Chapter Nine: The Hunters and the Truth
Saffron smiled as she laid her head on her mate’s back. She was happy her mate turned out to be a sweet, sexy Shifter. She sighed as her grip tightened around him.
“We’re here,” Daryl said as he patted her hands.
“Oh.” She said with a giggle.
She’d been so enthralled with her mate, she hadn’t realized they’d gotten onto the road, let alone drove to his parent’s house already.
“Fuck,” Daryl grumbled as he helped his mate off the bike, then stood beside her.
“Who is she?” His mate whispered.
Daryl smiled down at her. “My mother.”
Her eyes grew huge as she looked from Daryl to his mother and back again.
“Get your ass inside and introduce your mate to your family.” Amirah Kraftman ordered of her eldest; before she returned to the house.
Daryl rolled his eyes. “She can be a bit dramatic.” He said. Then he took his mate’s hand and led her into his parent’s house.
Saffron’s eyes widened when she saw the number of people in her mate’s parent’s house. They have a huge family…wait…they’re the people from the bar…
“Everyone. This is my mate, Saffron. Saffron, this is everyone.” Daryl said as he stopped in the middle of the room with his mate.
Everyone in the room smiled at Daryl and his mate.
“Nice to meet you all,” Saffron said as she looked around at all the different people. Shifters, Humans, and…Vampires?
Everyone introduced themselves to her. She was a bit overwhelmed, but she accepted the hugs and congratulations.
“Okay, why are we here?” Daryl asked. “I’m the Alpha, why was I the last to be called in for a family meeting. I know it wasn’t so you all could meet my mate.”
“Scott called,” Dustin said as he moved to stand in front of his brother.
Daryl blinked at his brother. “Why did he call you instead of me?”
Dustin placed his hands on both of his brother’s shoulders.
Daryl saw it in his brother’s eyes and pulled away from him. “No.”
Dustin nodded. “Found them yesterday…”
Daryl shook his head, then turned and stormed out of the living room.
“What’s going on?” Saffron asked as she watched her mate storm from the room.
“A group of hunters we haven’t heard anything about in over forty years; resurfaced and are killing Shifters again,” Dylan said as he moved to stand beside his brother.
Saffron covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh no.”
Dustin nodded. “They had killed a little girl Daryl had become fond of. Along with her family, and other Shifter who had gone into hiding.”
“But why would they kill a Shifter?” Saffron whispered.
Dylan looked at the new member of their family. “To sell their pelts. A Shifter in animal form is worth a lot of money. More than a regular animal.”
A tear slid down Saffron’s cheek. How could anyone harm a Shifter and a little girl… “Oh no.” She cried, then took off, in search of her mate.
“We will start here,” Scott said as he looked around the forest.
Daryl nodded. “I’ll go that way.” He said as he pointed down a path.
“Are you sure they’re here?” Dustin asked as he looked around them.
“We got confirmation that they were spotted here,” Scott answered.
“Are there any Shifters in hiding around here?” Daryl asked.
Scott shook his head. “We have found better ways of protecting Shifters, through the years.”
“Good,” Daryl said with a nod. “Then it’s just us, and them.”
Scott nodded, and the groups went in separate directions.
“I can’t believe Humans do this,” Saffron said as she followed her mate.
Daryl looked down at her. “Neither could we, until we found some hunters with Shifter pelts.”
She covered her mouth with her hand, and he pulled her against him.
“Don’t worry, Mafilia. We are here to put a stop to them, once and for all.”
He sighed. It has been a week since he’d found his mate. Or rather, since she’d found him. And he has never felt such a connection to one person before. He knows he loves her, even though it has only been a week. He’d been wrong about Ivy, and that broke his heart. But at the same time, he has a Fated Mate. Even if it wasn’t the pretty little girl, he’d thought was made for him.
“Did you hear that?” Saffron whispered as she looked around them.
Daryl paused and listened. Someone was following them.
“Stay close.” He whispered as he pulled her closer to his side.
He heard a soft growl come from the back of her throat and smiled. If you didn’t know she was Human, you would think she was actually a Shifter. She sure fucked like one.
“Well look what we have here.”
Daryl turned around to face the man he hasn’t seen in more than forty years. He was older and leathery, but he still had that steeliness in his eyes.
Saffron whimpered beside him, and her body began to shake.
“Saff, what’s wrong?” He asked as he looked at his mate.
Saffron shook her head. She didn’t know what was wrong with her. She couldn’t stop shaking. The man’s voice gave her a familiar chill down her spine. And she didn’t like him.
“I…I don’t know.”
“Well, look at you. You haven’t changed a bit.” The old hunter said with a grin. “And you have you a new pet. Human this time I see.”
Daryl pushed his mate behind his back. “You stay away from her.”
The hunter snorted. “Human skin doesn’t sell. Already tried that.”
“You are a disturbed man,” Daryl growled.
The hunter grinned. “Now your pelt on the other hand…”
“I’m not shifting,” Daryl growled.
“You will; if you don’t want the Human to die.” The hunter said, then whistled.
