Someone was stalking me.
And anyone stalking a werewolf was either batshit crazy or had balls of titanium.
Don’t get me wrong--I’ve been stalked before, for serious and for playtime. The latter I honestly found a bit of a turn on if done properly by a fellow wolf of the opposite sex. Still, the few times it had happened had been playful, flirtatious, and reciprocated. A game of wits.
This was an entirely different game.
To his credit, the stalker was quite good. He stayed downwind of me so I couldn’t smell him. He kept out of my peripherals. He moved slowly, gradually, his paws light on the grass and the leaves of the forest. It was late, past any good girl’s bedtime, but I hadn’t been a good girl since I was probably about fourteen years old. Bad girls stayed out late and played in the moonlight. I’d been a bit restless lately, so I’d gone out for a midnight run through Fernbank Forest to clear my head. Sometimes I’d play tag with any local wildlife I could find. Deer were excellent sport, but rabbits were even better--they were faster and harder to catch. Still, in the city of Atlanta, deer weren’t exactly in massive supply, especially the closer you got to downtown. You had to go to the peripheral suburbs for proper fauna.
“Well,” you ask. “If you didn’t see him and didn’t smell him, Cassandra, how did you know he was there in the first place?”
Werewolves are sort of odd. A lot of folks think we’re wolves in human form or humans in wolf form, but it’s honestly both. When I changed into my wolf form, part of my human brain rested and the wolf stepped into the control room. All animals had a sense of when they were being watched. It was a survival tactic. Humans have it too, but it’s just not as acutely as animals, and especially apex predators. Wolves were at the top of their food chains wherever they were that didn’t have men with guns. Wolves knew their surroundings as if it was a part of them, and in some ways, it was. Nature breathed life into us, supernatural as it was, and so we always knew on a subconscious level what was around us, in the wind, in the trees, in the sky.
So what did my stalker want?
I had a few theories as I merrily strolled through the woods, pretending like I didn’t know better. I was trotting down a hill with a sharp decline, and I’d done it on purpose. He couldn’t stay low if he had to cross the hill at some point to keep tailing me.
Theories formed in my head. I was third in line for pack leadership here in the southeast. My father was the original Wolfman. My mother was the lupa, his mate. We had a pack of seventy or so raggedy miscreants who took care of each other and made nice with other packs who came through town for a good time. Every so often, I’d get some admirer trying to suck up to me with the scheme to be next in line for the throne. If he married me, he’d become royalty, effectively. Not that my family flaunted anything. We were well off, not rich, and most of what we made went back into the pack anyhow. Foolish men had tried and failed one by one over the last decade. If they stepped up, I swatted them down. However, none of them ever stalked me beforehand. Typically, they’d show up to pack meetings and introduce themselves, flirt with me, butter up my folks, only to be told a very firm no. So theory one was out the window.
I reached about ten yards from the top of the hill and then dug myself a nice shallow ditch before flumping down into it. My fur was a rich medium brown with black streaks over my spine and at the tuft of my tail, which effectively made me invisible in the dark of the forest. I shut my eyes and considered Theory Two: a rogue werewolf. They were rare, but they happened sometimes. Every so often, someone who had never had a pack, usually the survivor of an attack, traveled around making trouble for others to prove themselves. That wouldn’t go well for him. I’d killed before in self-defense, and as much as I didn’t like it, I could do it again.
I concentrated. A few minutes into my wait, I felt him. I waited until clouds slid over the full moon and took a peek.
He was all black. Rare. He kept as low to the ground as possible, but I could see him from here since I’d forced him over the hill. The forest cast shadows over him. He was a big fella, bigger than me, probably a good bit stronger too. He sniffed the air, hoping to catch my scent, but I was downwind this time. The clouds shifted again and just before I shut my eyes, I saw the color of his: bright, arctic blue, like a sparkling iceberg floating through the ocean at night. Interesting. Where had I seen eyes like that before?
The stalker determined that I was nowhere in the vicinity and eased his way down the hill, still soundless as a shadow. He was an impressive predator. He’d done this before. Maybe he was just curious. Theory Number Three was simple enough: some wolves were simply lonely and looking for connection, even if they knew they could have that if they joined the pack. I could sympathize. I was basically an introvert who could fake being an extrovert when needed. I valued my time alone. But even I got lonely.
The black wolf still hadn’t spotted me. By the time he did, it was too late.
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