It was the morning of the Mating Moon when, Jaecar, the fiercest of the Border Guards, waited for me outside my hut as he often did.
I met him there. After all these years, I was unafraid of him despite his intimidating air and athletic build.
He had shining black hair and defined muscles tightly winding his body under his leather tunic and breeches. Usual dagger resting in its hip scabbard.
He'd never given me cause for concern. Despite that I knew the males looked at him nervously.
Why wouldn't they?
He'd outmaneuvered them often enough in the trial rings. The only real competition for our young Alpha, Draven.
"Let me see." He held out his hand impatiently.
It wasn't a question.
I handed it over, as I always did. Glad to share my work with him.
He always wanted to see what new scribbles I'd done.
"Is this Warlock Creek?" He pointed to one page.
"Yes. That's my favorite spot."
"Ah, yes." He nodded. "In the old oak tree."
I smiled up at him. "Yeah. You know me so well."
"I should by now, shouldn't I?" He ran a hand through his smooth black hair. Dark brows hovering over thickly lashed green eyes. Eyes which seemed to always catch everything.
I'd always wondered why he was my friend. He was so striking, and I was so plain.
I had strawberry blonde hair. And was deathly white instead of golden tan like the other females in our pack.
Though there aren't many of us in total.
"How's your courting going?" I took my sketchbook back before he noticed the page I'd dog eared in the back.
A depiction of his strange gypsy eyes.
"Not well, I'm afraid." He gave me a quizzical look.
"Why? How could she not be interested in you?" I teased. I'd seen how the six females in our pack looked at him. Though females were scarce and leary of the aggressive males, they all cast him longing looks.
For good reason.
He looked like a carved statue. Were I not far below his league and unwilling to become any male's property, he'd have been my choice.
"Good question." He said boredly.
Who is it? I wondered not for the first time. Going over the six of them in my mind. I'd never seen him give any of them an intrigued eye.
"Will you tell me which one it is?" I watched two of them creeping warily through the village. Furtively looking around corners.
For good reason.
Many of the Asara Pack Males were known to be highly sexually aggressive this time of year.
Unpredictable and dangerous for an unexpecting female.
"The Full Moon is coming." I remarked glancing up.
The Mating Moon.
When all the males would have to expend their virile needs on female breeder bodies.
It's a frightening time of year.
But four years ago, when my father had passed, Jaecar had helped me turn my hut into an impenetrable fortress. As solid as the Asara territory border walls he'd helped build.
"Yes it is." He looked at me steadily.
"How do you resist it?" I wondered aloud. I'd never seen him be aggressive with anyone. It was part of the reason I trusted him.
"I don't. Not fully. It does make me hot for everything that moves." He admitted.
I laughed but he shot me a quick look.
"Not particularly funny, Sam."
"Fine." I shrugged. "You hungry?"
He lifted an eyebrow and I playfully elbowed him.
"For food! Not whatever female has you knotted tighter than a snare rope." I nodded toward the two women.
He has been severely moody lately. Often seeming impatient with me and stalking off.
He was never like that before.
He gave me a long look before suggesting. "Yes. Let's go get those Elderberries you favor."
I nodded. Beaming up at him.
We discussed pack gossip.
I watched him thoughtfully. He stared at the sun dancing off the twining creek in the distance. Birds chirped in the thicket of trees surrounding both sides of the water.
But my oak tree was the highest. I glanced at it admiringly. It was hollow in the center with a large hole where it'd weathered. Still it was tall, solid and proudful.
Like Jaecar. My gaze returned to his profile.
He was pensive today. Despite his usual severity, with me he was typically playful.
I leaned over and splashed water from the creek onto him.
He tossed water back at me.
Soon I was giggling uproariously. Engaged in the play.
He lightly tackled me.
I tipped over onto the leaves. His hand cradling the back of my head and my back to keep me from getting hurt as he toppled onto me.
He shifted more comfortably over me and his face grew serious.
I knew immediately something had changed.
"We must discuss something, Samantha."
My full name? He only uses that when he's very grave.
"What?" I frowned up into his piercing green eyes.
"This evening and tonight the pack will seek mates."
Yes, under the Mating Moon.
"I know." I nodded vigorously. "My hut is reinforced remember? You helped me make it impenetrable."
"Yes, I did." He cleared his throat and looked to the leaves aside me.
"Don't worry, Jaecar. I'll lock myself in. I'll be safe."
"No, Samantha." His gaze landed on me levelly. "You won't."