Authors: Kate Thomas
The Resounding Series, Novella 2.5
by Kate Thomas
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The Resounding Series, Novella 2.5
Copyright © 2015 by Kate Thomas
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
The novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and plot are all either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons – living or dead – is purely coincidental.
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"Why do you defy me, Dru? Is it not enough that I should bleed for you, for this pack?" Derik pressed hard against Dru’s body, the sensation emotionally uncomfortable. The tree behind her bit into her skin, but the pain grounded her, giving her the only small comfort she could find within the context of her reality.
She spit in his face and he growled deep in his chest, thrusting his crotch hard against her, forcing her legs open with the movement. He pressed his nose to hers as he licked the spit from his lips, his eyes challenging her to do one more thing that might cause him to follow through on his threats to make an example of her.
"Drucilia, this is the point where you would be so very wise, little girl, to stop acting out and give a bit of respect. I'm your mate's older brother and the Alpha of this pack. If you think you can do things better, then challenge me and I'll paint the ground with your blood. Otherwise, I suggest you go find something to do before I take you in ways that would embarrass the loosest of women in our pack." He nipped at her lip, tearing at the soft skin so that blood ran down her chin. He lapped it up quickly with his warm tongue, his smile widening. "Test me again and I'll do it with pleasure, right in front of your mate."
Against her will, her body responded to his, aching for the excitement of his sheer power and strength of will. His Alpha essence called to her, willing her to submit. Yet Dru was disgusted, because not only was he not her mate, but Derik’s abuse of his power was reprehensible.
She knew that to speak to him in this moment would be to willingly die. She held her tongue, instead using it to lick at his mouth in an effort to calm him before he slipped deeper into madness. She was done fighting him and simply prayed that he would leave her before Seth arrived from his hunting trip. Without fail, she always found herself in the middle of a battle with the Alpha every time her mate was away. It was as if he had planned it perfectly, the desire to mate him and kill him running equally hard in her veins.
He growled and rubbed himself against her, his hands moving to grip her waist tightly, sucking and licking at her mouth until she was clean. Heaving himself backward, he shuddered from need as he growled deeply at her, his appearance menacing, eyes warning of carnage like she'd never seen before. The moon would be out before long and she'd change into an animal that would respect Derik without question, but in her human form—she hated the bastard.
His short black hair was matted to his forehead, and the large muscles of his tanned chest strained as he turned to march toward the small village they lived in, the world of the Lycans, far from anything deemed human.
Turning and running as fast and as hard as she could, hot tears of frustration burned down Drucilia's cheeks. Her body screamed for the Alpha behind her at the same time that disgust and horror crept over her nerve endings. The images that played across her mind sent her into a frenzy of sorts, her own regret for wanting Seth's brother more than she could bear.
She would have to kill him. There was no other way around it. Asking Seth to help her would never work, but she was cunning enough to determine her next steps alone. Nothing but a bit of time and loads of opportunity stood in her path.
Derik had been raised beside her in the pack, her father having linked them to be mated from a young age. Derik had been the strongest male wolf outside of her father, and for that he would have earned a part in the Alpha's heritage, but that had never been enough for Derik. Instead of waiting for his turn as Alpha, he’d simply challenged and killed her father. Derik’s love for Dru because of their childhood friendship was the only thing that had saved her.
Their mating had been called off, both because she’d been disgusted by him and because he hadn’t wanted to be tied down but free to roam and take whatever or whomever he wanted.
Memories scorched her as she ran with focused intent. The speed at which her body propelled her was enough to pull all oxygen from her lungs, leaving her winded by the time she reached the water's edge.
She didn't hesitate, but instead flung herself off the end of the earth, gravity grabbing at her and pulling with a mighty force. She plummeted toward the dark blue water as it lapped at the shore with excitement for her arrival. Her fingers pointed down, her spine straight and muscles locked into her dive, as long crimson strands of hair danced in the wind behind her.
