Just then I jumped from the sound of footsteps behind! I turned my head sharply, to see Grant easily leap up the steep rocks. He casually came and sat beside, to also look out at the view.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He greeted. Nervously I looked away, back over the forest, as I felt shy for the first time in his company. Grant said seriously, “I thought we should talk.”
“I don’t want to talk.” I said petulantly.
“Yes you do.” He said evenly. “I’m sure you have lots of questions.”
“Only one; how much do my parents hate me to be doing this?” my eyes welled with tears.
“Thanks a lot!” Grant burst out laughing. “I’ll try not to take offence.” I didn’t say anything else, so he spoke again. “I was a bit surprised when the pack and the Elders first spoke to me about the idea. But I can see their logic.”
“There’s logic?” I asked bitterly.
“You’re the first female Lokoti Werewolf. Because you’re also a Circulator, you’re faster than any member of the pack. You need to be trained and if you took a mate, it will help settle your bloodlust as you would be driven to hunt with your mate. He would guide you towards other quarry than the forbidden fruit.”
“I don’t see how marrying me off to somebody is going to stop me craving human flesh.” My head dropped to stare on the fungus-stained surface of the rock.
“It will help.”
“But you’re not married so how would you know?”
“If I was married, then we wouldn’t be engaged.” He tried to joke, but I didn’t laugh. “I know this is so because of the experience of the pack and from a millennia of knowledge down our bloodline.”
“But I’m the first female Lokoti Werewolf in history, so a millennia of knowledge doesn’t seem helpful.” I looked out at the view once more.
“You have the same bloodlust that a male Lokoti Werewolf has, so we know it to be true.” He answered patiently.
We sat quietly for a couple of minutes, the both of us looking out at the forest underneath.
Grant spoke again, “Look B, I can understand how you’re nervous about this…it’s taken you by surprise, that’s all. When Lokoti Werewolves mate, it goes beyond simple marriage that you’ve read about in your books or seen in your movies. We would bond together in a way that we would become attuned to each other’s thoughts and feelings. When we take a mate, it’s a rewarding experience which is why it’s held with reverence and it’s taken very seriously among our people.”
“But I’m not the one.” I ducked my head.
“What was that?”
“I’m not the one.”
He paused for a moment, before his eyes widened in recognition. “You remember that conversation?”
“It’s a bit hard to forget! That night you babysat me was the only time that we ever talked.”
“We’ve talked plenty of times.”
“No we haven’t. We’ve said ‘hallo’ plenty of times, but the night you babysat me five years ago was the only time that we talked.” I said as I stared at my shoes.
“I remember that night…I taught you a couple of card games which you picked it up pretty quickly and won a few hands too.” He gave a playful nudge.
“You brought over soda and let me stay up until midnight.” A smile escaped.
“So how did I go for my first babysitting job?” He asked in good humor.
“Not bad.” I shrugged. “Ten out of ten.”
“Cool.” He sat back as he leant on his hands. “After I looked after you, my older sisters and brother all roped me into looking after their kids now and then too. I think the fact that you managed to live through the experience spoke well of my child care skills. Mind you, they’re not so impressed that all their kids are card sharks now and can even fleece half the adults in the tribe.”
That made me laugh and I almost relaxed in his company, which I guessed it was what Grant was trying to do.
“What made you think of our conversation on why I wasn’t married?” He asked as I shrugged back. “Because our marriage will be arranged?” he guessed before I nodded. Grant moved closer, which made me feel awkward. “Did you know that in our tribe’s history there have been other arranged marriages?
I shook my head to show that no, I didn’t know that. I briefly looked back his way to show that I was listening, before my eyes skipped away once again.
“There has never been a case where an arranged marriage in our tribe has turned out badly.” He started to rub my back, which the gesture surprised me. “And I doubt that we would be the first.”
“But I’m our tribe’s first female Werewolf.” I said in a small voice as I fidgeted with my shoes.
“That just adds to exoticness of our situation. And B?” Next, he used his forefinger to turn my face towards him. “You’re not being married to me as a punishment. I see myself as lucky to be marrying you. I know that we’ll be happy together and in a way, I feel like I’ve won a prize in a competition I didn’t even know I had entered.”
Oh no! Now I felt really rotten, as I tearfully turned away. I should tell him that I was in no way like that, instead I was like a booby prize!
“B?” He looked on, puzzled.
“Grant…” I began.
“Grant I’m – I’m – I’m…”
“I’m not a prize!” my face burned. “I’m not a virgin!”
“OK.” He raised his eyebrows but he didn’t remove his hand from my back. “Er, would it be helpful for you to know that neither am I?”
I looked his way in surprise, “I thought we weren’t supposed to have sex unless it’s with the one who is meant to become our mate?”
“That’s what our Elders would prefer, sure.” He shrugged. “But I guess you’ve come to realize yourself that certain things happen by their own accord.”
“How did you manage to have sex without mating yourself to somebody?” I asked bluntly.
Grant cracked up laughing again. “You’ve still got a curious mind.” I quickly looked away, embarrassed. “No, it’s cool.” He cleared his throat. “Um well, male Werewolves can hold themselves back.”
“Oh.” I thought on this in befuddlement.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what was it like for you?” He queried.
“What?!” I looked on him in alarm as I had no idea how to answer that! He leaned in to sniff me. I leaned away shyly. “What are you doing?”
“Phew! You don’t smell like you’ve mated with anybody.” He said in relief.
“Huh?” I wondered what the hell he was going on about?
“If you were mated to somebody, I would have smelled him on you.” Grant said plainly. “If I had smelled him on you, it would have been a little embarrassing to return to our families and say that you already had a mate.”
“Oh...!” My eyes widened in horror at the idea of everybody finding out about Declan.
“Since I can’t smell him on you, it means that the last time you were with this person was a while ago. If you had mated with this person, his smell on you would be strong because you would see him frequently. If you were mated to this person, you wouldn’t be able to go for long periods of being separated from him.”
“OK…” My eyebrows rose as my brain digested this piece of information.
This would explain how Gran and Grandfather, Nana and Grandpa and even Mum and Dad behaved as if they were joined at the hip. I had always thought that Werewolf couples were the soppiest in the tribe, which was in direct contrast to the Werewolf’s dangerous bloodlust. Does this mean that this could one day be me too?
“Smell me.” He suddenly offered.
“Smell me.” Grant said simply.
“Just smell me!” He laughed at my hesitation. I leaned over closer and inhaled. He looked expectant, “well?”
“What do you smell?”
“Um, I don’t know…”
“Did you smell perfume or human female scent or anything like that?”
“Then you know I haven’t got a mate either.” He stated. “Or you would be able to smell her on me.”
“Oh, OK.” I raised my eyebrows, impressed at learning something new about myself. “Can humans do this?”
“Some can, but it’s generally just Werewolves because of our keen sense of smell.”
“Cool.” I smiled.
“See?” Grant grinned. “It’s not so bad being a Werewolf, is it?”
“Um no, I guess not.”
“There are many benefits in being who you are,” he rested his hand on the back of my neck, “and when you take a mate? You’ll find out many more things that make you special and what you have with your mate is unique.”