CHAPTER 5: Run AwayThe howls echoed up to the stars and moon. I shook my head wishing everything would just stop. Suddenly a body got in the way of my glaring at Vivian. Then another. And another. All the female Shifters. I twisted trying to escape the sudden group building around circled me as if they were playing ring around the rosie. I wanted to push past them. To run away. To never look everyone stopped as if someone had hit a pause button on a remote control. Beyond them I could just barely see the males. They were Standing silent. All their shocked widened eyes on me. ---What do they want? --- I thought, shrinking back on my hind legs slightly. Fear began replacing my Rage. Again the urge to run and never look back came over me. I was trapped. Like an insect in amber.---Have I done something terrible? Have I ruined the ritual? How do they punish that? ---Refusing to show how terrified I really was I raised my head and scowled with defiance in my eyes. 'I defended my pak member when you did nothing!' I told them all... and myself. Even though the blood on my tongue tasted like regret. 'I'm a monster.' My mind whispered no one seemed to hear it. And where was Abby? Dead? Maybe I did deserve whatever they decide is correct punishment. I stamped my front paws into the grassy blades. --- Relax, breathe, --- thought to myself. But my bravado didn't last when my uncle Jim and Aunt Dorothy stepped toward me. I couldn't breathe anymore. Panick consumed me. Uncle Jim nodded to Aunt Dorothy. She responded by crouching down before me, with a slight smile on her wolf face, and rolling over on to her back. She was presenting her belly. 'What's she doing?' Thought to myself, or so I thought. Kaden answered me though.'Just wait.' He told me. The other females followed her lead, presenting bellies, exposing throats, paying tribute, showing respect... showing their dominance... to me. ---Oh, shit, shit, shit! --- I glanced around in frantic conclusion. --- This is just a nightmare. I'll wake up soon, right? It's not me. I want to scream! I will NOT be anyone's bitch! ---What had happened to the ritual? Wasn't the "bitch's dance" sopose to start with a mark-set-go? Not a bitch slap (how ironic). I hadn't wanted to be part of it. Any of it! But a female past her 16th birthday is considered an adult female.... Could I find a loop hole?---Fuck, fuck, fuck! --- Part of my mind screamed the other part was a little different... It screamed;---Kaden's going to be mine. He'll make me his tonight... He'll love me. And I'll only be his. He'll protect me. ---Who the hell am I anymore? Two kisses and Kaden's officially driven me crazy. I don't want this! Do I? ---This isn't possible, --- my mind reasoned. 'No other females had fought.' I glanced around me quickly cataloging the other females. Way too old. Much too young... She's already mated. Way to fragile to fight...--- Why didn't I stop to think about the consequences of putting Viv in her place? ---My knees gave out I fell to the ground collapsing on my belly. My eyes became blurry. It was the same feeling I got when my dad had died. The need to blink, to shed tears, but I knew when I did those traitor tears would ruin me. I've never let anyone but mom see me cry. That wasn't going to change now. I felt a soft nibbling on my fur & smelled the familiar scent of my best friend. I forced my head to come up off the ground, to see bright vanilla fur, and electric blue eyes... ---Abby! --- I jumped to my feet.'You're safe! You're okay!' I said to her. All my dismay forgotten for a slight moment. I sprang to my feet and jumped around her gently, not wanting to cause any more injuries. We both pranced excitedly around each other, like ponies instead of monsters. She stood on her hind legs putting her paws gracefully over my back and howled victoriously. I laughed, causing a purring sound from my throat.'Thank you!' She said with her mind, nuzzling behind my ears. I could feel it. How proud and happy she was for me. I didn't have words so I just let her feel all the happiness and relief that was coursing through me. Her head suddenly whipped around. Abby looked at me and tipped her head signaling me to look ahead of us. She hopped down off my back and stepped aside, disapearing into the crowd. And toward me, through the expectant pack, strutted Kaden, His perfectly sculpted muscles rippling, and his midnight black fur tipped silver from the glare of the full moon and stars.I froze. My happiness of Abby's safety drained out of me. I had really named myself Kaden's mate. When he saw how my body locked together in fear, like a deer that had just heard a click of a gun, he stopped. He stood