Authors Note: Hey! This is the first chapter of the follow-up to Shattered. You don't really need to read Shattered to understand what's going on here, but if you want to understand all the references then I'd probably recommend it. But you can also read it as a stand alone. Let me know what you think about it, I love feedback!
Lila woke up exhausted. This wasn't a particularly unique occurrence in her life, she'd had trouble sleeping ever since she was a small girl haunted by night terrors, and so most mornings she woke up feeling as if she'd barely slept, ready to crawl back under her covers and try to snatch a few more hours of blissful respite from the harsh sunlight. So when she woke up this particular morning and was still as shattered as if she'd not slept at all, it took her some time to remember that there was, for once, a good reason to feel that way.
She showered, conscious of the niggling memory that hovered in the periphery of her consciousness – close enough that she could tell that she'd forgotten something, but not so close that she could grasp the thought and take purchase of it.
And then she'd dressed, still consumed by the anxious thought that she'd forgotten something important. So consumed in fact that it took two tries to get her head through the hole of the loose black shirt she intended to wear that day. In a combination of luck and a tendency to buy clothes far too big for her small frame, Lila; who barely grazed five foot four on a good day, was able to wear the long singlet as a dress, which suited her. The less items of clothes she had to combine in order to make an 'outfit' the better as far as she was concerned. All she needed now was a thin pair of tights, her much-loved and somewhat abused doc martens and a luminous yellow cardigan as a nod to the gorgeous sunny day, and she could call herself ready for the day.
It might not have been the height of fashion, Lila conceded as she entered the kitchen, but surely it didn't merit the visible winces of her mother and sister as they looked up from their ritual morning huddle to acknowledge her presence. Striding to the cupboard, Lila poured a healthy serving of oatmeal into a bowl and then smothered the grains with milk, hopping up to sit on the counter as she waited for the microwave to do its work and turn the entire mess into something edible.
Ignoring her sisters helpful suggestions that maybe she might like to borrow some mascara or a 'little bit' of foundation, she smiled in a vague way as her mother passed her the bowl of porridge and the jar of honey that Lila was so used to topping her breakfast in. She had a feeling that her sister kept talking past that point, but in all honesty; Lila had well and truly drifted out of the conversation at that point.
Two offers of help to 'kick-start that diet she'd been talking about' (Lila had no mention of evertalking about going on a diet) and half a bowl of porridge later, it came to her with a jolt.
"The wolf boy!" She exclaimed more to herself than anyone else, the memory of her late night meeting flooding back into her mind with all the subtlety of a freight train. That was why she was so tired this morning, after the voice in the dark had frightened her she'd taken that ridiculously long , if well lit, way home instead of cutting through the park – just to be safe.
"Delilah, you know I don't like it when you call them 'wolf people.' The Cross pack has never been anything but kind and courteous to our family, and you should treat them with the same respect as any other minority race." Her mother's ever gentle, but still frequently reproaching voice, reprimanded her.
"They're hardly a minority in this town mama. And they're not a race, they're a species."
"Delilah, please don't speak to me in that disrespectful tone of voice. You know better."
It was par for the course for almost any conversation Lila had with her mother to end in Lila apologizing for something or other. As long as she could remember she and her mother had just seemed to rub each other the wrong way, never enjoying the easy relationship that her sister Joanne had with their mother; instead they seemed to be trapped behind a permanent wall of misunderstanding. Lila wantedto get along with her mother, but she was unsure how to please her, and her efforts always seemed to slightly miss the mark.
She kept her thoughts to herself for the rest of the time it took her to eat her porridge, rinse out her bowl and make her way back upstairs to her bedroom where she gathered all she'd need for her day. IPod, sunglasses, cigarettes, lighter, cell phone, homework and wallet: she systematically grabbed each one and shoved them into her bag as she replayed the meeting in her head once more.
"Little girls with little red riding hoods best watch themselves out on the streets at night, or the big bad wolves might eat them."
The voice had come out of the darkness without warning, and despite her lack of fear, it had startled her and she couldn't help but jump a little at the unexpected sound. Or maybe jump a lot, Lila admitted to herself ruefully. It had always been her particular curse to be extremely easily startled, and to almost always overreact in the face of the unexpected. She'd handled herself well though, she thought, staying calm as she scanned the darkness for whoever had spoken to her, and even managing to reply in what had sounded like a fairly sure voice.
"Thanks for the warning, but I'm not a little girl and I'm more than capable of watching out for myself."
That was true. Not exactly welcomed by the tightly knitted wolf cliques in primary school, Lila had learned how to fend for herself as even a small child. High school had brought a lessening of the exclusion, and she'd made friends with both the other human students (that which there were of them at least) and the wolves, but she'd held on to her ability to look out for herself.
