Home > Asher (Wolves of Winter's Edge #3)

Asher (Wolves of Winter's Edge #3)
Author: T.S. Joyce

Prologue

Asher was leaking the black fog again.

He stumbled over a tree root in his desperation to get farther away from the house before the darkness took him. His body was vibrating. Inky, dark tendrils spread from his hands, reaching for anything living, and then roiling clouds of black brought the energy back into his body. Every plant the fog touched died. He was killing the forest around him. He sniffed and blinked back tears. Even at seven years old, he knew he wasn’t supposed to be like this. He tossed a look over his shoulder to make sure Gentry and Roman weren’t following him. They would get hurt if they were around him when he was like this. When he was The Taker.

All that followed him was a trail of dead, dry, gray plants. The forest was alive and green except what he’d killed. A bird chirped on a low-hanging branch. It was black with brown eyes. Pretty, shiny feathers, but it was a dumb bird. Not afraid. Didn’t it see The Taker in him? The fog was reaching, stretching, concentrating on the bird.

“Fly away!” Asher yelled, but it was too late. The bird flapped its wings to escape, but Asher already had him. He was already feeding on him. The bird’s head drooped, and it fell off the branch and turned dead and gray just like the plants. At least the bird was bigger and had filled Asher’s hunger. The fog seeped back into his skin and, horrified, Asher picked up the bird’s body. A tear streaked down his cheek. He’d killed it. He’d never hurt an animal before, but he’d killed this creature that hadn’t done anything wrong.

He squatted down and began frantically digging in the dirt. He had to bury it. Bury it before the spirit haunted him like the other ghosts standing around watching him. He had to bury it before Roman and Gentry saw it. Before Dad saw it and realized how bad he was. Before Mom saw it and cried again. She cried every time she saw The Taker in him.

Asher laid the little body into the grave he’d scooped and covered it with rich, black earth as fast as he could. While he was patting it down, from behind him his mom murmured, “It’s okay, Asher.”

He whimpered and spun, riddled with guilt. “I didn’t mean to.”

Mom wrapped him up in a hug, like he wasn’t bad or scary.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he cried. But he clutched onto her shirt because he wanted her to keep hugging him anyway.

“You can’t hurt someone like me,” she whispered.

“Why not?”

Mom knelt in front of him and gripped his shoulders. Her black eyes searched his face, and her black hair whipped around her shoulders. There were tears in her eyes. “Because, Asher, my boy, I’m like you.”

“You are?”

She gave him a small smile and nodded her head. “I’ve figured out a way to make this easier on you.”

“How?”

“I’m going to take your powers into myself, but there will be a downside.”

“What’s a downside?”

“It means we’ll both have to make a sacrifice to make you like the other boys.”

Asher didn’t understand, so he wiped his cheeks with his knuckles and shook his head.

“Asher, I’m going to give you a wolf, like your father has. I have to make you and your brothers stronger to fight what you are. The wolf will give you strength to fight the power you were born with. Does that make sense?”

No. Not at all. He’d seen Dad’s wolf but couldn’t imagine being one. Asher didn’t want to disappoint Mom though, so he shrugged and said, “I guess. Will it hurt you?”

Her smile was so sad. “Not much. It’ll hurt how it has to, but I would do anything for you, my boy. Anything. Do you want to be rid of it?

“Of The Taker?”

“Is that what you call it?”

Asher nodded solemnly. “I hurt things, and then I feel stronger.”

Mom’s face crumpled, and she stared off into the woods for a minute, swallowing over and over. “I’m going to fix The Taker in you, Asher. There’s one last thing, though.”

“What?” he whispered.

“When it’s all done, you and your brothers aren’t going to remember me.” She inhaled sharply like the words hurt badly, and now twin tears streaked down her cheeks.

Asher reached forward and touched one. It absorbed into his finger, and he felt the energy from her sadness. “I hate The Taker, but I don’t want to forget you, Mom. Not ever.”

Mom pulled Asher in close and hugged him tight. And then she stood and held out her hand for him to take. “Come on, my Asher Boy. We have work to do.”

Chapter One

Ashlyn Jenkins narrowed her eyes at the trio of cabins surrounding her. The parking lot was empty except for her own car, and no lights were on in any of the cabins despite the late hour. Snow blew across the concrete in sheets, and outside the warmth of her rental car, the wind howled. Hunter Cove Inn looked like a ghost town.

Her best friend Blaire had lost her damn mind. That was the only thing that explained her going on a vacation Ashlyn had planned, and then never coming home. Oh, she called occasionally and had even sent her a picture of the three men she now lived with. Giants, the lot of them. Albeit sexy giants, but Ashlyn had sat through this horror movie before and could see it plain as day. Her best friend was playing Goldilocks and the Three Murderers.

“Eeny meeny miney mo, catch a serial killer by the toe. If he hollers, stab him a lot,” she muttered, gripping the handle of the pocket knife she’d bought at the general store in town. “Eeny meeny miney mo.” She’d never been a very good poet.

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