"I woke up in one of the other Elders' huts and our lives have been like that since that day. The other Elders agreed to allow me to teach the basics of what I remember from their teaching back then, but because of the possibility of losing everyone, including the village, no one is allowed to use what I teach them on the night of the celebrations especially against them during the five-year raid. Now, Yasmine, only the Elders know this information and I am trusting you with not passing it onto your friends..." 

"I would never betray the trust you put in me, Sir! You were the only one to believe in me and allow me the chance to prove myself, even though I am a girl." 

"And you have done that way too many times. Yasmine, you are way too good for this village. I am sure you are meant to do much more, but I am afraid that it is not here that you will do it. Just remember, no matter where you end up, be yourself, never allow anyone to make you less than what you are." 

"Thank you, Elder Miles!" 

I stand and bow, showing him the respect he deserved. I then return to my duties for the upcoming celebration. 

At the commencement of the celebrations, I get together with my closest friends, including Charles, to celebrate my birthday. I flush crimson as Charles surprises me by first giving me a lovely wolf necklace as a birthday gift, which he places around my neck to offset the gorgeous but plain dress I had the seamstress make particularly for my birthday, and then by moving his hand to grip mine. I hesitantly look up at him, and he, too, grins sheepishly, making me feel a little more at ease. There is no way I could have wished for a greater birthday, and Charles never let go of my hand as we went throughout the village, taking part in all the many aspects of the celebrations.

We had a good time on the makeshift dance floor in the village centre, being funny and dancing to the music. As Charles takes me into his arms for a slow dance, I nearly die with embarrassment. I am unable to look away as he embraces me tight and locks his eyes with mine. I am terrified because I have never felt so connected to a guy as I do right now.

As the music fades away, Charles lifts one of his hands to my cheek, allowing him to tilt my head back even farther as he leans in, shuts his eyes, and gently sets his lips on mine. We make our way off the makeshift dance floor and meet up with my other friends as they also come off the dance floor as the alarm goes off, signalling the approach of dusk. 

“Happy Birthday!” they exclaim. I give each of them a friendly hug and say,

“Thank you so much! We’ll talk more tomorrow!”

“I’ve had the nicest day I could have ever asked for,” I say to Charles. “Can I ask you something?”



He smiles as he puts his arms around me again, and when he’s within millimetres of my lips, he murmurs, “I’ve liked you from the first day in the field when you put me on my arse.”

I smile as he closes the distance between us and kisses me once more, but this time it’s a full-fledged kiss, full of love, passion, and dominance. Moving my arms around his neck as he tightens his arms around my waist, pulling me off the ground and into his body. I tense up a little as I feel his eagerness brush against my thigh.

He laughs a little as he kisses me, but he doesn’t stop until the next warning alarm sounds, telling us that we only have a few minutes to get into the village bunker or back to our houses. Charles pulls back from the kiss, but he seems reluctant to let me go, and he kisses me again before muttering,

“Stay safe, and I’ll see you in the morning...”

He then moves back and lets me go, and I watch as he returns to his family’s hut and the protection of the hideout there. When I heard the first of the beasts’ calls, I panicked a little and dashed inside, locking the door just as another beast sent out a call. In our modest cellar, I accompany grandmother, making sure the trap door remains hidden. I’ve gone through a couple of these beast raids before, but I’ve never been so terrified.

For the first time, I genuinely pay attention to the beasts’ call; they seemed to have stopped, but after a little while, I heard it again, and as I listened, I realized it sounded more like a wolf’s howl, but it was closer and clearer than before. I don’t have to wait long to hear the first of the doors being kicked in, as well as the screams of those who didn’t make it home or to the bunker in time.

We sit silently, listening to the beasts kicking in every door to every hut as they make their way through the village. I startle a little as I hear the growl from my dreams outside our door, and then our door smashes open. I watch as four men enter through our small spying hole, then spread out a little to allow a fifth man to enter. This one resembled the beast’s appearance from my nightmares, but he was attractive in a rough sort of way.

He was well over seven feet tall, with dark tanned skin, jet black hair, a sliver of stubble over his muscular jawline, and the most unusual grey eyes I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring at him, feeling a little attracted to him, but not in the same way as I am to Charles; if this man or beast somehow found me, I could be in serious trouble. 

He appeared to come to a halt just inside the doorway, taking a deep breath and growling loudly. His growl sounded exactly like the growl from my dream, and I quickly cover my mouth to keep the shocked scream from escaping; unfortunately, he must have heard me because he took two giant steps towards our trap door, bent down and grabbed the side, breaking it into two pieces and throwing them over his shoulders. I keep an eye on him as he descends the tiny flight of stairs. As he gets closer to the bottom, I back away from the stairs and make my way to the far wall.

He doesn’t even need to take another step to stand in front of me; he simply lifts his hands and presses them flat against the wall behind me, thus enclosing me between him and the wall. I turn my head to the side as he leans down, allowing him to take a big breath across my shoulder and up my neck. I get a shiver from this gentle activity, but I’m not sure if it’s from fear, excitement, or pleasure. He then growls low, startling me and bringing me back to reality; I have never let anyone bully me around, and I have no intention of doing so now. 

My grandma looks at me and shakes her head, knowing exactly who I am and what I am about to do. Elder Miles hasn’t been training me in the past several years to not use it to defend myself, so I bring my knee up hard against his privates, forcing him to take his hands away from the wall, allowing me to slip under and around him. I don’t give it a second thought as I sprint up the steps and into the arms of one of the remaining beasts in the hut.

Panicked a little, I struggle and slam my foot down into his, then use all the strength I have to strike him in the side of the ribs with my elbow, shocking him and forcing him to release me as well. Sliding down his body, I fall to the floor, jumping to my feet as quickly as I can to avoid the other beasts grabbing for me. I escape my house and sprint into the village. I come to a halt when I notice two of my friends on their knees in the village centre, their hands tied behind their backs and a collar encircling their necks. 

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