Authors: Samantha Horne
“I knew I could get you to smile.”
He looked down at me but didn’t say anything, just continuing to carry me through the forest. He wasn’t even slightly out of breath as I realised that the dream Jackson I’d conjured up was freakishly strong.
“I think...I may need...a tetanus shot.” My words came slower as my vision narrowed, but then I heard the most glorious sound I think I’ve ever heard. Jackson laughed a full belly laugh and I smiled broadly in response. I made the miserable git laugh! When I finally gave in to the darkness, it was with Jackson’s arms around me, the sound of his laughter ringing in my ears, and a contented smile on my face.
Okay, it felt like I had been run over by a small truck, and the driver of said truck had also decided to reverse over me. My whole body ached as I became aware that I was lying in my super-soft bed at Jackson’s house, with my left arm completely bandaged, laying pretty uselessly by my side. I breathed a sigh of relief as I tested the arm and found I could move it, but that turned in to a cry when my muscles used pain to punish me for even one tiny movement. Okay, moving the arm was a bad idea. I looked around and got a sense of déjà vu when I saw the various bunches of flowers dotting the room and of course, the obligatory fruit baskets. Seeing the grapes made me think of Logan and I smiled remembering the last time I was laid up in bed, and he was horrified at the fact people left fruit when you were feeling unwell. I looked up as the door quietly opened, wincing when pain shot through my whole body. Jackson was standing in the doorway and just looked at me, before stepping forward and closing the door behind him. He started walking towards me and my heart was pounding at the intensity of a gaze that didn’t leave me for one second. He was looking at me like he was a predator and I was the prey.
Gotta say though, I’m not completely hating it
. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and I swallowed as I read the meaning in his look. Before I could even process what was happening, he propelled forward and kissed me with a passion and intensity I had never felt before. Oh, I’d been kissed before, but the way Craig kissed was absolutely nothing compared to this. It was like Jackson had just taken over my entire body, and it no longer belonged to me at all. It felt like I couldn’t even control my reaction to him, as I grabbed his head and with a strength I didn’t know I possessed, clinging to him as if he was the only thing in the world right then. Our tongues tangled as I moaned softly, eliciting a groan from him as we communicated using sound to express our pleasure. He pulled away, startling me at the abruptness, and I fell forward slightly when his body was no longer there to support me. He scrubbed a hand across his face, and the feeling of rejection I had felt when he moved away disappeared, as I saw the look of longing cross his face when he stared at me.
“I can’t do this.”
All thoughts of lust left my mind as confusion settled in, as I had no idea what he was going on about.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember everything that happened yesterday?”
I cast my mind back to the day before, and a shudder went down my spine as memories hit me of bright yellow eyes, large wolves and terrifying growls.
“Wolves,” I said, before covering my mouth quickly with my hand, embarrassed to have said that out loud.
“You were attacked by a pack of wolves. Me and the guys turned up in time to stop them killing you. God, if we’d been just five minutes later.” He leant forward until his forehead touched mine, closing his eyes as if trying to block out the memories from the night before. My head swam as I tried to focus on the fact that not only was I attacked by a pack of wolves, but now Jackson was suddenly treating me completely differently. It was like he had seen me in a new way, and I couldn’t help but find him even more attractive.
“Wolves.” I repeated the word in a defeatist tone, knowing that I sounded like a complete moron, but not really sure what else I could say at that point.
“I know it’s a lot to get your head around, but we do have wolves around here. You could say they are local to the area.” He suddenly looked uncomfortable, and I began to feel excited as I realised I may finally be able to understand at least some of the secrets Wolves Creek were keeping.
“But, how did you get them off me? There were like...ten of them.”
“Well, there were four of them, but six of us. We outnumbered them and they realised pretty early on they weren’t going to win, so it was an easy fight for us.”
“Wait...I’m confused. I don’t know if I hit my head...”
“Laura, we were the other wolves.”
Okay, either I hit my head really, really hard in the forest, or his beautiful face was distracting me and making me hear things.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“The reason why everyone in this town acts differently, and sees you as an outsider, is because we
different. The correct term would be that we are shifters. We’re wolf shifters.”
I felt like my brain was going to explode as I tried to take in what exactly he was telling me, but it felt like I was in a bubble, with his words not really making any sense.
“Okay, I think I have a concussion, because I don’t understand.”
“I know it’s a lot to process and it sounds ridiculous, but you have to realise I wanted to tell you. It’s dangerous. Humans have no idea about our existence, and if they did we would be subject to media, capture and experiments. Our privacy and our lives would be destroyed, which is why any stranger is deemed a threat until proven otherwise.”
I really didn’t want to believe him. I wanted to laugh and tell him off for messing with me, before soaking in a bath and going back to sleep but my brain was screaming at me that he was telling the truth. It sounded totally unbelievable, and I struggled to wrap my head around it, but after seeing the behaviour of the local people; how they treated each other like family and disliked strangers, how they averted my eyes and avoided all contact and how they were clearly hiding some big secrets, meant I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. For the moment, anyway.
“Okay, so if you guys are all wolves...then turn in to one.”
“Sure! I mean, if it’s true you’ll be able to prove it won’t you?”
He stood up to take a few steps back towards the centre of the room, and my heart started to race as I realised he was actually going to try and prove it to me. I thought I had been calling his bluff and he would make up some excuse, meaning that I could then proceed to call him crazy and go mad on his ass for joking about something so stupid. Why is nothing ever simple?
