Jaecar's light green eyes appeared in my line of vision.
I cast him a last pleading look. Willing him to suddenly have a change of heart and let me go.
"Wait for me." He said. Urging, "Quietly."
My lips twitched in contempt as I glared at him. The Hell I will!
"Remember, if you scream, if you struggle, the pack will hear you."
And they'll all want to mate. I knew it without him having to say it. I deflated a little at the thought. And my struggling could make me sweat which would only carry my hormone better in the wind.
Filling this whole tree with my smell. I grimaced.
“I have to go to the Pack Meeting and then I’ll be back for you.”
I’ll figure out a way to escape him by then. I reassured myself. Studying me a minute and seeing that I understood he gave a satisfied nod and turned stiffly.
Thankful for the reprieve, I blew a long breath and my body relaxed. He's gone.
For a while. A niggling little voice corrected.
What a fantastic day this is turning out to be!
I knew if I was still here when Jaecar came back he’d drag me out of the hole in the tree and slap me back down in the grass.
Would he take me right then and there? I no longer felt like I knew the answer. Wasn’t sure I’d ever really known the traitorous Border Guard.
Was he grooming me all along to break down my walls?
Then an even more terrifying thought struck me. What if he comes back with all of them?
I suddenly envisioned myself being mounted by the pack in the woods. Torn apart under moonlight as their teeth sank into my shoulders and arms. Stilling me for their pleasure until I was bloodied on the ground.
Marta had told me that it had happened years ago.
It could be me, if I don’t figure out something. I hated that I was so diminutive physically. I felt like I was way stronger than I looked but being so small had made it incredibly easy for Jaecar to overcome me once he’d caught me. Pinning my spindly arms as if I were no more than a child.
I whimpered slightly and fell backward against the inside of the dark tree. Feeling somewhat hopeless.
Eventually, I noticed my plain dress was torn near my knees and smudged across the chest.
I'm filthy. I thought dully.
Worrying about trivial things seemed to make the reality of my betrayal fade away.
I wondered where my sketchbook had gone. I remembered dropping it but couldn’t even remember where I’d been when I had done. I felt a terrible loss at that.
Nearly as great as losing the one male I’d thought friend. I knew I had Lyra Lani and Marta and even Vanna Rae could be kind and Lara had seemed to pity me, but they were nice enough.
But I wouldn’t have thought them friend.
Even Lyra Lani I saw more as a mentor or an older sister. I valued her but cared far too much for her opinion to act like the typical, playful fool I was.
Like I do with Jaecar.
I envisioned myself as I’d been just the other day. Leaping on his back while he gave me disapproving looks. I’d always assumed it was his way of playing back but now I knew I had no idea what he’d been thinking.
Perhaps I was just an annoyance he wanted to breed the whole time. I grimaced. Thinking myself the world’s biggest fool.
I knew nightfall was coming when I started to hear the yips and howls of the younger males that’d immediately succumbed to the change.
Will they scent me? I suspected Jaecar had done his research and knew that while I was enclosed in the tree, they'd be hard pressed to track my scent. Even if they catch it, it's unlikely they'll find me.
But I'd been wrong before.
However, one thing struck me now. If he’s keeping me out here, it means that he knows my hut is impermeable.
If I can get back to my hut, even he won’t be able to get to me. But I knew just as surely that he would be making sure I’d have a damn hard time getting there.
He'll know I’ll try to go that way first thing. So I have to buy time first...I chewed my lips. My hands working my skirts as I desperately tried to come up with a plan to outwit the most meticulous male I’d ever met.
Jaecar was walking back toward camp on reluctant feet.
He rounded the grouping of trees into where the trunks were sparser. Thicker and further apart. Needle leaves surrounding their bases and filling the damp air with their scent. The small fire was burning out here with the logs surrounding it. Giving the air the smokey tinge. The wood crackled in the distance. One log snapping slightly and then grating as its position adjusted.
This meeting place was further away from the grouping of huts. More isolated. Only the males were directly around it as most of the females were locked away or already fleeing for the night. Afraid of the hunt.
That’s why we’re meeting now. Jaecar knew it was part of the ritual process.
They’d gather and put in a final call for which females they wanted to hunt so the males knew who was their competition if they intended to mark a female.
Or so one can be pressed into marking to keep her from others that just want to mount her pretty little body. Jaecar found himself walking slower as he had this bitter thought. Wanting to strangle every man that intended to do just that to Samantha.
And potentially ruin her for a mate.
Depending on how fickle the man may be. Jaecar’s chest got tight at the thought of any of the males hunting her.