Kelsey – Chapter 1
“Mama,” I cried, laying my head on her lap. Blood was everywhere, and I could hear the snarls and growls outside as my father fought valiantly against the rabid wolves attacking the house. “Mama, please don’t go. Stay with me, mama.”
The howl from outside the house nearly caused my heart to stop.
“Kelsey, run. Run, baby, and don’t look back. Don’t ever look back….”
I woke with a start, a cold sweat giving me goose bumps all over.
“Mama,” I said aloud, letting it sink into the night air.
It was only a dream. The nightmare that still haunted my every sleep. It had been worse since coming to San Marco, since I finally stopped running away.
For six years, I ran from foster home to foster home, never allowing anyone to get close enough to know what had happened to me that same night, the night the wolves attacked and killed my parents, leaving me with a ragged scar across my upper thigh. Werewolves, not wolves, I corrected my memories. I knew they were werewolves, because that very night I changed into one too.
I was so numb from the pain of watching my parents die before my eyes that I don’t remember the feelings or the pain of that first change, but I remember running through the woods with the wind in my face. I remember cowering under a fallen tree while the rain beat down on me, and I remember waking up one morning, naked at the edge of the woods where I was found. I was twelve years old.
Before the next full moon, I ran away from the home for girls they had put me in, terrified I would change again with the moon. That’s what they tell you in the movies, but the movies are wrong. I didn’t change that night or again for a long time, but after several months in human form, I grew impatient and short tempered and my skin itched all over. I knew something terrible was wrong. I’ve since learned that’s the sign that I’ve been in human form for too long. That’s when I would run away into the woods and never return to the home I had been in. I would always wake up naked and alone and they’d always find me and put me in another new home. That was the cycle of my life for six years until I finally turned eighteen and they could no longer hold me prisoner.
My parents hadn’t had much, but on my eighteenth birthday I was handed documents upon my release from the foster care system that contained a small trust fund they had left me. It was enough to get by for a few years, but not enough to pay for college and a place of my own to live, and I couldn’t risk being stuck with humans all the time. It was too dangerous. I was too dangerous.
I wandered around searching for just the right place, finally stumbling into San Marco, nestled deep in the mountains. I felt at peace for the first time since before my parents died and as luck would have it, a small one bedroom cottage sat on the edge of a large forest for rent. And the best part of all, the house had an unfinished basement that the owner said I could do whatever I wanted with. I immediately set to work fortifying a safe room where I could change without worrying about what I did in wolf form or who I came across. I never wanted to turn anyone into the beast that I had become that awful night.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that most of San Marco was owned by the Westin family, including the property behind my home that I had planned to occasionally allow my wolf to run in. I wasn’t as scared of my wolf as I had been as a child. She gave me a sense of peace.
I felt optimistic about this new venture, and as soon as I was settled, I began searching for work in the area. I wasn’t very comfortable around people, and at first no one in town seemed all that comfortable around me either, but still, I knew I was different and an outsider. I had always been, so I didn’t let it get to me and kept my head up and continued searching for work.
No one seemed to want to hire me. I was turned down more times than I could count and worried that if something didn’t come up soon, I’d have to leave the little house that felt like home. Desperate not to let that happen, I applied to everything and anything in the area I could find and one day my phone finally rang.
“Hello,” I said hesitantly.
“Hello, is this Kelsey Adams?” a bubbly voice returned on the other end.
“It is.” I was still hesitant, but something about the friendly voice put my anxiety at ease.
“Hi, Kelsey, this is Elise Westin from the Westin Foundation. I was just going over your application, and see that you are currently studying business online and looking for full-time work. It doesn’t really tell me what kind of work you’re looking for, but we have several openings. Would you be available this afternoon to come by our testing center for some placement tests, and we’ll see what you could be a fit for?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. They were going to give me a chance!
“Yes, yes of course. What time?”
I tried to reign in my enthusiasm, but I could hear the smile in her voice as she relayed the information.
“I’ll be there. Thank you so much, Ms. Westin.”
I could barely contain my excitement as I quickly dressed in a conservative business suit I had bought just for interviews. It was dark brown and looked great with my long blonde hair, which I left down, and accentuated my brown eyes. It also highlighted my long legs perhaps a little too much. I looked down and frowned.
All I saw were chicken legs. That’s what the other kids in several homes had called them. I couldn’t help that I had long, thin legs. Maybe it was a werewolf thing. I didn’t seem to ever put on weight, no matter what or how much I ate, and I knew I ate more than most because every foster family I’d ever lived with had complained about it. Still I was long and lean and muscular. The long runs in wolf form seemed to have made that come naturally. I wasn’t exactly flat chested, I did have a figure, but it would never be considered curvy or voluptuous. I didn’t mind my appearance except for those long chicken legs. I frowned in the mirror and shrugged. Oh well, nothing I could really do about it.
