Fit For Fire

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The White Rabbit

“Ade! Ade! You need to wake up.” A soft voice breathed over my face. The words tickled my cheeks, and wanting to keep sleeping I swatted them away. “Ade.” The voice was louder now. My shoulders were then encased in a soft tingling that spread down my chest and deep into my stomach. I gave a slight moan. Hot lips pressed to the back of my neck and my eyes shot open at the pleasurable shock that sped down my spine. “What?” I groaned, wiping the sleep from my eyes and pulling my head off the hard desk. Scowling, Zach moved to the front of the desk, his eyes dark and his face dirty with black smudges of soot. “What happened is everything okay?” I asked him.

“Everything is okay. Some old fuel tanks we kept near the back of the property exploded, and the old maintenance building that was back there caught fire. It’s out now, no one was hurt.” He sighed leaning into the desk. I nodded. “How does a fuel tank explode?” I asked myself quietly, thinking about Brenden and his involvement. “With help.” Zach answered dryly.

Eyeing me carefully he took a deep breath before saying “Ade, Brenden has escaped. Did you help him?” I stopped mid-stretch. Damn it Brenden. “So, he’s gone? You guys haven’t found him?” I answered with my own question. It was a real question; I didn’t know if he successfully made it off of pack lands. “He’s gone. We can follow the path he took off of our lands, but we can’t catch any scent of any accomplices that would have helped him. I’m thinking the smell from the fire blocked out the scents of the others.” “Oh.” I answered plainly, looking at my hands.

“Did you help him?” He repeated again leaning towards me. “I know why you would, I just need to know if you did.” He said gently, drumming his fingers on the desk before backing off. “Yep, you caught me. I started the fire.” I rolled my eyes and leaned back in my chair. Zach merely glowered. “What, you don’t think I’m fit for fire?” I quipped, earning a trained raise of his brows.

” Fine, I can honestly say that I didn’t help him escape.” I said looking him in the eye.

Another truth. I didn’t lift a finger to help him leave. I just didn’t try to stop him either. He stared at me a moment longer before nodding.

“Ade, I need to tell you something.” Zach said, shifting his eyes away from me. “What is it?” I asked, growing concerned by his tone. Running his hands through his hair, he looked at the ceiling before answering “I know you and Brenden have a past, and I know you share the mate bond, so hearing this will be difficult, but Brenden is dangerous. That’s why if you know where he went you need to tell me.”

“Dangerous?” I said with a raised eyebrow. “He was here for days and he did nothing to fight back. You-” I pointed a shaky finger at him “You beat him bloody and he didn’t even try to defend himself, and now he’s dangerous?” He did blow some shit up, a voice in my head whispered. He didn’t hurt anyone though I silently reasoned back.

Zach looked alarmed at what I had said. In a split second his look of alarm took on a hardened edge as his eyes turned to slits and he leaned in towards me. “You don’t think that was weird? I think he wanted to look like the victim to shake you. He has a very strong wolf Ade. I know you don’t really know how to sense those things yet but he is strong, that is why he was handled so roughly. I would have had a hard time fighting him.”

“So” I began rubbing my eyes. “You’re telling me that he let you beat him to make you look bad?” I looked up at him, brows raised. Seeing my expression, he sank his hand into his hair and turned in a little frustrated circle in front of the desk. “Yes, but in a less paranoid sounding way.” He confirmed uneasily shifting from one foot to the other.

It was possible he didn’t want to fight back because he didn’t want added suspicion or security. That had been my grand plan after all. It was a lot harder to escape when everyone was breathing down your neck. The only difference was that Brenden was brave enough to make a plan and act on it. A trait I lacked, apparently.

Instead of agreeing with him, I raised a brow and leaned back in my chair. For some reason I felt like agreeing with Zach would be damning for Brenden. I didn’t blame Brenden for leaving, and I knew Zach had a pack to run and a reputation to keep. With my ties to both of them, staying neutral would be the best move I could make. The move I should make. Yet I couldn’t help but feel like in this instance, Zach was the bad guy here.

“There is something else you should know.” Zach said uneasily, clearly not liking how this conversation was going. I think he thought I was going to fully go along with his dialog. That I would disclose Brenden’s super-secret location that he would have told to me although I was ultimately rejecting him. It really made no sense, but I think Zach was too busy operating from a place of being scared he would lose me, and being jealous of the competition right now to see that.

