Chapter One – Nothing Right

Thinking things out rationally had never been one of my strong suits. I could think things out, sure, but as soon as I formed a plan I liked, I went for it. I didn't stop to think about many of the other, smaller variables, and I didn't stop to think too far ahead. I charged forward and thought about it as I went.

Under normal circumstances, my plans seemed to work. I hadn't died yet, which was a good sign. Others had died, possibly because of me, now that I thought about it, but it was said to be by personal choice, not my directions. I didn't know if people were lying to try and console me or if I should believe them. I had a hard time believing people these days.

Eric, a werewolf hunter—who was a werewolf—had challenged me months ago and only been dealt with a few hours ago. He'd planted the first few seeds of deceit. He'd said things to make me think, to question, and it had worked. Sometimes what he said was true, and for some things, I thought he was just simply crazy. He'd been after me in revenge for his brother; he'd also wanted to kill me to stop whatever big plans my father was making. In the end, while I'd been literally tied up, Chase had taken care of him.

Sometime in the middle of all that, I'd been drugged. While drugged, I saw strange things. They looked real, but I couldn't remember any of them, and that made me wonder if my mind was playing tricks on me. But the more I saw, the more made sense. Which brought the question forward: Why couldn't I remember them normally?

The dreams often shone some light on my father's image. And that was why I was having a hard time trusting people. I'd grown up under the delusion my father loved me, only to find out he'd been the one to tell Chase to turn me, not the one who protected me. That was Sam, and Sam was dead now. By my father's hands.

The familiar rage boiled up inside of me, and I didn't tamp it down: I used it. I could feel the stirrings of my power; it wasn't much, but it would grow into something more with time. And besides that, some of Chase's power still lingered, and it helped fuel me.

I could feel the others around me. All of their presences called out to me, warned me, but I didn't heed the warning. I knew their orders: I couldn't be touched. Not yet, at least. For now, I still knew that I was a key variable; they would find out later I wouldn't go with the plans quietly.

Few snarls rose up in protest to my advance, but I saw my father briefly raise his hand, calling them off. That was all the attention I bothered to give my father. If I gave him anymore, I'd end up killing him, and the time wasn't right. Besides that, I didn't seem to have Sam's spirit's permission, and I wasn't about to go against otherworldly powers.

Ange, my sister, looked haggard. I could only imagine what she'd been through. Her eyes were wide but empty, and that scared me. I'd survived past all of this with my sanity intact, but I'd heard of some who couldn't.

The closer I got to her, the more I felt like something was off. Her appearance and feelings were off, I knew, but most of it was because of the time we'd spent away. My mother had pointed a gun at me and taken Ange away from my protection, months before her date to be turned into a werewolf. She was here now, and I knew she wasn't a werewolf, but she smelled… different.

It wasn't like she'd rolled through dirt and that's what I smelled. It was a combined scent, something that radiated from the center of her, like a personal aura. It puzzled me, and I wondered if they'd been experimenting on her. The thought made my power lash out without a physical thought to do so.

Ange flinched when the power touched her, but soon calmed. My power slid around her protectively, while it rose to challenge the others. My anger seemed to be fueling it, making it stronger. It was stretching out farther than it had previously, and I was almost proud. If only it was all my power.

None of the werewolves flinched when my power rose before them threateningly. They didn't counter it with their own either, though I could see the need itching through them. Their bodies were tense, and all of their eyes were trained on the power, not on me. I wished I'd known this was a good distraction.

Ange was so close now. So close I could see all the mud in her hair, and I hated them. How could they have treated her like this? She deserved much, much better. Again, I wished I'd been able to stop mom and keep them here, with me. That way, things might not be like this.

Still, there was a chance I could get us out of here. Again, this was one of those plans I had only just thought of, and I was acting on it. While I didn't have a safe place, I'd gotten good at finding them as we moved more often. I could take care of both of us if she went with me, and I'd find a way to give her everything she needed to have a normal life. I just had to grab her and run.

I tried to tell her mentally, to plead with her she needed to move, not stand there. I'd need as much time as possible, because I seriously doubted they were going to let me get away with it. They might humor me for a while, sure, but they wanted Ange. She was part of this too.

My hand found hers, and my skin tingled. It wasn't the feeling of an instant connection, which happened sometimes, but a warning that something was wrong. I wasn't in danger—she wasn't going to hurt me—but I needed to save her before this situation got even worse. I shook the tingles away and twisted, keeping her tucked against me, blocking her, while I moved to run.

Her hand was gone from mine in mere seconds. She didn't make a noise, but one of the others, James, had moved forward, dragging her back. His gaze wasn't malicious: more pitying. He wasn't hurting her either, which was good. He was holding her gently, and it was clear I didn't need to be afraid of him; but why had he pulled her away?

