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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions

By:Selena Kitt

1


Scotland

Middle March  –  near Castle MacFalon

Year of our Lord 1502



If she hadn't caught scent of the man, she never would have ended up in the trap.



Kirstin cursed the stranger as she struggled, strung halfway up the side  of a huge oak tree, the limb holding her weight moving only slightly as  she snapped and pawed at the net. She had caught his scent and had  followed her nose to the edge of the wood, where it ended in a clearing.  In the middle of the clearing was an enormous burial cairn. This was  where the man knelt, one bare knee on the ground, his elbow up on the  other, forehead pressed to his closed fist.



She had believed him to be praying, too distracted to notice her, so she  had crept forward, curious. That had been her mistake. The movement had  caught the attention of the man's horse. The big, black animal had  thrown its head and yanked at the reins, tied to a stake on the ground,  pawing the grass as it caught her scent. Kirstin's fur had prickled,  standing on end, as the man turned his head to look at her.



He was a Scotsman-his plaid gave that much away. He didn't call out or  move for a weapon when he saw her, as she expected a man might, when  faced with a wolf in the early morning light. The man easily could have  drawn the bow he had slung over his back, although if he moved, she  would have been gone faster than he could nock an arrow. But he stayed  still, his gaze meeting hers across the dewy grass.



And there was something about those eyes...



The moment their gaze locked, Kirstin felt it. Something crackled, like  lightning flashing through storm clouds. The horse continued to whinny  and paw his big hoof at the ground, but the human and the wolf didn't  move. They just looked at each other, sizing each other up. If she had  been a regular wolf, she probably would have instantly turned tail and  run. But if she had been a regular wolf, she never would have followed  the scent of a human this close in the first place.



Her tail twitched and her nose wrinkled when she caught his scent again  as the wind shifted. He wasn't afraid. She would have smelled that-it  was a tinny, copper scent, similar to blood, a mixture of sweat and  adrenaline. The man whose eyes searched hers across the clearing wasn't  afraid-although he should have been. She wondered at it, cocking her  shaggy head and whining softly at her own confusion.



That's when he spoke.



"Are ye a wulver, then?" he called in a thick, Scottish brogue. He  didn't make a move, didn't reach for a bow or a sword, but his words  frightened her far more than any weapon would have. If this man knew the  difference between a wolf and a wulver, and even suspected she was the  latter, she was in far more danger than she thought. But then she  remembered, she'd tied her own plaid around her neck before she left the  den, and it was tied there still.



She had turned tail and run, even though he'd stood, calling after her, "Halt! Come back!"



If only she hadn't followed his scent. If only the horse hadn't noticed  her and alerted his master. If only she hadn't taken off running. Or  mayhaps if she had run the other direction, through the clearing instead  of back into the woods. If she had only stayed home, snug in her den,  taking care of her pack the way she always had...



But she couldn't lament this last.



Because while most of her pack was safe back in the den, their pack  leader was at Castle MacFalon, sitting by his brother's bedside, waiting  to see if he'd recover from wounds that would've instantly killed any  mortal man. The warriors had returned to their den, exhausted, hungry,  with a tale so horrifying, Kirstin didn't even want to imagine it. But  it was all she could think of as she took off running through the woods,  following their scent on the trail. It would take her to the  borderlands, back to Castle MacFalon, where one of her pack lay dying...



Not dying. She twisted in the net, glimpsing the ground below. It was  going to be quite a hard drop to the forest floor. He's not going to  die. Not if I have anything to say about it.



But she wasn't going to be able to do anything if she didn't get out of  this damnable net. Kirstin twisted her big, furry head to see if any  hunter was around. Had the man kneeling in the clearing been the one who  laid this trap? She wondered. If so, he had seen her. He had watched  her turn and run back into the woods. Straight toward the hidden net.



Kirstin felt a howl rising in her throat, nearly uncontrollable, at her  sudden lack of freedom. Adrenaline coursed through her and she turned  the howl into a low growl, forcing herself to be still, to stay calm.  She couldn't let her animal side take control, even if she was in wulver  form. She had to stop, to think, to get herself out of this. She would  have to change into human form, find the dirk she had sown into her  plaid, and cut herself free.         

