Claimed For Their Pleasure (Omega Prey #6) - L.V. Lane
A FAINT RUSTLING rouses me from a deep sleep.
As I open my eyes, I see a brown rabbit watching me with interest. A slim clover leaf disappears between its teeth before it leans down and snatches up another clump.
Sitting no more than a handspan from my face, it shows not a bit of fear.
“Uhhh!” As I heave myself to a sitting position, the bunny bounds off, its white tail flashing.
I am outside, curled up against the roots of a great oak tree. The forest around me is cast into shades of grey. A few birds have begun to chatter, signifying dawn’s approach.
I am stiff and cold. Not for the first time, I have sleepwalked, and I do not recognize where I am.
My lips tremble as the fear crashes in. Stupid tears spring and spill over my cheeks.
I quickly brush the tears away. I’m fifteen, too old for self-pity.
Papa will be rousing by now. As a carpenter, he always has plenty of work to do in the workshop adjoining our home. My mother will be up and about, too, making biscuits to go with the porridge. My younger siblings might still be napping or awake and making their noisy demands.
Only they will be doing none of their usual things, for by now they will have realized I have gone.
My nightgown is covered in dirty smudges, leaves, and bits of twig. Heaving myself to my feet, I brush it off, although it is assuredly beyond saving. No matter how well they lock and bolt doors, nothing defeats my sleep-driven ingenuity when it comes to escaping our home.
Molly, the Omega from the Baxter clan, says I have a wanderer’s soul and am searching for something. The womenfolk of the clan often go to her for advice, for she is both old and wise.
Well, I wish I could find the blasted thing so that I might not wander anymore.
Turning full circle, I try to orientate myself. Sickness settles in my tummy. I need to try and find my way home.
Thirsty and shivering, I make my way down a slope.
Is that water?
I think it is.
Following the sound of water, I emerge onto a rocky gorge, from which water cascades into a river far below. A thick tree has fallen over the rocks but is weather-worn and long since stripped of branches.
I do not know this place.
The river appears to curve, although it is hard to see far in the dawn light made darker by thick cloud cover.
Everything about this feels wrong, and panic brings a tightness to my chest. I am thirsty and tired, and my feet have blistered such that every step is like a knife. The rocks are steep and treacherous here, and I cannot even reach the water to drink. Since I woke, I have covered a fair distance, and I am no longer sure I can find my way back.
A deep growl sets the hairs rising on the back of my neck. No, not a single deep growl; there are several.
Turning slowly, I face this new trouble.
“Goddess!” I whisper as three wolves emerge between the trees. Beautiful and deadly; they are wary, watching me through their cold eyes. I am small for my age. Happen they like their chances of taking me for a meal.
The coarse ground around me offers a few smaller rocks that might make a weapon. Trembling, I slowly bend and pick up one, comforted by its weight in my hand.
Should I throw it now? Should I wait and see if they leave? Should I shout and wave my arms?
Wolves never come near the village. They do not like the scent of the shifters living within our community. When I was little, I remember fearing for my papa when he would go into the forest with the men of the village to cut trees. A small child at the time, he had sat me on his lap and explained that wolves rarely attacked humans who are far too big to be seen as prey. Further, he explained that wolves are nocturnal and mostly hunt at night.
We are not yet into spring, the nights are long, and as our hunters attest, game is scarce.
The central wolf lifts his head and howls. The other two take up the cry.
The sound chills me more deeply than the icy rocks under my feet. I grip my weapon-rock so fiercely that my fingers begin to ache.
I will not become their next meal.
With a roar, I toss the rock with all my might. It skitters