With Katey’s hand firmly gripped in Logan’s, they walked through the north entrance of the high school. The halls were already teeming with bustling teenagers and faculty as they made ready for another day. Katey smiled as she watched some hustle to first period while others leaned against the painted brick walls and talked with their friends.
She remembered the first time she walked through the halls as a newly turned loup-garou. The chaotic cacophony of laughter and shouts were overwhelming. Not to mention the myriad of odors and scents that assaulted her newly refined senses. It had been a harrowing ordeal, to say the least. Now, Katey had learned to tune them out and focus only on what she wanted to smell and hear. With Logan’s coaching, she was able to integrate back into student life with surprising ease. Even Darren was impressed with how quickly she progressed in her training as a “pup”.
As they made their way to first period – Darren’s environmental science class – Katey met the gazes of other loup-garou students she had met in the last few weeks. Some of them had been with her pack on the trip to Alaska, and it took a while to get over the image of their dirt smudged faces behind silver bars. Against the odds, they had made a full recovery, and no human was the wiser to what they had suffered on their winter break.
Just like every other day, these loups-garous bowed their heads as a show of respect and appreciation to Katey. It was unsettling the first day they returned, and one freshman boy came up to Katey and kissed the back of her hand until it was glistening with saliva. When she looked to Logan for help, he only smiled and told her the fellow loup-garou was only expressing his gratitude.
When the freshman lifted his head, Katey recognized him as one of the younger loups-garous that was on the edge of death when they finally escaped the castle. He had a right to be grateful, and from then on, Katey took it all in stride.
A scent caught Katey’s attention, and she turned to see her friend, Lily, practically skipping through the masses toward her. Katey grinned and let Lily pounce on her with her usual bubbly giddiness. How they had maintained their friendship through their differences, Katey would never know. They were nearly exact opposites.
“It’s so good to see you!” Lily cried, tossing her wavy blonde hair over one shoulder as she pulled away from the bear hug.
Katey laughed. “It was just a weekend!”
“I know,” Lily groaned dramatically. “But you won’t believe how much fun we had at the studio last Saturday! You would have loved it.”
Katey’s smile faltered for only a fraction of a second. Since they arrived back from Alaska, Darren pressured her into quitting her jobs. Her position at the bookstore was already slipping with her extended leave of absence, and it wasn’t hard for Katey to give it up, but Darren had wanted her to drop volunteering on the weekends at the ballroom dance studio on Main Street, at least until she had completed her training.
It broke her heart to tell Lily and Forrest. Forrest understood, but Katey could already feel the strain between her and Lily. They only shared one class together and those few minutes in passing each weekday was not enough for either of them.
Katey had one thing in common with Lily that she didn’t have with Beth, her other close friend. Lily knew about loups-garous. In fact, she was engaged to one. Lily had known about loups-garous long before Katey did. She was the only human to know her secret and Lily was like a lifeline to Katey in more ways than one.
The few times they were able to talk on the phone, Katey splurged details about her struggle to get a hold of pack dynamics and all the difficulties in learning to change. Instead of being horrified or disgusted, Lily offered advice based off her own experiences with Forrest and his pack, the Devians. Katey felt as though she had more freedom to talk to her than Beth or sometimes even Logan. Although, she was sure Logan heard every word of their conversations on the phone.
“I wish I could have been there too,” Katey replied. This past weekend had been consumed with training and staying cooped up in the house.
Lily’s eyes glanced to Logan, and she lost a little of her excitement. “I understand why you couldn’t be there,” she said as they began to walk together toward the hallway where Katey’s locker was located. “Maybe Darren will let you come out to the next party. It’ll be this weekend. Plenty of time to plan.”
“I don’t know if Darren will agree,” Logan intercepted before Katey could reply. “But it’s worth asking if you feel up for going, Katey.”
She still felt a little jolt of pleasure when he said her name. “I’ll have to remember to ask him when we get home today.”
They chatted for a little longer, mostly about the fact that Lily’s parents would be out of town for the next two weeks on an extended anniversary trip to Europe. Lily would be spending most of her time with Forrest, of course, but Katey wondered if her short burst of freedom from her parents would mean they could hang out more as well. After they had finished talking, Lily broke away to go to her first-period class on the other side of the school.
Katey and Logan were about to round the corner when Katey caught a whiff of something that didn’t seem familiar. It was a wonder she could detect it in this crowd, but Katey was sure she smelled something like dog. This wasn’t the faint scent of dog hair on a student’s clothes, as she sniffed that many times throughout the day. This was much stronger.
They turned, and Katey froze. Halfway down the hall was a man dressed in an officer’s uniform, holding a leash for a German Shepherd that was vigorously sniffing the base of the lockers. It was something she had seen many times before at school. It was practically routine for the police station to check for illegal drugs at the high school. However, this didn’t seem right somehow.
