Ophelia rested her head on her knees as she waited for Irish to return. Sounds throughout the cave soothed and relaxed her as much as an orphaned shifter in her position could relax. He’d left to gather water and food since it would take a couple of days for rescue.
Her eyes fluttered shut as flashes of her time spent in a cage crossed her mind. There was nothing she could do for her people, and briefly, she wanted to give up the throne and run away. But she was stronger than that, much stronger. In fact, of the three packs left, hers was the largest and the fiercest and that was not from sheer luck, but determination and ambition. Maybe now that the packs were so broken up and scattered, she would no longer be expected to follow wolf charmer traditions.
The scent of grabers, mushrooms, and honeysuckle hit her nose before his voice called to her. She smiled. Perhaps he thought her a vegan, like most wolf charmers.
“Ophelia.” His tone was searching, even though she knew his vampire traits allowed him night vision.
Heat bloomed in her chest as the warrior moved toward her. His pale skin shone bright with the bit of moonlight entering the cave. He wore the traditional armor of his Scottish heritage; gold-plated straps, carrying massive amounts of weapons and shields. Light reflected off his silver weapons and her gaze flittered to his face as he kneeled in front of her.
Even if she couldn’t scent the rain falling from the sky, Irish’s dampened, blondish-red hair glistened in the light. Water rivulets fell from his short locks, splashing gently onto his collar. Shimmering emerald eyes met hers. Placing the fruits and plants in front of her, he took a deep breath, then moved away.
“We aren’t close to the coast, so I’ll have to get ye water from the rain,” he said, his accent a little heavier than usual.
She nodded, and wondered if he were like her. She’d taken lessons to hide her German accent, and spoken English as a child, allowing her to perfect even the hardest pronunciations. As a tribe in hiding, they all had to learn how to blend in; until the moment her father decided the woods were the only place they could survive. Just like our ancestors, long ago. To mother earth we go. The thought of him saying this sent a spear through her heart.
She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again. Irish was on the other side of the cave, peering out into the night. “Do you hide your accent?” she asked in fluent Gaelic.
He turned, brow raised. Even as serious as their situation was, she noticed the playful glint in his eye. And with that, the damn heat flared in her chest again. She placed her hand over her heart and rubbed the light burning sensation. Glancing away, Ophelia trained her eyes on the berries he’d fetched for her.
“Aye, and I have to keep it up. I have a mission coming up, so American it is. If you hear me slip, please be sure to punish me any way you see fit.”
She glanced at him and saw his lip quirk up, revealing one sharp, pearly-white fang. Mischief danced in his darkened gaze, causing her heart to thrum against her ribcage. Ophelia was still young and primed for breeding. She shook her head, releasing herself from whatever spell her body had placed her under. Hormones were a bitch.
The moon whispered to her, but she ignored it. “Then I guess I owe you five lashings?” She popped a sweet berry into her mouth and the tart flavor burst on her tongue. She ate another, then another, until all that was left were the vines. Aghast, she looked up. Feral eyes watched her as she frowned. “I’m so sorry.” He’d brought enough for the both of them, yet she’d gluttonously eaten them all.
His eyes darkened as he moved away from her, toward the mouth of the cave. “I brought all of it for you. Eat up. You’ll need your strength.” His words held an ominous chill.
Unsure if she should worry about the tone in his voice, or eat more, Ophelia let her stomach decide and picked up a root he’d laid before her. She examined the root because she was not familiar with it. Its texture was smooth and soft. Upon squeezing it, the spongy substance let loose a few droplets of moisture. His voice rose above the roaring of the rainfall outside.
“Jachtha root. It only grows in areas with a monsoon season. Since I couldn’t get to the coast, I got a few of those so you don’t dehydrate. Also, the berries have a protein in them that will help you combat the drugs I scent in your system.” He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned on the cave wall.
She squeezed the root over her mouth and drank its juice. “And here I thought you believed me to be one of those vegan charmers.”
With a smile he pushed away from the cave wall and moved toward her. “No, I saw you eat meat when we were at Jax’s place.” She nodded, remembering Avery, Jax’s wife, who cooked the most delicious steaks she’d ever eaten. She picked up a flower that smelled like honeysuckle. “That will help you gain strength back if I happen to need—” His voice went quiet and she glanced back up at him. He was so close now, she got a whiff of blood and flesh.
He must be wounded. “In case you have to what? Are you hurt?” she asked, her voice rising on its own accord. Anger flared in her at whoever it was who’d damaged his creamy white skin. He gave her a forced smile and nodded. “Let me see. I can heal it.” She dropped the root and moved to her knees just as he reared back. Confused, she settled into the ground again and placed her hands in her lap.
With a wry grin he said, “You can’t heal me. At least, not with your hands.” Shaking his head, he stood and moved away from her. She hated how far away he’d moved, but figured it was probably for the best.
Picking up the root, she took a bite. “This tastes of the rain,” she muttered absently, remembering then the question she really wanted to ask. “Where are we?” She glanced out at the jungle and moved closer to sniff the air. His hand grasped her upper arm as she moved out closer.
She sniffed again, unable to discern each scent. “I’m not familiar with the essences around us.” The sharp scent of musk and earth she’d never smelled before floated across the breeze, lightly muted by the scent of the rain.
He released her arm when she moved back into the cave. “You’ve never been here before, and you most likely have never encountered anyone from this island.”
She glanced up at him, his gaze was held steady on her. She assumed she’d been taken to an island. The murky visions she’d had as Vasily’s men pulled her from a boat, to scenes of naked men who looked to be tribesmen, and the scent of sea air, all pointed in that direction.
“So, we are on an island.” She crossed her arms over her chest. The tattered dress she wore barely concealed her skin, and as she stood closer to the moonlight, she was sure she was showing more skin than she wanted.