shades of SUMMER

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4. HANDS EXCHANGED

Aura

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In the past hour, I had been stripped, washed, scrubbed and dressed and brought back to the open clearing.

This time it felt different. As if something changed so suddenly — a subtle change which I didn’t feel the last time I was brought here but I couldn’t put my mind on it.

Maybe the breeze had altered its course. Or, more people had stepped out of their dwellings and came to join the feast. Came to witness my verdict.

The feast was in full swing. Drum skins had been striking aloud, a welcoming gesture for everyone to lost and sway in the rush of the lively beat.

Couples hand in hand joined in, skimming their fingers against the mates’ bodies, drifting into each other. Unmated females left their spots near the fire and came to join the other females but maintained a safe distance from the couples, honouring their private moments.

Skin flushed in heat. Bodies glowed in a thin layer of sheen.

I was dragged by the guard who didn’t leave my side from the time I stepped foot in their soil, dutifully brought me back to his alpha as he ordered. But this time, there was another male, who wasn’t there before, seated beside the southern alpha with a curious look on his face as I was dragged closer.

The southern alpha rose to his feet and approached me, he glanced back to the male with a smirk on his face before he lifted the veil over my face.

I was almost certain that I caught the undeniable shifts that came and went from the male’s face seeing me. He was still for a fleeting second before he released a harsh breath. His gaze never rested on a single feature, his eyes were scanning me from head to toe, with more determination and disbelieve. But slowly, his shocks evaporated and replaced with certainty and his eyes narrowed.

“What’s this, Aillard?” The male jumped to his feet and referred the southern alpha but his eyes never left mine. His shoulders rolled forward. Fists curled. A wild rage took him in its grip, he looked feral and savage but his feet were rooted to the ground as if he was restraining himself not to pounce and attack me.

I couldn’t understand his sudden change. What had ruffled his fur? I took a step back and collided against the guard’s chest. He grasped my shoulders and straightened me with an irritated look on his face.

“Aloïs, please consider this as a parting gift.” The southern alpha stretched his hand towards me and spoke to the savage male in a friendly tone. But with fury in his eyes, the male named Aloïs stumbled upon his words. His expression shifted from rage to disbelieve as if he didn’t buy what the southern alpha offered. He regarded him with suspicion in his eyes.

“Name your price.” Aloïs held his head high. Spine straightened. He didn’t bow before the southern alpha nor he addressed him with his title. They were exchanging words without the imposing grasp of authority.

Who was the southern alpha?

Aillard’s smirk widened into a full-blown grin as if he knew this would happen and he was just waiting for it to unfold and struck at the first opportunity he got.

“Do you still want to celebrate unions between our packs?” Aloïs gave me a once over as if he was weighing my value, then he directed his full attention to the southern alpha. He didn’t give him the time to reply before he presented his offer. They were objectifying me like a prized game as if I wasn’t standing there in the middle of their discussions.

Aillard’s eyes sparked with his newfound interest but he shook his head and laughed it off, “I’m withholding my offer, for now, Aloïs because you haven’t seen it all. She’s far more valuable than you give her credit for. But, I’m no bastard, dangling the spoil before you. The south knows what Silveron had suffered and we all stand with your people. You can take her with you and do as you pleased. This is an extent of our ties, my friend, for old times sake.”

Aloïs was eager to respond but at last minute, he snapped his jaw shut and swallowed down his words, he didn’t want to spill whatever he wanted to say in my presence. He regarded Aillard without a shift in his facial expressions before he nodded his head.

“Give my regards to Sorin,” Aillard stated.

Aloïs barked out something in a different tongue, sounded more like orders before he strode off, abandoning the feast and soon, more men broke out from the groups and followed his footsteps.

All of this was happening so fast, my mind didn’t have time to catch up with their pace. Hands exchanged and then, I was again kept under guard.

Did I just shove from one pack to another? Why was I valuable to Aloïs? For what reasons? What did he want from me?

But for a change this time, I wasn’t dragged, I wasn’t even touched. The male with a long beard, almost touching his chest, was walking behind me. He was watching my every footstep so that I couldn’t escape as if it was achievable even if I tried to. His beefy arms would grab me if I made a wrong move, not that I intended to. But apart from that, he carried an aloof expression on his face.

Soon, we reached the outskirts and from a fleeting gaze, one could easily discern two packs were scattered here. One was patrolling and keeping stationed at the borders and the other was packing their belongings, preparing to leave.

Now, I fell into the latter group, about to leave with them.

The man named Aloïs was at the forefront, overlooking his pack and sometimes engaging discussions with his other fellow mates but none bowed to him, addressing him their alpha. Were things different here from the north? But one could easily see, how tangible his aura was, emitting the power and strength of an alpha. Respect and sincerity shining in the eyes of his pack mates for him. And his voice held an authoritative undertone which made everyone to comply with his command.

When they were all ready to leave, the male behind me spoke, “Move” and brought me closer to their departing pack.

Aloïs told the male something purposely in their tongue so I couldn’t understand a single word. But I caught the name of the beefy male, Rowan. He didn’t even glance over me as Rowan tied my hands and guided me to a wolf and told me to sit over it.

I eyed the wolf, it didn’t look happy to carry me with it but a nudge and I hauled myself upon it.

“Hold tight,”

Rowan told me before he turned to shift, I skirted my gaze away, gripped the wolf’s fur on its side below the neck. A howl broke out into the night sky and my body was jolted forward as the wolf leapt to its feet.

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