Chills raked Curourae's small frame as she huddled against the snow covered spruce tree at her back. It offered little warmth, but Curourae soon ceased to care as drowsiness edged the corners of her mind.
She knew that falling asleep now would enable her to never wake again, at least that is what her Grandmama told her and her Grandmama was the wisest adult in her eleven year old universe, so Curourae took her Grandmama's word as law.
She just wasn't thinking of that when she had run away because three hours ago Curourae had been more than eager to distance herself from her. Grandmama had told her that she was to move to America to join her parents but Curourae rebelled against the very idea of leaving Alaska to rejoin the very parents that had abandoned her there when she was two. Grandmama had said that Curourae was given to her because her parents couldn't take care of her by themselves, but Curourae knew the truth...they just didn't want her.
From the time she could first understand words till she was dumped on her Grandmama, she had always heard her parents fighting about her. No one knew that Curourae recalled anything from so long ago, but she found it a little hard to forget the very people who sired you calling you a, 'mistake.'
So when Grandmama told her that she was to go back to them, she just ran. She avoided the well learned paths that she had been shown as an infant and lost herself in the Alaskan woods behind her Grandmama's house. She had not wanted to be found then but three hours from then, Curourae found herself praying that her Grandmama would find her.
Please, Lord, let Grandmama find me. I swear I'll never run away again so please please please let her find me. Curourae repeated the silent mantra in her head over and over again even as drowsiness ate at her consciousness. She continued to fight against the growing fog that crowded her mind so hard that she failed to notice the tiger that hid behind a nearby tree.
It was only when it cracked a branch as it stealthily made its way toward her that she finally noticed it but instead of fear, she only felt wonder and a curiosity that helped keep her drowsiness at bay.
She knew that tigers couldn't live in Alaska but there one stood, not two feet to her left...and it was one of the most beautiful creatures she had ever seen. It's pure white coat was almost invisible among the white snow but for the black stripes that bisected it. It was truly the most gorgeous creature on the planet, Curourae was sure of it, and her opinion was confirmed when she raised her wonder filled pale green eyes to meet two glowing orbs of turquoise fire. They were even rimmed with cobalt blue but for all the beauty Curourae saw, they were undoubtedly the eyes of a predator. A predator that was eying her up even now.
"Hello, kitty." Curourae greeted softly, knowing somewhere in the back of her mind that she was being foolish. And that she was because her voice spurred the tiger into movement once more, slowly closing the distance between them.
It was not long until the tiger stood directly in front of her but she had closed her eyes long before that in dread of it's deadly claws but no killing blow came. Instead, the tiger leaned closer and nuzzled her frozen cheek, even granting her a pass of its hot tongue that burned along the cold skin of her jaw.
Curourae was so startled that she snapped her head back only to have it collide with the spruce behind her, "Ow!"
Her eyes automatically opened and she came face to face, not with the tiger...but with a boy around her age.
He had gorgeous long black hair, silky and smooth with an almost ethereal shine to it. It fell to the curve of his butt in gentle waves that begged to be touched. His hair served as the perfect border for his haughty aristocratic features. He had the characteristic straight nose and slightly arched black brows that gave him his haughty air, but his mouth softened him with it's fullness. Although he was beautiful in full, it was the eyes that stood out...the gorgeous predatory eyes of her tiger.
He wore only a pair of light linen pants and a tank top underneath a down jacket. Curourae might have thought him insane for his lack of clothing but as the harsh Alaskan winds cut through her as they blew around them, the boy didn't even shiver.
"You can turn into a boy?" Curourae murmured softly in wonderment as she stared at him. That would explain everything that's happened thus far and instead of freaking out about it like she should have been, Curourae could only feel wonderment at his ability. She couldn't count on one hand the millions of times she's dreamed of being able to do the same thing.
Awesome. Curourae thought to herself as she swayed closer to him.
"Are you alright?" The boy asked as he leaned in closer to her.