before me. I took in the sight of him again. He was so perfect, which didn't help me at all. He was intimaidating, again no help at all. He had no weaknesses. If I ran could he catch me? I looked at his long, lean powerful legs. Yes it was hopeless to run so why did that suddenly become my plan? Distract him, then when you get an opening run. And don't stop, don't look must have realized I was terrified by his appearance. He stepped closerand made his form shrink by leaning down some. He also parted his powerful jaws in a layed-back grin. I stared up at him into his gentle brown eyes. I realized everyone was waiting for something. For me to do something... I have no idea what to do I just stood there feeling like an idiot. 'Grace?' Kaden asked tilting his head to the side. 'What's wrong?'Everything, I wanted to answer. But instead I said; 'I don't know what to do? Why is everyone staring at me?' I asked stupidly. 'Grace,' I could hear his mental laugh, but there was a nervous edge to it. That just made me even more nervous. 'Just lay down.' He said. 'What?' I panicked 'we're not-?''No.' he laughed again this one more genuine then the last. 'I'm alpha. You have to show dominance.''Dominance? Didn't everyone already do that?' I asked. Again being stupid and naive. My mind was just so filled with the shock of everything else I wasn't really thinking.'You have to accept me as your mate.' His mind whispered quietly.'You're kidding right? I thought you and I had already had this discussion.' I told him. My mind running in circles. 'That was before YOU named yourself MY mate.' He annunciated. 'I didn't knowingly do so! I was only proteting a member of my pack.' I snarled slightly. And slowly his grin was disappearing.'Grace... don't make this difficult. Just lay down on your back. That's all you have to do then we can argue about it later, Okay? I promise I'll make time for you to bitch me out. Later.' He said obviously knowing I was going to tell him to "make time now."'You're going to have to make me. I will not do so willingly.' I told him. And if I wasn't so shocked I' probably would have been terrified. He shook his head, glanced down at the ground, then back at me and warned softly; 'Pick your fights wisely, Grace. Either way you're mine. I'd rather have it on your terms.''I won't be your bitch.' I growled.'Grace, don't do this, please. You're going to hate me if you make me do this.' He said.'Then don't do it. Just-both of us walk away. No hard feelings.' I tried reasoning.'I can't do that.' He told me. 'You're mine. And I'm not giving you up because just because you don't want to admit to me being Alpha.''You are Alpha. And I'm so glad you are. But I'm not ready for... everything that comes with having a mate-' He exhaled. I could see his breath in the cold air. 'I wouldn't make you do that. Not until you were ready. You know that... Tell me you know that.''How could I know that? I don't even know you! We only just met today.' I told him and now I was ready for him to dip his head down. When he did- I bolted. 'Grace,' I heard him mentally sigh my name. I ran knowing he was following. He wasn't going to let me simply run away. This was the one thing I couldn't run away from. I ran faster and harder than I ever had. The grass and leaves crunched beneath my paws, carrying me away. But not fast enough. I could hear Kaden pursuing me.---Fuck! --- He was faster. He would catch me.I kept running. I couldn't bring myself to just give up. The night air blowing on my face felt like freedom.---I cant let him catch me.--- I thought franticly , but he was getting closer. Soon he'd be close enough to pounce on me... then god knows what would happen to me. And then when he caught me... He'd have me. I couldn't allow that. But what choice did I have? If I hid, he'd track me. If I kept running, he'd catch me. If I Did manage to get away... where would I go then? He was Alpha soon he'd know where I lived.I was too caught up in my thoughts and the sound of Kaden gaining on me to see the stump...'Watch-!' Kaden warned, but he was too late. I tripped landing on my shoulder at a bad angle. 'Shit!' I buried my face in the leaves trying not to cry out in pain. I let out a hiss of air between my clenched teeth. He was right behind me. I tried to push myself back up and Yelped.'Ow! Fucking shit!' I yelled mantally. Kaden walked around to my side.I kept my face down, nose buried under my good arm. Bracing myself, ready to feel Kadens teeth yank and pull until I flipped over to present my belly, to accept him as my mate. I closed my eyes tightly and my jaw clenched, my muscles tightening preparing for the pain. I heard him exhale through his nose, then he did something I never expected him, or any male to do.'I tried to warn you. I didn't see it in time.' He leaned down to me gently touching my temple with his nose. I heard him inhale lightly. 