After a brief but sweet kiss goodbye, Caleb and I go our separate ways. Caleb heads home towards his packs land, which is in the opposite direction to the Palace; from our current position, it’s maybe just over an hour run in wolf form.
Feeling ever so giddy and smiling like a Cheshire cat, I make my way through some country lanes. Either side of the country passage is dense with trees, bushes and other foliage.
My heart skips a beat when I realise… I feel it again, the eyes on me… It’s as though I can feel exactly where they are on my body, trailing up and down, assessing me. I keep walking whilst I try to look either side of me in the lane; I can’t see much... there are steep banks around 8ft high on both sides of the road, the top of the banks are too heavily populated by trees and other bits of foliage for me to see very far in.
Goosebumps cover my skin; as if my heckles are going up, a chill runs down my spine that makes me catch my breath. Fiddling with the dog whistle that lays around my neck, I take a deep, steadying breath.
You’re being paranoid, Mae; you don’t need to call Hector all the way out here just because you’re a bit scared!
I hasten my pace as my palms begin to feel clammy with fear. I don’t know why I’m so scared; nothing has happened, I just have a feeling someone is watching, I have no proof… just a feeling.
My stomach is twisting itself uncomfortably in knots, every fibre of my being is on edge, my nerves are frayed... waiting for something, if anything, to happen.
The snapping of twigs makes me snap my head to the right, scanning the foliage for any movements. I know something is there but is it something - or someone dangerous following me?
Bringing the whistle up to my lips, I pick up the pace to a steady jog, eyes still searching for anything to be alarmed by in my surroundings. I still see nothing, no signs of life or movement visible to me. Which doesn’t make me feel much better. I have a sickening feeling filling my gut. I feel as though I’m being hunted and stalked by a predator.
Suddenly I hear a thump about 30ft behind me; my heart drops as my throat dries up. Whatever it is is making its move.
As I continue to run, I chance a quick glance over my shoulder.
Shit! I think, gulping back some nerves.
Immediately, I blow the whistle - as hard as I can. I can only hope Hector can hear me from all the way out here.
“What’s wrong, Mae? Does your future mate not get a kiss hello?” Jasper mocks.
He is merely walking at a casual pace; he holds a menacing glint to his eyes as he continues to stalk me like I’m his next meal. He knows he can catch me within seconds; I might be jogging, but I can’t keep this up forever; I have the stamina of an athletic human without my wolf, but that’s not going to be enough to outrun him. He can catch up to me with ease in his human form, let alone his wolf form.
“Oh baby, you’re breaking my heart! Can’t we just talk about this?” His tone is amused - yet full of menace.
He continues to stalk me for the next 10 minutes, keeping just far enough away that I feel a sense of hope that I might get out of this unscathed, yet close enough that I can still feel the sense of impending doom curling in my gut.
I blow on the whistle again as I have a few times before now, hoping I might get a sign that Hector has heard my desperate calls. My heart is pounding in my chest. My stamina is dwindling; muscles are beginning to ache as a stitch is forming in my ribs.
I try to stretch the stitch out by stretching my arms above my head, it gives me some relief, but it won’t last very long.
“Come on, baby, how much longer are you going to keep running from me?” I can hear the pout in his tone.
A cold sweat covers my body as my panic rises… I realise I can’t escape this scot-free. I look back, making sure he isn’t closing the distance between us.
But… I see nothing.
My eyes scour the area behind me, trying to find where he has disappeared as I continue to jog onwards.
“Oof!” The air leaves my lungs. I feel dazed. I ran into something hard.
Urgh, fuck… did I just run into a tree? Taking a shaky step backwards, I look at the cause of my sudden stop.
My heart sinks.
He’s looking at me with a predatory smile filling his face. The face I once considered quite handsome when I was younger; now looks ugly and cold with his dangerous expression.
Taking hold of the tops of my arms, he leans down to whisper in my ear.
“Why are you trying to run from me, my love?” I can hear the sarcasm when he says ‘my love’. He looks at me, sneering, a strange glint in his eyes.
Fear is causing my body to tremble; I can hear the shakes of my body breaking up the rhythm of my breathing. I don’t know what his intentions are… but I’m sure they aren’t friendly.
Slowly, I start to back away, trying to put some distance between myself and my pursuer.
I’ll be honest, I’m crapping myself on the inside. He could quite literally tear my throat, heart, eyes or anything he would like out… and there would be nothing I could do about it.
Jasper continues to stalk me. A predatory smile is on his face as he licks his lips excited to get a taste of his kill.
My back presses up against something… the bank. He’s herded me so I have nowhere else to run and left me with no more stalling tricks up my sleeve.
I flinch as his rough, calloused hand comes to caress my cheek. Closing my eyes, I beg for it to stop or for him to put me out of my misery and stop toying with me.
“So beautiful”, he drawls, “and all mine”.
“I am not yours”, I spit, slapping his hand away from my face. “I am not yours now and I never will be yours”, I scowl.
