THE DESERT ALPHA

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CHAPTER 7 - LUNA

How I hadn’t seen it before, I didn’t know. Now, standing under the almost full moon, the once-hidden Alpha power rippled all around Knox. For a brief moment, I thought to turn away from him, to give him privacy to undress and shift, but I couldn't tear my eyes from his back. He shucked off his shirt unceremoniously, tossing it to the side without a care where it landed. Then his pants were off too, and he was suddenly standing completely naked before me.

I tried to stop my eyes from devouring him, but the shimmering aura around him and the glint of the moonlight off his tanned skin stole all the breath from me. He must have been holding back his power before, maybe in an effort to seem more approachable to me, but there was no hiding it now.

His midnight hair was almost indistinguishable from the night around him if not for that aura, that shimmer of the moon that seemed to cling to him. Before I could stop myself, I wondered what it might feel like to have those silken strands between my fingers, to sink into the black depths of him and feel his warmth against me. Pink rose to my cheeks, and I banished the thought from my mind. No more chasing powerful men, I chastised myself. But I couldn’t pretend I didn't feel my Wolf stirring at the sight of him, even more anxious than before to be released.

My eyes drifted lower, down his muscled arms and back, down the curve of his firm backside, down the length of his long, strong legs. Every inch of him looked like it had been carved to perfection, maybe by some ancient, powerful force found only out here in the desert.

He took a step forward, catching my eye again, as his form began to contort and change before me. I watched in awe at the effortlessness of his transformation, only a couple of seconds long, until an equally midnight black Wolf crouched before me, his fur as shiny and soft looking as his hair.

I wondered again how I had not sensed him before, back at the diner, and even after on the way to his home. Had I lost touch with my heightened Wolf senses so quickly? Or was his control over his presence just that good?

When his Wolf finally turned to face me, that familiar heat in my cheeks returned, mixed with shame for being caught snooping. But the glowing eyes that met mine were calm, kind even, and seemed to hum with an energy that had me casting my face to the ground in immediate submission. Nerves fluttered in my stomach, and I started to reconsider my choice to accompany him. This male who barely a day ago was a stranger to me, but who now felt like someone I would fight to keep in my life just to feel the pulse of his power against my skin.

My draw to him felt too intense to keep my gaze focused on my feet, so I slowly lifted my head to find his eyes. I had no idea how long we stood like that, gazes locked, the Wolf version of a smirk slowly creeping on his face. His tail flicked behind him, barely a whisper in the darkness, as I continued to take him in with wide eyes. An overwhelming feeling crushed over me under his playful scrutiny, a feeling both familiar and foreign and wonderful and terrifying. I tried to swallow back the emotions rising under his unbroken assessment of me, angling my face slightly to examine the rest of him.

He looked different than the other wolves I knew, not smaller but leaner somehow. In my pack - my old pack - the Alphas had formed a long line dating back centuries. Each successor was larger than the last, each new leader bigger and more dominant than ever before. My father’s Wolf stood vast and strong like a tree, and even in his human form, he would likely stand wider than Knox.

He shook his fur, the moonlight bouncing off his back. His Wolf was as tall as I expected, but was lean and tight, not at all like the brawn I was used to. With a huff and small stomp of his foot, he rolled his eyes and turned around, towards the direction we were to head.

I could hear him huff again, his polite direction for me to move my ass so we could get going. My neck flushed with heat, and I quickly moved to shed my clothes. Once I stood fully naked in the open air, the sudden realization of our task hit me. I was going to be alone with him, running for days, likely sleeping in close quarters with this male who I now found more intriguing and beautiful than any other before.

My Wolf was practically panting with excitement and anticipation of my shift, desperate to be released after being contained for so long. I closed my eyes, allowing my mind to surrender to those instincts, letting the shift spread like a fever through my limbs. Blinding jolts of pain radiated through me as my Wolf took form, further proof of my neglect of my animal side. I tried not to whimper as my shape changed, but a few cursed pants slipped past my lips as I finally settled on all fours.

Knox tossed his head over his shoulder, his eyes glinting as he assessed my wolf, but not lingering on me anywhere in particular. I felt small under his gaze, but not the same smallness I had felt kneeling before the Pack’s Alphas, or his giant Beta, or even other males in my old pack.

Trotting forward to sidle up next to him, I allowed the tip of my tail to brush him as I passed. His Wolf stood taller than mine and was longer than me, and the soft caress of my tail on his side earned me a soft growl from between his teeth.

He shook his fur, then nudged my shoulder with his own. He took off without any other warning, and I raced to follow his quickly retreating form. He was fast, his long legs pumping at a pace I pushed myself to match, drafting off the path his shoulders cut through the wind against our fur.

We ran for hours, long hours that quickly wore on me. My joints and muscles ached from the start, a punishment for trapping my Wolf beneath my skin for so long, but I refused to slow him down, refused to let him know how hard I was working to keep up. I followed behind him at a fair distance, not wanting to challenge his dominance any further than I already had by daring to chase him too closely.

Knox only slowed his pace occasionally, maybe detecting some threat I couldn't sense, but he never stopped. My Wolf watched him closely, rarely tearing my eyes from his back to survey the changing landscape. The essence of him seemed all around us, almost a mirage in the dark of the night. Constellations twinkled as we blew over the land, the miles between us and the Pack house I was yet to visit growing with every powerful pump of our feet against cracked earth.

Occasionally, a wave of that familiarity I felt before would brush against my mind, like a finger down my spine, or a breath against my ear. I couldn’t place the sensation, but it had me shivering in a way that had nothing to do with the cold night air around me. There was a scent I couldn’t place, both sweet and tangy and delicious enough to leave my mouth watering and a heat blooming in my gut. I tried to hide my panting, both from the exertion and the flush spreading through my body, and only when I felt myself gasping past the ever-growing smell would it dissipate for a while.

Despite the aching and the exhaustion I could feel building, I found that I was enjoying myself. Yes, I was enjoying this, my Wolf reveling in the run and the task of protecting the Pack perimeter. That Knox had even requested my participation in his run was enough for me to ignore my discomfort as the sense of being part of something larger than myself surrounded me.

Back home, I was rarely allowed to participate in Pack runs, as my father had deemed them too dangerous for his precious pup. My restrictions only got tighter after my mother died, and that single rule kept my interactions with other Wolves my age to quick greetings from the sidelines if I was even allowed to appear at Pack events at all.

My tutors were strict, and any behavior reported to my father that he deemed to be unacceptable or unbecoming of a lady was another reason to keep me locked up at the estate. He had responsibilities, you see, since he was raising me without a mother, and he tried everything in his power to fill the hole she left in our lives by turning me into the perfect picture of an Alpha’s wife.

So this run…it set free something inside of me that I’d been holding back for far too long. My Wolf was preening at the idea of being a true member of a Pack, even if it only lasted until morning. The thrumming of raw freedom in my blood mixed with that something I had been fighting to suppress, the euphoria of the sky swirling around us making my head spin.

I realized I hadn’t felt that way in a long time, if ever. Even before when I was with him, it never felt like…this.

Shoving those thoughts away, I picked up my pace on Knox’s heels, shooting forward with a burst of energy to circle around him and snap playfully at his side, forgetting myself. He grumbled and tossed his head, but kept running, allowing me to resume my place at his back without correction. A small yip escaped me at my satisfaction that he did not discourage my childish testing, no matter how out of bounds that might be for an Alpha.

No. I wouldn't let the memory of him ruin this glorious night. I wouldn’t let the dull pain in my chest taint the warm, almost sensual magic I could swear left a trail behind us.
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