I could imagine my Uncle Harry's voice inside my head firmly chastising me for popping from one place to another in front of someone I only barely knew, but it wasn't my fault. I mean, like it had been because I was freaked out at how fast Lowell was. Go figure -- werewolves were super fast -- who'd a thunk, right? My bad was to not have paid attention to the possibilities, but back then, I really thought that he'd been sent to play with me. Yeah, I knew that I wasn't supposed to show my little skill set in front of 'strangers,' but I didn't think that I had a choice. My next big revelation had been I still only had the werewolf's word that Uncle Harry had given him permission to play with me. Mentally I'd shaken my head at my rookie mistake, but it was too late to take it back.
"Geeze, Esmeralda, why the hell did you bop me?" Lowell sounded genuinely upset that I'd bounced my fist off his furry face, but even then I'd known perfectly well that he could and would tear me apart if I didn't let him know I was able to handle myself.
He was a big damned werewolf, but he wasn't an alpha as far as I knew, and I was perfectly aware that if I gave an inch, he'd either kill me or wound me depending on his mood and Uncle Harry's possible request to play with me. I was pushing hard in my mind to find Uncle Harry; even in the middle of the day my adoptive vampire family it should have worked, but there was this odd distance and no connection between our minds like we usually had. I wondered if it was because of how remote the location of the woods were that we were journeying into at Lowell's request, and if the supernatural creature causing troubles here was part of the problem why I couldn't connect with Uncle Harry. My stomach was doing back flips, and slowly but surely I was getting the idea that Lowell may not be a true friend of Uncle Harry, but acting for someone or something else. Uncle Harry had discovered that I was pretty much wanted, dead or alive, and that had made me I really stupid to follow Lowell into the woods -- like a clueless teenager in a bad slasher film -- you know, the one that wasn't not asking anyone if what the werewolf said was true.
"What's wrong? So what, you can't take like a little bit of playful fun?" I put my best California girl taunting tones into the words, all the while carefully watching his eyes. They were shining, dead flat of expression, and he wasn't in the least amused by me. That had added to my growing fear, and it spelled out how much I had actually fucked up. I couldn't put a pretty little bow on it, because it wasn't good in any way. He had pounced towards me and if I'd been where he'd expected, I'd have been dead or rapidly bleeding out to die.
Looking at him, I noticed right away that his tail wasn't wagging, but instead it was decidedly flat and sticking straight out from his back. He'd dropped down on all fours after I'd shocked him with my fist smacking his nose and I could see a slight ruffle of his fur mid-spine, which reaction meant that I'd hit a hot spot on him. He didn't like that I'd bonked his nose and he was now carefully weighing his options. As a speaking werewolf, I had quickly figured out that he wasn't anywhere near in age to me, but much older, and of course, far more vicious. I wasn't a playmate anymore -- if I'd ever been one -- but instead I was prey. Werewolves can run on all fours and some just their hind legs. Lowell could speak English while he was in were form so he was far older than he'd appeared to me, and with his over-the-top reactions, I'd gauged that he was at least mid-level in his pack.
Shifting through my various options I tried again to reason with his beast. "Sorry, but you startled me," I dropped the Valley Girl tone and spoke with a straight and even voice; add in that my eyes had met his because I didn't think dropping my eyes would give him the right message. Werewolves played the submissive role only if someone was over them in rank. Whether it was a hard core rule or just part of polite pack behavior didn't matter -- it had been one of the first rules Uncle Harry had taught me. I'd decided that day that he would simply flay me open if I looked like I was in the least exhibiting any weakness. Other than popping away from danger, I didn't have any weapons, claws, or magic to protect my ass. And so I'd stuck with the direct eye contact -- and to my shock he'd dropped his eyes first. Nevertheless, I had been smart enough to realize he was just trying to figure out where I was going next. Suddenly he leaped ten feet away from where we'd just been, towards a large oak tree. I didn't move at all -- I had just, from my glance that way, sent the message that I'd be hopping over to the tree. He slammed into the tree, since he'd mistakenly anticipated that I'd be precisely there. Oops. Spinning furiously, he launched back into the air. He had been a foot from hitting me when Riley had unexpectedly appeared and slammed into him, still in his human form. I found it odd that Riley hadn't flipped to his fur side but had met the threat of Lowell as a human. Not being as stupidly naive as I'd been, Riley had brought a knife and simply slit Lowell's throat.
I watched the werewolf flip back to his human form before finally dying. I was more than a bit freaked out and scared. I hadn't seen Riley ever move that fast and gulped at how I'd underestimated him. He wiped his blade on the grass and sighed.
Looking at me with an even gaze Riley said, "Well, that was crap. Why did Lowell turn on us?" He wasn't really asking me, but musing aloud.
Despite that, I gulped and then I said, "Not a clue. How did you know I was in trouble?" Which actually was my real concern.
"Harry told me approximately where he'd lost contact with you, and once I got there, I simply followed your scent." It had been matter of factly said, but still I felt that Riley had actually been worried about me. And something had crossed my mind, "Uncle Harry was awake?"
Shaking his head at me, Riley said, "Yes, because vampires of Harry's age have a decidedly different set of rules than the usual Hollywood vamps."
Even scared and rattled by Lowell's attack, I'd noticed that there was some heavy sarcasm threading through his words, but I decided that since he'd just killed a werewolf for me, it would be best for me to keep my mouth shut for a change.
Looking back at the now-dead werewolf Riley said, "Well, this is a fucked up mess."
He had that right. I worried my thumb, chewing on the edges. Catching myself doing that, I consciously pulled my teeth away from my hand. I didn't need to show worry or weakness in front of Riley, but at the same time I was more than a little freaked out.
Without another word he'd begun to walk back towards Uncle Harry's house. The corpse that had previously been Lowell had still been lying on the ground, and that hadn't seemed to bother Riley one bit. And If I was truthful, I hadn't been overly concerned myself about the sliced-open asshole. Either Lowell wasn't actually from Riley's werewolf pack, or if he had been, he'd crossed a line trying to harm me.
Silently we'd walked back, and I found myself enjoying the peaceful silence. My heart had stopped racing, and I wasn't thinking any longer of popping in and out of phase. I had simply enjoyed the middle of the day, going back towards home; Uncle Harry always spelled home to me no matter which of his properties we were visiting. I felt safe, and not a freak when I was around Uncle Harry.
Back then I still wondered who'd sent Lowell, and knew from the look on Riley's face that he was chewing over that also.