Blood Run

1.

 He can smell your blood.

It isn’t fair. How are you supposed to hide? How are you supposed to get away? Sticks snap beneath your shoes as you race through the forest. Branches tangle in your hair and skirt. Warm afternoon light winks through the leaves. You trip over a rock and sprawl to the ground but leap to your feet again, ignoring the pain in your knee. It’s starting to get dark. Soon, you won’t be able to see a thing—and his nose will have the advantage.

It isn’t fair. Why do you have to be female? Why do you have to be fertile? The last thing you want is to be taken by the likes of him or by any male of your species; terrible and wild and out-of-control as they are. Your breath catches in your throat at his hideous roar. You turn back, see nothing, and charge on ahead. He’s still far away but it won’t be long before he catches up with you. His strength, stamina and speed easily outmatches yours. How you’ve managed to escape him so far is a miracle.

You’re doomed. You know it. He knows it.

Then why keep running?

Instinct. Fear. That dwindling pinpoint of hope.

You clutch at a stitch in your chest. The air feels thick in your lungs. Your throat seems to clamp down on itself and you start to wheeze. Between your legs, you can feel the warm, wet betrayal of your menstrual blood. The only glean of hope you have is that when he manages to catch you, you have five days to attempt escape before he takes you; before he wrestles you to the ground, pins you down and penetrates you. You release a terrified sob at the thought.

At another roar you look behind again. You scream at the sound of something crashing to the ground. It sounds like a tree. He’s knocked down a tree! You’ve never seen an adult male before, but you’ve heard tell of how big they are, how terrible and ferocious and wild they are. The other females don’t hold back with their stories. You can hear the heavy thud of his pounding footsteps now; you can almost feel them vibrating up through your feet. They make the ground shudder.

You stumble, your knees bow, but you somehow manage to keep your balance. Your energy is spent. You’re hungry and thirsty. You’ve been running all day. Then you see something up ahead that makes your heart swell. You can hear it too, in between the thrashing and smashing of your male predator close behind. Could it be?

At a sudden surge of energy, you crash through a wall of thick, green foliage, the forest suddenly opens up and you stagger as you sink into cold water. You gasp at the rush of ice up your spine but don’t slow down, clawing back to your feet as the stream rushes around you. It’s hip-deep and noisy, concealing the loud splashing of your mad dash for escape while submerging the scent of your blood.

He’s coming! He’s coming!

You manage to throw yourself behind a large pile of rocks just as your pursuer crashes into the open, and for the first time you put a face to the terrifying stories. You heart thunders and your stomach tightens into a knot as you peer between the rocks. You had always hoped that the other females exaggerated with their descriptions, or better still—downright lied. But they hadn’t. They hadn’t! Not even a little bit.

Somehow, the truth is worse.

He seems more beast than man: a great, lumbering figure of muscle and hair, hunched over, hands fisted in front of him as he searches for you, sniffing the air and emitting deep growls within his throat. He’s completely naked—he isn’t civilised at all!—and you can’t help but stare at the mass of hair between his legs. Your eyes widen. Your thighs tense. That thing between his legs is like a redwood amid the bushes. You’ve never seen one on a man before, only on little boys back at the village. Though the other women have spoken of their size, you’ve never really believed them. He wants to put that into you? Your hips ache at the thought. Surely, you don’t go that deep.

He turns away from you as he continues to search, revealing a hairy arse and the hard muscles packed in his back and shoulders. His biceps bulge to a size you can’t believe. Hard ropey muscle bunch in his thighs. He turns again, eyes swivelling everywhere, nostrils flared, and you can’t get over how hairy he is. He’s like a bear with his long, knotted mane; the field of it on his chest trails down to the thicket that’s his groin, where it then spreads darkly down his thighs. He even has hair on his face! He raises an arm to scratch his head and you see another big clump in his armpit.

It should disgust you. He’s nothing like you. How could you and he be the same species? And yet …

You shake your head. You’re safe for the moment but you start to tremble from the cold. Your teeth chatter. When will he go away? When will he give up?

Fortunately not long. After sniffing the air fruitlessly again, he gives a little whine of disappointment. He moves on, splashing through the water before disappearing into the trees on the opposite side of the bank. You release an anxious breath and look down at yourself—you’re soaked through: your shirt clings to your breasts; your skirt is plastered to your thighs.

You make your way out of the water as fast as you can without making any noise. Your shoes are ruined. Your feet squelch inside them as you hasten along the riverbank back east; back towards the women’s village. Despite the cold and your fatigue, you feel elated. You’ve escaped him! You’ve beaten him! You imagine what you might say to the other women as you return home unscathed.

Despite what they’ve told you, it can be done. They can be defeated!

You stop at the sound of a growl. The skin on the back of your neck prickles and suddenly all your elation fizzles into a deep and terrible dread.

He’s found you.

2.

You jump back with a scream and make to scramble away but he seizes you around the waist and hauls you off your feet. He’s so strong! The sheer force of his grab throws your head back and kicks your legs into the air. Screaming again, you scratch at his forearms. With a grunt, he drops you back to your feet. Your knees bow and you crumple into the mud and wet leaves. Not daring to look up, all you can see are his big, flat feet and his hairy legs. With a moan, you claw at the soggy earth as you attempt to wriggle away. Your terror has completely sapped your strength.

He doesn’t let you get far. His big flat feet step in front of you, halting your feeble progress. ‘Let me go,’ you moan. The cold and wet seeps into your shirt and you start to shiver. He moves quickly. You don’t even have time to shriek when he suddenly rolls you over onto your back. Now you have no choice but to face him. You stare up at him as he stares down at you.

‘Please,’ you say.

He has a strong nose and high cheekbones. His eyebrows are thick and dark and hang low over his gleaming eyes. And how they gleam—all over you. And for the first time you understand what it means for someone to devour you with their gaze. His eyes fasten onto your chest and you realise how you must look with your wet shirt clinging to your curves. You hastily fold your arms over your breasts but not before he physically responds. That trunk between his legs, which has sagged since the last time you saw it, slowly rises again, lengthening, thickening, the skin pulling back until it tightens into a shine.

‘You keep that thing away from me!’ you scream. You try to sound fierce but it’s hard when your teeth won’t stop chattering. He steps towards you and you clamp your knees together. You can feel mud all up your skirt and in your underwear. ‘Keep back!’ Your teeth clack again.

He pauses, looking down on you, as though considering, and for one brief moment you feel hope that he is more than just a beast controlled by his perverted urges, that he is more than just the big, swinging log between his legs.

You’re a desperate fool.

He pounces, you scream, and you hardly know what’s happening as you kick and scratch and bite. He goes for your shirt first. Buttons pop off. The fabric tears. There follows more tearing, yanking and grunting, as he rips it to shreds. He thrusts you onto your belly to do the same to the back of it, your cheek in the mud, your heartbeat roaring in your ears as he completes his task with wild zeal. There’s nothing you can do. You try to roll back over and swipe at him but all he does is sit heavily on your arse and push you back down. You gasp as he snaps apart your bra with one hard tug.

Then he’s at your skirt. 

The fabric is thick and tough, but it means nothing; it almost seems to fall apart in his big, wild hands. The backs of your thighs feel the cool rush of air. Your underwear is still on. It’s heavy with wet mud and sticks to your rounded cheeks and along your crack—but not for long. You shriek as he rips it apart like its little more than tissue paper.

Then everything turns quiet. You can hear his long, steady breathing. Birds are chirping in the canopy above. A solitary frog is croaking somewhere by the stream.

Though the attack was terrifying, the silence is so much worse. What is he doing? What is he thinking? Does he think? You suck in a breath, thrashing out your arms, as he throws you onto your back. Parts of your clothes still cling to your privates. You grab at them fruitlessly as he reaches to yank them away.

‘No!’ You kick out at him as you clutch the useless remains of your shirt against your breasts. You shriek as he rips away the last of your skirt and underwear. You clamp your knees shut. He emits a long, low growl that makes you quiver in terror. Snapping your eyes shut, you turn your face away as he hovers above you. He growls again. Something hard and hot brushes against your hip and still you cling to your ragged shirt like it’s a shield, like it’s going to do any good against something like him.

You whimper as you feel the heat of his breath against your neck. You cry out as he fights away your hands and snatches away that little torn piece of useless shirt. You clasp your breasts with your bare hands but your breasts are large and your hands are only small. You’re completely naked now and utterly at his mercy. The coldness of the wet forest floor against your back makes you shiver.

He goes quiet again. He emits another deep growl which ends in a whine. You feel a rush of relief as he pulls away from you. Then his big hot hands grab at your knees and everything comes to a head.

‘No!’ you scream, sitting up and swiping out with your nails, but he just pushes you back down and thrusts open your thighs, and then his hairy face is between your legs. You jerk against the feel of his breath and the warm, excited snuffling of his nose as he sniffs you out. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! What is he, a dog? Then he licks you and it’s like fire racing up your slit—and it’s not pain. It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.

Horrified, you clamp your knees around his outstretched neck. He roars and tries to pull back but you won’t let him, clamping down harder. He thrashes and squirms without effect. Finally, he grips your knees and manages to thrust them apart. He staggers backwards.

He’s hunched over and panting, his face red, the big muscles in his chest rolling under his skin. His lips are wet, his eyes wide. At his sides, his hands are opening and closing in and out of fists. The hair between his legs is wet and matted and what was once a blushing redwood is once again wilted and wrinkled and flops harmlessly between his thighs.

Still, it does nothing to curb his urge for you. You can see it in his eyes. He bares his teeth into a hungry snarl. The muscles in his shoulders bunch up. Those big ropey ones in his thighs tighten. You suck in a breath but he’s already upon you before you can scream.

3.

You wake up with a groan. What’s happened? Where are you? Why are you so sore and wet? Why are you upside down? Slowly, it comes back to you in fragments: the attack on your village; the mad chase through the forest; the river, the mud, seeing the terrifying face of your predator for the first time; your capture. At a rush of horror, you try to pull yourself up but your body feels too heavy and your position doesn’t lend itself to any real movement.

You give a little whimper as you watch his feet stomp through the leaf litter. His hairy arse is right by your face. Your hair falls around you in a tangle. His arm is like a chain around your waist as he carries you like a sack over his shoulder. It’s dark now. Frogs croak. Crickets chirp. You can no longer hear the rushing stream. How long had you been unconscious? How far are you away from the village? Worse still—what terrible and disgusting things might he have done to you since you fainted?

Remembering how he licked you like a dog, you shiver.

Though he probably won’t understand you and it’s doubtless a big waste of time, there’s nothing else for it—you speak: ‘Let go.’

He gives a grunt and repositions you slightly but doesn’t answer.

‘I said, let go!’ Your voice rings through the forest. ‘Take me home! You have no right!’

No response. You try to raise yourself up again, only to slump back down. His feet crunch loudly through the leaves. How much longer before you arrive at your destination, wherever it is? How long before he steals your virtue and leaves you abandoned and pregnant in the forest like the unwilling mothers back in your village?

The thought sweeps away your fear and suddenly all you feel is rage. How dare he? How dare he! Your cheeks fill up with heat as the blood rushes to your face. The muscles in your thighs harden into rock as you prepare yourself.

He will not take you!

He continues his steady walk, completely oblivious to the danger. You don’t hesitate. The world lurches as he stumbles with a roar, but you don’t stop your attack, digging your fingers more deeply into his tight, moist arsehole. You grimace. Your throat swells with vomit. This is certainly not how you thought you’d be spending your Thursday evening.

His grip loosens from around your waist and your eyes widen as the forest floor rushes to meet you. You land hard on your arms, tumble once, twice, then stagger to your feet. You try to get away but you’re weak and tired; the world tilts to the left and you follow it, crashing to the ground again. At a second roar, you scream in terror. His feet thud against the earth and before you can do anything but roll over, you’re back in his arms again.

He lifts you clean off your feet. The canopy arcs over your head as you scream, scrabbling at his long, muscular forearms. Then you’re back dangling over his shoulder. You almost weep in despair. Everything’s much the same as it was except that now he’s walking at a much faster pace, your heart’s thudding madly in your chest and your fingers stink like shit.

With nothing else for it, you reach for his backside again, only to snap your head up with a start as he smacks you on the arse. It’s more startling than painful. Did he really just do that? This man-beast? It doesn’t dissuade you; you reach out again.

‘Hey!’ you squawk as he smacks you again, harder this time.

He grunts something and gives you a little shake. You pause in surprise. Did he just speak? Did he just say ‘don’t’?  Impossible. Males don’t speak. You’re making things up, seeing and hearing things that aren’t there to give you some hope; if you can speak with him, if he can understand you, then you can reason with him.

‘Let me go.’

No answer.

You change tactics. ‘What’s your name?’

No answer.

‘I can walk. I promise I won’t run if you just put me down.’

No answer.

With a sigh of defeat you sag against him, gazing in a daze at his pumping arse and thudding feet and the rolling ground beneath. Your body aches. Your brain is tired.

He begins to slow and suddenly stops. Bending over, he eases you to your feet. You step back in surprise, quickly wrapping your arms around your breasts as you stare up at him. So he can understand you. His eyes gleam in the darkness. He looks as tired as you feel.

‘You can’t take me. You have no right.’

No answer.

You swallow. ‘I know what you want but you can’t have it. I don’t want to mate with you and you can’t make me.’

His face is blank. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that he put you down when you asked him to. Maybe he doesn’t know what you’re saying at all.

At a sudden surge of desperate courage, you step towards him and touch his wrist. ‘You won’t make me.’

He looks you in the eye. And for the first time you see that his eyes are hazel. You don’t know why that surprises you. Those hazel eyes drop from your gaze, looking over your body, and you know all is lost. Wrapping your arms more tightly around your breasts, you try to cross your legs in an attempt to conceal your lower parts—but all it does is put you off balance. You fling out your arms as you stagger, trying not to fall over like an idiot, and that’s when he grabs you, his big hand firm around your wrist.

‘Let go!’ you shriek.

You try to kick at his shins but all it does is make him angry. With a snarl, he wraps his arm around your waist and you realise he’s about to hoist you back over his shoulder.

‘Wait!’ you cry, throwing up your hands in supplication. ‘I’ll be good.’

He glares at you distrustfully, his arm still wrapped around your waist, his hips pressed up against yours. His groin is unexpectedly hot. You feel a sudden, hard twitch against your pelvis and don’t want to think about it. You wrinkle your nose at the smell of sweat and wet, unwashed hair. So much hair.

He frowns, pushing out his bottom lip. Releasing you, he grabs your wrist again and drags you after him as he continues with his journey.

‘Where you taking me?’ you say.

He grips you so hard your wrist burns in pain. You stagger after him, trying your best to keep up. Your wet shoes squelch against the moist earth, and you’re thankful for small mercies that he hasn’t torn them apart like the rest of your clothes. How he manages to walk barefoot upon the sharp and prickly forest floor astonishes you.

You don’t know how long you’ve been walking for but it’s long enough that your eyes begin to droop and your legs ache. Your arm has gone completely numb in his careless grip. You begin to stumble more than walk. The only thing that stops you from dropping to the ground and falling asleep is the biting cold. Your skin is covered in goose bumps. You shiver and shake, your teeth chattering. Your feet feel frozen in their soaking socks.

It’s still dark by the time you reach your destination.

Blinking wearily, you hardly notice the little wooden shelter with the torn animal-hide for a wall, though you notice the pile of pelts quickly enough. They look so warm and soft and wonderful. He releases you and without invitation, you stagger into the shelter, collapsing straight into their cosy embrace.

Your eyes slip shut and the darkness sweeps you away.

4.

You wake slowly and it’s like you’ve never been so warm or comfortable in all your life. Usually you wake up with an aching back and a headache. Your mattress isn’t the best and you’re generally not a good sleeper. Why last night was so different, you can’t explain. You roll onto your back with a contented moan, stretching under your blankets, unwilling to get up to start your day. It’s Friday. Only one more day of teaching and the weekend is all yours.

It must be late—the sun beats hotly through your window—but your friend, Anna, has never failed to wake you before.

Nevertheless, a little voice inside you demands you get up—just in case.

‘Just a little longer,’ you moan to yourself as you roll over again, kicking off the blankets.

You promptly fall back asleep, waking some time later to your own snort and a sharp pang of hunger that makes you sick to your stomach. Birds are chirping. Branches creak and rustle in the breeze. You’re sweating now. You can feel a bead of it trickling down your spine. Opening your eyes, you sit up with a start, and suddenly it all comes crashing back.

You’re not home!

Walls made of branches and animal hide. A roof made of thatch. One side of the shelter has no wall, opening onto a small, bubbling stream. You’re somewhere high up and the vastness of the forest is stretched out before you.

You quickly snatch up the pelts with a shriek, covering your nakedness. He’s staring at you, that monstrous male who kidnapped you. He’s crouched before a small, smoking fire, poking a stick at a slab of meat hissing and steaming on a flat rock. You remember it now—how he snatched you right from your bed. You remember Anna screaming as he carried you away.

It is an increasingly uncommon but not a rare occurrence. Despite the village’s defences, the more desperate males generally discover a way inside, snagging the nearest fertile female they can find. You wrinkle your nose; you’d been menstruating heavily that night. He probably smelled you from miles away.

Your stomach stabs with hunger again. Frowning, you stare at the sizzling meat. You no longer eat meat. None of those in the village do. You’ve evolved beyond that. Your stomach turns at the sight of the dead rabbit hanging from the roof. It’s strung up by a rope tied around its little ankles. It slowly turns, revealing a great gash in its belly and its empty insides. You swallow down a surge of vomit. It slowly turns some more, showing its back. The sight of its fluffy tail brings tears to your eyes.

‘How can you do that?’ you say. ‘How can you just murder something like that?’

No response. Using his stick, he flips over the meat. You look away in disgust, but your mouth waters and you turn back. He picks up the hot meat in his fingers and drops it onto a piece of wood he’s smoothed into a board. Next, he grabs up a sharp knife from a string of netted bags hanging down the wall. The blade is made of some kind of bone or tooth. Lowering your face, you surreptitiously study the netted bags and their contents through your curtain of matted hair. There are several knives: some big, some small. All sharp.

From there, he begins sawing through the meat. Blood weeps into the wood and you look away again, only to watch him from the corner of your eye. The muscles in his arms bulge so much. Your muscles don’t do that. They’re like little hills, wreathed in veins. His thighs are big too, corded and tense as he crouches. He’s turned at an angle slightly away from you, concealing his intimate parts, which you’re grateful for.

Finished with his task, he slumps onto his arse and drops a chunk into his mouth, chewing with his mouth open. A second follows soon after, which he chews with gusto. You can’t help but get the feeling he’s teasing you. You lick your lips. Your stomach groans. If that’s what he’s really doing—it’s working. He picks up a third.

Finally, you can’t take anymore. ‘Can I have some?’

He pauses as he dangles the third chunk of flesh over his mouth. A bead of blood trickles down his fingers and around his wrist. Lowering his face, he holds it out to you, his dark eyes bright beneath his thick eyebrows. Blood and grease make the hair around his lips glint in the sunlight.

Holding the pelts tightly against you, you stand into a half-crouch (the shelter is low) and shuffle over. You’re still wearing your shoes and they’re still sopping wet, squelching at every footstep. You stop just within reach of his arm and no more. Snatching it from him, you hastily return to the bedding. He licks the trickle of blood from his wrist as he watches you eat.

It’s tough and leathery and its bloody stink fills your sinuses, but you’re too hungry to care. When you’re done, you lick the grease from your hand. You look again at the rest of the meat he’s cooked, only partially sated. He watches you, waiting.

You stand again and make your way over. He’s not holding it out to you now, so you will have to get up close. Just out of his reach, you pause uncertainly, watching him as he watches you. You reach out your hand. ‘Give me another.’

He doesn’t move.

‘Give me another, please, I’m hungry.’

