There are five things about being a wolf that stand out above all else. First, I am so tall. And big. But mainly tall. Everything around me seems tiny. Except for Thorn, he’s still an irritating giant.
Second, I have a fucking tail. The thing is constantly dragging behind me and I can actually feel it wagging at my backside. Crazy. It’s the same sensation as having an arm and moving it but it hits things and has a powerful wack.
Third, my senses are past the transition stage and are even better than Thorn’s. I can smell everything. Three-year-old sock on the floor? Found it. Hidden box of chocolate in a hut? Haven’t found it but have been staring at it for a while in discomfort. Everyone has their own scent. Sky and Dominic’s are different than the rest because they’ve washed themselves in a shower. It’s stupidly crazy that I can tell the difference. I kept drifting from them with my nose to the ground, following scents of curious things—like a rabbit digging a hole—until Thorn called me back.
Fourth, I can’t communicate with anyone. I’m not human anymore so I can’t speak but I can understand everything that they’re saying. Thorn said that werewolves can enter a minding connection and communicate through thoughts but that only works when they’re wolves. Strangely, even though Thorn and I can’t talk to each other he still seems to understand my eye signals and head movements as though he knows what I’m trying to say. I used to do the same with him when he was in wolf form. I’d gotten quite good at picking up his boredom cues. But this is different. It’s like we are communicating.
And fifth. The speed. Oh my, the speed. Thorn gave me permission to do a perimeter run because I’m currently the fastest werewolf in the woods and I didn’t know if I was alive or dead in that moment. It was like I was flying. I could hear everything as I ran. I knew where was safe to run to and where wasn’t. I stayed clear of the base of the mountain—following his specific orders. I didn’t know that they could run this fast. The trees grazed past me like bullets. I was like a bullet. I think he allowed me to do it because he could tell that I was having a problem staying still. There is a pull in our wolf forms, like the woods are calling to us. We have to run.
Oh and the sixth. There’s a sixth. I can see in the freaking dark. There is no dark. I can see clearly as though the sun is shining. It’s distorted, not completely bright but my sight is precise and sharp.
Even though the pack are the ones with the weapons, I am the top predator.
Thorn was right. The transition, it’s euphoric. It’s beyond anything that I could ever imagine. Having to transform back to a human in the morning is suddenly daunting and sad. I’d rather remain as a wolf forever. I remember how painful it was though, despite Thorn assuring me that I wouldn’t, and that’s the only thing stopping me from taking the transition from him every night.
Thorn has just finished giving his final orders to the group. This is a defence mission, the priority is to rescue as many of Cole’s pack that we can. Those that try not to kill us. My parents are up there somewhere and that is my priority, along with my siblings.
I sit next to Sky as she holds a gun in her hand and listens to Kira’s instructions on how to use it. I know that they’re all staring at me. I’ve sensed it since I arrived back here after my transition. It is not a negative vibe, more of a curious one. One of the male werewolves has been staring so hard that I’m waiting for him to come and ask if he can pet me. Thorn has noticed it too but he ignores it.
I told the siblings that our mother was alive shortly before I transitioned and I can tell that it’s playing on Sky’s mind. I nudge my head into her arm and she snaps out of her trance. She looks into my eyes and smiles, dropping her head with bereft.
“Cole is never going to let them go,” she whispers. “He won’t let any of us go. You don’t know what it was like. He controlled everything that we did. He tortured members into submission if they tried to leave. I’m afraid that they’ll stand with him. They don’t deserve to die.”
Thorn turns his head towards our conversation for a second before turning back and continuing his conversation with Pal and Kira. I know that he wants to protect as many innocents as he can but this is going to be difficult.
“I’ve never been as happy as I was when we left the mountain,” she says. “I wanted to thank you for that just in case I never get the chance again.”
I squint at her before brushing my face into her throat. Nothing is going to happen you. I’ll protect you.
She smiles and puts her arm around me. “I love you too. I know that it’s stupid because we’ve only known each other for a few days but. . . I just always knew that you were out there somehow. I’ve always felt like a part of me was missing.”
“You have your mate and you have your pack. You already have a family. You don’t need us to make things difficult.” She wipes a tear from under her eye and I place my paw onto her knee. How could she think that she’s any less a part of me than Thorn?
Thorn finally gives in and walks over to us. “Devon can’t say this so I’ll say it for her, you are a part of our family now. Both of you.” He looks to Dominic who is listening from across the camp. “You will always have a place with us.”
Sky sniffles. “Really?”
