Wolf of Stone

second chance

Dalton Black, a Canis lupis full of guilt and anger, never expected to find his true mate. Perhaps already slipping into madness, he had resigned himself to the fact that he would walk the earth without the other half of his soul. He was convinced that his sins where enough to keep the Great Luna from giving him such a blessing. He knew it was probably better that way. His past was as dark as his name and after three centuries of running from it, the memories were finally catching up to him. But all of those resignations evaporated when he saw her broken and bloodied body lying on that altar. Though the man didn’t recognize her, the wolf did. Through battle and bloodshed he was able to save her from the evil that held her captive, but now he would need her to save him from himself. Jewel Stone was wholly unaware of the ancient bloodlines of Gypsy Healers, mates to Canis lupis and protectors of the packs—much less that she carried that blood herself. But when a beautiful but deadly woman showed up in her home and ripped her from her realm, she knew her life would never be the same. Her mother, Gem, a fortune teller, had warned her that something was coming, that her life was about to change dramatically, but like everyone else, Jewel had dismissed her as a crazy person. Jewel was the laughing stock of her school simply because Gem was her mother. And up until now, her life was one big disappointment after another. Instead of heeding her mother’s warning, she hid in her books, burying herself behind knowledge, both fact and fiction. She escaped into worlds created by others and filled her mind with facts of every kind in an effort to push away the hurtful words that others bombarded her with. Despite all of her knowledge and all of her fantastical stories, she never dreamed her own future would be full of adventure, danger, passion and the possibility of unconditional love. As she lay unconscious after her first bloody encounter in the fae realm, her only chance of survival lay in the hands of a man scarred by his past, disfigured both emotionally and physically, and beyond the reach of any who had tried to help him. Can two broken people, who carry the other half of each other’s souls span the chasm between them and restore the innocence ripped from both their lives? Will they let the promise of healing love overcome the difference in age and experience, and the separation of species and realms? Or will they give in to the fear and doubt that would keep them from one another for eternity?

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Prologue “There is no sound loud enough to silence their screams. There is no vision serene enough to diminish the blood. No matter how many times I breathe in the fresh morning air, the scent of their terror and of my own torment linger still. I have resigned myself to a life forever filled with memories so dark and terrible that no light could ever penetrate them.” ~Dalton Black 1780. Small village just outside of Salem, Massachusetts. “If we torture his wife in front of him, it will force him to use his magic, then we will have definite proof that the Black family is practicing witchcraft.” The voice of the short, worm-like man echoed in Dalton’s ears. He, along with ten other males, had captured him and his parents. The intruders had caught them unaware while Dalton and his parents slept, sneaking into their home in the dead of night. Dalton and his father and mother hadn’t even known what happened until they awoke chained like animals in an underground cell. One of the men was a physician and had given Dalton and his father a potion that had disoriented and weakened them. Unimpaired, Dalton would have ripped the chains from the wall. “She is a beautiful woman,” another man spoke up and Dalton could smell the lust rolling off of him. His stomach turned violently as he realized what the man was insinuating. “Lying with one such as these would be an abomination. We will not lower ourselves to such things, no matter how attractive she is. She is probably using her magic to lure us to her so she can cast some sort of spell over us.” Fools, Dalton thought. Even though the witch hunts were slowly losing power, some of the most zealous witch hunters still believed that magic practitioners were secretly among them. They were correct of course, but more than half of all the so-called witches they had murdered had been mere humans. Another twenty percent had been werewolves like him and his parents leaving only about fifteen percent of the condemned that had actually been guilty of such crimes. He pulled at his chains again, straining against the bonds that refused to budge. He knew that if he did not get them out of the clutches of these evil men, then they would die and it would not be a quick, honorable death. It would be slow, torturous, and gruesome. He could not bear such a fate for his gentle, kind mother. “Father,” he whispered to the wolf across from him chained to the opposite wall. “Can you call on your wolf yet? Can you phase?” Dalton had been trying to phase but whatever the doctor had given him was affecting his ability to communicate with his wolf. “No,” his father answered grimly. “My wolf is silent.” The whispering of the humans continued and Dalton had to tune out their vile words. He had no idea how long they had been held before they finally came for them. His mother was first, just as they said she would be. And they indeed tortured her in front of him and his father, but not before giving them more of whatever concoction the good