to have fun.' Adeline thought dryly. 'And have an excuse to get drunk.'
“Dinner should be ready in a few minutes, and then cake!” Clyde, the pack Beta, practically cheered, a microphone cradled in his hand. “Happy Birthday Addy!”
Then, she was swarmed by pack members.
Shoveling her food into her mouth, Adeline savored the taste. Only once a year did the Pack Cook serve this dish, and that one time a year was her birthday.
“How are they?” Dillon, Adeline’s father, asked. Not trusting herself to speak with a mouthful of meat and barbecue, she stuck up a sauce covered thumb. Her father’s chest rumbled in amusement as Adeline picked up another rib and bit into it. Unlike the West Pack, Adeline’s pack was the opposite of formal. Anyone could walk into the dining room in sweatpants and slippers, and nobody would give a flying crap. But the West was different. They were well known for a perfect appearance, a perfect Packhouse, and a powerful Oracle. Some may say that the Southern pack was lacking. 'But hey ... we have great food!' Adeline often thought.
Clink, clink, clink.
Turning her head to the sound, she saw Clyde stand up from his seat, a glass of champagne in his large hand.
“I would like to make a toast to Adeline!” Clyde smiled, his deep voice traveling through the room, turning every head in his direction.
Blushing, she hurriedly picked up a napkin and wiped clean her face. When all eyes were on him, Clyde began to speak.
“I remember when you were just a newborn,” Clyde said, his voice gentle... loving even. “So fragile, so small. The first time I held you, I was afraid that I would harm you.” The beta smiled as chuckles rang around the room, those old enough to remember her birth thinking back to that day. Adeline had been born five weeks premature, and when they had to do an emergency c-section, Adeline came out furious. Her father would always say that the warriors training outside had even heard her cries of rage.
She had been a tiny little thing though, and even now, she was shorter than the average she-wolf. But not by much, and her mama would always say that her stubbornness and swagger made up for her lack of height.
“I remember the first night you came home. You were so quiet, so small... so well behaved.” Looking around the room, Clyde’s mouth turned upright into a mischievous smirk. “Then, I swear to the Moon, that was the last time any of us slept a full night. You cried so loud.”
Again, more chuckles rang around the room. Raising his glass high up in the air, Clyde’s onyx eyes met hers.
“To Addy, our future Ascena.” Clyde tipped the glass in her direction, then the rest of the wolves in the room did the same.
“To Addy!” Everyone said in unison. In seconds, all champagne glasses were empty and being refilled just as quickly.
“Happy birthday Addy!” Adeline’s friend, Zoë, shouted in her ear.
Zoë was a lanky she-wolf with long blonde hair and had the most beautiful almond shaped eyes. The pair had been friends since they were just pups, but Zoë was a pack Enforcer’s daughter; so with that title, the girl wasn’t around much.
“Zoë!” Adeline cried, “What are you doing here? I thought your dad was ordered over to the West Pack!” The girl’s startling sapphire eyes gleamed as she set her bony elbows on the table, and laced her fingers together.
“Well, I’m happy to see you too.” Zoë laughed. Opening her mouth, Adeline was cut off as Zoë put a finger in the air, right in front of her lips.
“Alpha Travis called last night saying, if I remember correctly, and I quote here, 'The last time you Southern boys came over, you stole all of my liquor, trashed the Pack Pool, and clogged the toilets.’” Zoë let out a loud snort. “He doesn’t want us ‘Southerns’, to be a bad influence on his perfect pack.”
Adeline let out a laugh. She hadn’t seen Travis Young in years, but from what she had heard, he was the same old party pooper that she met when she was eight.
“How long are you staying?” Adeline asked, her brows drawing together as a headache began to form just behind her eyes, its presence nothing more than a flicker of... of something.
Picking up a slice of buttered cornbread that had sat half-submerged in her beans, she bit into it; hoping that by getting some more food into her, it would push the headache away.
Zoë picked at the food on her plate, a look of disgust flashing across her face as she pushed the meat to the side of her plate.
“Not long." She sighed. "Knowing Travis, he’ll be calling my dad any day now. He’s done it before.” The moon-ring Zoë had worn since she was ten, glittered a moonlight silver. Words were embrossed there on the band, but they were so small, so drawn together, that she had never been able to read them.
Adeline’s lips pulled down into a frown, but before she could say more, someone yelled out, “cake!”
The singing was horrendous.
'Had anyone ever sang the ‘Happy Birthday Song’ before?' Adeline pondered as the crowd of wolves practically screamed her name. The candlelight on her cake flickered across her face as she drew in a deep breath.
“Make a wish!” The crowd cheered.
'My wish is for you guys to take singing lessons,' Adeline thought just as she blew out her candles.
Grimacing, Adeline’s smile dropped briefly as a screwdriver twisted in her brain. She’d had headaches before, not many at all, but this was the Godzilla of them. A Godzilla that was wreaking havoc in a city... a city that happened to inside her skull.
Shutting her eyes as shadows floated in her vision, she heard her mother’s voice.
“Addy? Are you okay, honey?” Her mother asked in a gentle, calm voice. The whole room dropped into a silence.
Opening her eyes, Adeline looked around before giving everyone a pained, forced smile.
“I’m great. I just can’t believe how bad everyone's singing skills are.” She got a few chuckles, but they seemed strained. It was as if they could sense her pain.
