Authors: W.H. Vega
Copyright © 2014 Hearts Collective
All rights reserved. This document may not be reproduced in
any way without the expressed written consent of the author. The ideas,
characters, and situations presented in this story are strictly fictional, and
any unintentional likeness to real people or real situations is completely
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I'd like to dedicate this book to all the awesome readers
out there :)
A Russet Falls Novel
By W.H. Vega
Seven Years Earlier
Avery paced by the overgrown tree where Drew first kissed
her—it had become “their” spot, and she nervously chewed on a piece of her hair
before brushing it from her face. Drew was over ten minutes late and he was
never late. She knew that his family couldn’t be keeping him because Drew’s
family could care less about him.
It sounded harsh but was true.
Avery heard a twig crack and she snapped her head up but it
was only a squirrel. She peered uneasily into the woods, hoping that no one had
shifted recently. It was early Spring, and unseasonably warm for Oregon. The
spring coupled with the warm weather meant that there were many new shifters in
the tribe. Usually when someone shifted for the first time, their parents were
nearby, but every now and then someone shifted and they didn’t have anyone
around to help them and they ended up harming others.
She didn’t want to be alone in the woods with a brand new
shifter who might not know their own strength or even understand what was
happening to them. She heard another twig snap and the heavy footsteps of
She sighed with relief when Drew emerged from the woods.
Every time Avery saw him, she felt a little weak in the
knees. She had harbored a secret crush on Drew, who was one year older, ever
since they were children, and when they actually began dating during her junior
year of high school, she felt like she had won the lottery.
Drew was incredibly tall with olive skin and wild dark hair.
His eyes were just as dark as his hair, making him that much more handsome. He
had a strong jawline for someone of only eighteen and he seemed to command
attention wherever he went.
“Sorry, I’m late,” he said quickly, reaching out for Avery
and pulling her in for a kiss.
Something was wrong.
She pushed back and looked at him, but he looked away.
“Drew. What is it?”
He shook his head.
“What is it?” she demanded, her heart pounding in her chest.
She was only months from graduation, and they had a plan. She would graduate
and take community college classes in the fall—even though Drew had forced her
to apply to other schools—and Drew would continue his protection training
within the tribe. Avery would take some business classes and hopefully would
learn enough to get a job off the clan lands.
Working off the clan lands was frowned upon, but Avery
couldn’t imagine becoming a homemaker or doing more traditional female tribe
jobs like cooking or housework. There were a few better jobs for the women of
the clan, but they were hard to come by.
Avery and Drew had planned it all out. They would have a
small wedding, keep it simple, and hopefully Drew would advance in rank for the
protection of the tribe.
Drew still wouldn’t look at her, and Avery felt her stomach
“Drew,” she said softly, “You won’t even look at me. What is
Finally he turned his head to her and his eyes were filled
with so much sorrow that she took a step back in fear.
“What?” she whispered.
He shook his head and hung it low in shame. “I’ve done
something foolish,” he choked. It was as if he wanted to find the words but
couldn’t—almost as if he physically couldn’t get the words out.
“Drew! Please!” she begged, feeling tears prick her eyes.
She clung tight to the dream they had created, feeling like it was about to
slip through her fingers.
“I can’t, I can’t,” he moaned, shaking his head, almost
talking to himself.
“Drew!” she reached up and grabbed his shoulders, and that
seemed to get his attention.
“I’m sorry, Avery,” he said, his voice filled with emotion,
“I’m so sorry.”
“Why?” she whispered, her legs starting to shake. She felt
as if she would pass out at any second.
“I have to leave.”
Avery blinked. She tried to process those four little words.
“What do you mean?”
“I have to leave. I can’t stay here anymore.”
“What? Why? Did something happen with your parents?” Fear
gripped at her chest and she knew that she would beg.
“No,” he shook his head. “I did something stupid,” he closed
his mouth quickly. “I have to leave. I can’t stay.”
Tears fell down her face yet Avery felt anger take over.
“What do you mean?” she demanded. “You can’t just show up here and tell me that
you have to leave! Where are you going? Why?” Her voice cracked. “Did I do
“No, no,” he soothed, hugging her fiercely to his chest and
thus bringing forth a sob. “You did nothing. I love you. You are the best thing
that ever happened to me.”
