Survive. Become The Wolf.
Janie’s dreams of a normal life are gone. She’s the sole living descendant of the Lycan Alpha. She’s also supposed to be the one to cure the pack of the Lycan infection. If only they knew how far from a cure she was.
Hidden within is The Wolf. Waiting. Watching.
Killing Elin should have brought an end to the uprising within the pack, but her army has a new leader, and they’re coming for Janie. But outsiders aren’t the only threat Janie must face. Her sister is set on destroying her, and as loyalties split, Janie and her wolf are left questioning if there’s anyone they can trust.
After years of abuse and eventual abandonment, Janie wants to forget her parents ever existed. Moving to her mom’s hometown of Everod doesn’t make that easy. The town has dangerous secrets. They’ve been waiting for Janie and if she hopes to survive, she’ll need to confront the truth of who and what she really is.
You’ll die curing them.
I pressed my hands over my ears, trying to block out my step-brother’s words. I didn’t want to hear them, to think about them. They no longer held any truth.
Now … well, death might be a simpler and less painful option than the experiments the Council would want to perform.
I stared into the watery depths a few feet below me. The pool of water rippled with the force of the waterfall. I could make it happen. Right here. Right now. This was my chance to end it all before they took the choice from me.
Icy water enfolded me. I gulped in a breath, letting water flood my lungs. A familiar pain ballooned in my chest, pushing against the panic that surged through me. The thunder of water melded with the pounding of my heart. My arms flailed until one hand grazed something warm—a hand—and grasped it like a lifeline.
I surged above the surface and struggled to suck in air. Tristan used his hold on me to yank me from the water and onto the grass. Water spewed from my mouth, and I coughed as my body heaved in agony. The pull of air burned nearly as much as drowning had.
Sitting up brought on another coughing fit, and I doubled over, expelling more water. Shivering, I leaned into him and immediately, heat seeped through my damp clothes, warming me. When I finished hacking, he twisted around and swept my long black hair back so he could see my face. His eyes were a gorgeous crystal clear blue that made me want to sink into them.
“Janie, what happened? Are you all right?”
I nodded and burrowed my head into his shoulder, seeking more of his warmth. My eyes flickered over to the waterfall, disappointment settling into the empty pit of my stomach. If I’d stayed in for a few more minutes.
“Mind telling me what that was about?” Tristan asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You jump—fully clothed—into a freezing cold mountain lake, the same one your mother tried to kill you in a couple of weeks back, and I shouldn’t wonder why?”
Okay, so he had a point, but I didn’t want to tell him the truth.
“Talk to me. What’s going on? You’re so quiet lately.” He smiled when I raised my brows. “Quieter than usual.”
“I was testing it.”
He sighed. It’s what he did every time I mentioned the infection. He didn’t get it.
What I did to Elin … I hadn’t been human.
Except I was.
I was still Janie and, with the exception of that afternoon, completely normal. Or as normal as a girl could get with a shape-shifting family that included a mad scientist, a homicidal mother, and one, possibly two, wicked half-sisters.
Yet, a normal eighteen-year-old girl doesn’t possess the strength to decapitate a person with her bare hands.
“You don’t understand,” I said, shaking my head.
I still struggled to remember the details of what happened with Elin—or Helena as the people in Everod knew her as. Images would flash through my mind, but they never made sense. There were blinding swirls of color then everything would go black and white. I could feel the pain of her biting me, but not see it. The memory of the metallic thickness of her blood filling my mouth still made me gag. But the clearest image of my fight with Elin was of the end—my fingers tangled in her hair as I ripped her head from her body.
Tristan drew his eyebrows down, deepening the crease between them. “What did you think would happen? You would jump in the water and suddenly shift?”
“I thought maybe I changed last time because I was about to die.”
“So you thought you’d give it a try? What if I hadn’t followed you up here? You could have died.”
“I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s just I don’t get why you’re changing, but I’m still me.”
“We talked about this before,” he said. “I was already infected. Everything was already inside me, so it’s less of an adjustment for my body to make.”
A calming sensation flowed through me, emanating from where our bodies touched. I pushed away from him and stood. There were times I loved how he simply held me and everything else faded away, but I was too frustrated to want that.
“You heard Elin and Ericka.” I refused to use the terms mother and grandmother. “I’m infected. So why can’t I shift? Why aren’t I healing faster?” I paced in front of him, stepping over his outstretched legs with each pass.
“If you want those answers, you know who to talk to.”
“There’s no way I’m going to Ericka.” Not that my grandmother would be willing to help me after I killed Elin.
“Why are you so worried about this? Ericka told us you’re going to be more powerful than any of us. You bringing me back to life is proof she’s telling the truth this time.”