“Of course. What else did you expect?”
“I didn’t think you let truants in. The stories. . .”
“Right. Stories. That I only trust those from England? Only those that were a part of my father’s pack?” Thorn laughs to himself and glances around the camp. “Half of those standing here are truants from controlling and abusive alphas.”
Multiple people raise their hands at once. They do it proudly, smiling back at Sky. I can’t believe it even crossed her mind that Thorn wouldn’t accept her. I would have expected it from Lucias if he was still in charge but Thorn wouldn’t have much of a choice, otherwise he’d lose me.
Sky looks right at Nadia and then swallows. “I didn’t think that you’d accept us given that we’re ‘one of them.’”
Nadia rolls her eyes. “Don’t listen to anything that I say, I’ve been stuck with Pal for a century. You’d be a bit grumpy too.”
Pal scoffs as everyone laughs. “I’m a delight to live with.”
“It’s your choice,” Thorn says. “None of us know how tonight’s going to go. But I already consider you both a part of this pack. Devon’s family is my family.”
I smile at him through my wolf lips. That means a lot to me but even more to them. I have a family now. I look around at all the faces of these strangers and I know that to be true for me as well. The wolf instinct pressures me to protect them just as they protected me when Lucias lost it earlier. Thorn’s family is my family.
Our moment is cut short by the sound of gunfire unleashing upon the mountain. We move as one. I’m faster than them which is not winning me any points with Thorn. He grunts my name under his breath and I slow down, allowing him to reach my side.
“Stay behind me.”
I know that I promised him that I’d follow his orders but it’s impossible to run slow. I can hear everything around me, what’s his problem? I overtake him again and his voice is like ice.
“Don’t make me yank on your tail. If you start defying me then I’ll shoot you with that dart gun.”
Just try it.
I snarl—which he hears—and I run faster, losing him far behind me. As a couple, Thorn would never try and control me. But he’s not my mate in this moment, he’s the alpha. I’m now a member of his pack and his rank is above me whether I like it or not. He’s trying to protect me but I don’t need protecting anymore. I am beyond that.
I make it to the base of the mountain and I scale up the first wall, landing safely on the edge. The others come to a slow stop, staring up at me before they adjust their weapons and start climbing.
I wait for Thorn because I know that he’s furious and I have no idea if he’s actually going to shoot me and put me to sleep. He glares at me before he walks right past me.
“We’ll talk about this in the morning.”
His threat was empty. I knew it. He would never actually shoot me. I jog to his side and we run as equals. The stench of fresh blood fills my nostrils, making me a little queasy. We arrive at a higher level of the mountain and we carefully step over dozens of dead soldiers that have had their throats ripped out.
“Not all of Cole’s pack have taken the cure tonight,” Thorn says. “Be careful.”
“Their guns are missing,” Kira says as she leans down to inspect one of the deceased more closely. “This is going to be a bloodbath, Thorn.”
Sky catches up to me and keeps her eyes down on the bodies. She’s searching for faces of her pack that she might recognize but they all smell human. There are no vibrations that match human weight that we can hear, this mountain is enormous and we have no idea where to go. The werewolf scents are in every direction.
“This way,” Sky says, pointing to a trail to our left. “Our camp is a few miles west.”
“Cole’s scent is this way.” Thorn points right.
“Do what you want but I’m going this way.” Sky takes off left and Dominic follows her. I look back to Thorn who is rubbing his chin. They’re going to our parents and I have a natural instinct to go with them. He senses that.
“Okay,” he says.
I run after them, catching up to them within a few seconds. There are more shots being fired from across the mountain. The noise is deafening and terrifying but I drown it out to focus. We are heading in the opposite direction to the battle and that’s making the others a little testy.
“If Cole is that way then why the hell are we heading to their camp?” Nadia says.
“Shut up and trust me,” Thorn hisses.
More gunfire. I can hear soldiers screaming. I shake my head and keep on running. As we get closer to the camp, something large and fast runs at us from my right. The brown wolf sets his sights on Sky first before turning at the last second and charging right into my side.
I roll across the ground as the wolf chases me and digs his fangs into my shoulder blade. Thankfully, the painkiller is doing its job and I cannot feel the wound. The wolf is stunned by that for a moment and he leans back to study my tolerance. His weight crushes against me and I growl at him as he snaps his fangs down to my throat.
“No. No guns!” I hear Thorn yell.