And then she'd walked away, smoking to mask her path and taking a well-lit route home to be sure. Not much of an encounter really, most likely just one of the many wolf boys full of bravado and looking for a little fun, nothing really of consequence.
So the question that bothered her as she set out to walk to school was: why couldn't she stop thinking about it?
Shoving a pair of headphones into her ears and thumbing the little circular pad of her iPod until she found the band she was looking for, the dulcet tones of She & Him soon filled Lila's ears. In the Sun seemed like a singularly appropriate song to listen to as she gloried in the early morning sun. In all honestly Lila generally preferred the easy quiet of the night better than the almost frantic explosions of colour that came with the day-time, but on mornings when she could be peacefully alone to walk past the glossy and soothing green of the forest that surrounded the entire town, the sun didn't seem too bad.
It would be all the better, Lila considered, if she could put last night out of her head. There was no good reason to dwell on it really, it had all been over in less than five minutes and it wasn't as if anything had really happened, had it? A voice, distinctive as it might have been with its deep cadence and ever-so-slightly French accent, was not worth spending this level of reflection. Lila was certain that the owner of the voice wasn't spending this amount of time pondering her.
In fact, she told herself sternly, the owner of the voice had probably forgotten about her the instant she'd walked away from him. But despite the stern talking to she gave herself to cease thinking about the incident (as it would forever be known in her mind), it continued to bother her for the rest of her walk to school.
It was Lila's last year as a resident of Orion High School, and like many of the other students, she was all but completely mentally checked out of the institution already. It seemed pointless in all honestly, it seemed everyone inside the school was just whiling away the days until graduation so that they could start their apprenticeships, have their ridiculously young wedding and mating ceremonies, or leave for college. Lila fell firmly into the last category, already eagerly anticipating leaving town to explore the world outside of Grey Falls. College was just a vehicle to make that happen.
Reluctantly switching off her music, Lila carefully wrapped up her headphones and stowed the iPod away. The school had a strict 'no technology' policy during school hours, which most students and teachers alike seemed to simply ignore, but Lila was reluctant to flaunt her disregard for the rules this early in the day. That was really more sixth period behaviour, when everyone was eagerly anticipating release from the day of 'learning' and you could get away with much more.
Checking her watch, Lila sat on the steps and decided to wait for Marcus. Marcus had been one of her best friends since they'd met on Lila's first day of high school. The fact that she was human hadn't held him back from befriending her and she could still remember the smiley, freckled boy who'd ignored all the pretty wolf girls beckoning towards him in the lunchroom and thumped his tray next to hers that first lunch.
'Your parents own the video store huh? You told one of my brothers to fuck off the other week, it was great.'
Lila remembered it well, the two boys had been sniffing after Joanne and had been hanging out in the store for at least half an hour without picking up even a single DVD and it had driven Lila crazy. Her sister hadn't minded, giggling and flirting right back with the older brother. Lila personally hadn't seen the appeal in him, he'd been cookie cutter good-looking; tall, muscular, perfect features. Lila had always been more attracted to slightly weird looking boys – the ones with thick square glasses or the ones who walked with a mysterious limp. And so when it had become clear that Joanne wasn't going to ask them to leave any time soon, Lila had been forced to take matters into her own hands. Scribbling down Joanne's cell phone number, she'd handed the piece of paper to the boy and told him to piss off.
The relationship between Joanne and Marcus' older brother hadn't lasted more than a few weeks, but Lila and Marcus' friendship had blossomed over the years until Lila could truthfully say that she was closer to him than with her own family. Occasionally she'd catch herself thinking thoughts along those lines and would then spiral into dark guilt over it, but more often it was something she simply took for granted.
It was quarter to eight when Marcus finally sauntered towards her, the nonchalant grin that was such a part of him spread across his face as usual. He swung the backpack that hung off one of his broad shoulders to the ground and eased his tall frame down next to her. Somewhere around age sixteen Marcus had suddenly shot up and filled out to become a carbon copy of his elder brothers, turning from a slightly gangly boy into a disarmingly handsome young man apparently overnight.
"You been waiting for me?"
"Sure have, I've got a hypothetical question for you." As she still found herself unable to stop thinking about the incident, Lila had decided to at least try and find out who the man behind the voice was. It was the mystery of the whole thing that was bothering her, she assumed. Once the mystery had been dispelled, then so would her interest be.
Marcus nodded, gesturing for her to continue.
"Well, hypothetically speaking, would you say you know most of the pack?"
He frowned slightly at that as he thought about it, shrugging his shoulders a little as he made a little hum of uncertainty.
