I would like to thank Yesenia Montes for the cover of this book.
“Come back here Annabelle, right now!” Dad shouted at me as I left the house running.
They were sending me away to live with my aunt and uncle and with no explanations whatsoever. I refused to go. This was my home and I was going to stay right here where I belonged. I knew I was acting childish, but I couldn’t help it. Everybody and everything I loved was here, this was my home. I would not let them take me to a faraway place where I would no longer be able to see my brother Samuel, my best friends, Joshua and Danny, not to forget Gregory, the man I knew I was destined to be with. I shifted as I was running, allowing my wolf to take over my body and sped towards my secret place. I had found this place when I was five and my ten year old brother, whom I found to be so annoying at the time, had driven me nuts by telling me how ugly I was, and how nobody loved me because they had found me at the border of the pack territory five years ago. Needless to say, I had cared at the time, being only five after all!
“Liar, you are a big fat liar” I had screamed at him, but I could not prevent the tears of frustration and hurt that came strolling down my cheeks.
“You are not my real sister. You should go back where you came from,” he had replied arrogantly, his young face twisted in and contorted in anger.
I had then run in the forest and my brother had let me. After what seemed like hours of running, I had come to a clearing by the cliff, falling down out of exhaustion. Waking in the middle of the night to a full moon in the sky looking down on me, I was mesmerized. The moon had smiled at me that day, its light almost blinding me. Staring at it for hours, I had felt all my anger and resentment leave my body. Right then, I had heard them, the wolves howling in the night and I knew they were coming for me. Unable to bear the thought of sharing this place with anyone else, I had taken off, not stopping until I knew I was far away. Then I had waited for them to find me.
I was running there right now, the place where I always found consolation when I was agitated. It always gave me peace as if I belonged there. Then I was shaken by another disturbing thought. Dear Moon Goddess, going away from here also meant I would be away from my secret place, how would I ever bear that? How was I ever going to be okay with all of this nonsense shit they were piling on me? I just wanted everything back as it was. I hated change; I absolutely loathed it.
“Belle, stop. Wait for me, ” hollered my not so annoying brother anymore. In fact, Samuel and I were very close now, we have been for a long time. The only annoying thing about him now was his over protective manners. He was forever keeping me away from Gregory, his best friend who happened to be the hot son of the pack’s beta as well as all the others. I was shielded from any slander, and insult against my small wolf because everyone in the pack knew that making me a target would mean confronting Sam. And nobody wanted to do that, he was huge at 6 feet 10 inches with bulging muscles and easily the strongest member of our pack.
I did not look back, I needed to be away from everyone. But, I heard him shift to his large gray wolf behind me which meant that he would catch up with me in exactly a minute. Unfortunately, my wolf form was pathetic, it was small, weak and slow. It’s always been like that since the moment I shifted at 15. I never understood it, my father is the alpha of the pack and my mother is an alpha’s daughter. I should have come out better for Moon Goddess’ sake, look at Sam, it was so unfair! But my parents never let me think that way, I had the most loving parents. That is why, I did not understand it at all that they were sending me away.
Needless to say, soon my brother’s grey wolf landed on my back bringing me to a sharp stop. I tried to use my paws to get away, but I was miserably pinned under his heavy form. He looked at my eyes, I knew what he wanted. I shifted to my human form and so did he. Weirdly enough, I was the only one with the talent to keep my clothes on while shifting back and forth so I lay on the ground calmly while my brother struggled to cover himself with the clothes he had carried in his mouth.
“We need to talk,” said my brother.
“Sure, shoot away. But, know this, I won’t be leaving home,” I said in an angry tone.
“You have to, Belle. That is the only way,” said my brother with a defeated expression.
“What is going on for Moon Goddess’ sake, Sam? Tell me why I have to go”.
“He is coming for you, and he knows where you are. You can’t be here for your 18th birthday.”
“What are you talking about? Who is coming for me?”
“You should better let Father explain it to you.”
“He has no intention of making any explanations Sam; he is completely fine with the idea of just ordering me to go.”
“He is scared, Belle. You know how fond he is of you, you are his little pup. The idea of anything happening to you is scaring the shit of him. Of all of us.”
“You are talking bullshit!” I shouted. Who is coming anyway, another alpha?”
“No, he is not a werewolf. He is something else.”
“C’mon Sam, you are pulling my leg here. There is nothing else,” I said, shaking my head.
“There is so much you don’t know, Belle. ”
“Then tell me. I am done with knowing nothing.” My voice was getting shrill, I was losing it. All of this was too much, I felt that the world I knew was soon about to shatter and I knew even my secret place would no longer do the trick of giving me a safe haven from my troubles. I feared that with whatever Sam was about to tell me I was never going to be the same again. But, still, I had to know. The cat was out of the bag, and there was no putting it back.
“Well,” stammered Sam. My brother was ever the calm, relaxed pack member, so seeing him nervous like this made me more scared than ever.
“Spill the beans, Sam. It is ok,” I said to him reassuringly.
“He is the Demon Lord.”
“Excuse me?” I said laughing. Now I knew he was pulling my leg, all of this was a joke. What a relief! But, just as I felt the last few minutes’ weight lift off my shoulders, my brain kicked in. I would expect Sam to pull a prank like this, but would my dad be in it? Absolutely not. As wonderful as he was, Dad was not known to be flippant at all. Ever. On the contrary, he was born without an ounce of humor in his body. So that meant? Oh, my Goodness! Another wave of fear swept over me. What the hell did he mean by a Demon Lord?
