1 | A Long Way From Home

A deep intense pain vibrated through Natalie's temples, forcing her to wake up from her deep slumber and regain consciousness. Instinctively, she lifted a hand to inspect the source of the pain, her fingers searching through her scalp to feel for a bruise, wound, or swelling. When she found none, Natalie frowned, trying to understand why her head was hurting like she was having the world's biggest hangover.

Natalie was still pondering on this when an unfamiliar smell slammed through her senses.

No, this was no smell - it was a scent. The most delicious scent she had ever perceived.

Unable to resist, Natalie tried taking in a deep breath to further investigate the scent but the moment she dragged in air through her nostrils, a loud involuntary gasp tore through her lips as fresh pain sliced through her skull.

Shit! Natalie cursed inwardly as she slowly turned to the side, rubbing her bruised skull against the soft sheets beneath her.

Now knowing that she had to take extra care, Natalie decided to crunch her nose, which enabled her to inhale small bits of air while she continued to ponder on the scent that was currently assaulting her senses. She tried to discern it, but she was a hundred and one percent sure that she had never perceived a smell like that before. A smell so enticing, it caused her womb to clench.

It was obvious that this scent wasn't familiar to her but her eyelids were still too heavy to lift and it frustrated her that she couldn't instantly figure out whose scent it was. It sure didn't belong in her bed though. Her pained-fogged brain was able to tell her three things. One, the scent was a person's scent – a most delicious scent; fresh spring, cinnamon, and cedar wood. Two, the alluring scent belonged to a male. And three, that male was a werewolf, just like her.

If Natalie West knew anything at all, it was the fact that she does not smuggle strange guys into her father's pack house, even if they did smell delicious.  After what felt like hours - which was probably just minutes - Natalie felt good enough to peel a limp eye open. She knew she only had to wait for the pain out before her wolf took care of it. Raven never failed to fix her up when she was injured or in pain, and this time was no different. Whatever caused her pain would be dealt with later. Knowing who owned the scent currently assaulting her was a more urgent task to her. And for the first time in a long while, Raven agreed with her.

Natalie peeped at the space beside her which confirmed her suspicion; the mystery man was long gone. Rolling her head – which felt unnaturally heavy even after the pain was gone – Natalie peered at her alarm clock. Or, at least, where the clock would have been if it hadn't done a disappearing act. Along with her wardrobe, favorite couch, and running machine. She didn't need to look at the silky sheets beneath her to know that they were not her sheet. The pain might have distracted her earlier but now that the sheets were between her fits, she knew without a doubt that the melted cotton sheets weren't hers. Her father wasn't that generous.

Natalie sat up with a start, a high curse right at the tip of her tongue as her body stretched with agony. Nope, she wasn't going to curse even though she desperately wanted to.

Natalie scanned her surroundings warily, her eyes widening in response to not only the luxury around her but also the realization that she was inside what looked to be a very large stone. Or mountain if she was being honest. What she couldn't understand was how possible it was to be inside what looked like a deeply escalated and organized rock.

Natalie studied her surroundings more cautiously. The light bisque pebbled walls were all perfectly smooth apart from the alcoves that were being used as mini shelves. The floors were covered with a fluffy cream carpet that looked invitingly soft. There was a very masculine-style tripartite wardrobe and a large set of drawers; both were of dark oak that matched the headboard of the platform bed. The bed itself was under a smooth arc that had been etched into the stone, making it cozy even though the bed was huge.

Although Raven, Natalie's wolf, was on the alert, she wasn't nervous or anxious. She didn't even have the sense to worry that she was in a strange place – an excavated mountain no less – that she had no memory of arriving in. If not for the fact that she was Kage, Natalie would have forced Raven out by now to face this situation instead of her. It was probably a good thing that she was Kage right now if not...

"If not, nothing!" Raven growled inside Natalie's head and Natalie couldn't help but smile. Of course, Raven would defend herself to the death, even though she was wrong. Choosing to ignore her, Natalie focused on the situation at hand. So… had she gone out with Shirley and somehow ended up going home with a guy? No, that didn't ring right. For one thing, she couldn't recall arranging a night out, let alone venturing out. Moreover, her position as her father's pack fixer meant she was constantly being called upon to fix wounds and broken minds so getting ridiculously drunk was something she tried her best to avoid. Also, she was fully clothed – casual clothing that she would never wear on a night out – and there was no smell of sex on her or the bed. 

What was the last thing she remembered doing? Despite the fogginess in her brain she could recall heading to the café at sunrise to get some well-deserved coffee. She sure didn't remember getting there, and she was someone who always remembered every single detail. After a cup of coffee that is.

Shaking her head, Natalie heaved the air around her into her system, glad that she could finally do it now that Raven had taken away the pain. She filtered through the various scents around and discovered the scent of two individuals - besides herself and the yummy-smelling wolf that is. A female and a male, both of whom were also unfamiliar werewolves. At least she could be sure that she wasn't in the grasp of that dick, Mark, who didn't give a crap that she didn't want to be claimed by him and would go as far as kidnapping her judging from the earlier pain on her scalp. To make matters worse, her father didn't give a crap either; he was too busy trying to build an alliance with the other pack and if that meant using his Kage daughter to get it, of course, why not?

Sometimes, Natalie wished she could say that it was just because he was so desperate for an alliance. But no, her dad already had plenty of alliances with other packs. His real reason was simple. Get rid of the Kage who turned out to be his only daughter and save his ego from all the shame and embarrassment of fathering such a being. She was a blow to his pride, an aberration in his bloodline, and he hated her because, as he had seen to her conception, she was his weakness. She put his 'greatness' into question for the rest of the pack. Or so he thought. He certainly wouldn't bother putting her photo on a cookie pack if she never got home from wherever the hell she was.


Natalie spotted a set of cream curtains and flicked the bedcover aside, and after a moment, rose from the bed. Dizziness momentarily rushed over her and she swayed. Jesus, what was with her? Staggering to the curtains with sluggish, ungraceful movements, she parted them to reveal a bay window – a window that was unfortunately locked.

Natalie frowned when she discovered that rather than morning, it was more like late evening. Did that mean she hadn't spent the night here and had only been here a few hours? Or did it mean she had just had one hell of a sleep?  Her eyebrows almost hit her hairline as she took in the view before her. Most packs had a massive luxury lodge surrounded by several cabins. Some even had lodges situated on cliffs. But this place wasn't on a cliff, it was at the top of the world. She was right! This was a mountain. With the arched, lighted balconies and the smooth stairways leading to different levels, it was like staring at the world from the top of mouth Everest. And it felt like it too, because she was basically on eye level with the clouds. If the windows were open, she would be able to stretch out her hands to touch them.

Below, she could see a well-manicured lawn that spanned into the huge forest beyond. It was beautiful with well-cut shapes and flowers and it looked as if they were in the middle of the Savannah with the forest trees protecting the mountain from view.

Something told her she was still in Crossia somewhere, but she had a feeling the cab ride home was going to be expensive. Good thing her kidnapper was prosperous. Especially since there didn't seem to be any sign of her purse anywhere. If this was all a joke she so didn't get it.  And if this joke was something Shirley plotted in other to trick her, then Shirley sure hoped Natalie didn't catch her. Because if she did, she was going to make sure her good old friend pay dearly for this.

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