Nothing in the forest seemed to move out of fear of being the next kill. All of the little critters that scurried around day and night were suddenly nowhere to be found. The birds in the trees had disappeared from their branches besides a few who looked down on me with glassy eyes. Even the wind sweeping down from the mountains was softer than the day before and for once it wasn’t snowing.
Taking deep and even breaths I didn’t move a muscle from my half lying position in the snow. A slight puddle caused by my body heat had begun to form around me signaling that I needed to get moving. Come, little food bags. I’d been out here for about two hours stocking up on meat, since I still didn’t have any food in my cabin and I had also finally run out of oatmeal. I’d caught five rabbits so far but now I was looking for bigger game that would last me the next few weeks.
Listening carefully for the slightest movement or heartbeat around me, I almost groaned out loud when I heard the beat of a shifter’s heart. I thought I’d get at least a few more hours before he tracked me down. With everything that had gone down between me and Ryan, I needed time to adjust to all the new changes. He was always around now asking these...these invading questions about me. Like what my favorite song was and how I liked to spend my free time. I had left my cabin early this morning in the hopes of getting a few Ryan free hours. Except it looked like that had just ended.
...Or maybe not. Keeping an eye on the direction the heart beat was coming from, I pressed myself deeper into the snow. If only my father could see me now. The mighty Feral Born hiding from an average Beta wolf. I’d huff if I wasn’t so concerned about him finding out that I was actively hiding from him.
Heavy footsteps made their way closer to where I was hidden, thank moon I decided to wear all white to blend in better. Closing my eyes briefly in relief when I saw the person that the heartbeat belonged to. I stayed in place, observing as she pushed her way through a small bush. Candice cursed as her hot pink sweatpants snagged on a jagged edge. Yanking her leg away, she huffed and then searched her surroundings for something.
"I hate the fucking woods.” She muttered, right before she screamed, “Kai! Where in the eclipse are you? I know you’re hiding out here! You’re a creature of habit!”
Choosing to stay silent, I watched her temper tantrum in amusement.
Shoving a chunk of blonde hair behind her ear, her blue eyes narrowed. “Ryan’s been not so subtly looking for you all morning! I told him he was being a smothering stalker and bought you a couple of hours. The least you could do is show yourself after I came out into these moon forsaken woods to find your ungrateful ass.”
I slowly stood up, “How can you be a shifter and hate the woods?”
Her head twisted quickly in my direction with a smirk of her own, “The same way you’re part human and hate emotions.”
Grabbing the long stick with my rabbits tied to the end, I rested it on my right shoulder while walking closer to her. “How’s Ryan?”
Candice snorted, “Walking around with a scowl and snapping at everyone because he hasn’t had his daily dose of Kai.”
I raised a brow at her words but kept my curiosity to myself. Walking past her, she kept pace with me but didn’t say anything more. Keeping quiet, I waited for her to bring up whatever it was that had brought her out here to find me. It was after we jumped over a large branch that she finally spoke up.
“So, I know you don’t consider me a friend or anything but I was hoping you could do me a favor.”
Side eyeing her, I asked, “What kind of favor?”
“You might not know but Devin’s my little cousin and he’s too ‘cool’ to ask but would you consider training him for-”
What sounded like an explosion pierced my ears and deafened me to the last part of her sentence. Staggering from the pain, I dropped my hold on the rabbits and slammed my palms to my ears. Fuck. A high pitched whining sound smothered out any other noise around me. And I could only stare at Candice who frantically shouted into my face while gripping my arms to keep me up right.
My hearing slowly returned only to be assaulted by Candice’s voice, “Kai! Are you alright? What’s going on? Can you hear me? Hello!”
Pushing her hands off me, I started looking around to find the location of the explosion, “Did you hear that? What was that?”
“Hear what? Kai, maybe we should go to the-” She froze mid-sentence, eyes unfocused. Someone must be alerting her to the sound.
This time my hearing stayed but the pain of it had me on my knees in the cold snow. Ears throbbing from the pain, I could only think about how whoever was doing this was going to end up with my claws in their gut. Fisting my hands in the snow, I shoved myself back onto my feet to find Candice turning the same shade as my clothing.
“Candice.” I breathed through the pain, “Candice what’d they said?”
Eyes shining bright with fear, she took off running past me at full speed while shouting, “Hurry! Southeast border! Someone’s shooting at Mary’s kindergarten class!”
With fury burning through my veins, I shot past Candice at a speed I didn’t know I was capable of. Feet barely touching the ground, I vaulted over a bolder and charged deeper into the woods. Wind whistling in my ears, I could feel the urge to shift wiggling underneath my skin. I needed to be careful, I couldn’t risk shifting into my... other form in front of everyone.
