Fresh blood dripped off his muzzle and paws, staining the beautiful silvery-black coat a dark shade of crimson. He had killed again, the Change made him lose control. Luckily the victim had only been a deer this time…unlike the others.
Bare trees that had shed their leaves years ago rattled together filling the forest with and eerie, blood curdling sound as the night air shifted through them restlessly. A chilled wind ruffled his coat as he sent up a mournful call to his pack mates, warning them to stay away lest the blood lust come upon him again.
Dawn was fast approaching when he finally turned towards home. His sister had long since retired to her room, having eaten her fill of the deer and changed back to her human form.
His breath was visible in the air, rising to the sky in small puffs of steam as he loped nearer and nearer to his house. He was tired from the hunt, and his Change hasn’t gone as smoothly as he had hoped.
The silver-black wolf was less than a mile from town when a brute force slammed into his chest, followed by burning flames of pain. Another bullet ricocheted off a rock, grazing his side, tearing away fur skin. He yelped in pain and stumbled to the ground, writhing in agony. A third bullet entered his thigh, the fourth his shoulder.
There was a ceasefire and the forest was silent, not even the owls dared move from their perches.
The canine lay where he had fallen, whimpering pitifully. Whoever had shot him had been scared off. He sensed his sister nearby and sent his mind out to her, stay away Trinity! There’s a Slayer nearby! Find…Ulrich…warn…pack. He felt her resist his order and growled weakly as he slipped into darkness.
Beaver Creek, Montana
Alexandra Griffon stood in her driveway as her taxi drove off after depositing her damp luggage onto the sidewalk. A fine mist shrouded everything it could get its greedy fingers around.
Beaver Creek was a small town, less than three-hundred people, but the residents on her block seemed friendly enough one they had figured out that someone had moved into the old Lappe house.
It was a large home with wooden floors, a tiled kitchen and two stories. Everything in it was out-dated, the sink was dirty, the bathroom needed to be cleaned, leaves had gathered in front of the sliding glass door that lead to the wrap around porch, but Alex didn’t mind. She was renting the old Victorian while she attended a local collage to become a Vet Tech, another year and she’d be gone to California where she truly belonged.
After some exploring, she finally found the master bedroom on the second floor next to the double bathroom. She tugged her suitcase onto the bed with a grunt and plopped back onto the musty sheets.
Her chocolate brown hair cascaded over the pillows. The curious brown eyes were closed as she took in the soft feel of the old bed.
A dead tree branch scraped against the window, making her jump. Alex laughed at her foolishness and left the bed to open up the moth eaten curtains to let in a bit of sunlight. The view that greeted her was less than pleasant. Just beyond the dead tree was another old house that was badly in need of some TLC. The grey paint was peeling or faded, the porch was warped downward, a few windows had been broken by stray baseballs or rocks, and the lawn was probably as tall as her waist and infested with weeds.
Being curious by nature, Alex descended the stairs and crossed the threshold to explore the next door property. The wind howled fiercely, forcing her to tug her coat in closer to keep warm as she trotted across the grass into the old yard.
The broken windows proved to be the perfect entrance since the doors were locked. It didn’t take too much prodding to clear away the jagged shattered pieces, until she had a safe path to slide into the basement of the deserted home.
Cobwebs hung from every article of furniture and surface area of the basement that they could cling to. Alex had to literally claw her way through them, hoping their residents weren’t still around to bite her in the process. Her shoes made no sound on the dust covered floor. Other than a set of stairs and rotting furniture, the basement was empty and smelled of dirt and must. A look of disappointment flickered across her face as she climbed the creaking stairs.
The main floor consisted mostly of torn furniture, broken glass, dust, cobwebs and leaves. She managed to find the kitchen, but there was no refrigerator, oven or even cabinet doors. Alex gripped the handle to a drawer and pulled; it didn’t budge. Using both hands, she wrenched it open only to find the rotting corpse of a rat inside.
A scream tore past her lips before she could stop it as she stumbled back, falling on her butt. Something clicked on the ceiling, her eyes darted up and saw nothing, there was something upstairs. Pressing her back against a mold covered wall, she righted her self and searched for the next stairway. She found them, along with the missing pieces of the staircase. Testing each step before placing her full weight on it, Alex slowly inched her way to the second story.
