I wake to fingers ruffling the stubble along my leg. No, not the stubble. Tracing the outlines of the scars. Mumbled words are grunted as lips are pressed to each centimeter. I'm not sure if I should stop her or let her continue. I wish I could see her eyes. They would tell me if I need to calm her down or let her continue her perusal.
It is strange to think that she wasn't in my life three weeks ago. So much has changed since I ran from Tucson and got caught in that hunter's trap. To think that I was begging Emmett and Rosalie to take my life when they found me with a rusted spring trap around my leg boggles my mind. I don't recall much from the moment they removed the torture devise until I arrived in Alaska. The pain that radiated through my body due to the skin ripping away with the trap, exposing the bone, has done a good job of blocking out any memories. The hallucinations my mind conjured during the trek still cause me to glance around in fright.
I have this lingering fear that whoever is alpha of the pack on the reservation will somehow fix the mental bonds that I broke all those years ago and force me back. I'm sure it wouldn't be as bad to be in a pack now since I'm positive Sam has stopped shifting to be with Emily. Those few months while with the pack were hell. It wasn't just Sam invading my mind. The others would mock me and find ways to humiliate me while we were all in wolf form if Sam and Seth weren't around. I still pray that no other females have shifted, having to go through that. I wish I could figure out what great evil I did to deserve such karma.
Unless, of course, the new pack decides that I am an abomination, and they try to destroy me and Tanya. Or worse, they only burn Tanya and leave me to wither away from the blinding pain of losing my imprint. I doubt they would care that it is forbidden to harm an imprint.
A pop of a burning log in the fireplace brings me back to the present. Tanya is still inspecting every inch of me. If the others hadn't warned me she would do this, I am sure I'd be freaking out. A yawn escapes my mouth.
Tanya's head snaps up. "Awake? Roll over." The orders leave her mouth too fast for me to comprehend what she wants. Next thing I know, I've been pulled further down the couch and flipped onto my stomach. The investigating fingertips and mumbles resume.
"Tanya?" I try to gain her attention and fail. "Hey, I need a moment. Then you can resume your poking all you want. Just give me 30 seconds, please." I feel a rumbling go through her body before she shoots across the room and starts pacing.
When I return, it is obvious to me that Tanya has regained control of herself. She is sitting calmly in front of the couch staring into the flames. I join her on the floor, maintaining a bit of distance in case she isn't in complete control yet.
"Sorry, we were cuddling and then you shivered. I started a fire and was about to find a blanket to drape over you when the beast caught sight of your leg. I'm not even sure how long you were sleeping or why it decided now to notice. I just knew that I had to get revenge. I had to find every mark and destroy the different people who put them there."
"And what about the ones that I added? Are you going to take revenge on me for when I was learning how to ride a bicycle and collided with a tree, scraping my forearm up?"
Her eyes leave the faint light tan line I was speaking of and finally meet mine, a stunned expression plastered on her face.
"I can't tell you where or how I got most of my scars. You and your beast are just going to have to let that go. If you want to start a crusade against the poachers on the wildlife reservations, I'll be happy to join you, though," I say after glancing down at my still recovering leg. Legs are supposed to be indistinguishable. The lack of muscle on the left is just depressing. Maybe I should ask Tanya or someone else here in Denali if they would help me with rehab or know someone who is qualified and won't be shocked at the supernatural aspect of my healing.
A smile slowly slides across her lips. "Maybe another time. If I recall, you said I could continue my inspection of your body. Or we can always head back. I'm sure Kate would love to tease us about that mark on your neck."
I reach for my neck, not recalling noticing anything a few minutes ago when I washed my face. The smile on Tanya's face spreads to a mischievous grin.
I pull my knees up to in front of me and scoot away from her. "You want to mark me? Umm. I thought that required a bite. I don't think we can do that. I am still recovering. I'm not sure I can burn off your venom right now." As the last word leaves my mouth, I notice that she hasn't moved. The smile is gone, and her eyes have gotten darker.
"We need to deal with that leg. You should be able to get full strength back. I hate to have to deal with them so soon after I attacked them when they brought you to me, but I think Rose and Emmett need to spend some time with us. With her medical knowledge and his physical knowhow, they should be able to get you back up to a healthy state in no time."
"I… um… yeah, okay," I reply. I thought only newborns were supposed to suffer from quickly altered emotional states. With everything they did warn me about, this never came up. Maybe it has to do with being the first non-vamp mate? I wish there was a handbook for all this.
My interaction with Tanya is radically different from how I remember Sam acting toward Emily.
"Shift back. I'll go check us out. Meet you in a few outside." She puts her clothes back on and is out of the cabin in a flash. I guess this means the honeymoon is over. Don't most people get more than a night?
I don't recall the run out taking this long. However, Tanya wasn't watching me before the hunt, expecting me to collapse at any point. I'm tempted to stop and just tell her to carry me if it will make her feel better and speed up. This need to keep her calm and happy is such a change from who I was in the past. I haven't had to think about another's happiness or ease since before I killed my dad. At that point in life, I certainly wasn't bringing anyone happiness. I look back on it now and believe that escaping the pack helped ease everyone's pain. I was the thorn in the bottom of their foot. Removal of myself was the only viable solution.
