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Mila woke to the sound of birds. There was a shadow across her face and she looked up, disorientated, to see Spencer standing over her.

She narrowed her eyes. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Not long, don’t worry.” He dropped a pile of clothes at her feet before smiling. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” she replied gruffly. She doubted it was going to be a particularly good one.

Spencer was still just standing there and she raised an eyebrow. “Do you mind?”

He murmured an apology, quickly turning his back, and she took a few moments to gather herself before standing and starting to put on the familiar garments. She would definitely need a shower, but that would have to wait until she got back to the caravan. At least there would be something, even something small, to look forward to.

Spencer turned back as she was pulling on her boots. Quickly she schooled her expression into something neutral, unbothered. His eyes flickered up and down her. “How are you feeling?”

She shrugged. “I’ve been worse.” She buckled her boots, not looking up at him.

“You took off,” Spencer said eventually.

So it would seem.”

“You don’t remember?”

“I told you I can’t control it.” Mila stood, once again resisting the urge to hug her arms close. “I get flashes… bits and pieces…” She sighed. “Why did I take off?” she asked quietly.

“You got into a fight. With Andrea.”

“Great.” Mila’s lips were tight. “Just great.”

“She’s not angry. If that makes any difference.”

She shook her head, jaw clenched. “Let’s just get back.” She walked off without bothering to check whether Spencer was following, fists clenching and unclenching at her side. The idea that she might have hurt Andrea, who had been nothing but kind to her, was making her throat burn with guilt. Spencer and the pack might have helped her with the change itself, but one thing was for sure - she was still the freak, the one that didn’t fit in.

And she’d had about enough of it.

Spencer stayed half a pace behind her all the way back, and didn’t try to make conversation. Perhaps he was starting to learn, she thought wryly. Small mercies.

It was nearly noon when they reached the camp and as soon as they stepped into the clearing Mila wished she could bolt for the trees again. Various eyes looked at her, then too quickly looked away. Whispers buzzed up then faded just as quickly. Andrea was sitting under the central flagpole, little Luke on her lap. As she looked up Mila quickly averted her gaze, but not before catching the odd look on her face - more thoughtful than anything else, but it still made Mila’s stomach clench.

“Mila?” Spencer’s warm hand brushed by her arm and she resisted the urge to flinch away. “We should talk. After you’ve cleaned up, of course. Or later… Whatever you want. I…”

His voice tailed off and she looked up at him, before following his gaze. Caelan stepped into the clearing.

His hat shaded his face but she knew the moment his eyes turned to her. He smiled.

She was running towards him before she was fully aware she’d moved. She knew everyone was looking at her but for a golden moment she didn’t care. She launched herself into his open arms.

“Fancy seeing you here,” he murmured into her hair. Then, quieter: “You ok?”

“I am now,” she assured him.

He let her go and she looked up at him. His eyes were oddly bright, and she could smell, if only very faintly, a coppery tang on his breath. Stag, her still sensitive nose told her. He’d been hunting.

Perhaps he caught the briefest of hesitations in her expression as for a moment his eyes narrowed, but she smiled up at him and instantly any trace of worry seemed to vanish from his face. One month ago, she realised, it might have bothered her. Now… Well now her first thought was to hope that none of the pack would notice.

Caelan had caught Spencer’s eye over her shoulder and they nodded a silent acknowledgement.

“Can we talk?” Mila murmured.

Caelan looked back at her. “Of course.”

She glanced around, noting that there were still quite a lot of eyes on them. “Somewhere more… private.”

He nodded, before his eyes flickered to something behind her. Mila looked back to see a shyly smiling Wren.

“Good morning.” Caelan gently returned her smile.

“I made something for you last night,” she said.

“What might that be?”

“It’s a surprise.” Her smile blossomed into a grin. “You have to come and see.”

Caelan nodded, expression serious. “I will, just as soon as I’ve finished talking to Mila, ok?”

“Ok.”

“Hey.” He passed her his pack. “Can you dump this with the rest of my stuff?”

Mila couldn’t help wondering quite how many guns there were in the bag but she didn’t say anything. Wren just nodded and blithely ran off, but not before giving Mila an openly curious look that set her nerves twisting again. She looked back at Caelan, who gestured towards the trees.

They walked in silence for a little while. Finally Caelan paused. He slightly cocked his head to one side, a quick, fluid motion that was just closer to vampire than to human. “No one will hear us here,” he said. He leant against the nearest tree, expression careful. “Do you want to talk about what happened last night?”

