“What do you mean?” My brows drew together in worry.
“You’re not going back to your hut during the mating tonight.”
“Yes. I am.” I said more firmly. “As soon as we leave here, I’m going.”
“No.” His solid green gaze burned into me and my stomach sank. “I’ve chosen you for my mate.”
I tried to toss him off but I was a little thing and he was one of the strongest males in the pack. One of the border guards.
What prayer did I have to dislodge him?
Suddenly, coming out here every day with him seemed very dangerous. What had I been thinking?
He was watching emotions pour over my face. Waiting.
“You can’t just do that!” Determination locked my chin.
“I already have. I’ve lured you out of your hut and I have you. And when it's mating time tonight, I'll spill my wolf seed in you and mark you as mine.”
The Hell you will! I glared hotly at him.
“You can’t!” I voiced my objection.
He has to be joking!
The Jaecar I knew would never say such things to me!
“I can.” His mouth whitened. “And I will. If I don't someone else will.”
I shook my head, refusing to listen. Who are you?
He sighed. "You’ve gone too long without a mate, Samantha. How long did you think the pack would stand for it?”
I went to push him off but he wouldn’t budge.
Feeling somewhat panicked I began striking his shoulders with my fists. “Get off of me!”
He caught my wrists and pinned them above my head in one of his large hands. “Be realistic, Sam. There are nearly forty wolves in our pack. And there are seven of you females of breeding age. Some of you will not only be taken tonight, but have to be shared with multiple males to keep pack peace.”
“Why would you do this to me?” I blinked at him in shock. “It’s me!"
“I know. That’s why I’m disinclined to share...”
“Jaecar!” I objected. Struggling against his viselike hold.
“Shh...” He whispered almost against my lips. “I could’ve not told you. I could’ve kept you out here until later and just taken you when the moon unleashed my beast.”
He trailed a finger down my cheek with his free hand. “But out of courtesy to you, I’m telling you what’ll happen in a few short hours.”
I was shocked when Jaecar sat up and unwound a long length of rope from around his waist.
I fought in truth then. “You’re not tying me up!”
He rose and hopped astride my hips, rope in hand. Prepared to bind me.
I took his movement as an opportunity, and as he leapt up I skid down between his legs before he dropped his weight. Using my immense flexibility to fold back onto my feet and lurch into a sprint.
My sketchbook thunked to the mossy forest floor. Abandoned as I ran. Steering along the wide creek. So frantic, I missed the narrow bridge.
He’s gaining on me. He was large and fast. As one of the border guard, his body was well-honed to relentlessly run down interlopers.
We’d raced many times and I knew he’d soon be overtaking me if I didn’t do something. Swiping up a heavy bit of wood I turned around and hurled it at him.
It caught him off-guard. Hitting him in the middle and knocking the air from him. Forcing him to pause and clutch his gut as he huffed for air.
I took full advantage of the headstart and sprinted until finding one of my other favorite trees. An old cottonwood. I caught a low branch and tucked my feet. Swinging my body in an arc and into the hollow near the branch. Dropping down into the tree.
The hole was high enough above me, there’d be no getting me out of this one without my assistance. Unlike the oak, this one was too narrow. I liked spots like this where I could wedge in the tree by spreading my knees and elbows and then sketch from the tree window, unseen by any intruders.
I never thought I’d be hiding from Jaecar.
After a few moments of silence, I shimmied up the inside of the tree to just peer over the bottom of the hole.
He was standing in the grove. Slowly gazing at the trees. “I know you’re here, Samantha. I’m going to find you. You can’t hide from me.”
Yes, I can.
“Don’t forget who I am.” He reminded. “I regularly rundown things far more formidable then you."
Not today, Jaecar.
"Come out!” He barked impatiently.
I jerked at the commanding note in his voice. Tempted to emerge. Sensing the consequence of his mounting anger would be high.
“I could be gentle with you. Kind. But if you make me work for it...”
I peered out the hole again and saw him slowly rotating to scan the trees.
“Then it’ll be you that suffers the appetite I’ve built in searching for you...”