Lorelai had a bad feeling.
She wasn’t sure what it was, or how to shake it. But every instinct told her that their happy haven was about to become hell on earth.
Walking through the marketplace, she tried to keep her eyes forward, as though she wasn’t looking for danger at every turn. Their air reeked with the stench of fish as merchants tried to sell their latest catch.
She hated walking through this place, but it was fantastic for masking her scent. With their sensitive noses, few wolves could stand to walk down the aisles of the wooden stalls and have their senses assaulted by the various smells.
It wasn’t just the fish, though Lorelai found that most offensive, it was the spices, the various sweet treats, the foul odour of too many bodies in one place. While her wolf didn’t care for such smells, the human side of her had to fight off waves of nausea.
It was a small price to pay for the safety of her pack.
Things were quiet back home. With so many years living to survive, they now had the luxury to enjoy their lives. The days were for work. She and Killian would go into the village, earn their keep at the local schools, while the others kept up with the expansion of their land and security details.
The night times though.
They reminded her of their youth. Evenings spent in front of the fire, playing stupid games and drinking just for the sake of it.
It was almost boring how easy their life had become.
Smiling to herself, she left the market, heading for the forest. Once the humans were out of sight, she would shift and run home the way nature intended. On all fours, with the wind whipping through her fur.
She’d take the river again. It was a pain, but the minute she stepped into the water, her trail died on the river banks and the swim wasn’t too bad. Some evenings it was pleasant.
She hoped for a day where they could let their guard down, but it seemed far into the future.
As she approached the forest line, she looked behind her, her eyes scanning the sea of faces at the market. No one was looking in her direction, though that wasn’t unusual. She’d long learned that humans were spectacularly unobservant.
Stepping further into the shadows of the trees, she moved her hand to her blouse, unfastening the buttons with quick, practised movements. It was the one downside to her shifting. Carrying one’s clothes in their mouth was an annoyance she could do without. Especially when swimming.
Her fingers lingered on the last button as her nose filled with the scent of something delicious.
Unlike anything she smelled before, it washed through her entire body until her nipples hardened and her panties became damp. She swallowed thickly, trying to bring back some moisture to her dry mouth, her eyes scanning the trees for the source of the smell.
Deep down, she knew what this meant.
Somewhere nearby was her destined mate. Her wolf whined and strained for her to track them down. Desire filled every pore on her body. Her heart raced with anticipation. Every instinct told her to go to him. To claim him.
Lorelai clenched her teeth and forced herself to think of Liam.
Guilt flooded her until she was a ball of emotions. Her heart ached with sadness, her mind was reeling with betrayal. She had always feared this day, and now, here it was.
Rooted to the spot, she stood frozen as a battle raged inside her.
She didn’t have many options. She couldn’t shift, not now. The minute she did, all her animal instincts would take over and the wolf would track down their mate and destroy the bond she had with Liam easier than it was to breathe.
There was no fighting destiny and generations of instinct.
But her heart belonged to Liam. It always had, and it always would.
With a snarl, she roused herself and forced her feet forward. She’d walk the entire path home, and her wolf was just going to accept that! Her breathing was loud in her ears as she navigated the trees, each breath pushed through clenched teeth as she battled for the strength to ignore the alluring scent.
She pushed herself forward. One step in front of the other, each one heavier than the last.
Even as she got further from the smell, it lingered around her, along with the thought that if she could smell him, he could smell her. She walked faster until she was almost running towards the river, determined to mask her scent. Her wolf whined in protest, her body aching with the strength it took to fight.
If she could escape, she would be okay.
They’d have to leave. Move once again. But she was sure everyone would understand. Her heart gave a pang at the thought of leaving the first place that truly felt like home. Guilt wracked her once again for uprooting their lives.
Maybe she didn’t have to, though. She and Liam could leave. Go it alone as nomads. She didn’t care what it took as long as they were together and they were safe.
But she knew if she came face to face with her mate, that would be the end. She would submit to him, lay with him in a way she had only done with Liam, and would leave her pack behind without a thought.
She didn’t have the strength to fight it; she knew that.
And if the wolf in question was anything like the men from her old pack, she would have no choice, anyway. Even if he wasn’t and he was as gentle as her Liam, no force in the known universe could keep a male wolf from his bitch.
Unless they left, she and Liam had already lost the fight.
She jumped into the river as soon as she reached it, pushing through the current and pushing her aching limbs further. It would be okay. It had to be okay.
Liam would understand. It would hurt him, but he would understand. Her wolf whined with sadness and Lorelai felt her eyes well with tears she refused to shed. She would not cry for a man she had never met. Walking away from her destiny was difficult.
But losing Liam would kill her.