Adam watched the group from afar as they settled down for the night. One person in particular had held his attention from the very second he had flashed into the forest. Crina. It was taking everything in him not to go to her, to wrap her in his arms, and never let her out of his sight. Something had changed in him the moment he saw her, and something in him defined that change with one word – mate. She was his mate. So Peri had been right. He had been chosen by the Great Luna to be a mate to one of her wolves. He couldn’t believe the instant intensity and the passion he felt for Crina. He understood now why the males of their race acted the way that they did. Something in him cried out for her. He didn’t want her to be in a group with a bunch of males, whether they were mated or not. He didn’t want to be so far from her.
He'd decided that it would be best to wait to reveal himself sometime the next day. In truth, he was stalling. For the first time in his very long life he felt insecure. He knew she would be drawn to him, but what if she didn’t like him? Adam had always been confident, cocky even. He’d been with females of his race. Never anything serious, though, so this whole mate thing was definitely new territory as far as commitment went.
The Fae kept the cloaking magic over them as they slept, and watched as the males each took his respective turn keeping watch. It was a long night. His eyes rarely strayed from Crina’s sleeping form. He wondered what she was dreaming about and hoped that it wasn’t about another guy.
Whoa, where’d that come from? Adam thought to himself. I have never been jealous but the idea of her dreaming or fantasizing about another guy, well, pisses me off. He decided that he needed to walk away from that line of thought and instead focused on what he would say when he finally stepped out of the shadows and into her life.
Morning came and went. After they packed up their camp and resumed their hiking, the forest came alive.
Jacque smiled as she watched rabbits scamper away from them, birds swoop down, searching for a meal, and squirrels barking from the tops of the trees. Even the trees themselves seemed to be reaching out, beckoning the sun to guide them from the cold winter into the vibrant, new spring.
Crina smiled as she walked up beside Jacque.
“It’s amazing how refreshing it is during the day and how foreboding it is at night,” Crina commented.
Jacque nodded. “It certainly does feel different than it did last night.” She looked over at Crina. “How you holding up?”
Crina looked up at her and Jacque froze at what she saw. There was a haunted look in her eyes, as if they were vacant of any personality.
“Crina, honey, what’s wrong?” Jacque asked softly.
Crina shook her head and tears began to slip down her cheeks. She looked at Jacque, desperate for understanding.
“Is this what it feels like?”
“What, what feels like, sweetie?” Jacque asked calmly, though she felt anything but calm. In fact, she was beginning to feel uncharacteristically agitated.
“To not be with him, to know that he’s out there, but unable to be close to him – unable to connect?”
Jacque’s mouth dropped open. “You mean a mate? To not have your mate close?”
Crina nodded and the tears came even faster.
A strange feeling cut through the group, and Rachel turned around and noticed that all the males had glowing eyes and seemed to be on edge, shifting from one form to the other. She herself was feeling odd, as if her emotions were amplified somehow.
Rachel stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Crina. She murmured soft words in her ear as she tried to calm the hysterical she-wolf.
“What the hell?” Jacque said loudly. “Is anyone else concerned that we have an unmated female in tears over not being able to be with her mate? She’s acting like he is out here somewhere and she can’t get to him.” When nobody answered, she grew even more frustrated.
Fane was watching Jacquelyn and his wolf began to stir. He didn’t like to see her upset. Looking around, he tried to see who was upsetting her. Who did he need to take down for messing with his mate? A low growl escaped his throat as he watched his Alpha approach her.
“Jacque, look at me,” Vasile told her calmly, in the form of a command. “How are you feeling?”
Jacque looked at her father-in-law like he had lost his mind. “What do you mean, how am I feeling?” She threw her hands up in agitation. “I’m feeling like my friend is hurting and I don’t know how to help. I just want to scream.”
Vasile looked at Rachel. He noticed that she was watching everyone closely.
“What do you think, healer?” he asked her.
“Something is influencing our emotions. I feel upset, though I don’t know why. Something is in the air.”
Vasile stepped off the path toward the forest.
“We come peacefully into your territory. We do not mean any harm.” Vasile’s voice rose and carried through the trees and over rocks. He waited; all the while Crina remained on the ground, where she had just collapsed. Rachel continued to hold her, trying to console her. Ever so slowly, the heaviness that had fallen over them, that they hadn’t even realized was there, began to dissipate.
Jacque let out a deep breath. Fane came over and wrapped his arms around her, laying his cheek on the top of her head.
“That was so not cool,” she growled out. “I seriously felt like I was completely out of control of my emotions. I knew I was overreacting, but I couldn’t make myself calm down.”
Rachel stood up with Crina. “How are you?” she asked the distressed she-wolf.
Crina took several deep breaths. “Better, but my wolf is pushing me for control. She senses something and I still feel like I’ve lost something so important...breathing is difficult.”
Everyone whipped around at the sound of footsteps. The males took up defensive positions in front of the females. Adam walked purposefully out of the trees. Without giving the others a passing glance, he walked straight to Crina. Their eyes connected as everything and everyone around them faded into the background.
“Are you alright?” Adam asked her softly as he cupped her cheek gently with his hand. Crina leaned into his hand, unable to stop an action that was as natural as breathing to her.
Adam didn’t know everything there was to know about the Canis lupis, but he knew that touch was important, a source of comfort and reassurance.