“This is no laughing matter Belle!” warned Sam, his eyebrows furrowed with concern.
“Ok,” was all I could mutter under my breath as I waited for him to crush my safe world.
“Do you remember that day when you ran away in the forest, and I got grounded for a week for taunting you?”
“Yes, of course, you totally deserved it. You had me furious; I simply hated you that day.”
“Yes, of course,” my brother said impatiently as if I was keeping him from making his point. “But, do you remember what I told you before you took off?”
“Hmm, let me see. You said I was ugly, and that nobody loved me. You were a real jerk back then, you know that? You made my life a living and breathing hell,” I said.
I looked at Sam’s eyes. Both of us were aware of what I was doing. I was delaying the inevitable by diverting from the topic and my brother was allowing it. He knew I needed more time.
“What else did I say Belle?” he then asked forcefully, letting me know that we could not dally any further.
“Well, you told me that I was found by the trash bin, or some other junk like that.”
“Not the trash bin Belle, the pack border”.
“Whatever. It is the same stupid joke every old brother says to a younger sibling. You were jealous, I get it. No biggie,” I said in a pretense calm demeanor while my heart was pounding fiercely in my ribcage. I knew what was coming even as I tried to deny it.
“That was no joke, Belle”.
Shit. I was still unprepared for how much hearing it out loud hurt.
“That is why I was angry at you for a long time. I remember the knock on our door in the middle of the night that day. Dad was talking to Beta Edward for a few minutes and then he left in a hurry. He was gone for a long time and then he came back with you in his arms. Mom and Dad were arguing heatedly. I had never seen them that way. I started listening to their debate. Mom wanted to keep you, but Dad was worried. He was saying that there must be more to the story than that caught the eye, he said somebody surely would come back for you. I was just five myself, but I wanted to see what it is that we could keep. Whatever that was, I knew I wanted it. I rushed downstairs to help Mom convince Dad to keep it, to keep you. Then I saw you bundled in a gray tattered blanket. You deserved so much better! You were so small and so fragile that I wanted to protect you forever. But I was scared. I feared you would be taken from me, from us because you weren’t ours. It took me a long time to accept that you could be ours. That was the day when all changed between us.”
“Yeah, I remember. I was 8 years old and you had shifted for the first time. In your wolf form, you lowered your head and ambled closer. You were such a massive beast in gray. I remember I’d stiffened as you’d been such a boorish prick until that time. Anyway, you moved in between my legs, and you buried your nose against my shoulder. I’d thought you were bipolar, you had not let go until I’d patted you.”
Sam chuckled. It was nice seeing him relax again even if I suspected it was to be short lived.
“Well I had turned into a massive wolf, what did you expect? I knew then I could protect you from everyone who meant you harm and that changed everything.” But then his face fell.
“Well, congrats! Your arrogance still remains untouched,” I said hoping to bring back his cheerful self again. I failed.
“Now, I am not so sure anymore. I don’t know what I am against.”
“Sam, stop it! Who the hell am I?”
“We don’t know for sure. There was nothing on you when dad found you.”
I surely was not happy with that answer. But, apparently, I still had to wait for the revelation of my identity.
“Well, then who is the Demon Lord?”
“He is the leader of Demons. And he issued an ultimatum last week to King Blake to hand you back. He threatens with war. The King’s been investigating into your whereabouts.”
“Our King? A war?” I stammered. “Why should the Demon Lord start a war over me? What does he want with me? I am no demon for God’s sake. I do not even know what a demon looks like, I am sure it is not sightly. I am a werewolf with my pathetic wolf to speak for, what would he ever want with me?” I asked, frantically. At this point, I had lost it. I was taking short quick breaths, my hands were cold and sweaty. I was gasping for precious air as I believed myself to be suffocating.
“You are hyperventilating. Take a deep breath and start counting down as you exhale it slowly,” Sam told me as he held me. The Demon King, The Werewolf King, war, all of this was too much. Ten, nine. Exhale. Eight, seven, six and exhale. Holy crap, I couldn’t breathe. The last thing I saw was the back of Sam’s hand fast descending on me, and it all went black.
“Are you ok? Answer me, Belle!” I heard Sam’s panicky voice.
“You were having a hard time breathing, I didn’t know what to do so I knocked you out.”
“What the hell Sam?” I tried to get up as I rushed to feel the lump on my head. It was huge. Damn it. Unfortunately, fast healing was not one of my virtues. This would stay with me for a few days now.
“I am sorry. I really didn’t know what else to do. Besides, you are a werewolf, you’ll be fine.”
“Gosh, I pity the poor soul who will be your mate,” I said.
“Don’t say that. I’m sorry Belle.”
“It’s ok,” I said. After all, it had helped. I was able to breathe again.
“We should go back home. Dad will be worried. I’ve told you all I know and frankly I don’t think you can take more information today anyway.”
I had to agree.
“You wanna shift?” asked Sam.
I shifted with the egg sized lump rising glamorously on my wolf head. Lovely!
As we ran back towards home, I wondered what tomorrow would bring.