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    astone2292
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Rising in the Shadows - 14. Chapter 14: Psychological Struggle

Gripping the dagger tight, Vincent stared down the intimidating foe. Working together, both of his minds agreed to let the opponent make the first move. We need to see what he will do.

Yes, but boring!

It doesn’t matter if it’s boring, it is what’s smart! This isn’t a spar, this is...this is real! I’d throw the dagger, we can always make more. Glancing at his bracelet, he was comforted to see nine full beads. Plus, we don’t even know if he has any magic!

Check. Do feel magic?

I don’t, but he could be hiding it. We haven’t learned much about energy manipulation. We’ll just need to be careful, okay? Earning a mental grunt, Vincent’s wolf took command of the fight by throwing the icy dagger towards the Alpha.

Kordell took a gentle step to the side, amused by the magical weapon, “Is this how you intend to fight, throwing things? Typical human, always ready to start something but never able to get their hands dirty.” Squinting his eyes, the Alpha shifted his arms. Long and frayed black hairs wavered among the sharp claws as he approached the smaller man.

Vincent’s wolf flung his arm forward, letting a shard of ice fly. With a simple motion, the furry hands backhanded the ice away and the Alpha continued to advance. Huffing, Vincent formed his icy claws on both hands and mimicked his opponent's motion.

Once the two were within striking distance of each other, Kordell feinted to the left and swiped, only to miss as Vincent hopped back to lash out himself. The mage felt a resistance against his ice claws, and the scent of blood wafted into the air. Hit!

Feeling a burning sensation, the irritated Alpha became infuriated! Seeing blood seep from his side forced an incensed snarl. That fucking runt got me! Under the ripped shirt, Kordell partially shifted his side, healing the injury. The larger man decided on a quickened approach as he stared down the puny shifter.

Keeping his talon-like weapons out, Vincent tried to anticipate the next move. We hit first.

Yeah, but it looks like we pissed him off. I’m worried he might try to hybrid shift. This isn’t exactly a quiet place. I know Stacy was exposed but we need to finish this fight soon before more humans show up.

Agree. Flicking his wrists out, the mage did away with his weapons and pumped his anger into his own shadow.

Vincent’s human mind felt the intense density of the shadows and grew concerned. That’s...a lot of anger you’re putting in there, bud.

Yes, make magic strong. Lifting his arm, a tentacle wavered from Vincent’s shadow. With force, he reached out and clenched his fist, sending the black material towards the Alpha.

Kordell took evasive action. Sprinting, he dodged the shadowy magic repeatedly. I saw that shit take out Blake and Bern, so I can’t let it touch me! With every leap and bound to evade the rapid streaks of darkness, Kordell forced his way closer and closer to the runt. With a shifted claw, he took a swipe, nearly landing against Vincent’s arm.

The smaller wolf had had enough! No toy! End now! He swung his arm upward and clenched his fist. The mage’s shadow encompassed the area surrounding him, and forced his umbra to latch onto his attacker.

Try as he might, Kordell had nowhere to go. In his struggles, the larger lycan fell on his back with his ankles still bound. He watched as the blue-eyed mage lifted and clenched his other hand, forming new and restrictive bindings around Kordell’s wrists. Damn! I can’t move!

Staring at the helpless Alpha, rage permeated throughout Vincent’s body. The trapped lycan hurt his friends, physically and emotionally. He beat Beta! He reveal world to human!

I get it, bud. He’s a bad guy, but you really need to calm yourself.

No! He damage!

Vincent became irritated with his wolf’s emotions and thoughts. I know that! Listen, we can see if Dave has something in his truck to tie up this asshole. You just need-

No calm! No tie! He must die! Moving his arms away from each other, the bindings pulled on Kordell’s limbs. Hearing the grunts and obscene mutters, a wicked grin slowly crept across Vincent’s lips.

Within his own mind, Vincent couldn’t believe what his wolf was doing! Hey! You’re...you’re torturing him!

He hurt Dave. Now, I hurt him.

There are other ways of handling this! I know I’m human and he needs to pay for what he’s done, but torture?

Kill then? You give no options.

Hearing the snarls filled with pain, Vincent racked his brain for another alternative. Bud, I don’t know what you want me to say here, but we can hold him until-

A mental roar echoed within Vincent’s mind. No, human! He hurt! I end now!

Stop! Vincent’s mind lashed against his wolf’s for control. Inside the mage’s mind, the two were clamoring for the right to govern their body. In the state of disarray, the bonds around Kordell’s limbs loosened.

Seeing his moment, the Alpha broke free and lunged, targeting the heart. Now!

Vincent’s eyes darted. The large black claw was approaching. Move! His wolf’s order bellowed through Vincent’s head, forcing a movement. Any movement was better than standing still. The mage tilted, letting his body fall to the right.

A sharp pain struck his shoulder. It was warm for a split second, but the temperature surrounding Vincent’s arm dropped dramatically, running ice cold within a few short seconds. Vincent’s wolf commanded the body to thrust out his leg, landing his foot on Kordell’s midsection and pushed with every ounce of strength. The Alpha flew, ripping the claws from Vincent’s body. Howling in pain, the mage dropped to his knees and clasped his right hand onto his wound. It...it hurts so much! G-Gods!

