Chapter 1: She Sees a Murder
Helina ran through the forest, not sure she wanted to meet with Kurt, the Alpha of her pack. He'd been making overtures to her, but she knew from his scent that he wasn't her mate. She'd know it. Her mother had promised her on her deathbed that she would know who her mate was instantly. Kurt was not it, but members of her pack had been cajoling her to meet with the Alpha, to be with the Alpha.
The only one on her side was her brother, Harlan. They were the only family each other had after their parents died in an accident.
He was her rock even if she was the older child.
She paused in a clearing, shifting back to human form for a moment. She loved the forest whether she was in wolf or human form. The sounds and the smells made her smile, so she took a moment to take them all in. She lived in the forest, but the wonders of it never became old to her.
She became aware of voices. They were getting louder. Two beings in the forest were shouting at each other. She moved behind a tree, not wanting anyone to know she was listening. She'd agreed to meet Kurt here, but she was a little early. She was going to tell him right off that she wasn't interested in him.
Yes, he was the Alpha and could do what he wanted, but she had no interest in him. It was within her rights to refuse him, even if she didn't think the pack would agree. It was a tightrope she would walk for her self-respect. Her mother had taught her that no one could do anything to her that she didn't want them to. In Helina's mind, this covered dating the Alpha that she wasn't interested in.
The voices came closer then stopped suddenly.
“You owe me money," Kurt said.
Who was her Alpha arguing with? She wanted to know but knew it was wrong to eavesdrop. She could shift and run away without anyone knowing she'd been there. Unless Kurt had already scented her. Then she'd be stuck lying to him that she hadn't heard his argument.
Kurt and a man, she assumed he was human, entered the clearing. She had found a nice wide tree so they wouldn't see her.
“I don't owe you anything. That wasn't part of our agreement," the man said.
What was Kurt doing with a human? The humans had their world and the wolves stayed out of it. At least that's what she'd been taught. Humans would harm wolf shifters if they knew what they were. They'd consider us freaks of nature, so wolves stayed separate, deep in the woods where humans rarely traveled.
“You know you owe me the money."
What would her Alpha need money for? Why would he lend it to a human? This conversation left her with more questions than answers. She should have run away when she first heard voices. Now she was stuck because if she shifted to wolf form, her Alpha would scent her for sure.
What was she going to do?
“I don't owe you money. At least not yet."
“Not yet?" Kurt asked.
He loomed over the human, who didn't look afraid. Did the human have no idea the Alpha's power? With one swipe of his paw, the human would be killed.
Helina reviewed her options. Kurt was expecting her so he shouldn't be surprised if she stepped out into the clearing as if she just arrived. Then again, she didn't want to get involved in the Alpha's business. He was going to be unhappy that she turned him down. She didn't need to upset him in what was obviously an argument.
She had no choice, but to stay where she was.
“No, the deal hasn't gone through. As soon as it does I'll give you the money."
“I don't trust you," Kurt said.
“You have to trust me. I'm your only hope of salvaging this investment."
Kurt growled and the man stepped back, his hands up.
“I didn't make you any promises, Kurt."
“You did. I heard you say that I'd get a return on investment. My pack is out thousands of dollars now."
What? He's invested the pack's treasury? An Alpha could do anything he wanted, but why would Kurt do something this risky? The Alpha didn't need money. The pack was rich in resources. None of this made sense to Helina.
“I'll get the money back to you and then some."
“You've been saying that for weeks. I'm done waiting," Kurt said.
“I don't have the money so you need to back off."
Kurt advanced towards the man then shifted into wolf form. He attacked the man and killed him. Helina held her breath. That was against wolf rules, but Helina was the only one who saw it. It would be her word against Kurt's and his held more weight. She couldn't let him find her here.
She shifted into wolf form and ran in the opposite direction. She didn't know where she'd go, but she couldn't stay here knowing that her Alpha had broken that rule. They weren't allowed to harm humans since they were weaker than shifters.
Finally breathless, Helina found herself at the edge of the wood where her pack lived. She'd never been outside of the cocoon of trees.
The city lay before her just down the hill. People moved about as if they all had somewhere to be. The smells were the worst. They came at her all at once. The sounds were the worst. They were loud and they hurt her ears.
She shifted into human form and the sounds were not so bad, but she could hear conversations. Thankfully in her pack her clothes reappeared when she shifted from her wolf form.
Then she heard a rustle behind her. In case it was Kurt, she stepped out of the trees and onto the road. What was she going to do?
The sights and sounds distracted her, but she doubted that Kurt would be able to follow her. She might be safe, but she had no idea what to do. She didn't have money since they didn't use it very often in her pack. It was only for trading with other packs that had other resources that they didn't.
She swallowed hard, staring at everything at once.
“Watch where you're going," someone said when she bumped into them.
Then the reality of her situation settled in. She couldn't go back to her pack. If she did, she would be banished because she would accuse Kurt of killing a human. She couldn't go back and keep quiet. That wasn't her nature. She was stuck in the city with no money and no idea where she'd sleep tonight.
She wandered the streets and found a coffee shop with a “Help Wanted" sign on it.
She opened the door and hoped her future was here.