"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...

"You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love".

Neil Gaiman

***

Prologue | Role Playing

"Will you stay mad for after the party? Angry women are nice in the bedroom. So commanding and forceful," Seth said. He was smiling from ear to ear. Seth would be the one to make a sex joke.

"Who says I need to be mad? I can hold my own in the bedroom any day. I am an independent woman." I whispered in his ear. If he could dish it, why couldn't I? "Do you want to see, Seth? I can show you a thing or two about what goes on in the bedroom." I grinned against his neck. This piggy back ride was turning into something much more interesting.

He set me on the ground right in front of the shed and spun me around so that I was against the wall. Before I could say anything, Seth brought one hand down to put a finger over my lips, so I just bit my tongue. He bent down and followed the curves of my collar bone with his lips while his free hand was making designs on the small of my back. Eventually his lips reached to where my jacket had fallen back to expose the brilliant red of my dress.

"You are going to drive me crazy, Wren." His voice was hoarse. "I'm not sure I can be just a friend."

"I know."

"Then why?"

"Stop talking, Seth. You are doing just fine now."

***

Facts from Lauren! | Nighttime Dreams

These are my random facts. Of course, they are written by none other than me, Lauren! You'll be getting one of these every few chapters from a different crazy person. I'm first though!

NOTE: We are werewolves, but we would prefer the term shifter because we don't change with a full moon or howl at it.

1. Elizabeth is an actor—everyone calls her Liz though. She sings, she acts, and she is a forensics person—no, not dead bodies, public speaking. She would die for Alex; even if they fell in love after only one glance.

2. I, Lauren, am Liz's beta. I like horror movies. Most action movies are so cliché; the psychotic ones are so much more amazing. Here's a good one: I am in love with my best friend.

3. Vivianne is a mathematical genius. She's in Calculus 4 her senior year. An overall genius. She's already gotten acceptance into Yale and Harvard and about four other Ivy League schools, and she's waiting for her prince charming to ride in on a horse.

4. I guess I'll tell you about Sam, the unfaithful one. Not much to say. He's your average pathetic run of the mill cheater who is still dating the mistress.

5. Brianna is the mistress. Need I say more?

6. Alex is tall, dark hair and piercing light blue eyes. You'll learn about his story later. Don't call him a murderer. He had his reasons. You'll see what I mean. He is in an infallible love with Liz.

7. James went forty-two seconds in the hundred butterfly. He is the most amazing swimmer in our school's history. Not to mention he's as sweet as can be, and his killer abs make us drool. He's Bex's man though. James is as loyal as a golden retriever.

8. Jessica is as innocent and nice as you can get. It's the same scenario with Alex. Her ascension into alpha was ugly, but it was the right move for all of us.

9. Aly is our school's record long jumper, high jumper and pole vaulter, and she's the "pack cook" when we aren't shifted. She's the best tracker in the pack. She also has Celiac Disease. She can't eat gluten (flour, barley, grain, ect.).

10. Bex is a kick $! chica. She's wicked smart, too; she's the pack's next generation tactical manager. She's going to college to study to be a systems analysis.

11. Cassie drank six cans of lemonade in three minutes and she once she took on the biggest football player—werewolf of course—in an arm wresting match. Well of course, she lost but she almost won—seriously, she's super strong and fearless.

12. Lance is a teddy bear. He's a lean, muscular soccer-playing teddy bear with the most adorable Mexican accent. You can't get much more amazing than Lance. Perfect boyfriend qualities.

13. Seth is one of my best friends. He has russet skin, deep brown eyes, and thick black hair that he keeps cut relatively short. His muscles are beyond amazing, too. Everyone tells me we are perfect together—I must say I wholly agree, but we're just BFFs. For now that is. I've started feeling non-BFF things toward him lately. That could be BAD.

***

Chapter One | Dreams That Never Die

"Elizabeth Rae, run!" Mom told me with fear evident in her voice. The rustling slowly amplified around us, coming closer. Mom tugged at her ankle, which was badly tangled in the barbwire fence. I was trying to help, but she just shook her head. Her eyes were filled with terror, but beneath all of that was a sense of acceptance. She knew she was going to die.

It was a replay of the camping trip three weeks ago when they murdered Dad. He told me the same thing before they reached him. The same words, the same look. I was reliving the past. As much as I hoped for a different ending, I was not delusional. I had escaped them once. They would be sure it would not happen again.

The perpetually darkened forest grew still. Slowly pairs of brilliantly colored eyes began to show through the trees. The owners carried flashlights that shattered the gloom; small shafts of silver moonlight cast an eerie glow over everything causing shadows to be exaggerated. Mom shot me a look with a clear meaning. Run!

"Mom, no. Your ankle is almost out!" I whispered. I pulled harder on the wire. Wincing when the barbs cut my hands, I felt tears well up in my eyes. I would not let her die. There was still so much I needed to learn from her.

