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Winter Wolf (A New Dawn Novel Book 1)

By:Rachel M. Raithby

CHAPTER 1

Katalina Winter's favorite night of the week was Sunday.

"Turn up the heat, Dad."

"Sure, Kat." He fumbled for the knob with his hand, never taking his eyes off the road.

Katalina snuggled deeper into her white wool coat. Winters in Michigan  were brutal, but Katalina had always loved this time of year. There was  just something about a crisp November morning: frost and snow covering  every surface, turning the landscape into a glittering wilderness. She  had always thought winters had a peaceful silence to them.

"So how's it feel to be eighteen, darling?" Katalina's mom asked, turning to face her from the front seat.

"I still have no idea what to do when I leave school," she admitted.

It bothered Katalina, no matter how many times she told herself she  still had time. Everyone else knew where they were heading, what job  they wanted, which college to go to, but Katalina still couldn't picture  herself in the future. Couldn't imagine where she'd be, who she'd be.

"Don't fret, Kat. You'll figure it out." Her mom smiled, turning back around.

Her dad met her eyes in the rearview mirror. "It's all downhill from here, Kat, wrinkles and gray hairs!" He laughed.

"Duncan, don't be mean!" They both laughed.

"Ha, ha, guys." Katalina smiled at her silly parents. She knew she was  lucky they'd decided to keep her. They'd found her before her first  birthday, and she'd always wondered whether she'd been left on Mr. and  Mrs. Winter's doorstep as some kind of joke: her eyes, of blue-silver,  looked as if they were carved of ice themselves. Katalina had hair that  was so light blond it was white in the sunlight, and pale skin to match.  She was the embodiment of winter.

She'd been the butt of many jokes, but after a while, she'd come to  embrace her unique looks. She loved her parents fiercely and had no  desire to know her biological parents. As far as Katalina was concerned,  they'd done her a favor, dumping her on her adoptive parents' doorstep.  It had been the dead of winter and she'd been left with only a piece of  paper pinned to her blanket, a single line on it saying, "Her name is  Katalina."

Laughing as her father told more jokes, Katalina looked out the window  at the passing trees; she saw a flash of something between them. Leaning  forward to rub her gloved hand over the glass, she tried to get a  better view.

Wolves?

If only she hadn't said a word, she might have gone on to love every Sunday night for the rest of her life . . .

"Dad . . . there . . . there's a wolf," she muttered, pressing her face closer to the cold glass.

"What?" her mother answered. "Impossible. I don't think we'd get them this close to town."

"Honestly, look-it's following the car."

Her mother sucked in a breath as her father signaled to turn into their drive. "Duncan, look. It is a wolf!"

Katalina glanced at her father as he turned his head to look, and that's  when it happened. When her life changed forever, irrevocably broken . .  .

Wolves, in shades of black to gray, ran out onto the road. There were so  many that all Katalina could see was a wall of fur. They didn't move,  nor did they attempt to get out of the way. They looked at the vehicle,  the glint in their eyes promising death.

"Dad, watch out!" she screamed.

"Shit!" he shouted, slamming his foot on the brake.

The car skidded . . . Her mother screamed . . . Time slowed. As the car  flipped, Katalina's body was weightless; for one glorious second, she  felt nothing, feared nothing, and then time hit fast-forward.

Her body was tossed like a weightless doll, flipped and smashed, while  all around her was noise: smashing glass, groaning metal, terrified  screams.

Then there was silence, an endless eerie silence that signaled things were very wrong.

It might have been a minute, or ten, or maybe just a bare second, but in  that time, Katalina hung from her seat, her head rushing with blood,  her ears ringing, and a constant roll of pain riding through her body.  None of it was as frightening as the thought of breaking the silence.  Because she knew-she knew as soon as she opened her mouth-it would be  over. Her life would never be the same again.

"Mom? Dad?" Her voice was barely a whisper, yet the raspy sound sent a fresh pulse of pain through her head.

"Mom? Dad?" she asked more loudly to the silhouettes hanging from their seats, arms limp and fingers unmoving.

Fumbling for her belt buckle, she unlatched it, falling with a thud onto  the car roof. Her heart pounded louder in her ears. Finding hidden  strength, she was crawling toward her parents when suddenly she heard a  whoosh. The car caught on fire.   





