Something didn’t feel right and I sensed it when my wolf stirred restlessly. I knew when a sudden jolt woke me from a pending nightmare and eerie silence filled my ears. The air was colder and dread filled my stomach. I knew Basil was awake from his erratic heartbeat. It was faster than usual and signalled there was danger ahead. That was when my own breathing increased. His arm wrapped around my waist tightened when foreign footsteps approached. I didn’t recognise the scent – it was human. I stiffened, fear sobering me to reality.
Sensing the emotion terrorising my system, his fingers trailed up and down my spine, soothing my nerves. I squeezed my eyes tightly, wishing this was all a dream, a terrible nightmare. Opening my eyes, I clung to Basil’s fingers tightly for reassurance. From a distance, black boots inched closer to us and I shuddered as the ear deafening shift and click of a rifle reached my sensitive ears. From this view – with my vision close to the earth – the grass appeared like skyscrapers and fortunately, they were large and thick enough to hide us from the enemy.
Yet, a single sound could blow our cover. For a second, I thought my breathing would give us away. Suddenly, the menacing boots stopped and the hunter lowered his rifle to the ground.
Horror struck me when he pulled out a deadly weapon deep in his pockets. Any sense of life fled my body as he aimed the grenade at a place I couldn’t see from my position. A strangled cry tore through my lips and Basil lunged for our attacker. My vision blurred as pain seared through my abdomen.
Then, everything went black.
“Izabella…? Izabella wake up!”
Startled awake, my chest hollowed as I gulped in air, desperate to ease my burning lungs. I shot upright and I took in the horrific sight surrounding me. The flames tearing through the field reflected my worse night - my own personal hell. Bodies were scattered across the ground, their limbs motionless. The stench of blood and burning flesh suffocated me, causing me to hyperventilate and my arms swung aimlessly as if trying to catch air.
The pack, from my position, looked like a war zone.
Where are my parents? My sister, my brother… Basil! My last memory was of him attacking that hunter. Please be alive. Stumbling, I began my search for them and scrutinised each body I passed, quickly looking away when I saw the emptiness in their eyes. Grief weighed me, nearly knocking me to the ground. They were members of the pack, my people… my family. This was a loss the pack would take time to recover. I swallowed the bile rising when I noticed some of the corpses were pups. The doleful cries of those in agonising pain were haunting and it tugged something deep in my chest.
I needed to help these people.
One woman caught my eye and I rushed to her, crashing to my knees to her broken shin. The sight was gruesome. I tried to catch her eye, trying to touch her arm but I couldn’t feel her. She was still screaming for help, her face soaked with her tears. It was as if she couldn’t see me.
“What the hell?” I whispered to myself, waving a hand in front of her face but got no reaction.
Standing, I retreated and dragged my gaze away, turning away from her.
She couldn’t see me? I was confused by everything; more with the emptiness I felt inside and couldn’t explain. I was missing something. What was I missing? I trailed my hands up my naked stomach, to my chest and then my throat. I couldn’t find what was missing. I was incomplete. What is missing? The repeated mantra was a continuous echo until I heard a familiar voice.
Recognising his gravelly tone, a weight lifted as relief soothed my nerves and I shifted my gaze to his. The relief morphed into something I couldn’t comprehend. Something wasn’t right; this wasn’t the Basil I was familiar with. I knew from his eyes, a clear distinct forest green softly sweeping over my skin. It ignited a flame much more powerful than the one around us and burned to the very depths of me to where I couldn’t ignore this inexplicable feeling. I was left in awe, not only of his beauty but of seeing a different side of him. For a second, I forgot about the disaster raging through The Midnight Moon and the fear of losing my parents and siblings. His aura didn’t possess any sense of brutality or menace. Then, it all hits me.
This was his human. His flesh.
Inhaling deeply, my chest swelled at the sight of him. “It’s you,”
His lips quirked into a half smile. “You act as if I’m a stranger,”
“In some ways, you are.” We fell silent and unable to handle his stare, I took in the war before looking at him.
“Why can’t they see me?” I asked curiously. It was like I was there but I wasn’t. Those passing by didn’t even recognise my presence. I was completely invisible. “Am I dreaming?”
His smile faltered, the sheen in his eyes dimming. “You’re dying.”
Dying? Worriedly, I raised my hands, searching for any signs of blood. Instead, I stiffened, goose-bumps dotting my skin when I realised I was completely bare in front of his eyes. Eyes I wasn’t used to. The urge to cover my skin was strong. All of a sudden, I was self-conscious. Basil frowned in disapproval.
“Don’t hide from me,” He said sharply. Without a second thought, I stopped moving at his command, feeling a blush burn my cheeks. Even in human form, he was still Alpha. Closing the distance between us, he wrapped a thick arm around my waist. “Go back,”
His words confused me and this time, it was my turn to frown. “What do you mean?”
“If you don’t go back, you will die and it’s not your time yet, sweet wolf,”
Something moved from the corner of my eye. I glanced to my right and my frown deepened when I saw myself and Basil but this time, his eyes were of his wolf. Falling to his knees, he crouched over me, cradling my motionless body as he rocked from side to side, fresh tears of pain streaming down his cheeks.
“Please, come back to me,” He croaked, eyes red-rimmed and swollen. I was in shock.
I’d never seen him this way, so raw and full of emotion. My chest swelled with sadness listening to his gut-wrenching cry. He stroked my hair, checked my eyes with the hope that I’d be awake. Then his hands fell to my bloodstained stomach and thighs. My mate, his wolf, howled in agony. He whispered something in his language, kissing my ear and I turned to his human, catching him mirroring his wolf’s words while watching me. Unease settled in me and I took a hesitant step back.
“What are you doing?” I asked warily.
“You need to go back,” He repeated, his green gaze sharp with intensity. “It’s not your time,”
When he didn’t respond, I shifted from foot to foot, glancing at Basil’s wolf then back to his human. What were they saying? Before I had the chance to ask another question, the ghost I’d seen before appeared in front of me. She gripped my throat, squeezing tightly until oxygen seeped from my lungs and I struggled for air.
I clawed her arm, my face twisting in disgust as a part of her rotten flesh dug under my fingernails. Fighting only made things worse and slowly, my vision clouded, the light around dimming as my arms fell weakly to my sides. My chest burned, protesting at the lack of oxygen.
He came closer to me and warmth radiated off his skin onto mine. Running his fingers through my hair, he kissed my cheek and then the deadly touch around my neck was replaced with his arms. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t open my eyes. With darkness closing in, I was sucked into oblivion and his last words didn’t go unheard.
“I love you, too.”