My eyes widened as he removed all of his clothes, and I remembered in the woods the night before and believing that his perfect body was just a figment of my imagination. Nope, it was real. Holy moly. Hot does not even describe it. Distracted by his sculpted form right in front of me, I didn’t have time to register or process as the air suddenly shifted around him, and before I could blink Jackson had disappeared. In his place stood a huge but beautiful, coffee coloured wolf with piercing green eyes that I instantly recognised as belonging to Jackson. He didn’t need to prove anything else to me. My brain was finding it hard to comprehend, but I couldn’t deny those emerald eyes that belonged to him. This was the wolf who was leading the pack that saved my life yesterday. Well, that would explain how he got to me so quickly and fought off a pack of wolves to rescue me. Because he was a wolf himself.
Okay. I mean, stranger things have happened right?
I pinched my arm and winced at the sharp pain, not sure whether to be relieved or not that I wasn’t dreaming. I’d always been proud of how open-minded I was, and I guessed now was the time to prove it.
The wolf gave a little yip, which made me smile, before he transformed back to Jackson, who stood in front of me, smiling nervously in an endearing way. He was normally so serious, and so sure of himself it was nice to see him acting slightly more human. Well, as human as a wolf can be. God, this was weird.
Jackson threw his clothes back on - such a shame - and sat back in his position on the edge of the bed, picking up my hand and stroking my palm softly with his thumb. I shivered at how such an innocent gesture could unsettle me.
“I know it’s a lot to take in.”
“Understatement.” He smiled at me, and it made me happy to notice he did that a lot more as we’d gotten closer. I didn’t want to get a big head, but I loved the way I could make him smile more than anyone else.
So sue me
“Are you dangerous?”
“To you? Never. I
be dangerous though. There are those who want to hurt us, but that’s what the enforcers are for. We’re a small community and everyone who lives here, is part of my pack.”
“So, you’re like, the boss?”
He smiled again. “Something like that. Everyone around here is pack, and I’m the Alpha. The title of Alpha is pretty much passed down through families. Sometimes other wolves want to fight to overthrow you, but if you earn the loyalty of the rest of your pack, they probably won’t succeed. My enforcers act as security for the community, but also my advisors. I need their advice on numerous occasions and I trust those men with my life. Being part of a pack is like being part of a family, only more. There is not one person in this pack who would not lay their life down in exchange for yours.”
My head was spinning with all the new information. “But, I’m not a wolf.”
“That doesn’t mean you aren’t pack. People distrusted you to begin with, but you’ve found your way in to their hearts. You even managed to win over Isaac who’s the most distrustful one out of us all. We look after our own in this pack, and that includes you.”
“So, why did your wolves attack me yesterday?”
“Those aren’t from my pack. If they were, they would be dealt with a lot differently, and I would never have let them get away.” His eyes lit with unleashed fury, and for a split second I saw just how dangerous he could potentially be.
“What do you mean?”
“As Alpha, I pretty much deal with any issues that arise, including dealing with punishments. If anyone from my pack tries to hurt another pack member, they are dealt with swiftly. Those wolves were from a pack that has been causing us problems for a while. If we kill members of another pack, we could start a war and we want to avoid that at all costs. They aren’t supposed to come on to our territory, but they’ve been getting cocky lately, and I’m worried about what it is they want. Unfortunately, word through the grapevine is that they want to out us to the humans, believing themselves to be a much superior race.”
“But, I thought if the humans found out about you they would take you prisoner and kill you all?”
“They would. They know the humans outnumber us, hence why the pack haven’t done anything about it yet. All we know at the moment is they are trying to gain support. Unfortunately, the thoughts the pack has of their superiority over humans and the frustration at having to hide, has caused unrest. There are various packs all over the country, and it won’t take much to persuade them over to their cause.”
“But why are they hanging around here? Surely you won’t be persuaded by that bullshit?”
“Of course not. We are content with living here, and everyone is happy. War is the last thing we want, and we prefer to exist harmoniously beside humans, with them being none the wiser. Making the humans aware of our existence would be catastrophic, and lead to the extinction of our kind everywhere, I guarantee it. From what Ethan has managed to find out through various sources, the wolves disturbing us are from the Grove Pack based around fifty miles away. They hate humans and they must have heard that you were here. They want to hurt you.”
I felt the blood rush from my face as the throbbing in my left arm reminded me how close I had come yesterday to being a meal for this Grove Pack.
Urgh, I hate them already
. I lay back down on the bed and closed my eyes, suddenly exhausted from the bombardment of unbelievable information, and the pain in my arm that had hit me full force.
Well, I had wanted an adventure, and boy did I get one!
Jackson squeezed my hand, and gave me a small smile which set my heart racing again.
“You need to rest. Luckily, the bite wasn’t deep enough to cause any permanent damage, but we need to keep an eye out for things like infection, so it will need to be checked daily to begin with. It’s gonna hurt like a bitch for a while though, so try not to move it as much as possible.”
“Yes, sir. Oh, wait!” I used my good arm to pull him back down as he went to stand up. “How do you keep the humans away? This place is beautiful; surely it generates interest from passers-by?”
“That’s a long story for another day. The short version is there was an ancient spell cast on the town many years ago. Humans tend to just drive straight through without paying much attention to what’s happening around them, and it seems to have worked pretty well so far.”
“Until me.” I closed my eyes and settled comfortably, seconds away from dozing off.
“Until you.” He said softly, squeezing my hand one more time, before standing up. “Don’t worry about anything. My enforcers are guarding this place 24/7, and I have the best team of carers looking after you.”