A different hand clamped down on my shoulder, over the bite mark, and I visibly jerked. The power left the others and went to the hand, attacking it. I didn't like that hand. It was too confident, and too sure of my permanent scar. Most of all, it was hurting me.

My power lashes around it, not being able to find a loophole. It was protected somehow, probably by its power, and then I knew it was my father. Only my father would be able to make a move against me; he'd ordered the others to back off. My elbow jerked up.

He caught it, managed to dig his fingers into my mark, and move his hand up to wrap around my throat. I growled low in warning, in irritation. As I expected, he didn't react. Slowly, very slowly, he turned me, so that we were both staring out at the others circled around us.

They looked much the same as before to me. Only James and Chase stood out. James was still with Ange, and almost desperately, I decided I trusted him. He was going to have to be Ange's guardian angel in this case, because I couldn't do this by myself.

It didn't seem I could do anything by myself at this point. Chase had warned me, my dad was powerful. And now Chase and I were standing on opposite sides of the circle. His hands were over his chest, and while he appeared calm, I could taste the mixed emotions through the bond. I wanted to send him some kind of message, but I didn't know how, and I didn't know if my dad could intercept it.

"I see you taught her a few tricks," Dad rumbled, false laughter trickling in. His power rose over mine, suppressed it back, and I gave another low growl. He patted my head condescendingly. "What else did you teach her?"

"Anything she learned she learned from watching me," he said, his voice oozing apathy. "She got into a lot of trouble she couldn't get out of, and I didn't want to make things too easy for her."

Dad's "hm" didn't sound like he bought it. But he didn't press the issue, so I assumed we were off the hook for the moment. His fingers clamped down on my mark again, pushing into it, poking, prodding, and examining it. I gave another irritated growl. He merely chuckled.

"You'd think she was feral," he said, releasing my shoulder. I didn't think it was a smart move; he'd given me a huge opening, and he was stupid if he didn't think I was going to use it. Of course, that could've been the plan, but I wasn't much for wasting my time thinking everything out.

I shifted my weight to position myself better when I felt Chase through the link. "Don't," he warned. "Keep your ass still or I'll do it for you." I raised a speculative eyebrow at him. Again, there was this whole space issue between us. It was actually strange to have him this far away. Normally he was invading my space for a reaction, I supposed.

"What's the bond like?" dad asked. His tone was professional, one I'd heard during the meetings. He expected a report now.

I couldn't help it: my sarcasm was roaring inside of me. "Wonder—"

The "ful" died on my lips as a sudden stillness took over me. I wasn't in control of my body anymore: Chase was. I sent him waves of promises of death through the bond. He didn't release his hold, and I doubted there was anything I could say to make him.

"So you can control her, even without blood?" dad asked. Well, blood was news to me. I knew biting me helped, but I didn't think that counted as blood. If I could've tilted my head and raised my eyebrows at Chase, I would've.

"Yes," Chase said, voice clipped.

I could almost feel my father thinking things out, and I wanted to snort at it. "How do you do it?" he finally asked. But it wasn't a frustrated, "I'm hopeless" question. There was some underlying question in it, one I couldn't pick up on. I watched Chase curiously.

"She hasn't…" Chase paused, picking the right word. "Bloomed," he finished, almost acidly.

"I was wondering," dad agreed, nodding his head. "I could sense her power when she tried to fight me, but it also felt like… yours. It makes sense now." Chase didn't say anything, and he didn't move. "What else has happened?"

"Eric has been taken care of." Chase's tone was final, closed. I figured that past that, he wasn't going to offer any other information. Dad didn't seem to need anymore, because he let it go.

"So tell me," dad began. His words had me tensing. "Through the bond, what do you feel?" That bloody hand was back on my mark, pressing down. "Do you feel her physical pain?" Soon enough it was gone. "Do you feel her emotions? Her thoughts?"

"I feel all of that, some things more than others," he said, his tone reluctant. I doubted he wanted to tell Dad everything, and I didn't blame him. I was fighting inside, begging him to release me so I could do something. I didn't like people knowing all of my secrets, and I hated being on display like this. Chase didn't release the hold on me though.

"Elaborate," Dad demanded. "What do you feel most strongly?"

Chase inhaled. "If she thinks of something that involves me, I feel that. It's similar to when you think someone's watching you, but a bit more normal. And when she deliberately thinks of me, I can communicate with her."

"And the pain?" Dad prompted.

My opening came at the least expected time. Chase hesitated, and that was all I needed. I didn't fight him, but released my power on Dad instead. "There is no pain," I said through gritted teeth. Forcing my jaw to fight Chase's hold was a challenge in itself. My power crackled through the air briefly, knocking my father's aside. The turn of events seemed to surprise both of us.

He immediately took a step back while I pressed forward. I could almost see all of his weak points, where I could hit him and take him down. And then, in a second, it was all gone again. Whatever insight I'd been getting closed off, and I was forced back, my power snapping away like a brittle twig.

