To Love a Stray Ch. 16


Even as I eat, I am aware that Micah sits stiffly beside me without touching me. I knew that my secret would have an impact on our relationship.

"Rosy, would you tell us about Jasper? We'd like to know about him, how you met him, how long you were together?" Sam asks quietly. I stop eating as I stare at my plate. Different memories of Jasper rush back and I lift a forkful of crunchy skinned roast veggies. I put the food in my mouth and chew as I remember back to my first knowledge of Jasper and what happened between us.

"I'm not real sure how long or soon after Harry dying I met Jasper. I only know that I woke up one morning cold, thirsty and too weak from hunger to try to find food. But there just outside the bush I was under were several bottles of water, a cardboard box of food, a couple of blankets and some old worn clothes roughly my size ... They smelt like werecat but I was so desperate I didn't care ..."

"The food and water started to appear every two or three days. The clothes when I needed them and always that same scent on them," I sigh softly and eat several more mouthfuls before continuing. Remembering is awakening old feelings and it isn't easy to continue but I do.

"Then I started seeing this werecat around where I was. It never came close and if I was a cat he'd run off. I took to watching him. That's how I really learnt to hunt in cat form. Then one day he cornered me in a dry creek bed but didn't attack me. I was scared of him but curious about him as well and started following him. Soon we started hunting together when I was a cat."

"And when I told him I had an uncle he encouraged me to go back to my uncle when I was human. I was always sneaking off to be with him. Being a cat was easier for me than trying to deal with being a person who could turn into a big black cat. By the time I was sixteen, I was totally wild about him. I loved him so much and believed he felt the same way about me so I lied about my age on my birthday and we got married." My voice trails off for a moment and I clear my throat before continuing.

"Jasper didn't ... he never touched me - he knew I didn't like being touched. We had an argument about six months after we got married. I ran away then came into my first heat ... well the first I am aware of, and Kendal Darnel and his buddy Terry managed to run me to ground. Jasper found us about maybe three or four days after they caught me. He didn't protect me from them ... he ..." I shake my head and look away. Jasper's betrayal is still too painful even after the years in between to talk about. He'd broken my heart and very nearly broke my spirit.

"He joined in with them before he left me with them. It took me close on seven months to escape. We came across each other by accident a few weeks after I got away ... I knew I couldn't trust him to protect me ... so I ran. It took me nearly a week to lose him even though I was in cat-form but he'd taught me too well and I was able to keep running long after he gave up..." I sigh as I look at the food remaining on my plate. I'd heard the bitterness creeping into my voice and pause as I force the hurt back under control.

"We crossed paths a few times since then ... he knew how to find me when he really wanted to ... knew my preferred places. I think he even knew where I lived in human form, but he never came close to me there. I think Pete's presence was a major deterrent ... we'd crossed paths not too long before you first found me but before that it had been over a year. It was easier for me to avoid him than deal with him," I admit as I try to ignore the hollow, empty ache in my chest.

I don't look up from my plate and I only push the food around my plate instead of eating. Someone takes my plate but I don't look up to see who it is. I hear Micah move and I take a deep breath as I try to work out how close he is to me. I see his hand come into my view, and for a moment it looks as if he is about to touch one of my hands, but he withdraws his hand nearly out of my sight.

"We already knew he fathered the babies you lost. He made sure he let us know that." Micah tells me gently, "Did you arrange to meet him?"

"He must have known enough to keep track of my cycle ... heck, Jasper would have worked out how to or asked the Darnels ... I must have formed a pattern in my movements or something. He found me and tracked me down." I say bitterly.

"He knew the Darnels?" Micah asks tightly.

"There ain't a stray that isn't associated with them or on the run from them." I say scathingly. "Other than clan cats, they are the highest cause of death in strays ... well were."

"I hope you can understand why Jasper was executed. He'd been careless and been seen in cat form a fair bit just before he was brought in. He was continuously trespassing and he admitted to mistreating you, trying to turn you totally against clan cats. He was also believed to be stalking human women. When that type of thing starts either rapes or murders are not uncommon." Malcolm tells me gently.

"How much trouble am I in?" I finally find the courage to ask.

