Chapter 2- Over a plate of stew
Kara was awoken by the distant sound of a galloping horse. She found herself in the familiar warmth of her bed.
“You’re up!” said a cheery voice she did not recognize. She turned her head to see a girl sitting by her. She had black long hair and grey eyes. The combination made her think of a stranger, who had held her gently ... Marko.
“I’m Yenive,” the girl said with a wide smile as she handed Kara a glass of water “He’s on his way.” Kara looked at her confused “Marko... you know tall, black hair, grey eyes like me, looks like he could wrestle a bull, or ten men for that matter.... you were calling for him in your sleep but he was out searching for more rogues.”
“I was calling him?”
“Yes you were,” said a deep voice. She sat up clutching the sheets to her slender body. Even when fully clothed and hidden under the sheets she felt exposed to those powerful eyes. He looked at her from the doorway, his body tense as he surveyed every inch of her face.
“Brother,” Yenive said tossing her arms around Marko’s neck. He leaned down to her and kissed the top of her head. The adoration in his eyes was tender and bright. His eyes quickly returned to look at Kara. “Well, how about I go find something to do out there? I’m sure some of our wolves are misbehaving instead of helping out the villagers, they might need a little scowling,” Yenive said with a sweet yet mischievous and dangerous glint in her eyes. She turned to her brother with a serious face and whispered something, in response he nodded, and she walked away.
Marko stared at her with an intent look in his eyes, his body seemed stiff and his jaw was clenched.
“She seems nice, your sister,” she said breaking the silence. “Will she be alright, with... them?” she didn’t know what to call the men from the forest, calling them werewolves felt like comparing him to them and they were not the same.
“Yenive? Oh yes she might seem small but she can handle my men,” he said with a small smirk. The simple expression made her heart quicken. He was simply gorgeous. He chuckled “In fact,” he said moving to sit in the chair beside her “she is one of the few people who can actually scare me.”
She laughed, imaging the girl scowling at Marko like he was a child. The thought of him being afraid of anything simply seemed outrageous.
He let out a quiet growl, so low that she couldn’t have heard it. His wolf was excited to have her so near him, to hear her laugh and see her smile. The fact that she was relatively safe was the only reason he was okay with leaving her in that bed. If it weren’t for that he would have her securely in his arms. Hell, if it weren’t for the fact that she looked so tired he would be in that bed with her rolling around in a mess of sheets. The thought of her soft skin made his whole body tense. His wolf was growling and pulling at the restraint he had towards her.
“How do you feel? You slept all day yesterday,” Marko said, a hint of guilt and worry in his deep voice.
“Well, I’m tired, but I’m fine,” especially with you near me. Kara thought. Suddenly her stomach growled, begging to be fed. Her face reddened with embarrassment and he laughed a deeply.
“Your stomach begs to differ,” he shook his head rising to stand beside her. “I should have thought to feed you some time ago. The cook has made a lamb stew, I’ll go get you some,” he said heading for the door.
Before he could get too far Kara got out of bed, assessed her tunic and her hair and followed behind him.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked turning and making her stop in her tracks.
“I’m going out with you to get food. I think I have rested long enough. I need to move and get fresh air.”
He looked her over debating whether or not it was a good idea. “Very well,” he said moving to retrieve something from her room. “Here,” Marko putt a soft black fur coat over her shoulders. “If you really want to go out, then you need to stay warm. I think there is a snow storm coming.”
She nodded and walked ahead of him through the main gathering room of the small house. She was not surprised to see Tontra, her landlady, sitting in a chair by the fire. Tontra looked from her to the man behind her with cautious eyes, as if accusing her of treason. A pang of alertness hit Kara as she determined that if Tontra, a woman of gossip, was looking at her in such away then there must be rumors running around the village. It didn’t bother her if they were about her, but if they were about Marko then there was certainly going to be some sort of confrontation. Very few people liked werewolves even after being saved by them. What’s worse, the men of the Village were not known to be peaceful.
