The Mating(9)

By: Nicky Charles

“And I still care for you.” Bryan reached out and stroked her cheek, staring intently into her eyes before switching his focus to her lips. Silence stretched between them and Elise realised that he was leaning closer to her, his intention of kissing her evident. Her conscience pricked and she knew she should step away. Bryan was not her mate; Kane was…

A twig snapped behind her before she could act and Bryan jumped away, pulling his hand from hers. They both turned to see Kane standing nearby, his eyes narrowed and glaring at them.

“Elise, I’m glad you found a way to keep yourself occupied while I was finishing off pack business.” There was an angry edge to his voice which made Elise’s skin prickle with anxiety.

“I…I was just talking to Bryan,” she stammered. Something in his expression frightened her and she stepped back.

“So I see.” Kane shot her a brief glance, and then focused his attention back on Bryan, a look of disdain on his face. “This is the…friend…you spoke of this morning?”

“Yes, this is Bryan. We’ve been friends since we were pups.”

Kane gave Bryan an almost imperceptible nod. “I’m glad you had someone to keep you company while you were waiting, but it would do your ‘friend’ well to remember that you are now my mate and off limits to all others.”

Feeling her face burn at his innuendo, Elise tried to defend her actions. “We were just talking, nothing else!”

“I do not appreciate other males standing quite so close when…talking… to my mate.” The words rumbled from his throat and Bryan stepped back, instinctively acknowledging Kane’s dominance.

“Elise, I’d better go. I…I’ll see you around.” Bryan’s voice was quiet and regretful.

“Yes, I’ll see you around…” Elise responded softly, knowing that it was unlikely Bryan would approach her again. Soon, she’d be gone and it saddened her to think that her friendship was ending. She watched Bryan turn and head back to the house, then faced Kane, anger bubbling up within her. “You didn’t need to chase him off like that.”

“I didn’t chase him off. I just let him know that you are my mate now and a proper distance needs to be maintained.”

“He was just—“

“I know what he was just doing,” Kane interrupted sharply. “I could sense his desire for you and I do not share my mate with anyone. We are bonded and you are mine. No other male is allowed to sniff around you.”

“Sniff around me?”

“Yes. Your next heat cycle is coming in about a month, isn’t it? Last night, I could already sense the growing pheromone levels in you. He might not be consciously aware of them yet but in another few days he will. That boy needs to remember you are off limits before his instincts to mount a fertile female cause him to make a grave mistake.”

Elise huffed indignantly. While heat cycles and mating instincts were not kept secret within the pack—in fact they were impossible to hide—Elise wasn’t pleased to have Kane bringing her relationship with Bryan down to such a base level. “Kane, you—”

“Elise, this conversation is over. You are my mate. Bryan will stay away. End of topic. Now, are we going for a run or not?”

For a moment, she considered leaving in a snit, but then realised she’d be cutting off her nose to spite her face. She loved to run and Kane was right. As much as she hated to admit it, she couldn’t encourage a relationship with Bryan any more. It wasn’t fair to him. With a brief nod to Kane, she phased into her wolf form and headed into the forest, vaguely aware of him following behind.

The leaves crunched beneath her feet, trees and shrubs a mere blur as she raced past. Leaping over logs, skirting around trunks, she ran for the sheer love of it. Her eyes constantly scanned the horizon as she quickly adjusted her path and pace to suit the terrain. At the same time, she was aware of Kane running behind her. He’d made no attempt to pass her, but she was aware that he was holding back. His breathing was slow and steady; there was no sense of exertion coming from him.