A week has passed and Leilyn has been learning and hunting…and Dell has been avoiding (under orders in part, and also b/c he’s trying to be nice).
However, Leilyn takes exception to how she’s being “handled”:
For one week the topic had been avoided and Dell was getting more frustrated. While he understood Leilyn needed time to adjust, he wanted to give her a reason not to run. Every night he battled against sleep to keep an eye on her.
In his gut he knew she wanted to run before the West Virginia pack caught up to her, and they would. Dell had seen the mark on her ankle, most likely made when she was still an infant. It was likely Leilyn had no idea what it was, or thought it was a birthmark, but it wasn’t.
It was a mark of possession, probably the only way they were able to keep her from returning to her true pack once she grew into her Were form. The mark wouldn’t make it impossible to keep her by Dell’s side, where she belonged, but it would be enough for the one that claimed her to track her. No matter where she went.
The mark would fade with time and distance from its creator, and when Dell claimed her as his mate, but for now she had a target on her back.
Worse, that target would bring the very pack that had attacked and murdered many of Dell’s pack back to their doorstep. Everyone in the pack was aware, and the mood in the town had shifted to restlessness, unease. Patrols had increased even after the Cougar pack had moved on further west.
At the bank of the river Dell’s father, Jasper, stood with Leilyn. Jasper had insisted on leading Leilyn on her hunts. Dell had remained human under the direct insistence of his Alpha. Even though he knew it was to hold off overwhelming Leilyn further by figuring out they were mates, Dell didn’t care for it.
After that morning’s hunt, Jasper and Leilyn had remained on the river bank for almost two hours. Dell twitched with impatience, ready to move downwind to hear what they were discussing.
He didn’t have to, as Jasper finally turned and strode up the hill toward Dell. A few feet away, Jasper nodded. “She’ll need you now. The pack is close.”
“How long?” Dell knew it was coming, but his stomach turned at the thought of the upcoming battle.
“Two days at best, sooner if they stay Were and come in hot like they did last time.” Jasper squeezed his shoulder. “The mark is getting darker. He must have a witch on his side.”
Dell nodded. He’d guessed as much. Without another word, he jogged toward the river, slowing a few feet behind Leilyn.
She didn’t move as he approached, her arms folded across her chest. “I’m afraid I upset your father.”
“What?” Dell glanced behind him, but Jasper was already out of sight. “He said nothing of the sort. Why do you think you upset him?”
“I told him I didn’t appreciate what he was doing.”
“Two things wrapped into one.” She dropped her arms, but her gaze remained up-river. “He’s keeping us apart to keep us from acting on instinct, and he’s doing so to use me as bait.”
He stepped closer. “Explain.”
“I’m not a total idiot, although I was kept clueless about much of pack politics in what I now realize was an intentional misdirection. Plus, Byron has been helping me learn what I was lied to about.”
“That’s not explaining.”
“Birthmarks don’t get darker.” She held out her leg, the bare ankle and foot a tanned, stark relief against the white snow. On her ankle sat the mark, a small circle with three arcs of color bursting from it. The week before the mark had been barely distinguishable from her flesh, but now it shone bright red.
He frowned. “That’s been helped along by a witch.”
“It means he’s getting closer, although I could tell that myself. I can feel it. This is all going to come to an end soon. One way or another.”
“You can’t run from it.”
“I did once.”
“You can’t run from me.”
“I know.” She finally turned toward him. Her features remained stoic, and he couldn’t quite tell what she was feeling. “Instinct tells me as much. Although neither your nor your father would bother to tell me why.”
“I’ve been lied to my whole life. You seem to think you can resolve my turmoil with more lies?”
“I wasn’t lying. I was…”
“Procrastinating?” Even to his ears, it sounded weak.
She snorted and turned away. “It will take all your Alpha power to take me to your bed now and erase this mark. Would you do that?”
“Never.” The fierce growl in his words was pure Were anger. “I would never force you into my bed.”
“It’s going to take more than instinct. So this mark is stuck here, and they are coming. I hope you’re ready for a fight that isn’t in anyway fair. They fight dirty.”
“I know, and we’re ready.” Dell stepped closer. “What about you? Will you be with us? Or will you go back to them?”
“I don’t know. I guess I have about…” She tilted her head, her lips pursed as she thought. “Thirty one hours to figure it out. So do you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
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