Red

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Excerpt #2

I stopped in the middle of a clearing, not caring that the rain had soaked through to my skin, that I’d probably never be dry – or warm – again. I gripped my bloody hand to my chest.
The wolf was hidden – but I knew it was there. It’s always been there.

“Is this what you wanted?” I asked, turning in a slow circle, eyeing the bushes for signs of movement. “Is this what you’ve wanted all along? To get them to doubt me, you? To turn away and leave me?”

There was silence. But then, I never expected the wolf would answer.
I knew it could. But it wouldn’t.

“Have you been planning this? How long have you waited for this moment?” I was glad for the rain, because my eyes filled up and spilt over. I detested showing any sign of weakness to this monster. “So, what’s next? Are you going to kill me now?”

There was movement in the bush to my left. I slowly turned to face it.

And there it was.

The wolf. My wolf.
Hulking and fierce, it lumbered out of the bushes, massive paws pressing the earth into itself. Claws – talons – dug the earth back up with every step it took towards me.

Its white fur was streaked with blood and dirt and bits of the forest. Its yellow eyes trained eerily on me, and only me. It didn’t look around for others, it didn’t check to see if it was safe. My wolf knew I was alone. Because it had planned it to be just so.

I don’t know when I had started to refer to this beast as specifically mine. Probably somewhere around the time when I lost my mind.

“Why now?” I asked it. “It’s been fourteen years. Why now?”

No answer.

“You know what I’ve always wondered?” I asked it. “How this all happened in the first place. There were other families at the campground. Why couldn’t you have picked a different one? Why did it have to be my family that you tore apart?”

My wolf had no answer. Or maybe it did, but it’s not into sharing.

A growl brought my head up. The wolf had its fangs bared, lips pulled back to expose long canines.

“What big teeth you have.” I considered them. “Better to rip me apart with?”

Its eyes narrowed.

“What? Don’t like that?” I scoffed. “I’m not too worried about offending you.”

The wolf pawed the ground, stepping closer.

“Why didn’t you kill me when you killed my parents?” I lifted a hand to my forehead, rubbing at the pain behind my eyes. I winced when I touched a bump forming there. Another injury. “You had the chance to kill me then. You’ve had the chance to kill me repeatedly for fourteen years. And you choose now? Are you bored? Have you finished playing with me?”

This isn’t a game.

I jerked around, searching for the voice.

“Who said that?” I called. They shouldn’t be here. This wolf would kill them without blinking. “Get out of here.”
There was nobody there.
I turned back to the wolf who had moved closer. Its intelligent eyes watched me closely.
I don’t want you dead. “Look. There’s a rabid wolf here who’s probably hungry for stupid people who wander into the forest.” I warned, “Run.”
The wolf snorted. Snorted. I glared at it.

The wolf tilted its head to the side, like it was considering my words.

I rubbed my forehead again. That’s impossible. Wolves are smart, sure, but they can’t understand English. And they sure as hell didn’t snort, either. What the hell is going on?
I don’t like backpack in my teeth.
I jerked around, searching for the voice. What the hell is this person’s deal? Why are they in a forest at this time of night?
Pot. Kettle. Black.
Whatever, I was running from a wolf. I had a right to be here. The voice did not. But hey, if he wanted to die, who am I to stop him.

The wolf growled again. He was right in front of me, his massive shoulders reaching my own. His muzzle was inches from the side of my face. I took a quick step back and ended up slipping on the slick grass. I tumbled down, slamming into the ground hard. I winced at the pain that shot through me.

The wolf moved closer, until I was pressed against the ground and it was over me.

I took short quick breaths, trying to calm down. I could feel the darkness creeping into my brain and I’ll be damned before I pass out in front of this beast. It leaned down, bringing its teeth closer to my face.
I turned my head to the side, trying desperately to sink into the earth. I prayed that a crater would open up and swallow me.

Elise.I swallowed a scream. Somebody was calling my name and it took every ounce of strength not to call out for help. I couldn’t. I know what this wolf can do – I’ve seen it. I couldn’t call somebody for help, because I can’t have another death on my mind. I couldn’t get any more red on my ledger.

Elise.
The wolf growled at my ear.
I felt a cold nose against my neck and I couldn’t help the yelp that slipped past stiff lips.

“Just kill me.” I told the wolf. “I’m so sick of being scared. I’m so sick of running.” I turned my head back so I could see the wolf. It was poised over me, head down to meet my eyes. “Just kill me.”

I don’t know when I decided I was okay with dying. I just knew that in that second, I was ready. I was ready to see my family again. My mother and father. My Grams. I just wanted to see them. Death is just the doorway.

(THIS CHAPTER IS CALLED THE DOORWAY)

But the wolf just shook its giant head.
I frowned.

Realization dawned.