His wolf remained silent. Even through the agony, Vincent felt his wolf’s presence in his mind. He drifted his eyes to his left shoulder and every muscle in his body shivered. His shirt was covered in blood. Combined with the icy fire from his shoulder, nausea riddled Vincent’s stomach. Just as he felt bile beginning to rise, Vincent lost control of his body once again. B-bud?

The mage did not receive an answer within his mind, but saw his head slowly lift to see the disgusted smirk on the man's face who dealt the recent blow, “A recently turned Alpha. Looks like you and your little pup need to learn to get along. Too bad you won’t-”

From within his mind, Vincent cringed at how intense his eyes burned. He knew his wolf had taken control and the floodgates holding back every ounce of anger and fury broke. With a phlegm-filled snarl, Vincent raised his right arm up with his index and middle finger pointing skyward. Two sinewy shadows launched and landed on each side of Kordell’s skull.

With a flick of his wrist, Vincent’s fingers turned to face him. The shadows mirrored the motion, letting a flurry of snaps echo in the garage. The only sound that followed was a crumpled thud.

***

A puff! Smoke? Vincent? Stacy couldn’t breathe as her best friend vanished before her eyes. Her eyes drooped and followed the strange strands of black wisps in his place. She put her hands on the side of her head, trying to wrap her mind around what was going on!

A grunt filled the stairwell as Dave collapsed, landing his back into the corner of the landing between the two floors. Breathing heavily, the lycan assessed the damage. Some ribs feel broken, and I think my elbow might be shattered.

“D-Dave!” The shrill shriek brought him back down to Earth as Stacy shakily knelt next to him, “We...we need to get you to a hospital!”

“S...sorry, Stacy. That’s not going to happen. I...I need to check on Vincent.”

Her lips and vocal chords acted without her thinking, “I don’t know if Vin’s got superpowers, but wha...whatever he can do, I think he’s got it handled!” When Dave uttered a chuckle, Stacy lost her temper, “What in the fuck is so funny? I don’t even, you know what-” Closing her eyes and putting up her hands in an effort to pause all of the craziness in her life, she gripped herself and the situation, “You and Vincent have explaining to do, but you’re a Gods-be-damned mess! Can...can you stand?”

Guilt washed over the male as he nodded. He placed a palm against the wall behind him and held his seething agony behind his lips. I’m in some serious pain! If...if Stace wasn’t here, I would have shifted. Dave blinked in shock as Stacy was quick to duck under his arm. She grabbed his side and used her shoulders as a brace for his arm. “Stacy? Wha-what are you doing?”

“Getting you out of here! Vin got us here, so we need to get going.”

Touched by her ambition, Dave rested his free shoulder against the wall, halting his girlfriend’s progress, “Hold up, Stace. There’s...some things we need to talk about.”

Stacy closed her eyes and her breath shuddered. Oh, Gods! He’s just like that big guy with the claws! Pushing aside her insane thoughts, she tried her best to make the man budge, “We can talk later. We need to get you to a hospital!”

The lycan watched the human do her best to get him to move, but he naturally resisted. She’s aware that something’s not right, but she’s burying it. That’s not good. With an uncomfortable grunt, he unwrapped his arm and took a seat on a step, “Seriously, Stacy. We need to talk about what you saw.”

As the man sat, Stacy found it difficult to breathe, let alone process what could possibly come out of her boyfriend’s mouth. She was about to sit next to him, but Dave’s head suddenly darted towards the upper staircase. He let out a strained noise from his throat and rose from his new seat. He’s...heading back up there! “Dave? What’s wrong?”

Looking back at her, he knew she couldn’t hear it, “Stace, I really need you to stay here, okay?”

“No way! You heard something! I don’t know if you’re some kind of...person with super hearing or whatever, but you’re not leaving my sight.”

Growing irritated, he turned his attention back towards the upper level. Vincent got hurt! Damn it! Do I help my Alpha, or do I get her out of here? Dave squinted his eyes, and held up his hand to Stacy, signaling her to remain silent. Did...did I just hear a thud? His heart pounded. He couldn’t hear anything from the second level. Swallowing, he ushered Stacy to come closer. Either it’s Vincent alive...or Griffith. The lycan knew either of the options could be possible. If Vincent had fallen, he would either need to push past the pain to get Stacy out, or shift in front of her to take on the Alpha once more. “Vincent!” Dave’s voice boomed in the stairwell, “You good?”

A few moments passed and Dave’s heart couldn’t take much more, “Vincent! Answer me, damn it! I know you can hear-”

“Yeah! I’m...I’m good.”

Hearing his Mated Alpha’s voice caused his heart to soar. Oh, thank the Gods! Finding Stacy under his arm once more, he accepted her assistance up the stairs.

“Don’t!” With their friend’s warning, they stopped, “Just...give me a minute.”

Dave stood still and knew what was going on. His voice sounds strained. He’s either shifting to heal, or he doesn’t want Stacy to see a body. Either way, all three of us still need to talk. Once Dave was given the all-clear from Vincent, the couple climbed the stairs slowly. They reached the landing and the second Dave scoped out the area, he was skeptical. I smell blood, and I don’t see Griffith’s body. What did he do with it, is it hiding in the shadows? After another sniff, he threw the idea away. He could still smell the Alpha’s strong spicy scent.

