Wildheart (Straydog #2)

WHFrontPageWildheart (The Straydog Trilogy #2) – $2.99

The story continues…

In the wake of Tor’s betrayal, Remie is left picking up the pieces of her life as she knew it. It feels like she’s lost everything, but despite the overwhelming emotion threatening to suffocate her, she knows she can’t give up. Just because she’s a weredog now doesn’t mean she’s any less than human—but it does mean she has to deal with the Loneliness that comes with not being around other weres.

Enter Sasha Townsend, the werewolf exiled from Clearkreek for killing his girlfriend. When their lives begin to intertwine, an unlikely friendship blooms between them. Aloof but sweet, his presence eases the ache in Remie’s soul as he helps her navigate through new obstacles in her life—including the fact that somehow, she still loves Torsten Stone.

When another human is found slaughtered, torn up by fang and claw, the pack tries to pin the blame on Sasha—but Remie knows that he didn’t do it. He wasn’t the one who killed his girlfriend and he didn’t do this and against all odds, she’s determined to prove his innocence.

But there’s another, darker danger lurking in the shadows. Waiting to strike…

 

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Excerpt

Chapter One
Remie

I don’t go back to Dawson. Partially because I know I’ll have to face the reality—I’ll have to face Torsten—and I just can’t. Not yet. And also because the weather has decided to mimic my broken heart; sleet pounds my windshield in torrents, ice pebbles bouncing of the roof of my van, making a horrendous sound. So I just sit there, parked haphazardly in the nearest fast-food parking lot, my head resting on my steering wheel as the heat from the vents seeps slowly through me, but it doesn’t feel like I’ll ever be warm again.

My eyes burn like mad, red and puffy from all the bawling, and my heart feels like it’s been ripped from my chest and beaten like a piñata, cracked and shattered and emptied of the last scraps of my happiness. I can’t do this. I’ve lost everything—Erika, Paisley, and now Tor. He’s been the glue holding two fragile halves together and now that glue is melting away and I’m falling apart. Another tear slides down my face; I take a shuddering breath in, swipe at my face with the arm of my hoodie, and let it out again.

Come on, Rem, pull yourself together. This isn’t the end of the world. But damn, it feels like it. Beside me, sitting on the passenger seat, my cellphone beeps and vibrates across the upholstery. I ignore it. He’s left me a handful of texts, as well as two or three voicemails, and I can’t bring myself to listen to them, listen to his endless apologies, hear the crack of his voice. This is his fault. He’s the one that bit me.

I press my eyes shut as the phone goes off again. Muttering a few select curse words, I reach to pick it up to put it on silent, but my pulse jumps. The number isn’t Tor’s; it’s my dad. Shit. “Hello?” My voice is tight and stuffy and I know he’ll know I’ve been crying. Damn it all to hell.

“Rem? Where are you? Are you okay?” He’s worried and he has the right to be. I left home yesterday evening to sleep over at my best friend Chaz’s place, but that was just a cover-up. In reality, I’d been initiated into a pack of local weredogs and had spent the night of the full moon running, four legs and furry, through the forests with the rest of the pack.

For a moment, I felt like I could actually belong…

And then I’d been blindsided by the truth. The dog who had bitten me that day, the one
who’d turned me into a beast, was none other than my boyfriend Torsten. It had been an accident; he’d ran in front of my car and I’d hit him and when I went to check on the poor dog, he’d bitten me. He’d reacted out of pain. I wasn’t mad about that. It was the fact that he’d purposefully hidden the truth from me. He’d lied about it, lied to my face, and that was what hurt the most. He should’ve told me, but he didn’t. He should’ve warned me that Erika would be torn from me. How could he live with himself, hiding that from me?

“I’m okay, Dad.” I sniff and lean my back against the seat. He was going to ask, so I might as well tell. “Tor and I had a fight and I ran into some shitty weather, but I’ll be home soon. Don’t worry, okay?”

His voice is low as he asks, “Did he hurt you? Because I swear to God, I’ll—”

“No. I’m fine. Really. He didn’t touch me. I broke up with him.”

“Okay, honey,” he says, but I can tell he doesn’t believe me. He’s never liked Tor and honestly I think he just wants an excuse to hate him. Dad isn’t the violent sort, but I kind of see him as being this big protective dog with more bark than bite—great, now I’m comparing my dad to a dog. I don’t even like dogs. Or at least I didn’t, then I did, and now I’m not sure. Everything’s so messed up in my head, I don’t even know what to think.

I miss Paisley.

“I’ll be home before dinner,” I promise him. “I love you, Dad.”

“Love you, Rem. Be safe,” he says and the emotion behind his voice makes my throat clog up and my eyes start to burn again. I hang up and slip my phone into my pocket. The sky’s lightened up and the sleet’s stopped and I’m suddenly starving, my stomach threatening to eat my other organs if I don’t feed it soon. Swallowing back my tears—there will be time for them later—I turn off the car and make my way carefully across the icy parking lot.

