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  • Writer's pictureAyla Volk

New Release: The Stolen Heart: A Journey of Love & Danger

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

A new title from author Ayla Volk, The Stolen Heart takes us to a world unlike any we have seen before. Set on the island of Drofiqar, a primal land filled with shifters, we follow the story of Alika.

After witnessing her entire family and birth pack being slaughtered in front of her eyes as a young child, Alika was stolen into a life of servitude, being forced to care for the notorious Deadbite Pack until they planned to mate her to one of their sons once she gained her wolf. Knowing that there was no way she could survive being stuck with them forever, she chose to escape, fleeing across the the island of Drofiqar, one of the isles of wolf shifters. Will she be able to survive? Will she find a home and place where she can feel safe, and perhaps...find love?


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Sample the first few chapters:


Chapter One

Alika


I woke up suddenly grasping my chest from the dream of the worst moments of my life once again. The same nightmare haunted my sleep most nights. It was of the last memories of my family. I had been woken in the middle of the night by a loud thud as a hollowed out gourd, filled with some type of flammable liquid with a cord lit aflame was tossed into our stone hut. Flames quickly spread igniting the furs we had across the floors for warmth and moving up to our thatch roof.

My mother grabbed my hand and dragged me out through the door. “Run!” She screamed, “We have to run, Alika.”

Just as we freed ourselves from the stone enclosure, a large filthy hand grasped across my mouth muffling my screams and lifted my feet off of the ground. I felt my mother’s hand pull out of mine and I quickly looked over to her in a panic to see her being pulled the other way. With a swift hit across the back of her head, she fell hard to the ground. Her eyes stayed open but they had lost the light that once filled them.

Close by I watched as my father and uncle fought against our ruthless invaders. Both had shifted into their wolf forms. My father’s greying brown coat with a touch of white on his left ear made him easy to spot. My uncle was nearly identical, except two of his feet were white rather than his ear. They growled and tore away at the invading wolves, both of whom were dirty grey and black. I was not familiar with the other packs and my parents never let me go when they traded with our neighbors. If I had, maybe I would know which pack decided to attack us.

A yelp caught my attention behind me, but I couldn’t turn my head to see who it was. I bit the hand that laid over my mouth tasting the dirt and grime that coated it. The man behind me yelled and released his hold on me. As soon as I felt the ground I took off running. I saw my younger brother, Jeenku, scrapping with an adolescent wolf. Jeenku was only nine years old, two years younger than I, and was struggling to compete with the shifted creature in front of him. He could not shifted yet since we did not gain our wolves until we turned eighteen.

I headed in his direction to help but was jerked back viciously by my hair. I screamed and gripped my scalp feeling the burning pain. Jeenku was distracted by my scream and looked away from his opponent giving the wolf the perfect opportunity to claw at his chest.

“No!” I screamed as I watched him fight for each breath before there were no more.

I let a sob go as I grieved for my younger brother. If I had not screamed, maybe he would have had a chance, a thought that would fuel my own self doubt in the future. My eyes scanned our surroundings and realized that my entire family laid dead around me. My mother still by the door, my father and uncle’s wolves crumpled and bloody across our little clearing, my younger brother was directly in front of me, and back by my uncle’s house were my two older brothers along with my cousins. It looked like they had tried to stop whoever these people were from gaining entry into their house. The only person missing was my aunt.

The wolves that had fought my family shifted back into their man forms. They stood proudly with their jet black hair and dark devilish eyes. They laughed and patted each other on one another’s backs.

“Well done, son.” A large older man said as he congratulated a man who looked like a younger version of himself.

“What do you want to do with this one, father?” The man holding my hair asked.

The older man approached me and grabbed ahold of my chin tightly lifting it to him. He moved my face side to side as he inspected me.

“Hmm, she’s a good looking little thing. She would make a good mate for one of you in a few years. We will take her back with us.”

“What are you going to do with her until then?” A new man asked as he walked out of my aunt and uncle’s hut. My aunt’s unconscious body was draped over his shoulder.

“I’m sure Senika will find a use for her. She is always complaining about her work load. Maybe she will finally shut up about it.” He laughed as he pushed my face away from him.

