Still Max's POV
I laid there, half asleep, in what was more of a daze than slumber, really, and listened for a long time. The wolf howls grew closer, and my nerves were becoming a frayed mess. I was having all to vivid flash backs of erasers, and then I would be back at the new house, watching myself slap Charlie's hand away. It was like a slideshow on the back of my eyelids, guilt, terror, remorse, blood, predator, prey, and it went on and on. I must have relived a thousand memories, the erasers becoming more vivid as the howls grew louder and closer.
I opened my eyes, dispelling the illusion, and was dismayed to find the night almost exactly the same. Not more than half an hour could have passed. A sigh broke through my lips, and I leaned back on my elbows. I just stared up at the clouded sky, wishing more than anything to see the stars again, a sight that I had been denied for two years. I barely even remember what it looks like.
I closed my eyes again, and surprisingly, my thoughts drifted towards the flock. My flock. I was so worried about them, because I had broken my side of the deal. I wondered if the flock was still safe, still free, and I wondered how Fang was holding up being the new leader. Of course, I guess it wasn't new anymore, saying as his leadership was two years running, but I still couldn't help but think of it as new. In my heart, it would always be my job.
Another howl pierced through my thoughts, and caused me to spring out of my slouch and into an alert position. It was incredibly close, and couldn't have been more than a mile off. I heard heavy paws against the soft, muddy ground, and the crunching of pulverized leaves. There was also a soft squishing sound, which I assumed was made by the moss. Suddenly, with a loud clash of sound, a huge, russet red wolf burst through the foliage. I sucked in a surprised breath with my teeth, and the wolf skidded to a halt in front of me, a panicked look in his (I'm assuming the gender) eyes. He looked horror stricken to see me there, several feet above him in the tree.
Instinctively, I plunged into his head, not realizing I had until thoughts flooded from his mind to mine. It was a strange mishmash of several voices, all thinking separately, yet together. It was rather confusing.
There's a girl! There's a girl here!
What is a girl doing there?
She's in danger!
Get her out, Jake!
And how do you suggest I do that?
I don't know! Get her on your back or something! Carry her in your teeth if you have to! Just get her away from there!
Jake, I hate to suggest this, but the vampires probably going to follow her scent. You can just carry on with the plan, and bring her with you…
And use her as a decoy? What if she gets hurt?
I couldn't help snorting at that one. The wolf, who I suppose is named Jake, looked back to me, a hint of confusion in his expression.
What is up with this human? Why isn't she afraid of you?
You ask him like he knows.
I couldn't help it. I flat out laughed at that one. Before digging in his mind again, I climbed down off the tree, and hopped onto his back. "Let's go, Jake." I said gripping his neck fur to secure myself. There was silence in his mind for a moment, and then it started again.
What the hell?
They all said this, though the choice of cuss words varied.
…What the hell? Jake repeated. I think he was trying to twist his head to look at me, though that was unsuccessful. Shocker there.
Jake, we can worry about this later. You need to get back on the move!
And then we were moving again. It was fast, I admit, but not quite as fast as I could run. After several minutes, we reached a clearing, where two more wolves sat with their backs to us. Though they were both considerably smaller than Jake, they were still much larger than regular wolves. The smallest was a sleek silver wolf, obviously female. The other was a larger, more masculine wolf, male, who's pelt was a stormy grey.
In that moment, when we bounded over, completing the triangle, all three of the wolf's backs facing towards the center, I wondered why I had immediately trusted them. They could have been some new breed of eraser. Perhaps it was the humor, which was almost inconceivable for an eraser, or anyone raised by the school, to poses. Or maybe it was my way of trying to make-up for the way I had treated my step-relatives at the house. It could even have possibly been purely that my gut felt no wariness towards these massive creatures. Their thoughts broke through mine.
How to explain the plan? Someone could phase back…
No. That's too dangerous. What if he comes when their human?
I decided, first of all, that to save the trouble I would just tell them I could read minds. Second of all, I wanted to know what they meant about fazing human. Just in case the enemy they spoke of was in hearing distance, I spoke into their heads.
Hi. Go ahead and explain the plan. Just think it. I'll hear.
