I face my best friend, my back to the edge of the forest.
“It’s not funny anymore,” she insists, glancing over my shoulder, desperately trying to insinuate that my need to come inside is greater than any sense of humor I could muster.
“I’m enjoying myself.” I grin, glancing around, as if I had a magical ability to see in the darkness. Quite frankly, the light from inside the house doesn’t do much.
June, my best friend, hops from foot to foot, anxious to rescue me from…whatever danger she thinks is out here; but she can’t bear to risk crossing the threshold of the doorway.
“Thea, please...I’m being serious when I tell you to get inside,” she says, her voice shaking, and not from the cool breeze.
I dance around on the spot, autumn leaves crunching under my feet.
“Phantom Wolves don’t exist,” I chant, my voice carrying itself along the breeze.
June shakes her head, rubbing her arms up and down nervously. “I swear to the Goddess that I am not coming after you when one of them snatches you and drags you away into their rape cave,” she tells me. She’s not joking.
I pause, my dancing ceasing. Slowly, I turn around, the dark forest looming over me. It’s endless, cold, dark, and I’m not even sure anything lives in there. But I can’t help myself.
“June, we need to get inside.”
“Why?” She asks nervously, watching me back my way up the porch steps cautiously.
I scream, so loud I’m sure the neighboring Pack could hear. June joins my shrills as I fall past her, straight into the house, and into the clutches of the fur rug in the floor. She slams the door behind us, pressing her back against it.
I turn from where I’m lying face down on the ground. June looks petrified, her eyes glinting with memories of all the books on Phantom Wolves she’s read. I start to laugh.
“Oh, I gotcha so good!”
Her terrified expression dissolves into one of pure anger, as she realizes I just pulled off nothing but a prank.
“I didn’t see a Phantom, but I did see your face as pale as anything.” I fail to keep the humor from my voice. I stand, leveling myself with a livid June.
“You idiot! How many times have I told you. Phantom Wolves aren’t something you mess with,” she growls, slapping her hand over her forehead as she attempts to gather her wits.
I smile. “Come on June, lighten up.”
She sighs deeply, trying to collect herself. Since we were children, June has always believed in the myths the older kids at school would tell us to scare us. And most of these included Phantom Wolves.
“Lighten up? Do you want to be like Alpha Jasper?” She dared me.
I roll my eyes. Here we go.
Alpha Jasper—disappeared one night and never came back. It was said he was stolen by Phantom Wolves and murdered, just like his father. And this happened years ago. No, centuries ago.
Other like-minded people believe he committed suicide, and no one was up to taking over his position as Alpha.
“Jasper wasn’t murdered by Phantom Wolves silly...” I tell her.
June narrowed her eyes at me. “You’re right, because he’s one of them.