The bells on the Taco Hut door jingle to announce my arrival and I’m hit by the scent of sizzling beef and melty cheese and warm tortillas. My stomach gives another strangled gurgle for good measure and I step up to the counter to order. A few minutes later, I’m sitting in an orange and green booth with a tray of soft tacos and a large root beer and despite the chaos of the day, it’s freaking delicious. I smother my tacos with mild sauce and scarf them like a starving hobo, guzzling my pop.

My stomach so full it hurts, I throw my trash away, refill my pop, and tell the girl who took my order to have a nice day. She calls out a goodbye, but I’m already out the door, serenaded by the bells. The sun is peeking out from the cover of the clouds which have softened to a light gray, like God himself is gazing down on me, telling me it’ll be okay, even though it doesn’t feel like anything will be okay again. But I smile through the tears, get into my van, start the engine and blast the heat.

My heart a tiny bit lighter, I head back to Dawson.

***

I make a pit stop at Chaz’s place on the way home after my cellphone battery dies in the middle of our conversation. Dad’ll understand, I decide as I pull into the gravel driveway and park, hop out of the van, and hurry to the front door. I’m greeted by a chorus of barking from the dogs in pens out back and my heart sinks a little bit—I’ll be going home to an empty house, no wagging tail, no happy yips and puppy breath. I never thought I’d be so attached to a dog of all things. I’ve always been a cat person, but becoming a weredog has really expanded my horizons I guess. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop missing that patchwork puppy of mine.

I raise my hand to knock when the door bursts open and I’m pretty much glomped by Chaz. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick—Tor called me and said that you’d left his place, that you guys had a fight and he was worried about you! Why wouldn’t you call me?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think.” I scrunch my shoulders and look away from her, but she punches me on the arm, probably harder than she meant to, a frown on her face and I raise my hands in self-defense. “I needed to get away from everything, you know? Hell. I don’t even know.”

“Rem.” Her eyes glitter with worry, with unease, her anger fading away to be replaced by sadness. “What happened? Tor sounded like a wreck, kept saying he was sorry. Are you okay? Really okay?”

“I… I don’t know. I think so, but I’m so not sure.”

“Talk to me?” Her words are spoken so softly that my resistance crumbles and everything starts to spill out of me in a rush, joined by tears and snot and shortness of breath, and as the words jump from my lips, I freeze up. Panic soars through me—I can’t tell her. Chaz is my best friend in the whole world but I can never tell her the truth about what happened, because I’m supposed to keep the whole you’re-a-weredog thing a secret. Another facet of this damn curse. I start crying and she wraps me in a hug. “I’m sorry.”

“Tor cheated on me,” I manage to say, even though that’s the farthest thing from the truth, but I can’t just not tell Chaz anything. “I just, I can’t believe it. I thought he loved me, Chaz. True love.” My voice catches on a sob. That much is the truth and it hurts, so badly.

I swallow and murmur, “He wanted to raise Erika, you know, as her father. He wanted us to be a family.” That’s something I haven’t told anyone, because if it wasn’t for him, none of this would’ve happened. I would’ve given birth to a beautiful baby girl and we’d have raised her together but instead she was ripped from me, leaving an empty, aching hole in my heart, and it was his fault.

He should’ve told me…

“Aw, sweetie.” She wraps her arms tight around me and lets me cry it out on her shoulder, my tears bleeding onto her blouse. After a little while, I pull away and wipe my eyes and suck in a deep, sniffling but cleansing breath. Her forehead is wrinkled with concern. “Do you need me to break it off with Nate?”

I blink, startled by the sharp bite of seriousness in her tone. Nate is her boyfriend, Tor’s older brother; he had a reputation all through high school as being one of Dawson High’s heartbreakers, but he’s really taken a shine to Chaz. “What? Why?”

“I’ll drop him like a hot potato if it’ll be easier on you. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”
Sadness wells up again, this time for a different reason. “I thought you loved him. I thought he was the one?”

“He is,” she says, her smile wistful. “But I’d do it for you. Best friends till the end and all that jazz.”

I burst into noisy sobs again and she squeaks and hugs me, her hands stroking down my hair. I can’t ask that of Chaz, I can’t be that damn selfish, even if I want to be. “No.” I gulp back my sudden emotion and shake my head fiercely. “No. You love him. You should stay together. Besides, you’re perfect for each other, just…” My heart squeezes. “Just be careful, okay? I never thought in a million years that Tor would do this.” He didn’t. You’re a liar, you’re just as bad as him…

Now it’s her turn to get teary and she hugs me tight, looking relieved, and I know I’ve made the right decision. “I will be.”

“You think we can dye my hair soon?” I change subjects, ready to be done with crying for the time being. She offers me a tissue and I blow my nose. “Dad’s already given me the okay. I was thinking maybe a cut, too?”

She laughs. “You trust me with scissors with your beautiful hair?”

“Why not? It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.” I give her my best puppy-dog eyes. “Pretty please? I need a change.”

“Change is good. Okay, you get the stuff and I’ll do your hair all fancy. You’ll be one hot mama.”

I feel more like a hot mess, but I’ll get through this. I have to. “You’re the best.”

“I know.” She winks. “Love you, chica.”