Full Blooded


Page 39



“To taste you.”


I knew in my bones what he was saying was true. I’d been denying my wolf just as hard. But that didn’t make it any easier to swallow. Rourke was nothing like any of the wolves had thought, but I still wasn’t ready. I’d just turned into a wolf—now I had a mate? It was too much, an insane amount of too much. “I can’t think. None of this is making any sense.” I put my hand to my forehead. “Why us? Why now? It takes some a thousand years to find their true mate.” I turned. “I need some air.” Before he could object I darted out the door, slamming it firmly behind me.


My wolf had gone quiet for once, her head angled at me like she wanted to ask a question. I cannot talk about this with you. I know where you stand, you’ve been abundantly clear on all fronts. You accept him. I get it. But I can’t deal with this right now. His scent is still inside me, driving me crazy. His taste is still on my lips. I crave him even now. Holy shit, I had a mate. And he was a cat.


I ran headfirst into the woods.


20


I followed a well-worn path leading away from the cabin. It ran without stopping straight into a wall of densely packed pine trees. I had to duck my head and pull apart low branches to get through.


Inside was a tiny clearing, ringed tightly with tall trees. The grassy field in the middle was so perfect and green, it appeared to have been freshly mowed. That was inconceivable. Rourke didn’t come up here and mow lawns.


I paced into the middle and looked up. The trees were entrancing, like a beautiful forested cathedral made of swaying boughs with a rooftop of the purest blue. The edges of the sky were fading to orange with the setting sun.


We have to do something, I told my wolf. I have to get my mind off of all this. She mimicked lying on the ground and barked. You want to shift? She yipped. What if I can’t shift all the way? She snapped the air in front of her and flicked her muzzle. It’s not a stupid question. We did that whole Lycan thing, and I have no idea how it happened, or how to do it again. She turned away from me like it wasn’t any concern of hers. What if I’m not in control as a wolf? I’m not ready for a repeat of the last time we were in our full true form. My wolf turned around slowly, her eyes clear as she put her paw up against the opaque barrier between us in my mind. I had dropped it momentarily when we’d fought the rogue, but it was still there. She was telling me it still held, it was still strong.


I was in control whether she liked it or not.


Okay, let’s try it then. I’ve really got nothing to lose.


I shimmied out of my clothes quickly and lay down on the grass, pushing Rourke and the kiss from my mind. It took gargantuan effort. All my body really wanted to do was run back to him.


I closed my eyes and focused on my wolf, which wasn’t hard because she had situated herself front and center, waiting for me to get with the program. Okay, this is all you. I’m trusting you to know what to do. She growled, urging me along. Fine, fine, I’m going.


Once I was settled, I pushed out to her. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, but it felt comfortable. The barrier between us bowed, but held. Power flowed through me, transferring to my wolf through the screen. She howled fiercely as she accepted it. Shivers shot though me as my muscles started to dance and move. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly, like my body was yielding on its own.


My back arched, my spine lifting off the ground, starting to shift beneath me. Soft fur sprouted along my arms and legs, my canines and claws elongating to full length. My legs bent and twisted as they changed.


There was no shock of pain this time. My father had been right.


Instead, a constant pressure mixed with liquid heat ran through my veins. Raw energy transformed my body; it shaped me and shook me with need.


My body wanted this, it welcomed it.


When it was over, I sprawled on my stomach panting heavily. My paws spread out in front of me. I have paws. I laughed. It was funny to think of myself with anything other than hands. I blinked a few times, adjusting to the field of vision, which was sharper and much more precise than before. I pushed out to my wolf and found her sitting right next to me, panting with me, seeing everything I saw.


How can you be here with me at the same time? As she barked, our mouth opened and the sound of a wolf’s calling reverberated in the air. You told me you wouldn’t be in control! She sniffed the air, and as she did, our snout absorbed the scents around us. The smell of Rourke hit me immediately. He was near. In my wolf form, his scent called to me immediately, signaling our connection clearly. There was no mistaking it. It screamed mate. No wonder my wolf had known. I wanted to go to him now, so he could comfort me, soothe me. But I didn’t.


Instead I jumped to my feet and stumbled a few paces. I wasn’t used to working a body with four legs. I had to get out of here. I needed to think somewhere I couldn’t smell my mate. I don’t get it. Why won’t this work? My wolf took a step forward in my mind, and I felt a pull to step, my paw lifting off the ground on its own. No! My foreleg froze in place. I focused all my concentration and my paw went down, and as it did, I understood.


