I got dressed, brushed my hair and my teeth before coming down for the morning. Taking the steps two at a time, I head straight for the kitchen. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted through the house and my stomach gurgled in anticipation. Entering the kitchen, I noticed Jeremy towering over the stove, whistling to himself, and nodding his head back and forth in time as if he was a soloist in a concert. Leaning against the archway I listened for a second trying to hold in my laughter. It was only when he lifted the spatula high in the air and then gave out a loud ” Baaaaaa Daaaaa!” That I realized I should stop this show before he started his encore.
Laughing I clapped and whooped. Jeremy’s body went rigid, and he nearly dropped the spatula when he turned and saw me.Turning a light shade of pink, he cleared his throat and grunted out a rushed “good morning” before the blush retreated. Running a hand through his light hair, a smile replaced his blush. “So, I have exciting news.” He said to me, as I reached for a couple of plates in the cabinet by the sink. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” I mused aloud, hoping he would tell me that I get to go home. “Zach thought you may enjoy going for a run today, so after we eat I can take you out if you like.” Not the news I was expecting, but it was still better than being cooped up in here all day. “Hmmmmm. We could. It depends.” I answered, as I grabbed a few pieces of bacon off the plate next to him. “Depends on what?” He asked while plating his scrambled eggs, looking slightly confused.Moving away from the stove he grabbed a fork. “On whether my time increases because I took another run on your property.” I only half joked.
Shooting me an incredulous look he shook his head before responding, “That was like a week ago, it’s probably time to let that go.” Scoffing I popped a piece of bacon in my mouth before retorting “Forgiveness takes time.” Tipping his head to the side he shoveled scrambled eggs into his mouth, nodding. “It’s been over a week since I’ve lost my favorite shirt. I’m still in mourning, yet here I am, making you breakfast. The least you could do is go for a run with me. ” He said, pointing his fork at me. Rolling my eyes, I laughed. “You know your shirt isn’t gone. I needed to run home in something. It’s in my trash can at home.” Slowly turning to me, his mouth dropped open dramatically. He stared at me before asking ” You threw it away?” in an incredulous tone.
In that instant I didn’t know whether to laugh or hand him the Oscar for best dramatic acting. “Why would I keep it?” I countered with a question of my own. “I don’t know, as a memento or something?” He suggested. “I didn’t deem having to sneak out a window after waking up naked and drugged worth remembering.” I muttered, taking my plate towards my seat at the bar. Snorting, Jeremy looked over to me, a sly look in his eyes before a mischievous grin took over his features. “Then you’re not doing it right.” He said with a wink. I nearly choked on my bacon.
An hour later we were walking down a path that ran behind the pack house. Jeremy had explained that unmated wolves, and young couples lived together in the house. The inhabitants took turns cooking and performing duties for the properties upkeep. The house was huge, and kind of reminded me of a plantation house. It had a community garden in the back, as well as grills, a gazebo, and picnic tables. A large pool lay off to the side of the house and was gated. Young mothers and their children were currently swimming, and my eyes lingered on one mother who was teaching her daughter how to swim. Watching them, I wondered what it would have been like to grow up like this. How it must feel to be in a community where you didn’t have to hide what you are.
Dismissing the thought, I turned to Jeremy who had been watching me intently. “It must have a lot of rooms if most of the pack lives there.” His sudden laugh made me stop. I tilted my head to the side, wondering what I had said that was so funny. “This is just one pack house.” He continued to chuckle. “This isn’t our only pack house. We have a couple more. Families with children live in smaller residences closer to town so it looks more normal. Beta’s and Gamma’s have their own residence.” Jeremy said with a wink. He began walking but I was still frozen in place. I never dreamed the pack would be this big. In the few years I had lived here I never knew I was living right next to hundreds of wolves!
Playing back part of Jeremy’s speech in my head, I jogged to catch up to him. “Gamma?” Noticing my change of pace he slowed a step so he could walk in pace with me. “Yes, the third in command. Most packs have an Alpha and a Beta, but larger packs have Gammas. Sometimes the gamma position is given out of special consideration by the alpha in smaller packs though. I’m the Gamma for Moon Ridge.“If he had been a simple guard his job would have made more sense, but for someone with real rank to be watching me? I suddenly felt a little nervous. “What’s a gamma like you doing watching a rogue like me?” I asked, using humor to displace my discomfort.“Rogue and pack relations and ummmmm, communications, is kind of a part of my job, and besides that, alpha believed you were more . . . comfortable with me.” Jeremy explained. Narrowing my eyes I glanced over at him “I knew you were a spy.” I only half joked. “Me? Spy?” He answered, trying to look and sound innocent. Too bad I knew better. “Whatever Big Brother.” I laughed, being somewhat reminded of my position and my accidental anarchy.
