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Claimed (Wolf Essence Book 1) by Michelle Corchis (1)

Mya

Weekends were crazy at the bar, ‘The Howl.' I drove past a few times, and the place was always busy, with a line around the corner to get in. It stood out in the backdrop of the small town, with a moon that blinked off and on from full down to a crescent. The depiction of a man painted on the dark wall, screaming, and ripping his shirt open, only added to the mystery and flair of the place. The bar, itself, felt alive with not only music and patrons but something else, I couldn’t quite figure out. Whoever designed it went to great lengths for it to give an eerie, supernatural feel.

Bouncers surrounded every corner, checking everyone’s I.D. without fail. They did not incite anything but fear, which seemed odd for a place that wanted to invite people into its doors every night. I had heard people talking, about how you could get anything you wanted there. Any number of things and cheap thrills to satisfy any demented need you had.

At some point, during my first few weeks there, I began to get restless. Since I moved here, I had not gone out much, just to grab some groceries, but I hadn’t met anyone. I usually cherished my alone time, but even for me, this was getting ridiculous.

It was a Saturday night, and I needed to get out, so I thought a walk might do me some good. The air around me felt electric, the moon shining brightly overhead; almost magical. As the night grew colder, another strange wave of howling echoed through the night, and I panicked. That sound brought back painful memories of my childhood that I’d never been able to remember, and the doctors said I had PTSD.

As the howls drew closer, I went into a full-scale panic attack. The sound echoed through the streets as I tried to run from oncoming doom. How did I know they were after me? I didn’t have time to figure all that out because with spine-tingling growls, sprung the creatures it came from. They were large, much larger than a dog; wolves, they looked like wolves, but with eyes that seemed to glow with a yellow hue. I ran through the alleys in my bid to get away from them. As fast as I ran, it wasn’t fast enough to get away from them, a mass of black, tan, and white fur. I knew I’d be their next meal. I fell against a wall trying desperately to breathe, and a wolf came toward me, moving with calculated steps. His teeth bared hackles up, and saliva dripped from the sides of its mouth as a man came up behind him. He sneered at me, and as he came closer, I realized he was naked. He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me against his body. “Do you understand how pissed we get when you run from us?” He grunted as someone grabbed me from behind. “You think you were scared before, Mya, you have no idea what we have in store for you, but you will, soon,” and a cloth came over my mouth and nose.

In a darkened alleyway in a new town, is where this journey to enlightenment began.

* * *

I awoke from a driving, pelting rain, assaulting my face, and jolting my senses. The putrid smell of my surroundings laced through my brain and caused me to wretch.

I lie on my side in an alleyway, dry heaves rumbling up from my belly. When I tried to sit up, every muscle in my body protested as a searing pain shot through my limbs.

“Don’t move,” a deep voice rattled off. “You smacked your head pretty hard off the ground when he tossed you down. You’re lucky I got here when I did, those vicious bastards were ready to take you with them.” I looked up at the man looming above me.

“Who are you?” I asked him, leery of the ‘Good Samaritan act.’

“That doesn’t matter right now. For safety's sake, we better get going before they come back.” With his help, I sat up, rubbing the back of my head. “You have more questions and yeah you, I’ll explain everything when we get you to a safe place. I’m Denver, by the way, and I’m going to take you someplace safe.”

He reached down to help me up, but I pushed his hand away. “Do I look stupid to you? I’m not going anywhere with you. Hell, for all I know you’re working with whoever attacked me.”

Denver narrowed his eyes at me, just before he gave me an ultimatum. “You have two choices, Mya, either you come with me willingly, or I’ll throw you over my shoulder. Either way, you’re not staying here.”

“H-how do you know my name?” Warning bells rang in my head, I needed to get away. “I don’t need or want your help. So, you can leave me alone, and I won’t scream or call the cops, okay?”

He shook his head at me. “Uh-uh.”

“There’s something you’re not telling me, so now would be a good time to give me that info,” I demanded and crossed my arms over my chest.