The stability under him gave way, nearly causing a collapse. Stacy ran up to Vincent and landed an endearing hug. The embrace lasted only a few seconds before the human landed a slap on Vincent’s cheek, “Just what the hell is going on? Both of you!” Pointing a finger at Dave, Stacy exclaimed, “You were talking all kinds of nonsense with that huge guy with the freaking claws, and you…” Redirecting her finger at the smaller man, she kept her angry voice at the same tone, “You come out of nowhere with some crazy-ass powers and...and turn everything gray, then disappear!”

Vincent’s eyes remained peeled for a few seconds before dropping back down to his feet. All of a sudden, he landed on his rear and folded his legs in, almost oblivious to his friend’s behavior, “I’m sorry, Stace. I really am.”

The sudden change in behavior yanked Stacy from her raging speech as she became concerned for her friend, “Vin, what’s going on?”

Dave looked sternly at his Mated Alpha. He...he did it. I’ve seen those eyes before on many other men. “Vincent, where is he?” The question forced Stacy to look his way, but her jaw dropped as she put the pieces together.

“He’s...he’s in the truck.” The mage’s voice was so muddled and whispered, only Dave understood it. “I did...I did it, Dave. I…” Vincent’s voice cracked as he started to sob, “I killed him. I...I actually killed him!”

The Beta kept his eyes on the mage. This was his first kill. He’s no longer an innocent soul. Sighing, Dave took a gentle step forward, “I know it’s not easy, Vin. He was a threat, and I know it’s hard on you right now, but we need to focus. How about the other three?”

Vincent’s soulless eyes wandered to the disheveled body in the corner, “He’s unconscious, and the other two ran away.” After a short moment, his gaze came to the palms of his hands.

Dave kept his broken pace towards Vincent until he was able to land a hand on the mage’s shoulder, “It’s going to be alright. I can hear the police sirens, so we’ll have help soon.” His eyes turned to Stacy, “I know we have a lot to tell you, Stacy. For now, I can handle the talking if the officers are...well, friendly.”

Friendly? What does that mean? “Yeah, sure, whatever. Y’all do the talking, but I still want some answers.”

“You’ll get them, but we need to make sure we do this right.” Dave turned as a black Jeep with a single red strobe light pulled in, and much to the delight of the lycan, he saw familiar faces, “Ingle and Poll! Man, am I glad to see them!”

The officers, dressed in plain clothes, stepped out of the vehicle and put on OPD-labeled ball caps, "What's going...Rin's sake! Dave, what happened? You look like Hell!"

A smile curled on the Beta's face, "Yeah, I'm not doing so good. Any others on the way?"

"Caleb's coming. I already radioed the local police and said we had it covered."

Poll looked at the seated mage and furrowed her brow, "Vincent? I thought you and Mason were in New York?" She was disturbed by the lackluster head nod and somber gaze.

Dave decided to run interference in the officer's questioning, "Details for another time. Can one of you help me back to the stairwell? I…" He stole a quick look at Stacy and sighed, "...need to rest up a bit."

Ingle caught the glance and nodded, "Yeah. How much does she know, Dave?"

As the officer braced the Beta against himself, Dave shook his head, "Nothing, but I'll need to read her in. Vincent's pretty out of it." As the two took a few steps, he whispered under his breath, "The body's in the truck bed. It's his first. Play it easy on him.”

In a state of surprise, Ingle looked over his shoulder at the smaller Alpha. No way! He...this was his first kill? An Alpha? “Poll, make sure Vincent’s good.”

The female officer understood and took a knee next to the sulking man, “Everything’s going to be alright.”

Stacy, confused and struck by her friend’s sorrow, she collected herself and joined Vincent’s side, “Vin? I...things are really weird right now, but she’s right. You...you saved me, and Dave. It-it was self-defense, or whatever. The point is, you had to do it.”

Vincent shut his eyes with immense pressure. They right. It need to happen.

You...you have no right to say so. We could have restrained him! Do you realize what you made me do?

We same in body. I do what right.

Wrong! That’s...that’s wrong! We ended a life! He...he could have changed later in his life, he could-

Stop. Listen to self. No chance of change, understand. Alpha filled with hate. He need death.

Vincent combated his wolf, but was taken from his mental war as a gentle arm was laid over his shoulder. Looking to his right, he saw Stacy and her bloodshot eyes. She’s...been crying? Feeling foolish for arguing with himself, he made an impromptu agreement with his wolf to table their discussion. Right now, handling Stacy’s newfound discoveries was more important, “Stacy, I’m sorry for what’s happened today.”

Stacy rolled her eyes and kept her forced enthusiasm up, “So, you’re done being a sad sack?” The playful insult brought out an unkempt laugh from the mage, “Good, because I’m so lost on what’s going on. Let’s start with your...your...Dave?” Her eyes met her boyfriend, who was walking towards her with the other officer behind him. He’s...walking. Walking? He was barely able to limp just a minute ago! She slowly rose to her feet and scanned Dave from head to toe.

Dave held a somber smile. Yeah, she noticed. I couldn’t help it, I needed to shift. My ribs are still a little tender, but at least I can actually walk now. “It’s okay, Stace. Whenever you’re ready to talk, we can bring you up to speed.”

Still shaken, the human nodded her head. So, there’s a lot? Like, what is happening? She felt a hand clasped onto hers and saw it was Vincent’s. The touch was cold, but Stacy knew the meaning behind it was warm, “Okay, what was with that...that guy’s arms? And Vincent’s smoke? And…” Looking at Dave’s disarming and gentle smile, she blinked several times as she tried to form her words, “...and you being all healthy now?”