"I would say no. I know most of the pack that's around our age – we all usually run sort of together, but it's not really like I hang out with the older members a lot."
Lila nodded, it was reasonable that he wouldn't know allof the pack, after all it was comprised of more than a thousand members, nearly the entire population of Grey Falls.
"And are there any French guys in the pack?"
Again Marcus frowned a little, unsure what exactly had led to this line of 'hypothetical' questioning. He wasn't stupid, and if five years of friendship with Lila had taught him anything, it was that nothing she did was just hypothetical.
"Not around my age. Lila what, hypothetically speaking of course, makes you ask?" His deep voice was threaded with concern and laced with anger at the idea that some guy might have done something serious enough for her to bring it up with him. "Did some guy try to hurt you or something? 'Cause you know I'll kick anyone's ass who tries to touch you."
Lila couldn't help but laugh at his predictable response. Marcus (and in her experience, most male wolves) first reaction to any problem was to throw a fist at it, and his protection of her had grown increasingly possessive over the years. She didn't mind, their friendship had always bordered on something a little more than platonic, but not quiet romantic, and it was oddly touching to know that he was looking out for her.
"It's nothing, just some guy bugging me on my way home last night. I couldn't see him, but he had a really slight accent, so I thought maybe you'd know who he was. Not that many French guys living in Grey Falls I bet." She turned to smile at him, but her face froze in place as she watched a strange flow of emotions play across Marcus' face. She'd never seen someone go so quickly from anger to confusion to realization to shock to ultimately settle on relief.
"Not that many French guys living in Grey Falls," he repeated draping an arm around her shoulder and settling her against his side, while his other hand reached up to ruffle her already wild hair. "I know who your man of mystery is." He whistled low through his teeth.
"Who?" As the bell rang to signal classes starting Lila stood first, holding out a hand to help Marcus up.
As they walked to homeroom together his arm once again settled across her shoulders, squeezing one arm comfortingly. "Well you don't have to worry about him trying to hurt you at least – though I'd keep a close eye on your panties."
"My panties are securely fastened, don't you worry. So who is it?" Damn her bad luck that it was at that moment they reached their homeroom and they were parted by the annoyance that was alphabetical seating. Lila knew she wouldn't see Marcus until Lunch at the earliest, they might have been best friends but their skill sets lay in radically different places. Marcus would be tied up in metalwork and physics in the morning, while Lila would be struggling to understand biology and classics.
"Watching you eat is quite the spectacle." Lila set down her banana with a look of disgust as she watched in reluctant fascination as Marcus shoved yet another piece of meat into his mouth. He ate like a starved man, as if every bite might be his last. Lila found it hard to hold onto her appetite in the face of it.
"Mrff ewe dun wang wootch," Marcus stopped for the briefest second to swallow the entire chicken thigh rolling around in his wide open trap, "then you are free to go sit somewhere else."
She rolled her eyes at his typical response. "Oh yes please. Perhaps I'll go and discuss which skirt length is currently fashionable with Gina. And then after that, maybe I'll go and get hit by a bus."
Marcus grinned, picking up her abandoned banana and snapping it in half with sharp teeth. Lila sighed and wriggled backwards so she fit more snuggly against the tree they currently sat beneath to enjoy their lunch. It was possibly Lila's favourite spot in the school, hidden away in the corner of the sports field and a nice distance away from where the more popular masses chose to sit on sunny days like this.
"Gina's actually a really nice girl Lila, you shouldn't be so quick to judge her."
"I know she's nice – we're in choir together. And unlike you I don't just like her because of her spectacular rack. I just know that if I go over there I'll get pulled into a discussion about the bloody dance, and I am not going to get drawn into that whole palaver."
"We're still going together right?" having finished her banana, Marcus now moved onto the rest of her salad sandwich, correctly assuming that she was sufficiently distracted not to notice what he was doing.
"You were going to tell me about the guy?"
"Bloody hell Marcus, the guy from last night. I've been waiting all morning for you to tell me."
"Oh yeah, sounds like Council Member Desrosier."
Her stunned silence was reflected on her face, which an unkind person might suggest looked something akin to a dead fish, gasping for air. Eden Desrosier was the man she couldn't stop thinking about? Eden Desrosier, one of the five council that advised the town Alpha? Eden Desrosier who had systematically worked his way through the majority of the young, female population of Grey Falls? That was…
"He is! He's a huge slut. And he's old!"
"Lila he's not that old, and besides; isn't your sister seeing him?"
"Oh God, yes she is. That's gross. I can't believe I've been fantasising about Eden Desrosier. I have to go and bleach my eyeballs."
Marcus rolled his eyes good naturedly when Lila made to stand up and pulled her back down with a sharp tug to her elbow. "You're over reacting just a tad. And fantasising? You didn't say anything about fantasising."
