The sun was still high in the sky by the time I was able to run back inside and grab my bag. I had to wait outside with this one kid until his parents showed up at six o' clock the past couple nights. Camp ends at four. My shift usually ends at four-twenty, which is how long it takes for the parents to pick up their kids. I checked the clock on my cell phone—it was four-twenty on the dot. Perfect. The last day and I was finally able to leave on time again.
I walked down the dirt path that led to the camp entrance. My mom was supposed to pick me up there. Because the camp only had a limited amount of land, the owners chose to build a giant ropes course instead of a parking lot for the staff. So, all the counselors had to arrange rides back and forth to work each day. It was a big pain in the butt. My mom didn't like it either. She had to rush over from work every day just to pick me up. I was sure that she would be just as happy as I was for my last day to have finally arrived. Had there not been so many people in the area I wouldn't have to get I ride, I could have simply run home, but, because basically the entire town sent their kids to this camp, the possibilities of me being seen by someone were too great to risk.
I rounded the corner and expected to see my mom's minivan in the line of cars but it wasn't there. I scanned the line of cars again and my eyes fell on the very last car in the line. It was a bright red, four-door Jeep and in the driver's seat sat a 16-year-old boy with very dark hair and green eyes more gorgeous than the world's most precious emerald. Oh, and he was super hot—like flawless face, make your cheeks burn when his shirt's off hot—but I'm biased. A smile that I couldn't stop, even if I tried, crept onto my face. I power-walked to the end of the line, opened the passenger door, and hopped in my red Jeep.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to get into cars with strangers?" The boy asked, smiling mischievously at me.
"What if that stranger stole my car?" I asked innocently.
He frowned. "What would you say if it was all part of the stranger's plan to get you to trust him."
I pretended to consider his explanation. "Well," I said, turning to face him, "then I'd say it was working."
He leaned in close to me. "Excellent." Then he gave me a soft, lingering, romantic kiss.
I pulled away and smiled at my best friend turned boyfriend. "You know, I don't think anyone is going to believe we're strangers after something like that."
"Hmm, you're right. Maybe that was too much?"
I shook my head. "Too little." I leaned in for another kiss.
"Marina, that is not being a good role model."
I turned to see my boss standing only few feet away glaring at me. I just smiled at her. I hated her. I hated her from the first moment I met her at the very beginning of the summer when she criticized me for wearing a low cut shirt during orientation—when there were no kids around. And she was still criticizing me, even when I no longer worked for her.
When she walked away, I turned back to him. "Is it bad that I am actually looking forward to school on Monday just because I won't have to see her devil face?"
He just laughed and pulled away from the most hellish camp I ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
John Holten, or Jet, as I like to call him, have been friends ever since he moved to California when we were in seventh grade. It was just last spring that we finally admitted our true feelings for each other—well, he did anyway—and started dating. Before that I had been convinced that he liked my friend Bella, which hadn't been true at all.
Jet's eyes glanced over in my direction. "How about we swing by your place, drop off the Jeep and then go for a run?"
I nodded. "Sounds good to me."
When we got to my house we immediately walked out back and began taking off our clothes. Now, before you get any awful ideas that would send your mind to the dumpster, you should know that Jet and I are shapeshifters. Yup, you read that right. Shapeshifters. We, along with the rest of my family except for my mom, can each turn into a different animal. Well, I can turn into two animals—a gray wolf and a bottlenose dolphin—which is actually really rare, but that doesn't matter right now. When it comes to everyone else, my dad turns into a mountain lion, my older brother, Cole, a tiger, my younger sister, Skye, an owl, and Jet a black wolf. Once Jet and I found out that we were both shapeshifters (and both wolves), we basically started this after school tradition where we would shift and go for a run together through the forest. But over the summer we weren't able to keep that up. In fact, because I worked from 8am-4pm every weekday, and Jet usually got scheduled for the evening shift at the community pool (his good looks brought in a lot of teenage girls during those hours—but I wasn't worried, I knew he only had eyes for me), we didn't get a lot of chances to run together at all.
Once I slipped my underwear and bra off, I shifted into my wolf form. It brought me such relief. Maybe now that my job was over, things could finally get back to where I wanted them to be—which was Jet and I being able to spend almost all our time together.
I looked over to Jet and saw that he had already shifted into his beautiful, and yet powerful, black wolf. I knew what it was like to be on the other end of that iron jaw and those dagger teeth, and trust me, I felt sorry for anyone who found themselves in that position. I wouldn't mess with him—okay, so maybe I like messing with him, but I know he would never hurt me. Unless, of course, it was the only way to stop me from revealing the fact that I am a shapeshifter to the world and killing all my friends like what happened last spring when I accidentally put myself under the control of an evil, power-hungry siren—which, I thought was totally an acceptable thing to do. Besides, the wound healed once I shifted back into my human form.
Jet bowed his black head—offering to let me lead the way. With that, I took off without another thought. I zigzagged through the trees, listening for the padding of footsteps behind me. When they got close I sped up—the different colored bark on the trees all blending into one. Then I could no longer hear him behind me. For a minute I thought I had actually lost him—that I had beat him at his own game—but no. As soon as I slow down to see if I can find him (or smell him), he darts by me with his tongue stuck out. I growl and race after him again. Why do I always fall for his stupid tricks? No matter, there is still one way I know I can get him. I push my legs to run faster, until I am practically running on top of him. Then I lean my head down and start nipping at his ankles. He expects it of course—it is the only strategy I ever use. He tries to shake me off but fails and I nibble at his ankles again. Then he takes a dive, tumbling out into a wildflower meadow.
I stop beside him and sit down—admiring the golden field. I hadn't been here since I was a little girl, and honestly, I had forgotten where to find it. Next to me, Jet stood up, but, I could tell from his stance that something was wrong. I sniffed the air. Turning my head, I looked out across the meadow—there was something coming out of the trees on the other side, and it was big and unfamiliar. I braced myself for a bear or something along those lines. What I didn't expect to see was a stag. The deer's coat was brown with bits of red that shined through in the sunlight. Oh, and its antlers? They were huge, and probably very pointy. Despite this, I relaxed a bit—the deer didn't look like he wanted to attack.
Then suddenly, Jet let out a slow growl. I nudged him to get him to stop—we didn't want this stag trying to ram us. But then I saw what he did. Behind the stag emerged another creature. This animal was a fox and walked right up to and then underneath the deer. The deer didn't even move. The deer didn't do anything to the fox.
This time both Jet and I growled at the two animals. They looked at us, but neither of them seemed to care that there were two wolves standing on the other side of the meadow snarling at them. Instead, the fox turned to the right to go back into the trees and the stag promptly followed it.
I was stunned. Since when were deer and foxes friends? Since when did they follow one another around? Because, if there was one thing I knew, it was that what we just saw was not normal animal behavior.