Wolfspirit (The Otherside Series #2) – $2.99
The only good guy is a gay guy, at least that’s what 17-year-old Shae Thomas thinks. When her boyfriend hits her, she breaks his nose and then swears off men for good.
What she doesn’t expect is a visit from the past—or rather, a certain werewolf boy she hasn’t seen in two years. Aliel is all grown up and absolutely drool-worthy and he comes bearing news: Shae’s Alpha brother and his mate just had their baby and Kia wants her to come to the Otherside to meet her niece.
As the drama in her life piles up, including the unwanted yet obvious attraction to Aliel despite her better judgment, Shae agrees to visit the Otherside. She misses her brother and who knows? Maybe she’ll even embrace her wolf spirit and go furry.
But trouble is brewing on the Otherside and between a string of werecat murders and the realization that she’s falling head over heels for Aliel, Shae starts to wonder if she ever should’ve come here at all.
You should never hit a pissed off redhead—sometimes they hit back.
My fist connected with Tate’s nose with a resounding and almost-too-pleasing thwack. Bone cracked and his expression was nearly comical as his hands flew up to staunch the flow of blood that had begun to gush down his face.
Not that this was a laughing matter.
“You bitch.” If looks could kill, I’d be vaporized.
I crossed both arms over my chest, jutting out my chin and glaring at him. I refused to rub the bruise blossoming on my cheekbone. I wouldn’t give him the pleasure of seeing me in pain, even though it smarted. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to hit girls? Oh, wait, that’s right. You probably hit her, too!” The words were acid on my tongue. Tate had always had a rough family life, but I never thought…
His expression turned sharp, but I didn’t give him the chance to say anything. Twisting his class ring off my finger—the promise ring he’d given me almost two years ago, when we decided we were going to get married right out of high school and have a couple kids—I slapped it into his blood-sticky palm.
It took him a minute to realize what I’d just done. ”What?”
“You heard me. I’m done with you and your bullshit, Tate. I’m done!” I spun away, stalking off towardss my house, fighting down the tears that came with a relationship—the last two years of my life—going down the drain. God, I’d been with him forever.
“You can’t just walk off like that! Shae!” I heard footsteps pound the sidewalk after me, then his hands jerked me back around to face him. Holding me at arm’s length, he shook me until my teeth clicked together. His eyes were wild. “You can’t just dump us like that. Don’t I mean anything to you?”
I glowered up at him for a moment before shrugging off his hands. “You mean the world to me, Tate,” I said, my voice eerily calm despite the angst playing through my heart and soul, a twisted tape set on playback. “But I don’t deserve to be used as your personal punching bag.”
“Leave me alone. I need space.” He reached for me again and I slapped his hand away. “I mean it, Tate. We’re done!”
He stared at me for a long moment, his dusty blond hair falling into his eyes, and I was thankful it shielded me from the pain and anger no doubt swirling through them. My heart felt like it was being crushed in a vice and thrown in an incinerator, all at once, but I stood tall even though my heart was screaming: I’m sorry! I don’t mean it, Tate. I love you!
But I did mean it.
Then he scowled at me, his face a terrifying, cold mask that I’d never seen him wear before, and in that moment, he looked just like his dickhead of a father. “I hope the next guy you fuck with gives you a black eye and a bloody nose,” he sneered, his fists clenched at his sides, and then stormed off.
I stood there, my knees wobbling beneath me, threatening to spill me on my face. I would be strong, I would be. My fingernails pressed hard crescents into my palm, biting until the pain faded to numbness, and I watched him go. I reached up, touching my bruised face gingerly, and tears sprang to my eyes. I turned away, this time for good.
I didn’t need him. He was a grade-A jerk-off. You didn’t hit girls.
I couldn’t go home like this. I’d ruin Mom’s ever-present good mood. Ever since my father came back into our lives two years ago, she’d been secretly planning her wedding. Now, it wasn’t so secret. The date was set and she was overjoyed. I couldn’t ruin it for her. Mom was a worrier, no matter how hard she tried not to be, and I knew she’d fuss over me and my stupid bruised face. Not to mention my bruised heart.
So I went to my other home.
Standing on the doorstep, I rapped my knuckles against the bright red door and took a step back. I heard someone’s muffled shout on the other side of the door, followed by soft laughter, and then the door swung inwards to reveal a very sexy man. With curls the color of chocolate and eyes that gleamed warmly behind a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, Sam Shepherd was definitely a looker.
