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Mila had to admit that Tay’s assessment of the stables was fair, but despite how rough and ready they might be the horses didn’t seem to mind. Friday poked her dark brown nose over the gate and snickered gently as Mila approached, perking up even further when she revealed the two apples she’d taken from the bowl at lunch. Mila’s own horse nudged in long enough to claim a treat before retreating, leaving Mila to stroke Friday’s nose as she once again found herself mulling over the events of the morning and the previous night. Caelan had left a little before lunch and she was loathe to admit quite how much she already missed him. Yet, she couldn’t really deny it. And she didn’t quite know how to feel about it. She couldn’t help her mind wandering to the future - picturing a life on the road, just the two of them… Maybe if they saved up together they could both go to the New World together…

She shook her head, trying to clear her mind. The future was too far away to worry about just yet. She still had to get through tonight.

A twig snapped in the forest behind her and she warily turned to see Spencer approaching. Speak of the devil…

He was back to his usual casual clothes - sweatpants and a tank top - but there was something in his gait that seemed to be, if anything, trying too hard to appear relaxed. His smile looked pretty genuine though. “Hey.”

Mila was sure any attempt at a smile on her part would only make her look more ill at ease so she didn’t bother. “Hi.”

Spencer cocked his head to one side, hands in his pockets. "You seem… tense,” he noted. He joined her by the stable gate, giving Friday’s nose an absent pat before continuing. “Nervous?”

She shrugged, but even that felt forced. Fake. "A little.”

“We’re used to having new pack members.” Something in his eyes was warm and kind and she had to look away. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

“That’s not what I’m nervous about…” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop herself, and yet she knew they needed to be said. “Not entirely…” Her throat was dry. “I… I need your help.”

Spencer said nothing, gave nothing away, just waited, and in that moment she resented him even as she knew that in his scenario she probably would have done the same thing. As hard as it was for her to admit her weakness, it was only natural to want to talk to fill such an uncomfortable silence. And, again she told herself, it did need to be said.

She took a deep breath. “When I first turned I was alone… there was no one to help me through it…” A bitter chuckle. “It hasn’t exactly got better since then.”

She glanced up at him then, and for a moment their eyes met and some sort of warm power brushed against her, comforting and exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. The power of the alpha, the pack - this close to the full moon it wasn’t always easy to keep it in check. She looked away.

“I’m sorry,” Spencer said finally, softly. “That must have been horrible for you.”

Half of her wanted to snap at him, tell him that he couldn’t hope to understand, that he had no idea… She pursed her lips, taking a deep breath. She needed his help, not to make him pissed. Again.

The silence was starting to be deafening again. Even the horses were quiet. ”I can’t control it, Spencer…” She murmured finally. “My wolf…” She hugged her arms to her chest. “What if I hurt someone? I don’t want to put the pack in danger just because I - ”

“That won’t happen. I promise.” Spencer’s tone left no room for argument, but he must have seen Mila was about to try as he continued quickly. “I can help you, Mila, but only if you let me.” His eyes met hers again. “Only if you trust me.”

“I do trust you.” It wasn’t true, not really, and they both knew it. She glanced away. “I have to,” she said quietly.

Spencer seemed to think about it for a moment, then nodded. “Ok,” he said, simply, softly. There was a flicker of a smile, dimmer than before, more thoughtful. Mila swallowed.

“Thank you,” she said, and started to turn away before Spencer spoke up.

“Mila…” She paused, looking back to watch him, something in his tone of voice making her wary again. He seemed to take a deep breath. “About last night…”

Mila felt her stomach clench. "What about it?”

“I know I was quite forward…”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I didn’t - ”

“Spencer.” Her tone was firm but laced with unspoken anger. “I said I don’t want to talk about it.” She probably would have to at some point, she knew. But not now.

“Fine. But still… I am sorry.” He sighed. “I seem to be apologising a lot lately.” Mila swallowed back a retort, leaving him to be the one shuffling awkwardly in the sudden silence. "All I wanted to say,” he continued quietly, “is that I hope this doesn’t make things uncomfortable between us…” A wry smile. “More uncomfortable.”

She wasn’t sure that things could get that much more uncomfortable than they already were but she kept the comment to herself. For the moment, there was only one thing she wanted to worry about. “Help me tonight,” she said. “That’ll be apology enough.”

Spencer nodded, expression serious again. “It’s a deal.”

 

~ ~

 

The full moon was rising and Mila felt like she was going to be sick.

She wasn’t sure exactly what Spencer had said to the others. She didn’t really want to know. The upshot of it was that she and Spencer were heading off from the clearing in one direction, and the rest of the pack were going the other way. Hugo, the oldest of the children who had not yet made his turn and therefore the one in charge for the night, was standing in the clearing with the four younger kids, and from the barely suppressed grins on their faces they planned to make the most of their parents being absent for the evening. Mila remembered the feeling well, and she wished she could smile at it, but her whole body was wound too tight to even make an attempt.