"Did you ever do anything like kill stock or let yourself be seen when you were in cat form?" Mitchell asks gently.

"No! Never," I deny in horror.

"Did you tell the truth about Jasper just then?" Mitchell asks evenly.

"Yes," I confirm.

"Maybe you left a few details out?" Sam asks.

"Not the important stuff," I admit to him

"Why did you reveal that about Jasper today?" Mitchell asks in the same even tone. I glance up at his face trying to read his expression but it is blank, totally closed off. I glance at Micah but he isn't looking at me. He's staring down at his hands. His forearms rest on his knees and his hands hang between his knees, clasped together so tightly his knuckles are white.

"I couldn't let my brother throw away everything because he'd been kicked in the guts by the girl he planned his future around. I just wanted him to know he's worth more than her," I say miserably.

"You spoke up even though you believed you would get in trouble?" Mitchell asks raising one eyebrow before glancing at several of the others.

"I wanted to help Sam," I say my misery increasing, "I figured he has as much, if not more, to offer the clan than I do."

"Rosy, you didn't do anything wrong," Mitchell says firmly. "You associated with this Jasper before he started breaking our laws. Even if you were married to him when he was breaking rules, unless you did as well you are innocent. This belief of yours that you would be in trouble is from the lies he was telling you, isn't it?"

"Do you understand now why he was in trouble?" Sam asks. "Not because he was a stray, but because of the things he done."

"Why didn't you say something about Jasper before now?" Micah demands.

I shrug and look away avoiding the question, the one I really don't want to answer.

"Why didn't you say something about Jasper before now?" Micah repeats tightly.

I remain silent and keep my eyes averted from Micah. It's the only way I know of possibly having a chance of avoiding answering the question. I know I owe Micah an explanation but I want it to be just the two of us when I apologise to him. Micah grasps my chin firmly and forces me to look him in the face.

"I expect an answer to my question ... now," Micah says tightly. I close my eyes and swallow hard before looking at Micah again. He raises his eyebrows and I lick my lips nervously.

"Because I never wanted to know for sure if I was sleeping with Jasper's killer," I answer softly. I see something flare to life deep in Micah's eyes but I can't read his expression.

"You're not," Malcolm says evenly and I try to turn my eyes enough to see him but Micah still has hold of my chin and he lifts it slightly making me look at him once again.

"And that's the only reason you never said anything before now?" Micah asks flatly.

"I didn't want anyone feeling bad thinking they had done something that hurt me when all they were doing was their job," I admit very faintly.

"You accept it was their job even though it hurt you?" Micah asks coolly and I manage a faint nod. He releases my chin with a gentle rub of his thumb as if to ease the feeling of having firmly gripped it. I am not game to take my eyes off him as he slowly straightens to stand after sitting beside me.

"We're not going to punish you. You didn't do anything wrong. Yes you associated with a stray that later broke laws - but that was him - not you. Also you did the right thing when you could have stood back and just let Sam walk out on this clan," Micah tells me.

I drop my gaze to the floor before immediately looking him in the face once again. He gives a faint nod and I chance a quick glance at Mitchell. He gives me a quick smile and pats one of my hands. It is then I realise I am gripping my legs just above my knees tightly.

"I want to ask Rosy a question or two," Doc says quietly. I glance his way, slightly uncomfortable but make no protest.

"Did you ever fall pregnant while you were with Jasper?" Doc asks.

"Jasper didn't try to ... it was only when I was on heat. I think there might have been a miscarriage when I was sixteen but I was so naive and I didn't know anything. Kendal, Terry and Vaygar used to belt me and starve me so I was too weak to run away if I did get away from them," I say quietly with an uneasy glance his way.

"Is it okay if we turn the TV and PlayStation on now?" Donovan asks. I glance his way but his attention is directed at the TV while the older toms move restlessly.

"It's fine by me, but you had better check with your brother as well," Mitchell tells him.

"Yeah turn them on," Micah agrees.

I turn my head slightly to listen to Micah but he doesn't say anything to me. I imagine I can feel his eyes on me but I'm not game to look at him.