"Honey, stop now. I love you more than the earth itself which is why I need you to leave me. This is not your battle, sweetheart, and besides, your life is worth more than mine," she said gently.

"No Mom, it's not, but what battle are you fighting that I can't help you?" I asked her and continued to pry on the wire. "I could help you. I'm old enough to understand this." She said nothing. I looked up when I heard the muffled impact of something hitting the tree behind me. My eyes widened when I saw a long blade had been embedded in an ancient pine.

"Elizabeth, go. Be safe. Under no condition will you stay with me. Now leave."

Adrenaline began to course through my veins. It barely registered when Mom nudged me with her free foot. I couldn't look at her face. I couldn't help but turn away. The alpha's orders were final. I was merely a puppet on a string. For the first time in my life, I tried to fight an alpha's order. My body was trying to pull me away, but my head was attempting to pull me closer to her. It was hopeless. My willpower couldn't hold out.

Unwillingly, I got up and forced myself to run away from everything that I had once known. My mother was my only parent left, but that didn't matter to them.

Once I was on my feet, I began to sprint as hard as I possibly could to ease the order's affects on my body. My stomach twisted, making me almost nauseous. Ever since I was little, I was taught to follow all orders from my alpha.

Even if they were lethal.

"Go! Get her!" Someone called. I ran harder but allowed myself to look back at my mother one last time. I realized I never told her I loved her back.

When our gazes met, I couldn't move. My feet were held fast for a split second. "I love you," I whispered silently. She gave a small smile. My feet then began moving of their own accord. I was walking backward into the denser tree cover.

One of the figures stepped out into the clearing, and I saw them visibly for the first time. It seemed so strange that I had never seen them. The group was so similar to be but at the same time, they were an alien race. They would soon leave me orphaned, but what I saw shocked me.

They looked so normal.

I was expecting a more wild and reckless appearance, but on the contrary, most of them looked like they just walked out of our town. One of them, who I guessed was the leader, stepped behind Mom and whispered something in her ear. What he said, I never found out, but the horror on her face was an image that would be imprinted into my mind forever.

I watched with wide eyes. Eerie silence filled the foreboding forest. None of the other members moved. No one spoke. Time was paused. The silence seemed to empower my trance, but when mom's gasps of pain shattered the silence, I broke out of my spell.

I thought about releasing my heat and shifting, but that would only cause more problems. The alpha was soon to be dead, and that would make me the next in line. I wasn't sure what would happen because of that, so I couldn't risk it. Instead, I concentrated on my feet pounding into the soft mud in an even rhythm.

Running for my life, I could hear nothing behind me. I had no way of knowing how close they were to killing me. They were such effective murderers because they could be so silent among their surroundings.

And they had no mercy.

I was hopelessly lost from hours of aimless running. That much I knew for sure; otherwise I wasn't sure of much. My location, my sanity, and how much longer I had to live were all unknown to me. I wasn't sure who I was, and it was their entire fault. In the end, it was all over love. Not greed, not money, just love. A love no one had any control about. A love I had come to despise.

Everything seemed to blend in an endless cacophony of color around me. Brown and green and blue and red. Blood. That much stood out to my eyes.

Piercing cries of thunder rocked the ground beneath me. The branches and plants I was running through kept leaving marks on my skin, but I could do nothing about it. Truth be told, I didn't even notice. Just like I didn't notice that I wasn't feeling the effects of time. After all, it had no meaning in the ancient, unchanging forest. I was concentrated only on avoiding all trails, animal and human alike, until I saw the clearing.

It was large, spanning twenty-five feet at its longest point. The one I had been in before—I couldn't bring myself to think of my father's death; it made things too final—had been only ten feet across.

It took me quite a while to reach it because my clothes had become weighted down by the cold, blinding rain and my ankle was swollen after I sprained it running through the muddy river. I had wanted to collapse on the dense carpet of leaves so many times, so many times, I couldn't possibly count, but how could I? I didn't know if he had sent whole pack after me.

Finally, I reached the clearing. I tried to run towards the center, but fell only a few feet from the border of the pines, my muscles finally locking from exhaustion. I tried to get up, but my body wouldn't allow me; it had had enough. Above me, brilliant white lightning spider-webbed across the dark sky. I tried to hold onto consciousness, but the last shred of energy slipped out of me. At least I'm going to die peacefully, I thought. I let my body fade into the welcome blackness that finally took control over my mind.

When I woke up, I was slightly shock that I was still alive. I didn't deserve it. Someone was standing over me; his black hair fell over his piercing blue eyes, and his pale skin was covered by rain. His face was twisted in a grimace as if he was in mind-blowing pain. I lay their warily watching him, too exhausted to move. I was star athlete, but this was more than exhaustion. This was pain―the kind where your heart is breaking as well as your mind and body. It blocked all function of my conscience mind.