“Ade, we found the hunter that had attacked you.” I froze. I hadn’t expected that. “He was dead. He was found right off our border with injuries exactly like the ones you had, except his stomach was ripped open. Brutally.” My breathing sped up. “It looks like whoever did it was avenging you. That is exactly the thing a high-powered wolf would do to someone who hurt their mate. That is something that someone who has spent their whole lives watching over someone and protecting them from the shadows would do.” He said pointing back towards the cell block as if Brenden was still there. Standing, I shook my head.

I knew what he was getting at but I didn’t want to believe it. “When? Did you get the scent of who did it?” I asked, staring at Zach’s shoes. ” The night you were attacked. It had been raining but the scent was unknown to us. It was the scent of a rogue. A rogue, and somehow Brenden knew you were here. How long has he known?”

I closed my eyes briefly before looking up at him. ” You knew the hunter was dead this whole time and you never told me? What else aren’t you telling me? Rogue or not, I don’t believe Brenden would do that.” He rolled his eyes. “Why not? You don’t really know this guy. He seriously believes it is his job to protect you, why wouldn’t he? Hell, I wanted to rip the guys throat out. Brenden has no pack to implicate and answers to no one, so why wouldn’t he?” He half shouted. His words stung but there was some truth to them. They were a truth I didn’t want to see though.

“ So you’re just going to ignore the fact that you lied to me? That you keep asking me to trust you while proving to me why I shouldn’t?” I took a step forward, fists clenched at my sides. Zach’s eyes turned a shade lighter as we stared each other down. His own hands opened and closed at his side. “ I didn’t want to worry you. I decided that you didn’t need to be worrying about that.”

He took a step closer and lowered his voice. Reaching out he grabbed my arm and gave it a squeeze. The bond ran between us. It’s warmth making quick work of my frayed nerves. Shaking my head, I smacked his hand away. “No. I get to decide what I can and can not handle. Not you. You say you lied to protect me, but I think you lied to keep me close.”

“ You don’t think Brenden hasn’t lied to you? You don’t think he isn’t scheming to get you to choose him?” His eyebrows slammed together and his lips set in a hard line. “Why are you so bent on seeing the bad in him? I get this isn’t easy for you, but still. Why do you judge people who don’t live the way you do so harshly?” I answered vehemently as I walked around the desk to pause in front of him.

I opened my mouth, closed it and then shook my head. Walking past him I walked to the door. “You know, I’m glad he escaped. Now that I see what you really think of him, I know the truth. You were never going to let him go, regardless of what you promised me. He probably knew that too.” Zach’s eyes widened in shock as he turned to me. “Ade, that isn’t fair.” He said lightly, starting to walk towards me. “Of course, it isn’t. What part of any of this has been fair?” I spat out, fighting the urge to unleash the full force of my thoughts on him. The old me wouldn’t have held back.

I walked down the stairs calmly, even with Zach’s voice raising behind me, calling me back. “Adeline! Come back!” he commanded, and for some reason I thought it was hilarious that he thought he could command me so I laughed. I walked until I walked out the front door. Then, the minute I hear the door click shut I run. I ran straight into the woods. The still fresh smell of gasoline, burnt wood and smoke, making my eyes water. Throwing off my clothes, I ignored the smell and the haze of the gray tinged sky. Wrestling out of my shirt, I threw it down and I shifted. I hadn’t shifted since I had been injured and once the snapping and popping of my bones moving into place stopped, I stretched out, loving the way this body felt.

I thundered through the trees, small branches and leaves whipping passed my body. Racing the storm clouds that now spotted the horizon, I tried to drown out the singing of birds and the snapping of twigs underfoot. After a while the sound of a frantic heart and scurrying feet had me stopping in my tracks. Crouching low I started to stalk the small creature that had caught my interest. I followed its gamey scent and small tracks around trees and through the brush until I saw it. A large white rabbit sniffing around the forest floor.

Excited, I took a step forward. The rabbit stiffened. Leaning back on its hind legs, its long ears stood straight up. Her ears twitched from left to right, searching for the source of the sound. In that moment, I could hear the blood rushing through her small body. I felt every quick intake of breath and I could feel her muscles twitching, building the energy to launch herself quickly out of harm’s way. She was preparing herself for the chase, and I was waiting for her to be ready.

Her heart suddenly beat a beat faster. Inhaling she pushed off the ground with her powerful legs towards a nearby bush. It was like I was ready for it the moment before she was because I was instantly bolting after her. Body low to the ground, I speedily chased after her. The static caused by the wind blowing past my ears disappeared as the creature’s heart, pounding like battering rams, set my new pace.