Logan stopped too, and Katey felt his grip tighten and tremble. She looked at him and saw an emotion she had seen so often in him. His blue eyes, usually so calm and loving, turned cold as he glared at the officer and his dog. His body went rigid, every muscle tensing as if ready to fight or run. Buried deep within his fiery stare, Katey could see a twinge of fear leak through.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. They had been around dogs and policemen before, and Logan never reacted this way. “I’m sure it’s just drug dogs. They make the rounds at public schools every few months.”
Logan didn’t respond, and she looked back to the dog and its owner. The animal lifted its brown muzzle and sniffed the air. The shepherd’s fierce brown eyes locked on them and went into a barking frenzy that startled everyone in that hallway. Students jumped away, and a few girls shrieked as the dog strained against its leash. Jaws snapped and growled as it stood on its hind legs, eager to charge Logan and Katey.
Katey flinched and felt the unmistakable urge to run like a frightened deer.
Logan wasted no time and bolted into a run down the hall in the direction they came from. Katey kept pace with him, too confused and startled to ask Logan any questions just yet as they bobbed and weaved through the throng of students and faculty who shouted at them to slow down.
They arrived at Darren’s classroom and thankfully it was empty. They stood at the threshold as Darren was already making his way to meet them. She could tell that even he was a little confused by Logan’s intensity.
“They’re here!” Logan barked out.
Darren went still at those three simple words. His face held no expression at first, but when he turned away to retrieve his briefcase, Katey felt the same paroxysm that radiated from Logan, come barreling from Darren. The empathic vibes were dizzying.
“We’ll meet back at the house,” Darren said as he joined them at the door. “I’ll tell the others. Keep Katey out of sight.”
The three entered the hall, leaving the classroom unattended.
“What’s going on?” Katey demanded, wrenching her hand from Logan’s grasp.
“I’ll explain when we get home,” Logan replied. “If there’s a home to go back to.”
Katey’s eyes went wide. “What do you mean? What’s happening? Who was that guy?”
Darren looked up and down the hall. “There’s no time to tell you everything right now.”
Katey stamped her foot and dropped her book bag like an obstinate child. “I’m not going anywhere until someone tells me what’s going on!”
Logan moved in front of her, consuming her entire field of vision. He held her face in his powerful hands. “Katey, one of the things I love about you is your stubbornness, but you’re going to have to give that up for just a few minutes. We have to get out of here.”
Darren had already left them and was practically jogging down the hall with his cellphone pressed against his ear. Katey looked behind them as she heard the sharp tips of nails scraping the tile floor, almost lost in the din of shuffling feet.
Logan grabbed her hand and swept up her bag onto his shoulder before pulling her toward the nearest exit.
“Can you talk while you walk?” she asked, still lagging a bit.
“Hunters,” was all Logan said.
Katey nearly tripped over her own feet as soon as he spoke. The reality of their fear finally hit.
Hunters. Loup-garou hunters. Katey remembered when Logan explained to her about the town of Devia and how hunters had nearly completely wiped out the loups-garous there. Forrest was with those who managed to escape over a hundred years ago, but she recalled the gravestones of so many more who had fallen as prey to the hunters.
Without the help of her empathic abilities, their resolve became her own and Katey matched Logan step for step as they escaped outside.
They mounted Logan’s black motorcycle and peeled out of the parking lot speeding and snaking through traffic as if death itself were chasing them. As far as Katey could tell, no one was following them, but that was no excuse to slow down. Logan constantly looked around and behind them as they flew down the highway, and she could feel the tautness of his body between her arms as she hung on tightly.
They were the first ones back to the house, miles away from civilization and tucked into the backwoods outside of town. Besides a narrow dirt path that served as their driveway off the main road, no one was likely to find them. The pack built this house here for that very purpose. It was secluded enough for when they took their monthly turns changing into their loup-garou forms, and away from the prying eyes of the human world.
Logan pulled her off the bike and led her inside where he ordered her to stay on the main floor while he inspected every room of the house, sniffing and scrutinizing everything as if he were looking for something out of place.
“Do you think they were here?” she asked, trying to hold onto any bit of composure she could muster.
Logan returned from upstairs and stood beside her, a little of the edge chipped away now that they might have been considered in a safe place. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m going outside to search the property.” He shot her a stern look. “Stay here and wait. If someone comes in, yell, and I’ll come back. I’ll hear you.”
With that, he darted out the back sliding glass door.
Katey paced the living room floor, biting her thumbnail while she listened to Logan searching the forest, keeping track of his swift pace as he encircled the house.
Her mind raced to a million different worst-case scenarios. What if hunters were watching their home right now? What if they were to capture Logan? What if the others didn’t get out of the school in time?