Authors: Devon Hughes
This book is dedicated to my editors,
Melissa Miller and Claudia Gabel,
who've earned it
a thousand times over.
This is where it startsâwhere it always starts: you peer out over your long nose and see green.
It brushes against your outer coat and tickles the smooth skin of your belly. It blankets the ground beneath your paws. In place of the endless stone boxes the men built, giant green trunks rise up around you. You sit on your hindquarters but still can't quite tilt your head back far enough to see their leafy tops.
This isn't your home. There's no way you could've been here before. But somehow, it feels familiar. And there is something else you recognize. . . .
Your whole body seems to shout the word at once. Fur bristles along your spine. Your muzzle twitches and saliva drips from your jowls. You feel the smooth sharpness of your tearing teeth. It
has been so long.
Where is the meat?
Your ears stand upright, the fine hairs taking in everything. You hear the crisp snap of a small branch, then the whisper of fur brushing against leaves. You think you can even hear the trill of a heartbeat.
More than anything, though, you can smell the creature, hidden in the shadows, between the darker shades of green. It smells like fear and food, like everything you love about the chase. It smells like life.
Out of the corner of your vision, you sense motion. You spring forward from your back legs, and the animal bolts, a tawny blur.
It's not like the rodents you're used to. This is bigger. It bounds instead of skitters, leaps instead of burrows. It's all speed and grace, and you love the energy it takes to chase after it.
Your pack is with you suddenlyâbrothers and sisters and second cousins, alphas and omegas. As you tear through the forest, head nodding and eyes watering, they trail in lines behind you, and you know without looking that your tail is streaming out like a flag. With the blood pumping inside your
ears, each second sounds like a bark.
The creature is faster than you are, but it's losing steam. You're panting but not tired. You run and run and run, watching the spindly legs flick through the underbrush ahead of you.
You were made for this.
There's a flick of white, a flash of a hoof. You drive harder, your nails churning up cool dirt. The pack fans out and starts to close in, herding your prey closer and closer.
It's slowing. You're gaining. It stumbles, and you dive.
You open your jaws.
You sink in your teeth.