“I am not a Lycan!” I howled, pain exploding in the back of my throat as my vocal cords strained to produce the necessary sound.
Vince waited for me to calm. Then he spoke.
“Then prove it. Shift.”
“Were you not listening? They did something to my wolf. They performed some sort of magic on me, Vince. They took her from me, somehow.”
I snapped upright as he spoke a command. The Alpha had spoken. I glared at him, even as I reached into myself, trying to find that spark, that core at my center, that was my wolf.
Vince had never spoken to me like that before. Not as an Alpha, and certainly never against my will. He was a gruff, strong Alpha, who could sometimes come off as a bit of a dick, but in my twenty-six years, I would have never called him an asshole.
But right then, he was being an asshole. I was no longer on the inside, and he was treating me like it. And it hurt. Things inside me that I didn’t know could break shattered into a million pieces.
“Vince …” I pleaded softly, even as I found the mangled ruins that had been my wolf. They were darker, more insubstantial. Like a ghost.
I tugged on them, pulling the shadows of her toward me. They stretched out, leading deeper into my mind than I’d ever had to go before to find her. I followed, mentally grasping the tendrils of that otherness with invisible hands and pulling my mind down after her into a darkness that was pure and absolute. I could only feel the connection in my hands, nothing more.
It was leading me somewhere, and I followed with urgency as Vince commanded me to shift once more, his voice stronger, more calculated. I couldn’t disobey.
Yanking on the connections, I summoned whatever was on the other end, ordering it to come to me. To merge with me.
One moment I was surrounded by darkness.
The next, like a cartoon, when a character unwittingly found itself headed down an unlit train tunnel, a circle of light appeared and came barreling up out of my mind. It came faster than I could react, slamming into me. I threw my head back and screamed at the pain.
It spread from my mind down my spine, into my shoulders, and along my arms. I continued to scream, destroying my throat beyond repair, I was sure.
Then, I began to change. My skin stretched as my bones and muscles underneath grew swiftly. The abrupt change hammered fiery spikes into my temples, through my eyes, and up my nose. My fingers felt like they were being ground to dust under a steamroller, compounding the agony.
I eventually keeled over, unable to continue standing up as my body went through a change more terrible than anything I’d ever experienced. Whatever twisted, tormented ruin of my wolf still remained inside me came bursting out, taking control as I knelt before the Alpha.
“See,” he hissed to the rest of the pack. “Cursed.”
Looking up at him, I looked deep into his features. I tried to picture his face smiling, with the two dimples that showed up during the infrequent moments when my bad jokes caused him to belly laugh. I watched his mouth, remembering how his tender lips could whisper the promises of sweet nothings into my ear—or other parts of me.
I saw his hands curled up into fists, ready for violence, and tried to remember how they had worked knots from my shoulders on endless nights when I’d cried from one negative pregnancy test to another. I knew the strength in them, and I knew they could be gentle, too, a side he didn’t show his pack. But a side I’d come to know and love over the years.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find any of it anymore. The man I’d loved was gone, replaced by a hatred-filled gaze that promised me one thing and one thing only.
“I can’t believe I ever saw myself with you,” he spat. “You disgust me.”
My heart shattered at the rejection. All strength left my soul at that moment, fleeing me, and even as he roared the next words, I yearned to embrace them.
“Kill the Lycan!” Vincent Darche roared.