Tuesday Tales – Toes – Natural Selection

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Leilyn2Welcome back to Tuesday Tales!  This weeks prompt is Toes.

Honestly, I despise feet, and considering I just had surgery on my toes, this whole prompt made me shudder…but since it’s been some time since I did a TT, I powered through.

This week I’m starting a new story that came to me over the past couple of weeks. It’s a historical paranormal – with Werewolves. I have a good idea where the story is going, but as usual I’m mostly pantsing it.

Dell “DB” Baxter is the Beta to his dad’s Alpha in their pack in southern Indiana. The year is 1882. They’ve recently been under attack by another pack of Were’s, but not wolves, big cats – cougars. While not indigenous to the area, this cougar pack was pushed out of its area by another pack and is trying to find new territory, so DB’s wolf pack is on the defensive and making regular, frequent patrol schedules. On this particular night, DB finds something interesting:

The light of the half-full moon was strong enough to shimmer through the clouds and light the tops of the bare trees across the Ohio River. Each snowdrop that fell in the mild snowstorm caught and reflected the light as they fluttered down to the water.

In full Werewolf form, Dell sat on the edge of the bank to scan the far shore for any sign of foe. While there were homes nearby, he wasn’t worried about getting caught, by now most of the locals either knew of the pack or pretended they knew nothing about it, while still entrusting the pack with their protection.

Years ago his grandfather, then the pack Alpha, had learned to increase their numbers by simple interbreeding with humans. In order to that, the pack had to get along with normal humans and develop a relationship with them. The small group of Swedes and Germans that had come and purchased the land now called Tell City were the test.

Successes and failures abounded, and to this day Dell’s own father still didn’t know what made a successful Werewolf birth. Human woman sometimes survived, and sometimes didn’t. None of them liked the risk, but at least their pack was beginning to thrive again when many were dying out from inbreeding.

Dell shook the snow out of his fur for the fifth time since he’d started his patrol along the river. For weeks they’d increased patrols, despite the worsening weather. The edges of the river had started to freeze, but that hadn’t kept the damnable Werecats off their land.

At least dawn was on its way to making a dim appearance. Instinct told him another two hours and his patrol would be complete, which meant two days of freedom before his next patrol. If you could call anything he did freedom.

A splash several yards down the river drew his attention out of his own thoughts. His ears flicked around to try to pick out the sound again, a low growl resonating in his chest.

For the briefest moment he thought he caught the undertone of a high pitched whine carry on the wind, but dismissed it as imagination. He rose off his haunches and shook the snow off again before he began a slow pace along the edge of the river.

One paw at a time, he moved as silent as he could, his nose constantly twitching in an effort to catch a hint of a foreign scent.

Ten yards of the slow progression was a painstaking necessity that revealed a reward. On the edge of the bank lay a figure, one that wasn’t moving.

As he moved closer, his keen nose told him it wasn’t a cat, if anything, it was another wolf, and definitely a she. She lay face down on the riverbank—stark naked and soaking wet from her head down to her toes.

A rumble of a protective growl rattled through him and he leaned down to nose the figure. Her flesh was cold to his nose and he couldn’t tell if she was breathing. With a strong push of his nose he rolled her over so she was face up.

She is pack. Every inch of him screamed the words, but he’d never seen her before, which meant she couldn’t be a pack member. As the packs’ beta he knew every member of their pack, even those that didn’t live close.

He huffed air out his nose to clear the hair from her throat and pressed his muzzle against the vein. A faint, slow pulse beat under her flesh, not fast enough for a Were to survive long.

Panic jolted through him so fast, his whole body jerked and he lifted his muzzle to the sky. His long low howl echoed through the night, bouncing along the trees where it was picked up by another Were and carried through the lands. He knew it wouldn’t be long before the communication reached the northernmost point of their territory where his father patrolled.

While he waited for the response, he went to her midsection and nudged his nose under her wrist. Nestling down into his paws, he launched forward fast enough to lift her and scoot under until she was draped across his back.

Even though as a Were he was larger thank your standard wolf, her feet and hair still touched the ground, but he had to get her away from the edge of the water.

DB. His father’s telepathic communication came across as clear as if they were haunch to haunch. What is it?

I found someone. She isn’t a cat, I believe she’s wolf. Dell didn’t know why he didn’t tell his father his belief she was pack, but he kept that quiet for now. She is soaking wet, her heart beat is too slow to sustain a Were.

