Silver Wolf in the Shadow City world

"Chapter Two

Her scent is strong," one of the men yelled. "She can't be far."

Dammit, I didn't have even a quarter-mile lead on them. I had to get my head on straight or they'd capture me.

The urgency of my situation called for focus. At least, I had a reprieve from the overwhelming grief that wanted to suffocate me.

Wiping the moisture from my eyes and the snot from my nose, I increased my pace. They might have numbers on me, but I knew the land.

I veered left, staying deep enough in the woods that I couldn't be seen if they drove the roads. I ran a sporadic route, hoping they wouldn’t guess that I was heading to the closest town, about four or five miles away. Luckily, the road led southwest toward Shadow City and allowed me to stay close to civilization. That would force the people chasing me to keep their animal sides at bay.

After all, humans weren't supposed to know about supernaturals. If someone let it slip, the punishment was death.

Footsteps pounded behind me, pushing me to move faster. I ran often for training, so I should be able to lose their asses. As long as I kept ahead, I should be okay.

I'd figure out what to do once I got closer to the city.

***

My legs grew heavy, and it took twice as much energy to keep going, but I pushed through the fatigue. From what I could guess, I'd run about fifteen miles, which meant Shadow City wasn't far ahead. If I maintained my current speed, I would reach the city in the next thirty minutes.

I was making decent time, but the assholes after me hadn't fallen behind as I'd hoped. I had to lose them.

Scanning the area, I searched for something that would slow them down. Staying close to the road wasn't a viable option any longer.

I cut to the right, farther away from the road, hoping the switch in direction would disorient them for a short while, and examined my surroundings. I wasn't familiar with this part of the woods. Even though our pack lived somewhat close to Shadow City, we’d always kept a wide berth from it, purposely avoiding anyone who lived near there.

I tried to remember everything I knew about Shadow City. It was a refuge that had been created over a thousand years ago. Anyone who needed help or asylum could go there. All shifter races lived there together, plus angels, vampires, witches… almost every supernatural race in existence.

When the city was founded, the silver wolves had been its protectors until corruption took hold. Unable to fight the corrupt leaders and unwilling to die for them, the silver wolves had chosen to leave.

At the time, Shadow City's alpha wolf had promised to clean the place up and had asked for us to not go too far away. Then, shortly after the silver wolves left, the city went into lockdown, not letting anyone in or out until the past few years.

Dad had gone there about two years ago, to meet with the current alpha wolf, Atticus, but he’d left me behind, telling me he needed to vet the situation and that I was to stay with the pack in case things went awry. I’d been sixteen then, old enough to step into the alpha role if necessary.

Despite the alpha's promise that things had gotten better, Dad had been wary of some of the other leaders in the city, specifically the angel, Azbogah, and some of the witches. Atticus had said to give him time, that we'd see more change. However, Dad never heard from him again.

For him to tell me to go there meant the Shadow City pack was my only hope for safety. That didn't sit well with me, but that was a problem for another day.

Right now, I had to get these assholes off my trail.

The rushing of the river helped me form an idea. I probably should've done it a while ago, but I'd foolishly thought I could outrun them.

Mistakes were forgivable as long as you could do something about them. And fortunately, I was alive and still moving, which meant everything in my current situation. No one else in my pack could say that.

"She's changing course," someone huffed. "She’s heading for the river."

At least, they were showing signs of fatigue too. It would've sucked if they didn't sound as winded as I felt.

"Don't let her get there," another one yelled. "I’m calling for backup. We can't lose her."

The good thing about changing directions—it made their weight shift on their feet. I hadn't been able to get a good read on how many were chasing me, but with them pivoting, it sounded like about ten were riding my ass.

That was more than I'd expected. I'd hoped for a handful. With that many, my odds of getting away were a whole lot slimmer.

A problem for after I reached the water.

Watching the ground closely, I looked for patches of mud, roots, and tree branches that could make me stumble or fall. Unfortunately, this slowed me down, but that was marginally safer than taking a tumble. Another reason I'd stayed close to the road—more stable ground.

