Winter Wolf Excerpt Kat meets human Bass
“Shit!” Her leg gave way under her. Katalina sprawled face-first into the snow, the cold shocking the breath from her. She lay in the piercing cold, feeling the snow bite into her fingers, the chill frigid against her skin. “What was I thinking, boy?” she asked her dog as she sat up with a grunt. “I’m never going to make it to the bus stop, and even if I did, they’d never let you on anyway.”
It was tempting to lie back down and not move, to allow the snow to numb her body to the point beyond pain. A trickle of wetness rolled down her face. Katalina so desperately wanted to be home, in her family’s front room, watching TV. The fire roaring, its crackle and hiss the homiest of sounds. Only Katalina could never have that again. She’d never have the chance to enjoy another Sunday family dinner, or listen to her parents’ playful banter. She buried her head in her hands, tears dripping through her fingers and freezing on the snow. Arne whined, trying to comfort her with a lick and nudge.
“I know, boy,” she mumbled through her broken sobs, “I know.”
There was a rustle up ahead, further into the woods. Katalina lifted her head, squinting into the gloom of the trees. She scanned the area for movement. Arne growled low, the slightest of rumbles vibrating up his chest. Slowly, she climbed to her feet, her eyes never leaving the woods.
“What is it, boy?” He positioned himself in front of her. “Show yourself!” she called, taking a few steps into the trees.
The wolf stalked from its hiding spot, eyes wary, hackles raised, its dark fur startling against the white snow.
“You,” she whispered, recognizing it as the dark wolf she’d felt drawn to in the shed.
Arne barked louder, jumping forward.
“No boy, come here!” she commanded, stopping Arne in his tracks.
The wolf studied her for what seemed like forever. Katalina couldn’t stand the silence anymore. “Are you a shifter, too?” she asked.
He didn’t answer.
“You’ve lost it, Kat, talking to a wolf,” she muttered to herself.
Before her eyes, the wolf morphed into a naked boy. “Yes, I’m a shifter, but not from your pack.” His voice vibrated through the air, low and brassy, pleasing to her senses.
“So you’re here to kill me then?” she asked, surprised at her calmness.
“I should be, but for some reason, I seem unable,” he answered, his voice void of emotion.
“That’s comforting,” she sneered.
“I imagine it is,” he stated. His face remained stoic.
Katalina burst out laughing. Is this guy serious?
“What’s so funny?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“You! Are you always so . . . literal?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
Katalina shook her head. “Never mind. So if you’re not here to kill me, then why are you here?”
“You intrigue me, Katalina Winter.”
“You know my name,” she said, shocked. Everyone knows my name.
“Most know your name but not your face.”
“Well, that’s something I suppose.”
Silence fell between them. He stared at her as intently as he had when he was in wolf form. She found herself taking an unsteady step, an invisible force drawing her to him.
He frowned, looking down at her leg. “You are still injured?”
“I’m f—” Her leg crumpled. She braced for the cold snow, but he’d crossed the space between them in a blur of movement, catching her inches before impact.
Stunned, she stared openmouthed as he set her on her feet. This close she noted every detail. His hair was just long enough to tangle her fingers into, and the urge to do so was a potent thing. His bare chest was a solid muscled wall, and her fingers flexed where they rested, trailing through a smattering of dark hairs.
“Why haven’t you healed yet?” he asked, oblivious to her wandering thoughts.
“What? Oh, I…”
He leaned forward, breathing deeply at the curve of her neck.
“Did you seriously just sniff me?” she asked, shocked at the strangeness of the past twenty-four hours.
“Yes, I was just getting your scent.”
“Scent?” she asked, bewildered.
“Shifters are strange,” she muttered to herself.
“You’re a shifter, too.”
“So I’ve been told,” she grumbled, still hardly believing it herself.
“Though you’ve never changed, have you?” He continued, not giving her a chance to answer. “Your father left you vulnerable. He has been foolish keeping you away so long. He’s left you weak. You’ll need your wolf to protect yourself.”
“Why are you out here alone? Unprotected? You should rest. You will need to have healed enough before the next full moon, for the change to go smoothly.”
His reference to change had her refocusing on his words, and not on the expanse of his chest. Tired of the wolf talk, she snapped, “I’m going home.”
He frowned. “Is that not home?” He gestured in the direction of the old farmhouse from which she’d escaped.
“No, those people are strangers to me. I don’t trust them. They took me away from my home.”
“You are the alpha’s daughter. No one will hurt you there.”
“That man is not my father. My father is”—she swallowed the lump in her throat—“is dead.”
Wiping the tears from her eyes, he murmured, “Don’t cry.”
Don’t cry? Don’t cry? “Why not?” Katalina stepped back from his hold, not caring about her wobbling feet. “I watched my parents die last night.” She stared at the ground, not seeing the snow-covered earth, but the crash. “Wolves attacked, almost killing me, and then I woke up in a strange bed, with strange people telling me I’m a shifter, and that I need to come back because my blood is pure and they want me to keep the line going. I turned eighteen yesterday. The last thing on my mind is children, and I most certainly will not be told whom I’m supposed to marry. And that man who claims to be my father… Where’s the proof? He doesn’t even look like me. For all I know, he’s just some nut job.”
Katalina sucked in a deep breath, lifting her eyes from the ground to meet his. “What better reason is there to cry?” Her cheeks heated as she realized she’d ranted to a complete stranger and told him things she maybe shouldn’t have.
He studied her. “Very well. If you’d like to go home, I’ll take you, but first you need to go back and heal.”
“What? Really?” She hadn’t expected that answer. She’d expected him to run for the hills after all she’d said.
“Yes, that’s what I said, isn’t it?”
“You intrigue me.”
“That’s not a reason.”
“Yes, it is.”
“You are very frustrating,” she laughed, surprised she still had it in her to. Around him, things seemed a little better. Her reaction to him was confusing, and Katalina added it to her mental list of things that didn’t make sense.
Shaking her head, Katalina wrapped her arms around herself, trying to get warm.
“You are cold,” he stated.
“Right, time for you to go back.” He scooped her into his arms.
“Put me down!”
“Shush!” he growled at Arne. To her he said, “You’ll only do yourself more damage. I’ll carry you back.”
“You can’t just go around picking people up without permission!”
“Do you have a problem with me carrying you?”
“Well, yes,” she muttered.
“Why?” he asked.
“You have no clothes on!”
He laughed at her. It rumbled in his chest and did funny things to her heart.
“You’ll have to get used to that. Being naked is just part of life when you’re a shifter.”
“Aren’t you cold?”
“A little, when I’m like this, but as a wolf, no. You’ll see how strong and resilient we are, after you’ve changed.”
“I’m not sure I want to be a wolf,” Katalina whispered, looking away from his face.
“Now that, Katalina, you have no choice in. Even if you lived away from the pack again, you’d still change. It’s a part of you, your blood. You’ll feel different after.”
“If you say so.”
“I’ll leave you here. The young boy is coming.”
“Oh, okay,” she hesitated, not wanting him to leave.
He put her down and ran off.
“Wait!” she called to his distant figure.
He paused, his voice whispering through the trees. “Yes?”
Shit, what do I say? “What’s your name?”
“Bass. Bass Evernight.”
“Bass Evernight,” she whispered, liking the sound of his name.
“See you soon, Katalina Winter.” His promise wrapped around her, like silk against skin. She held it close to her heart, wondering when they’d next meet.
© Rachel M Raithby