Authors: Stacey Espino
The front door to the apartment burst opened, followed by the thud of numerous bags and supplies. “Where have you been!” screeched Amanda once she spotted Bella. “How did you get home?”
Bella could barely garner the strength to sit up on the sofa. Or muster the energy to care that her friends must have been worried sick the past few days.
“Three days! Three fucking days we looked for you with those nut cases!” Keith kicked a duffel bag as he entered the living room.
“The cops are coming by this afternoon to take the missing person’s report.”
After the strange wolf shifters had tried to kidnap her, she had a surge of energy that rolled up from deep inside her. She’d fought, she bit and clawed until free. The fools that remained human were the easiest to sink her teeth into.
Then she ran. She ran and ran and ran, never looking back. When she reached a lonely stretch of highway, she used an old tarp she’d come across to wrap around herself like a tarp dress before hitching a ride with a big rig trucker. Knowing she could unsheathe killer claws on will gave her the courage to ride half naked with the overweight man with the roaming eyes.
Once back in the city, she returned to her apartment, after getting the superintendent to open the door for her. She’d crashed on the sofa and hadn’t moved for over twenty-four hours. Her mind raced as she sorted out the new revelation that she wasn’t even a fucking human being. Now that her eyes had been opened to the truth, she knew Ben and Draco were no different than she was. What did their wolves look like? No, where the fuck were they when she needed them most? Why hadn’t they come after her?
She’d managed to piece together the puzzle of her identity as she lay awake for so many hours. She finally realized why her father insisted she go to survival camps every summer and holiday. It wasn’t to get rid of her as she’d assumed all her life. It was to give her back the chance to discover who she was—a mix of human like her mother and wolf shifter like her father. She could now remember different talks they’d had. He’d been overprotective and controlling to protect her, from herself and the world. Why did he desert his heritage to play human? Bella knew all about the desire to fit in. Perhaps her father wanted to be like her mother, be
What was normal? She had so many questions that needed answers. The most important, why did it hurt to think about her mates? She needed them like a drug. She even felt herself withering from the inside out being so far away from them. But they’d deserted her when she needed them most. They had no idea how difficult it had been learning the truth about herself with no guidance, no support, and lost in a wilderness filled with predators out to imprison her.
She wanted to cry and be consoled, reassured and loved. At the same time, she had a new inner strength burning in her blood. All the nagging questions she’d had throughout her life all made sense. The pull of the moon and the forest, her feral desires, and the feeling that she was different from everyone else. It was surreal to learn that werewolves existed at all, never mind being one of them. But ever since that first shift, she’d had an acceptance of the truth, like a rebirth into something new and wonderful. If only she could stop feeling so barren and not think about Ben and Draco.
“Where have you been? How did you get home?” demanded Keith. “We had to wait for those bushmen to finally agree to drive us to the nearest town.”
“Long story,” she said, not wishing to elaborate. “And I hitchhiked.”
“What? Do you know how dangerous that is, Bella?” Amanda dropped to her knees beside the sofa by Bella’s head. “You could have been killed.” She knew her friend must have been worried sick about her, but she still couldn’t offer the truth. Even without being told, she knew her new identity should be kept a secret from
“Don’t offer her any pity, Amanda. She’s screwed us around for the last time.”
Keith saves the day and his girlfriend from the destructive influence of her wayward friend. She didn’t have the energy to deal with him now. All she could think about was getting back to the woods, which was why she stayed rooted on the sofa. If she left the apartment, she knew she’d be drawn back to her lovers. They could answer her many questions and soothe the ache between her legs, but she had to resist the urge. She needed to make decisions with a clear head, with logic, not lust.
Tonight would be a full moon and somehow the wolf within her knew it was significant.
“You win, Keith. Whisk your woman away from my destructive influence.” She still reclined on the sofa wearing her sack dress.
“Don’t say that,” said Amanda. “I’m not leaving you. Come on, let’s get you in the shower.”