Silence.

His legs are crossed. His hands lie limp in his lap. There’s his mass of hair between his legs but his manhood appears to be tucked away. He’s sweaty and dirty and the smell of him makes you wrinkle your nose. There’s a streak of blood down his right side. For a moment you wonder how he’s hurt himself—you don’t remember seeing the blood yesterday—until you suddenly realise: it’s not from him, it’s from you.

It’s day two of your period, one of your heaviest days, and he’d been carrying you over his shoulder without underwear or a sanitary pad for some time. Even now you can feel the pressure in your hips. You can feel the warm, wetness between your thighs. The pelts are probably streaked with it. If they are, it doesn’t seem to bother him as he continues to watch you closely, slouched over his lap, ropes of hair dangling in front of his face. To all outward appearances he looks relaxed, far from someone prepared to attack.

Your jaw set, you lower your arm. Danger, danger, rings in your head, but you’re so hungry you need to take the risk. Besides, he already has you. If he wants you, he’ll take you whether you eat or not.

And he does want you. You can see it in the little quirk in the corner of his mouth. For a moment, he looks surprisingly intelligent, so much more than a hairy, perverted beast.

You try to be quick but his reflexes are astonishing; you shriek as his hand whips out like a snake and seizes your wrist. The next thing you know he’s dragging you along the ground like you’resomething tasty he’s caught and is about to devour.

God help you.

5.

Screaming, you twist and thrash in his grip but he’s astonishingly strong. With a final heave, he deposits you back in the pelts. Dropping to his knees, he straddles your hips. And for the first time that morning you see his long, hard manhood in all its sickening glory. It looks so huge the muscles in your hips clench painfully.

Screaming and pleading, you throw your head from side to side as you flail your fists against his chest. Inevitably your feeble defence does nothing to deter him from his task. He’s just too damn big.

First he pins your right wrist to the ground, then your left, before leaning over you to snuffle at your face. His long dirty hair tickles your forehead. You shiver in revulsion as he breathes against the nape of your neck with his rabbit-murdering breath.

Closing your eyes, you turn your head away. You feel him pull back. He releases your left wrist. Swiftly, you rear up and throw a hard punch to his face. Pain burns through your fingers as your fist slams into his jaw. He jerks his head back with a roar. You yank away your right arm from his grasp and almost manage to scramble away, until he grabs you around your waist and throws you onto your belly. How you hate this position! Now what can you do?

‘Don’t!’ he grunts.

You freeze. There it is again. That word. He did say it. He does know! ‘Let me go!’

‘No.’

You try to kick him, but it’s almost impossible in your position, and he pins your ankle down easily. He crawls over you until he straddles you again, knees on either side of your backside as he presses down on your shoulders so you can hardly move. You wince, feeling the hard heat of his erection sitting along the length of your crack. It feels worse than it looks.

‘No,’ he repeats. ‘Calm.’

‘Calm!’ you exclaim. You turn your head, straining your neck as you try to look at him. ‘You want me to be calm? Are you nuts!’

‘Calm,’ he says more quietly, dragging a warm, broad hand down your back that makes you shiver. He growls softly as he reaches your backside. There, he releases your shoulders and presses his hands against your round, fleshy cheeks, emitting a second growl.

‘What are you doing?’ you say helplessly, your voice muffled against the pelts as your heart thuds in your chest.

He smooths his hands around your hips.

‘What are you doing!’

In one quick motion, he hoists your arse up into the air. With a gasp, you straighten into a kneeling position but he shoves you back onto all fours again. Like an animal. Like a dog. Gripping your hips painfully tight, he shoves your thighs open wider. You’re confused and terrified and all you can think about is that giant, wagging log between his legs. This is it. He’s going to put it into you. He’s going to put it into you!

But this isn’t right, you think to yourself, as you begin to shake violently. You still have three more days! Everyone says they don’t try to mate with you until you’re ready to be impregnated. Then again, who’s to say one male thinks like the next? This is the wild. There are no rules.

The muscles in your back and hips clench tightly as you brace yourself for the agony. Your breath hisses between your teeth as he repositions himself behind you, only to feel the last thing you expect. You jerk against him with a cry: his tongue again—soft and wet and smooth—right along your slit, just like the last time.

Startled, you shout, ‘Stop it!’ as you straighten into a kneeling position and twist around to face him. With an impatient snarl, he rears up and shoves you back down again.

Back between your legs, he licks you again and you lurch forward with a shriek. Gripping your hips more tightly, he presses his face in deeper and continues, and all you can do is let him. Your arms tremble and your heart thunders madly as you burn; burn between your legs and up along your spine until the heat of it feels your cheeks. Even your nipples feel like they’re on fire.

You gasp and lurch, gasp and lurch, and each time you do he tightens his grip and licks you harder. He keeps startling you as he explores you all over: along the thighs, down your slit, deep inside. And you suddenly realise that he’s not licking you—he’s lapping at you. Your blood. He’s lapping up your blood. Just as the thought turns your stomach, you feel a thrill of sensation; your body tingles, then electrifies. And soon you no longer resist him—nor the pleasure of it: spreading your thighs wider, resting low on your arms so he can access you more easily. You continue to tremble but for different reasons. You no longer shriek or protest. Except for the sound of your gasping breaths, you become very quiet.

He, on the other hand, is noisy, as though he’s enjoying it: grunting, growling and smacking his lips. Finally, until you think there can’t be any more of your blood left, he pulls away. You stay as you are, unable to look at him: embarrassed, terrified, disgusted—at yourself. Both at once you pray he’s finished and hope he hasn’t.

With a light push, he makes you roll over. Sprawling on your back, your knees up, your thighs wide, you stare at him in a daze. His beard is wet, his breathing ragged. Your eyes lock with his glinting hazel gaze as he licks his lips. Then he dives between your legs again.

You should fight. You should fight him! He’s released you now. He’s in a vulnerable position. You can do something! But all you do is moan and open your thighs wider until they rest flat against the pelts. Staring up at the thatch ceiling, heart slamming against your ribs, body burning like it’s on fire, you let him lick you clean.

When he’s finally done, he lurches to his feet and, half bent over, makes his way to the little stream. Crouching before it, he begins washing his face, dragging his fingers through the matted knots of his beard and hair. As you watch him, you’re not sure what to feel or think. Somehow he doesn’t look so mean anymore, nor so frightening. Even that thing between his legs doesn’t fill you with such dread as it once did, though it’s never looked so big.

The other kidnapped women have never spoken about this. All they’ve ever spoken about is the horror and pain and humiliation. Are you experiencing something different? Something unique? Is this man-beast different from the others? You begin to wonder as you watch him bathe, as you watch his muscles tighten and relax at each little movement. His hazel eyes are bright.

Were they lying? Are they truly frightened of these male predators, or more frightened of themselves?

You can understand that. You’re frightened too.

You wonder …

6.

You’re panting, your breasts heaving, your hands resting up by your head, limp and useless. Even though he’s done with you, your body continues to burn. Water splashes as he washes himself. The fire sputters. The smell of the rabbit flesh fills your nostrils, tightening your belly with hunger pangs.

What the hell just happened? What the hell have you done? You’re no human, you’re an animal, just like he is.

Soon, he’s done washing and your thoughts slowly coalesce from a fuzzy haze into something that makes sense, and that’s when you suddenly realise that you’re still completely naked with your thighs wide open. He can see everything. You feel the rush of the warm morning air cooling his saliva. Quickly, you snap your legs shut and roll over as he returns to the fire, sitting on his heels as he stokes it back to life.

Pulling a pelt over yourself, you sit up. Though he’s openly staring at you, you can’t look him back in the eye. Clutching at the pelt, you lower your gaze to your lap. You don’t know what to say. You don’t know what to think. All you know is fear and disgust. It tightens a knot in your stomach. The smell of the rabbit’s flesh starts to make you feel sick.

Clearly, he knows nothing of your conflict, holding out another chunk of meat with a grunt.

You shake your head. ‘No.’

He grunts again.

‘I said, no!’

Your voice echoes through the little shelter. He narrows his eyes and you swivel around so your back is facing him. You hang your head, thinking of Anna, your family and friends. Never before have you hated yourself so much. If they could see you now …

You hear him moving behind you and you suck in a breath, jerking away, as he lays a hand on your shoulder. ‘Go away!’

With another grunt, he lays his hand on you again.

‘Leave me alone!’ Twisting around, you shove him away and scramble to the back of the shelter.

He’s frowning, crouched amid the pelts. He stares at you and you look back into your lap, your hair dangling in front of your face in long, twisting ropes. He growls. You lift your eyes, looking at him through your hair. He’s baring his teeth in a snarl. He looks wild and deranged—like a hungry wolf. Your heart begins to pound.

He’s always so quick. You stagger to your feet but he’s already snatched at your wrist and yanking you back to the fire before you know what to do. You clutch at the pelt desperately as it slips from your body. Pushing down on your shoulders, he makes you sit. Next, he thrusts the board of meat towards you with a grunt. You look away. He gives a snort. You continue to look away, staring at the netting of knives hanging from the wall. He grabs your knee and you kick out your leg, connecting with his shin. With a growl, he gets to his feet, snatches up an empty dish and leaves the little shelter. Further up the stream, where the water rushes fast and fresh, he fills the bowl.

Returning, he pushes it into your hands. Head bowed over it, you stare at it. Giving another snarl, he tugs at your hair.

‘Hey!’ you cry, reeling back. He sits in front of you, so close your knees touch, waiting. ‘You can’t make me do what I don’t want to do.’

You toss the dish at him, and he knocks it away before it can hit him in the face. His reflexes are astonishing. Gritting his teeth, he clenches his fists in his lap. That’s it for him. With a snarl, he grabs your arm and drags you to your feet as he stands. You fight him with all you have, kicking and scratching and biting while clutching fruitlessly at your pelt. He hardly notices as he pulls you to the stream.

‘Don’t!’ you cry.

He shoves you into it and you shriek as you fall to your arse. The water is icy. He yanks away the now soaking pelt and you wrap your arms around your breasts. He pulls them away as he pushes you back into the water so that you’re lying flat on your back.

‘Don’t!’ you scream. It’s so cold! You sit up. He shoves you back. You sit up. He shoves you back. ‘Goddamn it, stop it!’

Sit. Shove. Sit. Shove. You shriek and cry as he continues with his stupid game. Soon, you’ve had enough and you stay down in the icy water, panting. Your body turns numb. Your teeth begin to chatter. Tears of frustration streak down your cheeks. And you realise that you’re beginning to hate him. The fear is almost gone, replaced by a rage that bubbles furiously in the pit of your stomach. It isn’t fair that simply by sheer strength he has the power to control you. What creator or god decided that was such a good idea?

He’s crouched in front of you, no doubt prepared to push you back again if he has to. What’s he going to do? What’s his intention? To have you freeze to death? You turn your face away, hating the sight of him.

After several more moments, he finally straightens. ‘Up,’ he says.

‘Why?’ you say without looking at him. ‘So you can just push me back down again?’

‘Up.’

You purse you lips. Of course you want to get out of the water, but you hate the thought that it’s only because he’s letting you.

You sit up and you stare at each other. Icy water drips down your back from the ends of your hair. Something hard, probably a rock, juts into your backside. You look down at your naked body in humiliation. Your nipples are tight little knots from the cold. The hairs in your private region float in the water. Goose bumps ravage your now very cold, very pale skin. Before yesterday, nobody had ever seen your body, only your mother when you were a child. What does he think gives him the right?

You look back up at him. ‘I hate you.’ No wonder your female ancestors decided to split from their male counterparts centuries before. Why wouldn’t they if they were treated like this?

He holds out his hand, offering to help you up, as though he doesn’t notice your fury. ‘Up.’

You glare up at him. Ignoring his hand, you roll over and push yourself to your feet, stumbling to catch your balance, your body numb. He reaches out to help.

‘Don’t touch me!’ you snarl, slapping his hand away.

He takes a step back, his jaw clamped tightly shut. Narrowing his eyes, he twists his mouth. He nods at the shelter. ‘Eat.’

‘No.’ You fold your arms.

His eyes flash. He nods at the shelter. ‘Eat.’ Then nods at the stream. ‘Cold.’

You frown. ‘What?’

He nods at the shelter again. ‘Eat.’ Then nods at the stream. ‘Cold.’

He does this several times before you finally understand what he means. The fury surges from your belly and into your throat. You hiss at him between gritted teeth.

Eat or cold. Either eat or go back into the cold water. In other words: Do as I say or suffer the consequences.

You suddenly realise how wrong you are about him and how right the women from your village are.

He’s got you cornered and there’s nothing you can do about it.

7.

‘You’re a mongrel,’ you snap. ‘You’re all mongrels! The stories are right about you!’

Turning away from him, you stomp back to the shelter. You attempt to grab up a pelt to cover your nakedness, but he stops you with another ‘No.’

You turn on him. ‘I’m going to dry myself off.’

He doesn’t argue as you do exactly that, turning around for the tiniest bit of dignity you can salvage. When you’re done, you drape the pelt around your body and turn to your shoes—or what’s left of them. They’ve not had a chance to dry and the shoelaces are impossible to untie. Sitting down, you wrench them off. The socks you peel off. You wriggle your wrinkled toes in relief. You hadn’t realised how much your feet were aching. Making sure the pelt’s safely in place, you stand and turn. You’re about to sit down to eat—prepared to do what he says—when he stops you with another ‘No.’

Your nostrils flare. ‘You might be content to sit naked like an animal but I am not.’

‘No.’ He raises a broad, flat hand and shakes his head. ‘Off.’

‘No!’

‘Off.’

‘NO!’

With a cry, you try to twist away from him, but as usual your resistance is futile. The pelt is gone with one hard yank and you’re naked and vulnerable again.

He points to the ground, his voice now deep and gravelly. He’s getting inpatient. You feel a prick of pleasure (it’s the only win you have) before tears of rage stream down your cheeks.

‘Sit,’ he says.

You obey with a grunt and he sits opposite you, looking calmer as he pushes the board of rabbit meat towards you. You drop your head into your hands, then drag them down your face. ‘God!’

Giving up, you pick up a chunk and slap it into your mouth, unwilling to give him any indication that you might enjoy or appreciate it. It doesn’t matter anyway. You don’t taste a thing, only your rage and the salt of your tears.

His eyes rake over you, from your lips, to your shoulders then breasts, before they fall to your groin where they linger. It’s as though he’s consuming you with his gaze, and you get the feeling that he’s thinking about what he did to you that morning. All you can do is flick your tongue in disgust, unable to do anything about it. You’ve never felt so filthy before, especially as his erection slowly makes its appearance between his crossed legs, lifting bit by bit like the neck of an ugly reptile. It’s like its own animal: appearing and disappearing, hard and soft, short and long. It stands up against his belly, flushed, the skin taut and shiny.

Completely unashamed, he pushes over another chunk of meat.

‘I’m full,’ you say.

He frowns. ‘Eat.’

‘I’m not hungry.’

‘Cold.’ He begins to rise to his feet.

‘No!’ you say suddenly. ‘I’m eating, see?’ And you press the next chunk into your mouth. Looking satisfied, he sits back down, dropping his chin into his hand as he watches you.

For a long time you’re quiet. The sun drifts up the sky until it beats hotly against the little shelter. A brisk wind rustles through the leaves of the surrounding trees. Monkeys howl and hoot from all across the great forest. Something that might be a bear bellows from the distance. Birds sing in the branches above. Rodents chitter in a pile of rocks nearby. The forest is so alive, so different to the sounds of the village: the toll of the church bells; the hollering of the stall sellers in the market; the screaming and laughter of the children in your class.

At first it’s different and stimulating as you try to match what animal makes what noise, but it doesn’t take long before it gets tedious. You’re hot and bothered. There’s nothing to do. You clap your hands at a particularly fat and ugly fly as it buzzes around your head.

‘So this is all we’re going to do?’ you say as you follow the fly with your eyes. ‘Hang around here for the next three days until my period’s over?’

He glances up at you, then back down again as he continues with his weaving. You clap your hands again without success. ‘And what are you going to do then?’ you continue. ‘Force yourself on me? Because I’m never ever going to have sex with you willingly.’

He doesn’t answer, hunched over his task. Curious, you take notice of what he’s doing. He’s been working on it all morning. It’s some kind of netting or basket or fabric, made from a thick, long kind of grass, which he strips into slimmer pieces before plaiting together. His fingers are big and muscular and yet so dexterous for such a delicate task. It’s strange to see the big muscles in his shoulders bulge around his neck and in his arms as he tries to be careful. It makes him look almost … gentle.

‘What are you making?’

He looks up at you, then away again.

You fold your arms across your breasts with a sniff.

From there, it gets tedious. Very tedious. You spend the entire morning together—apart: he sits on one side of the shelter and you sit on the other. You wait hopefully for an opening in his relentless watch—a chance for escape—but he refuses to leave your side. He doesn’t even seek privacy to relieve himself. He urinates near you and shits near you—always you’re in his sight. And you’re expected to do the same.

He’s shameless, unlike you. It takes until midday before you’re forced to do the deed in front of him. Even in front of the likes of him, you’re disgusted with the situation.

‘I can’t see why I can’t do this privately,’ you say in futility.

He just stares at you with his gleaming eyes and points.

It seems to take forever as you force yourself to relax into a squat. When you’re done, you hurry to get away as fast as possible—the same can’t be said for him.

‘What are you doing?’ you say as he stands over where you urinated.

Without answer, he grabs at his penis and urinates on top. But he doesn’t stop there. All around the shelter he urinates. One time he even ejaculates, tugging furiously at his erection until he squirts white semen onto the base of a tree. You look away with a wince, then look back as he moves on. And that’s when you realise what he’s doing—marking his territory. Marking you.

When he’s finally done, he approaches the shelter—and you. You scramble back into the corner as he raises his nose and sniffs. He’s smelling you again, you know it. You know it because you can smell the blood yourself—and feel it sticking between your thighs.

You don’t bother fighting, lying back and turning your face away as he opens your thighs and starts licking you again. You try your best to shut down that part of the brain that’s enjoying it, but it’s impossible. Closing your eyes, you groan. You’re only an animal, after all is said and done. Like him. And you can’t help but hope that he’ll do the same thing tonight, tomorrow morning and midday again; day after day for the next three days yet to come.

And as you think and hope and anticipate, you hate yourself for it.

8.

He’s even more thorough than the last time. It takes a while and when he’s done he sits back on his knees and licks his lips. His eyes glitter at you, and though he’s only recently expended himself on the tree, his penis is already getting big again.

You watch as it grows, your head braced up against the back of the shelter, your breasts heaving as you pant. Your thighs are still wide open and you leave them that way. Your body is burning and it only burns more as you watch. Seeing your fascination, he looks down at himself and smooths his hand along it, making it engorge more quickly. It’s sickening, it’s terrifying … it’s … it’s …

You lick your lips, unwilling to put a word to your feelings.

He stares at you and you stare at him. Your breathing turns fast and shallow as he crawls over. You don’t stop him when he slides his way between your legs. He’s so warm. The muscles in his back are bunched and hard. His hazel eyes burn green.

He’s partway up your body, looking at you, when he lowers his face and licks you in the belly button. The breath catches in your throat as he continues up your middle, licking along your torso, leaving a trail of wetness behind that tingles against your skin. When he reaches your breasts he pauses. His hands are fisted in the pelts; the muscles in his biceps strain as he hovers over you. His breath is hot against your nipples. A vein bulges in his forehead. What’s he going to do?

‘What—what are you going to do?’ you say breathlessly.

He licks his lips and again he lowers his face. You gasp, arching your neck as he takes your entire left breast into his mouth. In your surprise you almost push him away—almost. Your hands are against his shoulders but do nothing but rest there. His flesh feels so hard beneath your grip and you suddenly realise that this is the first time you’ve touched him. Really touched him.