Silence. Almost like a wordless shock.
Umm, okay, look, I'll explain later. As long as you do, too. Especially that phasing human part.
More silence ensued, and finally, Jake nodded his head.
Okay. There will definitely be some explaining later.
Focus. Tell me the plan. I know I am the decoy, but what do you need me to do?
We're fighting a vampire. More on that later. Point is, it will be drawn to the scent of your blood-
Will it help if I bleed?
Well, yes, but it's not necessary… No! Jake, stop her!
Seriously, it's no trouble. It's not like it hurts.
But it would make it more difficult for us.
Look, just forget it, girl. Jake, continue on with the plan.
Yea, right. Anyway, so when she comes for you, Leah will circle around-
Leah is the sleek silver female?
I could tell she was pleased with this depiction.
Yes, I am.
Uh-huh…So Leah will circle around and tackle it, while Seth heads it off from the side. I join the attack then. Will you be too scared if I leave you unguarded?
No. I didn't offer any more explanation than that. I did not feel any need to do so.
Before he had time to say anything else, a pale male appeared in the clearing, his searing red eyes locked on me. His model like appearance reminded me of unmorphed erasers.
"Hey, babe. Why don't you ditch the big, scary werewolves and come with me? I won't hurt you." His satin like voice seemed to glide across the very air.
"You know, somehow, I am having a hard time believing that." I stated simply.
His eyes widened innocently and he pointed at his face. "Would this face lie to you?"
I mirrored his actions. "Would this face kick your ass?"
He did not respond, and instead continued to hold my gaze.
"Not answering? Here I'll do it for you; yes and yes." I sneered, and then, Leah and Seth toppled him over, and Jake slid me from his back to join them. I readied myself to help if anything went awry, but that was not necessary. It was not very long before a noxious fire burned, sending a thick, purple smoke upwards into the rainy sky.
Hey, girl! We'll be right back. We're going to faze human.
The amount of time that took was minimal. Almost as fast as it would have taken me to circle the clearing…twice if I kept a human pace.
Jake and Seth were arguing about something, I could have listened but I tuned them out. I instead gave them all a one over, assessing them. They were all tall, but Leah was slightly shorter than my own tall build, and muscley. They had olive skin and black hair. While neither of the males were looking at me, Leah watched me intensely, her eyes probing.
Trying to figure me out? I asked her in her head, and found a small amount of amusement from the utter shock in her expression. She didn't answer me. Oh well, it wasn't really important. The boys reached me, still arguing, and sat down in front of me, Leah not far behind. I sat down, too, and they stopped their conversation and turned their eyes to me. Well, mostly, for Seth had his eyes shut in laughter, and he reached a hand out to pat my shoulder. I stood rigidly, froze by the action, and had to consciously hold myself in place, to keep from sidestepping or flinching.
"That…was really funny...when he asked you…if his face would lie to…you…" He choked out between his guffaws. He opened his eyes, and instantly froze, just like I had. I took this opportunity to step away from his grip, in what I hoped was a polite movement.
Leah and Jake looked at him, their eyes wide in absolute shock. "No way," Leah whispered, her voice stiff, just like her posture. Seth didn't even look at her. He was still staring at me, his gaze intent.
I shrunk back from him involuntarily. He was frightening me, as much as I was loath to admit it. I was desperate to change the topic, from whatever it was.
"How is it that you are both human and wolf?" I asked simply, cutting straight to the point. There answer was long and detailed, almost a complete contradiction to the format of my question.
"So, in short, you are shape shifters that can morph into the form of giant wolves." I was somehow not surprised. I had seen too much in my lifetime to leave much room for doubt. Leah nodded in affirmation.
"Now what's the deal with you?" Leah narrowed her eyes at me.
"Hmm, that's quite a long story. What specifically do you want to know?" I asked, hoping to avoid explaining my life story.
Jake said, "Just two things; why you were in that tree in the dead of night and why you can read our minds."
Seth, at the same time as Jake, said in a strange tone, "All of it." Then they looked at each other. I decided to answer Jake for obvious reasons.
