Zach wants nothing to do with girls.
It’s what happens when you’ve been unlucky in love.
But the Haunted Shack’s werewolf is in for a surprise when he finds out his new furry co-worker is female.
Good thing she only dates hipsters.
Too bad he’s starting to need her more than he’d like to admit.
It was freezing the night I first became a werewolf.
It was early October, but we’d had the first frost that morning, and by nightfall I couldn’t stay warm. Not under several layers of clothing, not even when I donned the thick wolf costume and walked to my room in the haunted house. Even the tip of my nose was freezing, and as I breathed in the cool, woodsy scent of the walls, I shivered. I put the wolf’s head over my own to keep my face warm, even though it meant navigating the dark tunnels of the Haunted Shack through only the slits of the mask.
I was chilled to the bone and I was nervous. Part of me had hoped the opening at the haunted house had been for a ticket-taker or at least a sexy vampire, not some beast with fangs and claws. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.
Then I saw the guy I was working with, Zach, from a distance. He was already in our den and dressed as another werewolf, big and hairy, fingers ending in sharp claws. He hadn’t put his face on yet, and the wolf’s head hung upside-down over his shoulder, sharp teeth and yellow eyes staring out into nothing.
It could’ve been the mask, but when I saw Zach’s real face, I couldn’t get enough air.
I’d never gone for the lumberjack look. Most of the guys I dated were clean-shaven and had names like the guy I was dating now, August, and wore skinny jeans and owned ukuleles. This guy was brawny and bearded, the hair on his head and face a warm reddish brown. He actually kind of looked like a werewolf, but softer, and I had the weirdest urge to go and rest my head against his chest. Maybe it was a sign, a magical feeling like women got in the romantic movies I loved. Possibly a swoon. I couldn’t manage to speak, anyway.
He seemed so strong, so caring and protective. We were going to work together and be wolves together and someday—I realized with a start—maybe we could be more.
Wow, did I have the wrong idea.
It was almost six o’clock, and I was ready to growl at somebody.
A lot of people had deserved it that day. The guy who’d cut me off in traffic. My dad for asking why I was “still dressing up like Bigfoot instead of doing something useful at night.” (It’s a werewolf costume, Dad. A werewolf.) And especially my ex Rachel, for leaving a red shirt I’d found shoved into a corner of the closet earlier that day. It still smelled like her, like roses on steroids, and reminded me of all that shit that happened last year—and especially what my mom had told me last weekend about Rachel getting engaged.
It’s not socially appropriate to growl at people normally. I know that. But here at the Haunted Shack? It’s work. And the closest I’ll ever come to therapy.
Five minutes before the doors opened, my manager Tim came from the tilted room with the new guy trailing behind. The guy’s werewolf costume was already completely on, fanged head and everything. I stomped my furry feet on the dusty floorboards of the Shack and gave him a head nod in greeting.
“Zach! Good evening.” Tim was dressed as Nosferatu that night. Black robe, pointy ears, plastic cap to make his head appear completely bald. He gave me a wide smile, revealing a set of razor-sharp teeth that glowed in the dim room.
“Hey.” I peered at the new guy, thinking somebody hadn’t warned him to leave the face off until the last minute, since when it was on, it was kind of suffocating. Tim must’ve been too busy and excited showing him around, pointing out all the hidden doorways and catacombs of the Shack, all the places I’d already imprinted in my memory from working here several years.
“This is Sam.” Tim gestured with a long nail between us. “Sam, this is Zach, your new packmaster.”
“Don’t call me that,” I said.
The new guy was short, and as he shuffled into the den, he stumbled a little, his arms straightening out to the sides.
Werewolves like to travel in packs. I was done with that whole social scene, but if this Sam didn’t break out into hives like the last one, stayed as silent as he seemed, and let me get out my frustration with people, we’d get along just fine.
“Hey,” I said to him. “It’s too late now, but you don’t have to keep that head on the whole time. You’ll pass out or whatever.”
Sam nodded, seeming dazed.
Tim backed up in the darkness toward one of the hidden tunnels, giving us a silent wave and head nod, and I moved into position with the new guy, ready to pounce on the first guests.
I popped on my own head, gave a hot shuddering breath through the muzzle as I remembered that stupid, rose-scented red shirt, and listened for the sound of the crowd.
Soon hundreds of feet made the floorboards of the Haunted Shack vibrate in an echo of excitement. The doors were opening, and the line pushed forward in a panic. I was hot and my back already itched from the fake fur, but I was ready to do this thing.
The first group was a couple of young kids and their dad, and when they stepped into our den, I jumped and squatted, giving my angriest growl while swiping my arms at them, thinking of my dad’s comment.
The girl in the group shrieked and ran past me, but Sam leapt in front of her and got right in her face. His growl was a pretty high-pitched, but, whatever, the girl looked like she was going to pee her pants and ran out of the room.
“Nice,” I said under my breath. Low and quick, because then we were slammed—a group of three teenage guys came next, then a couple with their arms around each other. I gave them my loudest, meanest growl, and scared them so bad they broke their armhold, which was the best part.
Though karma was a bitch, since after that a flock of teen girls showed up shrieking so hard my ears rang with the noise.
Then came the first break. I yanked off my mask, my face sweaty. “Not bad.” I exhaled, trying to catch my breath. “You got that girl pretty good. Don’t be afraid to get right up in their grill, though. Even the girls. And you could stand to make your growl a little deeper.”
Sam tilted his head at me. He didn’t respond.
“We got a couple minutes now, if you want to take off your mask,” I continued. “That’s how they do it. Like there’ll be half a dozen groups, then they’ll give us a few minutes.”
Sam reached up and pulled back his wolf face, and I saw that his cheeks were red too, and also that he was—
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