Pawn Among Wolves Ch. 07


Yes, they were big. But she'd seen him throw off six large wolves as if they were pieces of fluff, and it had taken at least ten to hold him down that evening back at the flat. What was Mac playing at?

A shiver lit down her spine, and she staggered back to her feet, fumbling blindly on the ground for one of the sticks she'd collected while her eyes were held by the beautiful, raging torrent of teeth and fur tumbling together in front of her.

How much silver was Mac carrying? There wasn't anything noticeably wrong with him, as far as she could tell in his lycan form, except for the pvc patches taped to his stomach that were renewed somehow, somewhere, every night while he was out on hunt. He claimed that he was fine, kissing aside her questions. He would say that.

The brown wolf reappeared at the side of the clearing again, shimmering into lycan form, and his eyes were dancing amber-black flames of fury while he streaked back to join in the fight. "Tooth and tail, MacKeld! Slighting the sjestval? For shame!" he cursed, as he leapt onto the back of the fighting Alpha and locked a brawny, furred arm around his neck from behind, slowly forcing back the head to expose the throat.

Mac tossed one of the other wolves across the clearing, and brought a clawed hand up to clamp onto the lock around his neck, halting the arm. "She didn't -!" His gasp was chocked off as the elbow around his throat tightened. The grey wolf who Mac had thrown easily in a long arc past Gemma's nose - see? Piece of fluff - whirled even as he landed, diving to leap back into the fray. Then he twisted again in mid-air to swipe a heavy paw at his new adversary, sensing rather than seeing the side-attack to his flank. His sharp claws raked deep cuts into the back of Gemma's hand with a blow that sent the branch spinning from her grasp, and she yelped involuntarily, more from surprise at the speed of his counterattack than due to any slow following-on sensation like pain.

At the sound, every wolf in the clearing froze in a moment of shocked stillness.

Then Mac exploded to his full height with a furious snarl, shedding the two hanging-on wolves effortlessly to their light yowls of pain, and hurling the brown hulk over his shoulders in a spinning throw which smashed the lycan into a small tree so hard that the trunk snapped.

"She doesn't know!" he yelled wrathfully, shimmering with anger while he leaped to snap his palm around the throat of the wolf who had injured her. Mac spun and slammed the wolf off his feet against a nearby tree, his long, deeply furious growl rolling around the clearing. The attacking wolves all shivered involuntarily and shrank at the rage in the sound, in the air.

"What don't I know?" echoed Gemma frustratedly.

There was another frozen pause. Then the brown lycan rolled wincing to his feet, murmuring, "Fuck. Tell her, MacKeld." He turned his eyes soberly to blink a moment of sympathy at the wolf pinned against the tree, then slunk off painfully into the forest. The other two wolves shook themselves lightly, shivering at the fury emanating from Mac, rolled to their feet, and each also sneaked a compassionate glance at the light grey wolf while they silently retreated, melting into the trees. That left only Gemma, Mac, and the hefty wolf suspended by his throat against the beech, choking purple inside the angry Alpha's grip, feet scrabbling desperately in the empty air.

Mac's chest was still rumbling, and the fury in him, the heat, was firing the whole clearing, seeming to flare through the air, building as he breathed harshly, eyes burning into the whelp, hold tightening. The sense of his anger against her skin soothed Gemma, wrapping her in his warmth and strength, and she stepped in behind her mate softly, laying her unhurt left hand carefully on the arm holding the wolf aloft. Mac's skin was trembling, lip constantly lifting as he glared at the cur who had wounded her.

"If I didn't know - nor did he, Mac."

The grip tightened further and, wordlessly, Mac slid his free left hand down to lift her deeply scored, bleeding right up into his line of vision. His eyes brightened in anger, boring into the other wolf. The grey lycan began to choke painful, pitiful-sounding breaths into his lungs, eyes rolling back in his head as his struggles grew more feeble, eyes wild in panic.

Gemma stepped in closer, leaning lightly against her wolf's back, laying her head against his powerful shoulder from behind, snuggling her face into the long, soft fur.

"Please, Mac. It's only a few scratches. Let him go. Please."

