“Slow down, Emma.” Derek’s wolf yelled to me from a few miles back. We were supposed to be on a run together, but my running and his running were two different things. Derek was a strong wolf, but he wasn’t a fast wolf. My smaller frame made it easier to weave between the trees and jump over the fallen stumps of wood. I didn’t listen to him; I couldn’t slow down. Getting in touch with my wolf was the only thing that kept me sane from the endless nights at the bar. My life was becoming a loop. Wake up, set up the bar, serve at the bar, clean up and close the bar, back home for sleep. Occasionally, I had time to train at the center, but my life was mostly immersed in the bar. “Emma!” Derek’s voice finally slowed me down enough for him to catch up. “What the hell, Emma?” We stopped just short of the river. There was a bridge covered in graffiti that we liked to meet up by.
“Sorry,” my wolf apologized to him. “Sometimes I get carried away and can’t stop.”
“I’ve missed you, Em. You’ve been MIA for weeks.” Derek’s wolf sat by the river.
“I know, I’ve been busy at the bar.”
“You need a hobby.” He said with a chuckle.
“I don’t have time for a hobby.”
“Your dad owns the bar, surely he’d give you some time off.”
“My time off is his time on. If I back off the bar, he’s going to have to take on more responsibility and I just don’t think he has it in him.”
“It’s his bar, Em, if he can’t handle it on his own then it’s not really your problem.” I rolled my eyes at Derek. He had no concept of responsibility or loyalty to family. He didn’t have family and the only thing that got him out of bed was going to his job at the construction site. “Run away with me, Em.” His wolf plopped down in the grass and rolled over, exposing his belly to me.
“Very funny.” I laid down next to him and looked up at the full moon lighting up the dark sky.
“I’m serious. What do you have going for you in the pack?”
“You want to turn into rogues and go on the run just because our Alpha gives you a bad taste?” He had to be joking.
“We wouldn’t be rogues, Em, I’d never do that you to.” I tilted my head at him, something told me he thought this out a little more than I thought. “The East pack is very welcoming. They’re kind of hippies. All about peace and herbs.”
“You’ve been there?” I questioned.
“A few times.” He admitted.
“Derek, you can’t just jump from territory to territory. It doesn’t work that way. If Nick would find out, he would exile you.”
“So what?” He shrugged. “The East pack would welcome me to their pack, and I know they’d welcome you too. So, come with me.”
“Derek, I can’t leave. My dad is here, our friends are here. This is our pack; I won’t abandon them.”
“What is that?” His voice suddenly turned very concerning.
“What is what?” I asked, confused by his sudden anxiety.
“Emma, you’re bleeding.” I looked down to see black ooze seeping from my chest. My fur becoming matted with the thick substance that flowed rapidly. A sharp pain started to blind me, and my breath weakened. I opened my snout to the full moon and howled.
“Emma!” I woke suddenly with Nick over me, his hands on my shoulders as he shook me awake. I was covered in sweat and screaming until I locked eyes with Nick. “You’re okay.” He pulled me to his chest, and I focused on relaxing my breathing. This wasn’t new to either of us. I’ve been keeping Nick from sleeping with my nightmares and it was taking a toll on the both of us, but he refused to let me sleep anywhere without him. “Do you want to talk about it?” He always asked me that after pulling me from my terror. At first, I never wanted to talk about it, but I eventually opened up to him about them. This time was different. I’ve never had a nightmare that was a memory of Derek and me.
“No.” I shook my head and laid back down on my pillow. “Not tonight.” I pulled his arm back around my waist. “Go back to sleep.” I knew he wouldn’t. We would lay in bed together in silence, both of us pretending we were able to let sleep take over the exhaustion in our bodies.
I was the first to get out of bed and get dressed for the day. I needed to go for a walk, but I knew Nick wouldn’t let me if he knew I was going alone. So, I picked up my phone from the nightstand and texted Chloe to meet up with me. I knew she would be more than willing; she’s been asking me to see her every day since I left the hospital. The small get-together we had with all my friends and my dad wasn’t enough alone time together for her. I went over to the bed and leaned into Nick’s body reaching his cheek for a quick kiss.
“I’m going to see Chloe; I’ll text you when I get there.” Nick rolled onto his back and cupped my face.
“Call me if you need anything, little wolf.” He kissed my lips and we parted ways. I knew he would have work to do with Daniel, he always had work to do.
Chloe met me at the edge of the woods, and we walked together as she nagged me on how I was doing, how I was feeling and if Nick was taking good care of me. I was so often annoyed by her constant nagging that I didn’t know how Kyle dealt with her all the time, but it was times like now that I realized she did it out of love.
“Where are we going?” Chloe asked me as she stepped over some fallen branches. “When you asked if I wanted to get together, I thought you meant lunch. If I knew we were hiking through the woods, I would have dressed more appropriately.”
“We’re almost there.” I said. We didn’t stop until we reached the exact spot my dream took me to last night. I stopped at the river and sat down, my back to Chloe. She sat next to me and turned her head towards me.
“What are we doing here?” She asked.
“Have you heard from Derek?” I ignored her question and asked her one of my own.
“To be honest with you I haven’t seen Derek since before you were in the hospital. Kyle texted him when we went to see you, but he never responded.” Kyle and Derek hung out a lot more than Chloe and I ever did. “You haven’t heard from him?”
“Not once.” I admitted. “Nick said he was at the hospital right after I was shot.” Nick was suspicious of it, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to come to any conclusion that Derek was involved. “He came to the hospital again with an herb that Dr. Morris thinks pulled the wolfsbane out of me. She’s been trying to get in touch with Derek to find out what it was, but she hasn’t been able to find him either.
“Where do you think he went?”
“Nick thinks he’s in hiding because he’s guilty of something.” I looked up at the bridge with the beautiful graffiti. “I think he went to the East pack.”
“I don’t know.” I admitted. “He talked about going there. He wanted me to go with him a long time ago, but I didn’t want to leave. He has to still be in touch with someone there to get the herbs that he used on me.”
“What’s in the East pack that would make him want to go there?” She questioned.
“What’s in this pack that would make him want to stay?” I looked back to Chloe.
“You and I both know he wouldn’t leave you behind.”
“Why would he stay, Chloe? I’m with Nick now.”
“Because you’re his drug. He’d rather live in a world with you, even if he can’t have you than live in a world without you. A blind wolf could see that, Emma.”
“I have to find him, Chloe. Even if it’s just to thank him for saving my life, I need to talk to him.”
“Okay then, let’s find him.”