“Our kitchen wasn’t that bad, Irini,” Caia mumbled, not only reeling from Lucien’s story, but also from having overheard Irini’s conversation with Ella the night before. Irini didn’t know she had heard and she didn’t want her to. Instead she let a placid mask slide onto her face.

“Ha. Speak for yourself.” Irini shook her head as she poured herself some coffee. “It was tiny for a girl who was used to … well … this.” She gestured with both hands as she smiled at the room.

“Glad you’re back.” Lucien chuckled as he held out his own mug to be refilled.

Caia’s mind wandered from the kitchen as brother and sister bantered easily with one another as if the last ten years of separation hadn’t existed. She was lost in a mass of whys and hows - furious and relieved all at the same time. She was furious to realize that if her parents hadn’t taken some stupid trip away from the pack they would still be alive; furious that Irini hadn’t already told her and saved her years of worrying about the pack... which led her to relieved. She was relieved that her parents were the targets of some weird, persistent hunter, and not a soldier of war sent by the Dark Coven to wreak havoc and destruction upon their small pack. Boy, if she’d known that for the last ten years imagine the hours of sleep she wouldn’t have missed. She looked at Irini and wanted to be angry at her, she really did. But it wasn’t in her nature to growl and hiss and spit, and neither was it in her nature to hold a grudge. And how could she when Irini’s face was flushed with a happiness she had never witnessed there before; her eyes light with what she could only imagine was a new lease of life. She looked so young. As if the ten years had melted away and she was eighteen again. No, Caia couldn’t be angry with her. Irini was ecstatic to be home. If it hadn’t been before, it definitely was obvious now, that she had genuinely been too upset to discuss anything of the past with her young charge.

Her thoughts and musings were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell, and both Caia and Irini’s heads snapped towards the sound in alert. Lucien’s eyes narrowed as if he understood; for years now both of them had been living quiet, isolated lives where the doorbell ringing signaled a potential threat.

“It’s OK,” he reassured them. “It’s just Jaeden for Caia.”

She frowned at this, her mouth forming an ‘o’ shape in question. But he was up and out of his seat before she could speak, returning to the room a few seconds later with a tall brunette who looked about Caia’s age. The first thing Caia noticed about her was the warm friendliness in her eyes, but as her gaze travelled over her she realized that the girl, with her piercing blue eyes and luscious curves and curls, was as outrageously attractive as the rest of these creatures. She had a feeling her self-esteem was going to take a serious hit among this crowd.

“This is Jaeden.” Lucien nodded to Irini and Caia. “Irini, you remember Jaeden, Dimitri’s daughter?”

Irini smiled brightly at the mention of the Elder and got up to hug the girl who was at least three inches taller than her. “Of course,”

Jaeden laughed at that and Caia was warmed by the pleasant sound of her chuckle. The girl’s blue eyes found her. “Do you remember me, Caia?”


Gazing at her in concentration she had the vague impression of a gangly young girl who used to have to coax her into playing with her. She nodded and smiled tentatively back at her. “Yeah. I do.”

Lucien looked pleased. “Good. Jaeden’s taking you to school.”


“School.” He nodded, enunciating the word as if she were an idiot. “It’s Monday. I’ve got it all sorted out. They’re expecting you. I told them that your guardian died and as a minor you had to come here, so there shouldn’t be too many questions about your transfer one semester from graduation.”

“Oh. O-K.” She was thrown by this news. She thought she might have at least been given time to settle in.

Obviously that was wishful thinking.

Goddess, she couldn’t wait until she graduated at the end of the school year. “I’ll grab my backpack.”

It was awkward at first, climbing into Jaeden’s …

“Can I ask… what is this?” Caia indicated the rust-colored rust-bucket she had just climbed into.

Jaeden laughed. “I think they call it a 1982 Buick Skyhawk.”

“Wow, I’ve never even heard of a Skyhawk before.”

“She runs like a dream,” Jaeden reassured her, lovingly stroking the wheel of her car.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”

Again the girl laughed. “Don’t worry. I’d fear for my life as well if I was taking my first look at this baby. But she’s fine. I swear.”

Caia didn’t have a chance to answer because Jaeden launched straight into the questions. “So, what’s it like living with Lucien?” She giggled, her eyes sparkling in excitement. She ran her tongue along the tips of her top row of teeth. “He’s really rather delicious.”