“What if she’s wrong? What if we’re wrong? Maybe you healed yourself.”
“We’re not wrong. I’ve healed from serious stuff before, but no Lycan has ever returned from the dead.” He pulled his legs in and pushed up from the ground. Stepping into my path, he lightly grasped my shoulders, stopping my nervous walk. “When we heal, it hurts—the tightening and stretching of skin over a cut, or the shifting of broken bones. I don’t feel that anymore, not even when Seth smashed my nose yesterday. Something inside of me has changed.”
“So why not me?”
“I don’t know.” His fingers skimmed down my arms and melded with mine. “There’s nothing you can do, so don’t stress yourself.”
I snorted. “Yeah, easy for you to say. The Council isn’t going to be voting on whether to kill you off or not.”
“They’re not going to kill you. And even if they decide that’s the only option, they’ll have to go through your family and friends. So, at least we’d die together.” He smiled and tugged me into a hug.
“That’s really morbid, you know.”
“I thought chicks loved the sappy ‘till death stuff.”
I freed a hand and lightly pinched his arm. “First, I’m not a chick and second, have I ever seemed like I’m into sappy crap?”
“Okay, you’re not a chick, but I think you secretly like all that love stuff.” He bent his head and let his mouth hover a breath away from mine.
“Only from you,” I said, then closed the distance between us.
His lips were warm as they molded to mine. He let go of my other hand and burrowed his fingers through my hair, gently increasing the pressure of the kiss. He tasted of his familiar mint toothpaste, and the tingles I had become accustomed to whenever I was near him raced through me.
I stayed wrapped in his embrace, relaxing into the comfort of him. He pulled away first, his eyes moving over my head, scanning the trees behind me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It sounds like someone’s coming.” Even as he said it, the sound of voices carrying along the breeze reached me.
Tristan’s brother, Seth, and my stepbrother, Justin, emerged from the mouth of the path as Tristan dropped his arms and stepped back.
Seth rolled his eyes. “Get a room you guys, this is a public place.”
Justin’s lips twitched before his eyes darkened and he punched his friend’s arm. “That’s my sister.”
Seth sidestepped and rubbed his bicep. The smile on his face spoke of how half-hearted the punch had been.
“Whatever. Just be glad you didn’t have to shadow the two of them.” He gave a laugh and dodged Justin’s next blow.
Tristan stepped behind me, obviously hoping to keep Justin’s wrath from falling on him.
“Enough,” Seth said after Justin managed to chase him around the water’s edge. It was useless for Justin to even try catching a Lycan. They weren’t superhuman, but they definitely moved faster than a regular person.
Justin huffed but stopped and came over to where Tristan and I stood watching them.
“What happened to you?” He took in my still wet clothes.
“Oh, you know me. I love swimming.”
I hated when he used his you-can’t-hide-from-me tone.
“Drop it.” I didn’t want him knowing how stupid I’d been. Having Tristan know was bad enough. With Justin, I’d never have any peace from constant hovering.
“What are you guys doing up here?” Tristan asked.
Seth froze, his smile faded to tight-lipped expression. “Rach is at the cabin.”
My stomach rolled, and I was glad I skipped breakfast. Rachel was the last person I expected to come see me—and the last I wanted to see. What did she want? For a moment, I let myself wonder if she wanted to see me because she was my half-sister or to make sure I was all right. As quickly as the thought surfaced, it was drowned out by her voice blaming us for the death of our half-brother Kyle.
“Screw her,” Tristan said.” Janie isn’t going to listen to her crap again.”
“It’s okay.” I slipped my hand into his. “I’ll talk to her. I need to do it at some point, right?”
“No, you don’t. You don’t owe her anything.”
“Yeah, but still, she’s … my sister.” I shrugged a shoulder. “Let’s get it over with.”
His fingers squeezed mine. I walked straight, refusing to lean on him. Compared to facing my mother—knowing all the while she intended to kill me—having a conversation with Rachel would be easy. I tried to form the words I would say to her, but it was pointless. I’d never been articulate when under pressure.
Tristan’s mom, Katrina, was waiting on the porch when we walked up. She came down the steps to meet us and gave me a half hug.
“You don’t need to—” her words cut off when I raised a hand to stop her.
I’d apparently convinced everyone I was extremely fragile, ready to break at the drop of a single word. That theory was one I planned to change.
“I need to talk to her.”
The four steps felt like those of a gallows. Tristan followed behind me; close enough to support me, but far enough that I could still turn back. I opened the door.
“Janie,” Katrina called, and I glanced back at her. “She’s not alone. Lukas is with her.”
Awesome. A family reunion.