It’s release month! Yay! I can’t believe there will be physical copies of Rose’s Wrath available in just twenty something days! *gasps*
In the meantime, I’ll be sharing the first chapter with you all! Hopefully it gets you interested in reading the whole thing!
The scent of blood filled Cerise’s nostrils, flooding her with panic. Her bare feet slapped over the damp leaves of the forest, muted in comparison to the hammering of her heart.
She thought she could control it, but the fact that she was running for her life spoke of the exact opposite. She most definitely could not control it. Even so, she had to admit she was relieved that Raina was dead.
Dead. A sense of triumph coursed through her body, and a slight grin appeared on her features. She had succeeded.
The sharp crack of a branch caused Cerise to speed up and lose her train of thought; they were almost to her. The long cloak she had grabbed on her way out of the cottage whipped about her ankles, threatening to trip her. She would have removed it, but unfortunately, she was naked, and they could easily trace her scent with the cloak should she drop it. Another unfortunate part of the rather twisted day.
She wiped her mouth, no longer surprised at the redness that now stained her hand. It was tough not focusing on the iron taste that filled her mouth because it would be far too easy to give in and either throw up or kill someone else. Neither was a welcome thought.
If she could only reach the cave, she’d be fine. Whoever or whatever was following her would be lost in the labyrinth that was a second home to Cerise. Now it was her only home, but she had always preferred it to Raina’s mildewy, hark-infested, miserable excuse for a cottage anyway.
Her toe caught on a root, and with a small whimper of pain, she tumbled down. Rolling up out of the fall with agility uncommon among the other eighteen-year-olds of her village, Cerise kept running. She had lost at least three seconds of her lead, though, and she could only hope that there was still enough time.
No one had known about her, except Raina of course, and if others now knew… Cerise shuddered at the thought. Hybrids were illegal in Allegora. To be a hybrid was considered one of the worst crimes, punishable by imprisonment in Denthlire for all eternity. Despite its flaws, Cerise happened to enjoy her life in the forest of Lithrium and had no interest in spending the rest of her life in the land of fog and smoke.
The cave was close, only a few hundred yards away. If she could just make it a little farther…
The loud crack and crumble of a tree’s branches in front of her caused Cerise to stumble to a halt. Her stomach dropped at the sight of the shape which now towered over her. They had hired a trigor?
Most people thought their crooked fangs, dripping with poison, to be their most frightening feature, but Cerise found the milky, oozing blobs in place of their eyes more terrifying.
The creature hissed, its large nostrils flaring, trying to pinpoint the scent as it flapped its leathery wings. Cerise looked down at her blood-stained hand and gulped.
They were tracking her with Raina’s blood.
Her natural instinct was to shift, but she lost control when she did that. The wolf was easy to become. The human… not so much.
The trigor growled, a weird, high-pitched whine following. Frustration. The scent of her sweat and natural smell must have been masking the smell of blood.
She circled slowly, rubbing as much blood off her hands and mouth with the cloak as possible. She’d have to use it as a distraction. Still, neither fleeing nor fighting were options. It seemed she would have to shift. She closed her eyes, allowing her body to transform. Her muscles remained tense; she hated this, how her bones changed shape, snapping into new places. Cerise bit back a whimper of pain. She didn’t shift often enough to grow accustomed to the process. Her paws settled on the leaf-strewn ground, her vision, hearing, and sense of smell increasing. The cloak fluttered down beside the large brown wolf.
Loping away from the cloak, Cerise noted that the trigor had begun clawing its way toward it. She felt her human mentality slipping, but she held onto one thought: Kill the trigor. Hopefully, the wolf would listen.
The wolf skulked behind the trigor, trying to spot its weaknesses. The larger creature tore apart the cloak, its harsh snarls echoing through the forest.
Usually ripping out the throat was the best option, but this creature had a tough, scaly body which would be incredibly difficult to penetrate.
The wolf’s eyes roamed over the trigor’s body. The body was too strong, the limbs bearing claws were too sharp. But the wings… she could shred its wings. Stalking from the left, the wolf leaped onto the trigor’s back, her teeth snapping and ripping at the leathery material.
The trigor screeched in pain, trying in vain to throw the wolf off. She continued to destroy the trigor’s left wing, her claws buried firmly in the back of the scaly creature.
