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As they raced through the forest toward the hysterically confused wolf, Sam glanced with alarm at his brown-furred second.
Jared’s tawny eyes met his Alpha’s. Not another one! What the hell is going on?
Sam snorted through his long black muzzle and leapt a fallen tree. I don’t know, but we have to get to her before she hurts herself or somebody else. She’d tear Collin to pieces.
Embry’s voice broke through the new wolf’s screaming that blasted through the shared pack-mind. We see her, Sam. She’s in a gully.
I see. Don’t get too close. Almost there.
Sam and Jared both winced at the cacophony of terror they heard in their minds and the agony-filled high pitched yips and cries from their newest pack member.
They caught Embry’s and Collin’s scents and skidded to a stop at the east edge of a deep gully. Across from them were Embry and the smaller wolf. They were lying next to a large boulder and peering down into the ravine.
Collin tore his eyes away from the wailing creature below them and looked to his pack leader. She looks just like Jacob.
No. Look. Jared poked Sam’s shoulder with his snout, his mental voice a whisper. She’s smaller than Jacob and she’s got black points on her ears.
Sam took a moment to study the whimpering, gasping wolf lying in the mud at the bottom of the gully and saw immediately that Jared was right. Even through the muck, bits of leaves, and pine needles matted in her fur, he could see she was the same fox-like red as Jacob’s wolf except for the black points on her ears and tip of her tail. Her lower legs and feet were a creamy vanilla.
Rachel Black’s attractive markings aside, Sam dipped his head toward his second. For a moment, cold dread gripped his heart with icy fingers. Whatever had happened back at their Chief’s house had happened, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it right then. He had a terrified wolf in front of him that needed him. We’re going to have to call and see if Billy and Rebecca are all right. Collin, head back to my place and tell Emily. As soon as you find out, phase and let me know. Sam sighed wearily. Jared, go to the north end of the ravine. Embry, stay on that side. I’ll head down.
Oh, God! What are these voices in my head!?! The female wolf struggled to sit up, threw her head back, and let loose with a long, quavering howl. I’m a dog! I’m howling like a dog!
Rachel! Stop! You’re not a dog. You’re a wolf.
Spotting movement in front of her, Rachel leapt to her four paws to face the wolf slinking toward her. At the sight of the gigantic black animal, her pale amber eyes flew open, and she tried to scramble backwards away from him. Oh, shit! It’s a wolf! She reared up, spun on her hind feet, and bolted, crashing into the broad trunk of a pine tree. Yelping in pain, she fell away from the fir and sprawled on her back. She clawed frantically at the air until she fumbled her way to her side and then to her belly.
When he was about thirty feet away from her, Sam drew himself up to his full, majestic height. Rachel. Stop, he commanded. Listen to me. I won’t hurt you. I’m here to help you.
Rachel dropped, her head flopped to the ground between her front paws, and cried piteously. How can you help me when I’ve gone crazy and think I’m a dog? There’s a giant wolf in front of me. Who are you? Why are you in my head?
I’m Sam Uley—the giant black wolf. The wolf up on the west side is Embry Call. The wolf on the north end of the gully is Jared Cameron. Sam lowered his head a little and took a slow step toward her. The quick and dirty answer is all the legends we’ve heard since we were kids about Taha Aki and the Spirit Warriors are true. When Cold Ones come into the area, certain men … uh, people of the correct bloodlines turn into wolves to protect the tribe and our territory.
You’re a Black. You’re great grandfather Ephraim Black was—
All those bullshit fairytales are true? Rachel lifted her head and shook it. But only men are wolves in the legends. Jacob? I look like Jacob? But I thought Jacob ran away over some stupid girl or something. Idiot.
There was the more caustic Rachel they all knew and loved.
Is Jacob a wolf, too? Rachel dropped her head to the ground again and covered her face with a paw. No way! I’d rather believe I was insane than that everybody turns into wolves when Cold Ones … she trailed off. Her head jerked up. Cold Ones? They’re real too? Aren’t they like …Why the hell can’t I get up off the ground?