"The pain?" Dad repeated, focusing on Chase again. I tried to call my power back, but nothing happened. Settling down, I seethed quietly while I watched the two of them.

"I already said there's no problem," I hissed again.

"Hush," Chase warned me through the bond.

"Daughter, I'm asking for the report from Chase, not you. When I need your input I'll tell you." Dad barely spared me a second glance as he continued to face Chase.

"Fuck you too, then," I spat, turning on him.

Several things happened at once. I saw Dad tense, as though to punish me, but I coiled back in shock, not fear. Chase darted from the sides and snagged me, dragging me back. His posture was serious, and he kept me firmly against his chest. His other hand clamped over my mouth.

I was too dazed to fight him though. This was my first time seeing him up close, and his eyes held some kind of power over me. They were that eerie, possessed yellow that had affected Sam when he went mad.

"Breakdown," I whispered against Chase's hand. Neither one of them acknowledged the comment if they could hear it. I sensed Chase had some explaining to do. Dad's eyes shone as he watched the two of us patiently.

"She seems like quite a handful," Dad commented lightly, as though passing the whole thing off. But now I wanted to know what he would have done about my cussing. He didn't seem like the type to shove a bar of soap into my mouth. And if he tried something, would Chase protect me?

Sticking with the present conversation generally worked best though. "If you'd bothered to stick around, you would've—" I made a gagging noise as Chase shoved his fingers into my mouth. I took the hint to be quiet.

"She can be," Chase said quietly.

Oh, they hadn't seen anything yet.

"We can all see she hasn't matured, and you confirmed it yourself. Do you know when it will happen?"

Considering I'd learned how to care for myself at such a young age, I always thought I was extremely mature. But by werewolf standards, I supposed I was still a pup. I was curious about their age of maturity, though. I should've been close.

Chase shook his head. "I can sense it hovering, but it's not close enough to pick a date."

They both took in the information and chewed it over while I continued to try and wait patiently. But Chase was still stabbing me, and I eventually grew fed up with it. I was being quiet: he could knock it off. Clamping my mouth down, I bit into his finger. And even as I felt the skin threaten to split, he didn't give up.

"She's being good," Dad acknowledged. "Let's see if she can speak civilly for once." Chase didn't seem to think this was the best idea. I did my best to reassure him, for the most part, but it only seemed to convince him I was up to something. I was always up to something, in one way or another.

Chase removed his hand slowly, and took one step away from me even slower. If I'd been in a better position I would've said something sarcastic about it. But that would probably land me back with his hand over my mouth, so I kept myself nice and quiet.

Dad nodded towards me. "What's been going on?"

Thinking civil thoughts, I rolled the words around in my head. "A lot," I settled on finally. Short and simple was the best way not to slip up, I decided.

"Elaborate." It was that same damned demanding tone he used with Chase, and it was getting on my nerves. A growl threatened to build up, but I kept it down with a decent amount of willpower.

"I was bled," I said, still keeping it short.

Dad nodded. "I was told of that. Chase says the man, Eric, has been taken care of. I trust everything is fine now?"

Well, if Dad left and gave me my sister back, then things would be fine. While he was still here threatening everything, no, everything was not fine. Still, I nodded my head slowly.

Dad smiled. Somehow I knew if I'd been any closer, he would've patted my head. Like I was a good dog, or good girl, or something. This time the growl managed to slip through, but no one seemed to notice.

"Now that you're behaving this time around, we'll try again. I'm sure you have some questions; it's been a long time. Please, ask away."

He seemed honest. His stance was easy, confident, like he could handle anything I dished out. Then again, it was quite possible he could. And if I took a more cautious route, it was possible I could gain an upper hand and surprise him. Glancing back at Chase, I decided the chances of that were slight: Chase would stop me.

"How about why you're here?" I asked after clearing my throat.

"There are several things on my agenda," Dad admitted. "We have funerals to attend to, and then there's the matter of your sister."

Ange was a matter now: that was great. "If you just give her back, there's no problem. I can take care of her myself, and none of you have to worry anymore."

"And if she runs off again?" Dad asked. "How can I trust that she won't?"

"She didn't run, she was kidnapped," I snapped. "And she's still a captive as long as she stays around you." I pointed in her direction. Her head was down, so I couldn't see her expression. "Does she look happy to you?" I asked. "Because she doesn't to me."

"Her happiness is not a key importance," he informed me. "I think her life is a much higher priority, don't you?"

"Oh, so that's what you're implying?" I asked sarcastically. "If she's miserable she stays alive: if she's happy she dies. Sounds like a wonderful life for her." After a moment, I continued. "You know, whatever happened to free choice? Maybe she doesn't want to stay with you. Maybe you need to let her go, regardless of emotions."