Sensing Kara’s nervousness in the presence of the woman, he put a reassuring hand on her waist and ushered her outside. He didn’t like how the woman or any of the villagers had looked at Kara when he came out of the forest carrying her in his arms. How dare they look at her as if she were trash? She had risked her life fighting vampires and leading most of them away only to be looked at as if she were the enemy. It had infuriated him until he noticed that the same looks were given to him and his men. It was evident that the people of this village had had previous encounters with his kind and that they had not been good ones.
As they stepped outside Kara looked around the village, or what was left of it. Most houses had suffered minor damages but some had caught fire, the big barn was missing many boards. Some villagers lay dead on the ground and were being moved onto a cart. The rogue vampire bodies were being tossed into a roaring fire in the middle of the village. The smell of the burning flesh made her feel nauseous.
“So much for the fresh air,” she said with a frown.
“Here eat this,” Marko said offering her what looked like a small yellow petal. “Platunias, they help with the nausea, I always carry them with me,” he said popping one into his mouth. She took the petal from him taking a deep breath when their skin brushed, butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She dismissed that blaming it on the nausea. She popped the petal into her mouth “Chew on it,” Marko told her with a small smile. The look in his eyes told her that he found this to be more than amusing. She could almost say that the look in his eyes was one of lust, one that told her that the predator was watching her… and she liked it. She liked the idea of being able to summon that in him, of rallying his wolf side knowing that he could control himself and not hurt her.
She noticed that the nausea was gone and smiled up at him with a small challenge in her eyes “You know just because you’re being nice to me doesn’t mean I will do everything you ask.” She knew that what she was saying could be dangerous if said to any other werewolf, but Marko was different. Sure he gave off that aura of danger that all wolves had, and he was big and intimidating compared to her. In reality Marko was the perfect image of what a werewolf should look like, a beautiful creature that could kill you with the intensity of its gaze. Yes, he was more than capable of harming her, but deep inside she knew that he would never hurt her, at least not on purpose. “I don’t always respond well to orders.”
He smirked down at her and looked ahead toward the campsite where the cook was. “We’ll see about that,” he said accepting her challenge and led her to the campsite.
As they walked through the village Kara couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people were staring at them. The men stared at Marko with hate and the women at Kara with complete disgust. “Doesn’t it bother you, how they stare as if you were their enemy? You and your men just saved these people and are now helping them rebuild, and yet they treat you badly,” Kara said looking around the faces that stared at them.
Marko sighed and said, “It does, but I’m used to it.” He turned his gaze on her and she could almost feel its burn on her face “On the other hand you’re not use to it. It angers me that the mere association with me earns you looks like the one that lady in your house gave you. These people...” he said looking around. “They should honor you and be thankful that you fought for them. Not look at you as if you had betrayed them.”
She looked at his tense face, and admired the way his jaw muscles clenched. That was by far the nicest thing anyone outside her family had ever said to her.
He cleared his throat “What I’m trying to say is... that you deserve better.”
She smiled shyly at him knowing that her cheeks were flushed “You too, Marko.”
He frowned a bit wondering how such a beautiful and wonderful woman could care about what people thought of him. How she made him burn with desire and the need to protect her. He wanted her he wanted to show her that he could protect her, that he would not let people degrade or undermine her.
They kept walking to the tent, once there he led her to a table and brought her a plate of stew and water.
“Thank you... for everything,” she said as he sat down beside her.
“It’s just stew.”
She frowned looking down at her food. “No, I- I mean for yesterday. You intervened, who knows what your men would have done if-” she stopped sensing his body tense beside her. She noticed his knuckles were white as he held his spoon in a death grip. She put a gentle hand over his, the feel of his skin under hers made her pulse quicken. Never had a man affected her like this and that frightened her, but not enough to make her run away, not yet. “Please, I don’t mean for you to make angry... I just needed to say thank you” The softness in her voice made his body relax and his tight hold on the spoon loosened.
He nodded looking at their hands, he wanted to let go of his spoon and take her hand in his. Being so near her was torture, he wanted to touch her, caress her skin, and make her pulse go erratic with need. He wanted to claim her as his, she was his.
Mine?He thought, What is wrong with me?
