Monster Bait by Brynn Paulin

Prologue

~ Allie ~

Five and a half years ago

“Lo-Lo, come on,” I whispered as we trekked through the dense growth. Backpacks weighed heavy on our shoulders and our jeans and jackets were getting damp from the dew that had settled on the foliage we fought through.

“I’m tired,” she whined, an indicator of how terrible she really felt. Lola the champ never whined. She was first in line for every challenge.

“We’ll find someplace to stop soon.” I hoped so anyway. My legs ached from the hike, too. We couldn’t stop, though. We definitely couldn’t go back. Those monsters at the group foster home had plans for us. Take care of us until we grew up then…

Then who knew? I hadn’t heard that part when I’d been eavesdropping. All I knew was they were waiting for us to mature before “taking us” to the lair.

Uh… Hell to the no.

Lo and I both knew it was weird there. And we knew weird. Both of us were the same. We got visions…knew things. Noticed things that others didn’t.

I sure noticed the way one of the boys looked at me. He was our age. But he was a monster; we weren’t. I wasn’t sure what kind he was. I just knew he was one. The way he looked at me, though… It wasn’t like our caregivers looked at the girls. He didn’t make me fearful or set off my danger radar. Instead, he made me feel…strange inside. Things got tight and warm and…strange.

When Lo and I ran away, I almost thought we should ask him to come along. But he was a monster. He probably would have snitched on us to the adults.

I shivered as the cold dampness sank deeper into my bones. They’d taught us about hypothermia in biology class, and I wondered if we might be in danger of that. April in North Dakota wasn’t exactly optimal for running away. Better than February, but still, it was really cold and damp at night.

My teeth chattered, and I wrapped my arms tighter around myself. I didn’t hear Lo, and it was starting to get dark. Though I was only a couple months older than her, I felt responsible for her. She was my best friend and the only family I had, even if not by blood.

Turning, I found her standing stock-still, several yards behind me.

“Lo-Lo,” I called. “You’re gonna get lost. Come on.”

She didn’t move, staring into the darkness. That’s when I saw it, and I froze, too. Glowing eyes…an orange aura like a beacon of light. A huge wolf, the biggest I’d ever seen—of course, the only wolves I’d ever seen had been in zoos. Behind a fence or plexiglass.

The animal stared at Lo while she stared right back. No one moved, unless you counted our shivers from cold, but I tensed, waiting for it to leap.

“Lo…” I murmured, glancing around for something to defend us with…a big stick, a large rock, or something. “Slide off your pack and swing it at the wolf if it attacks.”

She momentarily gaped at me in shock. “He’s a werewolf. He’s going to take us out of here.”

“What?”

Lo knew things, more than I did. Her visions were sharper than mine. But even if she was right, we’d just escaped one group of monsters. And now, we’d end up with another? No. Just… No.

“He’s a werewolf,” she repeated, her words slightly obscured by her chattering teeth. “He’s going to take us home. To Allstown.”

“Allstown?” I repeated, feeling as if I were stuck in some Twilight Zone dreamscape.

“Home,” she said with a nod. “I’ve dreamed about it for a long time. I’ve dreamed this. I think it’s why I said we had to come here. He’s my mate, Allie.”

The wolf made a snorting sound that wasn’t a growl, but definitely conveyed disbelief of her words. I stared at him, studying his intelligent eyes that seemed locked on my best friend, almost as if he didn’t realize I was here.

“Wolf,” I called, and now he did swing his stare my way. “If you’re really a were, lead us out of here.”

“His name is Gar,” she said, and his head snapped back to her so fast, I was surprised I didn’t hear a snap.

I’d guess he find out soon… Lola knew things. Even with my abilities, hers seemed kind of freaky. Strong where mine were weak.

“Gar,” I murmured, knowing she was right. “Take us out of here.”

We were probably jumping from one pan and into another, but Lo seemed convinced this was meant to be. I only hoped we didn’t land in a fire. As far as I was concerned, a monster was a monster was a monster. They were all the same. Dangerous.