The shock of the icy water woke her and helped her to place Derik in perspective, where he belonged. She would never tell Seth of their encounters because she was both embarrassed and ashamed. She cared for Seth, but wasn't sure if love was the proper term. She was mated to him simply because it was their custom that if the Alpha moved on and left his mate unattended, his next of kin was to care for the poor helpless sap.
Her lungs screamed for air as she continued to push to the bottom of the dark grave, clarity painting its way across her senses. She needed to take Derik out, but wanted to be smart about it. Whoever stepped up to lead the pack next could be just as heinous as their current leader. Seth would never be Alpha. He was too small and unsure of himself. A man for sure, but not one that would ever lead a pack as vicious as the Graybacks.
Her hope was that another male would rise. One that might treat the pack like her father had, with respect and care, as the head of a family would. That was the hope, the prayer.
She pulled at her small dress, releasing herself to nakedness in the water, and then pushed along the bottom to make her ascent, her mind edging toward dizziness. She broke the surface and gasped for air, appreciating the serenity of the moment. That moment was quickly gone as she focused on the white coat of a large male wolf at the edge of the cliff above. His head tilted toward her as she slipped back under the waves.
A lone wolf was never a good sign. They always brought with them death, disease or disaster.
Drucilia slipped through the busyness of the forest. The hunting and scouting party had come back from their trip. Sounds of excitement followed her as she slipped gracefully from her human form into her small wolf form. She jogged through the center of the camp, large tents set up all along the edge of the forest, hidden by dense trees. The sun sat high in the sky, summer in Iceland cool and refreshing no matter what form she took.
A quick stop by her tent, and she was able to braid her long red locks, dry off and slip into a white cotton dress. She walked from the small tent that belonged to her and her sister Karis. They were only allowed to stay with one another. There were few females in their pack, most of the males going into the adjoining cities to sate themselves with unsuspecting human females. Seth wasn't a fighter by nature, but he'd done a good job of making sure that Derik protected what remained of the original Alpha's family.
Seth looked up from his kneeling position as she approached, a warm, welcoming smile on his face. She smiled back, unable to help herself. The lack of true physical attraction kept her from wanting to run to him, but a small seed of hope always lingered in her heart that one day that might change. They were friends, they were family, but they were far from lovers. She tucked her complaints away and stopped in front of him as he stood, stepping over the deer and opening his arms to her. She slipped hers around him and looked up as he leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her lips. "I've missed you, Dru."
"I missed you too. Did everything go well?" She pulled him close for a quick hug before moving back and giving him some space.
"It went alright. I'll update you after I give my brother the full report. I assume he wants to hear it first. You know how he is." Seth wagged his eyebrows at her. His light brown hair curled at the edges from a much needed haircut, giving him an innocent appearance, which was actually quite accurate.
"You assume right." Derik's voice caused her to stiffen, her breath catching in her chest. She hated the effect he had on her, and yet he held the same power over all of the females within their pack. With so few to choose from, accompanied with his unwillingness to mate, he had the women in the camp and their hormones on edge at all times. She ignored the burning desire to turn and look at him, her hunger for him almost embarrassing. She was mated and yet, because he was the Alpha, everyone responded to his desires and emotions.
Seth moved past her, giving her cause to turn and watch the brothers embrace. Derik seemed genuinely glad to see his younger brother, but one could never truly tell with him. He looked toward Dru and she held his gaze, unwilling to let him intimidate her in the least. Instead, she straightened her back and let a look of defiance slip over her features as she glared toward him. He simply smirked and turned back to Seth, who had begun to look between the two of them with a look of concern on his face.
"Something I should know?" Seth asked Derik and then turned his gaze back toward Drucilia.
She shrugged and reached up to push her long braid off her shoulder. "Nope. Your brother was an ass while you were gone, but nothing new to report."
Seth's eyes went wide as Derik laughed.
"Yes, I was an ass and your woman was a pain, as per usual. I think you should spend time with her in a collar. You know, teach her where her place is."
Heat rose in her face, a growl leaving her lips as Seth moved in between them, her mate truly seeming to be in shock that the conversation had taken a turn for the worse.
