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An Indiana Teller Novel
By Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 HRH Princess Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian
All rights reserved.
He Who Wasn't a Wolf
I was born into a respectable family of werewolves. Respectable, because Grandpa is the leader of one of the most powerful clans in North America. Werewolves, because that's what he and Grandma are.
We raise cattle on the largest and wealthiest ranch in Montana. We're rich because we have to be rich; we can't allow anyone to know we exist, and only money can protect us.
I was six years old when I realized I wasn't like the other members of my family. Once they were able to change, I began to hate them for turning into little werewolves at the drop of a hat. They often did it just to taunt me.
My father had been a werewolf, so I waited to change, too, but I never turned into anything, nor did I display the slightest power or the tiniest scrap of strangeness.
At eight years old, however, I discovered I might be something better than a werewolf, something stronger.
"A time-tracker," Nanny told me. "The most marvelous, strangest, and most precious thing alive. If your power manifests itself, everybody will bow down to you."
It seems the doctor at our hospital cut the umbilical cord, and my mother smiled and vanished, leaving behind an empty hospital gown. My father was so startled he almost dropped me. Just as suddenly, my mother reappeared. For weeks after that, my father was hailed as a messiah for bringing a time-tracker into the family.
Although she'd disappear, just her mind traveled, which is why time-trackers can go wherever they like; they're only limited by the speed of thought. No secret, code, or bank is safe from their power. Before my mother lost her mind, she'd told my grandparents that her body hung in limbo, someplace where it stayed warm and safe until her mind returned.
I think he hated it. He had fallen in love with a beautiful young woman, and now he was stuck with an alien who spent her time vanishing, fascinated by what she discovered on her travels.
As time passed, between her powers and my needs, Mom neglected Dad, which worsened once my grandparents started to use her. Thanks to her, we got very rich because by going into the past, Mom learned all the skeletons in the family closets.
And, to my father's and grandparents' great disappointment, I was not a werewolf.
I wasn't the first human child born to wolves, but I was the first allowed to live. A tiny endangered species like ours can't risk diluting the purity of its blood, so the wolves called an Assembly to discuss what to do. The leaders of our pack weren't compassionate in their decision; they thought of the advantage of having not one, but potentially two time-trackers.
A few weeks after the Assembly, my father seemed to decide I was the cause of all his problems, that my birth had set everything in motion. He started to hate me.
It seems my mother returned from one of her trips while my father was drunk. Nobody knows what happened next, aside from the two screams that came from my bedroom.
Jolted awake, those in the manor changed into wolf shape and raced to my parents' room to find me crying in my cradle and Mom rocking Dad in her arms. There was blood everywhere. Along with a silver dagger that had pierced his heart.
They got nothing more out of Mom. She became catatonic, then started vanishing more and more often, coming back with increasingly confused and incoherent stories, information, and data. When she returned, she'd reappear in exactly the same place.
Why didn't they kill her for murdering my father? Grandpa would've been glad to rip her throat with his own fangs, but he needed the time-tracker to preserve his clan.
So Mom got a reprieve, because in her madness, my mother did the impossible. One day when she rematerialized, she didn't return from the past, she returned from the future. She simply came back and recited with perfect clarity the price changes of major stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Index ... for the week ahead.
After that, there was no more talk of killing her. Someone was by her side twenty-four hours a day to record everything she said. Our clan became even more powerful and wealthy enough to have gotten out of the cattle business. But we didn't.
I wanted to brag to all the bullies that I might someday be more powerful, but I had to keep my potential a secret.
My life depended on it.
Basically, I have two possibilities: I won't be either a wolf or a time-tracker, and not having any power will drive me nuts. Or I'll get my time-tracker power and wind up insane like my mother.
Awesome. I love my life.CHAPTER 2
My father, Benjamin, was a pureblood werewolf, a noble descendent of Homo lupus or lycanthrope — from the Greek lykos, meaning wolf, and antropos, meaning human. He met my mother, Jessica Jenkins, at a dance. Nanny was there with him.
"Your mother was enchanting, Indiana," said Nanny, her eyes sparkling. "When your father saw her, he was thunderstruck. He only had eyes for her. When they danced, no couple looked better together. They were beautiful."
She glanced at the photograph on my night table. My mother, a small woman with huge blue eyes and hair with tawny red highlights, and my father, a tall, husky guy with matching golden hair and eyes. Yeah, they were beautiful.
"Did she know she was a time-tracker then?"
Startled, Nanny glanced at my open bedroom door. "Shhh, don't talk so loud. Wolves have sharp ears, so we'll use TT."