Hands off, ladies—he’s taken.
He did a quick inventory and his gaze lingered on my face, a frown turning his lips downcast. He must’ve seen the tears I was fighting back because he reached for me, welcoming me into his open arms. “What’s wrong, coco? Boy trouble?”
“Yeah.” I released a shuddering sigh, wrapping my arms around him and letting him hold me. His hands rubbed up and down my back, soothing. I squeezed him once more for good measure, then pulled away. He looped a long arm around my shoulders and steered me into his cozy little house. I heard the door snick shut behind us.
“Is Grey here?”
“Of course, sweetie. Living room. I’ll get you a cola.” A man after my own heart. I nodded and wandered into the adjoining room, where Greyson Meyer sat perched on the edge of their couch, a gaming controller in his hands, his fingers mashing the buttons. He was technically my brother’s best friend, but after Kia went to what we call the Otherside—a separate realm where the supernatural exists—to become king of the werewolves, Grey had somehow become my best friend as well. He and his boyfriend, Sam, were my home away from home and I loved them both.
“Hey, Grey.” I flopped down onto the couch beside him, sinking into the plush blue leather and pulling my knees to my chest. Grey’s eyes were glued on the TV screen, the buttons click-clicking with each press of his thumbs, but he glanced sidelong at me and immediately paused the game. He tossed the controller onto the end table and looked into my eyes.
“What happened, Shae?” His voice was calm with a touch of worry.
I dropped my head. “I broke up with Tate.” And tell him the truth, Shae, I chided myself. I took a deep breath. “He hit me.”
About that time, Sam came strolling into the living room, a cola in his hand. Both he and Greyson froze, staring intently at me. I didn’t know what to say so I just held my breath. Sam rattled out a sigh and handed me the pop and I could see the dents where his fingers had gripped the can too tightly. He was a tad bit on the protective side.
“I’m sorry,” Greyson said, rubbing my knee. “I know that you really liked him.” There was no judgment in his tone, just a gentle sort of anxiety. Tears burned my eyes like a wildfire and before I realized I was even crying, they started spilling down my face. My heart throbbed with an otherworldly ache. It felt like someone had ripped it out, played soccer with it, and then glued it back inside my chest.
Sam nestled in beside me, pulling me to him, and my head rested on his shoulder, the scent of his cologne swirling in my nostrils. I took a deep breath and let it out shakily. “But let’s face it, sweetie,” he said, both soft and hard at the same time. “Anyone who hits a pretty girl is a bastard. You want me to kick his ass for you?”
“I already broke his nose.” A smile twisted across my lips.
Sam beamed proudly, squeezing my shoulder. “Good for you, Shae!”
Greyson was smiling, but he asked, “But are you okay?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I loved these guys, I really did. They were my best friends; they were nearly my brothers. Grey and Sam were family that I never wanted to lose. “I’m okay. I’m just…done with guys for awhile.” All they gave you was heartache, and not even the good kind.
“Hopefully you’re not done with us,” Greyson teased.
I straightened up and slapped his arm. “Heck no! The only good guy is a gay guy.”
They both grinned, but hell, maybe that was the truth.
My thumbs ferociously tapped the buttons of the controller, my heart thundering in my skull as a horde of zombies burst from the back of a harmless-looking semi, shuffling and clawing through dumped boxes of melted ice cream with hungry, desolate moans.
They wanted brains and they wanted them now. Oh God, help us all!
A mangy woman swiped at my character with clawed fingers and I squealed out loud, pressing buttons as fast as I could mash them, making my busty-blonde girl knock zombie heads clean from their shoulders with a samurai sword I’d picked up a city back. With a lifelike squishing sound, the heads toppled to the ground, bloodless faces void of emotion, and the blade glistened.
Scenting blood, the rest of the zombies lurched towardss me, moaning and panting. Outnumbered! I took off in the opposite direction as they piled up around me. Then Sam’s character, a surfer guy hoisting around a blood-stained metal ball bat, ran up beside me. He knocked one zombie down and out with brass knuckles, its face imploding with a gush of brains and blood, then gripped the bat.
“Heeyyyy, batter batter, swing,” Sam called. I glanced sidelong to see the perfectly wicked smile playing across his lips, his eyes glued to the screen as if this were really happening. The zombies lunged and there was a solid thwack as the bat slammed home. The surfer guy successfully beat the small horde into a pile of rotting flesh and bone. I stabbed one of them in the back with my sword and together we let out a victory yell.
