My whole body stiffened, my calm completely destroyed by the rage that blew through me, making me growl as my eyes took it in. I couldn't tear my gaze away from her scarred stomach, pausing mid-sentence because my emotions had taken over, and I couldn't think of anything but those four forbidding gashes.
Someone had hurt her. Someone had hurt her. The thought made me sick to my stomach, filling me with the conflicting urges of hunting down whoever had touched her, and pulling her in my arms and never letting anyone hurt her again. I felt as if I was being torn apart by the warring desires, my emotions almost completely blocking out hers for the first time since I'd imprinted, the loss leaving me surprisingly saddened. And it was that more than anything that gave me the strength and will to choke out the question I desperately needed answered.
'What is that?!' I half snarled, forcing my eyes away to meet Thea's, taking in her confused expression. Flicking my eyes back to the horrifying scratches, she followed my gaze, her face tightening as she realised what had angered me so.
'Jake…' She said softly, warily, but I was already moving from my sitting position against the bed's headboard, shifting forwards to my knees so that I could almost touch her, my hands hovering just an inch above her skin as they traced over the paths of the scars. I was trembling, my voice shaky as I spoke.
'Who did this to you?' My voice was slow, deep, dangerous; there was no mistaking the anger in it. She opened her mouth to respond, but then closed it again, looking torn. I could feel through the imprint bond her fear, her hesitance, her anger, her emotions only fuelling and increasing my own. Since she hadn't protested my approach, I let my hands brush against the marks, my fingers trailing ever so slowly and gently across the raised flesh. Another growl, this one more from pain than anger, escaped me as I let my palm splay across her stomach, my large hand reaching across all four of the scars.
'Who. Did. This?' I repeated, somehow managing to sound even more furious than before thanks to the hurt edge of my tone. I could feel that my eyes were flashing with a mixture of anger and pain as my gaze flitted to meet hers, waiting for her to answer.
'Jake, it doesn't matter-'
'Doesn't matter?! It looks like they tried to claw your stomach out!' I growled, my voice radiating the horror and fury I was feeling. She sighed, seemingly resigning herself to the fact that I wasn't going to drop the issue.
'I think that was the idea.'
'I think that was the idea.' Jake froze at my softly spoken words, before snarling again.
'What do you mean that was the idea?!' He said, sounding even angrier now, if that was even possible. His burning eyes were locked on mine, demanding an explanation, and I gave him a meaningful look in return, making him growl as I pushed myself into a sitting position. His hand didn't move from my abdomen, his fingers still splayed across the scars even as my singlet fell to cover them; a fact I was glad for because the feeling of his skin against mine was wonderful. Just like the night before, when we talked on the porch, I needed his touch; it was both soothing and exhilarating, a heady combination that made my body thrum. But as much as I liked it, that wasn't on my mind as I stared at him and he stared at me, our faces just inches apart now.
'Thea, please, tell me who did this.' Jake asked, his voice hard as he tried to rein in his emotions. His eyes were equally pleading and angry now, the look he was giving me needing me to tell him, filling me with the urge to do anything, anything to satisfy it; and I very nearly did. But I knew why Jake wanted to know, why he needed to know; he was going to kill him. And that; that I couldn't allow.
'No.' I said softly, shaking my head. Jake gave me an incredulous look, confusion now his dominant emotion as he stared at me.
'No?' He asked, disbelief coating his tone. I nodded. 'Why not?' He continued, sounding just as bewildered.
'Because you'll kill him.'
'Damn straight I will.' He growled, but his rage once again morphed into confusion as I shook my head at his words. 'You don't want me to kill him.' He said quietly, sounding stunned.
'No, I don't want you to kill him.' I confirmed.
'Why?' Jake asked, somehow managing to sound even more surprised and disbelieving, if that was even possible.
'Because I want to kill him.'
For a moment, all Jake could do was stare. I could feel his surprise, his overwhelming disbelief, as his eyes bore into mine. But soon his shocked stare became an analytical one, his head tilting slightly to the side as he looked at me, really looked at me, as if he would be able to figure this all out if he stared at me hard enough. Almost a minute passed, the silence between us still unbroken, as we looked at one another; long enough that I began to wonder what exactly he saw in my gaze.
Fear, mostly. Fear because I'd spent almost 30 years hiding from the man, because of what he did. Fear because I was sure Jake was going to ask me that exact question, and the thought of answering it made me slightly sick in the stomach. Fear of what Jake's response going to be, because I needed him to understand, needed it badly, though I wasn't quite sure why. But while there was fear, there was also anger.
Anger because I'd never seen it coming, never expected it, never even considered it. Anger because I'd been betrayed, betrayed in all the worst ways, and the man responsible had just grinned at my hurt. Anger because it was his fault, all his fault, and I couldn't, wouldn't forgive. And anger because he still, after 30 years, had control over my life; control I just couldn't shake.