“Easy, pick one and we’ll start with that.”

Oh, great. My choice of weirdness. Just as Stacy was about to speak, a sedan rolled into the parking garage and took a spot near the Jeep. She watched as an incredibly tall and muscular man with long blonde hair stepped out in a hurried fashion. Who...is this guy?

Dave glanced between his fellow councilman and the surprised face on his girlfriend. Uh-oh. Looks like someone’s going to get a coffee cup at some point. “Caleb, have trouble finding the place?”

“A little, yeah! You really should turn on the GPS locator on your phone. If Vincent didn’t have his on, I wouldn’t have gotten here. So what’s going on?” The lion looked around and saw he was practically crashing the party.

“About to deal with exposure. Feel free to take some notes, Mr. Enforcer.” Dave walked closer to Stacy and planted his rear on the ground with her and Vincent, “Now, who would you like to learn about first? Me, Vincent, or the other guy?” After a moment of thought, Stacy subtly smiled and pointed at the Beta, “Just because you’re my girlfriend doesn’t mean you have to start with me.” The line got Stacy to let out a much needed laugh, but Dave persisted with her choice, “Alright, best way I can put this sounds a little silly, but I think you’ll get it. Ever seen the movie, Twilight?”

Uh, yeah! About a thousand times, and I read the books just as...much… Her thought dragged out and came to a halt. She thought about what the movie and books spoke of, what the plot was about, and who the characters were. Oh...my Gods! “Dave...you can’t be serious?”

“I know, it’s not the best example, but I think it is the best place to start. The supernatural is real, Stacy. Some of what you’ve heard of, like vampires and werewolves, is very much real. Well, some details are a little wrong, vampires are not glittery and they certainly don’t have smooth skin.”

A small chuckle from Vincent lightened the mood, but Stacy kept her eyes on the big man, “So...I guess that doesn’t make you a vampire then?”

Dave shook his head, “No, and thank the Gods! I don’t think I’d have what it takes to be one. Before I tell you more, I want to assure you of something.” With her eyes on his, Dave wanted to solidify his feelings towards her, and ensure her safety, “No one in this building would ever hurt you. I know we dealt with a pretty bad dude, but that’s one in a million. Who we are...we’re not like that, okay?”

From the tone of his voice, Stacy knew Dave was speaking the truth and wanted nothing more than her blessing. Who...they are? She looked around to everyone. Vincent, Dave, big blonde guy, and the officers. All of them? “Like...everyone here?”

“Well, almost. Officer Poll is just as human as you are. I’m sure you two will be talking a lot soon, but yes. We’re all a little different than you, we’re something called shapeshifters. Although we act primarily like humans, as a species, we have an animal spirit inside of us and we can change back and forth.”

Wetting her lips, Stacy processed the new information. Shapeshifters. “So, you guys can turn into anything, or anyone?”

Once again, Dave shook his head, but kept a grin on his face. He was delighted that she was taking the news pretty well, “Not really. Take me for example. I can change between being a human and a wolf. It takes some energy and effort, but that’s pretty much it. Caleb is a little different since he can turn into a lion.”

Woah! Back it up! “You can turn into a lion? That’s pretty freaking crazy?” Turning back to her man, she pointed her finger at him, “And you can turn into...a wolf?” Crossing her legs and folding her arms, she flatlined her brow, “I don’t believe it.” Her voice was sternly defiant. It sounds like they’re making shit up!

Vincent, elevating out of his funk, couldn’t help but chuckle. He knew the situation was serious, but hearing his friend reject the notion that his pack members were lying seemed humorous, “He isn’t lying, Stace.” Earning an obscenely raised eyebrow forced him to snort, “Do you need me to prove it?”

Wait, Vin...Vin’s one too? He’s a disappearing animal? “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Ingle coughed, trying not to interrupt his Alpha, “Sorry, Vincent, but can we continue this somewhere else? This is a very public place.”

Vincent, as well as Caleb and Dave nodded, “Yeah, it’s probably best if we wait on all that. I should also call Mace and tell him we’re okay. Dave, do you want to head to Mace’s house?”

After a moment of consideration, the Beta agreed, “Sounds good. Caleb, mind if we switch vehicles? We’ll need to drop off the...uh, cargo at Doc’s.”

“No problem. Just be careful with the car, Tasha will kick my ass if we lose our only set of wheels.” The councilmen switched keys and Caleb entered the truck, only to poke his head out of the window, “Ingle? You mind tagging along? I don’t need anyone asking unnecessary questions.”

The officers nodded in response and journeyed to the wall where the slumped man laid. After attaching handcuffs and dragging him into the backseat, the officers drove away with Caleb leading. Dave, Stacy, and Vincent watched as the white truck and black Jeep left the parking garage.

Feeling lost and unsure of her surroundings, Stacy’s mind shivered. So, now I’m stuck with two people, and I...I don’t even know if I can trust them. She looked between the two and shut her mind off.

“Hey,” Hearing Dave’s rough voice startled her. She felt his hand on her shoulder as he continued whispering, “Everything’s going to be alright. You're not the first one to learn about us, okay? Like I said, we’re not like that asshole. Some are pretty rude, but you’ll come to find us pretty normal.”

“Normal? Dave, that dude had claws!”

