Shiftless, Chapter 1, Scene 3

Finished with Chapter 1 Scene 2 and still want more? Well, you’re in luck…

Chapter 1 Scene 3

“You know, if you’d just put these on, you could ask her yourself,” Chase told Wolfie, exasperated as he shook a backpack full of men’s clothing under the wolf’s nose. Despite myself, the two were growing on me as I sipped my hot chocolate and watched them carry out a seemingly coherent conversation…despite the fact that one was a wolf. After the bark that froze me on the street, Wolfie hadn’t said another word, but he was quite adept at making his meaning clear, to Chase at least. While taking in the show, I had even started drifting into wolf brain, where Wolfie’s nonverbal language was more understandable, but I had quickly pulled myself back to the safety of the human world. The middle of a city was no place to turn my wolf loose, even if we had been on speaking terms.

“What does he want to know?” I asked, when a stalemate appeared to have been reached by the opposing forces across the table from me. Wolfie, for some unknown reason, preferred to stay wolf, Chase was unwilling to continue being his mouthpiece, and I was starting to get curious about the alpha’s question.

Only when Chase turned to me with a huge smile on his face did I realize that these were the first words I’d spoken in the pair’s presence. So much for the cold shoulder. But I shrugged internally and decided there was no point in freezing out Chase anyway, since he seemed to be a nice guy. I was reserving judgment on the wolf.

“Wolfie just wants to know your name,” Chase answered. “But I can tell you aren’t comfortable sitting here with us, and I didn’t want to pepper you with questions until you had time to see we were harmless.” In contrast to his alpha’s demand for information, Chase’s strategy for putting me at ease seemed to involve talking until the cows came home. So, with an effort, I pretended he wasn’t a male werewolf and interrupted the monologue.

“I’m Terra,” I answered, looking straight into the alpha’s eyes rather than at his beta. It was strange to be chatting with an alpha werewolf as if he were the guy down the street, but the wolf merely nodded his appreciation of the information then peered at Chase as if to say, I told you she wouldn’t mind.

I felt okay parting with my given name since I figured neither Chase nor Wolfie would know the first name of the second daughter of an alpha from out of state, but I was careful not to offer a surname, which would have instantly linked me to a pack. Wanting to stay as anonymous as possible, I decided some misdirection was in order to turn the conversation away from a potentially tricky topic, so I shifted my eyes back to Chase. “And his name really is Wolfie?” I parried, hoping Chase would be willing to play along with my obvious attempt to talk about something other than myself.

“Well, Wolf actually,” Chase answered. “But I always figured ‘Wolfie’ made him seem a little more human….” The alpha in question snorted, which sent a tremor of fear running through me until I realized the wolf was laughing, at which point I started breathing again with a jolt.

“That’s very…literal…of his mother,” I said after a minute. Once my heart rate had slowed back down from the effects of Wolfie’s laugh, I could feel my brow wrinkling as I tried to imagine naming a werewolf “Wolf.” We did tend to gravitate toward nature-oriented names, but this seemed more like the kind of appellation a two-year-old would give his pet.

“Well, it was my mother, actually,” Chase said, turning his attention back to me. “We’re milk brothers.” The old-fashioned term suggested Wolfie had been nursed by Chase’s mother, and probably raised like his brother. It also explained why the less-dominant wolf was able to hold his alpha on a leash, and why the two could communicate without words. Despite myself, I was becoming intrigued by the two werewolves in front of me, but Chase’s next words pushed away my false sense of security.

“So, which pack are you from?” the beta asked, and my jitters returned full force. Without meaning to, I stood, my chair screeching against the pavement as it was abruptly pushed backwards by my motion.

Chase’s words were enough to remind me that I was packless by choice and could easily be drawn back into this or another wolf’s pack, which made my slowed breathing begin to race once again. What would prevent Wolfie from asking around about a twenty-something werewolf named Terra, and what would happen when his words inevitably reached my father’s ears? I would end up right back where I started, and all because I’d been stupid enough to imagine I was simply chatting with two strange werewolves whom I’d met in a bookstore.

All of those thoughts zipped through my mind in the span of time it took to rise from the table, and by then the adrenaline had really kicked in. Fight or flight seemed to be my only options, so I fled.

But I wasn’t far enough away to miss Wolfie admonishing his friend. The wolf’s easy-going demeanor disappeared in an instant as the alpha bared his teeth at Chase, who quickly averted his eyes in submission. If I’d needed any proof that Wolfie was just as overbearing as every other alpha werewolf I’d ever run into, this was it. Not that I’d thought otherwise…well, not for long.

I almost expected there to be other werewolves in the wings, just waiting to rope me back into the pack life from which I’d escaped. Instead, there was just Wolfie’s commanding bark, ordering me to stop. But I wasn’t a member of his pack, and I didn’t have to obey. I ran down the street, and this time I didn’t look back.

Want to know what happens to Terra next? Read Chapter 2 Scene 1 here.