Kira flicked her eyes from side to side, gauging the moments left in her life. Her breath puffed quick white clouds into the icy air as spasms of fear shot through her. Her gaze froze on the wolf in front of her--a huge beast black as midnight with gleaming amber eyes. He snarled, revealing long white fangs. A growl rumbled from his chest.
I must not run.
Movement caught her eye. More danger appeared on both sides.
Two more wolves, one on each side, slinked into the moonlit glade from the shadows of snow-boughed firs. Her heart pounded faster.
Her gaze snapped back as the leader stepped nearer, his keen eyes locking onto hers--a mesmerizing gleam, holding her, paralyzing her. She could not look away.
Suddenly she sensed this was no bestial countenance facing her. There was more than animal intelligence in those amber eyes.
The eyes appeared ... human.
Her knees buckled briefly as a spasm of horror shot through her.
A movement forced her to break the bizarre connection to the wolf approaching from the front. The creature to her left was coming closer, head lowered, teeth bared. The wolf on her right copied the action.
She sent up a prayer to the Spirit of All Things. And began to mourn, not for herself, but for Amma, who would be alone now, with no one to care for her.
If only I'd waited until dawn.
But Kira knew self-recrimination was useless. Her grandmother desperately needed the medicine she carried in her apron beneath her cloak. Delay had been impossible, so she had pushed aside her fear of the forest at night and gone out because she'd had to. Amma must not die.
But now, Amma would die. And she would die alone, back in the cottage, without Kira's presence to give her what comfort she could.
Unless she could run. Perhaps she could escape.
Her gaze flicked from one side to the other, then back to the leader. He moved slowly forward, step by step, as though he didn't want her to bolt. His amber eyes caught hers again, and this time she thought she saw a question in them.
Then she heard words in her head.
"Your time has come."
Shock made her shake the sound of a man's voice from her head.
At her movement the wolf in front leapt forward, halving the distance to where she stood. High into the air he arced, exposing his long underbelly, and within its darkness, a florid erection.
The sight of the glistening carmine shaft shot a shudder through her body. Spirit help her.