Mila swallowed. “Not really…” She took a deep breath. “I don’t want to stay here,” she said. “I want us to go to the nearest city, and get the bounty, just like we were planning to do.”

Caelan nodded. “Ok.”

She raised an eyebrow. “That’s it?”

He shrugged. “I told you that it was your decision whether you wanted to stay or not.” He smiled softly. “Ok?”

Mila found herself returning his smile, the weight suddenly lifting from her chest. “Ok.” She chuckled. “Wren’ll be upset… And Tay.”

“I’m sure they’ll get over it.”

His expression clouded over slightly. Mila frowned. “What is it?”

“I just…” He pursed his lips, standing up. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but… I was worried about you, that’s all.”

She swallowed again. Caelan’s eyes locked onto hers, concerned, compassionate. With Spencer everything had been awkward and complicated, but as she let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding she realised that she could tell Caelan. She wanted to tell Caelan.

“Spencer helped,” she said finally. “The pack helped. It was… ok…” She grimaced. “Better than it’s ever been before, certainly.”

Caelan’s lips quirked into a brief small smile before turning serious again. “If you leave will it go back to being horrible?” He asked softly.

“I don’t know. I…” She sighed. Certainly she thought she understood it better now. Perhaps having shifted once where the pain had been managed might make her less likely to fight against the change in the future, making it easier. Perhaps not. “I don’t know.” She met his eyes again. “I don’t belong here anymore. I’ve changed too much.” She shrugged. “And if that means I have to put up with a bit of pain once a month then that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Caelan’s expression was still tinged with concern but he just nodded. “Ok.”

His warm hand reached for hers. She let him hold her. For a while they just stood, solid and content with each other’s silent company.

“Before all of this,” Caelan said eventually, quietly, “we said that after we’d got the bounty we would never have to see each other again.” He shook his head. “I don’t want that.”

Warmth rushed through her but she frowned at him. “Even if I turn into a monster wolf once a month?”

It wasn’t entirely a joke, but Caelan smiled. “Even if,” he assured her. He chuckled wryly. “After all, we both have our fangy moments.”

She smiled too then, leaning in closer. “I don’t want to split up either.”

His breath stroked her cheek. “We make a pretty good team don’t we, poppet?”

She smirked. “Vampires everywhere, beware.”

Caelan laughed and she reached up, capturing his lips with hers. He tasted like honey, honey with a hint of blood. Something wild inside of her perked up its metaphorical ears, and suddenly she remembered…

Pack

The wolf had sensed him last night, had tried to find him. Because he was pack.

And if her wolf considered him pack… Well that was certainly something to think about.

She almost laughed. A two man pack made up of a reluctant werewolf and a dhampir. Stranger things might have happened, but she doubted it.

By the time Caelan finally pulled away her heart was racing. His breath caressed her ear. “When?” He whispered.

“Tonight.” Mila smiled. The open road awaited her once again, only this time she wouldn’t be leaving her pack for the unknown, but leaving her past for her pack.

She couldn’t wait.

 

 



Submitted: December 17, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Amy R. Beckett. All rights reserved.

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Comments

A. K.Taylor

Nice little moment between them. It seems your pace is slowing down toward its conclusion but you've still got a few chapters left behind this one so I just wonder what's going to happen.
Nothing major here to worry about just some minor edits and a few possible changes to wording. It's still pulling me along too. There's enough intrigue behind the scenes to help build the imagery and lead us through the segment--character-wise, that is.

Sat, February 9th, 2019 3:03am

Author
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Thanks for reading, I'm glad you're still intrigued/ invested!

Mon, February 11th, 2019 4:30am

Sylvermyst

Great chapter. I'm glad that Mila at least feels comfortable around Caelan, I find it sweet that her wolf considers them a pack.

Mon, February 11th, 2019 1:37am

Author
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Thanks for reading!

Mon, February 11th, 2019 4:26am

TheresaVan18

If you don't fit with family/pack, forge your own. I think Mila and her wolf is figuring that out. :) These last few chapters can probably be put together as a larger "slower paced" chapter. Having slower chapters can be a good thing, allows for character building.

Thu, February 14th, 2019 6:10am

Author
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Interesting thought - I'll certainly think about combining them! Thanks for reading/ commenting :-)

Thu, February 14th, 2019 4:28am

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