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The path was old, and overgrown so it was hardly a walkway at all. The tall weeds clung to the legs of her jeans, and Rose had to give a definite pull of her leg to shake loose the briars. She continually searched the ground, looking for any signs that he had passed. The earth was hard packed, but moist from the dew that was now making her shoes and pants wet, and she hoped to find at least a half a footprint there.
Or a paw print.
There was a distinct increase in the odors of the forest, but just Jason's scent held her attention. Even when combined with the scent of the fresh earth and the woodsy smell the trees brought forth, a werewolf's sense of smell was greatly accurate in honing in on one particular odor, especially if that odor belonged to one of their own.
Rose had reached the edge of the forest, but to her dismay, Jason was nowhere in sight and the faint scent had become stronger. She could definitely tell he was somewhere close.
Panic still clung to her every fiber, and her heart pounded within her throat. She swallowed it back down. The darkness clouded around her, and she had to admit for the first time ever in her life, she was afraid of the dark.
Never before had she encountered darkness so cold and unfriendly. It had an evil air about it and made Rose uneasy. But her mate was somewhere within that cold lightless place. And she wasn't going to get to him by just standing here, and certainly not as a human. This would require a wolf's prowess.
Rose leaned down, her breathing increasing as she unlaced her shoes and slipped out of them. The socks came off too and soon her bare feet were resting upon the cold earth. Its chill went all through her body.
Goosebumps had long since started on her arms as she slipped off her jacket and lifted off her shirt. She took in a ragged breath as the air bit at her exposed skin. For a moment, she thought about not forgoing the risk and putting her clothes back on, but she was soon reminded that her wolfen fur would be more than adequate for warmth.
Her fingers trembled as she undid the button to her jeans and finally slid them down her legs. Lastly, her underwear met the pile of clothes resting at the forest's edge, and she was ready.
Thankful she was far enough away from prying eyes to parade around in the nude, Rose plunged headlong into the dense thickness of trees. Her breath came out in gasps of fog. The branches threatened her with menacing claws and scratched at her bare skin, but she gave it no mind. Any wounds inflicted here would heal quickly.
Her pace increased the deeper she moved into the impenetrable darkness. Soon, Rose was running fast. Her night vision was excellent, but she did not have the advantage just yet. The cold wind rushed past her and tangled her hair. It burned arctic against her flesh.
And then it began. The shift was happening before Rose even realized it. Her body was bending, conforming to a new shape. Bones popped and twisted with a disgusting sound, and a pain unlike any other consumed her. It slowed her down.
But Rose did not stop the shift. Instead, she held onto it. She closed her eyes tightly as even her skull became more wolfen than human. Blood began to drip from her nostrils as the bones elongated and lengthened her face into a muzzle. Beyond just the half shift now, she was becoming completely and totally wolf.
The hard part was over. Rose bent to all fours, stopping her quest long enough for this. A cry of pain erupted from her as her leg and arm bones popped and re-grew. Her body took on the shape and form of a wolf's. Her back curved, and a tail sprouted from the base of her spine. A dark pelt of the deepest silver covered her entire body, lighter on her underbelly and legs.
She was wolf. When the pain had subsided, and she had licked the blood from her nose and muzzle, she was ready. Now she had the advantage.
Her long canine legs stretched out as she bounded through the trees. The thick underbrush barely met with her paws as her determination increased. Her speed was ten times what it had been in her human form, and all her senses took on a new level of acuteness.
Jason's scent was mingled with the scent of earth and decaying leaves, but it was the driving force that pushed her onward. The previously freezing wind was now a gentle caress against her fur. She kept following the trail.
Her mind was no longer dominated with thoughts. Instead, her way of thinking was punctuated with wordless images and emotions. They pulsed through her, and the familiar twinge she had called panic before presented itself to her wolfen form.
It was all instinct.
The trees were become sparser, and new scents mingled in the air. Other animals that lived within this forest and its trees did well to stay hidden. They knew what she was, but she was not here for them tonight. Nevertheless, they shied back into their homes until she had long passed.
Tonight, she was on a search mission, not a hunt. The scent of water became very strong suddenly, and the wolf stopped where she was and sniffed at the air. The water also followed the direction Jason's scent had taken.
Her tongue lolled from the side of her jaws and the animal eyes searched. There was a creek, and the water washed in its own fashion, slow with Mother Earth's bearing. Her paws stepped lightly, silently, and she bent until her nose nearly touched the wet earth. She sniffed in the scent of Jason. This was the right path.
But stranger smells combined with his. It was the smell of an unwashed human male. Sweat and natural body odors filled the air. The wolf snorted, and she refrained from growling at the new scent. It definitely was a cause for alarm.
Edging closer to the water, she lifted her head. The earth was very moist and cool where she stood, at the creek's edge. Her claws sank into the mud and the water licked at her paws. It moistened the lighter colored fur of her legs. The scents had reached this point.
They were gone.
Her heart fell. All the hope she had gained seemed to wash away with the current of the river. But she couldn't stop here. She had to go on. She would not let the hurting win.
She crossed the water and relished the cool feel of it against the pads of her paws. Once on the other side, she sniffed the ground and tried desperately to find his scent upon the earth.
Pacing along the river bank, nose pressed to the cold earth, she soon found it. Her heart leapt once more, then immediately fell when she made a harsh discovery.
His scent was no longer as strong. Another scent had overpowered it. It wasn't the unwashed human scent. That scent had grown weaker until it had finally faded away. No, it was something much worse.
It was blood.
Excerpted from Sweet Moon Dreams by Rose Marie Wolf Copyright © 2007 by Rose Marie Wolf. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted March 7, 2012
Posted July 31, 2010
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