Josie Carmichael lived in relative seclusion, staying out of sight and mind, save for a few trusted customers and other magical beings. Staying under the radar was important to avoid a certain organization. Then one night, her world is changed forever.Rakesh Arya seems like a boring IT Professional who likes his routine. Save his close friend, Martin, no one knows that Rakesh is actually a wolf shifter. Then one night, under the full moon, his life changes forever while caught in a bear trap.As the Hunters close in and Rakesh struggles to control his primal instincts, the two find some battles are better fought together, and sometimes, love blooms best on the battlefield.Lady and The Wolf was created by Mina Ramey, an eGlobal Creative Publishing signed author.
Chapter 1: Curiosity Trapped the Wolf
The full moon made the night forest shimmer and sparkle, made it come to life in ways other August nights couldn’t. All the surroundings would have looked beautiful to anyone, including one Rakesh Arya, for it was nights like these that revealed his true nature. Though he hadn’t taken time to indulge in quite some time, he felt it was overdue. He knew better than to keep his wolf suppressed for so long because it tended to make the shift more painful, but he also knew it couldn’t be helped.
Rakesh could already feel the tingling in the tips of his fingers as he removed his hair tie and let his messy mop of hair fall around his face. The feeling was spreading to the rest of his body as a sharp sudden pain from deep inside buckled him to his knees. Soon, the tingle turned into a burn that seared over his skin as bones and muscles contorted. He felt fur sprouting over his skin, his face growing into a snout with two rows of sharp teeth. His screams of pain turned into howls and roars and he knew, as he looked down at his now clawed hands, that his change was complete and the animal in him would soon take over. His humanity still tried to fight to keep control, but there was no use. His new mindset enjoyed nights like these, when he was an animal and functioned on pure instinct, with almost no thought on his humanity. It gave him a rush like no other, as he ran through the forest, reveling in the freedom he had. A different smell made him skid to a halt. Rakesh raised his snout and the distinct smell of human floated to his nostrils.
The formidable black wolf trotted through the forest, his curiosity causing him to ignore the various smaller creatures who scattered to the four winds to avoid his gaze. After a brief moment or two, he found himself hiding in the bushes near a clearing. There sat an older, modest sized cottage, with a plethora of vines twisting and clinging to its walls. There were baubles hanging from its various windows and a bottle tree was nestled kitty corner a good distance from the home. He could also see strings of lights stretching from various wooden poles to the sides of the house and what he could gather were solar panels that were camouflaged on the roof. In a small garden plot to the side, there knelt a woman, with a small basket in her arm. From what Rakesh could see, she seemed to be gathering plants from the plot, the notes she hummed gently floating through the air. While she wasn’t the source of the smell that captured his attention, it would have been a lie if he said she wasn’t grabbing his attention.
He sat on his haunches, content and almost mesmerized at how delicately her hands handled the plants. The only thing that nabbed his attention was the sound of heavy footfalls a yard or so off. It didn’t sound like any animal he had ever come across and, as always, curiosity got the better of him. He took one last glance at the woman before trotting off into the darkness of the forest.
In all the time he had come to the forest to go for a run, he had never run into the woman. Or anyone else, for that matter. The sight of her, however, made his wolf happier, somehow. The way the dark skin of her hands glowed in the light of the moon, the way her voice sweetly hit the notes of the song she was humming. The fact that he couldn’t see her face ruffled his feathers, or his fur in his case. So, he did his best to commit the cottage’s location to memory. Rakesh refused to let that be the last time he saw the mysterious woman.
As his luck would have it, Rakesh was so caught up in his curiosity, that he didn't notice a lone bear trap that had been set until it snapped shut on one of his hind legs. He let out something akin to a yelp mixed with a howl of agony and, in a panic, he tried to twist his way out. The pain was almost unbearable, but he finally ceased his struggling. He let out whine after mournful whine, suddenly cut off by rustling in the bushes. Rakesh made up his mind to make his last stand there, raising himself up as much as he could to look as big and formidable as he could, his low growling sending a warning to whoever was approaching.
“Oh, cut that out!” A hissing whisper answered.
Out of the brush lept a hooded woman, the same one he had seen earlier. She had no basket with her and her hands were raised to show she meant him no harm.
“I could hear you from my house.” She whispered as she began to make quick work of the bear trap. “With all that noise, I’m pretty sure whoever set this is gonna come looking. Hopefully, they either turned in for the night or are far the hell away from here.” She finally released him, and gingerly touched the wound, recoiling at how hot it felt. “You’re gonna need some help.”
Rakesh furrowed his brow, but the woman simply shook her head, as if she was able to read his mind.
“This is not the time to argue with me, my dear wolf!” She hissed again. “Go the way I came and get back to my cottage. I’m gonna make a phony trail for them. Rather be safe than sorry.”
Rakesh watched for a moment as the woman rubbed her bloodied fingertips together. She whispered something he couldn’t understand and a pair of bloodied wolf prints appeared before his eyes, floating gentle above her hand. The woman pointed in some random direction and the prints took off, leaving their marks on the forest floor. She turned back to him, her frown deepening slightly.
“Didn’t I tell you to run?” She scolded, just as they both heard the sounds of rustling in the bushes. They didn't hear any other human voices to go with it, but they still weren't taking any chances. “Get back to my cottage! NOW!”
With a huff, Rakesh took off as fast as his injury would let him, finally following the woman’s instructions. As he trotted along, he found his world had started to spin. He gave his head a little shake and tried to keep his vision focused as he closed in on the clearing to the cottage. He slowed his pace, making it to about the front walk before his body gave out on him. He whimpered as he tried to pull himself along, but it was no use. His energy was all but gone. His eyes began to flutter shut as a familiar form hovered over him, seeming to be carrying something in her arms. Rakesh let out one more huff before the darkness took over.