'What happened?''Uh, I tripped cuz you had to go all Dominant male on me.' I answered. He chuckled. 'I warned you.' He laughed again. 'and if you want to point fingers, you're the one-' I interrupted.'No, don't even start!' I told him 'just admit its you're fault so I can forgive you.' He chuckled again. And then I realized it was raining. I was soaked. 'When did it start raining?' I asked as he laid down beside me.'Awhile ago, I guess, you realize we've been sprinting almost 2 hours?''No, I've been sprinting, you were jogging... Hell, maybe even speed walking. I mean you're not even out of breath!'He laughed. 'I've had years to practice.' He said.'Whatever, old man.' I was still breathing heavy. And now that I wasn't running I started shivering. Kaden scooted closer offering his warmth when I leaned in he layed his head over my neck lightly, being careful not to hurt my shoulder and wrist.I sighed and scooted closer, sliding more of my body under his. 'You aren't going to force me on my back so you can drag me to your bed room.'He laughed not at all bothered by my smart-ass comment. 'Grace, I'm a... shifter. Not a Neanderthal.''Could have fooled me.' He laughed wholeheartedly. 'You're so funny, Grace.''I'm glad you think my pathetic attempt at life is funny. You know my dad died saving me?' I didn't laugh now. 'you wish he wouldn't have saved you...' He asked quietly.'I wish he would have thought of the pack before me. The pack needed him. Not me, I was just the Alpha's daughter... Now I'm just some girl the guys think about getting it on with-''That's not all you are.' He said. When I snorted he lifted his head up and I immediately felt the chilly air close in around me. 'Can you walk?' He asked suddenly.'Yeah,' even though I wasn't exactly sure. He got up stepped forward one step then turned to look at me to make sure I could get up. 'Come on,' He said. 'A storm is rolling in and if it gets any colder it's going to be a blizzard.''How do you know?' I came back over to me. 'Close your eyes.' He said leaning in closer so we were nose to nose. 'Grace, baby the worst I can do right now is lick you.' He because we were inn wolf form didn't mean he couldn't do other things... I thought but I decided not to point that out. I closed my eyes.'Listen,' He told me ' Now, what do you hear?'---You, your voice, your breath, your heart beat.--- I thought to myself.'What am I suppose to hear?' I asked him. He laughed.'Okay what don't you hear?' he asked.'Animals.' 'Right. Now, wait for the breeze.' I did. 'Smell,' I did. 'What do you smell?'---you, your scent, your breath, I can almost smell the heat of your body.--- I answered to myself in my mind. 'Grace?''Oh, uh, water. The ground. Dirt. Grass. Dead leaves-''Yes, but at the same time no. Youre still using your human sense of smell.' He explained. 'I smell moisture. From the earth and sky, I smell the cold-''How can you smell a feeling?''It's... It's hard to explain...' He sighed. 'But feel that?' 'Feel what?' I asked. 'Exactly, It's so calm that's what happens before a storm so we better get moving.' He started walking. I tried to push myself up. But the pain was sharp and made me drop back down to the chilled ground.'Kaden?' I turned. 'Whats wrong?' 'I think I'm hurt worse then I thought.' 'You cant walk?'I shook my head.'Come on, ba-' he's stopped abruptly then shook his head 'I'll help you walk. I'm sorry if I hurt you.' He said then he came over to my side. 'This would be easier itf you'd shift to human form. Then you could walk.''And I'd be naked.' I concluded.'I've seen woman naked before, Grace.''Well, no one has seen me naked except my mom and dad and Abby.''Grace,' He sighed, upset. 'It was just a statement. Damn it. Now get up before you really piss me off.''Am I pissing you off?' 'Come on, you've wasted enough time. I was going to take you home but now there isn't enough time to make it there. Now you have to come stay the night with me. And I was trying to be polite.'I tilted my head to the side. 'Really?'He sighed. 'Yeah. I was trying to show you I could be a gentleman but you ruined that for me.''Help me up so we can go... I'm getting cold.' I told him.'Yeah I think my fur is freezing now.' He said.I laughed. 'Come on.' he said.I pushed myself up and when I started to fall back down He caught me. He used his shoulder to hold me up. 