Jagger raised his head when he heard the scream, someone was in his house. Was it as Slayer? Trinity and Ulrich knew enough to wander around silently while he slept. He tested the air with his black nose; it was defiantly a stranger…and female. He sensitive ears heard her creeping up the stairway…tip-toeing towards his room. Her scent washed over him, lavender and rain.
Alex’s fingertips brushed the door handle and it fell away with hardly a touch. It was dark inside the small room, but as her eyes adjusted she barely made out the form of a large animal.
Jagger growled, his hackles rising dangerously, pearly white teeth bared in warning. He was injured and in no condition to fight off a Slayer and with Trinity and Ulrich gone, his only hope was to frighten the human into leaving.
The growl froze Alexandra in her tracks, every nerve ending screamed at her to turn and run, but her curiosity forced her to stay. She reached through the darkness to pull away the curtain and let the afternoon light flood the room.
An enormous wolf lay on the bed growling and bleeding. Alex stumbled back but saw the wounds and took pity on the animal. Cautiously, she spread out her hands and lowered her eyes. Making herself as small as possible, she inched toward the wolf.
Jagger was taken aback by the woman’s bravery but still he growled. Why didn’t she just leave him be? A vicious snarl erupted from his throat making her just but still she advanced towards him. The werewolf squirmed, trying to back away, but his injuries throbbed, rendering him helpless. If she was a Slayer, he was as good as dead.
Alex placed a soft hand on the beast’s furred head and the animal calmed under her touch. Jagger stopped growling as a warm flood of serenity washed over him. He whimpered and licked her hand. She wasn’t a Slayer…just a curious human.
Alex scratched the wolf behind the ears, all the while speaking to it softly. Only when did his scruff lay flat, did she relax a little.
A growl rumbled deep in Jagger’s chest when Trinity burst into the room, her blonde hair askew in a tangled mess, “Who are you?!” she demanded looking at Alexandra.
Alex pulled her hand back in shock and stared at the blonde woman before her. She wore a white cotton shirt and faded blue jeans with a huge silver belt buckle. Her emerald green eyes were ablaze with fury as she crossed the room.
“I…I’m sorry I didn’t know anyone lived here. I was just curious.”
The woman’s glare left her face and shifted to the wolf on the bed, “What have you don’t to my brother?!” she growled when she saw the blood soaked sheets.
Alexandra looked from the wolf to Trinity and back, “B-Brother? But that’s a…”
“Get out!” the blonde hissed, “Get out now before I call the police!”
“But I-” A breath of warm air whispered past her shoulder, making her glance back at the bed where the wolf lay. Alex’s breath caught in her throat when she saw not a dog…but a man with snowy white hair and sea-green eyes, laying haphazardly on the bed dressed in only a pair of shredded jeans.
“No Trinity, she’s fine. She…actually helped,” he lifted his arm and inspected the jagged wound that ran down his ribs, “Well, at least a little anyway,” He winced as he removed the bandage to reveal and angry red scar, weeping a cloudy liquid.
Trinity glided across the room, completely ignoring Alex and brought her nose within a few inches of his bare chest, “It’s infected; I’ll go fetch some more bandages and wolfsbane.”
Jagger nodded and watched his sister leave. Once she left he returned his attention to a very confused human, “So, you were curious huh? Find more that you were looking for?”
His eyes were cold as ice, sending shivers of fear up Alexandra’s spine, she almost preferred him as a dog, “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised that things like you live here.”
The hairs on Jagger’s neck bristled when he raised an eyebrow, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
She realized her mistake and bit her lip, “Sorry, I shouldn’t judged those I don’t know.”
He smiled…sort of, “That’s a first. What’s you name human?”
Alex was silent, could she trust him? She sure as heck didn’t know him…but they were neighbors, “Alexandra Griffon…but my friend call me Alex.”
The werewolf nodded, “Interesting…the blonde you angered is my older sister Trinity, noted that she’s only three minutes older but she never lets me forget it. My name is Jagger, to everyone but my sister.”
Alex bit back a laugh, “J-Jagger, like McJagger?”
Jade eyes narrowed, “If you value your life, you’ll never call me that again. Understand?”
