Chapter Two: The Dream
Running, she was always running. The moon was high in the sky illuminating a path before her as she tore through the woods at neck-breaking speed. The old trees whipped by in a blur as she pushed herself on all fours. Nora had no idea where she was going or what she was trying to reach but she knew it was important. A fire burned in her belly and radiated outward, fueling her need to run.
Like a thread around her soul, a strong pull guided her through the woods. She let her senses guide her as she kept up a relentless speed. Finally after what felt like hours, a trickle of anticipation started to bloom in her chest when she reached the valley opening. Her charcoal gray fur glowing under the moonlight as she slowed to a trot, keen eyes scouring the fields for signs of life.
Coming to a stop at the center of the field, Nora’s nose twitched, scenting the air. A quiet growl at the tree line made her whip around, snarling at the intruder. A large, black wolf stood at the edge of the forest, his bright blue eyes staring directly at her. Another deep growl rumbled from his chest, louder than before, the sound piercing through her soul. A wave of heat washed through her as her wolf recognized the black male as her mate, and she returned a whine full of desire.
Slowly, they crept towards each other, eyes remaining locked. But before she could reach him, pain erupted through her body. With an agonizing howl, she collapsed in a heap on the grass. Fire ran through her veins and she twisted and withered on the ground. The pain rippled through her, forcing her to shift back to human form, her howls turning into screams. Her skin burned and tears streamed out as she curled herself into a ball, praying to the moon goddess to take away her agony.
Clawing at the ground her strangled cry was stopped short as something brushed across her shoulder. Slowly, she looked up to see a massive wall of black fur standing over her. The wolf whined and brought his nose to her neck, whiskers tickling her. His tongue darted out across her flesh, instantly soothing the tender skin along its path.
A soft sigh escaped her raw throat and sensing her relief, he continued to nuzzle and lick across her warm skin. Over and over, across her naked body, he chased away the pain with each passing swipe until all that was left was a dull ache.
Then he growled. His deep penetrating growl made her gasp as a new form of heat began pooling between her legs. She reached out and stroked his fir, the thick strands like slik between her fingers, and the male growled in approval. She could barely contain a moan as the vibrations washed over her, her limbs turning to lead. His growls grew softer, and dark clouds blanketed her vision. A long faint howl was the last thing she heard before she succumbed to the darkness.
Jerking awake, Nora sat up and blinked into space . It took her a few moments to get her bearings that she was in fact alone in her room. “Not again,” she groaned, falling back into her pillows. Taking some deep breaths, she fought back her frustrations from the dream.
It was the same one she’d been having all week, so vivid that she could still feel the black wolf’s tongue on her skin. She could also smell her own arousal. Nora stared at the ceiling, recalling the images of her mate, his soft tongue, and deep growl. Her own wolf pacing in her mind. It wasn’t long before desire overwhelmed her and she slid a hand beneath the sheets.
Delicate fingers grazed the top of her smooth mound before sliding down between her lips. Feeling how wet she was, a groan escaped her mouth. Briefly dipping a finger into her core, she dragged a slick finger back through her lips before circling her clit. Already feeling the pressure build, she picked up the pace, alternating between plunging her fingers into her pussy and swirling them around her bud. It wasn’t long before the slow burn had her panting and arching into her hand. A few extra swipes across her clit and she came undone, a soft whine escaped her lips as the orgasm rolled through her.
The smell of arousal clung to the air while her breathing returned to normal. Once her high ebbed away, she swiped her phone from the side table and tapped on the screen to check on the time, it was just after five o’clock. She had another hour before her day was supposed to start. Freeing her legs from their constraints of the twisted covers, Nora slowly got out of bed, the cool air sending chills across her skin.
A hot cup of tea was needed. Crossing over to the table, she switched on her electric kettle. While her water heated, she moved to the bathroom to freshen up. Turning on the tap, she gave her hands a good wash and splashed some water on her face. With eyes still closed, she swiped the towel next to her and dabbed it across her face. Glancing in the mirror, Nora gasped loudly, dropping the towel and doing a double take.
There in the mirror, her reflection showed two glowing golden eyes. Hesitantly, she leaned in to inspect them closer. The normal shades of hazel were replaced with a color that could rival the sun. Confusion filled her as she brought her hand to her face. As if on cue, the brilliant gold irises faded back into shades of green and brown. Blinking quickly, she searched her reflection for signs of the golden color but found nothing. “What the actual fuck,” Nora exclamed aloud, running her hands through her hair.