Flashing another bright smile, she picked up the cake knife sitting beside the cake. “Shall we?”
“This is amazing!” Zoë moaned around a mouth full of cake and frosting. Nodding her head, Adeline forced her mouth open to receive another forkful of the no-doubt tasty dessert. But, with each bite, the pain would disappear only for a split second, then reappearing in full force.
It was excruciating.
She could tell that the others were concerned for her, and while she had been talking to her best friend, she had even overheard her mother talking to her papa.
“Do you think it’s her wolf? Is she shifting?” Her mama had asked. The Luna’s eyes had been wide in worry.
“I don’t think so,” Dillon, Adeline’s father, shook his head. “She would have shifted by now, and plus, pups don’t get headaches when they're about to shift. She is probably just stressed, that is all; I am sure that it will go away soon enough.” Wrapping his arm around his mate and wife, Adeline’s father pulled her closer to him.
Kissing the top of her head, he then rubbed his cheek into her hair. It was a way of putting scent on another, and males often did this to their females.
“I am not sure... I was stressed, but never got any pains, or-”
“Shhhh.” Her papa hushed, his lips forming a kind smile. “It is okay, Alexandra. You needn’t worry, she will be okay... is okay. It is nothing.”
It was a lie. It wasn’t anything. She wasn’t okay, and her mother had been right for worrying.
If only they had seen it earlier.
“Thank you all for showing up and spending the night celebrating Addy’s birthday!” Alexandra said joyfully.
Whoops, and hollers rang throughout the room, making Adeline’s pounding head spin. Biting her lip to hold back the sob as Pack members embraced her, wishing her a happy birthday, Adeline forced down the yelp of pain that begged to be released; but all she could manage was give them a weak hug.
“Tomorrow, after supper, we will take a pack run with a new wolf among us!” Dillion said proudly.
Closing her eyes as black dots swarmed like killer bees before her eyes, she let out a harsh breath, hoping that it would relieve the pain in her head.
It did nothing.
“Happy birthday, Addy,” Zoë whispered in Adeline’s ear. The she-wolf gripped her arm in a comforting gesture, no doubt trying to relieve Adeline’s pain in some way.
“Get some sleep, okay?” Zoë told her. Normally, Adeline would’ve smirked and told her that she would be her future ascena, but not this time.
No, not this time. This time, she attacked.
A wolf, roughly the size of a large Great Dane took the place of Adeline.
Shredded clothes fell around the wolf as glowing blue eyes zeroed in on Zoë. The steel fur along the wolf’s shoulder blades lifted in aggression as her jowls pulled back, flashing ivory white canines.
Taking a step towards the blonde she-wolf, Adeline’s beast tensed in readiness. A single movement of her prey would set her off because right now, Adeline didn’t see her friend; all she saw was prey. Zoë was an easy target, too: the she-wolf hadn’t even shifted yet. She was weak.
An easy practice toy.
“Adeline... w- what are you doing?” Zoë asked, her voice trembling with the emotions racking through her.
The room was silent, everyone holding their breath.
Waiting... watching for what Adeline would do.
Adeline’s ears flicked back, pressing against her skull.
All Adeline could see was red as her beast crouched low, growls rumbling from deep within her chest.
Zoë must’ve thought that Adeline was crouching in a submissive posture, she must’ve thought that Adeline’s beast wouldn’t hurt her.
She and all the others in the room couldn’t have known that Adeline wasn’t there. Instead, their innocent Addy was taken over by a rabid beast.
With a vicious snarl, the steel grey wolf rocked back onto her hind legs and sent her powerful body towards her prey.
Sharp black claws hooked into clothes and tore through flesh as she attacked.
Adeline was relentless.
Pushing all of her weight on the
shell-shocked female, Adeline easily threw Zoë to the floor.
Landing on top of the she-wolf with her paws holding down her body, the beast dove down to tear into Zoë’s neck, aiming for her jugular artery, but was thrown off with enough force to send her flying into a wall.
Adeline didn’t even feel the pain as her body hit the wall. Her beast got up just as quickly, preparing for her next attack.
The grey wolf’s eyes narrowed as a group of tense wolves crouched before her, fur bristling and teeth flashing.
Her nostrils flared as the heavy, alluring scent of blood filled the air, and the sound of crying met her ears.
‘ENOUGH!’ Her father ordered through the pack link, but Adeline's rabid Beast didn’t hear him.
His alpha status didn’t apply to it.
Taking a calculated step, the wolf prowled forward. She could feel the dominance the alpha was pushing onto her in an attempt to stop her, to force her into submission. The she-wolf released a throaty rumble-- finding it funny that Dillion, an all-powerful alpha, couldn’t stop her from slaughtering everyone in that mansion and beyond.
She would be unstoppable.
‘Take another step, Adeline Noelle Manson, and I will have no choice but to physically put you in your place, daughter or not.’ Dillion’s voice was deadly calm. Adeline knew that he meant every word-- she had seen him do it before. But Adeline wasn’t in the driver’s seat, it was the violent wolf that had shoved her into the darkest, coldest corner of her mind, that had complete control.
‘Please stop.’ Adeline begged, trying to get her wolf to calm down.
Instead of getting a reply back, her vision went dark, the once joyful atmosphere fading out into sheer nothingness.
The whole damned world went black.
The Beast had completely taken over.