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Taylor's TIme!


Hey all, it's me, Kendra!


Taylor's back with a continuation of a story she started a few weeks ago - about the wolf shifter - and this one is good! I really enjoyed reading it, and I know you will too!

And - BONUS! - it's almost complete!

Not that I don't love Taylor's tales, but sometimes I want an ending, yanno?


Anyway, enough from me. It's Taylor's Time!


-- Kendra


For You Only 

Scene Two


Akela 


Burrs caught in my hair as I made my way through the woods. I ignored them, the tension in my gut propelling me forward. The wolf inside me gnawed and clawed at my stomach. Instinct told me to keep my guard up, despite there being no obvious threat nearby. All I knew was I had to hurry, risks be damned.


Maya hadn't called to tell me she'd made it home safely. She always called me when she got home. 


As a wolf, I would've cleared this path easily, but I was clumsier on two legs than on four. Tripping over sticks tangled in the underbrush wasn't how I wanted to greet Maya when I found her, but I had no choice. This territory belonged to the rival pack who tore me to shreds a few nights ago. I couldn't venture onto their land as a wolf unless I had a death wish. Staying in my human form would prove I wasn't a threat. 


A cool breeze carried a gasp of scent into the air. I lifted my nose, inhaling sharply. The pack leader must've marked every tree in this forest. 


Greedy bastard! 


But there was something else, a scent that carried two decades of memories with it, memories so sweet they brought tears to my eyes. 


Maya! 


Maya was here, but she wasn't safe. Again, my stomach twisted painfully, the wolf in me struggling with the knowledge Maya could be hurt. It didn't take long to follow the scent to a large clearing. Even as a human, my wolf senses triumphed. I stopped as soon as I saw her.


Maya, my sweet, loving Maya, was tied up on the ground, her wrists and ankles bound, her jacket thrown aside. She was freezing. I could see the goosebumps on her legs, her arms, her neck as she shivered uncontrollably. Her breath made ghostly shapes in front of her, the mist coming and going rapidly. She was terrified. No, not terrified, petrified.


 Her eyes widened when she saw me, not with joy or surprise, but with a fear I felt as well. I could smell the hidden threat of the pack all around me. I approached her with cautious footsteps. 


“I’m here now, Maya.” My voice was pitched so only she could hear. “It's gonna be okay.” I crouched to pull at the knots around her wrists. “I'll get you out of this, I promise.” I touched her cheek. She shuddered, whimpering softly. 


The scent of blood hit my nostrils. It was too close and too fresh to be from one of the pack members. When I looked at Maya’s leg, I saw the culprit. Her jeans had been torn. Blood dripped from an open wound, the bite of a wolf. 


She'd been bitten! 


Before I could process anything else, I was attacked. 


A wolf's teeth dug into my shoulder, dragging me away. She screamed my name, an agonizing call, as the wolf yanked me back. Searing pain shot through my shoulder, up my neck and down my back. I gritted my teeth and fought back, scratching the wolf's face with my free hand. It was massive, a monstrous creature, far bigger than any normal wolf should've been. The beast shook me in its teeth before throwing me into a nearby tree. Tree bark cracked with my ribs, my shoulder blade, my hip. Sharp, burning pain radiated to my body's core, rendering me useless. 


This pitiful body was no match for a wolf pack. I needed to be one of them to protect Maya, but I was caught in a dilemma. If I shifted now, it would only increase the damage already done. If I continued to fight, I'd be torn to shreds instantaneously, and I couldn't leave Maya like that. Just the memory of my death would be enough to populate her nightmares until her final days. 


A wolf, the pack leader, moved slowly in the shadow of the trees. The rest of the pack shadowed him. He stalked towards me, leaving two other wolves, the dark gray male who'd attacked me and a brown female, standing guard on either side of Maya. It took me several seconds to notice the black cloak draped over the alpha male's back. 


He was a foot or two away from me now. The scent of blood was on his breath. His coat was too dark to see the red I knew was caked to his muzzle. His ears pulled back, a low growl escaping him. 


