Thorn (Werewolf)

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Chapter Twenty-Three

THORN

The days are going by so fast. I can hardly keep up with them, or her. She’s a force of nature that never relents. Her transition from the clueless girl under the tree to now is extraordinary.

She’s gotten into cooking lately and likes to experiment with different plants and nuts. She spends most of her day trying to perfect some kind of broth. She’s also taken to the fearless side of climbing trees and likes proving me wrong when I say that she can’t do it.

We cleared the cabin out when the next set of guests left and took more of their leftovers. Devon has now assembled her own ‘thief station’ within the camp which compromises of pillows, blankets, books, torch devices and of course, food.

She now trains with me willingly rather than acting as though she is being forced. We go on short runs in the morning and I’ve been teaching her how to spar. She’s not exactly a natural fighter but she doesn’t give up. She’d knock me unconscious if I let her. Our sparring often turned into lustful moments when she'd try and seduce me with her skin and sweat. It took a whole hour to shake off that first sparring session and I made sure that we tried to keep as much distance as possible. She found that irritating.

The days are easy and effortless. We work together well and our arguments are usually settled within a few minutes. She killed her first animal a few days ago and I almost blew my brains out to escape her guilt-ridden cries. After a lot of convincing her that it’s a part of the damn food chain, she dried her eyes and never spoke of it again. She hunted our food every day since.

The nights are harder. In a way I always leave her even though I’m still right next to her. I stay with her for an hour or so after the transition until she goes to sleep. She mostly ignores that I’m even there. She found a sewing kit buried beneath some leaves and she’s become obsessed with sewing some type of scarf.

Tonight is no different. I take my place beside the fire as she stares at a thin piece of string and tries to loop it. Her acceptance of what I am hasn’t been a major cause for concern. I answered all her questions and she had a lot of them.

What concerns me is her silence. She hasn’t spoken about the connection or the things she sees when I transition. What I didn’t share with her, was that I can see through her eyes too. The connection works both ways. I didn’t want to freak her out any more than I already have but she doesn’t even seem phased by it. The connection only lasts minutes while I transition and then it is severed.

But every time it has opened, something else has been present. During the transition, I can physically feel the connection to her through the mating bond. That’s nothing new, it happened the same way with Maria. The only difference is that there isn’t just one connection. There’s something else that keeps calling me to every single night, something unknown that I want to stay far away from.

I stretch my wolf body out as I adjust into a comfortable position to sleep. I don’t usually sleep so early into the night but the days are much more exhausting than what I’ve been used to for the past century.

Devon exhausts me. Constantly worrying about her safety exhausts me. I can sense her eyes on me but I pretend as though I can’t.

“I know you’re not asleep,” she says with a light yawn. “You can go if you want. I’ll be fine.”

I roll back onto my stomach and I walk around the fire.

“Thorn. I know you’re bored out of your mind. Go. Run.”

She smiles up at me before flicking her droopy eyes to the trees. I don’t think twice about her proposition. I usually do my perimeter checks when she’s asleep but she’s three minutes away from falling off the log.

I catch the scent of many things as I skim through the trees. I mainly listen out for any hunters that are still out searching for her. I won’t make the same mistake again. I rethink that night over constantly and I still have no idea how they managed to get so close without me knowing about it.

I encounter a grey wolf pack around ten miles away from the camp that are laying at the edge of a hillside. I cock my head up as they hear me. The alpha stands first, his eyes locked to mine as he mistakes me for prey.

Usually they want to be as far from me as possible. Wolves become so confused by my scent that it makes them almost annoyed that they can’t figure it out. I look like a wolf but I smell like a human. It drives them crazy until they become terrified and flee. Maybe I haven’t encountered this particular pack before. This pack is fearless.

The alpha wolf is the first to jump down the hill, the animals slowly follow. I stay still as the pack starts to surround me. Multiple noses come close to my side, it appears to be the females that are most curious. One of them shakes her head as the scent overwhelms her and she skips backwards.

I am five times bigger than them and I’ve fought off much stronger animals in my time but I’ve always been withdrawn when it comes to harming wolves. I’d rather allow them to hurt me than engage in a fight. It’s the equivalent of a human kicking a chihuahua. The only exception was Devon. I had to harm that pack’s alpha to ensure her safety.

