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Authors: Michelle Clay

The Bad Wolf (7 page)

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
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“That was amazing,” she said as she looked up at her champion.

“What was?” His movement was graceful as he jumped to the ground.

“It was like they understood you
. They were afraid of you.” She remembered Jenna telling her they had to get rid of their dog because it was scared of Ryan. The urge to ask him about it was on the tip of her tongue, but she held back. This was the most he’d talked to her in a week. Why ruin a good thing? He might get mad and leave her alone in the dark courtyard.

He
glanced at her, but didn’t meet her gaze. “They’re just dumb animals.”


They’re not. They formed a plan of attack and everything. What’s weird is they saw you as one of them.” She frowned, trying to piece it together. There had to be something she missed, something she didn’t understand.

Ryan looked un
comfortable under her scrutiny. Instead of answering, he shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

“They would have killed me if you hadn’t shown up.” She offered a wavering smile, afraid to say more for fear of crying.

The look on Ryan’s face was hard to read. Instead of commenting he sat next to her. Nervous butterflies twittered in her stomach when he turned to face her. Why was he being so nice? At school he barely even acknowledged her existence.

She
gasped when he took her hands in his then turned them up to examine the palms. They were scraped, but not as bad as her right knee.

His thumb traced over one of the small abrasions.
His skin was warm, very warm. Chloe sighed then snapped her gaze up to his. It had just occurred to her that they were the only two people on school grounds. “Hey, what are you doing here so late?”

“I was w
aiting for you,” he said in a quiet voice. He seemed to be staring at her lips.

It was then she noticed
the silvery-white scars that criss-crossed his chest and stomach. She pretended not to see them. Instead, she reached up and brushed a leaf from his hair. “That’s sweet to say, but it’s not true. What were you doing behind the school?”

“Checking on the
new lamb.” His gaze slid toward the dark area behind the building.

Chloe’s forehead s
crunched with worry. The campus was quiet now. “Is it okay? I heard it right before the wolves came.”

“It’s fine now.”
He released her hands.

“Is that what
drew them onto campus?” Chloe shivered as the knowledge that she’d nearly become a wolfie snack settled over her.

Ryan
shrugged then ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know, but it looks like they found something much better.”

It wasn’t until he shrugged out of his shirt and
held it out to her that she realized how destroyed her own was. The entire back had gouges and rips. Even worse, one tear ran beneath her arm and around to show the cup of her bra. At least it was the cute green and white striped one with pink polka dots.

Chloe tilted her head and studied him
as pulled it over her head. Would it be silly to admit that she kind of liked him?

Instead, she said,
“You aren’t going to have any shirts left if you keep giving them to me.”

A smile flickered
across his perfect lips. “I don’t mind.”

She placed a tentative fingertip against
a silvery white scar that ran just above his right nipple. Before she could ask what caused them, he gently gripped her hand and pulled it away. “I don’t want you to run by yourself anymore, Chloe.”

A
snort of laughter escaped her. “Are you going to run with me?”

It seemed like a silly idea. Surely that’s not what he meant. He could barely stand to sit next to her during biology and art. To
run alongside her would be pure torture.

He
sighed. “I guess I’ll have to.”

“Right.”
She fought a grin. “So, what’s the catch?”

He didn’t say anything.

She became very aware of how pretty his light blue eyes were. They were just inches from hers. One of his hands cupped her chin to tilt her face up. The other supported his weight on the bench as he leaned closer. His lips were a whisper away, making her pulse rate jump.

Ryan’s lips brushed against hers
. His touch was curious and gentler than she imagined he would be. It was electric, exhilarating! Then he pulled away and Chloe’s first kiss was over way too fast.

Her cheeks reddened as she pressed trembling fingers against her mouth.
Was this what all the fuss was about? Eyes wide, she said, “You kissed me!”

A half smile lifted the corner of his mouth. “Yeah.”

She closed her eyes then leaned forward, lips parted slightly. Maybe she needed a second kiss just to make sure…

“Chloe!” Karen’s sharp voice rang out. The heels of her shoes clacked on the sid
ewalk and she seemed to appear out of the darkness that surrounded them.

