Home > Lone Wolf Rising (The Winters Family Saga #1)

Lone Wolf Rising (The Winters Family Saga #1)
Author: Jami Brumfield

Chapter One

“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”

~William Jennings Bryan


The early morning chill was Rebecca Winter’s alarm clock; her body covered in goose bumps and little else. A shiver ran through her from head to toe as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She looked around noting the ever-brightening light of dawn. The splashes of reds, oranges, and pinks were a vibrant contrast against the dark sky. The brightness was winning and a part of her was grateful nighttime found its ending.

A metallic tang in her mouth caused a retching response from her stomach and she vomited. Evidence of the meal lay beside her head; a rabbit carcass ripped to shreds. A touch of sadness played across her mind as she felt pity for the animal’s lost life. The knowledge that she was; in a way, responsible for the animal’s death made matters worse. She caressed the soft fur and noticed the body was still warm. It was a stark contrast to her cold, shaky hands.

The reality of the day started crashing down on her. She turned her attention to figuring out where she was. A quick survey of her surroundings told her she wasn’t far from where her journey started last night. That inkling of knowledge caused her to wonder why her legs felt like she had ran twenty miles.

“Oh, my God!” Jackson Carter came to an abrupt stop behind Rebecca. His sudden movement kicked up a dusty sand storm that formed a cloud around her na**d body. “For all that is holy, Becca, put some clothes on!” He threw her a pair of worn jeans and a dark blue tank top. “You must be freezing.”

Rebecca snatched up the clothes quickly and covered her body. She tossed a quick glance over her shoulder at her old friend; thankful he came up behind her which allowed her a modicum of modesty. “Do you mind turning around Jacks?” Irritation flavored her words; the taste bittersweet.

He slapped his hand against his forehead, grinned, and spun around on his heels. “Sorry, you know your virtue’s safe with me.” The good natured humor lacing his words put her at ease for the first time since she woke up and having him there only helped to ease her disorientation. He was like a beacon in the early morning hours calling her home from a night of being lost at sea.

It really happened. Last night was the beginning of her new life; a life she knew would be troublesome to navigate, but she knew she was up for the challenge. She made the choice to become this supernatural creature. She knew there was no turning back. She wasn’t one of those people who claimed they were cursed; cried they were unfairly made the monster they became. No, she happily embraced the idea of becoming who she was now.

Rebecca slipped on her clothes with abnormal speed. He was right. The cold was beginning to affect her. Goosebumps had turned into shivers. She fluffed her wavy blond hair over her shoulders and smiled, “It’s safe to turn around now.”

She gave one last glance at the rabbit carcass, taking note of the circling birds overhead and the four legged scavengers surrounding them in four directions. Even the insects that covered the bloody area were serving a purpose. Nature worked quickly in cleaning up her mess. In a strange way it was reassuring. She said a small prayer for its soul as she followed Jacks back toward civilization.

During the short trek to Jackson’s vehicle Rebecca scanned the horizon, looking for signs of others like her. The oddness of the situation made her feel uneasy. It created a nagging feeling in her gut as she wondered where the others were. It was eerily quiet. It worried her and created a strange feeling that something was terribly wrong. She was positive that Dianna planned to be with her last night. They discussed it two days ago. Dianna was her sponsor; a good sponsor. After everything they had been through; it surprised Rebecca that Dianna was nowhere to be found. Hell, Dianna was practically a member of her family at this point.

The lack of her presence only increased the odd feeling that she was trying to overcome. When Dianna made a promise, she kept that promise. Her worry over her missing friend did little to block the memories that were coming back slowly from the night before. The physical and vivid memories twisted her insides, making her sick; again. She placed one hand on the hood of Jacks’ yellow Jeep as more of last night’s adventure pushed its way out of her stomach, out her throat, and onto the ground, narrowly missing her bare feet. She hadn’t even noticed her feet were bare until that moment.

Jacks groaned and headed toward the driver’s side of the Jeep. “Thanks for keeping that mess out of the vehicle.” He rolled down the passenger side window and grinned as he passed her a wet wipe. He was always grinning, always happy. It was a strange contradiction to the gift he had, but welcomed, nonetheless.

