1 Chapter 1: Defying Pack Law

She ran full out. Her heart pumped wildly, and her breath came in harsh pants as adrenaline coursed through her body. The rush gave her muscles the extra oomph needed for a speed boost. She raced as if her life depended on it, her paws landing fleetly on the rocks she'd memorized. It would take only a small misstep to enter a world of pain because the area was peppered with dangerous foxholes, not all of them natural. She ghosted through the woods on paths marked only in the map of her mind, a labyrinth for the uninitiated. She practiced her escape route with single-minded intensity because, one day, her life might depend on it.

Hours later, physically exhausted, she returned to her home, which bordered the protected forest that spanned thousands of acres in this lost and godforsaken part of the planet, and shifted back to her human form. She strode, naked and proud, to her rear porch, secure in the knowledge that the only eyes watching her belonged to the simpleminded creatures of the forest. A rumble in the sky preceded the hovering storm and the cleansing rain that would wash the traces of her mad flight, keeping her secret routes safe.

She knew with an instinct borne of survival that the time fast approached when she would be forced to leave this haven of peace. Staying too long in one place was never a good idea, no matter the precautions she took. While currently Lycan free, the town and its location were too tempting to remain taint free forever. And when that happened, she'd move on, hopefully before she had to kill again.

It wasn't the life she'd dreamed of as a little girl, but at least it was hers.

There were times, when she fought off an unwanted werewolf suitor or fled yet another temporary home, that she wondered if she might not have been better off staying and accepting what fate held in store for her. Marrying the boy she'd once loved, whom her father-the most stern of her fathers-had approved of and whom, in her foolish youth, she'd given herself to. Accepting the fact that he'd share her body with others because pack law deemed he must. If she could only have believed him when he said it wouldn't be so bad.

Liar.

Immaturity didn't equate stupidity. She'd known, even in her infatuation, that he'd made a promise he couldn't keep. She'd seen it before in their little society, hidden amidst the human one. She had too much self-respect to want the life of chattel, passed around with her husband's permission to other males in the pack all because theirs was a society that bred males almost six to one. She'd watched the few women she'd known enter such marriages, only to see in some the light of love fade from their eyes as they were treated little better than vessels for birthing babes and sating the lusts of multiple mates. Like my mother, her poor, sad mother. No, she couldn't imagine a life like that.

Better to run than live as a slave, even if her dreams of the boy she'd left behind still haunted her, waking even after all this time sweaty and aching.

She shook her mane of hair in a bid to chase the melancholic memories and regrets that had no place in her current life-the life I chose.

Dana dressed in the robe she kept by the back door and then locked the place up. She set the alarm and checked her laptop for perimeter breaches, even though her own scrutiny while in wolf form had detected nothing. Everything appeared quiet, which seemed at odds with her jumpy nerves.

Paranoia at bay for the moment-but never far from her mind-she showered and went to bed.

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