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Sebastian Volkov, a fox shifter raised among werewolves, ran from everything he ever loved after a brutal attack that left him fearing his own shadow. That night a single kiss saved his life and left him with fantasies of a man whose face he couldn’t remember. When Sebastian’s car breaks down in a small Washington town, he meets an Alpha werewolf who reminds him vaguely of a stranger’s kiss.
A year ago Liam Ulrich, Alpha of the Northern Cascades’ Pack, shared a magic-filled kiss with a virtual stranger, the infamous Witchblood child of the most powerful werewolf in the world. Since that night, Liam has been waiting for Sebastian to find his way home. Liam knows that Sebastian doesn’t trust easily, or at all, so he’s going to have to give his prickly mate time and space.
The past Sebastian tried to escape still stalks him and slowing down gives it time to catch up.
When the werewolves’ ultimate enemy rises up to cast its shadow over them all, Sebastian realizes he will have to stop running or risk losing everything…. including his hope of a future with Liam.
The wind shifted. The scent of werewolves filled my nose. Dammit. I knew I shouldn’t have taken the free food. The bread had been plain, not easily tracked while stuffed away, but the sugar? A highly trained wolf could probably smell it from miles away.
There were few options. Run, which would attract the wolves and bring chase, forcing their beasts to hunt me even if that wasn’t what they had come for. Hide, which was unlikely even with my strongest wards. Or surrender and possibly die. Not the greatest selection of choices.
I chose the first and ran toward the car, praying I’d get it to start. Determination could often give magic an added edge. Seconds later the sounds of snarls and huffs of a chase filled my ears. I ran until I could hear the claws ripping through the brush, snarls and snorts edging closer behind me. There was more than one.
My sensitive nose differentiated at least three different scents, none of them familiar. I didn’t stop to ask their names and looking back was only something people did in the movies right before they died. Instead I envisioned my legs and arms pumping hard enough to make me fly. I couldn’t actually fly, but the visualization spell did increase my speed a little. The balance of weight and resistance was all the spell changed. Maybe it would be enough.
They should have been able to outrun me. I was human, mostly. On two legs I was slower than most weres, but had years practicing just what I was doing now. My adoptive father had always told me not to run as it only made an aggressive werewolf worse. When the other option was death, it wasn’t much of an option. Rational thought told me that if they were sent by my adoptive father they didn’t want me dead, probably just good and scared. If they weren’t sent by him then I was just a trespasser and no one would miss me.
I reached the car in record speed, glad I’d left it unlocked. Not like there was anything in it to steal. I dove in through the passenger door, closing and locking it behind me and struggling out of the pack. The windows were up as I’d been unable to get them to work properly the entire time I’d owned the car. It was a small barrier, but all I really had. I flopped into the driver’s seat and put the key in when metal screeched as one of the wolves landed on the roof hard enough to dent it.
It was a gray beast with endless fangs and claws that scraped at the windows. Werewolves were about twice the size of normal wolves. Bigger often than the human they’d been, and about a hundred times deadlier. Inside the car I’d drawn wards. Just minor protection spells to keep the glass from breaking and lend strength to the frame. It wouldn’t hold for long.
The car didn’t start. Didn’t even sputter like it had any life left in it. I cursed it and kicked the dash. Now was not the time for it to ignore my magic.
One of the wolves jumped on the hood and lunged at the windshield with claws and fangs. Another scraped along the side of the car, producing the horrible high-pitched squeal of tearing iron. My wards would not stop them from tearing the car to pieces around me. The windshield began to splinter. Too much weight threw the whole car out of balance as the roof caved in, the sides were torn away and the windows smashed.
Choices. Life is filled with them. Some of them easy, like what to have for dinner. Others were a matter of life and death. Not really choices at all. I was out of choices. The car was coming apart around me. No one shifted to talk to me, so these wolves hadn’t likely been sent by my adoptive father. Not unless he wanted me dead. And didn’t the idea of that just burn like a knife to my guts? The only choice I had left was to abandon it all, change, and run.
As a human, I was slower than most werewolves even with my supply of spells. As a human, I was also limited in resources. My magic wasn’t strong enough to hurt them so my spells focused on defense more than offense. I suspected that was the only reason I’d been allowed to live among the were for so long. For a time, I avoided changing because it seemed to attract the others. Like they could sense me pulling on whatever invisible magic that tied me to the universe. The only real power I had was my own change. Nothing so spectacular as a wolf. Not vicious or even all that predatory.