Rebecca rolled her sapphire blue eyes and took the white cloth with a weak smile. She used it to clean her face and mouth, surprised at the amount of dirt that covered the cloth when she was done. Blurred memories filled her mind but little came out clear, only the gut-wrenching pain of the transformation. The pain was something she didn’t think she would ever forget. Every nerve, fiber, and cell in her body had ripped, shredded apart and maneuvered into a new shape. She was sure that was something she would remember for a very long time. Rebecca had assumed her body would’ve shut down the pain receptors when it became unbearable, but that was not the case. She felt everything.

Hollywood and the romantic book industry greatly understated the idea of werewolves. After going through her first change last night she felt completely misled despite the preparation Dianna took in getting her ready. In fact she wasn’t entirely sure her organs found their right place in her body after changing back from a wolf to a human teenager. Her clothes didn’t fit the same way they had before last night. It was almost as if part of her was missing, an odd thought since even now, she could feel the wolf roaming around in her mind, sated after last night’s hunt.

She took a deep breath and straightened her body. She was grateful Jacks had insisted on accompanying her last night. He was an amazing friend. It was Jacks’ connection to the supernatural world that first got her introduced to Dianna and ultimately the bite that made her half wolf and half human.

“Becca, I don’t mean to rush you, but the sun is rising fast. Your family is going to know you didn’t come home last night if we don’t get going.” He revved the engine as she slid onto the cool leather seats. The eighties rock song, ‘Guilty of Love in the First Degree’ roared from the stereo. Rebecca quickly cranked down the music before her ear drums blew up. Obviously her hearing was improving, or at least getting stronger.

Jackson laughed nervously, “You okay?”

She shook her head, “not really, no. Sorry, the music hurts my ears and the light hurts my eyes…” As if on cue, he handed her a pair of sunglasses from the center console, grateful she accepted them without hesitation. She felt like she had just spent the night studying for the SATs. Her body shook nervously at the large amount of adrenaline still left in her body. She knew if she closed her eyes she would crash. “Everything is more intense. My body aches in places I never knew existed, and my head feels like someone is using my brain as a drum pad jamming out to the beat of 90’s heavy metal. I have to admit, I don’t remember ever feeling this horrible.”

“I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, but it’ll get easier… I think. I mean it’s not like I have any experience in the whole werewolf change, but I know my life got easier for me once I accepted what I could do.” He put the vehicle in drive as they headed home. He had no idea if it would or wouldn’t but she loved him for saying it regardless. The reality was he wasn’t the werewolf, she was. Dianna had assured Rebecca it would get easier as time went on.

Now in the break of dawn, she only prayed that was true. Rebecca knew, when she decided to do this, it wouldn’t be easy but she had hoped it was worth it. This was not a commitment she could undo, ever. For better or worse, she was committed to the werewolf.

Rebecca put on her shoes and settled in for the long ride home. The silence was thick between them. Jackson focused on the drive through the beginnings of rush hour traffic and Rebecca became lost in her thoughts; thoughts about how her life was forever changed; how it would impact her family and friends, and why Dianna was a no show last night. She even briefly wondered how she was going to handle the change every month.

It was her inner voice that answered that concern. ‘The human body is resilient and so is the spirit. You will survive this and many more challenges.’ It was a mantra she lived by. One she developed when she was learning to cope with the death of her parents, and now it helped ease her growing concerns of something bad was happening around her. Something she was not clued into yet. Something she knew she had better get clued into as soon as possible.

The good news is that her superhuman strength, enhanced senses, and speed were gifts that came along with the wolf, gifts she would be able to use to protect herself if that something bad decides to pay her a visit. She was learning very quickly her enhancements were strong and already beginning to affect her. She planned to put those amazing skills to use as soon as possible; right after she figured out why Dianna was missing in action last night.