Thorn appears and wraps his arms around the wolf’s stomach, throwing him sideways into a tree. The wolf smacks his head into it but still gets back to his feet, shaking his fur as he looks back to us. I flinch as Thorn throws a blade, it impales the wolf’s head and he collapses to the ground. He waits to make sure that the wolf is really dead before he drops down to my side and rubs his hand against my shoulder. He inspects every inch of my fur, feeling for wounds against the skin.
“He missed your throat, you’ll be okay.”
I rise to my feet and I roll my shoulders back. I might not be able to feel it right now but I think it’s going to hurt in the morning. A human wouldn’t have survived something like that—not even to their shoulder. It’s like my new body was built for this.
“That was Ash.” Sky narrows her eyes at the dead wolf in the distance. “He was an asshole. You did the world a favour.”
I shake off the remainder of the attack before I stretch my claws and I catch up to Thorn. He runs just a little harder to stay at my side. My heart is beating fast. What if we’re too late? What if Cole has already executed our parents? What if the soldiers have found them?
I graze past several wooden huts before stopping behind Sky and Dominic that are hiding behind a tree. Four men run towards us firing their guns. Sky almost runs out but Thorn stops her in time and pushes her against me. I grab the back of her shirt in my teeth, meeting his eyes over her head.
“Devon, let me go,” Sky says bitterly. “I’m calm. I promise.”
I turn my body as the bullets keep coming, landing in the tree that won’t be much use for long. The group are behind us, taking cover from the huts. Thorn clocks eyes with Pal and Kira and points right. They nod and rush out from their cover, firing their weapons towards the werewolves.
Thorn takes advantage of their distraction and moves in the opposite direction to their firing. He fires four bullets and then there is silence. His aim is amazing. Sky continues to struggle and I release my teeth. She glares at me with rage before taking off.
She runs towards a row of low cabins. One is bigger than the rest, with a porch wrapped around it. I imagine that’s Cole’s cabin. Sky doesn’t make it there, instead she drops to her knees and claws against the ground, unearthing a trap door.
“Stay here,” Thorn says to the group. “Signal if there’s any movement.”
She jumps down into the hole without hesitation. I jump down after her, followed by Dominic and Thorn. I land in a tunnel filled with dungeon cells that have iron bars. I can smell someone else down here, my senses are guiding me to him like he’s shining a light into my eyes.
“You’re okay!” a raspy, male voice says happily. “I knew you would be.”
“We tried to see you earlier but Cole’s guards wouldn’t let us,” Sky says. “We thought you were dead.”
“No. I’m fine. I’m. . .” The man flicks his eyes to myself and Thorn. I slowly walk closer and he stares right at me.
The man is enchanting, his face is almost brown from the dirt but it brings a handsome glow to his skin. His hair is dark and thick, his eyes are a soft hazel, like mine. He stands straighter and his head almost reaches the top of the cage. His fingers curl around the bars and I watch his muscles flex across his large arms.
“Devon.” His voice is gentle and startled. He breathes strangely as he takes me in.
“We kept her safe,” Sky says. “But you were wrong about him. Thorn isn’t our enemy.”
“I don’t understand.”
He flicks his eyes to Thorn. “You mated with my daughter?”
“Would you rather I had killed her?”
“This is. . . too much,” the man says, holding his head for a moment. “Where is your mother?”
“We don’t know. Cole took her. We think that she’s somewhere on the mountain.”
Dominic starts yanking on the bars aggressively but they won’t budge. The man frowns at his attempts and sighs.
“Save your strength, son. They were designed to keep even the strongest of werewolves from getting out.”
“I hope you don’t inspire that kind of bullshit on your pack.” Thorn leaves my side and walks over to the cage. “Alphas learn from a young age that strength is in the mind.”
Thorn yanks on a bar of the door and studies the top, a part comes loose. He pulls it again and we all hear a squeak. Dominic and Sky place their hands on the bar and they all pull together. The bar comes clean off.
“I’m not an alpha,” the man growls.
He snarls in pain suddenly and moves back into the shadows of the cage. He starts panting and banging onto the wall.
“What’s wrong with you?” Thorn says.
The three of them tear through the remainder of the bars and the door swings wide open. The man stays inside.
“I’m in transition. They’ve been force feeding me the herb through water but I wasn’t given any water today. The dose from yesterday is leaving my system.”
Thorn looks at me and I stand a little straighter. Holy shit. I’m going to officially meet my father. He squeals as his bones start breaking and drops to his knees. His body rips through his clothes a couple of minutes later and he transforms into a black wolf with amber eyes that glow as bright as my own. It’s starting to become a clear occurrence that alphas are black. And huge.
