My Wolf's Bane (Shapes of Autumn, #1)

By: Veronica Blade

Scooping up my backpack, I abandoned my geriatric car and forged through the double doors of the school. The patter of my sandals echoed through the hallway as I smiled at a group of classmates passing by.

My nose detected the bathroom before my eyes did, filling with the smell of disinfectant and… paint? Whatever. I’d take the toxic fumes over my former home school days, where my parents had kept me trapped without a social life.

Inside the empty restroom, I rummaged through my backpack for my makeup bag. I set it on the edge of the sink, then surveyed the damage. At least I’d had time to do my hair before I’d stormed out of the house. Long, dark brown hair cascaded over my shoulders in thick waves. My face was a different story though. Evidence of sleep deprivation circled my eyes and my normally olive skin was pale.

As I stared at my reflection, I wondered how to handle my very dead car without involving my mom or dad. After the bomb they’d dropped last night — that we’d be moving again in just a few weeks — I didn’t want to speak to either of them. I mean, what kind of parents uproot their kid two to three times a year? There had to be a way to convince them to stay a few weeks more, until I turned eighteen. Then I could make my own choices.

The restroom door swung open behind me, letting in the dull roar of voices and banging lockers, and a younger girl disappeared into a stall. Was it time for my first class already? I checked the time on my cell and realized I’d been holding the mascara brush for several minutes, yet my lashes were still naked. Crap.

I tossed the makeup bag into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder and whipped open the door. Barreling out of the bathroom, I slammed into what felt like a walking boulder. I ricocheted off the human rock and my backpack hit the wall behind me, throwing me off balance and pitching me forward into the hard, linoleum tile.

My palms cushioned my fall, but I winced as pain spiked up my wrists. On all fours, I lifted my chin and peeked through my curtain of dark hair.

He wore a black tee that molded to his wide, muscular shoulders and jeans that fit over powerful legs. Wow. I’d thought my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was cute, but this guy…

“You okay?” the hottie asked in a sexy, gravelly voice, stretching a hand toward me. His hand wrapped around mine and effortlessly pulled me up, as if I weighed no more than my calculus book. Maybe it was the throbbing in my limbs or the warmth of his hands on my elbows. Or maybe it was his earthy scent invading my senses, but a wave of dizziness hit me and I tipped forward.

His hands shot to my hips to steady me. “Easy there.”

I stared into his deep, green eyes as my palms rested on his hard biceps for support. Lord, he smelled good, like the forest after rain.

My breath hitched.

The scuffling of feet and rustling clothes seemed quieter than it should’ve been. I glanced over my shoulder to see what was up. Nearly everyone in the hallway had their eyes fixed on me. No doubt, most of them had witnessed me doing the Humpty-Dumpty and, by the end of the day, the incident would be all over school. Probably even caught on video and uploaded to YouTube, me with no makeup and totally un-cute. Ugh.

Hot Guy may have been standing right in front of the bathroom in my way, but I shouldn’t have been speeding. I opened my mouth to apologize when I recognized Daniel’s voice.

“That’s my girl you’re touching, freak.” Daniel sneered, flicked his long, dirty-blond hair over his shoulder and clamped onto my wrist. “Hands off.”

Hot Guy nudged me aside and stepped forward until he almost butted chests with Daniel. “You need to learn some manners.”

“Oh, yeah? You gonna try to teach me, girly boy?”

Though I knew Daniel was acting like an idiot, the school gossip mill didn’t need any more material on me today. I was more than finished with Daniel, but I didn’t necessarily want him to get a public smack-down — even though he probably deserved it. Wedging myself between them, I twisted to meet Daniel’s gaze. “Let’s just go.”

“Good idea.” Daniel gave Hot Guy another scalding look before grabbing my hand and jerking me away. I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to referee a brawl.

“Ass hat,” Hot Guy muttered.

Daniel kept walking, practically dragging me along. He couldn’t have heard the insult or he would’ve stopped and turned on Hot Guy. But I had heard it so clearly. Weird.

“Hang on and I’ll walk you to class.” Daniel paused at his locker and spun the combination lock.

“Sure,” I said absently. I glanced over my shoulder to Hot Guy, who was leaning against a locker fiddling with his cell phone. The least I could do was give him an apologetic smile and mime, “Sorry.”