Thorn (Werewolf)

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Chapter Twenty-Two

“Can you hear this?” I whisper. Even I can hardly hear it.

Thorn grins as he looks back. “Yes.”

“What about this?” I whisper even quieter.

“Yes, Devon, I can hear it.”

“That’s so cool,” I say excitedly. I cock my head up at the treetops. “What about the birds? Can you hear what they’re saying to each other?”

Thorn sighs and shakes his head as I catch up to him. I think I’m annoying him but I can’t help it. “I can’t understand birds.”

“Why not? They’re animals.”

He laughs. “You’re an animal. Can you understand flies?”

“Hm,” I mumble. “What can you understand? Can you understand dogs?”

His laughter fills the air. He runs a hand through his hair awkwardly. “Dogs generally do not like me so even if I could understand them then I think it’d be an argument. Some breeds are nicer though and others are twats.”

“You know, I had a cat at home and I swear it would go out of its way to make my life hell. It would deliberately chew up my clothes and pee all over my bed sheets. No one else’s, just mine.”

“Maybe it sensed the wolf gene in you. Cats are known to have senses like ours.”

“No, I just think he was a twat.”

Thorn looks at me for a moment before grinning proudly. “Now you’re speaking my language.”

We climb a small hill and cut through a meadow. He’s taking me somewhere but he won’t tell me where or what we’re doing. I’m excited. I wouldn’t dare walk this far on my own but knowing that there is an actual man with superhuman senses and strength beside me is making me feel all kinds of fearless.

“Tell me about werewolves,” I say.

“What do you know about them?”

I shrug. “I know that they’re used as a horror figure in movies. Once bitten then you transform at the next full moon. That kind of thing.”

“Slightly not the case,” he says. “We are born with the gene and every single werewolf in history that I know of has transitioned—except for you.”

“I’m not a werewolf,” I say.

“You have the gene.”

“I don’t-”

“Devon, you can say that you don’t have the gene a thousand times until you’re blue in the face but you have it.”

I clamp my mouth shut. This isn’t an argument that I’m going to win so I don’t press it further, even though I think that he’s wrong. I don’t have superhuman hearing or sense of smell. I don’t have the natural predatory instincts that he has to survive. I am human.

I sigh. “What else?”

“The transition happens every night, as you know. It’s excruciatingly painful, as you know. The transition back to a human is less intense though and I can usually sleep through it. If I don’t sleep then I’ll become very ratty and irritable.”

“As I know,” I mutter. “I really need to introduce you to caffeine.”

He smiles for a second.

“Can I ask you something else?”

He glares at me until I’m forced to remember one of our very first conversations. He told me off for asking that.

“Do you want to be a wolf? I mean, if you had the choice between being a human or wolf, which would you choose?”

“Human,” he says instantly. He didn’t even consider it.

“Why?”

His eyes squint in confusion. He slows to a stop.

“It’s just that. . . you make it look so easy. Free, in a way,” I say. “You’re the ultimate predator. You have the skills and intelligence of a human and all the senses of a wolf. You never have to integrate into normal human society and conform to their laws or be terrified of punishment. I can’t think of anything better than that.”

“I can,” he says. “Being a wolf is who I am but I wouldn’t choose it. I can’t even remember the last time I even spent a full night as a human. The transition is intense and painful and it takes something from me every time.”

I narrow my eyes as I take a step away from him. “Then why would you want me to transition? If you believe that I have the wolf gene then you knew there’d be a chance of it happening.”

He has no answer for that. He opens his mouth and closes it a moment later. I make it clear that I’m not moving until he gives me something and he almost chokes on the words that he finally manages to conjure up his throat.

“I knew that you wouldn’t transition.”

“You didn’t know that. You said that you wanted to trigger something.”

“It seemed like a small price to keep you alive,” he says. “If you’re so bloody desperate to stay out here then remaining human won’t help you for long.”

“That’s my choice though. You were going to take it from me.”

“Wolves don’t get a choice, Devon. You either are or you aren’t, there’s no in between.”

“So your only justification for almost making me scream in pain every night is once again that I’m in danger from the mountain people?”

He nods. I’m slightly pissed off that he’d do that. If he loved being a wolf and believed that transitioning is the best thing that could ever happen to me then I’d understand. But he hates being what he is and he was willing to pull me along for the hatred journey.

“Well then you are very lucky that I’m not a wolf,” I say. “Because if I was then the first thing that I would have done is bite you.”

We smile at each other as we continue walking. His hand dangles at his side and I start wondering if it would be completely out of order to just hold it. It felt so good to hold it at the lake, maybe he thinks the same thing too. Screw it. I can’t help myself.

“What else?” I say as I nervously wrap my hand around his.

He stares down at the contact and I swallow anxiously as I wait for him to take it back. He looks disorientated with our direction for a moment and then he focuses.