This alpha looks more amazed than threatening. He doesn’t seem offended that every female member of his own pack—including his mate, I assume—are circling me with some kind of sexual initiation into the family.

I’m not interested, I think loudly as a wolf nudges my side. Stop that!

They can’t understand me but it’s worth a try. I can’t believe how brave they are. They know nothing about me or what I am or where I’ve come from but I know enough about wolf initiations to know that this is their way of welcoming me. The not trying to kill me is their way of welcoming me.

Even the pups are playfully curious and are nipping around my feet. I step out of their way but it’s hard to get them to back off without hurting them.

One female wolf is infatuated. The scent doesn’t scare her off. She just keeps coming back and rubs her head along my neck. A male wolf behind the alpha starts growling at the sight and I start to think that I’m pissing him off.

Put a leash on her then!

The female wolf eventually heeds her mate’s warning and she backs away from me. The alpha wolf starts giving me very strange eye contact as he blinks excessively. He turns and walks away.

The pack follows. The female wolf offers one last glance before she runs to join them. I don’t know exactly what just happened but I feel violated.

I shake my fur uncomfortably and I run in the opposite direction to them.

It’s fairly quiet. I’m too far away to hear the vibrations around the camp but I want to check on something strange from the east before I head back. There’s something running fast in this direction but I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is.

Whatever it is doesn’t reach me, it moves around me as though it’s avoiding me. I stay really still and I twist my head.

How much?” a voice sneers angrily. “Ten thousand?”

“Yes. Ten thousand. Why is that so hard for you to grasp?”

“I’m getting paid a poxy six thousand.”

“You’re obviously not as good as me.”

I run for a short distance until I see the human hunters. I follow them slowly, keeping myself hidden behind the trees. There’s only two of them, just like before. One of them is large with a bald head while the other is younger and thinner, his movements are slicker and more professional.

“Well neither of us are any good!” the bald man says bitterly. “We’ve been out here for three days and we’re no closer to finding her. There’s thousands of acres of land to cover, we’re never going to find her.”

“That’s assuming there’s something left of her to find,” the younger hunter says as he kneels down and looks for something in the leaves. “Her father won’t pay us until we return with her.”

Her father hired them? Is this a different hunting party to the one that I killed? Those men were given orders to kill her if she didn’t comply, orders that I assumed were from the King. But if it’s the same group then why would her own father give them permission to shoot her?

It doesn’t make any sense. I haven’t heard of them until now so they must have travelled from the north route. They would have passed through the community’s lands and possibly could have found them. I start to become paranoid that Kiara could be hurt.

“Whatever injured Lyle and killed his men is bigger than your average animal. And it’s still out here somewhere,” the bald hunter says.

I blink as I absorb the information that Lyle is still alive. I knew I should have finished him. It doesn’t mean he’s awake though and I take small glee in that.

“What even makes you sure it was an animal? There were no bite marks on them.”

“You think a savage did that?” the bald hunter says with curious excitement. “I’d love to take one back to the King. Odds of finding one are even slimmer than finding this damn girl.”

I breathe out relief. They haven’t found the community. Kiara is safe.

“Whatever put Lyle in a coma is very skilled and very deadly.” The young hunter rises slowly and turns his head around. “I’ve seen him fight and I’d put my money on him every time.”

“Do you think he’ll wake up?”

“The King is hopeful. Once he does and he tells the King what exactly is out here, the savages will be at the mercy of a shitstorm that’s coming into these woods.”

I’ve heard enough. I creep out of the trees and I stretch my claws as I prepare to attack.

“We should head to the rendezvous point. The others will be waiting.”

Others?

I relax my position, deciding to follow them instead. I keep a long distance between us but the young hunter starts to grow suspicious. He’s good. Every time he stops, I stop. I mimic his movements as I graze through the shadows.

The hunter suddenly freezes.

“What is it?” the bald one says.

The hunter lifts his gun into the air. “We’re being hunted.”

Oh no. No. No. No.

I stay in my position as I hear the grey wolf pack surround the hunters. The hunters are my only lead to the others. It could take days to try and find their scent. I don’t know how to warn them off. I don’t know how to communicate with actual wolves.

A female wolf joins me in the dark and brushes herself against me. I look behind to see a dozen pups of all sizes waiting with three adults. They tracked me here. I make a mental note to disguise my scent before I inadvertently lead them back to Devon.

