On all fours, I crawled through the brush toward my target. I was in an open field, and I wanted to stay hidden. Fortunately, the tall grass easily hid my small, crouched figure.
For five hours, I had been trailing my target through the forest. Around the two hour mark, I noticed he was wandering around without purpose, and his random movements began to irritate me. After four hours of this aimlessness, he had stopped at the edge of the tree line that circled the field that we were now in. He seemed to carefully note his surroundings, and then proceeded to walk to the middle of the field. He had been idling there for (over) another hour.
He stood erect, unhidden, and calm. He almost seemed to be waiting for something, for what I had no clue. Sitting in a nearby tree, hidden within the shade, and observing him for that hour, I grew impatient. My earlier tracking had worn me out, and I wanted this to be over.
So there I was, inching my way on the ground, too afraid to lift my head to check where I was heading. I silently prayed that I kept my path straight, carrying myself to where I had thought he was. I crept guardedly through the undergrowth, waiting minutes in between steps, carefully plotting my next move, watching for stray branches and dried leaves, and attempting to leave the natural movement of the grass in the wind undisturbed.
After covertly writhing around for thirty minutes, I knew that I had to be close to the center where my target stood. I closed my eyes and sniffed, trying to catch his scent. A branch snapped from behind me. My eyes flew open, but before I had the chance to process what was happening, I had been forcefully turned around. I opened my eyes to see standing above my prone figure was my target, two halves of a broken stick in hand and pointed at my throat. The threat was clear. The snap I heard must've been that stick. Our eyes met. His gaze dared me to move.
I returned the glare, which broke is façade. He broke into a gigantic smile, and I shivered unconsciously in response. How did he see me? With an impatient sigh, I shoved the sticks out of my face and tried to rise from my vulnerable position.
Before I could register his movement, he bonked me on the head with the half-stick in his left hand and laughed heartily. "Way too slow," he teased. A thoughtful expression phased his smile into a frown. "What were you thinking anyway? You could've been hurt."
"Fuck you, Washer," I spat, plopping my head onto the ground in defeat. After being, or rather attempting to be, stealthy for so long, my body was practically begged for a break. Every part of me ached, and I complained about it to Washer.
He laughed again, earning another glare from me. "That's because you're not ready yet," he provided. "You haven't even started real training."
I took a moment to study him as he stood above me. His red hair gently blew in the wind, his healthily tanned skin still showed a smattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks, and the smile on his face was genuine, the skin around his ruddy brown eyes crinkling with the force of it. These days every time we were together I couldn't help but notice how the recent change had altered his physique. He had gained a few inches, towering down at me from a little over six foot four. His newly formed muscles strained against his tight black shirt. I had always been jealous of his appearance and the change had only made it worse.
Regardless, his looks did nothing to calm me from his insult. Training? Just because I haven't changed doesn't mean I haven't trained, I thought, meanly. But, not wanting to fight, I stayed silent. We stared at each other for a few more moments before I began to grow frustrated again. With a growl, I sat up and yanked a part of the stick from his hand, and returned his earlier favor with a bop to his left leg. Unfortunately, my halfhearted blow did no damage whatsoever through his thick blue jeans. I laid back down with a sigh.
"Vivie," he whined. "Stop being mad at me please." I simply huffed and stretched out. My shirt rode up slightly with the movement, exposing my belly button to the delightful warmth of the sun. I sighed, this time in contentment, as I felt comfortable for the first time today. "Vivie," Washer said again, this time a strange lilt in his voice.
I opened my eyes, looking up at him. His brown eyes had intensified to almost black. His gaze bore down on my showing midriff. He inhaled deeply and focused his eyes on mine, burning holes through me. I shivered as he bent down and set his hand gently on my stomach. His hand began to carefully move it up, taking my shirt with it. I snarled at him and grabbed his hand, squeezing out my warning. Hopefully his current state hadn't completely taken over him yet. It takes months after the change for your hormones to level out. He was a walking, talking stick of testosterone. Washer jerked away and whimpered, out of embarrassment rather than pain or submission. He coughed out a rough word of apology, guiltily avoiding my gaze. I sighed again and pulled my shirt down. Males, I inwardly groaned.
