Hope you enjoy it! To read all the scenes I've emailed so far, click here.
Nora and Jared #7
Nora reached the full moon gathering well over an hour late because she chose to arrive as a human not a wolf as was customary. It was her protest against the text her father had sent demanding she be present. She couldn’t refuse the order, but she would comply her own way.
The pack watched her saunter into the clearing. Her father stood on the other side, the thick moonlit forest providing a backdrop of shadows. Blake, his second in command, was at his side, his gaze locked on a black wolf snarling in the center of the circle the pack had created.
Nora recognized the pacing werewolf. His name was Tate, a relatively new wolf, and this wasn’t the first full moon test he’d failed. It took strength and control to return to human form. That was one reason they were supposed to let their wolves free for the journey here. If they couldn’t take back control from their wolf, they weren’t strong enough to remain in the pack. Her father would ban them or, if he deemed them dangerous, he would kill them.
Or rather, he would have his second kill them. Blake wouldn’t want to end the young werewolf’s life. He’d found Tate on the streets a year ago and had brought him into the pack. But, if his alpha deemed it necessary, Blake would make it happen.
“Nice of you to show up,” a voice said to Nora’s right.
Nora didn’t acknowledge Luke’s presence. She didn’t acknowledge anyone’s. She made her way around the circle and to a tree that had been split down the middle, stripped of bark, and nailed between two other evergreens. Behind it, a hundred year old cabin stored first aid supplies, food, drink, and clothing for when the wolves shifted back to their human forms.
“Bring me a drink,” she said to Billy, one of the three wolves leaning against the makeshift wooden bar.
He ducked his head and went inside.
Nora stared at the other two. The male’s instincts kicked in. He complied with her unspoken order and left, but Jasmine met her gaze for almost two seconds before she glanced away. When it looked like she might ignore Nora’s signal to fuck off, Nora stepped closer.
A growl rumbled in Jasmine’s chest, and Nora’s wolf banged against her consciousness, demanding to be set free. Jasmine had been wanting to take Nora down a few notches for Nora’s entire life. It had something to do with the fact that Nora’s mother had born her father a child and Jasmine hadn’t. Why that translated into hatred of her, Nora had no idea, but the woman had had been growing more brazen the past few months. That needed to end.
“You want to do this today?” Nora asked, the question coming out as a purr. She wouldn’t mind a fight tonight. It would make coming to this gathering not a complete waste of time.
“Get lost, Jasmine,” Luke said behind her.
Oh, hell no. She didn’t need anyone interfering in her affairs.
Nora rounded on the male wolf. He stood his ground when she shortened the distance between them.
“You wanted a drink,” he said, holding out a beer as a barrier.
She snatched it from his hand then shoved it into Jasmine’s chest as the woman was walking past.
Jasmine fumbled the bottle, almost dropped it, but kept it from hitting the ground at the last second. She looked up, a snarl on her lips until she saw the expression on Nora’s face.
She averted her gaze and hurried away.
“If you want a fight,” Luke said, “I would be honored to give it to you.”
“I want you to go away.”
“I’m not interested, Luke.”
His pretty boy smile faded, replaced by something a little mean and vicious.
“I am interested.” He stepped closer.
A throat cleared behind her. She smelled Blake before she sensed his presence.
“You can go away, too,” she said without turning.
“I think I’ll stay and watch,” Blake replied. “I’ve been wanting to see how dominant Luke thinks he is.”
Luke’s glower deepened. He thought himself dominant enough that her father should have chosen him as his second, not Blake. Luke had been part of the pack longer. He’d killed more unsanctioned wolves and had been a crucial component in the destruction of more than one rival pack. He was cunning and lethal and carried out his alpha’s orders without question. The latter was likely part of the reason he hadn’t been chosen—leaders didn’t grow stronger if they surrounded themselves with individuals who didn’t question them.
Luke’s eyes never left Nora’s, and she didn’t avert her gaze either. He’d just interrupted what might have been a fun fight between her and Jasmine, and Nora’s wolf still wanted blood. She wasn’t opposed to being the one to take Luke down.
“Talk to your father.” Luke made those words an order, like he was in charge and he fully expected her to comply. It was an attempt at a strong exit. She knew it. Blake knew it. Only a wolf more submissive than Luke would have been fooled by the ruse.
When he strode away, Nora spun toward Blake. He stood with his arms crossed, his shoulder leaning on one of the evergreens supporting the wooden bar.
“What?” he asked, hardly a hint of inflection in his voice. “I let you handle it.”
“You stood there. That was enough.”
He shrugged in a way that said I can’t help what I am. Then he turned to focus on Tate, who still hadn’t conquered his wolf.
Suppressing a growl, Nora moved to his side and rested her arms on the bar.
Tate’s yellow eyes locked on her. She felt his interest, his intrigue, his want. She was used to that desire. Something about a naturally born werewolf called to the human born. Her pack mates knew better than to act on their instincts, though. At least, most of them did. Her father would kill anyone who pursued her without his permission.
Which meant Luke had permission.
This wasn’t the first time Lehr had approved someone she didn’t like. The others were no longer part of the pack. One was no longer alive.
A thirst for violence stirred through her. She looked past Tate and watched Luke join her father who watched the struggling werewolf with zero emotion on his face.
“He won’t survive the night,” she said.
