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Alex(Rylee Adamson #5.5)(1) by Shannon Mayer

Morning light warmed my face, stole across bruises that twinged with every flex of my cheek against the hard dirt below me. My hip was cold and sore from lying on my side all night, and it throbbed something fierce. The smell of fresh cut grass and someone’s breakfast teased my nose. Stomach growling, a groan slipped out of me, and I rolled to my belly. Coughing hard, I tasted blood and spat to one side, my tongue feeling three feet long and wide. Last night… what had happened last night? I’d gone to the club looking for Deidre; someone told me she would be there. There was the club, the heavy music, and a woman with long dark hair and golden eyes; had we kissed? Yeah, we had and it had been amazing—hot, so damn hot—but that wasn’t why I had gone there. I pushed myself up.

On my hands and knees, head hanging almost to my chest, I stared blankly at what was attached to me, of what I was seeing and my mind couldn’t process.

Where last night there had been very human arms and legs covered in smooth skin for my entire nineteen years, there was now a thick black pelt of fur tipped in silver covering twisted limbs that weren’t human at all. I ran what had been my hand, and now resembled a monster’s claw-tipped paw over my face. Jutting teeth, jaw, and nose; it felt more like that of a dog than human under the pads of my fingers. My jaw dropped and I scrambled backward, slamming into the edge of a house. Fear boiled up under my skin and I panted heavily, unable to get enough air. Blinking several times, I fought to understand where I was and what I was seeing. What the hell was happening to me? Countryside as far as I could see, corn stalks and open sky. I wasn’t in the city anymore, but that was the least of my worries.

“Alex scared,” I whimpered and then slapped my giant paws over my muzzle. What was going on? That wasn’t what I’d wanted to say. I hadn’t wanted to say that at all, no matter how true it was. I swallowed hard, bile rising up and coating my tongue; of which there was a hell of a lot more to coat then just yesterday. From the corner of my eye, I could see my tongue hanging out of my mouth, saliva dripping off it every time it flicked.

Trembling, I sat down and shook my head. This was a dream, that was the only answer. A really, really bad dream induced by too much drinking maybe? But that couldn’t be, I knew I hadn’t touched anything but my water. That, and the woman who’d kissed me. I closed my eyes. Had we gone back to her hotel room? I had a vague recollection of going with her, of getting na**d and then… nothing but a blank.

I squeezed my eyes closed. This was a dream, and when I woke up, things would be back to normal.

“Nope, Alex stuck.”

Fear, sharp and piercing, snapped along my nerve endings. I wasn’t stuck. Couldn’t be. This wasn’t real. This was a—

“Oh, such a pity. I thought perhaps you would be the alpha I was looking for. So cocky last night, so lovely in bed… .” Her voice wrapped around me and pulled me forward before I even saw her. Shaking from nose to feet, I crammed my head into the dirt and rolled onto my back, my tail (oh hell, I had a tail?) twisting between my legs. A steady stream of whimpering slipped out of my muzzle (muzzle, f**k this was not happening). I barely lifted my eyes to stare at the shapely toned calves of a woman in bright red stilettos and matching leather mini dress. Long black hair cascaded down over her bare shoulders and golden eyes met mine for a split second before I closed mine in perfect submission.

“Alex sorry.” The thing was, guilt rolled through me, and while I vaguely recalled her, I didn’t understand why I was feeling guilty.

“You disappointed me. Do you feel that in your bones, my wolf?” The shift and squeak of her leather dress as she crouched next to me, and then her hand slid over my face to grip my muzzle.

I did feel it, right through me. The disappointment of not meeting her expectations, of being worthless to her; could smell that on overlaying her own scent of musk and open fields. I dared to open one eye and peer up at her. Beauty, that was her name; her oriental features were stunning and sharp with the clarity of a razorblade highlighted with those golden eyes. In them, I could see my reflection, a twisted creature.

Stuck.

Trapped.

Weak.

No different than the rest of my life. A tear leaked out of one eye and I blinked it away.

“You will not feel this pain much longer, wolf,” she whispered down to me, her hand tightening painfully on my face. I yipped and jerked out of her hand, but still kept my head down, back hunched in submission as I backed away.

“Alex sorry.” And damn it all, I was. The scrabble of multiple sets of claws on the packed dirt brought my head around, the heavy musk of winter forests flooding my nose. Five of the biggest wolves I’d ever seen moved up behind Beauty. I stepped forward, I might not be able to stop them, but I could buy her some time, let her get away. She reached out and put a hand on the largest ones head.

“Make it quick. Do not play with him. That is an order.” Her hand tightened on the wolf’s head closest to her, and he bobbed his giant skull once. What was going on?