Again, Vincent couldn’t help himself but snicker, “He’s right. You’ll learn about the things we can do, but we’re still the same people you knew before. But for now, let’s get to Mace’s house, we can explain everything there.”

***

Oh, thank the seven! Mason hung up the phone. Vinnie did it! He got him! The only real damage is Stacy’s exposure. He slouched in relief on Tierney’s couch. The trio accomplished a lot in the short time since Vincent left. Through Tierney’s and Cyrus’ connections in the EC, they learned everything they could about Kordell Griffith’s life; where he was born, what packs he belonged to, and where he had caused strife before hitting Kentucky. Damned Alpha has been everywhere! He was trying desperately to nab some land and start an anti-human pack!

The reports Cyrus emailed Tierney were damning! Lily’s findings were child’s play. Kordell was notorious in his attitude against humanity and their obsession with power. Watching his Enforcer furiously texting by the fireplace, Tierney sat in thought. This Alpha hated a species for something he was doing himself. I keep forgetting how closed-minded some Alphas can be. “Mace, good news?”

“Yeah, I just got off the phone with Caleb. Vinnie killed Griffith. Caleb and Doc are going to handle the body while Dave and Vinnie get Stacy up to speed. I still wish I was there.”

Tierney grumbled in agreement, “We need to get you back to Owensville. Your mate and council have their hands full, and they could use their Alpha. We’ll grab your things and get you on a priority flight. If needed, I can borrow the mayor’s plane. I’m tempted to join you to provide back-up for the incoming EC ambassador. They can be a real pain in times like this.”

“That’s completely up to you, Ty. I’m pretty sure I can handle it, but if you want to take a mini-vacation to your future home, you’re welcome to come.”

“That settles it. I’ll send Cyrus and Kaplan a text, I’m sure those two can handle the pack for a few days. Dirk, you’re coming with me as well.”

A sly grin crawled across the bear’s lips. Sweet! Back-to-back vacations? I’ll take that! “Yes, Alpha. Just remember, we can’t stay too long. The meeting is on Sunday and we’ll need to prepare.” The reminder was acknowledged as Dirk slipped his phone into his pocket.

With a few swift phone calls while Mason grabbed his bag, Tierney had secured the mayor’s private jet. That’s going to haunt me, but a few favors won’t bother me. The bear drove the trio to LaGuardia airport.

Halfway through the ride, Mason grew more and more impatient. He felt the need to be at his mate’s side. He pulled his phone and texted Vincent. ‘Doing okay? Ty, Dirk and I are on the way.’

His heart was relieved to see a response quickly, ‘Im okay. Working with Stacy.’

‘Good. Tell Dave to expect EC to be there soon, possibly in a day or two. I’ll be there in a few hours.’

‘K. Love you.’

The lycan’s mood was instantly relieved to see those last two words. His thumbs never flew faster, ‘Love you too, pup. Hang tight’

***

Pulling into his Alpha’s driveway, Dave turned off the sedan and climbed out. His ribs still felt sore, and rising from the low vehicle did not help. Damned cars. I should have had Caleb put the body in the trunk! He swiftly made his way to the passenger side and opened the door just as Stacy pulled the handle.

She sat still for a moment as she stared at the gentle brown irises. He’s still a gentleman. He’s a wolf-man gentleman thing. Blinking, she saw his outstretched hand and took it after hesitating. His hand is still warm. Does he have fire powers or something?

“You okay? You’re pretty nervous there.”

Stacy closed her eyes and rolled her eyeballs. I’m sorry, what? “How...can you tell?”

With his free hand, he shoved it nervously in his pocket, “So, remember when I said your perfume smelled nice?” Watching her nod, Dave started to walk towards the front porch, following Vincent’s lead, “A thing with being a wolf, I can smell a lot of things. You...well, you smelled nervous.”

Without thinking, Stacy needed more information and blurted, “You can smell emotions? What do they smell like?”

“Shapeshifters can smell pheromones, but we also need to draw from our animal instincts a bit to figure out the proper emotion. You were nervous, and I smelled a sour undertone from you.”

The words sank into her brain as they arrived at the front door. He...Dave really is one of these shapeshifter things! Stacy couldn’t make her body decide whether she was scared or calmed. She wanted to run away from the world that she was dumped into, seeking her old life before today. But she knew that meant leaving behind Dave and Vincent. I don’t think I can do that! They’re...they’re these things, but they’re still the same people I’ve known.

Vincent patted his pants and closed his eyes, “Damn, I left my keys in New York.”

The simple statement forced a hearty laugh from the Beta. Holy shit, that’s funny! Talk about leaving your keys somewhere, but that’s taking it to the extreme! “What’s next, Vin? Did you leave your wallet there too?” The joke caused Stacy to let a giggle loose, lightening everyone’s mood.

“Oh, ha! Just give me a second.” Vincent disappeared in a flash, only to unlock the door from inside the house. He opened the door for Dave and Stacy to enter, “Let me turn on the AC, it’s a little stuffy in here.” The Alpha wandered to the hallway as the couple sat on one of the brown sofas. After hearing the air conditioning unit start, Vincent hurried into the kitchen and grabbed three bottles of water from the refrigerator, “So, Dave? Do you want me to be the little guinea pig while you explain everything?”

That’s...actually a nice idea! I’ve never had a visual presentation like this, but I think it’ll work well. “Sure, is that alright with you, Stace? Vincent’s wolf is less intimidating than mine.”