"I'm afraid I can't let her go," he said, shrugging apologetically. I waited patiently for him to elaborate, but he didn't.

Gritting my teeth, I prompted him. "And why not?"

"She's sick." He looked at her now, and I almost thought I saw her recoil. James kept a hand on her, and she didn't manage to go anywhere. "You say she doesn't look happy: that's because she isn't. It's not because we're mistreating her, mind you: it's because of the sickness."

"Okay, well why are you keeping her sick?" I asked, exasperated. "When people get sick, they get better, too. She doesn't look like she's getting any better."

"These things don't happen overnight, even in normal circumstances. We didn't find her until a few days ago. She must've gotten sick from your mother."

Now the conversation was getting interesting. "Oh, and what happened to mom? When you found her was she an obstacle, so you killed her?"

His expression hardened slightly. "I thought we were talking about your sister's illness, but if you're through talking, I guess it doesn't matter."

"Oh, there's more?" I asked, pretending to be patient. I settled back on my left leg, folding my arms over my chest. "Please, enlighten me. What's wrong with her?"

He nodded towards her. "Doesn't she look any different to you?"

"She looks unhappy and scared: that's different."

Dad ignored me. "She was bitten, and it didn't go so well."

Time seemed to pause as I thought everything over. I'd been sure she was human when I'd entered the clearing: that's why I was so relieved. But somehow, she'd been bitten, and not turned?

Being bitten by a werewolf and turning into one was a rare case. Usually, you had to be born a werewolf. And if you were bitten and not turned, there were no side effects. Which meant right now, nothing should've been making Ange sick.

"What do you mean it didn't go well?"

"Her body didn't take to the bite."

"Okay, so that's good. She's not a werewolf. Now why is she sick?"

He was giving me that look, the one where it seemed he doubted my intelligence. "Things aren't black and white all the time, Alex. There is a gray, a sort of middle road." His gaze examined me again. "One you obviously didn't know about."

"So there's some magical hidden path," I said, waving my hands around in the air. "And?"

"And she's stuck. The bite… didn't work, and she's stuck in limbo. Her body tries to change, but because the genetics didn't mix well, it doesn't happen. She can't stay full human because of the remaining genetics, and she can't change either. She's stuck in the middle, and it's slowly eating away her body."

So there was something wrong: she was dying. And why was she dying? Because Dad had tried another one of his experiments.

"You bastard!" I shrieked. "You're killing my sister! Damn you!" Chase was restraining me in seconds, pulling my arms safely behind my back. I still struggled, trying to get to Dad, trying to claw my way through him.

Dad didn't seem the least bothered by my anger. Instead he flexed his hand, and examined his nails dispassionately. "I had a feeling this wasn't going to go the right way."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I hissed. "What did you want me to say? Gee, thanks for infecting the whole family, Dad! Maybe next you can infect my fucking kids!"

He ignored me, and I growled at Chase. "Let go of me. Let me punish him and save Ange."

Dad spoke over me. "Chase you know what to do."

Chase seemed to be torn. I could tell by the expression on his face and the guilt rolling through the bond. "Do what, Chase?" I asked him, my tone challenging. "What does he want you to do? Surely his request is more important than mine."

"Do it, Chase."

A heavy weight hit the back of my head, and I felt everything become muted, disconnected. It was like I was watching everything from through a thick veil of fog. My eyes widened, my head fell forward, and slowly, I began to tip. The fall felt like nothing, and someone was catching me.

"You know what to do, Chase. Do it."

My instincts were screaming at me to get away again, but I couldn't get away. Everything was getting darker, fuzzier. Distantly, I felt my eyes begin to close. Everything disappeared.

Everything but the red. It surrounded me, and I didn't have the strength to fight it. It bloomed behind my eyelids in the most horrific patterns, making me dizzy. And then it was inside of me, a living red beast I still couldn't fight.

More red. I could taste it now, and I didn't like it. But the more I fought it, the more I tried to get away from it, the closer it seemed to get. It swelled, and everything became even more distant. I couldn't remember where I'd just been, what I'd seen, who I'd talked to. Nothing made sense anymore.

The red engulfed me. I sensed blood.


Oh my. I'm quite sorry for the wait. First I had make up work and then I had a doctor's appointment and my mom's having technical issues… and anyway, I'm sorry. But the chapter's here now!

So what do you think of daddy? I don't know how much this cleared up. But as usual, updates on Monday and Friday, so one's coming up.

Thank you all for the reviews!

UPDATE: So I think some of you might have read my notice about not being able to update. Maybe. Sort of. Well.

Once I realized I could edit the chapters... I went back to one of the older ones (from Forging Ahead) and simply pasted the stuff from Hidden Path. So... it kind of works? I'm just glad I thought of this.

SO. I HOPE YOU CHERISH THIS CHAPTER. And I still apologize for the wait.

Hopefully this is fixed quickly. :(