Hours later I could still hear his roar in m y ears , trickling down my spine in wave after wave of crippling
pleasure . His face was painted in my head , eyes black with need and jaw carved from stone even
though the promises he whispered were soft and sweet . It played in the background of my mind and
along the swollen , tender bits of my skin as Rowena’s delicate voice threaded words together in small
notes of conversation .
” I’m not sensing any magic attached to him . ” She said with an encroaching frown , her lips painted in a
new shade of lipstick – one with a nude undertone that reminded me of a caramel latte . Her dainty
hands moved swiftly , weaving around one another in a graceful dance that was made mysterious by the
jade glow they emitted . A scowl coated Asher’s face in harsh lines and angles when she dropped them
abruptly . ” … just a great deal of stress , and quite a bit of anger .
” As I thought he would , Asher stood from the leather chair the moment a wilting note of sympathy
laced itself within Rowena’s voice . ” With the pressure you’re both under , no one can blame either
one you for acting swiftly . You’re both so’young , with such little time to enjoy it . ” The stubble across
his jawline rippled from the tensing of his muscles as he grunted , ” There will be plenty of time to enjoy
youth once the people murdering our pack members are brought to light .
” ” Yes … well , with that attitude you’re bound to succeed . ” She replied , aiming a tight – lipped frown in
his direction . It mirrored one a teacher might make when an unruly child spoke out of turn . Her eyes ,
the same jade green as the treetops outside , slid over the stony expression on my face and stalled . ”
Will I still be seeing you at training today , Lola ? ” ” She’ll be there . ” Asher answered first , his voice
curt and attention placed solely o n me even though the witch he replied to was standing a few feet to his
left . I didn’t break my stare from his , and instead listened to the ominous beat our hearts made ,
counting each note until Rowena cleared her throat and said , ” I’ll leave you both to talk , then …
” ” You’ve gone fully insane if you think I’m letting you out of my sight . ” I told him only after the thud of
the heavy office door swinging shut faded from our ears . My words hung in the air between us and were
much truer than either of us could’ve known . As his eyes narrowed and head tilted , I shifted on my feet
and nearly bumped into the bar cart and coffee maker I stood beside – both of which I knew were
unused because Asher didn’t drink coffee . ” I may be called insane in tomorrow’s papers , but what this
article is calling you i s much worse . .
” Both his baritone and the tiny ink of the newspaper clipping traveled the short distance to pelt me with
the truth . He spun the page around and stopped it with a finger . ” I’ll spare you the specifics , so you’ll
still be surprised once you read it yourself , but it paints a pretty little picture of your life this past year .
Tyler’s birthday , returning home , meeting me , the murders . The wolf that wrote this , the web of lies
that they’ve spun –
It’s more than convincing . It’s already begun to turn heads , and not just ones in our pack . ” ” Whose ,
then ? ” I asked and instantly regretted it when his fists clenched , and irritation flashed within the pits of
his eyes . His laugh was as dry as the air I sucked into my lungs , swirling with dust particles that made
my throat constrict . ” The ones surrounding ours know , and the news is spreading by the hour . Within a
month every pack in the world will know someone else’s version of your story . They’ll have more reason
than ever to hate you and every witch or vampire they stumble across .
” His eyes softened at the sudden rush of my fear , but he didn’t move from where he stood . I wasn’t
sure my stomach could plummet any further , but as always Asher lived to prove me wrong . I could
practically taste the wicked promise on his tongue when he said , ” I wish I could tell you that were it , but
it’s not . Our old friend Alpha Bran …. he’s already campaigning against you . ” ‘ You’re joking . ‘ Cassidy
hissed , narrowing her eyes in a way that reminded me of Breyona .
I had mind linked my best – friend during the fifteen – minute drive to the training center and told her
everything that happened after our peaceful morning turned tumultuous . Part of me needed a second
opinion on what happened with Asher , while the other side wanted to shove his vicious glassy – eyed
stare deep within the depths o f my mind , buried so deep I’d never have t o hear the empty tone of his
voice again , a Half an hour later I found myself sitting beside Cassidy , stretching on the padded mats
that lined the classroom we met in every weekday for training . With over a dozen other students doing
warm – ups around us , talking wasn’t an option .
‘ I wish I were joking . ‘ I sighed out loud , leaning forwards to touch my toes . Cassidy followed my
movements and together we stared at the floor , our ponytails grazing the sweaty , bloodstained mat . ‘ I
mean you saw him . H e was he was feral or something . How does that just happen to someone ? ” …
maybe it is an Alpha thing . ‘ Cassidy’s baby blues were reluctant as they , flitted over to meet my own .
When I turned my head in her direction and the burn in my muscles faded into static , she swallowed and
quickly explained . ‘ What I mean is there’s still a lot we don’t know about Alpha’s .
They’re stronger , faster … they have bigger wolves . We know they have rage and possessiveness
down to a science , but maybe this is what happens when an Alpha gets overwhelmed … ” ‘ You don’t
seem convinced of that , and you’re the one that’s known him his entire life . ‘
I pointed out the obvious , returning to a standing position in time for Emilia to begin today’s lesson .