Three more men came out of the trees, all grinning and wielding different kinds of weapons. Shotguns, knives, spears…
“Don’t lay a hand on her,” Daryl growled.
“That is all up to you. We don’t usually mess with Humans. But in your case…”
Daryl lunged for the hunter, shifting in midair.
“Magnificent.” The hunter said as he watched the Shifter land a foot from him. “Kill her!” He ordered his men, then pulled out a gun and fired at the Cougar before him.
Saffron screamed when she saw her mate fall to the ground bleeding. Her body started to shake, and she didn’t know what was happening to her. One of the other hunters jumped on her and she threw him into one of the other hunters, knocking them both to the ground.
The other hunter pulled out a gun and shot at her. She dodged the bullet and jumped on the man. He screamed as she ripped his throat out.
What was happening to her? She has never felt such rage before. Or so powerful.
Her body continued to shake as she turned to the man who had shot her mate. Something was happening to her body, and she didn’t know what it was.
“I guess the stories of Shifters and their mates are true.” The hunter said as he pointed his rifle at her. “Humans gain the strength of a Shifter.”
Saffron shook her head. No, that wasn’t what was happening. She’s only been with her mate for a week. She couldn’t be this strong from one week, could she? And her body felt different. Like it wasn’t hers. Sharissa and the others never mentioned anything like this happening.
“Magnificent.” The hunter whispered as he watched the Cougar’s mate. “Maybe I should go after all of the Fated Mates.”
Saffron blinked, then looked down at her hands. They were no longer Human, they were paws.
What the fuck?! She was told that Humans don’t get the power to shift.
She heard the other two men get to their feet and turned to them. She screamed when her bones popped. What is happening to her?
“She’s a Shifter! Get her!” The lead hunter hollered.
Saffron growled loudly as her body hit the ground, her large paws clawing at the dirt.
“Saffron! Look out!”
The large cat turned to her mate, who was in Human form again, then turned just as the two hunters came at her. She jumped out of their way and growled at them, then pounced on one of them.
She could hear her mate fighting the leader of the hunters, but she knew he could handle him on his own. She had these two to take care of.
Saffron snarled. ’We’ll look for flowers later, right now we need to stay alive, for our mate.’ She told her Tiger.
‘Mate.’ Her Tiger said with a growl before she pounced on one of the hunters who was trying to kill them.
Before she could talk her Tiger down, both hunters were dead. Saffron sighed heavily, then turned around and found her mate in a battle with the leader of the hunters.
“You have done something to alter yourself,” Daryl said as he walked in a circle with the old hunter.
The hunter laughed. “To keep up with you and your kind, I sought out a Dark Witch, who gave me a potion to give me the strength and lifespan of a Shifter.”
Daryl snarled. What is it with everyone and wanting to be like those they hate? The only thing different about this man; is the fact that he cannot shift into an animal.
Speaking of which. He thought as he looked at his mate. How the fuck had she shifted?
He blinked as he watched his mate pace back and forth as she watched him and the hunter. She was trying to find a way to attack the hunter without hurting him. And she’s not just any kind of cat Shifter.
She’s…wait…no…it can’t be.
“Looks like your mate is more then you thought she was. Maybe she too saw a Dark Witch.” The hunter said with a laugh.
Daryl shook his head. No, she hadn’t seen any Dark anything. She’s…
“Ivy.” He whispered.
The White Tiger’s head snapped up to him when he said her name.
‘Ivy.’ Saffron thought as she watched her mate. Yes, that was once her name. A pain shot through her mind and she whimpered as she hunkered down and covered her face with her paws. Memories swamped her mind and she cried as she remembered…
Saffron jumped into the air and landed on top of the hunter. The hunter screamed as she growled in his face, her claws sinking into his arms.
“Saffron! Don’t do it!” Daryl hollered as he ran to his mate. “Please.”
The White Tiger turned her head to her mate and whimpered. ‘But he killed my family.’
Daryl placed his hand on his mate’s back. “Let me do it for you.” He whispered. He couldn’t allow this to taint her.
The White Tiger snorted at her mate, then moved off the hunter and walked away, without looking back.
“That Tiger is dangerous.” The hunter said as he pulled himself to his feet and rubbed the claw marks on his arms.
“Not as dangerous as her mate.” Daryl said with a snarl.
The hunter laughed as he looked at Daryl, then his face paled when he saw his golden eyes. “What are you?”
Daryl snarled. “I am an Alpha.” He said, then pounced on the man, shifting in midair.
The man screamed as Daryl tore his throat out.
Once the hunter was dead, Daryl walked over to his mate. Saffron sniffed him, then licked the side of his neck, where his fur was clean of any blood.
Daryl walked over to a tree and shifted back to his Human form, then sat on the ground and leaned against the tree.
His mate laid on the ground beside him and placed her head in his lap.
He sighed as he pet her soft fur.
“I knew you were mine.” He said softly.
The White Tiger started to purr, and he sighed.
“Where have you been?” He whispered.
“She can’t answer that.” A voice said from around them.
“But I can.”