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Chapter 1


The three wolves raced through the forest at top speed in the waning moonlight, the large one in the lead urging the others to go faster, harder, push themselves to their limit. But even his perseverance couldn't hold the other two for long. As they neared the clearing, the two black wolves slowed, panting and grinning and gigging each other with their hips, the one with the brush of white on the very tip of his tail snapping playfully at a pocket gopher who chose that moment to push his head out of his hole to see what was going on.

The black and gray wolf in the lead, with the boomerang-shaped patch of white on his left shoulder, didn't slow. He pushed himself harder, driven from somewhere deep inside to give everything he had until the very last second, like always.

He felt the danger coming from his left a split second before it reached him, but there was nothing he could do. It was coming too fast. The large animal hit him on his left flank and they both tumbled together, a mass of fur and limbs, over the forest floor, their teeth snapping, their mouths frothing, as they both snarled and tore into each other, their bodies only stopping when they slammed into a tree.

The wolves separated, rolling away from each other. As they rolled, they both shifted into human form, fur disappearing, legs lengthening, thickening, hips changing shape, muzzles shortening, claws retracting and reforming, eye color changing. Both males scrambled to their feet in fighting stances, naked, but still ready to throw down.

"What is your problem, Mac?" Trevor Burbank, a tall, Mack-truck of a man, shouted, but before his second-in-command could answer, the other two wolves caught up to them, both launching their bodies at Mac and knocking him to the ground when they made contact. "Fuck," Trevor swore, running forward to get into the fray before his brothers tore Mac to pieces.

Trevor elbowed his way past the furiously shaking bodies of his brothers, one at Mac's thigh, and one at Mac's throat.

"Get your mutts off me," Mac snarled.

Aw, hell no. He didn't just say that. Trevor clamped his hands around the jaws of the wolf at Mac's throat and pulled the opposite way of the bite-down, knowing Mac could heal his own leg if he shifted, but if his throat was torn open, he could bleed out before he ever had a chance to recover from that. "Trent, Troy, he's not worth it, let him go," he forced out, all of his energy focused on keeping Trent from killing Mac right then and there.

Mac screamed and Trevor knew that Troy was grinding into his leg, maybe all the way to the bone. "Troy, stop!" Trevor demanded. He aimed a few kicks at Troy's flank while still cranking Trent's jaws apart. Blood flowed down his fingers and across Mac's neck. The minimal pain in his hands told him only some of that blood was his, and as he looked closer, he could see several of Trent's teeth violating Mac's skin.

"Trent! Lay off! You're gonna fucking kill him! He's an asshole, but you can't kill a wolfen for being an asshole, the Citlali will fry you!"

Finally, Trent eased slightly. "Let him go," Trevor continued, his voice taking on a soothing quality. "Even dogs like him have their uses. He doesn't have to like me."

Trevor ignored the growl that came from Mac's throat and caught his brother's thought like it was a ball launched at his face.

He does have to respect you.

Trevor grinned sourly. We can't force him to, he sent back.

We can let Troy bite his balls off though.

Trevor laughed out loud, relieved to see Trent letting go of Mac's throat, even if it was reluctantly. He turned to look at Troy who had also let go, but Mac's thigh was a mess of dirty hamburger. Too bad, so sad.

As soon as Mac was free he scrambled to his feet and limped away, leaving Trevor and his brothers on the cold forest floor, watching the blood drip from Mac's leg and neck.

"The Chief wants you in the office in thirty minutes," Mac threw over his shoulder, just before he shifted and loped off.

Trevor watched him go, admiring the fierce strength of Mac's pure white animal, even as he disliked the male. Trevor wanted to like Mac, it would make his working environment much easier, but with as much as Mac hated him, Trevor had no choice but to feel the same. He didn't blame Mac though.

Mac thought Trevor was a fraud, and Trevor agreed.



Chapter 2


What little was left of Ella’s past lay spread out in front of her in the large attic, packed into boxes or sitting in random spots, as if left there by a busy toddler. Ella eyed it, knowing she shouldn't go through anything, she should just allow the resale shop to come in and take everything, but she was feeling grumpy that it had to happen at all. She knew there was nothing valuable in the boxes, but she still felt obligated to check. God helps those who get off their asses, and all that.

If she didn't come up with fourteen thousand dollars in the next two weeks, she would lose her aunt's house, and she had no idea if that would be a blessing or a curse. So her ass would be in motion until she figured something out.

Turning her attention back to the dark and dusty room, she tried to mentally divide it into the most likely spots to search, but was distracted by a soft rubbing against her leg. She looked down to see Chelsea, a black and orange harlequin cat twisting its body around her ankle and she smiled, bending to pet the feline on the head. As she did, her aunt's other cat, an all-black cat except for a bit of white on the tip of his tail, named Smokey, rubbed against her too, then looked up at her with sad, golden eyes and meowed once.

Her smile vanished. “I know. You miss her," she told the cat softly, her voice echoing in the large attic.

Ella couldn't say the same, but she wouldn't tell Smokey that, not that Smokey didn't already know. Ella snorted, then bit her lip. “Sorry,” she whispered to no one in particular. Now that she had no other humans to talk to, having conversations with the cats seemed normal, but she knew it wasn't. She feared it was just one more reason to believe she was going insane.

The cats looked at her as if to ask if she was going to stay up in the drafty, dusty attic and Ella nodded before she could catch herself. The cats meandered away and she watched them, until Chelsea carefully picked her way down the attic steps and Smokey dropped to the floor and began to clean his paws.

Ella's phone chimed in her pocket, startling her. No one knew her number except her mom and her aunt, and both were dead. She had no friends, her mom had made sure of that. Except Accalia. Online friends count.

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