'Lean against me, don't fight me. Use me like a crutch.' I did. After I quit fighting it was easy to walk with him. And he praised me every once in awhile. And the sick thing was... I like it. I liked the thought of him thinking I was doing a good job. I wanted to be strong for him. 'You know, I didn't notice how small you were. Even when you were fighting Vivian.' He told me trying to keep up a conversation. 'Really? Why?''I don't know, Maybe it's the way you hold yourself. Like you know you're as good as everyone else.''I am as good as everyone else.' I told him. 'I know that, you know I think you might even be better then everyone else.''Better then the girls...''And the males.' He said. 'Here we are.' He said nodding to the opening of a cave. 'Uh, okay...' I told him trying to hide how scared I was.'Grace, don't be afraid. I'm not going to do anything you're not comfortable with.' He promised.'No that's, um, not it.' I said half lying. 'I can't hold my form much longer and I don't have any clothes.' I told him as we entered the cave. 'Over here,' He nudged me over to a soft mound. When I tensed he cooed softly. 'It's okay, it's just some blankets. Lay down.' Then he was gone I couldn't feel his heat anymore.'Kaden?' I called. 'It's okay, I'll be right back.' I tried to relax and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. I could make out shapes before a light came on suddenly."Hey," Kaden came out in human form with plaid pajama pants on. He was also carrying some fabric in his left hand. "I found you a shirt of mine and some boxers- and yes they're clean. You can shift under the blanket." He told me. "Then I'll give you the clothes and you can change under there, too." He came over by me and lifted the blanket up. I crawled under it. Shifted then poked my head out clutching the blanket under my arms to cover myself. "Here," he handed me the clothes. "Thanks," I murmured. Wondering why he was being so nice to me... again. After I'd been such a bitch to him. I ducked back beneath the blankets and pulled the dry warm shirt over my head and then the boxers up to my hips. I came back out from the blankets. "All done?" He asked. "Yeah," I told him."Let me see your arm." He said. Gently putting his hand flat against my stomach the other resting parallel from it on my lower back turning me so my hurt shoulder was toward him. I took the free time to look at my surroundings. He had a battery operated Lantern that gave off a surprising amount of light. "It looks like you dis located your shoulder. Your wrist is only a sprain when your ready to shift again that should heal your wrist. But I think I'm going to have to fix your shoulder." He told me. I nodded. "I figured." I sighed. "Go for it." I was going to have to put my shoulder back in socket alone, a procedure usually attempted by at least two people. He grasped me by the arm and bagan the painful business. He dislocated my humerus even farther, pulling the bone out further, the whole time he was reminding me to breathe and telling me how good I was being. And Finally he released the pressure and we both heard the 'good' pop that meant my bone had slipped back into socket.I let out a breath that sounded more like a sob. I fell forward into his bare chest. "Good girl, you did great. It's all done now." He told me burying his face into my hair. "I'm so sorry I had to do that. The aftershock of the pain slowly fading to a background feeling- that was very annoying- I realized how exhausted I was. "I'm tired." I said but it came out as a breathless whisper."Come here," "No I have to go home." I murmured trying to push away from him weakly. "Shh, I know. But we can't go anywhere right now you have to rest." He whispered wrapping me closer to him. "You're just going to stay one night then you can go home, I promise. You'll be safe here." He told me. "I'll even call your mom if you want.""No she didn't even try to help me when I was standing in front of the pack not knowing what the hell I was suppose to do, She can be afraid for a little while. She can worry. She probably brought some guy home anyway... so she won't answer the phone if you did call. Just stay with me." I said."Okay, lets go lay down." I laughed. "You're very agreeable when you're tired." He observed pulling me down under the blankets.I laughed too. "Not that agreeable."I closed my eyes with a slight smile on my face. I snuggled closer to him. He wrapped his arm around my waist. Silently asking me to come closer. I did. I scooted so close our bodies tangled together. Right before my world grew quiet I felt his lips brush my forehead, my temple, my left cheek bone, then my nose. Then he whispered. "I'll be good now. I swear." I slipped into dreams... Nightmare free Dreams For the first time in three months... I felt safe.