Just then Trinity entered the room with an armload of bandages, creams and herbs. Jagger made a face, but his sister just stuck her tongue out at him. She started with the long gash on his side, removing the soiled bandages, cleaning the wound and spreading the mashed plants over the injury, followed by a fresh bandage.
She finished with the one on his shoulder and stirred what was left of the mixture in a bowl, “Okay little bro, drop the pants.”
Alex stifled a giggle when Jagger’s face turned a few shades redder, “No,” he argued. Trinity placed her free hand on her hip, “Jaggy you’ll never get better if you don’t let me heal you.” She whined.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to call me Jaggy? It’s Jagger dammit!” his sister hit him over the head with her hand, “No swearing in front of a lady!”
The younger sibling mumbled something under his breath that sounded like another curse. One would have to have an acute sense of hearing in order to pick up, luckily Alex did not. Reluctantly, Jagger rolled up his pants leg to expose the wound to his sister’s healing touch.
Trinity placed the empty bowl on the nightstand and tied the bandage tight, “There now was that so bad?” she cooed.
Jagger winced when the gauze was pulled tight, “You have all the finesse of a butcher Trin.”
She glared at him and gathered her things, “Fine you can dress your own wounds next time you big crybaby!” With a bang of the closing door, she exited the room.
Jagger sighed and leaned back against the wall, “She’ll be back. She always is. We’re twins, we have that connection.
Alex was staring at the closed door, “She means well. She’s just worried about you.”
Jagger chuckled, it was a warm sound, “How do you figure?”
Alex sat down on a broken down chair, “I have two younger siblings. I may not show it but I love them and would worry myself sick if anything like that happened to them,” she nodded at Jagger’s wounds, “If you don’t mind my asking…what did happen?”
His grim face made Alex regret the question. Why couldn’t she just keep her mouth shut?
“I was careless and a Slayer got me.” Jagger admitted, “A human with special abilities to kill my kind,” he explained when Alex’s complexion revealed her ignorance; “The one that got me was armed with silver bullets and a bear rifle. The Slayers believe we’re unholy instruments of the Devil that prowl the night preying on human flesh. The fools refuse to believe that they have only half their facts right.”
Alex glanced at the floor, “Sorry I don’t know much about…werewolves. I thought they were monsters made up in stories.”
Jagger snorted, “We’re just different so we’re persecuted. As humans by day we’re outsiders in society. During the full moon we undergo our Change and satisfy our need to hunt. It’s the Lycans that kill and change people. The pack I belong to is better known as…well weredogs…for the lack of a better description.”
Night fell when Trinity escorted Alex back to her own property with hardly a word spoken between them. When they reached the door Alex opened it to go inside when Trinity bid her to wait.
“Could you….maybe come by again tomorrow and keep him company? The whole pack is out hunting whoever shot him and I’m worried he’ll get lonely and do something stupid while we’re gone and…he seems to enjoy your companionship.”
Alex smiled a little, “Yeah defiantly, give me a call when I should head over.”
Trinity relaxed and grinned from ear to ear. The two woman traded cell phone numbers before Alex collapsed onto her bed with a sigh, “What a strange town,” she thought as she fell asleep.
Two weeks later Alex received a letter from Jagger, inviting her to dinner at his house. The reason was to introduce her properly to his father Ulrich, the pack leader. They had seen each other a few times during the past few weeks when the pack had gone out and Jagger had to be left behind to due his wounds, and it was becoming quite clear to Alex that she really liked her new werewolf neighbor, perhaps more than was deemed healthy.
She knocked on the door to the old house at six o’clock, dressed in a simple denim jacket, t-shirt and jeans. There were a ton of cars parked on the opposite side of the street but she paid them no notice. When Jagger opened the door, he greeted her with a smile, “Thanks for coming, have any trouble finding the place?” he teased.
She smiled back and gently punched him in his good arm, noting how quickly he had healed in just two weeks after being shot, “How could I refuse, do all those cars belong to pack members?”
Jagger ran a hand through his pale blonde hair, “Yeah the Ashton side is pretty large, but don’t worry, they won’t bite. Actually I can’t promise that for Uncle James.” He took her coat and stopped her just before she could enter the main room, “Listen Alex…the letter I sent you…was a lie.”
Alexandra’s face fell, “What do you mean, then what am I here for?”