“They’re everywhere!” the bald man yells as he frantically turns his gun. “What do we do!”

“Stay calm.”

“This isn’t elk or deer! They have teeth. Sharp teeth.”

“Calm the fuck down,” the young hunter says. “One of them is in charge, if we scare him then they’ll all back off.”

Smart plan. It worked for me. The female wolf leaves my side and crouches into a hunting pose. Even though she’s annoying, I have this bizarre urge to protect her. The hunters are having a difficult time locating the alpha, who is just barely noticeable through the tense stand-off.

“Fuck this!” the bald one says, before firing his gun into the air.

The wolves move instantly, they run around each other and change positions before returning into an impressive circle. They’ve got the hunters trapped and they have failed to scare the alpha off.

This isn’t going to end well.

Even if one of them manages to pull the trigger, at least twenty wolves will be jumping on them in the next few seconds. The odds are not good for the hunters with this fearless bunch. I wonder if they’ve taken on a bear or something with the level of arrogance they’re displaying.

I really want to see how it plays out but Devon’s safety is more important and knowing there could be other groups of hunters searching night and day for her is unsettling. All it takes is an extra hour of sleep and they could be in the camp without me knowing.

Just as I decide to intervene to scare the alpha off, another gunshot sounds. The bald man is going crazy. He’s shooting everywhere. The wolves retaliate viciously and follow the alpha into a brave attack. I break out into a run.

The young hunter turns his gun towards my new female friend and I throw myself at him, knocking him out of the grasp of five wolves. I don’t have any choice now. I rip into his throat and I back away as he bleeds out.

The wolves rip into their flesh with aggression rather than hunger. I snarl my teeth at the alpha wolf as he leaves his kill to observe the lifeless pack members on the ground.

Three wolves were shot. Their furs soaked with blood. Two are dead but the third still has a heartbeat. She won’t be alive for much longer. The other wolves circle them slowly with synchronized whimpers.

This is why werewolves are smarter, because we actually know what a gun is. Still, I feel bad for them. I’m pissed off but it’s sad. And awkward.

I sit slightly away from them as a wolf nudges the female with his nose. She takes her last breath and they all turn their eyes to the sky with a mighty howl.

Screw it. I howl too.

The infatuated female wolf lays on her stomach and rests her face on her paws. The pups run towards the dead and sniff around them. The pack continues to howl. It’s amazing, I think I am actually watching a wolf funeral.

They are mourning their dead and I feel like an intruder. I slip out discreetly and I make a few runs in many directions to try and throw them off so they don’t follow me.

As inviting as they were, I don’t wish to meet them again. I make it back to the camp before sunrise. Devon is asleep in her bed, snoring quietly.

I sprawl out on the wooden deck and I fall asleep easily.

I wake up with aches and pains in my muscles. I stretch my arms into the air and I let out a yawn before I go in search of clothing. I check in on Devon a few minutes later. I don’t know why but watching the wolves die last night just made me feel even closer to her.

I lay down next to her, the space is so tight that she wakes up. I fold my arms as she rubs her eyes and stares up at me.

“Well, I know that it’s morning at least,” she says. She picks my hand up and twists my wrist until she can read the time on the watch. “It’s still early. Why are you up?”

“Couldn’t get back to sleep.”

She smiles as she rests her face back down to her new, soft pillow. “Did you have a good night?”

I nod. “I killed a man and watched a wolf funeral.”

“You watched a wolf funeral?”

I squint my eyes as I stare down at her. “Have I killed that many people that you just skip over that part now?”

She laughs. “He was a hunter that endangered our lives, right?”

“Yes,” I say. “He was hired by your father.”

“My father?” she says, pushing herself up. “You’re sure?”

“That’s what I heard.”

“What else did you hear?”

“Lyle’s alive,” I say. “He’s in a coma. The King is hopeful that he’ll wake up.”

I watch her reaction to that and the information shocks her but she doesn't seem too concerned by it. Even though she wanted me to initially spare his life, I think it’s brought her comfort to imagine that he’s dead so I know that him being alive isn't exactly an incentive to have a party. Her eyes look down as she thinks on it.

“Devon,” I whisper. “Say something.”

“If my father is organizing searches for me then you have to be careful. My brother could be among them. You can’t hurt him. Promise me.”

“I don’t know what your brother looks like.”