The screen faded to black and slowly turned crimson, like blood draining down the screen, and the game told us how well we’d fared this level. Sam won by scads of points, as usual, and Greyson’s character hadn’t even made it halfway through before getting mauled and lunched on by the undead. I shot a grin at Grey, who was sprawled back against the sofa, hands laced behind his head, content just to watch.
“We should probably head to bed,” he said, pointing to the clock, which displayed the time in bold green LED lighting: 2:27 am.
Sam let out a slow sigh and looked at the screen longingly. “Yeah, probably. I have class in the morning.” He rolled his shoulders and turned off the console, stashing the controllers in the cubby at the bottom of the end table. Our empty pop cans sat on the glass top, as well as two empty bags of cheese twists, orange crumbs trailing out of their mouths.
Nothing like curing a broken heart with caffeine, junk food, and zombies.
“You gonna be okay, sweetie?” I glanced up from the now-black screen to see both Sam and Grey staring at me, their gazes intent and watchful. “I fixed up the guest bedroom for you, but if you wanted, I’m sure we could make room in our bed for three.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
“Aw.” I grinned at him. “I wouldn’t want to take away from Grey’s cuddle time. Besides, I don’t really wanna know what goes on behind your bedroom door. Well, it’s too late for that—I know exactly how two guys do it—I just don’t wanna witness it.”
They shared a glance, complete with secret smiles, and then looked back at me. “If you’re sure…”
“I’ll be fine! I’m seventeen years old. I’m a big girl. Go to sleep, boys. And behave yourselves. I’d rather not hear Sam-and-Grey’s Happy Time.” Like the last time I stayed over. Talk about awkward.
“I’ll do my best.” Sam saluted me, then ruffled his boyfriend’s hair. “I’m gonna go warm up the blankets. I’ll see you…between the sheets. Five minutes.” He winked and paraded down the hall, leaving me and Greyson alone. I stood up, stretching the kinks from my back and picked up trash while Grey turned off the lights in the living room until there was only the pale glow from the hall.
“Sure you’ll be okay?” Grey’s hazel eyes were warm and worried and in that moment, he reminded me so much of Kia that my heart gave a squeeze. I missed that brother of mine. Instead, I nodded and he grabbed me up in a fierce hug. “I love you, Shae. Things will get better. You deserve better than that asshole.”
“I know,” I murmured. I did deserve better, but why did it have to hurt so much right now? He placed a kiss on my forehead, then disappeared down the hall. Their bedroom door shut with a soft click and for a moment, I just stood in the living room, my heart throbbing and my mind racing. I didn’t want to be alone. I threw the trash in the garbage can and flicked off the hall light to cast the little house in darkness.
The guest room was tiny, but the bed was bigger than my bed at home and the blankets were like sleeping on clouds. I collapsed onto the mattress, snuggling up in the comforter, and let the silence of the house fill me like a void. I focused on breathing—in, slow through the nose, counting to three, and then out through the mouth—but nothing turned off the tapes replaying in my head: Of his fist slamming against my cheek. Of his anger, his frustration, his pain. Of the ache in my heart, blooming like blood from a fresh wound, a perfect red rosette.
Tears sprang to the surface, but this time I let them come, let them take my body in silent sobs. I clung to the down pillow like it was my lifeline and cried until I was out of tears. Then my body caved in exhaustion and sleep took me.
I woke up to a really annoying buzz-chime sound. I swatted at my face, turned over in bed, and took the blankets with me. Curled up on my side, I tried to get back to sleep, only to be sent another barrage of text messages. With a groan, I grabbed the phone off the bedside table and swiped my finger across the screen.
“Hell.” 43 texts…and they were all from Tate, a mixture of anger and desperation in the little black letters. Plz forgive me. Another said: Babe, I’m rlly sorry! I was out of line. And the next: We need to talk. Plz call me. Luv you. And with each text I read, the pain in my heart dimmed to a buzz, replaced by a ferocious wave of anger. I deleted them all with one press of my thumb, then stuffed the phone into my pocket.
I didn’t need him.
I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep now, I was too amped. And there was no school today thanks to teacher’s conferences. So I swung out of bed and padded down the hall. Greyson was snoring softly from his bedroom and Sam was at his morning classes. I grabbed a granola bar out of the pantry and headed for the bathroom, munching on it. Slipping out of my clothes, I cranked the water to boiling and stepped into the steam.
