So . . . a note. I know, you’re all . . . wait did I miss chapter one? No, no. You didn’t. I decided this one was best starting with a preview of chapter two. Why? Well, because chapter one is . . . controversial. People will believe that I wrote it after what’s currently going on. The C o V stuff? Yeah, yeah, lol.
I wrote this book in April of 2019. And I wrote 99% of the original copy freakishly right before it all. It is written almost word for word in a way of what is happening. The refusal, the don’t know where it came from, then the eventual force of the pokey pokey. Hopefully we don’t get to the latter.
The other 1% was inspired by what’s going on that I put in, in edits. But I didn’t wanna have anyone misinterpreting it, copying it, and making a bigger deal out of it than it is. It’s a little too creepy is all. So I felt it best with the way things are in the world (*coughs* volatile) to be safer and not share it this round. My stress level and energy just can’t handle certain things right now. There’s only so much I can with what’s going on in my life. Later on I may still adhere to always sharing the first chapter. If you read it and tell me it’s fine, that would help. May not be as bad as I feel it comes across – remember that I can’t judge my own work properly. So I apologize that I’m throwing you straight into chapter two versus the normal chapter one.
Before she moved, Kenley pricked her ears to heighten her hearing as far out as possible. The pack relied on her advanced capabilities to gauge danger. In the distance, she picked up the faintest tnk tnk tnk of a crow picking at an abandoned car. Most likely overrun with moss. Beneath the moss, the bugs it sought. What little pickings there were unless it found yet another carcass. That . . . was rare. Even rats were. She wasn’t sad about that one. Nobody fared any better than that crow these days.
A gentle muggy breeze stirred her unbrushed dingy hair across her nose, reminding her they hadn’t found a bathing source in quite a while. The breeze carried the stench of her older brother Sawyer from up the block. She scrunched her nose, refocusing. A sound caught her ear, and she tilted her head toward it, seeing whether human, other, or nothing. The latter would keep them here. Former two and she’d alert with a whistle that sounded like a bird of prey.
Mimicking wasn’t really a gift of their kind, but ever since they were children, Kenley loved annoying Sawyer by calling in animals. Once upon a time before they wandered abandoned streets and the disastrous existence they called life, their father took them out on the ocean to fish. They were very young then. Kenley learned she could mimic different animals, so she mimicked the gulls. So well they flocked to the boat. Needless to say Sawyer was none too pleased. He yelled at her for it because they were distracting, popping up everywhere, and made it hard to fish. Her lips twitched at the memory.
Again the sound came, but mind put it to rest and connected the source to an old sign they’d seen for the town – NOTHING LEFT, STAY AWAY. It swung on the one remaining hinge in the breeze. Once it’d said WOODINVILLE, but someone took the opportunity to spray paint over it, hoping to keep people out. By the lack of decay, those same folks had since gone the way most did. The disease wiped them out, if one of her kind hadn’t. The feral ones at least.
A crow flapped overhead tightening the muscles in her shoulders. What stirred it on? A threat? She waited, tense as a rubber band pulled tight, listening for any other noises besides her pack. Boot crunched sand from years of windstorms into old cracked sidewalk from up the block. She deftly caught Sawyer’s eye as he emerged from the storefront. An ivy vine worked its way through the broken window of the storefront. Slowly she turned her head back and forth, her shoulders drooping.
No threat. All was clear.
He tipped his head and moved to the adjacent store to his and her right. Across the street and broken brick lane, rubber ball bounced against tile. A shadow crossed behind dingy window. A flash of blonde hair disappeared down the next aisle in the store. Kenley curled her lip back from her teeth.
Keep quiet, Tanis.
The female was on Kenley’s last nerve. All day Kenley had been on edge, hence her unease with the town. A breeze stirred the hair along the back of her neck, feeling too warm. She scratched at a grimy spot on her throat.
Kenley checked all around her. Something . . . something wasn’t right. It was quiet, which was good. It was too quiet, which was not. Wasn’t that quiet according to her brother, but then he . . . he wasn’t her. Goosebumps formed over her hot sleeveless arms. She adjusted the weapon belt that lacked a weapon, and checked for the baton she recently found. All there. All good. All ready.
A primal sensation enveloped her . . . danger is coming, prepare.