The moment I walked into Westin Foundation headquarters, I knew I had to work there. I felt an immediate connection in the same way I felt when I had first found the little cottage that was now my home. It wasn’t sterile and impersonal like most offices. No, when you walked through the door you were met with warm browns and blues and greens. There were potted trees everywhere, and it smelled of pine.
I walked to the front desk and told them I was there to see Elise Westin. At first the receptionist looked strangely at me. I even thought for a minute she sniffed the air like I smelled funny or something, but then she moved on as if nothing had happened and I guessed I had just imagined it. I tried to discreetly smell my pits, trying to remember if I had put on deodorant.
Elise Westin was the friendliest person I had ever met. She hugged me immediately and welcomed me with open arms to the Westin Foundation. She seemed positive that the perfect job would be found for me there. As she led me to a small room with various office equipment, she explained the process. I would be given several tasks and asked to complete them.
“Don’t worry if there’s something you don’t know or understand,” she assured me.
I didn’t usually feel comfortable around new people, but I immediately felt at ease with Elise Westin, and set to work doing the best I could on each task she asked of me. In the end, she seemed pleased with my work and optimistic we’d find a match.
Two days later I received a call back. I had a personal interview with the CEO of Westin Foundation, who was interviewing personally for a new administrative assistant. When she told me the pay grade, I nearly had a heart attack. I had to have this job.
KYLE – Chapter 2
My wolf had been restless for weeks. I had taken off more work than ever letting him run, and every time he headed to the little cottage that butted up to the south property line. The pack had all been abuzz about the new little she-wolf that had moved in. Why hadn’t she come to me or my father already and make her presence known?
She had to know she was in Westin territory, and proper protocol for an outside wolf would be to meet with the alpha immediately and state her business in the area. Yet rumors said she mostly kept to herself, roaming around town, barely talking to anyone, and showing no signs of aggression nor submission. If it wasn’t for the obvious scent her wolf put off, it was largely agreed that no one would even suspect she was a shifter.
My sister, Elise, had even reached out to her, and upon meeting, said there were no formalities or any signs whatsoever of acknowledgment. It was the oddest thing I’d ever heard, and now my evil sister had manipulated the situation to ensure we met by offering her an interview for my much-needed new admin position.
My wolf was restless and wanted out again. I had just spent the night letting him run. I didn’t understand why he was feeling so aggressive when we were usually at peace with one another. Perhaps it was the scent of the new wolf in town. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the situation myself. How could any wolf be so blatantly disrespectful of territory lines? And why was a young she-wolf even here unprotected and alone? Where was her pack?
“Kyle.” Elise peeked her head in without even knocking and before I saw who was with her, her scent hit me like a ton of bricks. It literally knocked the breath out of me and I had to sit down. My heart was racing in my chest, and I imagined my wolf jumping for joy and running in circles. “I have Kelsey Adams here for her interview, are you ready?”
I must have looked as shocked as I felt because the smell of worry immediately flooded my senses, pouring off my sister, but also taming the smell of the young she-wolf in the next room, and allowing me to return to my senses.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, um, just give me a minute, okay? Have her wait out there. I just need a minute.”
I could tell Elise was still frantic with worry, but she nodded and closed the door. My wolf ears noted she did not leave, but stayed with this Kelsey Adams, the lone she-wolf who had strolled into my town. Who dared to live in my territory without the proper respect given to be here? The woman whose smell alone assaulted all my senses and raised me to a new level of awareness. My mate. My wolf howled his approval in my head as I made the acknowledgment. My mate was standing just on the other side of this door. I had never laid eyes on her, but I knew she was mine just from one whiff of her scent.
Bracing myself for what I knew would be the full impact of my mate’s scent, I took a deep breath and opened the door to the reception area outside my office. Her scent struck me, but I was more prepared this time. Big brown eyes met mine and showed no signs of recognition. Nothing. My wolf growled in my head and I fought to keep from letting it escape me.
“Kyle,” Elise said, eyeballing me with open curiosity and still scenting of worry, “this is Kelsey Adams here to interview for the position of your new assistant. Kelsey, this is my brother and CEO of Westin Foundation, Kyle Westin.”
