Authors: K Webster
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Paranormal
Copyright © 2015 K. Webster
Cover Design and Interior Images: Jennifer Munswami
Photo: Dollar Photo Club
Editor: Premier Romance Editing
Formatting: Champagne Formats
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information and retrieval system without express written permission from the Author/Publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Thank you to my husband. My Alpha. You protect me and love me harder than anyone ever could. I love you!
A huge thanks to my PA and bestie Nikki McCrae. You kept my head in the game on this one when I wanted to give up plenty of times. I would say something really mushy and gushy about now but I don’t want things to get weird… haha!
Thank you Nicky Crawford for talking me through some scenes that needed hashing out. You rock!
I want to thank the people that beta read on this book. Nikki McCrae, Wendy Colby, Elizabeth Clinton, Ella Stewart and Nicky Crawford. I hope I didn’t forget anyone. You guys always provide AMAZING feedback. You all give me helpful ideas to make my stories better and give me incredible encouragement. I appreciate all of your comments and suggestions.
Thank you to all of my blogger friends both big and small that go above and beyond to always share my stuff. You all rock! #AllBlogsMatter
I’m especially thankful for the Breaking the Rules Babes and my Krazy for K reader group. You ladies are wonderful with your support and friendship. Each and every single one of you is amazingly supportive and caring.
I am totally thankful for my author group, the COPA gals, for being there when I need to take a load off and whine. Y’all rock!
Vanessa, you are a gem and I’m so thankful for your expertise. You’ve been a great friend too. Thank you!! Manda Lee, thanks for being an awesome proofreader and so supportive!! Love you ladies!
Thank you Stacey Blake for being the best formatter in the whole wide world! Love ya, girl!
A big thanks to Nicole Blanchard. You told me about this wonderful opportunity and answered my millions of questions. You’re awesome!
Lastly but certainly not least of all, thank you to all of the wonderful readers out there that are willing to hear my story and enjoy my characters like I do. It means the world to me!
To my alpha, my hero, my protector… I love you.
Twelve years old
Tonight, I’m running away. Four foster homes just this year and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of getting beat up by older, meaner foster kids. Sick of wearing ratty hand-me-downs. And sick to death of the leering looks of men who are supposed to care for me.
A moan from the bunk bed above me causes my breath to still in my chest. Minnie is an eight-year-old girl who I actually do have feelings for. But I know better than to get close to her. At any moment, either of us could get shuffled to a new home. In this life, you don’t get close to anyone.
I never considered running away before, but tonight as I gaped at the blood in my panties in the bathroom, something fierce begins to trickle through my veins. It was as if the start of my period brought with it a taste of much desired freedom. These foster homes were nothing more than a cage and I wanted to be set free.
Twelve isn’t an age when a girl should be able to survive alone, but I’m no regular girl. Ever since I was introduced into the system at age two, I’ve had to fight for everything — food, clothes, a place to sleep. It hasn’t been pretty but I’m prepared to take on this big, bad world on my own.
Slinking out of the bed, I take a look around the small room I share with Minnie. Nothing belongs to me. I’m in no way tethered to anything here. Without a backwards glance, I tip-toe over to the window and attempt to open it as quietly as possible. I’ve finally managed to wrench it open when I sense a presence.
Jase, my fifteen-year old foster brother, glares at me from the doorway. His ever soulful jade-colored eyes almost glow in the dark.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he hisses.
I don’t give him an answer as I climb out the window and prepare to run. Just as I figure out the direction I want to go, he clutches on to my bicep, having followed me outside.
“I said, where you think you’re going?” he demands in a deep voice as he jerks me around to face him.
My nostrils flare in disgust when I get a whiff of him. Hygiene at our foster home isn’t of utmost priority and Jase reeks of body odor. Tonight he stinks something awful and it makes me wonder if with the start of my period, I’m being extra sensitive to the way things smell.
Meeting his green-eyed glare, I pin him with a hateful look. “Let me go, Jase.”
