Lacing up my sneakers, I stood from my crouched position and jogged down the back steps of my cabin. Entering the dark forest, I took my time winding through the trees as I made my way towards the border. Otis had finally put me back in the patrol rotation and it was time for me to relieve half of the night team in my sector. My partner will relieve the other half only a few minutes after me when they’ve arrived.
There was four teams of four at each corner of the territory whose focus was on patrolling their specific areas. It was safer to have select groups watching each corner at all times, making the chance of anyone slipping pass them very slim. Plus their areas all bumped into each other so there were no gaps in the routes they took.
My area tonight was the southeast sector that was defined by the small stream running along the edge of territory lines. It was a little stream that flowed down the mountain and trickled into a lake beside the human town. A pretty site for the pack shifters to hangout and take their mates to. But it was also great for washing away the blood after a fight, like I had after I killed those renegades. Cleaning blood off the bathroom tiles was a shit ton of work that I didn’t care to do.
Fangs pulsing to be released at the memory, I shook it from my head and focused on my surroundings. The full moon tonight was giving off just enough light so the forest wasn’t as dark as it normally was. Either way it wasn’t a problem for me, it was child’s play picking my way through the broken branches and rocks to my patrol route.
The sound of rushing water flooded my hearing the closer I got to the stream. Tilting my head, I pushed past the sound listening for the shifters I was sent to relieve. Two heartbeats were beating steadily by the stream while another two were spread out and beating to a faster pace. The snow was starting to become littered with muddy paw and shoe prints near the treeline. I tsked as I saw them multiply leading me straight to the four patrolling. Sloppy.
Suppressing a growl, I kept my steps light and slipped around the last remaining twigs making sure not to snap any of them. Stepping out from between the trees, I narrow my eyes at the men I could now see clearly. They opened their eyes the moment I stepped out from the forest and immediately snapped to attention like a soldier would for his general.
I stared them down until their gazes lowered to just above my shoulders. Much better. Looking away from the pair, I turned my head left and then right to see the others. Another two in wolf form were panting by the stream trotting back n’ forth with their eyes trained on the other side of the stream. Their ears flicked in my direction half a second before their bodies turned to face me.
Muddy snow squished underneath my sneakers as I walked further away from the trees and closer to the others. The pair in wolf form sprinted past me into the woods to change forms in semi-privacy. Not going far, the faint sounds of their change assaulted my ears with groans and the sharp cracking of their bones.
It reminded me of when I heard a group of wolves speaking about their changes, they had said the reshaping of their face hurt the most. Something about the snapping of their jaw and cheekbones always aching for a few minutes after a shift. I found it secretly fascinating, I could change forms but my form wasn’t exactly a wolf.
“Are you here to relieve us, Omicron?” Turning to the voice, I saw that it was the light brown haired man who spoke.
I nodded in answer to his question and looked them over. Both wore t-shirts but one was in sweats while the other, like me, wore black basketball shorts. I didn’t know everyone by name but I’ve memorized their faces throughout the years. So, I knew that these men were pack warriors who trained directly under Candice and now...Jasper.
“How’s your new co-gamma?” I asked them just as the others walked back from the trees to join us.
The shifted warriors turned out to be two women who were just as tall as their male counterparts. The women were in the same patrol clothing as me, basketball shorts and a sports bra. Comfortable clothes that you could run and stand in for long periods of time. Plus they were easy to slip or rip off when you needed to shift.
It was the women with braids who replied, “Uhh, a little strange to say the least.”
And then the second male spoke up hesitantly, “He’s a very...opinionated male. ”
I tensed at the implication, “What does that mean?”
They all shared a glance between each other before the light haired one murmured, “He isn’t very fond of females in power.”
“Candice almost tore his head off when he suggested she tell him when her heat was so he could take over training. To avoid any rash decisions.” The second woman chimed in.
Moon, that man didn’t understand how to communicate with she-wolves at all. But that wasn’t something I could dwell on as I heard my patrol partner approaching.