Jeremy came to a stop beside me. In front of us was a large clearing with multiple pathways leading into the forest. Instead of being excited, my palms started to sweat. I shifted once every couple of months if I was lucky. The last few days I had shifted way more than I was used to. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to shift, and the last thing I wanted was to appear weak in front of the pack. I know they hadn’t tried to hurt me since I have been here, but the need to hide any weaknesses was instinctual and my wolf was not happy about the possibility of looking vulnerable. Jeremy stretched his arms out over his head and smiled up at the sky. “It’s a perfect day to run!” He exclaimed. My lips started to pull into a tight smile, his enthusiasm was catching.
Pulling off his shirt, he flexed his chest. My eyes were instantly drawn to his well sculpted abs and my wolf growled at me. An image of Zach flashed before my eyes, and ashamed, I looked at the dirt. Although I was still unclear about my feelings for Zach, my wolf was completely devoted to him. She practically drooled over him every time he was around, and she begged me to trust him and accept him, no questions asked. Her insistence and the random flashes of his shirtless body against mine, were starting to really irk me. I mean, I could live with the sight of him shirtless, but she kept bringing it up during the most inopportune times. Like now.
It was at that moment, when Jeremy called my name that I realized I had been staring. Luckily he was still stretching out and didn’t seem to notice. “Yes.” I answered his call weakly, hoping I wasn’t caught. “You can shift behind that tree over there.” Nodding I started heading for the tree when he called back out to me. “Adeline. . .” He began softly, ” I’m still your guard, it is still my duty to make sure you don’t run off. I will go after you, and I will use any means necessary to bring you back.” His gaze had been on the tree line, but he turned his light eyes to me, looking me in the eyes as he told me this, letting me know he was serious. I nodded again. “Of course.” I stated softly. A shiver ran down my spine at the thought of him pursuing me. The image of him poised over my arm, ready to sedate me popped into my mind. I hadn’t forgotten the position I was in, but I had no intention of running today.
Walking to the tree line, I stepped behind the largest tree I could find before taking my clothes off. Placing them in a neat bundle at my feet I crouched down and took a few relaxing breaths. Closing my eyes, I urged the change to come over me. My stomach tightened and my skin grew warm in anticipation. After a minute, I opened my eyes and scowled. Inside, it felt like my wolf was panting from the effort to change. I could feel my wolf waiting, laying dormant just under my skin, but when I willed her to step forward, I felt like she was flickering in and out. “You okay back there?” Jeremy called out. Shit. “I’m fine.” I yelled back a little too quickly. Slamming my eyes shut I crouched down further, breathing deep. Putting all my mental energy into it, I finally felt it. My skin tingles and my body burns. Sickening pops ring out as my bones started to break into place. Midway through the shift I cried out. I hadn’t remembered it being this painful since the first few times I made the change.
A couple minutes later, I padded out from behind the trees. Jeremy had already changed and was sitting in front of the glade, waiting. His wolf was large and tan. Upon seeing me approach he turned his furry head, looking me over curiously. He watched me for a minute, his head turned to the side in thought. I looked down at my white paws, then back to him questioningly, wondering why he was looking at me like that. With a shrug of his shoulders and a nod of his head he motioned me forward. Stretching my body out I trailed behind him, my wolf welcoming the surprise run.
Choosing a trail Jeremy stretched his back legs out for a second before leaping forward and taking off in a run. Giving out an excited yip, I followed after him, the joy of running with another wolf overwhelming. Following the trail, I stayed behind Jeremy for a few minutes, apprehensive. Once I became more comfortable, I blew past him, relishing in the feeling of the wind in my hair and the metaphorical dust Jeremy was snacking on. Jeremy stayed just behind me on my right flank, exertion staining his features. Giving a bark, he changed course. Shifting my weight, I slowed to turn and follow. Staying next to him, I followed him to a small pond.
