At some point I’d dozed off as evening descended. Sleeping against a tree weekly. Facing away from the wall to watch for intruders. Trying to be quiet.
One squirrel had been kind but wasn’t enough. My stomach was growling from the hunger. Feeling like it was gnawing away at my backbone in desperation.
“Jaecar!” I heard a man shout from a distance away.
“Jaecar!” Another voice from another direction.
“Let her in!” This voice was far too my right.
How many were there? Let me in where?
Was this help or more torment?
The door groaned open and a tall man with black hair and a black goatee stepped through the door to meet me.
“Who are you?”
“Vanna…Rae…” I said slowly. Mechanically recalling my name.
“Well, Vanna Rae, you look like warmed over hell.”
I assumed this was Jaecar since he was indeed, ‘letting me in.’
“You need to get washed up down in the creek.” He pointed through the trees where I could faintly hear the slow sloshing of water. “Then you’ll need to cover up. He tossed me a different oversized cloak. I’ll go find you something to where. But the Mating Moon will be here in a few days so I’d suggest you cover well.”
I didn’t really know what any of that meant but I could tell Jaecar was sincere and on my side. I took the proffered cloak and headed down to the creek.
But while I washed, I heard Jaecar’s name called by one of the familiar voices. I heard the groaning of the door and knew he opened it for someone.
Whoever had driven me here.
“Where is she?”
“Washing up at the creek.” Jaecar said. “Give her some time. She’s scared as hell.”
Whoever it was must’ve nodded because I heard no response.
True to his word, Jaecar returned later with a grossly oversized dress.
“Was the closest I could find from one of the old women in the camp.” He nodded through the trees in the direction of a bit of firelight.
I took it greedily and barely peered at him from under the oversized hood of the cloak he’d given me. Holding it tightly closed to hide that I was bare beneath it. Though I didn’t currently look like much.
I was covered in scrapes and bruises with a few long slashes on my arms and one on my stomach. Whatever had happened to me…I’d clearly been through hell.
“Go through the trees.” Jaecar pointed. “And in the distance at the edge of the camp is an old hut from the Widower Tom that passed away last year. No one resides it. Take it.
I nodded hesitantly. Clinging to the fabric covering me. “Th-thank you.”
“Don’t thank me…” He said cryptically. “Wasn’t my doing to bring you here. You may very well regret that one day.”
Despite my apprehension from his words, I was vastly relieved when I entered the rough-hewn hut, more a shack really, and found a bit of boar cooking over a flame. I was desperately hungry.
I slid on my knees near the fire and yanked the meat off the spit in such a hurry that I burned my hands. Desperately cramming the food in my mouth and purring as it hit my tongue.
Someone had bothered to feed me. Despite how grateful I was, I was far too tired to question who.
The next morning when I opened the door to peer out, I find a bundle of oversized clothes on my stoop. I greedily tugged them inside and undid the strings holding them. Highly grateful.
I remembered what Jaecar had said about the Mating Moon and eyed one worn dress. Deciding, I began determinedly tearing it into thick strips.
To bind my body.
Other then that I sat on the one wooden chair at the tiny square table and listened to everyone in the camp.
There was a knock the next morning and more food.
I tugged it inside and slammed the door. Sinking my teeth into the raw meat in my rush to put more in my stomach.
Apparently, the village is taking care of me. And I was vaguely touched. But not enough to want to spend time outside my hut.
It was the third evening, when I heard a man with a crisp decisive tone talking outside my shuttered window. I instinctively knew that kind of power and strength indicated it was the alpha.
“She can’t hunt and she’s clearly traumatized. She’s no desire to come out of there. You three know how dangerous unsocialized wolves can become. She can’t stay here if she doesn’t start at least engaging with the woods and someone in the camp.”
That was the first time I heard the knock on the door. I swallowed hard. Hunkering down and hoping they’d not make me leave.
That night there was scratching around my hut. Wolves asking to come in.
No. You’ll make me leave.
The next morning was another knock I wouldn’t answer. Opting to hide inside until it stopped.
Which was the first time Hunter Hayden crept in my window.
I was trying to kick dust over the floorboards to one corner in an effort to clean up. When I turned around, I squawked at the sight of him in the middle of my hut.
Midnight hair and dancing light blue eyes intent on me. “You smell like honey…Delicious…”
He was tall and dark skinned from being in the sun. His shoulders squared and his hips narrow and athletic. His legs long.
And when I lunged like I might dive out the window past him, he agilely hopped into my path. Blocking the way.
I gasped. Finding myself hissing through my teeth.
He eyed me. Thinking the same thing I likely was.
Wolves don’t hiss.