You gasp again as he releases your breast with a wet suck before enveloping you again. Release. Envelop. Release. Envelop. Then he’s onto your right breast, repeating the process. You let go of his shoulders to grip his head where you knot your fingers through his hair, yanking at every suck, relaxing at every release. It must hurt—you yank hard—but he doesn’t seem to notice.

As you revel in these new, astonishing sensations, you can’t help but notice the way he moves against you. He uses his whole body, rocking back and forth between your legs at every suck and release, and for reasons you can’t understand it makes you tingle—it makes you burn—seeing him that way. You begin to rock with him instinctively as you watch the big muscles in his shoulders and back slide under his skin. His backside is the same: lifting then sinking, lifting then sinking.

With one last wet suck, he pulls back. A second vein is throbbing in his forehead as he looks at you. He seems to be almost in a daze, his eyes dark and dreamy-like. Sitting back on his knees between your thighs, he gazes at you. He’s flushed in his face and chest. He’s breathing fast. Your eyes lower to the hardness between his legs. It doesn’t seem so bad—the thought of having it inside you. You’ve never felt so empty down there before, and it’s an unfamiliar, startling sensation.

Your wet nipples tingle; your hips burn. Does he really have to wait another three days? The thought shocks you. What are you thinking? He kidnapped you. He took you from your bed as you screamed for him to stop. He chased you through the forest when you tried to escape him. And now he’s controlling you. You’re his victim. You shouldn’t like this at all!

He smooths his hand over his throbbing length and despite your desperate thoughts you can’t help but stare. Up and down he moves his hand, just like he did at the tree. He’s studying you as he does, his eyes roving over the hot, wet region between your legs, your hips, thighs and waist and slippery wet breasts. He grunts and licks his lips as he yanks at himself harder.

Everybody back home knows about the male anatomy. It’s taught in school. You teach it in school. But they’re only ever drawings. The real thing is so different. So much different. You never understood how alive it really is—until now. It looks angry the faster he yanks, turning from pink to red to purple, swelling and lengthening to something beyond what you assumed it capable of. It trembles in the air as it points at you between your thighs.

Finally, it’s over. The muscles in his chest and shoulders bunch up, then expand, as he thrusts back his head and ejaculates onto you with a growl. You jerk back with a start, banging your head against the wall of the shelter as a long creamy worm of his essence coils on your belly. It’s so hot against your skin. It’s revolting.

With a shout of disgust, you try to scramble away, but all he does is seize your hips and pull you closer. And there he rubs you down, smoothing his semen into your skin with his big, broad hands.

‘Yuck, yuck, yuck!’ you squawk, thrashing against him helplessly. You know what he’s doing. He’s marking you again. Marking you as his possession. ‘Stop it!’

He doesn’t listen, rubbing down your torso and hips and between your thighs. He’s surprisingly gentle as he smears it across your opening.

Finally he’s done and you get away, stumbling to your feet as you back up against the wall. You’re sticky and wet. You want to wipe yourself down but you don’t want to touch it with your hands. ‘Yuck, yuck, yuck,’ you shriek as you shake your hands and stomp the ground, as though you can be rid of it by shaking it off.

You look past his shoulder. Suddenly, the icy-cold stream doesn’t seem so repellent. You try to race around him but he shoves you back into the pelts. You collapse to your arse and before you have a chance to get to your feet again, he’s grabbed a coil of rope and is pinning you down, gripping your wrists in one big hand while clamping your thighs together with his knees. In one quick move, he flips you over and drags you closer to the wall. You scream and kick and bite as he ties your hands together with the rope before looping the end of the rope around the branches that make up the wall.

And now you’re stuck. You twist around to face him. Your wrists are tied high above your head as you sit with your back up against the hard wall. You can hardly move, other than your legs which you flail about uselessly.

‘Let me go!’

 He doesn’t listen, showing you his back as he removes a large, broad knife from the netting on the wall, followed by a spear which you didn’t notice lying on the floor against the length of the wall.

‘Where are you going!’ you call after him as he leaves the shelter. ‘You can’t leave me like this!’

He disappears into the trees.

9.

You twist and turn in your bindings without result. Tears stream down your cheeks at the pain in your wrists and at the humiliation of your entire situation.

It takes several attempts before you manage to get to your feet. At standing height, your wrists are tied at the level of your hips, and to a long thick branch, one so big it runs the length of the entire wall. You try to use your fingers to untie his knots but your fingers scrabble uselessly against them; you’re at the wrong angle and he’s tied them ridiculously tight.

Finally, you give up. Instead, you yank with all your might at the branch, before quickly realising what a stupid idea it is; if you dislodge it, you’re likely to pull the whole wall down on top of yourself. At a loss, you sag back into the pelts. All you can do is wait.

He’s gone hours. You try to sleep but it’s too uncomfortable: the wall is hard against your back, your wrists burn against the rope and the blood from your upraised arms pools painfully in the muscles of your shoulders. Not to mention how you sweat and stink. The smell of his semen is getting worse in the heat. It’s well and truly dried and you can feel it stretch and crinkle against your skin whenever you move.

The sun steadily sinks towards the horizon. A cool wind picks up, brushing through your hair, and for a moment you forget about your worries. You stare into the distance as the sky turns pink. It’s like no sunset you’ve ever seen before. Back in your village, the best view you have is atop the clock tower. There, you can see for miles. But here … it’s like you’re standing at the height of several clock towers, and instead of looking down over a bustling population of busy women and the acres upon acres of uninterrupted farmland, you look over a forest so expansive it disappears into the distance.

It calms you and you allow yourself to forget what’s awaiting you in the days ahead. Your breathing turns steady. You try not to notice the pain in your body. Just as the sun sinks below the horizon, splashing a harsh, glaring red against the shelter, you turn your head at the sound of a soft growl. There’s the sound of snuffling. Your first thought is that he’s returned, and you quickly pull your legs underneath yourself into a half-crouch and twist your face into a snarl. Then you see his shadow and you realise it’s not him at all. Your eyes widen. Trying to keep quiet, you push your back against the wall, as though every inch matters for your survival against this dangerous animal.

It’s ambling along, sniffing at the trees and pawing at the earth. It hasn’t seen you yet. You watch as it sniffs at the place where your predator ejaculated. It backs away with a snort, turns and sees you. It stares at you for several heart-stopping moments. Everything you’ve learned about bears whistles like the wind through you mind: don’t look it in the eye, run downhill, pretend to be dead. Don’t leave out any food.

Your eyes lift to the empty rabbit carcass hanging from the ceiling. You’d finished eating its flesh hours before; that’s why your male predator’s gone hunting. Whether it’s skin or bone or organ, it doesn’t matter to the bear, who’s foaming around the snout. You jerk back in horror when it suddenly rises up onto its hind legs, sniffing.

It’s quick. You manage to bite back a shriek as it pounces towards the shelter and snatches down the dead rabbit. Pressing its snout into its open belly with a growl, it sits back on its fat rump and starts eating it.

With a wince, you turn your head away, watching from the corner of your eye. It devours it quickly and soon it’s licking its paws. Rolling back onto all fours, it investigates the blood-streaked board, which it also licks, before investigating the rest of the shelter. You freeze; you stop breathing, your back braced hard against the wall.

All too quickly it turns to you. Pretend to be dead. Pretend to be dead. Pretend to be dead. Don’t move. Don’t move. DON’T MOVE.

Playing dead doesn’t work. It sniffs through the pelts, tickling your feet with its soft snout, paying particular attention to those you’ve bloodied. It gives them a lick. Snapping your eyes shut, you press your cheek hard against the wall as you turn desperately away from it. A scream bubbles in your throat but you push it down into your stomach.

It’s sniffing your calves now. It snorts and growls again. Warm drool patters onto your legs. You hiss through your teeth as it claws at your knee. Then it’s at your hips, where it pauses. It sniffs, then pulls back with a snort, much like it did to the semen at the tree. It approaches again, sniffs, only to back away again, shaking its head with a whine. And you suddenly realise its purpose: the semen isn’t to mark you as a possession, it’s for protection. To warn off predators or rivals.

The bear isn’t hungry enough to confront the most dangerous predator in all the forest. Immediately it retreats from the shelter and hurries away. By the time it disappears into the trees, the sun has set and you’re crying.

Though the stars twinkle brightly in the sky, you have never known a twilight filled with such terror. What other beast might be lurking close by? And this time, will your male’s scent be enough to warn it away? Your male. Your male. You can’t believe you’re thinking it, but that’s the truth of it. In his eyes you’re his female. And right at that moment you’d give anything to have him back; to have him protect you and keep you safe from the terrors of the forest.

Your cheeks are still wet and your heart lurches in relief upon his return. He’s carrying a large dead animal over his shoulder. You try not to show your excitement but a cry escapes your lips, nonetheless. After depositing the carcass, he turns to release you.

‘Please,’ you say, twisting your wrists in their bindings.

Crouching in front of you, he cuts you loose with his knife and falls back with a surprised grunt when you fling yourself into his arms.

10.

You shudder against him, unable to keep the tears from flowing, as you grip him tightly, enjoying his warm, safe, strong arms as he embraces you just as tightly. Neither of you speak as he sits amid the pelts and you sprawl in his lap, your chin braced on his shoulder. You gaze up at the sky, the moonlight blurred against the tears in your eyes. Your cheeks are sticky and you feel exhausted, both from crying and the terror of the day.

It’s so easy to stay as you are, consumed by your emotions, revelling in the safety and comfort of his presence, but soon you have to pull away. You give him a smile and look away, embarrassed and confused. His hands are on your waist and they’re so big and hot against you.

He grunts. ‘Hurt?’ And wipes away a tear on your cheek.

You shake your head. ‘No.’ You swallow. ‘Scared.’

He frowns and cocks his head, puzzled by the unfamiliar word—or perhaps it’s an unfamiliar emotion. Does he get scared? Does he know what’s happened? He frowns further as he brushes away another tear, then sniffs the air. He looks at you, his forehead furrowed, then studies the shelter. He turns—and that’s when he notices the missing rabbit carcass.

He turns back, pushing you out of his lap as he looks you up and down. He grabs the back of your neck as he probes your head. ‘Hurt?’

‘My knee.’

He drops his eyes to your legs and gently cups his big hand around the bear’s scratches. The skin’s inflamed but barely broken. You pull back when he suddenly bares his teeth. Grabbing your hips, he flips you over onto all fours. There, he checks the back of your head, your back, your belly and breasts, before smoothing his hand over your arse and probing between your legs, checking every square inch of you for any further injuries. It must be hard to see, and you wonder if he can see in the dark like so many of the forest’s creatures. There’s so much you don’t know about the male of your species.

Apparently satisfied, he rolls you back over and turns to your knee.

You almost laugh when he leans over and begins licking it. Is that all he knows? ‘You probably shouldn’t do that. It’ll cause an infection.’ But he doesn’t listen and you don’t stop him.

Soon, he’s done. His eyes glitter at you in the moonlight before he turns away to a stack of sticks and grass in the corner of the shelter. Kneeling amid the pelts, you watch, fascinated, as he constructs a little fire pit.

Back home you have fireplaces that light themselves at the flick of a switch: no chopped wood, paper or dried kindling required. He rubs a stick furiously between his hands, the end smoking as it twists into a rock. It looks like hard work: he’s soon panting and his biceps bulge at the effort. Smoke billows and a tiny flame catches the dried grass. Dropping the stick, he quickly and gently blows against it.

You can’t help but laugh and clap as the fire flares, jabbing at the sky like flaming fingers. He sits back, looking at you with a small smile as the firelight dances against his face. It catches you by surprise—you didn’t think him capable; he’s never smiled before. It almost makes him look … well … human.

He stands and moves about the shelter, bringing over two tall, skinny poles, the ends of which are wrapped in what looks like some kind of sticky moss. He sinks the mossy ends into the flames, they catch, and he shoves the other ends of the posts into the ground on either side of the shelter. Torches. They’re torches. Their flames dance alongside the small fire, throwing a show of light and shadow across the forest.

For some reason the sight of these fires uplifts you. You like the way they flicker. You like the heat of them. You even like the smell of the smoke. There’s something about fires like these that the fireplaces back home lack. There’s a wildness to them. They seem to prick at some kind of prehistoric nerve at the back of your brain.

Your heart starts to race. You smile and laugh for no reason. And as your male sits down to gaze at the flashing forest and twinkling sky, you shuffle in beside him, close enough your thighs touch. He glances at you, then looks away as he rests his hand upon your scratched-up knee.

It sends a tingle up your spine. Like the smile, it’s such a human-like gesture that it takes you by surprise. You feel an urge to rest your hand on top of his but don’t, fisting them both in your lap.

You don’t know how long you sit there quietly together but it’s long enough that the flames burn low and you begin to sway with fatigue. The air has turned chilly and your skin puckers with goose bumps. He squeezes your knee and your eyes snap open. He gives a grunt and stands before moving deeper into the shelter to sag amid the pelts. And there he watches you, waiting, his eyes gleaming against the flames.

Wobbling a little, you do the same, though you choose a spot a couple of arm lengths away from him. His eyes continue to gleam. Sitting up, he crawls over to you, his muscular arse in the air, his big shoulders bulging as he moves on his knuckles. His balls dangle low between his legs, and unusually, his manhood sags limp and wrinkled. He must be tired. Unsurprising, considering how long he was out hunting for.

For several anxious moments you wonder what he’s going to do. Upon reaching you, he grabs you around the hips, pulls you close, then takes your knees and thrusts open your legs. Your anxiety fades; with all that’s happened today, you’ve forgotten about his usual ritual.

Lying back, you allow yourself to relax, letting your knees fall wide open. He lowers his face with a grunt. As you gaze up at the thatch ceiling, you listen to the sounds of the night. Despite the lateness of the hour the forest is noisy. The monkeys sound like they’re having a party: hooting and growling, yelping and screaming. Bats screech. Night birds squawk. You close your eyes, half-asleep, soothed by his rhythmic motions. Strangely, you don’t feel so cold anymore; his breath is hot against you and sweat beads your chest.

He finishes with a smack of his lips and you open your eyes. Sitting back, he wipes his mouth. There are shadows under his eyes now. He’s more than tired—he’s exhausted. He flops down beside you, and you don’t resist—what’s the point?—as he pulls you against him, curving his big body around yours so his groin is pressed up against your rump and his hard chest presses up against your back. He’s so close his hot breath blows through your hair. Every now and then he licks his lips. His arm is draped across your hips

Though you were tired only moments before, you’re not now, staring at the flickering torchlight, at the twinkling stars and the sea of trees. If you were back home, you’d be up late marking papers, your eyes tired, as you lie to yourself that you’re not dreading getting up the next morning to endure another long day; nor dreading the day after that and the day following that—until the day you’re too old to go on.

What are you dreading now?

You can’t think and it terrifies you.

11.

You can’t stay here.

It must be hours later and you’re still awake. The flames of the torches and the little fire have burnt out, leaving only a small glow amid the coals cooling on the ground. The moon beams into your shelter, against the sea of pelts and the thick, hairy forearm draped over your waist. He hasn’t moved, you haven’t moved, and your body is starting to ache. But you resist the urge. If you turn, you might wake him, and then you’ll have to start this all over again.

You can’t stay here. No matter that he doesn’t hurt you or holds you so tenderly. You’re still here against your will. And despite all the uncertain and frightening emotions swelling inside you, he’s only using you for one thing. You know what’s going to happen. Once he’s done with you, he’ll abandon you like the rest of the women, and you’ll be stuck with his offspring to grow and nourish back at the village. Just like your mother and grandmother and generations before them. It is the way of the males: to use and abandon. When all is said and done, you’re just a piece of meat to him.

And yet, when you look down at his twitching fingers, your eyes swell with tears. His back is warm against yours. His breath is hot against your ear.

Closing your eyes, you bite back a sob. Lucky you do because it’s at that moment he chooses to roll away from you. You freeze, listening. He grunts and licks his lips before his breathing falls back into its usual pattern of sleep.

So you wait.

More time passes, and slowly you sit up, watching him closely. He doesn’t stir. Carefully, you ease yourself to your feet, keeping to a crouch due to the low height of the ceiling. Again, you watch him, and again he doesn’t stir. Your heart’s racing as you creep out of the shelter. As you step outside, you straighten your back and take a breath. The sky is clear, the moon bright—a perfect night to make your escape.

You glance down at your feet. He tossed away your shoes earlier that morning. Unlike him, your soles are soft. It’s going to be hard and painful but what else can you do? Now that you’re away from him, your skin turns cold and you wrap your arms around yourself. You contemplate going back for a pelt but quickly dismiss the idea. Just go. You won’t die from the cold if you keep moving. Just go.

But what if he wakes up, discovers you’re gone and comes after you? Your eyes fall upon the netting of knives hanging from the wall but you quickly look away. Not a chance. There’s not a chance you could kill him. You’re not barbaric like him.

There won’t ever be a better time than now. He’s cleaned away your blood. You still smell of his seed. Predators and rivals won’t have you. You’re the safest you’ll ever be to try the forest on your own. And if he wakes up, so be it. What have you got to lose? It’s not as though he’ll eat you. You won’t be any worse off, just back where you were at the beginning with fewer days to count down before he finally takes you for his own.

Biting your lip, you take one last look at him before hurrying away.

It’s darker than you expected, the thick canopy blocking out much of the moonlight. In places it’s so dark you have to feel your way through. You hadn’t thought of that. Before you started, you had a vague sense of direction but soon you’re very lost. You keep going, wiping the streaming tears from your face as you stagger and lurch. Every footstep is agony. Sticks and rocks and an assortment of unnamed prickly things stab at your soles. And soon, no matter whether the ground is soft or sharp, it feels like you’re continuously walking on glass. And it’s that which makes you suddenly stop. Not because you’re lost, not because you can hardly see or because you’re so tired you have to force your eyes open—physically you just cannot go on.

With a tearful gasp, you slump to your arse, leaning your back against the trunk of a tree. All you can do is wait for him to find you. Wiping at your eyes, you hold yourself. Since you’re no longer moving, the cold readily sets in and soon your hands and feet are numb, except for the occasional throbbing pain that shoots through your toes.

You can’t know how long it takes for him to get to you or how long you’ve waited, all you know is that you’re asleep when he rouses you and it’s still dark.

You blink at him as he crouches in front of you, his hands dangling between his knees. The moonlight filtering through the branches shines against his hair and eyes. He doesn’t say anything and doesn’t seem angry. He just looks at you with that strangely discerning gaze. You should hate him for what he’s put you through but all you can feel is embarrassment, shame and disappointment. You always thought yourself so capable.

Without speaking, you turn your head away, gripping yourself as you shiver. His big hand touches your thigh and it feels astonishingly warm. Then he reaches out to touch your face. He gently takes your chin and turns your head. Your eyes meet. A tear rolls onto his fingers. He makes a sound in the back of his throat that’s almost a whine.

Then his arms are around you and you’re in the air. You can hear the snap and crunch of the sharp forest floor beneath his feet—it means nothing to him. He holds you close so your cheek is pressed up against his chest and the warmth of his body leaches some of the ice from your skin. He moves at a steady pace and you’re comfortable enough that your eyelids droop.

By the time you return to camp, day is breaking. You catch a vague glimpse of the brightening clouds before they’re replaced with the thatch roof of the little shelter. Carefully, he nestles you into the bedding of pelts, throwing several layers over you as he crawls in behind you and begins rubbing you down with his hot hands. He makes that whining sound again. Then his arms are wrapped around you and he’s pressing his nose into the back of your neck.

You close your eyes.

12.

When you next wake it’s full daylight and you’re sweating. You quickly throw off the pelts, no longer so mindful of your nudity. Why bother?