At least, she reflected, Spencer hadn’t tried to continue their conversation from earlier. In fact they both seemed to be under a mutual, silent agreement to pretend that nothing at all had happened. It was a small mercy but she appreciated it. He also didn’t bother trying to chat to her as they walked deeper and deeper into the forest, although she wasn’t sure if it was out of an acknowledgement that no amount of verbal reassurance was going to make her feel any better about what was going to happen or because he was too caught up in his own thoughts. Probably a bit of both. If she wanted distraction she could have started a conversation, but the silence allowed her to try and gather her thoughts and calm herself, if unsuccessfully.

They only walked for about half an hour before stopping in a small clearing. There was a light wind that evening, rustling the leaves above them, but no other sounds of wildlife around. Perhaps the animals of the valley knew what was about to happen.

Spencer was already stripping off his clothes and Mila found herself glancing away, her cheeks flushing as she too began to disrobe. Her fingers fumbled over the buttons, hands shaking.

“Hey…” Spencer’s warm hand closed over hers and she turned, heart thudding. She hadn’t heard him approach. His eyes were huge and black in the darkness, and although they were still human there was something swimming under the surface, a roiling energy ready to be released. Again, the power of the pack brushed against her and she shivered, even as something deep inside her responded with a sense of joyous anticipation. Spencer smiled. “Do you feel it?” he murmured.

She swallowed, throat dry, nodding slowly. He’d let go of her hand now and she turned away to finish undressing, trying not to think about her own nakedness, Spencer’s naked body just behind her, or what was about to happen. She could already feel the moon pulling at her, feel the very first stirrings of the change, as if being with Spencer, being with the pack, even just spiritually, was amplifying the effect, sharpening her awareness of everything.

She let her clothes drop to the floor and turned back to Spencer, resisting the urge to hug her arms across her breasts. To his credit, he didn’t look, or at least she didn’t think he did - she certainly was avoiding looking anywhere below his chest level.

Spencer’s eyes were beginning to stir with lupine gold but when he held out his hand it was just a hand. Mila hesitated for half a heartbeat but then she stepped towards him and took it. His skin was edging from warm into hot - almost fevered, but he wasn’t sweaty. His hand wrapped around hers, smooth and solid, and the warmth of the pack flooded into her just as the aching pull of the moon intensified almost to the point of pain. Her blood was beginning to burn and the smallest whimper bubbled over her lips before she locked them tight.

“Mila…” She looked up. Spencer’s eyes were golden wolf’s eyes, and suddenly she could smell him, smell the pack, smell fur and blood and home. She closed her eyes and the power wrapped around her like a glove, numbing the pain even as it coaxed the wolf from under her skin. She felt the change begin and a cold rod of panic shot through her, her body shaking as she tried to fight it.

“Let go…” Spencer’s voice seemed to speak directly into her mind and she screwed her eyes closed tighter, shaking her head. “You don’t need to fight it… You’re safe…”

Don’t need to fight it… but she always fought it… She didn’t know how she couldn’t.

“Just let go… Trust me…” And then the voice was not just Spencer’s but all of the packs’, human and wolf, and for a moment she felt all of them there with her, knew them all, understood every single one of them, and she felt their love and power and trust for their Alpha well up inside her like it was her own.

“Mila…” Spencer’s voice seemed to call her from miles away and there was power there that she’d never heard from his lips before. The voice of the Alpha.

She let go.

The power rushed over her like wildfire. She thought she’d let go of Spencer’s hand but she could still feel him with her, near her, and that was enough comfort for the moment, even as she felt her body starting to buckle and twist, the wolf forcing its way to the surface. Vaguely, she was aware of the feel of earth on her bare legs and knew that she’d fallen to the ground. Someone in the distance was howling and the sound seemed to anchor her, steady her. The power of the Alpha, of the pack, was still cradling her close, and although the change still hurt it was a different sort of pain than she was used to, more of an intense rush - tingling, yanking, aching - many-layered and much, much less than it had ever been before.

Skin stretched and became thick with black fur, muscles bulged and realigned, claws erupted as hands became paws…

And then it was over.

A hand was stroking across her ears, gentle, calming. The wolf opened her eyes.

“Beautiful…” The voice was familiar, as was the face, although she knew she had never seen this man before. Not with these eyes, at least. She sniffled at him, slightly suspicious. He smelled of fur, of wolf. He was like her then, she realised. “Beautiful,” he said again.

For the briefest of moments another face flashed into her mind. He’d said the same thing and it made her sad, although she didn’t understand why.

The man beside her had moved away slightly and she shuffled around to watch him. He had closed his eyes, smiling softly… and then he changed. Sandy fur flowed over tanned skin. He shook his head slightly, ears pointing and muzzle lengthening in the space of a heartbeat. It looked so quick, so easy. She looked away, ashamed. She always had to fight so hard to be free.

The new wolf yawned, trotting forward a few paces as if to check everything still worked before returning to her side. He tried to nuzzle at her but she rolled to her feet, growling before she could help herself. He stared, golden eyes inquisitive, and walked forward, apparently ready to try again but she backed off. He paused.

