Grane

The Luna Chronicle - Book Two

by S.C. Dane

In the northern Maine woods, a wolf pack unlike any other reigns the landscape. With the ability to shift into human shape, they are the supreme rulers of their territory. Until the real humans threaten their secret realm...

A seasoned fighter who has murdered too many of his fellow wolf-men to bear counting, Grane is long past salvaging, no matter the reason behind his lethal campaign. But then he meets Suma, the white wolf who wields the power to heal his emotional scars.

But Suma is not a wolf-woman who can easily forgive Grane his horrific deeds. She mistrusts him, and seeks every opportunity to remind the wolf-man of the pain he's caused her pack.

Yet it is through this fire that Grane's redemption is forged, and as he heals, Suma witnesses the unfolding of a generous heart, and learns there just might be passion and loyalty to be found in forgiveness—if they can survive long enough to find out.


Excerpt

Chapter One

 

The Luna with her mate. I kept my nose tucked under my tail and feigned sleep so I could watch them. Their bodies belonged together. It showed in the way they folded in and around one another. I lay still, and when they finished talking and Luna fell asleep, I could see their bodies rise and fall as their breaths harmonized. They were beautiful. And I was a fool to have ever taken her.

Alec, her mate, watched over her while she slept, his tender vigilance illuminating just how much he had missed her, and how ardently he protected her. From the likes of me.

Yet, they offered me consolation when it was I who had stolen Luna from her family, seizing her from this fierce love. How could they overlook my crimes? My mauling by Meron’s pack of wolves would have been a fit ending to my wretched life. They should have left me to endure the justice of a cruel death.

But no. Instead they protected me, and offered sanctuary to my little group from the violence of their daily existence. For that kindness alone, given to the old wolf-women Ane and Elga, and my little brother Armand, I owed the alphas more than my loyalty. I revved my spine and shot the blood to my skin so I could speak to my new leader with words and not my wolf body language.

He watched my transformation with a quietude born of confidence. “You do not sleep, Grane,” he whispered.

His mate stirred, but did not open her eyes. She smiled in her sleep, and looked nothing like the frightening creature I had witnessed earlier


 that day, when she had fisted Meron’s head in her hand for us all to see.

I turned my attention to my new pack leader. Like his mate, he was smiling because they were whole again. Truly, I did not deserve to witness such affection, and I answered before my self-disgust overwhelmed me. “No, we are too close yet to Meron’s pack,” I admitted. “If they followed us…” I let my sentence trail away. If these two creatures were harmed, I would never forgive myself.

“I do not think they will come,” he predicted. His confidence was not misplaced. My sister would not send anyone, nor would they come voluntarily. The Luna’s threat, and utter dominance of Meron, had shaken the hearts of every wolf present. I had seen it in their eyes, their bodies. To be under her protection? I spoke to quiet my thoughts.

“I believe you are right, Alec. But still, I tend to be cautious.”

“It is a trait that will benefit our pack, Grane. We welcome it.”

I dropped my eyes. He said the word we as if he spoke for them all inclusively. My heart fluttered with hope. I would need time to grow accustom to this fellowship, and I asked for my leave before I revealed too much of myself.

I retreated into the woods where I could let my heart crack without witnesses to watch it. I was a disgusting, spiteful wolf who did not deserve this opportunity for redemption. For too long I had been under Meron’s sway. How could I let myself hope? I was undeserving. Armand was the one. As were Ane and Elga. It was they who needed deliverance. My atrocities against my fellow wolf deserved no forgiveness.

I inhaled to calm myself. It was not safe to let my emotions best me, and I gripped the silver stems of a cluster of alders that offered their shelter. I would humbly serve this pack. I would bow to each and every member to repay them for my barbarity, and for their kindness to mine. I let myself go and burned into my wolf form so I could hunt to distract my thoughts. We had far to go before we returned to the territory where I had stolen Luna. Great suffering! We were returning to the origin of my crime. I moved my paws to silence my brain and quell my heart. I had a debt to pay and I would own it if it killed me.

* * * *

When I returned, my new pack had already awakened and were shaking off sleep. I dropped the partridge I had killed at Beth’s feet. She watched its descent and then lifted her blue-green eyes to me. Her face warmed with gratitude, and my tail wagged in spite of my resolve to shutter my heart. I sat down out of her reach and yawned to cool myself. Alec stood behind her and complimented my gift, but he took none of the bird for himself. I turned to greet my dear friends who also dared to leave Meron’s pack. I waved my tail and kissed Ane and Elga. Armand was in human form, but he dropped to his knees to kiss me. I rubbed my face against his, the scent of him reminding me of his sister, my fallen mate. He was growing into a fine wolf-man, and I was pleased to be rid of the influence of Meron’s pack. Our alliance with Alec and Beth came at a crucial time for the young wolf. I hoped my gamble would pay off, and the forgiving attitudes of my new pack leaders were the same as those they left behind.

Beth came toward us to share her meal. I maintained my wolf form so I would not have to speak. Her kindness rattled me, and I trembled in spite of my best efforts. It had been so much easier to hide my emotions when she had been chained. I could leave, hide away, or not go near her. But here? I had nearly destroyed this generosity of spirit. The old women Ane and Elga knelt and accepted her offering while Armand and I stood away.

