Installment # 16
Now what was she going to do? She’d hiked for what felt like half a century hoping the guy would bail. But noooo. He’d stuck around, not giving her a chance to be alone, to grieve for the loss of her dog.
The instant her thoughts turned to Sol-Dog, Sofia’s heart seized and a fist squished her throat.
Not now. Not in front of anyone. She willed her tears back with a sharp thrust of anger.
“Right. So why don’t you? Leave.”
For a second, she thought she’d seen a flash of communion in German’s green eyes, like he knew something of her pain.
Yeah, right. Like he gets how it feels to kill your best friend.
Shit. She was going to cry if she kept thinking about what she’d done, could feel the sting behind her eyes, and was warily surprised to see him turn away and start walking back the way they’d just traveled, as if he could tell she was about to lose it.
Just in time, too, because the tears found their inevitable path down her cheeks. Absorbed in her misery, she stared at the blurry ground at her feet instead of watching the man leave. When she finally rubbed at her face and looked up, he was gone.
But she didn’t like the loneliness his absence made. Suddenly, the forest seemed too big and her grief made her feel too tiny, too vulnerable, too much like a turtle without its shell. The sighing of the wind in the high boughs whispered loss.
She didn’t even have her Sol-Dog to ward off the insecurities that plagued her at times like these. Before, she’d never worried about where she slept when her giant mutt was with her. She just laid her head on the dog’s broad side, curled up to his furry warmth, and slept easy knowing she had someone looking out for her. A first in her long history as a ward of the state.
Now she had no one. Again.
Yet she wouldn’t go back to the farm, not a chance in Hell. If her eyes had to suffer the images of the people she’d left? She’d use her pistol again, sure as shit, and the first one to eat a .22 bullet would be the bitch who had taunted her dog in the first place.
She knew that now. Without her best friend to ground her and give her purpose, she felt unmoored—adrift in a sea of people she just couldn’t comprehend. Sofia would murder that girl as surely as she felt the pistol’s cold hardness in the small of her back.
Her feet almost betrayed her, leading her back the way she’d come.
Uh-uh, Sofe. Don’t even go there.
Killing a dog was one thing, but to shoot a human-being? The cops would have her sent so far up the proverbial river she’d forget what a canoe looked like. Institution was her enemy. It had kept her locked up enough, had dictated how she’d lived, where she went, and why. She’d be damned if she’d let herself wind up as a ward of the good ol’ state of Maine again.
Fuck that. She’d paid for her freedom already and it had taken her most of her young life to do it. The chill of suppressed memories raked across her skin and she shivered. Hell, no way would she find her ass behind bars again. Juvie-hall had been bad enough. The lock down had stabbed claustrophobic fear straight into her guts and she’d suffered for her reaction. They had locked her down tighter. Which, of course, did as much good as pouring salt on an open wound: it knocked out possible infection but left one bitch of a scar.
Yeah, she was so not able to go to prison.
She’d sleep right here where her feet were. Except this night she was going to have to be vigilant because she didn’t have her extra set of eyes and ears. Or a thunderous growl and inch long fangs to warn others off. At least she was in the middle of the woods where people weren’t going to find her.
Not even that guy German if she hid herself well. Screw the wildlife—it was those of the two-legged variety she worried about most.
Seeing nothing but the gray and white barked trunks of birches and spruce trees, Sofia slid off into the heavier brushed copse of spruces to her left where she’d be better camouflaged. Dusk was quickly losing pace with full out sundown and her flesh was near revolting against her spirit.
She found a welcoming depression at the base of a shaggy spruce whose heavily feathered limbs nearly touched the ground. Sofia nestled into it, curled up, and promptly dropped into a sleep so heavy she could have been mistaken for dead herself.
German knew she wasn’t dead, even though her body lined the little dip she was hidden in like melted chocolate on a spoon. Christ, she was out. It was a good thing she’d chosen such a good hiding spot because, damn, she was so asleep as to be practically comatose.
He shifted his feet just enough to flex the blood in his bent knees. Yeah, she’d found a good hidey-hole. If he didn’t have the advantage of an exceptional sense of smell, he’d have never found her. Which meant anyone looking for her from the farm wouldn’t find her.
Besides, he assured himself, they wouldn’t look until daylight. Humans never went searching after dark. Lucky for him on too many occasions to bother counting. And since there were no other wolves out looking for her, he could let her sleep and get rested up.
Her brain was obviously stealing some much needed vacation time, and she was going to need the recharge come morning.
Because he was going to be sitting right where he was now, waiting for her when she opened those gray eyes of hers, and she wasn’t going to be happy about it. Somehow, while she would be thinking up ways to eviscerate him, he was going to have to persuade her to drive to Minnesota with him.
Yeah, that was going to go well. She couldn’t even tolerate his presence in ten thousand acres of forest, how was he going to convince her to shut herself into the small compartment of a goddamned car? For hours on end. While they drove half way across the country.
Giving up on her though, wasn’t an option. Never mind the tug in his guts he felt when she was near. The whole sentencing thing with the Alphas was a straight up kick in the ass, and the toe of that solid boot had found his balls.
German rubbed his puss, and stared up at the dark canopy overhead.
He was going to betray this woman to save his own pelt. What a great guy he was. A real noble wolf. No matter how certain he was that Sofia was going to flip out when the Alphas shortened her leash, he was still going to hand her over to them.
What a frigging cesspool. Finally, he gets a rogue who isn’t one of the dregs of the barrel, and he’s going to betray her beautiful red fur. Dearest Luna, she was going to be gorgeous as wolf. Confident. Decisive. Dominant.
Shit. He couldn’t think about it. It was her ass, or his. Plain and simple.
So why was his spine burning like a flaming, fucking sword?
He let the familiar searing have its due and welcomed the shifting of his body like a warm embrace.
He’d hunt to regain his focus. Running always helped. As did the end of the chase when he could crush his jaws into flesh and surrender himself to the satisfaction of an honorable kill.
German turned on his four paws, padded softly into the beckoning woods, and skimmed his muzzle along the forest floor.
The woman and his problems were going to have to wait.
Hell, he thought as his heart picked up pace with his working muscles, putting things off for just a little while would be doing everyone involved a favor.
Except the Alphas.
And that was just fine by him.
Installment #17 coming soon.