Liz's heart beat faster as she slipped out through the rear door of the mall's movie theater.

She had just barely caught the scent past the smell of artificial butter-flavor popcorn topping: an Alpha werewolf. It smelled like John O'Brien, the Alpha who had been dying when he accidentally gave her the Bite, but not precisely like John had. . .it also smelled dark, wicked, like death and freshly-spilled blood. Liz knew it was after her, would want to make her join its Pack, become a killer like it was.

She cursed the fact she'd left her purse on the theater seat, with her cell phone in it. She had to let Tyler, John's son, know that an Alpha werewolf was trying to take over his Pack's territory. The O'Brien Pack was no more; it had been slain by Hunters, but that didn't make Signal Lakes up for grabs. Liz could shift and howl to warn Tyler, but it would only bring him running, and it would certainly bring the Alpha far more quickly.

She hurried across the back of the theater, then vaulted over a safety railing and dropped thirty feet, down to the receiving dock's delivery ramp. She could get back inside before the Alpha tracked her down, hide her scent in the crowd and make her way over to Seminole Semantics. Seth Trueheart had been the O'Brien Pack's shaman advisor for years; he could call Tyler, and keep the Alpha out of his shop with his mystical abilities.

A flash-bang crossbow bolt impacted the wall right next to Liz's head, making her cry out in alarm and pain as she was temporarily blinded and deafened. She couldn't help shifting, her claws and fangs extending as her skull reshaped itself to grow a muzzle and pointed ears while she sprouted fur, her eye color going from soft brown to a luminescent, predatory gold.

"Well, well, well, a brand-new baby werewolf," said a maliciously sweet voice. "Carello was right; O'Brien
did manage to bite someone before we tracked him down and finished him off," the man said with a surprised and disbelieving laugh.

"You're—the Hunters that killed Tyler's father!" Liz gasped in alarm, trying to blink the spots out of her eyes. She put her back against the wall as she shook her head, trying to clear the ringing in her ears. She knew she was no match for the men and women who had cornered her, but she was considering howling for support anyway. The Alpha would arrive in mere seconds, and these Hunters surely weren't ready to face something of its power level. Maybe she would be able to slip away in the confusion.

"Ah-hah, so the eldest cub
is back in town!" another Hunter's voice called out victoriously. Liz felt her guts clench up with guilt; she hadn't meant to reveal that a member of Signal Lakes' Pack had survived, to put Tyler in even more danger! Tears were already flowing from her traumatized eyes, but her anguish began tightening her throat; she couldn't even howl to bring the rogue Alpha down on these bastards....

Werewolves are the classic shapeshifter, people who change into an animalistic form with claws, fangs, pointed ears, and a partial muzzle. Even in human form, werewolves are far stronger and tougher than human beings, and are often faster and more agile, as well. They have vastly sharper senses than people, and heal most physical damage in less than a day. When shifted into their hirsute animalistic form they are even more powerful and can howl to paranormally signal their Pack, but they are creatures of Rage who struggle to keep hold of their humanity.

Werewolves need an Anchor to keep their inner beast from becoming dominant, and that struggle waxes and wanes with the moon, the beast being strongest at the full moon. This is hardly their only limitation, however; their inhuman nature can be detected, and the legends of their being vulnerable to silver and wolfsbane are true, along with a few other weaknesses. Werewolves tend to be Pack creatures, with a number of Betas following one member of the Pack as their Alpha, which gives the Alpha a number of additional abilities as well as making the entire Pack stronger. Lone wolves are known as Omegas, and those that survive tend to be dangerous.

A werewolf can be born to werewolf parents, join a Pack by accepting the Pack's Alpha as their leader, then accepting the Bite from their Alpha to become a Beta werewolf, or a rogue Alpha might simply bite someone, turning them into a werewolf against their will. Only an Alpha's Bite in a shifted state passes on the curse; a scratch or being bitten by a Beta or Omega, or an Alpha in human form, will not turn someone into a werewolf.