My alternate form was no match for a werewolf.
“My beautiful little fox,” Felix had often said with a smile on his face. “So wily and quick witted.” Only now did I realize how much he’d viewed me as a possession. Just a pretty toy to be set on a shelf.
I wasn’t a toy. I was witchborn. Sometimes the only advantage I had from a change was that it startled others, gave me time to slip away, or even masked my scent. Often surprise and speed were all I really needed.
I wriggled out of my clothes as the windshield began to crumple and the driver’s side door squealed as it was ripped away. Weres took time to change, as long as a half an hour for some of the lesser wolves. The stronger wolves could shift in ten minutes or so. My change was seamless, a gift of magic born, not a curse of blood exchange.
One second I was human, the next I was fox. Small, slippery, and zipping between the legs of the wolf with the door under his fangs. Darting under his belly, I bolted, propelled by magic and fear. I crossed the road running, under, over and through, squeezing myself through openings that the wolves would never fit and zig-zagging to confuse whatever route they thought I’d take. They were behind me. I could hear them, but had to focus on my escape.
Run! My little fox brain didn’t have all the same higher functioning I did as a human, but it was close. Panic, however, was still panic, and my fight or flight mode was stuck in all out flight. Run, run, run, I chanted to myself, not really paying attention to the path.
Even as a fox I was only barely faster than them. I wove through roads, brambles and trees, hoping to slow them down. One of them leapt, close enough to brush my tail, and I ran that much harder. It was a game to them now, I realized. Two off to my sides, herding me in for their alpha to catch. I wondered again if it was the alpha from the bakery. He’d seemed nice. Had pretty eyes and dimples. It was only fitting that he be a monster since I’d wanted him.
A reminder of how bad I was at choosing men. A curse of my family maybe. My mother had the same hard luck. Falling in love with a Native American man who died before he could know I’d ever been conceived. She’d always told me that love was something people wrote about in books. Lust was what happened in real life and got people in trouble. Once again I thought she might be right.
I ran out of road. There was a wall of some kind. Like the sort built on the side of roadways, only there was no grade to it, it was just straight up and down as far as I could see. The two werewolves closed in from the sides, and the final one’s claws crunched on gravel behind me. I hadn’t even noticed we’d found a gravel road of some sort. A place for water runoff maybe. The place I was probably going to die.
Bracing myself with my back to the wall, I turned to face them, my fangs and claws no match for three werewolves, but I’d go down fighting. Better a fox than a human to be ripped apart and left for the crows. At least in this form I had fangs and claws too. The burning in my left arm intensified. More wolves? Fuck.
The large gray wolf growled at me, inching closer slowly. He must have been enjoying the scent of my fear. One of the other wolves boxing me in, took a swipe, which I dodged, but it caught the edge of my flank, opening a gash along my right hip. I yelped as pain flared. I expected them all to attack and end my run.
Only something flew overhead, landing with the force of a truck on top of the gray wolf. Another launched itself from the top of the wall into the wolf who’d injured me, tearing out its throat. The gray wolf battled a huge black wolf now. The two of them rolling, snarling, and tearing at each other. The third wolf came for me. I ducked and rolled beneath him, turning until my tiny claws were up to rake open his belly.
Hot blood poured over me, but the were just huffed and did a little skid-turn to raise a paw at me. I felt the hit before I really saw him move. Pain exploded through all of my senses. Stars, and swirls of color overflowed my vision as his claws connected with the side of my head. I was sure he punctured my skull, and I flew into the wall, body blossoming into pain. It was an explosion through my spine up into my brain. The world faded as I lay in a broken heap on the ground beside the wall, watching the black wolf fight the gray, and the second wolf, a pale brown one, launch itself at the wolf that had hit me.
This was it, I thought. So much for ever going home. Or finding a home. So much for the dreams of freedom. My heart pounded. I felt blood seeping from my head. There were tattoos on my left arm and right wrist that were supposed to help speed healing. It wouldn’t be enough. Not if my spine was broken and my skull fractured.
My body couldn’t hold enough energy to heal bones and keep me from bleeding out at the same time. At least it would be fast, I had enough time to think as the darkness overrode my vision. I sank into the darkness, to the growls of the werewolves fighting, reminding me of home.
All stories have a side of romance, emotionally messed up protagonists and feature LGBTQA spectrum characters facing real-world problems no matter how fictional the story.