     



 



Before the hunter found her.



"Easy, lass."



The voice came from below and she froze, hackles rising, bladder tensing  in her belly. He must have come from downwind, quietly tracking her, to  appear so suddenly without her knowledge. She couldn't see him, but she  knew the man had a bow. She'd seen it slung across his back. He had a  dirk hidden under his plaid, like any good Scotsman would. He could,  right now, have an arrow aimed at her side.



"I'm not gonna hurt ye." He spoke softly, from right beneath her.



She twisted in the net, trying to see him, and couldn't, but she could  sense him. Smell him. It was the same scent that had caught her  attention as she followed her pack's trail, the one that had intrigued  her enough to leave the path and head toward the clearing.



"I hafta come up t'free ye," he explained. He'd come into the woods  quietly, on foot. She didn't scent his horse at all. "I'm afeared  somethin's caught. The trap will'na let go from 'ere."



His voice moved below her and she caught a glimpse of him out of the  corner of her eye. She gave a low growl, baring her teeth. It was pure  instinct. The man came up the trunk on her left side, climbing fast and  efficiently. Kirstin twisted in the net, snapping at him as he got  nearer.



"Easy, lass, I mean ye n'harm," he soothed.



He was already above her, standing on the branch the net was strung  from. Then he sat, edging his way slowly toward her, leaning over so he  could reach the place where the rope that held the net stretched taut  over the branch.



"Ye mus' be from t'wulver den?" He talked softly as he worked.



His hands were big, untangling the rope, which was tensed with Kirstin's  full wulver weight-almost double her human one. He had dark,  shoulder-length hair that swept across his cheek, and he used his other  hand to push it out of his eyes.



"Did ye come t'help Laina and Sibyl, then?" He stopped when he heard  Kirstin whine softly at that. He cocked his head and looked at her. Up  close like this, the steel in his eyes had softened, like storm clouds  parting to reveal a deepening, blue sky underneath. He seemed to  understand her response, almost like he'd read her thoughts. "Darrow's  healin' more e'ery day. Sibyl says she thinks he's comin' outta t'worst  of it."



Just hearing those familiar, beloved names made Kirstin's heart beat  faster. Could it be true? Was this man a friend of the wulvers? If he  knew Sibyl, Laina and Darrow, should she trust his words? But it wasn't  his words, it was his actions that swayed her. The man was up in a tree,  trying to free her. What really convinced her, though, was his lack of  alarm. She didn't sense or scent any fear in him at all.



"We'll get ye down from 'ere and I'll take ye back t'Castle MacFalon."  The man's brow creased as he tried to solve some problem with the trap  she couldn't see from her vantage point. He glanced at her and  half-smiled, a dimple appearing in his cheek. "I'm Donal MacFalon, by  t'by. Laird of the MacFalon Clan. 'Though I'm t'first t'admit, I'm still  gettin' used to the title."



Donal MacFalon. The wulvers had come home talking about him. She had  listened to their tales in the dining hall, where the wulver women fed  their travel-weary warriors a hot meal, and remembered the way they'd  spoken of Donal MacFalon. Unlike his brother, this was a man of  integrity, they said. And like his father before him, he would honor the  peaceful pact made between man and wulver.



She really could trust him, then. At least, as much as she was likely to trust any man.



Kirstin whined softly, reaching out toward him with a paw. She could  just reach the soft leather of his boot and she tapped it gently. Donal  looked down at her and smiled when he met her eyes again. There were no  storm clouds in those eyes at all now. Just a deep, sparkling blue, as  reflective as the lake in the wulver valley.



"Yer safe, lass," he assured her with a slow nod. "I apologize fer the  trap. Alistair-me brother-was set on catchin' all t'wulvers and killin  'em..."



She growled at this-although she knew the man's brother, Alistair, was dead. He'd been the one responsible for Darrow's wounds.

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