Authors: Suzanne Cox
This novel is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people either living or deceased is purely coincidental. Names, places, and characters are figments of the author’s imagination. The author holds all rights to this work. It is illegal to reproduce this novel without written consent from the author.
Copyright 2013 by Suzanne Cox
Published by Suzanne Cox Books
A Different Kind of Man
One Man To Protect Them
Breathe (Atlantis Series Book One)
The Pack Marked (Book One of The Pack Series)
Every place I go, this follows me. It is me. I realize that now. When blood rushes in my veins, I know very soon I will Become
I, Alexis Miller, am a werewolf, and though, at the moment, I am human, my change is approaching. At this point in my life I’ve yet to learn to control it.
In the bedroom, only a few feet away, my aunt Louise’s breathing was slow and even, but mine was ragged. Moving to the window of the motor home, I pushed the curtain aside and stared at the moon.
I turned away from the beckoning moon. In the other room, Aunt Louise sat up in the bed, watching me.
“You feel it?”
“Yes.” My voice sounded strained even to me.
She rolled out of bed and looked at me expectantly.
“Let’s go. We won’t have forever.”
We slipped outside barefoot and headed toward a wooded area at the back of the campground where we’d parked the motor home.
“Will I ever be able to control it?” I whispered as we pushed through the underbrush.
Louise turned back to smile at me. “Of course you will, very soon. It’s not so hard. You have to be taught and practice. That’s why you’re coming with me to The Project, so you can learn all the skills you need.”
That wasn’t really why I was going to join her band of traveling werewolves. Well, maybe partially. Learning skills would be a benefit, and controlling the change to my werewolf form would be great. But none of that was the real reason. It was the means to an end. And the end I wanted was Eric.
My mom had sent me to spend this past summer with Aunt Louise. She had just married my new stepdad, and they’d decided to go on a honeymoon. At least that had been their excuse to leave me in the wilds of Louisiana with an aunt I barely knew. They did go on the trip, but my mom had known what was happening to me, known I was about to start changing into a werewolf. She simply hadn’t known how to begin to explain it to me.
This past summer with Louise was when I’d finally learned the truth about myself. I’d also found Eric Spence. We were meant to be together. Just the thought of him sent a swirl of feeling through me. I didn’t want to lose that. It meant something. It had to. Unfortunately, he belonged to another pack, the Fenryrians. They were the ancient enemy of the pack I’d been born to. I didn’t believe that had to be the end of it, the end of us. My goal was to use this school to find a way to get Eric’s pack to accept me, without me having to kill humans. Something his pack believed in that mine didn’t. I’d been told it was useless to try. I wasn’t convinced.
With my clothes tossed aside, my Becoming overtook my body, my mind, my being. I felt the power, and I loved it. Louise, now a black wolf, appeared beside me. We were alike, both with silky black coats, only I was a bit taller than her when we were in wolf form. Crashing through the thickets and trees, I bared my fangs at nothing in particular. My wolf form was freedom, strength, and speed. I relished the feeling as Louise and I raced each other, tongues lolling. I held back a bit, not wanting to leave Louise behind. She was fast. I was faster, but maybe she didn’t need to know. In the distance, I heard a howl and immediately answered it. I opened my mouth to howl again, but Louise knocked me off my feet.
“You have no idea who it is.”
Many werewolves had special talents, and one of Louise’s was the ability to project her thoughts into the heads of others. Not all werewolves could hear her, but I could. I heard her now, but I didn’t really want to listen.
“What difference does it make?” I pictured the words in my head and tried to project them, though I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I always tried though, because I thought it would be an interesting talent to have.
Louise may or may not have gotten my message, but she showed me her pointed, menacing teeth in a snarl and shoved me with her nose toward the oceanfront and the campground where the motor home was. After we’d gone a mile or so, I could hear the splashing of waves from the ocean off to my right, so I knew we didn’t have far to go. That’s when I smelled it. The scent overtook me, making my head turn without conscious thought. Louise stopped. It was too late. The bushes rattled, and the humans raced into the small clearing. They were bloody, and fear rounded their eyes into blank spheres. They veered away from us, running with no real focus, disappearing into the brush behind us.
