Mage's Fire

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Twenty-Five: Riley

After finding a change of clothes for the young werewolf, I sent everyone but my pack and Kai out of the kitchen. I made some food for him—nothing much, just some sandwiches and chips, but he devoured them all like a wild animal. I watched, both horrified and saddened at the way he shoved the food down his throat, hardly taking a moment to breathe. I got him some orange juice, and he swallowed the large glass in two gulps.

I shared a worried glance with my friends. When I looked at Kai, his eyes were narrowed with apprehension. I turned back to the werewolf, who had finally slowed down in his chewing. He now picked at the crumbs on his plate, savoring every morsel of flavor.

I cleared my throat. His eyes, which were glowing softly with fear, snapped up to meet mine. I gave him a reassuring smile and said, “You must be hungry, huh?”

He nodded and leaned back in his chair. “Starving,” he clarified. He ducked his head, averting my gaze as he picked at a loose thread in the flannel coat Kai had given him. He looked so small in Kai’s clothing. As I looked at him, I saw that he had a naturally tan complexion, along with some possible Native American features. Unfortunately, his skin was washed out and pale, and he had bags under his eyes.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

He glanced up, eyes still wide as he snapped his gaze around from me to Kai, then to Drew, to Eddie, and then back to me. I smiled at him again and said, “I promise, no one will hurt you here. Okay? You have my word.”

He fidgeted in his chair, hugging his arms close to his body. “Koda,” he said. “My name’s Koda.”

I nodded. “It’s nice to meet you, Koda,” I said. “I’m Riley, and these are my friends Kai, Drew, and Eddie.”

He frowned. “You mean your pack?” he asked.

I laughed. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, they’re my pack, but they’re my friends, too. Just because you’re a pack doesn’t mean you’re not friends.”

Koda turned his head away. “It does in the Mad Pack,” he spat bitterly.

“Well,” I said, leaning back in my chair as well. “We’re not the Mad Pack.”

“What do you want?” Koda snapped, hugging himself even tighter as he snapped his head around to look at me.

“I’m not going to lie,” I said. “We need information.”

“We were gonna just take any ol’ wolf that we could,” Drew said.

I gave her a fierce glare until she looked away, her jaw working as she ground her teeth. The sharp tang of blood in the air told me that she was literally biting her tongue. Once I was sure she wouldn’t speak up again, I turned back to Koda and said, “But I’m glad we found you.”

“Why?” he asked, pain lacing his voice. “Why are you glad you found me? Especially after what I’ve done to you.” He looked at Kai then, after realizing he was out of place, he averted his eyes and mumbled, “Sorry about that.”

Kai laughed. “Don’t be,” he said. “It takes a lot for someone to get the jump on a Guardian, even if they’re mad.”

Kai and I exchanged a brief glance and then looked away. It wouldn’t have happened in the first place anyway if we weren’t distracted.

Koda frowned. “Guardian?” he asked. “What’s that?”

Drew sniggered, and Eddie sighed. He leaned over and smacked her in the back of the head. She yelped and spun around in her chair, snarling at him. He growled back and I spun on both of them, baring my fangs in a fierce snarl. “Enough!” I snapped.

They fell silent, looking only mildly sheepish as they stared down at the tabletop. I sighed and turned back to Koda. “The Guardians are werewolves who protect us and keep us secret from humans. Kai and some of the others are Guardians.”

“Oh…” Koda slumped down in his chair, staring aimlessly in front of him. “No one ever told me that.”

“There’s a lot that no one told you,” I said. “Because Dominic only cared about power, and Jeremiah only cares about vengeance.”

Koda nodded. “On you.” His eyes flicked up to meet mine.

I nodded. “Yes,” I said.

He laughed bitterly. “I’m glad you killed him,” he said. “Dominic ruined my life. I had a good one, with friends, family… I was learning how to drive, and I was starting to think about colleges. I lived in a good neighborhood, but Dominic broke into my home and killed my family. My best friends were at my house for a sleepover, and he killed them, too. He bit us all, hoping to turn us. I was the only one who survived.”

He sighed and, seemingly restless, stood and started pacing back and forth. “I thought it was all over, but then Jeremiah stepped forward and took the position of alpha. Just like before, I was left the omega, and I was forced to run west.” He stopped and looked at me. “To kill you.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked. I leaned forward and rested my forearms on my knees. “Why didn’t you kill me? Or Kai?”

