Reluctantly Lycan (Dakota Wolves Book 1)By: Jez Strider
The Dakota pack has lived secretly in a town in the Great Smoky Mountains for years. Marala Dakota ran away from the safety of this world as a heartbroken, pregnant teenager. She's made a life for herself and her son without having anything to do with the wolves.
Seventeen years have passed since that fateful decision. She's struggling with two jobs and trying to keep the wolf within her at bay as its longing for escape intensifies.
A handsome man named Taylor comes into her life at exactly the wrong time.
Then her son's father and leader of the Dakota pack, Kaden, shows up unexpectedly. Old wounds are torn open anew and events are set in motion that will change all of their lives forever.
A full moon hung high in the night sky. The illuminated orb always put Marala Dakota on edge. She picked up her glass of bottom shelf wine and a pack of cigarettes before climbing out onto the fire escape for her monthly ritual. With a shaky hand, she flicked her lighter to life and lit what she knew was a cancer stick. The alcohol and tobacco helped relieve some of the anxiety. She wouldn’t do anything reckless. But this moon was harder to deal with than usual, and she knew next month’s would be even worse.
June was around the corner and so was her birthday. That damned day tradition stated she should have gone through her transition. Only she hadn’t gone through it when she was eighteen and now seventeen years had passed. This birthday she’d be thirty-five and life had never become any easier. Marala knew for certain it wouldn’t get better.
She finished off her wine in a quick gulp and lit another smoke. Nights like this she questioned every choice she’d ever made, regretted them all, and then eventually decided they were the right ones. Most nights she would have been in bed by now after working two jobs. The first at a diner in the mornings and the second an evening shift at a gas station.
“Mom!” her son called out. “Are you outside?”
Quickly, she took one last drag off the cigarette and tossed it over the railing. It disappeared into the darkness of the alleyway below. As vocal as she was about the dangers of smoking, she didn’t want her son catching her in the act.
After exhaling, she headed back inside away from the manipulative moon. “Needed some fresh air before bed. Everything okay? Homework done?”
Jak nodded. He looked nothing like her except for his eyes were the same, odd yellow-green. His dark hair and build made him a spitting image of his father, especially now as he neared adulthood. Thinking about it made Marala’s throat tighten, and she brought her hand up to it in a nervous gesture as the fear took hold.
“You’re the one who doesn’t look okay.” He frowned. “I wish you’d let me pick up a few extra hours at the movie theater so I could help out more around here. You never get to rest.”
Her eyes softened and she hugged him tightly to her. “I can rest when I’m dead. Besides, your school work is more important.”
“Whatever.” The seventeen year old young man squirmed out of her embrace and walked toward his room. “I’m going to bed. ‘Night!”
“Goodnight.” She felt tears form in her eyes and silently cursed the moon for causing her erratic behavior.
Marala watched until Jak disappeared through his door and made haste to the kitchen to refill her glass. The cheap wooden chair she slumped down onto wobbled. One leg was slightly shorter than the rest. She placed her elbows on the table and buried her face in her hands. Life had always been one step forward and three steps back. Every time she’d almost caught up with the bills, something else had happened to knock her back down into the dirt. For the amount of time she had spent kicked to the ground, she’d have been better off mud wrestling in a bikini on local access television.
For an hour, she stayed in that same spot, trying to find some sort of peace in her mind. It wasn’t until her bottle of cheap wine was empty that she went to her bedroom and lay down. In four hours, she’d have to wake up and get ready for work. When the alarm clock finally went off, she hadn’t slept a wink, but at least the damned full moon had been replaced by the splendid warmth of the sun.