Hayes watched from behind her as Emma made the most pitiful attempt he’d ever seen at chopping firewood. Hell, he’d been watching for thirty minutes and she’d only gotten through three logs. Six measly pieces of firewood for all her effort. He wasn’t sure if it was because she was human, or a human female, but she was as weak as an adolescent wolf shifter. He snorted quietly. Probably weaker. After a few more minutes, and once she’d apparently hurt her back, he could take no more and stepped out of the woods, approaching her stealthily. He knew the dog on the porch would give him away before he could get close enough, but he didn’t care.
The dog started barking, and he’d expected Emma to whirl on him, axe raised. When she asked, “Back so soon?” it didn’t make sense. Well, not until she turned around.
The Emma from yesterday was gone. In her place was a busted-up version. One eye was black and swollen nearly shut, a bloodshot eye peeking through. Her lip was split and her cheek was swollen. To top it off, she looked utterly exhausted.
“Oh!” she muttered looking confused at his presence. Clearly, she’d been expecting someone else.
Hayes’ hands balled into involuntary fists. Who in the fuck would… “What happened to you?”
She rolled her good eye and gave him her back as she hefted the axe, letting it settle into the chopping block. “As if you don’t know.”
“What happened to you?” he demanded again, with a little more heat. The longer he looked at her, the angrier he grew. A shifter male abusing a human female was beyond cowardly, it was so damn pitiful that it was damn near unheard of. Still, it didn’t keep his wolf from lunging at the surface in an attempt to break free and go on the hunt.
His wolf didn’t get the chance though, because now Emma was whirling on him. “I went to forbidden shifter territory to ask for help. They didn’t like it. Told me to leave.” Her good eye narrowed accusingly. “Then, they sent the same shifter that’s been fucking with me back out here to teach me a lesson. Lesson learned. Good job, a-hole.” She turned and walked toward her small cabin, her dog finally silencing and following her.
She thinks I had this done to her? The accusation stung, but worse, something in him snapped. He didn’t want her thinking he or his pack had any part in the beating she took. “He’s not one of ours.”
At his words her feet slowed until she came to a halt, but she didn’t turn to face him.
“My Alpha sent me over to get more information from you. The guy you’re talking about, the one that did that to you, he’s not one of ours.” But he was a dead motherfucker!
She looked over her shoulder with the good side of her face showing. “I told you everything.”
Hayes took a step closer. “Not what happened to your face.”
“He showed up last night when I was hauling in firewood. Snuck up behind me and blindsided me. Said he knew I’d gone asking the Alpha for help.” He shoved me around. Wanted me to know how weak I was, how easy it’d be to break me.”
Hayes' eyes darkened in anger, dark brows spearing down. “Where was your dog? Why didn’t she protect you?”
“She was inside. Besides, I don’t want her getting hurt over me.”
Well, that was just dumb. “That doesn’t look like just shoving.”
Emma looked at the ground, then gave him her back a second time as she walked to her cabin. “Sadly, it was. He shoved my face into the side of the house, and said…”
“Said I could either be a source, or a concubine.” She suddenly looked pissed. “I’m pretty sure I get his meaning of ‘concubine’, but what in the hell does he mean by source?”
Hayes didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He was trying damn hard to mask his surprise at her words. A source? Fuuuuck! It couldn’t be…could it? It’s been ages since any of those were in this area.
Clearly annoyed that he wouldn't answer her, Emma growled, “Please get off my land and tell your Alpha and your friend that I’m shooting the next shifter who comes onto my property uninvited.”
She disappeared inside her cabin and the door closed. He heard her engage the locks, and he knew that she had to know by now that the locks couldn’t protect her, not from shifters.
He shifted into his wolf form, the huge gray wolf snuffling loudly at the ground and trees as he worked in a wider and wider circle, seeking out scent.
After several hours, Hayes swung back by the cabin, but Emma still hadn’t emerged, which was good he supposed. Best she kept herself locked up tight for the night. Tomorrow, he knew Jaxon would be wanting to pay her a visit. Reluctantly, he made his way back to his side of the mountain, his wolf urging him to stay and guard the female. It was odd. Just yesterday the beast had an ill reaction to her, and today it didn’t want to stray too far. What. In. The. Fuck?