Connor London watched his wulfric, his pack leader, pace back and forth across her bedchamber. He could almost taste her anger from where he stood by the door.
“You left this pack when it needed you the most.” Cwen Ebdani stopped pacing and glared at the man who had chosen a human over his pack, over her!
Connor shrugged. “I will not apologize for leaving. I would do it again if need be.”
Cwen looked at Connor in disgust. “So be it.”
“Cwen, please, do not do this.”
Cwen turned around and walked out of the room and downstairs into the common area where the rest of the wolves sat. Connor followed her out, knowing what had to happen next. He scanned the room looking for his brother, Andrei, and finally spotted him sitting in a secluded corner of the room, near the closest exit. Some of the younger cubs waved at him as he passed by and he smiled in return.
Cwen raised her hands and the room immediately became silent. “I, Cwen Ebdani, wulfric and protector of this pack, exile Connor Esau London from this clan. Never to return upon pain of death. He will forever be Kadzait, a wandering wolf. No one shall hunt with him, bed down with him nor be there to mourn his passing. His name shall be stripped from canon from this day forward. All those who disobey these commands shall also be exiled. Those found harboring this wolf shall be sentenced to death. As I have proclaimed it, so is it law.”
Connor watched his brother’s face while Cwen made her proclamation and knew the instant Andrei decided to be stupid. He shook his head at Andrei, silently begging him to stay quiet and not make a scene. Connor started making his way towards him and as he passed by Cwen, he stopped and said, “Whether you believe me or not, I never meant to hurt you.”
Cwen looked up at him and he was taken aback by the fury in her eyes.
“I know. And it makes what I just did that much more gratifying.” Then she walked away.
Connor stared at her as she made her way through the piles of bodies strewn around the room and walked back upstairs to her private rooms. He had never seen so much hate and anger from her before. Shaking his head and remembering his brother, Connor continued to walk towards Andrei.
As Connor passed by the people he used to call family, each person turned around, giving him their back. The younger children didn’t seem to understand what was going on and some would turn and smile as he walked by only to be quickly and quietly corrected by their parents.
Connor finally made his way to his brother but before he could say a word, Andrei turned and walked out of the door. Left with no option but to follow, Connor walked behind him until they reached the end of the lawn in front of the Cwen’s house.
All at once, Andrei whirled around and punched Connor. “I told you to go in there and make it better, not to get yourself exiled, you stupid fool! Now what are we going to do?”
Rubbing his jaw, Connor answered gruffly, “We aren’t going to do anything. You are going to go back inside and you are going to forget me.” At the look of stunned incredibility on Andrei’s face, Connor continued more softly, “I will be alright, Dre, even though I have lost my pack, I am not alone. Rebecca is not wolf but I have asked her to marry me and she has agreed. I will not give her up. I love her.”
Although the stunned look didn’t leave his brother’s face, Connor’s words seemed to calm his brother down a bit. “Father would not have wanted this; he would not have exiled you. You are his heir.”
Connor felt a pang of sorrow at the mention of his father, the former Wulfric. “I know, but we must do the best with what we have been given, and Cwen, although angry at the moment, will make a fine leader. And you are heir now.”
“But what about the witch moon? How will you – ”
Connor cut Andrei off, “Don’t worry about that. With Rebecca at my side, I shall do just fine.”
“So she knows and she is okay with this, with you being wolf?”
“No, she doesn’t know what is required, but I believe her love for me is strong enough that it will not matter.”
“Connor that is foolish. Do not deny your wolf for this human.”
“I don’t plan to. I will tell her when the time is right and she will accept me and my wolf.”
Andrei looked at his brother and finally nodded. “If you believe in her that much, I will withhold judgment. If you are wrong and she does not accept you, come and find me. We will endure the moon together.”
“I will not need to find you, but I appreciate the concern, brother.”
Andrei pulled Connor into a hug. “Connor, please be careful. I have lost all the family I am willing to lose. Do not add yourself to the list.”
Cwen paced around her room, furious. If Connor London wouldn’t be with her, then she would be damned if he ended up with anyone, especially not some weak pathetic human female.
She called to her attendant, a female of maybe fifteen summers. When Phoebe walked in, Cwen said “Bring me Siobhan.”
“Yes wulfric.” Phoebe scrambled out of the room.
Once Siobhan walked in, Cwen said, “I need a spell. No, I want a curse placed on Connor. He thought he could shame me in front of the pack and I would just let him walk away? He definitely doesn’t know me as well as he thinks.”
“What kind of curse are you looking for?” Siobhan asked. She was small in stature; weak in the eyes of this female she served. If not for her gift of magic, Siobhan was sure she would have been exiled as Connor had been. But because she was useful, these wolves kept her around.
“I want to make sure he never finds happiness with that female he chose over me. I want him to feel the rejection as I felt it. I want him to suffer.”
“Very well.” Siobhan supposed she should feel bad for Connor, but she couldn’t feel any kind of empathy for anyone. “Your curse will take a while to complete. In six months, you shall have what you desire. Be warned that a curse of this magnitude will bring you karma sevenfold.”