Rolling my eyes, I rose and offered him my hand, to show I understood. He took it eagerly and we both began the walk back home. I knew that he was having a difficult time controlling his impulses. This was just one of those instances, I told myself.
I absently wondered if I would be the same way. Washer was only two weeks older than me. After his change, the pack had celebrated for two days straight. Changes were always an occasion for packs to party, and the excitement was almost tangible in the air during the week of the twenty-first birthday of those changing. Washer's had been no exception. Mine was.
It had already been a week since Washer's change ceremony, and therefore it meant there was a week until mine. For some reason, however, no one, not even Washer himself, had even mentioned my anticipated change. The mark of adulthood always gave our pack the jitters of excitement. Mine, in contrast, seemed like a taboo subject, and the pack's jitters were of anxiety. The reasoning for that, whatever it was, remained secret, at least to me.
If I had to bet, it would be because I was the only born werewolf girl in our pack in a few decades. Girls were rare, not that rare, but nonetheless rare. Most pack mates were human women, some of those women even being changed and then mated. Girls weren't necessarily special. We didn't have a higher chance of rare abilities upon changing, and our mating bonds weren't stronger or anything crazy. We were just rare occurrences.
Ever since I had been born, my older pack brothers guarded me very, very carefully, moreso than any of the other women. I was treated as fragile, in body and in mind, although I had been perfectly healthy all my life. I was touched by how loved I was by my pack, but along the same vein, I was also aggravated. It was always under the excuse of protecting the alpha's daughter (read: me), but I never truly bought it.
I just wanted to be treated normally, to blend in with my friends. That's why Washer and our other friends who hadn't gone through the change yet were so important to me. We rough-housed together, raised hell and all the like. I was one of them. To our elders, I felt like a glass prize, rather than a daughter, sister, cousin. I couldn't wait to make it through my change, and feel like a true part of the pack. I had been dreaming of the change for years.
After Washer's change, not only his body, but the way he treated me had changed. Obviously, the werewolf transition made you stronger and more shifter-like, but he too began to treat me like I was constantly in danger in the most mundane situations. It hurt more than anything. That's why I had been tracking him earlier. I wanted to prove to him that I was still Evelyn and he was still Washer. We were still best friends. Our older friends, who went through the change, began treating me the same way. Washer and I had even complained about it together. But Washer promised me he would be different. He wasn't. But I didn't tell him that. I decided to just wait. After I changed, things would be different. This would be over soon.
Washer interrupted my thoughts. "Listen, I was out there waiting for an envoy from the AC," that is, the Alpha Council, "I played around with you for a few hours, but now I have to go back to pack business. I'll walk you home first, but I really need to get back fast."
I huffed and jerked my hand out of his. He literally ruins everything. "I can take myself." I walked off, knowing the forest like the back of my hand. He followed behind me regardless.
Thirty minutes later, I was relaxing on my bed, bitter about my earlier defeat. Washer had walked me all the way to my room. I had stopped at the door, turning to glare at him. He commanded that under no circumstances was I to leave my room and then he left, I presumed to go back to the field.
Earlier, I had wanted to prove to Washer that I was strong even without an adult connection to my wolf. When we were younger, we had hunted each other all the time like that. It had been one of the millions of games we played in the forest together. In the past, we had been evenly matched, too. Today felt different though. More serious. I had something riding on my victory. I wanted normalcy. I wanted to prove that we were still equals, but today, that equal footing vanished. Or rather, it had vanished when he changed, but my tracking him today was me in denial. It had been my last chance for proof that I wasn't useless and that my relationship with Walker could be the same. Before his change and all throughout our childhood, it was Walker and I versus the adults. Us versus Them. Walker had officially moved to the dark side. (Duh duh duh duhduhduh duhduhduh. That's the Imperial March by the way.) Now, it was Evelyn vs Them. To be honest, I wasn't sure that I wanted things to go back to how they were anymore. I felt like Washer's true personality had now been revealed. I couldn't see him in the same light. Again, I know, it's a bit melodramatic, but a friend doesn't lock his friend in her room. A friend doesn't baby his friend. A friend doesn't keep secrets from his friend. The Alpha Council coming here? I didn't even know. I would have never interrupted him on pack business, but he hadn't let me know that the governing body of the werewolf packs in our region was paying a visit in the first place.
