III | Gentle Caress

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Its warm breath stirred her hair, sending it flying across her face like the thin wisps were trying to flee for their lives. She hadn't even heard it approach, so silent compared to the other wolf. She'd thought they'd both gone after their scuffle. It was that quiet. 

Strangely, the beast warmed her, returning sensation to her neck and down her spine. Heat ran down her entire back, striking a strange contrast between how cold the snow was against her legs. It was close, a shadow looming over her. But beasts have blood too, and warmth did not mean humanity. It was still going to kill her. Her body hurt too much to try and think of ways to escape.

And then it was biting her head, its enormous jaws closing around... Wait. No, it wasn't. What was it doing? Licking her head?

A shot of pain struck Kaia, and she flinched away. Then Kaia realized that the wolf was...licking her head wound. The act was so gentle, tentative, caring. It was strange to have such an enormous beast touching her so lightly, so hesitantly. It occasionally paused like it wasn't used to such tenderness.

This was probably the most improbable moment Kaia had ever experienced. 

She was a bit uneasy still, but didn't know what to do; she was still too afraid to move else she upset the animal. Eventually, though, a calm feeling spread throughout Kaia, spreading farther the longer its rough tongue gently caressed her. Her shoulders fell. Her muscles softened. It was impossible to be afraid when this creature was being so gentle, so warm. When her mind had stopped spinning, and her fear had left her, she realized that she was enveloped in the smell of woodsmoke, so powerful now that a deep inhale of the crisp morning air sent a shiver through Kaia's body in delight. 

That smell was sunlight to the flower blossoming in Kaia's heart. 

Then the caresses stopped. Kaia started to emerge from her bizarre trance. She looked up, turning.

The wolf sitting majestically in front of her, still now and staring down at her, was black as the night. It loomed above her, all taught muscles and groomed, glossy fur. Excitement welled up in Kaia as she imagined boldly reaching out and touching that fur, but she was too afraid to do it still, worried that any quick motion from her and the wolf would lose its patience.

Its breath came in heavy, steady beats, so close that Kaia could still feel it, could see the white clouds fall around her. Its sides heaved with each breath. He was alive. His power, his magnificence, and his pride struck Kaia. 

He shook his fur briefly as snow started to fall, little flakes landing on him and clinging to his coat. Kaia met his eyes, an intense yellow that glowed against his dark fur. They were familiar and made Kaia's heart thud in her chest. He was staring so intensely at her it was like he would discover all of her secrets with just a glance.

"You're..." Kaia breathed, her adrenaline still fading, "From that night."

The wolf huffed, raising a paw and then letting it fall again awkwardly like he didn't know how to respond. He broke eye contact, staring at the ground, lowering his head. Was he...embarrassed? Kaia couldn't help but let her lips melt into a quiet smile. He seemed so...Kaia didn't know. Gentle. Despite his size, much larger than the first wolf and so massive that Kaia doubted she could wrap her arms all the way around him, she got the feeling that he wasn't there to hurt her.

But he was there for her, just like that night. He'd smelled her, vanilla, heard her voice. She'd been close. He'd leaped through the woods, soaring over obstacles, a black streak through the white snow, his heart pounding. He'd had to get to her. Had to help her, keep her safe. She'd screamed, and panic had risen, spurring him on and sparking his fury. No one would hurt her...

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