Madelyn

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-3-

The next morning, Madelyn awoke with a start. She looked around her, not knowing for a moment where she was. It all came back to her then, and she smiled faintly. She was home. When she received a call two weeks ago from Brian telling her that at long last, her parents’ estate had been released to her by the courts, she was so happy but afraid it was just a dream. As she stood in her house now and looked around, she knew it was real.

When her parents died three long years ago, she was devastated. They were her entire world and then, suddenly, they were gone. She got out of bed, put her robe on, and went to the kitchen to make herself some breakfast. As she passed her parents’ room, she sighed sadly, but kept moving. That was the only room in the house she hadn’t yet explored since she’d returned. It was still too painful to go in there. She would, eventually. Perhaps one day she’d feel comfortable enough to move into that room but for now, she was content to occupy the room that had always been hers.

Pushing the thought of her parents and every other thought other than satiating her growling stomach from her mind, she got busy preparing herself a hearty breakfast, then sat down to eat. Eggs, sausage, and oatmeal disappeared in no time, and she cleaned up then ran to her room to change into shorts and a tank top. Pulling on her running shoes, she grabbed the backpack she prepared earlier then left the house to take a run through the woods.

A smile spread across her face as she moved through the trees. The forest was always one of her favorite things about this place. The property was several hundred acres, with the house being secluded enough that it was hidden from all roads, though it wasn’t far from the Western-most boundary of the property. It was all hers now and she loved that she could run through her woods, without another person for miles. She ran for 30 minutes solid before coming to one of her favorite places, a small opening in the trees, with a tiny grassy meadow, and a stream running through the center. She’d have arrived there sooner but chose a more circuitous route today.

The call of the wilderness was one she’d felt for too long. Impossible to ignore, she’d done her best to get into wilderness areas during her time in the city, but it was difficult. Her little house on 18th had been almost in the center of the concrete jungle. While Madelyn knew she had forever and a day to explore her woods again, it was hard to resist staying out here for hours. Pulling off her shoes, she sat down on the pebbly shore of the stream and put her feet in the cool water.

She sat there, listening to the sounds of the forest, for quite a while before hearing a twig break behind her. With a start and a low gasp, she froze, her heart beating faster. She waited there, mouth open slightly, hardly daring to breathe as she listened for sounds of movement behind her. Taking a deep breath, she whipped herself around and came face to face with the largest wolf she’d ever seen. Terror gripped her, and before she could get a grip on her mind and senses, she fainted.

***

Connor had trailed her for a while. He loved the way her hair bounced as she ran. Her curves were ample, yet she wasn’t heavy. She was a beauty with her blonde curls and her violet eyes had left him enraptured when he’d first seen her so many years ago. Madelyn had grown into a lovely young woman.

Today, she was heavy with the scent of sweat, but there was another scent, and that one had the man in him excited. She was ready for the taking, but he would have to be careful with her.

He’d watched her house overnight, waiting for her to go for a run. He knew she would, it was something she’d always loved. He’d noted earlier at the store she smelled much the same as he remembered, but in her absence, she’d grown into a woman…albeit a damaged woman. He knew how the loss of her parents had devastated her.

When he heard of her parents’ death, he wanted to go to her, comfort her, but knew he couldn’t. And then she left. The man had come for her, took her away, and then a woman came to remove some things from the house, tidy it, and lock up. When she left, nobody returned until Madelyn showed up here yesterday evening.

After running into her at the store, he’d called the Alpha. The Alpha was interested in this information, but was wary about allowing anyone to approach her, Connor included. The entire pack knew of Madelyn’s troubles. He wanted it to be taken slowly and, much to Connor’s chagrin, the Council agreed and issued strict orders to all in the pack not to approach her until they gave the word.

Today, though, Connor couldn’t wait any longer to get close to her. He’d waited three years to see her again, and now that she’d returned, he had to be near, had to smell her up close, touch her, make certain he wasn’t just dreaming she’d returned.