doctor used to keep them from phasing. Of course, the humans thought they were simply weakening their “magic” so that they couldn’t use enough of it to escape. His father fought violently against his bonds trying to get to his mate. Blood poured from the wounds he inflicted as he threw himself against the pull of the chains and they dug into his neck, wrists, and ankles. His mother’s screams—calling out for his father—was the last thing he ever heard her say. They tortured her for hours, screaming at her to admit her so-called sins, to confess to practicing witchcraft. They mocked her for her pleas for mercy and taunted her to curse them and show her true nature. Once her body lay lifeless, bloody and mangled beyond recognition, they turned to start in on his father, only to find him already dead. His true mate was gone and so his life ended with hers. Dalton at least found comfort in knowing that they were both at peace, no longer enduring agony at the hands of those driven by fear and hate. They burned his parents’ bodies, believing that it was the only way to keep them from somehow bringing themselves back from the dead. Dalton had thought that would be the worst of it. He had been wrong. They left him for days with no food or water, chained underground. He didn’t know how much time had passed until at last he heard voices. He recognized the sound of several of the males, but there was a new voice in the group, a feminine voice. His heart began to beat hard against his chest as her familiar but unwelcome scent filled the stale air. Then she was standing less than a dozen steps away from him. “Tell me it is not true,” Gwen’s high voice bounced off of the walls around them. “Dalton Black, tell me you do not use magic.” As usual she was demanding her way, and as usual, he was going to ignore her wishes. “Why are you here, Gwen?” he all but growled at her. Dalton had met Gwen on one of his trips into Salem to sell the furniture that he and his father built to earn their living. They were both master craftsmen at woodworking and they were often commissioned out for many months. He had been unloading his wagon of rocking chairs and tables when she had walked up to him, telling him how she admired the furniture. He could not understand how she could possibly say such a thing since she had not taken her eyes off of him since he had driven his wagon into town. His sharp senses had picked up on her stares as she followed him down the main street. It was not uncommon for humans to be attracted to their kind. They were unusually handsome and fit, but for a female to be so forward was uncommon. From that day on she made it very clear that she intended to have him as her own. She had cornered him several times demanding that he court her. His usual response was to simply walk away, it seemed to irritate her most when he did not engage her in any way. But on the rare occasions that he did speak to her, he would ask her why she thought her demands would be endearing to him. Why any female would think a man would want her taking the lead in the relationship was beyond him. And now here she stood once again attempting to lead him around like a lap dog with no mind of his own. “I want to hear from the lips of the man I intended to marry that he is not practicing witchcraft,” she snapped at him. “Then I suppose you should go searching for your betrothed because I have told you repeatedly that I would never take you as my bride.” “Even if I could save your life?” “My heart will only ever belong to one, and I would rather die than betray her that way.” Dalton hadn’t found his true mate yet, but that did not mean she wasn’t out there. His species did not search for a mate by courting female after female. They were preordained for only one, the one who held the other half of their soul. Each male had one perfect match and only for her could he ever yield. Any other female paled in comparison. “If I cannot have you, then no one will.” Gwen’s words were laced with such venom he was sure she would turn into a snake at any moment. Dalton could have never guessed at how deep Gwen’s depravity ran. Her veins were filled with ice and her heart was made of stone, for only one such as that could do the things that she did. He was tortured all day—flesh peeled from his body, toenails torn off, and lips sewn closed. The latter she had done herself when he was too weak from blood loss to protest. And then each night after the day of enduring such things, Gwen would come and clean his wounds, bathe him, and lie next to him as if she were his lover. “Why do you make them do this to you?” she cooed to him after a particularly horrid day. Her hands didn’t even shake as she removed the thread from his eyelids. His captors were convinced that if he could not see, then he would not know where to throw a curse. “If you would just let me take you from this place, let me make you mine, then this would all end.” Her voice was deceivingly sweet but he could hear the poison beneath it. He did not open his eyes once she was finished removing the thread. He did not want to look at her because he did not want her face to be the last thing he saw before he fell into the exhausted sleep that he longed for. It was the only time that he was able to push away all the ugliness that had become his life. He thought that surely he would have nightmares after all he had suffered, but instead, there was just nothing. His sleep was as empty as his soul felt—devoid of any emotions, thoughts, or fears. The touch of Gwen’s fingers on his arm jerked him from his thoughts