The waxing moon was calling to her. Again. Lying on the soft mattress in Darien Silver's guest room early that spring evening, Carol Wood tried to sleep. But she felt the growing white sphere begging her to shed her human frailties and run with the magnificent grace of the wolf, strong and agile, with purpose in every stride in the crisp, cold Colorado night air.
She did not wish to be one of them-at least as far as being a part-time wolf-no matter how much several in the pack had encouraged her to embrace this new side of herself. The moon would soon be whole, but deep down she rebelled against the werewolf's curse. Because it was a curse to her, just the way her premonitions and psychic touch often were.
She'd grown up with her revved senses and had realized she couldn't do anything about that aspect of her life, once she'd learned it wasn't normal to have the abilities she did. But now to be-she squeezed her eyes tighter and rolled onto her back-a werewolf... No matter how much she wished the truth could be changed, she knew she'd have to deal with it before long. With all her heart, she prayed to keep her newly acquired bizarre condition-shape-shifting-at bay. Her body tingled with heat and her mind with apprehension. Even in the darkness of her half-asleep mind, she fought the change, fought the feeling she was losing control of her physical form. Fresh tension made every nerve ending prickle while she clutched the comforter underneath her chin.
The heat, like the sun shining on a bright and warm Caribbean afternoon, invaded every pore, signaling the unwanted craving to shift. She moaned, tightening her hold on the comforter, her nails digging into the white eyelet. The moon was growing day by day, just like the damnable desire to shape-shift. No, not desire. Compulsion.
Then, as if her psychic side finally gained some ground against the wolf, her second sight kicked in. The room and the need to shift dissolved into blackness, and the wolf in her vision appeared again like a lucid dream.
As big as it was, with massive shoulders, broad muzzle and forehead, and long legs, the wolf had to be a male, standing proud and tall, watching her from the edge of the spring-green forest. Cloaked in rich bluish-silver fur with a lighter mask, and with his ears perked like an alpha male's would be, he panted until he caught her gaze. His amber eyes focused on hers: the wolf wanted her. Beckoned her to come to him. But not as a human.
As a wolf.
Even in her visions, the scene was one of cajoling, begging her to recognize her destiny, to give in to her wolf's half. At least that's the way she viewed him.
Carol refused the wolf's alluring gaze and the moon's sensuous serenade.
But the moon commanded her! Aroused her to do its bidding through its seductive pull, yanking her abruptly from the vision.
The heat invading her body intensified now, like a fever that couldn't be squelched. Never had the shift overtaken a vision in progress. The urge was growing. Yet she knew she still had some influence over the shift, like those born as lupus garous had an inborn ability to prevent humans from catching them during the conversion. Like them, if she wanted to change, the shift happened in a flash. And since she hadn't just automatically shifted, she must have some control.
Still, her muscles twitched with need as she shrugged off the comforter and blankets. She lay in her silky gown on the soft mattress in the pack leader's chilly guest room, ready to yank off her garment before the transformation took over in case she couldn't stop it. She envisioned the horrifying image of getting hung up in her gown as a wolf. Trapped, snarling, and growling, she'd try to free herself until she woke someone in the household. He or she would find her struggling in a cocoon of silk-furry legs kicking and sharp, wicked canines snapping.
She gritted her teeth and pressed the palms of her hands flat against the soft mattress, battling the moon's domination. She would not give up control and shapeshift! Not when she couldn't rule her paranormal abilities. Not when she would now have to relinquish control over her physical form as well.
But more than that, she feared the shift would change her forever. Forever! Doomed to live life as a wolf with the conscience of a human. Even a single moment as a wolf could permanently seal her fate. At least that's what she thought a new vision was telling her, yet she couldn't know for certain. That's why fear consumed her to a greater degree every time the damnable shift threatened to overtake her.
Cursing her fate, she ground her teeth and clenched her hands into fists, her fingernails biting into the palms of her hands, and attempted to think of anything that would halt the raging need to shift.
She visualized Lelandi, the pack leader's mate, throwing a first-ever All Girls' Night Extravaganza the previous week exclusively for women in the pack-complete with werewolf-romance writer Julia Wildthorn's latest novel made into a feature film, Wolfly Desires, popcorn, margaritas, and lots of laughter. They were still finding popcorn underneath cushions and beneath the couch in little clusters. Carol smiled at the memory, hoping they could repeat an activity like that soon.
But then the heat rushed through her body again with a new wave of warning. Every muscle tightened, preparing for the fight. As if she'd called to the gods of psychic phenomena and they'd taken pity on her, her thoughts began to blur, and she knew her psychic sense was trying to take control again.
Holding her thoughts hostage, the dreamlike image showed an out-of-focus man, dressed in red and white stripes, who had knocked her down and was holding her there. Instantly, her blood cooled, the need to shape-shift withdrawing. A scrap of relief trickled through her. She focused, trying to see the mental picture more clearly, attempting to determine who had tackled her and why. Annoyance was the driving feeling she experienced from the encounter. Not fear. Loss of control, maybe. But the strongest emotion was definitely annoyance.
The vision grew mistier, the man's shadowy face becoming hazier and the red and white stripes blurring into pink until they faded completely from her mind. She was in control again-of her thoughts and her physical form. Taking a deep breath, she rubbed her arms, which were covered in chill bumps. Once more, she'd successfully stopped the change, and she felt some measure of triumph in overcoming the need to shift. She shivered. The compulsion grew stronger every month with each full moon. She could also shape-shift anytime a crescent moon appeared-waxing or waning. Only the royal werewolves, whose roots had not been diluted by strictly human genetics in their recent ancestry, could shapeshift during the phase of the new moon.
She feared that one of these times she wouldn't be able to conjure up a vision quickly enough or maybe not at all. The arrival of her visions was as unpredictable as the timing of the craving to shape-shift. But what if she did manage a vision and the shift superseded it again? Worrying about that wouldn't change a thing. She meant to dream up a fantasy world that would distract her so she could fall asleep again, because she desperately needed the sleep, but her thoughts drew back to the wolf in her vision earlier. He would come for her. Why? She didn't have a clue. But she knew she couldn't put off the inevitable.