Nobody said anything about sniffing. But when the others started to make a queue right in front of me to ‘greet me’, that was what they did - sniffed me.
If it hadn’t been for Bennett’s hand placed firmly on the small of my back, I would have run for hills, and he probably knew it. Dollars to doughnuts, he had approached me only to block my only way to the emergency exit - through the back door. Left with no other choice, I had to stand there for what felt like an eternity, smile like a fool, and do this awkward greeting-sniffing.
By the end of the ordeal, I had managed to curse Bennett to hell and back at least five times and was more than ready to abort.
Obviously, I did just that.
Which was exactly why I was currently hiding in the unlit gazebo by the edge of the woods, trying to light a cigarette I had put in my purse just in case something similar would occur, and failing miserably, only because my hands wouldn’t stop shaking!
Gosh, I definitely wasn’t cut out for this werewolf shit.
I groaned in frustration just as Chloe popped out of nowhere, scaring the crap out of me. I jumped, startled, breaking the fag I held between my fingers as the girl asked:
“What are you doing here?”
“Shit!” I placed my hand on my racing heart. The little imp almost gave me a heart attack. “Do you always sneak on people like that?” I demanded, annoyed.
Chloe blinked innocently and shrugged.
“Only on you. It’s too easy,” she admitted while I threw now useless cigarette on the floor and plopped myself onto the hard, wooden bench. The girl sat on the other end as far as she could without falling down, unmindful of my internal vexation.
“How did you find me anyway?” I sighed, resigned, propping my head on a hand and giving her a side glance.
I noticed earlier she was the only girl out of the five children brought to the gathering, and everyone seemed to watch her like hawks. Despite that, Chloe still somehow managed to sneak out unnoticed - or at least that’s what I suspected. I didn’t know whether to be impressed or scared by the little monster...
...who threw me a duh look.
“I followed your scent, obvs,” she rolled her eyes, swinging her legs back and forth.
Followed my scent, huh...
“Shouldn’t you be inside?” I forced a smile as I eyed the house thoughtfully. Nobody had yet realised that the little girl was gone. Something told me it wouldn’t have been so peaceful otherwise.
Chloe just shrugged.
“Nah, it’s boring there. You’re much more interesting.”
“How do you even know such a big word?” I murmured under my breath, not exactly expecting her to answer. She did.
“I’m smart, not like you. Or is it because you’re a changed wolf that you know nothing? I have never seen a changed wolf before... You’re the first one. My friends from different packs will be sooo jealous when I tell them about you.”
I shook my head and looked up, begging for patience I didn’t possess.
“Your sister was right - you are a little imp,” I commented, flicking her on the forehead when she suddenly got in my face. Chloe yipped in surprise and jumped away, massaging the stinging place.
I bit back a smile. She was charming... in a way.
“Beta Zack says I’m a handful,” the girl boasted. I didn’t think she understood the word. Or maybe she did but took it as a compliment anyway. With Chloe, everything was clearly possible. “Are you his girlfriend?”
“No,” Some part of me felt a bit disappointed by that. I ignored that part.
Chloe scrunched her nose.
“Shame. You’re more fun than Sydney. I don’t want Sydney to be Zack’s mate. She’s mean,” she sighed and then suddenly snapped her head in the direction of the house, excited. “Gemma! It’s started! Come!” She whispered-yelled as she grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the woods.
“Hey, wait!” I called after her. "What has started?"
But, at that point, she had already let go of me and begun running so fast as if the pack of hellhounds chased after her.
“Hurry!” She shouted over her shoulder, never stopping her mad dash across the yard.
I threw my hands in frustration and, despite my better judgment, followed. I just couldn’t leave the girl alone. Who knew what she was actually up to?
I stumbled onto the grass. The heels of my shoes sunk into the soft soil, and I almost fell. I half-limped, half-jumped while trying to take the wretched high heels off and not lose sight of the little girl, who was already getting swallowed by trees. After a minute or two, my bare feet finally touched cold, wet grass, and I pumped my legs harder, feeling the cool wind on my face.
A sudden thrill shook my body as the adrenaline started coursing in my blood. I looked up at the waxing gibbous moon and barely stopped myself from howling in excitement. I almost felt like my old self again - well, sans howling.
I ran into the bushes. Sharp sticks and cones pierced the soles of my feet, and I felt a stinging sensation radiating from them. A branch or two tugged on my hair, slapping my bare shins and ripping the dress I was clutching in one hand so it wouldn’t get in the way. I heard the fabric giving in with a moan, but I simply didn’t care. I was too preoccupied with chasing the girl in front. Thank God, I could at least still see everything as if it was the middle of the day. I guessed some of my new skills came in handy...
I jumped over the log and almost caught up to the little monster when, all of sudden, a ball of grey and gold rammed into my side. I yelped as I fell down on cones, sticks, and leaves. The rustling filled my ears as dirt and dust soared to life around me. I rolled up once, twice, and then, with an agility I didn’t know I possessed, sprung myself upward and crouched, ascertaining the thread.
The gray and gold wolf stopped in front of me, growling menacingly in the deafening silence that surrounded us. Drops of saliva flew down from its fangs as dark blue eyes met mine, challenging me. But I wasn’t scared this time. A cooky grin contorted the side of my mouth as the wolf-being took control. Patches of fur sprouted on my arms at the same time that my nails and teeth elongated. Some tiny, rational part of my brain told me I wasn’t acting normal, but I shoved it aside. If this punny little she-wolf wanted a fight, a fight she would get.
I shaped my hands like claws and growled back as I slowly stood up, more than ready for the brawl.
The wolf lunged at me without any warning. A wicked smile curved my lips as I braced myself. Just as I was about to grab the she-wolf’s mane and throw her as far away as I could, a ginormous dark gray wolf barreled into her, knocking her aside. She yelped in surprise, met the ground with a loud thud, and rolled a few times until she eventually managed to pierce the ground with her claws and stop herself from crashing into a tree.
I growled my annoyance at the dark gray meddler. But the beast had none of that. He bumped into me as he took a protective stance in front, forcing me to stagger back, all the while snarling ferociously at my assailant, who immediately showed her belly and neck in submission. It seemed to calm the dark grey wolf a tiny little bit. Well, enough, at least, that he let her scram, though he never let his gaze off her as she crawled away with a tail tucked between her legs. It would even have been funny if it were I who made the she-wolf cower like that. As it was, it only agitated me more. How dared my self-proclaimed saviour meddle into my battle? I growled angrily, attracting the attention of the wolf. He turned his head around, and a familiar pair of arctic-blue met my steel-grey eyes.
A low rumble left him as he bared his teeth at me, this time meaning business. Shocked, I yipped and stumbled, landing heavily on my backside. Against my better judgment, I showed my neck while the beast loomed over me, catching my throat between his teeth and gently scraping my skin. I didn’t dare move. I didn’t even dare breathe. With heart in my throat, I lay propped on my forearms, paralysed, while the wolf's warm breath caressed my skin. I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable to come as I gave out a tiny whimper, finally acknowledgeding the beast’s dominance. That, at last, seemed to please him. So instead of shutting his jaw on my neck and end me altogether, he licked me in apology and backed away.
The mortification shook me as I finally understood the implication of Wolf-Bennett’s move - he had chidden me... like a child.
Embarrassed, I sprung up at the same time that an ear-piercing scream cut the stillness of the night.