and he forced himself not to cringe. “I love you, you know? I could make you happy.” Her warm breath against his ear made his insides roll in nausea. “You are the last female on earth who could ever make me happy, Gwen.” He usually tried not to talk to her but her tongue against his ear was too much. “I bet I can change your mind,” she whispered as her hands wandered. He swallowed down the bile that instantly rose and felt his wolf stir, fighting against him. If he thought he despised Gwen, it was nothing compared to the way his wolf felt about her. To be touched by one other than his mate in such a way, to have something that should have been beautiful turned into something dirty and abhorrent, was unforgivable to his wolf. He grew to hate the night worse than the torture he endured during the day. Her touch was revolting to him. Like millions of ants crawling all over his skin, he cringed under her fingertips. Her lips on his flesh were like acid and the few times that she had tried to kiss him on the mouth, he would find himself retching trying to remove the taste. Over time he began to pretend to be weaker than he truly was, and the doctor began to give him less of the drug. Dalton made it appear as if he was finally giving in. His captives began to drop their guard. Under the constant command of Gwen who wanted privacy with him, he was left unattended as his strength began to return. He knew that she was growing tired of his resistance and that she would follow through with her threat to kill him. Over the past several weeks she had made it abundantly clear that if he did not choose her, then he was choosing death. Frankly, death was looking very appealing. “Tomorrow is your last chance, Dalton,” Gwen told him through narrowed eyes and stretched lips one evening after she had once again cleaned his wounds and attempted to seduce him. He could see that his lack of response to her physically and emotionally was beginning to upset her more and more. “You will give me what I want or I will see to it that all know you as the witch they claim you to be and you will be burned alive. I don’t want that for you, but as I said before…if I cannot have you, then no one will.” Thunder rumbled across the sky and rain pelted the earth on the night Dalton finally found his chance to escape. His strength was back, his wolf was enraged, and he wanted blood. But the man just wanted to be free. Gwen had finally left him after hours of torture and then her so-called ministrations. By the time she finally removed her hands from his body, he was ready to skin himself just to be rid of the smell she left on him. He waited about an hour to make sure no one would return, and then without much effort at all, he ripped his chains from the wall then broke off the links at the cuffs. All that remained was the circular metal around his ankles, wrist, and throat. Those he would be rid of as soon as he phased. He followed his nose, breathing in the fresh air that led him straight to the door that stood between him and his freedom. It was chained closed, but with his full strength returned it posed no true obstacle against his wolf’s power. He ripped the chain from the door and tossed it aside as if it were no more than an old, shredded rope. The door did not even squeak as he pushed it open. He closed it back and then followed the stairs up to another door that was above his head. This would be the one that opened to the forest. As he stepped out from the underground jail, he took in a deep breath filling his lungs with fresh air. It had been so long since he had felt the breeze on his face and smelled the glorious scents of the forest. He wasted no time as he phased into his wolf form, allowing his clothes to be shredded in the process and the shackles to fall away, and took off into the night at a dead run. He was not running away for good, he would be back to deal out his retribution. His wolf demanded that the evil ones responsible for torturing and killing those that belonged to him pay for their deeds. If they knew what he was, they would scream animal or beast or claim him to be a savage—a monster—when in reality they were the monsters. Dalton paused after running for several miles and looked up at the full moon that lit his way. He let out a long, deep howl, part in memory of his parents and part in victory of his escape. As the sound died he felt peace wash over him and knew that the Great Luna had heard his pain, knew his grief, and mourned the loss of her children with him. He did not know if he would ever recover from his time in captivity. He did not know what his future held for him, but he knew that his Creator had not forgotten him. As he began running again, the wind ruffling his fur and replacing the scent of his torture with that of the beauty of nature, he pushed away the memories that would torment him. For that moment in time, he simply let the wolf take over. He buried the man’s emotions under the iron determination of the beast, knowing that it might be the only way he would be able to survive. For the first time in his life, he realized that some things were just too much for the human. But the blessing of being Canis lupus was that the wolf could handle what the man could not. His wolf would shield him from the memories, allowing him to do the things necessary in order to move on with his life. And he would move on after those who killed his family were crushed between his jaws. He would survive, but little did he know then, surviving did not equate to living.

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