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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions(3)

By:Selena Kitt

"King Henry has entrusted it to me, and it will be done." Lord Eldred  squatted near the net, not touching her, but his gaze moved over her in  wolf form as if cataloging her. Kirstin shuddered, feeling a growl  building in her throat.         



"What's free is what's good, and what's good is what's free." Donal unsheathed his dirk and began cutting the net apart.

"You plan to just let her go?" Lord Eldred asked, craggy eyebrows rising in surprise. "In that form?"

"She'll change and come back," Donal assured him, working more of the net free. "Won't ye, lass?"

Kirstin just looked at him, feeling his hands moving in her fur, soft, tender, as he worked to free her.

"You trust a wulver?" Eldred Lothienne stood, taking a step back as Kirstin lifted her head to look at him.

"Aye. She's not a wulver warrior." Donal snorted, shaking his head,  unwrapping part of the net from her hind leg. "She's a female, here to  see to her wounded kin."

Kirstin blinked at him in surprise, at how much the man had deduced when she hadn't yet said a word to him.

"Ye go make yerself decent, lass," Donal told her softly, freeing her  from the last of the net. Her body shook with the effort it took her to  stay still. "And I'll take ye back wit' me to Castle MacFalon t'see yer  kin. Ye ken?"

She gave a low whine, but her gaze was on the Englishman, not the Scot.  It was the former she didn't trust, although she had no idea why not.

"I'll take ye to Darrow," Donal said softly, his hand moving through her  fur, scratching her affectionately behind the ear. She was still  stunned by his lack of fear.

Kirsten glanced down at the dirk in his other hand, the one he'd used to  open the net, shredding hours of someone's handiwork. He hadn't thought  twice about destroying it. Kirstin let out a growl, head low, getting  quickly to her feet. She heard them before she glimpsed them, two men  appearing out of the woods on foot.

"Just my captains," Lord Eldred announced, waving them over, but Kirsten  had already escaped deeper into the woods, in the opposite direction.

"Come back, ye ken?" Donal called after her as she disappeared into the brush.

Kirstin crouched there for a moment, panting lightly, feeling the  adrenaline course through her body as she listened to the men talking,  trying to decide what to do. If it had just been the man, Donal, she  wouldn't have hesitated, but the other three men gave her pause. The two  that had gotten away-where were they? She was sure they had been  traveling together, but the man, Lord Eldred, had called them poachers.

Mayhaps she'd been mistaken, her senses changed from hanging so high up in the tree …

She glimpsed Donal pulling an arrow from that same tree she'd been hanging in-the arrow that had nearly hit him.

"Well-made. A local arrow?" Lord Eldred asked, looking at it over Donal's shoulder.

"Aye, 'tis an honest hunter's arrow, not unmarked, fer a poacher's  purpose." Donal frowned at it, turning it over in his hands. Then he  slid it into his own quiver, looking at the Englishman. "Thank ye fer  yer assistance wit' the marksman. I did'na wanna make two more widows  t'curse t'MacFalon name if I did'na hafta."

"I understand." Lord Eldred nodded, glancing toward the woods in her  direction, and Donal did, too. They would be wondering about her, if she  would return-a question she was pondering herself. She had options.

She could turn tail and run home. That was one option. But had she come  all this way, just to turn around again? It had taken her nearly a week  to convince the wulver warriors of her need to tend to Darrow. Her need  to see him, to make sure he was all right-to help heal him and make her  pack whole-overwhelmed her. It had been the force that had compelled her  on this journey in the first place, and she was determined to see it  through.

The man, Donal, could take her to Darrow. She sensed he was honorable,  and knew from the wulver warriors who had returned, that he could be  trusted. She didn't know about the other men, but something in her said  that Donal would protect her, if need be. Besides, she thought with a  smile as she crouched fully behind a tall, thick oak tree, she could  change into wulver form and snap all their necks before the first one  could draw his blade, if she so chose.

She walked, barefoot, out of the brush, into the clearing where they  stood talking. They didn't sense or see her until she was almost on top  of them, even though she was in human form now.

"Ah, there she is." Lord Eldred spotted her first, his dark, glittering gaze sweeping her up and down.