For a long while they stood, staring. A silent standoff. His tail was held high - assertive, confident. She understood that he was alpha, but she wouldn’t, couldn’t submit so easily as that. She waited.

Distant howls broke the silence of the night. The alpha looked away from her then, raising his head to howl in response.

The pack were coming. She could feel them flying through the forest towards them, and before long they had broken through the trees around her. Curious noses and friendly licks assaulted her - a barrage of fur and bright eyes. But she doesn’t know these wolves, this pack, not really. So many of them were bigger than her. She felt her lips pulling into another snarl even as her ears flattened fearfully to her scalp.

A female with red blonde fur and golden eyes was licking her muzzle and she growled, batting her away with a paw. The female jerked back even as she returned the growl, but then the alpha was there, stepping between them with a warning bark. The wolves melted away, back into the shadows of the trees.

The alpha turned away, trotting towards the edge of the small clearing before pausing to look back at her. The intent in his stare was clear - follow. Cautiously she did as she was told, and as she did she caught the scent. Deer. A hunt then. Her ears perked up, mouth suddenly wet. Sensing her enthusiasm, the alpha broke into a run and she eagerly followed him, a few more of the pack trailing behind them.

The breeze tousled her fur as she ran, the smells of the forest all around, the thrill of the hunt in the air. Another female, this one with dappled red and grey fur, ran nearly alongside her and before long it was a race, which she won with ease.

They were nearing their prey now. She could sense it. Hunger spiked through her, visions of red meat, dark blood. Her teeth were bared in anticipation.

Up ahead the alpha was slowing. Two of the others split off in opposite directions.

She was hungry. She wanted the prey and she rushed on ahead, ignoring the alpha’s sharp bark. The red blonde female was suddenly in front of her with a snarl but she responded in kind and with another swipe to her muzzle. The female dodged the blow and before she could retaliate another wolf rushed in - this one huge and grey, silver eyes blazing. She was pinned down before she could even try to stop him but she struggled against him determinedly, jaws snapping at whatever she could reach.

Another bark. A deep snarl. The alpha stood before her. The silver eyed wolf let her go, backing away deferentially. She felt her tail lowering, her body submitting even as the hunger and the anger flared up again. She would not submit to him, or to any of them. She surged to her feet, turned tail and ran into the dark trees.

She ran until she knew they weren’t following her, before slowing to a gentle lope, then coming to a stop. The forest was quiet again.

She was still hungry but she would hunt on her own, as she always had before. Silently she trotted between the trees, nose to the ground.

A scent… Familiar… Or at least she thought so. She paused, confused. This wasn’t prey. This was different. A face flashed into her head again. A face that she’d seen with her other eyes. His scent? Yes, her instincts told her. And then, pack.

No. This was not her pack. She’d left the pack behind.

But still…

She trotted in a circle for a while, considering it. Warm. Safe. Home. This was a pack. And this was the scent. So yes, it was pack. A different pack, but still pack. Suddenly joyous, she loped after it.

The trail led her up the valley. At one point she came across a warren and paused to snap up one of the rabbits. That would keep her going for now. Filled with new energy she picked up the pace, running through the forest with the exhilaration of a hunt, even though she knew that it was not prey waiting at the end of this trail.

But then… she slowed, then stopped. The scent had faded. She cast her nose to the ground, to the air, searching… The trail was gone.

She sat down, suddenly tired. The warmth and excitement had faded with the trail. Cold, alone… She raised her head and let out a single melancholy howl.

In the distance somewhere she heard the alpha reply. Slowly she stood, trotting off in the opposite direction. Before long the other howls faded. They would not be coming after her.

She caught another rabbit and chased a couple more but she couldn’t quite summon up the excitement from before. With the moon still high in the sky she found a hollow under a tree, curled up and let herself drift into an empty sleep.

 

 

 




Submitted: December 13, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Amy R. Beckett. All rights reserved.

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Comments

A. K.Taylor

NIce chapter, Amy. Good description with the wolf pack dynamic and Mila's point of view with being introduced to them as wolves. Aside from commas, I noted some moments that could use a phrase change, maybe. They are merely suggestions and predominantly the way I might tell it; although some are more grammatically correct, I believe.

Still liking the story also. I'm trying to keep my anticipation up for an awesome ending too.

Sun, January 27th, 2019 11:59pm

Author
Reply

Thanks again for all your comments - I'm glad you're enjoying it! It was certainly interesting for me to try and write from the wolf's point of view so I'm glad that it came across well :-)

Mon, January 28th, 2019 3:05am

Sylvermyst

Great chapter. I'm glad that Mila had a successful change and I enjoy reading about the wolves interacting. Mila being Mila decided to be alone and do her own thing.

Mon, February 11th, 2019 1:31am

Author
Reply

Thank you! Yes, all the wolf stuff was quite interesting and fun to write so I'm glad you enjoyed it :-)

Mon, February 11th, 2019 4:26am

TheresaVan18

I enjoyed the chapter. It seemed natural that she didn't fall into the pack... she's a lone wolf, always had been. Good description.

Thu, February 14th, 2019 6:03am

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