His lungs burned white hot in his chest as his paws pounded the moist greenery beneath him. Thunderous rain pelted against his long snout like tiny silver bullets as the water pierced through his fur, leaving him thoroughly drenched. The moisture pooled around his eyes and made it more difficult to see with every stride, threatening to blind him.
The faster he ran, the more impossible sight became and he was eventually forced to rely on his muscle memory as he maneuvered through the dark forest at top speed. His chest heaved and his legs began to scream in protest as he pushed himself deeper into the shadowy woods. He’d been running for so long that nausea bombarded his senses and his body was beginning to betray him.
I can’t stop. I have to keep going, he thought to himself as he urged himself further.
Fear crept into the forefront of his mind’s eye and he was suddenly greeted with a newfound energy as adrenaline pumped through his veins. He knew that he had to get as far away as he possibly could before day break.
“Dean, it is time for you to take your father’s place as head of the pack. These people are your responsibility.” His mother’s cold words ran rampant through his memory on a dreaded loop.
He wasn’t prepared to lead an entire pack. He was only sixteen, he wasn’t even old enough to recognize his true mate yet and he was to be expected to care for and lead an entire city. He didn’t know the first thing about being an Alpha. How was it at all logical for him to be required to step up and take his father’s place? His eyes began to blur at the memory of his father and a new onslaught of tears burned his emerald green eyes.
I can’t go back there, I’m not ready, he thought, Dad never taught me how to be an Alpha. He never had the chance to.
Tears cascaded down his muzzle and stained his matted ebony colored fur.
He’s supposed to be here! If he wasn’t so damn careless then he would still be alive and I wouldn’t be forced to run away! Now what the hell am I supposed to do?!
His father was only in the ground for a week and already, his mother was attempting to relinquish his responsibilities onto someone else.
Aka me, he groaned internally.
His father had been the most well renowned Alpha in the North and there wasn’t a single chance in hell that anyone else could ever live up to his reputation, especially not his idiot son that hadn’t even finished puberty yet. Just the thought of bearing the responsibility of protecting and leading an entire pack was enough to make him want to vomit.
The plastic trash bag that had been flinging around carelessly between his canines was beginning to weigh him down and the pain it was causing in his neck had become unbearable. His entire body ached as the remaining adrenaline quickly faded from his system and his legs throbbed from the prolonged exertion.
The dank forest scenery seemed to blur together in a dark misty haze as his head began to spin. Thoroughly disoriented, he managed to stumble over his own over sized paws and took a nosedive into the waterlogged leaves. His body splayed out in a heap, completely drenched in mud. He sunk deeper into the ground and fell into an overwhelming pit of despair.
His burly shoulders shook with grief as memories of his father washed through his mind like a crashing tidal wave of emotion. He wasn’t ready for any of this. He wasn’t prepared for the sudden loss of his father and he had absolutely no idea what to do next. Sobs caught in his throat as he howled out in complete anguish, partially hoping that his father would hear and come to take him home as he had often done when Dean would venture out too far from the pack and get lost.
There had been so many times that he would get distracted by something or lose the scent he had been tracking and suddenly couldn’t seem to find his way back. Each time he knew that if he howled out, his father would be there in a flash, ready to comfort and guide him home.
He buried his face in his heavy paws and tried to shake away the memory. This may officially be the lowest point in his life. As desperation for answers flooded his consciousness, he began to do the unthinkable. Without anywhere else to run and lacking any better ideas, he began to pray, with the faintest hope that someone, somewhere, was listening.
Please Goddess, I don’t know what to do. I have nowhere to go and absolutely no idea what the hell I’m doing. Just show me what to do! Please! Someone! Anyone! He called out, silently. I’m scared and alone, he admitted. Please, I just feel so alone..
He waited in silence for several minutes without a clue what it was he was supposed to be waiting for. He sat quietly, patiently waiting as the seconds turned to minutes, and the minutes turned into an hour. After what must have been a good three to four hours of begrudgingly waiting and silent pleas to some higher power, he gave up.
Nobody’s listening, He thought to himself.
Counting his losses, he forced his limp legs to stand and ignored his aching muscles. He shook the muck that had been stagnating on his fur and carefully lifted his trash bag of belongings into his mouth. He slowly began to trudge forward once again and mulled over the situation. He knew that at any moment he could turn around and return home before anyone even noticed that he had gone. He also understood his unfortunate responsibilities and decided that he should probably just swallow the pill and get used to the sudden onset of adulthood instead of further prolonging the inevitable.