She was just ahead of me, her form a white blur as she pushed through yet another bush. I gracefully followed her, picking up speed. Her scent got stronger; it had grown sharper with fear. A large boulder loomed ahead of us, and having to make a split-second decision she veered right. In the moment it took her to switch direction I had her. I was on her now, and scooping low, I snatched her up in my powerful jaws. Clamping down, I instantly snapped her neck.

Satisfied, I carried my now limp kill with me to a small hill. Setting it down, I rubbed my muzzle over the soft folds of fur, admiring my catch. Licking my lips, I was about to tear into the warm flesh when something cold and wet landed softly on my head. Squinting up at the sky, I saw that a dark fog was rolling in. The battle with the sun lost as the day had turned a damp shade of gray. A monstrous roar sounded overhead, it’s authority sending a shiver through my body. Not even a second later, the heavens opened and it’s wrath was released upon me.

When the rain began drumming down on my head and tangled in my lashes, I looked back down at my kill. Blood seeped from under the small animal, mixing with the snowy whiteness of its once glistening fur. The visual alarmed me. Seeing the blood, I could suddenly taste it. Something in me woke up, and when I looked into the rabbits large, glossy eyes I saw myself reflected there.

I started backing away. I had never given into the urge to hunt. Never had I felt the urge to kill. My lack of control sickened me, and I could feel the beast within me loosen it’s icy hold on my consciousness. Shame took the reins from my wolf, and while I fought it’s scorn, a voice soothed that this was normal. This was instinct. I was part wolf, and she was part me. This part of my nature that I had scorned and rejected still lived inside me. It was still a natural part of who I was, no matter how often I had bullied it back.

Looking back to the rabbit, the dullness in her once vibrant eyes haunted me. As natural as it may have been, I couldn’t separate myself from the act or from the creature my submission had killed. My submission. If I had been stronger, if I had fought harder, would she still be alive? The visual of me turning left, and driving down the empty highway. Giving into my instinct to run, paraded through my mind. Suddenly, I understood this wasn’t about the rabbit.

Turning, I ran from the scene. The smell of rain and gasoline burning the scent of the rabbit from my nostrils as I sloshed through puddles. Mud splashed up and started coating my legs and packed in between the padding of my paws. I ran until the trees cleared and water ran like rivers through my fur. I ran until I realized I couldn’t out run the question I had been asking myself all day.

Slowing to a stop, I faced myself. Who was I now? What was I becoming? I knew I couldn’t go back to being the person I was. She was gone and it was time to let her go. Now I had to decide who I wanted to be. What kind of life I wanted to lead.

Every decision I made from here on out would shape my future. There was no going back. I needed time to fully understand what I wanted. I would tell Zach when I got back that I wanted to take him up on his offer. I would live in the pack house and work in the pack while I figured myself out.

Looking around I realized I had run too far from Zach’s house. I would have to find my way back. Finding a large white shirt rolled up and stuck into a tree, I shifted back. I was tired of running, and needed to feel the rain on my skin. Climbing up the tree I grabbed the shirt before jumping down.

Shaking it out, I pulled it over my trembling body. I was soaked and covered in mud. Thunder followed by a bright flash of lightning shocked me from my thoughts. The sun had gone down at some point during my run and I had failed to notice. Checking my surroundings I realized I had no idea where I was. The trees were few and far between, and the ground was covered in thick grass, and a small dirt access road was nearby.

Not wanting to be struck by lightning I begrudgingly stepped out from under the tree. The moment I did a violent wind ripped right through me. My knees knocked together as I trembled, my once semi-dry shirt now clinging to my soaked body. Wrapping my arms around myself, I squeezed my eyes closed trying to steel myself against the biting sense of hopelessness that now gathered in the pit of my stomach. I hated being lost.

Another roll of thunder had me looking towards the heavens as lightning crashed through its inky blackness. I instantly regretted shifting, but my body was too tired to change back.Urging my feet to move, I stepped forward, eyes still turned skywards as I headed for the closest patch of trees. I was six feet away from the dark shadows of the forest when a growl broke through the tree-line.

The growl was drowned out by another clap of thunder. When lightning cut through the darkness, it illuminated the form of a large brown wolf stepping out from the trees with his teeth bared. I froze in place, eyes fixed on his teeth that seemed to glow in the darkness. The wolf snarled; ears pinned against his head as he steadily moved closer. I took a few steps backwards, and the wolf snapped at me to stop. Prying my arms from where they had been glued to my body, I put them up where the wolf could see them. “I was just going for a run and I got lost.” I tried to explain as calmly as possible.