Quickly shifting, he took her into his arms, and walked over to the edge of the wood, laying her down in the soft grass. Her blonde curls spread round her head angelically. Her smell was intoxicating to him. He caressed her cheek then allowed his hand to move down her side to rest on her hip. Connor was tempted to go further, but stayed his hand.

Leaning down, he kissed her lips softly then moved away to swiftly shift back to wolf. Hurrying back into the wood, he found cover just far enough in to be unseen, but still be able to watch over her as she awoke.

***


She woke with a start. Her whole body tingled. She sat up abruptly and looked around her. The wolf she was sure she’d seen was nowhere to be found. Getting to her feet, she realized she wasn’t in the same place where she was certain she fainted. It’d been over at the stream, and now, she was at the wood’s edge.

A chill ran through her body as it remembered a touch, a kiss, even if she wasn’t conscious of either when they happened. As she suddenly found herself strangely aroused, she gasped, her hand moving up to brush her fingertips across her lips absently. It scared her, yet piqued her curiosity.

Why on earth would her body be reacting like this immediately after having awoken from fainting after seeing that wolf?

Sitting there, she noticed she wasn’t where she thought she’d fainted. Cautiously, she rose and looked around. Everything seemed fine. Birds were chirping and flies were buzzing all around. Nothing seemed amiss, yet as she walked to the place she remembered putting her feet in the water, she looked on the ground and saw the prints. Where the canine prints ended, human prints began.

Bending down, she examined the prints. The feet had been bare and they were large, like a man’s. She followed them and was startled to discover they led to where she’d awoken. Even more disconcerting was not far away, canine prints appeared again.

What did it mean?

She had to get home, and go into her parents’ study, perhaps even go into their room as well. She had to find out what kind of wolf that was, and ask Brian if he knew why her parents had chosen this particular place for their home. It couldn’t be a coincidence that they chose this place to build their home.

***

Connor watched as the heat spread from her loins throughout her body. He could smell her arousal and smiled as best he could in wolf form. His kiss, his touch, both had done that to her. She was his, already, but didn’t even know it. He would be certain she remained that way, but wasn’t yet sure how he would finally make her his, officially.

When she finally left the meadow, he followed her to be certain she made it home without incident, then took up watch on the house until sundown.

Before leaving, he raised his head to the sky and let out a long howl, announcing in it his intent to take the human woman for himself, and warning any other who might try to court her not to intrude upon what he now claimed for himself.

Leaving her house, he made his way back to pack grounds. Once there, he shifted and went to the Council chambers. As expected, they were all present, as was the Alpha of the pack. Many others in the pack were present, as well. They all turned to look at him as he entered.

“I would like to ask the Council for the right to court Madelyn Randell,” he said. He knew they’d all heard his howl.

Two of the Elders smiled, nodding gently. “We have no quarrel with this,” one of the two said softly.

“So long as you take it slowly and do not frighten the poor girl,” the other continued. “She’s been through enough already.”

Another Elder added his consent. Eventually, all Council Elders had joined the first three in consenting to his request, save one.

“I have watched over Madelyn Randell since the time she was an infant. She has grown into a lovely young woman,” the Elder said. Pausing, he bowed his head a moment and sighed. Then, giving his head a slight shake, he looked into Connor’s eyes and continued, “She is smart and capable and not to be deceived. If you do court her, as it was foreseen, you must be candid with her. Do not hide yourself, or any part of yourself, from her, once you’ve gained her trust. I know her well. She will not accept you if you do.”

“Yes, Elder,” Connor responded. “She will only know truth from me.”

After assuring the Council of his intentions, and swearing to see to it she was safe, Connor shifted back to his wolf and made his way through the forest to her house once more. He would never lie to her, yet he wasn’t sure how he would introduce his wolf to her. Hopefully it wouldn’t drive her away. Only time would tell.

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