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🖤 They Were Playing with Fire
He rescued her, but now she had to make a terrible choice
Drake was on his way back to the ranch when a tiny flicker of firelight caught the corner of his eye. The sun was sinking low over the dark forest, turning the sky a deep purple.
Hmmm… no one should be out there this time of night. It was their land, and he knew everyone for miles around. A fire deep in the forest made no sense for his kind. So, it could only mean one thing.
Human trespassers had found their way into his woods.
He pulled the Jeep to the side of the gravel road and parked against the barbed wire fence. Turning off the ignition, he closed his eyes and let out a weary sigh. He just wanted to go home, crack a beer, and relax. Now he had to deal with this shit.
He stepped out and pulled on his heavy jacket. The nights were already turning colder. Pushing the door shut with a quiet click, he slipped under the fencing to cross the pasture and head into the tree line.
The sound of music reached his sensitive ears and led him in the direction of the fire. He slipped through the heavy brush and dense trees without making a sound. He’d hunted like this for a very long time.
Harsh laughter rang out into the night air, accompanied by a higher-pitched female voice that didn’t sound quite as happy. In fact, she sounded pissed off and a little afraid.
Drake quickened his pace and found a spot behind a large pine tree with a view of the clearing. He could see four people sitting around a campfire. It looked like three young men and an even younger woman who was regretting her decision to join them. Beer cans littered the ground, and they were feeling their oats.
One of the men was a little rough with her, pulling her into his lap and running his hands all over her body. The other two laughed as they watched the show.
She tried to pull away and stand up, but he yanked her back into his lap. Leaning away from him, she slapped him across the face.
That’s when things took an even darker turn.
The man threw her to the ground and stood up. The other two men were no longer laughing. They got up and surrounded her near the fire. One dropped to the ground and began tugging at her shirt.
Drake had seen enough. If it had been only one man, maybe two, he could have handled the situation as he was. But, he knew he didn’t have much time, and refused to take the chance of them hurting her or him.
He stepped back from the tree and rapidly dropped his jacket to the forest floor. Shucking his clothing as quickly as he could, he stood up, stretched to his full height, and shifted.
The pain was intense as always, but brief. Hundreds of years of experience made it easy to flow into his massive Were form with practiced ease. Fur sprouted and raced across his strong muscular body. His snout thrust into the air, and a gaping mouth of razor-sharp teeth glinted in the starlight. Arms and legs stretched and ended in paws and grasping, massive hands tipped with dark talons.
A rumbling growl emerged from his thick hairy chest and echoed into the dark night. All sound and motion from the campfire ceased.
“What the fuck was that?!”
The huge black Were circled the thick pine trunk and stalked into the edge of the firelight. Standing tall, he reached almost eight feet and released a deep snarl as his golden eyes scanned the men.
The girl shrieked and scrambled backward across the ground, trying to get the bonfire between her and the monster. One of the men stumbled and fell to the ground, crawling away to join her.
The other two took up aggressive stances between Drake and the fire. Well, they were braver than he expected. Time for a little razzle-dazzle.
He threw back his enormous shaggy head and roared into the dark skies above. The echoes reverberated through the forest. He caught a whiff of urine as one of the men pissed his pants.
Suddenly, one reached inside his coat and whipped out a small pistol. Fuck. They were supposed to run away. Now shit had to get even uglier.
Drake stomped one step closer to intimidate them, but the man didn’t hesitate. He pulled the trigger with a sharp crack, and a bullet ripped into his chest near one shoulder.
He unleashed a massive roar of pain as the burning sensation tore through his body. Motherfucker!
They had sealed their fate.
Drake crouched and sprung forward in one massive leap that dropped him onto the gunman. He closed his jaws on the neck where the shoulder joined, a hot spray of blood blinding him for a second. With a twisting tear, he shredded the man’s throat and threw his body to one side. He landed on his back near the fire, twitching and kicking as a crimson fountain of his last remaining moments sprayed across the flames in a steaming gush.
Surprisingly, Drake felt a body slam into his back, and a knife plunged into him. Fucking brave little bastard! He roared in pain again and threw himself back to the ground. Over 700 lbs of werewolf slammed into the man, cracked his ribs, and crushed the wind from his lungs.
With a swift spinning movement, Drake twisted to face the man underneath him and savaged his face and throat. He was in a blood rage now and couldn’t stop. His claws gutted him from chin to navel. The man’s eyes glazed over in the dancing firelight as he died under the Were.
Drake could hear whimpering and crying on the other side of the fire. He rose to his feet and stalked to the pair who were twisted together with their faces pressed to the ground.
A guttural deep voice rumbled from the Were’s chest. “I’m sorry, son. But you chose this path, and it’s come to an end tonight.”
Drake snatched the man from the ground and easily lifted him high into the air. With one swift motion, he slammed the body into the ground with enough force to break bones and crack his skull. The man wheezed his final breaths and soon became motionless.