They are here to kill you. Run. Now. The words resonated inside my head with a strength and command I couldn’t deny. I spun on my back feet and bolted away, the ground flying under me as muscles I’d never used were thrown into full bore.

Howls erupted from behind me as I zigzagged through the cornfield, running blind. Terror driving me.

Minutes passed into an hour and they still hadn’t caught me. Maybe I’d be able to outrun them after all.

As if the thought produced him, a body slammed into mine, taking me to the ground in a rolling tumble of fur, teeth and claws. I reacted on instinct, pushed his bigger bulk off me, and scrambled back to my feet. Then, I was running again before I even saw if he got up or not. There was no finesse here, just fear. They would kill me, there was no way I could stop them. I was weak, that wasn’t anything new.

Whimpers slipped through my teeth, as fatigue ate at me. Twisting through the corn, I exploded out of the seemingly unending maze and into someone’s back yard. I took it all in with a single breath. Large, older-style farmhouse, Jeep parked at the side of the house, movement in one of the rooms glimpsed through the window.

She will help you. Go. Again, that voice drove me forward as the howls once more sounded, this time closing in from three sides. There was no choice, I would have to see if this voice was actually telling the truth or not.

I hope to hell it wasn’t lying to me.

Running full tilt toward the porch, I expected to hit the door, bust it down, and then maybe hide inside. The wooden slats of the porch were perfect grips for my claw-tipped paws and I launched myself toward the wooden door with the glass upper pane.

The tip of my nose brushed against the old-style door. It was yanked open, and I fell through, sprawling across tile floor, spinning with my limbs in every direction of the compass.

“Save Alex,” I whispered, hoping that whoever had yanked the door open would be able to help me. Please, let the voice in my head not be lying. I didn’t want to die, not even if I had to stay like this forever. Stuck.

“Mother f**kers. Seriously, in the middle of my gods-be-damned breakfast?” Her voice, even if the words were harsh, was soft.

I lifted my head in time to see the world slow, and yet slide into a perfect collision of my life from what it was to what it had become.

Dark auburn hair cascaded to her mid-back, nearly hiding the swords that were strapped to her back. With two quick twists she yanked them from her back and slid forward in a crouch, greeting the first wolf with the tips of the swords at the base of his neck. He stepped backward, falling in order to avoid impaling himself on her blades.

A snicker slipped out of me.

“You, shut it.” She didn’t even glance at me, but I knew she was talking to me. I covered my muzzle and just watched.

“We seem to have a problem. I do the killing around here, not you and your pack. Got it? Tell your bitch that, would you?” She stepped forward, forcing him back with her crossed blades.

The wolf snarled, but gave way with her pressure.

The woman lifted one blade and pointed it out toward the cornfield. “Take your loser buddies and get the f**k off my territory. Next time, I’ll be making a wolf rug for my fireplace.”

In a whirl of dark brown fur, the wolf spun away and loped out to the edge of the crops. Tipping his head back, he let out a long howl that shook me to the bone. The howl was one of death and promises, my brain translating it into what I understood. A threat.

The woman slammed the door shut, rattling the glass pane. With quick, smooth motions, she slid first one sword and then the other back into their sheaths. The handles hung low on her back. How did they stay in when they were upside down? There was no way I could ask her.

You are in a world of magic and wonder, anything is possible, wolf. Great. Just what I wanted to hear.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with you?” She placed her hands on her h*ps as she stared at me on the floor.

I peered up at her, found myself staring into her eyes. Three colors stared back at me, gold, green, and a rich brown that made me think of chocolate.

“Alex hungry.”

Her eyebrows shot up, and I couldn’t help but stare. She was really pretty. Like hump her leg pretty.

The air in my lungs froze. I did not just think about humping her leg, did I?

“Well, here, you might as well eat my breakfast.” She pointed at the table and I slowly rose up, resting my nose on the edge of it. “Smells yucky.”

God, did it ever smell like crap. Something healthy. I poked at the gelatinous goop with a claw I suspected was tofu, grateful I didn’t have to feel it for real.

“It’s good for you.” She leaned over, pulled a chair to her, and sat down. With a single swing of her body she propped her boots up on the table. “Now, why were they chasing you?”

I cringed and slid down so that I was under the table. Creeping across the floor, I made my way to the base of her chair. “Alex no knows.”

Arrrggghhh! I wanted to explain, to tell her that the woman in the club, Beauty, she’d done this to me. Somehow. I just couldn’t remember, and then she set her wolves on me, that they were going to kill me. But instead, I grabbed the chair legs and rested my head on her upper thigh. “Stay here. Alex safe.”