Nathan rubbed at the faint reminder of an old scar surrounding his neck. Almost fifteen years, ago he’d gotten caught in a hunter’s snare and was saved by a little girl with wide dark eyes and wild raven hair. It was the last time he’d been able to run wild and free on his own. The faded scar always irritated him the closer it got to the full moon. It was a reminder that even though he’d never done anything wrong, he was hated and he was hunted. He’d lost many in his pack, including his own parents when he was just a baby to the hatred of hunters.
“You running with me tonight?” Marcus asked as he joined Nathan near the river, his dark skin glowing as he stood between the moon and its jagged reflection in the water.
“I don’t want Carla getting the wrong idea,” Nathan responded good natured.
“We’re not married yet,” he commented. “Single alpha until the next new moon.”
“She’s a great choice,” Nathan said walking closer to him.
“Yes, she’s perfect.”
“She will help you when it’s your turn to lead the pack. Nathan agreed biting against any ill feelings towards the perfectly matched couple.
Nathan was more than grateful to the pack that took him after he lost his own and he had nowhere else to go. They’d saved his life by doing so. But, he knew he’d never have enough standing in the pack to be matched properly. He knew he’d have to return to his own pack lands and reclaim it to hope for the Alpha status that Marcus enjoyed.
“Try to keep up,” Marcus answered as everything they should have said to each other as their friendship was on the edge of change went unsaid.
He shifted smoothly, splashing his blue-black fur in the water for good measure before taking off up the river bank towards the moon. Nathan followed directly behind, losing himself to the feel of adrenalin rushing through his body with the shift into gray wolf form and the wind weaving itself over his gray fur. He could feel Marcus just ahead, but quickly passed him by with a howl he knew would irritate his friend.
As Marcus fell behind, Nathan felt his aloneness catch up with him but he pushed forward reminding himself that his immediate future would always be one of aloneness. He slowed at a bend in the river to take a drink of water before turning back to find Marcus. He stayed with him to hunt and eat before they returned to the rest of the pack. Marcus disappeared with Clara, once they returned while Nathan found his way to the garage behind the gas station that he managed. The pack controlled a cluster of small business in the area, including the garage, a few gas stations, and a construction company. He fell asleep full and exhausted, wondering as he often did about what happened to that little girl who saved him.
After the next new moon, a certified letter addressed to him arrived. He’d never gotten any type of mail besides bills. The feel of the paper envelope was different, heavier than most and the golden return address of the attorney that sent it glistened even under the dim lights of the station. Stamped above his name and address were the words Private and Confidential.
He ripped into it to find a letter with a formal request to meet with Raymond Ellis, III regarding Sweetgrass Island, his original pack lands . As one of the last of his pack, he was listed on the Deed as an owner, and Raymond Ellis who own land next to it had a proposal for him to consider.
“Mr. Cross, It has come to our attention that you are an heir to property on Sweetgrass Island. My client, Raymond Ellis, III is preparing his last Will and testament and would like to discuss the possibility of preserving the island as a whole.”
The experience of heading down town to meet with Raymond and his attorney was surreal. The antebellum home transformed into an office made his six foot four frame feel dwarfed by its three story columns and massive staircase. He was greeted by a kind older woman whose pulse beat calm enough to put him at ease. If he were walking into a trap, she certainly wasn’t giving him any indication of it.
“Right this way, Mr. Cross. I’m Maggie Edwards, Mr. Parker’s secretary. He and Mr. Ellis are waiting for you in the conference room.”
As he approached the office, Nathan sensed nervousness, but nothing warned him of danger.
Mr. Parker was a small man with slim build wearing a smart, well tailored three piece suit and wire rimmed glasses. He introduced himself and then turned to introduce his client.
In his imagination, Raymond Ellis had been a Paul Bunyan type figure standing more than eight feet tall in flannels and steal toed boots, carrying guns and knives at the ready to hunt his kind down. But the man before him sat slumped in a wheelchair, frail and thin with wisps of white hair combed over his bald head.
“Mr. Ellis has a hard time speaking,” Mr. Parker explained. “If you’ll have a seat, my client wishes to discuss the future of your property on Sweetgrass Island.”
Nathan took in a deep breath ready to ask about the only thing he wanted to know, since Raymond Ellis might have been there at the time his pack was slaughtered.
“Does he know what happened to my family on that island?”
“Yes.” Mr. Parker looked grieved as he picked up a file and handed it to Nathan. “He’s explained everything here.”