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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions(36)

By:Selena Kitt

They weren't fifteen minutes out from the den when it happened.

The only warning she had was that Kirstin felt Lorien straighten in his saddle.

"E'erythin' a'righ'?" she asked, but it happened so fast, the wulver didn't have time to answer her.

Someone dropped from a tree above, right onto Raife's horse. He wasn't a  big man, but he had the advantage of surprise. And he had a knife. The  man jabbed it into expertly into Raife's side, between his ribs,  unseating the big wulver. The horse bucked and nearly threw Sibyl and  the stranger, but the man was able to hang on, grabbing the reins and  urging the animal forward.         



Kirstin screamed. She heard Sibyl screaming, calling for Raife, but the  war horse was already tearing through the woods. Kirstin was shocked by  the horse's behavior-but then she realized the man was wearing something  on his boots, something sharp he dug into the horse's flanks.

Raife had already transformed to wulver warrior, and behind her, so had  Lorien. They barked orders, snapped at each other, the scouting warriors  already racing after the runaway horse, with Sibyl and the stranger  atop.

Darrow barked something to Lorien about keeping the women safe, leaving  Laina and his bairn with him. Kirstin climbed down from the horse,  putting her arms around Laina and Garaith, still not understanding what  was happening.

Darrow and Raife wasted time fighting, snarling at one another, and  Lorien threw Kirstin the reins of his horse, stepping in to help Darrow  restrain their wulver pack leader. It took the two of them, snapping and  circling, to keep the big wulver from going after Sibyl straightaway.

Raife howled, a sound so full of anguish and pain it echoed through the  woods, and Kirstin knew it had nothing to do with the wound in his side.

The rest of the pack had heard and were doubling back toward them.

Kirstin realized, far too late, screaming at Raife, "No! Ye can'na go after 'er! Yer what they want! They need yer blood!"

But they already had it, didn't they?

The man had slipped a knife between Raife's ribs and had run off with Sibyl.

It wasn't Sibyl they wanted, though, Kirstin realized.

It was the book strapped to her chest.

This is my fault, she thought, watching in horror as Raife got free and  pulled his sword, threatening his own brother with it if Darrow kept him  from pursuing their attackers.

This is all my fault.

They'd been waiting for them, she realized. Mayhaps they knew Kirstin  would run straight back to the den with her escape plan, leading Raife  out into the open where they could get what they needed to take back to  the witch. But Darrow was right after all. They would have been safer  staying in the den.

Raife took off-Darrow and Lorien couldn't hold him-running after Sibyl.  Lorien stayed, on Darrow's orders, but Darrow went after his brother.  Kirstin looked at Laina, tears streaked down her face, and felt her own  tears wetting her cheeks. Little Garaith howled between them.

"'Tis all m'fault," Kirstin sobbed against her sister's shoulder as the  wulver pack began to gather around them on horseback. "They've got 'is  blood, Laina. 'Tis all they needed."

"Shhhh." Laina stroked her hair, comforting both Kirstin and her bairn at once.

Kirstin couldn't bear it. She'd led them straight to the wulver den, had  put everyone in danger in the hopes of trying to save them. She sobbed  in Laina's arms, wishing the earth would open up and swallow her whole.  If anything happened to Sibyl, or Raife, or any of her family, because  of what she'd done, she knew she could never forgive herself.

"Kirstin," Laina whispered, shaking her gently. "Look!"

Kirstin lifted her head, blinking through her tears, seeing Raife  carrying Sibyl in his arms. Darrow followed on foot, and Laina broke  away from Kirstin to meet her husband, putting her arms around him. Both  wulvers were men again.

"Is she hurt?" Kirstin barely got the words out as Raife approached. Sibyl was, at the very least, unconscious, her body limp.

"He took the book." Raife blinked down at the woman in his arms. "Then he pushed 'er off m'horse."

"No," Kirstin whispered, her hands already moving over Sibyl's inert  form, looking for broken bones. "She's alive, Raife. She'll be a'righ',  here, put 'er on the ground, I'll-"

And that's when Kirstin saw the blood. Sibyl's plaid was all greens and  blues, but there was a dark spot on it that was growing by the moment.  She didn't say anything about it to Raife as he knelt, gently depositing  Sibyl's body on the forest floor.