Chloe
jumped to her feet then smoothed her hands down the borrowed shirt. It hung well past her hips and practically concealed the running shorts beneath. She cast an anxious glance at Ryan.

His reaction to Karen’s badly timed appearance was
complete opposite of hers. He stood then dusted the seat of his jeans. He didn’t seem to care that Karen might think his being shirtless looked suspicious.

“Ms.
Williams,” he greeted her with a friendly smile. Then he turned back to Chloe. “See you later.”

He cast one last glance over his
shoulder then moved toward the parking lot.  It was dusk now and she could no longer see past the open gates. Once he passed through, he disappeared as though he no longer existed.

Karen crossed her arms over her chest. “Who was that?” she
asked in a suspicious manner.

“Ryan,” Chloe said in a
voice just above a whisper. Her lips tingled with the memory of his pressed against them. She wanted to touch them again, but instead twirled a finger in her hair.

Her mother’s
livid expression melted into confusion.

Chloe fought the grin twitching at the corners of her mouth.
“If a guy kisses you it means he likes you, right?”

Karen snorted. “Y
ou have to be careful, Chloe. You have no business sitting alone in the dark with an older boy. You’re barely sixteen, for god’s sake.”

“I wouldn’t be
alone if you’d show up on time.” Chloe quickened her step. Sometimes Karen frustrated her to no end. “This is why I need a car of my own!”


I just don’t want to see you make a mistake that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.”

“Mom, stop! I don’t want to have this discussion.”

“I realize you’re curious.” Karen’s voice faltered. “Boys will take advantage of naïve girls, Chloe. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear just to get into your pants.”

Chloe plucked her bag off the
courtyard gate as she passed. “Save it, Mom. Dad and I had the sex talk last year.”

The
shocked, irritated look on Karen’s face was priceless. “I’m sure he bungled it.”

“Probably, but I don’t want to talk about it. Okay?” She glanced around the lot. Ryan’s
Jeep was still parked there, but he wasn’t in it.

Karen looked
anything but calm as she wrenched the Outback’s door open.

Chloe dropped into the passenger’s side. This d
iscussion was so not happening.

“He’s older than you, isn’t he?” Her mother got inside then stared at her in the dim interior light. When Chloe answered with a nod, she asked, “All you did was kiss, right?”

“Yes!” Jeez, what did she want a signed confession that he’d taken her virginity right there on school grounds? It was stupid really because nothing like that was ever going to happen. Not with Ryan, not with anyone.

She wasn’t going to be like Karen and get pregnant her senior year. Getting pregnant was for
really stupid girls and married people. She never planned to make that mistake. She’d seen what it was like and wanted no part of it. Karen and David had shown her that even two people who fell madly in love could fall out of love just as easily. No one was ever really true to another person. They just said and did what they liked as long as it got them some sort of reward in the end. She had witnessed the misery they’d caused each other. People didn’t stay in love. Love wasn’t real. Maybe Karen was right about Ryan. Maybe he was just testing her to see how far she’d allow him to go.

“You’d tell me if—
what did you say his name was?”

“Ryan.” Sh
e rolled her eyes and sighed. “Ryan Neal.”

Karen studied her for a moment.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?”

“It’s not like we even like each other, Mom. It was just a stupid kis
s.” It was only her first kiss. Their last kiss.

“What happened to your clothes?”
Karen didn’t even attempt to hide the suspicion in her voice this time.

Chloe realized the sight o
f her sixteen year old daughter, alone in the dark and kissing a boy was probably a little startling, but it didn’t excuse the stupid questions. Some sick, twisted part of her wanted to say that they’d made out the entire time, that he was a great kisser and had ripped her shirt in a lusty fit. Or maybe that he’d gotten to second base, whatever that meant.

Instead, Chloe settled for the truth.
“I was attacked by wolves. He stopped them.”

“That’s not funny.” Karen started the car then pulled away from the curb.

“It’s true,” she said crossly. It was then she noticed Karen was wearing the long white doctor’s coat. “Why are you so late anyway?”

“Someone came by the cli
nic at the last minute.” Suddenly Karen’s voice was buoyant. “Your coach is my first client! Mike’s four month old puppy ate a chocolate bar that he left out. He was worried sick.”