“Well there’s something called the mating bond,” he says.

“Oh look.” I pull on his hand and I tug him left. I squat my knees and I pull him down with me. He drops gently, taking a deep breath as looks at the baby deer laying in the bushes with its mother. “Do you see them?”

“Mm-hm.”

I eye him worriedly. “I’m not showing you food for later, am I?”

“Possibly,” he says, eyeing the oblivious pair. “They do look delicious.”

My face drops and I rub the side of my head. “Please don’t.”

“Okay,” he says. “If you tell me to stay away then I will. I promise.”

I smile as my lips somehow get closer to his. “Stay away.”

“To be clear, from them or you?”

“Both.” My eyes drop to his lips.

“I have a small problem with that. I can’t seem to get rid of you.”

The silence sweeps over us again. I move my eyes back to his and he once again freaks out. I let out a sigh as he drags me to my feet and back to the path.

“What’s a mating bond?”

“It’s a connection that formed among my kind between two wolves. Once we smell their scent then we’re instantly attracted to each other. It’s often out of our control and although we can resist it, it’s difficult. The bond will make us go crazy until we give in and mate.”

“Mate?” I say, followed by small laughter. The word is funny. “As in. . .”

“As in sex.”

“Oh. Weird. Do both werewolves feel this?”

“They should,” he mutters.

“So it’s just about sex?”

“No. The bond is so manipulative that it tricks us into believing that everything we want and need is in that person. That we’d do anything for them and risk our own sanity in the process. For life.”

I widen my eyes. He sounds bitter. “You have experience with this.”

“Yes,” he says.

“What happened?”

“I realized once the bond was gone that I’d spent years of my life mated to someone that I couldn’t even stand to share a bottle of water with. The whole thing was a lie.”

He starts to walk faster and I find myself breaking out into a small run just to level with him. I manage to run a little bit in front and I push my hands to his chest as I catch my breath. He stops still and smiles as he watches me struggle to breathe.

“What do you mean the bond was gone?” I pant.

“The bond vanished the same day we were all cursed,” he says. He doesn’t seem upset by that. He actually sounds as though he’s glad. “Malese stole it from us as punishment. She was the only non-werewolf to ever feel the affects of the mating bond. When I killed her mate, it went a little beyond grief.”

“And then you realized that the bond was making you feel things that weren’t true?”

He sighs and looks towards the sky. “The bond is complicated. It’s more than just feelings, there’s physical elements to it. Connections that are-”

“Like seeing through each other’s eyes?” I say.

Thorn drops his eyes to mine. We look at each other for a few seconds until I become unnerved that he won’t deny it.

“You said that you forgot that part of the bond existed,” I say, remembering when he was in transition. “I didn’t know what it meant then. You were talking about the mating bond. Is that what’s affecting us?”

“Us?” Confusion flashes across his expression. “You can’t feel it like I do. Which is a good thing, trust me.”

I take a step towards him. “I’ve kissed you twice now with no idea why. I have this really powerful sense of trust with you. I can’t explain it.”

“It’s possible that you’re experiencing a more subtle version,” he says quietly as I take his hand again. “But it’s a lie, Devon. That’s what the bond does.” He snaps his hand out of mine and walks around me. “It takes away everything that you are.”

He can believe that if he wants but I am heading in a completely different direction. My feelings are real and exciting. I bite on my lip before jogging to catch up. He’s just so cynical and boxed in. I want to let him out of that box. I want him to break free with me but we’re just too much from totally different worlds.

“So it’ll make you go crazy until you mate with me?” I say.

That makes him stop. He twists his head and glares at me angrily.

I glare back at him sheepishly. “What?”

“Don’t do that. Don’t joke about it.”

“I’m not joking. You said that it sends werewolves crazy until they give in.”

“Yes, when it’s mutual. It’s a bit different when it’s one-sided.”

“Different how?”

“Because you can’t feel it.” He rubs his head like I’m saying something stupid again. “I’m not having this conversation with you.”

I start grinning. “Is that why you keep jumping up every time I kiss you? I initiated them so what do you have to feel bad about?”

“It’s a lie.” He starts walking away.

“It’s a lie that feels pretty damn good,” I say. He spins back around slowly. “All I know is that it makes me feel excited and incredibly curious and I don’t want it to stop.”

“Oh, fucking hell it isn’t subtle.” He rubs his chin as he studies me. “You’re in full mating mode.”

I cringe. “Don’t call it that. I don’t know what I am but whatever it is, it’s getting stronger every day.”

“Enjoy that,” he says, smirking as he turns back around. “Because I won’t be getting curious.”

I look after him with disappointment. I’m already going crazy. It’s already happening to me. Now that I know what he’s going through, it makes me want him more. It’s sudden and intense, this longing to kiss him, to touch him, to bathe in every part of him.

