Night of the Wolf Moon (New World Shifters Book 1)
Night of the Wolf Moon (New World Shifters Book 1)
- Purchase the E-Book/Audiobook
- Receive Download Link via Email from BookFunnel
- Send to Preferred E-Reader and Enjoy!
When tragedy strikes, Poppy must take her older sister’s place as her village’s sacrifice to the wolf shifter city. As she enters a dangerous competition to find a mate, she finds herself swept up in a forbidden love — and faced with an impossible choice…
- Fated Mates
- Enemies to Lovers
- Forbidden Love
- Tortured Hero
- Fish out of Water
I’m not supposed to be sacrificed to the wolves, that fate belongs to my sister.
As the eldest daughter, she’ll join our village’s claimed girls when she turns eighteen. Together, they will go to the wolf shifter city, never to return.
But a terrible tragedy strikes our family, requiring me to go in her stead.
I never trained for what comes next—a glittering world of beautiful people and pretty dresses, a wolf pack entirely made of men, and a dark underbelly sustaining it all.
In the Carolina pack, breaking the rules equals death and competition rules it all.
The winners get husbands. The losers go to the mating houses. And as for me? I fall for the wrong man.
I’m soon faced with an impossible choice: fight for survival or fight for love.
It seems a trivial amount of time––but had I been born fourteen minutes earlier––I’d be the claimed one instead of my sister.
“It’s going to be okay,” I whisper in Willow’s ear and tighten our hug even though I know it won’t be. Nothing will ever be okay after today. “You’re stronger than anyone I know.”
The soft wind blows, rustling through the cotton field behind us. We’ve come to the edge of the village because we don’t want the wolves getting anywhere near our homes. I’m the only sibling here today, and that’s because I insisted on coming. The rest of the field is sprinkled with voyeurs pretending to be supportive, three sets of parents, two claimed daughters, and one unlucky son. Mama, Willow, and I don’t stand too close to the other families, or anyone, for that matter. There is no solidarity among us––we’re all here because we had no choice.
Willow starts to shake, fists clenching against my back, but not because she’s crying. My sister doesn’t cry when she’s afraid. She gets angry.
“I love you, Poppy.” She steps back, practically peeling us apart, and addresses Mama and me one last time. “Goodbye.”
Only I can see the slight tremble in her limbs that indicates that she’s on the verge of losing her courage.
She turns her back on us and marches across the barren field toward the other two claimed, Charlotte McKenzie and Devansh Patel. We call this the taxing field because nothing will grow here, and that’s what the claimed are, a tax on our people. Some say nothing grows because of what happens here with the monsters, that this land is cursed. Others insist it’s from radiation even though we’ve been assured there’s no radiation near our village, but if there’s no radiation, then why is this field so desolate? I tend to err on the side of science. I mean, once the wars got bad enough, the nukes took out most of the cities, and stray bombs ended up all over the wilds. I was born decades after the wars, but evidence of them is still everywhere. Barren because of radiation or not, the taxing field is the last place anyone wants to end up. Tears stream down my face, and Willow’s figure blurs in my vision. We’re opposites like that. Where she burns with anger, I freeze with despair.
Willow and I have always had a bond deeper than anyone could understand. We’re two parts to the same whole—like soulmates. But despite the closeness we share, we’ve suffered through our adolescence with the bitter knowledge that we’d be separated one day. She’s to go to the city where the monsters live; I’m to stay here in the village, and that will be the end of us.
“Knowing something is going to happen and having it happen are two entirely different things,” I whisper to Mama. Having it happen hurts a hell of a lot more. If life isn’t cruel enough after the fall of civilization, try being the second half of a twin sister pairing where the first is claimed.
I step forward to go after Willow, but Mama is quick to snatch me back. “This is the way it has to be,” she hisses in my ear, voice pleading. This is why Mama and Papa didn’t want me to come along today. They knew my emotions would get the better of me. But I had to come. I knew that I’d never be able to accept Willow leaving me unless I saw her go with my own eyes.
I swallow hard, wanting to run anyway, but I stay on our side of the field because Mama is right. If I run after her, they’ll kill me. At least, that’s what everyone says. I was here once before, last year. Nobody was killed that day, but it certainly felt like it. I wasn’t supposed to come, but I did anyway, staying far enough back to avoid notice. I’d watched them take Knox, my boyfriend. Willow had begged me not to fall for him because he had been one of the claimed, and our relationship was doomed from the start, but try telling that to my heart. It didn’t listen, and I did fall. Willow had held me for days after that while I mourned his departure. Who will hold me now?
This is the way it has to be. Mama’s words echo in my ears. I wish I could silence them, that they weren’t the truth.
