The Lost Slipper Page 2

“Come inside, dear. I’ll show you to your room.”

“She smells like a bear,” one of the girls says. Her face scrunches up like she’s smelling something terrible.

“I’m not sharing a room with it,” the other girl says, making an equally grossed-out face.

“You’ll do what you’re told. The alpha said we’re to take care of her and that’s what we’ll do,” the father finally says. The woman’s hold on me tightens at his words, her nails digging in a little. She’s clearly not happy with the alpha’s orders.

“Come inside.” This time her tone is annoyed as she starts to pull me towards the house. I want to yank from her hold, but I don’t. What choice do I really have? When we pass the two girls on the porch, they both give me a look that could kill. Gone are the nice girls who were making sweet doe eyes at the alpha when he was standing there.

When I get inside, I’m pulled up two flights of stairs until we reach the attic. Then the woman finally releases me, unlocking the door and showing me the space. The room is a mess, a bed in the center of the chaos.

“You’ll need to get this cleared up and habitable. I’m sure the alpha will want to see it when he comes back here tomorrow. Make sure it’s done right.” She turns and makes her way down the stairs. “Dinner’s at seven. Most of this better be done by then, or you won't be eating,” she calls as she descends. “…Not that you need it,” she adds in a murmur.

I sit down on the bed and look around the attic. I feel more alone now than when I was running through the woods without any memory of anything. At least then I didn’t have anyone to miss.

Prologue Stone

Past…

“You’re making a mistake.” Gwen’s words sting. We both know they’re true, but I don’t say anything in response.

Putting the truck in gear, I pull away from the Stocktons’ house and feel my chest ache. Gripping the wheel tighter, I force myself not to look back as I drive away. Just a few more minutes and then I can run. I just need to get back home.

Gwen and I ride in silence all the way back home. Thankfully, she doesn’t keep telling me what I know to be true and just lets me suffer in silence.

It’s the right thing to do. It’s what had to be done. I feel like if I keep telling myself that over and over again, it will be true. It’s like if I keep repeating it, then I’ll somehow believe the lie.

I pull up to the house, jump out of the truck, and head for the woods. Hearing the gravel crunch under my boots, I don’t look back when Gwen calls my name.

“Stone! Where are you going?”

Once I get out back behind our house, I pull off my shirt and throw it on the ground. I keep stomping as I make my way to the tree line, kicking off my boots and taking off my jeans as I go. As I leap into the air, I shift before my paws hit the ground, taking off in a full run towards the protected lands.

Feeling my muscles burn and ache is what I need right now. I need to make my body feel the pain that is eating away at my heart. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop this feeling, this need?

Pushing harder, I run as fast as my wolf can take me. He’s angry and needs to be in control. I run for miles until I’m beyond the borders of our small mountain town in Gray Ridge, Colorado.

Our shifter community is secret, but strong. And finding another shifter wandering in the woods is unusual. We have other packs around us, and we’re all friendly. So when our town sheriff, Dominic Wolf, found a stray bear cub, I reached out to all the neighboring packs but came up empty-handed.

The first time I saw her, Dominic was carrying her out of the woods. She was fully shifted into a little brown cub, and she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Her head turned in my direction when I approached them, and her big brown eyes met mine.

In that moment, I felt something inside me change.

I’d known my whole life what it meant for me to be the alpha. My father was the alpha of our Gray Ridge wolf pack until he died suddenly when I was eighteen. He was out for a run one day, and had a heart attack. The doctors did all they could do, but he didn’t make it. I was young and angry, not wanting the responsibility of the pack to fall on my shoulders. But I was born of pure alpha blood, and I had no choice but to lead.

I knew what taking on this role would mean, and I knew one day I would be destined for a mate. I had always assumed it would be another wolf and someone of similar bloodlines. What I didn’t expect was to have some kind of connection to a stray cub that was far too young.

What I feel isn’t what people have described to me as the mating pull, but it’s something. I feel very protective of her and would do anything to keep her safe, but I feel that if I don’t distance myself from Winnie, I might regret it. What if I end up mating someone else? Then these feelings would betray my true mate, and that’s not fair.

I finally stop near a small creek to drink some water and catch my breath. My lungs burn from the run, and my legs are shaky as I bend down to take a drink from the cool spring.

The second I saw Winnie for the first time, something in me changed. I’d been angry about the responsibility of the pack weighing down on my shoulders for so long that the first time I saw her, I felt light. I felt as if looking into her scared eyes broke something inside me wide open, and I can’t seem to close it again.

That day in the woods, I took her from Dominic’s arms and carried her back to my house. The little cub was shivering with cold and fear, but as soon as she was cradled in my arms, she stopped. It was like our connection was made, and from that moment on, I didn’t leave her side.

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