Because I’m the Alpha of the current pack and I ordered you to stop. Sam sighed resignedly, his head sagging. He heard a quiet huff from Embry, and behind Rachel, up at the north end of the gully, he could see Jared shifting around to sniff the air, keeping guard. What he saw of the sky through the trees was finally beginning to lighten. Rachel, do you remember where you were when you phased into a wolf? Your father and sister?
I … I was in the back yard. They’re at the house. I guess.
Tell me what happened. You didn’t go over to the Clearwater’s … Sam said, urging her to talk.
Yeah, I didn’t go over to the Clearwater’s last night because I didn’t want to see Leah. Jacob had said … never mind. Anyway, I stayed home. Watched some TV and went to bed. A while later, it must have been like two or three o’clock in the morning, I thought I heard Becca crying. I got up and found her on the back porch. She said she was over at Sue’s with Dad, and Paul Lahote walked in, and then he was all over her. Rachel started to growl and her lips drew up, exposing her bright white fangs. He knows goddamn well she’s married to Sol. Rachel lurched to her feet.
Her legs were trembling with the strain to hold herself up against the Alpha’s order. She started growling and saliva was dripping from her teeth. She said she told Paul to leave her alone because she’s married and she’s … Well, then I was getting pissed off, and Bec was getting pissed off, and we were going to go over to Paul’s house and kick his—
She’s married and what? Sam interrupted, taking another step forward. Rachel was obviously trying to hide something. If they were both angry enough to want to go to Paul’s and beat him up, why didn’t Rebecca also phase? What? Rebecca is married and what? Tell me.
Well, that damn Paul Lahote has a lot of balls hitting on my sister when she’s married and pregnant! She only came back to visit Dad because she’s been gone a long time, stupid Jacob ran off, and she won’t be able to visit after she has the baby because they don’t have much money and—
The other wolves’ voices pounded into Sam’s head.
That’s right! They’re identical twins! They should have both phased! Jared sat back on his haunches a little harder than he usually did.
Embry was shaking his head and pawing at his ear. She’s pregnant? She didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant. That must be why she didn’t phase, too!
Collin’s voice broke in. Rebecca’s pregnant? By the way, she and Billy are fine except Rebecca is freaking out because she saw Rachel fur-splode and she thought a wolf ate her. The Chief got her to stop screaming. He’s wondering where Rachel is. Should I tell him?
Brady popped in. We got a new wolf? Who is it?
Oh, man! Seth’s perpetually happy tone chimed in. Jake’s gonna be so mad at Paul!
Jacob? Leah scoffed. I think Rebecca’s husband might have a thing or two to say about it. This is has to be the worst shit to happen since we fought off all those newborn vamps because of that leech lovin’ little Bella Swan.
Another wolf girl? Sweeeet. Quil, present and accounted for, made sure to add to the chaos.
The only one who hadn’t phased in was Paul. He must have been delivering the windows like Sam had wanted him to. Well, Sam had ordered him not to phase.
Rachel’s warbling howls stabbed into Sam’s skull like an ice pick. He couldn’t think!
Silence! He roared with a bellowing growl.
After the last echoes of his thunderous command faded away, all had gone still. Even the birds and crickets had gone silent.
Sam pulled in a deep breath, hoping the tangy perfume of the pines, the briny sea, and the familiar, comforting scent of the moist earth would calm him and help him help his newest pack-mate, and deal with the fact that Paul Lahote had imprinted on her married and pregnant sister Rebecca.
For just a moment, he was glad that the girls’ younger brother Jacob wasn’t around, and was far enough away, that he couldn’t hear, or join in on, the utter pandemonium that was currently their lives.
Was Rebecca being pregnant the reason he didn’t have two new wolves to deal with?
Sam focused his golden gaze on Rachel’s angry eyes. Rachel, you will be quiet and listen to me. There’s a lot to explain. I hope you remember the legends—it helps.