The choking sounds were growing softer, fading into feeble wheezing rasps while Mac gently lifted her hand to his lips and swept a warm tongue over the deep scores. Gemma felt the tingling, hot pain as the cuts closed, keeping her face buried into his back, trying to escape the tortured, panicked eyes of the choking wolf. The raging tremble of fury in Mac slowly lessened as he licked over the wounds, until the last cut sealed, and Gemma heard a heavy thud hit the grass under the tree, followed by the broken wheezing of the light grey wolf at their feet, desperately pulling air back into his burning lungs.

There was a brief pause, broken only by the pitiful gasps, and then Mac growled, low and cold. The choking wolf managed to hunch himself into a roll onto his back, and curved his head back and to the side, throat exposed in a deep arch between Mac's feet, holding still while the breath wheezed painfully through his partially crushed larynx.

Evidently the posture meant something in wolf, because Mac barked, "Yes. Get out." The light grey wolf licked gently at Mac's ankle, then lurched to his feet, turned, and loped unsteadily for the trees, halting breaths punctuating his footfalls.

"Thanks," murmured Gemma, squeezing her wolf's muscular torso from behind. "What was all that about?"

Mac sighed slowly, relaxing as the final tension left him, and spun to lift her up in his arms and squeeze a light squeak out her with his own breathtaking, relieved hug.

"I would've told you before, but you have never shown the least signs of wanting to go for a wander." His voice was slightly louder than necessary as he replaced her on her feet and carefully let go, and he seemed partially to be addressing the surrounding trees. Gemma straightened slightly, and peered out into the green gaps between the trunks. Nothing.

"Are they still there?" she asked softly, running a hand up his arm to loop over his shoulder while she stepped back closer to his bulk.

Mac snorted at the ridiculous idea that they wouldn't be there.

"You are still on heat, picchu. Every time I step out of the ruhkreis to hunt, the three who have won the most recent desafios attack in turn," Gemma listened incredulously, and with rising anger, to the slight tinge of smug pleasure in his tone, her mind darting along avenues opened by his stark commentary. Desafio she knew was the Spanish for fight - a defiance, a challenge. So, the other wolves fought amongst themselves? For what - the right to challenge him? Challenge Mac for what - for her? Three at once?

She shivered, and a tendril of anger lit along her skin. Like that was going to work. Just how many wolves were there out there? And - she and Mac had been wrapped around each other for six days now. He must have hunted at least ten times, more. Did he really mean that he was attacked by three wolves every time he went hunting?

There was no fear on her skin. This was Mac they were fighting. But she was steamed that they thought defeating Mac would get them anywhere with her. And why hadn't he thrown those latest four out of the clearing instantly? Why were they holding back in the trees?

"What? Rue - what?"

"Ruhkreis, Gem. A circle of peace - it's part of the mating. I mark one around you every time we halt, and the others would never come inside to bother you, or come closer when we are together. The mating peace is an absolute among wolves. Moreover, most would usually never challenge an Alpha." She could hear the smile in his voice, and he bent his head to nuzzle her neck. "But your doft is so delicious, my picchu, that before every hunt I have to fight my way past three cocky idiots who think that they would be better mates for you."

Mac was exuding smug satisfaction, and it was patently obvious to Gemma that her mate revelled in fighting off his rivals. Wolves.

"And you love it," she growled back.

"Haven't fought this many desafios - formal challenges - in years," he agreed happily, nibbling her earlobe.

Gemma's eyes were sparkling in anger as she glared out into the woods. "Don't I have any say in this?"

"Of course." Mac slanted a sobering eye down at her, and moved back, releasing her from his hug but keeping a light hand on each arm. She swayed and unthinkingly stepped back towards him, leaning in, but he held her away and nodded toward the large beech she had been about to pass on her way to collect firewood.

A small smile tugged at his lips when she whined softly. Of course she whined. He was holding them apart. Why?

"Can't you scent it, Gem? My ruhkreis borders at that tree. If you cross outside, it means you are looking for a new mate." His voice softened, tinged with shame, and his shoulders hunched a little as he glared at his feet, bare toes tapping. "It's your choice - I am not allowed to stop you from stepping out - that's why the wolves around here were so furious that they attacked together. Usually on the rut males will never work together, each views each other as a rival. But they protect the circle and the sjestval - your choice - and I didn't allow you that." He halted and swallowed, looking down searchingly into her eyes suddenly. "I wanted to explain to you what you were doing first."

