STAWP | Chapter 18

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I can feel their eyes on me, boring into my right, but when I turn my head and try to spot the other wolf, all I see are trees. I glance back at Saffron, wondering if she senses that we have company, but she's looking straight ahead as she follows me.

I sneak a few more glances to the right. Still nothing! I almost convince myself I'm hallucinating when I see a flash of grey fur in the distance, proof that our pursuer is keeping pace.

If we weren't on pack land, I'd be worried, but there's no danger here. No rogue would dare venture this close to the pack house, so it has to be someone I know. Probably a wolf I don't hang out with, curious about Saffron but respectful enough to stay away.

Hello? I greet the other wolf over the link, but don't get a response. I'm about to try again, but the feeling of being watched goes away. I guess the wolf didn't hear me and took a different path.

For the next half hour, Saffron and I continue to run. We don't come across any other wolves, but something doesn't feel quite right. When I run with other wolves, they never just stay behind me the way my mate is doing. Since I'm the fastest wolf in the pack, they yell for me to slow down, only to run past me the first chance they get. Or they change direction and try to take the lead until I catch up. Only in a hunt do the other wolves follow without question.

I suppose this is what Father meant when he said my mate is frightened and obedient. It'll take time for her to relax, but maybe I can help by encouraging her.

When we reach a large clearing, I begin to run as fast as I can. Race you to the other side, I yell. As I run through the field, I realize that Saffron is actually keeping pace quite well. My little mate is really fast, almost as fast as me!

Grinning, I slow down enough to let her take the lead, but she slows down as well. When we reach the trees, I stop, and we both stand there, panting.

Why didn't you race? I ask. I would have let you win!

Saffron doesn't reply. She's breathing heavily, but she can easily talk to me over the link and catch her breath at the same time. Maybe she's still mad from earlier and is purposely ignoring me.

I sigh and lie down at the edge of the clearing. Saffron lies down a short distance away, not too close but not with her back turned to show me that she's upset. Could it be that she's just shy and doesn't talk much? Come to think of it, I've only heard her say maybe two words since I met her.

I decide to tell her a little bit about our pack's land. Maybe if I do all the talking, she'll eventually relax and join in.

The kids love playing here, I tell her. The property is fenced off so there aren't any humans around. Sometimes, you can run for miles without seeing anyone.

I describe the area, the best paths to take through the forest, and all the roads that lead to nearby towns. I even tell her about the small gap in the fence that we use to sneak out after curfew or go into town on school nights.

Saffron acts completely indifferent the whole time. She watches some birds fly by, licks her paw to get rid of a bit of dirt that's stuck to her fur, and then puts her head down and closes her eyes. My wolf, unable to take the silent treatment from our mate, begs for me to do something.

I get up, walk over to Saffron, and nudge her with my nose. She opens her eyes to look at me and I lick her face, but she doesn't reciprocate. She just stares at me.

Something's not right, my wolf tells me. I feel it too, but what can I expect, not claiming my mate and then criticising the way she looks?

Please don't be mad at me, I beg, wishing she'd just yell, or cry, or do whatever it is girls do. Jess would have probably slapped me by now, or started shouting at me and telling me exactly what she thinks of me. So why isn't Saffron? She should confront me about being her mate. Tell me I hurt her feelings. Say that she hates me. Anything but this silent treatment!

Saffron? I practically yell her name when she doesn't respond. Please say something!

She watches another bird fly by instead and my wolf howls with dejection. Finally, I sigh in resignation and start walking toward the pack house. Come on, let's head back.

I guess I've learned my lesson. My mate is Master of the Silent Treatment and I should never do anything to upset her. I just wish I knew how to make things right.

I break into a run. Saffron follows, staying a few paces behind me, until a rabbit crosses my path. Instinctively, I veer to the left in pursuit.

Saffron follows. She stays behind me but manages to keep up. I start losing sight of the prey, and suddenly, Saffron's running beside me, and then actually taking the lead. Her smaller size means she's quick, but I've never seen another wolf run this fast!

I follow my mate around boulders and jump over fallen trees, but no matter how hard I run or how much I push myself, I still fall behind. Soon, my mate is just a blur of grey up ahead and eventually I'm forced to follow her scent to track her.

When I finally find her, Saffron is holding the dead rabbit between her teeth. She walks up to me and places it at my feet like an offering. She doesn't say anything, my shy little mate, but her meaning is clear. She's forgiven me. Grinning, I nudge the rabbit towards her with my nose. After that amazing display, she deserves the first bite.

We share the rabbit, nudging it playfully back and forth between bites. As we eat, I come to a realization. Saffron, my future Luna, is the fastest wolf in the pack. She's not weak. She's strong... impressive... unbelievable! When the others find out, they'll idolize her!

I have to tell Father! The minute I get home, I'm heading straight for his office. Once he learns how fast she is, he'll forget all about the rest of this stupid plan. I can already picture him looking at my mate with pride and then marching downstairs so he can present her to the rest of the pack.

I yip with happiness, grin at Saffron, and then lead her home. She still keeps pace behind me, even now that I know how fast she can really move. Maybe she doesn't bother racing because she knows she can easily win?

I stop and turn around to face her. She may be fast, but I can think of some games where we'd be more evenly matched. Like wrestling! I'd love to test my size against my mate's speed.

Play with me? I ask, wagging my tail. I dance around her for a few seconds and then bow my lower body, my rear high in the air. Please? I grin, my tongue lolling out of my mouth.

Saffron's reaction is bizarre. She instantly flattens her ears and tucks her tail between her legs. Before I have time to react, she whimpers and rolls onto her back, baring her throat.

What the hell?! Saffron? Please! Stop! I beg, but she continues to cower. I just wanted to play. I swear I wasn't going to hurt you!

This is what father was talking about. Our Luna can't be seen like this. It's embarrassing and disgraceful. I don't know what the fuck her father did to her but when I find the wolf I'm going to murder him. I will tear him apart. I will rip his throat out. Filled with rage, I emit one long growl and immediately get a whiff of fear from my mate.

Saffron, it's okay! I swear I won't hurt you! I edge away from her, giving her space. Let's go home, okay?

I turn towards the pack house and wait until I hear Saffron getting up to follow. Instantly, I break into a run, trying to burn off my rage at her father. I race toward the pack house, filled with anger and disappointed, yet constantly aware of how easily my mate keeps up.

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