The downward slope helped me run faster. Tree branches cut my arms, causing some bleeding, but nothing that fazed me. I barely felt the burn and the sting, but what was all too easy to feel was that I was their fucking prey. Something that angered both my wolf and me.

Their footsteps grew louder, alerting me that they were catching up. They were larger than me, so gravity worked in their favor.

I hadn't thought the plan through, but the river grew closer.

As long as I reached it before they caught up, I should be good. My plan was to go underwater and swim for as long as possible so they’d lose sight of me and my scent.

"I see her!" one of them shouted, way too close for comfort.

Ignoring the overwhelming urge to look over my shoulder, I pressed forward.

Murky water appeared between some trees as the Tennessee River came into view. The water didn't appear to move fast, but that was misleading. In spring, there was so much rain that the current was strong. Luckily, the section down here didn’t have heavy traffic. The boats stayed mostly north of us, so it wasn’t risky to swim around here.

My attackers’ breathing was so loud that I could tell they were almost on top of me. If things didn't change drastically, they'd catch me before I reached the river.

I hadn't run over fifteen miles to be captured now.

Concentrating on my goal, I threw caution to the wind and hauled ass, no longer caring about my footing. I pumped my arms at my sides, trying to make my feet move even faster.

As I reached the embankment, the mulch turned into muddy stone, and I leaped.

"No," a guy screamed as something snagged my right ankle.

Twisting my body to the right, I used my left foot to kick the punk in the face. His head snapped back, and his grip on me loosened.

I fell on my back, barely short of the water, my head dangling off the edge of the embankment. I raised my head to see nine men stalking up only a few yards away from me.

If I didn’t do something, they’d catch me before I hit the water.

The guy I’d kicked was knocked out, so I climbed over and grabbed his gun. I hated using guns, but right now, it was a necessity. I stood and fired at the rest of the men, who were too close for comfort.

“Take cover,” one yelled as all nine scattered. I waited a second before firing again, keeping a random pattern in hopes that they’d wait to ensure I was done firing before racing after me again.

Not far away, the river curved sharply. If I could hold my breath long enough, I could still lose them. After a few more random gunshots, I squatted so they couldn’t get a good visual. I fired once again then let my natural instincts take over. I flipped backward and hit the water feet first, sinking under the surface, and swam as hard as I could, using the current to my advantage.

I swam deeper, hoping the extra cloudiness of the water left over from the storms would hide me. A few bubbles hit my leg, informing me that at least some of them had jumped in but that I’d gained some distance.

Swimming was one of my favorite pastimes, something I was grateful for now as I kicked as hard as I could with the current to get as far ahead as possible. My lungs began to burn, needing oxygen. I exhaled a little, trying to prolong the time before I would inevitably need to resurface.

After several more strokes, I had to emerge. Trying to be careful, I allowed only the top of my face to break through the water, hoping to stay hidden.

"Look, there she is," one of them yelled.

Dammit. I submerged once more and let panic push me harder than before. I couldn’t let them catch me. If I did, then all the lives sacrificed for me would be in vain.

I couldn’t live with that.

With each stroke, I expected to be grabbed, but it didn't happen... at least, not yet.

I swam diagonally, hoping to catch a stronger current. When my lungs began to scream again, the water pushed against my back, propelling me forward.

Good, but I needed to replenish my air supply.

I waited as long as I could before my instincts took over and my arms pushed me toward the surface. However, the current wouldn't release me, and I was too weak to break through.

Panic seized my body, and my brain grew lightheaded. If I didn't get a hold of myself, I'd drown. Quickly, I flipped onto my back and stretched out my body, feet first. All the articles I'd read about river safety said to float with my head upstream and my legs down. Being horizontal to the water should help, at least marginally.

Surprisingly, getting into that position was easy once I wasn't trying to break through.

Something brushed my hand, and I grasped it. For all I knew, I could be holding hands with a corpse, but I was desperate enough to use whatever was available for leverage. Hopefully, it was a log. I yanked it toward me with the little bit of energy I had left. The edges of my vision started to darken, and I pushed the maybe-log down toward the riverbed, trying to use it to propel myself upward.