She removed her hand and began to eat. They ate in silence enjoying the warmth of a nearby fire. The Lamb stew was delicious certainly the cook had had a lot of practice. The campsite was a busy werewolf passed by carrying wood and crates with food and clothing. All of them would bow their heads as they passed Marko; it was a sign of submission he had told her. In the distance, by one of the standing houses Kara saw something that caught her attention. A man she did not recognize, presumably a werewolf stood in front of a young woman, she was small compared to him. In his hand he gently held a lock of her long chestnut colored hair. He gently caressed it with his thumb as he stared at her in adoration. The girl smiled up at him with a bright glint in her eyes, and Kara knew that there was love between them. It was a simple and pure kind if love that was very hard to miss. She also knew that this could only bring trouble, that girl was the daughter of one of the chiefs in the village.
Kara was so distracted by the young couple that she had not noticed Marko had taken her empty plate away. A feeling of abandonment swept over her but was gone a moment after as she saw him returning to her. He extended a hand to her.
“Are you ready to return?” he asked.
She made a pouting face “But I like it here.”
“Kara, it’s cold and you should rest some more”
“I can sleep by the fire,” she said.
“Kara...” Marko said raising a brow at her, a warning in his voice.
“Marko...” she said imitating him. Oh, this was fun for her.
He gave her a dangerously sexy smile, leaned down so that his lips were at her ear and whispered “If you do not stand, walk with me to your house and stay in its warmth, I will personally carry you there and put you to bed.” The threat in his voice made her insides flip with excitement and the light brush of his lips and breath on her ear made pools of pleasure flow through her body. They were so close that she could take in his cedar forest scent. His intoxicating aroma overpowered all her sense and inhibitions.
“I would like to see you try,” she said with a smile of her own.
A small growl escaped his lips and without another warning took her by the waist and flung her over his shoulder, making her yelp in surprise.
“Marko! Put me down!” she yelled at him as she kicked, tossed and punched him in the back, apparently it did nothing but amuse him, given that he was laughing. It was a low laughter, the kind that made chills run over her skin and left her with a sense of longing for more.
“You should know better than to challenge me, sweetheart. Now please stop moving so much, I really don’t want to drop you,” he said as he walked down the camp.
“I can walk! Just please put me down,” she said and continued in a very low voice “Your men are staring, and it might give them the wrong impression.”
He stopped and moved her so that she was cradled in his arms like a bride should be. He stared down at her, his grey eyes burning in to her blue ones. “And would that be so bad? To have them see that they should not trifle with you, that you are under my protection. Having them see will ensure they do not bother you during our stay. Now, is that bad?”
She blushed at his words of protection. If being under his protection, even if just for his stay, granted her protection from men like the ones from the forest, she was not going to deny him. “I-I guess not... but I still do not think you have to carry me to do that.” She crossed her arms and looked away from him.
“I know, but I like it,” he said walking to the village. Once there he could really feel the tension in her body rise. He thought that perhaps she didn’t want to be seen in the arms of a stranger carrying her into her house. When in truth it’s not that she didn’t like being held in his arms, or the warmth that his body radiated, she just didn’t want to stir any more rumors against him.
As much as it hurt him to set her down, he did. When he set her down she took hold of his forearm for support, she could feel his muscle ripple under his black long sleeve shirt. She let go of him and stepped back, her breathing she noticed was a bit too quick compared to the usual.
“Well, let’s get you home,” Marko said and they kept walking, he made sure to give her some space, knowing that being near her was making her frustrated in many ways. He could smell her arousal mixing with her sweet sea and mint scent, her aromas clung to him and invaded his every thought. It was maddening.
They arrived at the house and he stopped a few feet from the door. She opened it and turned to him “How long will you be here?”
“We leave in two days, by then the main fortification of the village should be rebuilt...” Marko said in a low voice.
“Two days?” she bit her bottom lip. She seemed to think the fact over, she only had two days to be with him, to talk and get to know each other. Two days was not enough and it broke her heart to think of never seeing him again. In such a small time she felt tied to him, he had gone from savior, to friend in only a few hours and in a few days she would not have even that. Then again that was her life, getting attached was not a real option for someone who is forced to move as much as her. She gave him a weak smile that didn’t reach her eyes and said “Then I will see you tomorrow, Marko.”
“I will see you then, Kara,” he said as she stepped inside and shut the door softly behind her.