My body went rigid. Mates were one of the most sought after commodities of our people. Packs stuck to family groups, so they often had to trade for mates to continue their bloodlines. My parents prepared me for the inevitable, but my father always promised me he would find a kind, suitable mate for me. The people in front of me were the farthest from who I had always pictured myself with.

“What are you doing with that one?” He asked referring to my aunt.

“I thought we could trade her for a new knife…maybe some rope too. You never know, some omega would be happy to get a hold of her.”

“Good thinking.” The man nodded. “Boys, grab anything useful and lets get out of here.” He shouted into what remained of our hut. I heard a series of crashes before two more men came out with their arms full of the unscathed furs wrapped around what I assumed was the rest of our possessions.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally left the only home I had ever known. We would travel for days, stopping at several other packs along the way to trade. My aunt was traded off to a lone wolf only two days after the attack. We fought to hold onto each other but I was struck unconscious by one of the Alpha’s sons.


* * *


With slow breaths I was finally able to calm myself down. I hated reliving the memories of my family’s deaths. It always left a sense of panic and unease in my heart for the rest of the day. I leaned my head up against the cold stone wall and listened to the sounds of birds chirping from outside. I would need to get up soon to get the fire and breakfast going. Senika liked to have everything ready for them when they woke.

I stretched my arms out over my head and rolled my head around trying to loosen my stiff muscles. I slept directly on the dirt floor with nothing more than an old blanket full of holes to keep me warm. I slipped on my shoes and moved out of the door. I looked around the settlement taking in the serenity before the others would wake and begin their tyranny over me.

I stared off into the forest thinking that maybe today was the day I would try and run again. For the first few years, I ran every chance I got. Not having a wolf made it impossible for me to outrun them. They started chaining me up to save themselves the hassle of dragging me back over and over again. Eventually, they allowed me to make water runs as long as either Gunki or Slunik, the Alpha’s two sons, were with me. I tried to run several more times after that but realized that their wolves would always have the advantage. I knew I would need to wait to be able to shift before I could escape. I started plotting out the terrain every time I was allowed out to strategize my plan. In addition to the planning, I decided that I needed to give them a false sense of security and no longer fight them. I needed to make them think that they had finally broke me. It had been four months of being painfully obedient to them, something that ate away at my soul but I knew it was a necessity.

I sighed before kneeling down and piling up the small wooden logs into the fire pit. I slid some tinder underneath and struck the rocks together allowing sparks to flit across the dry kindling I had wadded up in front of me. After several attempts, smoke began rising and I blew long directed breaths into the bundle. It burst into flames and I added it to my stack. After more breaths, the fire danced in celebration of its new life.

I pulled over the stone bowl and poured water from a container close by. I added in a few herbs and allowed it to bring itself to a boil over the fire. I gathered several fruits and eggs from the baskets in the food cellar and went to work preparing everyones breakfast. The smell of quail eggs and juju berry wafted through the air. My stomach growled as it craved sustenance.

“About time.” Senika’s high pitched voice barked at me as she emerged from her hut.

I rolled my eyes as I plated her some food. I was glad my back was to her so she wouldn’t see it. She had a nasty back hand and was quick to punish me. She was not happy when the Alpha brought me home. The only thing she liked about me was that she had someone to use as her personal punching bag. At least the others had a reason, as they called it, to hit me, she just enjoyed it.

I served the others as they woke. Gunki and his mate were the last to come out. I was worried at first that they would mate me with him when I came of age. He was twenty-nine now, eleven years older than me. He wasn’t a bad looking man, but he had an inherent evil in his heart that scared me. He enjoyed killing, whether that be another pack or a small animal he found scurrying around. Beside that, he was the man that helped kill my father and uncle. I could not even imagine being mated to any of these people, but most of all to one personally responsible for my father’s death. That fear was short lived as they traded my families land for his mate, Yunisi. She was nice enough but very timid. She would never do anything to cross him. That meant that if he was upset with me over something, she would ignore my existence.

Over the last seven years, they raided two other packs. They brought Tupi back from the most recent one. She is four years older than me and they mated her to Slunik, the Alpha’s second eldest son. I cried listening to her scream the first night she was here as he forced her to mate with him. She has since settled into the pack taking her place among the woman of the Deadbite pack.

