Many hours later
I wake up in a fright, covered in blankets, snug like a caterpillar in a tight cocoon. I can’t move any of my limbs and I can smell all this masculine brunt permeating the air but I ... I don’t understand what’s happened.
All around me, as I swivel my neck and shake my black hair out of my eyes, I see some kind of tree trunk making up one half of a den. The rest of the walls are dried mud but the area is massive. It’s under ground. It’s quite huge but... in my nest of blankets, I also have the weight of legs on mine.
I look around and I see snoring, sleeping men all around me.
Naked men. Drooling in their sleep. All their faces are as handsomely cut as their perfectly scarred bodies. I can only think; Knights.
While they are all fast sleep in their nooks by the blankets and furs all around, one familiar giant of a man is awake. He’s brewing broth. I can tell from the smell.
The stranger really has thick curling hair as white as snow, framing ice blue eyes and full devilish lips... but he’s not ancient, he’s just a fully grown man.
My captor turns towards me as if sensing a wandering gaze, but I quickly shut my eyes, pretending to sleep.
I’m pretty sure he caught me but...
I breathe, panicked, as I hear who I believe is ‘Snow’ walking over.
"Child,” What in all that’s good –I’m not a child! I try to keep a sleeping face through it, but my nose crinkles in frustration and annoyance at his chosen word and that tone he uses... as if he knows it’ll bugger me off. Still, I keep my eyes shut, “I know you’re awake!” he snarls louder and directly into my face - my whole body jerks in fright at his proximity. I can’t hide it any longer.
I snap open my hazel eyes, blushing... until I see him holding a knife in his hand.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper it, my voice straining against a tight vocal box. Don’t kill me, please.
“...sorry?” my abductor repeats me, taken aback by my response, “It’s a kitchen knife...” he looks angry but he manages a slight smile, ” You’re not my dinner... I’m not eating a woman’s heart tonight.”
“Snow?” I gasp, still whispering.
Snow watches me, amused but also... on edge, ”Speak up," he barks at me.
I shut my mouth. I’m too afraid. Snow is so... devilishly terrifying. Not at all the handsome kind prince of my dreams and fantasies.
Snow turns back to the cooking and throws the knife into a bucket. He grabs a bunch of hacked vegetables and chucks them into a pot. Then he drops the chopping board into the same tin bucket. Finally... he looks up at me again.
“How old are you?” Snow asks, a bit more quiet, ”12?"
“20!” I yell it, “What do you mean, 12 –?!”
“I don’t count years, girl, but the day you walked so far off into the winter... 10 years ago, was it? I’ve never seen someone so lost and senseless. Figures. You can’t even speak past a whisper... Ellie...” Snow leans back against a counter, while blinking slowly at me, testing my name on his lips.
So he did watch me from the forest after that night.
I look around with slight panic but I calm when I notice the men around us sleep soundly through the entire discussion.
“How old are you?” I whisper anyway.
Now Snow pauses, his chest heaving, his hands wiping on his leather breeches.
“Old enough to be your great, great, great, great grandfather – you like broth?” he adds that part on, just a bit awkwardly, but mostly just rough.
“Why did you save me?” I ask bravely, gulping... his answer would mean a lot to me.
It may even dash some of my worry!
“Because you needed saving. Look at you,” Snow is harsh. I don’t say anything and he seems annoyed at himself, “Now I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”
“You meant it exactly as you meant it,” I purse my lips, still unable to move from my cacoon, “Can you, um, let me out of this... wrap? I’m totally stuck.”
“That’s the point. I didn’t really save you. I’m not going to lie to you. Ellie,” Snow starts explaining and then he pauses, waiting for me to nod, before he continues, “Now don’t freak out. My pack and I... 7 of us, we’re cursed wolves – we can’t seem to find any mates. They’re either going extinct from being hunted or we’re being punished. Either way, I have to make a sacrifice to my Goddess of the Moon, and... you may be that sacrifice.”
“What, like an offering?” I ask, blinking rapidly to show my confusion.
I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact he just used the word sacrifice.
“No... I have to kill you,” Snow scratches his chin as I go deathly silent, “Yeah, yeah, stop complaining. I won’t keep you suffering too long. Once the dawn approaches, in the hour, I’ll make it a quick snap. Oh... and I need you to sign a will and give all your new shiny stuff to me... yeah...” Snow shrugs, “...sorry about that.”
He turns to stir the broth, while his pack of 7, start to stir.
I’m still trying to convince myself that I’m okay, that Snow is joking, but I can’t move, and that’s because I’m basically food waiting to get snapped.
“Snow! I don’t want to die,” I whisper it, scared the rest of them will suddenly wake and confirm all my worst fears, ”Please.”
“You better speak up, honey, I can’t hear you beg," Snow drawls from the kitchen... in... some kind of smug pleasured tone.
It’s almost like he wanted me to beg. But I’m rendered silent as a pair of nostrils suddenly slides over my vision and I hear a sniff-sniff before the lucid wolf-man snuggles into my neck, and falls asleep drooling on my chest.
Snow glances over to see my distraught expression and every word that drips past his mouth now is nothing but a dark game, “Like I said, honey, you better start begging... because the sun is rising a bit earlier that expected...” he looks out the high window to a now orange tinted darkness, “...so the last few... hmm... not minutes, but maybe the last half hour of your precious sweet life is nearly up. Ellie. And I can’t. Hear you. Begging. Yet!" Snow whips his head around to watch me and all I see is a really smug giant wolf warrior, waiting for me to break into hysterics for him.
I thought I was a sacrifice.
Yet Snow wants me to beg?
I don’t like this.
Why the hell am I really here?