Page 40 of Wolf's Mate

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“Did they know you were a shifter?”

“I doubt it,” he explains. “They just wanted a hunting trophy. I doubt they even took a good long look at me through the barrel of that gun.”

“How long did you stay here?”

“I remember being knocked out. So exhausted I didn’t even care whether they’d find me or not. I just wanted to sleep. So, I did. When I woke up, I could hear the birds singing outside. I looked down at my body. I had shifted during the night, didn’t even feel it. My wound was luckily only surface. It looked much worse than it was. So, I stayed here until I healed properly. But, I did decide to keep this place as my own.”

“Weren’t you afraid someone might find it?”

I feel like we’re going around in a small circle, but I don’t mind. It feels nice just to be outside, to walk, pretending if only for a short while that everything’s alright. And, the fact that it’s Fynn next to me and not Anderson, adds to the strangeness and curiosity of the moment. I dare not look at him while he’s talking. Instead, my gaze is fixated on the little path ahead.

“At first, yes. But, after about 10 years had passed, and I hadn’t seen a living soul around here, I relaxed a little. Started bringing more stuff here. Spending more time here, as well. It became home in a way.”

“Were you… alone?”

The thought of him sleeping there, hurt and without anyone to take care of him, makes me sad. Sadder than I thought it would.

“I’ve spent a large part of my life alone,” he continues. “Then, I met Anderson, and things changed.”

“How did you know that he’s… well, the same thing you are?” I ask, as I step on a little branch, and it breaks underneath the weight of my foot.

“A shifter?” he smirks. “You just know.”

I know what he means, but the feeling of that knowledge eludes me. Sure, I have my gut feeling, but that’s far from his ability to smell someone from a mile away.

“How are you doing?” he suddenly asks, and at first, I’m not even sure what exactly he means, as so many things have happened lately, that I was barely able to keep track of all of them.

“Me?” I’m still taken aback by his question, and I almost stumble over a root that protrudes from the ground, but I manage to keep myself balanced. He just nods. “I’m… confused, I guess. And, my dad…”

“I know what I said was harsh.”

This time, I stop, and turn to him. My fingers are trembling. We are surrounded by a thick row of bushes and trees, hidden from the world. Maybe here, we can be who we are, without any fear of judgment.

“You told the truth.” My lips tremble as I speak.

He takes a step closer to me. The air around us is warm, and it’s only getting warmer. I swallow heavily, my lips dry.

“I’m not very good with words,” he explains, not that any such explanation is necessary. “But, hope can be a devastating thing sometimes.”

The tone of his voice tells me that he probably had a lot of hope at one time, but it was probably dashed, and now, he’s afraid to hope for anything. My heart aches. Being hopeless is an immeasurable sadness. I should know.

I lower my gaze, and somehow, I know that we both understand each other. Optimism is a great thing, but sometimes, hope turns out to be your enemy.

“I remember when my mom died,” I suddenly start, surprised at the fact that I’m talking about this. Endless hours of therapy sessions with numerous shrinks barely made me talk about this, and here I am, opening up to someone who was mere weeks ago, a complete stranger to me. “I’d spend days in the house, just looking at the door, hoping she’d come in, even though the rational part of my brain knew she would never walk through that door again, and yet, I still hoped. It was a hope that was keeping me buried alive.”

I swallow a moan, and quickly wipe a stray tear from my left eye. Some wounds never heal. I know Fynn is equally aware of this.

“That’s why I didn’t want to feed any false hopes,” he tells me. “About - “

“My dad,” I nod. “I know. I appreciate that.”

“That’s why it’s great to have someone like Anderson around. He counteracts my negativity with his positivism.”

“Yeah,” I chuckle. “In a way, you two are the perfect man.”

He looks at me, then bursts out into roaring laughter. I join in immediately, and it takes us both a while to calm down. With still a few left-over giggles, we continue on urr way, and shortly after we’re back where we started from.

“See?” I smile. “We’re back and nothing’s happened.”