Cwen smiled, “Yes, yes, sevenfold, whatever. Six months until it is ready? Perfect, just in time for the witch moon. You may leave.”
Inclining her head, Siobhan left Cwen to her musings.
Rebecca rode down the road, heading home. She was pregnant! Hopefully, she could give Connor a son and many more children in the future. As Rebecca crossed the road and thought of baby names, she heard screaming and cries for help coming from deep in the woods.
Urging her horse towards the noise, she prayed to get there in time to be of some help. Rebecca reached a clearing in the woods just in time to see a large animal run off deeper into the woods.
On the ground was a man; he was bleeding profusely and looked to have bite marks all over his body.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Rebecca dismounted and kneeling by the man, cradled his head on her lap. She wasn’t a doctor, but she knew this much blood could not be a good sign.
“It was a wolf. I tried – “ The man didn’t finish his sentence and seemed to faint. After feeling for a pulse, Rebecca placed his head gently back on the ground and ran back to her horse; she hoped Connor was home.
“Connor! Connor!” Rebecca called for her husband as she ran into her home. Connor came running in from the back room. When she saw him, Rebecca sagged with relief.
“What is it? What’s happened?” Connor reached for Rebecca, steadying her on her feet.
“There is a man in the woods who needs help. I-I think he was mauled by a wolf. I thought I saw something run off. But Connor, it was huge, too big to be wolf. Hurry and call Dr. Gates and tell him to come quickly. The man has lost a lot of blood.” Rebecca turned around to go get some supplies, but Connor’s hand on her shoulder stopped her.
“Wait. What are you talking about? Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. We don’t have a lot of time; just do what I ask please!” Rebecca hurried to the linen closet to get some clean cloths and whatever supplies the doctor might need. She supposed that later the horror of what happened to that man would completely debilitate her, but for now she was just grateful that she could focus on doing something useful.
Connor did as his wife asked and came back into the room to see Rebecca placing things into a basket. “Oh no you don’t! If there are wild animals attacking people, you are not going out there. No arguments, please.” Connor took the basket and left the house.
“Do you think there is more than one?”
Connor looked grim. “Wolves always hunt in packs.”
Connor rode to the area where Rebecca said the man was and waited for the doctor to get there. Inspecting the bite marks and the scratches on the man’s body made Connor’s blood boil. There was no mistake; these wounds were made by a large animal – by a werewolf.
Once the doctor showed up, Connor handed him the supplies and immediately went to confront Cwen. As if she’d been waiting for him, she opened the front door herself.
“Connor, back so soon? It’s only been five months since you were exiled.” Cwen smiled at Connor and held the door open so he could come inside.
“One of your wolves attacked a man in the woods today. He might not survive. You need to control them!”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head. I have complete control over my people.”
“So you know about the attack? My father would never have allowed this to happen!”
“It’s a good thing your father is dead and I am the wulfric now. If there is nothing else you wanted to say to me. Leave.” Cwen walked away from Connor.
Connor turned to leave but felt a light touch on his shoulder. “Listen well, Connor London. You are in danger and I break my vow to my mistress to tell you this: do not wait any longer to tell your wife who you are.”
Connor found himself staring at the witch that served Cwen. “She won’t listen now. Not after tonight.”
Siobhan just shook her head and stepped back. “I have done all I am required. You have been warned.” Siobhan walked away without another word, leaving Connor to decide what he would do with her warning.
Connor walked out and went back home to his wife. He hoped that Cwen would heed his words and keep her wolves in line, but he feared she would continue to allow the pack to roam and hunt humans.
The attacks continued and increased in activity. The townspeople, who were superstitious to begin with, believed there were demon wolves in the woods. A belief that Connor felt was too close to the truth. His frustration grew with every new body found dead or mauled. The witch moon would come tomorrow night and he had yet to tell his wife. These attacks only made it more difficult to confess.
Stepping out of the pantry, Connor found the object of his thoughts standing in front of him. He had run out of time and decided to trust her love for him, despite the recent attacks.
“Rebecca I have something to tell you. Please hear me out and just remember that I love you and I would never hurt you.”
“Of course Connor.” Rebecca smiled up at him, the love and trust written clearly on her face.
With no way to say it gently, Connor said, “Rebecca, I am a wolf.”
Rebecca’s look turned to confusion. “I do not understand. What do you mean you’re a wolf?”
“Those creatures – those wolves that are hunting the townsfolk; I am – was – part of their pack. I am like them, able to shift from man to wolf.”
Rebecca stepped back from him. “Connor why are you saying these things? That’s impossible. People can’t change into animals. Oh God. Connor…” Rebecca trailed off, her look of confusion turning into one of horror. “Oh Connor, no. No, no, no, no.”
Connor reached out to her. “Becca, please. Please don’t be scared. I -”
“Don’t touch me! Don’t you dare come near me. You are one of those monsters killing people?” Rebecca looked up and asked in a horrified whisper, “Did you kill people Connor?”
Connor looked at her, shocked that she would even ask him that. “Of course not, Rebecca, how could you even think that of me?”
