Authors: Stacey Kennedy
Whenever I’m scared, having someone to cuddle up with always made things better. I hoped it would comfort her in the same way. Truthfully, there was also an ulterior motive behind my actions. I hoped the tender touch would calm her enough to allow the shift.
She slowly crawled forward, inching up to my side. When she settled down in front of me, I snuggled into her and pulled the blanket over us. This would be, in any normal situation, considered weird, but I felt compelled to help her. Could be due to Briggs’ reaction to her—if he wanted her better, I wanted it too.
Nestled against me, she growled a low sleepy sound and her breathing evened out. Within minutes, she was fast asleep.
Suddenly, the door to the room slowly opened. I quickly glanced at the wolf in my arms, glad that the sound of the door hadn’t awakened her.
I glanced up to find Kyden standing in the doorway. I raised a finger to my lips, a silent command for him to keep quiet. If he woke her and frightened her all over again, he’d be dead.
When he saw the wolf snuggled into me, warmth washed over his features. He gave me a soft smile, then closed the door again. I glanced back to the young wolf. She was sound asleep in my arms—peaceful. Everything would be alright.
It had to be.
* * * *
A poke to my face woke me. When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t pleased to see the sun still in the middle of the sky. Only a couple hours sleep never stood well me.
Another poke came. When I looked away from the window, to say I was shocked was an understatement, as I found myself wrapped around a woman. She looked to be about my age and the softest thing I’d ever held. She had long baby-soft brown hair, deep silver eyes and porcelain skin with perfect rosy cheeks.
“Well, this is a first I have to say.” I laughed quietly.
She smiled softly and her eyes grew more beautiful by the second. “Me too.”
Slowly, I eased my arms from around her and cuddled up with the blanket. “I see you shifted. That’s very good.”
“I don’t remember doing anything,” she said. “I remember going to sleep and when I woke up, I was back to normal.”
“I’m guessing it’s because you relaxed. Valor said something like that, but really, don’t ask me. I’m no expert in the wolf department.”
“Valor is the big one?” she asked, curiously.
“Yeah, he’s the Patriarch.” When she looked so confused by the word, I laughed. “Don’t worry. They’ll explain the ins and outs of the wolf world to you later.”
She gave her head a little shake, apparently dismissing her further questions. “Thank you for talking with me last night. I…well…I was…”
“Scared shitless,” I finished for her.
She laughed. It was so sweet and soft. “Exactly.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve been there too.”
“So, it’s true what you told me?”
“Every last bit of it. You are now in a world that will amaze you every day. Trust me on that. But it’s good. Really good.”
“Are we alone here?” she asked, glancing around.
“No. They are here…”
Just as the words left my mouth, the door flew open. Briggs stood, wide-eyed and speechless. I sat up as Kyden entered.
Kyden laughed and gave Briggs a slap on the back. “You could have knocked, you wanker.”
“Hi. This is…” I glanced back to her. “Gosh, I never asked your name.”
She was staring at Briggs, a little wide-eyed herself. “I’m Rynn Murphy.”
“Rynn—pretty name.” I looked back out at Briggs and Kyden. “Everyone, this is Rynn.”
“Are you well, Rynn?” Valor asked, from the doorway.
“Yes.” Her voice was quiet and reserved. “Nexi fixed the wounds last night.”
Valor smiled, genuinely. “Wonderful,” he exhaled.
The meaning of that sigh was clear. He finally relaxed, knowing he wouldn’t have to destroy her. His whole body seemed to decrease in size as the tension left him. Even I let out a relieved sigh.
Briggs reached out his hand to Rynn. She hesitated for a moment, but then took it. When she stood, he wasn’t the only one a little taken aback. This woman was beauty personified. Her figure was flawless. She was a petite little thing that came up to Briggs’ chest and her curves were rounded and soft.
Briggs stood dumbfounded.
Kyden stood to the side, laughing quietly. As was Valor. Obviously, this wasn’t the norm for Briggs. I cleared my throat. “I think this is our cue to leave.”
Rynn grabbed my arm frantically, nearly begging. “Do not leave me.”
