Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Power Play: Chapter Eight

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 Seven, you can find it here.

Almost a week had passed since she’d left Alex’s house. Cassie had walked miles in the river, hoping to mask her scent. She must have hidden her departure well because she knew that regardless of her asking him not to follow, he would have. The longer she lived with this wolf inside her, growing stronger each night the full moon drew closer, she knew that his instinct to protect her would override everything.

The upside was that the rogue couldn’t find her either. The camp owned by the orphanage she grew up in stood empty, too early in the season for the next batch of young kids. She knew this place inside out after spending many summers here. No one that knew her, not even Alex, would associate this place with her. She hadn’t been here in over ten years.

It hadn’t changed much, though. The buildings were still sturdy and airtight, keeping out the cool night air so she didn’t have to light a fire for warmth. She’d set booby traps around the perimeter of the camp, not complacent with her safety.

The time away had been good for her. She’d done a lot of thinking and realized several things. The most important, that she wanted, no needed, to change was her habit of running away. She’d always prided herself on being a strong woman, a survivor, yet since her attack, she’d done nothing but run. It was time to face both her fears – the biggest being her feelings for Alex and whether they were reciprocated, the other her first shift.

The second would be over soon. Cassie moved through the forest on silent feet, thanks in part to her new DNA and hours of practicing her new abilities. The late day sun peeked through the canopy of trees surrounding Alex’s compound. Tonight, the full moon would shine bright and she would shift for the first time.

Her skin itched from the inside and ripples rolled along her body. When it had first started two days ago, she’d freaked until she realized it was her wolf. When she stopped fighting it, the pain at the beginning dissipated, leaving a general discomfort.

A rustle to her right brought her out of her thoughts. Cassie stopped and crouched low, waiting. Arms like steel bands encircled her from behind, catching her unaware.

“Well, well. What do we have here?” An amused voice chuckled behind her.

She kicked her legs and tried to head-butt him with the back of her head, but her struggles were useless. Even with all her new strength, she was no match for him. Obviously another werewolf. She prayed he wasn’t the rogue.

The branches that had originally caught her attention parted, and she stared at a familiar face. She almost cried with relief and wondered at the animosity present.

“Let her go. That’s Alex’s mate.” Disgust lined Mace’s voice and at his terse command, the arms let go.

She fell to the ground in a pile as the guard spoke into a radio. Gathering her feet beneath her, she stood. She imagined the burly wolf wasn’t happy about her sneaking away under his watch.

“Come on.”

He grabbed her elbow, firm but not painful, and trudged toward the house. As they broke through the trees as the edge of the clearing, Alex rushed toward her. His appearance shocked her. Gone was the urban, well-groomed man.

A scruffy beard and hair that looked as if it hadn’t been washed in several days jarred her, but it was the feral gleam in his eyes that sent her heart into spasms. Cassie hung back, but Mace’s grip wouldn’t allow her to go too far. Alex snatched her up and hugged tight, rocking from side to side.

Had she done this to him? She’d guessed that he would worry, but nothing of this magnitude. After all, he didn’t care about her. Did he?

After several minutes, he finally set her back on her feet. The two guards that had accompanied her to the house had melted away. It was only the two of them.

“You scared me, Cass. I was terrified that he’d gotten you.” Alex’s voice cracked and fresh guilt surged through her.

She laid her hand on his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

A short bark of laughter escaped him and he turned away, stalking toward the house. “Worry doesn’t begin to cover how I felt.”

Trailing behind him, feeling lower than a slug, she hurried to catch up with him. “I’m sorry, Alex. I needed space.”

He whirled on her at the door. “You could talk to me about your concerns. Listen to me when I try to talk to you instead of running off like a scared little girl. I’m not an ogre. I’ve never raised a hand to you, yet you ran. From me.”

The hurt in his eyes, in his voice, undid her. “You’re right. I did run. But not from you. I ran from my thoughts and my feelings, but they just followed me. I did a lot of thinking while I was gone and I do want to talk to you. About everything. But can we wait until tomorrow? After my shift?”

Alex stared into her eyes. After a long moment of silence, he crossed his arms over his chest. “You stay here tonight and we talk tomorrow. In the morning.”

