The fight on the mountain…
Pain seared through Ava’s side. Her shoulder ached from where a wolf had raked claws through her skin. The wind howled and shrouds of white snow circled around her like angry spirits bent on vengeance. Even the mountain was against her. Wolves were circling from every side and there was no one close who could back her up.
Everyone was fighting.
Everyone was bleeding.
This fight was going to hell. They needed to find Tara fast. And that dragon needed to change his ass into a twenty-ton-fire-breathing-reptile before they all bled out. There were too many wolves.
A snarl came from her right.
She swung her large head and swiped with her paw. A grey wolf went flying into the murky snow-filled air with a pained yelp.
Got that one. Her bear chuffed with satisfaction and turned back to find a black wolf standing just in front of her…but not facing her. Not fighting her. He was fighting another wolf. And there was something about him. Something off. His fur was brighter than it should’ve been. Almost like…
It can’t be a Soul Call. Now? Right now, in the middle of this mess. And a wolf.
What the hell was she supposed to do with that?
Wolves didn’t mix with other breeds.
But he was fighting for her. With her. He’d seen it too. She had to be glowing for him as well. There wasn’t another explanation for why he wasn’t attacking her. For why he was ripping one of his own pack to shreds right in front of her.
The second wolf to her left charged, ignoring the two fighting in front of her. She feinted to the right and then lunged, catching the approaching wolf off guard. Her large fangs closed over the wolf’s spine. She crunched and tossed. Probably didn’t kill him. But it would put him out of commission for a really really long time.
She turned again, this time coming eye-to-eye with the large raven-black wolf. His fur shimmered with the ethereal glow of magick. Her stomach clenched, tying itself into a knot. Her heart faltered, stumbling beat over beat trying to find a new rhythm. Whoever this guy was—wolf or not—he was hers. She’d found her Fated mate.
His gold eyes shimmered through the blinding snow, calling to her soul like he’d reached out and touched it. The growls and cries of pain swam around them, but all she saw was the sharp metallic glow of his eyes and the soft ethereal radiance surrounding every inch of his body.
Her muscles twitched, ready to lunge or run. She wasn’t sure which would be necessary. He was her mate, but it was widely known that wolves never crossed the species barrier, even if it meant being alone. But they weren’t on Reylea any longer.
The wolf curled his lip and growled low. Then shook his head, flapping his ears. It was a strange mix of menacing and cute.
Ava opened her mouth and roared softly.
The wolf took a step toward her. Paused. Another step. Pause. Another step.
Ava lowered her head and met him halfway, rubbed the side of her face against his. His scent was strong, but mixed with the blood of others, including some of the Tribe in Mystery. Kann’s scent was all over the black wolf.
She walked forward, trailing her nose over his midnight black pelt. A cat-scented claw mark sliced cleanly through his right flank. Her bear chuffed and bared her teeth, anger rising like boiling water in a teakettle.
The bugle of a dragon shook them both out of the moment. The wolf took off like a whisp of smoke in the wind. Ava followed without a second thought.
She could deal with the fallout later. Right now, she just needed to follow her mate. He might be fine with ignoring the Soul Call, but she wasn’t.
They ran hard.
Ava’s lungs burned. She wasn’t slow as a bear, but wolves were faster, especially over longer distances. It didn’t matter, she’d run until she collapsed. Though she’d prefer not to collapse. Also, daytime meant hunters and she didn’t want to end up a bearskin rug on someone’s cabin floor.
She shifted into her human form and shouted. “Stop!” The wind blew her voice back into her face. “Please.”
The wolf paused at the top of the rise. He looked back at her for just a moment before sprinting out of sight.
Dalmeck! Dammit! Whatever! Ava snarled, irritation bubbling in her gut like the molten rock in a lava pit. She lurched forward, shifting back into her bear as she dropped to all fours. Her long legs ate up the ground.
The wind was dying down. Visibility was increasing, but she’d have to track the canine the old-fashioned way. He had too much of a head start on her.
She trudged through the snow, up the side of the mountain. The sounds of the fighting behind her died off until she couldn’t hear them over the roar of the wind rushing between the trees right at her face.
Ava could smell her mate though. He was still ahead of her and turning just a bit to the right. She adjusted her trajectory and kept climbing. Her leg muscles trembled, tired already from the fighting and wounds she’d received while mowing through this guy’s pack. Hopefully he wouldn’t hold a grudge for the pack members she’d sent over death’s bridge.
At the ridge where she’d last seen him, Ava shifted back into human form again so she could see the tracks on the ground more clearly. Her bear was good for keeping her warm in this frigid environment and its strength but tracking really wasn’t a skill set.
Also why they’d needed the Dragon to find Tara in the first place.
She glanced along the ridgeline, tracing the freshly broken snow across the hillside where he’d run. From her? Or just from Col?
Probably the dragon. If she didn’t know Col wouldn’t turn her to ash, she’d be hightailing it too.
Ava shifted again, settling into a slow lope she hoped she could keep up long enough to stay close to her mate. His tracks were still spread out at an almost full out run.
Her bear grunted in disgust, but continued forward, plowing through the powder sending it spraying in either direction. She wasn’t going to give up. She couldn’t lose him. If she didn’t find him, one of the others from the tribe might hunt him down. They wouldn’t know he was her mate. He needed her.
* * *
Mate. Bear. Pack will kill. Dragon will kill.
He kept running. His legs ached. His wounds burned. His lungs felt as though they were close to bursting. But he couldn’t stop. Even when she called out to him. The wind had been against her, but he’d still heard. The tone of her voice had been a balm to his empty soul, but he couldn’t stay with her. His wolf wouldn’t allow it. His sense of survival drove him forward.
Dragon. Death. Pack will kill.
He’d fought his brothers. His friends. He’d killed his own.
They would never let him keep a mate outside the pack. Outside their species.
Wolves didn’t mix. Wolves never mixed.
He was a traitor. He’d turned against Raish. Against his alpha. Against the royal bloodline that his family had served loyally for generations. All of it thrown into the wind for a mate…for a bear.
He couldn’t let her catch up. If he did, he’d never be able to leave her again.