Snarling wolves surrounded Sydney on all sides, their hackles raised and their teeth bared. She watched them, her hand gripping her shoulder as pain lanced through it, a cut slowly oozing blood through the material of her black shirt.
One of the wolves broke rank and padded forward, the air around it blurring until a naked woman stood before Sydney, her eyes still golden from the transformation. "What are you doing on our territory?"
Sydney eyed the woman carefully before squaring her shoulders as best she could, her voice more of a growl, "I didn't realize that I had crossed over a territory line. Trust me, I wouldn't be here if I could avoid it."
The woman growled softly, her eyes narrowing in what Sydney thought was disbelief. Sydney's blood ran cold with dread as a couple of the wolves took a step forward, their tails curling upwards. She was in no condition to fight. If these wolves decided to attack her, she would lose.
The wolf within her did not enjoy losing any more than she did.
"You are wounded," the woman observed with an eye on Sydney's shoulder. "What is your name?"
"I see. Well, as you can see, our pack does not take well to rogues or trespassers. Since you are both, you can't seriously expect us to just let you go."
One of the wolves barked in what Sydney thought was a sort of cruel laugh. The woman glanced in the direction from which the bark came, and a sort of hush fell over the group. Sydney took a step forward, "I am not a rogue. I'm only a loner. That's all."
"We'll see what my Alpha has to say about this. In the meantime, you will be given room and board as well as medical care for your shoulder." Without further ado, the woman slipped behind a nearby tree, and when she emerged again, she wore a knee-length blue dress and carried a tan satchel purse over her left shoulder.
A couple of the surrounding wolves slipped forward, and the woman looked toward them, her eyebrows drawing together. Sydney guessed that they were probably communicating telepathically, as packs often did. A part of her missed having that mental link with someone, but the larger part was happier without voices sounding within her head. When the woman addressed Sydney again, her lips twitched into a smile, her eyes losing their golden color to take on a much more natural grayish blue. "Please follow me."
And she did. Sydney fell into step with the other wolves, who had formed a circle around her so that she could not escape. Sydney turned her head to look at each one, hoping to memorize their appearances, should she ever encounter them again in wolf form.
A snap of a twig made Sydney's attention snap forward again, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. The hair on the back of Sydney's neck stood straight up. Something was wrong.
Turning to run, look into the eyes of the wolves, anything, before Sydney could take two steps, there was suddenly a sharp, stabbing pain in the side of her neck. She stood in shock for a moment, vaguely registering the shuffling of feet upon the ground before crumpling to her knees, the edges of her vision going hazy. Then she was falling...
It was cold. That was the first thing that Sydney noticed as she woke with a groan. It was cold, and there was little light to show her where she was.
Rolling onto her knees, she looked around, trying to get her bearings. As her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, she could just see the bars that lined the cage that surrounded her.
A cage. She was in a cage.
Panic threatened to flare within her chest, but she forced it down. If she panicked then she would not be able to think straight. That wasn't something that she could afford. Delving into her memory, Sydney tried to remember what had happened. Everything was fuzzy.
But she felt different. Physically, as her mind cleared, she felt fantastic. Perhaps better than she felt in years. What that meant, she didn't know.
A ways off, she heard a door open and her head snapped to one side, her eyes trained at the spot where she thought the noise had come. The flick of a light switch, and the entire place was illuminated, allowing her to see exactly where she was.
The walls were a plain white and bare as a bone. All around the room, cages lined the walls side by side like a makeshift jail. Perhaps that was exactly what this place was, or was meant to be. A staircase allowed her to see that there was a floor above this one. What was up there, she knew not.
As her eyes slide up the steps, they eventually come came to fix on a figure at the top of the staircase. A man. He made his way down to the floor at a casual pace, seeming at no hurry as he descended the stairs. Sydney allowed herself to take in his features with a tilt of her head. He had tousled light brown hair, and what appeared to be hazel eyes. Eyes that stared at her with a look of nothing short of contempt.
"Why were you trespassing on my territory?" He narrowed his gaze while taking a few steps toward her cell, his voice a growl.
