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Despite the searing agony of the gashes down his chest and stomach, Sam burst into his wolf form and bellowed. Rachel, NO!
Then he felt it. Wondrous bewilderment flooded his mind, and he staggered back, pawing at the ground to stay upright.
He shook his head and blinked. As he took in the rusty-toned wolf sprawled across the light grey wolf’s chest, in his mind he saw Paul as Rachel saw him: lustrous, grey-silver fur; thick, full ruff; swirling, liquid amber eyes—he was nearly glowing with power in the dim light from the house.
All around Sam, the four other wolves gasped and dropped heavily to their haunches, staring in amazed wonder at the pair. A satisfied rumble sounded from Quil, and Sam realized immediately what it was. Like Sam, Quil was remembering when he had imprinted on Claire.
None of the others had ever been wolves when one of them had imprinted.
Paul cautiously licked his muzzle and closed his mouth, still caught in Rachel’s eyes. He blew out a quick breath and drew his head back from her. Then his eyes flew open in panic. No! He rolled to his feet, knocked Rachel to the ground, and scrambled away from her. No! This can’t happen. No fuckin’ way. He threw his head back and howled his confusion. How the hell could this happen?
What the hell? Leah asked. She stepped unsurely toward Rachel, who was lying on the ground. I never felt anything like that before.
Oh, damn. Embry’s head swung rapidly between Sam, Paul, and Rachel. Paul imprinted on Rebecca and now Rachel imprinted on Paul.
Seth took a cautious forward. They are twins.
Whoa. Twins! Quil was nodding, a huge grin on his face.
Shut up, Quil. Sam and Leah growled at him.
But how come Paul didn’t imprint back on Rachel? Seth questioned Sam, concern ringing through his tone.
Maybe because he saw Rebecca first? Embry guessed.
Quil moved up between Seth and Embry. Well, we figured Rebecca didn’t phase because she’s pregnant …
Quil! Sam, Leah, Embry, and Seth all shouted.
Rebecca’s pregnant? Paul was instantly on his feet and yowled. Pregnant? He spun on his rear paws and bolted into the forest.
Don’t go! Rachel cried and leapt up. She was right behind him.
Dammit, Quil! Sam nipped Quil’s shoulder and when he turned back to start after the other two, he yelped at the stinging ache along his chest and belly. It was healing, but not fast enough. Leah, you know they’re heading for Billy’s. You, Quil, and Embry block Paul the best you can. I’m right behind you.
Sam! What the hell is going on? Jared’s voice rang in his head. His mind was nearly inundated with a flood of images. Oh, shit. I’m at Kim’s, but I’ll meet you at Billy’s!
Relieved his second had joined in, Sam thought they would need all the help they could get. He and Seth raced through the dark woods to get to Billy Black’s house.
Even though his wounds were closing rapidly, Sam couldn’t run quite as fast as he normally did. But Seth stayed at his left flank.
What are we gonna do, Sam? The legends don’t say anything about this!
I don’t know, Seth. Maybe there’s something in the legends, but I don’t think so. I’ve read through most of the old journals, but none of them even mention anything like this. There were never so many wolves before and there were never any females.
When they arrived at Chief Black’s house, they stopped just behind Rachel who was huddled on the ground. Paul was pacing stiffly back and forth across the yard, sniffing the air and shooting sharp glances at Billy who was in his wheel chair on the back porch. Sam noticed fresh blood on Paul’s left rear leg.
Jared, Leah, and Embry stood guard directly in front of the house. Quil was off to the right. Sam groaned when he saw Brady and Collin in the shadows to the left.
Paul, what are you doing? Sam stepped to the side around Rachel. You know you can’t go in the house.
I want to see her! I know she’s in there. He snorted and abruptly stopped his agitated stride to glare at Sam. She’s pregnant! He growled and whipped his head back and forth. Pregnant with somebody else’s baby, and she’s mine!
Paul! Down! Sam hit him with a reverberating Alpha tone and Paul dropped to the ground with a grunt.
