Evanne Lorraine
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A Taste of Scarlet — Alternate first scene

 

“I wish I could stay, but I’m needed in Juneau.” The Omega’s familiar voice carried through the closed office door.

Gracie is leaving? Scarlet let the arm she raised to knock fall, hesitant to interrupt.

“What about our young males?” Hunter asked.

“I’ll pray for those facing their first transition, but I’ve been in Treeland for most of the summer. It’s already October and the Alaska pack has ten times as many young males entering puberty. I have to go.”

This was pack business, not Scarlet’s. Taking a silent step away from the office, she told herself to leave.

“But I want your promise not to badger Scarlet while I’m away. Forcing the girl to accept an Alpha’s touch is cruelty.”

They’re talking about me. Flushing with shame, she continued to listen.

“Mating could repair the link.” Hunter’s deep voice rang with dominance. “There are still a few Alphas she hasn’t tried.”

Scarlet made fists to hide her suddenly shaky hands and took another silent step away from the door.

“It’s your job to protect the pack members–all of them. Especially the young, the helpless, and the damaged.” Gracie sounded disappointed in the Treeland pack Alpha and not the least bit intimidated.

His response was a frustrated growl. “This pack needs an Omega.”

“Lots of packs need Omegas. There aren’t enough of us to go around and believe me, no one feels worse about that than I do. But this sad situation is not an excuse for torturing Scarlet. She’s suffered enough. She can’t shift– can barely connect with her wolf–forcing her to relive the terrors of her past isn’t the answer. Nothing can mend a wolf bond so completely shattered. This is something you have to accept.”

“The whisperer could fix her,” Hunter said.

Grace snorted. “If he existed.”

“He exists.”

“He’s real? Then why—.”

Hunter cut her off. “He wouldn’t and I won’t ask him. Forget about it.”

“Fine,” Grace’s tone that didn’t sound a bit fine. “Then promise me you will leave her alone.”

The silence stretched while Scarlet unclenched her fists, wiped damp palms against her jeans, and waited for the Alpha’s response.

At last he said, “I’ll leave her alone.”

Even the pack Alpha backed down when an Omega insisted. She envied Grace such impressive power.

“Thank you, Hunter. Please let her help with the young males.”

“What can she do?”

Scarlet cringed at the Alpha’s dour tone.

“She’s a nurse.” Gracie said tartly. “I want her to call me. It’s possible her wolf bond may respond to pain. At the very least, she can offer comfort and drugs to ease their suffering.”

“I’ll have her keep you in the loop.” Hunter’s chair rolled back with a protesting squeak.

Scarlet slunk off, sharing their frustration over her inability to access her inner bitch. The Omega’s healing gift, which could save the transitioning males, remained dormant–a frustrating potential locked inside her.

She could not let this go. The pack needed her gift.

On a sudden impulse, she walked out of the Treeland pack headquarters, made a quick stop to throw a few basics together, and drove straight through to Cedar Grove. She could stay in the old farmhouse while she searched for the apparently real legend, the mythical whisperer, who was said to roam the coastal mountains.

Three hours later, the first tentative streaks of dawn speared through the mountains, illuminating a homemade trespassers-will-be-shot-on-sight sign hanging at the Marchland’s farm gate. The warning contrasted sharply with the peaceful sheep grazing on the rolling hills of green velvet beyond the fence. Her foot eased off the gas and she scrubbed at eyes scratchy from driving all night.

When she looked back, the angry red letters stayed the same. If the Marchlands were toting twelve gauges then things in sleepy Cedar Grove had definitely taken a violent turn for the worse since her last visit to Charlie’s country house.

She was too groggy to even speculate what kind of trouble would account for such a drastic change in the mild-mannered neighbors. After a solid day’s sleep, she’d work on solving mysteries and tackling her problems.

Another mile down the winding road, she rolled to a stop by the old farmhouse. She eased out of the car and stretched until her back cracked before grabbing her bags and the afghan she’d finished last month from the backseat.

The key was under the smiling pig statue that guarded the front steps, where Charlie always left it. Both the entry and front room were pleasantly, and surprisingly, dust free. No trace of the mustiness common in rooms too long unused irritated her sensitive nose. Nice finding Doyle, the odd caretaker she inherited from Charlie along with the house, doing his job.

She went straight upstairs, passing up the master suite in favor of her childhood bedroom. After dropping her bags, she toed off her shoes, wrapped herself in the afghan, and sank onto the bare mattress.

Even as exhausted as she was, sleep didn’t instantly claim her. The moment she let down her guard, the overheard conversation between Hunter and Gracie echoed in her head. A summary of everything wrong with her life: the pitying looks from the pack’s females; her cringing fear of Alphas; and the source of all her troubles—her shattered wolf link.

Tired of disappointing everyone, including herself, she’d come to the mountains in search of what she’d always believed was only a pack legend. The pack leader seemed certain the werewolf whisperer existed.

A faulty connection and fear of Alphas males did not make her a coward. She’d survived the abuse of a pack of rogues. Nothing could be worse than that.

If the whisperer was real, she would find him. She had to. He was her last hope.

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