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Alex(Rylee Adamson #5.5)(2) by Shannon Mayer

“Oh, no.” She swung her legs off the table and pushed my face from her lap. “Nope, that isn’t going to happen. You can stay for the day, have a rest, but that’s it. Got it? Then you have to leave.”

I wanted to stay with her, for more than the obvious reason that she was stronger than me, that the wolves respected her. I narrowed my eyes, and took a deep breath, breathing her in. Tasting her.

Like a brisk fall day, the smell of rain and wind cascading down a mountainside, and the hint of honey. My brain registered and identified her, and like a machine, kicked out a name for her.

Tracker.

“Alex stays.”

“For now. You stay here, I have things to do. They shouldn’t be back.” She walked across the room, the heels of her boots clacking on the tile and then thumping down the wooden hallway. As ridiculous as it seemed, I believed her, believed that they wouldn’t be coming back for me. That she would protect me. Even though they were five times her size.

Relief flooded through me. There had to be a way to get her to let me stay. Hell, maybe she could help me out of this mess I was in. Maybe she could un-stick me from whatever this was that had happened to me.

The sound of her boots thumping in a rhythmic pattern drew me down the hallway after her, slinking along the floor, belly to the ground. In a perfect army crawl I worked my way forward, though I could feel my tail sticking straight up in the air, there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. Damn it all.

Reaching the source of the noises, I pushed my nose against the half-shut door and peered in. The woman was doing burpees, the one move my old gym teacher had made me do whenever I’d lipped off at him. Only this woman here was doing them voluntarily and when her feet shot back and she was in a plank position, she did a rapid fire number of pushups before shooting back to her feet. Her eyes flicked over to me, then went back to staring at the wall.

I lay down, put my head on my paws and watched her. The minutes turned into thirty, and then sixty as she moved through a variety of exercises and finally paused for breath, sweat trickling down her neck and into her shirt.

“Water?” I asked, sitting up, ears flicking up with hope. (Note to self: ears should not flick up)

“You going to get it?” She wiped a hand across her mouth, and before she could say anything else, I scrambled down the hallway to the kitchen, her query setting my brain on fire to do something for her. To serve her.

Flinging open cupboards, it took me four tries before I found the cups that were above the sink. Clamoring up onto the counter I dropped one glass, watched it shatter on the floor, but didn’t stop. She needed me for something, something I could do. I grabbed another glass, claws digging into it, producing the nails on the chalkboard sound that set my ears to flipping back against my skull. Almost frantic, I fiddled with the tap until the water was running full tilt and then put the glass under it, filling it right up.

With as much care as I could manage with my twisted limbs I slid off the counter, gingerly holding the glass with both hands. Walking upright was awkward, and my balance was off, but I had no idea how else I was going to get the—

“Ouchy!” I squawked as my back foot introduced itself to a chunk of glass. Limping, tottering, water flicking out of the cup with every step, I made my way back down the hallway.

“Alex get’s water for… .” Shit, I didn’t even know her name? Shouldn’t I know her name before fantasizing about humping her leg?

“Rylee.” She held out her hand and I handed her the cup that had, at best, a quarter of the water it started with in it.

I slid to the floor and grabbed at my foot with the glass in it. “Ouchy, ouchy, ouchy.” Rolling to my back, I tried to pull my foot close enough to my face that I could see where the glass was. But I couldn’t flex that way anymore.

“Here, let me get it.” Rylee crouched beside me and took my foot in her hands. “You know what you are, don’t you?” She peered at the bottom of my foot and then reached to her back. She brought a big knife, almost big enough to be called a sword in my mind out.

“No, no hurt Alex!” I cried, cringing at how childish I sounded. How fearful and broken. How young and stupid. Submissive.

You will learn, wolf, what it means to stand. Give it time. There was that voice again. Always helpful. Thanks a lot disembodied voice for the Obi-Wan Kenobi words of wisdom that mean nothing to me.

“I’m not going to cut your foot off. I need to dig out the piece of glass. So stop squirming.” Rylee gave my leg a light shake and I did my best not to move, but I couldn’t help it. Couldn’t help the high pitched whine with each poke of the knife tip, couldn’t stop myself from covering my misshapen head with my misshapen paws and crying like a baby. I was a sissy; I had no control over it. I couldn’t even pretend I was tough, like before this happened.

“There, it’s out. And you should be fine in a few minutes.” She leaned back and sat on the edge of the bed. I grabbed my foot and squeezed it. Yeah, it felt better.