"Well not fantasisingexactly. Just sort of thinking about him a bit. What he might look like, that kind of thing."
That was almost the truth. Yes somewhere throughout the morning she may have found herself slipping into curious thought about what the owner of that dark and seductive voice may have looked like in the light – but that wasn't the same as fantasising about him. Was it? She didn't stop to focus on at what point since last night her little encounter had turned from potential trouble into potential seduction: that was an entirely separate thorny little problem.
Marcus laughed like it was the best thing he'd heard all day, which to be honest it probably was. It wasn't often that this town provided the youths with any good gossip – if she didn't extract a promise from him to keep it quiet (which she fully intended to) then Lila had no doubt the story would be circulating the streets before nightfall.
Checking her watch, Lila sighed once more and then made to stand. "Come on, back to the salt mines. And do not, I repeat, do nottell anyone about Eden."
Marcus was a goddamned liar. By the time that school was finally finished for the day, Lila could tell that Marcus had broken his promise to her. She could see it in the sidelong glances that the girl wolves were sending her throughout class and as she walked down the hallway. She could also tell from the way that the boy wolves would snicker when she entered the room and then immediately go quiet when she looked at them.
For someone who prized herself on slipping through high school without much notice, it was unbearable. It wasn't so much that Lila wanted to be invisible at school – she wasn't one of those girls – she just found it much easier to go on with life if people weren't gossiping about her or making up salacious lies about what she might have done to draw the attention of one of the most notorious men in town.
So needless to say as she trudged home from school, she wasn't in the best of moods. Starving as she hadn't eaten properly since breakfast, being too thrown off her food by Marcus's atrocious eating habits to eat lunch, she decided to stop in at a local café and grab something to eat before going to work. The Walrus and the Carpenter was possibly her favourite café in town, the only place in Grey Falls that had even a hint of cool as far as Lila was concerned. It's dark corners and shabby armchairs were perfect for lounging in, and the walls were an ever changing mess of posters and artwork.
She ordered a long black and a slice of cheesecake, smiling at the young girl who served her and indicating where she'd be sitting at the back of the room. It was blissful reprieve to snuggle into the velvet armchair and watch the world go by without any of them whispering about her.
When her food and coffee arrived, Lila nearly inhaled it, shovelling the delicious, creamy confection into her mouth with almost as much speed and enthusiasm as Marcus would have shown. So bad, but so damn good – the cheesecake tasted even better because she knew her mother would never have allowed her to eat it. Her mother and her sister were stuck in an eternal phase of 'watching their weight.' Lila ate as healthily as any teenage girl, but her mother was to put it kindly: a freak. Every crumb of food was carefully analysed in case it contained the demon 'fat' or 'flavour,' and only if deemed acceptable would she even allow it in the house.
She was completely unaware as she ate that she wasn't nearly as invisible as she thought she was.
A dark spectre lurked in the opposing corner of the café, watching her every move with ravenous hunger. He licked his lips as he watched her eat; only barely quelling the growl that built in his throat when she licked those plump, pink lips of hers. She looked like porcelain, infinitely breakable and delicate compared to his rough strength.
He might put on a façade of civility in his everyday life, but make no mistake about it, the man was carried a beast inside him. Too many people thought he was harmless, the comic relief, and the 'friendly' one. Too many girls thought he was just a cock on legs: a charming, walking and talking cock on legs admittedly, but the girls used him as much as he used them. They all forgot about the animal that raged against the bars inside him, especially at this moment as he watched the girl make a nearly indecent display of herself.
He was tense with pleasure as he watched her sip her coffee, watched her eyes melt closed at the first sip and heard the little hum of enjoyment, but at the same time felt a building annoyance with this girl. Who was this girl to capture his attention so thoroughly? She was a nothing of a girl, just a little human creature who could be easily snapped in half, and she thought to claim him? He didn't want to be claimed, he was happy as a lone wolf.
Females made you weak; his Alpha was a prime example of this. He'd gone to ridiculous lengths to get back his woman, dragging his council all over the world to find her. And now here was this little slip of a thing, who would barely reach up to the middle of his chest if he held her against himself, but who filled his mind so thoroughly. He fancied that he could smell her softness, the gentle lavender and the rude, sensual dark chocolate that wafted from her body. She didn't smoke now, and there was nothing to keep him from taking great lungful's of her wafting scent.
And so he did, feeling barely contained: carnivorous and lusting over her, he dug his fingers into the armchair to stop himself from standing and striding over to her. When he finally managed to pull himself up and force himself to leave without making contact: there were finger shaped grooves left in the dark wood of his chair.