“I know.” He sounded apathetic. He wasn’t. He knew it had been a mistake to bring Tate into the pack. Blake should have sent him somewhere else, to Viktor or the Nashville pack. Either would have been a better fit.
Blake took something out of his pocket, unfolded it, and placed it in front of Nora. It was a check for $465,000.
She gave him a sidelong look. “No one mentioned a big deposit to me.”
“It’s not pack money,” he said.
“Then what’s it for?”
“The south estate. I’ll buy it from you. You can move closer to Knoxville, be in the city instead of out here in the backcountry.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re running interference.”
“I’m trying to help.”
“Help who? Me or your alpha?”
His silence answered her question.
She blew out a breath and shook her head. It wasn’t easy to get a check out there to the cabin, not when their clothing and anything else on their bodies disappeared when they shifted. Her father had orchestrated this.
“He cares about you, Nora,” Blake said softly.
“I’m a status symbol.”
“You’re his daughter. I know you’re frustrated—”
“Of course I’m frustrated. He’s holding me hostage.”
“He’s protecting you.”
She shot him a fierce look. “I don’t need protection. I need room to breathe. I need people and lights. I don’t need forests and chirping crickets!”
Blake’s lips became a tight line. She thought he was angry until the corner of his mouth ticked up. “Chirping crickets?”
“Shut up, Blake.” Her cell vibrated in her pocket, an almost silent sound every wolf in the clearing picked up. Pasting a haughty look on her face, she took it out. It was another text from Craig asking to take her out.
This wasn’t the first time he’d asked these past two weeks. It wasn’t the second or third time either, and that was unusual. Craig was the type of guy to ask once then move on to some other pretty woman. His persistence and the fact that he wanted to take her to the Cellar made her suspect the texts weren’t entirely of his own doing.
She slipped the phone back into her pocket without responding, then refocused on Tate. Blake didn’t have to worry about killing the young wolf. Her father would order Luke to do it to create more animosity between them. It was a test of his second, a way for him to be sure both men were still loyal and subservient to him. They’d been told not to fight. The one who broke that order first would be the one killed or kicked out of the pack.
It was all about control.
She clenched her teeth.
Blake sighed. “You’re pack, Nora. If you’re out of our sensing range, we won’t know if you need help.”
“There’s this thing called a cell phone.”
“Other alphas will try to absorb you into their packs.”
“I don’t want another pack.”
“They won’t care. They will pursue you. They will use you to gain power over their rivals and over us. They’ll leverage you for access to The Rain.”
“I can handle myself.”
“I know you can,” he said. “But I’d worry about you too. You’re my sister.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not.”
“In every way that matters, you are. Your father wants you to be happy. Whatever you want that will make you happy here, he will give to you.” He bumped his shoulder against hers. “Not sure he can do anything about the crickets, though.”
“Ha, ha,” she said, monotone.
A grin flashed across his face before he grew serious again. “Move to Knoxville. See if it helps.”
She slipped the check into her pocket. Maybe distance and the noise and chaos of the city would drown out the demands of the pack, that constant pressure to stay in her place and carry out the will of her alpha. “You just want my house.”
He shrugged. “It’s a good location and I hear the—”
A whoosh of magic burst across the clearing. The hair on the back of Nora’s neck stood on end, and her wolf raged against her mind, demanding to be set free.
Tate was no longer alone in the center of the pack’s circle. Luke had shifted. His massive wolf form shot forward. His teeth sank into the side of Tate’s face.
The younger wolf yelped and counter attacked, but Luke was quick and brutal, darting in to rip out a chunk of fur and flesh from Tate’s shoulder.
Tate snarled and snapped.
Blood and violence permeated the air. It vibrated through Nora, increasing her heart rate, her sensitivity to the sounds and smells of the forest. The pack would run long and hard after this.
Another cry of pain pierced the cool night. Then another. And another. Luke wasn’t just carrying out his alpha’s orders; he was toying with Tate. Hurting him. Dragging out the inevitable.
Jasmine and another watching werewolf shifted, eager to join the butchery.
“Hold,” her father ordered. The wolves remained in place.
Nora felt anchored to the ground as well. Her mouth watered. She could almost taste blood.
Luke’s wolf, dark brown with a black stripe down his back, play bowed in front of a weakening Tate.
What an ass.
Tate made a messy, desperate lunge toward Luke. Luke leapt over him, and when Tate spun to follow, his intestines slipped from a deep gash in his belly.
He crumpled to the dirt. Tried to stand again.
Luke pounced on him and then to his opposite side.
Tate lifted his head, trying to track him.
Luke sank his fangs into the other wolf’s neck and held on while Tate struggled.
Luke could have ended it then—he could have ended the whole thing minutes ago—but he dragged out the killing, letting Tate bleed out.
When Tate’s presence—his unique, telltale glow in the web of light that connected the pack—finally faded from her mind, Luke released him, sat back on his haunches, and howled.
Most of the pack shifted then. They joined the celebration of the kill while her father looked on with approval.
Nora squeezed her phone tight. She didn’t remember taking it from her pocket again, but it was unlocked and Craig’s text glowed up at her.
More people shifted. Nora resisted the pull and tapped in a response. She started to put the phone away.
“Run with us,” Blake said.
Her hand tightened almost to the point of breaking the device. She didn’t know whether Blake’s order was his own or his alpha’s, but her wolf needed to follow it. Her wolf needed to race the moon.
She set her phone down and shifted.
To read all the Nora and Jared scenes I've written so far, click here.