I check her pulse before I secure her in my arms. The day has taken a turn that neither of us could have imagined but I knew that it would come eventually. I was foolish to think that they’d never find out about her.
It was a childish fantasy to believe that we could actually be together. That we could spend years of our lives as happy as we were a few hours ago. This is my curse, my punishment, and the last thing I wanted was for her to be a target because of it.
Sky and Dominic tense up when they see me carrying her. Kiara is excited, assuming that I've killed her. I lay her down carefully on the ground.
“What have you done to her?” Sky demands.
“She’s unconscious. She’ll be fine,” I say.
Kira’s excitement drops and she scowls, rushing after me as I walk up the steps. “Finish it.”
I grab the bag from the table and I pack it with the herbs and painkillers. I move around the camp, filling the bag with various things that I know Devon will need. I complete the packing with one of my books, she loves that book. I lay it on the top.
“You can’t seriously be letting her leave,” Kira says. “What if she never has children? This could be our only chance!”
“I am aware of that.”
“This is your fault,” she says. “You are the reason that we are trapped here. We were punished for a choice that you made and our freedom is right down those steps and you won’t do it?”
She’s getting desperate. She knows that once Devon leaves then there is little chance that she’ll ever come back. It wouldn’t make any difference if she did.
“You can play on my guilt all you want but I still won’t kill her. Save your breath.”
“What will it take to get through to you?” she pleas. “We are miserable, Thorn. One hundred years of running through the same forest, of being so close to each other that we cannot stand it. Lucias sells it like a dream but we are losing our minds!”
“I can’t help you. I’m sorry.”
“Please.” The look she gives me is one that I know well from our younger years. Her hands tremble as vulnerability runs down her cheeks. “We deserve to find our soulmates too.”
I turn away and pinch my eyes closed as my hand rests back onto the box. I can’t be conflicted right now. I need to focus. I lift the lid and I root through the papers until I find the chain at the bottom.
I squeeze the small medallion into my palm. Kira’s eyes widen with anger as I push past her on the steps.
“That’s our mother’s medallion that our father gave to her,” Kira says furiously as she chases me. “You cannot give that to a human!”
“Shut up, Kira!” I yell. “You’re doing my head in. Go and rant over there.”
I approach Sky and I pass her the bag. She swings it over her small shoulder. I am trusting Devon’s life with kids and I try to push that to the back of my mind or I won’t go through with it.
“Take her as far from the kingdom as you can,” I say. “The King has hunters that will be looking for her. She won’t let them take her alive.”
“Hunters?” Sky says.
“She’ll explain it to you.”
“We’ve never been among human villages before,” Dominic says nervously, exchanging a look with his sister. “Are you sure about this?”
“Can you protect her or not?” I growl.
Sky swallows and looks back to me. “Yes, we can. We can’t go back to the mountain now anyway. We’ll be executed with our parents. This is what they would want.”
“Take this.” I pass her the gun.
She shakes her head. “Not necessary. We don’t need weapons against humans.”
“Let me be clear again,” I say. “Hunters. Not humans, hunters. They are trained to kill so take the damn gun.” I shove it into her palm. “Devon will show you how to use it.”
“Fine.” She tucks it into the back of her jeans. “We need to get going before they come looking for us.”
Dominic crosses in front of me and I start to feel hollow as he bends down and picks Devon up from the ground. She’ll hate me when she wakes up but I hope that one day she’ll understand. The young wolves are still stronger than the average human adult, her chances will be greater with them.
Even when I’m so sure that this is what’s best for her, I can’t seem to let her go. I run my hand over her hair as Dominic looks away, giving me privacy. I listen to her strong heartbeat, memorizing the beautiful thumping sounds that are at the centre of everything that she is.
I lift her head up and I place the chain around her neck. It is the alpha’s seal, something that even Dominic and Sky recognize. It is common for many alphas to have one. The female mate wears it for protection against other wolves and then it is passed down to the first-born male upon her death. The strange this is, I never gave it to Maria. It was too sacred for me to part with. Maybe a part of me always knew that I was never in love with her.
I lean down and I press my lips into her forehead. Her skin is warm, her scent still powerful and enchanting.
“Tell her I’m sorry.” I turn away as my eyes begin to become a little wet.
“We’ll take care of her,” Sky says. “I promise.”
“Go,” I say.
I suck in a deep breath as I hear them leave. I keep track of their movements as they move towards the border. I wait until I can no longer hear them and it’s out of my control. Kira sits on the ground with her knees to her chest, she cradles them softly.
“Let’s go,” I say.
She snaps her head up. “Go where?”
“I’m taking you back.”
“No. I’m staying here. I’m not afraid of them.”
“Kira, I love you, but you would drive me crazy. You’ve only been here a few hours and I already want to top myself.”
“You’re a twat,” she mutters. “There’s no way we’ll make it before nightfall.”
“We’ve always been the fastest ones of the pack,” I say. “I’d like to see them catch us.”
She grins. “We haven’t run together in over a century. Are you sure you can keep up?”
“I’ll even give you a head start.”
“You are the one that needs a head start.” She puffs before walking away with her arms stretching above her head.
I cast a final glance to the empty camp. I keep expecting to see Devon on the log, transfixed with another cooking project above the fire. I’ll see her for a while, around every corner that I turn.
I shake my head and I break out into a fast run. I catch up to Kira in seconds, I overtake her and I hear her disgruntled growl. We run for hours. The sky is starting to flash red.
If it was just a case of facing the alpha alone then I would have stayed and fought. I’d love nothing more than to rip his throat out. I am hoping that he does find me so that I can offer him the challenge.
But it’s never that simple. I heard the scale of the complication today. There were dozens of them. Fifty, maybe sixty. All of them obeying every command their alpha gives, even if that command is to find and murder an innocent girl.
As long as she stays far away from me then she’s safe. They have no reason to harm her if she’s not with me. The curse will remain and I will still suffer. That is what I hope, but the reality could be that they will return every night and come looking for me. I don’t know what their real intentions are, they could be coming for the community. They could track Sky and Dominic’s scents into the villages.
There might only be one option left and it requires convincing my pack to snap out of their blissful worlds and fight.