Deciding to just ask her if there is something I can do to alleviate her concern, I come to a stop. Before I can shift to human to talk, Tanya pounces on me, badgering me with question after question. I lick her face, hoping it will stun her long enough so I can shift. Surprisingly, it works.
"Is there something I can do to help you? You seem a bit anxious. Maybe you should carry me. I'm a bit shocked that you haven't just scooped me up and taken off at full speed."
I don't have time to refill my lungs as I am swept off my feet, my head pressing against her neck. I stroke her hair, hoping it will help relax her beast. Within the hour, I can smell the other coven members' tracks. We can't be far off now.
Kate and Garrett meet us outside. A warning growl vibrates Tanya's body at their presence. Keeping them in her sight, she pulls me tighter to her body and leaps onto the porch. Inside, she rushes us up to her room, well our room I guess. She heads straight for the closet, finding the largest set of sweats she owns. She stomps back over to the bed, where she previously deposited me, and starts to pull my feet through the legs of the sweats only to stop when she again notices the injury.
A roar brings all the occupants of the house running to the doorway. They look at me, hoping I can inform them of Tanya's problem. "She… um… she's upset that I got mutilated and am not healing fast enough?"
Before I can go on or get embarrassed that everyone is seeing me in all my natural human-state glory, my stomach gurgles.
"Feed you. Call for assistance. Kill hunters." Tanya ignores the stares and continues dressing me. Satisfied that I am covered enough, Tanya picks me back up and heads to the kitchen. Next thing I know there is a spoon in my hand and a bowl of cereal in front of me. There is a selection of omelet ingredients scattered around the counter and a pan warming up. Guess I am eating breakfast.
I didn't even notice her find her phone let alone dial anyone, yet the soft sound of Rosalie's voice fills the kitchen. "Tanya? You know we aren't the ones that harmed her. I won't let you verbally abuse Emmett anymore."
A whimper leaves Tanya's mouth. "Help… I need help. I don't know how to rehabilitate her leg. It's withered. Gah! I… I… Please, come back and help. I don't…" Something akin to a sob leaves her. I start to slide the stool back but stop when she glares at me.
I can barely make out a second voice over the phone. "I have most of their bags packed. They should reach you by sunrise. Jasper and I will join you all in a few days to find those responsible. I think there are two of them—cousins. That wildlife reservation isn't the only one I can see they are trespassing on. You will get your revenge, Tanya. Just focus on your mate until help arrives."
Nobody says goodbye, yet the line goes dead.
Carmen and Eleazar join Tanya in the kitchen. The smells of French toast and sausage start to accompany the eggs. Looks like I will have a feast before long.
"Do you think she is calm enough that we can discuss some things?" Leah asks.
Carmen responds, "We can try. If we have to stop, we do. Tanya, why don't you go sit with Leah."
She plates the omelet and carries it over to me. Instead of sitting with me, she pulls back the stool I'm perched on and takes residence in my lap. Between bites of food that she feeds to me, I address my concerns. "I thought you said that only newborns would act erratically. Since I woke up to Tanya scrutinizing and prodding my leg, she has been all over the place. Her eyes rotate from gold to brown to black and back again in the blink of an eye. I just… Do you have explanations?"
Eleazar pulls the pan of sausages off the stove and turns to us. "The only thing I can gather to explain all this is that the mate bond initiated while you were still afflicted. Should I assume the bond formation has been completed?"
I nod as a piece of sausage is stuffed into my mouth.
"Then I must apologize. I guessed it would have taken you a stretch longer before you consummated the relationship. Carmen and I discussed it and figured that neither of you would have the drive before you were healthy."
My cheeks start to redden, and I duck my head. Not satisfied that I've eaten enough, Tanya says, "Eat. You need lots of protein to help rebuild the muscle."
"Ah. I'm guessing you would be drowning in blood if you were a vampire." Carmen giggles as she plates the last piece of French toast.
Eleazar gives a gentle smile to his mate before carrying on like we weren't interrupted. "Most of us are rather territorial when first mated, as we've discussed previously. However, we neglected to inform you that we act similarly when our mates are either in danger or wounded. Luckily for us, your enhanced metabolism and healing capabilities will lessen the time we have to deal with a hostile coven leader."
"So you are saying, once my leg is back to its original strength, Tanya will return to the bossy, sassy temptress she was last week as opposed to the"—I glance at the woman in my lap— "well-meaning, focused taskmaster we currently see?" I scarcely get the last two words out before more food is shoveled into my mouth.
The other couple gives us an amused look as they retreat to another area of the house. Once we are both satisfied with the amount of food I consume, me more so than her, Tanya carries me back upstairs. Prior to joining me in bed, Tanya grabs some books and starts a fire to keep the room toasty.
I must have drifted off at some point during the poetry reading because the next thing I know, Emmett storms into the room, startling me from sleep. "Good, you are up. I already set up the gym equipment we will need. I figure lots of cardio and weight lifting will get you back up to your nimble self in no time."
A thwack ends his declaration to us. "Ouch! Rosie, what was that for? If Alice is right, and she always is, we will need her in top shape in three days."
"Is he always so whiny?" I ask the better half of the couple invading my new living quarters.
Shrugging, Rosalie replies, "Depends. Alice so nicely informed him that there will be no alone time for anyone until Tanya can remove the head of the assholes responsible. Just make sure that you thank him first. If it wasn't for him trapping you, who knows how time would have passed until you made your way to Alaska and found your imprint."