The momentum shifted me from the current, and when I broke through the top of the water, I sucked in a breath. My head was still foggy, and I spun around, looking for the assholes who’d put me in this situation, to begin with. A large tree branch floated beside me, so I threw my arms over it, no longer strong enough to stay afloat on my own.

My eyes grew heavy with exhaustion. Fighting for awareness, I craned my neck around but didn’t see the douchebags.

I was safe for now, so I propped my head and body on the branch as best I could and closed my eyes to rest for a moment.

***

An arm wrapped around my waist, causing my heart to race and my breathing to quicken. I opened my eyes and realized that my dumb ass had fallen asleep. I had no clue for how long, but it was obviously long enough for them to catch up to me.

I kept hold of the branch and slammed my elbow into the prick's stomach. "Let go of me!"

"Whoa," a deep voice exclaimed and then groaned. "You're going to drown. I'm trying to save you." His hold around my waist slackened.

Did he think I'd actually fall for that? He didn't smell of a lie, but that didn't mean he had good intentions.

Since he was distracted by his stomach ailment, I head-butted him with the back of my head. A sickening crack informed me that I broke something.

"Fuck!" he complained as he pushed the log toward the embankment.

My legs made contact with the riverbed, and I put weight on them before falling back into the water with a large splash.

"Hey, wait," the guy said as he swam over to me.

"Stay back." With trembling hands, I pulled my knife from the sheath and held it in front of me as I glared. "I will hurt you."

"Obviously." He gestured to the blood pouring from his nose. "You already have." Drops of water fell from his short, dark hair and dripped onto a once sky-blue shirt and jeans. The warmth of dark chocolate eyes caused me to lose focus, and my hand dropped a couple of inches. He had the musky scent of a shifter, but he was in human form.

He wasn't wearing black, but he could still be one of them, messing with me. I had no clue how long I’d been out, and he could've changed into a different outfit and jumped in after me.

I lifted my chin and raised the knife. "Who are you?" I had no clue how I was going to get out of here. I didn't have the strength to stand, for God's sake.

"I'm Killian." He moved his hand slowly to his nose and pinched the bridge. "Killian Green. I saw you floating on a tree limb and thought you might be in trouble."

"Why would you think that?" I kept my body facing forward as I scanned for other possible attackers. They were probably hiding in the woods, waiting for the sign.

"Did you not hear what I said?" The corners of his mouth tipped upward. "You were passed out, floating on a tree limb in the middle of the river. It's dangerous to be swimming right now after the heavy storms that passed through."

"And you happened to be out here?" I had a hard time buying it.

He pointed toward a tree at the edge of the water. "Fishing."

Against my better judgment, my gaze followed where he motioned. And sure enough, a rod was propped against a tree with a worm dangling on the hook. The poor worm wiggled like it might have a chance to survive.

“So you aren't trying to capture me?" The words tumbled from my lips before I could stop them.

His brows furrowed, and he released his hold on his nose and wiped off the blood. "No, but now I understand why you beat the shit out of me." He chuckled.

"You find that humorous?" He had to be some sort of sick asshole to find the fact that I was almost kidnapped amusing.

He grimaced. "No, I'm sorry. It's just, there's only one girl who has ever kicked my ass like you did." He tilted his head as he examined me. "And funnily enough, you remind me of her." He frowned like he was remembering someone he didn’t want to.

This was getting uncomfortable, and for me, staying close to the water wasn’t smart. They'd be combing the area, looking for me. "Look, I've got to go. It's not safe here for me." I placed both hands in front of me to bear some of my weight as I stood. Slowly, I climbed to my feet even though my legs wanted to buckle again. I took one step and dropped.

Before I could make impact, a strong arm caught me around the waist.

"Let me help you." He glanced around the area. "You're not going to make it far in this condition."

I hated that he was right. "Fine." I kept a strong hold on my knife, ready to use it at any given moment.

We slowly made it out of the water and to the tree line. But I wouldn't feel better until I was hidden. After a few steps on land, I stumbled into the woods.

"Hey, where do you think you're going?" Killian asked. "You can't leave like that."

And there it was. He hadn't been helping me after all.

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