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1 Misgivings

Carrie

It was evening, just after the sun had sank beyond the horizon. Birds sang in the trees, hidden in the deepening dusk, while insects and nocturnal creatures began to stir adding their own sounds to the mix.

Stretching my legs as I walked through the forest on steady paws, I shook my brown fur and inhaled the sweet scent of nature hanging in the air around me, a medley of earth, plants, and prey. Gone were the synthetics of the shopping center where I worked most days, the clamoring chatter of my coworkers and customers, the small apartment where I confined myself, the miserable disaster I had made of my past, the judgment, the regrets. Everything slipped away as I allowed my wolf this chance to be wild like she was meant to be.

Running under the full moon had become my monthly therapy, and my refuge away from the stress of hiding my nature amongst humans. The last thing I wanted was to accidentally reveal secrets and have the hunters coming after me. Now that I was packless, I was more vulnerable to their particular brand of brutal justice.

My wolf was mostly pleased that we were finally free while she analyzed the stimulus all around me. Even after months of human living, she still wasn't used to being cooped up for long periods of time and was much more agreeable when I had a chance to let her out, and this night was the most important of the month.

The full moon did not force us to shift like in many legends, but it did aggravate our wolves in a way that was hard to control and even harder to ignore. The best solution to that agitation was running with the pack, but running alone would do in a pinch.

A pinch, like being a former acting luna banished to life as a rogue lone wolf. Not a glamorous life, but definitely better than my final days under the power of my former chosen mate and alpha, Asshole Dane with his precious little mate Heidi flouncing around. What a shit show that ending had been.

But now wasn’t the time for regretting the past. I shook off those bitter memories as I loped through the forest, smelling the trace scents of animals all around me, but the trails were all too cold to be worth following. I was managing to feed myself well enough from my job, but my wolf wanted the satisfaction of taking down prey and gorging herself on it.

On and on we went, slipping through the gaps between trees in the thickest parts of the forest. The urge to howl was strong within me, but like all of my night time runs, I held it back since I did not want to draw attention to myself, alone and vulnerable as I was. I scented a moose and my wolf wanted to follow it, but I rejected that instinct. I was far stronger than a natural wolf, but such large prey was difficult to take on my own. Instead, I continued on until I found the fresh scent trail of a hare and allowed my wolf to follow it through the forest.

The hare didn’t have a chance, because my wolf was faster. She killed the animal and ate it quickly, never one to play around with her food, and then an unfortunate mouse that served as another quick snack. Afterwards, she was content to simply lay about for a while in the gathering darkness, revelling in the feeling of having a stomach full of prey and not being confined in a human dwelling.

The bright moon rose higher in the sky as if it beckoned me, and my wolf wanted to move again. Between that light and my excellent low light vision, the forest looked almost as clear as day in black and white, even through the darkness.

The rush put me in high spirits in spite of the loneliness of my solitary run.

Until I encountered a scent trail that made my wolf pause and take a nervous second sniff.

It smelled of predator, of wolf and human. The unmistakeably distinct scent of a werewolf.

Although my wolf missed others of our kind, it was her pack—our former pack—she wanted, not some unknown werewolf who was as likely as not a danger to us. During my relatively short time as a packless rogue, I’d learned just how horrible pack wolves could be to those less fortunate. And a rogue wasn’t any better. Certainly there were peaceful rogues like me, but a lot of other rogues were criminals or had lost their humanity and gone feral, leaving them insane and more unpredictable than an animal.

I didn’t like my odds that these other werewolves might be harmless. Hopefully the scent was older than it smelled and I had nothing to worry about.

Then, a sound rang out that crushed my hope and chilled my blood, a powerful, eerie howl, echoing through the deepening night. Several more joined it until there was a chorus of canine voices ringing through the air, beautiful, haunting, and not nearly far enough away as I would prefer.

I whirled around and ran back the way I had come. For once my wolf was in complete agreement that we should get ourselves back to our stifling but safe apartment. She was satisfied enough with our run and she had no desire to push our luck. I’d run here many times before so I knew the forest wasn’t pack territory, which meant these wolves were most likely a group of rogues. I’d stand no chance against them.

As I ran, I kept my senses sharp to the sounds and smells around me. I discounted the formerly interesting scents of the forest to sweep for the musk of predator. I was almost where I had parked my old beater when I picked up the scent of werewolves again. Troubled, I slowed my approach, searching for the source, as I got back to my sheltered parking spot.

Two wolves were waiting by my car. My heart pounded at the sight of the threat blocking my escape.

Unfortunately, they noticed me before I could slip away. A large light-furred wolf howled, while the other rushed towards me, braying loudly. I ran in a different direction through the forest, this time in the direction of the human city and my home. I would have to continue until I was exhausted, and it would take me hours to get there, but they would not dare to pursue and attack me amongst humans, would they? It was a loss to give up my car, but it could be replaced, unlike my throat.

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