“Amanda! Stop babying her. She’s not your responsibility.” If this were a cartoon, Bella imagined steam would be spewing from Keith’s ears.
She didn’t want to cause more problems for her best friend. “It’s okay. You do what you have to do, and I’ll hop in the shower. Promise.”
* * * *
Draco howled to the midday sun, the grief-ridden sound carrying through the acres of forest. They couldn’t find Bella. She’d vanished, her trail gone cold. After nearly decimating the small pack of nomad wolves, they learned that Bella had run off like a bat out of hell when they’d tried to capture her. None of them were able to catch up with her or track her unique scent afterwards. She could be anywhere in wolf or human form. Imagining her tired, hungry, injured, or worse made him crazy and not so pleasant to be around.
“It’s a full moon tonight,” said Ben. They sat together at the campsite Bella and her friends once occupied. Now, not a trace of her remained, but the human litter left behind.
“I know, Ben. Don’t you think I know that?” Tonight would be Bella’s first full moon as a shifter. She probably wouldn’t have the skill to stay human under the powerful influence of the moon, not without her mates. More than any other time, she’d need the men who’d marked her. Her body would be hungry and insatiable. If they couldn’t find her, she’d suffer needlessly.
He exhaled and leaned over, his elbows on his knees. Their elders had gathered the full pack around the fire the night before and explained the importance of finding Bella, not just because she was mated to Ben and Draco, but for what her existence could mean for the future of shifters. No one had suspected she was a wolf, which meant it was highly likely she was a half-breed, the first female half-breed known to exist. Male shifters could mate with human females, but the fix was temporary, because like in Ingrid’s case, the offspring were all male. Without new females born, their race would be watered down until it no longer existed at all.
“Let’s scour the forest again. We’ll break into groups and comb every inch from here to the tundra if we have to.”
Draco shook his head. “We’ve already looked everywhere. She’s not here. Her trail went cold at the highway.”
“Maybe she traveled back to the city.”
“That’s hours away. She’d never make it that far on foot. She must have gotten in a car. It’s the only logical answer.”
In times like these, Draco wished he had adapted to some of the humans’ modern conveniences, such as cell phones and internet, anything to help him find Bella.
Suddenly, Ben stood. “I’m going to the city. There’s no point sitting here wondering what’s happened to her when I could be doing something.”
“The city?” Draco followed alongside Ben as he stomped back towards the cabin. “I’ve never been to the city.”
“I have. Looks like you’ll have to trust me on this one.”
After a dip in the watering hole, changing into blue jeans and long-sleeved shirts that would enable them to blend in with the masses, they boarded the pack’s SUV and tore down the dirt path toward the highway.
Although the drive was excruciatingly long, Draco felt a stronger connection to Bella as they entered the city limits. Ben was right. She was here. How she’d gotten here, he had no idea, but that didn’t matter. She was so close he could practically taste her.
“She’s here,” he said. The sun was nearly set, casting the last of its light on the horizon, highlighting the pink and purple clouds above the cityscape.
Ben said nothing, steering the vehicle like a man on a mission, his eyes focused on the passing road signs. Bella’s companions had given them her intersection, thinking they’d get a drive all the way back to the city. They were lucky to get a lift to the nearest town. Draco had no love for the yellowbelly males or the whiny, unimpressive females from Bella’s camping party.
After more stops and turns, Ben parked the car on a spot along the side of the roadway. Twilight descended on the city, yet it continued to stay unnaturally illuminated from the multitude of lights. His wolf wanted to return to the forest, but not without Bella.
They slammed their car doors shut and joined each other on the sidewalk. Even at this late hour, humans passed by from both directions. They laughed, held hands, toted bags, and looked into the glass store windows. There were shifters, too, which surprised him. Draco had heard the stories about shifters abandoning their calling and living like humans, but found it unbelievable. These city wolves had no pack, no rules. They thrived on being the strongest and smartest in society, excelling at sports and business. Draco could see the lure, but to abandon their wolf, their packs, for material gain, didn’t make sense to him.
