Silver Wolf in the Shadow City world
A scream echoed in my ears, making my blood run cold. The noise originated from about two miles away, where my pack lived, deep within the mountainous woods outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I stilled. That was odd. The trickling of the murky Tennessee River in front of me filtered back into my awareness.
Maybe some kids were playing or Dad was doing training rituals with the younger shifters. But that would surprise me because tonight was the new moon. Normally, we took it easy this day of the month when our kind was at our weakest—but maybe that was the point.
I hoped no one had gotten hurt.
Brushing the concern away, I leaned over the muddy edge of the riverbank and dipped my fingers into the cool water. The heavy storm from a few days ago had made the liquid more cloudy than normal, but I could still see my reflection. My long, silver hair, which signified my future as alpha, lifted in the breeze, and the olive tint to my skin contrasted with my light silver-purple eyes.
The noon sun warmed the back of my neck, and all of the tension melted from my body.
"Attack!" The faint, desperate command resonated from the distance. “Kill as many as you can.”
My body tensed.
This was no exercise. We didn't shout frantically even when we wanted to during training. Revealing worry sounded weak. As silver wolves and protectors, we had to convey confidence at all times.
I spun on my heel and ran toward the neighborhood. Dammit, I shouldn’t have snuck out and hiked the two miles away from home, but this was the one day of the month that I could be alone for a few hours.
The one day I had a reprieve from learning about my future responsibilities, which I’d inherit from my father.
What’s going on? I linked with my pack, but there was radio silence. As though I’d been cut off from communicating with them.
That had never happened before. I probed my mind again for the link while panic clawed in my throat. The only solace I had was that my chest was still warm from my pack bonds.
Animals scurried in the opposite direction as me, and my already frantic heart pounded harder.
Something was wrong. The silver wolves acclimated into the world, but we kept our location and the type of wolf we were hidden from everyone, including other members of the wolf race. The only time we allowed someone from outside into our pack was when one of our own found their fated mate. To keep our pack secret, the fated mate always became one of us. It was our pack law and a way to ensure that the silver wolf race remained hidden. So, being attacked shouldn't have been possible.
Gunshots fired, and I drew magic from my wolf, increasing my speed with the animal inside. I needed to get back to my pack as fast as possible, but I couldn't risk shifting. In animal form, we revealed the kind of wolves we were to our attackers, our silver fur unmistakable. I couldn’t take the risk of alerting them to our existence, in case they thought we were another regular wolf pack. The attackers could be from a pack led by an overzealous alpha who wanted to form a larger pack by strong-arming us into submitting to him. Dad had told me repeatedly that something like this could happen.
It was a possibility, but I couldn't be sure until I reached them.
Parts of my chest grew colder as members of the pack began to disappear, just like the time my grandfather passed.
They couldn’t be dying.
Any other day of the month, I could run twice as fast, but with the moon hidden tonight, my magic was weakened even more so than the other pack members’ would be because alpha blood was more connected to the moon. Even in wolf form, I wouldn't have been able to run faster.
Silver wolves were much stronger than standard wolves, especially at night and on a full moon. The fuller the moon, the stronger and larger we were. But this one day of the month, we were essentially like every other wolf in the world.
More shots blasted, and I pushed myself harder, causing my side to cramp.
I had to breathe, or I’d be too winded to help my pack when I finally reached them.
The trees blurred as I rushed past, and my feet sank into the mulch-like ground, slowing me down. I wanted to scream in frustration.
Taking deep breaths of the spring air, I tried to use the floral scents of the woods to keep myself rational. Deep breathing was one of the calming rituals that had been instilled in me as a young girl. Learning airway control was one of the best weapons that anyone could have. It helped me think rationally and not make stupid decisions under pressure. Nothing was more powerful.
No matter how hard I pushed, it didn't seem to be enough. It felt like time stood still as I desperately tried to get to my friends and family.
With every step I took, the sounds of fighting became clearer. I had to believe that was a good sign. After all, we were born warriors.
I latched on to that hope and didn’t let my fear take hold.
As the trees thinned, I almost shouted in victory. I made it! But the stench of copper hit my nose.
The smell coated my throat, making it hard to swallow.
My feet stumbled, and I caught myself before I could fall to my knees. I didn't have time to come apart. I was an alpha, for God's sake, and my people needed me.
I opened my mouth and breathed without using my nose. The scent was still strong, but not nearly as bad. My wolf surged forward in my mind, helping me to remain emotionally strong.
