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Red-Kait Nolan

Red-Kait Nolan

Author:Kait Nolan


Elodie Rose has a secret. Any day, she'll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that's cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she's hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs is to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?
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I was thirteen when I found out why my mother left me.

It seems important to start my story there. The moment when everything changed and my life became a nightmare. The moment when my mother's madness began to infect my father. Infect me.

The letter that came on my birthday that year was such a shock to my poor dad. So many times, I've wished I'd thrown it away. That I'd never let him see it. But at thirteen, I couldn't wrap my brain around the enormity of what my mother was imparting. I thought it was a joke at first. A cruel one.

Dad didn't. Instead of believing that she was mad, he took her words as the cold, hard truth. That I am a monster, just waiting for the proper catalyst to be unleashed. That I am cursed as she was.

Today I know it's true.

I stared at the final line, the period a blotch of blue ink that bled into the page until I lifted my pen. It was worse, somehow, putting my fears into words. Words made a thing real, and I'd spent so long in denial. My ancestors all wrote of the curse in the weeks and months before they died, so it seemed fitting that I begin documentation of my own story to slip beside my mother's letter, behind the final pages of the thick, leather—bound journal that held my gruesome family history.

With a careful, slanting hand, I continued.

I am seventeen today. Older than my predecessors by a full year. Nothing happened the way she said it would. As far as the history goes, all of them had given birth by now. All of them were dead by now. Some hunted and slaughtered. Some, like my mother, dead by their own hand. Maybe it's because I haven't transitioned yet, but I cannot see suicide as a viable alternative. The book hints of madness that accompanies the curse, but my mother seemed right enough in her mind when she penned the letter explaining things to me, arranging for its safe—keeping and delayed delivery, and seeing that the trail to my father was obliterated before she walked away from us, away from life, when I was only three days old.

I cannot help but feel she took the coward's way out, even if she thought she was protecting us. But was it cowardice? Each year since I got the letter, I've come out here, to contemplate whether I could do it. Each year I've brought a different weapon, testing, if you will, my willingness to end my own life, should it come to that. Acclimating myself to the idea. Pills the first year, though I learned from this book that our kind has a stronger constitution and requires something more definitive than an overdose. A rope the next. I wound up making a swing from it. Last year was my father's pistol. The barrel tasted bitter and oily when I put it in my mouth. I managed to load the cylinder, but didn't get so far as cocking the hammer.

You see, I don't want to die.

I want a life, a future. I want to be normal. And I thought I was until yesterday morning.

Then I smelled it. The succulent odor of bacon frying. So innocuous, really. I thought Dad had decided to cook breakfast, like he used to on Saturday mornings before the letter. We made it through the worst year, the worst of the waiting, and nothing happened. Nothing changed. I had hope.

But there wasn't any bacon frying. There wasn't even anybody in the kitchen. Just a note from Dad that he'd been called in to work, and he'd be back in a couple of days.

I don't know what possessed me to follow the smell. I was hungry, I guess. I tracked the scent to the Redmond's open kitchen window. They are our closest neighbors. A full three—quarters of a mile away.

Humans do not have such fine—tuned senses of smell.

But wolves do.

What will be next? My hearing? My reflexes? The fevers that precede the first shift? How long do I have before I change? Before I lose my humanity like those who came before me.

Will I have the courage to do what must be done?

I glanced down at the bone—handled knife sitting beside me on the stone but didn't touch it. Of all the weapons I'd tested, this was the first one that truly scared me. Pills were relatively painless. A rope, well if you did it right, that was pretty instant. Same with eating a bullet. But a knife… A knife was something else altogether. A knife meant you had to be sure, had to inflict pain, had to wait and watch as your life bled out, heartbeat by heartbeat.

A knife had been my mother's choice, according to the coroner's report.

Setting the notebook aside, I rose and paced a restless circle around the clearing. I had privacy here, out in the depths of the park with the slopes of the Appalachians rising around me like giant hands curved to hold the mist of morning. I wasn't worried about being interrupted. None of the tourists would stray so far from the trails that snaked their way through the trees. And as far as I was aware, no one else knew about this place.

Which made it the perfect spot to challenge myself.

I circled back around, eyes on the knife. Even sheathed, it made my breathing hitch. It's not like it was the very knife Mom used. That one was still in an evidence locker somewhere. I'd filched this one from Dad's workroom, so it wasn't cloaked in bad juju or anything. But I couldn't look at it and not imagine blood. Oceans of it, spilling out of a warm body, skin growing paler and paler as the life pulsed across the stone in some horrible sacrifice.