Their small pack spread out in this small ruin of a storefront block. Her brother was checking an electronics store for potential solar rechargeable batteries. Or another radio. Theirs went kaput a week ago, not that there was anything on the airwaves at this point. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, she supposed. One station—how the hell that worked, she didn’t know—played old country tunes once in a bit. Leave it to the end of the world, to still have the one available station be country.
She didn’t mind hearing Patsy Cline though. That woman sounded all right. Figured the tunes were broadcast through an old record player since they were fairly scratchy. But anything was worth something these days.
Kenley took a deep breath, attempting to calm her nerves. The thawp! of the tennis ball repeated across the street and she flinched. Keep it in your freaking bag!
She scratched a random itch along the back of her leg. The craft store beckoned, but her cracked boots were glued to the spot. Really wanting to find some items to repair clothes and other goodies, she needed to ignore her nerves and go in. It wasn’t the first time she felt icky about a day. Always looming, always threatening, it was him.
Him who always pricked at any Rovdyren’s nerves, they had been lucky. The Alpha, mister bigshot who thought he ran the land, or ruled the world, destroyed packs to find strength for his. Their kind feared him. Feared his insanity, his brutish cruel nature.
Some revered and respected him despite the fear, “We’re animals! It’s about time we act like it,” she’d heard. “Humans want us dead, thinking the plague was our fault. Blaming us for bringing it here. For not saving them. Fuck them. Let him run this world. He’s the last Alpha. Without him, we’re all fucked.”
Rumors put him in Eastern Washington, but dammit, she didn’t listen to rumors. She listened to a deep gut instinct that kept this small pack going when others had long since disappeared and died off.
Or . . . been killed by The Alpha who thought them weak simply because they were small. There’d been rumors he was on the hunt, not just for numbers, but for an Alpha female. She huffed. Everyone knew he was the last Alpha.
Alphas weren’t kind. They were mean. An Alpha’s bite could heal, but she sure as hell hadn’t heard of him healing anything but his own ego. I’ll tear his ugly face off if he touches a hair on any of my pack’s head.
She snorted. Okay, Tanis too. If I have to.
She stepped up on the sidewalk, avoiding a small line of ants making their way across the path and around a fern growing in the doorway. Then entered the silence of the tomb, which was once called something with an M. Her brain couldn’t pick the memory of that name. Hadn’t been much into crafting. Maybe she’d find an old ad, pretend she was shopping.
The sign creaked in the distance. Thwak! She winced.
Freaking ball was gonna be thrown out soon. A silent giggle shifted her shoulders. Tanis hadn’t considered she was stereotyping herself. Wolf. Ball. Irony. Kenley pressed her lips together to keep from making a sound. Taking a deep breath, she scanned the aisles as if a dim silvery light were about. Not that they needed the flashlights they used, but humans did, and it helped them blend in if they came across any.
The government still handed out the glasses that allowed the mark of the beast to be seen, but many didn’t remember to use them, or care. And their packs had been breeding on the extraordinary occasion so not all of their kind bore the mark. That’s why she didn’t mind most of the human population like many of her kind did. If they put a gun in her face, she didn’t hold back. It was rare to find weapons anyway, so that wasn’t likely. But the majority of humans wanted to live peacefully and were trying to rebuild their lives like the rest of the world.
Her only problem was with that one beast.
The shadows of the store lent more to her unease. Sure she saw better than a human in the dark. Didn’t mean there weren’t still shadows. Instead of piddling about, she determined her best course of action was to get in and get out. Well, like her old shopping routine used to be, really. In another life. When she was young. Before the facilities.
Most of the shelves were bare. Not surprising. She guided herself smoothly around an easel, around a shopping cart lying on its side. Placing each foot with great care, she kept an eye out for broken glass. Some of the shelves were broken, some held on, but were as bare as her stomach. She tipped her nose up and sniffed. Dust, mold, rat feces—hope none were here now, and they were old, ick—and . . . something else. It was deep, dingy, but strong. Old leather maybe. She stepped toward the scent, brushing her fingertips along the edge of a box at the end of the aisle.
Old leather. She could understand other scents. Like roses, lavender, the like. Candles had been made and purchased here. Old wood was aplenty. Plants that had broken through the floor. Leather. It was faint though so . . . not in the store, but near? Maybe where they kept the material and fabrics in the far back of the store. A glint of plastic along the floor caught her eye. Not too large, it was a tiny traveling case for sewing.