“You know his name. And his DNA will be like mine, right? You can smell it?”

“In theory,” I say. “But if your brother is with these people then doesn’t that make him just as bad?”

“No,” she says. “My brother is nothing like them. Promise me, Thorn.”

“Okay. I promise.”

She lets out a breath of relief and relaxes. “My father is that rich that he could pay the best hunters in the country to find me. And he will. I just didn’t think he cared that much.”

“Maybe you’re more valuable to him as an asset than a daughter,” I say angrily.

“True. I come from a very power-hungry family. They exploit us until there’s nothing left.”

“You don’t ever have to go back. You’re safe.” I trail my finger along her cheek and she closes her eyes momentarily. “Can I lay here for a while?”

She nods. I drop down the bed until I’m eye-to-eye with her. I stroke away her hair, gently tucking it behind her ears.

“How do you do that?” she says.

“What?”

She opens her eyes. “Make me feel as though I’ve always been here.”

“A part of you always has.”

She squints. “The curse?”

“Not just the curse,” I say.

I keep on stroking her hair until our lips start timidly grazing each other. I breathe in her scent and I’m gone. She’s got me. My lips press against hers so strongly that she doesn’t know what to do with it. Our tongues meet and the heat intensifies. I pull her onto me and she sits astride my waist. Her excitement is contagious. She smiles between the kisses and presses her lips into my throat. I start panting. I try to hold her at arm’s length.

“Devon,” I say.

She ignores my warning and continues wriggling her way back to my throat. I’m excited too and she can feel it against her. She grips the back of my head and pulls me up, she kisses the hell out of me. I can’t breathe. My hand moves underneath her shirt and I slowly trail the smooth path of her skin until I am cupping her breast.

She doesn’t reject it and that startles me more.

I remove my hand and I push her slightly backwards, being more forceful with my restraint. She doesn’t protest, that seems to turn her on more. She rubs her bottom lip with her teeth. This is exactly how female werewolves act when they’re under the mating spell. I could have literally thrown Maria across the room and she still would have found me irresistible.

Devon is experiencing a different version of the bond with similar effects. She has all the raging lust qualities of the bond but without the emotional side. And it’s that very reason that means she will never be able to break the curse.

“What’s wrong?” she says. “Why did you stop?”

“You’re not ready.”

“I am ready. Aren’t you excited? I’ve never felt so excited.”

I laugh as she tries to charge back at me. I keep her restrained and she falls back on her knees.

“You’ve been through a lot. You were assaulted. You need time to heal from that properly.”

Her eyes harden instantly. “Don’t ever presume to know what I’ve been through or how I’m healing,” she says. “I am healed.”

“I know,” I say. “That’s what the bond does. It changes the way we view all of our past sexual encounters and renders them insignificant, even the ones that traumatize us. It frees us in a way but it’s a lie.”

“No.” She shakes her head and smiles. “I am fine. I feel fine. I only. . . I only want you.”

I rub my eyes as I laugh to myself. “Fucking hell.”

“What? It’s the truth. The thought of anyone else touching me is. . .” She swallows. “But not you.”

“That’s the bond,” I growl.

“I don’t fucking care,” she says, blinking with sweet anger.

I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard her swear. It’s turning me on more and I’m starting to believe that this is going to be inevitable.

We can’t resist each other. We can’t walk away from each other. She lifts her leg up and straddles my waist again. I consider throwing her off the bed but there’s nothing soft for her to land on.

I decide to let it happen. She leans down gently and I get a full whiff of her newly apple-scented hair as it dangles around my chin.

“Your hair is like straw,” I say as I play around with it. “It’s my favourite thing about you.”

“Stop trying to distract me with compliments.”

She pushes her lips back to mine and I hesitate. She tests it a little, seducing me with her fingers that claw against my chest. I am writhing with arousal. My nails dig into the quilt as I try to stop them from ripping her clothes off. I clench down on my teeth as she trails her tongue along my chest.

I want to. Every fucking part of me wants to.

So I don’t.

I wriggle free from a startled Devon and I leave her on the bed as I run for freedom. I lose my footing on a step and I almost face plant the ground. I regain my balance and head for the trees, looking over my shoulder to see her standing at the steps with her arms folded.

My direction falters and I bump into a tree. I don’t know where I’m going. I just know that anywhere is safer than what’s waiting for me back at the camp.

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