As I got closer to home, modest brick houses peeked through the trees. I ran directly to the alpha house, its backyard connected to the woods. I had to find my parents and see what Dad needed me to do. He'd have a plan. He always did.
Needing to be as silent as possible, I slowed, not wanting to stumble upon an attacker. It wasn't as if they would be broadcasting their location to me.
The fighting sounded like a drum pounding.
When I came close to breaking through the trees, an unfamiliar musky stench almost made me gag, stopping me in my tracks.
The attackers were definitely wolf shifters, but I didn’t know their scents.
I squatted and removed the knife that I kept holstered around my ankle. Having it brought me comfort, and I never left the house without the weapon. Not even when Zoe, my best friend, gave me shit, asking what kind of critter would be brave enough to attack us.
I bet she’d changed her tune now.
"The girl has to be here somewhere," a male whispered. "I think I've found her scent heading into the woods."
"Maybe she ran," someone with a deeper voice responded. "Her dad may have told her to leave."
I peeked from around a tree and saw two men dressed in all black and wearing ski masks, standing in my backyard. They were both over six feet tall, like Dad, and were muscled and stout, even more than most shifters. Whoever these assholes were, they worked out a lot, which alarmed me. That could mean they’d been training intensely for something.
A shiver ran down my spine as I realized they might know what we were.
But again, that shouldn’t be possible. Everyone outside of our pack thought our kind had died off.
Breathe, Sterlyn. If I let my emotions get the best of me, they'd find me and do who knew what else. I clutched the hilt of the knife, holding it so I could use the blade easily if needed.
I couldn't see anyone else from this position, which aggravated me. I didn’t want to shift—at least, not yet—in case they didn’t know what we were. Dad? I tried to link to him again.
Instead of a response, more screams filled the air, sounding like they came from the front of my house. The breeze changed direction, blowing against me and toward the two pricks.
Dammit, I had to make my move fast.
"Her scent grows stronger this way." The speaker lifted his black mask, revealing an auburn goatee, and stopped it at his nose. He sniffed deeply. "She smells like freesia."
"Are you being serious?" The other guy reached over and yanked the first man’s mask back down. "Freesia? What'd you do, go paint your nails with your mom before heading over here?"
My pack was being slaughtered by dumbasses who wore all black during the day and argued about scents.
The enemy didn’t even feel bad about decimating my pack. What kind of heartless bastards were they? Rage coiled tightly around me, and I dug my fingernails into my free palm, making blood pool at my fingertips.
I took a few steps deeper into the woods and then moved toward them, hoping to catch them off guard.
"Don't be an asshole, Earl," Goatee scoffed. "I'm saying she smells pretty. Maybe I’ll get a chance to breed with her."
Nausea rolled in my stomach. Why was he talking about breeding?
"Then say that. That's at least acceptable, and don’t get your hopes up. They already have someone in mind for her." The other guy shook his head. “Stop being an idiot. I got you on this crew, and you better not make me look bad. One more stupid move, and I’ll kill you myself.” He headed toward me.
I crouched behind some brush. Once they got near, I'd strike at the smarter one—Earl—before going after Goatee.
Forcing myself to breathe slowly, I let calm float throughout my body.
Earl lifted his hand, signaling Goatee to stop. He stalked toward me, his yellow eyes searching the brush.
He was about ten feet away, but I needed him closer. With Goatee nearby, I needed to strike fast and hard. Taking him out on the first shot was crucial. Otherwise, it would be two on one, and I didn't like those odds.
Goatee moved gracefully beside Earl. Maybe he wasn’t as stupid as I thought.
Earl glanced at his friend. "She's close—"
His distraction was all that I needed. I lunged forward and slammed the knife into Earl's chest, stabbing him in the heart.
"What—" His words garbled as he snapped his head back toward me. His eyes widened, and he looked at his chest, blood already soaking his shirt.
"Shit!" Goatee screeched.
I wrapped my hands around the hilt of the knife and pulled back hard. A sickening sucking followed by a crackle sounded before the knife slid from his chest.
Blood gushed as Earl pressed his hands to the wound, trying to stop the bleeding.
Walking past him, I readied the knife in my hand as Goatee charged.
"You bitch," he growled and reached for my throat.
I dodged him and straightened, slamming my elbow into the back of his head. He fell to his knees, and I grabbed the material and hair at the back of his head.
"You're going to pay,” he growled.
Irrational anger. Perfect. That meant I had the upper hand.
He jumped to his feet and snatched my hair.