Normally a wolf’s eyes don’t change colors unless they shift into their wolf form, the only exception being an alpha during a show of dominance. Nora didn’t feel like she was on the verge of shifting at all, her wolf present but not clawing to get out. The boiling water flipped off the kettle switch, pulling Nora’s attention away from the vanity mirror.
Casting a worried look back at herself, she made her way to the dresser and pulled out her clothes for the day. Slipping them on quickly, she then headed over to the cabinet next to the bathroom. A quick rummage through one of the shelves, Nora found her favorite black tea and a red mug. Items in hand, she moved towards the table, still trying to process what she just saw.
Pouring herself a cup, she sat in the rickety chair and stared out the small window. It must be the recurring dream beginning to wear on her, the sleep deprivation making her see things. Tenderly sipping the hot liquid, she replayed the dream in her mind. It aggravated her that she couldn’t make sense of the dreams or why her eyes would randomly change colors. Frustration and a deep loneliness filled her heart, and she closed her eyes with a sad sigh.
Lycans, like humans, didn’t have just one potential partner. The moon goddess gave every lycan a few possible mates where they would feel a pull towards. So, they got to choose who they wanted to spend forever with, the myth of a soulmate was just that, a myth. But unlike humans, once they claimed each other, there could be no one else. The claiming, as wolves called it, happened when a male lycan bites a female during the female’s heat cycle.
The majority of females have a mild heat once a month, lasting a day or two, the exception being the rarest of females, omegas, who have a very powerful heat once every six months. A heat from an unmated female will draw in any unmated male in the area, it’s the moon’s way of helping mates find one another.
Once the claiming happened, an unbreakable bond formed. A bond so strong, that if one half of the mated couple died, the other would follow shortly after. Nora’s parents were ones that met this fate when she was just seventeen years old, a month before her eighteenth birthday.
Long after Nora finished her second cup of tea, the curtainless windows allowed the first rays of sun to light up the cabin. Sunrise was her call to get going, a herd of hungry horses would be waiting for her. Her tired body didn’t want to move, but she willed herself to stand. She tentatively walked back into the bathroom to peek in the mirror, only hazel eyes stared back at her.
With a shake of her head she put aside her anxiety and threw her hair up into a ponytail. Then she wrestled a bra underneath her tank top before pulling on one of her nicer blue button-up shirts. Inspecting herself in the bathroom mirror, she put on a quick coat of mascara to accent her round eyes. The staff was required to dress a little nicer when guests were staying on the ranch. A whiny off in the distance sounded as she finished the final button on her shirt. On the way out the door, she grabbed her phone and clipped it to her waist.
The morning air was crisp and a layer of dew had formed on the grass overnight. Nora loved mornings like this, it felt like a fresh start, one she desperately needed after the strange morning she had experienced so far. Sitting herself at the edge of the deck, she made quick work of her boots. After pulling her jeans over the tops, she dropped to the ground and let her feet lead her towards the barn.
The short walk gave her a few minutes to clear her head. Arriving at the rustic little barn, which was more like a large tack shed, she walked to the backside where the mountain of hay was kept. Tossing a large bale into the wheelbarrow from the night before, she maneuvered it around to the front of the shed so she could fill some buckets of grain to bring with her. The horses were already calling to her as they heard their food being prepared.
“Okay! Okay! I’m coming,” she chuckled while making her way along the row of outdoor paddocks. “Good morning Blondie,” she greeted the palomino mare at the first gate, “are you hungry old girl?” Dumping one bucket of grain into the elevated feeder, the moody mare pinned her ears in annoyance. Nora rolled her eyes and sighed, “someday you’re going to like me you grumpy old goat!” She tossed two flakes into the feeder as well before continuing down the line.
The next pen held a black pair of horses, sent to the ranch so they could get in shape for the upcoming pack trip. The two tubby horses had flabby chests and barrel shaped bellies, something that Nora was working hard to correct with good diets and extra excercise. “Hello sweeties, ready for some breakfast?” Tossing two flakes in for each, the pair ignored her and greedily set to eating as quickly as possible.
The last pen in the row was J.D.’s personal horse, a beautiful bay mare named Sage. The horse had a sharp mind and was an amazing under saddle but was otherwise aloof towards people. “Sage,” Nora called to the mare who stood like a statue in the middle of her pen, “Hi pretty girl! Ready to eat?” The mare made no move until her flakes of hay were on the ground and Nora poured some grain into her feeder. Knowing that it would take a lot more than feeding to get the mare to warm to her, Nora made a mental note to try and bond with some ground work today.
