“Aw, crap!" Stark yelled, slapping the steering wheel. “Are you serious?"
It was 5:30 in the afternoon, and the sun was beginning to set. According to him, we were still a half hour from home— and traffic was at a dead stop.
“You've got to be kidding me!" he ranted. “We don't have time for this!"
I sat up straight in my seat and looked around. “Do you know what's causing it?" I asked.
“Probably a wreck somewhere," he grunted, honking the horn in frustration. I didn't do much good, since nobody within twenty cars of us could move. “Can you see where it is?"
I crained my neck as far as I could, but the road went around a curve not far ahead, blocking my view. “No," I said.
“This is bad," Stark said, looking up at the sun. “The moon's probably going to be up before this clears up."
“What can we do?" I asked.
“Go run ahead," he told me. “See how far it goes. If we have to, I'll turn the car around and we'll take the back roads home."
“Won't that take even longer?" I asked.
He shook his head. “It'll be longer than taking the highway, but I know some shortcuts. If the traffic is bad enough, it could be faster."
“All right," I agreed, and got out of the car. I got a few weird looks from the other drivers as I jogged past them. For every twenty feet I travelled on foot, they were lucky to move five.
Maybe I should just run the rest of the way home, I thought to myself. I could do it without much trouble, especially if I found a secluded area to change. We were only half an hour away from home, after all.
"No, a half hour of driving," I reminded myself, discarding the idea. Thirty minutes of driving on the highway would mean at least five hours of running. Even with this traffic, it would still be faster just to stick with Stark.
I finally rounded the curve, and groaned in frustration when I saw that the wreck still wasn't in sight. It would be thirty minutes before we even got this far in the car! I spun on my heel to run back and tell Stark this—
Just in time to see the sun sink below the horizon.
Oh, crap, I thought as the telltale feeling washed over my body. I didn't have any time to waste. I took off running back the way I'd come, keeping my head low so nobody would see anything. It was happening. The moon was coming up behind me. The full moon. Making me change. Making me…
“No!" I grunted, the words coming out half as a growl. I could hold back the changes a little, but the full moon would eventually win. I could feel my ears growing pointed, and I hoped my hair was enough to cover them. My arms started to tingle again, but this time it was because thousands of tiny brown hairs were fighting to come out. I didn't have much time.
I yanked the door to Stark's car open, and dove inside. Just in time too, because right then my willpower broke, and the changes took control. I heard Stark curse, and he reached over me to slam the door shut.
“Hold it in, Amber!" he yelled, and I looked up, surprised to see he was still human. How did he have so much control? To me, it felt like holding back a river. The more you fought, the harder it pushed. My body shifted inside my clothes, and my tail poked out from under the tail of my shirt. How could I stop it?
“You need to be human when you get home," he said, looking me in the eye. “If you let the moon change you now, you won't be able to turn back until sunrise."
When I looked closer, I could see signs of his struggle. His arms were trembling, and he was breathing heavily. This wasn't easy for him, but somehow he was doing it. And if he could it, so could I, I told myself! I willed the changes backwards, but they didn't stop. They slowed down a little, but that didn't keep my face from starting to stretch forward into a snout.
“Think about Kimberly," he ordered. “You're doing this for her. She needs to you be human when you go get her. So hold it in, Amber!"
To my surprise, that did it. I filled my mind with thoughts of Kimberly, all on her own and fighting for her life. She'd probably still be in her room where the moon couldn't reach her. She'd be able to feel it, though. She could feel it rising over the house, commanding her to come outside. She needed me. I'd tried so hard to take care of her all this time. Even if it hadn't worked, I wasn't going to let that all go to waste now!
“Kerrrr…" I growled, my canine mouth struggling to form the words. “Kerrrrm…berrr… leeee!"
“That's it!" Stark encouraged me as he spun the steering wheel around. The car turned off the road and onto the grassy median, and Stark floored the gas pedal until he was on the opposite road, speeding back the way we'd come from.
“Kerrrmberrrleee," I growled again, and the words came easier this time. “Kermberly!"
My snout retreated back into my face, and the fur retreated into my skin. I flexed the fingers of my right hand as they grew back— I hadn't even realized it had become a paw. I leaned back in my seat, which was easier now that I didn't have a tail, and clenched my eyes shut.
“Kimberly, Kimberly, Kimberly," I said over and over again. I was human again, but I didn't know how long I could stay that way. The moon was still beating down on me, and my wolf was throwing itself against the walls of my mind. It wanted out. It had rested long enough after Fisher's torment, and now it wanted to run and hunt and be free! Be the animal I never let myself truly be! It wanted to howl at the moon. I wanted to run in a pack. I wanted to…
NO! THINK OF KIMBERLY! KIMBERLY, KIMBERLY, KIMBERLY!
“I'm going as fast as I can, Amber," Stark said. “It'll be about fifteen minutes. Hang in there."
How could he drive while resisting the change? I could barely keep my brain focused on not shifting, but he was going double the speed limit, weaving in between cars like a Nascar driver. At this rate he was going to get—
As if on cue, red and blue lights appeared behind us, and a siren cut through the air. It was so loud it hurt my sensitive ears.
“No…" Stark grunted, glaring into the rearview mirror. His eyes had turned yellow. “Don't have time for you!"
He slammed on the breaks, and police car had to swerve off the road to keep from rear ending us. That was good, because he would have killed us if we'd hit each other at that speed. I knew I should have been more worried for the officer. He could have gotten hurt there, or killed. But right then, it was all I could do to keep from exploding into a giant ball of wild fluff. No room for worrying about the police.
Stark turned off the highway, running three red lights and then skidding to get onto the road he wanted. He didn't slow down at all.
“H… hurry," I said, and closed my eyes again. “Can't fight it… much longer."
“You're doing great," he said without taking his eyes off the road. “Just a little longer."
Things were getting familiar now. I recognized what part of town we were in. If Stark kept going at this speed, we'd be at the pack house in less than five minutes.
“When we get there," he said, “go inside the house and grab Kimberly. Bring her out to me."
I struggled to nod.
“We'll take her out into the woods," he went on. “Keep holding the change in until then. Kimberly needs to see you transform."
“D… D.K. won't let me leave," I managed to say.
“Then don't leave it up to him!" Stark snapped. “That girl's life depends on it! Now go get her!"
With that, he slammed on the breaks, bringing the car to a screeching halt. I looked out the window, and realized we were right outside the Swag Pag's house. I took a deep breath, and ran out of the car.
This wasn't going to go well.
NEXT TIME: Here it comes, guys. How is D.K. going to react to this? What's gonna go down? Now taking all bets!