Dammit, I should've pulled it up. I jerked my head away, but he held tight and yanked me toward him.
Fighting dirty it would be.
I pretended to trip and fall toward him. He leaned forward, his chest helping to steady me, and spread his legs apart.
As my shoulders connected with him, I lifted my leg, kneeing the asshole right in the balls. I didn't feel much of anything, but he released his hold and grabbed his family jewels like he actually had some.
Interesting. Either way, my plan had worked.
I punched him, and he tipped over, landing face first. Unable to bring myself to kill the asswipe now that he was the only one left, I kicked him in the head, knocking him out.
I surveyed the area, anticipating another attack, but all I could see was the man I'd killed moments ago. Hysteria clawed inside me at what I'd done.
We trained to fight, but I'd never killed anyone. I’d prayed every night that I would never have to. Obviously, my prayers hadn't been answered.
"Sterlyn!" Dad called.
His comforting voice snapped me back to the present. I turned to face him…and almost wished I hadn't.
Blood stained his white shirt, and he clutched his side, grimacing with every move he made toward me. "You need to go now." His normally silver eyes looked more like steel, and his hair appeared a tarnished gray. The handsome man that I'd seen earlier today looked old.
"What?" I jogged toward him, not wanting him to hurt himself more. "No. I need to help protect our pack."
"Look." He reached out a hand slicked with blood. "They're here for you, and I can't let them take you."
"For me?" My brain fogged. "Why?"
"I think they want to force you into a mate bond." He glanced over his shoulder.
My gaze followed his…and my world crashed around me. I couldn't breathe as I tried to make sense of what I saw.
Bodies littered the ground. All from my pack.
Dad and I used the thick trees of the forest to hide us over a hundred yards away as my best friend Zoe army-crawled across the road onto the grass, trying to get out of the way of the attackers. Blood poured down her arms, and I could tell she was using all of her strength to survive.
A man dressed in black ran to her and placed a gun to her temple.
I have to stop him. I moved to intervene, but warm, strong hands wrapped around my waist and pulled me backward. Dad placed his hands on my shoulders and got in my face.
The loud blast of the gun made my stomach revolt.
The spicy scent of fear wafted from Dad as he jerked. "Sterlyn, focus on me."
"But—" I pushed against his arms. I have to save them.
He groaned in pain. "Those men have no intention of letting any of us live except you. There are too many for us to fight off. Most of the pack connections are now cold. Almost everyone is dead."
"What?" My body froze. "Mom?"
"Yes, and I'll be following soon." He nodded toward his side.
Now that he wasn't holding it, I could see his wound. The gash was so deep that the muscle was visible, and the way the blood was pouring from it, I knew they had to have hit a main artery. Even with shifter healing, no one could survive that. "No. I'll take you to the hospital."
"I'm barely hanging on as it is." A tear trailed down his cheek. "I had to keep it together long enough to find you. You have to run. Go to Shadow City. The alpha, Atticus, will protect you, but trust only him with what you really are."
"Dad, how do we know it’s not him attacking us?” my voice cracked. Atticus was the only person outside of the pack who knew of our existence, so I’d assumed this assault had to be on his orders.
“Atticus is a good man. I have never sensed any negative intent in him. I’m certain he isn’t behind this, but be careful, and don’t trust anyone else. One of the attackers said they’re here to find you. We can't let them catch you.”
"I... I don't want to leave you." Not only did he expect me to leave him behind, but he wanted me to go to a city I knew very little about.
"Baby girl, I love you, but you have to." He kissed my cheek. "They're gathering a small group to search for you. Go. Before it's too late."
"The alpha is missing," someone shouted from not too far away. "He may be searching for the girl."
I looked at my father one last time, trying to remember his smell, his face, his touch. "Daddy."
"I'm sorry, but I have to protect you." His eyes glowed a brighter silver as he called his last bit of strength. Alpha will laced his words. "Leave. Now. And don't come back."
My wolf howled in protest as I turned and my feet moved on their own accord, following our alpha's command. I glanced over my shoulder to look at him once more. "I love you, Daddy." I placed the knife back in the holster on my ankle and took off as I heard him drop.
"He's here," another guy yelled.
My wolf surged forward, helping me run as sobs racked me. I didn't want to leave, but I could not disobey my alpha.
The voices grew louder as multiple footsteps rushed toward my dad.
"I smell her!" someone exclaimed. "She's in the woods!"
Breathing deep again to calm myself down, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I had to get out of here before they caught me. My pack's sacrifice couldn't be in vain.