The
revelation failed to impress her. She said, “Great. So while you and
Mike
were schmoozing it up, I was about to be eaten. That’s real nice, Mom.”

Karen
gripped the steering wheel hard enough to make it creak. “Your father and I are divorced, Chloe. I have a right to move on with my life. Lord knows he has.”

“It’s kind of fast
is all I’m saying.” She crossed her arms over her chest. They sat in silence until the car turned onto the gravel road that led to their house.

“He brought his do
g in, Chloe. It wasn’t a date.”

“But you wish it was.”

“I’m not going to lie to you. I suspected your dad was having an affair a long time ago. I stayed with him for your sake.” Karen said in a quiet, reflective voice. “Now I’m getting on with my life.”

Chloe felt as though she’d been doused with ice water. “H
ey! Don’t lay the blame on me.”

Karen sighed.
“David moved on. Don’t I deserve to do the same?”

“Sure, whatever.” When the car rolled to a stop
outside the house, Chloe flung the door open and got out.

Karen beat her to the door.
“Does it bother you that I’m interested in him?”

“Gross
!” She snagged an apple from the bowl of fruit as she passed through the kitchen.

“There’s sandwich stuff in the f
ridge.” Karen called after her.

“I’m not hungry,” Chloe
answered then slammed the door to her room.

Coach Lewis dating
, or being remotely interested in Karen was not okay. After practice Monday she just might give him a piece of her mind.

Chapter
Seven

 

Jenna was sitting at the table when Ryan came downstairs. She glanced up from what she was doing and smiled warmly. “You’re up early.”

He scrubbed a hand across his fa
ce then yawned. “Things to do.”

“You
came home late last night.” She dropped some dried herbs into the mortar sitting on the table then picked up the pestle. She ground the small brown nub into dust with two quick twists of the wrist.

“Did they notice?” he asked, referring to his aunt and uncle.

Jenna shook her head then motioned for him to pass her a cellophane wrapped package that appeared to have dried weeds inside. She ground them to dust. Next, she added several drops of cinnamon oil. Finally, she picked up a spoon and a small sachet.

He watched her
transfer the mixture into the little bag. “What’s that?”


A protection amulet for Chloe.”

Ryan wrinkled his nose. “It’s a little strong.”

“Too much cinnamon?” She tied the sachet off then sat it aside. “Chloe called last night. I can’t believe they tried to hurt her.”

He plucked a banana from the stainless steel hanger on the cabinet, but didn’t answer. Instead, he took great care in peeling the fruit.

“Ryan?” Jenna pushed away from the table then waved a hand in front of his face. “If you hadn’t been there…”

The sharp aroma of herbs and spices on her fingers made him
grimace. “I’m going to talk to them tonight.”

“Will
Sheriff Mackie and the others be there?”

“No, just
Travis. I want to keep the rest of the pack out of it, if possible.” Besides, the pack alpha tended to overlook Travis and Amy’s antics since they were related.

Jenna cast a worried glance at him as she gathered her things. “
Be careful. I don’t trust them.”

“Yeah, me either.”
Ryan devoured the banana in a couple bites.

“So, is that where you were last night
— checking on Chloe?” She arched an eyebrow as though she dared him to say otherwise.

He
wished she’d get off the subject. “Not the entire night. Someone or something was in our yard.”

“What?” she looked startled. “
Who?”


I don’t know. They were gone by the time I got downstairs. I couldn’t identify who or what it was.” He smacked the counter in frustration. “It was familiar though and I think I caught the same scent around the lamb’s pen right before the pack went after Chloe.”

He plucked another piece of fruit from the hanger then peeled it. “After I made sure they weren’t here, I
checked on her.” He took a bite then added, “Just to be sure.”

“Right,” Jenna said with a knowing smile. “What is with you lately? You act so weird when she’s around.”

Ryan swallowed the last bite of banana. “I do not.”

Jenna smirked at his answer.
“Hey, mom and dad are going out of town tonight. I think I’ll invite Chloe over.”

He dropped the banana peel into
the trash then glared at her. “That’s not a good idea, Jenna.”

