Hybrid Reclaimed by J.L. Wilder

1

XANDER

at the scene before him, hardly able to process what he was looking at. His paws dug into the earth as if he was holding on, as if he was afraid of falling off.

The woman—but could she be called a woman? She certainly wasn’t human—might have been beautiful under other circumstances. That slender, fragile-looking body. The way she held herself, as gracefully as if she was a dancer. Her pale skin, which was almost luminous in the moonlight. Her long limbs, and the supernatural lift of her thick, dark hair—it looked like it was floating out behind her.

Even her eyes, with their strange red color, were as captivating as they were off-putting. He could have gotten lost in those eyes.

Except for the fact that she was crouched over his packmate Richard, her lips to his neck, drinking his blood.

Even that—an act of horrible, inhuman cruelty—was difficult to reconcile with her beauty. Could such a lovely creature really be capable of something so awful? Surely, the fault lay with Xander. He had misunderstood.

He closed his eyes.

As soon as he wasn’t looking at her, it became easier to think. The horror of the scene before him came flooding in full force.

Shes one of the fae, he thought. She has to be. That was what they looked like.

He couldn’t bring himself to move. He was sure that if he dared, the beautiful and terrible creature before him would become aware of his presence. It was a miracle she didn’t already know he was here.

He inhaled, doing his best to memorize the sickly sweet scent of her, to make sure that he would be able to recognize it if he ever came across it again.

Carefully, he opened his eyes. She was still there, still feeding, apparently now fully invested in the meal she was making of Richard’s body.

Xander felt sick.

But there was a part of his mind—the part that was a fighter, a survivor, a wolf—that saw opportunity in what was happening now. The fact that she was distracted meant that he could escape. It meant that he might be able to get away without her seeing him.

And that was vital because the rest of his pack was in these woods, running toward the rendezvous point they had all agreed upon. He had to be there when they arrived. He was the alpha. He had to be ready to lead them now that their homes were destroyed by dragon flame, now that they had nowhere to go.

He backed away slowly, easing his weight from paw to paw. If he felt a leaf or a stick beneath the pads of his feet, he shifted his stance, found a safer place to step. He knew he couldn’t afford to make a sound. He had no idea how good the mysterious fae woman’s hearing might be. He had no idea how quickly she would launch herself at him and attack if she realized he was here.

His heart raced the entire time he made his retreat. At any minute, she might look up at him with those blood-red eyes, and then—he had no idea what would happen next. Would his life just end? Would he be dead before he had time to realize what was happening?

Was that how it had been for Richard?

He felt a sick pang of guilt over the loss of his friend and packmate. He was the alpha. It had been his job to protect Richard, and he had failed horribly.

Finally, when the fae woman was so far away from him that he could no longer see the glow of her eyes, so far away that her lithe body was just a shape in the distance, he turned and began to run.

Only to be brought up short.

The sky was lighter than it had been when he had stopped to look at her. Much lighter. Day was dawning.

His stomach dropped.

How long had he been standing there staring at her, mesmerized by her alien beauty?

It must have been hours.

He listened desperately, but there was no sound of wolf footsteps around him. His packmates had been running through the woods—his brother, Mitch, had been just ahead of him—

They were gone now.

He was all alone.

And he had gotten turned around somehow. He had completely lost his bearings. Was he running toward the rendezvous right now, or was he moving away from it?

He sniffed the air, trying desperately to pick up on the familiar scent of wolves moving through the trees so that he could follow it, but if there had been a trail here, it was long gone. The only thing he could smell was the smoke in the distance, rising from the remains of his pack’s territory, indicating that it was still burning.

That—and the rotting fruit odor of the fae.

Even though he was far away from the woman he had seen, he could still smell that aroma. He knew he would be able to find his way back to her without any trouble.

The pack was gone. They would be nearly impossible to track now. And hours had gone by. They might not even be at the rendezvous point anymore.

But it wasn’t too late to try to avenge Richard’s death.

He had failed his packmate, but he could make things right. At least, he hoped he could do it.

He crept forward again, moving faster this time but still on silent paws. His speed, endurance, and stealth were his greatest strengths as a wolf. He had no idea what strengths the fae had, and he didn’t know whether he had a chance of fighting the woman he had seen, but he would do his best. He would not allow the attack on his people tonight to go unpunished.