“I see. Feel free to come and find me if he does something concerning to you,” I paused for their agreement and then continued, “You can turn in for the night, my partner’s almost here.”
I smirked slightly when they immediately tilted their heads trying to listen for the sounds of approach they wouldn’t hear. My partner was too far out of their hearing range for them to hear his or her approach. When all they heard was the natural sounds of the forest surrounding us, they tipped their heads slightly in acknowledgement of my position and sprinted off into the trees.
Watching until I couldn’t see them anymore a stray thought crossed my mind, Wouldn’t mind if Ryan was my partner tonight. His presence wasn’t as annoying as it once was and there were things we needed to discuss. I didn’t run away when my throat was ripped out and it was bothering me that I was running away from the words that needed to be said between us. I was over it, we needed to clear things up.
Turning to face the stream, I swept my red gaze over the trees on the other side. Paying special attention to the darker crevices hidden by the branches and tree trunks. Renegades tested the borders every now and then but before I left, patrol hadn’t seen them for a few weeks. Thinking about that, maybe it was because they were planning to kill me. But I’ve pissed off a lot of people during my time so those notes really could be from anyone. No matter. In two months they’d come for me and I’d know who I was killing.
Pacing along the stream edge while I watched the other side, I didn’t bother to turn around when my partner stepped out onto the muddy bank. Instead I stated a fact, “It’s three ten, patrol started at three. You’re late.”
Their shoes sloshed in the muddy snow, “I know. I was thinking something over and lost track of time. Sorry, Kai.”
Oranges and mint wafted through the air seconds before I turned to face him. We spoke at the sametime, “I’m actually glad-...you shaved.”
“Your shirtless again,” He blurted.
Expecting to see his normally bearded face, I was shocked to turn around and find him suddenly without one. His jaw was less prominent than before but not in a bad way, all that smooth skin brought more attention to his strong neck and shoulders. His grey hoodie did little to hide the broadness of his chest. I had seen him a million times sometimes even shirtless but right now it was like I was seeing him for the first time.
Ryan gave me a small smile and rubbed at his jaw, “Uh, yea. It was getting to be a hassle, do you like it?”
He had little dimples around his mouth. Little dimples. Blinking rapidly I replied with a quick head nod, “You look fine.”
I had meant it as a vague compliment but by the way his smile lit up, it was obvious he took it another way. After that, he kind of just stood there staring at me, so I turned around and began jogging down the right side of the stream. It took him a few seconds before he started to jog in the opposite direction as me. The air whistling by carried the scent of deer, snow, and pine. A lot of the scents that were normally found in the forest were covered up by the rushing water.
Stopping at the four mile marker, I nodded in greeting to the other patrol running up to the marker and then headed back the way I came. Taking deep breaths, I checked the scents again as I ran and kept on alert for any heartbeats that weren’t purely animal nearby. As my feet pounded against the earth, the rhythmic thumping threatened to drag me under a relaxed trancelike state.
I physically shook my head to get rid of the feeling and refocused on the matter at hand. Passing where I had been standing earlier, I continued to run down the side of the stream that Ryan had run down. A couple of minutes had passed since we started so I should’ve been passing him soon but it wasn’t until I was two miles deep into his route that I saw him. He was further up ahead running in my direction with a determined look on his face.
His run slowed to a jog the closer he got to me but I kept my pace and quickly passed him. I knew he had wanted me to stop so we could talk but honestly I needed a few more minutes to think about how this could possibly change everything. Or in reality it was probably not going to change anything a whole lot. We both had things that needed to be said, things that neither of us were going to like very much. I just hoped everything I needed to say would be accurately explained. Knowing myself though I was sure I’d neglect to say a few things out loud, out of embarrassment.
Without realizing it, I was quickly approaching the spot where we had started and Ryan stood there with his hands on his hips waiting. Fuck. Taking a moment as I stopped in front of him, I looked at my shins to avoid the conversation for just a few more seconds. The liquid mixture of muck was splattered across my bare shins and Ryan’s clothed ones.
“Kai, we need to talk.”
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