"I'm going for a walk anyway," Micah says and I look up to find him holding a hand out to me. I hesitate a moment before placing my hand in his and letting him help me to my feet before following him from the room. Micah pauses to grab a discarded jacket in the hallway and after a quick sniff hands it to me. I pull it on crossing the front sides across my belly as best I can before folding my arms to hold it in place. The scent of Jazzy drifts up from the jacket as I fall into step beside Micah.

"We're not going far, just somewhere we can sit down out of this cold breeze," Micah tells me. He sounds strained and I have to wonder why he is taking me away from the others to talk to me. My steps begin to drag as I realise we are headed for the stone shed and when we reach the door I halt unable to follow Micah inside.

"Come on, it's warmer in here," Micah tells me as he glances back at me.

"There's a cage in there," I say faintly and Micah turns back towards me.

"I promise I am not going to lock you in the cage," Micah tells me gently, "If you want you can wait here while I go and bring the mattress off the bunk out into the outer room so we can sit on that,"

I hesitate a moment before giving a brief nod and stepping just inside out of the breeze. Micah disappears into the dark inner room and returns shortly with the mattress and a blanket. He puts the mattress on the floor against the wall and gestures towards it.

"How about we sit down? I even found a blanket in there," Micah invites and I take my time sitting down. When Micah sits near me facing me, I glance away uneasily as I cover myself with the blanket he handed me.

"All that stuff you told us came as more than a bit of a shock. Although I did suspect there was something you hadn't mentioned, I didn't imagine it was ... a marriage," Micah says quietly. "I have no idea of how you feel or what you're thinking in regard to us so I decided to just come straight out and tell you ... I still want you and the baby. I don't believe there is anything that could change that. I love you, I want to marry you and help you raise this child."

I glance at him where he sits watching me then look down at the blanket beneath my fingers where I am plucking at it nervously.

"I swore when I ran away from Jasper that I'd never let anyone that close to me again because that way they couldn't hurt me," I tell him. "But I know you're different to Jasper, you're not like him ... he was a stray and living the way he had to ... he and I never had a chance. But we do, you and me," I try to explain but end up feeling like I've only managed to make more of a mess of things. I don't tell him I'll never let him be that important to me, not like Jasper was. I know there are some things you can't say when you care about a person.

* * * * *


I walk into the inner room and grab the mattress and folded blanket from the bunk. Rosy's words are still ringing in my ears and burning in my chest. She had been afraid I was about to lock her in the cage. Hadn't I said I wouldn't be punishing her?

I put the mattress on the floor against the wall and keep hold of the blanket as I look at Rosy but she is looking at the mattress and avoiding my eyes.

"How about we sit down? I even found a blanket in there," I say trying to sound friendly and inviting.

I wait nervously for Rosy to sit down before I sit down facing her. She looks away as she pulls the blanket over herself and I feel my heart sink a little bit more.

"All that stuff you told us came as more than a bit of a shock. Although I did suspect there was something you hadn't mentioned, I didn't imagine it was ... a marriage," I say quickly and quietly. "I have no idea of how you feel or what you're thinking in regard to us so I decided to just come straight out and tell you ... I still want you and the baby. I don't believe there is anything that could change that. I love you, I want to marry you and help you raise this child."

I take a deep breath and watch her face hoping for some sign of how she feels but she looks down at the blanket and fidgets with it nervously.

"I swore when I ran away from Jasper that I'd never let anyone that close to me again because that way they couldn't hurt me," Rosy says with an uneasy glance my way and my heart plummets deep into my stomach.

Here is where she'll tell me she is still in love with Jasper, a part of my mind whispers.

"But I know you're different to Jasper, you're not like him ... he was a stray and living the way he had to ... he and I never had a chance. But we do, you and me."

Her voice is so soft I almost miss her words but as they sink in. I begin to feel some hope.

"I brought you out here thinking I was about to find out you don't want me in your life, or at least not in your bed," I tell her seriously. Suddenly scared I will lose her if I don't push for a commitment from her here and now, I rush forward.

"I'm going to take the chance of pushing you too far, too fast ... Will you marry me Rosy? I can't promise to never hurt you but I will never do it intentionally or without good reason. I can promise to love you. I can promise to love this baby like he is mine. I can promise to love any other child you wish to have. I can promise to try my best to make you want to run to me instead of ever running away from me. I love you, Rosy. Will you marry me?" I ask earnestly.

