Gabriel’s wolf collapsed against a tree, unable to run any further. He hadn’t meant to scare the girl, she wasn’t supposed to even be there until tomorrow.
He’d been informed by the rangers that a researcher was coming to study the wolf population over the winter and he’d have to clean out the old cabin nearest his own.
He’d known his solitude couldn’t last, but with any luck the researcher would finish their study and leave him in peace, a peace he’d treasured since being driven out of his pack after his sixteenth birthday.
Being Alpha borne should have been enough to keep him safe, but as a mute no other pack would allow him to pollute their gene pool with his handicap.
Instead his father had given him a choice. Disappear and allow his younger brother to take his place as heir or be killed as an example to the rest of the pack that a strong Alpha needs to be able to make the hard choices to ensure the success of his pack.
Gabriel had chosen exile unaware that he wouldn’t be able to take his things with him except the clothes on his back, five hundred dollars his mother slipped into his palm as they said goodbye and a crumpled picture of his family he’d been able to grab before he was forced out.
That had been twenty years ago, and since then he’d been on his own. The first ten had been fueled by alcohol, violence and rage, but after a few trips to jail, Gabriel had known he couldn’t continue to live that way.
He’d left civilization and found a job high in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state caring for cabins and made it home working for the forestry service taking care of a series of remote cabins used by scientists.
The position granted him a small stipend and a single room cabin of his own. It was a place he and his wolf finally felt comfortable in.
Reaching his cabin, Gabriel’s wolf pushed the back door open and jumped up onto the bed and huffed.
Not only had he been surprised that the researcher was already there, but also by the fact that she was a young woman. A young woman with vibrant purple hair and grey eyes that seemed to pierce his very soul.
Shaking his head to rid it of her image, Gabriel tried to rest his over worked mind.
There was no need to get to know the girl despite how much both he and his wolf wanted to. She was just like all the other researchers who came out to the middle of nowhere.
She’d conduct her study and hope that it would earn her enough credits to get her bachelors or masters degree in ecology or forest management and leave.
‘Jayne,’ he thought a he tried once more to push her out of his thoughts. It was a pretty name.
Jayne woke before the sun was up the next morning, her palms itching painfully as they healed.
Sighing, she pulled on jeans with a tank top and sweater before pulling on her warm wool socks, thanks mom, and work boots.
Setting her percolator to heat on the burner, she tried coaxing the fireplace back to life, but it was out cold.
Shrugging in mild defeat, she decided to brush her teeth while she waited for her coffee to brew.
Suddenly, she heard noises as something big moved around outside the small bathroom window.
Turning off the water, she dropped her toothbrush in its cup and moved through the cabin on silent feet, reaching for her rifle as she slunk from window to window trying to see what was out there.
Seeing nothing, but knowing there was something out there, she carefully pulled back the bolt on her rifle, chambering a round before lifting the latch on the front door.
Since waking, the sun had made its appearance, casting yellow and orange beams of light through the tree canopy above.
Slowly and silently, Jayne moved on hunter’s feet towards the noise, the rifle pressed firmly to her shoulder, her finger resting on the outside of the trigger guard. No need to shoot if it didn’t attack.
Hopefully, she could just yell loudly and scare whatever it was away, but if not, then she’d have to regretfully kill it.
Sliding around a large bush, she found herself pointing her rile at the back of the stranger from yesterday as he worked on the broken generator.
“Fuck, you scared me,” she breathed, point the gun muzzle in the air.
Taken by surprise, Gabriel turned so quickly he ended up slipping in the mud and landing on his butt.
He hadn’t even heard her leave the cabin, let alone stalk up behind him.
“Oh,” Jayne breathed, hurrying towards him, shouldering her firearm, “I didn’t mean to startle you.
“I thought there was a bear or something out here,” she explained, trying to help him up.
Waving her away, Gabriel pushed himself up to his feet, wiping his oily and now muddy hands on a rag.
Shaking his head as if to signify it was nothing, he turned around and got back to work.
Feeling put out, Jayne pursed her lips before returning to the cabin.
“If he doesn’t want to talk...,” she began saying to herself before slapping her hand over her mouth.
“I am such a dumbass,” she groaned, remembering he couldn’t talk to her.
Throwing up her hands in defeat, she grabbed two coffee mugs and removed the pot from the burner.
Pouring out the oily brown liquid, she silently hoped whoever he was liked his coffee black because she hadn’t found her dry creamer or sugar packets yet.
Stopping at her work table, Jayne grabbed a notepad and a pencil before heading back outside, determined to have some form of conversation with the large stranger, or die trying.
Like it or not, he was going to be the only human being she was going to come into contact with for the next six months, aside from infrequent trips to the closest town for supplies, so he’d have to suck it up and talk to her; well, write to her.