Content Advisory: Graphic violence
Cassie’s not having a good week. She’s tired of dealing with the mixed signals from her boyfriend and she’s attacked by a large dog. Then it gets worse. Said boyfriend is keeping secrets and possibly using her for his own ends and the dog that attacked her? Yeah, that was a werewolf and now she’s going to be howling at the next full moon.
Not only does she have to deal with a deranged werewolf, intent on killing her but she’s got her boyfriend’s father pushing them to mate. Did she mention her boyfriend was a werewolf too? It’s going to take all she’s got to handle these alpha men and get what she wants too. Things can only get better. Right?
If you missed Chapter Three, you can find it here.
She heard a sound behind her and glanced back, seeing a tall man with his light brown hair pulled into a ponytail. He looked into the window of the bookstore, engrossed in the new bestseller on display. The shopper didn't pay her any attention and wasn't following her, but she felt uneasy all the same. Maybe she should go back to her apartment. No, she wasn’t ready to deal with Alex yet. She was being silly, seeing danger where there was none, but she hurried on, nonetheless.
A large church with ornate windows rose up before her. Gargoyles graced the rooftop corners. Weren't they supposed to protect? A church should be safe. She ducked inside and let her eyes adjust to the dim light. A bank of candles in small red cups stood off to her right. After growing up in a Catholic orphanage, she knew exactly what to do. She made her way over to the candles and said a prayer before lighting one. If anyone needed divine intervention, it was her.
The wooden pews were mostly empty. An old man sat near the front, praying softly. She heard his words, though she knew she shouldn't be able to. The whispers about missing his late wife and needing the strength to carry on without her tugged at her heart. Feeling guilty at hearing such a personal conversation, she moved off to the far side of the church, away from the man. She caught a whiff of body odor, noting he probably didn't bathe regularly.
What must it be like to love someone so much that their absence sent you into a tailspin. She sat on a pew and opened a prayer book. It wasn't until that moment that she realized something she should have noticed when she first entered the church. Her night vision was so improved she could clearly see the small text. It hadn't taken but a moment for her eyes to adjust. Alex had mentioned enhanced senses.
So…she was a werewolf. What did that mean? Her senses were improved and he pointed out her increased healing abilities. She turned her back to the old man and lifted her shirt. Wow. The lines crisscrossing her stomach from the attack where they’d sewn her up were all shiny, pink scars and looked several months old rather than days.
She trailed her fingertips across her neck. Her throat was smooth and unblemished. The cracked forearm looked as though it never happened. Did all this make her a werewolf? Shouldn’t there be more to it? More drama, more hair? She rubbed her temples.
When she turned back around, the old man was gone and she was alone in the church. Alone, in the quiet sanctuary, she finally let her mind stop whirling enough to think clearly. Why did the dog...the wolf...the werewolf attack her in the first place?
Could Alex have been the one to attack her? No, his wolf didn’t look the same as the one who attacked her and why would he hurt her only to stick around. No, it was someone else. But it didn’t change the fact that he was no better than Dirk the Jerk.
After she caught Dirk in her bed with another woman, she didn’t think she would be able to trust a man again. But Alex had charmed her, broke through her reticence with his serious demeanor, sparkling eyes and dry sense of humor. He was different. She had feelings for him. She couldn't believe Alex had been deceiving her all this time. He could have been the one. At least, she had hoped so, but how could she be with someone she couldn’t trust?
On top of it all, she was a werewolf now. Her life was going to change. What did it all mean? There was so much she didn’t know about being a werewolf. Yeah, like everything.
Cassidy was so lost in her thoughts she didn’t see the man until it was too late. A black mask and a piece of rope were all that registered in her mind before she felt the rope around her neck.
Alex watched in astonishment as Cassie yanked open the door and slammed it in his face. Damn it! He quickly changed back to his human form and dressed. It wouldn’t do to be arrested for indecent exposure while trying to get to Cass. He should've explained to her she was still in danger. Yes, she had more strength as a werewolf and her senses were more sensitive, but she hadn’t shifted yet. Not to mention she was scared and angry. She wouldn’t be at a hundred percent.
Fully clothed, he followed Cass’ scent down the hall, the stairs and out of the building. Once on the street, her sweet vanilla fragrance mingled with others and it took precious time to single it out. He ran to the right, but the further he got away from her building, the fainter her scent became.
Alex backtracked and passed the bookstore, her scent getting stronger. He breathed easier until he caught another, a small growl rumbled from deep within his chest. He recognized it from Cassie after she’d been attacked. It was the wolf that attacked her. Shit!
He followed her scent around the corner. Where could she have gone? There weren't many places to hide in the city. A gothic-style church rose up in front of him. A feeling of certainty lodged in his gut. She'd gone there.
