By the end of the week the aches had turned into pain. It got to the point where Raphael would magically show up in whatever room I was in whenever the pain became too much. He would stride through the door, his face tight and tensed. It was only after being in the same room for over twenty minutes that he began to relax.
The moment he attempted to leave the room, and my body was engulfed in breath stealing pain was when I realized just how screwed I was. I was tethered to him, bound to him by an invisible bond that scared the shit out of me. How could I decide to live the rest of my life with him when I didn't even know him? That thought was baffling; I couldn't seem to wrap my head around it. But then, on the other hand, if something wasn't done soon, I wouldn't have long to enjoy my single life anyway. I believed him when he said we would die.
Screwed if I did, and screwed if I didn't.
Could I live the rest of my life with Gabriel? It was the question I thought about day and night.
In the end the decision to finish the bond was a simple one. I wanted to live and Gabriel was offering himself on a platter. Now all I needed was the opportunity to tell him my decision. Every time I opened my mouth to tell him something stopped me. I couldn't find the words to tell him I chose life over my freedom.
Finally, a week and a half after he brought me to the pack house, I cracked. I journeyed too far away from him and nearly fell to my knees the pain was so great. As he helped me up off the ground I finally opened my mouth to put us both out of our miseries.
"I'll do it."
Gabriel's eyes surveyed me with budding hope before a shutter slammed down, and I could no longer see a flicker of emotion.
"I'll finish the bond."
I thought he would show some kind of emotion at my announcement but his eyes remained blank as he scanned me.
"Because I finally faced the reality of our deaths if I don't." I bit my lips – nervous. "I don't want to die."
He narrowed his eyes. "So between death and me – you choose me."
"You made the same choice."
"No, I chose before death became a definite possibility."
I lifted an eyebrow, unimpressed with his logic.
"Don't pretend that you didn't agree to be with me because you don't want to die." I moved closer to him. "We aren't a normal couple who decided to spend the rest of our lives together because of love. We have a lot of work ahead of us; trust needs to be built. We are stuck in a relationship that is all backwards and built on nothing but a supernatural bond."
"The bond is a mental and physical link between two souls. What human can boast that they know their chosen mate body and soul? We may not have chosen each other, but we'll have a deeper relationship than a human couple could ever dream of."
"I just meant it would take a little more work. I wasn't trying to downplay the bond."
He nodded, but his body was still stiff.
"We'll do the mating run this weekend. We're doing things a little backwards but you deserve the honor of a run."
I furrowed my brow. "What's a mating run?"
"In the days of old, chosen females would participate in the mating run as a way to test her males strength. If he did not catch her then he was not allowed to finish the bond. Today it is part of the courtship, a thrill before the binding."
I shifted, unsure on how I felt about this mating run.
"You guys would chase your intended mates down and if you caught them, mated them?" I shuddered, animal planet played across my mind. "That's a little barbaric don't you think?"
"It was to ensure the survival of the fittest. All wolves had to run, but only the strongest mated."
"Still!" I shook my head, uneasy with everything. "How is this supposed to honor me?"
"Females of all species fight for the chance of a wolf picking them. The chance of having an eternal bond with a strong mate."
I found it hard to believe, but I kept my mouth shut. His brows were already furrowed and I could tell my less than ecstatic response to the mating run was displeasing.
We spent the rest of the day in his office with me curled up on his sofa reading a book. Being in the same room was the only way I could breath.
Friday came all too soon. It wasn't until thirty minutes before the run that I realized the mating run wasn't a private affair. On no – the whole damn pack joined in on it. Apparently there hadn't been a run in nearly 6 months and all the young wolves were clamoring to chase their chosen mate through the woods.
This strange courtship ritual baffled me. I didn't feel honored, honestly I just felt like prey. But the pain of separation was becoming so intense that I was willing to do just about anything to fix it. It sounded cowardly, but I didn't have much of a choice.
Gabriel came to stand beside me as the wolves began to gather in the back yard. The forest line was a good ten yards away from the house but I couldn't help but shudder as I looked into its dark depths. The thought of being chased through the forest wasn't a pleasant one.
"Don't worry, I'll catch you quick." His voice was teasing, but the confidence in his voice was insulting. It raised my hackles.
"What if you can't catch me?" I lifted a brow, my lips curled into a small smirk.
"Oh, I'll catch you." His chest rumbled and his golden eyes grew molten. "There isn't a question about that."
I snorted, my competitive side shone through and all my anxiety seemed to melt away. I would give him the chase of his life.
"Good luck with that. I think I might leave you in my dust."
"You can certainly try." He pulled me close to him, so my body contoured to his and the bond sparked between us. "But I will catch you and when I do, you'll be mine."
A shiver coursed through me. The way he held me to him and growled promises was turning me on. Gabriel buried his nose into the curve of my neck and inhaled. A deep, content rumble left his chest as his nose brushed the curve of my neck.
"If you catch me." I agreed before pulling slowly away.
A sharp whistle split through the air and the crowd of wolves quieted. Gabriel and I turned to see an older lady with silver streaked hair addressing the crowd.
"The run will commence in two minutes! Females you'll have a fifteen minute head start before the males will begin their hunt. Happy hunting."
Excited female chattering resumed as soon as the older lady finished her speech. I looked around at the people surrounding me and was once more besieged with anxiety. Could I really go through with this?
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could do this; I had to do this. A loud howl broke through the night air and the females around me started for the trees. Their excited giggles grated on my nerves; all of my pent up anger and frustration bubbled to the surface.
"Happy hunting." I hissed as I pushed past Gabriel and entered the forest. I began to run, I knew I had to get as far away as possible, but I knew I wouldn't be able to out run him. Which meant I would have to outsmart him.
My pent up anger demanded satisfaction and the only way I would get it was by making this as hard as possible for him. If he wanted me, he would have to fight for me.
My pace was fast but not yet frantic. I couldn't chance an injury. I wouldn't let this run end before it even started. As I ran my eyes kept darting from side to side, searching for anything that would help me. Ten minutes went by without any kind of inspiration; my time was running out.
A second howl split the air and a little bit of fear broke through my determination. The males were hunting.
I wouldn't be able to handle it if he caught me right away. Just the thought made me feel frantic to put more space in between us. More howls broke out behind me, and then there was the sound of giggles and growls.
I didn't bother being quiet as I crashed through the underbrush; I just focused on getting as far away as I could. It wasn't until I glanced up that inspiration struck. I could hide in a tree, and maybe even stay out of reach.
I scanned the area around me with a critical eye. I needed to find the perfect tree, and that meant I had to get high enough to stay out of reach.
I stop short when I caught sight of a large tree to my right. It was large and sturdy, with only small branches on the bottom and sturdier ones towards the top. I would be lucky if those branches would hold my weight. As I drew closer my heart raced with the thrill of the chase and the thought of hindering Gabriel. Maybe he had been right about the chase being a type of courting; just the thought of him doing everything in his power to snatch me out of the tree was exciting.
I came to a stop in front of the tree, tipping my head back I could barely see the sun through the lush leaves. Perfect. I rubbed the sweat on my palms off on my dirty jeans before tensing to spring.
My hope was to reach the first flimsy branch, but before my feet could lift off the ground a force hit me from the side and I went flying.
I gasped for air, winded and dazed from the impact. There was nothing I could do but lie on the ground and wait for the pain to subside. When the pain faded and I was able to look around at my surrounding – I wish I hadn't.
In front of me was a large wolf, but it wasn't Gabriel.
Sorry it took so long. I had to rewrite the entire chapter and it took longer than I thought. Thanks for being patient!