We keep walking some more until we reach a wooden cabin filled with the chatter of a small group of people. Thorn folds his arms and leans against a tree while I become enchanted with watching the group’s departure. We’re too far away for them to see us but I swear one of the guys looks right at me as he loads a heavy bag into the back of his truck.

The group are high-born teenagers. The low-borns aren’t permitted to rent cabins out here. It’s considered a luxury. A mixed group of three boys and a girl climb into the vehicle, they all look rough and hungover.

“There’s one more,” Thorn says, keeping his eyes on the door.

I don’t second guess his hearing. Another girl emerges out of the door. I almost don’t recognize her because of her messy dark hair and pale skin but Lindy is the last to tiredly get into the truck while cradling a large bottle of water. I knew Lindy for a long time, we were friends once. I guess we still were. Her family and mine are close so I imagine she was waiting at the chapel for me to arrive just like everyone else.

“I thought you avoid humans?” I whisper.

He doesn’t answer me. The truck pulls away steadily and vanishes up a path. He starts walking quickly and I jog after him.

The cabin is trashed. Empty beer cans are everywhere, food wrappers and containers cover every inch of the couches and there’s a horrible smell coming from the direction of the bathroom. Thorn walks into a bedroom and scavenges through some cupboards until he finds a bag. He throws it at me.

“Take what you want but hurry, the owner will be here soon to clean it for the next guests.”

My eyes light up as I spot the kitchen at the back of the living room. I walk in excitedly and I almost break the handles from the cupboards to look inside. I grab tins of beans and potatoes, bars of chocolate and packets of vegetable stock. There are all kinds of food. I see a box of coffee and I try to contain my squeal. Thorn laughs as he waits by the door.

I collect a variety of goods, including small pans and utensils, before moving on to the refrigerator. There’s a box of unopened grapes and half a bottle of white rum. I’m not surprised that they’ve cleared everything else. I place them in the bag.

I’m almost done. I go into the bathroom and I steal some shampoo from the cupboard, along with toothpaste and a spare toothbrush. The owner stocks it well. I turn right and I head into one of the smaller bedrooms. There’s not much in here to take but I am eyeing the soft pillow with unbelievable envy.

I pick it up and I stuff it under my arm before gently pulling on the nightstand drawer. A couple of packets capture my attention and I lift them out of the drawer, observing them closely.

“Devon,” Thorn calls.

I almost put them back but I make the decision to drop them into the bag at the last moment. Thorn stares at the pillow under my arm as I rush past him in the doorway.

“Do you want to take the couches too?” he laughs.

“That depends. Do you think you could carry one?”

He takes the heavy bag from my hand and throws it over his shoulder. We jog for a little bit until we’re clear.

“I’m officially a thief,” I say. “How many cabins are out here?”

“Just that one in a day’s radius,” he says. “The campsite that I stole your clothes from is a week’s walk away for you.”

I scowl at him.

“What did you get?” He opens the bag and peers inside.

I scratch my head awkwardly. “Uh. . . just some food and pans.”

“And condoms,” he says.

“Condoms? Really? Weird. They must have fallen out of a box.”

He smiles to himself and closes it. “Sure.”

“How long do we have?”

He checks his watch. “Four hours until sundown.”

“This wolf thing is mildly inconvenient,” I mutter.

“I know. Imagine if you actually had to do it.”

I roll my eyes. We make it back to the camp two hours later and Thorn stares from a distance as I instantly make the fire. I’m just doing my own thing now and I think it’s confusing him that I don’t need his help.

He leaves me to it and enters the camp. I pour some water in a pan and I hold it over the fire for a while until it starts boiling. I take out two coffee mugs from the bag and I pour some coffee into them before adding the water. I stir them with spoons and then the smell peeks Thorn’s interest.

He sniffs the air several times before finding the courage to walk towards me. I extend the mug to him with a smile.

“I’m not sending you to an execution, it’s just coffee.”

“It smells strange,” he says.

“You’ve never had coffee before?”

He shakes his head. He brings the mug to his nose for a deeper inhale and almost throws up. I almost fall off the log laughing.

“Why is this so appealing?” he demands. “It’s disgusting.”

“It’s the best thing ever, shut up and drink it.”

I take a sip of it and I fall into a dreamworld. I look up at the swaying trees as I clutch the warm drink tighter.

“I hope you’re better at making dinner than you are beverages,” Thorn says.

“You’re eating with me?” I say. “I didn’t think you’d be interested in vegetables and potatoes.”

“I guess I can be a vegetarian for one night. Plus, if I hate it then I’ll just hunt that deer later.” He laughs at my displeased expression. “Joking.” He passes me the mug back. “You can finish mine. I’m going to collect some more tinder for tonight.”

“I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”

He smiles before turning around. “I don’t look forward to it.”

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