I disappeared into the trees just in time to hear a furious, dangerous growl rip through the air behind me.
I was in so much trouble. I was trembling, panic making itself known deep in the pit of my stomach. Trouble was not a severe enough word for what I was in; life threatening danger was closer.
Life threatening danger that was about to rip me to shreds if I didn't start running quicker.
Already at a dead run through the trees, I pushed myself faster, stretching my legs as I all but flew across the ground. The exhilarating sensation of the wind tearing at my clothes, one that almost always made me smile in enjoyment, couldn't seem to break the building fear that was surging to the surface.
Especially as a second enraged snarl echoed from behind me, and the tell-tale signs of pursuit reached my ears. The snapping and growling was growing louder, the rhythmic pounding of the wolf's predatory run growing faster and closer as we both flew through the trees. Fear, sharp and piercing, broke through the thin barriers that had just barely been holding it back, my pulse no longer thrumming just from the run. Panic was driving my movements, pushing me faster, faster, faster.
He was going to catch me. It didn't matter how fast I ran, I was dangerously out matched. I might be faster than human, but I had nothing on a full-blooded supernatural hunter. He would be on me in just seconds.
But that knowledge didn't stop me from throwing myself at a dead run towards to closest part of the border; all the while cursing my insanity.
Why? Why had I done that? I had known it wasn't him, known that the Quil I had mistaken the shape-shifter for was long gone. If I had just taken the time to think, had let go of the despair that was controlling me, this could have all been avoided. But I had hoped, had foolishly hoped, had acted on want and desire, and now I was paying the price.
A price that was coming in the form of an infuriated werewolf that was just seconds away from slamming into me.
Feeling his hot breath on my neck, I ducked and dodged, throwing myself sidewards behind a tree, before taking off back in the opposite direction. The wolf snarled in protest, changing directions faster than I would have thought possible. My breath hitched in my throat as I dodged again, narrowly avoiding being clawed by his angry swipe. My whole body was as tense as a live wire, my every sense peeled for the movement of the chocolate brown wolf that was hunting me.
I managed to run only a few more steps before I was once again forced to duck behind a tree, evading yet another lunge by the still enraged wolf. This time, however, I was thrown off balance as the wolf crashed into the tree instead of swerving, forcing me to throw myself to the side or be crushed by the trunk crashing to the earth.
Quickly rolling to my feet, I was forced straight back to the ground by the wolf's violent leap in my direction. I huffed, my heart stuttering as I just barely avoided being mauled. Scrambling into a crouch – fear and adrenaline keeping me constantly on the move – I was about to throw myself forward once more when I was suddenly slammed into from the side.
Forced into the ground, I gasped as all the air was pushed from my lungs, the world spinning on its axis as I rolled across the earth. Sucking in a huge breath, my lungs burned, my chest tight. A second wolf of a dark brown colour had snuck up behind me, and only a quick roll driven by panic narrowly saved me from its snapping jaws as it pressed its advantage.
If only my evasive roll hadn't put me right into the path of the first wolf's attack.
I hissed in pain as claws sliced into my arm, carving three searing slashes into my left forearm.
But it would have been a lot worse if the attacking wolf hadn't suddenly skidded to a stop, snarling in pain and surprise as three identical cuts appeared on his front left leg.
Fear didn't allow me to seize up in surprise. His hesitation giving me the second I needed to scramble to my feet, I ducked a lunge from the second wolf, who snarled furiously at my continued evasion. Back pedalling furiously, I spun on my heel to throw myself into a dead sprint, heading away from the border I'd be aiming for just moments ago.
Clearly, I wasn't going to be leaving La Push today.
It was surprisingly easy to slip through the reservation without detection. To be honest, I was surprised I even had the chance to ghost around; the wolves should have been able to catch me easily. Which left me wondering why exactly they'd let me go.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a few theories, but the issue still bugged me. Past experience told me that when supernatural creatures started acting strangely, that was the time to start getting worried. Still, I couldn't deny that I was glad I had escaped; death or injury wasn't exactly high on my priority list.
But despite my evasion of the wolves, I felt far from safe just walking around in public; and I felt even more uncomfortable the further away from the border I went. It was one thing to break the border and stick to the outskirts, but it was another thing entirely to walk around the centre of Quileute land. Even as I walked I could feel the thickening pressure, the urge to turn back and flee. It vanished after just a moment, but by no means was it forgotten; I knew that the deeper I went into forbidden territory, the greater the threat of death grew.
And so it was with a sigh of relief that I slipped into the shadows behind the first building I came across, finally letting myself to feel the pain I had been blocking out from my wounded arm. The three cuts weren't deep, but weren't surface scratches either. My breaths hitched as I flexed my arm, the dull pain suddenly flaring to life as the slashes stretched.
Breathing heavily, I used my free right arm to tear off a strip from the bottom of my shirt, gently using the material to wipe the trails of blood off my arm. I winced as the fabric caught on the burning skin, winding the strip around the gashes as bandage; more for the purpose of hiding the injury than anything. There was nothing I could do about the throbbing, but the cuts themselves would heal by tomorrow. Still significantly faster than they would heal on a human, but I disliked the idea of having a weak arm with wolves roaming about.
Still tense and feeling the vestiges of panic lingering, I was as alert as ever as I slipped around the building I'd been hiding behind. But despite my anxiety, I couldn't help but grin as I caught sight of the large sign out the front.
