CHAPTER 1 - LUNA
I wasn’t sure where this bus had arrived, exactly, only that I was on a route headed west. The Packs out west were fewer and farther in between, assuming larger territories than back east and making my passage a bit safer the further away I got. The chances of my Wolf being discovered dropped every day spent on the bus, the more time that passed since my last shift.
There had been a few moments up north, not yet far enough from home, when I’d had to practically hold my breath until the bus departed. My Wolf scent was stronger then, and I swore each bus change found me meeting eyes with strangers that held my gaze just a little too long, with a little too much interest.
The night was slowly starting to creep in through the dirty windows before me, painted with the same peeling decal like the one on the mug between my hands. From what I could see of my surroundings, the small town I had stopped in had little more than a few weather-worn buildings clustered around the bus station, this diner one of them.
Eyes focused out past the window, I was too entranced at the sleepy stop’s aged charm to notice the man sliding into the seat across from me in my booth. He cleared his throat, startling me. The mug in my hands slipped towards the table, but his hand plucked it out of the air with impressive speed. Damn, I thought to myself. My instincts have already gone to shit.
My eyes drifted up to his face, taking him in for the first time. He was undoubtedly handsome, that much was clear. My experience with handsome men made me immediately stiffen, and I didn’t allow my eyes to drift to any more of him. Handsome faces typically meant handsome bodies, which meant handsomely-sized egos.
“Nice catch.” He set it back on the table, halfway between us. I quickly took it back into my hands, holding it in front of me almost like a weapon, or a security blanket. He followed the movement with his eyes and smirked.
“I’m Knox.” He paused, gaze roving my face, waiting for me to introduce myself. I clenched my jaw in irritation, frustrated at both his silence and scrutiny, instead staring stonily at him and wishing him away. His smirk grew to a full smile. “And you are?”
“Leaving.” I reached in my pocket for a few bills, placing them on the table and sliding out of the booth. Before I could put any distance between us, I felt his hand clamp down on my left wrist. I whipped my head around to him, teeth bared instinctively.
His smile hadn’t wavered, but his eyes were no longer warm. Dark brown, almost black voids that sent a chill down my spine. “Sit.” He wasn't asking. Glancing around quickly, I looked to the few other patrons to see if any noticed our interaction. They hadn’t.
I could have yelled, caused a scene, but decided against it. He released his vice grip on me, and I begrudgingly retook my seat. Still not speaking, I resumed my stony expression and crossed my hands in my lap. The place on my wrist where his fingers were was throbbing uncomfortably, but I ignored it. The Wolf in me would heal it quickly.
The warmth returned to his eyes, and I felt my irritation grow to anger. He’s laughing at you, I thought to myself, jaw clenched so hard I would surely break a tooth. He wouldn’t be so smug if he knew I could rip him in half.
The seconds drug by, but I remained staunch in my silence. He finally caved with a sigh. “You are a very beautiful woman.” The struggle to keep my face neutral was harder this time, but I fought to maintain my composure. Despite my anger, a shaky feeling of unease at this handsome stranger was growing in the pit of my stomach. Who the hell does this guy think he is? I glanced towards the exit, a movement he followed with his eyes but did not acknowledge.
“I have nothing to say.” It sounded more convincing coming out of my mouth than I thought it would, and for a second I felt my confidence flare back to life. “What do you want?” I kept my back straight, eyes steely. He chuckled a little bit, a low sound that made me shift in my seat, shaking his head.
“It appears you are not only beautiful but spirited as well.”
“Whether I am or not is of no importance to you,” I cut in quickly. “What do you want?” He turned his head, ignoring me, instead flagging down a waitress and ordering himself a coffee. She was young and pretty, all legs and curly brown hair in a white top and fitted jeans. He barely glanced at her, seemingly oblivious to the way she pushed her breasts together while writing down his order. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and try to look anywhere but at them.
We did not speak until the coffee arrived, filled to the brim in a mug just as faded as mine. He took a sip, staring straight into my eyes. I tried not to notice how he sucked his bottom lip just a bit, or the way his throat bobbed as he swallowed. “What I want, is to know why you are here.” The request was innocent enough but stirred up that uncomfortable feeling knotting in my stomach. I felt the blood start to rush from my face. What could he possibly know of me? I wondered to myself. How likely is it that this exchange is nothing but a simple come-on?
I fought the tremor in my hands, clutched tightly in my lap. “I am just a traveler, passing through.” Knox nodded slightly, taking another sip from his mug.
“So you will not be staying?”
“I leave in a few hours.”
His prying wore on my nerves quickly, and my brow stiffened. “I don’t really think that’s any of your business.” He raised his brows at me, a brief glimpse of surprise on his face before turning to summon the waitress back to us and passing her a black card. She quickly brought him the receipt, her eyes practically devouring him. I could see the imprint of a phone number scrawled at the bottom of the paper.
“Thank you, Mira,” he murmured, and I could feel the heat from across the table as her whole body flushed with desire. I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a nametag, not that there would be any space to pin one with her bust now practically spilling out of her top. There seemed to be fewer buttons than before - a thought I quickly pushed away.
Once she left, Knox stood and extended a hand to me. “Let’s take a walk.” I didn’t take his hand but pushed out of the booth in front of him. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I headed hastily for the exit, ready to end this uncomfortable exchange.
I could feel him behind me, keeping my pace. My nerves were bundled in knots, but I strengthened my resolve as I stepped out onto the sidewalk, then out past a cluster of businesses into a parking lot.
The darkness was now both a threat and a comfort, assuring whatever came next would be private from onlookers. When I was satisfied with our distance, I stopped and turned to face him. He was following so closely that I expected him to crash into me, but he was quick. He stopped on a dime, hands thrust into the pockets of his jacket. I allowed myself to take him in for the first time, just enough to know how to take him down if I had to.
He was tall, easily a full foot taller than me. Surely he outweighed me, but my Wolf strength gave me an advantage. He had already proven he was quick, too quick for his size. My previous confidence began to waver as I realized that my Wolf may not be able to snap him in half as easily as I had thought. One thing is for sure - I won’t go down without a fight.
Unconsciously, I spread my feet and anchored myself into the gravel. My best chance if it comes to a fight would be an offensive surprise and luck. He chuckled and took a step backward. “You cannot win a fight with me, though I admire the confidence.”
His nonchalance annoyed me, and I felt a growl building. After more than a week of not shifting, my Wolf was easily agitated and hungry for blood. We aren’t meant to deprive our Wolves for long, but I’ve had no choice but to grow used to the discomfort, like holding your breath for a little too long.
“I’m not going to ask you again. What do you want with me?” Knox started suddenly, pushing towards me. I backed up, as fast as I could react, maintaining my stance until I felt my back press up against the cold metal of a chain-link fence. Shit, my mind raced. I hadn’t noticed the fence in the darkness. Any hope of escape now required a fight.
He had me cornered, his chest inches from mine. My nails lengthened into claws and I scratched for his neck, but his powerful hand snatched my arm before I could make contact. Before I could counter, he had both arms in his grip, pinned over my head, face so close to mine I could feel his breath.
“I already told you. I want to know why you’re here. I want to know what a stranger Wolf is doing in my territory.”