Gemma batted his hand off her arm, suddenly livid at how close she'd been to plunging herself back into - that. That maelstrom of bitter, desperate warring between need and right, lust or - Mac, that had raged through her before he'd finally turned up.

"You didn't think to explain this before?" she glared at him. Stupid wolf.

"You've never shown any interest in moving out of my protection before," he responded tersely, a light growl to the tone as he glared back at her. "But it is your choice, Gemma." His face contorted in a brief rictus. "Although I do have to warn you that I'm not going to accept it in a civilised, human fashion. If you step out, I'll just have to standing fight all of them down to prove to you that I am the best mate you're going to find." His eyes were gleaming a light, intent challenge down at her.

"Idiot," snorted Gemma, glancing away from the call in those eyes before she swayed back into him. She knew he was the best mate she was going to find. Ever. Her blood was keening to get closer to him, but the anger suffused her and she stepped further away and walked gently up to halt just this side of the tree, eyes searching the blank green woods beyond.

She caught a hint of it - a very faint wisp of his musk, but honestly, if he hadn't told her, she'd never have noticed.

Mac was quivering in tension, poised to fight beside her, and she could feel the hurt growing in him that she stayed apart. But the anger was boiling through her - anger at all of the other wolves for this ceaseless, senseless fighting over her. Anger at herself for the little curl of excited heat coiling in her belly at the thought of them fighting. Of him fighting. For her. She was also angry at her mate, for not explaining this earlier.

He's been busy, her subconscious reminded her, flashing a full-colour replay of just how busy they had both been, and her skin flared with renewed heat. Mac stiffened further beside her when her doft strengthened with lust. Idiot. Who did he think she was thinking of?

"They won't come in?"

"No. Never. Even if some worthless, faithless cur tried, the others would set upon him. The peace of the circle is an absolute, Gem. The only way in is past me, by winning the desafio, one on one. They would never have dreamt of invading it if they hadn't seen me stopping you from stepping out, disregarding your choice, the sjestval. Except I thought that it wasn't one." His voice was soft, apologetic.

Mac was apologising on behalf of the other wolves? That must be why he had gone easy on them - until one of them inadvertently hurt her - he had kind of approved of what they were doing. Defending her choice. But was he apologising for himself also? For stopping her from doing something she would never, ever in a million years have dreamt of doing had she known what was what? Idiot. Did he really think she wanted someone else?

Gemma thought of shouting rude things to the obtuse wolves lurking in the trees, but honestly, there were stronger urges building in her. Unstoppably. He defeated three wolves per hunt to keep this peaceful, glorious, heated time together? Maybe it was time to reward him again?


She lifted one foot, softly, feeling the shudder of increased tension ripple through Mac when she did so.

Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

Then she swooped in a turn, ducking past him and sprinting back towards the campfire, hooting. "Hah! Fooled you!"

There was a hissing growl behind her, before the pad of footsteps approached at breathtaking speed, and her blood leapt in anticipation. He lifted her easily off her feet from behind, wrapping unmoving arms around her torso as they twisted in midair, but this time she landed suspended in his arms above the short grass, before she was rapidly rolled beneath him, pinned spread-eagled under his weight.

The uncanny tinge to the scent of him shot a jolt of panic down her spine, and she shivered lightly, muscles spasming in shock, just before she met jet-black, furious eyes, and her heart shrank within her even as her mind lit in response.

"That was not a good idea, Gemma," Mac growled out tersely.

Honestly - he was so damn autocratic, so possessive at the moment. Did he think the outstanding, constant sex had turned her into a malleable, submissive doormat? Her melting pussy squirmed in delight, shrieking yes! She ignored it and tried to stare brazenly back up at him. It was a little difficult with the quiver in her stomach. And that bitter scent was sending a warning through her, increasing the panic pooling inside. He was so angry. With her, this time.

"What?" she managed to respond coolly. "Did the wolf lose his sense of humour?"

The black, glittering sparkles in his eyes took on the eerie back-light, sending a shiver through her whole body, and the next second he was on his feet, hauling her to hers.

"When you flirt with other wolves? Damn right."

"I did NOT flirt with -."