I’m sending Olive. Do what you can to keep her warm until Olive gets there.

Dell trudged up the wet, snowy bank toward the road. I’ll do my best. It’s snowing heavy, and not a candle was lit at my howl.

Not surprised. That area prefers to ignore us unless they need us. Wait for Olive.

Yes, sir. At the roadside, Dell dropped his head and shoulders down so the woman rolled off his back.

She landed with her back to the ground, her now-filthy hair haphazardly splayed across her face. If he wasn’t warmer as a wolf he’d consider shifting and running her to shelter, but he’d never find shelter warm enough to keep her safe. As it was, her fingers and toes could be at risk.

Another quiet high-pitched whine rented the air, this time he didn’t doubt it came from her. As much as his wolf wanted to peek lower, Dell kept his gaze on her face. With each drop of snow he delayed the inevitable, so he finally took the step to stand over her and dropped his full weight onto her torso, his muzzle nestled in the crook of her neck.

Within ten minutes he sensed more than he saw another wolf drawing near. After another five minutes, his long-time friend Byron appeared trotting down the road toward him. Even in wolf form, the man kept a cocky grin. Need help? I’m happy to take point position on that one.

Despite his effort to laugh, only a growl emerged and he pulled his lips back to bare his teeth. Watch it.

Touchy. Byron circled the scene and sniffed in either direction. Alpha says it’ll be at least an hour until Olive makes it this far. That girl needs more heat.

Shift and make a fire. I’m not moving, she needs wolf heat, she’s Were.

Byron’s head tilted and he almost bowed to Dell before he scattered away into the trees. Five minutes later an obscene amount of rustling and cursing started to come out of the trees. “Damn it, where is our hidey hole? I thought it was right here.”

Dell chuckled; he knew Byron was yards from their hidey hole. All around their lands the pack hid basics for a fire and one set of clothes in case they were needed for decency. The clothes would be perfect for the woman lying beneath him, but he knew Byron wouldn’t think of that, at least probably not.

“Son of a—” A thump echoed out from the trees.

If he’d been in human form, Dell would have busted a gut laughing. In wolf form, Byron was one of the best hunters. As a human, he was an eternal klutz. Dell couldn’t figure out why, since most of the time Were senses carried to human form. Unfortunately, the telepathy didn’t happen when one was human.

“Oh! There it is.” Byron emerged five minutes later with his curly blond hair askew and filled with twigs and snow. He only wore the pants from the hidey hole and carried the supplies for the fire in a shirt.  “All right, here we go. One fire coming up. I’ll wrap the shirt around her feet. I ain’t a wolf no more, but I could sit on her legs. You got her hands covered?”

Dell woofed low in response, not moving even though he wanted to correct Byron’s attempt to make a fire. Eventually the guy would get it right, and Dell couldn’t shift anyway, so he closed his eyes and sighed.

A few minutes later Byron whooped. “Look at that. Fastest I ever made a fire. I’m gonna go get more wood. You two behave.”

Dell curled his lip in another snarl, which Byron only laughed at. When his friend disappeared back into the trees, Dell lifted his head and studied the woman again. Her face was still covered by her muddy, wet hair. There wasn’t anything to see, but he was compelled to sit vigil and wait for signs of life, anything beyond the faint breaths she took underneath him and the weak beat of her heart in her chest.

Eventually she’d wake.

And he’d be there.

He’d make sure of it.

*~*

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8 Responses to “Tuesday Tales – Toes – Natural Selection”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. V.L. Locey says:

    You`ve got me hooked! I love a good shifter tale.

    • Sarah says:

      🙂 Thanks Vicki! I have an actual shifter story I’m working on…but this is my first Were story ever…so we’ll see how it plays out. 😀

  2. Sherry Gloag says:

    You’ve pulled me in, am looking forward to more.

  3. Lindsay says:

    You’ve got me SO hooked into the story.

  4. Jillian says:

    for someone who cringed at the word “toes”- you did an excellent job luring me in to the story.

  5. Iris says:

    Not much a fan of shape shifter stories, but this one has me hooked! 🙂
    Iris recently posted..Lily Malone’s Bunker-play Blog Hop and #Giveaway

  6. Jean says:

    Wow! That was gorgeous. Completely sucked me in. I love this story and I’m not a paranormal fan at all. But you hooked me with fabulous writing. Can’t wait for the next installment.