I sighed in relief as I finally reached the table filled with refreshments. I quickly poured myself some punch and stuffed a few mini quiches into my pockets before sneaking away into the woods. I despised parties, especially when they were in my honor. But, as the former Alpha’s daughter and the present Alpha’s sister, there was no way to avoid the obligation of smiling and small talk.
Today was my eighteenth birthday, so naturally, my parents planned a massive party and invited the entire pack. It was an important day because eighteen was when you could finally sense your mate. However, I had come face to face with every unmated male in their pack and felt nothing. I wanted desperately to escape the disappointment of not finding my mate, of my mate not being who I had hoped.
At the beginning of the party, I had waited not so patiently for him to show up, hoping what I felt all these years was a sign of something greater. But when Blake had walked into the town square, and our eyes met, my hope died. There was nothing, no connection at all. I could have sworn I saw the disappointment in his eyes, too, before someone pulled his attention away. He was always busy now; he was my brother’s Gamma, his third in command. I had always been close with all my brother’s friends, but Blake had always been different.
I wound my way absentmindedly through the thick fir trees. I didn’t need to pay attention to where I was going; I had walked this way so many times I could get there blindfolded. As the evening wind blew my auburn curls across my face, I sighed and shook myself. I didn’t want Amy to catch on to my sour mood. Amy was my best friend, and she could always read me like a book. Her father was Beta to my father, and we grew up together, wreaking havoc in the pack house. We were only a few months apart in age, and we were inseparable. This morning we had made a pact to escape the party and meet at our secret place: A waterfall deep in the woods where hardly anyone went.
Soon, I walked into the clearing and found Amy sitting by the edge of the water, too distracted by the flowing water to notice my arrival. I smirked as I crouched down, readying myself to pounce on my unsuspecting friend when the wind shifted slightly. I froze. The stench of foul rotting flesh filled my nostrils: Rouges.
Suddenly, sirens blared from every direction. Amy’s eyes shot to mine, and we stared at each other for a moment before scrambling to our feet. We turned and ran back toward the town, jumping over rocks and fallen trees that blocked our way. Branches cut into my skin as I ran as fast as my feet would carry me. My heart pounded in my chest, and I pushed myself to move even quicker. We had to get back home. We had to make sure everyone was alright.
Once we cleared the forest canopy, we stopped dead in our tracks. Tables and chairs were broken and strewn across the cobblestones. Everywhere I looked, blood coated the ground: gunshots and the sound of tearing flesh echoed through the streets. People were running and screaming, chased by horrible monstrous wolves that seemed half-dead: reeking and oozing puss from every open wound.
“Oh, goddess.” Amy breathed
“Lyn! Amy! Get to the shelters now!” I looked over to see Amy’s older brother Seth rip out a rouge’s throat and run toward us. Once he reached us, he grabbed Amy and me by the arm then began walking, dragging us behind him.
“No, Seth! We can help!” Amy struggled to get out of his hold.
Seth whirled around, his eyes furious but tinged with wild fear. “Stop it! Don’t be stupid! You are going to the shelter, and that’s final. Do not make me order you” And he could too: He was the pack’s Beta, and his command was law just as much as the Alpha’s was. Amy glowered but stopped her struggling. Seth pulled us in the direction of one of the underground shelters the pack maintained for times like these. I followed, obedient in my overwhelmed state. I didn’t know what to do. There was so much blood, and the stench of it made my eyes water and my stomach turn.
Amy screamed, and we were suddenly thrown to the ground. I reached out to break my fall and felt my hands sink into something hot and slick. I looked down and recoiled with a sharp gasp. I had landed on the body of one of the pack warriors: His eyes lifeless and staring, his chest savagely torn apart. Bile rose in my throat as I scrambled backward, trying to put as much distance between myself and the gruesome body.
Rough hands abruptly grabbed me and lifted me upward. Instinctively, I thrashed against their hold; I didn’t want to die. I looked franticly for help, but Seth was already fighting furiously with another wolf. On the other side, I saw my father and brother fighting back to back, blood coating their bodies and matted into their hair. “LIAM!!” I called out for my brother. His eyes snapped to mine, but he turned back to the rogue he fought. I didn’t understand what was happening! I struggled, desperate to be free of my attacker, when a familiar growl rumbled in his chest.
