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Hurry up! Lassiter snarled, shaking the ruff of thick salt-and-pepper fur around his neck. You’re going to make us lose!

Behind the massive dark gray wolf, a much smaller and skinnier wolf with pale brown fur struggled up the hill, panting with his pink tongue dangling slack from his jaws. Just… Just go on without me, Lassie, I’ll catch up later.

We have to win the race as a
team, Spencer! That was the whole point of this exercise!

Yeah, well,
Shawn huffed, this exercise is dumb.

Lassiter set his jaw, showing off his sharp teeth in a scissors bite. As he stalked upwards through the chaparral, he growled low in his canine throat. Agreed.
He took in a long breath of cool mountain air, inhaling the variety of scents, sifting through them until he identified the one he was looking for. She isn’t that far ahead of us. We can still make it! He charged upwards through the brush, powerful leg muscles urging him onward with forceful springs.

Shawn took a deep breath, coiled his own back legs, and prepared to leap forward after Lassiter. Another deep breath, and he sprang!
…and promptly caught his bushy long tail in some kind of thorny tangle. A yelp of pain squeaked past his jaws.

Lassiter twisted his head over his shoulder, blue eyes glaring back at Shawn with all the iciness of the snowflakes that were beginning to fall. Really, Spencer?

Sorry, Shawn whimpered again as he tried to extricate himself from the overgrown briars. Help me, Lassie! I'm stuck! I think I’m bleeding!

The gray wolf rolled his eyes and stalked back to his companion, ears flattened. Calm down and cut it with the drama queen act, would you? She’s running circles around us. Carefully, he nosed his muzzle into the thorns and pushed the canes backwards. All right, now pull yourself out.

Shawn wriggled forward a bit, wincing as he tried with no avail to tug his tail free. Yowch! It hurts!

Of course it hurts. What did you expect?

Don’t be so grouchy, Lassie. It’s not my fault that you got me hurt on my first wolfing expedition.

“Wolfing” is not a word, Spencer.

I’ve heard it both ways.

Would you can it and pull yourself out already? Stop being such a child!

“You should do it fast, like a Band-Aid,” a nearby voice suggested. Both sets of wolf ears pricked up, swiveling towards the sound as the men glanced up to see Juliet leaning back against a scrub oak, smiling smugly. Her smile widened as she heard a half-hearted attempt at a manly growl from the skinny brown wolf. “I really wish I could speak werewolf at times like this.”

No, you don’t, Lassiter rumbled despite knowing that she wouldn’t understand him.

Juliet wrapped her hands around Shawn’s furry shoulders. “Okay, I’ll help you pull yourself out. On the count of three. One…”

Shawn nodded and lifted a paw, steeling himself for “three.”

“Two!” Juliet said quickly, yanking Shawn forward at that exact moment.

The brown wolf yelped again, whirling to see tufts of fur clinging to the brambles. Spinning in a circle, he tried to check his tail for bald spots. Jules! You said you’d pull on three! he whined.

Laughing, Juliet pictured all the things that could be running through Shawn’s mind. “Sorry, Shawn. It was for your own good.”

My beta wolf is chasing his tail,
Lassiter remarked glumly. This entire trip was a waste.

No, it wasn’t. Look on the bright side,
Shawn replied as he came to a standstill. We're still getting some fresh air in the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains, right?

Lassiter snorted. We’re in the San Rafael Mountains, you idiot.

I’ve heard it both ways, and since you personally chose me to be your beta---without my consent or
anything---you should probably be nicer to me, Lassie.

Help me, O’Hara. End my life and spare me from any more of this idiocy.

Juliet had no idea what Lassiter’s growls actually meant, but from the way he butted his head against her leg, he must have been pretty frustrated. She ran a hand through the soft fur between his large velvety ears. “Cheer up, Carlton! You should relax while we’re on this trip. Loosen up a little. This vacation might do you a lot of good.”

Before Lassiter could open his jaws to reply, a resounding shout echoed through the woods, sending every hair along his back to stand on end. And he wasn’t the only one to hear it; Shawn’s scruffy brown hackles rose as well, and even O’Hara stiffened in concern.

“What was that?” she whispered with a sinking feeling.

I don’t know, O’Hara,
Lassiter answered as he began to push his way through the undergrowth. But we should probably find out.

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