Throwing my suitcase down on the guest bed, I took a second to enjoy this moment of silence that I had to myself. It felt like it had been so long since I had felt any peace. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would find any here...
“Hurry! We’re gonna be late for the run!” My cousin’s voice reached me from downstairs, interrupting my few blessed seconds of silence.
I flopped onto the guest bed and groaned. “Be right down, Arlene!”
After driving halfway across the country, I didn’t think I would have gotten delayed the way I did.
I hadn’t wanted to arrive on the night of the full moon, and I certainly didn’t want to go on a run with this pack when the only people I knew here were my cousin, aunt, and uncle.
But it had been over a week and my bones were aching to shift.
This wasn’t my pack, and I was seriously nervous about running with them. Wolves didn’t like running with strangers.
It made me feel guilty, but I stayed on the bed for a few more minutes to ensure that we really would be late.
“River!” Arlene’s voice shouted through the door. “I know you like just got here, but we really have to go. The sun has already set, and my skin is getting itchy!”
“I’m coming!” I jumped up and opened the guest bedroom door. My cousin’s brown eyes stared holes through me as she bounced anxiously from one foot to the next.
“The Alpha doesn’t like it when we’re late. C’mon!”
Arlene grabbed my hand and pulled me from the room and down the stairs.
Arlene’s father and my aunt had already left an hour ago. I was grateful they were letting me stay with them and it made me feel bad to make Arlene late if her Alpha was strict about his pack running together on time.
Full moon runs were important to the pack. It was a great way to keep the ties and relationships strong. My wolf was screaming for the chance to be set free, and I could see Arlene twitching with the same energy.
We couldn’t help how the full moon called to us. Wolves were pulled by their instincts in a way that humans weren’t.
I followed behind my cousin, taking in her dyed red hair that had been black the last time I saw her about two years ago. We both wore simple shirts and shorts to make stripping to shift easier. Arlene didn’t let go of my hand as we ran down the dark street to the heavy section of woods behind the pack house.
The woods here differed from back home. My aunt had met her mate in the south and they lived with my uncle’s pack, who had territory covered with massive pine trees.
It smelled wonderful here, and I inhaled the scent eagerly.
A strange pang went through my stomach, but at the sound of a crowd talking excitedly in the distance, I got distracted. Arlene picked up the pace, and we were nearly racing to the gathered pack.
“They haven’t left yet! We’re just in time!” We joined the massive crowd in the clearing between the pack house and woods. “Ugh, I can’t see the Alpha from back here though!”
“So?” I rolled my eyes at Arlene acting as though she were a love-struck teenager. We were in our twenties and she fell in love with every boy she laid eyes on.
“He usually gives a speech before full moon runs, but I guess we missed that part.”
A howl echoed through the air over our heads, and that’s when the energy to change rolled through everyone. It flowed like a wave of electricity from the front of the crowd all the way to me and Arlene in the back.
When that kind of power accompanied by the full moon overhead gets rolling through a crowd of wolves, it’s hard to ignore it. Like a call to your very spirit singing for you to let out the beast within.
Clothes were thrown around and hastily torn apart as the entire pack shifted onto all fours and sprint into the forest.
The next thing I knew I was shaking out light, reddish-gold fur and chasing after Arlene’s grey, furry backside. That tight feeling of skin passed, and I felt as though I was taking a full breath of air as the pressure of finally shifting swept through me.
Massive pines blurred around us as the pack took off into the forest. The cool night air felt amazing as it blew through my fur. I caught glimpses of the moon through the treetops, and no one could hold back their howl or barks of excitement when the scent of whitetail deer was picked up.
But then pain twisted through me, and my paws halted on the earthen floor. A soft whimper escaped me, and I let the pack run ahead. As the wave of pain dissipated, I paced over the crunching leaves and pine nettles beneath my claws.
This couldn’t be happening to me.
It wasn’t supposed to be that time for me, and yet here I was. Under the full moon and deep in the pine wood forest with a strange pack.
I was going into heat.
I had already pushed my human consciousness to the back of my being and the instincts of my wolf were driving me. Had I known this was going to happen tonight, I would have locked myself up in the guest bedroom.
Another cramp hit me. I could feel the heat affecting my body as a rush of near painful need awakened in my core. It would only take moments for my scent to spread and any male in these woods would become a predator and suddenly I the prey.
Following my nose, I turned back in the direction we had run and tried to get back to the packhouse. The last trace of my human conscious was begging me to run to the house and find shelter for the night.
Yet, my wolf was snarling in my mind as she picked up the scent of all the males that had run this way.
When she-wolves went into heat, it was the strongest instinct we had. Even if we didn’t shift during a full moon when we were affected by the heat, it was hard to ignore the pull of those primal desires.
They were dangerous.
I thought I could make it back before I lost myself completely. However, the scents in the woods crossed, and I didn’t know where I was any longer.
Being lost in the woods was something I would never fear.
It was the sound of powerful paws thundering over the earth in the distance that made something sink in my stomach. At the same moment, I heard the howl of a wolf on the hunt.
And he was close.
Leaping over a stream, I pushed my paws to move as fast as they would go. Then I saw his shadow racing at my side through the underbrush.
This wolf was massive and even under the moonlight I could tell his fur was beautifully dark.
Then it was my wolf who took the lead.
This was a chance for her to test the male who now chased her, following the scent of a she-wolf who just went into heat. A thrill ran down my spine. And suddenly this was a game.
In heat my wolf knew that if this male could catch me, he was worthy of having me.
**Chosen mates ~NOT~ fated mates**