Into the woods.
Rey cursed as another twig slapped her in the face.
When people reminiscent of their time spent in the woods, they counted their experience with a number of birds chirping beautiful melodies they met along the way. With the number of flowers they collected. The luckiest ones, even with a number of mushrooms they found.
But not Rey.
She counted hers with the number of twigs that almost made her break her nose and with the number of mud puddles thanks to which her blue trousers changed their colour to dark brown.
Rey hated the forest. And the forest hated her right back.
It wasn’t always like that. She loved roaming under the trees. Then again, there were many things she used to love in the past.
Another puddle. Another twig. Another near heart attack thanks to some bird that flew out of nowhere. And she was finally at the end of her journey.
The meadow spreading in front of her was a piece of heaven on earth. Thanks to the blooming flowers, the whole place shined with all the colours of the rainbow and Rey could see butterflies flying all around.
But she didn’t come to enjoy the beauty of nature. She came because of the wolf that lay in the middle of it.
He undoubtedly heard her coming. His entire body grew rigid, and he stood up on his mighty paws, ready to attack the intruder.
Rey already went through a similar situation when she passed one of his guards. The man almost jumped her, but recognition settled in at the last minute and Rey was allowed to live through another day.
The alpha reacted the same way. But once he did recognise her, he actually had the decency to turn his back to her and tried to sneak away.
His actions were enough for Rey’s cup of patience to overflow, and she yelled at him: “If you leave me here after I had to walk all the way to find you, I swear I am going to hunt you down and skin you alive!”
She was not joking, and he could feel it because he stopped dead in his tracks. He contemplated his choices for a minute and then turned back around.
“Good! Now be a man and shift!” She tossed some pieces of clothing, Elaine gave to her, in his direction.
He looked at her, then at his clothes, then back at her and huffed.
“This is not up to discussion! Shift! Now!”
Rey didn’t know where the courage to command this huge unstable beast came from, but she was glad fear didn’t win her over this time.
And he listened to her.
Actually, he listened to her too well. One second she was looking at the wolf and next it was replaced by a man.
By a very naked man.
“Are you crazy?” Rey yelped and quickly turned around.
“You did say now,” she didn’t need to see him to imagine that stupid smirk plastered on his face, “I didn’t want to make you wait.”
“How very considerate of you.”
She wasn’t blushing, she definitely wasn’t blushing.
Thanks to the shuffling noise behind her, Rey guessed he was trying to put his clothes on. If someone were to find them here like this ... well, that would be a fun thing to explain.
“You can turn around now.”
He gave his permission, but Rey had her doubts. If this man was messing with her...
He guessed where her thoughts went because he added: “I am decent, I promise.”
Rey slowly turned around, her eyes only half-open. He wasn’t lying. Everything that should be needed to be covered was covered.
“See,” he smiled, and Rey’s heart skipped a beat. He had to hear it but went around it without comment. Instead, he asked: “Can I ask what brings you to my humble kingdom?”
Rey didn’t plan on beating around the bush: “Your mate, actually.”
His question made Rey’s eyes roll: “Is there another one? Hidden somewhere?”
“No,” he shook his head, “I just didn’t expect, she would want to see me.”
“Well, from what I heard, you are the one avoiding her, not the other way around.”
Elaine came looking for Rey earlier that day. Her whole body radiated anxiety and from the way her eyes trailed all the way around, Rey guessed she was very nervous about something.
And she found out the reason really soon.
“She sent me here to find you,” Rey continued as the alpha did nothing to acknowledge her words, “she said, she misses you. And she wants you to come back.”
Her confession made him look at her like she grew another head: “And you came all the way here, just to tell me that?”
“Not exactly,” Rey admitted, “she also had some convincing arguments about you staying away for too long. Your pack is getting worried. If the humans are still lurking around, they will notice your absence and it will raise suspicion. Sooner or later.”
“I would never endanger my pack,” Talon argued.
But Rey pushed right back: “You are already putting them in danger. Just by staying away.”
“I am protecting them by staying away! You saw what my wolf ... what I did.”
Unfortunately, she did. She wished she could forget, but the universe was not exactly rooting for her lately.
“Her hand is healed.” Rey traced every inch of Elaine’s skin when they talked in the morning. And there really was nothing left. Not even a scar. “Her heart will heal too. Once you stop hiding like a coward.”
Her words ignited anger inside him, but Rey was not going to back down this time. They all found themselves facing an impossible situation. One that was not going to be solved by hiding. That much was sure.
“What do you think, I should do then?” He asked.
And Rey would answer him. She even had her whole speech planned out.
But then the bells sounded.