If Willow and I were identical twins, I’d take her place. Over the years, I’ve wondered if I’d have the courage to switch lots with her had we been given the genetic opportunity, and now I know the truth. I would. I love Willow more than I love myself. She isn’t meant for a life of oppression. Neither am I, for that matter, but this will either break her or kill her. She’s too strong, and she’ll never submit to them, not like I would.
But Willow and I are not identical, so it would be impossible for me to take her place and not have anyone know it. To break the law would mean both our deaths. To give her a chance at survival, I have to let her go. I hate myself for it.
Mama squeezes my hand. She’s crying. Papa and little Evan aren’t here, but I’m sure wherever they are, they’re crying too. They said their goodbyes back at the house because neither could bear to come along for the claiming. I guess some people would rather not witness their worst fears come alive right in front of them.
But I’d rather see the truth––no matter how bad––than spend my life wondering.
Those of us who aren’t claimed stand along one end of the field that marks the edge of our village. The unlucky three who must leave during their eighteenth year on the morning of the harvest moon are gathered at the other end. Willow, Charlotte, and Devansh have all prepared for this. The girls have known they were claimed their entire lives since they were given their lot at birth. Devansh could have been spared if his parents had ever birthed a girl, but his mother was blessed with boys only, same as Knox’s. So Devansh is the claimed, allowing his family to continue living in our village. Still, being prepared doesn’t make this any easier. If Knox was hoping for a little sister to come along and take the burden, he never once showed it publicly, nor privately to me. Devansh doesn’t show it either. Some things are simply what they are, and there’s no changing it.
My eyes flit from Willow’s back, where her long strawberry blonde hair sways side to side over her new green dress, to the tall men barking out orders and lining the claimed up like cattle. These men offer us their protection from the monsters roaming the wilds even though they’re also monsters themselves. Monsters and jailers as far as I’m concerned.
Willow’s shiny hair is almost pink in this September morning light, and it catches the eye of one of the men––the leader. He grasps it, running a lock between his greedy fingers, before reaching down to grope her backside. Willow twists from his grip and slaps him across the jaw. The sound echoes across the field like a cracking whip.
She didn’t just do that.
Mama grips my hand, and our neighbor Mr. Fernsby appears in front of me. He’s one of the voyeurs, come to “support us,” but I shove him aside, holding my breath and watching helplessly. The man standing in front of Willow shifts into a full-blown wolf. His body transforms with the ripping of clothing as his human flesh deforms into that of an animal. His fur is dark brown, nearly black, and in his wolf form, he’s a head taller than my sister. I’ve never seen the wolf shifters in their wolf bodies, and here one is, standing over Willow, saliva dripping onto her cheek.
Willow doesn’t move. She just stands there with her fists clenched tight and her stance wide, as if prepared to battle. “Oh, let them have mercy,” Mama whispers. A few of the other men move closer to my sister, but they don’t shift into their wolves. They just watch, like me.
The wolf growls, and the guttural sound tears across the field. My insides turn to ice.
“Close your eyes,” Mama mutters next to me.
But I don’t listen to her. Even though I know what’s about to happen, I cannot look away.
He opens his jaws wide, and I will her to run. But Willow’s never been a runner. She’s a fighter. She’s looking straight ahead, even as the razor-sharp teeth come down on her.
The jaws clamp on her head, and I let out a squeak. Mama squeezes my hand again. The wolf lifts Willow into the air, and her body hangs limp, blood gushing from her neck. I should close my eyes now, but I can’t. Instead, I watch as he shakes her side to side. Her body flings this way and that until it finally separates into two pieces and goes flying. The wolf drops her head, her pretty pink hair now bright red with blood. Her body lies ten feet away from him.
A scream releases through me, ripping my soul in half. Mama clamps her hand across my mouth. Mr. Fernsby grabs my arms and forces me to turn away. I blink wildly, staring at the dead earth, muffled sobs racking my entire body. My heart aches. I’m weightless and a million pounds all at once. The stench of Willow’s coppery blood wafts across the breeze so thick I can almost taste it. I tear away from Mama’s hand and fall to my knees, vomiting into the dirt.
This isn’t real. This can’t be happening.
“Submission,” a male voice roars, “subservience, and obedience. Those are the three rules for the claimed.”
Three words that all mean the same thing.
I turn on my knees to gaze back over the field, careful to keep my eyes up and away from what’s left of Willow. Grief hasn’t hit me yet, only shock. But it will.
The man has shifted back from his wolf form. He’s naked and is slowly pulling on a pair of pants that one of his underlings has handed him. He’s back to being a man, or what appears to be a man. Father is a man. We are men and women here in our village. Humans. Those wolfish beasts are not men––they’re monsters––demons sent to plague us.