Leaping off, the wolf snapped at the trigor’s right wing but was batted back by its whirling tail. The wolf went tumbling into the brush but rose quickly. The trigor was weakened, its balance off. Taking advantage of this, the wolf attacked from below, tearing at the underside of the right wing. A harsh snap and a hoarse cry accompanied the wing breaking. Victory in sight, the wolf prowled around the helpless trigor, which was desperately trying to sense its attacker.
Sludge-like grey blood trickling from its damaged wings, it let out a mournful cry, as if it knew death was near. It was now defenseless, its only hope that it could somehow capture the wolf between its poisonous jaws.
The wolf was unaffected by the creature’s plea for mercy. Leaping onto its back once more, the wolf took the trigor’s neck in her jaws, relishing the crack of the spine as the creature went limp.
While inspecting her kill, the blackness that clouded the edge of her vision faded, and a low whimper escaped her throat.
Shocked, Cerise could not believe what the wolf had done, what she had done. Why did she remember? Twice now it had happened. She remembered everything from the kill. From both kills, actually. Was it awful that she cared more about this one?
Seeing blood once more made her tremble. She should be used to it by now, though.
She moved slightly and realized she was still in wolf form. Her wildly pounding heart coursed fear through her veins. What if she couldn’t shift back? The thought of being stuck with a killing mind, bloodied fangs, and a four-legged body… That was a nightmare she could not bear.
Closing her eyes, she willed her body to change. She pictured human legs, a torso, and her curly brown hair.
But nothing. She whined low in her throat, terrified.
Unfortunately, her mother wasn’t here to explain. She could have helped Cerise understand why it was increasingly easy to allow the wolf to take control or why she was still herself in her wolf form. But her mother was gone, leading her pack of werewolves, thinking that her daughter was still safe with her father.
The dark form of the trigor caught her eye again, and she flinched. If someone had hired one to track her, then she needed to get to her cave. She trotted away, slowly gaining speed. Cerise had no idea how long her wolf form would last, so the faster she got to the cave, the better.
The narrow crevice in the rock wall was a welcome sight despite the fact that it looked like an entrance to a ligert cavern. The flesh-eating worms were a terrible sight, their sharp mandibles and slimy claws perfect for grabbing prey. Thankfully, there were none in this cave. Most had been captured by the king to use in his army.
Her canine body slid through smoothly, the cave opening up once she was inside. This place was her escape and was more of a home than Raina’s cottage had ever been.
She trotted down numerous passages, traveling in a seemingly careless pattern. After about a minute, she approached her room—a large cavern with a small stream winding its way through.
Taking a deep breath, Cerise tried again to shift. Nothing happened. Her limbs began to shake, a low whine escaping her. She just wanted to be herself again. Settling down to the cool floor, she curled up, wanting to fall asleep and pretend that everything was fine.
Cerise opened her eyes quickly, scanning her surroundings. Why was she so cold? Her hands brushed her legs. Human legs, hands… she was human.
Crouched on the ground, her human skin shivering in the cold dampness of the cave, Cerise slowly rose, inspecting the cuts and bruises she had obtained while fighting the trigor. Well, that the wolf had obtained. She didn’t want to associate that thing that was inside of her with herself.
Stumbling slowly over to a trunk where she kept spare clothing specifically for times like these, Cerise grabbed warm woolen pants and a linen blouse. She’d never been a fan of gowns, finding them too cumbersome, especially once she shifted. The last time she had worn one while shifting, it had taken her a good ten minutes to escape the three layers.
She also took a cloak that was hanging on an outcropping of the rock wall. It was deep scarlet etched in gold. It bore the mage’s crest, a proud dragon spewing a flame of gold. She could still remember her father donning it and how it would billow out as it settled on his shoulders.
Cerise carefully wrapped it around herself, marveling at the richness of it. Her fingers gently caressed the fraying edges, remembering how he would often let her wear it as a child, the hem long enough to be a train. Whenever she wore it now, she thought of him and his radiant smile. Cerise walked silently over to her bed, which was just a bunch of furs jumbled together. Settling down, the sheer magnitude of what had happened in just the past few hours bore down on Cerise, making her inhale loudly. She had finally killed her—killed the witch who had murdered her father.