Vulf cringed as the moon touched his body, twisting it and stealing his strength.
Thank the gods, he'd killed his brother before the moon rose. Maztin had a skill with fighting as a man that he couldn't match. He was also unstable enough to continue the fight even when reason returned. They'd known this day was coming, but had hoped it could be put off a little longer.
Not that it mattered now. His brother was dead and he was trapped as a man for three nights.
When a hand touched his torn shoulder, he flinched with a snarl, belatedly realizing it was the girl. He forced himself to hold still as she pressed a folded cloth to the bleeding wound.
Vali lifted Maztin in his arms, carrying the body away. He and Deltinica would need to mourn. Eventually his parents would offer him his brother's pelt and he would take it, to honor the strength of the pack.
Even as he thought about Maztin's pelt, his sister handed him a cloak made of black fur, of another brother's pelt.
He couldn't put it on while the girl continued to fuss with his wound. Didn't she understand it would heal soon enough on its own?
"I wanted..." Her breathy voice trailed off.
She was so tiny, fragile looking, like a dove. Had he ever seen a dove with that golden color to its feathers? No, and canaries were too garish. The way she kept her gaze down and how her fingers fluttered. She was all dove.
"Thank you," she murmured.
She was so close her scent enfolded him. He couldn't help but lean forward and breathe in that delicate fragrance. Under the scent of her horse, her own waited for his discovery. A soft smell of flowers but none he could identify. Too subtle to be a bloom. What was his dove's scent? Even now, while he couldn't put a name to it, he would be able to follow it anywhere.
He shook his head. How could he feel this possessive over a girl that was not even of their family? It was as if his wolf had decided to keep the guard duty.
The little dove patted his arm and stepped back.
He had to bite back the growl that rumbled in his chest. He didn't want her stepping away from him. Although he managed to keep silent, he couldn't help but move closer to her once more.
There were too many men here, too many of his brothers moving around them. They couldn't be trusted. They would try to claim her.
"Vulf?" His little dove stared up at him with lovely blue eyes. "Do you, ah ... Do you remember that we are supposed to leave tonight in search of the cure?"
The cure? He didn't remember, but he did think leaving was a good idea. He caught her by the elbow and moved toward where his mother stood on the steps to the cabin. When he stopped before her, he didn't bother to release his little dove.
"Vulf? Are you well?" Deltinica asked him. After his nod she continued, "I've packed a bag for you with clothes, weapons and rations, though I am sure you will need little of it. Vali will be back in a moment with Swift then you can be off."
"Swift?" he growled before remembering that was her winged horse.
His dove's hand touched his where he imprisoned her arm. "Will you ride or follow?"
"I will not ride." He didn't want her to ride either, but at least with his own feet on the ground, he could be in control and see that no harm came to her from below.
"Son," Vali said from behind him. His father had returned with the horse. "Vulf, you are offering us a future. We cannot continue as we are. If you fail, each and every one of our family will fail with you."
So he was to follow his dove and he would protect her. Together they would complete some plan.
"We must hurry..." the girl whispered. Her gaze dropped to his hand. The moment he released her, she turned and mounted the winged horse. She carried a small bag on her back. "Are you sure you don't wish to ride?"
"No, I will follow."
She and the horse turned and with a few cantered steps the horse leapt into the air and was airborne on the first wing sweep. He paused only long enough to pull on his leather pants before shouldering his pack and jogging after them toward the west.