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I stare at Theron, dumbfounded.

“What?” He asks, innocently.



There is no way in this hell or any other I’m handing him my dirty clothes. I spent two fucking days sweating in these clothes! Two days! And while I am sure his sensitive snout can smell every inch of me—and I do mean every inch—I refuse to simply place them in his large hands.

Ew, no thank you.

“You can shift with them on I guess,” he smirks that stupid smirk he constantly does, his hands up and palms out in mock submission, “no judgment.”

And destroy some of the last clothes I actually own?!

Again, no thank you.

I know this shouldn’t be a big deal. We’re werewolves for crying out loud. Being naked in front of one another before or after a shift is a common and accepted thing. Had this been any other wolf before me, hell, any other Ancient, I would not be so reserved, but there was something about the thought of Theron seeing me bare that makes me second guess such a natural act.

Why this was, I don’t know... I’m going to blame it on years and years of delightful dreams.

I had nothing I should feel ashamed of. I sported the same toned body that every werewolf should have but it was like under the gaze of those big brown eyes, I lost all confidence. I’m not a shy woman by nature, but with him...

“Just give me the backpack,” hand stretched out, I eye him, “I’ll deal with them before I shift.” Find a tree, strip behind it, shove the dirty clothes in and then transform.


Theron has one brow lifted, amusement graced his dumb Adonis-like features. He studies me for a minute, a slight upward turn to the corners of his lips. He chuckles, as he hands me the bag. But when I attempt to take it, he doesn’t let go. It suddenly becomes a literal tug of war. “Seriously Lina, take the pack,” he taunts, like I wouldn’t already have it in my possession if his grip wasn’t ironclad.

And then he really does it.

Yanking it from my grasp, he raises it above his head, effectively keeping it from my reach. Damn, he’s tall. I’m not sure how I fell into his trap, but I did; I jumped for it—numerous times.

Fuck, I’m such an idiot.

I believe he may have even quoted some human insurance commercial, as if I was trying to catch a dollar on a string. “Ooh! You almost had it! You gotta be quicker than that!” He continues to snigger, keeping the bag just out of my reach.

Well, I’m glad he’s enjoying himself.

“Ugh!” I throw my hands in the air, irritated, “How old are you again?!” Seriously, this guy has been alive for like a gazillion years yet I feel like I’m dealing with a twelve-year-old.

But then the most miraculous thing happens...

Theron laughs.

Not a chuckle, not a bitter snicker, nothing fake or forced—a real, heartfelt laugh emanates from his stomach, traveling up his rumbling chest and into his gorgeous face, contorting his features and gracing me with the most beautiful set of perfectly white teeth I have ever seen.

I can’t help but freeze, blinking feverishly in wonderment.

Crinkles form at the edge of his eyes and his nose scrunches ever so slightly. His cheek muscles tightened upwards, causing a definitive line that runs from mid nose to the corners of each side of his mouth. The cleft on his chin has disappeared, replaced by small dimples on both sides of his face.


Fuck me, he has dimples...

Here, now, in this very moment, I recognize the rarity of seeing this particular side of Theron—the Ancient that never smiles, whose eyes never sparkle, whose murderous glare causes instant cardiac arrest... that Ancient is happily laughing.

And I am witnessing it firsthand.

This Theron, however short-lived, is curiously carefree and irritatingly mischievous... and it’s certainly a sight to behold. It’s as if I just opened the best Christmas present under the tree... like the feeling of warmth when the sun’s rays hit my face first thing in the morning, the calming beauty of a rainbow after a storm, or the gentle caress of a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

A sharp inhale of oxygen teases my lungs, momentarily causing my heart to skip. A swift wave of heat flares within my chest but I refuse to move. I will not break the ecstasy that overtakes my body and consumes my soul. There’s such a serenity to the awe of a laughing Theron, I fear even the slightest movement will steal this gorgeous oddity from me. I want to remember this, relish in the positivity of the energy that surrounds us.

Theron’s laughter eventually dies down to a mere chuckle, but the remnants remain locked in that smile as he silently hands me the backpack. Knowing words won’t form right now even if I wanted them to, I snatch it from him and clutch it to my chest, skeptical that he won’t be able to sense the effect he just had on me. I do not need to get rejected by my best friend... especially now, with our relationship so newly rekindled.

Also, I had a mate out there, somewhere, and that instantly sobers me. A simple crush is really a waste of energy because I am destined for someone else and it isn’t Theron. With that being said, I’m not entirely prudish. I’ve looked, kissed, messed around a bit with human boys... nothing overly dramatic. I am still a virgin. Mates are held sacred and purity is expected without question, so I follow the standards. That, of course, do not include the racy thoughts I currently hold of my best friend. I’ll need to work on those.

“Where are you going?” Theron asks dubiously, as I turn my back on him and head towards the widest tree I can find. I yell over my shoulder, “I’m not stripping in front of you!” If that doesn’t explain everything he needs to know then I don’t know what else to tell him.

Lucky for me, he doesn’t argue.

Or was it? Maybe I want him to...

“Fine, but stay where I can see you!” He calls back. My heart leaps in my chest but I kill that feeling with an overly animated snicker, “Not happening.” I’m not sure if that’s the demand of a protective Theron or the mischievous one I had recently just witnessed... both options cause butterflies within my stomach.

