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       Her Wolf, p.1

         Part #1 of Westervelt Wolves series by Rebecca Royce
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Her Wolf


  Her Wolf

  The Westervelt Wolves, Book One

  Rebecca Royce

  Copyright © 2011-2017 Rebecca Royce

  Published by Rebecca Royce

  Austin, Tx

  rebeccaroyce.com

  * * *

  Cover by Lyn Forester

  Formatting by AG Formatting

  * * *

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

  This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

  Manufactured in the USA

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  About the Author

  Also by Rebecca Royce

  1

  Ashlee Morrison automatically searched for him in the crowd. When she found him, she stopped breathing for a second as pleasure swirled within her chest. With his dark mane and his proud posture, he would have stood out even if he didn’t avoid the others. She walked closer, just to the edge of where he was visible to her, careful not to draw attention to herself.

  Loneliness hung like a tangible cloak around him. Ashlee chuckled at her crazy thoughts. God, if anyone heard her inner dialogue, they’d think she was talking about a man, not a wolf.

  She strolled around the outskirts of the Polloza Park and Zoo’s large wolf enclosure and stopped every few feet to look through the fence. In the last week, the wolves had started playing together like puppies. They ran after one another, the bigger ones pouncing on top of the smaller ones as they nipped and bit. It wasn’t really play—she knew that—it was all about getting the attention of one of the females who was in heat. That’s what the zoologists explained to her yesterday when she’d asked about the strange pack behavior. Well, it seemed strange to her anyway.

  But who was she to judge anything as odd or different? If she hadn’t literally lost her mind and started ranting about impossible scenarios to anyone who would listen, she would now be finished with college and not living at back at home with her mother and father. She’d have a real job instead of her volunteer one at the local zoo. The doctors her father had taken her to see had helped her. She could finally tell the difference between real and imaginary.

  Real was day-to-day life. Work, family, and friends were the things she needed to focus on. They actually existed. Neurotic daydreams of her sister being locked up in a cage were nothing more than manifestations by an inner psyche that was still devastated by Tom’s betrayal. Coupled with the internal jealousy the doctors insisted she had towards her sister, which was evidently, in Ashlee’s head, a recipe for disaster. Even if she had never been aware of any green-eyed feelings towards Summer before the episode six months ago. She believed the psychiatrists; if they said she was envious, she wasn’t really in any position to argue with them. They were highly sought-after professionals and, to Ashlee’s relief, at the last session they had told her family she was doing better.

  Which was exactly why she didn’t tell anyone about the feelings of claustrophobia that nearly overwhelmed her each time she got too close to the wolf cage or about the strange male voice she heard in her head on an almost daily basis now.

  A stab of pain pierced her stomach and she pressed her hand there. Nothing like hunger to take her out of her inner musings and back to reality. She needed to stay in the here-and-now and, moreover, she shouldn’t have skipped lunch. At least her appetite had returned; that must mean she was getting back to normal. She leaned against the outside wall of the enclosure and tried to enjoy nature’s mating show.

  Not all of the pack joined in the fun. “The lone wolf,” as she had come to think of him did not seem in the least bit interested in the pack’s antics. In fact, he looked bored. The others avoided him as if he was diseased. Maybe he was. Didn’t animals know when one of their kind was sick and avoided them? Even kill the one who was unwell? Was that true for pack animals? She wasn’t an animal expert, just a volunteer whose job was to point the visitors towards the gift shop or the restroom if they asked for it.

  The thought of him being ostracized, or worse, put down, made her sad but she shoved it away. Sad thoughts were not allowed to form in her mind; they got out of control in there. She pulled her olive green fleece volunteer jacket tighter around her to protect against the cold fall breeze. For some reason over the last few months she’d come to think of him as hers, which was stupid, of course, but she’d adopted him in her heart anyway. Even convinced herself that it was his voice she could hear. His intonations that watched her walk and worried about her health and well-being while ranting about being locked up and betrayed. Ashlee supposed it could be worse. Her delusions were at least kind to her and concerned for her welfare. They weren’t asking her to shave her head or kill anyone.

  A woman pulled on her sleeve and caught her attention. “Excuse me, miss, which way is the restroom? My son’s had an accident.”

  Ashlee looked at the mother and her little boy. Thirty-five, maybe older, with brown hair that already held some grey. She guessed the boy was around three years old. She noted his Halloween costume—a pumpkin—had a urine stain down the front. Ashlee smiled at his big round face and dimpled cheeks.

  “Straight down that path and to the left.” She hoped she didn’t look sad. Cute kid.

  “Thank you, pretty lady.” The three-year-old boy gave her a big grin and pulled his mother toward the bathroom path.

  Pretty lady? Not lately. Twenty-two years old and so tired, she could barely see straight. Her red hair, once strawberry blonde, seemed to have dulled along with her brain. With bland green eyes, pale skin, and a figure that needed another ten pounds to be curvy, she wound up looking sick, instead of slender.

  She cleared her throat and looked at the wolf. These days all she needed were those brief glances to feel content, another fact she kept from her team of psychiatrists.