“Thanks,” I whispered, ducking my head. My friends, what was left of them would be howling with laughter if they could see me now. They knew me as the cocky shit who stood his ground no matter who came his way. But under that exterior I’d never been sure, I’d always been terrified that someone would call my bluff. At nineteen, no one had. I knew I’d been lucky.

Apparently, my luck had run out.

“No problem. Now, why is your pack chasing you?” Again, her voice was soft, urging me to tell her.

I clacked my teeth together, and tried to put the pieces together inside my head but they wouldn’t fit, they were all scrambled and misshapen like me. I didn’t understand anything, and a part of me still thought this was just a bad dream. Not the part that involved Rylee, but everything else.

The words crowded in my throat and stopped me from saying anything.

Rylee shook her head. “Suit yourself. I’m going to shower, and then—”

The phone beside her bed rang, interrupting whatever she’d been about to say.

She leaned across the bed and scooped up the old school rotary phone and pressed it to her ear. “Hey, Charlie, what’s up?”

I could hear his response loud and clear. “I gots a salvage for you, lassie. All the paperworks been dunned up nice-like. I know yous like to meet the parents, but this one’s different. Brother has paid up fronts-like, and says just find her, doesn’t care whats yous has to do. Yous wants me to brings it to yous?”

She nodded. “Yeah, just give me fifteen minutes to get cleaned up.”

“No problemos. See yous soon.”

She hung up the phone, her eyes narrowing as she took me in. “Alex, I have a friend coming, you be on your best f**king behavior, got it?”

Without any control, I found myself crossing my heart with one claw. “Alex promises.”

And then the most fantastic part of this crazy dream happened, beyond anything I could ever hope for.

She started to strip as she walked across to the bathroom. Oh. My. God.

There was no art to it, but I just sat there staring as her weapons, boots, jeans and shirt fell to the floor, until she was down to her black bra and panties that hugged her slim body, and that urge I had to hump her leg (amongst other things) nearly overcame me. I pinned that part of me down with serious difficulty, my claws digging into the floor to keep myself still. She would probably kill me herself if I did that. Almost as if sensing my thoughts she looked over her shoulder.

“Poor bastard. At least you don’t understand how trapped you are.” She shook her head and closed the bathroom door behind her. The sound of water met my ears before her words really sunk in.

This wasn’t a dream.

I really was trapped like this. I scrambled backward, slammed my ass into the corner of the doorframe before running down the hallway, spinning out on a loose rug covering the wooden floor and hitting a second door frame. Like a wicked game of pinball I ran from room to room until I found what I was looking for. In the last room I barreled into, a mirror lay on its side, the reflective surface facing me.

My front legs and chest came into view first, a blend of human and wolf leg structure, back legs at a weird half-crouched angle. I took a deep breath and ducked my head.

Looking back at me was a monster of epic proportions. I’d seen enough horror flicks to know what had happened, even if I still didn’t understand how.

I was a werewolf. But then why was I like this? And what did that woman at the bar have to do with it? Golden eyes stared back at me, not the brown eyes I’d looked into for my entire life before that moment. Golden eyes, just like Beauty, the woman in the red dress.

Inside my head, the pieces finally clicked, or at least some of them did. Beauty was a werewolf too, and the wolves she sent after me as well… but then why weren’t they ugly like me? How could she be so human looking? How could they be so normal without the blending of both forms?

Questions, so many questions and no answers. And no way to even ask them. I was so royally screwed.

Rylee came out of the room exactly fifteen minutes later, dressed in clean clothes, her hair pulled into a low pony tail, and the faint scent of soap clinging to her. Nothing overpowering, just clean.

She glanced around, took in the rug crunched up against one wall. “Well, at least you didn’t break anything.”

I bobbed my head. “Alex is goody good.” Oh crap, she was going to think I was a fool!

Laughing softly, she said, “Sure, okay.”

The doorbell rang, interrupting this stellar exchange, and she strode toward it, opening the door to reveal a very tiny man.

“Hello, Charlie. What have you got for me today?”

Charlie, who stood maybe three feet tall, sauntered into the room despite missing a leg, and handed a sheet of papers up to Rylee.

“Should bees an easy peasy case for yous. Kid’s fifteen, sassy mouth on her from what be my understandin’. Unless she was snatched by a real ugly, you should have no problemo finding hers.” He put his hands through a pair of suspenders that had one strap black and one strap white. And then his eyes fell on me. “Shit me pants, Rylee. What the feck are yous doing with a werewolf in yous living room?”