 You take a deep breath and glance to your side, but his spot is empty. Slowly, you sit up, your stomach growling at the smell of food. It appears he’s already cooked, your breakfast piled high on the wooden board. The big animal he killed hangs from the ceiling at the front of the shelter in pieces: thighs, torso, chest, head. Some of it is skinned or split open. The doe’s shining dead eyes condemn you and you’re forced to turn away.

It takes you only a moment to find him. He’s washing himself at the stream. His beard and hair are wet. The patch of hair between his legs is sopping. Water trickles around the powerful muscles in his shoulders and between his big shoulder blades. He stands, shaking himself off. Then he turns and sees you. You quickly look away, pulling your legs against your chest as he approaches.

He looks down on you a moment, then crouches in front of you. He touches your foot. ‘Sore.’

Without looking at him, you nod.

In the corner of your eye, you watch as he shakes his head. Looking over his shoulder, he nods towards the forest. ‘Danger. Hurt.’ He looks back and touches your foot again. ‘Sore.’

You don’t respond.

He pinches at your big toe. ‘Help.’

You take a shuddering breath but don’t resist when he pulls you into his arms. He carries you over to the stream. Carefully, he lowers you into the water. You gasp at the iciness. And there he bathes your feet, carefully, gently. You hadn’t realised how badly you sliced them up. There’s blood everywhere. Red ribbons coil through the blue. Surprisingly, the coldness of the water doesn’t sting but soothes. Sitting in front of you, he puts your feet in his lap and tends to them: splashing water over them, picking out anything that might be stuck in your skin, rubbing at your heels and toes.

He’s so focused on his task he doesn’t realise you’re watching him closely: at the way he so delicately touches you, how the muscles harden in his forearms as he tries to take as much care as possible not to hurt you. Your throat swells but you swallow the lump back down. The only other person in your life who has ever treated you so lovingly has been your mother.

He lifts his head and sees you watching him. You don’t look away. He eases your feet off his lap and into the water. Nor do you move when he stands and crouches beside you. Like he did last night, he reaches out to touch your face, using the back of his hand to brush your cheek. He gives that little whining sound before leaning in close and snuffling at your ear. He then snuffles at the nape of your neck, around the back of your neck and through your hair. He touches your cheek again before he starts licking at your ear.

You can’t help but giggle, lifting your shoulders as you jerk away. ‘Stop! It tickles!’ Your reaction surprises you; you sound like such a little girl. ‘And it’s disgusting!’

He grins at you, really grins, showing all his teeth.

Grabbing the back of your neck, he pulls you close and rubs his face between your breasts. You should stop him. You only just tried to escape last night! But your body resists your commands. Instead of pushing him away, you push his head harder against you, gasping as he starts licking at your left nipple.

God help you, you think to yourself with a moan, as he pushes you back into the water and begins mauling you with his nose and lips and tongue.

‘That’s enough, that’s enough,’ you grunt, turning your head away, but you’re saying it more to yourself than to him. It’s ludicrous. If you can’t even listen to yourself, how can you expect him to?

Suddenly he seizes your wrist and yanks you into a sitting position. You stare at him with a stab of dread. His eyes are so dark, so hungry. And you think this could be it. Maybe he won’t wait. Maybe the time is now. You look between his legs with a swallow. He’s certainly ready.

‘Not now. Not now. Please.’ And yet you can’t tear your eyes away from it—the tool he’s going to use to penetrate you. The very sight of it seems to burn its way through your body. You lick your lips. You begin to tremble.

He pulls you to your feet. Water catches in the hair of his chest and in his groin. A bead of it stands at the tip of his manhood, glinting in the bright sunlight. He barely needs to pull you after him; you follow willingly, though slowly on your sore feet. A light push is all that’s needed to have you collapse into the pelts onto your back. You look up at him as he looks down at you. He kneels in the pelts in front of you. That throbbing stretch of manhood points at you and you snap your legs shut.

‘No,’ you gasp.

He looks upon you with a soft growl. He touches your scratched-up knee but doesn’t force your legs open; instead, he shuffles to your side until he’s kneeling by your waist. His groin is so close now you can see the individual beads of water caught in his pubic hair.

His hand is warm as he grabs your wrist. He pulls your arm over and for a moment you wonder what he’s doing until he rests your hand onto his hardened length. You sit up with a start. You try to jerk your hand back but he keeps a firm hold of you. He just holds you there. After a while, he releases you. You stay as you are, touching him. You try so hard to unfasten your fingers but something you can’t explain, something from somewhere deep in the pit of your stomach, forces you to hold on. How can something be such equal parts fascinating and dreadful? It moves at your touch, getting harder and higher. Both at once your stomach twists into a sickly knot and your hips burn with need. Then you find yourself tightening your grip. It’s so thick and you feel it getting thicker. He shifts on his knees, licking his lips.

You pull your hand back, staring at him, staring at it.

‘Yours,’ he says.

‘What?’

He grabs his penis. ‘Yours.’

You raise your eyebrows.

‘Play,’ he says. ‘Play. Good.’

‘No. I-I don’t think so.’

You try to pull back but he seizes your wrist again. ‘Yours.’ And he places your hand back on his penis.

Taking a breath, you move your hand along its length. Its skin is surprisingly soft. Almost like silk. You didn’t expect that. Going by the other women’s stories you always thought it’d be rough, something that causes pain. He grunts as you pass your thumb over the tip. It’s wet—and not with water.

Gently, he takes your hand, pulling you closer as he lowers it to his testicles. And you wonder why he’s doing this. It doesn’t seem to be for his pleasure. It’s almost as though he wants you to explore him first before he … before he …

To make you comfortable? To dull some of the dread that gnaws at your insides at the thought of him pushing his way inside you? If that’s his intention, it’s working. They’re so soft. They’re nothing like you thought. He lets you explore for a little while, watching you with his dark, bright eyes as you smooth your hand over his length and fondle the soft, wrinkled skin beneath. He’s not quiet about it: grunting and smacking his lips. He shifts on his knees, stretching himself out, revealing the hard muscles of his abdomen and chest as he rakes his fingers through his hair. And all the while his penis is getting longer and thicker and harder.

Finally, he’s had enough. With a growl, he snatches at your wrist.

Your eyes meet.

13.

He grabs the back of your neck, and with another soft growl, presses his mouth to yours. You freeze. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know what he’s doing. For several terrifying moments you think he’s going to bite you—but there’s no teeth, only his lips against yours. And then you wonder: Is this some kind of kiss? Can’t be. Nobody kisses each other on the mouth; mouths are full of disease and bacteria. It’s the soonest way to get sick. You jerk back in disgust but he grips your neck tighter and pulls you harder against him.

 Surprisingly, you find that it’s not terrible. His lips are soft and dry. But then he opens his mouth and suddenly his tongue is inside you. Like a slimy eel, it flicks against your lips and teeth and tongue. It’s as though he’s licking inside your mouth! Who, but an animal, uses their tongue? You desperately try to wrench out of his grasp but he’s terrifically strong. Snapping your head back, you take a breath.

‘Let go!’

But, of course, he doesn’t listen, seizing you again as he pulls you down into the pelts. Straddling you, he pins down your hands as he continues to feast on your mouth. His tongue laps against yours. You thrash your head from side to side but all it means is that his tongue is all over your face instead: your lips, chin and nose. The stink of his saliva is everywhere. Finally, you accept how pointless it is to resist and you give up with a muffled sob, sinking more deeply into the pelts beneath him. This time, when his lips meet yours, you don’t fight, parting them to allow entrance to his tongue. His tongue finds yours and you reluctantly lick him back.

With a groan, he lies on top of you, releasing your wrists as he grips your face. He’s slow now, and gentle. And after a while, it doesn’t seem so disgusting. It’s almost … pleasant. His lips kiss yours. Your tongue meets his. It becomes almost rhythmic, slow and delicate. Your heart beats fast. Your body heats up. Every so often, he pulls away to look you in the eyes and brush his fingers through your hair, making affectionate noises in his throat as he does.

Then he’s kissing you again, his hard body hot against yours. And soon, you’re lost in his mouth and smell and taste and touch. You moan as he nuzzles at your neck. You moan again as he sucks at the tip of your shoulder, knotting your fingers through his hair as you grab his head. He starts to rock against you and you rock with him, spreading your thighs, enjoying the way that hot hardness between his legs slides along your opening. You’re wet. You can feel yourself sticking against him.

You ache to have it inside you—that ugly, disgusting thing. But he doesn’t do it and you’re grateful and frustrated at the same time.

He pulls away, straddling your hips, stretching himself out with a growl. His hair falls down his back. He pushes his chest out. He’s still wet from the stream and water trickles down his thick throat and pools between the bones in his shoulders. More drips from his fringe and pools in your bellybutton. Half sitting-up you reach out to grab his hips. He pauses, lowering his eyes to yours in surprise. You’re surprised too. What made you do that? You’re not sure and you don’t care. All you know is that your mouth is burning and your hips are aching.

You tilt your face towards him. ‘More.’

He raises his eyebrows, but smiles. Taking your face, he lowers his lips back to yours. He pushes you back down and you wrap your arms around his shoulders as you clench his hips with your thighs.

You’re lost. You’re defeated. You’re no longer you. All you are is feeling and emotion and instinct. You grasp. You groan. You whimper. All thought that this might be wrong fades away. It’s someone else’s mind. Someone else’s cares.

His lips are soft and his tongue makes your whole mouth burn. Needing him closer, you wrap your thighs around his waist and thrust yourself against him. He pulls his mouth back with a start. You lay beneath him, panting, hand braced against the muscles of his hard chest. His eyes are dark and he’s panting too.

‘More,’ you say. ‘More.’

He pulls back onto his knees, considers you a moment, before reaching between your legs with his hand. His simple touch makes you jump. It almost seems to burn against your skin. You gasp as he eases a finger inside. You half-sit up but he pushes you back.

‘Good,’ he grunts. ‘Play.’

‘Play,’ you nod, still gasping.

He pushes deeper and you give a little yelp. You can’t work out whether it’s pleasurable or painful, and yet you want more. Then he starts stroking you with his thumb, in a spot just above where he’s inserted his finger. You grow quiet, staring up at the ceiling, no longer confused about the sensation. It’s pleasurable. Definitely pleasurable. It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before. Back home, the only reason to touch yourself down there is to clean yourself—nothing more.

This is … this is unexpected.

You suck in a breath, fisting your hands into the pelts. Not only is he stroking you but moving his finger in and out of you at the same time. The two sensations together is something you can’t describe. It sets your whole body on fire. It makes you curl your toes. It makes you pant like you’re running at a sprint.

The pleasure increases until your gasping, until your breasts heave and the thatch ceiling starts to spin. You close your eyes, hands fisting tighter and tighter into the pelts. ‘Oh, oh, oh, oh! OH!’

You suck in a breath and hold it as your body shudders. Something deep down in the pit of your pelvis seems to clamp down, tighten, then roll, and you open your eyes with a gasp. He’s still inside you, moving with the rolling, moving with the hot liquid pleasure.

It’s finally over and you drop your thighs into the pelts. You stare up at him in disbelief. A bead of sweat trickles between your breasts. ‘What was that?’

‘Fun. Play. Good,’ he says, withdrawing his finger. He looks at it—it’s bloodied and sticky—and wipes it on his leg.

‘Is that how it’s going to feel, when you … when you do it?’

‘Good. Fun. Play.’ He points at himself between the legs. ‘Play.’

‘Oh,’ you say. Now, it appears, he wants you to play with him.

You sit up, bracing your back against the wall. ‘I don’t know what to do.’

On his knees, he shuffles in close to you, much like he did before when he made you touch him. He grabs himself in the middle of his shaft and slowly rubs himself up and down. ‘Good.’

He goes to seize your wrist but you pull away and reach for him yourself.

14.

You do just as he did, grasping him gently but firmly as you slowly massage him. He rolls his eyes with a grunt. ‘Good. Nice.’

He spreads his thighs a little more and relaxes back on his heels as he arches his neck. He’s looking up at the ceiling, just as you did, and you wonder if he’s feeling something like what he did to you. Perhaps, your bodies are more similar than you think.

You watch him—all of him, as he enjoys his pleasure. His chest swells as he holds his breath. The tendons in his neck tighten and strain. The veins in his forearms fill with blood and bulge through the skin. The hard shaft of his penis engorges, lengthens and flushes a deep red. Dropping his head back down, his eyes blazing, he seizes your hand and has you rub faster. His eyes half-close, his mouth parts, his grip on your hand tightens.

You feel it throb between your fingers just as he gives a shout. You give a shout too as you try to pull away—not fast enough; his seed jets onto you, this time in short, fast spurts. He’s gripping your wrist now—you don’t even know when that happened—as he empties himself onto your belly.

He growls and gives his penis a shake as he clings to your wrist. He lets you go and once again begins smearing his semen into your skin. You don’t stop him. Despite how disgusting it is, it saved you before and it could save you again. So, you lie back down and let him do what he needs to do.

After he’s finished that, he moves down to your groin. You open your thighs and he licks you clean. It’s a strange feeling now—not that it’s always been a strange feeling—but it’s different. It feels less filthy and more … natural. Even right.

When he’s done, he pulls back with a grunt and wipes his mouth before shuffling over to the board of meat. ‘Eat,’ he says.

You join him without a fight and bite into a thick slab, making sure to keep your eyes averted from the deer’s head. The skin is tough. Blood and grease run down your chin, which you quickly wipe away. But it’s not altogether bad. Better than the rabbit. He must have been cutting and skinning and cooking all morning while you slept. The thought fills your chest with warmth. His hazel eyes gleam at you as he eats and something sags inside you. A wall comes down. A heaviness you don’t know you’re wearing lifts from your shoulders. And suddenly, whatever fight that’s left in you vanishes. You reach over to touch his hand. ‘Thank you.’

He looks at your hand, pausing in his chewing. ‘Mine.’

You look at him quizzically.

He points at you. ‘Mine.’

Your chest tightens at a rush of anger. Throw it back in his face. Swear at him. Beat at him. You’re not his possession! But you only swallow. ‘Yours.’

He nods and goes back to his food.

You watch him eat, a hard knot in your stomach, your skin pricking with goose bumps. Yours. You can’t believe it. What would your mother think? What would Anne think? What would all those women who always told you how terrible and filthy and dangerous these males are think?

You’re not a woman anymore. You’re not civilised. And yet, somehow, as you continue to watch him gnaw at his meat, it doesn’t fill you with horror.

‘Eat,’ he growls.

You turn back to your food.

Breakfast ends and soon he’s back to weaving that netting he’d begun yesterday. It seems you have to keep yourself occupied. But what else is there to do, except do things together?

‘What is your name?’ you ask. Do they even have names, these males?

He looks at you, confused. Pointing to your chest, you say your name.

He pauses, tries to repeat it, but gives up with a shrug and a shake of his head.

Apparently they don’t.

‘What are you making?’ you say, realising he hadn’t answered you the last time you asked.

He weaves another plait of grass before tying it together. He flicks out his little creation for you to see. There are two pieces. He holds one of them up. ‘Yours.’

You raise your eyebrows. ‘Mine? What is it?’

He points at you.

‘I know. You told me it’s mine.’

Shaking his head, he reaches over and touches one of your breasts. ‘Yours.’ He gives it to you.

Your eyebrows shoot up higher. ‘To wear?’

He doesn’t respond. The fabric/netting is surprisingly stretchy. You pull it over your head and chest and tuck your breasts inside. It’s like a bra without straps and without the support, not to mention the coverage; your nipples poke through the gaps in the fabric. It seems he understands enough to know that you want clothes, without understanding the point of them.

But it’s the thought that counts. It’s taken him many hours to make. You grab at your arms, feeling odd. ‘Thank you.’

He hands you over the second piece, which you assume is his attempt at a skirt. Like the bra, it’s tight and useless. It’s short and uncomfortable and your pubic hair sticks out all over the place. If anything, it’s even more embarrassing than being naked. But you leave it on. He scratches his head, obviously wondering what the point of it is.

‘Thank you,’ you say.

He nods and grunts.

You try to sit back down but the skirt restricts your movements and you end up pulling it above your waist, leaving your bottom half naked. The bra starts to itch.

Grabbing his knees, he eyes you over. Despite the activity of the morning, his cock twitches. He doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care to notice. He reaches over to squeeze a breast. Then he smooths his hand down the curve of your waist, where he grips your hip. ‘Good.’

‘What?’

‘Good. Big. Strong baby.’

You feel yourself blush. Nobody has really said anything positive about your body before, nor negative either. Bodies are there to work and feed your brain—nothing more. A strange tingly, hot sensation slowly trickles through your body as he shuffles in close. The things he says, more than what he does, reminds you that you are so much more than just a living thing designed to eat, sleep and function.

You’re a woman. You feel. You love. You ache.

You look at him as he looks at you. He pushes up your ‘bra’, watching as your breasts rise and fall. You’ve never really felt them before—until now, not since puberty: the weight of them, the feel of them.

He smacks his lips. ‘Food. Milk. Big baby.’

‘Milk,’ you repeat in a whisper. And suddenly, an image of you pressing his baby to your breast flashes in your mind. To have his baby. To mate with him. To be a woman, a mother, a proper female. The thought hardens your nipples.

He jabs a thumb into his chest. ‘Lucky.’

You can’t help but smile.

15.

Less than two days and you’ll be his.

Where once it filled you with dread, now it fills you with a confusing mix of feelings, a mix you can’t hope to untangle: excitement, anticipation, horror, fear, curiosity … even hope.

Hope that this might actually work. Hope that you might get home. Hope that all this drama will turn out to be a distant memory.

Hope that you might get to see him every day.

You can’t stop watching him. You try not to show it, trying your best to watch from a distance or from the corner of your eye, but he knows, and he knows you know he knows. The thought makes you laugh.

You don’t stay at the shelter. There’s nothing to do and he seems eager to get away. After he’s marked the perimeter of his home, he takes your hand and leads you into the surrounding terrain, being careful to choose routes that are soft against your sore feet.

Most are routes he’s clearly taken many times before; the ground is heavily trodden dirt, with the surrounding bushes, trees and long grasses pushed back on either side. And you realise he must have been here for quite some time.

The things you see astonish you: the animals, the plant life, the scenery. There are caves and cliffs and rivers. Animals call and shriek and squeal at each other. There are bright flowers and enormous trees and water so clear you can see the fish swimming at the sandy bottom. There is a sequence of caves that are built of rocks so big they make you feel like a bug.

You’ve never really noticed any of it before. Not when you were running. Not during your escape. How could you? When you learn about the outside world in the village, all you know is danger and risks and mystery. Not here. Not now. Not in the safety of his presence.

He speaks to you—or tries to, usually grunting and pointing. But sometimes he says words; words you do know and words you don’t.

At one point he releases your hand to crouch beside a bush. You look over his shoulder as he plucks a flower. It’s pink with yellow edging—and big. It’s as big as your palm.

‘Pretty,’ he says.

‘Yes.’

He points at you. ‘Pretty.’ He stands and turns to you, tucking it behind your ear. He studies you a moment, then begins stroking the length of your nose with his forefinger. ‘Beau-ti-ful.’

Biting your lip, you touch the flower.

He takes your chin. Your eyes meet. And there he starts stroking your cheeks with his thumbs. His gaze seems to pin you to the spot and you start to quiver. His hands fall to the sides of your neck as he steps in close, so close you can feel his breath against your ear. You’re so close you can see the gold flecks in his eyes. You’ve never seen those before.

He looks serious. His whole demeanour is serious. As though he’s about to say something he needs you to understand. ‘Protect. Care. Love.’

Your heart flips in your chest. ‘Love?’

‘Love,’ he nods with a grunt. ‘Mine.’

Your chest swells. You grab onto his hands. ‘No abandon?’

He frowns. His forehead crinkles up.

‘No leave?’

His frown deepens. You bite your lip again. Does he understand? Or is he refusing to answer?

