I sat on the warm grass, my back leaning against the fallen tree. I had my warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders, covering my naked body. I tipped my head back and let the sun rays shine on my face.
The sun was warm despite the cooler breeze. I closed my eyes and listened. The trees swayed in the wind, the birds singing their songs as they flew from tree to tree. I could hear the trickle of the river. Everything around me was so calm and relaxing. I felt myself sinking into the realm, welcoming the relaxing embrace. I needed it, my tiger needed it.
Kaine would be here any time. My mind had spent the last few nights wandering, trying to grasp any scenario of how this conversation could go. Would he have a good reason why he left? Will his reason be terrible and just cause me more pain? Would it be something I could understand and forgive him for? I didn’t know and that was the worst part. I had no inclination on how this meeting would go. No idea if it would be good or bad and that’s what was keeping me up at night.
The sound of trampling paws against the forest floor met my ears. I turned my head, my eyes searching the path, waiting for Kaine’s tiger to come bursting through the bushes. I heard his pace slow, his body moved through the trees, slowly approaching me. It felt as if he was waiting for me to tell him to piss off.
“Your pack is still in the tree,” I said. “I never touched it.” I turned my eyes back to the stream of water. I heard him move towards the end of the fallen tree that I leaned against. I kept my eyes straight, not wanting to get distracted by his naked body. I heard him open the bag, he quickly threw on the black jogging shorts that he had kept there.
“I’m surprised you kept my stuff here.” He moved towards me. I looked up at him. His chest was wide and defined. A small patch of light blond hair sat in the center, barely noticeable if it wasn’t for the sun. His muscular chest was matched with a graceful six-pack. I bit down on my tongue to keep myself from licking my lips. I felt my tiger stretch, alert at the new arrival, she purred with approval.
“I didn’t think about it.” I shrugged my shoulders.
He sat down beside me. He stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles.
“I forgot how nice it was here. A little more overgrown than what I remember.” He looked around.
“A lot can change in five years.” I whispered as I pulled my knees up, wrapping my arms tightly around them.
“That’s true.” He sighed. “I guess I should explain why I left.” He ran his fingers through his hair.
I watched him, my eyes searching his face as he took a moment to collect his thoughts.
“When we were at the party, I had planned on telling you that I had to leave for a while. It just never seemed like the right time. You were having fun, finally relaxing after weeks worth of stress.” He cleared his throat. “Obviously, one thing led to another and I freaked out. I didn’t want to attach myself to you -”
“Oh. Thanks.” I said sarcastically.
“No, not like that. I didn’t want to attach myself to you and then leave for an extended period of time. Forcing you to choose between your job and life here and me. It didn’t seem fair to you, I didn’t want to hurt you.” He paused. “In the long run, I realize that leaving without talking to you caused you more pain. What I did was shitty, there really isn’t a good excuse to try and make things better. I was an asshole, I fucked up. I fucked up hard. I should have talked to you, I should have controlled myself better.”
“We both could have controlled ourselves better.” I said as my mind flashed to his body pressed against mine, his lips greedily trailing down my neck.
“Why did you go five years without explaining things to me?”
“My family had made it very obvious how much I had hurt you. I figured that hearing from me would be the last thing that you would want. So I just left you alone, let you live your life.”
“That’s fair I guess. For the first year I probably wouldn’t have even picked up the phone. It was humiliating having to deal with the rest of the pack look at me like I was a lost puppy because my mate skipped town rather than be with me.”
“Your mate?” He raised an eyebrow.
“We both know it, might as well cut the shit now.” I looked at him. “If I wasn’t your mate you wouldn’t have tried to lay a claim on me, your tiger wouldn’t have allowed it.” He watched me, his golden-brown eyes searching mine as we sat there in silence.
I turned away from him, I felt my throat begin to close as too many emotions welled up inside.
“Why were you going overseas to work?” I said, clearing my throat.
“You have to promise that this stays between us.” His voice changed, he was his business serious.
I sighed. “Promise.” I looked at him. “Everything that’s ever been said here has never left here. That’s not going to change, even now.” I shrugged.
“I was sent over to the European branch to investigate. Our numbers haven’t been adding up. It looked like someone was stealing from us and my father wanted to figure out who.”
“So you had to leave for five years?” I raised an eyebrow.
“It turned out to be a lot more than that. This had been going on for years but had only just been caught. We thought we had a good lead on who was behind it, but it’s so much bigger than what we had originally thought.” He ran his hands over his face.
I could see how much strain this was putting on him. I wanted to reach out and touch him, pull his hands from his face and hold them in mine.
“Bigger how?” I asked, confused.
“I think there’s a group thats working together to try and collapse the business.”
“Take out the business that trains different packs how to protect themselves and suddenly you have a lot of land that can easily be taken over if you’re stronger and trained better than those around you.”
“So what’s this mean?” I asked, suddenly worried.
“It means that they’ve been working hard at trying to break areas of the business. I had to come back because we're seeing inconsistencies in our numbers here.”
“Wait,” I turned towards him, the blanket slipped down off the side of my shoulder. “You mean someone in our branch is stealing money, trying to bankrupt us, forcing a complete and total closure?”
“It seems that way.”
“So you had to leave to figure out what was going on, not because you didn’t want to be here with me?”
“God no.” He shook his head. “Jesus Livy, if I had it my way I wouldn’t have left. I would have taken you from that stall back to my house and done what I should have done a long time ago.”
“Oh?” I was surprised.
“I should have claimed you.” He looked me in the eyes. “I should have claimed you when we both knew what we really were to each other.”
I sat there in silence, watching him. My mind spinning, my body overrun with a million different emotions. I clutched the blanket as my heart thumped in my chest. I felt my tiger wanting to come to the surface, happy with the admission from Kaine.
“Yeah, maybe you should have, but you didn’t and now you have to deal with that.”
“Livy,” He said, his mouth opened then closed as he tried to find the right words.
I let go of the corner of the blanket and reached out to touch the side of his face.
“I’m not saying never.” I whispered. “I’m just saying that I need time.” I smiled as I moved to my knees. I leaned across and kissed the side of his mouth. “I just need a little time.”
Maybe a bit longer than a little bit of time, but I needed time. I needed to figure out what all of this meant. How I felt, and if I could get past those feelings and allow myself to love him again, trust him again.
I stood up and folded the blanket, quickly shoving it into the bag before placing it in the log. I looked up to see Kaine watching me. His eyes travelling over my body in appreciation. I let my tiger come out, quickly shifting before pouncing towards him. She nipped his toes before circling and nipping them again. He smiled at her and moved to stand. She stepped back, anxiously waiting for his tiger to join her. He stripped from his shorts, we both took the moment to enjoy the view before he turned and let his own cat come out.
I felt myself smile as she flicked her tail before taking off into the forest. Excitement rushed through us as we heard the heavy thud of Kaine’s paws hitting the ground as he chased after us. She weaved through the trees, trying to lose him as he shortened the distance between us. I smiled as she played. Maybe I needed a little time, but my tiger didn’t and she made that clear as she made a sharp turn before turning around and pouncing on Kaine.