I planted all four feet into the ground while Louise crouched lower. The growl that rumbled from my throat came from the wildest part of me, the part that might have wanted to chase after the humans, to feel their flesh against my sharp teeth, their blood in my mouth. But I didn’t chase them. We waited, but only for a few seconds. A pack poured from the woods at a full run, and the minute I saw them, saw their number, I knew we wouldn’t stop them. I caught the weight of the first one, burying my teeth into its coat and muscle, then threw it off to my right. The next one knocked me off my feet. I took it with me, and we rolled in the grass. My teeth ripped at its throat. It screamed, scrambling to its feet, racing away in the direction the pack had come from. I couldn’t see Louise for the bodies that surrounded me. Wolf bodies. Another one drew close and leapt, its teeth closing on my throat. We rolled, but I couldn’t get loose, and before I could stop myself, I felt the rush of the change.
“No!” Louise’s words rang in my head.
It was too late. I’d already shifted to my human form. Werewolves were still unusually strong in their human form, just easier to injure. Even though I knew my strength in werewolf form was supposed to be greater, my body had told me to change. I wasn’t sure why, and as the wolves attacked, I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I grabbed the jaws of the wolf and ripped them in opposite directions. Still holding on to its head, I sprang to my feet and threw it across the clearing against a tree. Behind us, in the direction the humans had gone, there was a howl. The wolves in front of us backed away then took off in the direction of the sound. I started after them only to find Louise in front of me, shaking her black coat and spraying droplets of blood.
I nodded, knowing what the words that rang in my head from her meant. Before she could move, I saw the other wolves coming. I pushed past her, even though she tried to block me, and met the huge animal head- on. Teeth tore at my skin again, but something inside of me was acting as an anesthetic because I didn’t feel the pain. I jerked the wolf’s head, breaking its fur-covered neck. It wouldn’t kill him. But it would stop him for a moment. Two wolves were circling Louise, and I didn’t wait to see what they’d do. I launched myself into the side of a large red one. Both of us rolled across the grass. Another howl sounded in the woods, and the wolf Louise was fighting turned away from her to race in the direction of the cry. I started after them, but Louise blocked my path again.
“I said it’s too many.”
More words in my head. I swallowed down the urge to fight that boiled in side of me. She was right. There’d been way too many of them for the two of us. She set off at a run, her paws churning in the soft earth, and I followed, not feeling the rough ground on my feet as I raced behind her toward where we’d left our clothes. At the edge of the campground, I found my shorts and T-shirt beneath the lacy fronds of a fern where I’d left them. I shrugged into my clothes knowing Louise was doing the same in the undergrowth behind me.
I tugged my T-shirt down just as a hand grabbed my arm and spun me around.
“Never change to your human form in the middle of a fight. You have no weapons, and you’re not as strong.”
Frowning, I pulled my arm loose. “It just happened. I thought that I’d be able to get that one wolf off me if I could use my hands, and the next thing I knew, I’d changed. I was right. I did get him off.”
I didn’t argue with her. I couldn’t tell her that I’d just known it was the smart thing to do. I’d heard the whole
you’ve only been a werewolf for a short time, you don’t know anything
speech many times before. Werewolves like us were normal until around age fifteen when we started to change. It was a genetic anomaly passed down for thousands of years. At sixteen, I’d just made the change. Since I hadn’t grown up in a werewolf family, Louise didn’t give me credit for knowing anything. She was right, to some extent. There was a lot I didn’t know. But sometimes, like tonight, I did know things. I wasn’t sure why, and I surely couldn’t explain it to her. Neither did I point out to her that I had been strong in my human form, maybe even stronger than in my wolf form. If she didn’t see it, then I wasn’t going to spell it out for her. Werewolves were undeniably stronger than any normal human, no matter what form the werewolf was in. That’s why sometimes we did fight in our human form, but it was understood that the werewolf form was the strongest, the most resistant to injury. Or at least that was what I’d been told. Tonight, for me, it just hadn’t been true.
