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Clash of Claws: Chapter 4

I skillfully climbed down the tree, the morning sun warming my tired and stiff body. My clothes were still damp but would no doubt dry in the warm air as the day wore on. No one was around and I took this as my cue to leave the Park.

I was confident that I would never meet my pursuers again, especially in a city this big. I may not have had much school but even I know that the odds of that are miniscule. With my confidence secure in my winning statistics I decided to explore a part of the city that I had never been too, Little Italy. With all the restraints and adequate popular attraction I was sure to be able to swipe something to eat… or at least edible.

It took me a bit to find my way to Little Italy. I was shocked at the blatant Italian pride and colors of Italy the city practically bathed in. I would half expect the people would start painting themselves red, white, and green! I chuckled at the thought. I was happy to find many people milling around Little Italy and spent most of the morning doing a bit of window shopping; admiring the clothes, shoes, and the delicious smelling foods that waiters and waitresses brought out to customers. By noon time it was hard to ignore the smells of hand-tossed pizza, hand-crafted pasta and spaghetti; I saw a large stuffed shell that looked so good I was drooling a bit, the smell wasn't making it easier to walk away, either. When I wasn't admiring the foods and material items I was thinking of ways to get a free meal.

I would have to be discrete and careful when choosing what to eat. I didn't want people staring if I took something out of the trash or end up getting sick from what I picked. I turned when I heard a bang from a trashcan in an empty alley with only a few trashcans and dumpsters to call it home. I casually walked into the ally, checked to make sure no one was looking before I opened the can to see what I could salvage before to the treasure went out into the sea of garbage at the city dump. Lady Luck must have been showering me with her golden dust because I found a slice of pizza wrapped in tinfoil! "Oh, this day is looking so bright," I whispered in excitement! I scooped up the pizza and went out to the street to eat my meal, hoping no one noticed that it looked like it came from the trash.

Trying to be as casual as possible I un-wrapped the pizza to find it to be a plain cheese with a few mushrooms on it. Yuck! I flicked them off with my fingernail, my nose wrinkled at the sight of them. With the mushrooms out of the picture I took in the glorious cheesy sight before me. I did my best to make sure the drool didn't drip from my mouth as I took my first bite. I was happy to find that it was still warm and looked fine to me, so I found it ridiculous that someone would toss out a good slice of pizza. "Mmmm! So good," I sighed after quickly swallowing and going in for my second bite. Finishing it off I tossed the foil into the nearest trash can and continued to explore Little Italy and all its nooks and crannies.

All too soon, evening was upon me and the city sky was bathed in purples, blues, yellows, and oranges as the sun was beginning its voyage to the other side of the world and the temperature began to drop with it. I began to look for some form of shelter in Little Italy, with its doorways and empty alleys; I could find some form of shelter. A short time later and the once busy Italian hub was all but barren. The locals were gone and the stores and restraints long closed for the night. A shiver ran through me from the chilly night air and had me pulling the hood of my sweatshirt closer to my head. I chose a random doorway as my shelter, if only from the cold, night breeze.

Holding knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around them to keep warm and as a make shift pillow I did my best to retain what body heat I had. With my body shaking with shivers as my muscles tried to generate their own heat I did my best to try to sleep. My stomach growled every once in a while, the pizza a long ago memory of my last meal.

My head filled with images of my favorites foods: ice-cream sundae, spaghetti with meat balls, chicken and broccoli alfrado, shrimp scampi, baked chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli, Thanks-Giving turkey, stuffing, turnips, and peas. Mmmm! With these foods filling my head, I tried to imagine what they tasted like to fill my empty stomach and I dosed off into a peaceful sleep.

~C.O.C~

The night was clear of rain and there was a slight breeze that would not hinder the trackers. Our coats flew in the breeze as we began our search at midnight. We were able to locate her scent in Central Park and followed it to Little Italy. And there she was. Huddled in a doorstep looking cold but peaceful in her sleep. I fought the urge to attack the trackers for looking at her and taking her back to my home. My possessiveness was not helping me in this situation. I had the men move into position but, if luck had it, Ashley had woken too soon and made a run for it before we had the change to even react.

"We can't lose her, again! Quick, follow her," I shouted. No I will not lose you, my mate. My Ashley. With that we began the chase.