“Shift so I can hear you!” I demanded. 


He did. Slowly, his muzzle shortened, his shoulders rippling and bending into their human form. The rest of his body followed, the wolf melting off of his human body. The cloak he had worn as a wolf was large enough to shield his nakedness as a human. 


Clever bastard…


“Akela,” he said, smiling widely. “So nice to see you again.” His words were slow, his tone gentle. 


I wasn't fazed. 


“Your refusal to be a part of the pack has lead you here, Akela,” he continued. “Your little girlfriend over there -” He motioned to Maya with a jerk of his head. “- was the perfect bait.”


Bait…


This monster never wanted Maya at all. He wanted me. The night I'd risked my life to protect her was the culmination of a scheme to have me killed. He wanted revenge because I wouldn't join the pack years before Maya and I met, years before I'd found her and kept her wounded body safe from predators. 


But I knew it went deeper. It wasn’t simply revenge. It wasn't even about needing me, the only lone wolf for miles, to expand his pack. 


He wanted my territory and the power I stood for. 


He wanted control. 


“If it's me you want, it's me you'll get. Just let her go!” The sharp pain in my side cut me off. 


He paced the snow slowly, back and forth, studying me with his blood-red eyes. 


“I knew you'd coms to save her, because you love her, don't you?”


My body warmed in the cold. Blood rushed through every vein, but it wasn't from adrenaline. I looked past him at Maya, my best friend and the only human in the world I'd ever trusted with my secret. She needed to hear this one, from me. I fixed my gaze on hers and held it. “I love you, Maya. I love you more than the universe will allow.” 


Maya stared at me. Even from this distance, I saw the sparkle of tears in her eyes. Her voice trembled with fear, pain, and cold. “Akela, I lo-”


The pack leader spoke over her. “Join the pack, Akela, or things could end very, very badly for you.” 


The two wolves who guarded Maya growled fiercely. They edged closer to her, their teeth bared. 


“I'll never join your pack!” I snapped, pain shooting up my side. “What are you going to do about it? Kill me?’


Maya whimpered. She was afraid for me. 

The pack leader paused and placed a hand to his chest. 


“I would never do such a thing. But she can.” 


I didn't understand. Then, when he fixed his gaze on Maya, I did. 


The wolves backed away as Maya squirmed on the ground. The bend of her shoulders was wrong. She'd been bitten. And now, he was prompting her to shift.


“No, Maya!” I called, frantic. “Don't listen to him! Fight it! You can do it! Fight it!”


He stared harder, willing the wolf that was inside her to claw its way out. Her mouth ripped into a muzzle. She broke free of her bonds as if they were so much string. Her fingernails grew into claws, her wolfish toes taking the place of her beautiful fingers, paws forcing her upward onto new legs. Her creamy skin was replaced with a thick coat of pure white fur in an instant. 


The huge wolf shook herself off, her shredded clothes falling from her body to the snow covered ground. She looked at me with Maya's seafoam eyes, and I couldn't stop looking back. She was lean, yet strong; graceful, yet powerful. She was an angel among demons, a spirit of the winter, a creature of the purest form. Maya, the wolf, was captivating. 


Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the pack leader take several steps away from me. Then, shifting his gaze to the pure white wolf, he pointed slowly, deliberately, towards me. 


“Finish him.”


The wolf, my best friend, tilted her head downward and snarled in my direction. 


No. Maya, no! 


Her ears pulled back, her black lips curled up and over her teeth. She stalked towards me in what felt like slow motion, her steps light and long, her gait steady. Her eyes held me. Her icy gaze froze me in place. I suddenly wished this was another sleep paralysis episode, so I could wake up and have her take me in her arms. But it wasn't. I was awake. 


And this nightmare was real. 


“Maya,” I whispered. “Please.”


Though I couldn't see him, I knew the pack leader stood smiling at his triumph. 


“If you shift now,” he called out, ‘You might be able to take her!”


Take her? 


