Chapter Thirty Four
I snarled. The tiny, weak, yellow haired prey stood right in front of me without so much as a trace of fear. Well, I would fix that. I’d show this miserable little piece of meat where it belonged on the food chain!
A slight pain ran up my back leg. I vaguely remembered the inner prey being attacked earlier. Bitten, almost being eaten like the pathetic prey it was. It didn’t matter. Focusing, I sucked in the moonlight that overflowed from the air around me. For a second the rooftop went dark, so dark that even I couldn’t see, but then the moon reappeared in the sky and all the injuries my inner prey had suffered were gone.
I bared my teeth and took a step toward the yellow haired prey. I could eat it right here and now, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to scare it, make it run so I could chase it. I hadn’t had a chase in years. I wanted to feel the wind in my fur and stretch my legs in this strange stone forest!
“Amber!” it snapped crossly. “Stop that right now!”
I blinked. Those noises tugged at one of my inner prey’s memories. They meant something. The inner prey would have understood, but the inner prey was buried deep inside me, in the dark place where it had kept me for years. It didn’t matter anyway. The only noises I was interested in hearing were screams.
I opened my mouth and lunged forward to bite it in half—but then a searing hot pain lit up my tongue! I backed off, shaking my head wildly until the pain went away, then glared at the stubborn prey. It was holding its stick out in front of it, and the tip was glowing.
“Amber, focus!” it yelled at me. “Push through your instincts. You can do this!”
Amber. That sound, at least, I understood. That was the sound that my inner prey answered to. This tiny little thing was…I snarled in rage. It was talking to my inner prey as if I weren’t even here! I towered over him, cloaking him in my shadow. I’d teach him! By the time I was finished, he’d be begging me to kill him!
Him? I paused. What did him mean?
Who cares? I went to bite him again, and he burned my tongue a second time. But while he was looking at my face, I raised one of my paws and swung it at him. But before it hit him, he leaped into the air and did a backflip, landing on both feet as if nothing had happened.
“You’ve convinced yourself that the wolf is something else,” he said to me. “Another creature living inside you. But you’re wrong.”
I rose up on my back feet, bringing both my front paws down to crush him. He dodged nimbly out of the way, and all I managed to do was crack the floor beneath me.
“It’s part of you!” he yelled. “It’s always been you, Amber! You just don’t know how to control it yet!”
I spun, hoping my tail would knock him clear off the building. I didn’t care about eating him anymore. I just wanted him dead, dead, dead! Then his voice would stop ringing in my ears, making me think things I didn’t want to think, and I could go find something else to hunt.
But he popped up beside my face, completely untouched. “Remember when you first became a werewolf? You couldn’t control your wolf then, either. But you learned! Now you need to learn again!”
I snapped at him, but he backed out of my reach.
“I know you can do it,” he said, so quietly a human wouldn’t have been able to hear him. “You’re stronger than this, Amber. I believe in you!”
I growled so hard that I vibrated the ground beneath my paws…but then I stopped. I didn’t move. The night went silent.
The prey looked me in the eye, and then lowered his burning stick. “Amber?”
I pounced! This time he wasn’t ready for me, and I knocked him clean off his feet. He flew for a few yards before hitting the ground, rolling and skidding until he nearly went over the side of the building. His burning stick clattered to the ground next to me.
Yes! Finally! I grinned in savage glee. Time to end this!
As I stalked toward him, the yellow haired prey got to his feet. He looked at me, then at his burning stick, and…he held his arms out to his sides in surrender.
“Fine,” he said, his voice resigned. “Do it, then.”
I stopped, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Do it, Amber!” he yelled at me. “If this is really what you want, then go ahead and kill me.”
I growled. This wasn’t real. He was trying to trick me!
He closed his eyes. “All I’m trying to do is help you. But if you’d rather be a stupid animal, then just get it over with.”
Stupid animal? I growled again, wishing I could talk so I could tell him to stop being so overdramatic. This was his fault! He’d gotten us into this mess. And now he was trying to guilt trip me? No way, nuh uh! Freaking Dex! It would serve him right if I chewed him to pieces and spat him over the side of the building!
He didn’t move. He just stood there with his eyes closed and arms outstretched, waiting to die.
A perfect target! A perfect snack! He would stop the rumbling in my stomach long enough for me to hunt down more prey. I was going to eat well tonight. Blood, fresh meat, screams of pain as I disemboweled them alive. I opened my mouth to chomp down on him…
But I didn’t.
From somewhere deep inside me, new feelings began to rise. Feelings that didn’t mesh with what I was. I was a Silverblood, queen of the woods, the apex predator. I should have felt nothing but anger, hunger, and the burning desire to kill! These emotions were…I couldn’t even put them into words. I…
I didn’t want to eat him. I wanted to lie down and snuggle up around him so that he could sleep in my fur like I was a great big bed…
No! I growled, trying to push those alien emotions away. I was a hunter! A predator! Nothing was more important than the kill! Not even…
…feeling him next to me. His hands on me. Smelling his scent and just being happy that he was there.
Growling, I shook my head. Maybe if I did that hard enough, those annoying voices would go flying out of my ear and never bother me again. What was wrong with me? It was almost like the inner prey was taking over. But that was impossible! I was stronger than she was! She was buried down in the dark place, and I wasn’t ever going to let her out. Dex—what did that word mean?—said he believed in her, but that was stupid. Amber was stupid, weak, pathetic…
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to kill him!
A pitiful whine escaped—STOP IT!—my mouth. No! This couldn’t be happening! After all this time, I was free! I couldn’t—GET BACK IN THERE!—stop now! I needed to run! To hunt! To…To…
YOU DON’T CONTROL ME!
No! Please, no!
I CONTROL YOU!
I don’t want to go back inside!
AND I WILL NEVER…
Please, just one night!
…LET YOU HURT ANYONE EVER AGAIN!
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and when I opened them I was me again. Still stuck in the Silverblood’s body—that wasn’t likely to change until the moon went down—but me nonetheless! I was in control again! The Silverblood was back in the deep, dark recesses of my mind where the real world, and everybody in it, were safely out of its reach.
Dex opened his eyes and looked at me.
“Amber?” he asked tentatively.
I nodded my big wolfy head.
“Oh, thank God!” he sighed with relief, finally lowering his arms. “For a second there, I really thought I was a goner.”
I frowned as best as I could. He nearly had been a goner. If it hadn’t been for…I looked away, embarrassed…my feelings, he’d be digesting in my stomach right now.
I felt his hand touch the side of my snout, and looked at him. “You did it. Amber, you did it! Look at you!”
I did look at myself. A wolf the size of a dump truck, with so much strength even I couldn’t comprehend it. But while Dex smiled and laughed, running his hands through my thick, soft fur, it only brought back memories for me. Terrible memories.
I was, despite my very best efforts, a monster once again.