“You just told me you are a werewolf. I don’t know what to think!” Rebecca turned around and headed for the stairs.
“Where are you going?” Connor asked, alarmed and dismayed at her reaction.
“I can’t stay here.” Rebecca placed her hands on her stomach. “I can’t be with you right now.”
“You’re leaving me? You can’t leave me. I love you.”
“You are a monster, Connor. Your ‘pack’ has been picking off the townspeople as if they were prey. I can’t even believe I’m having this conversation right now! You’re a freaking werewolf.” Rebecca started to visibly shake. “You should have told me. Before I married you, before I became – you had no right to keep this from me!” She walked upstairs and out of Connor’s sight.
Rebecca came back down with her trunk. Connor hadn’t moved from the spot she left him. She was leaving him. She walked up to him and said, “There is some food in the pantry that should last you a while.”
“When will you be back?” Connor asked hoarsely. She was leaving him.
“I don’t know. I – Goodbye Connor.” With those final words, Rebecca walked out the door with her things.
The night of the witch moon had come and Connor couldn’t care less. He could feel the wolf inside him itching to be released, but he’d be damned if he gave in to the beast. It was the reason his Rebecca had left him. Cwen was right; a wolf would never make a good mate for a human.
Connor looked at himself in the mirror and laughed. Not only had he lost his family, but with Rebecca gone, he’d lost any chance of having one of his own. He didn’t even know if werewolves and humans could breed.
Turning away from the mirror, Connor walked towards the bed. As he sat down he felt a sharp pain along his spine. No! His wolf would not be free, no matter what. He would ride out the witch moon as a man, not some four-legged animal.
As if the wolf understood his challenge, his body started to shake and spasm, the wolf wanting free. It had been patient with Connor these last few months, bidding its time until the witch moon, when the man would have no choice but to free it. It would not be denied.
Connor felt his body changing, even though he fought it. Eventually, he lost the battle and found himself on the floor. If this is what you want, so be it. With that last thought, the part of Connor that was man receded and gave the wolf full reign.
Rebecca knew it was foolish to go back to the man who could change into a wolf. She knew anyone else would think it stupid to put not only herself, but her unborn child in that kind of danger. But Rebecca also knew that Connor would never hurt her. Besides, two nights away from her husband was enough for her to realize she didn’t want to be without him, no matter what he was.
Rebecca walked into the house and noticed the blood stains leading up the stairs. She immediately knew something was wrong with Connor. Running upstairs and into their bedroom, Rebecca stopped short when she saw a red wolf lying on the bed.
It was Connor, she had no doubt in her mind. Circling the bed, she slowly reached down to touch his fur. The moment she made contact, the wolf opened its eyes and looked at her. Dear God, it had Connor’s eyes. Rebecca started to cry. She couldn’t see a wound, but the blood looked fresh. Whatever happened to him happened recently. Connor’s breathing was erratic and he didn’t keep his eyes open for long.
Sinking onto the bed, Rebecca pressed her face into his neck and cried. “You can’t leave me, Connor. I love you. I can’t do this on my own.”
Connor whined softly, but didn’t move or acknowledge her in any other way.
“Connor, please. I-I’m having your son. He will need a father to teach him how to be a man. Please, don’t leave me know. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” Rebecca kept repeating that over and over. Eventually she realized that the room had gotten dark and Connor was very still. She didn’t know how long she lay there next to him before her tears stopped and she thought of calling Andrei.
“I didn’t know who else to call. I can’t call Dr. Gates, he would never understand,” Rebecca explained as she led Andrei into the bedroom.
Once she let him in, Andrei immediately walked over to the wolf – no – to Connor and sat down by his side. When he looked up at her with tears in his eyes, she knew Connor was dead. Sinking to the floor, Rebecca placed her head in her hands and just held it there. There were no more tears left to shed.
She heard Andrei moving and felt a hand gently tug her up from the floor. “It will be alright. I’ll make the arrangements. Will you be okay here tonight or do you want me to stay with you?”
“I’m pregnant.” Rebecca didn’t know why she felt the need to tell him, there was nothing he could do. But he was the only family Connor had and it felt right to tell him.
Andrei looked at her, nonplussed. “Pregnant? Are you sure?”
Rebecca nodded her head. It occurred to her that this child she was carrying might be a werewolf, like his father. “Will my son be like that too?” Rebecca pointed to Connor’s body on the bed.
Andrei frowned. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard of any of our kind breeding with a human before.”
“Your kind? Connor mentioned something about a pack. Are there many of you? I don’t have to give them my child, do I?” Rebecca felt a moment of panic.
“No, that won’t be necessary.” Andrei looked at his brother with concern before turning back to Rebecca. “Listen to me. Tell no one about this pregnancy. Pack a light bag – only things that are absolutely necessary. When the town hears about this they will put two and two together. They will come after anyone associated with Connor. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Rebecca nodded, understanding perfectly. They would come after her and the baby. After Andrei too.
“I’ll take care of you. I know of a place called Sunset Valley in America. That should be far enough away from here. Now go.”
Rebecca looked at Connor’s body one last time and turned to start packing.