It was then that she caught the scent of him as well. He had this scent that was not just one in whole but seemed to be made up of a myriad of other scents that went together perfectly. He smelled of fresh spring rain and sandalwood at first but as she leaned closer she caught the more subtler scents of freshly fallen snow and clover.
And underneath that was...peanut butter?
"You smell like peanut butter." Curourae stated a second before her stomach growled. He leaned back as if in surprise and blushed. It was a curious sight to behold but not nearly as curious as what happened next.
It was as if a mirage passed over his face before revealing another boy entirely. Yes, the features were very much the same but along his sharp jawline, tiger stripes decorated his pale lightly golden skin. They were pretty in a way but not nearly as pretty as the snowy white hair that fell to curl over his butt. And as in his other form, his eyes remained the same.
Curourae's Grandmama had always told her that you could see a person's soul in their eyes and looking at him now, she knew it to be true because you could camouflage your appearance all you wanted but you could never hide your soul.
"You're pretty." Curourae praised him softly as she reached out to touch his hair. "Soft."
And just like that, her tiger-boy began to purr just like the kitten he was.
Curourae giggled as she stroked around his slightly pointed ears, "How do you change like that?"
"You can see it." The boy started as he pulled away from her.
"I like the stripes." Curourae smiled as she traced her own jawline to indicate where they were.
As their silence continued, drowsiness once again started to cloud her vision and she settled back against the tree more comfortably, "I'm sleepy."
"You can't fall asleep out here!" The boy panicked as he took hold of her shoulders and pulled her forward.
Curourae only yawned and smiled sleepily as she closed her eyes.
"Wake up!" The boy snapped angrily as he shook her. "No bride of mine is going to die out here."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going to marry you some day." He replied as he turned away from her to glance at her tracks in the snow.
"Ewww...why'd you want to do that for?"
"Because you're special."
"Really?" Curourae whispered doubtfully as she watched him sniff the wind. "What are you doing."
"Trying to find where you came from." He replied as he leaned her back against the tree and shifted into his tiger form. "Grab on to my fur and climb on."
With that, he presented his tail to her. "Bossy Kitty."
That comment earned her a low growl, but Curourae climbed onto his back regardless and snuggled into the thick fur on his neck. After she was situated, the tiger set off in the direction that she had originally come, paying close attention to her tracks and following them through the forrest.
Curourae let the heavy footfalls of his paws lull her into sleep. She did not know how long she had slept but was awakened some time later as the tiger removed her from his back.
"Hello again." She whispered as she curled around him.
"Hello, little flower." The tiger's mouth never moved as the words drifted through Curourae's foggy mind.
"I have to have something to call my future bride." The tiger replied, nuzzling her cheek with his damp nose.
"You still going on about that." Curourae murmured as she raised a shaky hand to rest in the fur of his face.
"Yes. So will you?"
"Will I what?"
"Be my bride." He stated exasperatedly.
After a moment, Curourae whispered, "Yes."
"Thank you, Little Flower." He growled triumphantly as he licked her cheek. "Keep awake, Little Flower, we need to seal our pact."
"How?" Curourae yawned as she obediently opened her eyes.
"With a kiss."
"A kiss?" Curourae whispered sleepily as she frowned. She couldn't help but remember that one 'icky' kiss from Kevin Donaldson in her class. "I can't kiss you."
"You're a tiger." Curourae replied triumphantly until she watched his tiger form shimmer into that of the boy.
"Problem fixed, Little Flower." The boy purred softly as he leaned in a little closer to her. "Come on, we still need to seal our pact."
"Fine." Curourae sighed as she leaned up to hurriedly press her chilly lips to his.
He then licked his lips after she had pulled away saying, "It'll do."
"Can I go back to sleep now?"
"Yes, Little Flower, and when you wake up you will be with your Grandmother again in your own bed."
Curourae wanted to ask how he knew she had a grandmother in the first place but found the comforting grogginess of sleep pulling her under and decided that she would ask later.
But there was no later to ask her tiger-boy because he was gone and he had kept himself to his word. She did wake up in her own bed and her Grandmama was beside her.