Alex sped up, running at full speed, desperately wishing he had time to shift to his wolf form. His wolf would be better equipped to handle this rogue. At this point, he just wanted to get to her before it was too late.
Cassidy slid her hands between the rope and her throat, then grasped it and pushed out as the masked man tried to tighten it. They struggled, but she wasn’t giving up. She was a survivor. She hadn’t given up in the orphanage when the older kids tried to bully her, she hadn’t given up when she'd had to work three jobs to put herself through college and she sure hadn’t given up when the wolf attacked her several days ago. She wasn’t giving up now.
The man yanked Cassie off the bench, trying to loosen her grip. The rope dug into her skin as panic gurgled up into her throat, choking her as sure as the rope would. She slammed her head back into his face and he loosened his hold. Jerking the rope away from her neck, she tried to force it over her head. The man cursed and then the rope was back around her neck, tighter than ever. Warm liquid ran down her neck and the coppery scent of her blood burned her nose.
Cassie kicked him in the knee, but didn’t have the leverage she needed to hurt him. Her neck and hands throbbed. Muscles ached in her arms as her strength leached out of her. Damn it, she didn't want to go out this way. Her attacker kicked her feet out from under her and they fell.
Her hands slipped free from the rope and it bit into her newly smooth throat. Air thinned and her chest heaved as she tried to draw a breath. She got her elbow up and jabbed him in the face with it. Again, the angle was wrong and there was no power behind the move. She’d only succeeded in making him angrier. She found it harder to fight him face down on the ground.
Her struggles faltered as the rope bit more deeply into her neck. She could feel the man’s triumph. Black dots swam behind her eyes.
Did she hear Alex call her name or was her poor oxygen-deprived brain playing tricks on her? A sound rumbled up from the chest pressed to her back, but she couldn't make out what her attacker said before she passed out.
When Cass woke up, she found herself in Alex’s arms. He rocked her, murmuring under his breath as he stroked her hair. Her throat burned, but she was otherwise unhurt. Two attacks in less than a week; her boyfriend turning into a wolf; she was a werewolf; it was too much. She lost it for the first time she could remember. In the orphanage, crying showed weakness so she'd never indulged, but she sobbed until her throat was raw. When she calmed down, she realized Alex had held her through her breakdown. She felt fragile.
“What happened to the guy? Who was he?”
“I don’t know, sweetheart. I recognized his scent, though. He’s the same one who attacked you before.”
Alex’s stroking caused little flutters in belly. After he'd deceived her, how could she still want him? Even as she thought this, she snuggled closer into his body, knowing she was safe. Physically safe anyway. Emotionally? Well, not so much. Focus, Cass.
“Why does he want to kill me?” She pushed away from the security of Alex’s arms and swiped the left-over tears from her face.
Alex sighed. “I think he’s targeted you to weaken me.”
Cassie’s brows furrowed. Could her week get any worse? She was a target because she’d dated Alex, the lunatic? Oh wait, he really was a werewolf so crazy wasn’t a problem, after all.
Alex stood, and then lent a hand to Cass. “I know you’re upset, but please let me protect you.”
She sucked in a deep breath. Could she do this? Her feelings for Alex were strong, even though she was angry with him. She could trust him with her safety, just not necessarily her heart. Trouble was, if she spent more time with him, especially in close proximity, she wasn’t sure she could keep her heart safe.
Alex used the puppy dog look she found hard to resist. “Please come home with me. The pack will be nearby for extra security.”
Against her better judgment, Cassie agreed. “I’ll come and stay with you, but only for a little while.” God knows she couldn’t stay long or she would be hopelessly in love with him.
So close. Damn it! All he needed was a minute more. She’d be dead and Alex would be forever weakened. He’d never be Pack Alpha.
He circled back around to Cassidy’s apartment. As he resumed his hiding place across the street, he saw Alex and Cassidy walk out of her building. He watched as Alex loaded several small suitcases in the trunk of his car, bundled Cassidy into the passenger seat and got in behind the wheel.
Alex was taking her back to his pack’s compound. He wouldn’t be able to reach her unless she wandered out alone, which was unlikely after two attacks. It looked as though he would have to fight Alex in a dominance challenge, after all. Not his first choice since Alex would be stronger from his mating with Cassidy, but anger and revenge could lend quite a bit of strength in a fight, especially if he didn't fight fair. He could take Alex.
Then he’d go after his father.
Please return on September 7th for Chapter 5 of Power Play.
If you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Volume I and Digital Digest Volume II anthologies as ebooks for only $.99!
Copyright © 2011 Riley Quinn
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.