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The wolves separated, rolling away from each other. As they rolled, they both shifted into human form, fur disappearing, legs lengthening, thickening, hips changing shape, muzzles shortening, claws retracting and reforming, eye color changing. Both males scrambled to their feet in fighting stances, naked, but still ready to throw down.
“What is your problem, Mac?” Trevor Burbank, a tall, Mack-truck of a man, shouted, but before his second-in-command could answer, the other two wolves caught up to them, both launching their bodies at Mac and knocking him to the ground when they made contact. “Fuck,” Trevor swore, running forward to get into the fray before his brothers tore Mac to pieces.
“Get your mutts off me,” Mac snarled.
Aw, hell no. He didn’t just say that. Trevor clamped his hands around the jaws of the wolf at Mac’s throat and pulled the opposite way of the bite-down, knowing Mac could heal his own leg if he shifted, but if his throat was torn open, he could bleed out before he ever had a chance to recover from that. “Trent, Troy, he’s not worth it, let him go,” he forced out, all of his energy focused on keeping Trent from killing Mac right then and there.
Mac screamed and Trevor knew that Troy was grinding into his leg, maybe all the way to the bone. “Troy, stop!” Trevor demanded. He aimed a few kicks at Troy’s flank while still cranking Trent’s jaws apart. Blood flowed down his fingers and across Mac’s neck. The minimal pain in his hands told him only some of that blood was his, and as he looked closer, he could see several of Trent’s teeth violating Mac’s skin.
“Trent! Lay off! You’re gonna fucking kill him! He’s an asshole, but you can’t kill a wolfen for being an asshole, the Citlali will fry you!”
Finally, Trent eased slightly. “Let him go,” Trevor continued, his voice taking on a soothing quality. “Even dogs like him have their uses. He doesn’t have to like me.”
Trevor ignored the growl that came from Mac’s throat and caught his brother’s thought like it was a ball launched at his face.
He does have to respect you.
Trevor grinned sourly. We can’t force him to, he sent back.
We can let Troy bite his balls off though.
Trevor laughed out loud, relieved to see Trent letting go of Mac’s throat, even if it was reluctantly. He turned to look at Troy who had also let go, but Mac’s thigh was a mess of dirty hamburger. Too bad, so sad.
As soon as Mac was free he scrambled to his feet and limped away, leaving Trevor and his brothers on the cold forest floor, watching the blood drip from Mac’s leg and neck.
“The Chief wants you in the office in thirty minutes,” Mac threw over his shoulder, just before he shifted and loped off.
I blinked back tears as I thought of Olivia’s tragedy. The whole idea of death brought a lump to my throat and resurfaced memories that I thought I’d gotten over. Emma rubbed my back to comfort me because she knew the subject of death was a touchy one.
As I stared at the floor, afraid to look up for fear that tears might start falling, an invisible force—something unknown willing me to look—pulled my chin up. My gaze fell upon the empty hallway to the right of the commons area where students hadn’t yet been released to roam for the day.
In the middle of the hallway stood a tall, beautiful girl with blonde hair and dark brown eyes. She looked at me across the distance, her eyes full of emotion. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what she was trying to say with her expression, except that I knew it was urgent.
As soon as I spotted her, the bell rang, announcing that students could now go to their lockers and prepare for class. The crowd dispersed from the commons into the hallway and blocked my view of the girl. The students hurried down the hall as if they didn’t see her. I kept my eye on where she was standing, but I didn’t see her again.
“Crystal.” Emma’s voice seemed far off, a distant hum in my confusion.
The faintness I felt just moments ago returned. My heart pounded in my ears, and for a second, my knees felt unstable. I gripped the edge of the fundraising table for support.
Emma snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Crystal,” she said again as her voice came back into focus.
I was suddenly whipped back into reality, dazed. “Wh—what?”
“Are you okay?” Emma asked with a tone of serious concern. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I let the statement sink in for a moment. “Yeah,” I said. But I wasn’t answering her initial question. I was agreeing with her latter statement.
But I didn’t see a ghost. I couldn’t have. An odd sensation stirred as a chill spread from my spine to the end of my fingertips. This was the same type of chill I used to get when I had my imaginary friend Eva over for tea before I started kindergarten. I’m imagining things, I told myself, mostly as reassurance.
But I had seen her clear as day. Olivia Owen had stood in the hallway and begged for my help with nothing but an expression. Yet how could that be when she died a year ago?
Emma took my arm and led me to our lockers as I silently assured myself I wasn’t crazy.