Seth looked over his shoulder and frowned at her. "Don't growl at him. He’s your Alpha. He’s my Alpha." He turned back toward his brother and Dru felt her face grow hotter, the smug look on Derik's handsome face enough to make her blood boil. He licked at his lips a little, as if trying to taste something delicious he had eaten earlier. She reached up and touched her lip as it began to bleed again, feeling sick over his power.
She crossed her arms over her chest and simply stood still, wanting to hear the hunters’ report, as many other members of the pack joined them. Seth and Derik spoke together intimately until Derik finally moved to face the crowd and gather their attention.
There were no words to explain the dark emotions that bubbled within Drucilia, her need to tear Derik’s throat out always just below the surface. He was supposed to have been a successor, rising up to be the leader her father had trained and groomed him to be, but he wasn't anything more than a murderer. His eyes moved about the crowd, but landed on her more often than she found comfortable.
"The hunting party was successful in finding a new food supply a day's travel from here. The trip won't be too hard for us. Half of us will travel in human form and the rest in our natural form. Seth will work to separate you into groups. The human group will leave tomorrow morning, and those of us going as wolves will head out tomorrow night." He reached back and pulled his brother up. "My brother Seth will address you now. He's found reason for concern."
Seth's demeanor changed, his shoulders slumping a little and his face filling with fear. Drucilia tried hard not to concentrate on how disappointing it was that the brother of their leader and her mate was so docile, so unwilling to step up without fear coating his every action. He turned toward her and she smiled warmly, the false confidence she projected toward him doing very little to assist him. His voice was far too soft and shook as he spoke. Derik reached behind him and Seth moved up, straightening his back as he looked toward his brother.
"Yeah, um … well, there were Hunters in the woods."
He didn't get another word out as the camp exploded with questions. Some of the elders in the camp calmed everyone and Derik moved forward. "What Seth meant to say to you was that there are humans not far from here, and we need to be cautious as we move. We are much stronger than they are and quite a bit more capable. However, I know that most of you remember the days of the great Hunters. We cannot underestimate the humans. They usually have more at their disposal than they allow anyone to see."
"Are these the Hunters of the church?" Drucilia stepped up as her sister slid in next to her, a small hand slipping into hers.
"Yes," Seth responded as Derik answered, "No," at the same time. A smirk slipped across Drucilia's face as she tilted her head.
"So, is it yes or no?"
Derik's expression let everyone know that questions were officially unwelcomed. "There is no way of telling that, Drucilia, but we will be checking. Another party will go out after we’re safe. Our food source dwindling is much more of a problem than the army of God." He laughed and several others joined him.
Drucilia simply stared at him, recognizing that his guise of confidence was nothing more than a ruse. She'd known him for far too long and much too intimately not to see right through his lies. As the Alpha, he would forever be damned to protect the entire pack, so whether he saw the Hunters as a threat or not, it would be him at the front of the line to take them out. She slipped back into the crowd as her sister tugged at her.
"What is it, Karis?" Drucilia whispered harshly, her full attention turned to the small girl before her.
Derik continued to talk, but his voice had become a series of mumbles as Dru focused her attention on her younger sister.
"I couldn't find you earlier and it scared me. I wanted to tell you something." She smiled and continued to pull Dru toward the back of the gathering crowd.
Karis was only a few years younger than Dru and would soon be considered a woman by pack standards, but she was far from it, physically and mentally. She had a slight defect that had caused her to stop growing years before, her height capping off at that of a ten-year-old girl, but she still continued to develop, so her weight put extra strain on her. Dru loved her dearly and instantly felt horrible at her biting attitude.
"I'm sorry. I've just been under a lot of stress lately." Dru reached over and gave the girl a quick hug. "I need to hear what's happening with the Hunters and with our pack, but you and I can spend some time together tonight. Okay?"
"Won't Seth want all of your attention? He's been gone for days, and you know how wolves get near the full moon."
"Damn," Dru muttered, her eyes lifting to the sky toward the large moon that sat faintly in the distance. "It's not until tomorrow, so tonight should be fine, but he isn't really like the others. You know that."