“Okay.” I took her hand and she grasped it tightly. “I’ll stay.” Then, I glanced to Valor. “What’s on the agenda for today?”
Valor gave Briggs a hard shove in an apparent attempt to get him to snap out of it. “Come on, Briggs, let’s show them around.”
Through the house, we passed a proper dining room, sitting room and a sizeable kitchen. French doors sat at the end of hall and led out to the back. Once outside, I looked around at Valor’s spread a moment. Behind the house was a small barn with horses grazing the fields. It was endless beauty here—mountains, green valleys, rolling hills. “So, where are we exactly?”
“Cache Valley in Utah,” Valor answered.
Now here, I could understand Utah’s whole
get-up. This city was paved for just about every outdoor activity ever made. As we made our way around the grounds, Rynn stayed glued to my side, her hand tight in mine. The way I figured it, she was probably going to stay close for the next couple days or so. I didn’t mind. She was sweet. My instinct to protect her was fierce, and if that meant, lending her a little of my strength as she tried to make sense of her new life, I was perfectly fine with that.
“It’s amazing here,” Rynn commented.
“This will be your home now,” Valor smiled. “So, it is good you think so.”
Rynn froze, tension rippled through her. “I’m not going home?” she questioned, her words slow and forced.
Briggs moved closer to her, his stance protective. “Your home is with us now.”
Tears formed in her eyes. “But…”
Valor shook his head, searching for words. “We know of your life, Rynn. We know your only family is your grandfather who is ill.”
She wiped the tears away from her face, but more welled up in her eyes. “I need to pay for his care. I have to get back to him.”
Valor shook his head, his tone soft and reassuring. “Do not worry yourself with this. I have already moved your grandfather into a wonderful facility closer to us where he will get the care he needs. As for the cost, it has already been taken care of.”
“You paid for his care?” She looked shocked. Her eyes wide as the rest of the tears spilled out. “He is somewhere nicer?”
“You are one of us now,” Valor answered her. “We take care of what is ours. You will learn that about us soon enough. Fear not, young one, your grandfather is well. I will personally take you to him as soon as you can manage it. At this point, the chance of you shifting in front of him is great. You do not have control yet. It is best not to see him until you are in full control of yourself.”
“But…” Rynn squeaked.
“You might endanger him,” Valor said firmly. Then, he reached out to touch her arm, and she screamed a little, flinching. He immediately drew back, eyeing her curiously, and he wasn’t the only one. Her reaction was quite peculiar. She was afraid of his touch, and not in a
he’s a wolf
kind a way. It was more a
he’s a male
Instantly, I was befuddled and not the only one. Valor and Kyden watched Rynn with complete confusion. Briggs only looked worried. Nothing made sense. Rynn had let Briggs touch her earlier and hadn’t reacted that way to him.
The need to find the underlying cause of this mystery, I tightened my hand around hers and used my magic to read into her. Just another perk to being a Spirit Witch.
The moment I did, however, I wished I hadn’t.
My breath hitched and tears filled my eyes as I witnessed firsthand what happened to this young woman. Without thought, I hugged her. She began trembling in my arms. Probably, reliving the night of her attack, and it was more horrible that I could have imagined. That night, the wolf raped her before he shifted and attempted to kill her. Judging by the pain she was in, it was more than horrific.
Without a chance to say a single word, Rynn fell from my arms and shifted into her wolf. Valor’s words to her suddenly made a whole lot of sense. If her emotions ran high, she would be unable to control the shift.
“I am sorry for what happened to you, Rynn,” I said, kneeling next to her, stroking her head.
Even in her wolf form, the humiliation in her eyes was evident. She tore her gaze from mine, whimpered and ran off. No one went after her as she met up with the horses. Obviously, she needed time and no one here was going to deny her that.
“What was that about?” Kyden asked, nudging my arm.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks and glanced up at him, heartbroken. “He raped her.”
Briggs went from concerned to boiling with rage in two point two seconds. “He did what?” he said through gritted teeth.
“When I was holding her, I read into her a little. The reason she was afraid of Valor’s touch is because the wolf raped her.” I glanced over toward where Rynn had run and then back to them. “She was still a virgin.”
