I retreat to my room after talking to my dad, taking out the stack of homework I have in my backpack. I let out a stangled cry, going limp in my desk chair. Julia's head appears in my doorway, a curious look on her face. "What's wrong with you?" She asks, and I flop an arm at my stack of books.
"It's only the second day!" I exclaim, straightening up with a sigh. "Drop out while you can, Jules." I say, and she snickers.
"Can do!" Julia says before slipping away.
It takes me just over an hour to complete my homework, most of it being those stupid "What do you know?" quizzes. I lay on my bed with a book in my hands, but I'm not reading it. My thoughts are somewhere else. I'm absentmindedly watching the smoke rise from the incense stick I have lit on my windowsill, the bright blue sky and forest's trees giving it a Tumblr-esque background.
Every so often, the reminder that today Maverick treated me like nothing happened yesterday resurfaces, and I feel something tighten inside my gut. Betrayal, I guess. The way that he acted towards Gabe annoys me too. It doesn't make sense to me, because Maverick was threatening him, but Gabe obviously knows something I don't.
Something inside of me is restless, and I know it's whatever comes with being part dog. Maybe I should go play fetch or something, I think to myself, laughing a bit. I know what my mind wants to do, but I don't know how to go into the woods without getting in trouble again.
"Mom?" I call, stepping out of the house and jumping down the patio steps. I find her still in the garden, planting some rose bushes. My dad's car is gone. "Where's dad?"
"He went to town to get a replacement part for the weedwhacker just a minute ago." She says as she packs a plant's roots into the soil.
"Oh, cool." I say, mentally highfiving myself. "There's this cute little river not too far into the woods, only like half a kilometer in..." I say and she looks to me, raising an eyebrow. "I'm gonna go read my book there, okay? I have my phone on me, and I won't be out late, you can text me or call me whenever-"
"Just go, Ken. It's fine." She cuts me off with a chuckle. I let out a breath, then smile.
"Awesome, thanks mom!" I say, giving her a kiss on the cheek before turning to go back into the woods. Seeing that I inherited my book-wormness from her, she obviously understands why I want to go there. There's another reason of course, but I dismiss it to the back of my mind.
I step into the little clearing and smile immediately. The sereneness of the running water and the sounds of the forest surround me, and my restless mind is finally at peace. Situating myself under a tree next to the water, I lose myself in my book. It isn't untill at least a half hour later when my book is snatched from my hands that I realize I'm not alone anymore.
"Hey! What do you-" I shout as I stand up and turn around, freezing as I'm met with a pair of amused blue eyes. My inner wolf does backflips, but I don't.
"The Notebook?" He says, a smirk on his face. "How cheesy." I roll my eyes at him, scowling.
"Give it back, Maverick." I say, trying to snag it from his hands. He swiftly pulls it out of my reach above his head and I glare at him, my fingertips tingling. Although I can't see it myself, I can tell by my suddenly sharper vision that my eyes have changed to my wolf's golden-brown colour.
"Woah there, don't turn on me, now," He says, trying to hide a smile. "What's got you all hot and bothered?"
"You." I snap back without thinking, then widen my eyes. "No! Not- I'm not hot and bothered," I say, shaking my head and smacking a palm against my forehead. "I'm just pissed at you."
"At me? Why?" He asks, raising an eyebrow and I let out a short sarcastic laugh.
"Well one reason being the fact that you interrupted my moment of peace," I say, snatching my book back from him. "Another being how you were a dick to Gabe, and the last the fact that you show up here all giddy, acting like you didn't give me the cold shoulder all day." My arms are crossed again, my face unemotional. It's hard to be mad at him while all I want to do is run into his arms- but he can't know he makes me feel that way.
He looks at me as if he's a puppy I just refused to play with. "Aw come on, Ken, you know it's complicated-"
"Don't call me that." I try to snap at him but my voice quavers slightly, and I frown.
"Okay, sorry." He says, taking a step toward me, causing butterflies in my stomach. "It's just... I want to talk to you at school, I want to sit with you in class, but Keanan is really strict on the whole rogue thing..."
"If Keanan told you to stab yourself in the eye, would you?" I ask, and he blinks at me a few times.
"He's the alpha, so I mean I'd probably do it, but he's not that stupid..." He says with a chuckle then frowns at my confused expression. "What?"
"Alpha as in... Top dog? Like an actual wolf pack?? Are you serious-" I begin, astonished.
"Yes, Kennedy, like a wolf pack. It sounds very neanderthal, but it's instinct. It's also not chosen, either. He was born an alpha. I was born a beta." He says simply, with a shrug. "Beta is second-in-command."
I nod slightly, understanding. "If you're his wingman, why can't you just tell him I'm not an evil mastermind or anything?" I say, raising an eyebrow.
"I-" He pauses, running a hand through his hair. "I've tried. Kinda. He's just really stubborn, and uptight..." My heart sinks a little. If he really wanted the pack to not hate me, he'd try harder... Obviously the weird attraction I have to him isn't mutual.
"Kennedy?" Maverick's voice snaps me from my thoughts, and I look up from the ground to find him a lot closer to me than before. "What are you thinking about?" He asks quietly and I look up at him, shaking my head a little.
"Nothing..." I say, and he rolls his eyes.
"Bullshit, you think I'm not trying." He says, and my heart flutters. "I am, it's just... hard."
I sigh. "Math is hard, Maverick. Trying to figure out your new life as a wolf is hard. Convincing someone that a nerdy, wimpish teenage girl isn't trying to do them any harm can't be that difficult." I say sharply, glaring at him. He runs a hand through his hair and frowns.
"I-" He starts but I cut him off with a yelp as I finally notice the searing pain in my hands, spreading up my wrists. "What's wrong?" He rushes to my side in a flash, and I hold my hands in front of me. My fingernails have grown into claws, fur sprouting from my skin. It's like I've undergone professional stage makeup in a matter of seconds- and it keeps spreading.
"I don't want to- I- I'm not even that mad!" I say through gritted teeth as the pain reaches my shoulders. "Make it stop- please, I don't want to change, not right now!" I whimper, looking up at Maverick. He stands in front of me, his hands on my shoulders.
"Kennedy," He starts, his voice calm and collected as he looks me in the eye. "I can't make it stop, you have to. You are in control of your body, and your wolf. You're panicking, which is only making it worse." He says, referring to my rapid breathing.
"I don't know how!" I whisper, fighting to keep tears away. I can feel my spine beginning to shift itself and I bite my lip- not realizing my canines have already come in. Maverick swipes a spot of blood from my lip with his thumb, and a quick sense of coolness washes over me. It's gone within a second.
I try to imagine being normal again; being human, but nothing happens. It worked the last time when I was fully shifted- why not now?
"Just relax, Ken." He says, and the burning in my back slows a bit. "You can control it, you can fight it. Make your wolf your bitch." He says with a half smile and I laugh a little, causing my fangs to retract. "Find an anchor. Something to think about that makes you feel human." He smiles down at me.
"What about someone?" I ask quietly and his smile turns into a cheeky smirk.
"That works t-" I cut him off by pressing my lips to his, my hands on his shoulders as I stand on my toes to reach him.