Following Chance (Shifters of Greymercy Book 1)
I pulled off on the shoulder of the road, the muddy gravel crunching beneath the treads of my snow tires. Rain drizzled from the sky almost lazily, dotting my windshield with droplets and staining my heart with the sadness in the air. April showers bring May flowers—wasn’t that how the saying went?
I glanced down at the bouquet of red roses sitting pretty on the passenger seat, their thorny stems wrapped in bright blue cellophane. Blue was Charlie’s favorite color, and when I walked past that big glass display in the floral department, I couldn’t help but imagine what his reaction would be.
His hazel eyes going wide, showing off the flecks of amber in their glossy depths. The way he’d clap his hands together in front of him like a dorky seal. He’d take the bouquet and bury his face in the flowers, breathing them in. Then he’d laugh, high-pitched and giddy, and throw himself at me. All one hundred and fifty-two pounds of him. He’d wrap both arms around my neck and hold on tight.
Heat pricked the corners of my eyes, unbidden. I sucked in a sharp breath, gritting my teeth as I grabbed the bouquet off the leather seat. I drew the velvet-red roses to my nose and inhaled their sweet scent, then closed my eyes.
I missed him. A year seemed like forever, and yet it wasn’t very long at all. I missed his laugh and his whispered “I love you’s.” I missed his teasing grin, his stupid fucking knock-knock jokes, and I missed the warmth of his body against mine every night. What I would’ve given for one more day. For a chance to say goodbye. How the hell had I made it a year without him?
I gazed out the window to the cemetery down the hill below. The grass was yellowed from five months of an ugly, wet winter that had held no magic, not a single spark. Gravestones of granite and marble cropped up from the earth like jagged teeth, held captive by the thick wrought-iron fencing that surrounded the property, as if the ghosts of fallen loved ones might try and escape this dreary place.
My heart clenched. A tear slid down my cheek, but I rubbed it away with the back of my hand. I gripped the roses to my chest with a crinkle of cellophane, then pushed the door open and began the walk down the gravel drive that led to my destination.
To Charlie’s grave.
The arched gates with their swirling metal bars were locked up tight with a padlock, but it wasn’t hard to jump the fence. My arms fell to my sides, hanging there when my shoulders drooped, and I couldn’t be bothered to straighten them up again. I picked my way across the muddy graveyard, my shoes squelching. Each headstone told a story, at least to the ones who knew it. I blinked away the burn in my eyes, forcing myself to keep going.
I stopped. Tilting my head, I sniffed at the air. It smelled of wet grass and rain showers, but lingering there, right on the very edge, was something familiar. It was a sweet and nutty scent, like candied almonds at Christmastime, and it made my pulse jackhammer in my chest. Deep within me, my wolf reared his mighty head.
I hurried down the path, towards the gnarled weeping willow that we’d buried him beneath, and everything inside of me came to a screeching halt. There, sitting on the old patch of dirt, was a small red fox with a patchy pelt. His ears were folded back, his head held low, as if he was mourning Charlie as well. I edged closer, my lower lip pinched between my teeth.
The fox’s head popped up and the moment our eyes met—eyes far too human to be anything but shifter—the creature froze. Everything about his posture screamed terror. His black paws flexed over the dirt only a moment before he screeched. He bolted into the woods, his white-tipped tail flagging behind him.
Thick gray fur prickled my skin in tufts as my own wolf thrashed inside of me, bound and determined to go after the fox that smelled of his lost love. The bouquet of flowers dropped from my hand at the same time the change tore through me. Magic crackled in my ears like static. I landed on all fours and took chase, my large paws and long strides eating up the distance between us. Mud splattered my undersides, gritty and cold. Thunder rolled in the distance.
Up ahead, the fox veered a sharp left and leapt gracefully over a fallen tree. I lumbered after him, a howl at the tip of my tongue. I vaulted over the mossy log and landed with a thump, huffing low. I could smell it now—the sickly stink of fear dripping off the little fox in waves, and I felt a stab of guilt, but I couldn’t let him go. I needed to know.
The fox’s pace faltered. He tumbled head-over-heels, his sides heaving with each shaken breath he dragged in. When I drew near, he scrambled backwards, his entire body trembling now as breathy whimpers whispered from his parted jaws. My heart thudded almost violently against my breastbone, because when I looked down into the frightened eyes of the fox, it was like seeing my mate all over again.
He collapsed on the ground with a quiver of magic, human once more. He kicked himself away from me, until he was pressed back against a dying oak. “P-Please—I don’t want any trouble. Please. If this is your territory, I’ll leave, j-just let me go. I’ll go…”
His whimpered plea pierced through me like a bullet, exploding outwards with an otherworldly ache. His face was too pale, his cheeks sunken in with dark bags beneath both eyes—eyes that were identical to Charlie’s. His rusty mop of hair was greasy and littered with pine needles, but there was no mistaking who this Omega was.
This was Chance Rossi—the twin brother I’d heard stories of but never met. The twin brother that Charlie spoke so fondly of. The same man that he’d begged me to save, only weeks before his murder, and right now, Chance reeked of pain and sorrow.
What the hell had this poor man been through? He acted like I would shred him limb from limb; he looked at me with teardrop eyes filled with defeat and remorse. A sudden anger boiled through me, my wolf snarling his distaste, but I tamped it down. He needed reassurance, not my temper. I dropped my head, my ears folding back before I wagged my tail and bumped my nose against his knee.
“Please.” His gaze met mine, pleading, right before a sob erupted from his chest.