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By´╝ÜTiffinie Helmer


The only sound was his own choppy breathing, his pounding heart, and his useless moaning. He was alone. He was freezing.

He was seriously fucked.

What kind of sick son of bitch laid traps next to the back door of his own home?

Aidan clenched his teeth, grabbed the edges of the steel-teeth trap, and tried to pry the jaws apart. He roared and strained with everything he had. The effort was wasted. Blood soaked through his jeans and dribbled like syrup, staining the snow.

The sun dipped and shadows grew long and menacing.

Cold seeped in like death.

Aidan’s heart grew heavy in his chest. He sat in the snow, spent, the heat of his body causing the snow to melt through his jeans and freeze next to his skin.

Think Harte, think.

Damn, but it was hard to think when his body was racked with pain. Maybe, he could crawl to the SUV with the trap and drive for help. He scratched around in the snow until he found the chain attached to the anchor of the trap. He heaved until his muscles drained.

No use. The anchor was encased in ice, frozen into the earth.

Come up with something else quick, or you’re a dead man.

He patted his pockets, and pulled out his keys. Nothing on the key ring that could help him. He pocketed them and felt around for more. A Jolly Rancher. He snorted out a laugh. Not much of a last meal. Then he found his cell phone.

“Yes!” He flipped it open and dialed 911. No bars. “What the—”

He shook the phone as if that would miraculously gain him coverage. Nothing. He moved the phone around him, over his head, searching for reception. “Come on,” he prayed. “Come on.” Again, nothing.

It started to snow.

Big, quiet, heavy flakes that smothered the earth. Despair began to settle in, becoming partners with the throbbing pain. He was going to die here. Born and died in the same place. It was kind of funny. Or ironic.

He wondered when his body would be found and by whom. Would it be spring? Or would an animal find him and have him for a last meal? He unwrapped the Jolly Rancher and popped it in his mouth. Grape. He grimaced. It tasted like cough medicine.

Chances were good no one would know what became of him. His therapist had encouraged him to return to Alaska, to make peace with his father, and his past. What a laugh.

His editor might be the one to make some noise but not until his deadline was closer on his next graphic novel. He didn’t have any close friends. For family, his uncle Roland was hiding from the law, and his cousin Lana was back in college. She’d miss him, but she’d get over it soon. The only thing they had in common besides their summer commercial fishing operation was that both their fathers were assholes.

The only people who’d really wonder what became of him would be the IRS. What did that say about his life?

He heard a howl. Then another. And another.


God, he prayed they waited until he was dead to feast on his carcass. He laughed, the sound bitter. He’d been born under the sign of the wolf. Conceived under the Northern Lights and born in a blizzard. His Athabascan mother, before the booze had drowned all the love and warmth from her, had strung him tales about the power of the wolf he was supposed to possess.

Guess that had been a load of shit too.

He heard the wolves grow closer. He knew what they’d do. They’d circle him. Enclose him in a death ring. That is, if they were brave enough to venture onto Earl Harte’s property. But with a warm meal staked out for them like a buffet, they’d come. They’d surround him, enclosing the circle closer and closer. Yellow beady eyes shining with greed and hunger, gleaming, sharp teeth dripping with saliva, until one of them—the alpha male—would lunge for his throat. At least when that happened, he’d die quickly. He wouldn’t feel them tear into his stomach and feast on his organs, shred the meat off his bones. At least, he hoped.

They were closer now. He could hear them breathe.

“Hey, Mr. Harte, nice wheels. Fishing must’ve been good. About time you got…home.” A young, gangly teenage boy, dressed in a fur-rimmed parka and mukluks, skidded to a stop when he saw Aidan. “You’re not Mr. Harte.”

Aidan had never been so glad to see anyone in his life. “I need help. And we better hurry. I hear wolves.”

“Wolves?” The boy scowled in confusion and then smiled. “Those aren’t wolves. They’re my sled dogs.” He ventured closer and saw the trap. “Don’t know much about Mr. Harte, do you?”

“More than I wish I did.” Aidan gestured to the trap. “Help me out here?”

“I can try.” He knelt down in front of Aidan and looked him in the eyes. “You’re stuck pretty good. Must hurt bad.”