"Soulmates", I whispered, hugging Lydia close. She started breathing hard and when I pulled her chin up to look at her, she had fresh tears streaming down her face. "What? What is it, babe?" Women were so confusing sometimes. I never seemed to understand them.
"You... you really think we're soulmates?", Lydia croaked. She barely got the last word out before her throat seemed to close up on her and she swallowed hard.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do." I stroked her cheek and planted a tender kiss on her trembling lips. When I pulled away, she burst into a loud sob. I looked down at her confused, but then a smiled lit up her face and she grabbed me around the neck and into a tight hug. And I realized that she wasn't crying. She was laughing through happy tears. I smiled trying to breathe even though she had a death grip on my neck. "C-can't breathe!", I wheezed. Lydia pulled away hastily, still laughing with the smile still plastered across her face.
"I... I'm sorry, D-Dean!" She clasped her hand over her mouth, trying to suppress the giggles.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Dean." a voice called from above. I looked up to see Kate's face looking back at me from over top of the stump. "I don't think it's a good idea to hang around here. There are other packs in this area and some of them are quite a bit bigger than ours. And meaner." I looked around at the trees for a moment and then down at the woman in my lap. She was biting her bottom lip, staring out at the darkening forest with fear. I searched the ground until I found her shorts and handed them to her.
"Can you stand, Babe?", I whispered close to her ear.
"I... I don't know", she whimpered back. "He h-hurt me." I closed my eyes for a moment hugging her tightly.
"I know. I'm so sorry." My voice cracked on the last word and I heard her let out a heavy, shuttering sigh.
"It's not your fault, Dean", Lydia breathed. "I mean... it's not like it's the first time I've been hurt like... that." She shrugged on the last word and it broke my heart that she was used to being treated like a piece of meat. I wondered if the one time with me was the only tenderness that she had ever seen. She pulled her shorts on quickly and I helped her to stand. She winced when she took a step and doubled over. I tried to help her, but she waved me away. She stood back up straight and walked stiffly out from behind the fallen tree. I had to admit that she was strong. I followed closely behind with my hand on her lower back. I noticed that everyone averted their eyes, not wanting to look her in the eye. Even the other werewolves refused to look at her.
"We need a place to hold up for the night", I said, looking at Kate. "A place we can defend." She leaned into a large male standing next to her and whispered something in his ear. He nodded, striding off into the woods without looking back. "Come on", Kate called following the male into the thickest part of the brush. "I know a place!" My little troop came together again and followed quickly after Kate, trying to keep up. With the rest of her pack bringing up the rear.
After walking a few miles, we broke through the thick woods and were met by the stream again. But this time it was almost a raging river with a large waterfall going up nearly 100 feet, I'd guess. Kate waved us towards it and stopped at the water's edge.
"Are we going for a swim?", I asked skeptically, looking down at the white water crashing against the rocks. Kate chuckled at me and walked up to the cliff face beside the waterfall and disappeared behind the curtain of water. My eyes went wide and I just stood there staring at the spot where she had been a moment ago.
"Let's go!", one of the werewolves growled. "It'll be dark soon and the other packs are sure to have picked up the scent of her heat." He cocked his chin at Lydia in irritation. "The waterfall should help to hide her scent."
"Should?", I barked. The large werewolf sighed, rolling his eyes at me.
"Nothing is ever certain in this place! We do the best we can to survive." He stalked past me toward the spot where Kate disappeared behind the falls. "You can come with us or stay here. Your choice. Personally, I would have left your asses back where we found you!" I grumbled angrily at the back of his head as he strode up to the secret entrance. But I wasn't gonna just stand out here and risk being eaten by a pack of angry or horny werewolves. So I grabbed Lydia's hand and followed the man behind the falls, both of us getting soaked by the spray. Behind the falls there was a pretty deep cave that went back about 50 feet, give or take. There was still enough light to make out the shapes of the others as they made their way inside. I could hear quiet whispers between Kate and the male that I followed behind the waterfall.
"This is a bad idea Kate!", He hissed under his breath.
"Matt! Dean's my friend!", Kate whispered back. "We're not gonna leave them vulnerable if we can help!" Matt growled low in his chest, looking down at the ground. I could see that he was having trouble controlling himself.
"But this is our den! We risk exposing it's location by bringing them here!" His voice was getting louder as he got angrier. He was shaking with rage and panting hard. It was getting to the point that I feared for Kate's safety.
"Enough!", Kate suddenly shouted, sticking her finger in the brute's face. "I'm not discussing this any more! I've made my decision!" Matt took steadying breaths, backing away with his head bowed low. Eventually he turned and walked over to another man who was busy trying to start a fire. I was astonished at the amount of pull she had with the werewolves in her pack. Especially these much larger males. Any one of them could tear her throat out in a heartbeat. Yet she stood up to them like they were just pups. Kate walked up to me with an almost embarrassed expression on her face.
"Sorry about that. My pack is very weary of strangers. Especially ones that aren't werewolves." She gestured to some small boulders behind us and sat down on one. I pulled Lydia down next to me, keeping her pressed close to my side.
"Well, we seem to have some time. Why don't you tell me your long story," I said softly to Kate. She let out a heavy breath through her nose as she stared down at the ground. Her face scrunched up and I could tell that the memory wasn't one she really wanted to share. "Kate, I'm sorry. You don't have to..."
"No, it's ok, Dean," she cut in. "You should hear it. Hunters should know what it's like for a lot of us." She was quiet for a long moment, just staring off into the darkness at the back of the cave. "After the last time you saw me... after I killed Tasha... I was lost." The sorrow in her eyes made me swallow hard. I couldn't imagine what she went through having to kill her own sister because she had become a monster... a killer. "I wondered the forests for several years, not wanting to be around people. Afraid that the pain had made me weak. That I wouldn't be able to stop myself from feeding." Kate sat cross-legged on the rock, picking the dried blood from under her fingernails and I watched as the look of sadness melted away from her face, only to be replaced by one of fear. "That's when HE found me." She grew quiet again and she seemed to withdraw, pulling her shoulders inward protectively.
"He?," I coaxed.
"He." The word came out of her all broken and breathy like she was going to cry. "I was drinking from a stream when he found me. He was so quiet that I never heard him coming. He hit me from behind and when I woke up I was in what looked like a cabin. I was on a bed and he... he was on top of me... he..." Her throat seemed to close up and she looked away. I looked down at me feet, not wanting to chance that she would look up at me with those wounded eyes.
"I'm sorry, Kate" She went on, not acknowledging that I had spoken.
"I said 'HE' because I never knew his name. He wouldn't tell me and every time I spoke, he would hit me and tell me to shut up." Her lower lip trembled and she shifted on the stone. "At first I thought he wanted a mate. But all he wanted was someone he could use." Lydia pressed even closer to me, wrapped her arms around my waist, and squeezed me tight. I knew she was thinking about the terrible things that had happened to her. I squeezed her shoulder reassuringly and placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head. When I looked back at Kate, she was smiling sadly at the woman in my arms. She could see the same pain in Lydia's eyes that she knew was in her own.
"At first, I submitted. Anything to avoided the beatings. But, I knew my heat was coming soon and I knew that he knew. He could smell it. The closer I got, the more his wolf took over. He became more violent and dominating! He became an animal! I couldn't let him breed me! I just... couldn't have his pups!" She started rubbing a spot on the inside of her wrist subconsciously while she stared blankly at nothing.
"What did you do, Kate?," I whispered.