Rosy stares at me for a few moments, her mouth softly parted and her eyes startled.

"Yes, oh yes," She says and flings herself into my arms and kisses me hungrily.

I find myself pressing her down onto the mattress, my hands slipping beneath her clothing as I kiss her deeply mimicking with my mouth exactly what I want to do with her body. She gasps and arches beneath me as I kiss down the side of her neck before pushing her jacket open and pulling at the front of her shirt to lift it and bare her breasts cradled in her bra. My lips find her nipple through the thin fabric and I feel it harden as I suckle eagerly.

A cold gust of wind comes in the half open doorway and Rosy shivers even though she is mostly shielded from its force. I raise my head reluctantly and begin covering her body up so she doesn't catch a chill. Our lovemaking can wait until we are inside and Rosy can be kept warm and comfortable.

"We need to go back inside so you don't catch a chill," I say regretfully as I sit up. I glance down at her where she is straightening her clothing before sitting up.

"Do you want to set a date?" I ask eagerly. Now I have proposed I can't wait to be married to Rosy.

"As soon as possible? I know it takes a month to get the marriage licence," Rosy asks with a glance towards my chest.

"That's no problem. I snuck into town the day before the strays ... I got a licence back then and it's still valid for another two or three months," I say happily.

"Let's make it for the second weekend after Jazzy is back in the quarters so her and I have some time to do girly things for the wedding," Rosy says and leans back to smile at me.

"That gives us just over three weeks. You sure about this?" I ask cautiously.

"You had better not be trying to back out on me," Rosy says running her hands up my chest.

"No use me even trying to - you can run fast enough to catch me if I tried running out," I say with a faint laugh. My breath catches in my throat as she runs a hand down to where my jeans sit low on my hips.

"I been thinking about baby names," she says quietly as she rubs the front of my jeans.

"I noticed you've been looking in that book of names Jazzy got before you got stolen away from me," I say softly.

"There are several I like, Alejandro ..."

"Spanish form of Alexander, Alex," I say quietly as I remember my brother. I allow Rosy to turn in my arms.

"Nikolai, Dieter, Sebastian, Tangwyn," she says as she leans back against my chest and moves my hands to rest on the swell of her stomach.

"Tangwyn means blessed peace," I murmur against the side of her neck before pressing a kiss to the skin there. I'd spent time looking through the book and the name seemed to leap off the page at me.

"Wynn for short. Tangwyn Alejandro ... hmm, how does that sound?" Rosy asks quietly and I lift my mouth away from her neck where I had been kissing.

"You're really serious about letting me have a say in naming this baby?" I ask with a mixture of surprise and hope.

"As long as you don't want to call him Hephzibah or Hebabkia or Zechariah or something else equally as bizarre," Rosy answers happily.

"Tangwyn. I've wanted for you to able to find peace from the first time I saw you at Pete's when you took one look at me and looked like you wanted to make a run for it," I tell her softly.

"Tangwyn, only it is pronounced Tan'w'nn. Tangwyn Alejandro because Alex is looking out for him from heaven," Rosy says firmly snuggling back against my body.

"Hey in there Wynn, how you doing little man?" I ask softly as I rub her stomach gently, tears burning at the back of my eyes. "Damn but I love you Rosy."

"It's a shame it's so cold here," Rosy says mischievously.

"Why's that?" I ask lifting my head from the side of her neck where I had been nibbling my way up to her ear. Rosy takes hold of one of my hands and guides it beneath the waistband of her track pants and moves slightly to allow my fingers between her slick folds.

"It's too cold out here for you. We had best head inside so I can take care of that problem for you," I tell her huskily when she moans as I stroke her teasingly.

I ease away before getting to my feet and reaching down to help Rosy up. I slip an arm around her waist and hold her against my side as we head back to the quarters. I stop just outside the quarters and pull Rosy close before kissing her on the lips, and she responds eagerly. I find myself pinning her against the building wall as I lift her so her legs can slip around my waist.

"We had better go inside," I tell her reluctantly when I finally manage to drag my lips from her mouth. I lick my lips as I follow behind her. I can still taste her on my lips and I crave more as I follow her to the lounge room.

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