A wicked smile spread across his handsome face. “You need a lot of info, honey. It sucks that you lived in the dark for so many years,” he sneered. “You belonged with us, and now you have to learn, the hard way.”

“Belonged to who?” He never answered my question as howling echoed around us, and I froze. “Holy shit, they’re coming back!”

“Did you want to wait for them, or are you coming with me?” This time when he reached for my hand, I grabbed on.

We ran through the alley to a fire escape climbing the ladder to the roof. Denver took off running along the flat surface for the far edge. Once there he leaped across, landing on the next roof. I shook my head; did I just witness him jumping across the darkness from one roof to the other?”

It must have been 15-feet between the two buildings! This was insane; a normal person shouldn’t be capable of jumping this distance.

“Come on,” he shouted before running off again.

Now, I believe I’m a forward thinker, but I was genuinely confused. Denver was beyond strange, and this whole muddle of crap was like a bad B-rated horror movie. I mean, howling creatures that already attacked me once were chasing me, and now I was running for my life with a man that expected me to jump the gap between buildings. Come on. I am only human.

“I told you to follow me,” Denver yelled from the edge of the other building. His hands firmly planted on his hips as he gave me an incredulous look.

“Follow you, yeah I want to, but I can’t do what you just did. How did you do that?”

He sighed, jumping back over to me. “Look, we don’t have the time for me to coddle you.” He enunciated each word before rolling his eyes at me. “You can do this, but you’re letting your mind limit your reality.”

Seriously, what? I was running from some freaky shit and possibly running with some goddamned nut-bag.

“You are making no sense and pissing me off, Denver. I have a black belt in karate. I would hate to have to pull out my arsenal and knock you on your ass. My entire reality is that I’m human and as a human, I can’t jump across 15-foot dark gaps in the middle of the night or the day for that fact. I’m not sure what or who you are, so, spare me from your bubble gum, psycho-mumble-jumble crap.”

I swallowed my words when Denver grabbed me and jumped across to the next roof. After he had set me down, I stood there half-dazed at first then punched him in the stomach, only to have the act hurt me more than him.

“Holy shit,” I winced and grabbed my hand.

“Whoa,” he looked down at me with a shit-eating grin. He stood to his full height, which was well over six feet, then hauled me over his shoulder.

“Put me down,” I struggled with him to release me, which only made him hold me tighter. “Hey, watch where you put your hands, perv.”

“If that’s what I was after, you’d be begging by now,” he grunted, shaking his head. “You think every guy you meet wants to get in your pants?” His eyes narrowed at me as his question caught me off guard. “Just keep up,” he muttered, then he ran full out. The buildings faded into each other, it became difficult to tell where one ended, and the next began.

Denver jumped to the ground, in the alley at the rear door that read, The Howl. It was loud and filled with obnoxious people downing overpriced cocktails. The place made me nauseous with its stench of sweat and lost dreams, the type of place that I never really cared for or wanted to be.

The bouncer outside promptly opened the door, allowing us entrance. “Denver, it’s good to see you back, and in one piece,” he laughed. “And who do we have here, Pretty Miss Thang?” His unwanted attention landed on me, making my skin crawl.

I just ignored him and turned to speak to Denver. “Why are we here? You said somewhere safe,” I muttered and looked around, curling my lip. “This doesn’t look like a safe place, to me.” He dragged me through the back door into a dimly lit hall. The light that shone overhead hit the dark purple and black on the walls. Even though it was dark, the paint had hints of sparkles, which played well off the flow of light. A thick metal door stood at the end of the hall, where I heard muffled music, and it obviously had some heavy-duty soundproofing.

Denver pulled me along with him, passed some closed wood doors. “Where do all these door lead,” I asked, but he didn’t answer. When we came to a door, that was wider than the previous ones, we stopped. There was large moon etched into the grain, coming up through some trees, it was exquisite. The wood felt alive and had a delicious, spicy scent that intoxicated me. My senses went wild, and I became aroused just from touching it.