He brushes his thumb over a tear trembling on your eyelid, then leans in to kiss you. And for a long time you both just stand there, wrapped in each other’s arms, lips pressed together. It’s so nice now, so different to that first kiss. It’s not disgusting at all. When he’s done, he presses his forehead to yours, smiling. You give a trembling smile back.

He takes your hand and you continue with your little adventure.

He keeps you close, holding your hand firmly. You stop in places to drink from the crystal-clear water and eat from branches and bushes and under rocks and rotting wood. There are berries and seeds, and mushrooms that make you nervous—the wrong kind can kill you—until he shows you there’s nothing to fear.

Not when he’s by your side, guiding you and helping you.

He kisses you sometimes, the way he did at the bush and back at the shelter, and you kiss him back. He keeps touching you: smoothing his hand down your back, grabbing your hip, holding your hand. A few times he carries you over the more difficult terrain or the more rugged routes that would have stabbed at your feet.

By the time you return to the shelter, the sun has dropped low to the horizon and he’s carrying you on his back, your feet aching, your body sore, your mind tired. You’ve never walked so far in all your life. Strangely, he hardly seems tired at all. With your arms wrapped around his neck, you gaze at the sunset over his shoulder. It’s never seemed so beautiful: the way it burns across the forest, as though the trees are on fire.

He shifts you into a more comfortable position, his hands gripping your backside. His big feet thud through the sharp and prickly forest floor. Turning away from the sunset, you press your face into the back of his neck and kiss him there. He gives an affectionate grunt and shifts you again.

Finally, he stops and releases you, easing you to the ground. The shelter is just as you left it. The deer is intact—no bears today. His marking works. You touch your belly where he marked you. It seems he’s done a good job on you too, of making you his. The thought makes you giddy, a sharp, hot sensation stabs through your pelvis, and when he turns to look at you and you gaze back into his soft, hazel eyes, you come to a sudden realisation—you don’t want to go back.

You don’t want to go back home. You don’t want to go back to Anna, to your mother or the perfectly decent life that you’ve built for yourself.

It fills you with astonishment. It fills you with dread. You don’t have a chance to process it before he takes your hand and leads you to the edge of the summit. He sits and you sit beside him. The forest stretches out before you like an ocean of green, except for the blazing light which tinges it red.

A burning ocean.

Little wonder he’s lived here a long time—with a view like this, along with the solitude and peace.

You rest your hand on his thigh. He encircles his arm around your shoulders. You lean your head against him with a sigh.

16.

It’s a night you’ll never forget.

You watch the sunset until it burns against the horizon. Like every night past, the monkeys call and shriek and make a big deal of it. A cool breeze brushes through your hair, making you shiver.

His arm tightens around your shoulders. He gestures at the scene. ‘End. Beginning. Forever.’

You raise your eyebrows at him. You don’t know quite what he means but you understand that he’s trying to communicate something deep to you. And you realise, once again, how wrong the village women are about him.

You squeeze his knee.

The world darkens. The monkeys quieten. And soon all you have is the heat of his warm body pressing against your side and his grip on your shoulders. You can hear him breathing. His hair brushes against your shoulder.

His eyes are glittering like the stars as he turns to you. ‘Come.’

He helps you to your feet and leads you back to the shelter, whereupon he starts to gather the grass for another fire. ‘No,’ you say. ‘Leave it. Can we just have the moon and the stars tonight?’

Looking up at the sky, he nods. Taking his hand, you drag him into the bedding of pelts. He grabs your breast.

‘No,’ you say. ‘Let me.’

Pushing him to the ground, you half-sit on your hip as you look down on him. His hands are by his sides, his dark hair fanned out, as he gazes up at you. A muscle in your chest gives a little clench. He’s never looked so vulnerable, nor so innocent.

Innocent. A strange thing to think after all he’s done to you. But that look in his eyes—it almost reminds you of a child. How can one be so capable of so many things and yet seem so naïve?

You study the full stretch of his body. The moon’s bright tonight, beaming into the shelter, pooling between the hard muscles of his abdomen and the bones of his broad shoulders. More than ever, it brings out the gleam in his eyes.

His body is so different to yours: at once less beautiful and yet more fascinating. You touch him gently, dragging your finger lightly down his sternum. He sucks in a breath, and instantly, what was once a half-living thing between his legs, turns into something very much alive. You smile. That’s all it takes—a simple touch. His fists grip the pelts as he gives a little growl. Leaning over, you kiss him right on that masculine notch in the middle of his throat.

He grabs your head.

‘No,’ you say sternly. ‘My turn.’

His eyes are blazing as you lift your face to his. For several moments he doesn’t let go and you can’t help but feel a twist of fear. But he releases you, licking his lips as he relaxes back into the pelts.

You smooth your hands over his shoulders, then over his hard chest. His nipples turn hard. You can’t believe how fearless you are as you lean down to press your mouth over one, then the other. He groans, snuffles, then reaches up to rake his fingers through his hair. As you move your lips lower, the muscles in his abdomen tighten, and when you sink your tongue into his belly button, his whole body ripples.

He hisses through his teeth. ‘Hurt.’

You jerk back your head in surprise. ‘Sorry!’

‘Hurt.’ He points at his groin.

You look and relax. It’s not the right word but you understand what he means. It’s hard and throbbing and rests against his pelvis like a pole. You touch it. He groans. You grab it. He whines. You think of all that he’s done to you: his shameless intimacy, his licking, his sucking. Could you do something like that? You lick your lips but the thought ties a knot in your belly. You’re not ready for something like that.

Maybe later. Maybe … after.

Pulling back, you snuggle into the pelts beside him. He turns on his side to face you and you can feel the hardness of him pressed up against your groin. Snuffling at your hair, he licks your ear, your neck, then moves down to suck the point of your shoulder. Grasping his head, you knead your fingers along his scalp. It’s a very primal thing to do. Very affectionate. Much like his licking and snuffling. You don’t know where it comes from. All you know is that something deep inside you tells you to do it and that it feels right.

It feels very right.

Sinking through the pelts until your head is level with his, you press your cheek against his and start rubbing against him. His stubble is sharp against your skin, so you don’t do it for long before turning to the rest of him, rubbing your nose against his, pressing your face into his throat, nibbling at his chin.

Before long you’re snuffling through his hair and licking his ear just like he likes to do. You’re licking his ear! A muffled voice in the back of your head tells you to stop, that it’s disgusting and to look at yourself! But you can’t stop. You don’t want to stop. His ear tastes good and you like the way he quivers beneath your mouth.

He laughs. A real laugh. A deep throaty one that you didn’t think him capable of. It sounds so human you pull back with a start. He doesn’t let you get away too far, grabbing your head with a growl. Baring his teeth, he seizes your shoulders and twists you around until you’re on all fours. He climbs over you until his chest is pressed against your back. Yanking up your netted skirt, he presses his groin against your arse. He’s panting and grunting in your ear as he positions the hard length of his penis against your opening.

You release a groan at the feel of it and part your thighs a little more so it rests between the soft cheeks of your womanhood. And there he thrusts against you. He doesn’t thrust inside—not yet, though you ache for it. Instead, he slides it along your most sensitive point until your body burns and throbs and you can’t help but thrust along with him.

Is this what it’s going to be like when he mates with you?

Pressing you lower into the pelts, he nips at your shoulder. You gasp—but not in pain. Your body is a ball of pleasure and sensation; pain doesn’t register. Just as suddenly, he pulls you back onto your knees, his chest still pressed against your back as he continues rubbing against the soft, wet flesh of your groin with the hardness of his cock. You look down and you can see it poking out between your legs. He grunts, grabbing at your hands as you try to put it inside you.

‘No,’ he pants.

‘Yes,’ you gasp.

He tightens his grip on your hands as he nips your other shoulder. You throw your head back with another gasp. You’re both holding onto the core of him as he continues with his thrusting. His penis grows before your eyes. You can feel it grow in your grasp. He thrusts faster, until he finally grunts and shudders and expels in your hands. It feels even hotter between your fingers than it did on your belly.

He’s still holding onto you as he stills. Releasing your sticky hands, he wraps his arms tightly around your waist, nuzzling the back of your neck.

You don’t know what to do with your hands, except to hold them there with his seed pooling in the middle of your palms. It oozes between your fingers. It drips onto the pelts.

He cups your hands with his much bigger ones, then presses them to you belly. He helps you smear it into your skin before reaching for your bra. He pulls it up.

What else can you do?

You rub it into your breasts.

17.

The next day is cool and cloudy, at least from what you can see as you peek around his shoulder. A cold breeze brushes through your hair but you’re warm. Warm and cosy.

The ground outside the shelter is wet and you recall hearing the rain hammering against the wood of the shelter as you slept. The leaves of the closest trees glisten with drops of water. A sharp wind sends their leaves waving and a shower of water falls to the ground. You glance up, surprised you’re still dry. No matter its simple structure, the thatch roof did the trick: no leaks and it’s somehow kept in the warmth.

Or maybe it’s just him. He’s still asleep, half his face swallowed up by the pelts. You’ve both been lying in the same position for most of the night: on your sides, pressed up against each other, your face curved into the arch of his throat. His arm rests heavily over your waist. You’re so close your breasts squash up against his chest.

He says something. You try to listen, but he’s just murmuring incomprehensibly in his sleep. It’s cute. It makes you smile. You slowly stroke his nose, pulling away with a chuckle as he wriggles it with a grunt.

His eyes crack open, revealing that sparkling hazel.

‘Good morning,’ you say.

He smiles. Wrapping his arm tightly around your waist, he pulls you even harder against him, then his mouth is on yours.

For a long time you’re quiet, your eyes closed, as you kiss him back, revelling in the smell of him, the feel of him, revelling in his simple presence. It’s such a novel experience; until now, you’ve always slept alone.

Finally, he pulls away, raising himself up on one arm as he looks down on you. He smacks his lips, then looks along the full stretch of your body. You know what he’s thinking; after all your fun together last night, he’d forgotten to do it.

He pulls away and you roll onto your back, spreading open your thighs. He’s down there an unnecessarily long time. You can’t be bleeding too heavily anymore; you’re too close to the end.

You grip your throat at a wave of excitement and dread: Is today the day? Or will he wait until tomorrow?

Or maybe tonight?

His tongue is wet and warm. Using his fingers, he spreads you open so he can get deep inside you. You close your eyes, fully relaxed, as the pleasure of his touch sends the entire length of your body prickling. Resting your hands on your breasts, you stroke your nipples. His seed has turned into a crust. You can smell him all over you.

And you like it. You really like smelling like him.

He pulls back with a growl. Pushing yourself up on your arms, you gaze at him between your open thighs. ‘Taste good?’

He flicks his tongue in response. You sit up fully, grasping your belly with a grimace, desperately needing to urinate. A cold gust of wind blows into the shelter, making you shiver. It’s great to be so high up—the view of the forest is spectacular—but it can get cold so suddenly. Pulling a pelt around your shoulders, you hustle out of the shelter.

Another cold blast of wind almost blows your pelt away. You grip onto it with a startled yelp. The wind is more than cold—it’s icy. It isn’t quite raining, barely spitting, but water beads against your skin. You’d best hurry. The clouds are grey and heavy. A thick fog shrouds the trees below. The monkeys are silent today, the forest eerily quiet.

You turn to look at the sound of a thud. He’s chopping through more deer meat, preparing breakfast, his hair hanging around his face, his cock flopping between his legs as he shifts on his knees. The muscles in his shoulders and chest bulge as he lifts his knife again.

‘I’ll be back,’ you say and hurry away. In the beginning he never gave you any privacy, and the thought that he now trusts you makes you happy.

You conceal yourself behind a tree, lift your netted skirt and squat. The sprinkle of rain quickly turns to a shower. You shiver against the cold, making it harder for you to empty yourself. At a sudden noise you freeze. It isn’t loud but it’s obvious enough that it makes your heart race. It’s the crack of a breaking stick—or that of a thin branch. Not completely out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s just a curious monkey?

But you know better. There’s something about it which makes your skin prickle. If it were a monkey, it would be making much more noise. It should be rushing its way up the tallest tree, wary of your presence. But there is nothing. It’s almost as though something’s trying hard to remain concealed. The bear springs to mind but you quickly discount it.

This is no predator. This is no animal.

You know what it is. You know with certainty even before you hear his quiet, eager growl. Your mate has marked his territory but it’s been raining off and on all night. His urine and seed would have washed away by now. But what of you? What about your smell?

All you can smell is rain. You feel it streaming between your breasts and trickling around your hips. If there’s any smell of him left, it’s almost gone.

Slowly, you turn your head. He’s there—you can see him—peering between the branches, eyes an icy blue, not the warm hazel you’re used to. You should scream, you should run, but all you do is squat there.

You look up as he steps between the trees. He’s big, bigger than your mate, with thighs almost as large as your waist and arms covered in long, ropey veins. If you thought you knew what a lot of body hair was—you’re wrong. He’s covered in it: chest, groin, legs, face—thick and matted and tangled. His shoulders are the worst. He’s older: grey in his beard, lines around his eyes and nose, but it doesn’t make him appear any less fearsome.

The forest floor crunches beneath his feet as he steps towards you. A strange noise escapes your throat—a part squeak, part cough. He sniffs and wrinkles his nose. Your heart lifts; so there is some smell to ward him off! He pauses to glance over his shoulder, before quickly looking around him, studying his surrounds carefully. When he finds nothing of concern, he turns back to you.

He sniffs again, curling his lip, but doesn’t retreat.

What are you doing? You can’t just stand here!

Finally something snaps in your head: your throat opens up, blood rushes through your legs, your heart pounds. You stand and turn with a cry, only to stagger and lurch as you try to get away. Your legs are stiff from terror! It doesn’t matter in any case, he’s much too quick. All you manage is a muffled shriek as he grips you around your waist and slaps a big, sweaty hand against your mouth. Then you’re in the air and the world turns topsy turvy as he throws you over his shoulder like you weigh nothing at all.

And suddenly you’re on the run, draped over him like an empty sack. Your hair falls around your face in a curtain as the ground rolls beneath his big, ugly feet. At every heavy footstep his shoulder jars into your gut. Your mate must have heard you scream. Surely, he’s close on your heels. But when you raise your head to look behind, all you see are quiet trees.

God help you—this is the day; the last day of your bleed.

Your mate has to get to you soon: your time is almost up.

18.

Not with him. Not with him.

You thrash and kick and scream so loudly that you start the monkeys up. You begin to despair; now your mate will never hear you.

The big male merely slides you off his shoulder and presses you bodily into his chest. He’s so strong he barely misses a beat as he continues on the run. Your mouth his smothered, your hands are pinned and your feet kick uselessly at the air. At every jolting footstep your face rubs into his sweaty, matted chest hair. It makes you choke. It makes you gasp for breath.

By the time he starts to slow, you feel dizzy and a headache throbs between your eyes. When he eases you to your feet, you crumple to the ground. The canopy spins. Your heart pumps irregularly in your chest. Vaguely, you hear him moving around. The monkeys are quiet now. Rain patters through the leaves and plops in the puddles of water that are quickly replacing the leafy forest floor. Debris sticks to your back—cold and moist. You grip onto yourself as you begin to shiver uncontrollably.

Branches rustle as he stomps around. Sticks crack. And soon his shadow spills over you. ‘Up,’ he grunts.

You don’t move.

‘Up!’ he repeats.

You just clutch yourself tighter, doing your best to conceal your breasts beneath your arms. You cross your legs too. With a growl, he seizes your ankle and you shriek as he drags you along the muddied ground. You manage to half sit up before slumping back down again. Your heart leaps into your throat at what you see ahead.

He’s taking you to his home. To his shelter. And you know, without a doubt, what he’s going to do to you there.

‘No!’ you cry, rolling onto your belly with some difficulty as you try to grab onto something, as though, somehow, you can stop him from doing the inevitable—this massive, hairy man-beast. The wet ground slides beneath your fingers. Mud streaks up your side. Tears streak down your face.

When you no longer feel the wet ground but the soft, dry feel of animal hide of his bedding, he releases your ankle. He stands over you for several moments as you lie curled up on your side, helpless and hopeless, your head tucked between your elbows, quivering.

He doesn’t leave you like that for long. With a growl, he grabs your wrists and yanks you to your knees. If you harbour any doubt at all of his intention, you have none now. His erection points directly in your face. His testicles sag in their loose, wrinkly skin below, the hair wet and matted.

He doesn’t attempt to say anything, he doesn’t attempt to give you any sort of warning, but simply grabs your head and shoves your face into his groin. Gagging and retching, you try to thrash your head out of his grip but he merely knots both his hands in your hair and holds you tight. Spreading his thighs further apart, he groans as he rubs your face into his cock. You snap your mouth shut but the stinking, soggy feel of him is all over your lips and nose and eyes.

‘Stop it!’ you scream grabbing at his wrists.

He doesn’t listen. You try to pull your head back to no avail; he’s much too strong. At a rush of fearless rage that takes you by surprise, you let go of his wrists and grab him hard between the legs.

With a roar, he releases you, staggering back as he hunches over his balls.

‘I told you to stop!’ you shout, baring your teeth.

Red fills his face. He bares his teeth back. The huge muscles in his shoulders bulge. A giant vein in his right peck throbs in time with his heartbeat. An icy-cold dread sweeps away your rage. This is not like when you tried to fight off your mate. There will be no tolerance here.

This male means business. His hands fist at his sides.

‘No!’ you scream as he charges. You try to kick out at him, but he’s quick and ferocious and manages to seize your foot in his giant fist. With a roar, he grabs your lower leg with his other hand and twists hard, forcing you back onto your belly.

You scream; at the pain, at the sheer terror. So this is what the women were talking about. Little wonder! Little wonder your two sexes separated those hundreds of years before. Men really are monsters!

You scream again as he grabs you around the waist and yanks you onto all fours. He tears away your skirt. Next goes your bra as he grabs and pulls at your breasts. ‘Stop it! Please!’

You scream and you scream and you scream. It does nothing: the forest doesn’t answer, your mate doesn’t arrive and this feral man-beast doesn’t stop.

He crawls over you, his big, hairy wet body weighing yours down heavily. He gives a low growl, then groans as he sniffs at the back of your neck. He drags his fingers roughly through your hair. You’re quivering and grunting in terror.

‘No, no, no, no, please.’

He presses his groin against your backside until you can feel the hard, full length of him along your crack.

Fisting his hands in your hair, he licks at the back of your neck, dipping his tongue into that depression at the base of your head. Then he grabs your breasts, kneading them with his hands so roughly you cry out. You grab at his hands to try to make him stop, digging your nails into his fingers, but it’s all futile. With a grunt, he pulls you to your knees and continues to manhandle your breasts. You’re crying now. There’s nothing you can do to stop him. What will happen will happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.

He lowers one of his hands to your groin and you weep harder as he explores you. What’s worse is that your body is responding against your will. Despite it all, you can feel how wet you are. You can hear it as he opens you up with his fingers.

‘Stop! Stop! I don’t want it! I don’t want it!’

You gasp, grabbing onto his wrist as he pushes his finger deep inside you. He cares nothing for your pain. He cares nothing for your fear. Man-beast. Monster. Animal!

Pressing his face into the back of your neck, he groans, then growls. Suddenly, he pulls his finger out of you with a wet suck. And you know that he’s had enough of his rough play. You jerk your whole body against him. You try to butt his face with the back of your head. You scream. You bellow. You thrash your head from side to side. It doesn’t work. Nothing works.

He shoves you back onto all fours.

19

He gives a growl like you’ve never heard before. It’s less like a sound and more like a vibration he makes in his throat. You’re shaking uncontrollably. Your heart thuds so hard you can feel it pounding through your body.

His huge hands are warm against your arse as he spreads you open. You bite your lip with a whimper as he presses the tip of his manhood against your opening. It feels astonishingly hot and hard. He smacks his lips, then gives another growl.