“You can understand me.” I whispered. “You understand what I’m saying.”

The wolf blinked large eyes at me.

Oh, my god…

“You’re the one talking. You can talk.”

The wolf heaved a sigh.

“Why do you want to kill me?” I said.
The wolf heaved another sigh.
“You’ve been stalking me for fourteen years and now you’d have me believe that it’s not so you can kill me?” I looked up past the wolf at the sky. “I’ve finally lost it. I’m talking to a wolf. The wolf.” I shook my head. Maybe this wasn’t real. Maybe…maybe I’d died fourteen years ago, in that camp with my parents and this is how I’m to spend my death – locked in my own twisted mind.
Or maybe I was in a coma, and I was dreaming.

I blinked at the stars. Tears seeping from the corners of my eyes. I’d been scared for so long. I’ve been running for so long. And all this time, it’s all been in my head. That was the only way to explain this.
“You’re not real.” I said to the wolf.
It couldn’t be. Wolves don’t talk. They don’t understand English.

So it was easy to think I was stalking you for fourteen years but not that I can talk?

The smooth male voice echoed in the clearing, like the person talking was standing next to me.

“You’re not real.” I repeated.

Of course I’m real. I’m standing overtop of you.

I closed my eyes and let my head thunk against the ground. I slowly moved it back and forth. “No. No you’re not. I’m in a hospital room somewhere or in a casket six feet under.”

The wolf let out a low growl, building until I could feel it rumbling through my bones. He leaned down and pressed his nose to my neck. I tensed without thinking about it and the wolf opened his jaws over my shoulder. He applied enough pressure to gently pierce my skin.
I yelped and brought my hands up to press against his breastbone. “So you are going to kill me.”

The wolf held on a second longer, tightening his grip on my flesh a fraction.

Then he let go.

He moved off of me and gave me room to sit up.
I did so warily, not trusting the beast.

If I had wanted to kill you, I would have already.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I asked, bringing my hand up to my neck. It drew back with a few drops of blood. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to play with your food?”

The wolf sat down, watching me closely.

No. She was killed by hunters. “So was mine.” I glared at him, “By you.”
I did not kill your mother. I didn’t kill your father either.

“And you expect me to believe that?” I gaped. I stood, keeping my eyes on the wolf. “You think that I believe a word that you say? Oh my god. I really have lost my mind. Wolves don’t talk, Elise. They don’t have conversations. Oh, what is wrong with my mind?”
No, wolves don’t. But I’m not a wolf.“Oh, then what are you? A fairy princess?” I snapped.
I am a werewolf.

It was my turn to snort. “That’s impossible.”

A sigh. Why?

“Because werewolves don’t exist.”
And talking wolves do?“No.”

You’re talking to me.

“No, I’m talking to myself. You’re not real.”
The bite on your neck says otherwise.

“A figment of my imagination.”

How long are you planning to deny my existence? Should I bite you again?

“No. No. Werewolves are from stories. They don’t exist.” I stressed. “They can’t.”

Why not?

“Because!”

Now you’re just being stubborn.

“Prove it.” I demanded. “If you’re a werewolf, prove it to me now.”

What?

“Prove it. Turn human.”

There was a pause.

“You can’t do it, can you? That’s because you’re just a plain wolf. Albeit a big one, but just a plain old wolf. Werewolves don’t exist. You don’t exist. This whole time, I’ve been in my head-“

I’ll be naked.

“What?”
If I turn into a human now, I’ll be naked. I don’t keep my clothes on when I turn. They shred.

“Oh, how convenient.” I was aware, somewhere in the back of my brain that this wasn’t a good idea to taunt or anger him, but I wanted answers. I needed them.

One second I was staring into the yellow eyes of a wolf, and the next I was staring into the yellow eyes on a very naked man.

I yelped and jumped to my feet, backing away until I hit a tree.

“Do you believe me now?” He asked, his arms spread at his sides.

“Oh, my god. Oh, my god.” I banged my head back against the tree. “This can’t be happening. This isn’t happening.”

“You really need to work on the whole denial thing.” He said lazily. Dark hair curled over his nape, sharp eyes watched me.

“You’re a murderer. You killed my family. All of my family. You turned my best friend against me.” I glared at him, the anger welling up inside me again.

“I didn’t do any of that.”

“You’re the only psycho killer that I know!” I hissed. “You’re the only one who was around for each death!”

“No, I wasn’t.”

The tears had dried, leaving my skin tight and hot. I rubbed at my face, refusing to look at the…man-beast in front of me. “Why have you been stalking me?”

“I haven’t. I only just found you.”

“Oh, and I’m to believe that I have more than one psycho wolf following me?”

“I’m not psycho, Elise.” He said quietly. “And there is more than one wolf following you.”

“What?” I felt the blood drain out of my face.

“There’s several packs that have been following you.”


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