Dad would never run away. He wasn’t afraid of anything, he reminded himself. His father had always been the type to face his fears head on, he never backed down from anything.
He began to realize that if he were to leave the pack in such disarray as it was currently, he would likely be disappointing his father. Turning his back on his dad’s legacy would only disgrace his memory and he could imagine him flipping in his grave at the thought of his only son going rogue. However, this didn’t stop him from trudging forward, slowly leaving his pack and his father’s pride further and further behind him.
After nearly an hour of slowly trotting through the thick mossy woods, Dean began to hear faint, almost ghost like whispers bounce off of the trees and into his sensitive ears. Curiosity got the better of him and he warily followed the voices to the edge of the forest where he was eventually greeted with the unmistakable sound of traffic along with the persistent screams from what he recognized as a woman and an uncertain amount of men.
He craned his neck around to take in the view ahead and soon realized that he had traveled to an area that was more than a state away from his father’s pack. As he approached the treeline, he was careful to silence his breathing and stealthily hid behind the heavy brush in an attempt to shield himself from any bystanders. Whilst crouching, he honed into the frantic yelling.
Looking through the shrubbery, he saw an extremely distraught woman standing in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station. She had long strawberry blonde hair that was drenched and clinging to her thin pale face as she desperately called out to someone in the woods while being ruthlessly battered by the pouring rain. Her tight yellow dress formed to her body like a second skin and water droplets fell from the hem as it hardly grazed her knees.
Dean could just make out her large brown eyes that were bloodshot and ravenously scanning the woods like a hawk in search of its final meal. He counted three men that were with her and they all seemed to be searching for someone as well. Dean tuned out the sounds of the bellowing wind and ear shattering rain in an attempt to make sense of what the poor souls were saying.
“Tessandra! Tessandra! Where are you?!” He heard the woman cry out hoarsely. “Follow mommy’s voice, honey! Oh God, Lucas! Where is she?!”
The woman turned to one of the men and sobbed. The burly man was wearing black jeans and a faded denim jacket with a plain white T-shirt underneath that was completely soaked through, revealing his hard frame. He had jet black hair that fell in a mop upon his head with the evidence of a dark five o-clock shadow strewn about his chiseled jawline. As his electric blue eyes scouted around, he made a sound of utter frustration and yelled back to the blonde woman.
“I followed her scent here but the rain must’ve washed it away!” He yelled over the heavy precipitation and nearby traffic. “I can’t smell a damn thing now!”
The woman collapsed to the unforgiving asphalt at the sound of this and sobbed despairingly in a heap on the ground.
“Oh, my! TESSANDRA!” She shrieked.
Two of the three men knelt beside her in an attempt to console her as she wailed into the shoulder of the larger of them. The larger of the two seemed to have reddish brown hair and hazel colored eyes.
The second man seemed to have light grey eyes and platinum blonde hair, but it was difficult to tell in the dank lighting that was being produced from the surrounding streetlights. The blond man sauntered over to a black SUV and opened the backseat for something.
The dark haired man who he assumed to be Lucas had begun to carefully make his way towards the forefront of the high grass that created a small barrier before the forest. He continued to call out to the girl as he fumbled through the treeline.
“Tessandra! Tessie-bear! Follow daddy’s voice, baby! Tessie-bear!” He called out in a neutral tone, however, the fear that was plastered on his face and streaming from his eyes gave him away.
“I’m going in to find her!” He called over his shoulder to the woman who was now solely being supported by the brown haired man.
“Lucas! Be careful!” she called back between broken sobs.
“Mommy! Where’s sissy?” A small voice asked from across the lot.
Dean’s attention diverted back to the van as he watched two little hooded figures that were holding onto the hands of the blonde haired man for dear life. They slowly made their way towards the crying woman.
“Daddy Lucas is going to go find her right now, sweetie.” The blond man answered with a kind smile but his eyes still seemed hollow with grief.
“Why is she in the woods?” A little blond girl with the same grey eyes as the man clutching her palm asked.
“Well because she-” the man began but was cut off by a rosy cheeked brunette with the same hazel eyes as the man consoling her mother.
“Why don’t we just go in and get her?” she asked, prompting a much more determined response from the other girl.
“That’s it! I’m going in!” She declared as she freed herself from the man’s grip and made a run for the woods.
She pushed her stubby little legs to the limit as she bolted away from the man, only to be scooped up by the large man that had been supporting her distraught mother.