He sighed again. “I wanted to, at the time,” he said. “I wasn’t allowed to shift back to human form, and… I don’t know how to explain it. The wolf just… took over. I couldn’t break free, and while the human part of me didn’t want to hurt you, the wolf wanted to shred you to pieces.”

He groaned and bowed his head, rubbing the back of his neck. He ran his fingers through his thick black hair, then he slumped back onto the chair and said, “After you chased me off, I tried to escape. To run away. I wanted to leave Jeremiah’s pack, but he sent some wolves after me. They tried to get through to me, but they couldn’t. I was already drawn somewhere else.”

I frowned. “Drawn where?” I asked.

He looked me in the eyes and said, “To you. To your call.”

My frown deepened. “My call? What does that mean?”

Kai laughed softly and stood. Koda shrunk away from him, but Kai didn’t notice. His eyes were on me. “Of course,” he breathed.

“What?” I asked.

“It’s part of the legend,” he said. “Of the Silver Wolf. It’s some sort of beacon you emit, something that draws other werewolves to you.”

My brows furrowed in confusion. “You’re telling me that I’m some sort of werewolf magnet?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yes,” he said. “The first to follow the Silver Wolf are those who wish to escape the oppression they are forced to live in.”

“Like omegas.”

“Exactly!” Kai exclaimed, straightening as he clapped his hands together. “The omegas will be the first to follow you, followed soon after by others.”

Drew and Eddie exchanged a quick look. “What?” I asked.

“We joined your pack so we could stop being omegas,” Drew said. “The way we were treated, the way we lived… it was hell.”

“I know,” I said. “What’s your point?”

“That is her point,” Eddie said. “We joined your pack because of the freedom you offered, but it was more than that. It was like we were drawn to you, a pull we couldn’t fight.”

Koda nodded. “Exactly,” he said. “I tried to follow it to you, but the others caught up to me…”

His eyes started to glow brightly. He ducked his head, his fingers gripping tightly onto the baggy sweats he wore. I reached over and placed a hand on top of his. He stiffened for a moment, then he sighed heavily and relaxed.

“Koda,” I whispered. “Look at me, please.”

He lifted his head, tears brimming at the bottom of his eyes. I held on tightly to his hand, saying, “I promise, you won’t ever have to deal with them again. Okay?”

He released a shaky breath and nodded. “Okay,” he breathed. He cleared his throat and pulled his hand away, straightening in his seat. “You said you wanted information on Jeremiah?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll tell you what you want to know, but on one condition.”

“Kid,” Drew snarled. “Do you really think you’re in any position to be making deals with us?”

He glared at her and said, “Do you really think I care?” While Drew gave him an incredulous look and Eddie laughed, Koda turned to me and said, “I have a friend in the pack. She’s innocent. If I help you, you have to promise that you’ll spare her.”

I nodded. “Fine,” I said. “So long as she doesn’t attack any of us when the time comes, I’ll make sure she’s safe.”

He nodded, sighing in relief. “Okay, then,” he said. “What do you want to know?’


Later that night, I was sitting in a lounge chair on the back porch of the Guardian’s house. I leaned back against the chair, knees drawn up to my chest as I stared up at the starry night sky. The air was cool and crisp, a soft breeze playing with the loose strands of my braid. I heard the back door open and instantly tensed up for a fight, but when Kai’s scent drifted over my nose, I relaxed.

“I thought I’d find you out here,” he said as he lowered himself onto the end of the chair. He smiled at me, his eyes glowing in the darkness. “What are you thinking about?”

I shook my head. “I’m not thinking about anything,” I said. “I’m just listening.”

He nodded. “I get it,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to distance yourself from the craziness happening in the world, reconnect yourself to nature.”

I smiled. He understood me so well by now, but I think it was more due to the fact that we were so similar. I used to be an arrogant, joking ass, too. Then I was bitten and turned into a werewolf, and then I had a pack to look out for. I had to grow up.

Kai did as well, I suppose. But he used his personality to cover up how he really felt, while I wore my emotions out on my sleeve.

