Dire Wolves: Whiteout
Shelby Morgen
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2010 Shelby Morgen

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His breath came in deep, heavy pants that rattled his ribcage with every leaping stride, sending out moisture laden clouds which froze to his eyelashes in spiky crusts. And still he ran. He ran on instinct, blindly following paths he'd trodden for years, stumbling now and again on terrain he could see only in his mind.

Would have been a full moon tonight, were it not for the snow. He pictured the long expanse of tundra before him, frosted white, and desolate.

Instead he saw nothing. White out. Snow so dense it stung his nose with every breath.

Better this way. He wasn't the only one running blind.

His own fault, really. He'd been too easy a target. But he'd wanted to get home before the storm hit.

And now he'd never see home again.

Pain tore through him with every step. He'd been wounded before. Shot, even. Shot at more times than he'd care to admit. Enough times he should have known better. His kind couldn't afford to expose themselves. Not even at night. Not even at the start of a blizzard that promised the worst of winter's wrath.

This time, though... this time was different. This time was worse. Far, far worse. This time the pain slashed through him like a knife in his ribs with every shuddering breath he drew.

This time he wasn't going to heal.

Oh, it'd sealed over. He wasn't going to bleed to death. He'd die slow. Eventually, when he couldn't go on any more, he'd stumble, and this time he'd not get up. The cold would provide an escape from the unrelenting agony of the bullet buried deep in his side. When the pain finally brought him to his knees, when the cold won, he knew he'd feel warm again, for a bit. Then he'd feel nothing at all. Not such a bad way to go, really.

Except for the god-awful, burning pain.

The winds calmed as suddenly as they'd picked up, allowing the soft haze of the moonlight to penetrate the thickly falling snow. His nose told him what he should have known, would have known, had he been more alert. The pain was dulling his senses. He stopped, staring ahead into the night. The lights danced on the snow like faerie fire. The scene before him would have been beautiful, if not for the stench.

Garbage. Waste. Corruption. Pollutants. It all reeked of humanity.

Was that where he'd been going? Unconsciously seeking them out, the ones who might be able to help him?

Would they?

No. It was their kind who'd shot him.

Better to die as he'd lived. Out here. Alone. Die as a wild thing. The only ones who'd ever know would be his own kind. The snow would cover him, blanket his body until spring thaw. Then someone would come across him, here, too close to the city, like a marker, a warning. Stay away from the humans. This is what they do to us.

They've killed me.

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