This pack ran differently from my family’s. There, women were considered equals bringing their own sets of skills. They had a say in all of the pack decisions, though the ultimate decision was decided by my father, the Alpha. My mother was very opinionated and my father respected her voice. He knew that she saw things in a different light than he did himself.

The women here were treated more like possessions. They were to be seen and not heard. The only woman that had some authority was Senika as she was the Alpha female. She was responsible for keeping the women in order. She loved controlling the rest of us. Since I had not been mated into the pack, she looked at me as if I was lower than the dirt on her shoes. She saved the worst of the deeds for me. I was always first to rise and last to go to sleep. Cooking and cleaning were my main two responsibilities while the others prepared the hides, made pottery, watched the children, gardened, foraged and made crafts.

The men on the other hand had similar roles, as I suspect most packs share. They were the protectors, hunters and fisherman. They practiced their fighting and weapon skills daily and would go either hunting or fishing for our meats. They would also collect the firewood since they were able to carry the weight much farther.

By the end of the night, I was exhausted. I cleaned up around the fire and waited until Alpha told me I could go to bed. I sat back against the hard, rough wall of the Alpha’s hut, one of the five homes built in their village. Besides that, there were two smaller buildings, one being the kitchen and the other being the bath house, and a larger gathering house. They really only used it for eating and when it was raining. It contained a fireplace, and several rough tables with stools.

All of the buildings were made of rough stone caked together with mud. The roofs were made of grass and leaves and the floors were simply packed dirt. The little furniture they had had been roughly carved out of trees. Fireplaces and fire pits were the only sources of light at night. At my family’s pack, we made candles using the fat from the animals we killed. There was something about having a well lit home that brought a sense of warmth and welcoming, something the Deadbite pack lacked completely.

“Get inside.” Alpha grunted at me as he finally stood from his seat beside the fire. I stood quickly, dusting my ragged dress off before crouching and entering the door nearby. A slight snore echoed from the pile of furs in the corner. Senika was fast asleep. I went to my spot on the far wall and curled up using my arm as a pillow. I pulled my thin, hole filled blanket over my shoulder and quickly fell asleep.

The same agonizing routine made my days bleed together. I had lost count years ago of what the date was. I could only tell approximately how long I had been here, which worried me greatly. I knew that soon enough, I would finally shift. Once that happened, I would be capable of mating and I knew that they would waste no time pawning me off. I needed to be ready to leave as soon as possible. I could not give them the opportunity to claim me, making it so I could never leave.


Chapter Two

Alika


I was cleaning the inside of Denil’s and Wimi’s hut. They had four son’s between the ages of twenty-seven and sixteen. The oldest was the only mated one and had his own hut. It was standard in most packs that mated pairs received their own huts for their families. Their younger three sons still lived with their parents.

Once Greil had been mated to Tupi, I always assumed that they would mate me to Denil’s second eldest son, Brek. He was next in line in the pack’ hierarchy. Out of all of them, he terrified me the most. I always caught him watching me from afar with a hunger in his eyes. It was as if he was waiting to finally take me for himself. Even the thought sent a shiver down my spine.

I heard hushed voices coming from behind the hut. I moved closer to the wall so that I could try and make out what they were saying.

“Brek, you have to be patient. She will shift soon and then you can have your way with her.” A deep voice spoke.

I immediately knew they were talking about me. I stopped what I was doing and focused my hearing.

“I can have a little fun with her now. She is going to be mine anyway.” Brek argued.

“We may not have many standards in this pack, but I will not allow anyone to mate with a pup.” It was definitely the Alpha talking to him.

“Have you seen her! She is no pup.” Brek said angrily.

“Watch your tone, or do I need to remind you of your place. You are nothing more than an omega. If you continue disrespecting me, I’ll let one of your brothers claim her instead.”

“Fine.”Brek said through gritted teeth.

“Try again.” Alpha said threateningly.

“Yes Alpha.”

I heard a set of footsteps walk away. I pushed myself against the wall trying to control my breathing. I couldn’t stay there much longer. Knowing Brek, he would push the Alpha’s boundaries. Who knows what he was willing to do.