"The answer is no. She was sixteen years old and didn't know anything about her background because she'd been adopted. She also didn't know she was a TT because her powers hadn't manifested."
Good news. If Mom didn't have any powers when she was young, maybe that meant I would develop mine when I got older.
Grandpa Karl walked by my bedroom at that very moment, shaking the floor under his tremendous weight. He was tall — a couple of inches over seven feet — and he weighed nearly six hundred pounds. Sometimes he had to duck so as not to bump his head on low doorframes.
Later on, I realized just how powerful my grandfather was, because when he changed, his fat turned onto a mass of solid muscle. I once saw him take down an angry bull that weighed four times as much as he did.
Purebred werewolves like Grandpa Karl and the rest of the pack are different from what we call "semis." If a purebred werewolf bites a human while in wolf form and he survives, the human becomes a half wolf — a kind of monster, and the reason I, as a human, can't play with my friends when they're wolves. The semi can change into a furry biped with long teeth, sharp claws, and a keen appetite, and is the source of all those werewolf legends.
Semis love humans. The more human flesh they eat, the happier they are, because it gives them power and strength. Thousands of people disappear every year, which is why werewolves hunt them down and kill them without mercy.
Some semis overcome their instincts and don't attack people so they're spared, but still aren't allowed join the pack. Instead, they have "half packs," made up of other semis who have also survived. They live as peaceably as we do, have their territory like we have ours, and don't bother anybody.
And one of them, Axel, became my friend.
After almost eating me, that is.CHAPTER 3
The Semi Wolf
Friendship is funny. In the beginning, you can never tell if you're going to be friends with someone. After what happened to me the first time I laid eyes on Axel, I expect anyone else would have run away screaming.
I think I was thirteen at the time. I'd been beaten up badly by my cousins. For a boy whose testosterone is starting to stir, living among werewolves really sucks. Even though I was the grandson of the Lord of Wolves, I was just a half-breed to them, a stupid human.
They were so much stronger and faster there was no point in my trying to match them, but I wanted to be part of their gang. So I trained like a lunatic, getting up early every day, running for miles, and going to school exhausted. I worked on my reflexes. I lifted weights, built muscle, and bulked up.
It didn't do any good because they were still stronger than me, and I realized the only area where I could whip their butts was in the classroom. I rose to the top of the class, and things changed. I dominated them intellectually the way they dominated me physically.
The wolves were pretty pissed. They could've competed with me, tried to outdo me, but that would've taken some effort. So they beat me up.
And I ran away.
I was sore, bruised, and angry, so I grabbed an ATV and rode until well after moonrise. Only too late did I realize my mistake — I had gone beyond the boundaries of our territory and passed onto our neighbors' ranch.
I was caught by surprise when this crazy, hairy beast tore me off my ATV and tossed me a dozen yards away, knocking the wind out of me.
Before I could recover, it was on top of me, its huge jaws six inches from my throat.
I finally took a breath and immediately regretted it. Axel reeked to high heavens. He must have just made a fresh kill, if even I couldn't smell it. He also stank of horse manure.
Although I knew he was a semi, I didn't close my eyes. I was either brave or stupid, but I was going to face death head-on.
"You smell of wolves," he managed to say, while gnashing his teeth.
I was dead all over again. Semis hate wolves.
I was too exhausted and in too much pain to resist.
"Go ahead," I said. "Get it over with."
His dark eyes widened. "You want me to eat you?"
"Not especially. But I don't have a choice, do I?"
The weight on my chest lifted, and I looked up to find him standing in front of me. He was very tall, and his fur was dark under the silvery moon.
"You're the grandson of the Lord of Wolves." He sounded angry. "What is this crap? I kill you, then the wolves declare war and massacre us and take our territory, is that the idea?"
Maybe I wasn't going to die right away.
I rubbed my aching head. "My grandfather doesn't need an excuse to kick your hairy butts."
"Insulting me doesn't raise your chances of survival," he growled.
"Neither does eating me."
He stared at me. "Okay then." He flopped down, but I knew it would take him a split second to tear my throat out if he felt like it.
"What's your name?"
Oh, great. I've got a splitting headache, and he wants to chat.
"Your mother gave you a dog's name in a wolf pack?"
"She had a sense of humor. What's your name?"
"Axel ... Brown." He had hesitated so I figured he made it up.
I was getting tired of lying in the mud. "Mind if I get up ... Axel?"
I sensed a hint of amusement in his voice, and it annoyed me. "So are you gonna eat me or not?"
"Why don't you start by telling me what the hell you're doing on our property?"
"I got lost," I admitted as I tried to scrape mud off my pants. "I was angry, and I wasn't paying attention."
