Finished with Chapter 1, Scene 1? Keep reading below for Chapter 1, Scene 2:
Chapter 1, Scene 2
As I waited for my father to decide whether to tear out the rest of my throat, I couldn’t help thinking back to how accomplished I’d felt when I first set out for my solitary run. Separated from my mate and forced to manage a pack of grumpy, traditional relatives, the last couple of months had been a challenge. But I’d been surprised to find that I was able to extinguish both literal and metaphorical fires (darn those yahoos!), and to keep my inherited pack on a relatively even keel.
Okay, yes, when the loaned teenage and twenty-something werewolves from Wolfie’s pack—the yahoos—ran Aunt Bev’s panties up the flagpole, hindering the inter-pack merger that I was trying to ease the Wilder clan into, it took all of my self-control not to rip out any mischievous young throats. And it was true that the absence of my mate was made more difficult than it should have been since the Wilder village lacked all modern conveniences, even so much as a simple land line. Rather than broaching the topic of entering the twenty-first century, though, I’d chosen to keep my focus firmly on community priorities…all the while channeling my inner truant and phoning Wolfie on the sly. To that end, I’d stashed a mobile phone inside a tupperware container deep in the woods, and when I couldn’t bear spending another instant without hearing my mate’s voice, I’d slipped out of my clothes, dropped down to four paws, and run.
“Disgusting.” The word that pulled me out of my reverie was gravelly as the Chief’s human vocal cords protested weeks of disuse, but the old shifter’s tone remained as cold as ever, proving that, despite my supposed successes, my ability to disappoint the pack’s previous alpha was never-ending. Attempting to ignore my father’s disdain, I crouched lower to the ground and fought the urge to turn tail and run, instead calming my wolf enough to let my human mind rise to the forefront. Hopefully the two sides of our character working together would be strong enough to get us out of our current situation unscathed. Or, if strength of character wasn’t enough to finagle an escape, perhaps we could still ease out of this mess with just a little bit of luck….
“You’d think that somewhere beneath those breasts and curls, my own offspring would be a bit more like me,” the Chief continued, his words proving that my wished-for luck wasn’t going to materialize anytime soon. In fact, my father was so discontented with my lack of reaction to his words that he kicked out with one bare foot, and the hard bone in his heel was sufficient to drag a yelp out of my throat. “If I possessed even half of a son,” he gritted out, ignoring my cry, “then I wouldn’t be forced to turn a useless daughter into the leader that this pack so sorely craves.
“But that’s neither here nor there,” the Chief continued, picking up a broad stick and using it to sift through the leaves at his feet. I only realized as the wood clanked against something hard that my father was searching for my cell phone, meaning that he must have watched as I hid the device a few days earlier. Replaying the honeyed words that Wolfie and I had exchanged at that time, a small lupine whimper crept out of my muzzle, replacing the blood that would have rushed to my cheeks had I been in human form. Then I quickly cringed aside, knowing that my father detested any show of weakness from his offspring and hoping to escape another punishing blow.
But the alpha’s attention was still focused on the tupperware container currently protecting the one link I had to the outside world, so I was spared another kick to the ribs. “I’m assuming that you still don’t have the guts to fight for this clan the way I would have?” my father continued instead, his tone companionable, but with steel underlying the simple words. Without waiting for a reply, the Chief pried off my cached container’s lid and I caught a tiny whiff of Wolfie’s scent, the aroma enough to make me wish that my mate would appear and solve all of my problems with his typical blend of ingenuity combined with the subtlest threat of violence.
But my mate wasn’t here, I was feeling decidedly unclever, and my father was watching me now with the hawk-like stare of a predator assessing his prey. “Well?” the Chief asked again, and his nostrils flared as he barely managed to hold his impatience in check. “This is your wake-up call, girl. Are you or aren’t you willing to face down the other pack leaders in wolf form, to tear them apart if and when it becomes necessary, and to stand up as a true Wilder chief?”