Karis snort-laughed, and a few of the other members of the pack hushed them. Dru turned and growled a warning to them, the crowd backing up a little as she did. The whisper amongst their people was that if anything happened to Derik, it would be Drucilia to take his place and not his brother Seth.
It wasn't unheard of to have a female Alpha, but it was extremely rare. All wolves were expected to mate, and for a female Alpha to find a strong mate that wouldn't kill her off in her sleep was a task for the bold and fearless. Dru wasn't at all interested in leading anyone, much less taking over and trying to fix the emotional destruction Derik had caused over the last five years. He was typically much more aggressive toward the men, but somehow Dru had made it to the top of his list, the tension between them mental, emotional and highly sexual.
"So, like I said," Derik announced, his voice rising above the crowd, "we will have a feast tonight due to the success of the hunt today. Eat and enjoy each other's company, for tomorrow we leave. The full moon will rise tomorrow, so make sure that those of you without a mate join the group that will travel as humans. This should help your urges, and if they are too much to bear, find a single female in the tribe or detour carefully to the human’s village just south of here."
"As if it's just the males who have urges," Dru muttered and was hushed again. She simply let it go and winked at her sister before moving back toward the front as the crowd dissipated.
"Seth," Dru called out as she walked toward them, causing Seth to turn toward her and smile," I would like to be part of the human group. I can help lead if you and Derik want to round up the rest of our pack and bring them in the coverage of night."
"Just depends on what Derik wants us to do." Seth shrugged and reached for her hand, pulling her toward him and wrapping his thin arms around her. "Either way, I want to be together tomorrow night. I'd rather not have to hurt someone for touching you because of the moon."
"Hurt? Someone touched my woman and I'd rip their damn throat out," Derik responded, walking by and letting his eyes linger a moment too long on Dru.
Seth laughed. "Yeah, that's what I meant." He smiled and Dru just shook her head. Her mate’s soft persona was endearing in more private, intimate moments, and yet it was such a letdown for the strength of the tribe as a whole.
"Come with me back to my tent and I'll tell you about what we saw?" He moved back and took her hand, a smile on his face and the promise of a good story in his expression.
"Yeah, sure." Dru fell in beside him, her hand cold and clammy in his. Being born an animal with the fierce desire to kill, dominate and rule left her in a constant internal battle when she was not challenged or made to feel anything. The man beside her gave her plenty of practice for patience and perseverance.
"We were able to kill about twenty large bucks, so dinner tonight should be rather extravagant."
"That's good. The food supply dwindling earlier this week has left most of us with hunger pains. The women and older boys have forgone eating altogether to ensure that the children and elderly are properly taken care of."
She let her eyes drift along the forest as they moved toward Seth’s large tent, which he shared with his brother.
She wanted to know more about the large white wolf that had hovered above the cliff she'd seen earlier. He didn't belong near them, and yet something stopped her from divulging his location to Seth or Derik.
At one time she and Seth had shared a small tent, but with the growing population of their pack, the necessity for larger families to move in with one another had surfaced, and Derik hadn't wanted anyone with him but his brother. Drucilia was more than happy to live with her sister and just spend time with Seth when the occasion called for it.
"It's going to be better in our new home, Dru. There are so many different types of animals, and the threat of humans is decreased. I think the only thing we really need to check into is the whispers that vampires live in the far valleys of our new land."
She stopped, pulling her hand from his. "Vampires? I thought they were all but gone?"
"So did I, and I believe our parents wanted us to believe that, but now that we're grown, it's time that we discover the truth or lie behind their claims ourselves." He shrugged and opened the door to the tent as she continued to stand just outside of it.
"And you don't think that perhaps we should check into that before we drag all of our people to this new land? What if there are vampires? Aren't we a great catch for them?" Dru felt a shiver of trepidation rush down her spine. The stories of the walking dead were told as a way to get kids to behave, to keep the teenagers from leaving in the dark of night.
"We'll be fine, Drucilia. Come in here with me. I'm tired and I don't have the energy to worry about the possibility of blood suckers right now." He sighed and all of a sudden looked ten years older.