Snarling in response, the wolf stopped before trying to motion me forwards. I knew what he wanted but, in the moment, I was too scared to respond. Had Zach sent them to find me? Did he think I tried to run? Behind him, another wolf moved out from the shadows and into the open night.

The gray wolf also snarled and when he reached his pack mate, he snapped his jaws at me menacingly before breaking off to secure my left flank. This time the wolves moved as a team. “Listen I just got lost okay. I-” The brown wolf snarled loudly, cutting me off. Not wanting to let them behind me I took slow steps back. Mid-step the brown wolf jumped forward snapping at me.

I quickly shifted my weight back, as if trying to escape his jaws and ended up losing my footing. Falling to the wet ground, I turned to my left just in time to see the gray wolf launch himself at me, teeth shining in the darkness as they flew at my face. Squealing, I threw my hands in front of my face and threw myself backwards. My back hit the ground hard, and I opened my eyes upon impact. My feet started to dig into the mud while I tried to propel myself out of reach of the wolf. Just when I thought the wolf should have reached me, another wolf flew over me from behind, his body blocking out all the light from the now visible moon.

The new wolf crashed into the gray wolf in midair, and the moment they hit the ground they became a tangled mess of teeth and fur. Sitting up, I continued to push myself away from the wolves, and whipping my head to the right I saw the brown wolf focused on a larger, darker silver wolf as it bolted passed me and towards him. Confused, I pushed myself up and tried to figure out what was happening. Amongst the smell of the dirt and the rain, I could only pick up on faint whiffs of Zach’s pack. These new wolves were either from the same pack or they weren’t putting off any scent at all. The way they were fighting the other wolves, it didn’t seem like they were pack-mates.

The storm had picked up, the rain was beating down so hard the sound of it pounding into the earth nearly drowned out the snarls of the wolves as they fought. Water began pouring down my face and into my eyes and mouth. Wiping my eyes, I turned to run away from the chaos in front of me when I turned straight into a hard chest. Looking up my eyes made contact with a cheap plastic werewolf mask. Lightning crackled behind the figure, his wide shoulders flexing menacingly as his arms reached out towards me. He was clad in all black and the fake hair and plastic monstrosity he wore over his face jiggled with his movements as if the mask didn’t fit right. Grabbing my wrist he began to pull me to him. I screamed and tried to tear his gloved hand off me with my loose hand. He pulled me roughly and grabbed my other hand, pinning my arms behind my back as he started dragging me backwards.

No. My thoughts began to spiral out of control as the strangers gloved hands began tightening around my wrists. This couldn’t be happening, not now, not like this. Sucking in a wet breath, I dug my heels into the ground and twisted to try to get a better look at my assailant. Black, glassy eyes, and brown bushy hair glared back. Breathing in through my nose, my feet forgot their mission when I realized that this being, like the others, seemed to have no scent. All I could smell was the nauseating smell of rubber from the mask, the rain, and the tang of wet leather.

Coming back to my senses, I began kicking and screaming and trying to dead weight myself in his arms. The latter almost worked as he nearly dropped me when I went limp. Choking up on his hold on me, he continued dragging me backwards. I soon noticed that other men, dressed all in black and wearing gruesome werewolf masks began walking past us. A few wolves ran by as well, and were now joining in the fight.

Digging the heels of my feet back into the ground, I felt the slick mud slide under my bare feet as I attempted to find purchase. Not having much luck, I began whipping my head from side to side. Hoping my body would join me in my delirious attempt to rock myself free. This time the man jerked back and I fell backwards into his hard chest. The impact pried my breath loose from my lungs, and I attempted to gasp it back as he picked me up bridal style. When he turned us, I realized he had been working me back towards the access road where a beat-up white van was waiting.

A black truck was parked behind it, another masked fiend behind the steering wheel. I twisted and pushed against the man’s hard chest as he walked. The man only held on tighter. Balling my hand into a fist, an angry cry bubbled from my lips as I whipped my fist forward and into his masked face. My knuckles collided with rubber and bone as the man’s head was thrown to the side.

Shaking off my hit, the man quickly shifted my weight before throwing me over his shoulder. I braced my hands on his back and began pushing myself up when a searing pain erupted across my backside. Did he just spank me? My mouth dropped open, and my hands went limp. Balling my hands into fists, I attempted to beat my shock into his back. I don’t know why I was so surprised. This man was abducting me, sexual assault was right up his ally.

Once we reached the van, a loud howl sounded from the trees. My fist froze mid-pummel as looking up, I watched a large black wolf barrel into the growing fray. The wolf grabbed another wolf and threw him away from his body with just a flick of his head. Seeing me, he gave an animalistic roar. Zach.