“Lyn, stop! It’s alright! It’s me! “Blake’s deep voice growled in my ear, and I stilled immediately, letting him hold me for a moment before I turned to face him. I gasped as I saw a large gash upon his forehead, blood coursing down his face and into his eyes and mouth. My heart squeezed, and I reached to wipe the blood from his eye. Before I could touch him, however, he pulled away sharply. “Leave it! There isn’t time.” He tried to move me away from the fighting again, but I dug in my heels and pulled against him. He turned back with a frustrated growl. “Katydid, I’m fine, I promise! Please, let me take you to the shelter!”
I studied him for a moment, looking for any sign of a lie in his eyes. When I found none, I nodded and allowed him to lead me as we wove through the ever-intensifying battle. We hurried through the sea of fighting bodies and broken tables, stopping only when a rouge stood in our way. Blake quickly tore out its throat and turned back to me, blood dripping from his claws. At that moment, I finally succumbed to the overwhelming stench, turning and emptying my stomach into the nearest flower box. Once I was finished, Blake grabbed my hand, and we continued weaving through side-streets, trying to avoid as many altercations as possible.
Soon we reached a shelter entrance hidden in the trees on the edge of town. Blake dropped my hand and pounded on the massive steel door. “It’s Blake! Open up!”
The hinges groaned, and the door swung open to reveal a beautiful blonde on the other side of the door. It was Tessa, my brother’s mate, and the pack’s Luna. She gasped when she saw the state of me and pulled me into her arms, disregarding the blood that had seeped into my shirt.
“Tessa, make her stay here, please,” Blake said. His voice wavered a little, making my heart clench. I didn’t want him to go back there. I wanted him to stay here with me where it was safe.
Tessa nodded to him, and her grip on me tightened. Blake looked at me briefly, begging me to stay put, before he ran back toward the town. My breath hitched, and I was suddenly panicking. I had to stop him before something terrible happened. I couldn’t let him go back alone.
“BLAKE!!” I called after him, but he kept running farther and farther away from me. “Please, Tessy!” I cried as I pulled against Tessa’s hold.
“It’s his job, honey! Please, come on!” She pleaded.
“No! I can’t let him do this alone.” I ripped Tessa’s hand from my arm and ran out of the trees. I dashed into the open field and headed toward town. I couldn’t allow people I cared about fight alone. I couldn’t allow the person I cared about most to fight alone. Distantly, I heard Tessa yelling after me, but I kept on running. I couldn’t let him do this alone.
I heard a loud crack before I felt something tear through the skin of my leg. I fell to the ground gasping in pain, and I looked down at my leg. Blood poured out of a hole in my calf, quickly coating the grass beneath me in a thick red stain. A shadow loomed over me, and I looked up into a face I had never seen before. He was tall and vicious-looking with black eyes that sent a shiver down my spine. His silver hair fell into his face as he sneered down at me over the barrel of his gun.
“Say goodbye, Princess.” he chuckled as his finger moved on the trigger.
Something golden flashed before me, and the gun went off with a furious bang. Pain tore through my chest and propelled me backward onto the ground. My ears rang, and my eyes something hot and sticky covered my eyes. A metallic taste filled my mouth, and I knew I was covered in blood; But who's? A muffled howl rent the air, and I heard the faint sounds of fighting around me.
I flinched as gentle hands wiped the blood from my face. I could tell someone was calling to me, begging me to open my eyes, but I couldn't. I was lifted into a warm pair of arms, and pain shot through my body at the sudden movement, forcing my eyes to open in shock. I saw a limp body lying in the grass, bloodied and unrecognizable except for the silky golden hair now tainted with blood.
“NOOOOOOOO!” I cried out and willed myself to go to her. But I could barely move and was held tightly in what I now knew to be Blake’s arms. “TESSA!” I screamed. But he kept walking as I wailed and weakly tried to break free. I watched helplessly as my brother fell to his knees beside the lifeless body of his mate. Liam pulled Tessa to his chest, weeping and howling in pain. The world started to spin, and I tried desperately to stay awake. But no matter how hard I fought, darkness slowly consumed me, and I slipped from consciousness.
Author note: So excited you are here reading! Please let me know what you think! XOXO Kim