Willow (Willow Falls Saga) - By Donna Lynn Hope


There was a chill in the air with a coolness that cut to the bone and infused the soul with a longing for warmth and safety. A shadow had moved across the full moon and the ambiance was perilous. The wind picked up and her long golden hair whipped around her slender face. Her almond-shaped, sky-blue eyes scanned the horizon and her hand shook – something ominous was in the air. That’s when she saw them. Their forms blended into the darkness but nothing could hide the angry eyes that glinted so dangerously in the dark. One by one her kind emerged from the tree line. Their stench was foreboding and their gait was feral. She knew why they were there. Not long ago there had been another. He had come to her and warned her. He implored her to leave but being what she was, she could never stay hidden for long. She refused to leave, it wasn’t in her blood to run, and held out hope that there would be more time.

Her heartbeat quickened, her breathing slowed and she felt the all-too familiar surge of adrenaline. It wouldn’t be long now.

She heard the front door. She recognized her husband’s footsteps as they descended the wooden stairs and then he was behind her. His strong, weathered hands gripped her shoulders and her left hand reached up to hold his with their fingers interlocking on contact.

“They found us…” she whispered.

He closed his eyes and reassuringly nudged the back of her neck with his face. “It was only a matter of time.”

He held her close but she was trembling. He knew it would be soon. He could feel it in his arms – the static, the heat, and the vacillating rhythm of her pulse.

Only one stood slightly in front of the others. Beta she inferred. She knew him. His amber eyes were empty. He lost any trace of his humanity long ago. His dark coat was full and lustrous; he was, as they all were, lithe and striking, and yet, malicious – a foul disgrace.

They weren’t supposed to be.

Ones such as she were meant to be protectors. In the ancient world they had been called “The hounds of God,” and they had once been revered. Her father Sergei told her it wasn’t a curse to be what she was, but an honor. She, like all the others, couldn’t be turned, nor could they turn another. They were born into their way of life.

And yet, here she stood, silently wondering what happened to that code or if it was something a good man like her father told her so she wouldn’t infuse herself with self-hatred and resent her own existence.

She had seen that honor practiced long ago but not since her ouster. Her clan, once a seemingly loyal and familial pack, abandoned her years ago. In their eyes she had betrayed her own kind because she had dared to love someone different, and now she stood unaided and alone.

Nowhere in their laws was it forbidden for her to love a human and it was prohibited for a clan to abandon a member of the pack by leaving them exposed and defenseless as she now was. Humans posed a small threat. What couldn’t be seen posed the greatest. Her father, if alive, would have never stood for the uprising that took place following his death. Her father would have seen the disgrace for what it really was – the destructive consequence of envy.

Unwillingly, she had been claimed by Vadim, the strongest and most dominant member of the clan but she rejected him and followed her heart, and her heart led her here, to the man standing with her. In him she had found valor without the aid of supernatural gifts. It was the kind of honor that she had been taught but saw less and less of in the world around her.

In her world, having gifts sometimes caused a sense of pride so great that it meant ruling instead of serving. At one time there had been harmony among her kind. Now there were uprisings with the desire for power so great it caused betrayal and infighting. How could they stand against evil if they couldn’t even agree on what that was?

Her thoughts turned to her husband standing tough and formative behind her, his hands still offering their support. Courageous human though he was, it was impossible for him to assist her to victory. They were hopelessly outnumbered and they both knew it. And