“What?” With just a hint of a smile she s
aid, “I thought you liked her.”

He opened his mouth to deny the accusation, but no words
came out. His stomach knotted with the memory of their kiss. Did Chloe tell Jenna of their shared moment? “It’s just…” He shook his head, unable to find the right words.

“What?” Jenna searched his face, concern beginning to crease her brow. Her hand was on his arm, providing comfort and urging him to continue. “What is it?”

Screw it. He had to get this off his chest. Jenna was like a sister to him and had always been his closest confidant. Maybe she could make heads or tails out of it. “There’s like this strange feeling that comes over me. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s like electricity.”

Jenna shook her head and frowned. “Electricity?”

“Yeah, maybe static is a better way of describing it. Only, it feels good, kind of exciting.” He couldn’t look at Jenna as he said this because he knew it sounded insane.’

“I knew it, you do like her!” Jenna began dancing around the kitchen and taunting him in a
singsong voice. “You like Chloe, you like Chloe. Na na na na na nah!”

He ignored her even though he felt she was getting far too much enjoyment out of it.
“That first day in biology, she looked at me and it was like a lightning bolt zapped down my spine. Thing is, I only feel it when I’m around her.”

Jenna’s eyes widened and her gaze grew very serious.
She even stopped dancing around the room. “Oh. My. God!”

Ryan frowned at her. The atmosphere in the small kitchen suddenly seemed suffocating. “Whatever it is, I don’t want to feel that way about her.
I shouldn’t feel that way about her. She’s an outsider.”

Jenna cover
ed her mouth with her hand. She made a soft sound and he was unsure whether it was a laugh or a sigh. “I’ve heard about this. It’s a little different for each person, but I think I know what’s happening.”

He wasn’t going to like this. He could already tell.
“Don’t screw with me, Jenna.”

His cousin lowered her trembling hand. “She might be your
beloved, Ryan.”

Ryan’s face twisted into a dark scowl. “
That’s stupid, not to mention impossible. Besides, she’s an outsider. She’s not like us.”

“It could explain your fascination with her,” Jenna said with a shrug.

He groaned. “Or more likely, I’m fascinated by her because she’s a girl and she’s cute.”

Jenna waved his words away.
“And it explains the strong desire you have to protect her. She’s yours.”

“I don’t want her,” Ryan scoffed then turned away from her.
“You’re full of bullshit. I’ve got to go.”

Jenna
looked at the clock. It was a few minutes past eight. “Where?”

“Running.”
He reached for the door, anxious to get away from her and her knowing smirk.

“With Chloe?
” She became impatient when he didn’t answer. “Why can’t you just admit that you like her? Who cares if she’s an outsider?”

Ryan
growled in exasperation when he realized there wasn’t a safe, easy answer. “What if she can hear me?”

Jenna laughed. “I t
hought you didn’t believe her.”

“I said
what if
.”

“She reads animals, not humans.” S
he poked him in the forehead. “So you’d have to be an animal for her to look around up there, right?”

He shrugged. Hones
tly, he didn’t know how Chloe’s mind trip worked. “I don’t know. It kind of weirds me out.”

“There’s a simple
way to find out,” she offered.

Ryan
grimaced. Surely Jenna knew he couldn’t test the theory. It would be too reckless and crazy.

“I’m going to tell her what I really am.” Her hands curled on the table and she sighed. “Or w
hat I’m supposed to be anyway.”

He stared at her a moment, waiting for the punch line. Surely she was joking.
When one didn’t come, he said, “You can’t. You’ll put the entire pack at risk. They’ll punish you.”

“I
won’t mention you or the pack.”

“Don’t be stupid, Jenna.”

“Chloe’s my best friend. I want her to know,” she said as he hurried out the door.

His cousin’s
words wiggled and wormed their way through his mind. It was all he could think about. Worry gnawed at him as he trudged into the woods that separated their house from Chloe’s. Would her advice about testing Chloe work? He started to shrug out of his t-shirt then thought better of it.

