Behind him, Adam and Lily stepped into the small opening where the rest of their group waited. The couple strode forward holding hands, their fingers interlocked. Lily’s pale blue eyes mirrored Adams dark brown eyes with a look of utter content and happiness. Lily’s dark brown hair was thrown up in a high ponytail, her cheek bones were more prominent. Her small frame was covered in small jean shorts and a purple tank top.
Adam tossed his head to the side, effectively moving his shaggy blonde hair out of his eyes. His nose was slightly crooked from the fight they’d gotten into as children over a stupid toy. His skin was a lighter tan. He only wore a pair of black basketball shorts and looked eager to shift and run with his friends.
Malcom nodded at Lily in a silent greeting, normally he’d pull her into a small friendly hug but newly mated werewolf pairs were extremely territorial and he really didn’t want to get into it with Adam over such a small meaningless gesture.
“Hey” He said to Adam.
Adam tilted his head up in a greeting, “Sup. You’ve been waiting long?”
Shaking his head he shrugged out of his jacket, “No, Rory and I just go here. Tyler and Taylor were here before us”
“And we’ve been waiting forever for all of you” Taylor huffed planting her hands on her hips giving them a wide smile.
Adam laughed “well then maybe we should all head back and you and your brother can stay and wait a little longer” he teased earning a sharp look from Taylor.
Lily elbowed him in the ribs, “That’s not very nice.”
Adam rolled his eyes which earned him another jab.
“Quit being rude “Taylor said even as she grinned.
Tyler cleared his throat, his eyes lighting up in anticipation “So are we good now? Can we go? I’m hungry”
Malcom nodded agreeing with him. He felt the bloodlust. The craving to hunt.
The group began to disrobe. It didn’t matter that they stood naked in front of each other, as they’d done so a thousand times and it was natural to them. Being a werewolf, you were bound to see someone naked after they shift or they’d end up seeing you naked after you shifted. Modesty was a rare occurrence, more so when shifting.
Rolling his shoulders and taking a deep breath he let the change slide across him. It was harder on them as teenagers than on adults. It was exceedingly more painful, it didn’t matter how many times they’d shifted they were still unskilled and simply not used to changing. Malcom clenched his fists tight as sweat formed in his back and chest, his heart began to pump faster and faster, louder and louder. The sound blending with his friends around him as they all began to shift.
Lily cried out first as her shoulder made a sickening crack as it dislocated. Adam let out a growl of displeasure at his mates suffering but it couldn’t be helped.
Taylor and Tyler were the next to cry out as their hands and feet reshaped, their fingers breaking and bending to be replaced by paws.
Rory whimpered as her tail pushed through the skin near her behind, a soft caramel colored fur broke across her skin before covering her tail.
Malcom ground his teeth as his canines shifted and fell into long sharp points. He breathed hard through his nose. His chest rose and fell rapidly as dark midnight black fur broke through his skin, coating his body and tail. He panted, his tongue rolling out as he dry heaved. His insides turning and squeezing. Everything became a little clearer as it usually did once he shifted. Which was normal for a young wolf, his senses as a young man didn’t quite match his senses as a wolf. His wolf was sharper by smell, sight and hearing.
In time his body would develop the same higher senses as his wolf, but not quite yet.
The trees looked a little greener, he could smell the fresh rich soil and just how healthy it was and if he listened closely enough he could hear the sound of the small stream a few miles away.
Malcom stood on four shaky paws, pausing for a moment to gather himself and his strength. A white snout nudged his side, the cold dark nose sniffing the fur of his belly. Rory rubbed against him, it was friendly, nothing sexual about it, before she bounded off running past the group and into the trees.
It was then that their group, as one, took off. Taylor and Tyler’s dark brown wolves were nearly identical, had it not been for the one white paw on Tyler’s front right foot, nobody would know who was who.
Adams’ dark gray form stayed close to Lily, never straying from her side. Lily held a mixture of browns, grays and whites in her soft coat. She was as gorgeous as a wolf as she was as a human.
Malcom sped past them all, searching for Rory.
He could smell her, she was like the first breath of spring, refreshing.
His tail wagged behind him, he was content and happy. The warm night air blew through his fur like a hand shifting threw his coat. He lifted his head high in the air as he ran. It felt good, he felt at peace with the world.
Lily let out a small feminine bark as she came to his side. Artemis followed her gaze and caught sight of Rory’s backside as she slipped effortlessly through the trees, quickly heading towards their usual spot near the long winding stream.
The heavy thunder of their paws shook the forest floor scattering nearby animals as a group of predators ran through the forest.
Malcom tried too hard to catch up to her, his paws tripping over themselves like a newborn pup. He yelped, falling forward and tumbling face first to the ground.
His friends let out loud huffs and he knew they were laughing at him. They stopped for a moment to make sure he was ok before running ahead to catch up to Rory leaving him behind to pick himself up,
Malcom came to his feet and shook himself off, pine needles and dirt flying from his dark black coat. He took a moment to scratch his ear with his back paw before quickly running forward to catch up with the others.
He’d just neared the tree line when ten loud pops echoed into the trees, shaking the birds from their nests as they scattered with loud screeches of irritation. Growls and whimpers rang out and then everything fell silent. He could hear the earth take a huge breath.
Malcom froze. Hackles raised and with a spear of caution, he quietly padded forward on silent paws until he peeked through a small opening in an overgrown wild bush. The darkness of the night cloaked him from the hunters.
Three large burly pale men stood strong and tall inside of the small stream, water sloshing and parting around their boots and long thick camouflage overalls. Various lengths of beards graced their face and looks of awe and guilt swarmed their eyes.
Malcom’s gaze dropped from the men and sought out his friends.
He stilled, his tail coming to a stop and his heart began to cry. A small gust of wind lifted and swirled, bringing the smell of blood and death to his prone form.
His wolf howled; he’d lost his pack mates.
Malcom couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scene. The men slowly left their accidental kills and slunk back into the forest.
Stepping from the tree line he slowly padded forward until he came to stand by Adam and Lily. Adams body was covering hers, bathed in red, three shots to the side. His dark gray fur was wet and sticky. Malcom nudged him with his snout and let out a whine.
Nothing happened. Neither him nor Lily moved.
Lily’s eyes were wide open, staring blankly into the trees. A single bullet hole between her eyes. She hadn’t stood a chance.
Malcom’s form shook with a great force, his legs barely holding him up.
He found Tyler and Taylor lying near each other closer to the stream than the rest. Their bodies faced each other, their paws nearly touching as if they’d been reaching for each other. A piece of skin from a bullet had taken off a part of Taylor’s ear, one more lay in her chest. It had hit her heart, killing her instantly. Tyler had been shot three times along his left side.
His Rory was curled up in the grass, she’d almost made it to the tree line. He couldn’t look at her, the smell of death was too much.
He gagged as his heart cried.
His friends were dead.
This had been his idea, the alpha had warned them about the human hunters and he hadn’t listened. He had insisted they go out running and now because of him, they were all dead.
Throwing his head back, his snout pointing straight up, he locked eyes with the half moon and let out a loud howl. It was full of pain, grief, and guilt.
The moon shone down on him with pity. It bathed him in as much moonlight as it could lend as he ran from the bodies of his fallen, quickly disappearing into the forest.
Malcom couldn’t go home, he couldn’t go back to his pack. Not after what he caused.
So he ran, and he never looked back.