“If you want to survive,” the wolf shifter continues, addressing the two remaining claimed who stare at him with horrified expressions, “you will follow those rules as if your life depends on it. Because it does.” He points to the rest of us across the field. “And so do theirs. Do not forget that your friends and family get to live because of our protection. We could just as easily take all of you as slaves or leave you to the lycans.” He smiles sickly as his bronzed skin gleams under the stark light and his shaggy black hair whips in the wind. “But we’re far too generous for that.”
His companions chuckle.
Hate burns me alive from the inside out. All I want is to destroy him, to kill this disgusting thing and every other thing like him.
One day, I will.
They’re different from the grotesque lycans: they have a pack, they can change at will, they’re born wolf shifters––not humans infected with a virus that turns them mad at the full moon like the lycanthropes. But to me, they’re just as bad as the lycans. Maybe they’re even worse.
Things used to be so different before the wars.
Monsters used to hide in the shadows while humans controlled everything, and from the stories, life was good. But then the monsters got tired of hiding––that’s when the wars started, and everything changed. There are many whisperings of what happened, of why all of the supernaturals died but shifters didn’t, of how lycans came to be, but those are just stories to us now. We don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Maybe too much time has passed, and nobody knows the truth anymore. Or maybe it’s like what my father says, that the victors get to choose how history is written.
And that certainly wasn’t us humans.
“Now, who are the parents of this defiant little waste of flesh?” The shifter kicks at Willow’s slumped body and strolls over to her decapitated head, frowning down on it. “Too bad. She was rather pretty.”
My tears have dried under all this fiery hate, and all I can see is red.
Mr. Fernsby shuffles away from where he’s been blocking Mama and me. So much for neighborly love and support. Everyone turns to stare at us, their heavy gazes mixed with accusation, fear, and pity.
Mama grips my hand so tightly I might scream. “No,” she whispers. “No, no, no, no.”
Our village is small––only twenty families––and as long as I have been alive, this has never happened. The firstborn goes to the wolf shifters, and the rest of us work the fields and try to find meaning in our simple lives. I have no idea what happens if a firstborn dies on the day of her claiming.
“Mama, what’s going on?”
The wolfman stalks toward us. I can practically hear his heavy feet pounding the dry earth. His bare chest is streaked with blood and dirt, and his muscles ripple with the clenching of his fists.
Mama tightens her grip on my arm. “If the firstborn daughter dies before she is claimed, then the second-born must take her place.” Her voice sounds hollow.
A lump forms in my throat, but before I can let a scream loose, the man stands before us, breathing hard. His chest glistens with sweat and the red sheen of my sister’s blood. He stares down at my mother. “Your daughter defied me and denied us a claim. What was her name?”
“Willow.” Her voice is strong, and I don’t know how she could fake that.
His lips thin. “Hmm, pretty name. And who is your second-born?”
“Poppy, my lord.” Mama pushes me forward an inch. The wolfman leans down and sniffs my neck. I shiver.
“She smells of age. How is that possible?”
She looks around for a minute, as if willing the others to save us. But nobody says a word. Who would dare?
“Twins, my lord.” She closes her eyes for a moment, holding back tears. When she opens them again, she’s emotionless, and not one single tear falls. It sends a shiver of warning down my spine.
I look up at the man, hating him even more. An evil smile twists his lips. “How fortunate for us.” He shoves his face right in mine, his ice-blue eyes studying me like a map. “Your mother knows how to be respectful to us. Do you?”
I take a small step back and mutter, “Yes.”
“Yes, my lord,” Mama hisses next to me. Her tone feels like a slap.
The man just stares, and I clear my throat. “Yes, my lord,” I say louder than before. My heart is drumming against my ribcage, but from fear or anger or shock, I still don’t know.
“Good. Then we won’t have to kill two of you today.”
He grips my arm, nails sharp as claws, and drags me away from Mama. I cry out and reach for her, but she gives a quick shake of her head. If I want to keep my life and protect what’s left of our family, I have to go without a fight. I understand, and I don’t even blame her though it feels like a betrayal, but I’m still not prepared for this.
My sister had been attending classes for nearly a year with the other claimed from our village and the villages around us. They were taught how to behave around the wolves, the names of their leaders, and the nuances of shifter culture. I am going in blind. Willow never told me what she learned, and I never asked. It’s not that I didn’t care. It was just that I didn’t want to be reminded that she was leaving me or to think about Knox anymore.
The man dumps me next to Charlotte McKenzie. She’s beautiful with her long golden hair braided intricately down her back, her cheeks and lips painted rosy pink, and her virginal white cotton dress perfectly pressed. She and I aren’t friends, never have been. She liked Knox, and he liked me, so naturally, she hated me. But she reaches for my hand––I’m no longer her enemy.
Today we are in this together.