Paul woke screaming.
Well. His version of screaming. A bit different with no tongue. He tried to strangle the noise in his throat by clenching his teeth and it finally worked.
Breath rushed in and out of his lungs and he wiped at his face.
Wet with blood.
Panic gripped him as he fumbled for the light on his nightstand.
Several things hit the floor before he found the switch.
Wiping his face again, his heart stopped as he looked at his hand.
His head hit the headboard as he relaxed.
It was only sweat. Thank God.
He counted to a hundred to try to calm his erratic pulse. And then did it again until he could breathe normally.
His future was Hail Mary’d that day. His life was thrown as hard as possible into the wind with who knew what on the other end.
He could have died. If he were human, he probably would have.
Some days he wondered if surviving was a good thing or a bad thing.
Things were better with Drew, the new Alpha—an immeasurable amount better. More than a decade after he was ostracized from the pack, Drew returned to take his rightful place at the head of it. Challenging his father, Drew killed Magnum in an alpha challenge.
It was quick. Decisive.
The fact someone had been poisoning Magnum for some time played little into the outcome of the fight. Paul had his suspicions, but he said nothing—warned no one. Magnum’s death proved far quicker than Paul had wanted.
The man who mutilated him should have suffered. He didn’t like having those feelings but they were there. They were there for Magnum and for the five wolves who’d stolen his future.
They were all dead—every one of them. Taken out because they couldn’t be trusted. Killed because they’d decided their hate was worth fighting for.
They’d been wrong.
Sometimes Paul wouldn’t remember they were dead. Sometimes getting stuck in the past was as simple as slipping on an old coat full of holes. The illusion of warmth clung to his foggy brain but he was so cold. His faith in others? Fleeting, so he had a hard time putting his trust in anyone.
He shook his head and ran his fingers over his short blond hair, making sure it was still cropped close to his skull.
Short. He always kept his hair short now.
Short enough no one could grab it.
Never again would it be used against him.
Staring at his hands in front of him, he measured their width. Their size was the same as the other wolves in the pack, but his hands didn’t pull the same weight. He was damaged goods. Unable to speak to anyone, he looked at the nightstand to find his only method of communicating. Two things which hadn’t fallen were his notepad and pen he kept with him all the time. So he could write clipped messages to people when he had to communicate.
It got the job done, but the necessity left him even more disconnected. Relaxing his biceps, he let his hands fall to his lap then closed his eyes, as he tried to focus past the nightmare.
The pack had hope again—stronger than ever thanks to the deaths. They’d found unity and faith in their Alpha. Hell, they even found faith in each other, in their pack, first decimated by a madman then wounded by another.
The members of the Black Hills Wolves were coming home. He was happy to be a part of the growth. Happy to help welcome them back. He’d stayed for so many years with the hope of witnessing the resurrection of their pack.
Never his, because he was separate from them. Lesser. He’d never be Alpha. Sure as hell wasn’t a dominant wolf by any stretch of the word. Barely even a beta with the females of the pack. He was relegated to being an omega. A weakling. Yes they all told him he was needed. Wanted even. They told him omegas made the pack stronger, they helped—but how? No, he didn’t see it.
He shook his head and rubbed it one more time.
The night was so silent all around him.
Where he always stayed. In the silence.
Most days it still felt as if he were free falling toward a black future with nothing to hold onto. Where he’d land, he didn’t know.
All he prayed for each night and every morning? To find when he landed—he wouldn’t be alone.
Jennifer Kacey is a writer, mother, and business owner living with her miniman in Texas. She sings in the shower, plays piano in her dreams, and has to have a different color of nail polish every week. The best advice she’s ever been given? Find the real you and never settle for anything less.