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Liam

The night was for hunting.

The sound of dried leaves crunching beneath small animals as they scurry to find shelter after catching my scent competed with the sound of crickets chirping their night song.

Light from the moon bathed the forest in cool blue shades. At night the temperature would dip below freezing, but that never concerned me. I always ran hot.

A certain smell filled my nostrils. This was what I'd been seeking—the hunt was on. It made me feel more alive than anything in my human existence ever had.

My heart pounded fast and hard, and I felt as if the sound could be heard by every creature for miles around. Four strong legs drove me forward, closer to the prey—our prey. But it is mine first. I was alpha.

Soon, I could hear another heartbeat racing faster than my own. Even the fallen branches and twigs cracking under my paws couldn't drown out the panicked thumping of the deer's heart as it made a desperate effort to flee.

Finally, the moment came. I leaped, making one final contact with a fallen tree to propel my body into the air. I collided with the deer, causing the frightened animal to miss a crucial step that sent it crashing to the ground. I was on it before it could recover. Sharp teeth sank deep into the animal's flesh—my teeth.

***

Early morning light woke me. That, and the feeling of sharp objects poking into my backside. The sun had not risen over the mountains yet, and I could see my breath as it formed, passing clouds in front of my face. Even though my body temperature ran hotter than an ordinary human, I had begun to shiver. Being naked hadn't helped.

I stood and brushed off the leaves and pine needles that clung to my damp body. Scanning the surrounding woods, I searched for my brothers. When I didn't see them, I started the cold walk toward the place we'd stashed our clothing the evening before.

Something about discovering I was a wolf-shifter freed me of the modesty I'd once had. I'd been caught naked before, but fortunately, it wasn't by any of the locals. I always figured we could have confessed to being nudists if we'd had to. While the notion was odd, it wouldn't have been unforgivable.

The good people of Flagstaff might actually accept that concept over the idea of werewolves living among them. Especially, being so close to the town of Sedona. That town had nudist, spiritualist, and a few self-proclaimed witches.

I heard one of my brothers long before I saw him emerge from the forest. Some of the benefits of being a shifter—heightened strength, speed, and hearing.

Seth fell into step beside me, and we walked in silence, attempting to shake off the deep sleep that followed shifting forms.

We reached the small cave—it wasn't large enough to crawl more than three or four feet inside—and pulled out three bundles of clothing and personal items. The freezing temperature was an excellent motivation for dressing quickly.

When I had my jeans and flannel shirt on, I sat on a fallen log to pull on my hiking boots. Seth still hadn't bothered to button his shirt or zip his pants. Instead, he'd checked his phone, like it wasn't freezing, or he had no sense of urgency.

Only a few minutes had passed before Cole came running toward us in all his naked glory. Cole, my youngest brother, always had a ton of energy and struggled with slow and easy. The look on his face warned me that it wasn't just his usual enthusiasm for life. Something was wrong.

"We got trouble," Cole said, as he reached us and took the pile of clothes Seth handed him.

Cole was shorter and stockier than Seth and me. His sandy blond hair was short on the sides but a bit longer on top. When he was younger, it used to hang over his eyes, and he was forever combing it back with his fingers.

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