We took our time heading home, mourning our losses. So many had been killed and there were some that were no where to be found. Not even bodies to reclaim.
Rusty and Salem were among the missing, thought to be dead, but neither Jasper nor Willow had found their faces among the bodies. We couldn't go back for them, it was too dangerous. They were gone. How could we tell Faline and Brooke that they had lost their brothers, their only family? It would break their hearts.
So many packs had come together for this, to rescue about thirty captured Shifters and return them to their families, but at what cost? Eighteen dead, thirty injured and six missing, all out of a total of almost two hundred Shifters going in. At least, that was what Leo had said. But on the other side, how many Hunters lost their lives? Many more I am sure.
Shifters one, Hunters zero.
Int he days it took us to return home, I never left Bear's side. Awake, asleep, almost everything in between, I was always with him, from dawn til dusk. I felt safe with him, like nothing could take me away ever again. I didn't want to be anywhere else.
I practically moved into his room when we arrived at the den. I enjoyed snuggling with him late at night when he came in from guard duty. We would just lay there in the silence, enjoying the warmth of one another most of the time. Other nights, we would get to talking. Tonight was one of them.
"Echo?" He asked softly, his voice serious. "That man, the one that had you chained up, did he ever..." Those pale eyes finished the question for him.
"No," I sat up, my heart heavy. "He only had me chained for about a week. That night was his first move towards me." I drew my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around them.
"Have you ever...?"
"Been with a man? Nope... Still a virgin."
His body seemed to relax, a steady calm settling into his shoulders. "So that night you came to me..."
"I was emotional and unstable. That is all." I got up, a flare of anger over taking me. What did it matter? It's not like we had done anything.
"Hey now..." He slipped out of the bed, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. "Come here..." He pulled me close, warm and strong. "Come back to bed, Echo..." He murmured in my ear, kissing my neck. "Please?"
The smiled broke out before I could suppress it. "I guess I could..."
He pulled me to the bed, a playful smiled on his lips. "Come on..." Dragging me under the blankets, he kissed me, pulling me to his body.
I laughed softly as his warm hand ran down my back and over my side, along the waistband of my shorts. His lips were soft and warm as they caressed mine, his breath sweet and gentle.
His hand slid under my waistband, pushing them down, little by little until he reached down and pulled them off, his hands tracing their way back up my legs, over my hips, slowly pulling my tank top up and over my head, his mouth returning to venturing down my body with each little kiss.
Some how, his body had ended up over mine, those green eyes looking up at me from my waist.
"What do you think, Echo?" His voice was rough, a growl that sent excited shivers down my spine. I wanted him in the worst way. I was hungry for him.
"Take me..." I whispered, a smile on my lips. "Please..."
He crawled back up my body after he had stripped me bare, spreading my legs so smoothly and easily. He kissed my lips gently, a small smiled on his face. "As you wish..."
He entered me slowly, but even that couldn't stop the pain. It didn't matter how gentle he was, the deeper he went, the more it hurt.
I gritted my teeth against the cry trying to escape, tears pricking at my eyes. I felt something inside tear. I let out out a gasp as tears escaped down my cheeks.
He paused. "You ok?" He looked at my face. "Oh, Echo..." He pulled out, hugging me to his chest. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you..."
"It's ok," I snuggled closer, listening to his heart. "I know..."
"I'm sorry Echo....
I stood just inside the doorway, leaning against the wall. "Can I... talk.. to you about something...."
She looked up from making the bed, her blue eyes curious at the tone of my voice. "Of course. Shut the door..."
It slid shut silently, blocking out the rest of the Den. Walking over to sit beside her on the bed, I tried to organize my thoughts, trying to figure out how to say the words I was thinking.
"What's on your mind?"
"Well... um... Willow?"
"Yes?" She smiled kindly.
I took a deep breath, meeting those pale blue eyes. "Did.... did your first time... Hurt?" I asked cautiously, nervous of her reaction.
"Echo, you didn't..." Her eyes turned strict, motherly.
I nodded. "Last night... I didn't think it would hurt.... and I bled, Willow... tell me that is normal?"
"Had no one every discussed this with you?" She asked.
I shook my head. "No, I left before my mother and I ever discussed it...I was just a freshman when she last saw me, Willow...."
She smiled and hugged me. "Oh Echo...." She chuckled. "Yes, it is normal, it happens to all of us at some point or another..." Her eyes glimmered with an echo of sadness jut behind that blue mask of happiness. "You're growing up so fast..."
I frowned. "I'm no older than when I was brought to the pack."
She smiled, taking my hand. "But you have been through so much. You have changed from that scared, caged animal that was found on her own into a brave young woman that deserves her place in this pack." She hugged me close, her soft hands on my hair. "I am so proud of you, Echo."
"Thank you, Willow..."