 

Panic seized Katalina. She screamed, scrambling over glass and twisted  metal. Barely registering the cuts to her hands and knees, she unlatched  her father's belt. He slumped down, a dead weight. "Dad! Dad! Please  wake up," she cried, shaking him.

Noises from outside filtered in: the scuff of snow, the low rumble of a growl.

Heat. Heat surrounded her, filled her, and each breath burned. She  stretched up to release her mother. Nearly at the buckle, she screamed  when the window smashed inward. Squeezing her eyes shut, she gasped as  glass cut into her skin.

Pain, sharp and deep, burned through her body. She had only a moment to  register the bite of pain before something pulled her ankle and dragged  her from the car. Her hands flailed, looking for something, anything, to  keep her inside the car, to keep her with her parents.

"Mom! Dad!" she screamed.

Kicking and thrashing, she fought against the unseen attacker. Her foot  connected; she kicked again and again until finally, the grip loosened  on her ankle. She was nearly free; one more kick and she could crawl  away, but she never made the final kick. White-hot pain, instant and all  consuming, overwhelmed her. Metal gouged into her side, tearing flesh,  devouring muscle. Her vision wavered. She almost blacked out as her body  met freezing earth, and then there was nothing but pain.

Blinded by tears, she tried to fight, but her body had grown weak. The  sounds of snarling grew closer, muzzles prodded, and teeth nipped. The  mass of wolves surrounding her blacked out the sky above. Katalina  didn't fight. She didn't scream. She felt strangely detached. This isn't  real. The sound of heating metal, the crackle and hiss of fire, and the  nonexistent cries from her parents couldn't be real; none of it was  real.

She was pulled over the snowbank as the car was engulfed in flames, and  in the light of the fire the wolves surrounded her, all teeth and bites  and snarls. Katalina lay unmoving as they tore her clothes and her skin,  her blood seeping into the snow around her. She screamed, but she  didn't fight. What was the point? Her parents were gone . . . her life,  her home, forever changed.

A distant bark drew her attention. Arne.

Katalina's German shepherd bounded over the snow, barking at the pack of wolves. "No, Arne! Go, they'll kill you!" she gasped.

Katalina suddenly found strength. She kicked, punched, and clawed at the snow, desperate to get away.

Arne attacked just as a wolf went for Katalina's throat. They tumbled  away, the wolf and Arne, snarling and clawing at each other. With the  wolves' attention on Arne, Katalina struggled to climb to her feet, the  bite on her ankle slowing her down. She stumbled away, crying for her  dog, but she knew she had to run.

For a fleeting moment, Katalina thought she might live through this  night. Relief trickled through her but immediately turned to fear as  more wolves appeared in the trees. Dashes of gray and silver, streaks of  white. A strangled cry left her lips as she sank into the snow, icy  terror cutting off the use of her legs. Scrambling backward, her eyes  fixed on the scene before her, she watched as wolves attacked wolves,  light against dark. They were a mass of tumbling fur and snarling teeth.  The burning fire cast a warm glow over the whole scene, making the  fighting appear as though a beautiful dance.

Forgotten, Arne limped over to where Katalina sat frozen in shock. Whining, he licked her face.

"Good boy, good boy," she murmured, sinking her hands into his matted fur.

A gray wolf split off from the group and moved toward her. Arne turned,  growling, protecting Katalina. She tried to run, only to fall back down.  The wolf grew closer, close enough that she could see the intricate  pattern of white fur framing his eyes and fanning up to the tips of his  ears. A scream built in her throat only to be cut off by a strangled  squeak as the wolf turned into a boy.

"Run!" he told her, wrapping his arm around her waist and helping her up.

Too shocked to protest, she leaned against the boy, who was a foot  shorter than she was but seemed ten times stronger as he easily  supported her. He led her through a stand of trees, Arne by her side.  Quiet now, the wolf-boy didn't seem to be a threat.

The cluster of trees led to another street, quiet like hers had been.  The boy glanced behind him, muttered something she couldn't quite hear,  and then said, "Quick, over here. Find somewhere to hide. I'll come back  for you."

He left her leaning against a wall as he ran away, changing into a wolf  as he reached the trees. Katalina watched, frozen and wide-eyed,  wondering whether she'd lost her mind, but the sounds of fighting wolves  growing closer snapped her into action.

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