"Where's t'attacker?" Lorien growled as Darrow approached. Raife and  Darrow were transformed into men again, but Lorien was still half-man,  half-wolf, prepared for battle.

"They went after 'im." Darrow jerked his head toward the woods, Laina  and his bairn drawn into one arm, his sword drawn in the other.

Lorien, now freed up from having to protect Kirstin and Laina, took off  on his horse, barking to three more scouts to join him, so there were  now seven out pursuing the man.

"She was thrown from the horse," Kirstin told Laina as the two women  bent over Sibyl. Kirstin was sure there were no broken bones, at least  any she could feel. Raife watched them work over her, his eyes full of  fire.         



"I think she may be losin' the bairn," Laina whispered to Kirstin. They  both saw the blood on her thighs, the way her plaid was twisted, high up  on her legs.

Raife heard them and closed his eyes, his head going back with a long,  sustained howl. It made gooseflesh rise all over Kirstin's body as Laina  ran to Darrow's horse, unpacking blankets and what medicine she could  find.

"I've got black haw and cramp bark." Beitrus made her way to the front  of the crowd. The old woman, who had taught Kirstin everything she knew,  held out two vials. "It may save the pup."

"Thank ye." Kirstin uncapped one and poured it past Sibyl's lips. The  woman coughed at the sudden introduction of liquid into her mouth and  Raife grabbed her to him, ignoring their protests.

"Sibyl," he whispered, holding her close. "Can ye hear me? Are ye a'righ'?"

"I'll be fine," she gasped, her eyes opening wide. "If you quit crushing me, you beast!"

Raife chuckled at that, rocking her against his chest, bringing her face to his so he could kiss her.

Sibyl sobbed when she realized she was bleeding. Laina, Kirstin and  Beitrus all worked to reassure her that the bairn was likely fine, that  bleeding happened sometimes, and they'd done everything they could to  help them both.

Kirstin hoped their reassurances turned out to be true. The bleeding did  seem to be ebbing, and Sibyl was awake, and coherent. Laina tended  Raife's wound-it was superficial, not deep at all. Whoever had slipped  the knife in had known exactly what he was doing, and hadn't been aiming  for anything vital.

Of course, not-they want him to be able to fight.

They only wanted his blood...

Sibyl finally calmed, but didn't want to get on Raife's horse, when  Lorien returned with him. But without the attacker. Or the book.

"What if it hurts the baby?" Sibyl sobbed. "What if I start bleeding again?"

They spent time reassuring her, giving her sips of water, waiting for  the tonics to work. It helped stop the blood, and that was a good sign,  Kirstin assured her.

Darrow and Raife talked together, low and out of earshot, with Lorien.

"Can't we stay here now?" Sibyl suggested, as Raife came over to get  her, lifting her easily off the ground. "In the den? Isn't it the safest  place? We can block the exits, like Darrow said, we can-"

"No, lass." Raife pressed his lips to her forehead. "'Tis no longer  safe, if they know where the den is. We have to ride to the MacFalon  castle."

"I'm scared," Sibyl told him, burying her face against his neck.

"Aye." Raife mounted his horse, pulling Sibyl with him, settling her  side saddle. Lorien had tended the animal's wounds, from whatever the  stranger had been digging into its sides, with a balm Kirstin gave him.

"I haven't ridden side-saddle in years," she told him, pressing her cheek to his chest.

"Aye, but Kirstin says 'tis safest for t'bairn." He kissed the top of her head. "We'll go slow."

Raife sent the rest of the pack on ahead, toward the castle. They would bring up the rear.

"D'ye want me t'stay 'ere and wait fer t'scouts?" Lorien asked them.

"Ye should ride wit' us," Darrow told him, getting on his horse behind  Laina and the baby. "We may need ye if they return fer Raife again."

"They won't," Kirstin said miserably as Lorien gave her a hand up onto his mount. "They a'ready 'ave e'erythin' they need."

She scanned the woods as they began to ride, taking it slow, as Raife  had promised, hoping, praying, the scouts would catch up to the thief  before he could make it back to his camp to give the book and the knife  to the waiting witch and her wicked consort.