The earliest rays of the sun were streaking across the now clear sky. How could the sun rise after what happened? Shouldn't night be eternal?

My body was still in paralysis. Carolina's lessons ran through my mind. The eye color changes only before the shiftand heat can be released at any time if there is enough control. What carefully, the signs may be visible only for a split second.

He made eye contact with me, and fear flooded through me. Slowly his eyes faded to an empty, startling black. I couldn't speak or cry out despite my efforts. Wordlessly he reached down to me and pulled me to my feet. Beneath me, my legs felt as if they were jello, completely unstable. The sharp throbbing in my ankle didn't help, either.

It was obvious I wasn't in any condition to stand. He leaned against me holding me up. Something in his stance and stare was protective, almost feral. Little did I know at the time my eyes were the same deep black. My own life spiraled so out of control at that simple moment, that later I would look back and wonder how I stayed so calm. Then again, I had no idea what was happening.

The love I had so despised had happened to me, but I had no idea. Oh, the irony.

My slight struggling caused his eyes to fade back to an icy blue; I noticed he was undeniably handsome. I just couldn't quite admire his handsomeness considering the circumstances. He stared at me with such intensity I froze. "Stop, please. I don't want to hurt you. I can't hurt you." His voice was low and husky, raw with pain.

My mind was travelling so many directions I had trouble forming a coherent thought. Fire began to blaze through my veins, and my breath came in short bursts that condensed in front of me. My hypersensitive ears could tell that his heart was beating just erratically as mine. It hit me then that I was drowning in the intensity of his gaze. Our eyes hadn't left each other's once. If only I could tell what he was thinking.

"Why not? What makes you any different from them? I am nothing but an order," I said, my voice holding more steady than I thought possible. I sounded almost normal, but nothing could truly hide my inner hysteria that was threatening to burst forth like water from a dam.

Somewhere deep within the woods a mournful howl sounded. Whimpering began to echo all around the clearing. We were surrounded, but that wasn't surprising. The disturbing part was that my pack sounded so similar, but the resemblance bothered me. I didn't want to be compared to these murderers.

Those cries finally broke our gaze. He looked toward the forest and fear flooded through my mind again. What just happened? I knew his alpha was talking to him. I could tell by the cringe he made, and you could almost hear the harsh timbre that was used in alpha mode. The raised voice that resounded fierce raw power had made grown men grovel in a violent pain.

I tried to push away from him, but he just held me in an iron grip. He wasn't hurting me, holding me just tight enough that I could feel his strength. His built frame towered over my five-six body, and as I thought about it, chances of my escaping were slim at best. He was faster, stronger, and more controlled than I was at that moment. I was having troubling staying in one skin.

I realized then that he was simply in cut offs, and I was only in a sports bra and spandex from my sand volleyball match with the camp boys. My cheeks flushed with color. I kept my eyes trained on the forest behind me. For a moment, I wondered why I even cared. This boy wanted to kill me, not date me.

Instead of thinking—seeing as that was clearly getting me nowhere—I gave my mind over to logic and my senses. Scents assaulted my mind. I wrinkled my noise. He smelled like a wet dog, big surprise there. Struggling a little harder, he suddenly grunted and released me.

Something brought him to his knees and contorted is face in pain. I tried to run away, but my ankle couldn't support me. It crumpled underneath me and I just laid there for a moment trying not to cry. It twisted wrong beneath me and I could feel the snap.

Digging my palms into the ground, I tried to crawl away, but when he moved towards me, I curled into a ball. I held my ankle gingerly; the break was obvious even to me. Already it was swelling and turning a violent purple. His heavy footfalls squished in the swampy mud, and his black Nike sneakers were mere inches from my head. I cringed when he moved, thinking he was going to kick me. Instead, he knelt down to me.

"I am supposed to kill you, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I actually am disobeying an alpha order." His voice was mystified, and slightly strained. "Something is happening that I can't control. I would tell you, but I can't. I… I just can't. If you thing about it, I'm sure you'll figure it out, too. I promise we'll meet again soon," he whispered into my ear. Then he was gone.

He just walked away from me, escaping towards the forest. I tried to call our after him, but my voice wasn't working. Why didn't he kill me? What did he mean with his cryptic message? What did I know? Even through my mind was racing, exhaustion began to take over everything, and I simply slipped back into the blackness that lingered at the edge of my mind. It was the only painless option.

***

I woke up gasping for air with a cold sweat covering my body. Not again. Not the dream.


That's it. My very first post :) Now don't I feel special. Well, I'd love a review. That would make me feel ABSOLUTELY fantastic. :D I've got to run to a basketball game and a dance now so I will update soon. :)

Sarah Ann.