PROLOGUE

The pavement was wet with evening rain, a small pup standing in cold fear. The streets were ruled by creatures glaring maliciously in the dark. A loud shout had caused the pup to freeze, paralyzed by the terror that threatened closer. Lights blinded her eyes as the creatures, tall and fierce, loomed over her shaking body. She couldn't move as a surprisingly gentle hand touched her fur, reaching under her belly and lifting her body into the air. All the little pup could think of was the inevitable death that awaited her. However, a soft touch jolted her senses as the hand caressed the mud caked fur on her back. She couldn't help but sigh in contempt as the large creature carried her away from the unforgiving streets.

A soft voice cooed in the pup's ears as warm water slid over her back. The dirt that had stained and hid her body was washing away, revealing soft white fur underneath. The calming creature then brought the pup to the most painful place she could imagine.

Screaming dogs pounded in her ears; unknown scents stung her nose as the creature she once thought kind shoved her toward these strange dogs. The pup stared in horror at the rows of dogs, excitedly jumping in their cages, obviously unaware of their soon to be demise. She then began to struggle in the creature's arms, which only made the grip on her tighter.

The creature then stopped in front of a quiet cage, the pup staring in confusion at the large dog who laid with their back to them. A click caused the pup to look up as the creature easily opened the door. It took only a moment for the dog to perk their ears, turning their head toward the sound. The pup tilted her head at the strange looking dog with a long brown muzzle and high set ears. Soft brown eyes glanced at the pair with curiosity.

The creature walked into the small room, setting the pup down onto the hard floor. She was pushed towards the bigger female dog, the creature speaking in unknown tongues. The dog touched her muzzle to the small pup, giving her head a rough lick. The pup hesitated, but the familiar scent of milk washed over her as she buried her nose into the dog's belly. Six other pups laid sleeping around her, undisturbed by the newcomer.

As the door closed and footsteps faded away, the older female gave the pup a loving gaze and spoke gently, "Do not mind the humans dear one. They bring you no harm. Now, what is your name?"

"I…I'm not sure," answered the pup quietly, trying to think back to what her own mother called her.

"Well, since you are now my pup, I shall give you a name." The female tilted her head, giving the pup a long and thoughtful look. "I will call you Carter, named after my own mother."

Blinking in surprise, the white pup laid her head down and began to drift off to sleep. Nightmares of looming shadows plagued her dreams.

The sound of dogs barking shook Carter awake, her eyes blinking rapidly in the darkness. Confused, she moved from her spot next to one of the many pups who were all staring around in excitement. Eva was standing over her litter, eyes hardened as her fur stood on end. Carter padded towards the door of the cage, her eyes finally adjusting.

Three male humans were walking quietly down the narrow hallway, two of which constantly checking the various cages. The third human stood silently at the end, behind him a smaller cage on top of wheels. Mumbling to themselves, the first human reached their cage and stared directly at her.

Carter took a step back, fear clenching her heart as the second human unlocked the cage. Eva snarled at them, pushing her pups back against the wall. It has seemed to scare the humans off, as they recoiled a bit. Just then, the third human calmly walked in front of the other, lifting his arm up and pointing a shiny object directly at Eva.

A loud bang destroyed her ears as Carter yelped in pain. Something warm seeped onto her paws, flowing down the concrete. She turned towards Eva for help but could only stare in horror.

Eva laid on the floor, blood trickling down her muzzle from a wound on her head. Carter felt tears stream down her face, trying her best not to stumble back.

She didn't have time to mourn as a rough hand grabbed her by the scruff on her neck. Twisting around, the pup bit down on the hand as hard as she could. The human screamed out as he dropped her onto the hard floor. Scrambling for her life, Carter ran as fast as she could away from the humans. Luckily a small hole was in the wall near the door. She closed her eyes and barreled for the only exit, barely feeling fingertips brushing against her fur.

Hearing a shout, she continued as one of the humans ran out after her. Carter felt a fire in her chest as she kept going.

It has seemed like forever when she finally stopped in an unfamiliar alleyway. Heaving, the pup laid down in the dirt and tried to catch her breath.

"Now what do we have here? Are you lost little one?" A soft voice called out as a large dog approached her. Carter looked up at the strange dog, fear still in her eyes.

The dog was slender, her silver tipped gray fur shining in the moonlight. Eyes as yellow as her own, the female dog reached down to touch her nose to her head.