Grabbing me by my throat roughly, he slams me up against the bank of dirt. I cry out with pain, my throat burning as he restricts the level of air I can breathe.
“Fuck. You”, I rasp out before I muster the strength to spit in his face.
If looks could kill, I think to myself. If I’m going out... I’m going out kicking and screaming.
Using his free hand, he wipes my spittle that is now dripping down his very unimpressed looking face.
“So feisty, my love. I can’t wait to break you”, he sneers as he leans in and bites my lower lip; the taste of iron fills my mouth as my lip splits.
“I can’t wait to tell Rex I have tasted these lips… it will break him”, he laughs maniacally.
“What did you just say?” I almost whisper in disbelief.
“He’s going to rage”, he continues to cackle hysterically. “The boy all the girls wanted and all the boys wanted to be. But he only ever had eyes for you, didn’t he? Shame we had to take him out so that we could finally get to you... so that I could finally have you all to myself”.
I stand open-mouthed, my shock holding me in place. A feral rage bubbles from within me; anger oozes from every pore of my being.
A low rumble emanates from the ground; it sounds like a large truck is heading towards us, but it doesn’t sound as though it’s coming from the distance... it sounds more like it’s coming from below.
“I’ve heard that he’s a fun fuck for the she-wolves. They’ve loved having a Lycan all to themselves”, he grins victoriously. Relishing in the hurt now stamped across my face.
Anger swells inside me like an inferno; my breathing has become harsh and ragged. I feel unstable… I feel… feral. I feel no sense of concern for my life at this point - all I can feel is overwhelming rage.
The rumbling of the road grows louder and louder; it sounds as if an earthquake is brewing.
“What the fuck did you just say?” I say through gritted teeth. My hands have balled into fists, my nails are drawing blood as they dig into my palms.
“Oh they love it”, he gloats, “Every night they have their way with him. Every night he calls out to you in his dreams”, he laughs as if it’s the funniest thing in the world.
My chest is heaving. I can’t believe what he’s telling me; it can’t be true… can it? Is Rex alive? Or is he just trying to torment me further?
For the first time in a long time, I feel my eyes flash to those of my wolf, Sierra. They switch in and out of Sierra’s flaming green eyes, much like my mother’s wolf, Ravens. It’s like she’s trying to push forward, she’s weak, but she’s letting me know she’s here... that she’s with me.
“He’s mine!” I scream as I shove Jasper in his chest; my hands blast vibrant green fire upon impact, launching him across the lane and into the bank on the other side of the road.
I look down at my hands. Woah… that’s the most extensive blast I’ve ever been able to make.
Green flames have erupted from my hands, encasing all the way up to my elbows. This is new to me, the girl who just 20 minutes ago could just about create a small flicker of a flame.
Jasper pushes himself to stand back up laughing; he sounds unhinged... has he always been this way? Am I only just noticing the level of depravity that resides within him?
“You’re going to regret that, my love”, he hisses.
He begins to close the distance between us; each stride is with purpose, it is abundantly clear he has a goal in mind. This isn’t going to end well for me… But I refuse to go down without a fight. If what he says is true… Rex needs me.
I position myself in my fighting stance, raising my flaming fists - as if to say ‘bring it on’. I might not have my full strength, but what I currently have is better than what I had 20 minutes ago.
He’s almost in front of me now; his claws and canines have elongated, sharp and threatening, looking as though they can slice through me like a hot knife to butter. I want to whimper and hide but I push away that feeling, trying to remember the wolf I once was, the wolf that would never shy away from a fight, the wolf that was top of her combat class.
Claw raised, he prepares to slash at me. To end me.
When I see a creamy blur flash by me - Jasper is no longer in my line of vision.
All I hear is the loud snapping of jaws and feral growls.
Was that? I think as my body sags with relief, my legs give out from underneath me, my body slowly slides down the bank to the floor.
I look over to confirm my suspicions.
Hector. He came!
Hector’s wolf is pinning Jasper down, growling and snapping ferociously in his face, warning him not to try anything.
A sickening smile spreads across Jasper’s face before he sinks his claws into Hector’s ribs; Hector yelps out in pain but quickly clamps down on Jaspers shoulder, shaking him ferociously.
Jasper releases Hector’s side as he is thrown back into the bank with a crack. He attempts to shift, tufts of brindle fur begin to appear over his body, but not fast enough; Hector thinks quickly, biting down on Jasper’s leg until he hears the satisfying snap.
Howling in pain Jasper clutches at his broken leg, screaming obscenities at Hector. In the distance, I can hear the answering calls of nearby wolves, more than likely his accomplices. We will be outnumbered.
Hector’s wolf runs to me barking and directing his eyesight to his back. He doesn’t need to ask me twice; I’m already climbing aboard before he finishes his instructions.
Racing off towards the Palace I hear more wolves howling from the direction of home. Thank the Goddess. He’s called for backup. I breathe a sigh of relief, flopping forwards onto Hector’s soft creamy fur.
“Thank you, Hector. Thank you for coming”. I whisper to him, stroking his striking wolf.