Real Alphas Bite by C.R. Jane
“Sleep tight, little one,” my daddy said as he tucked me in and gave me my favorite bear, Mr. Stuffins.
I yawned and pulled the blanket up to my chin, all the while studying the man leaning over me with a strange look in his eye. He’d been acting weird for months, full of energy one day and then unable to get out of bed the next. Mommy said he was just “going through grownup stuff,” but I just wanted my daddy back. The man still staring at me was a stranger, and he gave me a weird feeling.
“No matter what, I want you to stay in bed tonight, do you understand, little one?” he asked as he abruptly grabbed Mr. Stuffins out of my arms and stared at him in fascination.
“Please give him back, Daddy,” I begged as I reached out my arms for the bear I’d come to depend on lately. Daddy wasn’t the only one who’d been acting strange; Mommy had been acting weird too, crying in her bedroom at all hours and screaming at Daddy for stuff I didn’t understand.
Daddy tossed the bear at me and leaned closer until I was shrinking back against my pillow, gripping Mr. Stuffins tightly against me. Daddy’s teeth elongated into sharp points, and his eyes took on a yellow glow as a low growl pulled from his throat.
“Stay in your bed,” he pressed, the rumble of his wolf pulsing through his voice with authority.
I nodded quickly, not wanting to make him any madder.
His teeth receded after he stared at me for another minute, and he must have believed me because he abruptly turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him. A moment later, I heard the click on my doorknob that let me know he had locked it. I didn’t worry too much about that; my older brother Jamie had shown me how to unlock it using a pin, so if I had to use the restroom, I’d be able to get out.
I snuggled into my pillow, trying to ignore the flicker of unease in my stomach at the way my dad had been acting. Mommy had promised things would get better soon. She’d told me that Daddy had a plan, whatever that meant.
I just had to trust them.
* * *
I wokeup coughing and struggled to sit up. The room was hazy, and my eyes watered just looking around. Smoke. My room was filled with smoke.
I tried to yell for Mommy, but I immediately started coughing as soon as I opened my mouth and took in a huge gulp of smoke.
Grabbing Mr. Stuffins, I jumped out of bed and crawled along the floor towards the door. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I struggled to keep my eyes open so I could see where I was going. All I could taste was ash, and my breath was coming out in gasps. The smoke was streaming in from under my door, but it was the only way out; my room was on the second floor, and I’d never been able to successfully open my window without help from Mommy and Daddy. It was too old and heavy.
I grabbed the doorknob and let out a sob when I remembered that Daddy locked it. It was cool to the touch, though. That’s a good thing, I think. They talked about fire safety at school, and I remembered Ms. Windrow had said something like that.
I coughed again and almost threw up. My throat was burning as I struggled to find the pin that Jamie and I had hidden between the baseboard and the carpet.
I gasped in relief when I found it and immediately started fiddling with the doorknob. For some reason, Jamie had made me practice for hours when Mommy and Daddy weren’t around, making it into a game where he pretended we were bank robbers. So even with the smoke, I got the door to unlock in just a minute.
As soon as I opened the door, smoke began to billow inside my room. “Mommy! Daddy! Jamie!” I screamed before erupting in another coughing fit. No one appeared in the hallway, and I couldn’t hear anything besides the sound of flames crackling and wood creaking and breaking from somewhere out of view.
I crawled down the hallway, stopping at Jamie’s room. His door was cracked open, and I hurried and pushed it all the way forward.
A scream burst out of me when I saw Jamie lying on the ground right by the door with his arm outstretched like he’d been on his way out when he collapsed. I crawled frantically towards him and began to pull on his arm. At sixteen, he’d already shifted for the first time, and he was huge compared to me. But I wasn’t about to leave him. He was my best friend. I tried to shake him, but he didn’t respond at all. I put my head on his back, crying in relief when my head rose with one of his breaths.
Crying and coughing, I pulled on his arm, only able to drag him a couple of inches before having to take a break.
The smoke grew worse and worse as I continued to pull on my brother. I somehow drew us both into the hallway before being unable to get him any further.