Roman’s whinny could be heard from a mile away. With a big smile, Nora took the last of the hay across the property to where she knew she would get a little love. The stallion pranced around his paddock, showing off his muscular frame. Repeating last night’s routine, Nora greeted the stud with a pat and tossed the hay inside for him, dumping the last bucket of grain into his feeder. Bidding him farewell for now, she made her way back to the barn with an empty wheelbarrow.
When she reached the barn, she traded the wheelbarrow for a long carrot stick with a flag on the end. With the long stick in hand, Nora hopped onto the four wheeler parked next to the barn, “Time to get the rest of the bunch!” Driving past the mountain of hay and around the backside of the paddocks, she opened a gate that let her enter the alleyway that acted like a funnel to the holding pens for the rest of the herd to be caught easily. Nora drove through the gate, securing it shut behind her before racing away to round up the rest of the horses.
There were dozens of acres fenced in for most of the herd to graze overnight. It would take her a long time to find them all and herd them to the holding pens on foot, the four wheeler allowed her to accomplish this in minutes. The loud machine in itself was enough to get the large group of horses moving. About two minutes into her drive she spotted them grazing in the field. Their heads shot up as she approached and started running immediately.
Staying close to the fence, Nora moved in a wide circle around them till she was behind them. This allowed her to steer them into running towards the holding pen. Flicking the flag at a few slower strays to get them to catch up with the rest of the herd, the twenty horses ran in perfect harmony, their tails high and manes flowing. It was one of Nora’s favorite views and she felt her spirit soar with them. As the herd approached their destination, she veered over to the far right, pushing them close to the fence to funnel them into the alleyway.
Like the good ponies they were, they obediently ran into the narrow space, funneling into the open gate of the holding pen. Tailing them closely into the alleyway, Nora made sure to shut the gate they just came through before moving to close the gate containing the herd. A few rambunctious horses trotted around and pushed each other in a show of dominance as Nora drove the four wheeler back out. Putting the machine in park and cutting the engine, Nora looked back over to make sure the herd was settling in before making her way to the dining hall where a hot cup of coffee was calling her name.
Walking up the steps, the smell of fresh coffee and blueberry muffins filled her nose, making her stomach rumble in anticipation. Besides herself, only Pablo and J.D. were up in the early hours, the two men chatting and sipping on their coffee as she approached. “Good morning!” she called cheerily to the pair.
“Morning sunshine,” Pablo greeted her with a wave and a smile, and J.D. just nodded her way before returning to his conversation with Pablo. A long table with an assortment of pastries and fruit was laid out before her. Swiping a muffin and a cinnamon roll along with her coffee with a splash of cream, Nora sat herself at the staff table and dug in.
This was their normal routine, the three of them up with the chickens to do work that had to be done before the rest of the staff were out of bed. It gave them a few minutes in the morning to have peace and quiet before the rest of the crew stumbled in. The two middle aged men stopped talking as a white pick up rolled passed. J.D. straightened his stance as the truck parked. He shot a quick glance towards Nora, before setting his eyes forward.
Nora could smell him before she could see him. The second the door opened her senses were assaulted with a strong, powerful scent of a male, with a hint of something she couldn’t quite place but it made her mouth water. Following the scent, a tall, dark haired man stepped out of the truck. Looking around, he caught sight of the three in the dinning hall and made his way over. J.D. meet him at the top of the steps and reached out to shake his hand. “Welcome to Cottonwood Ranch. I trust the trip went well?”
“Yes, thank you,” the man said as they separated. His blue eyes looked around and locked onto Nora and she felt glued to her seat. He walked further into the room as J.D. offered introductions, “This here is Pablo, the chef, and Nora, our wrangler.” He offered Pablo a quick nod and a handshake, “Hi.”
“Pleasure,” Pablo said, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to check on breakfast. So doing the brisket tonight boss?” After a confirmation from J.D. and a quick wave to Nora, he turned and disappeared into the large kitchen.
Nora felt her face heat up as the newcomer made his way over to her. Without breaking eye contact, he reached out his hand. Slowly, she slipped her own hand into his and her belly did a flip as he brought the back of her hand to his face. He grazed his lips across her skin and inhaled her scent deeply. Gooseflesh erupted over her body with his touch, and she felt a pull behind her navel towards the alpha. His eyes blue flashed silver for a second as their eyes locked, and Nora found herself leaning towards him. He must have liked that because a wide smile formed on his face as he stood up straight. Holding eye contact, he flashed her a dimple and, in a deep voice that melted her insides, said, “Hello there, I’m Luke.”
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