Relief swept through her. “Agreed.”

“Fine. My sister will be here soon to help you prepare for your shift.”

With that, he pivoted on his heel and vanished into the house. The slamming of his office door reverberated throughout the downstairs and all the way to her on the porch.

Perhaps she’d been too hasty in her relief.

A soft knock preceded Meg’s entry into her room. As soon as the other woman saw her, she ran to Cassie and hugged her. Hard.

“We were all so worried. Thank goodness you’re all right.” The younger woman pulled back and gave her a stern stare. “You shouldn’t have run off like that.”

Cassie, unused to so many people caring about what happened to her, swallowed back tears. “I know. I’m sorry. I was scared and confused. I just needed time to think and didn’t feel like I could do it here.”

With a brisk nod, Megan straightened. “In the future, remember that you can stay with me. Now, let’s get you ready to shift.”

Several hours later, freshly washed, buffed, and primped, Meg led Cassie to the area where the rest of the pack waited. Meg had explained that on the full moon, the whole pack shifted together. Since this was her first shift, they would wait until she’d completed the change. Acid gurgled in her stomach at the thought of being the center of attention.

As they approached, everyone turned to watch. Alex stood in the center with his father. He’d cleaned up since this afternoon, once again looking like the suave man she’d dated. A pathway cleared for her as she moved to join him. Meg gave her a quick hug before melding into the crowd. Alex smiled down at her and took her hand. Gone was the feral gleam and her heart picked up its pace, this time from being near him again.

Jackson raised his arms and the murmuring stopped. “Tonight, our new packmate becomes one with her wolf for the first time.”

A chorus of howls rose in the air, startling her at first, but curiously, helped to calm the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. After a short serenade, silence once more fell.

Alex turned her to face him. As he untied the knot of her silky white robe, he stared into her eyes, somehow reassuring her. She remembered that he’d said it wouldn’t hurt. His gaze, his touch, made her forget everyone else. She thought she’d be embarrassed to be nude in front of the others, but now, she could only see him.

“It’s time. Don’t fight it, okay?”

A shiver rippled down her spine, due more to his soft whisper than the slide of her robe to the ground. He brushed his knuckles across her cheek before helping her to all fours in a shaft of moonlight. After a few moments, the rippling in her body increased, not really hurting, but not comfortable either.

A bright light enveloped her as her bones moved inside her skin, seemingly absorbing any pain she might have felt. Fur burst through her skin in a wave, from head to toe. As the light faded, she looked around the clearing. Through the eyes of her wolf, all color disappeared, the shades of gray sharp and detailed.

A sense of freedom flowed through her and the need to run, to hunt, to play overwhelmed her. Somehow, Human Cassie gave way to Wolf Cassie and primal instincts took over. The relief of letting go of everything that had happened in the last two weeks sent a jolt of happiness through the wolf.

Another round of howls broke through the crowd and Cassie joined in, the sound rolling up her throat to blend in harmony with the others. Next to her, Alex shifted, followed by Jackson and the rest of the pack.

Alex nudged her hind-quarters with his snout, urging her into the trees. With a yelp of pleasure, she took off at a run, quickly learning the way her new body worked. The exhilaration of the cool night air rustling over her back sent her racing faster, free in a way she’d never been before.

Then she stopped thinking altogether and joined her pack in the hunt.

The pull of the moon called to his wolf, but he refused to yield. It’d been over a week since he’d gotten his last shot at Alex’s little bitch. If he didn’t take care of her soon, they would perform the mating ritual, making it harder to kill his enemy.

Tonight, she would transform for the first time. If he’d been successful that first night, she’d be dead rather than growing stronger. He punched the wall, angry at himself, enraged at his inability to wreak revenge on those that had destroyed his life.

They’d pay one way or another, whether he took out the bitch or fought both Alex and his father. After all these years, he wouldn’t let this last chance pass him by.

Please return on November 2nd for Chapter 9 of Power Play.
~~Riley Quinn~~

If you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Volume I Issue I, Digital Digest Volume I Issue II and Digital Digest Volume I Issue III 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.

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