I sighed and turned over onto my stomach, smashing my face into my pillow. Speaking of the AC, I had never met someone from another pack before. The Alpha Council coming here made me nervous, and Washer knew how I felt about things like that. Washer and I told each other everything. And he knew that I would be nervous around strangers. So why didn't he tell me? I stood up and paced, worrying my lip. The Alpha Council was kind of a big deal. If I had to wager, I would bet that all of the men knew about this visit. And that just pissed me off even further.
Our pack, the Claines Pack, is very traditional. We follow the ancient rites passed on by the first generations of our pack to the letter. From what I heard, my father, the Alpha, was strict in comparison to most Alphas within the AC. My dad dealt with any sign of insubordination immediately and fiercely. For the most part, there was very little insubordination in the first place, probably due to the tight grip my father held on the pack. Unfortunately for me, that also meant he was overprotective of his daughter, (which was one of the reasons why I had never met other packs). Washer had been the only person I had ever felt comfortable being my-tomboyish-self around.
I huffed audibly, my deep thoughts starting to form a headache. To calm myself down, I headed to the bathroom to splash some water on my face to calm myself down. As I approached the mirror, I took a deep breath. A weird conglomeration of scents, mixed somewhere between oranges and clean linen with an undertone of fresh cookies, flooded my senses. Someone must be cooking something, I thought, as my stomach began to rumble. I shook my head and looked into the mirror, meeting my own gaze in the reflection. I sighed as I fingered my natural blonde roots, which in sat in contrast to my dyed brown hair. Since I was a kid, my mother had dyed it diligently, hiding away the pale color. Her excuse being that blonde had never suited me. When I was thirteen, we fought about it frequently. For some reason, dyeing my hair had always caused me pain. The more my blonde roots came in, the more my constant headache began to rescind. Generally, my mother barely let them become visible. It was the only time we regularly spent together. She told me that when she was no longer Luna or if I ever left our pack, then I could stop dyeing it. She also didn't like my dark blue eye color. She fixed that with green contacts. It wasn't just my looks that bothered her. It felt like she just didn't like me in general. I tried not to think about it often.
A massive crash coming from downstairs broke me out of my brooding. My body went on immediately alert, and I subconsciously noted that the strange, but frighteningly alluring scent had become stronger. For some reason, I knew that I had to go downstairs. I became unnaturally angry and started to panic, running to my bedroom door. I tried to open it, but it was locked. "WHO?" I shrieked, almost beyond coherency. Washer had ordered me not to leave, but he never physically locked me up.
"Evelyn, you need to stay in your room," Greg, the pack's First Class Enforcer, commanded through the door.
"Excuse me?" I said it like a threat.
"Don't talk back to-" Before Greg could finish, I had taken a few steps back and ran at the door, successfully kicking it down. As the dust cleared, I noticed Greg crouched down, appearing to have dodged the door I sent off the hinges.
Seeing his defensive stance, my adrenaline spiked even further. I flashed my teeth at him in warning. He responded in kind, waves of aggression rolling off him. "We are pack," I growled, simply. Why was he on guard toward me? He snapped at me, then suddenly shouted, "Intruder!"
I started to look around for the new threat, when I realized he was referring to me. Why was he acting like he didn't recognize me? "Greg, tell me what you're doing," I demanded.
He rose from his crouch, fists locked in front of his chest and going on offense. I practically screeched in fury. I hadn't completely lost myself, so I stopped myself from attacking him. Needing to take out my aggression, I turned and punched the wall to the right of my door, my arm going through the plaster entirely. I was more powerful than usual, but that didn't register at that moment. The pain of my most likely broken fist coupled with the smell of my own blood brought my wolf to the surface.
Instead of calming myself by letting out my frustration, I seemed to have egged it on. I had become so angry that I started to see red. I turned to Greg preparing for his attack, but he was standing erect, in a non-threatening manner. I saw recognition in his eyes. "Evelyn?" he questioned.
