MY PAWS DUG into the soft earth beneath me as I ran. I relished this time running, the freedom it provided me. I didn't have to think about my studies, I didn't have to think about whether or not I was pleasing my parents with my actions; I was blissfully alone inside my head. My thoughts were my own here. It was the most amazing feeling, when I could shed the stress of my day.
Are we planning to tour the entire kingdom tonight, man?
My best friend Bryce broke through my solitude and peace over our mind link. I jerked my head up skidding to a stop at a break in the trees. Moonlight filtered through the dense leaves, its rays skittering along the shed branches and stems, dancing with the purple wild flowers that were clinging to the last moments they would exist during this year. We were in the north, where winter set in almost as quickly as summer kissed us goodbye. I turned to face my friend. He was winded and panting, but I barely felt anything. I wasn't even a little fatigued.
Just let me know, because I have Jessica waiting for me back home and I promised her at least three rounds tonight - I need my strength. Or is it Corinna.. Bailey? Shit.
I rolled my eyes at the man whore I called my brother from another mother. His big grey wolf flopped down in a particularly lush area of flowers, while I shifted into my human form. I reached down to untie my shirt and shorts from my leg so that I could get dressed. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem letting nature be nature - closer to home. I could tell that we weren't far, but the last thing I needed was to descend upon the townspeople baring it all. My mother would cuff my ears out of embarrassment.
Shit, how far did we run? I asked the big ball of fur on the ground.
Three hundred miles, if we went one - easily, he replied while stretching his legs and giving his back a good scratching.
"Bryce, stop fucking around and shift," I huffed. "Three hundred miles and you're that out of breath? When did you become such a puss?"
He shifted, booming with laughter. Untying his shorts, his head snapped up and he shot me a glare as if my insult took a little longer to register with him. "Screw you, dude. I outlast every other wolf in the kingdom, except for you, which is why you'll name me Beta when you ascend the throne as Alpha and King."
I snickered at his arrogance.
Pulling his shirt over his head, he searched my face. "You are so cranky, what the hell has gotten into you tonight?"
What was wrong with me? All day I had been on edge. I rubbed my palm across my chest, trying to dispel the weird feeling that had taken root there and just would not subside. "Honestly I don't know. My wolf is restless as hell. I've never felt him like this."
Bryce's eyes hardened. He scanned the area where we were, using his keen eyesight to see far more than human eyes ever could. He was instantly alert. "Can you pinpoint anything at all about this feeling? Is it danger? Do you think you're sensing an enemy? Rogues?"
I centered myself around my wolf, seeking, feeling, trying to get any answer I possibly could. While I was focused on my wolf, Bryce stepped into a battle stance. He backed himself against my back, protecting me whilst simultaneously being able to anticipate an attack from anywhere. That is why I would be naming him my Beta. He was a focused, honed fighting machine.
I became one with my wolf in our minds. I could feel the breeze sifting through his fur, he could feel my every muscle tense and on alert. I knew we were at least 20 miles from the center of town, but my wolf and I could smell the aroma of food wafting on the breeze from Stella’s, the diner belonging to my aunt.
What’s here, I asked my wolf, what am I missing? What aren’t I seeing?
One word, one syllable, and my focus was completely honed. How had I missed that erratic heartbeat? It filled my head and called to me like a siren song. It was beating far too fast, dangerously fast. I felt my wolf straining against me, wanting to head towards the town.
“Bryce, we need to move. Can you hear that heartbeat?”
I felt his entire body stiffen as he centered around his wolf.
“I hear it,” he responded in less than two seconds. “Fuck, that’s beating really fast! Who’s out here? Whomever it is is really afraid, Landon, but I can’t locate a danger source. Can you?”
I was already moving, too engrossed in finding “her”. I didn’t bother answering Bryce.
“Landon. Wait! We need to take this slow! We have no idea what we are walking into and we have no back up!”
I ignored him. Where is she? I stopped and smelled the air. It was faint, but I found it. I found her.
I picked up my pace moving through the trees, tearing through branches and trampling the undergrowth, searching. The thundering heart beat was growing louder by the second. I had completely lost all track of Bryce, but I knew he hadn’t lost me.
There. My wolf nudged me. Her.
I stopped. I cast my gaze everywhere trying to see. I could hear her breaths, quick and uneven. Slowly, I turned my head to the right, gazing down at the base of an enormous fir tree.
There, my wolf confirmed. Her.
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