I was up the rest of the night pacing. Petrified they'd come find me. Trying to convince myself they were bluffing.
That's a ridiculous idea. They've never bluffed about anything in their miserable lives.
I considered bolting but these woods were locked down by Border Guards under the Mating Moon.
There was a knock at my door and I nearly lunged through the roof. I sniffed the air and immediately caught the subtle scent of another female.
Rather than the wild, forest scent of the three males that wanted to mount me endlessly.
I went to the door and cracked it enough she could come through.
She quickly handed me a cup of herbed tea.
“One of your potions for soothing?”
“Not this one.” Marta tapped the top of the wooden cup. “This one is so you’re not gotten with pups Mating Moon night if you’re not mated.”
“It’ll keep me from carrying?” I asked in shock. Unaware there was such a thing.
“Yes.” Marta nodded solemnly. Putting a finger to her lips. “Never tell the males we do this. They’d kill me. It is our duty to find mates and to expand the Asara pack. It is perilously small right now and still needs much growing. As is our requirement.”
“I-I-I know…” I murmured. Afraid. “But if one is unmated and carries a pack pup, she’ll never be mated…Never have a protector.”
“That is why there is the tea.” She tapped the bottom. Her long waving gray hair moving over her shoulder as she gave me the kindly smile.
“Thank you for taking care of all of us Marta. And thank you for the dresses.”
“Dresses?” She gave me a puzzled look.
“Isn’t it you that leaves me the dresses?”
She laughed softly. “I stitch them yes but only at the behest of those boys. They pay me in food, so my poor old mate doesn’t have to go out with his hurt foot.”
I frowned. “Boys?”
“Your boys.” She smiled and headed for the door. “They’re not a bad lot. But best take care in surviving the Mating Moon. Those three beasts are already wild with lust for you. They spend half the night roaming around your hut when they should be watching the walls.”
“For their Border Guard duties.” I supplied.
“They’re more worried about other males hunting you while they’re working. Obey them, Vanna Rae. And survive the night. The sun will be a bit brighter in the morning if you can keep them occupied until then. You may find they’re very different men then what you know.”
“What’s that mean, Marta?”
She cracked the door to go out. “Males when they’ve set their eye on a mate alternate between coaxing her, protecting her, and tormenting her to make sure they’re her only focus. Keeping her attention until they can mate her. Once she is claimed they want only to please and protect.”
“What?” I eyed her askance.
“You don’t hear us old, mated women howling in pain under the Mating Moon.” She remarked. Closing the door and walking back across the camp.
Too old to be bothered by the males. Even under a Mating Moon.
The consequences could be heavy. And I knew that’s where the Hayden Brothers were all night. Until relieved by the next shift.
They're all three Border Guards. They'd let no one in or out without their permission.
I considered asking Jaecar because he'd helped me when I first got here. But he was cranky lately. Busy making plans to tame Samantha.
To top all that off, I was a poor hunter. I'd barely survived when I'd been wandering the woods alone.
So, what choice do I have? Other than to wait here for the inevitable? I winced. Pacing faster.
Finally, I slid down the wall and pulled my cloak over my shoulders to swallow me. Wishing I could disappear.
Somehow, without meaning to, I'd drifted asleep.
"This doesn't look like naked, Rabbit!" A booming voice scared the life out of me.
Jerking, I leapt to my feet.
“Oh, Vanna Rae…” Hunter stepped in behind him and shook his head in disappointment.
“We really need you to obey under the Mating Moon.” Racer added. “It’ll keep us from hurting you.”
“Lessen the pain.” Hunter added. Scrunching up his mouth sadly.
“I have a plan to lessen it.” I snarled through my teeth. “How about you all go to Hell and I go over the wall.”
“There’s no way over the wall.” Vanquish said warily.
“There is. Lara made it over.” I glared at him. Backing up. Hunkered over to defend myself. Ready to claw them if they came at me.
“Lara didn’t escape.” Vanquish said. “We know where she is.”
“And Alaric will bring her back when it’s time.” A fourth voice said from outside my hut.
A voice we all know.
The voice that commands us.
I winced through my teeth when I saw the dark features of the man stepping through the door. Bowing my head instinctively and peering up from beneath lowered lashes.
The Hayden brothers parted and lowered their heads to let their alpha through.
“Did I hear her threaten to clear the wall?”
All three brothers lowered their head in acknowledgement.
“We won’t let her out, Draven. We know what’s needed for our pack.”