La Push Day Care Centre
Of all the places to end up, it just happened to be the one I was intending to visit anyway. Shaking my head softly in disbelief, I couldn't help but perk in anticipation.
There was someone I was hoping to find.
It was probably a tad suspicious of me to start snooping around the day care centre, looking for a certain someone; ok, maybe more than a tad. But after the day I was having, I was in dire need of some happiness, preferably from someone alive and not attacking me, and I knew just where to find it.
So it was with more eagerness than sheepishness that I slipped through a door away from the strangely deserted reception, to find myself suddenly thrust into a loud and vibrant room full of lively children. All completely fascinated and immersed in their own worlds of entertainment, they didn't bat an eyelid at my entrance, but the same couldn't be said of one of the adult caretakers in the room, who gave me a curious look. Giving the woman a small distracted smile, my eyes roamed the room; searching, analysing, waiting for recognition. She was here, I knew it; I just need to find her.
However, in a strange twist of fate, the little girl found me first. The five year old human beat the half-vampire; no wonder the wolves had caught me so easily.
'Aunty Thea!' An excited shriek and squeal met my ears, and I grinned at the familiar sound. My eyes immediately locked onto the source, alight with happiness as the bouncing dark haired girl came running towards me. Bending down to scoop her up into my arms, in a move I'd done so many times before, I clutched her to me tightly, as she hugged me back with enthusiasm.
'Ani!' I breathed happily, swinging her around in a circle as she laughed. 'My Ani.'
'Thea! Thea, you're back!' She exclaimed joyfully, and I melted, her glee filled eyes adorable as she gazed up at her. Poking her nose gently with affection, I matched her beaming smile.
'Of course I am, Ani! You know I love seeing you. And look at you! It's only been a month and look how much you've grown!' She glowed at my words, replying with excitement.
'I know! I'm getting big now! Mama says she can't believe it.' I smiled at her mention of my sister, a sudden and overwhelming sense of missing them both hitting me. It was irrational, considering Ani was in my arms, and I'd be seeing Sera before the end of the day, but I couldn't help but lament having left in the first place.
'Well, why don't we go and find her, Ani?' Another killer smile was directed my way, and I sighed in contentment; it was hard not to be happy with her radiating elation from every pore.
'Can we? Thea, can we please?' The pleading look she levelled me didn't allow for rejection. Giving her another gentle poke to the nose, and settling her more comfortably on my hip, I scanned the room again to find the woman who had first noticed my arrival studying us with a grin.
'You're her Aunt?' She asked, and I smiled, giving her a slightly curious look. She elaborated. 'Even if I hadn't heard her greeting squeal, she looks a lot like you.' I grinned, and would have replied if Ani hadn't beaten me to it.
'Can we go find mama now?' She asked, giving me an imploring look. I exchanged a look with the woman, who turned her back on us with a grin; I guess we were dismissed.
'Of course, Ani.' I said, making her squeal as I tickled her lightly. Hugging Ani closer, I made to push back through the door to the reception, wincing slightly at the pressure on my injured arm; only to find myself jerking backwards as a too familiar scent reached me.
Damn it. Glancing around the room quickly, I groaned softly at the fact that this was the only door. If I'd known they would find me this easily, I wouldn't have trapped myself in a single entrance building. I cringed slightly at my limited options.
I was going to need an awful lot of luck to sneak out here; luck I didn't think I had. The panic that had been fading into the background in Ani's joyful presence came surging back with a vengeance, fear filling my veins and making my chest tighten. I had a terrible sinking feeling that this was going to end very badly.
'Aunty Thea?' Ani's soft and curious voice cut through my slightly panicked thoughts, and it was with a start that a sudden idea came to me. Giving her a smile – one that I hoped didn't show my alarm – I set her down gently on her feet, crouching down to her eye level.
'Can you do something for me, Ani?' Somehow, my voice managed to come out without a hint to my inner turmoil, not betraying my consuming fear. She nodded enthusiastically, oblivious to my ulterior motives.
'We're going to have a race.' She jumped slightly in restrained anticipation, her eyes lighting up.
'When we get out the front door, we're going to race to the tree line, ok? And I'll chase after you, and call after you, but you don't stop, ok?' She nodded twice, shifting impatiently as she grinned; she didn't flinch at or even seem to notice the stress in my tone.
'And then afterwards, we can go find mama.' Another grin, and despite my churning stomach, I couldn't help but smile in return; even with my mind questioning whether or not there was actually going to be an afterwards.
Ani burst through the door with an excited squeal, grinning and giggling as she raced across the reception and threw herself out of the propped open front door. I had timed it perfectly; she easily squeezed passed the woman holding the door open, and I raced after her, barrelling passed the werewolf in the hallway before he could do much more than stare at me in shock.
'Ani!' I yelled after her, bursting through the doorway wildly, pausing as my gaze immediately locked on her happily bouncing figure. I threw myself into a run, heading after her disappearing figure as I shouted again.
'Ani, wait!' Just as I had instructed, she didn't even turn at my yell, heading towards the tree line as her pigtails whipped in the breeze.
I couldn't help but smile at the sight; my first mistake. Because while my attention was solely and intimately focused on her, it wasn't at all directed to where I was going.
I slammed into something hard; no, not something, someone. Hot skin met my own, and I recoiled instantly, my breath whooshing out in a rush as I flinched back with inhuman speed.
He was faster.