Rylie is Alpha: the leader of the werewolves. They’re an endangered species living in a sanctuary, and she’s guarded them for two peaceful years.
The peace is shattered when somebody sends Rylie a threatening silver bullet. A new member of the pack goes missing. And to make things worse, her inner wolf is strangely attracted to her boyfriend’s brother, leaving her torn between the love of two men–one of them a werewolf, and the other a former hunter.
The forests of Gray Mountain were filled with shrieks and howls. Hunter was pitted against wolf. The soil absorbed splashing blood as gunfire echoed off of the rocks.
A woman, tall and dark-skinned with blazing eyes, dragged her son onto the rocks ringing the top of the mountain. Together, they approached the swollen moon.
“Where’s your girlfriend?” Eleanor demanded, shaking Seth’s arm hard.
“I don’t know,” he said through gritted teeth.
He was telling the truth. He really didn’t know that Rylie was watching from the trees.
She circled the battle silently, searching for a way in without getting shot. Her pack was getting killed as she watched, but she couldn’t do anything without risking Seth.
Her paws gripped the earth. Her nose tilted to the air.
The wind smelled of blood and bullets.
Eleanor shook her son again. “Rylie! Come and get him!” Her voice echoed over the yelping wolves.
The sight of Eleanor’s hand on her son filled Rylie with cold fury.
The power of the wolf’s muscles launched her from the trees and onto the rocks atop the mountain. Eleanor raised the shotgun, but Rylie bit before she could fire.
The feel of her teeth sinking into Eleanor’s leg was fleeting, but satisfying. Rylie jerked the older woman off her feet, and another wolf jumped onto the rocks to help—Abel. He was out for his mother’s blood.
But Eleanor wriggled free of them and smashed the shotgun into Seth’s gut.
Both wolves froze.
“Get down, Abel,” Eleanor commanded, and he could only obey or watch his brother get shot. When he slunk far enough away to satisfy her, she faced Rylie. “Change back.”
A few moments later, she was human. Blond hair hung around her bare shoulders. Her heated skin steamed.
Eleanor pressed her gun harder into Seth’s stomach and grinned an evil grin. “Walk to the top. Do it. Go on! Call your gods down, and tell them to save you!”
Rylie ascended, feet melting the ice. Late spring air kissed her bare arms with frosty wind.
Gray Mountain was supposed to be the seat of the gods, but Rylie never believed it. Not really. And yet, if she was the Alpha—the leader of the wolves, the one who could save them all—was it really so hard to believe there might be more than that, too?
She reached the top and stretched her arms toward the moon.
It was waiting. Expectant.
Her boyfriend watched her from below with desperate eyes, silently begging for her to save herself.
“Sorry, Seth,” Rylie whispered.
And she jumped.
Later, Rylie would try to make sense of what happened after she plummeted off of Gray Mountain’s peak.
She should have been bashed at the bottom of the cliff. She should have broken every bone in her body and died. But that obviously hadn’t been the case. Her memory was pretty blurry on the facts, but her survival was undeniable.
She was also certain that someone had spoken to her. Rylie had only the vaguest sense of what they said, but she knew it was apologetic. Something about how the werewolf ability wasn’t meant to be a curse.
Shouldn’t there have been a face to go with that voice?
All Rylie remembered clearly was the moon hanging low in the sky. She remembered being bathed in silver light and a weight lifting from her chest.
She had been given a gift: the ability to change into a werewolf at will, rather than being chained to the cycles of the full and new moon. It was liberation from the monstrous hunger.
But years later, she still had no idea who had done her such a favor.
When Rylie climbed to the top of the mountain, she wasn’t the same girl who had fallen.
She dragged Eleanor off of the cliff, and the woman died at the bottom of the rocks in the way that Rylie hadn’t. The smell of her blood washed over the breeze.
Maybe she was imagining it, but the moon seemed satisfied.
She embraced Seth and Abel, went home to Aunt Gwyneth’s ranch, and they worked together all summer to convert it into a sanctuary for the other werewolves who had survived.
Then they were supposed to live happily ever after.
Three months later.
Rylie sat on the side of the bed, struggling to hold back tears as Seth packed for college. He had been putting it off for weeks, but he had to move into the dorms that weekend; there was no more time to delay.
He didn’t have much to take—Seth was leaving his guns behind, so he only had a few outfits and the spiked plugs he kept in his pierced ear.
“I’ll call you as soon as I have my new address,” he said, stuffing a pair of jeans into his backpack. Wind chimes sang softly outside their open window. “We can write letters to each other again. It’s going to be fun.”
Fun? Rylie bit her bottom lip and picked at her thumbnail. How could being hundreds of miles away from her boyfriend be considered fun?
He caught her expression and dropped to his knees in front of her.
“Oh, come on, Rylie. Don’t cry.”
“I just don’t think I can do this without you.”
Seth kissed her. His lips tasted salty.
He cupped her face in both of his hands and pressed their foreheads together. “You’re Alpha, Rylie. You don’t need me to control all of the werewolves. You can do it alone.”
“But I don’t want to do it alone.”
“Abel will help you,” Seth said.
She sniffled. “Abel isn’t you.”
“Yeah. He’s not. And don’t you forget that.” He flashed his lopsided smile. “You’re going to be okay. I promise.”
What was the point in arguing with him? He was leaving for college whether Rylie liked it or not, and she would have to finish off her last two years of high school responsible for two dozen werewolves—alone.
“I love you,” she said.
His lingering kiss was all the response she needed.
Abel took his brother to the airport. It was a long drive into the city, and they didn’t talk much. They hadn’t really talked at all since they worked together to kill their own mother.
It felt strange, knowing that Eleanor wasn’t out there anymore. After haunting them for so long—trying to kill Rylie, keeping Seth under her trailer, and stabbing Abel—he wasn’t quite ready to believe the nightmare was over.
He worried, just a little, that saying her name out loud might bring her ghost back.
They parked in the airport garage.
Seth sat in the passenger’s seat of the Chevy Chevelle, backpack in his lap, and didn’t move. A long silence stretched between them.
When two minutes passed without Seth getting out of the car, Abel’s lips spread into a forced grin. “You want me to walk you through security, bro? Need me to hold your hand?”
“You’ll look after Rylie, right?” Seth asked.
Abel blinked. “That’s the deal, isn’t it? I look after the ranch while she does school and homework. She handles the changes on the full and new moons. We already worked this out.”
“But you’re not going to look after her too closely.”
Seth’s expression was deadly serious. Abel’s shoulders tensed.
They studied each other from across the car. They might as well have been separated by a chasm.
“I’ll look after her,” Abel said finally.
They shook hands.
Seth climbed out and went to catch his plane.
Rylie was sitting on the back step when Abel returned to the ranch. She twisted twine around the stems of dried leaves to form an autumn bouquet, and he stopped at the bottom of the hill to watch. She was absorbed in her arrangement and didn’t seem to realize she was being watched.
She had changed since they returned from Gray Mountain. Not physically—she had the same almost-white hair, skinny legs, and heart-shaped face. But there was a new aura about her. Abel couldn’t help thinking that she was haloed by a powerful energy. The Alpha spirit.
Abel was supposed to look after his brother’s beautiful, sweet, deadly werewolf girlfriend for two years until she graduated high school—as long as he didn’t get too close to her. What did that even mean?
“It’s going to be a long goddamn two years,” Abel muttered to himself, slamming the Chevelle’s door.
Rylie looked up at the sound and smiled. She smiled to see him. It lit up her whole face.
Yeah. A really long two years.
And yet, somehow, twenty-one months, seven seasons, and forty-eight moons passed.