“Yes!” she whispered and grabbed it from near the end of a shelf on the dusty floor. Realizing she spoke aloud, she paused and listened. All good. Must’ve fallen out of someone’s pocket, or been kicked underneath the shelf so it’d been passed by. First time all day she felt any sense of hope.
As she pocketed it and stood, the hair on the back of her scalp curled toward the ceiling. The barest of bare stirrings of wind whispered along the top of her left palm. She froze, tilted her head toward the interior of the store, the deeper parts she hadn’t yet reached.
Every nerve ending came to life as the dog barked in the distance. They’d seen it a mile up the road. An old mutt, hanging in the shadow of an old pickup. Once. Twice. Then a third.
Kenley’s body fired up and sprang to life. Danger! She caught the gleam of moonlight, bare, but there. Two small tiny orbs in the back, behind a shelf unit, ducking back.
Without knowing how, without knowing why, she knew with every fiber of her being . . . The Alpha’s pack.
She sucked in a deep lungful of air, knowing there was no longer any reason to remain quiet, no reason to stay hidden because they’d known all along her pack was here. They planned this moment. Purposely stalking, purposely waiting.
Then it came in a rush as the spark of red flamed to life in the female’s eyes, gathering Kenley spotted her.
“Run!” Kenley bellowed as she spun on her boot heel.
Kenley’s voice rang through the store and out into the small abandoned town, alerting all her pack to the enemy they faced. Because if she screamed – hell was on its way so move.
Kenley plowed through the aisles, grabbing the shelving units to use them as a deterrent. Twisting them behind her, she hopped over fallen items, spun around the corners.
Hopping over the fallen cart, she tumbled over the easel when she bumped it and it smacked to the ground. She used the moment to check behind her as she caught herself before face planting.
The flash of red blurred toward her, spiky hair, cruel eyes. That’s all she needed to note. Kenley flew through the store, headed toward the door she came in, rather than risk veering off to some side door. As she approached the front of the store, she scanned the front, the aisles she passed, the broken glass that used to make up the front window. Watching for shadows, noting anything she hadn’t seen.
All clear ahead of her.
When Kenley left the store, her breath caught, as did her boot in a crack in the sidewalk. She hiccupped, fearing she was going down, but her fingertips grabbed the metal door frame and allowed her to secure her footing.
The thud of feet came from behind her inside the store as redhead barreled through, coming after Kenley. Kenley’s heart bashed against her ribs. She paused for a blink to get her bearings.
A large body stood in the frame of the door across the street, preventing Tanis from exiting, but their pack hadn’t survived all this time against fiercer opponents because they were weak. They were small, but they all held their own strengths. They took courageous risks.
She preferred courageous.
Tanis crashed through the glass near the far end of the store. As annoying as Tanis could be, she was scrappy as hell, and didn’t waste time using her coat as protection against shards of glass. Not that they wouldn’t be able to heal wounds.
Shards of glass rained down, like the tinkle of a windchime in the summer breeze. Mister Large Ginger Hair looming in the doorway turned to the right as Tanis landed in a crouch.
He ground out, “Hey!” Then, “On it!”
With a slight tilt of her head to the right, Kenley signaled for Tanis to go ahead without her. Unless in dire need, it was always get out and find each other later. Not because they weren’t a team, but because it was rare one of them couldn’t save themselves. Against the larger packs, they were always training in the game of survival. They’d had lots of practice. Safer to split up in most instances. They’d regroup later.
And most of all because of the Alph—the scent struck her nose as she cleared the store front. It was barely a pause in time, but time slowed excruciatingly. The breeze came from right to left, but that unmistakable odor she smelled earlier in the store slid down her spine like calloused hand against bare flesh.
Kenley’s head swiveled to the left as a powerhouse stepped around the corner at the end of the street.
Slowly and deliberately he stepped into view.
A wave washed ahead of him of pure primal strength.
Seemed as if heavy drums began to thrum again and again, announcing his presence. The connection bound against will. Her heart warned her of what was to be. What had been for all time coming. There was no escaping what came.
In even slower motion his head turned toward the sidewalk where Kenley placed a foot to pivot and bolt up the street.
A good span of space separated them, but her vision zeroed in on the male like a homing beacon. His green eyes captured hers the instant she exited the store. Her entire world spun out of control and right into his hold. The aura he put off struck her in the gut. Without having ever laid eyes on him, she knew exactly who he was.
Her soul did.
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Savage Lands is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2021 Kim Iverson
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