You fist your hands into the hides, staring at the ground as your hair hangs around your face and tears drip from your eyes. You watch as one trickles down the side of your nose. He hasn’t moved, his cock still pressed against you. What’s taking so long? You’ve given up. All you want is for this to be over, so you can finally get home and collapse into your mother’s warm, loving arms; to be back into your bed and into the safety of your village. How could you have ever thought to stay?

There’s another growl, different from the first. Suddenly, he releases you and pulls away. You don’t move, afraid to move, quivering, your knees and back aching. He growls again, a normal growl, and you suddenly realise—there are two of them. There are two of these man-beasts and they’re growling at each other.

You lift your face with a start. Could it be? You weep harder as you stare into the trees ahead. It’s him. It’s him. You can’t see him, but somehow you know. It’s something you can’t describe. It’s almost as though you can sense him. It makes you feel warm. It makes your heart swell.

He growls again, and you know for certain now. You’ve heard it often enough. You can feel the male behind you tense as he adds his own growl to your mate’s. The forest is quiet, the monkeys no longer bellowing or screeching, as though they’re silent spectators watching from the safety of their trees.

The growling intensifies from both of them until it echoes in the silence. They’re like a couple of bears preparing to kill each other. The growling turns to snarling. One of the smaller trees ahead where your mate remains concealed tilts, then bends. Its leaves rustle. There comes a loud crack! Then the tree straightens again.

The growling and snarling continues. The man-beast behind you exits the shelter, hunched over, his hands clawed in front of him as he snarls at the trees. He looks more like an animal than a man now, with his disgusting hair and bulging muscles and snarling face. His manhood stands like a log between his legs. You pull back into the corner of the shelter, not knowing what to do. Then, finally, he reveals himself.

You give a little cry at the sight of him. It’s like you haven’t seen him in years. Compared to the beast who’s kidnapped you, he looks so … human. His warm hazel gaze seeks you out. His eyebrows lower over his eyes and he frowns. You want to cry. He’s worried about you. He’s come to save you. And it’s more than just because you’re a female. You’re more than just an orifice to implant his seed into.

So much more.

You clutch at your throat as it swells with tears. There are so many things you suddenly want to say, even if he won’t understand. Your body aches to be in his arms again.

As he turns his attention back to his opponent, his eyes flash with fury. His frown turns to a snarl. He’s gripping a thick branch covered in sticks and leaves. So that’s where the loud crack! had come from. He’s snapped it off from the tilting tree.

Definitely more than a stupid, horny beast. He’s come prepared.

Your wild kidnapper growls at his weapon. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of it. Perhaps he’s too stupid or too fearless. His size probably gives him more confidence than it should. Your heart leaps with hope—and fear. What if the branch isn’t enough? What if he gets hurt?

What if he … dies?

There’s no more time to worry because they’re suddenly upon each other, roaring and bellowing and snarling. You scream as they clash, turning away just as your mate swings the branch and the man-beast counters with his fists. Huddling amid the hides, you hear thuds and whines and more roars. The shelter shudders as one of them falls against it. You quickly scuttle into the opposite corner. It’s the older man-beast. His nose gushes blood. He staggers and lurches, gripping at his side. Something yellow and hard pokes out of the top of his shoulder. It takes you several moments before you realise that it’s bone. Your mate appears uninjured, his branch spattered with blood.

The man-beast shakes his head, at first growling, then whining as he slumps to his knees not far from where you’re hiding. With a snarl, your mate lifts the branch.

‘No!’ you cry.

The branch comes down right on his head, again and again and again until blood spatters your mate’s face and chest. You turn away too late as his opponent’s head squashes like a desiccated pumpkin beneath his strike. You hear his body hit the ground with a heavy thud, then grunting and sputtering as he slowly dies.

Apparently, he’s not dying fast enough. You look back with a choke as your mate continues with his attack, pulverising his flesh. His teeth are bared. His eyes are bright. He continues to growl and snarl. He’s no longer angry—he’s enjoying himself. Now you can’t help but stare in horror as the spattering blood turns thick and gluggy. It wets the ends of his hair and drips from his beard.

You duck with a cry, covering your head with your arms, as some of it flies towards you.

That’s it. You’ve had enough. Your mind seems to separate from your body as you flee the shelter. Your pumping legs are out of your control as you race through the trees. You have no idea where you’re going. All you know is that you have to get away. Your bare feet burn against the sharp forest floor, but you hardly notice the pain. All you can think of is how wild he looks, how furious and out of control.

He’s no animal. He’s certainly no human.

He’s a monster.

20.

You slow to a walk, the pain in your feet quickly catching up with your racing mind. The trees crowd around you as you stagger and lurch, tears pouring down your cheeks. You swipe them away, angry at yourself. You shouldn’t be crying. You should be running!

Your feet slap through puddles. Leaves shower you in water as you push through branches. The forest is eerily quiet, the monkeys doubtless taking shelter against the spitting rain. Your hair is plastered to your head. Your skin is covered in goose bumps. Now that the panic has worn off, you can feel the air’s icy chill burying into your muscles.

You turn with a gasp at the sound of a snapping stick. You freeze, listening hard for several moments, but whatever it is, it isn’t what was once your mate.

What was once your mate. You bite your lip tearfully.

It doesn’t ease your fear. You know he’s going to find you, just like every time before. Perhaps you should take a leaf out of his book. You try to snap off a branch but any that’s thick enough to be useful as a weapon withstands your strength. It doesn’t help that your muscles have seized up and your fingers are numb.

You look around you, unwilling to give up, before finally picking up a large, heavy rock. You shiver as you look over your shoulder, recalling the shocking incident. Despite all he’s done to you, you’ve never thought him capable of such a thing. He’s killed his own kind. He is a murderer! And you can’t help but wonder as you gaze down at your rock: Could you really do the same thing to him? You are the same species, after all. You must have that same violent streak in some deep, dark place you’ve never dared explore before. If you’ve learned anything over the past few days, it’s that you’re more similar to him than you’ve ever thought possible.

You remember how you licked him. You remember how you stroked and touched him and ached to have him inside you.

You turn your face away, trying to forget. The rock weighs down your arms and you quickly realise that it’s much too heavy to be of any real use. So you replace it with one that fits into your hand. It’s jagged on one side. You stroke its sharp tip with your thumb.

The rain has started to clear by the time he catches up with you. Like before, you sense him before you hear him. Your skin prickles. Your heart lurches. You turn around.

And there he is, watching you between the leaves. He steps towards you, revealing himself fully. He’s still blood-spattered, made worse by the rain. Red water drips from his nose and trickles down his abdomen. Clots of it even stick to the hair of his groin.

You step away, hiding the rock behind your back. ‘You stay away from me.’

He frowns. ‘Cold.’

You’re shivering, you’re teeth chattering, but it’s not from the cold. ‘No.’

He looks you up and down. ‘Hurt?’

‘No. How—’ you lick your lips ‘—how could you do that?’

His frown deepens as he pulls his fingers through his wet beard. ‘Help.’

‘You didn’t have to kill him! What is … what is wrong with you?’

He shakes his head. Holding out his hands, he takes a step towards you.

‘Stop!’

He doesn’t listen.

‘Stop! Or I’ll …’ You raise the jagged rock. ‘Don’t come any closer.’

He pauses in his approach, looking at the rock, then at you as he lowers his arms. You’re breathing heavily and your hand is so numb you hardly feel the rock at all.

His eyebrows lower over his gaze. He shakes his head as he pounds his fist to his chest. ‘Love.’

‘No.’

‘Help.’ He points at you.

You shake your head, taking another step back. ‘You’re a … you’re a monster! You didn’t need to do that. You didn’t need to kill him.’

Shaking his head again, he takes another step towards you. Then another. ‘Stop,’ you say, thrusting out your empty hand. Your mind tells you to swing the rock, but your arm remains frozen in the air. ‘Stop,’ you mumble as he continues his approach. The rock slips from your limp fingers. ‘Stop,’ you whisper as he takes you in his arms.

What is wrong with you? Fight him. Fight him. It’s no use; all you do is sag. He holds you against him, your hips pressed up against his as your back arches over his arm. You’re completely flaccid as he holds you up with his astonishing strength. You stare up into the canopy as he lowers his face into your breasts. With a little whine that fills your eyes with tears, he rubs himself against them.

You grab at his head, knotting your fingers in his hair as you will yourself to yank him away, only to fail, simply holding him as he begins lapping at your nipples. You gasp as he wraps his mouth around your right breast.

You’re sticky. You’re wet. You’re hot. Your heart pounds but no longer in fear.

What’s wrong with you? All thought has fled. You can’t move. When he picks you up, you don’t resist, lying uselessly in his arms as you gaze up at him. Blood drips from his beard but it doesn’t disgust you. More trickles down his arms from the ends of his hair but you think nothing of it. You try to recall why you ought to hate him.

Nothing. Your mind is blank. All you know is the burning between your legs and the warmth in your chest. Something’s happening. Who are you? Where are you? How did you get here?

Does it matter? You touch his chest, curling your fingers through his hairs. He lowers his face to look at you and his hazel eyes have never seemed so bright. Those little gold flecks almost seem to sparkle. He speaks to you. And for the first time you can understand him. His grunts and growls, once so empty and animalistic, suddenly start to make sense.

You’re safe with him. He’s telling you not to fear. It’s so startling a tear trickles down your cheek.

The rain starts to ease. By the time you reach the shelter, the sun is drifting brightly between the clouds. After easing you back to your feet he turns to the little stream and starts washing himself off. You watch him for a while, feeling numb, then eventually turn your eyes to the rest of the scene. You blink. Everything seems so different, like you’re experiencing it all though somebody else’s senses. You can see things, smell things, hear things; things that you’ve never noticed before. There are so many smells on the air. You can smell yourself. You can smell him. You look above at the sound of flapping wings, only to see empty sky, the birds high up and hidden behind the clouds.

Impossible.

You look down at your feet and twist them in the grass. The ground is wet and yet it has never felt so warm. It seems to vibrate through your soles: earthworms, grubs, ants—you can feel their rapid, busy movements. The ground vibrates harder again against the thudding of his footsteps. It seems so impossibly loud in your ears.

You lift your face to his. ‘What’s happening to me?’ You clutch at your throat. Your voice doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t sound like yours at all. And the words—though they make sense in your brain, seem so queer and are hard to understand out loud.

He grunts: Don’t be afraid.

You tighten your hand around your throat as you grunt back: I’m so afraid.

Smiling, he pulls you into his arms.

21

You grunt and growl, trying to snap your legs shut, but he doesn’t listen. The other male hadn’t raped you, he doesn’t need to investigate, but it seems he needs to know for sure.

Thrusting your legs back open, he presses his nose to your groin. You twitch with a little giggle at the tickle of hot air as he sniffs at you. Gently, he pushes his finger inside you, then pulls it back out. He sniffs at it, squints, then pops it in his mouth. The wrinkles in his forehead relax.

‘Told you,’ you say.

But he’s not done yet. Grabbing you around the hips, he flips you over and starts sniffing through your hair, down your back and along the crack of your arse. He spreads you open, then releases you with a grunt: Good.

He pulls away and you roll back onto your back.

You have a headache. It thuds behind your eyes. You’re still numb and in a daze as you try your best to take it all in. Nothing makes sense anymore. The world seems so different. You’re so different.

What’s happened to cause such a sudden shift? Is it from the trauma of your almost rape? Is it from the horror of seeing such a terrible death? Or is it simply because you’ve spent so much time with him it’s only inevitable that something has finally switched in your brain?

You’re not you anymore. You’re someone or something else. 

Now that it’s stopped raining, he returns to marking his territory. You watch him, studying the big muscles in his shoulders and the graceful arch in his back; the tight cheeks of his arse. The back of his thighs are hard and taut. He’s so strong-looking that you bet he could run down almost anything. As he turns, your eyes fall to his penis: the way he holds it, the way it looks in his hands. For reasons you can’t understand, your mouth starts to water and your cheeks start to ache.

He gives it a final shake as he finishes with his task. He turns in surprise at the sound of a growl.

It takes you several moments before you realise it’s you. You’re growling. It doesn’t shock you. It doesn’t even concern you. How you suddenly know how to do it, you don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Nothing much matters anymore except what you want.

And you want him.

Your headache is gone. You’re far from dazed, focused now. Your fingers curl into claws as you bare your teeth. The hair on your arms and legs stand up. Your growling deepens as he makes his approach. He’s no longer flaccid between the legs. As he walks, it flicks from side to side, growing longer and thicker at every footstep. His eyes are bright. His mouth pulls into a half-snarl, half-grin.

Now he’s growling too. Just like he and the other male had done earlier, you growl at each other. But this is not the same. This is something very different.

He joins you in the shelter. His wet hair sticks to his shoulders. His teeth are white between his snarling lips. The muscles in his abdomen tighten as he drops to his knees in front of you. When he reaches out, you swipe his hand away. When he reaches out again, you shove him against the chest. You’re willing but he has to work for it. No more just lying there placidly with your legs spread open.  

He lashes out for your arm and this time you’re not quick enough. He grips your wrist tightly, so tightly you snarl in pain. You strike out with your other hand, clawing at his cheek. You draw blood. It doesn’t faze him. All it does is turn his eyes brighter. With a roar, he snatches at your other wrist and throws you onto your back, pinning you to the ground. Then he’s crawling over you. You thrash your head from side to side, growling and snarling but otherwise don’t make any real move to stop him.

He weighs you down with his body. Releasing one of your wrists, he takes your chin. As you look into his eyes, the human part of you raises her head. You touch his cheek where you scratched him and give a small whine. Taking your hand, he licks at your palm. You giggle, then whine, then giggle again. He leans in close and soon you’re lapping at each other’s faces, then in each other’s mouths.

As he shifts his groin against yours, you open your thighs. This is it. No more resisting. No more fear or confusion. That part of you is long gone.

Trust me, he growls.

The hard hot tip of his manhood nudges against your opening. He’s having difficulty finding his way. As he grabs hold of himself to direct it better, you grab a hold of him too. Slowly, you ease him inside together. You hiss through gritted teeth at the sharp stab of pain. He growls back. Releasing him, you flatten yourself into the pelts as he continues to push his way inside. You wince. You grunt. You arch your back. The pain only worsens as he swells bigger and pushes deeper.

Finally there’s no more of you or him left. He grabs your head, looking into your eyes. ‘Hurt?’ he says.

You nod.

With a whine, he nuzzles at your neck. Then he begins to rock, pushing his way even deeper inside you. Pushing. Withdrawing. Pushing. Withdrawing. At each thrust you grunt and wince. Grabbing onto his arse, you claw your nails hard into his cheeks. In some dangerous part of your soul, you want him to hurt the way you’re hurting. He doesn’t notice. So you turn to his ear.

He jerks back his head with a growl, but when he sees the pain in your face, lowers his head back down, letting you gnaw at him.

He thrusts harder, you gnaw harder, until you’re both grunting and growling and snarling in both pain and pleasure. He’s close to the end now. You know because there’s another sharp sting as he fills you up completely. He jerks, grunts, slams his hips against you.

Then it’s over. With a groan, he gives a full-body shudder. You even feel it inside you, a wild pulsing that makes you gasp in surprise.

Panting, elbows braced against the ground, he looks down at you. His lips are all twisted up. A big vein throbs in the middle of his forehead. Blood drips down the side of his neck from his mauled ear.

The pain slowly eases and you begin to relax, only then realising how tense you’d been. You gaze back up at him.

‘Good,’ he says.

‘Good,’ you say back, reaching up to drag your fingers through his beard.

Smiling, he leans in to nuzzle your ear. You’re still connected. You can still feel him inside you but not for long. Like an uncoiling rope, he simply falls out of you. His seed follows in a warm, wet gush. When you look down at each other, you’re both glistening with your blood.

With a little whine, he pulls down between your legs.

22.

‘You don’t have to—’ you begin.

But he’s already started.  You gasp, spreading your thighs wide as he laps at you. You groan as he steadily licks you clean. You’re already burning from his penetration and it’s an easy thing to build you up again despite the lingering pain and blood.

He pulls back onto his knees, his hands on his thighs, to take a breath. Thinking he’s done, you sit up, but he pushes you back down again. Before you can do anything more, you shriek in surprise as he lifts your arse up from the pelts and hooks your legs over his shoulders.

What is he doing?!

Arching your neck, you cry as he presses his entire mouth against you. And there he laps and sucks and tickles that little nub of your opening that shoots waves of hot, rippling pleasure through the entire length of your body. You’re panting. You’re almost wheezing. Not knowing what to do with your hands, you claw them in the pelts, holding on as he lifts you higher. You gasp as he penetrates you deeper, swirling and kissing and jabbing out with his tongue.

You’re making a strange noise in the back of your throat. It’s not quite whining, it’s not quite growling, but something in between. You stare up at the roof. It’s spinning again. You’re spinning. The whole world is spinning. Closing your eyes, you tighten your fists in the pelts, tightening them and tightening them until your nails bite right through the material and into your palms.

You give a little scream as you spasm against his mouth, the walls of your channel contracting around his tongue. Finally, he releases you, easing your arse back into the furs as he smacks his lips. Gripping at your throat, you revel in that wonderful throbbing feeling you’re steadily becoming accustomed to. Exhausted and thoroughly pleasured, you lie sprawled on your back.

Crawling out of the shelter, he then stands. You watch in a daze as he walks over to the stream to wash himself off, his face pink and sticky with your blood, is half-erect penis swaying between his legs. He looks content, a small smile on his face, as he crouches down to splash the water through his hair.

Join him, you think to yourself. Old mud is still caked against your skin from being dragged along the ground by his now dead opponent. You could really do with a wash. But you can’t move. It’s almost as though that throbbing, burning centre of you keeps you anchored to the spot. Bizarrely, a tear trickles down you cheek. So this is going to be your life now: late mornings and late nights, mating and frolicking and enjoying each other’s bodies.

In some small, distant part of your mind you’re disappointed; you once had great dreams for yourself. Great ambitions. All now reduced to a shack on the edge of a cliff where you fuck day and night with a half-man, half-monster.

 Rolling over, feeling shaken, you press your nose into the pelts, and the smell of him makes you feel better.

There could be worse things.

Crawling out of the shelter, you stagger to your feet with a gasp. It stings down there. More of your blood mixed with his hot, sticky seed trickles down your inner thigh. Clutching yourself between the legs, you hobble over. He watches you, slowing rising as you join him. With a whine, he sniffs around your neck, pushing back your hair as he gently tugs at your earlobe with his teeth. In his primal wild way, he’s apologising.

You cup his cheek in response. Reaching below, he touches you, stroking you between the cheeks gently. More apology. It’s surprising how much of his language isn’t spoken. Taking his hands, you drag him down into the stream alongside you, gasping at the icy-cold. You begin to scratch off the caked mud. It’s everywhere. How did you withstand it for so long? It’s matted in your hair. You can feel it crack against the skin of your back. Some of it’s caked in your groin.

He seizes your wrist, stopping you. You raise your eyebrows. He wriggles in close until the knees of his crossed legs press against yours.

Slowly, he lowers your hand to his groin.

Clean, he grunts, then reaches over to begin washing down your breasts. His penis floats in the water. His balls sit against the sandy bottom. He’s so soft in your hand as you gently stroke him. How can something once so hard and destructive now be so soft and harmless? His body is fascinating. He seems to feel the same way about you. After finishing with your breasts, he sits back to stare at you between your legs. You look down at yourself. Sitting cross-legged means your opening is stretched wide and he can see everything.

Using your fingers, you open yourself wider with a giggle, teasing him, taunting him. You can’t believe your own naughtiness. Dropping his chin onto his fist, he watches you with a smile. It must be comical to an outsider looking in, both of you studying each other’s groins. His penis is already shifting and you watch in wonder as it slowly rises, the wrinkled skin stretching into a shine as it pokes its head above the water.