“Please get up, Jamie,” I cried, my hands shaking as I grabbed his arm again and shook him.
A low moan came out of him, and his eyes flickered open. Relief coursed through me as I patted his hair and tried unsuccessfully to get words out to tell him what was happening. He stared at me wide-eyed for a moment before beginning to cough. The coughing seemed to wake him up and get him to realize the situation though, because he abruptly shot up, almost knocking me over as he did so.
“Syn!” he cried in a raspy voice before grabbing my hand and starting to drag me down the hallway.
The smoke grew thicker as we made it to the hallway. We’d just turned into the kitchen when I screamed and pulled away from my brother, sprinting over to my mother who was lying on the floor in front of the oven. For a second, I thought she’d just passed out like my brother, but then I stepped into something wet and warm as I got closer to her, and even through the haze of smoke, I could tell it was blood.
My eight-year-old mind was struggling to comprehend what I was seeing.
“Syn!” my brother cried out as he reached me, going perfectly still when he realized our mother was dead. I fell to the ground and buried my face against her, my little body wracked with sobs as I pulled at her prone form, distraught.
Suddenly, a fiery beam fell to the ground in the living room, shattering the coffee table and sending sparks, fumes, and flames everywhere.
“Come on,” Jamie cried as he tried to pull me from my mother.
“No,” I cried out, struggling to hold on to her. Jamie wrestled me away and started to push me towards the front door, just down the hall from the kitchen. We had just made it to the hallway when Jamie cursed and stumbled back, pulling me protectively behind him.
“Why are you out of your room?” I heard my father roar.
I peeked my head out from behind Jamie and shrieked when I saw my father shift, his grey wolf massive and ferocious in front of us.
A second later, Jamie had shifted, and the two of them crashed together, the impact so great that the frames that hadn’t fallen when the beam had dropped, all shattered to the ground.
I stood there frozen as my brother and father fought fiercely, neither of them holding anything back. My father outweighed my brother by at least a hundred pounds. My brother had just shifted for the first time; he was a long way off from matching my father in size.
“Please stop,” I screamed, falling to my knees and crossing my arms around my body. I watched in horror as my father took a huge bite out of Jamie’s shoulder. My brother’s wolf howled in agony, and I stared in disbelief as my father lunged at Jamie’s jugular for a killing strike.
Jamie barely missed having his throat torn out as he threw himself back. Jamie’s wolf was whining in pain as he angled his body in front of me, trying to make sure my father couldn’t get to me. Blood was seeping from his wound, and his whole body was shaking as he prepared for my father’s next attack.
I could see the craziness in my father’s gaze as he pushed back on his haunches, preparing to leap at us and end us both.
He flew through the air towards us just as another wooden beam—my mother had insisted on installing them along the ceilings—fell right on top of him. A sharp howl rushed out of him as my father crashed to the floor, pinned under the beam. But even with it on top of him, he was trying to struggle towards us wildly, his teeth bared and growls erupting from his throat.
My brother whined and collapsed in front of me before shifting back. Blood was still gushing from his shoulder, and I didn’t understand why he wasn’t healing. He was supposed to be healing.
“Jamie,” I whimpered, putting my hands on his neck as if I could stop the bleeding.
Jamie took a deep breath before stumbling to his knees, trying to pull me away from my father and the beam that was now blocking the hallway.
We’d just made it out to the living room when another beam fell. The fire was coming from the hallway and from the living room, and we were trapped in the kitchen. There were flames everywhere, and at this point, I was gasping for breath, my head feeling light and fuzzy from the smoke.
Jamie stumbled to his feet and tried to lift a chair, only to drop it with a crash and a yelp of pain from pulling on his wounded shoulder.
In a daze, I stumbled forward to help him lift the chair, realizing he was going to try and shatter the kitchen window.
But as I walked, I tripped, the smoke finally too much for me to handle. I slumped over the table.
I faintly heard Jamie yelling at me, and then my eyes closed as I drifted into unconsciousness.
The crash of more beams falling roared around me. The sound of a wolf’s growl pierced the air, and a mournful cry from my brother filled my ears.
The last thing I felt was the lick of heat burning at my skin.