Shiftless, Chapter 1, Scene 2

Here’s the continuation of Chapter 1.


Chapter 1, Scene 2

As much as I wanted to stay in place and ignore the approaching alpha, I couldn’t let danger creep up behind me unseen, so I turned and waited for the duo to catch up. As they advanced, I focused on the man instead of the wolf for the first time and noticed that he was clearly a werewolf just like his partner. He was also apologizing profusely even before he reached me. “I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry!” he exclaimed, switching the leash he held into his left hand so he could reach out to shake mine. “I’m Chase, and my very rude friend is Wolfie.”

Although I was both terrified and angry, I liked Chase on sight. He was the kind of male werewolf who didn’t have an alpha bone in his body—the golden retriever of the lupine world. He was also handsome, but not full of himself, and I could tell that this one werewolf was friend material. In fact, if there had been more Chases and fewer Wolfies in the world, I might have tried to join another pack after fleeing mine, but werewolf packs were inevitably run by alphas, and every alpha was like Wolfie…or like my father.

Okay, maybe not just like Wolfie. As ebbing adrenaline let rational thought once again fill my mind, I realized that it was decidedly odd for the alpha in question to be walked around in wolf form on a leash. But for all I knew, the two were tracking something that required the wolf’s superior senses. In human form, we could sometimes use our wolf brain to boost our sniffing power, but the effect was nothing compared to how in tune we were with the world when entirely wolf.

Fur aside, Wolfie had the arrogance of every other alpha I’d ever met. After forcing me to stop running against my will, he was now sitting at Chase’s feet and looking up at me with his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth in a doggie laugh. Once he was sure he had my attention, Wolfie reached up one paw as if to shake…then winked.

“I don’t think she thinks you’re as cute as you think you are,” Chase warned his friend when I looked pointedly away from the raised paw. Despite myself, I smiled at the beta’s words, amused that a lower-ranking wolf could yank the alpha’s chain, even metaphorically. “Like I said, I’m really sorry,” Chase continued his earlier apology to me. “But Wolfie is pig-headed and I’m afraid he’s not going to give either of us any peace unless you agree to talk to us, just for a few minutes. Maybe you’d let me buy you a coffee?”

As I said, I liked Chase, and his words were perfectly polite, but I was 100% sure that spending another minute in the alpha’s presence was the last thing I wanted to do. I closed my eyes in an effort to collect myself, hoping this was just a hallucination brought on by my pack craving. But when I looked back down the street, Chase and Wolfie were still waiting expectantly in front of me…along with a kindergarten-aged kid who was pulling away from his mother’s hand in hopes of petting the huge, terrifying beast sitting beside me.

“Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite,” Chase said to the mother, who had taken in the situation just as the boy’s hand landed squarely in Wolfie’s eye. She had more sense than her son and seemed poised to yank her offspring to safety, but to my surprise, the alpha wolf put up with the mauling good-naturedly before offering the child the same paw trick he’d pulled on me. With the complete lack of self-preservation instinct typical of a human child, the kid took Wolfie’s paw and shook it adamantly, before being pulled away by his mother.

Greetings complete, Wolfie looked back up at me and tilted his head to one side, the meaning clear—he wasn’t a monster who ate small children. But I didn’t allow myself to be impressed. So what if an alpha wolf had let a human child manhandle him? That didn’t counteract the same alpha’s freeze-in-your-tracks command just minutes earlier. On the other hand, I hadn’t come up with any way of wiggling out of a meeting during the unusual interlude, so I shrugged my acceptance and allowed Chase to lead us across the street to a sidewalk cafe.

“Coffee?” the beta asked, handing the wolf’s leash over to me as I stood beside an empty table outside the door. I nearly dropped the tether in surprise, the rough fabric feeling like a poisonous snake in my hands as I considered the repercussions of my situation. No way did I want to be in charge of an alpha’s leash if the wolf suddenly decided that the restraint was beneath his dignity, but I realized we had to keep up appearances for the sake of the humans around us, so I kept my eyes averted from the alpha on the other end of the line and nodded stiffly. In light of the leash issue (and being dragged to the cafe against my will), it seemed like a small matter that I didn’t drink coffee, having found that stimulants were one of the danger points for a female werewolf struggling to control her shifts. But no one said I had to consume the beverage Chase would put in front of me. I probably would have choked on any drink given my current state of mind, so the flavor was irrelevant.

But the wolf disagreed with my unwillingness to state my preferences. Before his beta could leave to collect our drinks, Wolfie nudged Chase’s hand to attract his attention, then firmly shook his head. “You’re hungry?” Chase asked the wolf, surprised, but Wolfie only huffed in disgust. Then, just as I realized what the alpha was communicating, understanding came into Chase’s eyes as well. “You’d prefer hot chocolate?” the man tried again, returning his gaze to me, and I nodded despite myself.

And that’s how I ended up in such a ludicrous situation. After spending half my energy over the last ten years hiding from the merest hint of werewolf presence, I was sitting at a cast-iron table of a sidewalk cafe, clinging to the leash of an alpha werewolf while his beta headed inside to buy me a hot chocolate. I wasn’t even surprised when the wolf rested his chin on my thigh in search of an ear scratch, but I was surprised that I allowed my hand to drift over his soft ears. The fur was every bit as silky as it looked.

Still want more? Keep reading Chapter 1 Scene 3…