“You’re not here to have dinner with me. My father thinks our…friendship is too dangerous, so he’s gathered the entire Ashton pack to decide what to do about you.” He choked out the last words but immediately wished he hadn’t.
Her eyes were wide with horror, “Y-you’re going to kill me?!” She tried to push passed him and escape through the front door but he blocked her path with a burst of inhuman speed.
“No Alex…no…there are some in the pack who feel that our meeting was a blessing. You see the pack is in desperate need of females. They believe that we were mates in a past life and that you should be Changed to become one of us.” He could feel her trembling under his touch but her urge to run seemed to have faded.
“Become a werewolf, but what about my family and school? What do you mean we were mates in a past life? I don’t understand!” she tried to run again but his firm grip on her wrist kept her in place.
Jagger pulled her into his chest and held her there, “I know its confusing but things will work out. I’ll be here,” he peered into her frightened eye to reassure her.
Alex swallowed nervously, “O…kay,” she watched as he kissed her hand and told her to follow him onto the family room.
A human who hand never seen a wolf pack before would have had a hard time understanding who many individuals a single pack could contain. As Alex strode into the room behind Jagger, she was amazed by the sheer number of people in the small space. There had to be at leasty fifty individuals and over half were male between the ages of eighteen and forty-five.
A taller man that looked eerily similar to Jagger was seated behind a large table. He help up a hand and all the wolves when silent, then he began to speak, “Jagger Ashton, son on Ulrich Ashton, you bring before the council today a request that the human you have formed a bond with be spared of her punishment as a potential threat to our way of life. On what ground do you defend your claim?”
Jagger stood tall, a full five inches taller than Alex, “My plea is that Alex remains human because I believe that our secret is safe with her. However, if the Change is necessary I request that I be the one who delivers the bite.”
Another male from the crowd stood up, “Objection! Forgive me Ulrich but the boy is young and does not know the great slaughter of our kind that the human race has brought to us. Even now Slayer numbers are growing. If this girl is allowed to live, our secret is in grave danger, as are our lives!”
The group murmured in agreement when Trinity rose to her feet, “What Councilmember Charles says is true Father but Alex is trustworthy and I believe that she would never betray us. I think we should Change her. We’re in need of females, even you cannot deny that. Jagger and Alex, if given enough time, will become mates if she is allowed to live.”
Alex blushed at the thought while Jagger rolled his eyes, leave it to his sister to bring up the things that should be left said in private.
Ulrich nodded, “Both sides have brought up very good reasons but in the end I shall put the matter to a vote to decide the girl’s fate.”
Alex’s jaw dropped, “Wait a minute don’t I get a say in this?”
All the wolves’ eyes were glued to her in cold fury. How dare a human interrupt their pack meeting with silly questions? Jagger pulled her back down to her seat and covered her mouth with his hand, “I apologize on Alex’s behalf. She doesn’t know any better.” He turned back to Alexandra who was glaring at him with dark eyes, “Don’t give me that look. Disrupting pack business is a poor way to prove to them that they can trust you.”
The vote was cast with thirty five being in favor of Alex’s Change and fifteen in favor of her death.
Jagger breathed a sigh of relief but Alex was distraught. Tears had begun to fill her eyes when she ran out of the room. He watched her go and felt ashamed, “Father,” he asked as soon as the other pack members had left, “Isn’t there another way? I mean you saw how she took the news. She’s afraid.”
Ulrich shook his head, “All fear being Changed son, all except those of us who are born the way we are like you and Trinity. Alex will have to become a member of the pack or die. It’s what the Council has decided.”
Alex didn’t know where to turn. In a pitiful heap she collapsed on Jagger’s creaky bed and wept until she fell into a fitful sleep. It was after midnight when Jagger returned to his room. Alex was awake and waiting for him, he could feel it. His fear was confirmed when he saw her on his bed.
“It’s time already?” she asked in a low whisper.
Jagger nodded in the dark, “I’ll try to make this as painless as possible.”
Alexandra sighed, wiping away her tears. She offered him her wrist and looked away.
He took it gently and sunk his teeth through the thin flesh until her blood filled his mouth. Jagger felt her muscles clench as her humanity ebbed away from her body with the frantic beats of her heart and a beast was born in its place.
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