The man who had me turned slightly before whistling. On his signal the fighting wolves broke off and began running towards us. The masked men who had made a perimeter a few feet from us started walking backwards and I noticed they held guns in their hands. The pack wolves began running towards us and the men started shooting. I screamed out in horror as the wolves fell to the ground. Then when they got back up, limping and pulling large darts from their bodies, I realized what was happening. They were tranquilizer guns.

The man pulled me off his shoulder and back into his arms. The door to the van opened and as he moved me towards it, I began to hit and claw at him. I knew that if he got me into the van, I was as good as gone. Wrapping one arm around my chest, he dropped my flailing legs before locking his arms around me. Turning us towards the fight, he bent down as he started climbing into the van backwards.

Dragging me back with him, I continued to claw at his arms and wrists as my lower back made contact with the bench seat. Another masked man came and grabbed my legs as I struggled against him. I managed to kick this man in the face before he grabbed my legs at the ankles and shoved. I screamed again as my whole body was now in the van. The man maneuvered me over his body so I was shoved up against the window. Moving his legs over mine, and grabbing my hands he had me immobilized as the van quickly filled up.

I tried to push against the man, but he only pushed me further into the window, my cheek making contact with the cold glass. My chest heaved, and I was panting from the exertion it took to fight him. As one last man entered the van, my mind shifted from fight mode to panic mode. I couldn’t move, and there was no way I could overpower a van full of people. Where was Zach?

Looking out the still open door, I watched as three men started shooting at Zach’s large black wolf as he barreled towards the van. Zach zigzagged back and forth but was still hit by a couple of darts. “No!” I screamed as both the fear of being caught and concern for my mate overwhelmed me. The men ran back to the truck as the person in the passenger seat of the van rolled down their window and began shooting. “Zach!” I screamed as the van door was slammed shut.

The van rumbled and was instantly moving forward, gaining speed on the dirt road. “Holy Shit!” The man in the passenger seat yelled. Craning my neck to see past my abductor, I could barely make out a black blur running alongside the van. Taking another shot, the person yelled out when a large, snarling head shoved itself in through the window and ripped the weapon out of his arms. The man started rolling up the glass as the buttstock of his weapon disappeared out the window.

The glass was a third of the way up when the wolf started trying to slam into the van. The driver must have pushed the pedal to the floor because the engine whined and the van gained speed. I watched in horror as the wolf failed to keep up. Soon we passed the black wolf, and whipping my head around, I could see that he still pursued us from the back window. All hope I had of being rescued shrank with the wolf’s figure as he became a distant blur. Then the night swallowed him whole.

Fully realizing what was happening, my breathing picked up and I began struggling against the man who held me again. The full horror of being abducted by masked men sank in. What did they want from me? The man who had me released his hold on me with one hand and used his weight to pin me back against the window. Using his other hand, he pulled off his glove, then he pulled off the other.

Reaching up to touch my face I cried out and pressed my head back against the window trying to avoid his grasp. His warm hand gingerly touched my slick face anyways and the moment it did, sparks spread soothingly from his touch. My eyes snapped open and turning towards the man, I watched silently as he pulled off his mask. “You didn’t think I’d leave without you did you?” Brenden asked softly, a small smile tugging at his lips as he looked me over.

I punched his chest angrily while trying to hold back my tears. “I don’t know you, how could I know what you’d do.” I reasoned through a dry sob. Pulling me to him, he wrapped his arms around my shaking form. I thought about hitting him again, but at this point I was physically and emotionally exhausted. “Sshhhhh, I’m sorry I scared you. Those wolves attacked, so we had to act quickly. You’re okay now.”

Pressing my face into his chest my nose crinkled at his lack of scent. Seeing this, he smiled “I’ll explain everything later.” He smoothed my wet hair away from my face. The men around me all started taking off their masks. They smiled at me as I looked at them in turn. The wolf next to Brenden turned out to be a woman with large dark eyes, and thick black hair that was cut just below her chin.

I clung onto the front of Brenden’s shirt. “Here, you’re soaked.” Brenden muttered, wrapping a blanket he pulled from the floor around me. Should I be trusting him? Everything in me told me to trust him but recalling Zach’s words and reminding myself that regardless of our history I barely knew this man, I pulled away slightly. Brenden scoffed, looking down at me like a kid who had just asked him to leave the hall light on. Smoothing my wrinkled brow with a soft swipe of his finger I relaxed some. “It’s okay Ade. You’re free now.” He whispered to me. “Welcome to the Rogue Rebellion.”

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