“But I don’t understand,” she pulled back and looked at his
tortured face. “I’ll come with you. I don’t need to finish out school. It’s a
joke anyway. I’ll go with you. We can be together.”
Drew shook his head. “No. You can’t. I’m sorry. I have to go
“Then I’ll wait for you!” she cried. “Please, Drew. Don’t do
this. You need to explain.”
“I’m sorry that I can’t explain better,” he apologized,
“Just know that I love you and I’m so sorry. I was so stupid, Avery. You are
the best thing that ever happened to me and I will think of you every damn
“No!” Avery cried, swiping at the tears running down her
face. “We can’t end like this Drew. I need more answers.” Her mind was spinning
from the awful turn of events.
Drew kissed her hard on the mouth, and Avery tried to fight
it, but she couldn’t. She kissed him back and she knew that Drew was leaving
her, was saying goodbye to her.
How could this be happening?
Drew pulled back, looking at her for one final time. “I love
you Avery. More than you will ever know.”
He turned and began to walk away and Avery stood their
dumbfounded. She wanted to chase after him but in her heart she knew that it
would be pointless. She had never seen Drew so stony or resolute before.
“I hate you!” she screamed, feeling the rage, anger and confusion
spill over. “I hate you Drew! I hate you!”
He continued to walk away from her and she sank to the
Avery wasn’t sure how long she had sat on the ground crying,
but by the time she stood up, the sun was low in the sky and her legs were
She had no more tears to cry and she felt numb. She stumbled
out of the woods and made her way back towards her house. She passed the home
of the new alpha, Ryker, and his young daughter was sitting out front reading a
book. She put her book down and stared hard at Avery, her stare chilling and
hostile for a young girl. Unnerved, Avery looked away.
She hurried back to her family’s house. She didn’t know who
would be home, but she knew her mother would at least be there. Finally, she
rounded the small hill before her house and she could see the smoke coming from
She thought she was all cried out but she was wrong and her
eyes welled with tears as she pushed open the front door.
“Avery? Is that you?” her mother called from the kitchen,
“I’ve been worried sick-’’ she stopped mid-sentence when she entered the room
and saw Avery’s face. “Honey, what is it?” she asked.
“Drew,” Avery sobbed, dropping her purse and running into
her mother’s arms. She sobbed into her mother’s shoulder, and her mother rubbed
her back, murmuring words of comfort.
Avery finally pulled away, feeling tired and spent. She
sniffled, wiping at her nose. She knew that things with Drew were over. She
could feel it in her bones and she felt so much older than her seventeen–
“What is it, sweetheart? Let’s talk. Tell me what happened.”
“First I need to find the college letters.”
Her mother gave her a quizzical look.
He heart was shattered and broken, and besides knowing that
she and Drew were finished, there was only one other thing she knew for
certain: she could not stay on the clanlands any longer.
She needed to get away.
“I need to find those acceptance letters,” she said in a
steely voice, taking the steps up to her room two at a time.
She rifled around on her desk, frantically pushing papers
out of the way until she found the small stack of acceptance letters that she
had never actually planned on looking at again. Drew had encouraged her to
apply to a few colleges just to prove how smart she was, to prove that she
could do better than community college.
But Avery hadn’t cared one way or the other—a college was a
college and she didn’t think it mattered where she took classes as long as she
was close to Drew. She didn’t know where Drew had gone, but she knew she needed
to be as far away from Russet Falls as possible.
She rummaged until she found the right acceptance letter—the
University of Southern California.
She almost laughed it was so ridiculous.
The thought of her attending college in sunny California and
living in a dorm was not the life she had ever envisioned. And yet, it was the
farthest thing from the plan she and Drew had made together, so it seemed the
She came downstairs, clutching the thick paper in her hands.
“What is that?” her mother asked warily.
“I need to make a call,” Avery said in a steady voice, even
though her heart was aching.
“I need to call them and tell them I’ll be attending.” She
glanced down and saw that the deadline for acceptance was the first of May. She
was six weeks early.
Her mother looked at the paper and saw the school name, her
“Avery, please, don’t be rash. Let’s talk things over. You and
Drew could still work this out.”
Avery shook her head firmly. Her mother didn’t even know
that Drew was gone.
“I’ll tell you what happened, Mom, but first I need to
She stepped past her mother and went into the kitchen to use