You laugh harder. You snort; you grunt and growl. The need to get close to him, to touch him, to smell him, to feel his warmth, suddenly becomes overwhelming. He opens his arms as you crawl into his lap. Thighs clamped around his waist, breasts pressed up against his chest, you embrace him.

With a gentle growl, he wraps his arms around you and presses his face into your shoulder. And there you hold each other. Pushing your face into his hair, you breathe in his scent. The icy water no longer feels cold. It doesn’t feel like anything at all. All you feel is the warmth of his skin, the pounding of his heart against yours, his hot breath against your neck.

Closing your eyes, you press your lips to his ear and finally say it:

‘I love you.’

23.

They’re the last words you say, in English anyway.

The rest of the day passes by like a dream. He’s doing a variety of things: skinning more meat, fixing the roof, sharpening the tip of his spear against a flat stone. He bunches up the long, dead grass, preparing for more fire-lit nights.

Fire-lit nights. The stars. The moon. Just you and him in this wondrous part of the world.

You should get up and help him but you feel queer. You’re not sick, just fuzzy-headed. Your brain doesn’t seem to be functioning right. Sometimes, when he ‘talks’ with you, you don’t understand him. Often, you get up to go do something, only to forget what it is a few moments later. You feel weak and your headache’s returned, but at least you no longer feel pain between your legs, and you’ve stopped bleeding.

The hymen. You know all about it. To think that it’s gone now. To think you’re no longer a virgin after so long. It was painful but the next time should be different, shouldn’t it? No woman who had returned to the village was taken by their kidnapper more than once. They only knew of the pain.

Licking your lips, you sit in the shelter content to watch him work.

It should be better the second time.

But still—you’re nervous. As darkness falls, he lights the torches. The dancing flames reflect against his skin, making him look as though he, himself, has caught fire. When he turns to look at you, his eyes are blazing. Baring your teeth, you leave the shelter. Like before, you want to play games. He takes a step towards you. You take a step back. He emits a growl. Your own growl vibrates deep in your throat.

The once limp curl of his manhood steadily straightens into a long, thick log. Your pelvis gives a painful little throb and it concerns you. Have you fully recovered?

He pounces. You leap back. He grabs your arm. You try to yank away but he grabs your other wrist. Screaming and laughing and shouting, you thrash and twist. You try to stomp on his feet but he steps back with a playful laugh. Releasing your hands, and with a strong heave and a grunt, he hoists you with astonishing ease over his shoulder. He gives you a little shake. You laugh, recalling the last time you were together like this. His arse-crack looks inviting but you won’t do it again. At least, not unless he really annoys you.

As he drops to his knees, you slither out of his arms and into the pelts. You’re already panting. You’re already burning. You spread open your thighs. Looking down at your groin with a wild little snarl, he drags his thumb slowly up your slit. You gasp. He growls. Grabbing your hips, he gives a hard twist, flipping you over onto your stomach. So that’s the way it’s going to be tonight?

You can’t deny you don’t feel a flash of anxiety after all that happened to you earlier in the morning, but you trust him.

You’re already on all fours before he can force you up. Resting your forearms against the ground, you raise your arse into the air and open your thighs, presenting yourself to him. There’s something exhilarating about not knowing what’s going on back there. He could do anything to you and you wouldn’t be able to stop him. The fact that you know he would never hurt you makes your longing for him that much more intense.

He presses his big hands against your cheeks and spreads you open. With a growl, he drags his finger along the length of your crack, stopping at your womanhood where he inserts his finger. You can feel how wet you are. It’s all over you, like you’ve sat in a puddle of water. His finger slides in and out easily. You gasp and hunch over further, pushing your backside higher into the air.

Do it! you’re telling him. Enter me!

But he continues with his fondling, ignoring you. You give a snarl, then rise up on your knees to turn and glare at him. He laughs at you, then shoves you back down. You brace yourself, clawing your fingers into the pelts as he readies himself. Your heart is thudding madly. Will it hurt?

The hard tip of his manhood presses against you. He’s slow, easing himself inside. You suck in a breath. First, the outer skin of your opening peels back. It’s not painful but it’s not comfortable either. Next you feel the soft tissue of your channel widening to accommodate him as he pushes himself in deeper.

And deeper.

And deeper.

He feels longer than last time. He feels like he’s going forever. You don’t mind. You don’t mind at all. There’s no pain or discomfort, only pleasure. He seems to burn inside you, and you throb around him. All the little nerves in the walls of your vagina twitch and tingle at the feel of his sliding. The pleasure’s so intense you shudder and emit a long, deep growl.

Then he’s gripping your hips firmly as he thrusts into you, growling and grunting and whining as he does. At every thrust his pelvis hits you with a wet smack and your face shoves into the pelts.

He thrusts faster, snarls louder. At one point he smooths his hand along your back and grabs your hair, yanking back your head. Kneel, he’s saying.

So you rise until your back is pressed up against his front. There, he sucks at your shoulder as he rubs his hands over your breasts, pinching and kneading and fondling. And all the while he continues to penetrate you. He’s thrusting hard now, hard enough that your whole body jolts and your breasts bounce against your chest.

He lowers his hands to your groin and you gasp as he moves his finger back and forth against that nub of skin you’ve come to know so well. What was once pleasure quickly turns to burning torture. Sagging against him, your head lolling against his shoulder, you grab his thick forearms, encouraging him, as you gasp and pant and whine. Lost in sensation, lost in the dizzying spin of the world, you press your lips to his neck, close your eyes and let him do what he does best.

Quickly, his thrusts turn to pounding; his growls turn to snarling. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. One last, hard thrust and an explosion of colour erupts behind your eyes. A hot, wild throbbing shoots through your body. You feel it in your fingertips. You swear you can even feel it in the roots of your hair.

As for him, he grunts, groans, then shudders as he empties himself inside you. Opening your eyes, you suck at the air like a dying fish as your channel clamps down hard on his penis and tugs in time with his pulsing, pulling every little precious dribble of his seed deeper and deeper inside you.

He’s gasping too. You can feel his abdomen sucking in and out against your back at every breath. You don’t move for what seems a long time, enjoying each other’s closeness and smells and touch. He nips at your shoulder, then nuzzles the nape of your neck. Sliding your fingers through his, you grab onto both his hands and drag his arms around your heaving, sweating body.

For a long time you simply hold each other.

24.

Your knees burn in pain against the ground but you ignore it. Finally, his penis slides out of you and you feel his hot, sticky seed trickling down your thigh.

You can’t believe this is your life now. You can’t believe that this is how you’re going to spend your evenings. How could you have ever thought that marking school work gave you pleasure? That it gave you purpose?

Holding you more tightly, he rocks you from side to side as he continues to nuzzle your throat. He grunts in your ear and you pull away to look at him in surprise.

You grunt back: You think?

He nods, then releases one of your hands to pat your belly.

Tears fill your eyes. A baby.

A baby.

Your chin wobbles and your throat aches as joyful tears wet your face. Smiling, he grabs your head and gently licks them away before lapping at your mouth. You try kissing him back but give a little sob instead, followed by a whine, which he echoes. Grabbing your hand, he enfolds it into his and grips it tightly between your chests.

He looks into your eyes, firm and serious. Partners. Allies.

The tears still falling, you nod.

You press your foreheads together.

The next morning you wake up in each other’s arms. Without opening your eyes, you smile against his throat. Your legs are entangled. His arm is draped over your waist. He’s awake; you can tell by his breathing. You open your eyes and look up, and you see he’s watching you. Pressing his hand to your abdomen, he rubs his face in your hair.

Excitement coils in your stomach. A baby. His baby.

He pulls away and sits up, stretching out his arms as he yawns. Admiring his physique, you massage your hand along his smooth, muscular back. He grunts and shakes his head. The sun has barely risen, soft yellow light gleaming into the little shelter. A few monkeys are already squealing in the trees. Everything is the same as yesterday and yet it’s all so utterly different. Your whole situation has changed. This is your life now.

It’s all a blur. It’s hard to believe.

A baby. Him. Yours.

The torches are cold. The fire is now coal and ash. You can smell the smoke. You can smell the forest. You can smell him. Pressing your nose to his back, you take a big whiff.

He turns, his cock swinging between his legs as he kneels beside you. He takes it in his hand and you relax in the pelts as he begins his morning ritual. You smile at him as his eyes sweep over your body. His shoulders tense, he grunts and you feel the hot, sticky swirl of his essence spill onto your belly. Resting your hands on top of his, you both smooth it into your skin.

For breakfast, you eat what remains of the deer, licking your fingers as you swallow the last of it. Is it your imagination or does it taste better? Where it used to be barely edible, now you lick and smack your lips, wanting more. The wooden board is covered in blood—you can smell it. You can almost taste it.

You pick it up and you’re tongue is against it before you understand what you’re doing. Halfway through your licking, you pause, suddenly realising. You lift your eyes to his. He’s smiling at you, looking satisfied.

A desperate, high-pitched voice in the back of your head tells you to stop! and that you’re losing yourself.

Shaking your head, you go back to licking it clean.

While you finish, he commences marking his territory. You lift your nose at the smell. No longer does it just smell like urine. It’s something else. It’s him. Like the semen on your belly, you recognise his urine as his. You like the smell. It makes you feel happy. It fills your chest with warmth. It’s a curious thing. If it has this kind of effect on you, what effect does it have on his rivals? As a learned woman, you’ve always understood the purpose of why an animal marks, but now you truly understand, not just in your mind but somewhere deep and primal inside you. It’s a feeling. A sensation in your pores.

It frightens you—the way you’re changing.

Pulling your legs to your chest, you shiver. The last of what makes you you is slowly fading away. An ache grips at your chest as you suddenly think of your mother—and Annie. How must they be feeling? How can you leave them in the lurch?

He must sense your distress because he turns to look at you with a frown. He approaches and crouches in front of you, hands dangling between his knees, awaiting an explanation.

You shake your head and turn away.

He touches your knee.

Your lips tremble. With a growl, he takes your chin and makes you look at him. Tears patter on your cheeks as you explain in a series of grunts. You’ve left those you’ve loved behind. You need to make an end to that part of your life.

He releases your knee and looks at you hard for several long moments. He isn’t happy. And you know he doesn’t like the thought of you going back there. If you do, there might be a chance you’ll leave him behind.

You touch his knee: Never.

His eyes bore into yours and you begin to despair he won’t agree. Then he lowers his gaze with a nod. You give a little squeal and throw yourself into his arms. He falls back onto his arse with a grunt, clasping you against him as you lap enthusiastically at his ear.

You leave that very day, taking almost nothing except a woven basket, a skin of water, a pelt and his spear. You’ll have to hunt and gather along the way.

For the first little while the journey goes well enough. You’re strong. You’re happy. You’re eager. And your mate seems content.

Then your feet begin to ache. You bear through the pain for as long as possible but soon you’re hobbling. He notices, of course, and seizes your arm, stopping you. He holds out his hand for the half-filled basket of food.

You shake your head, knowing what he’s going to do.

Baring his teeth, he snarls at you.

With a sigh, you hand it over and he crouches in front of you, holding his spear in one hand and the basket in the other. You climb onto his back, hooking your legs firmly around his hips and wrapping your arms tightly around his neck.

He straightens. He’s so strong!

Throughout the rest of the day, you get off and on, giving him a break while training your feet. You’re hoping that by the end of the week, you’ll be able to walk where you will without pain and you won’t have to burden him again. For the time being, however, you’ll have to suffer being a nuisance.

You’ve journeyed a long time before you finally settle down for the night. It’s darker so deep in the forest. You look around in surprise. Despite the darkness you can see so much. It’s not just your hearing and sense of smell that are improving. Your sight is too.

You turn at a flash of orange as he lights a small fire. He relaxes with his back against a tree and you snuggle in beside him. He rests his hand on your thigh. You rest your hand on his groin. He snorts. You laugh.

Then you turn serious. He’s doing so much for you. Taking his hand, you entwine your fingers through his while gently tugging at his earlobe with your teeth. He gives you a small smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes, no doubt still worried about what lies ahead.

You need to take his mind off things. You need him to understand how much you appreciate him. Releasing his hand, you wriggle down towards his groin.

25.

He’s already semi-erect and you only need to breathe on it for it to harden into a full erection. You chuckle. He twists his fingers through your hair affectionately as you lower your face. You kiss the tip of him, then lick the little hole. The smell of him is intense so close to his core; it ignites all the little nerves along the skin of your arms.

You lick him again—he doesn’t taste like much at all—then drag your tongue along the length of him from bottom to top. He gasps and tightens his fingers in your hair. His cock gives a little throb. A bead of semen glistens at the tip. You lick it off and smack your lips, trying to taste it. You raise your eyebrows. It’s not bad. A bit sweet. A bit salty.

Next, you press your lips around him. You can hear him breathing deeply. You can sense his anticipation. He jerks and gasps again, his heels thudding into the ground, as you take him fully into your mouth. The entire length of him fills your throat. Just like he does when he penetrates you below, he swells and hardens and lengthens more, and you’re forced to pull back a little before you choke.

You feel pain in your scalp as he tightens his grip on your hair. Then you’re moving up and down his length, up and down, up and down, flicking out your tongue as you do. His breathing turns to panting. His body stiffens. You’re surprised at how much you’re enjoying this. You feel in control. It almost feels like he’s at your mercy for a change. It’s such a different experience. Releasing him with a wet suck, you sit back on your heels and lick your lips.

His eyes are bright, his chest rising and falling rapidly, his face inflamed. You give him a mischievous grin. Should I continue?

He lets your hair go and rakes his fingers through his own hair instead. The muscles in his chest and arms balloon out.

Leaning low again, you give him a swift lick. He jerks again, banging his head against the tree with a grunt. Pulling back, you smack your lips, then grin at him teasingly. He grabs onto his shaft with a groan, waiting for you to continue. You remain as you are, enjoying his agony.

His groan turns to a snarl. His eyes flash. And suddenly he’s gripping your head again and shoving your face into his groin. You laugh and growl and snort, then take him in your mouth again. His hands don’t leave your head, forcing you to keep going.

Your heart beats hard as you suck him. He starts thrusting his hips as he nears the end. He snarls, yanking at your hair as he throbs hard in your mouth. An explosion of taste and heat and smell explodes in your throat and saturates your senses. There’s another throb, another explosion, as he jets more of his semen inside you. It doesn’t taste bad at all and you love the texture—it’s like a creamy, sticky sauce; the kind that drips from the bottom of a sandwich that’s both delicious and really, really bad for you. It’s warm. It coats your mouth. You smell him in your sinuses. He’s everywhere now: inside of you, outside of you, all around you.

He releases your head with a whine. You swallow, wipe your mouth and gasp at the air. Vaguely, you hear him give another whine. Then his arms are around you as he eases your head into his lap. Your eyes half-close as he brushes his fingers through your hair. He smooths it away from your ears and neck, then strokes your cheek before kneading your head with his strong fingers. You’re so hot that sweat trickles down your back. With the forest so dense, it’s unusually warm.

Soothed by his tender touch, you drift into sleep.

When you next wake it’s morning—and dark, the trees blocking out much of the sunlight. He’s lying on his back and you’re lying on top of him, your face buried in his chest hair. A bird sings from the branches. Something slithers through the ground litter. Your mate’s breathing is long and slow.

Carefully, you pull away, trying not to wake him. You stare at him a moment, admiring him, loving him. You still smell him everywhere. You taste him on your tongue. He’s permanently imbedded inside you now. There’s no going back.

You look around the forest, your senses so sharp you can hear the distant thud of a running deer; you can smell the musk of a nearby boar in heat; you can see a caterpillar worming its way along a leaf above your head. And suddenly you realise something else—you’ve been here before; days before when he kidnapped you on that fateful night. It was dark then, but it’s bright now.

The village is close.

You sniff at the air. Yes. You can smell it: the smoke, the body odour, the cooking food.

Turning back to him, you pause. You can hear the pounding of his big, strong heart. When you brush your fingers against his wrist, you swear you can feel the rush of blood through his veins. You press your fingers to your mouth, thinking. For the first time, he doesn’t look so powerful. He doesn’t look so dangerous. He looks almost … vulnerable. Innocent, even. Even with all his callous savagery, he knows nothing of real pain. He knows nothing of the real world or the home you’ve left behind.

If you return, they might hurt him. They have weapons: guns, longbows and cannons. If he’s anywhere close …

He can’t be trusted to follow your directions. He can’t be trusted to realise the danger. And no doubt he’ll insist on accompanying you in spite of it all.

Pulling away, you stand. He’s still asleep, his dark, thick eyelashes fanned over his cheeks. You only need to speak with someone from the village a few moments, just to pass on the message that you’re all right. Your heart sinks at the thought you might not see your mother or Annie again. There won’t be time to see them.

You hurry away.

It’s easy to find your way. With the village’s smell so thick on the air, all you have to do is follow your nose. Your feet hurt but you don’t slow your pace. Your mate will wake up soon and he’ll be hard on your heels.

You race through the trees. The smell thickens into a stink. It’s everywhere now. And you hear things: the thud of machinery, the neighing of horses, the distant sound of shouting and laughing. Familiar sounds, yet so unfamiliar. A strange feeling coils in the pit of your stomach, a mixture of desperate longing and sickening anxiety. Sweat prickles along your upper lip. How can five days change things so utterly?

The forest brightens as you near its edge. You don’t hesitate as you leave the last of the trees behind and hit the long grass of the outer limits of your village. The long grass quickly pulls back and you’re soon running on shorn, hard grass that crackles beneath your feet. You can see everything—the village and its surrounding farms are spread out before you. They must be able to see you now.

The great, stone wall that encircles the village is just ahead. A huge watchtower glares down on you. The size of it all takes you by surprise. It has never seemed so big before. Your life, as you know it now, is so small compared with what it once was.

They respond rapidly. The gates open.

26.

Two women on horses gallop towards you. What must they think? That you’re just another impregnated, naked woman seeking safety from the monster who’s raped and abandoned you, that’ s what. They don’t know the truth.

You stop, hunching over and gripping your knees as you gasp for breath. They pull up in front of you. You try to speak but the words stick in your throat. One is fairly young, the other older. Both are wearing boiled leather armour and have their hair tied up in braids. Both wear a variety of weapons including knives and swords and guns.

They look angry. They’re angry over what’s happened to you.

They say things to you but they speak too fast and it’s hard to make sense of things.

You try to explain that you’re fine but the words won’t come. Instead, you growl and spit. The two women look at each other in surprise.

Tell my mother and Annie that I’m all right, you say.

But again, all you do is growl and spit and snarl. This isn’t working. You’ve already forgotten so much. You’ve changed too much. You try to speak your name, but for the life of you, you can’t remember what it is.

‘Come!’ speaks the younger woman as she dismounts. Finally, a simple, singular word you can understand.

The younger woman seizes your arm but you yank out of her grasp, stepping back as you shake your head. Still mounted, the older woman is scanning the trees for danger. Others are gathering at the front of the gates, no doubt curious about what’s going on. 

‘… take her,’ the older woman speaks. She says more but the words rattle emptily in your head. You sense her wariness, however, and her fear. She’s keeping an eye out for any males who might be waiting to snatch them up.

‘Come. Let’s go.’ The younger woman seizes your arm again. You try to yank away but her grip is firm. Then the second woman dismounts. Together, they try to hustle you back to the gates, gripping both your arms as they shout meaningless words at you.

Several other women come rushing over.

Let go! you snarl uselessly as you thrash in their grips. Let go! Let go! Let go!

Just as the other women reach you, you all turn at the sound of a roar. It’s a terrifying sound, even when you know that the beast making it is nothing to fear—at least, not for you to fear. The horses whinny and thud their hooves. The two women release you as the older woman unloads her handgun and the younger woman pulls out a knife. A third woman aims a shot gun.

