The next morning came too soon, but it started off better than I had hoped. Instead of D.K. beating down my door, Tyler was the one who came to wake me up.
“Let her sleep," he said when I reached toward Kimberly, so I got up and joined him in the hallway, my gut twisting itself into a nervous pretzel.
“Is this really happening?" I asked. I knew it was a stupid question, but I couldn't shake the feeling that this whole scenario was just a bad dream, and that I was still asleep with Kimberly back in our trashy little room.
“Yes," was all Tyler would say as he led me to the living room, where D.K. and Kaylie already waited. The rap music, I noted, was actually turned off. This should have made me happy, but all it did was drive home how serious the situation was.
“Those creeps have messed with me for the last time," D.K. said when we were in there. “I'm sick of them trying to take what's mine. Sick of it!"
For once, Kaylie didn't run to his side and try to calm him down. There was a dangerous fire in D.K.'s eyes, one that told me he desperately wanted something to kill. He would prefer the rival gang, but I doubted it would make much difference at this point if it was one of his own wolves.
“We gonna go over there," he explained, like he had spent all night devising this master plan, “and kill them all!"
His eyes scanned the room, giving each of us in turn a manic glare, waiting for our reactions. I, for one, felt even sicker, but Tyler and Kaylie both looked completely impassive, like he wasn't discussing anything more important than the weather.
“I don't want none of them left alive," he went on. “Do whatever you have to, but kill them."
Without another word, he shoved past Kaylie and made for the sliding glass door that led into the backyard. The grass was overgrown in some places, and others were nothing but bare, dry earth. There wasn't a fence, though, so the forest rose up directly in front of us, twenty feet away from the patio.
“Swag Pag, move!" D.K. thundered, and took off into the trees. His words hit my mind like a bolt of lightning, and before I knew it I was charging after him. Ten seconds later, I saw him grab the hem of his shirt and pull it off without slowing down. I took that as a signal, and did the same- but I couldn't stop my cheeks from turning bright red with embarrassment. I took a little comfort in knowing that Tyler and Kaylie were doing the same thing to either side of me.
After the shirt, D.K. shed his pants, hopping far more nimbly than I thought he was capable of, until they too lay behind. I tried to follow suit, but I tripped and landed flat on my face. Kaylie and Tyler ran on past me, shedding their clothes just as easily as their leader. I used the opportunity to kick my pants off and scramble back to my feet in nothing but my underwear. I had to sprint extra fast to catch back up, but soon I was behind the two lesser pack members again.
The cold November bit at my skin, raising goosebumps on my arms and legs. It was invigorating, and I could feel my wolf awakening inside of me.
Take off the rest of your clothes, it urged me. Change. Change now!
I had to wait for D.K. to take the initiative- but I didn't have to wait long. Less than a second later, he got rid of his boxer shorts, which were just as baggy as his pants had been, casting them aside without slowing down. My embarrassment was quickly fading beneath the primal urge to change, so I hurried to do as he did, and was soon free of my last two pieces of restrictive human clothing.
This is how it should be, the animal inside me insisted, and I could already feel my teeth sharpening inside my mouth. Run free! Run wild! Hunt and kill and fight and run and…
I couldn't hold it back any longer. I threw myself forward, and before my hands had touched the ground they were already paws. I ran through the forest on four feet, the sounds ringing in my ears, the smells flooding my nose, the cold wind whipping my fur back as I ran.
It took me a minute to realize the others had changed too. Tyler ran to my right, his thick black fur making him look like a chunk of the midnight sky. Kaylie was to my left. She had the same shade of black fur as Tyler, but was even in size with me. I faced forward again, and saw my alpha in his true shape for the first time- and felt the cold sting of disappointment in my heart. As much as I hated him, the animalistic part of me had hoped that my alpha's wolf form would be more impressive than his human one. Instead, the dark gray furred beast in front of me looked downright pathetic. His muscles were hard, yet small, making him look like a half starved dog. What's more, the rubber bands he'd done his hair up with were still there, making the fur on top of his head look like a bunch of rainbow colored spikes. If he hadn't been my alpha, I'd have laughed at him. As it was, I held my tongue. Not that I could laugh in my wolf form anyway, but you know what I mean…
There was something I liked about this, I realized. Running through the woods with wolves beside me and in front of me. This was what it felt like to be in a pack. Wolves weren't supposed to be alone. Together, we were stronger. Together, we could do things we couldn't do by ourselves. Hunt bigger prey. Fight stronger enemies.
Or we could have, if this hadn't been the freaking Swag Pag, whose only real goal was to have as big an attitude as possible.
But that didn't matter right now. I was running in a pack, seeking out an enemy. They were my alpha's enemies, not mine, but my wolf was satisfied anyway. My hackles rose with excitement at the thought of tasting fresh blood again. Something told me gremlins made for good eating…
NEXT TIME: Amber and the Pag gets to the G-Nome's hideout, but Zeke has a little surprise waiting for them...