Chapter 1

"No, Mom! I won't!"

"You don't have a choice, Jennifer!"

"I'm not going to live here if he moves in," I said bluntly, turning my back on her. She went and decided she was getting married to that jerk, Kevin. He didn't even like her, and he kept glancing at me whenever the three of us went out to the movies or something. At one point he'd even ran his hand up my thigh in the middle of the movie. The man was a pervert, and he was just using my mom to get to me and her hot friends.

"Oh really? And where are you going to go instead?"

"I'll figure something out." Then I grabbed the keys to my car, my wallet, and a few shirts and ran out the door on the brim of tears. I hadn't driven very far from the house – I hadn't even made it to the highway – when my eyes had swollen with unshed saline to the point that I couldn't really see the road anymore. I wasn't stupid. No matter how foul of a mood I was in, driving in this state was idiotic. So I pulled over and left my car parked half in the ditch on the side of the road and half out before getting out in an attempt to calm myself.

I wandered through the woods for a while, skirting around the small swamp and ignoring the swarm of mosquitoes following me, anxious for a meal. I'd been out of the car for a good fifteen minutes before I'd calmed down enough to stop shaking and start paying attention to where I was going. I rubbed my arms as a sudden shiver overcame me despite the summer heat. I didn't know where I was.

I turned in a circle, wondering which way to turn next. I had to get back to my car somehow, but I didn't know how far I'd come, and I certainly didn't dare risk thinking that I might have actually gone in a straight line. It just wasn't possible. I felt the tears coming again, and took a moment to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths of the fresh summer air.

Okay, maybe it was possible that I left a trail clear enough for me to follow. The moon was shining bright enough to light up the woods, and I could try to take advantage of it. It was a long shot, but I had to try anyway.

I turned back to where I had last come from and froze. A wolf - a large one - was standing there, its haunches up as it posed for an attack. My breathing was shallow and raspy. I didn't know what to do. Should I run? No, almost every book said that running would have the predator even more anxious for the prey. But I couldn't just stand there, could I?

I took a step backwards, trying my damnedest to ignore the pounding of my heart behind my ears. "Good wolfie," I said as I backed away. Maybe sweet talking would keep it away. Yeah, as if.

It bared its teeth as a growl came up from the back of its throat. My throat closed as my heart jumped into it. My breath quickened even more.

Then it leaped. I let out a shriek as it came at me, mouth open and claws out. It barreled into me, and I toppled to the ground beneath its weight. "Get off!" I screamed, struggling beneath it as its jaws closed on my shoulder and its claws dug in to my arms. "Get off me! HELP!!"

Another wolf jumped from the bushes, and the wolf on me turned to face the newcomer moments before the fight started. It was nothing but a flurry of fur and claws, and I took the opportunity to attempt my escape, crab-walking backwards as quickly as I could.

I didn't notice that pathetic, helpless noises were coming from my throat until I turned, stumbling to my feet and running as quickly as I could in the other direction, putting as much distance between the fight of the wolves and myself as I could before they each realized that I'd disappeared.

Then I stumbled over a fallen branch, or a root, or a vine, or some other vile plant creature lying in the path, and I fell face first to the earth as the trees swirled around me and blurred before everything went black.