I picked his words apart in my head for a fraction of a second. Yes, I would be larger and stronger as a wolf. I healed faster as a wolf. But I wouldn't hurt Maya even if I could beat her, even if declining meant she killed me now. He knew Maya was my weakness, so he weaponized her. 


“Maya,” I whispered, my voice harsher. “Snap out of it. Please, you know me. Don't do this!” 


The wolf wasn't fazed. The pack leader laughed. His words were slow and dark. “She's not yours anymore. She belongs to me now.”


She continued forward, her pace slowing. She was a foot away from me now, her tongue flicking. Her growls were fiercer than the wolves who now standing back, watching this sadistic act of mental torture unfold. Maya snapped at my face, stopping short of biting me. Could there be a part of her listening to me? I had to reach her.


I looked into the wolf's eyes, into Maya's eyes, and rose onto my knees. Pain tore through me, blinding and instantaneous, but I fought through it. I gritted my teeth and clenched my jaw, focusing on my hands traveling up to Maya's face. Gently, I placed them on either side of her head, my fingers caressing her soft fur. As if there wasn't a snarling wolf in front of me, I rested my forehead against hers. I closed my eyes and spoke to the girl that I knew was inside. 


“I know you're in there, Maya. I know you can hear me. I know you remember who I am.”


The wolf's snarling ceased. Her face relaxed, just for a second, before tensing up into a snarl again. 


“Maya, please remember. Remember me. Remember us.”


A long drawn-out whimper escaped her nostrils. Her ears twitched. Her teeth snapped together. Though her snarling only grew more intense, the muscles in her face were relaxing one after another. 


That's it, Maya. That's it! 


Maya 


This void is breaking. This darkness trembles. I can hear him. He fades in and out of my vision, my thoughts, my memories. He is here. He is here with me. Then he isn't. The voice of my pack leader slices through it all. It echoes in my ears and bounces off the inside of my skull. 


“Don't give in. Finish him. Do it now!”


I'm listening. I tense once more and fight against the boy's touch. Foam drips from my mouth, my jaws ready to clamp down on this pitiful human's jugular. Before I can lunge, the boy's voice slips gently into my consciousness. It flows through my ears and weaves into my mind like a mother’s song. His words tug desperately at the human girl who is trapped within my pelt. 


“Remember who you are.” 


I make my choice. 


Akela


I was losing her. She jerked out of my hands and set her sights on me again. Maya, my beautiful Maya, was too far gone to be saved. The pack leader smiled and Maya, the wolf, took a step forward. I slumped over, defeated and in pain, and waited for her killing bite. 


It didn't come. 


The wolf whimpered again, her eyes clamped shut. She shook her head as if shaking something off. Her teeth clenched, her lips no longer lifted into a snarl. She was fighting back. 


She growled. She took a step away, then another, ears flat against her head, her eyes still closed. Her body trembled for several seconds. Then, she opened her eyes and held me with a loving gaze. 


Maya… 


Maya was back in control. She smiled at me, tongue flopping out of the side of her mouth, her ears pricked. She came to me, placing her muzzle into my outstretched hand. 


The pack leader charged, hands grabbing her by the head and throat, but she fought back, shoving him off. He fell pathetically onto the snow. She turned in his direction and stalked towards him, growling the entire way. I half expected the rest of the pack to attack her, but they didn't. They followed, snarling and snapping as if their leader was a wounded deer they'd caught. 


That was the moment I understood. Maya had defied the alpha, becoming the alpha. She'd earned the pack’s respect, and now they looked to her for guidance and protection. 


“How is this possible?” the cloaked man called, frightened and too surprised to shift. 


I found the strength to stand and rose, unsteady on my feet, looking at him through the bodies of the wolves. I smiled deliberately, my words trembling, my expression stern. 


“She's not yours anymore.” 


I was fading fast, the pain and my injuries forcing me back to the snow. I was aware of Maya delivering the killing bite to the former alpha, the others following, and his pack ripping into him before I passed out, giving myself to the darkness pulling me under. 





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