A thought occurred to her. “Did you know?” She glanced over at Jackson. He was a very handsome boy. His sandy brown hair framed his heart-shaped face. His lightly freckled nose and cheeks were evidence of his love of the sun. His passion for sports, and obvious youth, made his body long, lean and muscular.

He turned his brown eyes toward her and did little to cover the frown on his face. “Did I know what?”

Rebecca narrowed her eyes and moved in closer to him. “Did you know Dianna would not be there last night?”

He chuckled. “Why would I have known that?” He did a double take at the look of suspicion on her face.

His reaction was enough to put her at ease. She had no idea why she was so jumpy but she wasn’t enjoying the feeling. “Because you’re psychic…” The “duh” was implied so there was no need to speak it. It was the reason he knew about werewolves, and all the other creatures that existed, hidden in plain sight for the world to see and turn a blind eye on them. It was easy to be oblivious to the strange happenings around you when magic was involved.

“It doesn’t work that way and you know it.” He shook his head as he glanced behind them before making a lane change.

Rebecca ran a shaky hand through her hair. He was right. She learned a long time ago that Jackson’s gift was not extended to those he cared about. His elders told him that would improve with age and practice; but even when he would be able to see things about those close to him, it would be limited. “So why did you come last night?”

It was his turn to roll his eyes. “Because you’re my best friend and because I worry about you.” He took a deep breath, Rebecca could tell he was considering if it was wise to speak the next words. “To be honest I was glad she wasn’t there last night. No offense, Becca, but you’re one scary creature as a wolf. I had a hard enough time protecting myself from you, let alone a second one.”

Worry filled Rebecca’s eyes and heart. “Did I hurt you?”

He shook his head, “no.”

“How did you escape the wolf?” She had very few memories of the night, but what she could piece together chilled her to the bone with a level of fear she didn't know she possessed. The wolf was wild, untamed, savage. She had no control. Her human feelings and thoughts were not considered. The wolf roamed, hunted, killed, and gave no excuse for her behavior.

He shuddered. If she had blinked she would’ve missed it. But instead, she caught it, and felt guilty that she had scared her dearest friend. “The Jeep took some hits from your animal. She did a number on the paint job on my door. But she got bored quickly and took off. I spent the rest of the night in this seat.”

“I’ll pay for any damage.” She offered as she swallowed past the lump forming in her throat.

“No need. My uncle owns a body shop. He’ll fix her up in no time.” His grin was shaky and she wondered if there was more about last night, but did not press the issue. He seemed reluctant to talk about it.

She was so glad he was okay and he appeared to forgive her for the actions of her wolf. Relief flooded over her like a wave from the ocean. “Good, I don’t know what I would do if I hurt you. You’re my best friend, and my only friend who knows my secret.”

“Ditto.” He grinned as he maneuvered the Jeep to the right so he could exit onto south 101.

Rebecca worried her lower lip, she considered not asking him the following favor, but decided she might need him. Besides, Dianna was his friend first. “Do you think you can help me find out what happened to Dianna, I mean psychically, not physically. I suppose that’s my job now.” She knew that Jacks usually focused on people close to those he cared about as a work around for the inability to see things about his loved ones. She also knew that meant he would have to focus on Tomas for the best chance of discovering what was up with Dianna. She felt a twinge of guilt for asking but had few options at this point.

Jacks raised his eyebrows and fought the smirk from forming at the corner of his mouth. “A lesser man may take offense to that.” He flexed his bicep to demonstrate his strength.

“I think we both know what I mean. Wolves, even the weakest female wolves, are stronger than humans.”

“It’s a good thing I have a high level of self esteem.” He chuckled, easing the tension between them. “Of course I’ll try and help anyway possible. You’ve always been there to help me.”

They both knew he was referring to how she helped cover up the secret that he was g*y from his father. She played his girlfriend anytime he needed to attend something his father was involved in. She helped Jacks and he helped her work through the pain of her lost parents. Her parents’ were killed ten years ago in a car jacking. It happened while they were on their way to pick her and Savvy up from a sleepover. The police called it a random tragedy which was simply a way to explain that they were unable to find their killers.

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