  Her father had signed her on for this job even as she sobbed in her bed every day.

  He’d thought it would get her mind off Tom and keep her from having another incident. He was right. Her summer volunteer position had extended into the fall, and now, two weeks from Halloween, she hadn’t earned a dime, but she no longer mourned the five year relationship that had ended so badly. More importantly, she wasn’t having any more strange manifestations of impending doom. She assumed Tom had married the mother of his almost-time-to-be-born child by now.

  Ashlee shrugged and let the memories fade. She walked to the gate of the wolf pen and stared in. Usually, she didn’t get close to the animal cages; it felt invasive to do so and sometimes she would swear it felt like she was personally trapped in the cage. The animals spent all day with people pushed up against their enclosures pointing and staring. She preferred to give them some space. She blinked and squinted. The lone wolf had red fur in its coat. Why hadn’t she noticed that before? Because she hadn’t been able to focus on anything before and she was going out of her way to not spend too much time focused on the lone wolf.

  Ashlee smiled, and the wolf raised its eyes to look at her. She blushed, which made her feel ridiculous. He was a wolf, for God’s sake, but his eyes looked so
human, so compassionate. That compassion drew her in. She leaned closer to the cage. She snorted.

  For the last ten minutes, she’d done nothing but personify animals. Talk about desperate.

  Maybe it was time to go back to school.

  “Can’t be fun for you to be so alone in there. Maybe you would have been happier with a different pack.” She’d just broken her cardinal rule and spoken to the animal. She closed her eyes at the slip-up.

  Ha! Not this pack, that’s for sure. My family actually walks on two legs some of the time. I’d love to take you to meet them. I bet if I got you there, you might actually smile. I hate that half-grimace thing you seem so fond of.

  Ashlee jumped back from the enclosure, so startled she fell on her behind. Had the wolf just talked to her in her mind or had her hallucinations gotten worse? She stood and looked around her. Her cheeks burned. No patrons or other volunteers were about to see to see her act like a lunatic, which was fortuitous or she’d soon be fired from her volunteer position.

  She cleared her throat and looked around again. No one nearby, just the trees with their colored leaves, the wind, and the wolves. Her butt hurt from her earlier fall. She narrowed her eyes to stare at the wolf. “Did you say something?” She groaned. Why was she playing into this? You don’t talk to figments of your imagination.

  Did you hear me, little one? The wolf’s ears perked up, and he stood up on all fours to walk towards the side of the enclosure she pressed against. Is it possible you have been here with me all this time and you can actually hear me? Why have you not answered me before?

  She should put a stop to this right now and walk away. But, she didn’t. Her feet felt glued to where they stood on the ground. She felt a light wind pick up and blow her hair off her shoulders. Not knowing what else to do, she swallowed the nervous bile that had formed in her throat. “I don’t know how I hear you, but yes, I can. Unless I’ve cracked up, which is most likely what’s going on here. That’s why I don’t answer you. I don’t want to be crazy anymore.”

  Crazy? You haven’t cracked up. Perhaps I have. Her wolf sniffed the air and walked closer. He howled and Ashlee took a step backwards. That smell. Your scent. I know it. You never get close enough to let me smell you. The spell, it must have limited my other powers. My sense of smell is worse than some humans. Could it be?

  Ashlee’s heart pounded in her chest. “Wow, we’re really having a conversation, aren’t we?”

  You…you are…mine.

  She looked around again to be sure that no one approached. “What does that mean?”

  How could you be here so often, for so long, and I did not know? I will kill Rex and any others who inflicted this intolerable state upon me.

  Kill? Ashlee’s pulse sped up. Her palms grew sweaty and she wiped them on her pants. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.”

  No, no little one, you cannot leave me in this pen. You must get me out and return with me to my home where my pack can restore me. I need to tell my family about the one who has betrayed us.

  “Get you out of the cage? Are you nuts? See, I knew it was just a matter of time before my delusions wanted me to do something that was against the law. No. I’m in charge of my own mind. I get to say what I will and won’t do. This whole thing goes so far beyond the realm of normal I can’t even see the border anymore. I can’t get you out of the cage. I can’t let a wolf run around the park where there are children. They’ll lock me up and shoot you.”

  I would never hurt a child. But you still believe I am a mere animal and for some reason you think you are not mentally well. Not until I return home can I show you otherwise. The wolf lay down on his belly. His head pressed to the ground. Damn.

  Ashlee’s eyes filled with tears at the distress in his voice and the defeat in his body language. It had been a few weeks since she’d gone on a crying binge and she didn’t want to start now. “I have to go. I’m sorry.” Why was she apologizing to her phantasm? She wiped the one tear that escaped from her eye with her hand and turned to go.

  Wait. Her wolf growled and stood up. Ashlee turned back to him, her eyes wide. Do not cry. I cannot stand it. Please, beautiful girl, won’t you tell me your name?

