Home > Rabid (Kingdom of Wolves #6)

Rabid (Kingdom of Wolves #6)
Author: Ivy Asher

Chapter One



The smell of rain tickles my senses and rides the delicate breeze as it winds through my hair. I can almost taste the threat of moisture all around me, feel the heaviness of the storm clouds as they move sluggishly closer. The change in weather feels fitting for today. It’s as though the sky is willing to open up and release its sorrow, something I still haven’t been able to do.

Murmurs all around me pull my attention away from my wandering thoughts. I focus back on the shoots of greenery spilling out between the white flowers cascading over the top of my mother’s casket. They really outdid themselves with the arrangement, and I’m trying to appreciate the thought and effort put into it instead of thinking about how much my mother would have hated it.

As pack healer, my mom despised premature death and useless violence in equal measure. Her feelings weren’t only reserved for those of our kind or the humans we so closely resemble when not in our wolf form. They applied to all living things. Give my mother a plant she could nourish and encourage to grow, and she’d love you for life. Give her a bouquet of flowers doomed to die the second they were picked, bundled, and handed over like some prize to revere, and that would earn you a lifetime of side-eye.

She was strong in her convictions, gentle in her bedside manner, and the best mom I could have ever hoped for.

And now she’s gone.

I trace the lines of her casket with eyes that still haven’t cried, and I can’t help but feel like none of this is real. I know I’m still in shock, probably with a little denial sprinkled in for good measure, but I just never saw the day where I would be here without her unwavering strength and guidance standing right beside me. Especially not with the Flux being only days away.

Hess, my mother’s closest friend, finishes his speech and wipes at his eyes. I look around to see if any of the gathered pack are looking at his show of emotion like it’s a sign of weakness, but instead of gauging how many challenges may be coming his way in the near future, my empty stare lands on a set of familiar, shifty black eyes. They watch me intensely, and a shiver of disgust licks its way up my spine. I force my grossed-out gaze away from the pack’s alpha and settle on one of the betas, who rises from his seat.

His cargo khakis are wrinkled, just like his white button-down shirt. There’s an unkempt brown scruff on his cheeks and neck, all of which would be okay if he were grieving, but he’s not. No, his disheveled state is from the bender the pack had last night. Their antics and laughing were loud enough to reach even my house on the outskirts while I tried to prepare for today. It’s as though they were celebrating the loss instead of being crippled by it like I am. The disrespectful beta steps up to say a few words before it’s time to lower the coffin, and I want to growl at the absurdity.

I can’t focus on what’s being said anyway, because I can still feel Alpha Burke’s eyes on me, and it’s making my skin crawl. I’ve had far too many run-ins with him since he showed up three years ago with his band of rogues and attacked us before successfully taking over the pack. He took an interest in me right away, but my mom was always there to intervene and keep things from escalating like they have with so many other females here.

Gifted healers are hard to come by, and it seemed no matter how much Burke wanted to mess with me, he wanted my mother to stay and do her job more. But now she’s gone, and I’m alone. Maybe if I had my mother’s gift, I’d have room to negotiate for my safety, but sadly, that blessing skipped this generation.

Now, I find myself trapped in what could become a very volatile situation. It doesn’t matter that I want to be left alone and have no interest in being claimed by the alpha or anyone else in this pack. If I survive the Flux and get my wolf, I know that I won’t be given a choice. I’ll be claimed by someone whether I like it or not.

I do my best to ignore the weight of Burke’s unwelcome gaze as it roves over me. I try not to fidget or show any sign of weakness or discomfort. If I do, it’ll invite trouble, and that’s the last thing I need so close to the ceremony. I’ll need to come up with a plan, figure out what I’m going to do about my place here. But right now, I just need to bury my mother and come to terms with the fact that she’s no longer here.

Seamus, the mountain-sized beta pretending to give a shit about my mother and my loss, gives me a nod that tells me it’s time. Pulling in a fortifying breath, I stand up slowly, walking to the head of my mother’s coffin. I stand there, numb, lost, and not nearly ready to say goodbye.

Grief tightens my throat as I reach out and place my palms on the smooth shiny wood of her coffin, a hint of red in it that would have made her smile. I lean down and kiss the top of the box that will encase her until the dirt and the plants claim her for their own. My chest tightens as I step back, and then I watch as they lower her into the ground where I can’t follow.

Cold anguish washes through me. My breath feels labored, my limbs exhausted, but the loss I’m drowning in still doesn’t prick my eyes. I exhale through the pain, robotically moving over to the pile of dirt and palming the shovel that’s been speared into the side of it. I stomp it all the way into the soil and lift out a small mound, waiting until her coffin rests solidly at the bottom of the hole the omegas dug earlier.

When the straps are pulled up, I sprinkle my dirt into the earthen tomb, wishing I could crawl in and be buried right alongside her. The dark soil spoils the pure white of the flowers, but it feels like a fitting metaphor for what my life is now.

The shovel is gently taken from my hands, and one by one, the pack lines up to help cover my mother and say their final goodbyes. I step to the side of the procession, but I can’t ignore the feeling like something inside me is dying with each shovelful of dirt dropped on top of her.

Tilting my head back, I look up at the darkening sky. The vastness of it settles over me, and I try to feel less caged in, less trapped by my pain and my circumstances, but a large body steps next to mine, his heat and intention impossible to ignore. I don’t need the senses of a wolf to know who it is.

I look up to find hair as dark as pitch, skin the color of warm oak, and twisted black eyes. Burke is stacked like a house with enough muscle and brains to hold tight to the reins of the Twin Rivers pack. He’s gorgeous, he knows it, and he likes to act as though his looks and status entitle him to certain things. He doesn’t understand in the slightest that when you’re cruel and corrupt on the inside, it taints what people see on the outside. I like to call it the Gaston complex.

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