There was a moment of silence while he absorbed the fact that a werewolf could somehow get lost. That's when I figure he realized, the way everyone did, that I wasn't a wolf.
"You smell of blood," he said, sniffing me.
"My friends beat me up because I'm better than them."
Axel sighed. "I don't call people who beat me up friends."
I'd been raised with wolves, and wolves need their family unit, their pack, much more than humans do. To be rejected by the pack was unbearable.
"Tell me a little about your life," said Axel quietly.
His sympathy brought tears to my eyes, and I angrily brushed them away. I started slowly, but then it was as if a huge, muddy tumor burst, vomiting out my mouth. All of my frustration, my sadness, and my anger came out that night. I hadn't realized how much I needed someone to talk to.
It took most of the night, but he listened and it did me a world of good.
"They should've let you go live with your human grandparents," he said at one point. "You'll never be accepted by wolves."
A few years earlier I probably would've protested. Now I held my tongue because he was right, but Grandpa Karl wouldn't hear of it.
Axel glanced at the lowering moon, then stood up and stretched. "I think you better go home now. Your grandparents must be crazy worried about you, and they'll be out searching everywhere. I don't want them to follow your trail here and come to the wrong conclusions." He went to get the four-wheeler, which had automatically switched off when the key tied to my wrist was yanked out.
Then I did something unusual.
"You think we could ... Do you think we could see each other again?" I asked. "You could tell me about semis."
"Such as what?" he asked, amused.
I hesitated. Axel hadn't eaten me yet, but my being too direct might piss him off.
"Go ahead, I won't hurt you."
"Er, that you're dangerous."
"That's true," he said with some satisfaction.
"That you're crazy."
"Some of us are."
"That you eat anything that moves, with a distinct preference for humans when you change."
He stiffened. "I didn't eat you."
"That's exactly why I'd like to know more."
Axel stared at me for a long time, tensely. I was sure he would say no.
"All right," he finally said. "I'm just as curious about pack life as you are about semis."
I was so surprised that he agreed that it took me a moment to speak.
"They also say semis are the best fighters in the world. That it takes two wolves to beat a semi."
In the moonlight, his eyes narrowed. "Uh-uh, no way."
"I haven't even asked anything yet," I protested.
"But I can see where you're going. You want me to train you, is that it?"
"The wolves in my pack are all quicker and stronger than me. If I don't have somebody to tell me their weaknesses, to teach me how to fight them, I'll never manage. The grown-up wolves will never help me out."
"What makes you think I will?"
I stiffened. What I was about to pull wasn't exactly honorable, but I was at the end of my rope.
"I'm the Lord of Wolves' only grandson. I'll never lead the pack, but I will inherit the ranch one of these days. Wouldn't it be better to have a friend for a neighbor?"
I didn't bother mentioning that I would probably die of old age long before my grandparents.
He smiled ironically. "You wouldn't invade our territory just because I refused to help you."
Then suddenly I had a stroke of genius. "I'll pay you as a private tutor. Fifty dollars an hour." I had no idea what private lessons cost.
Axel let out a low whistle. "Do I have to kill somebody for that? You sure you have the money?"
"My grandfather gives me an allowance. I haven't really had much time to spend it, though."
He spat in his hand and held it out to me. I spat on mine and took his.
"It's a deal. So, are we friends?" he asked.
"Maybe," I said, feeling like I was somehow making a mistake.
He sniffed, and I swear he was trying to keep from laughing.
"All right. I'll call you. See you later." And he disappeared, moving too fast for my poor human eyes to follow. Axel was faster than a wolf.
I rubbed my spit-covered hand on the ground, then rode back at a much more reasonable speed than on my trip out.
Axel had grabbed me, drooled on me, and touched the ATV, and I didn't want my family to catch his scent. So I stopped at the river for an ice-cold bath fully clothed. I shivered all the way home, and when I met the first search party close to the house, my damned nose was already starting to run.
Fortunately, they were too panicked over my disappearance and the fact that I was soaking wet to smell the semi. I was grounded for a week, which was a joke, since I didn't have anywhere to go anyhow. Besides, I caught a cold that kept me in bed.
My only comfort was that my tormentors were punished as well. They were forced to apologize to me as I lay in bed, coughing my lungs out.
"The next one of you who goes after my grandson because he has better grades than you or because he is weaker than you will be banished from the pack. Understand?" Grandpa roared at them.
My head snapped up, and I forgot the coughing fit building in my throat. Now that was a real threat. The young wolves looked at him in horror, as if he had just pronounced a death sentence on them. The warning was strong enough to guarantee that they would leave me in peace until the end of my days.
Excerpted from Spring Moon by Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2013 HRH Princess Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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