“We didn’t save those people,” I said slowly to Louise.
She started toward the campground, and I followed her. “We may still have a chance. They may not kill them, and if we can find them while they’re still in the area, we can give them the antiviral.”
Since her back was to me, Louise didn’t see the skeptical look I gave her. Those wolves had been out for blood, not just to bite those people and infect them with the virus that the Fenryrian pack carried. Louise and I were of the Lycernian pack. But I’d been in the midst of a Fenryrian pack on the hunt before, and I knew that look, that lust for the kill.
“You can’t respond every time you hear another werewolf howl. Haven’t you learned that, in this world, our world, not everyone is friendly?”
I glanced at her, frowning. “I’m fairly certain that not everyone on this planet is friendly, werewolf or not.”
Louise sighed. She did that frequently when she was with me. We made it to the motor home and went inside, neither of us speaking to the other until I’d jerked the switch on the lamp and flung myself on the couch still folded out to a bed. “I thought we were strong fighters.”
“We are. Or at least I am. You will be eventually. With training, I think you’ll be much better than me.”
“So why are we afraid of who we might meet when we’re out there?” I nodded my head toward the window.
“No one should go looking for a fight. We Lycernians try to be peaceful. I can’t speak for members of the Fenryrian pack that we might run in to. You should know how dangerous they can be since you were just involved in killing two of them.”
After my mom and step dad had come home from their honeymoon I’d left Louisiana and Aunt Louise to return with them to Chicago, to my old life. But I’d found there was no old life for me there. I was different now. I was a werewolf. The repurcussions of what had gone on in Louisiana had followed me to Chicago and I really didn’t want to have to remember it. With the help of Eric and my good friend Myles, two prominent members of the Fenryrian pack had been killed, and killing a werewolf wasn’t easy. That was the night I’d learned that Eric wasn’t really the normal human boyfriend I’d thought he was and that my life was going to be completely different from now on. That was when I’d decided to leave my mother and step dad, leave Chicago and everything I knew to become a trained werewolf.
I lay back and watched as Louise sat at the banquette table with her cell phone in hand. She punched a button and put the phone to her ear. Whoever she was calling she had on speed dial.
“We need a cleaner crew here on Big Pine Key, just south of the campground.”
She was silent for a few minutes then gave a simple, “Yes.” She ended the call.
I sat up again. “What’s a cleaner crew?”
“It’s a group that will come out and give the humans the antiviral and clothe them then try to get them home.”
“They’ll give the memory block, too?”
She studied me. “Yes. Why?”
“I’d hate for those people to have to remember any of what happened to them…if they live.”
Louise didn’t answer, just tucked her phone into her pocket and got up to go to her bedroom. Halfway there, she stopped and turned back to me.
“They were Fenryrian, you know.”
I knotted the sheet in my hand. “I know.”
“So you see what I mean when I say they’re dangerous and can’t be trusted?”
“Maybe they’re not all that way.” My fingers made another twist in the fabric. “Maybe all Lycernians aren’t as nice as you think they are.”
She didn’t respond immediately, and I met her eyes for as long as I could before I finally had to stare at the floor.
“You’re probably right about that,” she said at last. “But if a Lycernian is caught killing humans, he’ll be put to death by the council. That’s just the way it is.”
“I understand that.”
“I’m just making sure.”
“Aunt Louise, I wouldn’t kill people.”
She didn’t answer. I turned away until I heard the door to the bedroom click shut so she couldn’t see my face. For Louise, it was all cut and dried, white or black. Life wasn’t really like that, was it? I felt certain there had to be some gray areas in there somewhere. Eric’s pack attacked and used humans, but that didn’t mean Eric did. I forced myself to let go of the sheet. The door to Louise’s bedroom opened, and she slid into the banquette again. I noticed she’d changed into the long black coat and corset-type top that made up the fighting suit of the Lycernians.