She stood and walked over to shake my hand. The first thing I noticed was how tall she was. She had to be at least 5 foot 10 inches, taller still in heels, and nearly looked me in the eyes. Standing at 6 foot 4 inches, it was rare to find a woman that could match my height. I liked it immensely. Second, her handshake was firm and professional, but the touch of her skin sent shockwaves through my arms, nearly taking me to my knees from the impact. Yet the only indication she felt anything at all was a slight dilation of her pupils.
She eyed me curiously but said nothing about it, and while professional and respectful in every human manner, my wolf was put off at the blatant disregard she showed him. He tried to reach out to her wolf, but it was like she wasn’t really there. It was very unsettling.
“Hello, Mr. Westin, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Her voice was like the sweetest of chimes on the wind, and I couldn’t help but smile back, and hearing it set my wolf’s agitation at ease some.
“Please come in.” I held open the door to my office and allowed her to walk in first. It was a human respect. An alpha wolf would never allow anyone to enter ahead of him, anyone except his mate, and the gesture immediately piqued curiosity from my nosey sister. I knew an ambush of questions would ensue later tonight.
“Do you want me to stay?” she asked with unease and anxiety still wafting off her.
“No, thanks. I’ve got this,” I told her, trying to be cool and not alert her to the fact that my mate had just walked into the room. My one true mate.
As I turned to enter my office, closing the door behind me, it dawned on me that we were truly alone for the first time. My wolf howled in approval, begging me to take her right there on my desk and stake my rightful claim, but she hadn’t even acknowledged my wolf. It was as though she didn’t even know I was a wolf shifter too.
“Please, have a seat,” I told her politely.
I had to find out her story. Who was she? Where had she come from? And why was she here? The slight sting of rejection from not recognizing and acknowledging me as her true mate made me angry and upset at the same time, and I set out to learn everything I could about Ms. Kelsey Adams.
“So, Kelsey, please tell me a little about yourself. I understand you’re new in town. What brings you to San Marco?”
She did waiver a bit, but it was like she had rehearsed for just this question.
“I love the outdoors and wanted a place I could afford on my own, with opportunity to work while I finish my degree.”
“What’s your degree in?”
“And what college do you plan to attend out here in the middle of nowhere San Marco?”
She smiled like she was expecting that one too.
“I’m doing college online. As long as I have internet connection, the location doesn’t matter, so I was free to find some place I enjoy, someplace to call home, and San Marco is it.”
I considered that for second.
“No friends or family in the area drawing you here?”
“No. No family. No friends really.”
“But.” I almost said, ‘what about your pack?’ but caught myself first. Something seemed off. My wolf recognized her as our mate. Heck, I recognized her before even setting eyes on her, but she didn’t seem to give any inclination that she was a wolf at all.
“But,” I started again, “how can someone as lovely as you be such a lone-er?”
I had to catch myself because I almost said, ‘lone wolf’. Since she seemed so determined to ignore pack protocol and try and hide the fact that she was in fact a wolf, then I would wait her out until I discovered the reason behind it.
She shrugged, “When you have no one, you have no one to worry about. I don’t really think about it. It’s just the way it is.”
It doesn’t have to be. I’m here. I’m right here. I wanted to yell, but I held back.
“So, no friends, no family. Tell me, what do you do for fun?”
“For fun? What does that have to do with the job?”
“I just like to get to know my employees, or potential employees, first.” I gave her a huge smile and even leaned in when I said it. Nothing. I gave her the lean. Even as just a woman, she should have recognized my interest. But nothing.
I sat back and cleared my throat. Fine. She wants to be professional, then that’s what I’ll give her.
“Ms. Adams, what is it you like to do for fun?”
“Well, I suppose I like to read. Oh, and run.”
“Okay, read and run. Got it. Well, looking over your paperwork everything seems in order. Your evaluation went great. How soon can you start?”
This was the first sign of interest in anything that I had received. Her poise of perfection finally slipped as she lightly bounced in the seat.
“Really? Sorry, I’m a little excited to get this job. I can start immediately, today even, or whenever you want.”
She was genuinely happy, and that made my wolf very happy and gave me a peace I hadn’t realized I was missing.
“How about I call Elise back in here and she’ll go over the contract and paperwork with you and you can start first thing tomorrow. Eight, okay?”
“Eight AM, is perfect!”
She stood and crossed the distance quickly before I could brace myself for the full force of her smell that came with the sudden movement. I couldn’t help myself. I took a deep breath and let her scent fill me. I slowly met her outstretched hand and welcomed her to the team.
“Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Westin. I promise you won’t regret it.”
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly.” She brushed me off. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning bright and early, Mr. Westin.”