Midnight Kisses Page 1

Author: Leia Stone

Series: Shifter Island #1

Genres: Fantasy

Chapter 1

The late summer breeze, unusually hot and dry for Montana, washed over me, bending the tall grass. Mixed with the scent of lavender and lilac, my father's musky scent hit me, followed by the sound of his heavy footfalls. I’d shifted back to human after a run in the woods, and my skin still tingled; my wolf close to the surface.

Smiling, I sat up and turned toward him. "Hello, Father."

The moment I saw his somber expression, my heart tumbled into my stomach. "What's wrong?" Without waiting for an answer, I sprang to my feet and sent out my alpha heir power, trying to sense if anyone in the pack had been mortally injured or killed.

Nothing felt out of the ordinary, so why did he look so … stricken? "Father?"

He plastered on a fake smile, but the expression never touched his eyes. "The alpha king has called for you. It’s time."

My gaze dropped to the stiff white paper in his hand. Embossed lettering danced on the page, moving in golden swirls, and there was no mistaking the logo: a capital A above an island, its snow-capped tip surrounded by rippling waves. We all knew that symbol at the top of the paper, an official declaration from the alpha king. I tried to steady my breathing while my heart made an attempt to escape my chest.


Swallowing the lump at the back of my throat, I blinked, determined not to cry. Tears were not befitting an alpha's daughter. No one wanted a leader whose first instinct was emotion. I needed to be strong for me and my pack.

But before I could stop myself, words tumbled out: "I thought I had another year at home."

"So did I," my father said, his nostrils flaring. His eyes blazed with emotion. Was it fear? Rage? As quickly as I saw it, he reined it in. Of course, a shifter must control their feelings at all times lest they lose themselves to their animal instinct. "But you're of age."

He extended the letter as if he couldn't stand to touch it any longer, and a sob formed in my throat.

These mountains, this blue sky, the trees covering our land … the pain of leaving home tore through me. I was born of this place, connected to the earth here like all of our pack. To go to Alpha Island, to leave my pack … the thought made my stomach churn. I wouldn’t be permitted to see or speak to anyone from home for four years, only letters—and only if I could find someone to bring them here, to the mortal realm where our pack was exiled. Judging by the frequency of visitors, the odds didn’t fall in my favor.

I yanked the paper from his hand, angry with the injustice of the system. "They don't even like our clan. We all know it! I hate that we have to play by their rules.”

My father frowned at my outburst. "It is the way of the alpha, and our pack needs you to lead. Without training your magic, you won’t be ready to take over when I die.”

I grimaced, knowing the other option. Those who refused the summons to Alpha Island were sentenced to death, traitors to their pack and their alpha heir blood. One hundred percent not going to happen.

My father cleared his throat. "The pack will need a strong leader when I'm gone. You must train. Show the other packs we have sufficient power to deserve their respect."

I wanted to protest or pout, but at nineteen winters old, and as the alpha's daughter, I needed to act like I had my crap together.

So I took a deep breath, shoving my emotions away to deal with later, and nodded. "I'll make Crescent Clan proud."

He opened his arms, and it took me an awkward moment before I understood the gesture. My father was not one for unnecessary affection. He taught me to be strong, to never show weakness unless it served a purpose. While I struggled at times with adhering to his strict doctrine, having him fold me into a stiff hug meant this was a big deal for him. As his arms wrapped around me, I felt the lump in my throat grow. Peering up, I looked into his eyes, the same pale blue as mine—the only part of him I'd inherited. Only, my eyes burned with unshed tears while his glittered like crystal, hard and sharp.

"Do you wish you had a son?" I whispered.

He pushed my silver-white hair away from my face, shaking his head. "Never. You’ve been your mother's greatest gift to me."

Before I could blink them away this time, the tears spilled down my cheeks. I thought of the stories my father had told me about the woman who died giving birth to me and gave him a small smile. My father rarely talked about my mother. It must’ve upset him too much. I was the only piece left of her. My father's commanders had urged him to take a breeding companion after her death and try to have a male heir, but he refused. It was just me. Me and Dad.

"Show them what you're made of, Nai." He bopped my chin, and just like that, I was brought back to my sparring lessons as a child. He'd said the same to me before every match.

Reaching up, I traced the white crescent moon, our clan's alpha mark, on his forehead, and my fingers thrummed with energy. His link to our clan’s magic always gave me little zaps when I touched it. His mark was an exact match for the one on my head.

I needed to be strong like he’d raised me, regardless of the rumors about the other packs and the stories of what happened on Alpha Island, regardless of the fact that I wouldn’t see him for four years.

"Hold down the fort while I'm gone," I said, pulling away. "I'll be back before you know it—an alpha heir, ready to serve." I saluted him with a silly grin, hoping to keep things light.

Pursing his lips, he cleared his throat. "Just be safe, Nai. The other heirs won’t like another Crescent Clan wolf on the island."

I waved him off, feigning confidence I didn't feel. "I'll be fine."

But we both knew the island was dangerous as were the trials.

We walked over the packed dirt path toward the main lodge together, and for the first time, my father checked his long stride and paced beside me, indicating we were equals. Members of the pack stopped what they were doing and tipped their heads in respect as we passed. I held my chin high, clutching the paper in my fist while pretending not to be nervous when all I felt was worming trepidation.

We rounded the corner of the log-style lodge that served as the pack's headquarters, and I stumbled when I spotted four Alpha Academy guards wearing matching black shirts with the island symbol embroidered on the left side like some stupid fraternity. They stood beside a shiny black SUV.

I skittered to a stop, staring nearly open-mouthed at their hulking figures. Men didn't grow this big unless they were dominants. All four of them stood well over six feet tall and wore black baseball caps. That was shady … especially if they were covering marks on their foreheads. They might even be from Midnight Pack. The thought sent fiery tendrils of anger through my chest. The ruling pack could bite me, but…

My pace slowed as I compared my fraying cutoffs and tank-top to their swanky threads. I didn’t need to arrive looking like a Montana farm girl even if I was one.

All of the guards stood as still as statues. None of them spoke as my dad and I approached.

"I need to leave now? Like, right this minute?" I mumbled under my breath, hoping I was wrong. My gaze dipped to my pale feet, the skin dusty all the way up to my ankles. Sadly, I wasn’t Cinderella; I wasn't going to a ball, and those beefy dudes were definitely not my Fairy Godmother. An outfit change definitely wouldn’t hurt.

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