My transformation triggered a chain reaction. Everyone who wasn’t close enough to be hit by the explosion changed into wolves. The scattered people on the floor struggled to get back up, but when they could, they turned into their wolves, too.
They bared their teeth at me and growled, as they slowly came closer to me, trapping me in the middle of the forest. My mind was still trying to adjust to the wolf, who was back in the back of my head. I tried to sort out her thoughts from mine, but it wasn’t easy when I also feared for my life.
I glanced around, trying to spot Gunnar or Tyra, but I couldn’t see them. They were closest to me, so the explosion must have hit them the hardest. I hoped they were fine.
A braver wolf jumped forward, snapping at me. I moved backward, growling. I knew it wasn’t the wisest move. Reacting to aggression with aggression was not something I should do right now. But my wolf was angry, her rage burning in my veins as if I was set on fire.
“We have to stop threatening them,” I said to her. I wanted to give Bertram a piece of my mind as much as she did, but it wasn’t the time. Not when at least fifty wolves surrounded us. I used to be in tune with my wolf, and never had to order her around, but she didn’t want to step back.
“We don’t have a pack to support us. It’s too dangerous here.” Reminding her of our lost pack hurt her. She didn’t have the time to grieve as I did. To her, it still feels as if they had died yesterday, and she blamed herself for being so useless.
I was almost overwhelmed by the pictures of thoughts in my head. The grief made me want to curl into a ball. She was drowning in self-pity and regret, but at least it was dampening the anger for now.
I snapped back to the scene in front of me, and it was just at the right time, as a gray wolf jumped at me. I sidestepped just barely, stumbling on my four feet.
I snarled at the wolf and received a loud, growling answer. My heart was beating so fast in my chest, it was as if it wanted to jump out of it. My wolf reacted to the growling, temporarily distracting her from what was bringing her down.
She stood tall and confident, not in the least afraid. It wasn’t the reaction the pack wanted to see. They wanted us to surrender, not to fight.
“Stop this! We are in no position to feel cocky, and you know that.” She fought with me over control until the situation became clear to her. She didn’t want to give up, but she knew we had to. “I will try to get us out of this safely, and then we can try to figure out what to do from there.”
She struggled to hand over control, and she only reluctantly did so. I let out a staggering breath when she finally gave in and backed away in the corner of my mind. Gunnar approached us with big steps, with disheveled hair and a lot paler than usual. He didn’t drop his gaze off of me, worry shimmering in his eyes, and a weight dropped off my chest, seeing he didn’t seem to be angry with me.
“Step down! All of you!” He said, his voice echoing through the forest, and a handful of wolves yipped and tugged their tails between their legs. But not all. Most of them still glowered at me, waiting for the right moment to attack.
I didn’t want to abuse Gunnar’s trust, but I wasn’t sure if I was safe here. When he turned away from me and growled at his pack members, I took the chance and made a run for it, aiming for the submissive wolves to my right, to make a beeline for the forest. They parted for me, afraid of my sudden charge, allowing me to escape.
“Amalia! Wait!” Gunnar shouted after me. The power in his voice made me stumble, but I shook my head and gained speed. He might be a strong alpha, but he wasn’t my alpha. He had no power over me.
“Don’t follow us!” he shouted in the distance, and the entire forest floor trembled under my feet when Gunnar ran after me, and quickly caught up, which surprised me. I used to be the fastest wolf of everyone I knew. No one could catch up to me. I blamed it on the fact that I hadn’t transformed in a long time, but it was still stinging.
“Amalia, stop running!”
I ignored him. Speaking to him would cause me to lose focus, and I couldn’t risk any distraction. I had to get away from him. He was always nice to me, but things might change, now that I was a wolf again. A lone wolf, in his territory and not liked by his pack.
“Stop running! You are making it worse!”
I couldn’t believe him. If I stopped, I would have to submit to him. I’m on his territory and his rules count. He can’t even do anything about it. It was impossible to let my behavior slide. I was running away from the alpha of the territory, disobeying him. He had to prove a point if he wanted to keep his pack in check and not risk losing recognition with his pack members. I remembered what Tyra told me about the time when he was supposed to become the alpha, and several challenged him. I wouldn’t want that to happen to him again.
My goal was to leave his territory and reach mine without meeting another wolf. I knew my plan wasn’t the best and most likely doomed, but it was the only thing coming to my mind.
The bigger issue was that exhaustion quickly took over me. My lungs hurt with each breath, and my muscles twitched in pain. Because my wolf had been asleep for such a long time, her energy level wasn’t what it used to be. Eventually, I lost my focus, slipped over a branch, and crashed to the ground with a yelp.
Pain rushed through my body as I tried to get up. I knew Gunnar was very close behind me, and I had to hurry. I was about to run again when he jumped at me and sent me to the floor again. We both slid over the forest floor, knocking all the air out of my lungs. I stumbled back to my feet, trying to be faster than him, but I wasn’t. He jumped in my way, growling. I snapped at him, trying to bite his leg, but he avoided me and pushed me to the ground.
His green eyes stared me down, showing his teeth. My wolf didn’t want to go down without a fight, the adrenaline making her wide awake again. She pushed me to fight him off, but he was a gigantic wolf, and I was tiny. He could probably break a few ribs by just putting more of his weight on me.
I snarled at him, which only brought his wolf into more control. A deep growl left his throat, causing a shiver to run down my spine. His whole body vibrated with the sound, and a drip of saliva fell onto my snout. I bared my teeth and glared at him. I knew he had to do what he had to do but was it necessary to confine me like this?
We both breathed heavily, and I snapped at his face, but he easily avoided me and got a grip on my throat. I stilled under him, feeling his teeth grazing the skin of my throat. Even my wolf was stunned. He had the best opportunity to kill me on the spot right now.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said.
I whined, not moving a muscle.
“Will you stop fighting me now?”
“Yes,” I said, defeated, and he slowly retreated. He stared down at me, waiting for me to roll on my back and show submission. It took me a moment to drop my pride to show him my belly. I closed my eyes. A wave of shame came over me, and I wished I would be anywhere but here.
“I’m sorry it had to end this way. Get up.”
I slowly got back on my feet, but putting weight on my legs sent fresh waves of pain through my body and a whimper left my throat. Gunnar walked next to me and supported my side with his. He carefully nudged me with his nose after I finally stood on my feet again. We were looking at each other for a moment. It was surreal to see him in his wolf form, standing in front of me like this. He looked like he was the king of the woods right now.
He changed back to his human form, a warm light surrounding him while he transformed back.
“Let’s go back and treat your wounds.”
I stared at him, baffled by his trust in me. I could change my mind and attack him, knocking him to the floor and biting his throat. But I would never do such a thing.
I tried to follow his lead, but the connection to my human form was lost. It was almost like I forgot how to do it.
I shook my head and let out a sigh, trying to communicate with him.
He arched a brow. “Can you not transform back?”
I nodded, dropping my gaze. Everything was so terribly complicated all the time. Can’t some things just be easy?
He ran a hand through his hair and moved closer to me, patting my head. “It’s fine. Don’t worry. We will figure it out.”
We might, but how will the pack react when I return as a wolf? They might assume I was provoking them. And even if not, wasn’t it embarrassing to admit you can’t control your transformation as an adult?
Gunnar transformed back and stepped in front of me, his green eyes warm and comforting. He was trusting me, so I should trust him, too.
“I will protect you. No one will harm you, I promise.”
I nodded slowly. Let’s hope he was telling the truth.