Briggs growled, low and deep. “If he was alive I would skin him.”
“Sweet thing,” Valor said in a soft whisper. “How horrible. So much innocence there and now…”
Kyden wrapped an arm around me and I sank against him, needing the extra warmth. “How badly is she traumatized?”
“I can’t even imagine what she is going through. A lot of what I saw is her fear and confusion.”
“Did you read anything else?” Valor asked.
“You were right. She only has her grandfather. He raised her. Her parents were junkies and they have long been out of her life. She has spent the last year taking care of him. When he got too sick, she had to place him in a home. He’s got a severe case of Alzheimer's and doesn’t remember her.”
“They mentioned that when I went to transfer him,” Valor said, his tone regretful.
Kyden tightened his arm around me, his expression was full with pain for Rynn. “She has had a rough go of things.”
“You’ve got that right. She works three jobs to pay for his care and keeps to herself. No friends or real happiness. Just the need to take care of her grandfather. I can tell you this though, she is a lot stronger than she gives herself credit for.”
“We need to get her bonded to the pack immediately,” Valor said with a deep sigh. “We will help her through her trauma.”
“Huh?” I wasn’t sure the benefit of exposing her to too much at once.
He laughed a little, as he and everyone often did at my lack of knowledge. “Packs have magic that surrounds them. It’s what bonds us together and once you are welcomed into it.” He glanced back to Rynn. “It’s very hard to feel alone. We will help her through this. I will call a gathering immediately. It should aid her greatly.”
Suddenly, Rynn ran back to us and sat at my feet. Her eyes had returned to their normal softness. I rubbed her head and she leaned into my hand. This time, I chose not to read into her any further. It was my rule—stay out unless needed. Personal privacy and all.
Valor knelt down in front of her. “I will help you change back, Rynn. Consider this your first lesson.” She gave a little bark in agreement. “Close your eyes, sweetling.” She complied. “You have the ability to change at will. It is a power that lies within you. You need to settle yourself, calm your mind. When you feel peaceful then release the wolf within you. Find your human form and remember it. Remember what you look like. Feel the magic running through you.”
It took a very long time, but eventually the air shimmered and she returned, kneeling in front of Valor. He reached out, not touching her, just held out his hand to her, patiently. Rynn just stared at it as if she was looking down the barrel of a shotgun.
This was getting us nowhere.
Slowly, I knelt beside her, put my hand in Valor’s. He raised a brow at me but when I smiled in return, he focused back on Rynn. We sat like that for a very long time before she hesitatingly reached out and lay her hand on mine. With gentle care, I removed my hand and leaned back.
Rynn stared at her hand resting in Valor’s for all of one second before she burst into tears. Valor immediately lunged forward, wrapped his arms around her while she cried and screamed for all the wrong done to her.
It surprised me that she hadn’t shifted, but then it quickly made sense. Valor said pack magic could help her. His contact must have forced her to stay human.
Watching her sob with such fierceness, I couldn’t help but cry right along with her. It was just so sad. How the world could be so cruel to someone as sweet as this one is such a travesty. The only relief I had was that from this day on, her life was going to get better. Valor would see to it.
Her sobs eventually quieted and her shaking lessened. Valor hadn’t let go of her for a second. Her arms were tight around him as she used all his strength to release her terror. Only when she backed away, did he loosen his hold. “I have made a mess of your shirt.” She wiped the tears from her face.
“That is not of any concern. Are you feeling up to seeing more of my home?” Valor asked her.
It was clear what he was doing. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of her breakdown. Didn’t want her to feel ashamed for having done it. It was the right thing to do.
Briggs came over and reached down to help her up. Again, there was no hesitation in her touching him. Valor had her scared silly. Briggs, she welcomed. Something was funny here, and it was something I was going to get to the bottom of.
Rynn came over to me and tucked herself close to me. I took her hand again as we approached the fenced pasture. The horses were the most beautiful creatures I’d ever seen. They looked similar to a draft horse with broad chests, heavy hips, and strong shoulders, but they held elegance. Their manes were long with hair that started at the knee and reached over their hooves.