I wouldn’t have come if I’d known Etianna would get roped into some after school project. Who did after school projects on a Friday? But instead, here I was, hiking up the dirt path with some school friends and a gaggle of female werewolves from my own pack along with Etianna’s cousin, Lexie, who couldn’t keep her hands to herself.
It wasn’t entirely her fault. At eighteen and next in line to be Alpha, my body was starting to secrete its own kind of Alpha pheromones and they tended to drive the unpaired females into a sort of frenzy anytime they were around me.
It was exhausting.
Etianna’s sister, Cariss, smiled apologetically. She’d been the one to invite me after school with promises that Etta would most likely be coming. But her familiar honey-blonde ponytail was missing.
“Fennrick,” Lexie cooed. “Tell me more about becoming an Alpha.” Her fingers fluttered near my arm and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“Well, I’m taking a few classes for it this semester. Brushing up on diplomacy, leadership, that sort of stuff.” I rubbed the back of my neck. Lexie didn’t even go to Magik Prep Academy. But she was thinking about transferring next semester. I really hoped my budding Alpha genes weren’t the cause.
“But what’s it actually like?”
Grueling, I thought. “Dad and I spend a lot of time together, which is nice. He’s teaching me everything not covered in the books.”
She smiled and batted her eyelashes.
“Fenn, did you catch the game last night?” Owen, an elf friend, attempted to save me.
“I did,” I replied. Probably with more enthusiasm than I needed as I broke away from Lexie to walk beside Owen.
We hiked another half hour before we started feeling the pulsating threads of magic that surrounded Yggdrasil—the tree where all the magic in our world originated. It was a popular destination. Touching the tree itself was forbidden but basking in its glow was encouraged.
We rounded the final bend and there it was in all its glory. It was stunning. I propped a foot against the low guard railing and took it in. An array of colors too many to describe flew from its branches, tangling, weaving into the sky to form a multi-colored halo of magic around the tree.
Every time I visited the awe was fresh. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, the scent of pure magic washing over me and filling that aching tiredness inside.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Lexie said as she joined me at the railing. She’d stayed next to me the whole hike, peppering me with questions, scenting me frequently, though I don’t think she knew I could tell.
“Fennrick, did you know my grandpa was an Alpha, too?”
I stared at her, confused where this conversation was going. She stepped closer, her arm brushing mine and sending the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
“Lexie,” I started.
“Kiss me, Fenn. Seal our fate together here, beneath the most magical place in our world.”
Shock dropped my mouth open and had my eyes bulging in their sockets, but she must have taken it as encouragement, because she leaned in.
My brain was frozen. I did not want Lexie’s lips on mine. Tradition dictated that I save any kisses for the one who would be the recipient of all my kisses, but my body was sluggish, refusing to move.
“Lexie!” Cariss grabbed Lexie’s arm. “What are you doing?”
Lexie shot Cariss a murderous glare and yanked her arm from her grasp. But as she did, the back of her legs hit the low guard rail.
In stupefied horror, I reached to grab her before she fell, but I wasn’t fast enough.
Lexie toppled right over the edge of the railing and hit the curling roots of Yggdrasil snaking up out of the ground. Her scream pierced the air as her back smacked onto the roots and an amber glow immediately encased her.
Lightening cracked across the sky and a violent wind whipped through Yggdrasil’s leaves, sending a rush of them over us. The colored threads of magic flickered and lost their curving waves, becoming jagged, harsh, and static.
“Lexie!” Cariss shrieked.
The sky opened and rain, hail and flickering bits of magic sizzled onto the ground.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” someone shouted.
“What about Lexie?” Owen called over the din.
“We have to leave her,” Cariss said. Terror clouded her face as her eyes met mine.
There was nothing we could do for her. We couldn’t pull her back. The amber glow from the roots covered her. I looked at Lexie’s face.
Her eyes were round in shock, her mouth frozen into a gash of horror. Her hands were stiff, fingers splayed as if to catch her fall. Amber light pulsated over her prone form.
A leaf whacked into my cheek, breaking into my racing thoughts.
“Cariss is right. We have to go get help.” The Alpha part of me took charge. “Go. Back down the path. Now.” My words came out with a punctuating growl.
We’d just unleashed fury like our world had never seen.
Come back next week for Part II!