Stacy darted her eyes to Vincent, “You-you’re a wolf too?”

“Yep! Well, I just recently became one. You can thank Mason for that.” Vincent remained standing, knowing that he would be transforming soon.

“M-Mason? Just who all are these shifter things around here?”

Dave heard the panic in her voice and put his hands on his knees, “Take a deep breath with me, okay?” Letting his lungs inflate, he urged Stacy to follow suit. After breathing a few times, the wolf could tell she was beginning to calm down, “Good. Any time you feel like this is a lot, tell us to stop and we’ll do some more breathing. But to answer your question, there’s about two hundred of us across the county. Not a lot, but it’s enough to have a community within the community.”

She nodded and turned her attention back to Vincent, “So, Mason turned you into...a shapeshifter?”

Vincent smiled and decided to sit down next to Stacy, “Yep, but I’ve known about shapeshifters for a while. When Mason and I got together, it was a major conversation. Eventually, I knew it was going to be more meaningful to be like him, so I agreed to let him turn me.” He looked down at his knees and absent mindedly rubbed his mating mark, “It solidified my relationship with him, and I don’t regret a thing. We love each other and I don’t think I could have made it in this world without him.”

Bewildered by the speech, Stacy sat in awe. Vin was human! Actually human! But he liked Mason enough to be with him as a shapeshifter? That’s...both insane and adorable at the same time! “Vin? Can...can I see your...wolf?”

Vincent smiled and nodded. He rose up from his seat and made his way to the bedroom, “I’ll be right back. You might want to close your ears, it doesn’t sound pleasant when you hear it for the first time.” As the smaller man walked away, Stacy felt the need to heed her friend’s warning. She covered her ears and waited.

The sound of something breaking caught her attention. What was that? More snaps in a variety of audible tones filled the air, and despite holding her ears, she could hear every last one. After several seconds of staring at the hallway entrance, Stacy struggled to sit still. She almost screamed when she saw an off-white furry paw dangle playfully from the entranceway. He’s...a wolf. He’s a freaking- her thought was cut off as the paw landed and slowly advanced. She covered her mouth with both hands as a huge, white wolf with a gray pattern stood in the hallway. Ho-holy shit!

Vincent took the speechless gesture in consideration and decided to lay prone on the hardwood floor. The coolness comforted his belly, naturally forcing his tongue to fall out as he panted. A small prod in his mind drew his attention. Human. I want...I want talk.

Still disturbed by his alter-ego’s command for control in the parking garage, Vincent hesitated before speaking to his wolf. What do you want?

I want say sorry. In his thoughts, Vincent could feel his wolf’s sorrow and guilt. I take control. That no smart. I do what thought be good. But I hurt.

It...it did hurt me, but I understand why you did it. That...that Alpha did some serious damage, and you were trying to protect the ones we care about.

Yes!

But I think you realize that this was the first time...that I killed. I guess the thing that gets me is that it was my body that did the action, but my mind wasn’t in charge. It’s just something I need to work on.

We same, but different. I learn, so no more kill.

Well, that’s not really up to us. I’ve never been in a real fight where death was a possible result, so I...I now know it’s something I need to consider if we are ever put in that situation again. The only thing I’ll ask of you is that we’ll try to resolve conflicts before resorting to...that.

Yes, agree. We...we bud?

Snorting in the living room, the wolf realized Dave and Stacy were staring at him. He brought himself back into his mind for a moment. Yeah, we’re good, bud. I’ll always need you. Focusing his attention on Stacy, Vincent thought it would be best to stay prone. He playfully crawled on his paws, hobbling over to the human. He earned a boisterous laugh from Dave as Vincent kept his belly to the floor, inching closer to them.

Once he was at Stacy’s feet, Vincent rolled onto his back and exposed his belly. His paws fell limp and he curled his neck to give an innocent stare to the human. What...what do? We on back!

Relax, you Alpha wolf! Stacy needs comfort, so if that means we act like a puppy for a few minutes, then that’s what we will do.

I get. Make sense. The thoughts were cut short as a large palm landed on Vincent’s belly with fingers scratching firmly. Oh, yes! Rubs!

Holy crap, it’s been so long since I got belly rubs! Looking up with his tongue lapped to the side, Vincent saw Dave leaning down with his arm stretched out. Oh, man! Dave’s almost as good as Lei!

“C’mon, he looks like a wild animal, but it’s still Vin.” Seeing her boyfriend play with the wolf and hearing a positive tone in his voice, Stacy merely watched. After a brief moment, she shakily put her arm forward. Slowly, she leaned forward until her hand touched the soft fur.

Oh...oh, my Gods! I’m petting a wolf. I’m petting...Vincent? This is so weird! Dave retracted his hand as Stacy’s touch grew more firm as she moved her hand in a circle. “I am so freaked out right now, you two!” The longer she held her hand on Vincent, the calmer Stacy became. Okay, so this isn’t too bad.

Vincent let out the softest woof he could muster, only startling Stacy slightly. Dave chuckled, “Vin wants to stand up, he just doesn’t want to scare you.”

“Oh, um...okay.” Leaning back, Stacy watched as the speckled wolf rolled back onto all fours and rose. Oh, Vincent is freaking humongous! “I didn’t think wolves were this big!”

