Forged in Moonfire (Amber Lee Mysteries Book 4)(8)

By: Katerina Martinez

Aaron didn’t know which hurt more; the transformation or his cracked nose. But he didn’t have a second to consider that, either. The bull was after him again. Aaron braced, but then the bull lost his feet and fell face first into the tarmac with a loud crack that could have been bone or concrete. Aaron watched Jackal rise to her feet, roll the bull onto his back, and dig her shoe into his neck.

“Are you going to cut that shit out or do I have to teach you another lesson?” she said, cool as a winter breeze.

“Fuck you,” he spat blood. Aaron smelt it straight away, strong and metallic.

The bull was easily three times Jackal’s size, and even though he could have grabbed her foot and flung her into a tree with a single motion, he wasn’t moving. His hands were at his side, limp and idle. Why?

“This is the old wolf’s son,” she said, “If anyone’s got first rights to his blood it’s the old wolf or his beta; and the last time I checked that was me. You can get your turn when we’re done with him.”

“Jackal, that’s enough,” Aaron’s father said. This was the second time he had had to call her off someone.

Jackal lifted her foot from the bull’s neck and stood back a few paces while he stood and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He scowled a bloody scowl at Aaron and then back at Jackal. “What kind of a wolf is he that he needs a woman to fight his battles for him?” he asked.

The word was full of contempt and even Aaron—stuck in the unnatural yet powerful space between beast wolf and human—saw the way Jackal’s jaw stiffened at the comment.

“That is your beta,” said Marcus, the old wolf. He was approaching now, walking across the hub with a proud swagger. “And unless you want Vinnie to tell us the story of how she took you down blindfolded and with one hand tied behind her back again you’d best keep that sexist crap to yourself.”

The man, whose name Aaron yet didn’t know, grunted and pushed his way past the old wolf. The rest of the pack was staring, now. Some of them were watching the bull, others looking at Aaron, trying to size him up. Aaron noticed, then, the lack of women present. It seemed like Jackal was the only one, unless there was a woman hiding in that car that had pulled up.

“Look at how he holds the form,” Jackal said, watching Aaron with a grin on her face. She had taken her glasses off now and was holding them in her hand.

“I see it,” Marcus said.

“Your blood really is strong.”

“My blood is yours too.”

Aaron brought his eyes to his own body and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His forearms were large and thick and covered in grey fur which seemed to shimmer in the fading sun. He touched his face and felt the ridges on his forehead and eyebrows, his elongated ears, his sharp teeth. Aaron’s heart was starting to beat a little more slowly, but he felt power coursing through him with every pulse.

Until he started to calm down and his body started to change shape again.

Aaron dropped to his knees and this time let out an agonized groan as the bones in his body returned to their normal positions and dimensions. His fingernails retracted, but their size had ripped Aaron’s fingers wide open and they were bleeding. The muscles in his arms, chest, and legs were twisting and contorting, ripping and pulling. And the transforming ridges in his face and nose were making it difficult for him to breathe. Aaron fought hard to stifle his groans, but they came anyway and echoed far through the pine forest at the base of Mount Charleston.

When it was done, Jackal helped Aaron to his feet and asked him to stay calm as his body healed the wounds. “The first few weeks of transforming are always the hardest,” she said into his ear. “Breathe through it.”

Marcus approached and laid a hand on his son’s shoulder. “The next time,” he said, “Jackal won’t be there to help you.”

“I didn’t need help,” Aaron said, although the blood covering his mouth and shirt would have said otherwise if it had a voice.

“You might be able to hold a form well, but you couldn’t hold your own against Rocky.”

Aaron shrugged away from Marcus and Jackal. “I didn’t come here to get picked on,” he said, cheeks flushed. “I came here because I’m a werewolf and I want to learn.”