He lifted her mid-sentence, so that they were now nose to nose, and she was caught by the power of that glittering fury, falling silent, feeling his angry breath against her cheek, sensing, scenting the towering rage he was holding in check. But his voice was soft, the control paramount. "You stepped towards the ruhkreis, Gemma. Full of lust. Free of me. We all wondered what you were going to do, and their excitement spiked in anticipation, hope, desire."

"Then they're idiots," she snapped back the interjection, although her heart was shouting Shut up! at her. Then she caught it, just a hint in the corner of his eye, the hint of something else, a little droop of - hopelessness. Sadness? She hadn't seen that sadness in days, but she recognised it, and it stopped her as nothing else could, her heart plummeting, stunned into silence.

"You teased them." The anger was purring through his voice, but she could now also hear the faint edge of pain. Gemma felt cool air against her skin and realised that he was moving her, but couldn't look away from the powerful black glitter in that burning gaze, the internal tremor growing while her eyes searched his for that hint of soft despair. The smooth bark of a tree pressed against her back.

"They have been burning, aching, fighting for you desperately for six days, tortured by the music of your scent," the quiet words were deadly, searing across her skin, making her remember the agony of unfulfilled lust that she herself had struggled against for just one day. The painful burn of that unfulfilled need. She was caught by the wordless black anger of his eyes. "And you - you taunted them with your fully aroused doft."

Gemma opened her mouth, dropped her eyes, looked up at her wolf, then just drooped her head again, wordlessly. The heat flared across her cheekbones. He was right. Shit. She swallowed. Human teasing had no place among these scorching fires and furious lusts. She would get burned - she had burned them. She felt deeply ashamed, writhing internally. She hadn't meant to, but she had teased them. Although it had been intended for Mac. She had just forgotten how sensitive all the wolves were to her scent.

"I am aware that you are not a wolf," he seemed to answer her thoughts, letting out a small sigh. She felt tears gathering in her eyes and kept her head down, not wanting him to see them. The sadness. This sadness. She had reminded him of what she didn't want to think about herself. That this was time out, this perfect week. Human and wolf joined. Otherwise incompatible.

Must be a way, the wistful thought surfaced briefly.

"More or less at the moment," she whispered the protest, "I smell like a wolf, no?" Her mate sighed again, his anger releasing when he heard the remorse in her voice, and placed her back on her feet, gently tilting her chin up so that he could read her glistening eyes. "But you don't fully understand us, Gemma. I am an Alpha - I protect the other wolves, and maintain pack order, my own, and, when necessary, others." He tailed into brooding silence, pondering how to continue, how to explain to a human what was self-evident to a wolf.

She knew that. She saw how the other wolves reacted around him, the respect, how they trusted his judgement and looked to him for guidance, even just now, when fighting him. And she could hardly forget the time his attention had been wrenched from her in the middle of mating. He'd been shuddering, thrusting inside her one second, and the next had been motionless on his back beside her, body twitching all the way down to his toes and fingertips, utterly still concentration on his face. She had panicked, thinking he was having some kind of silver-induced fit, and had shivered for several long minutes, arousal swamped in cold fear while she had just watched him. It was dangerous to interrupt a seizure. Eventually, his glazed eyes had refocused, and her heart had sent a shock of relief though her, stunning her with the realisation of how much she cared, when he had smiled apologetically at her.

Apparently a patrol of his wolves had been ambushed, he had reported. They had called for help - their Alpha could mind-merge and direct all twenty of them together as one seamless unit, infinitely increasing their chances of survival as each knew, through him, exactly what their companions did. They had all survived, although there were some serious injuries.

Protecting the pack was part of being an Alpha, and she had learned, then and the two other times his focus had disappeared, to just accept it. It was part of him. Now Mac continued to explain his position, the awkward position she had put him in, choosing his words carefully.

"Pack boundaries are open during the mating rut, and there are few boundaries between the Aster allies at any time. Most of the wolves out there are Aster - my allies in our war against Tzo. I rank them all, and have defeated the majority of them - definitely the strongest of them - during this week. So to all intents and purposes, in this gathering in this forest, I am currently the Alpha - of this pack of wolves fighting for you. That is how they see me." He sighed again, deeply troubled.

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