I was in control, but the shift of power in this form hung on the tiniest thread of thought. We were melded here, almost one and the same. Nothing like my human body. She bit the air in my mind, but my muzzle stayed shut in my physical form. I get it. Let me get used to it first. She huffed, but sat back on her haunches. I moved forward cautiously, feeling out my new body on my own. The last time, I’d been in shock and she had taken over, so it was my first time.


I crept out of the ring of trees.


Rourke stood fifty paces from me, watching me intently.


I ran.


I raced toward the creek, where the smell of sweet water beckoned me like a tinkling bell. I was hungry and thirsty. Once I got there and took my fill, I followed it to the end, picking over rocks and boulders, taking time to explore my new form. My wolf was patient with me, even though I knew she wanted to run and hunt.


I settled us on a big boulder at the edge of a small waterfall, the cliff sheering off below us. I didn’t want to think about Rourke, but he’d been the only thing occupying my mind. My wolf flashed me a picture. It was the same one she’d shown me before of Rourke towering over me, us biting and licking his chin. I know that already! But we need to talk to our Alpha right n—


Jessica! My father’s voice came screaming into my consciousness. Can you hear me? Damn it, answer me! Jessica!


I sprang up so quickly I stumbled back, almost losing my balance and tumbling off the rock. I had to use all my faculties not to plunge over the waterfall.


Dad? Dad! I’m here! I can hear you!


There was a pause. Jessica, are you in your wolf form?


Yes.


Your full wolf form?


Yes, I just shifted.


Are you in danger right now? Jessica, answer me quickly!


No. I looked around me, but there was nothing but woods. At least not anything immediate. I’m somewhere in the Ozarks, at a cabin up in the mountains. We lost the Southern wolves for the time being, but I’m certain they’ll find us soon. We have, at Rourke’s best guess, till morning.


I felt my father’s mind shift as he said something to someone else; it was like being on hold during a phone call when you heard murmuring in the background. We’re on the road somewhere in Missouri. Tyler saw you get on the highway and we followed as soon as we could. There was another brief interruption. I waited patiently. Jessica, listen to me, there’s something else going on here. When you left with Rourke, the Southern faction pulled out of the fight immediately. And when I say that, I mean, to a wolf they abandoned the fight. They had several U-Hauls, and they came around quickly, gathering up their wolves midfight. Never in my life have I ever left a fight, and I’ve certainly never seen any other wolf do it either, especially during a war. We stay and fight, it’s our instinct to do so.


If they left, does that mean no one on our side was hurt? I was anxious to know if everyone was okay. I felt a heavy burden on my shoulders, thinking there was a possibility wolves could’ve lost their lives because of me. Especially anyone I loved.


I heard what amounted to a scoff in my head. We’re fine, don’t worry about us. Danny got a few bones broken and it pissed him off, and some of the younger wolves have some bumps and bruises, but there were no major losses.


I was relieved. Is Tyler with you?


Yes, he and ten others. The rest are going to rendezvous with us once we pick you up.


I don’t know how you’re going to find me. We crossed a small river with a sulfur stream and we hiked up a steep slope all day. You’re going to have to follow our stinky trail. I can change back and ask Rour—


Jessica, I will find you. I can promise you that. There’s nothing on this planet that will keep me from finding you—but you have to listen to me closely now. Intensity stressed his words. My blood jumped, reacting to his emotion.


I’m listening.


The implication of the Southern wolves changing their tactics and pulling out is extremely serious. It means they’re working with another Sect, maybe even more than one. There’s something going on here that we don’t fully understand yet. And it’s highly organized, Jessica. I’ve been a fool not to think something like this wasn’t a possibility. His regret flowed though me. I’ll be sorry until the day I die, but I promise I will make amends to you. I swear it on my very life.


My heart thudded in my chest. I wanted to be with my Pack, to alleviate my father’s worry. I can leave now, try to meet you through the forest. I can try to find my way out in my wolf form. Or Rourke may be able to guide me there if he’s willing.


My father stilled. Has Rourke told you anything? Has he told you who sent him? Or why?


No, he only hinted they were “very” interested in me.


Jessica, he cannot be trusted. He’s a great warrior, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and I will owe him a life debt for getting you out of the fight, but he is not one of us. He is not Pack. If he’s led you into a trap by bringing you there … he’s also a dead man.


The thought of Rourke dead choked me. I couldn’t breathe.



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