His eyes were trained on the tattoo on my arm, now exposed through my shirt sleeve that ripped from my wall punch. Every Claines Tribe member received it at the age of twelve. The true meaning and significance of the parts was rumored to be explained after the change. Unfortunately, Greg's recognition of me had come too late. I ran toward him and shoved him to the wall, pinning him there. He tried to break free, but my rage fueled my strength.
Someone rushed up the stairs. I snarled at them, and I heard their footfalls come to a harsh stop. Greg's eyes nervously flitted to the new person. I saw the pleading in his gaze. The rumbling in my chest grew louder, as I shoved Greg harder into the wall.
"Who...?" the stranger started.
I screamed in anger at the interruption. Greg finally met my eyes, and, in that way, he knew what would save him. His eyes flashed in defiance and he struggled yet again in my grip. I brought him away from the wall and slammed him back. I pushed him harder into the wall, daring him to try again. "Submit," I ordered, my voice unrecognizably primal.
He glared at me, so I punched him in the face a few times for good measure. He struggled weakly once more, but ceased as the pressure of my grip on his arms increased. With a gasp of pain, he barred his neck as he dropped to his knees.
Once again the strange smell of oranges, linen and cookies suddenly rushed back into my senses. My mind once again focused on my initial goal—to get downstairs. I turned away from Greg, to the stairs. The interrupter had been the Second Level Enforcer of our pack, Christopher. His eyes widened when I turned to him, as if, at first, he too had not recognized me.
He eyed the damage behind me in disbelief. "What happened here?" he exclaimed.
Still in wolf mode, the incredulity in his voice translated to me as a challenge to my authority. I snarled and opened my mouth, running my tongue over my sharper-than-usual canines, ready for another fight. It never came. Christopher took one look behind me, I assume at Greg, then promptly bowed his head and sunk down onto his knees. He exposed his neck and I purred in delight. I had neutralized the threat upstairs.
I quickly paced to the stairs, brushing my legs against Christopher's side as I passed, spreading my scent. After going down the stairs, followed closely behind by the two Enforcers, I found a body of newly changed wolves gathered by the window. They were whispering among themselves, and gesturing to whatever was happening outside. I heard a growl come from that direction and sped to the window, parting the sea of kids.
Outside, Washer was crouched low, defending the house from someone out of my view. The same person growled again as Washer took a step away from the house. I couldn't see the growler, but it seemed that he was the one threatening Washer. My pack leaders, including my Alpha father, were all standing behind Washer in support. I heard the growler again, and without thinking, I jumped through the window, tiny shards nicking me all over.
Everyone grew silent; all eyes were on me. Dad's eyebrows knitted in confusion when he saw me. Washer looked concerned. The majority of the pack looked confused as to who I was, so they maintained their crouches. Those who recognized me, rose, still confused. I didn't question it. Multiple people I had known my entire life barred their teeth at me aggressively. I opened my arms wide and howled, my wolf welcoming a fight. I heard the Growler make his namesake sound.
Then I smelled the scent again. This time, however, I knew what it was. I turned to look at where my pack had been growling before I came along. My eyes met the Growler's, and I knew it was him. My wolf was happy with what she saw. I closed my eyes and howled again, this time in satisfaction.
The Growler was an Alpha, and he smelled amazingly. I could feel the power rolling off him. Taking in his muscular body, I thought to myself that I'd never met someone who looked that strong or that hot. I guessed he was around 6'5". His hair was black and short. It has just enough length to be pulled, I thought evilly. My entire body shivered as his bright red eyes traveled up and down my figure. I had never seen red eyes before.
Unable to be separated from him any longer, I ran to him. As if he knew exactly what I needed, he caught me in his arms midair and spun us around happily. He seemed as lost to the moon as I was. I tilted my head, exposing my neck to him while sniffing his.
His lips touched my neck gently, then began their attack on my skin. I lapped at one of the veins pulsing at his neck. I wanted to bite there. Apparently, he wanted to bite me too, because I felt his teeth pluck me slightly, questioning. I shoved my neck up to his mouth in want. We were both shaking from excitement. I tilted my neck further up to him. We bit each other simultaneously. After tasting his blood, I promptly passed out.