Coming to a stop in front of the water, we lowered our head for a drink. After a small rest, I was ready to run again. Jumping up and down, I happily barked at Jeremy, and wagged my tail. Rolling his eyes back, he fell over to his side and played dead. Walking over to him, I nudged him with my paw, before nudging his front leg with my nose and whining in frustration. Opening his eyes he stuck out his tongue and dropped his head to the ground again. Barking, I walked passed him, and jumped in the direction of the trail, threatening to leave without him. Rolling over to lay on his stomach, he lifted his paw before letting it hang limp, whimpering in fake pain. Turning my head to the side, I tried to raise an eyebrow, giving a wolfy “Don’t give me that shit” look.
Getting up, he trotted over to me as I crouched down in a racing stance. He snorted and looked at me with a wide smile, rolling his eyes like he would to an over excited puppy. Once he nodded he was ready, we leaped forward in a full run down the trail. We hadn’t made it far when Jeremy grew stiff at my side. Putting his front paws down, he attempted to slide to a stop, his mouth half contorted in a growl. Unprepared for his sudden stop I blew past him. Starting to slow, I yelped out in shock when an arrow whizzed over my right shoulder and landed with a sharp thunk in a tree behind me. Stopping, my mouth fell open and I froze. A strange acidic scent met my nostrils, and I realized it was the reason Jeremy had stopped. My mind frantically tried to place the scent but in my distressed state, I couldn’t put a name to it. I had been too excited about the run to recognize it, and now I was fully aware that someone was close by. Watching us.
Walking backwards towards Jeremy, I surveyed the surrounding trees and bushes with my teeth bared and my fur on end. Reaching him, we both hung our heads low and perked our ears up, listening for any signs of movement, ready for an attack. The sudden breaking of twigs and the click of a crossbow had us both diving to the side as a second arrow raced past where I had just been standing. Growling furiously, Jeremy barked at me to run, as he took off to the left, disappearing into the trees in the direction of the sound, in an attempt to get around the hunter to take him down.
Taking off towards the right, I dove into the trees, zig zagging madly, maneuvering as fast as my legs would allow me. It is always said that a moving target is harder to hit, so I didn’t stop. I continued to run erratically hoping to confuse and throw off anyone trying to take a shot at me. High on adrenaline, I pushed myself hard, in any direction that felt right, not bothering to keep track of where the trail had been. After I felt I had made it far enough away, I jumped into the cover of the nearby bushes, keeping myself low to the ground.
Out of breath, I sucked in air, trying to flood my sore muscles and strained lungs with the oxygen they so desperately needed. After a few minutes, I perked up my ears, listening intently for signs of life. A rabbit running into his nearby burrow almost had me jumping out of my fur. Placing a paw over my eyes, I thanked the goddess that no one was around to see me get spooked by a bunny. Back on task, I decided to scan the area for any more hunters. Finding a small opening in the bush, I peeked out. Not seeing anything suspicious, I gave the air a cautionary sniff, immediately wishing I was more familiar with the area. I smelt dirt, leaves, trees, urine and the past scent of wolves. Deciding to continue playing it safe, I crawled out of the bush, silently making my way to another across the way. In the middle of my doggy army crawl, I realized I had been humming spy music in my head. Leave it to me to turn a dire moment into a joke. Rolling my eyes at myself, I resisted the urge to do a secret agent somersault and crawled into the bush.
Making sure the coast was clear enough to move to another location, I crawled out of the bush, and started heading back in the direction I came from deciding to head back towards the alphas house. I had only been walking for a minute when, a BANG reverberated in the air above me, and bark flew off the tree directly behind me. Wincing as the debris rained over me, I gave out a loud yip and dove to the left at full speed. Running forward blindly. Jumping through a bush, I wove around a few trees, when I ran out of ground and ran straight off a steep incline. My heart dropped to my stomach, and that sickening feeling you get when you miss a step took over. For a moment I felt like I was flying, gliding weightlessly through the air. Then a sharp pain flared up from my back leg and gravity took over. I was sucked back to the earth, slamming into the ground. Hard. Still on the incline, I rolled, my body gaining momentum as I tumbled snout over tail to the bottom of the ravine.
Reaching the bottom, my body ached and my world spun. Hearing shouting from somewhere over head, I attempted to pull myself up, only to sway and fall from the pain in my legs. Although all my limbs were sore and shaking, my back right leg throbbed unbearably. Looking back, I gasped when I saw that there, sunk deeply into my hind leg, was an an arrow.