You glance at the guns, at the enormous watchtower with its waiting cannon, then spin around to face the forest. He hasn’t appeared yet but you can hear him crashing through the trees.

‘No!’ you scream and charge away from the women.

There’s nothing else you can do but try to stop him. You can’t speak. They don’t understand you. None of this is going to plan. He could die!

Your feet scream in pain as you run. Your heart thuds so hard it makes your ears ring. Then you see him—he crashes out into the open, raising an arm against the glaring sunlight as he does.

‘No!’ you manage again. ‘Stop!’

He sees you and runs straight for you, the sun blazing against his head and big shoulders. His hair is a tangle of knots and glistens with sweat. His strong, muscular legs carry him towards you, so fast it’s astonishing.

There’s the crack! of a shooting gun. Your mate staggers and for a moment it’s as if your heart stops beating. Ice fills your veins. He’s been shot! But he regains his balance and continues his sprint. A branch breaks off from a tree behind him in a haze of dust.

They’ve missed!

‘STOOOOP!’ you scream as you race towards him, and you don’t know whether you’re shouting at him or at the women shooting.

Another crack! You clap your hand against your ear with a start at the sound of a dreadful whistle through the air. They only just missed you. What are they thinking?

Finally reaching him, you leap and slam into him. He clasps you to his chest as you knock him backwards and throw him to the ground. You tumble together. His heavy weight crushes you into the grass, stealing the air from your lungs and mashing your face hard into the earth. By the time you stop moving, you somehow manage to be on top, and just in time too—the women are racing over, shouting, weapons raised.

‘No!’ you cry, throwing yourself over him, chest to chest, trying to cover as much of his body with yours. ‘No hurt!’

You’re weeping as you press your face into his throat. His heart is racing and it pounds against yours. Your weeping turns to sobbing. As you hear them gather close behind you, you spread your arms and legs out more. He doesn’t move, only pants beneath you.

‘What … doing, girl?’ someone says. ‘Get up.’

‘No.’

‘Up!’

You enfold yourself around him as much as you can, given how big he is.

Another woman speaks. It’s hard to put the words together in your evolving—or is it de-evolving?—mind. ‘Let … go. He …  animal … danger …. must be destroyed.’ Her voice is fierce, and you know she’s pointing her weapon at you both.

He’s no animal, you snarl.

Silence falls.

‘What was that?’ someone says.

You struggle with your words. ‘No leave.  No home … Annie … Mama.’ You grit your teeth as you struggle to remember your name. It’s on the tip of your tongue. It sits like a rock at the back of your throat. If you can remember it, it’ll make things so much easier. Grimacing, you close your eyes ….

There!

Snapping your eyes open, you shout it out, then cry, ‘Get Annie. Get Mama.’

The women start arguing with each other. You try to understand but it’s impossible, their words a jumbled mess. You curl yourself tighter around your mate, pressing your face deeper into his neck, hoping, praying. Finally, they seem to come to an agreement. They stop arguing and you hear the pounding of hooves as what sounds like two of them ride back to the village.

‘… you hurt?’ speaks the same voice that called your mate an animal.

‘No.’

Raising your head, you look into your mate’s eyes. You’ve underestimated him. He must know the danger, lying as still and quiet as he is. He looks back at you with that warm, hazel gaze. You give a little whine. He looks sad.

You start licking his face. Behind you, someone sucks in a breath. Another murmurs something in surprise. They’re shocked, you can sense it. And they’re disgusted. But you keep going. What they think means nothing to you now.

Grabbing his head, you lap at his mouth. You push your tongue between his lips but he’s not kissing you back. You whine again. What’s wrong?

He doesn’t answer, just continues to look at you sadly.

From the distance comes the pounding of more hooves. A familiar voice screams your name.

You turn over. Your heart leaps.

27.

Your mother screams your name again.

Your eyes widen. It’s your mother and Annie both, mounted behind the same two women who you first encountered.

‘Mama!’ you scream back.

It’s your instinct to run to her, but several women still have their weapons trained on your mate. Climbing to a crouch, you growl at them. Your mate sits up behind you and they tighten their grip on their weapons.

Your growl turns to a snarl. When they don’t lower their weapons, you bare your teeth more and growl deep within your throat. Even to your own ears it sounds frightening. The women don’t react, except to turn their aim on you.

The horses arrive. Your mother and Annie dismount. They both rush over, ashen-faced. Unlike the guards bearing down on you, they wear dresses that swirl around their legs. Their hair is neatly tied up. Annie was probably in the middle of teaching her class when they pulled her away. They look … clean. You think of yourself and imagine how you must look to their eyes.

‘Wait!’ the woman holding the shotgun commands, throwing out her hand to stop them. ‘She’s dangerous.’

‘What …?’ Your mother freezes, eyes widening at what she sees. At the sight of your mate, her face flushes red. You don’t understand the first few words she speaks, but you certainly understand the last two: ‘… kill him!’

You snarl at her. She steps back, gripping her throat in shock. ‘What … what’s wrong with her?’

‘Nothing,’ you say. ‘Changed.’

You look at Annie, who’s standing beside your mother, pale and quiet. Her lips are pressed tightly together. Her forehead is heavily furrowed. She’s not only stunned but appalled. Annie’s smart. Smarter than you. Her blue eyes meet yours, and she slowly shakes her head.

‘No home,’ you say, then pound your chest. ‘Love.’ You point at your mate. ‘Love. Mate. Love. Leave.’

‘Speak sense!’ your mother cries desperately. The lines around her mouth deepen. She’s clutching at her dress now, thin blue veins popping out along her fingers. Her grey eyes shine with tears.

You blink rapidly as tears swell in your own eyes. There are so many things you want to say but how to get it across? ‘Love you,’ you say, then nod at your mate. ‘Love him. Leave.’

Your mother shakes her head slowly as she begins to understand. ‘No,’ she whispers.

‘Love you. Leave,’ you repeat. You look at Annie. ‘Love you. Leave.’

‘No,’ your mother says, shaking her head faster. ‘No. No. NO!’

She lashes out to take your arm. You jump back. Everything happens so quickly. One moment your mate is sitting behind you, the next he’s throwing you behind him as he stands to his fullest height, roaring at your mother. The guards shout and prepare to shoot.

‘No!’ you scream. ‘No hurt!’ You try to get around him but he wrestles you back.

‘Don’t shoot!’ shouts another voice.

Wrapping your arms around his waist, you bury your head into his back. He understands your message: Calm. Be calm. He stops roaring but he’s panting with rage, the big muscles in the backs of his shoulders bunching and unbunching at every breath.

‘Don’t shoot,’ Annie repeats. ‘ … won’t hurt us.’

‘Annie!’ your mother exclaims in astonishment.

You peer out from behind his broad back. Your eyes meet your best friend’s. She knows. She understands. You can see she’s not happy. You can see her shock and confusion. But she understands.

‘Love you,’ you repeat.

Annie’s bottom lip trembles. ‘Love you, too.’

‘No!’ your mother screams, clutching at her hair. ‘Shoot him! Shoot him! Save her!’

‘Mama,’ you say quietly but firmly.

She looks at you, tears pouring down her cheeks. The red in her face is gone. She’s pale now, almost white. Her hands are shaking.

‘Love you,’ you say. Your throat aches and the tears suddenly gush out of your eyes. ‘Love you very much.’

You tug at your mate’s waist, directing him to back away.

‘Don’t shoot,’ the woman with the shotgun says. ‘But don’t lose your aim.’

‘Let them go,’ Annie agrees.

You continue to pull against your mate. Slowly, he backs away. You can hear your mother sobbing.

Finally, when you’ve gained enough ground from the women, he turns and takes your arm. The sad look’s gone but his forehead is deeply furrowed and his mouth is downturned in his beard. You don’t have time to think what it might mean before you’re racing back to the trees together.

You’re crying, the tears turning cool upon your cheeks against the wind in your face as you run hard. He’s still gripping your arm and you wish he would let you go and race ahead. He needs to protect himself first. You can almost feel the guns pointing at your backs. They’ll be more forgiving of you than of him.

But he doesn’t release you and they don’t shoot.

You both reach the safety of the forest in one piece. You want to slow the pace but he keeps tugging you along. The tears don’t stop flowing. It was a hard thing—saying goodbye to your mother. And Annie …

You hope they can forgive you.

‘Enough!’ you finally cry, wrenching your arm out of his grasp. You stumble to a halt, bending over your knees as you gasp for breath.

He watches you, shifting on his feet. A thick sheen of sweat makes him shine, even within the darkness of the trees. When you’ve caught your breath, you straighten. It’s so quiet now after all the screaming and shooting and commotion.

You go to take his hand but he steps away, shaking his head with a grunt.

You frown, remembering the sadness in his face when you were caught by the women. Stepping towards him, you try to seize him again but he pushes away your hand with a growl. Turning away, he snarls, snaps and grunts.

He’s angry at you for going back without him. It’s his job to protect you. It’s his job to make sure you’re safe. But it’s more than that—you scared him. He thought you left him. He thought you left him to go back with them.

Never, you snarl.

He rakes his hands through his hair. His eyes are pink. He’s close to tears! Your heart clenches. You reach out to grab him again. When he tries to pull away for the third time, you leap at him, seizing him around the waist and burying your face into his chest, whining your apology. You explain your reason: that you were only trying to protect him, just like he tries to protect you.

At first, he’s stiff and silent in your embrace, then he presses his warm hands against your back. You kiss the middle of his chest, then turn your face to lap at his right nipple. He whines. You echo him. Grabbing your head, he makes you look up at him.

The sadness is gone. His eyes are warm again.

28.

You’re relieved, so relieved you sag in his arms, biting at his nipple in apology.

He lets you slide to your knees. His groin is directly at eye level. Seizing his arse, you rub your face against him, bathing yourself in his scent and sweat and hair. You don’t hesitate to put your mouth around him; you even lap at his balls, whining and growling as you do.

Meanwhile, he’s kneading your head affectionately. His cock quickly becomes rock hard as you lick and lap and suck him all over. You’re about to take him fully in your mouth when he stops you with a hard grip on your head. You look up.

He growls. You growl back. He releases your head as you slowly rise to your feet, your breasts sliding up against his front. He seizes your hips. You seize his shoulders. And then you’re mauling each other with your lips and teeth and tongues as you snarl and snap and growl.

You claw your nails down his back. His teeth are sharp as he nips at your shoulder. It all feels surreal. You’re not thinking. It’s as though your brain has shut down and it’s your body that’s now taken over. You bite his chin deep enough to draw blood. He squeezes your arse so hard you snarl in pain. Then you’re both on the ground.

The cheeks of your opening unstick as he thrusts open your legs. His teeth are bared. His eyes are so dark they’re almost black. Grabbing his head, you yank him down to your face and latch onto his ear, gnawing hard as you thrust your hips up against him. His cock slides along your sticky opening.

He pulls back, and you feel his rock-hard tip push against you. And then he’s inside you with a hard thrust that makes you throw back your head with a cry. Snarling and growling in your face, he pounds into you, hard enough that you’re moving along the ground, the sharp forest floor scraping against your back.

Wrapping your legs around his waist, you lift your pelvis, pulling him in deeper. You rip at the skin on his shoulders as you clutch him tight. He’s gritting his teeth. The whites of his eyes are red. Something almost like pain burns up the length of your spine and you go back to gnawing his ear as your body shudders against him. He grunts, snarls, then raises his face to the canopy as he releases inside you with a howl.

Then you’re rocking together, riding the last waves of pleasure sweeping through your bodies.

When it’s over, you sink back into the ground with a sigh. He lies on top of you, panting, his face pressed into your neck. You gaze into the canopy, squinting against a stream of light that filters through the leaves.

You smooth your hands over his broad back in a circular pattern, like you’re giving him a massage. Then you begin lapping the blood off his mauled ear. You whine. You didn’t mean to hurt him so much.

He looks at you with his no-longer-so-black, warm hazel eyes, licks at your nose, then rubs his face against yours. He whines too as he moves down and begins licking all the little cuts and wounds on your body. Some are from him. Some are from your harried run to, and your escape from, the village. Resting your hands on his head, you let him heal you with his love.

The forest glistens against the tears in your eyes. He draws lower, and you relax your arms by your head helplessly as he laps you between the legs. Groaning, you lick the tears from your lips.

Once he’s done, he rolls you onto your belly, whereupon he continues to lick you all over. You hiss when his tongue brushes against a deep cut in the middle of your back you didn’t know was there. You moan as he kisses you down along your spine all the way to your buttocks. There, he smooths his hands over you with a grunt.

Satisfied that you’re uninjured, he gently rolls you back onto your back. You gaze at each other. He’s sitting with his knees on either side of your hips, straddling you, his hands braced in the earth. His sticky cock rests against your belly. His hair is knotted and greasy.

Barely more than an animal … maybe.

Then what does that make you?

You reach out to touch his cheek. Closing his eyes, he presses your palm to his lips. You glance back towards where the village lies, and you’re suddenly fearful. You’re not far enough away. They could still come after you with their guns and knives and horses.

And rage.

You don’t need to explain your need to get away; he knows what you’re thinking. He helps you to your feet. Grabbing your face, he briefly laps at your lips, then takes your hand, enfolding it in his. His hand is so big that it completely encompasses yours.

He’s so strong. He’s so protective. He’ll die before anything happens to you.

With a little growl, you rub your face against his chest. And then you’re running through the trees, hand in hand, only stopping at where you last slept to retrieve your spear, pelt, basket of roots and seeds, and other belongings.

It won’t be long before you reach the shelter. Your feet no longer ache. You no longer tire. You’re no longer a nuisance. And soon, after a while, you begin to forget why you’re running in the first place. There’s something you’ve left behind. Something that’s left an ache in your chest you can’t describe. Something important. A desperate, muffled voice shouts something at the back of your mind in a language that seems familiar but which you no longer understand.

You shake your head. Best to forget it. The past is the past and the future lies ahead. Tightening your grip on your mate’s hand, you press your other hand to your belly.

So much lies in the future.

It’s very dark by the time you reach home. You smell it before you see it: his musk, your scent.

Home.

The moon is bright. The stars twinkle. A young monkey howls in the trees. The shelter is just how you left it, the pelts still ruffled from when you last mated. There’s no meat, but you have your basket. As your mate goes ahead to mark his territory, you gather the dried grass for a fire.

It doesn’t take long before you’re sitting and eating together, your hand on his thigh, his arm wrapped around your shoulders as you gaze across the forest’s moonlit vista.

Barely more than an animal …  maybe.

But there could be worse things.

Epilogue

I still can’t believe you’re gone.

Your room’s been taken over by a new teacher by the name of Maryanne. A new teacher. I say that loosely. She’s not really a new teacher. She’s been with us five years, ever since you left with that man-beast.

That day—I’ll never forget it. When I first discovered that you were kidnapped by one of them, I expected the worse. Everyone knows what happens, after all. Naked, doubtless impregnated, terrified—you were everything I expected you to be.

Almost … and not even close.

How could you leave us? How could you leave your mother? Worse—how could you leave us for him? There are so many things I want to tell you. So many things have changed. But I need to find you first. And I’ve been looking—on and off for years now, without success.

This is my seventh expedition into the dangerous forest. That’s new too. We used to lock ourselves away, remember? Hiding behind our big stone wall that wasn’t always enough to keep them out. And you’ll be surprised to know that you’re not the only woman to leave the village. Others have followed in your footsteps. At least a dozen … and counting. Somehow, despite all the rumours and terrors of what they do to us, you’ve set a trend. More and more women want to join these men.

Preposterous. Stupid.

The women with me are armed and trained. Just as I am. I’m still a teacher but now I’m a soldier too. After all that happened to you, I decided the best protection was being able to defend myself. Wish you could have done the same before you were taken.

‘Annie, are you all right?’ Felicity asks, looking back at me curiously.

‘I’m fine. Just thinking.’

We’ve stopped in a clearing, no different from any other except for a burnt out fire and the remains of a cooked monkey carcass scattered all over the ground.

Yetta crouches to inspect the site.

‘What have you got?’ I ask, keeping an eye on the surrounding trees as I grip my shotgun tightly. The camp is cold but we can’t be too careful; the skills of these man-beasts can be astounding.

‘Definitely a female.’

I stare at her, my heart leaping in my throat. ‘You serious?’

‘Definitely. And at least two children—maybe more.’

I’m dumbstruck. My heart pounds in my ears. A family. We’ve never tracked a family before. Could it be? After all this time, could it really be you?

‘Then, let’s go!’ I say.

Yetta’s the best tracker in the village, but even I can see the tracks after a while. They’re fresh, and more and more I see the proof of Yetta’s assessment: footprints. Many footprints. Big and small. You’re not far ahead.

‘Take care,’ Yetta hisses. ‘We’re getting close.’

We slow to a cautious walk, hunched over our weapons, as we peer through the branches. We all pause at the sound of a growl. Felicity presses her fingers to her lips: Quiet. Another growl answers the first, high-pitched—a woman’s.

Felicity glares at me to be careful as I push further through the trees. I have to see if it’s you. Nothing’s going to stop me. I’m cautious where I place my feet. The sweat on my hands makes the gun slippery. I hear more growling and whining, even more high-pitched—the children?

More growling, followed by a snarl. I tell myself, surely it can’t be you. You’re no animal. But I’ll never forget how you were on that final day. Still human. Still recognisable as my best friend. But barely.

Finally, I see movement. I drop into a crouch. Bracing my gun across my knees, I part the leaves ahead of me. I suck in a breath. Felicity is right. It’s a family: the big beastly male, two children about the age of four or five—it’s hard to tell their sexes from my vantage point—and a woolly-haired female.

I stare at her/you. Is it you? I try to recognise something familiar in the way she stands. She half-turns, allowing me to see her dirty face. My heart sinks. She can’t be you. She looks nothing like you. But as I continue to look and look, things soon start to come together. Her hair’s the right colour. The height is right too. Her nose is pointed like yours, her lips full like yours. She’s much more muscular than you used to be but that doesn’t mean anything. Her breasts are swollen with milk and I suddenly notice a stirring at her back. There’s a third child. An infant. Hidden beneath her woolly hair in a sling.

Then I see it—a dark stain on her left shoulder. It could be dirt, I tell myself. But I know that it’s not. I know your birthmark anywhere. It’s your shoulder. It’s you. After all this time I’ve finally found you.

You raise your nose to sniff the air and turn with a growl. The male is busy with your two children further ahead and doesn’t hear you amid his growling and their babbling. Somehow you spot me. Our eyes lock. I don’t move. I can’t move. The gun feels heavy in my lap. You’re wild now. You might attack. You might even try to kill me. I can’t trust you to recognise me, but I pray that you do.

It’s me, I shout in my mind. Annie, your friend.

You stop growling as you gaze at me steadily. Something shifts in your face. Your eyebrows crease. And just for a moment, I see recognition flash in your eyes. It could be my imagination. It could just be my hope. But I like to believe otherwise.

Somewhere, deep inside, you remember me.

Somewhere, deep inside, you’re you.

You turn away, your baby squirming at your back as you join your mate and children. He smooths his hand around the back of your neck as he nuzzles your face. I watch as you nuzzle him back. Such unexpected affection swells my heart.

At least you’re happy. Even after all that’s happened to you, somehow you’ve found contentment.

One of the children screams and throws itself against your legs, hugging you tight.

Slowly, I draw away, suddenly feeling like I’m witnessing something I shouldn’t.

I return to Felicity and Yetta.

‘Well? Is it her?’ Felicity says.

I swallow down my tears and wipe my nose. My voice is a croak. ‘Let’s go home.’

***

Unnatural Instinct: Abduction

He’s beamed you onto his ship. What terrible sexual experiments will he perform on you? And will you get home intact?

Part 2 of the Unnatural Instinct Series: the hard and fast, wacky and naughty sexual encounters between humans and their monstrous or magical lovers.

Note: highly explicit content

Now Available!