"I'm something of a lab rat. Telepathy was grafted into my DNA. As for the tree…Let's just say I had to get out." Jake nodded, as if this made perfect sense. Leah was not as pleased with my response.
"Why do you keep being so vague? You're totally avoiding the questions!" Her voice came out in a rage, practically tinting the air red. Seth nodded to second this.
Birds started chirping, and my attention was called to the time. "Shoot! I have to get back." I shouted, panicking slightly. I had not meant to be out this long. "Ugh, Mom's probably having a fit by now." That sounded normal enough to say. I also silently added that I hopped Charlie was okay.
I jumped up, and started walking out of the clearing, back to the forest, calculating how far I would need to go before it was safe to take off. "Wait!" Seth shouted, jogging over to catch up with me. Jake and Leah followed. "You were in the woods pretty deep," He paused for a moment, "no pun intended, when Jake found you. He rode you a lot deeper in, too. It would take you about an hour to get back. Let us give you a ride."
I had to physically restrain the retort that I had perched on my tongue. I searched my intuition, trying to find any signs of doubt in my body, but when I came out empty, I decided to accept the offer. Perhaps Jake's pack could become somewhat of an ally to me.
"Sure. Are you taking me in wolf form or in human?"
"Human." Seth's response was immediate, almost too fast. I raised my eyebrow, but said nothing. He was suddenly right next to me, and reached down to pull me into his arms. I didn't react until he was holding me against his bare chest, bridal style. I couldn't help it. He terrified me, and I didn't think, I just moved. I grabbed his arm from under me, twisted out of his grip, and flipped his lightweight body do that he landed face-first into the dirt. I backed away then, in a flash of movement, to pull myself into a fighting stance, trying to stop the shaking that jerked my limbs this way and that.
A full thirty seconds passed, with Jake and Leah's shocked expressions flipping between Seth, crumpled and unmoving on the ground, and me. This is also the amount of time it took for me to realize what I had done. I gasped, bringing my hands to my mouth, and then away to shout, "Oh, no, Seth! Seth, I'm so sorry!"
Seth finally responded, dragging himself into an upright position. "That hurt!" he moaned, "That actually HURT."
"I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to do that! Please tell me you're okay." I choked.
Seth just laughed. "I should be the one apologizing, for scaring you like that. I'm shocked that you were able to do that. I'll probably have a bruise or something. Of course, it will be gone by noon."
I was impressed. They healed almost twice as fast as I did. Looking over, I saw Jake and Leah watching him with a calculating expression.
"I do have one question though. What was up with your back? It felt really weird." Seth continued. Jake and Leah just raised their eyebrows as if to say, that's an odd question and turned their gaze to me. This paralyzed me entirely. My eyes were frozen wide, and I could feel the instinct to run, could almost picture what it would be like. I could even already feel my feet pounding against the forest floor. But they had trusted me with their secret.
I was still wavering when a ringing echoed across the clearing, drawing all eyes to Jake, who was fumbling with his pocket. He brought a cell phone to his ear, saying, "This is Jake." He was silent for a moment, and his eyes flashed to me. "Calm down Charlie." I flinched. This did not go unnoticed. "Look, that's not necessary. Well, she was out in the woods, and I ran into her. We were just on our way. We'll be there soon." He snapped the cell phone shut, and I could feel his gaze, penetrating, on me. I couldn't see it, however, because I was looking at the ground.
"Could you please," Jake began, "tell me why Charlie was about to send a search party to look for you?" Leah's head snapped over to look at me.
"Well, it could have something to do with the fact that I have been away all night." I retorted sarcastically. Seth snorted.
Jake just rolled his eyes. "Yes, but how do you even know Charlie?"
"Through Ella and Dr. Martinez." I replied. This was not technically a lie. "Anyway, let's get back." I thanked my lucky feathers for the interruption.
Sorry for the abrupt ending. This is actually a heck of a lot longer than I thought it would be. Hopefully I'll be able to get the next chapter up by Saturday. It would really suck if I couldn't, because on Sunday I leave for a three week camp at the University of Kansas for a creative writing class on the Duke TIP program. Wish me luck! And thanks to all the people who bother to review!