“You might be thinking of coyotes. They’re a little smaller than wolves, and Vincent’s wolf is a pretty strong one. I’ll go into that a little later.” Dave, once again, reached out and scratched the space behind Vincent’s ears. Stacy started to get over her innate fear and followed suit. “See? It’s just Vin. He’s just a little different right now.”

Stacy kept her fingers moving, but turned her head to her boyfriend, “So...you can turn into one of these too?”

“Yep, but my wolf’s smaller than Vincent’s and my fur has some bro-”

“No way!” He was cut off as Stacy’s giggly voice returned, “Your wolf is smaller than Vin’s? I call bull!”

In a small series of huffs, Vincent bent his head down. “Oh, great. You made him laugh.” Dave’s brows flatlined as he ceased his scratches, “But yeah, my wolf is smaller. Not by much, but it goes into a classification system for shapeshifters. There’s four types. Alpha, Betas, Deltas, and Omegas. Vincent’s wolf is an Alpha. He may be young, but he demands power and followers. Mace is the Alpha in charge around here, just as his dad was before him.

“Then you have Betas, like me. We’re not as strong, but we’re smarter. We are usually at the left hand of an Alpha, providing guidance and advice to them when they get heated and can’t make a proper decision. Deltas, like Caleb, are the muscle. They can formulate attack plans and make defensive strategies, but they are the frontmen for fights. It’s customary for them to offer to fight in an Alpha’s stead. Does that make sense?”

Stacy nodded as she continued to pet Vincent, “Yeah, it actually makes a lot of sense! It’s like an actual wolf pack, right? But, you said there were four types?”

“Omegas? It’s mostly a catch-all for everyone else. Shapeshifters are stronger than humans in all senses, but Omegas don’t desire power like the other three classes. Take Morrine for example. She just wants her sandwich shop and a peaceful life.” Dave looked up from his seat and heard the familiar sounds of his truck, “Caleb’s back. I hope he handled my truck properly.”

The door opened and Caleb stepped through with four pizza boxes in his hands, “Hey, guys. Little B, I see you’re in a better mood.”

Oh, I’ll be in a better mood when I get some of that pizza! Vincent woofed, informing Dave that he was going to turn back into a human. He took off for the bedroom and immediately started his transformation. Grabbing his pants, he put them on excitedly as his wolf demanded food. Yeah, yeah. I’m working on it! With his jeans fastened, he grabbed a different shirt and walked out of the bedroom, pulling it on as he made his way into the kitchen.

Stacy watched the smaller man stroll into the kitchen, but not before seeing the defined abdominal muscles. Umm, excuse me? Vin had a tummy a month ago! What the hell was that? “Dave, did Mason force Vin to go to the gym or something?”

Dave shook his head and laughed, “Nah, that’s a side effect of becoming a shapeshifter. We carry a virus called lycanthropy, and it tends to burn a lot of body fat. That’s why you’ll see us eating a lot more food. That pizza, for example, Vin’s going to eat one of those all by himself.” He rose from the sofa and offered his hand to help Stacy get up, “There’s several positive things about being a shapeshifter. Anytime we shift between our two forms, any injuries we sustained are healed significantly. I’m still a little sore from the fight, but at least I’m not limping.”

As she was being led into the kitchen, Stacy pondered the benefits of being a shapeshifter. The four ate as the three shifters informed the human more and more about their species, and answered her questions. An hour passed and Stacy grew more comfortable with the fact there were more than just humans in existence. I’m just learning about Dave’s, well, species. I don’t even know what’s going on with Vincent!

Just as Stacy was going to take a break from shapeshifters and ask Vincent about his superpowers, a gentle knock came from the front door. Dave, Vincent, and Caleb looked at each other, curious if any of them invited more people to the house. Vincent took it upon himself to rise and walk into the living room. Crossing between the rooms, he inhaled through his nose and instantly recognized the scent’s owner. With delight, he opened the door and welcomed her in.

Copyright © 2021 astone2292; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Excellent kill , a hatred filled idiot wth a rather big chip on his shoulder is absolutely no more , killed as violently as he lived , just rewards I say, and poor Stacy learns that humans are no alone on the planet, scary and eye opening at the same time, an awesome and brilliant chapter

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As rough as it was for Vincent, his wolf made the right decision in killing Kordell. He was a threat and would have only remained one. This was also a much needed step toward his eventual battle with Stefan, a battle where there will be no quarter or mercy given at all.

Stacey is handling the news pretty well considering the violent and rude introduction to the supernatural. Wait until she sees everything Vincent can do.

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1 hour ago, mikedup said:

Excellent kill , a hatred filled idiot wth a rather big chip on his shoulder is absolutely no more , killed as violently as he lived , just rewards I say, and poor Stacy learns that humans are no alone on the planet, scary and eye opening at the same time, an awesome and brilliant chapter

Glad you liked the chapter! I only hope Vincent can push past his first kill.

23 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

As rough as it was for Vincent, his wolf made the right decision in killing Kordell. He was a threat and would have only remained one. This was also a much needed step toward his eventual battle with Stefan, a battle where there will be no quarter or mercy given at all.

Stacey is handling the news pretty well considering the violent and rude introduction to the supernatural. Wait until she sees everything Vincent can do.