“What is that smell? Oh, my God, I’ve never come across that exotic scent before.” Denver turned the handle and pushed the door open. The room had wall-to-wall people, who were partying. Even though my mind was drowning in that heady fragrance, I was keenly aware that everyone stopped and stared at me. I nodded to Denver. “What’s going on? Am I a party favor?” That seemed to break the tension with some people laughing.

“Welcome to The Howl, Mya,” and I had found the source of the enticing aroma; it was this man. God, he was beautiful, no, that wasn’t the right way to describe him, he was gorgeous. “It’s good to see you again,” and he cleared his throat, “I mean, it’s nice to meet you.”

He had a commanding presence, full of confidence but not cocky, much. He took my hand, and when his perfect lips made contact with my skin, I moaned. Of course, my face grew hot from embarrassment. What the hell was happening to me? I’ve never reacted to another person like this before.

He chuckled, capturing my gaze with his intense blue eyes, rimmed with long dark lashes. He seemed quite at ease with the raw power he exuded. Waves of heat licked the surface of my skin as he spoke to me. This man was too damn sexy, and I swear my panties were disintegrating just from looking at him. God, I loved men, but this one, geez, where the hell did he come from and why was he looking at me as if I were his midnight snack! What the hell did Denver bring me here for, and why was my body reacting like this with this stranger?

Then he cleared his throat and dragged a hand through his shoulder-length hair. The snug black shirt and dark jeans he wore showed off his finely sculpted body. This guy was the perfect specimen of what a man should look like. I don’t think even Greek Mythology would be able to describe his tantalizing features. Michelangelo's David would be jealous!

“You have no idea who I am, do you?” he asked, turning toward my would-be rescuer for confirmation. “Well, Mya, I’m Cade, Cade James. I own The Howl Night Club, and I’m also the Alpha to our Pack.”

“Alpha? Do you mean like a wolf?” I smiled. “Besides, isn’t that stuff folklore legends, werewolves, vampires and creepy crawlers of the night?”

“So, you’re up on your fairy tales,” he winked then continued. “But, you are also part of that story, Mya.” His powerful gaze stifled the smart-ass comment that danced on my tongue.

“We were running from some rogues, the same ones we’ve been watching. I am sure they were biding their time, waiting for the right moment,” Denver chimed in. “A Female, alone without a Pack and hasn’t been claimed or had her first shift yet.” He shrugged, “She’s close, hell, I’m sure you can smell it too. She has absolutely no idea ‘what we are’ and believes herself to be human.”

“Oh, this’s how you’re going to pawn this situation off? I don’t know what kind of game you all are playing, but I’m not buying.” I stopped and looked around the room; everyone seemed normal. A spike of fear crept up my spine while anger surged through me, and I started to shake uncontrollably. Pain shot through my core and I fell to my knees screaming. Sweat clung to my hair, as I braced myself against the floor and my world spun out of control.

“Shit, this isn’t the place. I wanted her to be safe, especially for her first shift. She has nowhere to run,” I heard Cade’s voice, and oddly enough it soothed me. “She would’ve been better off, at the compound. Shit!” I felt his strong, warm hands wrap around me. Cade held me close to his body and even through this excruciating pain, I longed for his touch.

A door creaked open, and he placed me on a soft surface. “I’ve got you, Mya,” Cade said, pushing my hair from my eyes. “I’m going to be here, so don’t think you’re alone, okay.” His touch set off a peculiar need, down in the very fabric of my being. I caught his gaze, his brows knitted together, and he seemed genuinely concerned for me.

“You’re going through your first shift, Mya. Sometimes, stress or fear can bring it on, believe me, your wolf wants you to meet her,” he stressed. “I’m just in the other room, and you’re safe here, with me.” Panic flickered as Cade closed the door shut behind him. Then I was alone with an intense agony crawling through my body and no way to help myself.

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