“I’m serious, Lina,” Ah, protective Theron it is. Farewell, sexy, happy, delicious Theron. I don’t have the heart to remind him, once again, that I am no longer a child and in need of protection. For Goddess’s sake, these men are suffocating me. It isn’t as if I’m more than ten or fifteen feet away from him. “Yes, mother,” I sing as I pull the pink tank top over my head.

I believe I literally hear him roll his eyes at me.

A quick sniff of that shirt confirms that my fears are valid: I fucking stink. I don’t think I’ve ever ripped my clothes off so fast in my life. I don’t bother even folding them as I want them as far from my nose as possible.

I wonder if Theron knows of my wolf form. Surely Kai would have said something. I realized almost immediately from the look in my father’s eyes after my first shift that I am not normal. I should have been brown and grey like my parents’ wolves, but that was apparently not the wish of my Goddess.

Once more, I am nervous. I had never been one to care about what people thought of me. Honestly, it was their problem, not mine. I am me and me I will remain, no criticism or judgment will ever change that. Now, however, knowing Theron stands opposite this tree, waiting on me... it’s like being naked in front of him all over again.

“Lina? You okay?” I’m sure he’s concerned with the amount of time I’m taking but damn, I was sorting through some shit right now. “Yeah,” I croak.

Way to be convincing there, Catalina.

I can do this. I’m a werewolf. He’s a... Well, he’s Theron. He’ll accept me regardless. He probably already knows anyway so this shouldn’t be a shock.

Deep breath.

Feel the wolf...


Envision the change...

I feel the familiar ripple begin under my skin—muscles awakening and excited to move. The bones will break next, cracking and rearranging to suit my canine form. Years of practicing have lessened the pain-I hardly notice it anymore.

Simultaneously, the fur begins to burst through my pores, like flowers blooming in the wild. My jaw elongates and shifts, stretching and tightening, teeth extending and growing. The oddest feeling, to me at least, was the way my ears move upwards, above my hairline and on top of my head. It is... uncomfortable.

Falling on all fours, I watch my snout extend and my fingers shorten, stubbed into paws. The last will be the tail... my tail bone snapping and stretching. With a quick, forceful swish, my iridescent coat explodes forth, full and thick-shift complete.

I turn and check my fur, making sure it’s still shiny and voluminous. Unfortunately, I also confirm it’s still the same color... or colors, rather. Honestly, I am a walking advertisement for a damn Skittles commercial.

“Lina?!” I hear the desperation in Theron’s voice. I’m not sure how long it takes him to shift—probably like point two seconds, but being a young werewolf, it takes me four seconds or so. Longer if I put too much thought into it. It’s best to just let emotion and instinct take over since that’s where the “were” actually separates from the “wolf.” It’s cool and all to be able to blend in with regular wolves in the wild but that’s not all we are. That’s not what makes people cower in fear... it is the ugliness that comes with the beast—when the cute, fluffy wolf disappears and is replaced with a truly terrifying creature.

"Goddess Theron, some of us are still working on our transformation time," I mumble through the mind link. Packs were only able to talk to their own pack members with their inner voices but I am a rogue, so I don’t have such a luxury. However, since Theron is one of four Originals, he can speak to anyone through mind link, specific rank or pack affiliation matters not.

"Come on then, we don’t have all day,” he sighs, like I need to be reminded we are on a strict time frame.

Wonderful. Now his panty-dropping voice is permanently stuck inside my head.

I hear piercing laughter from the other side of the tree, startling me, ”Pany dropping, huh?"

"What?” I cry, instantly half horrified and half horrifyingly confused. How did he hear that? I did not mind link that!

"You need to learn to control your thoughts,” he muses, ”place a mental block on everything but what you want to express... or don’t-either way is perfectly fine with me."

Kill me now, please.

Why didn’t dad tell me about this? How am I supposed to know I have to place a wall up? Fuck, how do I even do that?! What constitutes a mental block?

I am the absolute worst werewolf ever.

I might be covered in fur, but I can feel that foreign heat warm my cheeks... how am I going to be able to look him in the eyes from here on out? Annoyed with my dad and thoroughly embarrassed in front of an Ancient-Theron, no less, I decide a defensive response is best. What better to cover all emotions than the common and most expressive, ”Fuck you."

Theron cackles, ”Will you be dropping your panties for that or..."

Damnit all!

“I’m just teasing, Lina. Come on out,” he snickers, aloud. “I’ll teach you how to control it on the way.”

Like that makes me feel any better.

Picking the backpack up with my teeth, I trott out from behind the tree. He doesn’t speak and I don’t look at him until after I place the bag at his feet and sit on my hind legs.

Theron’s eyes are wide, full of pure bewilderment and a tad bit of amazement. His mouth is slightly ajar, and his head is cocked to the side. His long bout of silence is worrisome. ”I know, I know, I resemble a bowl of Fruity Pebbles,” I huff... might as well beat him to the joke first. Yes, I am something abnormally pretty to look at but that is it. I don’t blend into the wilderness around me so it’s hard to hunt and even tougher to hide. I stick out like a sore thumb.

Except, maybe, when it snows.

I freaking hate Snow.

Hella ironic if you ask me...

Theron crouches before me, his eyes scanning my forehead as if he’s trying to decipher the toughest code in history. Ever so slowly, his hand reaches up, cradling the side of my head. Always the defiant wolf, my beast leans into that calloused hand, enjoying every fucking second of the electricity that courses through me with the stroke of his fingers against my fur. His stare eventually drops to my eyes and he whispers, “Then you are the most breathtaking bowl of Fruity Pebbles I have ever seen.”


Okay then...

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