Usually I was good at hiding my anger. I wasn't really an angry person. But tonight, I think Jake saw it; Jake felt it. And I thought that maybe that was why he was staring, because on some level, he knew how rare this was, knew that he was on to something; something that disappeared as he finally broke our silence, for some strange reason looking like he was about to grin.
'Every time I think I'm close to figuring you out, you do something that makes me realise just how wrong I am.' He said quietly, looking like a mix of amusement and exasperation as he smiled. I couldn't help but smile back in return, not feeling at all guilty.
'Well, I did tell you I had a lot of secrets.' He laughed at that, a soft chuckle that was music to my ears.
'I guess you did.' He replied, leaning back against the headboard once more. Following his lead, I let myself stretch out on the bed once more as he continued. 'I just underestimated exactly how many.' I made a quiet noise in agreement.
'Too many.' I said, blinking slightly blearily as I looked up at him. Now that I was lying down again, my body sinking into the mattress, drowsiness was beginning to steal over me.
'Maybe you should tell me some more then; then they won't be secrets anymore.' I gave him a soft, sleepy smile.
'Maybe I will.' I whispered. It was hard to stay awake now. Jake's presence was comforting, so much so that it was lulling me into a soothing calm, and with his voice rolling over me, wonderfully deep and rumbling, it was even more difficult to stay alert. But I would try not to; I would try for him. I didn't want to lose any time with him; not when we had so little.
Especially since I was beginning to think no amount of time would ever be enough.
She was asleep. She'd been blinking drowsily for the last half hour, her eyes fluttering with tiredness yet somehow making her only more endearing. More than once I'd wondered why she didn't just tell me to leave, so she could fall asleep like she so obviously wanted to. It wasn't until just minutes before she finally succumbed that it occurred to me that maybe she was staying awake because she wanted to talk to me.
At first I dismissed the idea. It was a nice thought, one that I would like to be true, but that didn't mean anything; I had imprinted on her, not the other way round. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder if it was true.
It felt like it was true; the imprint was telling me, in its own wordless way, that it was. The knowledge made me grin – a little to happily to be easily explained – but as luck would have it, she didn't see it. In the short time it had taken me to think it over, she had drifted off.
God, she looked so delicate when she was sleeping. When she was awake, she always seemed so sure of herself; so in control. Like she didn't need anyone or anything but herself, so completely independent. But now; now she looked different. She looked small, so small; though I suppose, compared to me, almost everyone did. But I couldn't help but wonder what she would look like next to me, with my large body curled around her. I was tempted, so tempted, to find out. And I would, but not yet; not today. But unless I left soon, I didn't know how long I'd be able to stick to that decision.
It was with reluctance that I slid from the bed, padding softly over to her side. If I'd thought I could get away with it, I would have moved her so that she was laying the right way up, but after the last time I'd tried to wake her, I had a feeling that might not go down well. Instead, I had to settle for draping her blankets over her unconscious form, unable to stop myself from letting my hand brush over her hair as I did so. I knew then that I had to leave; leave because my will was quickly crumbling. But I just couldn't resist the urge to ever so gently press my lips to her forehead, before I slipped through the window just as quietly as I'd come.
As always, Thea had given me a lot to think about. But tonight, as I sat against a tree in the woods not far from her house, I was particularly troubled. After all, it was one thing to know she had bad memories, one thing to know she had nightmares, but another thing entirely to know that at some time, somewhere, for some reason, a werewolf had tried to kill her.
I had known the moment I saw it, as I let my fingers trail over the scars, that it had been done by a shapeshifter; how could I not recognise the mark of one of us? It was worrying, very worrying, and for too many reasons; the first being the all-important question of who was responsible.
I knew that it hadn't been any of my pack; she was an imprint, someone to protect. And even though Quil and Jared had chased her at first, she had for the most part evaded them; with exception of the scratch on her arm, which had long since disappeared. She hadn't mentioned it, and neither had I, but I had looked for it both last night and earlier today, finding no trace of the wound; to my relief. Yet that only brought about another question; if she had fast healing, why were the scars still there?
And then there was the third question, the most concerning by far. She had told me she wanted to kill him. I had been surprised, so surprised, and once the shock had worn off, I had immediately rejected the idea. It went against my protective instincts to even think about letting her near someone who had hurt her, especially when I could so easily kill him for her. But then I had looked at her, seen the glimmer of anger that was hiding beneath the fear in her eyes, and I had been forced to rethink.
She wanted to kill him, wanted it fiercely; and she had needed me to understand that. But more than that, I had felt her fear that I wouldn't understand; fear that told me just how badly she wanted and needed to do it. As her imprint, it was in my nature to give her what she wanted. Yet this; I didn't know if I could do this. It was conflicting, so conflicting, and I still hadn't made up my mind about it all. To be honest, I didn't plan to, because I had a different, more important question on my mind.
What had he done? What had happened that was so bad, so horrible, that she wanted to kill him herself? The injury and the scars he had given her were bad yes, but were they kill worthy? In my eyes, yes, but I was biased when it came to anyone even touching her. But for her to want to kill him? No, there had to be something else.
And I was going to find out what.