Ever since
Chloe stood in their kitchen and admitted she could pick up random animal emotions, he’d been a little freaked out. He was mentally exhausted, always trying to shield his thoughts and emotions. He didn’t know if it worked, but he’d rather be a little tired than allow Chloe know each and every thought he possessed. And what was this about her being meant to be his mate? That was just crazy!

Ryan stepped out of the trees just behind the clinic. He
moved up the driveway and slowed his pace when Chloe’s house came into view. The aroma of bacon and coffee made his mouth water.

Chloe bounded down the steps
, allowing the screen door to bang behind her. She wore light blue running shorts and a matching sport bra covered by a loose pink tank top. That same electric sizzle zipped down his spine and made him shudder.

“Bye, mom!
” she called over her shoulder.

She hadn’t noticed him yet. Now that he was actually here, he felt a bit
self-conscious. He kicked at a pebble and grinned when she finally spied him. He just hoped that she didn’t ask how he knew what time she usually went for a run.
Awkward!

“Oh,” was all she managed to say. Then a big, goofy
grin lit her face. “You were serious?”

He nodded.

“I’m pretty fast,” she teased. “I hope you can keep up.”

“I’ll
manage.” All he could think about was what Jenna had said about him and Chloe. He mentally shrugged it away. Jenna didn’t know what she was talking about. She read too much, that’s all.

Chloe
looked him up and down. “Nice legs.”

He smirked as he glanced down at
his legs. They were covered by fine dark hair.

“Not as nice as yours.
” He wasn’t exactly looking at her legs. Oh, they were nice alright, but she had other fine qualities that he’d noticed in the skimpy outfit. He grinned in satisfaction as a fierce blush reddened her cheeks.

An older, taller version of Chloe came out to stand on the porch. Her hands were on her hips
and she didn’t look too pleased to see him standing there with her daughter.

“Chloe?” Her mother called.
She rested a hand on the railing, one foot on the top step.

Chloe
glanced over her shoulder then groaned. “Let’s just go.”


Aren’t you going to introduce your friend?” Karen called from the porch. She descended the last two steps as her gaze darted from Ryan then back to Chloe.

A frown pushed Chloe’s brows down.
“Later, okay?”

In a surprise move, she grabbed his hand then broke into a clumsy run. He had no choice but
trot alongside her. Chloe’s reaction confused him. Was she embarrassed by him? Could that be why she didn’t want to introduce him? He almost laughed out loud. What did he care? It wasn’t as though he wanted to date her.

Once they picked up the pace, he slipped his hand from hers then concentrated on running at a slower pace. He didn’t want to leave her behind, at least not yet.

“You’re fast,” she said after they’d passed the clinic and turned onto the main road. “You don’t have to hold back. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

He glanced at her, but said nothing. It was now or never. He might as well test out Jenna’s
theory. Ryan relaxed and allowed himself to run at a natural pace. Chloe fell behind, but gave no indication that she’d heard what he thought he was sending straight to her.
“You are mine.”

He slowed, allowed her to catch up to him then broke into the wooded area. She hesitated
for just a moment then followed cautiously.


We should stay on the road,” she called. Her feet crunched on the fallen branches and dead leaves. “Ryan, did you hear me?”

Like any man on a mission, he set his mind to completing the task. He had to know
if she could really read the brain waves of animals. She didn’t pick up on his previous thoughts, so the next step was to test her amongst the woodland creatures. Perhaps it wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but he had to know once and for all.

Ryan slowed his pace
then turned to jog back to her.

Chloe’s eyes danced from side to side as though she couldn’t find just one thing to focus on. Her gaze was no longer relaxed and now took on a more concerned, somewhat panicky appearance. Suddenly she stopped and peered at a thick, ove
rgrown area of trees and weeds.

Maybe he’d gone too far with the experiment. She
did seem genuinely frightened. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s too much.”
She blinked several times and refused to look at him. A visible shudder ran the length of her body. The fingers twisting tight coils of her hair trembled.

Hands on her shoulders, he gripped them gently then stared down at her. “Are you picking up something?”

She nodded then squeezed her eyes shut. “Hunger.” She licked her lips. “Fear and restlessness… and sleepy?”

Chloe looked at him then, her face warped into a p
ained frown. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
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