Even though this was the second time I’d seen her sweep into the room and claim the attention of every
student , the awe that followed hadn’t lessened . There was something incredibly feminine about her
delicate eyebrows and slender nose . Even her wide – set mouth and plump lips were symmetrical and
gave her a softness one wouldn’t associate
with a warrior . Those qualities paired with her rippling muscles and broad shoulders highlighted her
unique form of beauty . ” Alright , class . I know we’re all a bit amped from what happened to Devin
Armstrong- -and may he rest in peace , but this is when we need to settle down and focus . You’re here
to learn how to defend yourself , to master your weaknesses and turn them into strengths .
That , my students is how you stay alive . ” 15 Emilia walked the length of the room , eyeing us like we
were soldiers prepping t o step onto the battlefield . Her soprano voice bounced off the brick walls , sharp
like the commands of a general at war . I was immediately grateful she hadn’t taken a side , unlike some
of the students i n the room who felt the need to tell me they supported Clint Armstrong and the mess he
had made .
As her speech came to its conclusion , she came to a stop at the center of the room . For a moment she
stood there , hands clasped behind her back as she stared us all down . More than half the wolves
began to shift on their feet , averting their eyes in favor of the floor , ceiling , or their athletic shoes . Even
Cassidy’s jaw began to clench , but I knew from the stubbornness written across her face that she’d
never submit to Emilia .
It was my position in this pack which made staring into her champagne tinted eyes all too easy . ” How
many of you know the ten core fundamentals to Krav Maga ? ” Emilia asked , holding my stare as though
she were waiting for me to raise my hand . No one else in the room responded , except for Cassidy who
let out a disgruntled huff under her breath . As my hand inched into the air and the curious and
condemning of the other students fell on my face , I felt a rush of Maya’s stubborn strength fill my bones .
eyes ” Luna , if you’d be kind enough to tell us the first three … ” Emilia said , gesturing to the room to
show that everyone was waiting for me to speak . I stepped forwards and met the eyes of the
students staring me down , the word murderer ‘ written across the tense muscles in their faces . ” The
first is to aim for your opponents ‘ weak points . ” I said loudly , plastering my attention on a she – wolf
who at the beginning of class felt the need to snarl the word traitor as I walked into the room . My words
were directed at her and her alone . ” Shifting weight to a particular side could mean a childhood injury
that didn’t heal correctly .
” Without waiting for the blood to rush to her face and embarrassment to claim her features 1 pivoted my
head in the direction of another student , this one a muscular guy who promised I’d receive my
comeuppance soon enough . ” The second and third go hand in hand . Quick and powerful responses
are what will save you in battle . You have to be ready for the situation to go from 0 to 100 … but strength
will only get you so far . Speed and technique are crucial .
They’ll win you any fight , no matter how big the H meathead you’re up against is . ” One by one I ran
through them all , using each fundamental to pick apart the weaknesses of the students who decided t o
stand against me and Asher . As I recited each one by memory , courtesy of Chris who pummeled me
into the dirt until they were etched into the back of my skull , Emilia’s smile seemed to widen . ”
” She exhaled , speaking only after I’d finished shaming half the class . I f she noticed their
embarrassment and anger she didn’t let on . Her eyes darted from face to face , ” … now that is a warrior
. Someone who not only memorizes every single aspect of a fighting form , but also uses those moves in
a way that turns them into art – into a dance where one lives and the other dies . ” Once she finished
making the rounds , her attention returned to me . ” Luna , would you mind sparring with me ? I’d like to
give the class a demonstration of a few of those fundamentals . ” ” Of course . ” I replied instantly and
without a hint of hesitation . … good luck , she punches hard . ‘ Cassidy’s voice trickled into my head ,
and I glanced back to see her eyebrows furrowed and lips pursed in the direction of our trainer .
I made sure to take my time approaching , using those valuable seconds to scan Emilia from head to toe
. Her widening grin told me she knew what I was doing and was thrilled to see me respond accordingly .
As I watched her walk a few feet to her left , I noted no imperfections i n her long stride nor in the way
she bounced on the balls of her feet .
” This might actually be challenging …. Maya murmured , impressed even though we’d yet to begin . ”
Can anyone here tell me what our Luna just did ? ” Emilia asked the class once I stood at her side .
When no one raised their hands she continued , ” She sized me up and took in my movements , posture
, and the way I distribute my weight .
This i s what a warrior does . They see the fight i n their head before it even begins , and that way they’ll
always be prepared . ” ” The man who trained me always said preparing is half the victory . ” I said both t
o Emilia and the class , thinking back to simple days in Grandma’s cottage , where training with Chris
was the most strenuous thing I had to deal with .
Emilia’s eyes twinkled pleasantly.when she asked , ” And what is the other half , Luna ? ” ” The other half
is earned . ” I told her , this time turning away from the class to stare into the eyes of the she – wolf
Cassidy claimed long ago tried to win Asher over .
There was no malice I could detect whether it be with my eyes or what strange sense unlocking my
magic had given me . Either way , right now she was a n opponent . With that reminder swirling i n my
head , I squared my shoulders and sank into my fighting stance . ” Through blood and sweat , it is
earned . ”