The pale grey fur on Leah’s back rose even higher as she snarled at Paul. You’re jealous and you’re pissed! You have no right! You’re lucky I only clawed your leg. Rebecca’s been married for two years! The wolf is supposed to be whatever the imprint wants. Well, maybe she doesn’t want to be yours! Maybe she wants to stay with her husband. She’ll be leaving day after tomorrow and—
Rachel sat up and howled, her right front paw waving weakly in the air. Her despairing cries made all the wolves whine and whimper with her. She jumped up from the ground and bolted for the forest.
Rachel! Stop! Sam watched sadly as she collapsed to the ground at the base of a tree and curled up, her paw over her face. His heart was breaking for her, but he just didn’t know what to do. So much had happened and he was at a complete loss. He was only twenty years old—the same age as Rachel and Rebecca. Paul was only sixteen! Sam’s limited experience, and the stories and legends that were supposed to guide them, were no help at all with what they were facing. He didn’t think the Tribal Elders would be able to help either. What did they know about being wolves and imprinting?
Rachel was panting; soft whines and cries being expelled with each breath. There were no clear or defined thoughts other than the image of Paul’s wolf in her mind and occasional flashes of Leah’s human face, her sister, and some tropical-looking landscape.
Leah, why is she thinking about you? What’s going on with that? Sam stood, his legs spread, near Rachel’s despondent form, but he turned to look at Leah in front of the porch. He was grasping at straws, but maybe it would help since Rachel wasn’t speaking to them.
Leah dipped her head, sighed breathily, and peered up at Sam. She was going to leave … like Jacob did. She was—
Going to leave with Rebecca? Jared’s mouth fell open. He couldn’t imagine ever leaving Kim behind. But she can’t! She’s imprinted!
Leave? How could she leave? Quil shifted nervously from foot to foot. Claire was the most precious little girl in the world. He looked forward to seeing her grow and change every day. He loved how she delighted in the simplest things like leaves and rocks.
Paul moaned as if he was in pain and rolled to his side.
Leah barked loudly to get their attention. Rachel’s trapped here now like the rest of us! Rebecca is the only one who can leave. She has a husband and a baby on the way. She has a life far away from this supernatural bullshit. She should leave now before it gets any worse. At least Paul will have Rachel. Leah finished forlornly, her head falling to stare at the ground.
Collin and Brady tiptoed further into the light from the porch, anxiously dipping their heads as they eyed their wolf brothers, their sister, and their new sister. They didn’t know what to think. All they knew was their entire pack was still reeling from Rachel imprinting on Paul and Paul’s misery and jealousy at the thought his imprint was pregnant by another man.
Seth was in as much distress as the rest of them, but he saw their Chief raise his hand, so he poked Sam on his flank to get his attention.
“Sam. Please,” Billy began, his eyes shining bright with tears. “Someone phase and tell me what’s going on.”
The man appeared ten years older as he drew his hand slowly down his face. He looked over his shoulder through the screen door at his daughter Rebecca. She had been sitting at the kitchen table, in the shadows, unsure of what to do. Her father had spent hours explaining the legends to her, telling her they were all people she had grown up with, but the gigantic wolves terrified her. All she could think was she wanted to be back home with her husband and away from the insanity.
“Becca, could you go in Jacob’s room and grab some shorts? Bottom drawer in his dresser.”
Rebecca sniffed, roughly brushed tears from her face, and ran from the room. She returned quickly with an arm-load of clothes. “Uh, Dad, there were only three pairs of shorts, and I remember …well, you said they’d all be naked, and I brought T-shirts, and—”
“It’s okay, Becca.” Billy turned his wheelchair toward the door. “Just toss them to me. Thank you.”
Rebecca cautiously pushed open the screen door, tossed the clothes at her father and ducked back inside, letting the door bang against the frame.
Billy balled up a pair of shorts and threw them toward Sam.
Dreading having to talk to the tribe’s chief and father of the newest female wolf, Sam reminded Rachel and Paul to stay where they were. Everyone else already knew to keep an eye on them. It would be so helpful if he could hear them when he was human.