The poor wolf. He was as unnerved as I was, but for different reasons. His heat radiated against my fur and then he slipped into wolf, too. I leaned into him to offer my comfort. Like me, he had seen the Luna when she healed him and he had been frightened then. I hoped he did not see too much of her confrontation with my sister. I am a seasoned wolf, and I shuddered at the sight of her.

It did not take long for the partridge to be devoured, and we got under way before the pin feathers could settle. Beth, I was sure, was anxious to return to her pups. As was Alec. We made good time, with Elga and Ane proving themselves to be dogged travelers as they had done when I offered them a place with me after we decimated their pack. Like then, they put their noses to my tail and followed without complaint. Their tenacity for life warmed my heart in my cold times. I never regretted taking them on, and I hoped our new leaders would not either, as I had grown fond of the sisters and wished them only happiness in their waning years.

I lost myself in my thoughts as we trotted along and was glad Alec led the way. Beth finished our line at the back, protecting us from anyone or anything that might follow. The fact she was there bore testament to the confidence the brown wolf had in his mate. I, too, was comforted by her presence there, even though I kept my ears on the forest around us. If wolves did not bother us, there were other creatures who would. I had not smelled humans, but that meant nothing. I had not smelled them when they had killed my mate. Their treachery knew no bounds and there was no honor in their taking of life.

My throat constricted, and I was glad to be moving, for I had no honor either. I had killed my fellow wolf-men as callously as any human. For a time I welcomed the release of my rage. Fury was the only emotion I felt after my Misha’s death. I later understood how Meron used it and shaped it for his own use, but by that time, I was too far gone.

Yet, Armand held onto the wolf he knew before the slaying of his sister, and every time he greeted me with his affection he reminded my heart it had once been joyful, rather than vengeful. I owed Luna my life for saving him. I foolishly put him in harm’s way when I asked him to help the day she injured him. If I had lost my little brother? I kept my nose down and shifted my focus onto the trail before me. It did no good to think about what might have been.

We did not stop moving until well after the sun had set.

* * * *

The six of us manipulated ourselves into our human forms before gathering in a circle and settling down for the night. Beth and Alec were concerned for the older women, and they asked each in turn how they were holding up with the pace. 

“We are doing fine, Luna.” Elga winked at her and said, “Do not worry.”

Everyone laughed but Armand and me. I confessed I did not get the joke. Alec grinned as he explained. “Beth cannot help herself, Grane. She is predisposed to worrying. It is her Luna shining through her.” He rested his long hand on her thigh and turned his smile to his mate. She returned it with a mock sneer, and I smiled in spite of myself. Their affection for one another was infectious, and I looked at Armand to see even he could not resist them. He wore a friendly grin and his muscles were relaxed. It warmed my heart to see him getting comfortable with Beth.

But my warming heart threatened to split. I excused myself and walked into the woods away from well-meaning eyes. 

I had nearly destroyed such affection! I gripped a birch tree and pressed my forehead to its trunk. My immersion into this pack was not going to be easy for me. I would have been better off had I stayed and taken my beating until my death. My spine stiffened against the thought. It was not my way. I knew when I accepted Luna’s protection what it would entail, and I would endure it for everyone’s sake.

“Grane?”

Beth. As if by reflex, I turned and dropped to my knees.

“Please stand up, wolf-man.”

I obeyed her and rose to my feet, but kept my face lowered. She had witnessed me in my private moment. “Luna,” I croaked, my voice betraying me. I inhaled before I spoke again. “I just needed…”

She stepped close to wrap her arms around me, and placed her hand on the back of my head. I laid my face into her shoulder, the same one Meron nearly tore apart, and my knees buckled. I fell upon the ground before her and clasped my own arms around her strong legs as if I were drowning. My heart was a tumult of my disgust, my regret, my grief. My body seared and I tumbled into wolf. I swung away from her and dodged deeper into the trees, and ran until my anguish could not catch me.

No, no, no. I had already grieved. I had slain fellow wolves in the name of my despair and I would not resurrect it. I stopped long enough to release the pressure of my distress with a short howl. No! I would not let her work her healing hands into my heart to unearth what I fought so hard to shroud. She understood too much already.

I lowered my nose to the ground and sped off through the woods. I hunted with grim determination, presenting each successful kill to the little pack before I retreated back into the forest, where I fled from my heart and my thoughts, and killed anything edible in my path.

I finally tired enough to get myself under control and returned in silence to the group, without a meal this time. I circled a few times before I settled down into a tight ball and then cast my glance toward my pack leaders. Luna was laying on her side with the brown wolf behind her knees. I peered at her face and her blue-green eyes opened onto mine. My heart flipped, and I shut my own eyes against her knowing stare, then burrowed my face into my tail to make myself as small as possible.

Who was captor now? And yet, I did not sleep, but kept my senses peeled for any outside threat that would bring harm into this close circle.

"Grane" by SC Dane

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Genres

Paranormal
Shifter
Romance
Series

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