I awoke when my bedroom door was thrown open, and D.K. came storming in.
“Get up, girl," he commanded before my eyes had even opened all the way. Impatient, he reached down and hauled me to my feet by the collar of my shirt.
Terror made my breath catch in my throat when I looked into my alpha's eyes. Had Tyler ratted me out after all? In the corner of my eye, I could see Kimberly crawl on her hands and knees to hide behind a pile of garbage, dragging Blister behind her by his ear.
I stood there before D.K., trying to keep from trembling. Despite the conviction I'd felt last night that I'd done the right thing, under my alpha's hard stare I felt guilty- heart wrenchingly guilty. How could I have done this to him? He'd taken me and Kimberly in and given us a place to sleep, and this was how I repaid him? Sneaking away without his permission. I'd be lucky if all I got was a beating…
“Got a job for you," he said, snapping me out of my own harsh thoughts. To my surprise, it had been less than a second after he'd picked me up.
“O- okay," I stammered, relief washing over me so hard that my knees almost gave out.
D.K. kept glaring at me, as if expecting me to argue with him- as if I could.
“You wanna live here," he said at last, jabbing his finger at me in emphasis, “you gonna pull yo own weight. Got it?"
“Yes, D.K.," I replied, trying to look into his eyes and failing. I may have been able to act out when he wasn't in the same room as me, but he was still my alpha. He still had complete power over me.
D.K. reached into his pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. “Go to this address, and collect my money. It'll be $1200, and I'm gonna count it when you get back, so don't even think about ripping me off. Got it?"
“Yes, D.K.," I said again.
“Good," he said, and made for the door. “Get a Poptart before you go. Only one, though, you hear?"
“All right," I started to follow him, but then turned and held my hand out to Kimberly. “Come on, it's okay."
“What'd I tell you?" D.K. asked, turning to look at me again from the hallway. “Get a move on!"
“I'm just getting Kimberly…" I said, but D.K. cut me off with a wave of his hand.
“Leave her, girl! She'll just slow you down."
Immediately, my hand snapped back down to my side. I gave the little girl in the corner a glance I hoped would show her how sorry I was, and then followed D.K. out into the kitchen.
“Her name's Kimberly?" he asked, throwing me a dusty package of Poptarts that had been sitting on the counter.
“Yes," I answered, taken aback. I tore open the package and used that as a reason to look away from him. I knew D.K. was a lazy slob, but had he really lived with us for two days without learning our names?
“What's yours?" he asked, confirming my suspicion.
“Amber," I replied around a mouthful of Poptart. They were peanut butter flavored, which was a relief. As stupid as they were, at least they knew enough not to eat chocolate.
“Well, get going, Amber," he said. “I want you back in a couple hours, you hear?"
“Yes, D.K.," I said, cramming the last Poptart into my mouth and heading for the door before he could say another word.
The cold wind hit me right in the face the second I stepped outside, and I shivered. It couldn't be far above freezing out here, and I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. At night, at least, I could have a built in fur coat, but during the day I wasn't that lucky.
I looked down at the address D.K. had given me, and cursed. This place was all the way across town! How did he expect me to make it all the way there and back on foot in only a couple hours? I sighed, and stuffed the paper into my pocket. I may as well get going. Who knew what the Swag Pag would do to Kimberly while I was gone?
I shuddered, and put that out of my head and took off down the street.
Another gust of cold wind hit me, blowing my hair out around my head. Maybe if I moved fast enough, it wouldn't feel so cold. I kept up a fast jog for about ten minutes, leaving the pack's neighborhood far behind, before an anxious stirring in my gut caught my attention. At first I thought it was hunger- I'd only eaten a couple Poptarts for breakfast, after all. A few steps later, though, I realized it was restlessness. The jog would get me where I was going without thoroughly wearing me out, but I could move faster. I wanted to move faster. My muscles were still aching from last night's run, but it was a good kind of ache. The kind people get the day after working out that lets them know they'd done a good job. I wanted to work out more.
I increased my pace, accelerating to a full on sprint in only a few steps. I rocketed across a road, ignoring the Do Not Walk sign, grinning like a maniac as I felt a car streak past right behind me, honking its horn. A hot blast of wind came from its muffler, and I welcomed it. I had been right- I couldn't even feel the cold now. A layer of sweat was glistening on my skin, and my breathing was becoming heavy, but I kept running.
“Watch it!" somebody shouted as I weaved around the other people on the sidewalk without slowing my pace. Some of them were walking too close together, and I ended up bumping into them as I passed, sending them staggering for balance. I knew I should stop and apologize, or at least say excuse me, but the wild animal inside me disagreed. I may not be the Swag Pag's alpha, but I sure as heck was dominant over these sluggish, slow thinking humans.
When I realized what I had just been thinking, I almost broke my pace. Since when was I so proud to not be human? Since when had I even accepted the fact that I wasn't human anymore? All this time, I'd clung to the idea that, even if I turned into a wolf once a month, I was still human. Like, the wolf and I were two entirely different beings that would just turn into each other on occasion. Not, I thought with a grimace, that that made any sense.
I decided to think about it later, because at that moment I slowed myself to a stop and put my hand on the wall while I tried to catch my breath. Beside me, in the middle of a long row of other stores, was a glass door that displayed the words “Computerati" in big blue letters. A poster had been hung on the window of a computer roundhouse kicking a worm, which I guessed was supposed to be a computer virus.
“Wow," I said under my breath, impressed with myself. I'd anticipated at least an hour of walking just to get here, but it hadn't been thirty minutes since I left the pack's house. I pulled out the address D.K. had given me, and confirmed that I was in the right place. But why would D.K. send me to a computer repair shop?
It'll be $1200, he'd said. I'll count it afterwards, so don't try to rip me off!
A cold pit formed in my stomach when I realized what was going on. This was another one of his payments. He'd explained it, but I'd been so terrified of being found out that I hadn't really understood. He wanted me to go in there and demand that the poor guy who owned the place give me his money. I would then take that money, which he undoubtedly had worked hard to earn, and give it to the laziest, sleaziest person on the planet in exchange for his “protection." The cold feeling turned to nausea, and for a minute I thought I was going to be sick. I didn't want to do this. I wasn't a crook! But in the end, what choice did I have? He was my alpha, and I had to obey, no matter how horrible it felt. Even now, with D.K. nowhere in sight, I couldn't shake the urge to hurry up and do what he said. It was taking more of an effort to just stand there than I would have thought.
Finally, my will gave out. Disgusted by my own weakness, I opened the door and steeled myself for what was about to happen, and then went inside.
NEXT TIME: I hope D.K. dies screaming in a fire, bless his little heart. Amber goes into the shop to collect his money, but finds out she's not the only one there...