Four

This hesitation cost me because someone then wrapped two significantly enormous arms around me from behind. Fortunately, I am on the smaller side, and as I demonstrated to Elder Miles, I could exploit this to wiggle out of practically every hold the guys tried to keep me in. So I wiggle and struggle in his arms, causing him to reposition them in an attempt to get a better grip on me, which is exactly what I wanted because it gave me a bit more movement.

I toss my head back, hitting his nose, and then I throw my elbows back, hitting both sides of his ribs at the same moment, loosening his grip on me even more and allowing me to slip down and out of his arms. When I get to the ground, I crouch and then kick out my leg, rotating as I do so, sweeping his legs backward and causing him to fall hard to the ground.

I smile and rise back to my feet, but it's not for long since I'm suddenly surrounded by three more beasts, the first of whom I manage to avoid. I know I've been lucky thus far, that I've gotten the better of them because they aren't expecting a small girl like me to fight back, but I know that won't last long before they don't hold back, so instead of facing the three males, I turn and escape. Elder Miles taught me to assess the situation around me in one of his private classes, and that there is a time to stand and fight and a time to run in the opposite direction so that you can fight under better conditions the next time.

I move fast, avoiding the beasts who tried to capture me as I rushed past, and then the trees, branches, and shrubs that snatched at me as I ran through the woods. I’m not sure where I was headed, but there had to be another little village or town nearby, or maybe one of the larger cities mentioned by the blacksmith and healer. Hearing a howl coming from the village’s direction, I take a moment to glance around.

I’ve never gone this deep into the woods before, but some of it still looks familiar; suddenly I hear two or three loud growls and the sound of something running. I take a brief look around, choose a path, and resume running; however, I hear a sound behind me and turn to look back, tripping over a downed branch in front of me. I smash to the ground hard, but I remember my training and use my momentum. I roll, scraping my arm, but I get back up and keep running.

As the night grows darker, it becomes increasingly difficult to see where I’m going, so I slow down to avoid tripping again. When I reach the point when I have no option but to stop, I put my hands on my knees and try to take deep breaths to slow down my pounding heart. When I straighten my arm and glance down, I gasp a little as I see a long shallow cut from when I tripped over.

I don’t get to look at it for long, though, because I’m attacked by a monstrous form that pushes me backward until my back collides with a nearby tree. I gasp once more, as pain spreads across my back as a result of the force with which I struck the tree; this also causes me to glance up and into the cold grey eyes of the beast from my dreams.

His eyes captivate me, and it isn’t until he breaks the connection that I realize he has twisted and trapped one of my hands to the tree over my head and the other behind my back into the tree. He moves my hair away from my shoulder with his free hand, then repeats the gesture from the basement, running his nose over my shoulder and up my neck while taking a significant breath. This causes me to tremble once more, as his eyes meet with mine again, and he smiles, making it difficult for me to breathe.

I take a shaky breath as he glides his hand down the side of my cheek, down my neck, around my shoulder, and then down my side, resting it on my hip, as he pulls me tighter against him while keeping my hand and arm locked between my body and the tree. As he presses me against the tree tighter, I close my eyes as he leans down, gently putting his lips to mine and then growling low, deepening the kiss before drawing back and reconnecting our gaze as I open them again.

Our intimate moment is disrupted by someone as the guy holding me blinks his eyes and breaks the connection as his attention is diverted to someone approaching us from the side. Feeling as if I am coming out of a trance, I drop my head as he turns to look at whoever interrupted us. As I regain my composure, I realise where I was and began to struggle, dragging him out of the conversation he appeared to be having with the newcomer.

I try to relax his grip on my hand, which he has trapped over my head, and when that doesn’t work, I fight slightly harder, hoping to shift just a little so I can have a better shot at him, but that doesn’t appear to be working either as he returns his gaze to me. He tightens his grip on my wrist and waist as he presses me farther into the tree behind me; he drags his nose down my neck to my shoulder, once more growling lowly,

“Your Mine!”

I can’t stop the scream that escapes my lips as he bites down hard on my shoulder. I struggle and try to push away from the tree, but he simply moves and twists my hand from being pinned above my head to being held tight with my other hand behind my back so that he could wrap his other arm around me and pull me in tighter against his body as he bites down even harder, making me scream even more. He takes a step back without removing his teeth or his grip on me, while I resist as hard as I can until I feel two more hands contact mine.

I didn’t like the way these felt on my hands, but they didn’t stay on for long because they seemed to put something over my hands and then lay it on my wrists, tightening them. The beast holding me tightens his arms a little further, as he gently lifts his head from where he bit me; I shudder as he glides his tongue over my skin, up my neck, and then looks back into my eyes. 

He smiles as he leans back, and I wait for him to relax his arms before resuming my struggles. I smile as I manage to escape his grasp, but I don’t get very far and can’t suppress the surprised scream that escapes my lips as he grabs, turns, and slings me over his shoulder. He then quickly makes his way back out of the woods, without pausing until he reaches the village’s centre. I resist, but it doesn’t seem to matter to him because he lets out a very powerful howl, which seems to summon all of the beasts back to the village’s centre.

Some of the beasts are carrying additional young adult villages, and from what I can tell, they all have their wrists tied. The only difference is that the guy holding me never put on the collar that appears to be on everyone else they have taken. I keep struggling to get loose from his shoulder, but he still has a firm grip on me as he spins around in a circle, howling again as he yells

RETURN.”

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