"Don't be frightened, I just want to help you. Where is your mother?"

Carter felt the same salty tears stain her fur, her voice shaking, "G-Gone. She's gone…"

The female dog tilted her head, giving Carter a gentle look. "Well, we can't have you out here all alone. There are many dangers that lurk around humans. I'll take care of you now." She picked her up tenderly in her jaws and turned towards the dark line of trees that out skirted the human world. Carter felt herself drift off as the female carried her away.

"Why would you bring a strange pup here?" A gruff, mean voice shook Carter awake, her golden eyes opening to stare directly at giant brown paws.

"She was all alone and nearly frightened to death. What was I to do?" The same soft voice snapped back at the male as Carter glanced up to see the largest dog she had ever seen. He was burly and rugged, brown matted fur messily bristling with annoyance.

"You should have left her there. She isn't even a wolf! There's probably a human looking for her right now and we'll all be dead by tomorrow."

"Don't be ridiculous, Thorn," The silver wolf replied, protectively wrapping her tail around Carter's body. "If anything she was simply a stray. No human will come looking for her here."

"That is enough you two!" Carter turned her head toward the new voice and stared in awe at a noble looking dog standing behind Thorn. His fur was brown as well but with a slight reddish tone. Long pale legs supported the much smaller frame. Yet he had an air of wisdom, blue eyes shining with discipline. The male gave Carter a soft look before sharpening his tone at Thorn. "You must remember your place, beta. Or did you forget who the alpha of this pack is?"

Bowing his head in shame, Thorn muttered a response before backing away from the two other.

"Now," The now stated alpha smiled gently at the female before him, "You are my mate, Star, so I trust your judgement. Do you think this pup should remain in this pack? If so, you are completely responsible for anything she may do. As Thorn said, she is not a wolf and may return to the life she had left. Are you willing to accept that fate?" Although his tone was kind, Carter could feel a tinge of caution behind his words.

Star pulled the small pup closer, staring back at him with intense determination. "I am confident I will raise her to be as much of a wolf as our two sons. There is no doubt in my heart."

"Very well, I'll inform the rest of the pack. For now, introduce her to Ren and Chaz. They will be her guide as much as you." The alpha male turned and walked away from them, saying one last thing before he left. "Also, you will tell me what you were doing so far into the human territory."

Star huffed in defiance, grabbing Carter by the scruff of her neck once more and padding toward a large rocky cave. She slipped inside and dropped the pup onto the dirt floor. Flattening her ears from being carried again, Carter looked around the enclosed den. It was cramped tightly inside, causing her to sneeze from the dusty air.

"Ren, Chaz, come meet our newest packmate." Two heads popped up from the edge of the den wall. One leaped toward Carter playfully, his fur nearly identical to the alpha male. Golden eyes looked her up and down as a tongue rolled out of his mouth.

"Hi, my name's Chaz! That's my brother Ren over there. He's lazy!" The other pup snorted at them and rose to his feet. Dark silver fur shook out any dirt that was laying on top of him. Eyes as brilliantly blue as his father, Ren gave his brother a shove.

"I am not! You're the lazy one. I remember walking out of the den long before you."

"That's not fair, I was just tired that day!"

"Yeah right!"

The two pups launched at each other, wrestling together on the ground. "Oh stop and take it outside. This den is much too small for this." Star glared at her two sons who promptly ran out of the den to continue. Sighing, the slender female turned back towards Carter. "They will teach you many things, but restraint may not be one of them. However, I am happy to welcome you to Eastern River Pack."

At that moment a loud bang quickly followed by a yelp of pain echoed from outside. Star immediately ran to the entrance, Carter following behind.

Eyes filling with horror, she stared straight at the three humans who had attempted to capture her stood in the clearing. The same shining object was pointed at Thorn who lay on the ground heaving violently. Blood pooled onto the forest floor as the other wolves vanished from site. Ren was held up in the air by one of the men, squirming around trying to break free of his grasp. Carter could see the vague silhouette of the alpha male hiding among the bushes. Star was posed in front of her, fur bristling with rage as she snarled at the man who had Ren. The third man laughed, pointing at her as well.

Suddenly, the alpha burst out of the bushes and knocked the human to the ground before rushing to grab his mate by the neck and drag her away from the clearing. Carter could only watch helplessly as the men spit in their direction and hurried away with Ren.