The atmosphere in the ballroom was charged with tension. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath, paused and waiting. Hazel did not realise that it was her that they were waiting for.
Luke gently positioned her in the centre of the floor, then, instead of leading her in a dance; he left her on her own and melted into the crowd. The eyes behind each mask were focused on Hazel. Just then, the chandelier started to dim. The crowd started murmuring with controlled excitement.
Suddenly Hazel was aware of growling and snarling. She wondered if there were real animals here in the elegant ballroom, surely not. It took a while to realise that the snarls and growls were coming from her throat.
She felt her skin begin to tingle, the sensation started at her left hand, spreading quickly up her arm, across her chest and down the other arm as well as radiating through her whole body. The sensation was quite pleasant to begin with, but quickly became more intense and very soon was unbearably painful.
She was confused. She rubbed her arms trying to alleviate the tingling, burning sensation as she looked for Luke. She could not recognise anyone under these masks. She turned around and around, trying to find someone that she could distinguish or at least someone who would help her.
Her gown was becoming constrictive, she clawed at it and it tore right down the bodice. She shook herself and the ruins of the dress fell away from her. The mask was pulled off. Hazel could not think straight. Why were all these people surrounding her, crowding round? They were making her angry and defensive.
Hazel snapped at hands and faces that were too close. She was a full Wolf now, on all fours.
The people surrounding her were laughing and taunting her. She did not – could not - understand. She dearly wanted to be outside so she made a break for the glass doors. Unfortunately for Hazel, many hands restrained her. Ropes were put around her neck and were pulled from different directions and so she felt herself trapped, held secure. Still she snapped at anyone that got too close.
After what seemed an age of frenetic fury, Hazel appeared to calm down a little. She allowed the crowd to get closer to where she had lain down. One of the young men who had been taunting her from the start got a little close and, quicker than he could react, she snapped at him without warning. She didn’t go for his hand or face, something that could be pulled away quickly and on instinct, but she went in low and hard, biting almost clean through his calf muscle.
With a triumphant howl she yanked her head back and a piece of flesh came away in her teeth.
In an instant, she was face-to-face with another Wolf. He had changed in front of her eyes. Hazel’s hackles rose even more than they were already. She would not back down.