A second set of footsteps thudded around the hut. I could see Brek through the window approaching the door. I quickly went to work cleaning the table in the center of the room. I wanted to be sure my back was not to him when he came in. The door pushed open and Brek filled the doorway. He stood there watching me without saying a word or moving further in. I froze and locked eyes with him, waiting for him to make a move. I realized that if he advanced, there was nothing I could do. I was trapped. My best bet would be to make enough noise to draw attention from the others. It felt like an eternity of us staring at one another, waiting for the other to make a move. My heart thundered in my chest and sweat was beginning to bead on my forehead. I let a long slow breath out and pushed myself to finally move.

“A-all done in here.” I stuttered out as I made my way towards the door, hoping he would move out of the way. His eyes never left me.

When I approached him, he stepped towards me until his tall frame towered over me. I could hear the air suck in his nostrils as he smelled my hair. I drew a quick breath in as fear wreaked havoc inside of me. With the doorway now open I quickly, stepped to the side and moved towards it but was stopped by a hard grip on my arm. My sight locked onto his hand gripping my bicep. The skin around his calloused, dirty hand screamed in pain. I looked up at him fearfully, waiting for him to attack. He let out a low growl.

“I’m counting the days until I can ravage that little body of yours.” He said in an almost demonic voice before finally releasing me.

I wasted no time and ran away from him. I quickly found my way to the kitchen, my one place where the others typically left me alone. I rushed down into the food cellar and with my back against the dirt wall, slid down, pulling my knees to my chest. I buried my face into my legs and allowed myself to feel everything that I held in. It was considered weak to cry, but I was so scared of what was to become of me if he ever got his way, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Once my body had released all that it could I leaned my head back against the wall and took a deep breath in.

“Alika! Where the hell are you?” Senika screeched.

I quickly wiped away my tears with the back of my hand and stood up. “I’m down here.” I croaked out.

“What are you doing down here?” She asked as she stood at the entry to the cellar.

“I was checking our supplies.”

She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “Hurry up with that. You need to get the hunting gear ready.”

“Okay, I will do it now.” I said heading in her direction. As I passed her I felt a sting as she slapped the back of my head. She laughed and walked off.

I really hated that woman. Her desperation for control made her a nasty person. She felt that degrading others was how you maintained control. My father had been a great Alpha who had the respect of his entire pack and was on good terms with our neighbors, never raising a hand to any of us. From what I can tell, the Deadbite pack were enemies with everyone, including people within their own pack. There was no harmony, just power struggles.

I finished prepping the hunting materials for the men. They were neatly stacked separated by whom it belonged to in the gathering hall. I was heading back out to finish some of my other chores when Senika blocked the doorway once again. I paused in my tracks and waited for whatever she planned on throwing at me. She slowly stalked through the room inspecting the gear. She stopped near the Alpha’s pile and pushed the whole stack to the ground.

“Oh, dear. You better clean that up. You know how Chuli feels about his stuff.” She turned heel and strolled out of the room with a giggle. She was infuriating.

“By the way,” she said as she poked her head back in, “pack enough rations for a week.”

I was surprised… usually they would only be gone for the day when they were hunting. Realization set in, they were planning on another raid. It seemed too soon since their last one. If they did it too often, the other packs would begin counter attacking. From my time here, they averaged once a year. It had only been six or seven months since their last one.

Sometimes they raided in the middle of the night with the intention of killing off the pack for land or women. Other times they raided and pillaged the other packs for supplies. I was conflicted in which I would prefer. If they came home with a new mate, she would go to Brek, but I could not wish that on anyone. Besides, just earlier today I heard Alpha tell him that I would be his, so this must be for supplies. I had noticed that we were low on many materials. The others often slacked on their duties putting us in a bind. If they had to raid to restock, Alpha would be in a bad mood and I would need to avoid him as best as I could.

The rest of the evening I hid away in either the kitchen or back by the huts. I overheard their plans to attack the Moonis Pack. They were on the west coast of Drofiqar, where the Deadbite pack claimed the southern peninsula. There once was two or three packs on the peninsula, but the Deadbite pack had wiped them out, trading off the women and murdering the men.

They fought dirty. They would scope out the village and wait until the inhabitants were fast asleep before sneaking in and take out the Alpha and other men before grabbing the women. Sometimes they would use the women and children against them, threatening to kill them if they did not surrender, though it was all a lie. They showed no mercy and would kill them anyway. I drifted off to sleep late at night as my mind had been lost in the whirlwind of what the next week held for me.


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