The full moon hung low in the trees, its light reflecting off of the snow. The forest was still fairly dark even so, and the air outside of the cave was positively arctic.
Wolf's eyes were golden as he took in the drifts of snow and the reflected moonlight. He wanted to roam through the woods, wanted to feel the cold beneath the pads of his paws. He wanted to hunt, his teeth closing around the jugular veins of prey. Virginia and the children stayed in the cave during the winter, and he could almost taste fear in Virginia's mouth when he kissed her. She was human and mortal, fragile compared to him in either form. He could push her against the walls, shatter her skull and drink the marrow from her bones.
But he loved her and she was the mother of his children. She wasn't prey. She smelled like prey, but she wasn't. Wolf had to remind himself of that.
So without a word, he leapt from the mouth of the cave, shifting into wolf form as he did so. He knew this place and felt safe here. He could run and hunt in the woods, howling up to the moon. He didn't need the light; he could smell prey in the shadows of the trees, and all things in these woods were prey in winter. Wolf knew it was safe to hunt here, as Virginia and the children stayed inside. There was no chance that he could harm them, since he had laid down the law years ago that she should never interfere with his hunt.
He pretended to be a mere mortal the rest of the year, but he was a predator. He was Wolf.
The wind howled and he howled back in return. It carried the scent of prey – not Virginia, not the children. Their scents were indelibly etched into his very soul. This prey was familiar, though it carried also other scents that bespoke of age and infirmity. Older human male, frail, knowing the dangers of this forest yet walking through it anyway.
Virginia had said something to him before the sun went down, though he had been too restless to hear it. He had been too busy scenting the air, dreaming of blood and prey in the shadows of the woods, the dark and deep and dangerous that he knew so well.
"Wolf!" came a voice on the wind. There were howls out in the forest that weren't his own, and rage built up in his heart. These were his woods. His.
He ravaged the interlopers when he found them. The old man was maimed, babbling about how he knew Wolf would come to save him, that he needed to stay with them for the winter. There was trouble in the kingdoms, and he wanted to stay with his daughter to be safe. It had only been safe for him to leave under cover of night.
Wolf let him think that he had been deliberately saved. He would tell his daughter, and Virginia would think Wolf was a hero. Wolf could let Virginia breathe easier this winter, keeping her illusions of safety and humanity. She could think he was tamed and stop fearing that the shadows held teeth.
Winter was the time when he felt the difference between them the most.