Chapter Twenty Seven
When I was just a regular girl, the woods had never interested me. As a werewolf, they called to me. I'd spent a lot of time in them, even when the moon wasn't full, and had eventually come to know my way through them like most people know streets. I had never been in this part of the forest before, but I knew the general direction I needed to go. In less than fifteen minutes, I peered between the trees at the road that led to my house.
Tyler made a warning noise in his throat, telling me to stay hidden. He needn't have bothered. The road was wide and flat, with nowhere to hide except on either side of it. Even if there weren't any supernatural freaks looking for us, all it would take was one of my neighbors looking out the window to start a panic. Kimberly's “death," and the news reports I'd starred in would still be fresh on their minds, so I kept to the shadows of the trees, slinking behind my old neighbors' houses.
A dog began to bark wildly, startling me. It was Rocky, a Rottweiler the police had told my neighbor had to stay behind a tall wooden fence at all times. That fence began to shake, and I instinctively growled at it. Then Tyler was there, standing between me and it. It wasn't for protection- Rocky couldn't have gotten over the fence if it wanted to. It was his way of saying, “Ignore it and keep moving."
It felt like a knife had been driven into my heart when my house finally came into view. Or, what was left of it, I should say. A massive pile of wood and brick stood where my home used to be, looking as if a tornado had touched down on it but somehow ignored the entire rest of the neighborhood. It was exactly like Stacey had said it would be, but that hadn't prepared me for actually seeing it. I whined, high and reedy, in my throat.
Tyler sat down next to me, his black coat brushing against my brown one, looking calmly at the wreckage. I couldn't tell what he was thinking, but I knew what I was feeling. My home, my last connection to a normal existence, was nothing but a pile of rubble. After what seemed like hours, I picked myself up and went to inspect it.
It was like the rescue crews hadn't even touched it, I realized. Where I stood now, stepping carefully so as to avoid getting a nail stuck in my paw, I was where the living room had previously been. Mixed in with all the debris, I could make out the polished wood of the coffee table, and a corner of a couch cushion poked up right next to it. I made my way to my old room, smelling everything as I went in the hopes of finding a clue to… what? I didn't know, but I kept sniffing because if there was anything there, I didn't want to miss it.
Sticking my snout under a collapsed piece of the wall, my nose touched something soft. I tried to snap at it, but couldn't quite reach it. The wall would have to move if I wanted to get it. I looked to Tyler, feeling shy despite myself. He understood what I wanted, though, and immediately came and sank his teeth into the wood. With strength that I hadn't known he'd had (which is really saying something), he managed to flip it over, and it landed with a loud thud on top of what had once been the hall bathroom. A cloud of dust rose from the impact, making me sneeze. When it drifted away in the breeze, I saw what I had been trying to get.
It was Blister, a stuffed cat I'd had all my life. He was made up of a dozen different materials my mom had found in her sewing basket. A red button was its nose, and it had one black button and one brown button for its eyes. I'd slept with it every night until Stacey had made fun of me during a slumber party when I was seven. Just don't ask why I had named it Blister. That's a story I really don't feel like sharing…
I took the toy in my mouth, my heart throbbing with pain. It still smelled like my mother, even though she hadn't touched it in years. I was glad for my wolf body, because I knew if I had been human right then I would have broken out in tears right in front of Tyler. I would give it to Kimberly, I decided. It would be perfect. I turned to go, holding Blister carefully so as not to damage him with my teeth. There was nothing else for me to see here.
I was suddenly on high alert, though, when Tyler growled. I spun around to look at him, and then turned to look in the direction he was glaring. His teeth were bared, gleaming pearly white in the moonlight, and yet the gray haired man standing in the woods, halfway hidden in the shadows, didn't seem at all intimidated. For a second I thought he was one of my neighbors, but I had never seen him before in my life.
He stood with his hands in the pockets of his faded blue jeans, his expression hidden behind a thick mustache the same iron gray as the hair on his head. A ratty Dr. Pepper t-shirt covered his chest, and his arms were tight with muscle. I lowered myself closer to the ground, tail between my legs, suddenly afraid for my life. The man didn't say anything, and the only movement he made was the gradual rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. His eyes, so blue they were almost black, drilled into me like lasers, but didn't tell me anything about what he was thinking or feeling. He never even glanced at Tyler- I was the center of his attention.
Tyler growled again, louder this time, but the man's eyes never left me. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he walked backwards until the night swallowed him up. He wasn't reacting to Tyler's threat, I realized with a shudder. He had just decided it was time to go. Suddenly, the giant black wolf didn't seem as invincible as he had five minutes ago.
While he had been a far throw from being a twig like D.K., the stranger was nowhere near as big as Tyler- and yet, that didn't bring me any comfort. Tyler was big, strong, and definitely knew his way around a fight. The other man, whoever he had been, was even more dangerous. I could it feel it in my instincts. Tyler may have had more muscle, but the man watching me knew how to use his better. His entire body had been as tight as a spring, ready to react if anybody had made a move against him. Neither of us would have lasted half a minute. I was sure of it…
Tyler stood glaring into the woods for almost a full minute before turning back to me. I felt faint from fright, but I shook myself and tried to forget about him- whoever he was. Taking the lead again I ran back into the forest the way we had come, leaving my old house, and my old life, behind.
NEXT TIME: Ooh, scary new guy! Who could he be? Who is he working for? What's he trying to do? What's his favorite thing to get at the Chinese buffet?