The Lost Slipper (Fairytale Shifter Book 3)(3)

By: Alexa Riley

“Stone! Where are you going?”

Once I get out back behind our house, I pull off my shirt and throw it on the ground. I keep stomping as I make my way to the tree line, kicking off my boots and taking off my jeans as I go. As I leap into the air, I shift before my paws hit the ground, taking off in a full run towards the protected lands.

Feeling my muscles burn and ache is what I need right now. I need to make my body feel the pain that is eating away at my heart. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop this feeling, this need?

Pushing harder, I run as fast as my wolf can take me. He’s angry and needs to be in control. I run for miles until I’m beyond the borders of our small mountain town in Gray Ridge, Colorado.

Our shifter community is secret, but strong. And finding another shifter wandering in the woods is unusual. We have other packs around us, and we’re all friendly. So when our town sheriff, Dominic Wolf, found a stray bear cub, I reached out to all the neighboring packs but came up empty-handed.

The first time I saw her, Dominic was carrying her out of the woods. She was fully shifted into a little brown cub, and she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Her head turned in my direction when I approached them, and her big brown eyes met mine.

In that moment, I felt something inside me change.

I’d known my whole life what it meant for me to be the alpha. My father was the alpha of our Gray Ridge wolf pack until he died suddenly when I was eighteen. He was out for a run one day, and had a heart attack. The doctors did all they could do, but he didn’t make it. I was young and angry, not wanting the responsibility of the pack to fall on my shoulders. But I was born of pure alpha blood, and I had no choice but to lead.

I knew what taking on this role would mean, and I knew one day I would be destined for a mate. I had always assumed it would be another wolf and someone of similar bloodlines. What I didn’t expect was to have some kind of connection to a stray cub that was far too young.

What I feel isn’t what people have described to me as the mating pull, but it’s something. I feel very protective of her and would do anything to keep her safe, but I feel that if I don’t distance myself from Winnie, I might regret it. What if I end up mating someone else? Then these feelings would betray my true mate, and that’s not fair.

I finally stop near a small creek to drink some water and catch my breath. My lungs burn from the run, and my legs are shaky as I bend down to take a drink from the cool spring.

The second I saw Winnie for the first time, something in me changed. I’d been angry about the responsibility of the pack weighing down on my shoulders for so long that the first time I saw her, I felt light. I felt as if looking into her scared eyes broke something inside me wide open, and I can’t seem to close it again.

That day in the woods, I took her from Dominic’s arms and carried her back to my house. The little cub was shivering with cold and fear, but as soon as she was cradled in my arms, she stopped. It was like our connection was made, and from that moment on, I didn’t leave her side.

After three days I finally was able to talk her through shifting back to human form. It took her a long time, and I know it must have been painful, but she was so strong. I was so proud of her, and after it was complete I wrapped her up in a blanket and just held her in front of the fire. She looked so young, maybe around fourteen, and I didn’t want to scare her with questions or make her start talking if she wasn’t ready. I just wanted to keep her safe.

Winnie. That was the first word she ever spoke to me, and it was all she could remember.

I had let her sleep in my bed with me when she was a cub, but after she shifted, I let her sleep in the guest room. I’d lie there in the middle of the night, feeling so lonely without her. There wasn’t ever any sexual attraction, to her. Male shifters can’t even get hard until their mating heat hits. No, what I felt for Winnie was different. It was a strong pull, and I didn’t know how to explain it. I couldn’t tell anyone, and I damn sure couldn’t talk to Winnie about it.

When she crawled into bed with me that first night, I pretended to be asleep. But as soon as she dozed off, I pulled her to me and held her close while she slept. I never did anything other than hold her and make sure she was safe. I never admitted how happy I was that she felt the need to be near me.

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