Kai and I snapped our heads to the north when a long, low howl drifted towards us on the wind. Jeremiah. I shivered at the sound. He was angry that I had taken his omega from him. More howls joined him, each voice expressing their frustrations and anger. I heard snarls, then a sharp whimper of pain. Then there was silence.

“They move fast,” I murmured. It seemed that they had a secondary omega lined up in case they lost Koda.

“They’re rogues,” he said. “More importantly, no one ever taught them any better. They’re only following basic instincts.”

I nodded. “The instincts of a wolf.”

“Yes.” He looked back at me and said, “Does your aunt know where you are?”

I nodded. “I told her that I’m here,” I said. I had done my best to keep her updated on my whereabouts and goings-on with everything that was happening. She didn’t like any of it, but she understood that I had to do what was necessary.

Another breeze passed by, causing me to shiver. Kai stood and came closer to me, moving to sit next to me on the chair. I scooched over, giving him some room. He ended up moving to sit behind me, making me scoot forward before he pulled me back against his chest, legs spread out on either side of me.

I settled into him, allowing his warmth to wrap around me like a blanket. He wrapped his arms around my waist, resting his chin on my shoulder.

“What do you make of Koda’s information?” I asked. He had told us exactly what we wanted to hear: how many wolves were in the pack, where they were located, who the leaders were… everything.

“I think he’s telling the truth,” Kai murmured. “And he seems to care very deeply about his friend.”

I nodded. “Kai?”

“Hmm?”

“He has no one,” I whispered. “No friends, no family… we just took him from his pack. He doesn’t have anybody.”

“Hmm, I think you’re wrong.”

I frowned and twisted my head around to look up at him. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“For one, that’s a poor excuse for a pack,” he said. “And for another, you heard him. He said he was drawn to you. I think that pretty much makes him a member of your pack now.”

I sighed. “Great,” I muttered. Now I had to take care of orphaned werewolves? I was more than happy to accept anybody into my pack that needed it, but how was I going to take care of Koda? I doubted that Aunt Kate would appreciate having two werewolves in the house.

As if he knew what I was thinking, Kai said, “I can let him stay with me.”

I looked back up at him. “Really?”

He smiled. “Of course. After we resolve this problem with the rogues, and we will, the other Guardians will go on, and I’ll stay. The resources from the Guardians will be more than enough to provide for not only me, but for Koda as well.”

“How does that work, exactly?” I asked. “Are they paying for this house? Because other than patrolling and fighting off rabid teenage werewolves, you guys aren’t working to pay rent or anything, so…”

He laughed. “Yes, the Guardians are paying for the house. I’ve also told them that I’d be staying to run with you.”

“And they’re fine with that?” I asked.

He nodded. “Like I said before, we have too many Guardians, and not enough work to go around. If they need me, they’ll call me, but I’ll return.”

I nodded and looked forward, back up at the night sky. “Good,” I said. Now that I had Kai in my life, I hated to think about what it would be like without him…

It was strange. We had only known each other for barely two weeks, and yet it felt like I had known him my entire life. The way the bridge connected us, our personalities, the way he seemed to speak and connect to me on a spiritual level… if I had to have an official beta that was a werewolf, Kai would be it.

I turned my head to look back at him, only to find that he was staring at me. When my eyes met his, he smiled. I laughed and said, “What are you thinking about?”

He shrugged. “A lot of things,” he said. “But right now, looking at you… all I can think about is how badly I want to kiss you.”

I laughed again, softly. “Then do it.”

He grinned, eyes flashing in the night. “As you command, Silver Wolf.” He ducked his head and I reached up, meeting him halfway as he crushed his lips against mine.

I breathed in heavily, inhaling his scent. His hold on me tightened as he kissed me, and when my neck started to hurt from the awkward position it was in, I pulled his arms away and turned around, straddling his lap as I held his face in my hands before kissing him again.

He sighed heavily, growling softly as his hands tightened around my waist. He leaned farther back against the chair and I moved with him, his chest pressed up against mine. His heart beat wildly in his chest, and I could feel mine racing, keeping time with his.

We pulled away, gasping for breath. I leaned my forehead against his, eyes closed as I breathed in his pine and smoky campfire scent. “It’s late,” I whispered hoarsely. “We should get to bed soon…”

He nodded. “Soon,” he agreed. Then he kissed me again.

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