Chapter 05 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Merla – Prequel of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
© Alyssia Leon 2018
It’s been a busy, busy week.
That’s not a bad thing though. I’m less likely to fritter away hours when I’ve a to-do list the length of my arm to plough through, lol.
But in the midst of everything, I actually discovered a brand new drink (new to me, that is).
Wow, the things I’ve missed in my years on this planet. Who knew you could make yummy coffee out of pumpkin sauce.
Anyway, I found a fantastic recipe if you’d like to try some pumpkin coffee of your own. Though I have to admit my creation didn’t look anything as impressive as the image below.
Photo credit: Inspired Taste
And of course, to go with your pumpkin coffee, here’s the next chapter in Merla’s story.
Embers from the fire flickered past the bony remains of the spit-roasted stag. They sparked orange in the night and brought out the wolf-colours in the eyes of the men sitting quietly around the firepit.
Merla’s attention was on her father though. His tired eyes—light grey in their human form—glowed with an alpha’s red tint. A struggling alpha. He dipped his greying head as deep coughs once again racked his body.
One of her two uncles leaned forward and held out a battered tin mug half-filled with beer. “Fenris, drink this.”
Her father gave him a grateful nod and taking the mug, gulped back the beer.
Her uncle sat back. His eyes glowed with a beta’s yellow tint as did his brother’s beside him. And the concern in both their gazes as they regarded her father—their elder brother—echoed the concern in Merla’s heart. Werewolves healed quickly, so weakness, disease, or even fight wounds were never much of a problem. But her father wasn’t healing at all. Merla gazed at his tall, hunched form as he sat staring into the fire. It was his worry for her that was blocking his healing, she was sure. Once again, the full blame for his pain rested on her.
She’d barely turned eighteen when nearby alphas looking to own her had started challenging her father to battle. He’d fought them and won, but each victory had been harder to gain. And battle after battle, she’d had to watch her once strong and sturdy father become reduced to the broken wolf he was now. He hadn’t had time to recover fully when the most brutish alpha of them all, Derrick of the Howler Clan, had challenged him. Her father would never have survived. Their only choice had been to run away.
Merla dragged her gaze away from her father and glanced around their makeshift camp. Only her four cousins seemed immune to worry as they sat away from the fire, joshing with her brother Arden and drinking beer. Beer they’d stolen from the town while they were supposed to have been hunting. They’d been mighty proud of their little heist too and had crowed about it nonstop until her ears had turned blue. Still, beer was welcome. At least it cheered up her father somewhat. Maybe that was why he hadn’t come down too hard on the lads for the stupid risk they’d taken in getting it.
Arden laughed at something Sai said, and then Beren and the twins eagerly jumped in with tales of their own. Their eyes glowed various shades of beta-yellow in the firelight, and their voices rose with excitement.
Her Uncle Orban growled at them. “Pipe down,” he muttered.
The lads grinned at him and returned to whispering among themselves.
Merla scowled. They were planning something, and she’d bet it had to do with Arden taking on Renzo or his traps. But they’d never tell her. And it wasn’t just because they saw her as a party pooper. It was because they didn’t see her as a proper member of the pack at all.
Everyone had their place in the pack with the alpha at the top and the betas below. The colour of their wolf eyes placed them there. But her wolf had blue eyes, the same ice-blue as her human eyes. Where did that place her in the hierarchy? Nowhere. She was a nobody in her own family. And no matter how hard she tried to compensate for it with her hunting skills and now her ability to destroy Renzo’s traps, she still felt like a fifth wheel.
“Sitting by yourself again?” her elder brother, Connal, came to her. His overlong blond hair flopped over his forehead, and impatiently swiping it back, he sat down beside her.
“It gives me a mysterious aura,” Merla murmured.
Connal grinned, and his cornflower-blue eyes glowed with the amber tint of a prime-beta. “Nah, it just makes you look boring.”