“Focus,” said Ben, tugging him by the sleeve. Draco walked in a daze, taking in all the surroundings. The humans were so much smaller than Ben and Draco, so fragile. They walked around them, oblivious to their proximity to creatures that could kill them in the blink of an eye.
They both stopped dead at the same moment, the pedestrians migrating around them like water passing by an unmovable boulder in a fast flowing river. “It’s her.” This time Draco took the lead, following Bella’s unmistakable scent, pushing through the humans with little thought to blending in. Some shouted, some cursed, but most got out of his way.
The trail led them to an alleyway between two rundown brick buildings. The lighting was minimal as they entered, and the smell of decay and alcohol nearly overpowered Draco’s finely tuned senses. Ruckus laughter came from around the corner, cutting through the relative quiet in the abandoned lane. Draco’s muscles clenched as he kept his wolf at bay. His instincts warned him of danger before he picked up the mixture of adrenaline and fear from his mate.
* * * *
Bella couldn’t resist the call of the moon. After showering, she managed to convince Amanda to let her leave their little apartment. Her friend was acting like a mother hen, certain Bella wasn’t thinking straight. She supposed her recent behavior was to blame, but she had to get out of the confines of the concrete walls. Her skin crawled with the urge to shift. Bella could already recognize the call of her inner wolf and had learned how to control it. With the full moon looking down on her, she found it difficult to focus. All she could think about was her mates and the wicked things she’d like to do to them.
She wandered into an alleyway, feeling a feral need to wreak havoc. It was like a battle between humanity and savage desire within her. As much as she tried to keep control, to remember who she was, the need to fight, to dominate, overpowered her. Yes, she was looking for trouble and knew she’d find it in this area of the city, not far from her apartment. She and Amanda didn’t have money to rent in the respectable areas where crime didn’t pay a visit to the front door.
“Hey, baby. Looking for a good time?” She suppressed her smile before turning around to face three men, no doubt junkies. The alcohol on the breath of the closest one nearly made her gag.
“Very original,” she said.
“What’s wrong with her eyes?” asked the heavyset man with the shaved head.
Did her eyes now glow like Ben and Draco’s? She hoped so. “Have you ever heard of the Big Bad Wolf?” She stifled a laugh. “Imagine if that wolf was me.”
“She’s nuts,” said baldy.
“Who cares? She’s cute.” They moved in on her, and she reveled in her plans to give them a fight to remember, unsheathing a few claws, until two others slunk out of the shadows. Two male shifters. Their eyes glowed, but they held no love for her. Their sneers made her pulse race. At least they wore clothes. Before now, she’d never have suspected they were anything other than two ordinary men. Now, she could recognize them for what they were.
“Well, surprise, surprise,” said the blond. He parted the other men aside easily with both arms and stood in front of her, his eyes taking in every inch of her. “Never thought I’d see the day.” He ran his hand over the length of her hair, still slightly damp from her shower. She jerked away, only to hit the brick wall behind her.
“She’s marked,” said the other shifter, tugging the collar of her sweater down to reveal the two small scars.
“Marked, but all alone.” The blond dragged a tongue over a set of glistening white fangs. She wanted no part of him or his friend.
“We were here first,” said one of the humans.
Bella wasn’t an unclaimed item up for auction. Anger made her vision red, but she also knew she’d be no match for two wolves in the tight confines of the alley in human form. It had been a miracle she had escaped the others in the forest as her wolf. It appeared her luck had finally run out.
She thought her senses had deceived her. When she smelled that familiar musk associated with love, sex, and security, she thought it was only her mind giving her some measure of comfort in her final hour. But when she spotted Ben and Draco in the distance, she nearly cried in relief. They’d found her, come for her. She briefly closed her eyes as the rush of heat tore through her body. Her wolf wanted to be claimed again, to be double fucked by her two hard mates. They looked impossibly sexy in designer jeans, their shirt clinging to well-defined muscles. The contrast of Ben’s dirty-blond and Draco’s dark hair made her pussy pulse