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Lost Wolf Excerpt
by Stacy Claflin
Beads of sweat broke out along my hairline. I wiped them away, tightened my ponytail, and ran faster along the dirt trail, jumping over exposed roots and ducking under low-hanging branches. Pine trees, firs, and alders turned my path into more of an obstacle course than a trail.
A twig snapped behind me.
I glanced back, but didn’t see anything. Probably just a raccoon.
My sneaker hit a root and my arms flew in front of me. I landed on my hands and knees, and slid down an incline. Rocks and branches dug into my skin until I crashed into a huckleberry bush.
I stood and dusted myself off. Blood dripped from my legs. I pulled twigs, dirt, and small rocks from the cuts.
“Nice work, Victoria,” I muttered to myself.
Sasha had said I shouldn’t have gone into the forest for my first jog. But having just moved to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, I wasn’t about to join a club when I had the great outdoors. Birds chirped all around and a stream bubbled nearby. It was like the woods were telling me I’d made the right choice.
“Who’s there?” I sounded a lot braver than I felt. My heart thundered against my ribcage and I whipped my head around. My roommates had said the woods were safe, but I was also trusting people who had been strangers only a couple days earlier.
Why had I gone into the woods alone? Wasn’t that how half of all horror movies started?
I thought of Sasha running on a treadmill, flirting with cute college guys. Maybe she was the smart one.
“Hello?” I called.
Nothing. The birds had even stopped singing.
“Is anyone there?”
The footsteps came closer.
My pulse drummed in my ears. I fought to breathe normally.
A small gray and black wolf stepped out from behind the tree. He made eye contact with me.
I didn’t move a muscle, holding its gaze.
ETERNA Cross to Bear: A Gabriella Cross Paranormal Romance Book 1
All around her, the sounds of baying wolves echoed in the night. Trees slapped her face as she ran, and she tripped more than once. She was crying now and mumbling to herself, terrified. She dared not look back, knowing that the wolves were pursuing her. She came out of the woods into a clearing leading to a tall hill. The howls came from all directions. Shadows flew through the woods in her peripheral vision, and Gabby cried out. She fell again, skinning her knee badly on a jagged rock. In her terrified state, she felt no pain, but continued as fast as she could and ran up the hill.
A snarl came from directly behind her, and she instinctively turned and cried out. A wolf was bearing down on her fast. She turned and raised a hand as the beast leapt at her with gleaming claws leading the way.
“NO!” Gabby cried.
To her amazement, the wolf changed form in mid-flight and turned into a naked man. He landed at her feet on all fours and snarled at her.
“Get away from me!” she screamed.
The naked man backed away from her warily, glancing down at his human hands with a look of confusion and shock. More wolves were coming out of the woods. They stopped when they saw the one who had turned into a human in the light of the full moon.
Gabby wasted no time considering her luck and ran as fast as she could up the hill.
“Gabriella Cross, stop!” Michael’s voice rose up over the howls.
Gabby could hardly see through her tears. She didn’t dare look back, knowing that she would find death closing in on her. She reached the top of the hill and ran across the flat expanse of rocky earth.
“Gabriella!” came the voice again.
The wolves were gaining on her.
She darted between two pines blocking her way, receiving many scrapes on her face and arms. Half blinded by tears and slapping branches, she stumbled out from between the trees and suddenly came to a steep cliff. She tried to stop, but her momentum was too great. With a terrified cry she fell forward over the cliff.
She frantically thrashed her arms as she fell to her death. Above, on the ledge, a mournful wolf cried out. The ground was coming up fast to crush her, and Gabby closed her eyes, not wanting to see her death.
Then. Suddenly. Gabriella was weightless.
Strong arms held her firmly. She opened her eyes to find a winged beast staring back at her.
Gabby passed out.