“Not so fast, Grace!” The muscular man bellowed with an unwavering authority. “I know you want to help, but the last thing we need is for you to go wandering around and get lost too.”
The girl was clearly dissatisfied with that answer and began to protest before being handed back to the lighter haired gentleman.
“Gavin, get the girls strapped in and take them home. There’s no point in them sitting out in the rain like this.” He said while handing the girl off.
“Take Izzy too!” He pleaded while jogging over to the distraught mother. “She’s trembling and-”
“Absolutely not!” The woman interrupted. “Ryan, stop it! I’m not leaving her out here! She needs me!”
She shoved the man away from her, causing her to lose her footing and stagger backwards. She came crashing down to the ground once again and let out a small yelp. The man attempted to shield her from the rain as he tried to help her up, but his helping hands were swatted away.
“Get your hands off me! How dare you! I’m not leaving her out here! She needs me!” The woman ranted and lurched at the man as he grabbed her arm with an unholy rage that only an ailing mother could possess.
Hell hath no fury.. Dean thought to himself.
Even standing several yards away and hidden by brush, he still felt the wrath emanate through the air and began to cringe away from the scene as if he were the one on the receiving end of her anger.
“Babe, please.” Ryan attempted to reason with her as he took a cautious step toward her. “You're no good out here if you catch pneumonia. There’ll be no way you could help her if your in the hospital because of this godforsaken rain.”
He carefully began to try lifting her from the ground but the fuming woman wasn’t having any of it.
“No! Hell no! I can’t! No! Stop it! Get the hell off of me!” She screamed as Ryan tried to usher her closer to the blacked out minivan. “I said, LET ME GO!”
The woman turned and thrashed at the man, slashing his face with thick, elongated black talons. Thin red gashes painted across his chiseled jaw and the thick aroma of blood wafted through the muggy air and penetrated Dean’s nostrils with a fierceness. The coppery scent blended with the unmistakable smell of ammonia pierced through his senses and the recognition was almost enough to floor him.
Werecat he breathed, silently.
More properly known as Ailuranthropes, the feline shapeshifters were the natural born nemesis of Lycanthropes. Their kind often remained segregated, and for good reason. While werecats were nowhere near as strong as werewolves, they prided themselves on being twice as deadly.
What they lacked in brute strength, they made up for in pure ruthlessness and malicious intent. More often than not, their kind would coat their grotesque claws in liquid silver and often added wolfsbane to most of their food and beverages in order to inflict the maximum amount of damage to any poor Lycan that they had the pleasure of coming across in a fight.
Not to mention the fact that most Ailuran tend to travel with a silver blade or a gun loaded to the brim with silver bullets. There was even a rumor going around that some of the female felines were carrying mace that was loaded with wolfsbane. Dean shuddered at the thought of being sprayed with the acidic mist.
Now knowing that the family he had been silently observing was Ailuran, any inclination that he may have had previously of helping them was long gone. Werewolves gained most of their strength from their pack, and considering that he was completely alone with no one having the slightest idea where he was, there was absolutely no way he was going to risk offering his hand only to wind up dead with a silver blade in his chest. Instead, he decided that he would sneak away when the commotion died down.
He looked on as the tall, stocky man clasped his bloody face and continued to drag the flailing woman off to the van. He stood her up and shook her shoulders firmly.
“I’ll go with Lucas to find her! We’ll find her! Gavin! Could you give me a hand here?! Christ!” Ryan yelled to the man that had just finished loading the bundle of protesting children into their car seats.
“You take the girls back home and get some rest,” he delegated while handing off the screaming woman to Gavin.
He was struggling to keep a grip on her so Ryan helped hoist her into the passenger seat and lock the door before speaking again.
“I’m gonna go find Lucas and we’ll meet you guys back at the house by sun up!” He called over his shoulder as he made a beeline for the trees.
Dean sunk lower into the brush to conceal himself from the man as he rushed through the woods in search of Lucas and the little girl. He waited until he saw the van pull out of the empty gas station and watched as the taillights faded down the freeway.
When the van was but a distant memory and the sounds of Ryan calling for Lucas was fully drowned out by the sound of the rain pelting the forest floor, he stood up and bolted in the opposite direction of the men as fast as his fatigued legs would carry him.
If you find any spelling errors or inconsistencies during the story at any time, PLEASE let me know down in the comments so I may go back and fix them.
I am in the midst of editing and want the novel to be as seamless as possible so that future readers can enjoy it fully. Thank you my lovelies!