  “My name? Oh.” She blushed. “My name is Ashlee Morrison.” She started to leave again but whirled around. “What is your name?” At least she could give her delirium a label.

  My name is Tristan Kane. My family calls me Trip.

  She raised her eyebrow. They’d had a kid in her high school who had been called Trip. She hadn’t realized it was such a popular nickname. “You have a beautiful name like Tristan and they call you Trip? Hey, wait a second, a guy I knew with that nickname, they called him that for a reason. He was the third son in his family. Is that true for you?

  Are you the third son?”

  I am. I’m sorry I am moping around. Five months I have been in this cage. Please don’t worry about this tonight. We can sort it out tomorrow when you come.

  She shook her head. “I’m not coming tomorrow. It’s my day off, and then the next day is Sunday so I won’t be back until Monday.”

  That long? Tristan shook his head. Do not worry for me. I will not have you upset. Ashlee, whatever you do, don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t real. What is happening is very complicated, but explainable just the same. I am real and you can hear me because you belong to me.

  Ashlee turned and ran as if someone chased her. She didn’t turn around to look at Tristan. When she reached her black Lexus RX hybrid SUV, she swung open the door and drove her monstrous car as if her life depended on it. What should have been a fifteen-minute drive home, she made in less than five minutes. It wasn’t ‘til she got home she remembered her shift wasn’t over for another hour. She was sure to get a stern lecture.

  Tristan paced the pen for maybe the thirtieth time that evening. How could his mate have been standing outside this godforsaken cage for five months without him smelling her? It was the spell. That had to be the reason. Traitorous Rex had trapped him in this form and taken away all of his extrasensory abilities, which now made him the weakest, most pathetic wolf in existence.

  A wolf trapped with human senses. What kind of wolf-shifter didn’t automatically recognize their mate? He sighed in frustration. If he’d been in his human form he would have pounded on something. But since his only options for relief were the non-shifter wolves in the cage with him, he was out of luck for stress relief partners.

  His mate. But, God, she was beautiful. Ashlee. He’d watched her for months now.

  Every week wasting away and, truthfully, he worried for her health and before today it had concerned him that he’d been so obsessed with her. Now, at least, his level of interest made sense. Was she unwell? The healers could fix it, whatever it was. She was Wolf, even though she didn’t know it yet. The pieces were finally fitting together. She was the right age. She must have been sent away for protection. His pack had come to believe all their females were dead. But his mate lived. It was too extraordinary to believe.

  He would convince her to let him out and then he would take her home. She was so young, but she was his. As soon as he got out of this zoo, he would guard her until he had no breath left in him. His body shook at the thought. If he lived another hundred years, no one would ever cage him again or keep him from Ashlee.

  Ashlee struggled to wake. She opened her eyes and tried to calm her breathing. Her heart pounded hard in her chest and tears fell down her cheeks. Tristan, her wolf. She’d dreamt of him. Not dreamt, she corrected herself, she’d had another episode and this time it hadn’t been about her sister Summer, it was Tristan who had featured in it. But he hadn’t looked like a wolf—no he’d been a man, but she had known it was him. Tall, with brown hair that held specks of red in it. His nose long and regal, bordered by cheekbones a GQ model would envy. He had a five o’clock shadow across his chin. His brown eyes were hooded and sad. Men were on their way for him, the men who had trapped him in his wolf form, and they would kill
him if they found him. They would finish the job they’d started months ago.

  How did she know this? The dream or hallucination or whatever it was had seemed so real. No, she corrected herself, it didn’t just seem real, it was real. Tristan had insisted she wasn’t crazy. But wasn’t that just what a senseless illusion would say? Ashlee closed her eyes against the conflict that raged in her head. There were two options. Either she needed to be institutionalized and watched by professional doctors who could help her sort out real from imaginary or she was sane and all of this was really happening. Did mentally ill patients know they were not well? Didn’t the very fact that she questioned what was happening to her mean she was still able to tell what was true and what was not?

  She opened her eyes. She needed to make a decision about this immediately. If there were men after Tristan then she was running out of time.

  Ashlee didn’t hear any noises in the house; her parents weren’t back from their evening out yet. They were out at a gala where her father was receiving yet another award. He was the head of plastic surgery at their local hospital. She wasn’t sure where he got the time to do all the things that he did. He devoted hours to pro bono surgeries that helped restore the facial features of burn victims. It was nice that he was getting recognized, but she really could have used her mother’s advice and she couldn’t help but wish they had gotten home already. Her mother would know what to do and, ironically, Ashlee wasn’t sure that Victoria Morrison would doubt her sanity.

  An image from her childhood swirled into her mind, taking over and for a moment Ashlee felt like she was there again. She’d sat on the bed, eight years old, while Victoria brushed her long strawberry-blonde hair. Summer lay next to her, blonde and blue eyed like Victoria, almost their mother’s perfect copy. Ashlee had felt disturbed by the horror movie they’d watched—or at least she felt like she should have been bothered by the graphic images, since all of the other girls at the sleepover had been scared. She asked her mother if there were such things as monsters.

 
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