Oh, Stacy's patented ponytail might come undone! :gikkle:

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Well, Vincent had his first kill; I cannot imagine how hard that was on him.  He will have to learn that sometimes there is no other choice; which is what will happen when he eventually faces Stefan.  Although, he and his wolf cannot be in that kind of conflict during a fight with a stronger opponent.  They almost got themselves hurt badly because they were not united in their outlook.  If Kordell had not been so flawed in his thinking and behavior this could have turned out differently.

Stacy is actually handling this so much better than I could have expected.  I guess the fact that she was such good friends with Vincent and really does care about Dave has made it easier.

I hope that Miss Elaine will help with her arrival.

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Great chapter! Knew he could do it although I wonder how he’ll manage after his first kill. 

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9 hours ago, Philippe said:

With a dagger held tight,

Vincent did constrain might.

But challenge did come from a rogue Kordell,

A malevolent Alpha compelling humans to hell.

Opportune attack on Beta and girlfriend,

The rogue choose crimes charting his end.

With anger and rage the Mage Wolf did collect,

Conversation and restraint second to PROTECT.

With a snap, crackle, pop, the Alpha did give,

Mind too twisted to accept the gift to live.

Now Stacy exposed to fur and claws,

Doesn’t seem adverse to meeting In-laws. 

Pure hearted Vincent feels conflicted at best,

Taint of a kill on the heart does rest.

Does this make him like Stefan the Shade,

For the darkened path could that step be made.

Hero at heart and purity ring true,

For Stefan and Kordell in a pod are one not two.

With purity of heart feeling somewhat askew,

Love and council will mend and renew.

First aid for the gladiator awaits at the door,

Mentor, mother, comfort and more,

Please @astone2292 scribe us some more!

This poem is amazing! I couldn't come up with something like this! Thank you @Philippe!!! The next chapter is being edited. 

5 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Suck up!  How can I follow that!?

Pfft! How do you think I feel? I'm still speechless!

5 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Well, Vincent had his first kill; I cannot imagine how hard that was on him.  He will have to learn that sometimes there is no other choice; which is what will happen when he eventually faces Stefan.  Although, he and his wolf cannot be in that kind of conflict during a fight with a stronger opponent.  They almost got themselves hurt badly because they were not united in their outlook.  If Kordell had not been so flawed in his thinking and behavior this could have turned out differently.

Stacy is actually handling this so much better than I could have expected.  I guess the fact that she was such good friends with Vincent and really does care about Dave has made it easier.

I hope that Miss Elaine will help with her arrival.

Bad time for a mental conflict! Always appreciate your comments, centex!

3 hours ago, JR Tittle said:

Great chapter! Knew he could do it although I wonder how he’ll manage after his first kill. 

I think Philippe's poem said it best:  does Vincent think of himself as Stefan now? 

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Great chapter. I do feel for Vincent, but he needs to learn that there are times that require final actions. I am sure he will heal with time and friends. Mace will help greatly. Stacy is doing very well with how she was introduced to the supernatural. Wait till Vince takes her on a day trip to New York for a shopping spree on 5th Avenue. Well, the end of Kordell was much more humane than I wanted, but the end result was needed!!! Keep up the great work!

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6 hours ago, wenmale64 said:

Great chapter. I do feel for Vincent, but he needs to learn that there are times that require final actions. I am sure he will heal with time and friends. Mace will help greatly. Stacy is doing very well with how she was introduced to the supernatural. Wait till Vince takes her on a day trip to New York for a shopping spree on 5th Avenue. Well, the end of Kordell was much more humane than I wanted, but the end result was needed!!! Keep up the great work!

Thank you for the comment! I know everyone wanted the worst possible death for Kordell, but I think Vincent's wolf and his snap was appropriate. We finally see our hero's wolf's breaking point and the aftermath of it. 

I'm low-key surprised no one's commented about Vincent leaving his keys in New York. That was really funny, at least in my opinion.

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Another WOW chapter!!!  That was one hell of a fight...both with the alpha and between Vincent and his wolf.  I absolutely loved it!!!  Got my violence/death/kill without being extreme, graphic, gross...but you know I have been waiting for someone to get what they deserved!  I love it when a bully gets served....my inner rage is at peace for the moment!!!!  Seriously, this was an epic chapter both physically and psychologically intense for Vincent and his wolf.  He will have a lot to deal with in the near future.  I could go all "wordy-nerdy" on this chapter but I'll leave it with this.....this was a monumental/pivotal chapter for Vincent.  You captured every emotion, every internal conflict perfectly.  Thank you for sending me into the "grey" again!!!!  Absolutely love it!!!!!!:heart::worship::heart:

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7 hours ago, Patch1 said:

Another WOW chapter!!!  That was one hell of a fight...both with the alpha and between Vincent and his wolf.  I absolutely loved it!!!  Got my violence/death/kill without being extreme, graphic, gross...but you know I have been waiting for someone to get what they deserved!  I love it when a bully gets served....my inner rage is at peace for the moment!!!!  Seriously, this was an epic chapter both physically and psychologically intense for Vincent and his wolf.  He will have a lot to deal with in the near future.  I could go all "wordy-nerdy" on this chapter but I'll leave it with this.....this was a monumental/pivotal chapter for Vincent.  You captured every emotion, every internal conflict perfectly.  Thank you for sending me into the "grey" again!!!!  Absolutely love it!!!!!!:heart::worship::heart:

Glad I could calm your rage, Patch! Just woke up and this was a delight to read.

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