In lieu of an answer, I cowered closer to the ground, and my father simply nodded as if my posture was reply enough. Turning away, the Chief set my cell phone atop a rock and brought down the end of his stick in a punishing blow, sending bits of plastic and metal spinning off in every direction. One fragment gashed open a small cut across my father’s shin, but the Chief didn’t flinch as blood welled up beneath the surface and then trickled down his leg. Instead, the shifter knelt to take my lupine cheeks in two strong hands, then he forced my nose into the pile of debris the way a cat owner might punish a feline for shitting in the house. “This will end,” my father continued, his voice calm but cold.
If I’d been able to, I would have rolled over onto my back then and exposed my belly in an immediate show of submission. There was no other acceptable response to the alpha’s command, and I was too frightened to even whimper, so I simply trembled and allowed the painful alpha energy to wash over me. My father was right—whatever the Chief wanted to come to an end would end. Immediately.
“I had hoped you might have grown a bit of spine by now,” Chief Wilder continued, letting my fur loose at last and leaning back onto his haunches, as relaxed as if we were simply friends drinking beer around a campfire. In contrast to my father, though, I was far from relaxed. And as the Chief’s gaze drifted away from mine for a split second, I scuttled away to place a few inches between us, then struggled to slow my frantic breathing.
“But you seem to think that being an alpha means being an administrator,” the Chief continued, oblivious to my retreat. His last word was spat out as if the older shifter had meant to say “sewage-plant manager”…or, knowing him, probably something considerably more lewd and colorful. I tried to cheer myself up by imagining other possible job descriptions that my father would find equally unpalatable, but I wasn’t able to focus on anything except my own terror…not when the Chief was clearly within a hair’s breadth of ripping his own daughter to shreds so he could place someone more accomplished in charge of the Wilder clan.
And yet, a satisfied smirk widened my father’s mouth as he paused to consider my reaction before speaking again. “You can’t hide behind your boyfriend forever,” the Chief said at last. “All-Pack is coming up, and I won’t have my clan taken over by an unrelated alpha just because my daughter is too lily-livered to face down the inevitable contenders. So, since you can’t seem to find your ass with both hands tied behind your back, I’ve come up with a solution.”
And as I emerged from my fright long enough to consider my father’s words, I was ashamed to admit that my thoughts had been so fully occupied with keeping my uncles and cousins in line over the last few weeks that I hadn’t spared a single thought for All-Pack. The regional gathering of alphas met on every winter solstice to hash out rule changes and to smooth over disagreements, and while intra-clan succession wasn’t usually an issue at All-Pack, my role as the first female alpha in living memory would definitely raise eyebrows. In fact, if I showed up without a plan, chances were good that I would go down beneath a pile of wolves on the first night, each alpha intent on becoming the new chief of clan Wilder.
Unfortunately, my father’s troubled history with the other alphas definitely wouldn’t help matters. The Chief had held the greatest authority in our regional gathering for as long as I could remember, which should have given his daughter some credibility now that I stood in his place. But while most alphas built alliances based on marriage and on favors, my father instead opted to utilize trickery and intimidation to gain the upper hand. I could only imagine how thrilled those same alphas would be to take the manipulative bastard’s offspring down now that they had the chance.
“Listen carefully,” my father said, nudging my furry chest with his toe and returning my attention to the more immediate danger. Yes, I’d likely be torn apart at All-Pack…but that was three weeks in the future, and my father looked inclined to save the other pack leaders the trouble of ripping out my jugular. So I obeyed my father’s command, and I listened.
“You will cut off all ties with Wolf Young,” my father gritted out, “and you will play those stupid young alphas against each other until each one thinks that he’ll marry into my place. Then, if you do your job capably enough, maybe I won’t be forced to take control of this clan away from you.”
As he finished speaking, the Chief’s face abruptly contorted and I could see his wolf clawing back up through his human skin, a strangled howl breaking out of my father’s hairless lips. And I shivered, knowing that while the Chief might find it easy to vanquish me, the evidence of my own eyes proved that the once-great Chief Wilder was no longer able to defeat his own wolf.
Which might feel like a relief right now, while my father was stumbling away into the woods, his gait drunken as he fought against his lupine half…and lost. But the Chief’s weakness also meant that during the upcoming All-Pack, the weight of protecting our familial clan would fall squarely onto my back alone. And my thin female shoulders hardly felt up to the challenge.
What will happen to Terra next? Click here to read Chapter 2 and find out!