It was Caia’s turn to laugh. “I suppose. To be honest, I really don’t know what it’s going to be like living with him. So far... pretty intimidating. The man is huge.”

Another laugh. “Well, you get used to that. I forget you haven’t been around males, they’re all huge but yeah I suppose Lucien is one of the largest, he’d have to be to be Alpha, there are the Elders though and maybe Mal and you’re just about to meet him.” She had an endearing way of rushing one sentence into the other as if afraid she wouldn’t have time to discuss everything she obviously wanted to.


“Malek,” she explained. “He’s Morgan and Natalia’s oldest son.”

Caia looked at her blankly. She couldn’t put names to faces quite yet.

“Mal,” Jaeden insisted. “You’ll recognize him when you see him; huge, dark and kind of twisted.”

The vague image of a lykan she’d noticed standing heads above others in the living room last night flitted across her mind. “Actually I think I know who you’re talking about. He goes to school?” she asked incredulously.

“Uh-huh. All the human girls are in love with him.”

“And you?”

Jaeden sneered. “No thank you. He’s so arrogant. You think Lucien’s bad? Ugh. Mal messes around with Dana. Watch out for her by the way.”


“Yeah, you’re going to meet her. She’s Daniel’s twin sister, and you’ll meet him, too.”

“Anyone else I should know about?” Suddenly she was extremely nervous. She forgot that there were pack members her age, other than Jaeden, that she’d have to see every day. Would they all be as friendly as Jaeden? Somehow she didn’t think so.

“There’s Sebastian. He’s the same age as the twins, so is Mal. Their little brother Finlay too, he’s fifteen.”

“So … you’re a senior, like me?”

“Yeah, so is Alexa. But, you know, we eat lunch with Mal, the twins, and Sebastian as well. So, you’ll have nearly all of us to keep you company.”

That’s not what Caia was worried about.

Jaeden was full of questions about her life in isolation with Irini, and Caia tried to answer as many as possible, but the girl was like a machine gun. Before she knew it they were pulling into a parking lot behind a large, modern school building. There were lots of kids already buzzing around; the air filled with the scent of teenage pheromones. Caia blew out air between her lips. Although Lucien had come up with an excuse no doubt the school thought it incredibly inconvenient her transferring one semester away from graduation. It wasn’t going to interfere with her school work, but she had a 3.8 G.P.A. and had scored a 1250 on her SAT’s last year, which meant she would have to go another round of explaining to teacher’s why she hadn’t applied to any colleges. Irini had told her she couldn’t because they didn’t know when the pack would call them home, and since she didn’t know where home was going to be, she couldn’t even apply for a college nearby. However, Dimitri had told her there was a community college here. Joy.

Yup, she sighed, feeling the twinge of disappointment again that she wouldn’t be able to go off and enjoy the thrill of college life elsewhere.

“Here we are.” Jaeden smiled at her. Her eyes suddenly softened when she took in her expression. “You’ll be fine. I promise. And if people think it’s weird that you’re transferring at such... well... a weird and pointless time in your high school education then we’ll do what we usually do. Ignore their very existence.”

Caia smiled tremulously, grateful to the girl. Her immediate acceptance of her into the pack was going to get her through what she guessed was going to be a rough first year. She took a deep breath, her nostrils filling up with those icky pheromones and a hint of damp earth scents mixed with individual fragrances she would soon come to identify with the other pack members her age.

They were close.

“I hope you’re right.” She blew out her breath and got out of the car.

“I’m always right,” Jaeden teased. “Come on, the guys will be waiting,”

Jaeden led her across the parking lot towards a group of teenagers standing around a Ford SUV.

“Jaeden?” she asked, as her eyes wandered over the group. She recognized, due to his immense height and build for a sixteen year old, what could only be Malek. He was standing in the center with five other teenagers crowded around him.


“Do you know why Lucien pulled me out of school and back to the pack now? Doesn’t it seem like a stupid time? Couldn’t he have waited until after graduation?”

Jaeden smiled. “I heard my dad talking about this with Mom.”

“You were eavesdropping?”

She shrugged, and grinned cheekily. “Well... anyway, I heard him say that Lucien wanted you to connect as much as possible with the pack. He thought a semester at school with lykans your own age would do that.”

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