He could hear the woman crying and stepped closer to see her curled into a tight ball. He could only imagine how terrified she must be. Turning away, he loped across the clearing and back behind the tree where he had left his clothing.
A shiver raced across his entire body as he slowed his racing heart and took deep calming breaths. Eyes closed, he concentrated and let the transformation flow from head to toe. Within minutes, his body shifted, condensed, and reverted to his human form, which was still quite large, but now incredibly bloody.
Without fur covering him, he looked like someone had dumped a bucket of blood over his chest. The wounds were already starting to heal, but there was nothing he could do to clean up here. He tugged his clothing on and walked back to the fire.
The young woman was clearly in shock — shivering, shaking, and making small groaning sounds. He realized she had only seen him in Were form, so he had a chance to calm her down now that he looked human again.
He quietly said, “Hey, you’re gonna be ok. Let me get you out of here.”
She jerked up from the ground and started scrambling away on all fours, making sobbing noises. He followed her, holding his hands out and speaking in a soothing tone.
“It’s just me. The monster is gone. Let me help you. We can’t stay here, ok?”
She looked at him and kept whimpering. But at least she had stopped trying to get away. He held out a hand, which she finally accepted with a cautious look on her face.
He pulled her to her feet, and she collapsed into his arms, shaking uncontrollably. He held her close and whispered, “Shhh, shhh… It’s going to be alright. Let me take you somewhere safe.”
They made it back to his Jeep, and he put her in the passenger seat. As he made his way around the other side, he could see headlights approaching. It looked like Tom’s old truck.
As it drew closer, he could see the cab was full of men. They pulled up next to him and rolled down a window.
“Drake, what in the hell is going on out here? We heard a gunshot.”
He shook his head. “Some trespassers built a bonfire over there.” He jerked his head in the direction of the firelight that was still visible between the trees.
“It had to get ugly. Can you guys clean things up for me? I’ll explain everything later.”
Tom stared into his eyes for a few seconds, but then he nodded his head. “Yeah, we’ll handle it.”
Drake climbed into the Jeep and began driving down the road in the direction of the ranch. This had turned into an absolutely fucked up evening.
They pulled up to the small ranch house with its windows gently glowing in the night. He put an arm around her, held her up as he walked her inside, and set her down on a soft leather couch.
“Do you have a phone?” he asked.
She patted her pockets with a worried look on her face. “No, it must have fallen out by the fire. I lost it. I need to get it back! We need to call the police!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that. I know the local sheriff. We can go back out in the morning and look for your phone.”
She sank back with a weary look on her face. He was surprised she hadn’t passed out from the shock. Seeing something like that must have drained everything she had.
“You can sleep in the guest room right there. You’re safe here for the night, ok? I’ll be just down the hall in my bedroom. Get me if you need anything.”
She could barely nod or keep her eyes open. So, he knelt and lifted her into his arms. Pushing the door open, he took her inside and put her on the bed, pulling the blanket up and tucking her in. She fell asleep before he even left the room.
Reaching his bedroom, he stripped off his clothing and went into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror. The gunshot wound in his chest was already slowly sealing. Twisting to see his back, he could see that the penetrating knife wound was closing, too. Dried blood crusted the skin of his chest and stomach. Even his legs were covered with it.
He quickly took a blazing hot shower to clean the gore from his body. He didn’t enjoy killing anymore, but they hadn’t given him much choice. They’d have to make the evidence disappear before authorities started sniffing around. But they knew how to make that happen.
Drake climbed into bed, but he couldn’t sleep. The echo of the gunshot still rang in his ears. The taste of human blood was fresh in his mouth. He wished he hated it, but he was ashamed to admit he liked it more than the raw steaks he usually ate to keep his hunger under control.
A quiet knock came from the closed bedroom door. He ignored it at first, but she knocked again. With a weary sigh, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and padded across the wooden floor to answer it.
Pulling the door open, he said, “Yes? Do you need something?”
Her eyes widened as she looked at his nude body, scanning him up and down. He was so tired that he’d forgotten he wasn’t dressed.
“Oh, shit. Sorry.” He eased his body behind the door. “What can I get you?”
The young woman stood in the doorway, wearing nothing but a white t-shirt and a pair of lacy red panties. Her hard nipples were visible through the thin fabric, which didn’t make matters easier for Drake standing there naked. He could feel himself starting to stiffen a little. She looked down at the floor and stammered, “I’m s-scared. I couldn’t stay asleep. I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Ok, you can sleep in here. I promise I won’t try anything. It’s a huge bed, so we can share it.”
He slipped back across the room and slid under the blankets, scooting across to the other side and hoping she hadn’t noticed his erection. She followed him and climbed into the bed. He could feel her shaking.
“Can you hold me? I’m so cold.”
She must still be in shock. So, he reached out and pulled her into his arms, wrapping one arm around her and laying her head on his hairy chest. He felt her slowly calming and relaxing against him.
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