I remain still as he approaches me. Thorn and the siblings watch from the door as he stops right in front of me, exhaling deep breaths through his nostrils. I hear a light buzzing before I receive a minor headache.
You are everything that I hoped you’d be, he says. You are beautiful. Mesmerising. Powerful. I am so sorry that you never got the chance to know us. It was for your own safety.
I shake my head, this sensation is bizarre. Thorn starts grinning as though I’m going through something that they all did. I look at him for help—if he can get past his amusement to give it.
“He’s inviting you into his minding connection,” Thorn says. “Just focus on the connection and accept it.”
Accept it? Accept it how? Do I just think back?
I know why you did it. I say. I forgive you.
The wolf nods with an amused expression. I did it.
I know that I have a long way to go before I earn the title of father so I’ll start with a simple introduction. My name is Crasuel. It’s nice to meet you.
It’s nice to meet you too. Sky and Dominic told me a lot about you, I feel like I already know you.
You’ve known me for almost twenty years. You just didn’t know why.
Oh crap. Are these tears running down my curved cheeks? I can’t shake this raw emotion. My father walks towards me and brushes his large head into my throat. I return the embracing gesture by resting my head against his shoulder.
You’re bleeding, he says. Who did that you?
He’s dead now. I lean back. We have to go. We have to stop Cole.
Thorn’s pack is here, I say. They’re waiting above us. They have weapons.
Kill Cole and you make him a martyr, he says. His pack will tear you all to pieces.
You are the blood alpha. You can stand up to Cole and claim your rightful place. His pack will have to follow you.
I don’t know. They are loyal to him. He looks back at the siblings. He said he’d kill them if I ever tried to challenge his position.
Sky and Dominic are standing here because they are ready for that change, I growl back at him. Cole took your power. It is your birth right. You are the descendant of Atticus and you have every right to claim it back. Your people need you and even if some stand with Cole, most of them will side with you. And so will we.
He pauses. He reads my intensely. I don’t know what he’s thinking—the connection only works when we’re thinking to each other.
“Dad,” Sky says, kneeling down at his side. “I don’t know what she’s saying to you but she’s right. Cole has to die tonight. Not just for our safety or even the pack’s safety but for all of the humans that he plans to enslave and dominate. You stayed in his shadow—and his father’s shadow—because you feared for our lives but we are not kids anymore. You taught us how to survive, how to fight, and we’re ready for this.”
“You were the beta for years,” Dominic says. “Most of them already have a large respect and loyalty towards you. The ones that don’t are afraid of our genetics and that’s their problem. They’ll die along with him.”
“We can save them,” Sky whispers against her father’s ear. “But we have to give them hope first. They won’t fight against Cole until you reclaim your position.”
Crasuel nods his head and Sky wraps her arms his throat, almost squeezing the air out of his lungs. He tugs away from her.
You’re doing the right thing. I tell him.
It’ll only feel like the right thing when morning comes and my family is safe. He softly brushes against me as he walks down the tunnel. He positions himself underneath the hole and stares up at the stars.
“You okay?” Thorn kneels and grazes his hand across my jaw.
I blink, giving him a clear answer. I’ve never wanted to speak the words I love you so desperately as I do right now. I can’t say those words so I close my eyes and he pulls my face closer to his. I hope he can feel those words somehow.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” he says. “I have believed that since the moment that I met you.”
What a romantic, Crasuel mutters. Never let him go.
I don’t plan to.
Crasuel jumps up through the hole. Thorn and I keep our faces pressed against each other until the moment has to end. The night has a different tension, a different edge to it. We know that one of us or neither of us might make it off this mountain alive. We only have the hope and the trust that everything is going to work out. It was fate that brought me to him in the first place. It was my trust in him that made my heart stronger and changed me into a brand-new person. But it was our souls that did the rest. Our souls are connected in ways that magic can never touch. Not a curse nor a bond. And it is our trust in each other that will see us through this night. This one night—and then we have the rest of our lives to be together. We can do it. We have to do it. But what if fate won’t allow it?
“No goodbyes or emotional gestures,” he whispers. “Whatever happens, we know.”
I nod my head slowly. We will always know. How much we mean to each other, how badly we would die for each other. How much we love each other. They are words that never have to be said because they can be felt just through our gazes. They can be felt through our souls.
I part my face from his, taking one last glance in his green eyes before I follow my siblings down the tunnel. I jump up through the hole and we follow them into the unknown.