He’s a good six inches taller than me but I’m not afraid of him. Jase is weak despite his bad attitude. I’ve seen him get his face smashed in on more than one occasion by our foster father, Joe, and he didn’t do a darn thing about it.
“You can’t leave, Frances. You’re only twelve.” His voice wavers and I sense his worry for my safety. It almost warms me but then I remember I don’t care.
“Jase, I’ll be fine. I can’t stay here anymore,” I tell him in a firm tone.
His grip is unrelenting as he searches my eyes. “You could get killed or worse yet, taken advantage of,” he mumbles.
“You have five seconds to get your hand off me or you’ll be the one getting killed,” I snarl.
Jase’s eyes widen in shock at my tone and he releases my arm, stumbling back a bit. I glower at him until he retreats a few more steps.
“W-what are you?”
I scrunch my eyebrows together in confusion but then shake my head. There’s no time to chit chat. “Bye Jase. Don’t let Joe win anymore. You’re almost as big as he is now.”
His face crumples at the mention of our foster father. I feel a tiny quiver in my heart for his pain but I ignore it and take off in a jog away from him.
He doesn’t call for me or come after me. And with each step, the dark cloud that shrouds me begins to lift. Sprinting along with the wind blowing my dark hair into my mouth and eyes is exhilarating. The urge to take my clothes off overwhelms me. It’s as if I want to shed myself of everything that was my past life. But I can’t take my clothes off. What would someone do if they saw a naked twelve-year-old girl running down the street?
I’m running free.
Nobody controls me now.
Slowing to a stop, I rip my shirt off and shove off the rest of my clothing and shoes. The warm air tickles my flesh but I feel like screaming in relief. Taking off again, I revel in the way my naked body slices through the night air.
I’ll never be caged in another foster home again.
Lifting my head, I stare at the beautiful moon that tonight almost seems yellow. So this is what total freedom feels like?
Something from within me explodes. Every nerve ending ignites and blackness clouds my vision. I’m not sure what’s happening but I enjoy the sensation. For once in my life, I’m completely happy.
I’m so hungry.
So ready to give up.
I even tried to seek help from a man jogging but he yelled at me and shooed me away. I’d tearfully told him my story — how I’d been on the run but was starved and scared. He’d ignored me as if I were some annoying animal.
a dirty street animal.
I ignore the voice that niggles at me. The one that asks the questions my mind doesn’t have answers to. Has going without food scrambled my mind? Everything is different — larger even in this big, bad world. I just want to go home and sleep in my bed.
Dirty street animals don’t have homes.
It’s been days since I ran from my foster home and the days are all running together. I’m not sure what I thought would happen once I escaped but digging around in a trashcan behind some apartment building wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined. But I’m so hungry.
I find some chicken bones with some meat still hanging on them and my stomach grumbles in relief. The meat stinks and is old but I devour it ravenously. I’m just crunching through one of the bones when something slips around my neck.
What in the heck?
“Hey!” I yelp at my attacker.
As I’m dragged away from the garbage, I squirm and twist in an effort to escape. The grip on my neck only tightens to the point I can hardly breathe.
“There, there, girl,” a deep voice coos.
The sound of it buries itself under my skin and I hate it instantly.
Words fail me as I desperately hang by my neck as he heads toward a truck. The first thing I notice about the vehicle is the caged box on the back of it.
In the background, I hear a yappy puppy and I wonder if it’s in the cage already.
Please, let me go!
When the man arrives at the truck, he wrangles out his keys and opens the cage which reeks of urine and feces. I whimper for him to let me go but he ignores me as he shoves me inside. His hand, which seems gigantic, slides over my bare back and I feel sick to my stomach. Why is he touching me this way — as if I’m his pet?
I scowl at him as he slips his hand to my neck and releases whatever he was using to grip me. Choking, I suck in air and prepare myself to beg him to let me go. But when he crouches and sticks his huge face right in mine, I scramble away from him. I’ve never seen such a big man and he scares me.
His hand wraps around my neck again and I fear he’ll choke me some more but instead, he caresses me gently just below my ear with his thumb. I hate that I react to his gentle touch and don’t want him to stop.