Kirsten had changed back, pulling her plaid around her to cover as much  as she could. It was a versatile garment, yards of fabric that could  cover her from head to toe if needed, now gathered into the semblance of  a skirt, crossing in front and pinned in place to cover her breasts.  Although, if the Englishmen's gazes were any indication, she was showing  far more skin than they were used to seeing.         



Donal turned toward her, smiling as she approached, his words fading  away mid-sentence. She had smoothed her long, dark hair out over her  shoulders, picking out the leaves and twigs as best she could, making  herself as presentable as possible without the benefit of a looking  glass or even a stream or pond.

She saw the apple in Donal's throat move up and down as he swallowed,  his gaze sweeping over her, too, from her bare feet and knees peeking  out from under her make-shift skirt, to the V her plaid made between her  breasts, then up to her face, their eyes meeting and locking. She had  that same sense again, the one she'd experienced when she stopped in the  clearing where he'd knelt, head bent in prayer. She didn't understand  it, but it gave her a sudden rush of feeling, and her cheeks flushed  with it.

Kirstin didn't even register the other three men-they were staring, too,  although she only sensed this peripherally. It was as if the whole  forest had narrowed suddenly into one, shining, sun-dappled path, and it  led straight to Donal MacFalon. Kirstin's knees felt wobbly as she  continued her careful approach, running a nervous hand through her hair  again, seeing Donal's gaze distracted by the motion. He traced the dark  waterfall her hair made over her creamy, bare shoulders, skipping to her  cleavage, then up again, to her eyes-and then, finally, settling on her  mouth.

She opened it to say something, but she couldn't find the words. She  could only stand there, a few feet from the man, trembling like she had  been while trapped in the net. Her heart galloped in her chest, and  something pumped through her veins that was hotter than her own blood,  something foreign and uncontrollable.

A low whistle came from one of the Englishmen, who leaned in to say to the other, "Imagine her in an English gown."

The second man shifted against the tree where he was leaning and remarked, "I'm imagining her out of one."

That statement made Donal's eyes flash and he turned his attention to  the two young men. Lord Eldred caught the look and got between them,  raising a gloved hand.

"Gentlemen, remember yourselves," the bearded Englishman snapped. He  turned to her then, bowing slightly, and asked, "What's your name,  m'lady?"

M'lady? She smiled and wrinkled her nose at that, looking back at Donal. He stared at her still, bemused.

"Kirstin," she said simply, her eyes locking again with the man standing  transfixed beside her. She was glad there was a tree nearby-still stuck  with two arrows-for her to lean back against. "And you're Donal  MacFalon? Laird of Clan MacFalon?"

"Aye." He gave a slow nod. "That I am, lass-and I'm vera glad t'meet ye, now that yer not stuck yonder in a tree."

She laughed at that, glancing up at the branch where she'd been dangling not too long ago.

"Thank ye fer savin' me, kind sir." She held out a hand to him, and he  took it, bending slightly at the waist as any gentleman would. She  expected him to kiss the back of her hand like she'd heard from Sibyl  was the English custom-since they were in the presence of an English  lord-but instead, he turned her hand over, palm up, and pressed his lips  to the inside of her wrist.

Kirstin's breath caught in her throat, and she melted. His mouth was  soft and he had two days' stubble on his cheeks that prickled the  sensitive skin of her wrist. Somehow, that one, small kiss, sent a  thousand pulses of light through her body, bringing senses alive she'd  never known before, even as a wulver. She looked at him in wonder,  staring into those slate-blue eyes. They were focused solely on her like  she was the only thing left in the world to look at.

"Pleasure to meet you, m'lady." Lord Eldred interrupted their interlude,  holding his gloved hand out for hers, but Kirstin held the edged of her  wrapped plaid and dropped into a brief curtsy instead. Sibyl had taught  it to her and some of the other wulvers, and she used it to keep from  having to touch him. For some reason, the thought was anathema to her.  The older man nodded, lips pursing for a moment before he smiled and  turned to introduce his men. "I'm Lord Eldred Lothienne, and these are  my captains-William and Geoffrey Blackmoore of Blythe."