This time I could hear the sounds of whimpers and screams following immediately after the blasts. Faltering for a moment, I steadied myself and kept running until the class came into view. Mary and the warriors had squished the pups inside a hollowed out pine tree. The few that couldn’t fit were pressed closely together behind the adults, who crouched in front of them covering them as best as they could.
Mary’s eyes were completely black with fangs and claws fully extended in fear. The two warriors at her sides had their claws and fangs out but maintained control over their wolves. They were about ten feet from the border with nothing blocking the gunshots coming from the other side. Large holes littered the ground just a few feet in front of them with little pieces of metal winking in the sunlight.
The faint smell of urine reached my nose, causing me to release a muted snarl. The pups must have soiled themselves in fear of the loud sounds and the aggression coming off the adults. With my growing rage hitting a boiling point, I flexed my claws and silently made my way closer to them. Motioning to get the attention of the warriors, their heads moved in my direction just as another shot went off.
Snow and dirt came raining down on them causing a few of the pups to scream out in terror. Simultaneously a vicious snarl came from one of the warriors who clutched at his calf, blood seeping out between his clawed fingers. They needed to be moved and quickly. Thinking fast I maneuvered around the trees, careful not to be seen by the unknown shooter until I got to where I needed to be.
Standing right behind the hollow tree they were using for cover, I spoke lowly, “Don’t make any sudden movements.”
Small sighs of relief came from the adults at the sound of my voice while the pups quieted.
“Where are your partners?”
“They-They went out onto the other side of the border. They haven’t come back.” One of the men whispered.
Shit. “How far out are the Alpha and Beta?”
“Five maybe four minutes.”
Too long. “Link Candice, she should be right behind me. Tell her to come in quietly and slowly.”
“She said she has a few warriors with her, she’s a few seconds out. We need to get the pups out of here, now. Whoever’s shooting out there has been toying with us, I think they’ve been waiting for you.”
“Okay. Listen closely, don’t react but I’m going to rip off the back part of this tree so the pups can crawl through.”
When no one responded I took that as my go ahead and turned to look at Candice and her group who had just arrived a few feet away hidden behind the trees around me. Motioning them closer, I went over the plan with them before flipping around to face the rotted trunk. Flexing my claws again, I carefully sunk them into the wood just above the pups inside.
Using all of my strength, I gave a harsh shove getting the tips of my claws through the wood and onto the other side. A faint crack was heard as I curled my fingers around the wood and yanked. At first the wood refused to budge and then the part I held crumbled underneath my grip. The pups inside whined loudly in fear while I ripped away at the surprisingly still strong bark.
Another shot went off causing me to rip the rest of the wood away in fear of the pups safety. They screamed sharply before abruptly cutting off when they caught sight of me. Chubby tear stained cheeks and wide eyes looked at me as I placed a clawed finger to my lips. Little heads bobbled their understanding, retracting my claws I reached inside and grabbed a wet little boy. Placing him beside me he clutched at my leg as I pulled another small sniffling pup from the tree and ignored the smell of urine coming off them.
Holding both of them close to me, I signaled for one of the warriors nearby. Moving quickly, she made her way to us and held out her arms for the pups. Pulling their little hands off of me, I passed them to the warrior and once she had a good grip on them she took off running back towards the center of the pack.
This repeated until only three pups remained inside the trunk and more warriors along with Otis and Ryan had arrived. They were all anxious to go after the shooter on the other side but the safety of the pups took priority. Passing the last two pups, who cried ‘papa’ when they saw him, to a warrior, he squeezed them tightly with tears in his eyes. Bowing his head deeply towards me in thanks, he sprinted off into the woods.
With one last pup in my arms, I nodded the go ahead for the warriors nearby to seek their revenge. Like ghosts through a fog, they smoothly made their way to the edge of the treeline with snapping fangs and growls vibrating the air.
Mary crawled through the hole I had created in the tree and was quickly followed by the two warriors with her. Just in time too because suddenly shots had begun to go off in a rapid session. Shoving them back against the shelter of the tree, I placed the little girl into the unwounded warriors arms, “Take her back to the pack house with the others, quickly.” A lull in the shooting was all it took before he was racing off into the woods with the little girl tucked securely in his arms.
“How bad is your leg?” I asked the wounded warrior.
“Only one of the pellets got me. Bastards using silver buckshot.” He hissed through his teeth.
“Good. If you can walk, head to the infirmary.”
“I’ll-I’ll help him.” Mary offered.
Nodding at them, I refocused on the sounds coming from the other side of the tree. Peaking around the trunk, I could still see everyone sheltering in place behind their own tree. The shots seem to be coming from a downward angle so the shooter must be in the trees. Scanning the tops, I almost looked away when a flash of movement caught my eye. The nozzle of a shotgun was poking out from between the branches of a tree right across from us. It was swishing side to side looking for its next target and this time I got the feeling that it wasn’t taking any more pot shots.
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