Merla shrugged. “Nothing wrong with ‘boring’.” And she silently studied her father’s hunched figure. “He’s not getting better.”
Connal sighed and glanced around at the surrounding forest. “A few more days hiding out like this with no challenges might see him heal.”
“I’m scared, Connal. I don’t think he’ll survive another fight.”
A muscle tensed in her brother’s jaw. “It won’t come to that. I won’t let it.”
Merla looked at him. He’d fight in their father’s stead; that’s what he meant. But Connal was only twenty-one. Even as a prime-beta, he was no match for a fully developed alpha, especially not one as vicious as Derrick Howler. “Dad would never let you,” she said. “You’re not even an alpha yet. It’s suicide.”
“Dad has no say in this anymore. Look at him. He knows he can’t protect us. That’s why we’re hiding. But how long do you think we can hide?”
“We don’t have to hide,” Merla said quietly. “If I give myself up to Derrick before he hunts us down, it might save our pack.”
“Like hell you will,” Connal growled. And when she stayed silent, he scowled at her. “Merla, promise me. You’re not to give yourself to that savage. Hell! You think it’ll save Dad if he knows that son-of-a-bitch has you? He’ll fight for you anyway. He’ll die for you.”
She shook her head in despair. “We’re living on borrowed time. Derrick will find us. You know he will. And when he does, I’m the only one he’ll take alive.” In what condition ‘alive’ was something she didn’t want to think about. “At least if I give in now, I might be able to negotiate for all your lives.”
Connal looked grim. “And we’d live out the rest of those miserable lives as slaves to the howlers. I speak for every wolf here when I say ‘over my dead body’.”
Merla glanced away. If only she’d been born male like every other normal werewolf, then her family wouldn’t have been forced to choose between death or a fate worse than death. Maybe her sulky cousin Rudi was right; she should run away and give herself to Derrick, stall him enough so her pack could escape. Surely her father wouldn’t try to rescue her if he realized all hope was lost and she now belonged to Derrick?
Merla clenched her jaw. She never thought she’d end up agreeing with Rudi of all people. And frowning, she looked back at the fire where her father and uncles sat. “Where’s Rudi?” she asked Connal.
He checked their surroundings. “The little worm’s not here. Isn’t that a surprise?”
Rudi was two years older than Connal, and the blood between them had never been warm. And when Connal had ascended to prime-beta status a few months ago, things had soured faster than mouldy yoghurt. Until then, Rudi had fancied himself as the next alpha of their tiny pack. But now he was a mere beta who had to take orders from not just her father but Connal too.
“Do you think he’s gone to the howlers?” Merla asked, knowing her brother shared her unspoken suspicion that Rudi had turned traitor.
Connal frowned. “Dad,” he called out. “Where’s Rudi?”
“Hunting,” their father said, throwing a brief glance their way.
“We already caught a stag, so what the hell is he hunting on his own?” Connal asked.
“Mind your own business,” Rudi snapped, stepping out of the shadows. And he approached the fire with a dead rabbit swinging from his hand.
“A rabbit?” Connal raised an eyebrow. “That’s some fearsome hunting, Rudi.”
Merla frowned. A rabbit wouldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to catch. What had Rudi been doing the rest of the time?
Rudi’s green eyes glinted yellow in the light, and he placed the rabbit down beside the fire. “What the hell are you implying?”
“That you were looking for the howlers, planning to bring them here,” Merla snapped.
“Watch your bloody words,” Rudi snarled. “You‘re the reason we’re in this shithole.”
Merla opened her mouth to bite back.
“Merla,” her father said. “That’s enough.”
She shut her mouth and leapt to her feet. “I’m going to the lake,” she bit out. It was the only place she was sure to get some peace. Her father nodded, and she stalked past a stony Rudi. “I know…” she muttered to him, low enough that her father wouldn’t hear.
“Be careful out there,” he muttered back, his eyes cold.
To be continued next week…