"I didn't realize that I had crossed a territory line. What did your people drug me with?" Her neck ached where a needle had been inserted, but that was the only indicator that something had happened. Truthfully, she was grasping at straws.
"Observant. Impressive," he paused for a moment before grabbing a nearby chair and pulling it in front of the door of Sydney's cell. A growl rose within her chest before she could stop it. His gaze hardened, "don't growl at me. You don't have that sort of leverage, and it wouldn't be wise to continue to do so."
Sydney forced herself to take a deep breath to keep her patience at bay before looking him square in the eyes. "May I at least know your name?"
"Well, Cadence. I apologize for growling at you. You're right, I don't have that sort of leverage. My wolf gets ahead of me sometimes." Cadence nodded, "I also didn't mean to trespass in your territory. I honestly didn't realize that I had crossed a territory line." Before he could say a word, she took a few steps toward the bars that lined her cage and pulled back the collar of her shirt, revealing the jagged cut that was at least scabbing over at the moment. It appeared that whatever his pack had drugged her with had had a healing agent within it. "You see, I was fairly injured at the time that your pack found me. They promised me shelter and aid. Next thing I know, I'm down here in this cell, surrounded by silver."
A knowing look crossed his face, and he stood, examining the wound closely though with obvious weariness of the bars. "Yes, I gave that order. I'd say that I'm sorry, but I'm not. We don't respond well to trespassers, especially rogues."
"I'm not a rogue."
"Then what are you?"
She huffed in exasperation. "I'm just a loner. I left my pack six months ago to try life on my own. Or perhaps join a new pack if I could find someone willing to take me in."
He suddenly snarled and slammed himself up against the bars, seeming not to care as the silver slowly burned his flesh, little wisps of smoke floating into the air. "Do not lie to me!"
"I'm not!" She took a step back out of instinct, her eyes burning and turning gold in color as the wolf within her rose to the surface. "I am only a loner! I do not aim to cause trouble for other packs. I do not aim to try and kill wolves for pleasure, nor do I aim for the mayhem that rogues seem to relish. I am only a loner. If you choose to believe me, that is your own business. I am merely trying to make my own way."
Cadence's chest was heaving by the time she finished speaking, but he took a few steps backward. Sydney watched him carefully, flexing her fingers absently as she fought to push her wolf side back down.
He took a seat once more. Sydney allowed herself to relax as he spoke again, this time in a softer tone. "I'm sorry. I've had rogues try and pull the loner card on me, and when I offered them hospitality, wolves ended up attacked, dead, or possibly stolen from. The latter was a best case scenario."
She could not help but feel appalled at this information. Like all other wolves raised in packs, rogues made her stomach curl in knots. They were generally never up to any good, and so they caused a big problem for the pack wolves.
Being a werewolf was not all fun and games. In a time like this, Sydney found herself wishing that she were human, though she loved having her wolf side too.
As she pulled herself from her thoughts, Sydney found Cadence watching her, a renewed sort of interest showing clearly within his eyes. "I'm going to make you a deal, Miss Loner. I'm going to allow you to join my pack, should you wish to, on a trial basis. You will be given an apartment in a building that I own, and you will be allowed to live every day life as a pack member would; however, I will be keeping a close eye on you. I will be following your every movement. So much so, that I will seem like a stalker. If you mess up even once, you're out of here. Whether or not you leave here alive...I suppose that's up to you." He paused for a moment before offering her a smile, sticking his hands through the bars of the cell. "Do we have a deal?"
Sydney looked at his hand and then back at Cadence's face, pondering the deal carefully. Did she want to join this pack? She certainly didn't want to spent the remainder of her days down here in this jail. "My name is Sydney, for what it's worth. And what happens to me if I refuse? Do I get to go free?"
Cadence's eyes darkened. That was all of the answer that she needed. Sure, she might get to go...but it likely would not be long before some sort of hunting party came and tracked her down if she were caught within his territory within a certain number of hours. Sydney had no way of knowing how far away she now was from the territory line, so it was apparently quite simple: Take the deal or die.
Sydney just loved those odds.
"You've got yourself a deal."