~C.O.C~

I awoke to a feeling of being watched and ran without a second thought. Taking random streets with no idea where they led. I wasn't familiar with this part of the city and this led me to my downfall. Soon enough, I came face to face with a grimy brick wall in a dirty, foul smelling, deserted alley with only a fire escape and a dumpster to hide myself with. The splashing of feet hitting water, from what puddles were left from the yesterday, came a second later at the entrance of the alley.

Trapped.

I turned around to face my pursuers. Six men came out of the shadows of the city, their once inky profiles becoming sharp with the color life gave them instead of hiding it in the darkness. Some looked to be in their mid twenties, others mid thirties. They all had muscle; though they were not bodybuilders they weren't wimps either. They were built strong like basketball, soccer, or baseball players, some were slightly bulkier but weren't bulky like football players. They began inching closer, hands raised as if trying to calm a trapped dog. No matter how you looked at it I had no chance to escape.

That scared me and made me more panicky. I couldn't think of a proper plan and all I could do was look around for an escape route and find nothing. I felt trapped in the box with the men guarding the only door out. I was not going to win this fight.

Scared, frustrated, and confused I shakily shouted in fear, "What do you want?! Why are you following me?!" This stopped them and they turned to the man in the center, as if he held all of life's questions. The man was silent for a moment, his blue eyes staring into me with a thoughtful look on his face, as if wondering how to answer me.

"If your cops thinking of 'helping' me," I flexed two fingers like physical quotation marks around the word 'helping', "then you better know now that I don't want your kind of help."

He stepped out of the group and began walking towards me with long, confident strides. The look on his face was calm but that didn't stop frightening me. "Take another step forward and I'll kick your ass," I shouted, though my voice cracked slightly with fear. He kept coming towards me. Slow, so agonizingly slow. There was this feeling he gave off, almost an aura- an aura of power. That 'power' scared me, though I don't know why. I just knew that it made me want to be far away from him. My heart was stuck in my throat as I bumped into the grimy wall of the alley I didn't realize I backed into. He stopped arms length from me. Then he did something really weird.

He smelled the air. At first I thought wanted to smell the rain. I looked up at the grey sky and smelled the air, thinking it might smell of rain.

Suddenly the guy was in front of me, no longer arms length but crowding my person space. He gripped my arms slightly and put his nose in my grimy hair and took a deep breath. Eww my hair is disgusting and he's smelling it! That is so disgusting, was all I could think as he looked back to his comrades and nodded. I noticed a slight smile on his face when he turned back to me.

He turned back to me, giving me a gentle smile. "Ashley Marie Brooks," he said in a smooth voice.

I stared in shock. "W-what?" He knew my name? How the hell did he know my name?

"We're here to help you, Ashley. You have no need to be afraid. We're not going to hurt you." His grip on my arm tightened slightly when I tried to pull away. A small part of me wanted to believe him, to feel like a burden could be taken off of me but, I reminded myself of how long I've been able to survive on my own. I don't need help, I reminded myself. "As I said before, I don't WANT any help," I said, tugging at my arms and trying to escape from his suddenly iron grip.

"Ashley, I'm not letting you go. You need some help even though you won't take it. Also, your Alpha wants to see you. Your coming back with us whether you want to or not," the man said, suddenly pulling me to his strong, broad chest and kept me in his grip as I tugged and squirmed in an attempt to get away. Stay away from Alphas, if you can. Why did my father tell me that? Will he… kill me? Tears began to squeeze their way from my eyes as I began to feel scared and trapped. I started to panic. I didn't like feeling trapped; the feeling of not being able to get out of a small space where no one could hear your screams for help.

The fear was from when I accidentally locked myself in a miniature closet during a game of hide-and-seek in the house with my parents looking for me. It felt like hours but was only fifteen minutes before they found me but found that the door was stuck. I started crying and screaming, pounding my five-year-old fists against the door. My dad told me to get into a far corner and rammed the door down to get me out and I ran out the moment I could, crying in my mother's arms. I've been scared of that feeling ever since and never wanted to experience it again.

In my panic I didn't feel the gentle and steady pressure at my neck. My vision was slowly blackening against my will. My last conscious thought as my body became heavy, forcing my whole weight on the man holding me was: No. No! I can't black out! The Alpha – he's gonna kill me!

~C.O.C~

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