The water was like fire inching across my skin, a fever pitch, and I leaned against the wall and just let it flood over me, washing away all my anger, all my sadness. I used the bar of Dove that I’d insisted Grey buy for me, but my hair still was gonna smell like guy-shampoo. Oh well, who was I trying to impress? What if I liked the smell of guy-shampoo?
After lathering up and rinsing off, I turned the shower off and dripped my way across the floor. I grabbed a towel out of the cabinet and wrapped it around myself, then smeared my hand across the steamy mirror and stared at myself.
No way in hell I’d be able to hide this. The bruise had turned a deep purple-red, lining the crest of my cheek bone and fading into the hollow of my cheek. I touched it, the press of my fingertips gentle, and winced. I cupped my hand over it. My heart ached with deep, sudden passion.
I thought Tate had loved me.
Obviously not enough.
I pulled on my old clothes and did my hair up in a ponytail. As I wandered down the hall, the bedroom door swung inwards to reveal a sleep-rumpled Greyson. His smile was stifled by a yawn and he waved to me. “Morning, Shae. Sleep good?”
“Yeah,” I said, which wasn’t exactly a lie. Sleep was great; it was the crying myself senseless that sucked eggs. “What should I tell Mom?” I pointed to my face and Greyson whistled air between his teeth in a grimace.
“You shouldn’t keep something so big from her.”
“I don’t wanna ruin her mood. I’m gonna tell her, but you know how she is. She’s a worry wart. I don’t wanna ruin the wedding vibes, yanno? She’s spent her entire life, pretty much, being unhappy. This is her time to shine.”
He nodded. “That is true. Just don’t wait too long; Tash’ll do flips if she finds out from someone else. You headed home then?”
“Need a ride?”
“Nah, don’t worry about it, Tate—” I clamped my mouth shut on that sentence, like a steel trap. It had become so hardwired into me: ‘Tate will drive me home.’ My chest gave a painful tug and Greyson frowned, but I shrugged and wrangled him into a hug. “It’s just gonna take a little time to get used to the single life.”
“Boys would be crazy not to scoop you up, missy.” He tapped me gently on the nose.
“Boys try and scoop me up and I’ll knock them on their asses. I meant it yesterday. I’m done with guys. I need to focus on me. Don’t roll your eyes at me, Grey.” I snorted and he chuckled and rolled them anyway.
“Take care and if you need anything, don’t be shy. You know my number.”
“Love you, Grey,” I said around a smile and showed myself to the door. Stepping into the bright afternoon sunlight, it beamed down on my skin, warning away the depression threatening to sweep me up. I would be strong. I didn’t need a boyfriend to be a whole person. I didn’t need Tate.
My phone chimed with another text message or five—obviously Tate needed me. Sucked to be him. I ignored it, my arms swaying at my sides. As I walked, I could feel the familiar presence, like someone was watching me. Watching out for me. It was hard to describe, but I’d felt it ever since Kia went back to the Otherside. It felt, maybe a bit, like he was always with me somehow, in spirit.
My eyes skimmed the protected forest that lined the other side of the street, tracing over looming pines, watching a squirrel race up the side of a tree. I always looked. I had to. Even if I’d never seen anything, something compelled me to search for the presence. I started to turn away, to start walking again, when I saw the slightest of movements out of the corner of my eye.
And there, standing regal and dappled with sunlight, was a wolf with a sleek pelt the color of milk-and-honey. His ears pricked forward. Our eyes met and locked for a moment and I was vaguely aware of my heart skipping along in my chest, excited. He was too big to be an ordinary wolf.
Which meant that he had to be a werewolf, a human boy playing pretend beneath a tawny pelt. I took a step towardss him. He stiffened, alert, but I took another. I wanted to get closer. I needed to see the color of his eyes—eyes were the doorways to the soul, and maybe if I saw them, I’d recognize him as a human.
Did he watch me as a human?
Did I want him to?
He didn’t let me get any closer. His ears pulled back against his head and then he spun and darted away, nimble, into the depths of the forest. A horn blared and I found myself standing in the middle of the road. An old lady leaned out of the window and yelled at me. “Sorry,” I muttered, backing away until my heels hit the curb.
The wolf didn’t come back. But I knew he was there, a spirit haunting the woods. He was watching me—he’d always watched me—and in that moment, I felt a pang in my chest that had nothing to do with heartache.
It was simply: Longing.