Forged in Moonfire (Amber Lee Mysteries Book 4)(9)By: Katerina Martinez
“You’re learning right now,” Marcus said, “You lunged at Jackal at the shop just as Rocky lunged at you. This is how wolves are; they question their position in the pack. And when a new wolf comes along, the instinct to figure out your place intensifies. It’s not personal.”
“Seemed pretty damn personal,” Aaron said.
Marcus’ face shifted and took a serious tone. “You have come here to learn,” Marcus said, in a voice that was as full of theater as was authority. “But before you can learn from us, you have to pass one of our trials.”
Aaron’s eyes narrowed into slits. The wound on his nose and fingers had healed and he couldn’t feel any pain at all anymore. “What trial?” he asked.
“You’ll have to take one of our paths, climb Mount Charleston to its peak, and drink the snow from the caps,” Marcus said.
Aaron looked up at the mountain he would have to climb. From here it didn’t seem like such an impossible feat. He’d never climbed a mountain before, but he was sure he could do it in a single day; and he said as much.
“Give him the Cougar path, then,” said a voice from the back. Another agreed.
“No,” Marcus said. “He isn’t ready.”
Aaron frowned. “I’m ready,” he said, “Just tell me what I have to do.”
Marcus’s lips pressed into a thin line. “Aaron, I can’t let you walk the Cougar path. It’s too dangerous. The Cougars would kill you on sight. We stick to our own paths along the mountain; that’s the way it is.”
“I’m your son,” Aaron said, “You said yourself my instincts are strong. Let me do this.”
“He’s stubborn like you, too,” Jackal offered.
“What’s the trial?” Aaron asked.
“Really, it’s the simplest one of all the trials,” Jackal said, “All you have to do is walk the length of the path.”
“Yep, from one to the other. Oh, but you have to avoid the Cougars of course. They will kill you on sight.”
“Why would werewolves kill other werewolves on sight?”
“We don’t. We’re wolves, Aaron. The Cougars are… well, cougars.”
They’re just trails, Aaron thought to himself as he walked along the path claimed by the Mountain Cougars. Hundreds of people walked these paths every month, maybe even every day—Aaron didn’t know, in truth—and he knew he could run twelve miles without breaking a sweat. He’d never run a marathon before, but he went to the gym about four times a week and ran a five K warm up and cool down after every workout session, which for Aaron included tough regimens of arm, chest, leg, and back exercises. And that was before he came into his heritage as a werewolf.
Or maybe he had always been a werewolf, only now he was able to shapeshift?
No. That couldn’t be it. Aaron couldn’t remember the last time he took a solid hit to the face like the one the bull had just given him and healed it a few minutes after. Minutes, not hours. Aaron’s body was definitely different now. He could feel the blood in his body roaring with power, his muscles rippling with strength, his every move suffused with a kind of strange, never ending supply of energy. He had barely slept and yet here he was, embarking on a twelve mile trek around a mountain he didn’t know through supposedly enemy territory.
Was he crazy? Of course he wasn’t. This is why he came here. If he didn’t want to learn what it was like to be a werewolf and show his father just what a great man Aaron had turned into without any help he had to make this walk and he had to make it now, in front of the rest of the pack. His father enjoyed a good tough guy; well, Aaron would show him and everyone else.
“You could try being a little more cautious,” Jackal said.
Her soft voice, barely spoken over a whisper, jarred Aaron out of focus. He blinked and looked at her. “What?” he asked.
Jackal smiled. Her glasses were on her head, now. She had left her denim jacket, wallet, phone and keys back at her car, taken off her shoes, and was walking barefoot through the woods. Aaron hadn’t followed her example, though, so while his feet were crunching over twigs and rocks, hers weren’t making a sound. “The Mountain Cougars are probably going to smell us anyway,” she said, “But it wouldn’t hurt for you to be a little lighter on your feet.”