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The next day brought little change to Natham’s condition. He was still heavily medicated but had stopped hissing at the staff and let them touch him in order to help him without being sedated. I sat with him for a few hours. He kept waking up when I shifted but after a quick check to make sure I was still there, he would knead my hand caught between his, purring as he drifted back to sleep. His trust and gentleness with me was astounding.
His distress when I had to leave upset me. I had the nurse track down his surgeon so that I could speak to him before I left. The human doctor had worked well with Dr. Pannar but most humans had no idea who I was.
“I want to take Natham home tomorrow.”
Prepared for a fight, I crossed my arms over my chest and drew myself up to what would seem to be my full height, a very unimpressive 5 foot 7 inches. I raised one eyebrow and waited for the doctor’s argument to begin.
“Alright.” The doctor looked thoughtful. “I know Dr. Pannar has just about everything that Natham will need over the next few days but I’ll order a different pain medication for after he’s settled in. It is a lower dose and should allow him to come out of the drug induced haze he is under. I think he’ll be fine once he is out of here and with you.”
I stared at the doctor in shock, my arms fallen to my sides. I must have made some noise because he looked up from the tablet he was writing notes on.
“What?” he said, frowning at me.
I smoothed the disgruntled look from my face. Taking a breath and letting it out, I shook my head and smiled ruefully. “I was expecting an argument actually.”
“Well, Natham looked really bad when he was brought in and he lost a lot of blood. Fortunately we have donated Carthera blood from many different clans here and he got a full transfusion of lynx blood overnight. His wounds are beginning to heal rapidly and I think that he will recover more naturally away from an institutional setting. He is most comfortable with you so I think going to your home will be the best for him.”
I nodded. “I plan to take care of him personally.”
I had laid awake in bed for hours last night thinking. I had decided to have Natham installed in my suite of rooms and had rearranged the furniture that morning before I came to the hospital.
“Then ask Dr. Pannar to show you how to hook up and take care of his IV. He’s going to need a steady drip to supplement his eating. He will need that for a few more days unfortunately. He will have a pump that regulates the flow but with the energy his body needs to heal and his shrunken stomach there is no way he could eat enough to sustain the weight he is now much less gain to where he needs to be.”
“I understand. Thank you, Doctor.” I shook his hand and then left the hospital.
Once home I informed Dr. Pannar of my plans as well as Mishtar. My mother was more difficult as I wasn’t sure exactly what to tell her about Natham. I left it where he was a good friend and a victim much as I was but I could tell from look on her face that she knew I had not given her the full story. She was not the same since she lost my father, leaving most of the clan decisions up to me.
That night I slept fitfully as I suffered from my nightmare repeatedly only to wake up and begin again. No pain in this one but fear, loathing, and rage pierced my dreams. Finally I laid there awake as the predawn sun began to lighten the sky. I hugged a pillow to my bare chest; I had never felt as alone as I did lying in my bed that night. I sensed that I shouldn’t be and it was throwing me off.
I rolled over and gazed over at my parent’s picture on my nightstand. The night was quiet other than the sound of my voice as I talked to my dad and told him about my hopes and fears. I knew that wherever his essence was soaring he heard my words and would watch over me. The thought brought a measure of comfort. I was finally able to slip away into a restful sleep just before the sun rose over the lip of the cliff to chase away the shadows of the night sky.
It was hard to enter my father’s rooms but it was necessary. My mother wasn’t even able to go in there. While she was out, I raided my father’s closet in order to find clothes for Natham. Ordinarily even those would not have fit him but his emaciated frame was almost as thin as one of us.
When he put them on at the hospital, his ankles and wrists still stuck out of the shirt and pants but his own clothes had been cut off him leaving him with nothing to wear. Though, between the filth already on them and the blood from his wounds, they hadn’t been fit for anything but rags anyway. Natham was much more alert today and he watched me as I talked to the doctor and nurses before they released him.
“Where are you taking me?” Natham was sitting in a wheelchair out by the front entrance as we waited with the two guards Mishtar still insisted I keep with me at all times when I was away from the eyrie. I stood beside his chair and the guards casino şirketleri flanked us, one on either side.
“I’m taking you home.” I smiled at him to reassure him.
“Of course. I want you to stay with me and my mother. Is that okay?”
“As long as I am with you,” he said as he shrugged.
He hissed and winced in pain at the movement and I stroked his shoulder, giving it a firm little squeeze. He sighed and then took in the fresh air like he hadn’t breathed any in years. It had to hurt, he taking deep breaths of the chilly air as if to clear the stink of the hospital antiseptic from his nose. I could feel him wincing a little with each breath but he kept doing it. The scents from the hospital were very strong to sensitive Carthera noses, most human scents were. It was why we tended to live amongst our own kind.
All of a sudden there was a loud squeal of tires from the parking lot and a car that surged toward us. My guards went into action, pushing me roughly back and standing in front of me with their wings flared. They were on high alert with their weapons pointed at the oncoming SUV.
Their wings relaxed slightly when the vehicle passed us and pulled up to the emergency entrance.
My guards shifted to the right to stay in front of me but when a man ran around the front of the car to help a very pregnant woman out of the passenger side they pointed their weapons at the ground. They were still cautious though and didn’t put them away as we watched carefully.
Obviously Mishtar expected me to be attacked like my father had been. He didn’t like me going to the hospital and I’d overheard him threaten my guards if anything happened to me. I understood the seriousness of the situation but I just couldn’t focus on it. Since he brought Natham into my office, my focus had been on him.
I let out a sigh of relief and then suddenly became aware of hands on my shoulders and a low hissing in my ear. I could smell the natural warm, spicy scent Natham had and patted him on one hand.
“It’s okay, there’s no threat,” I reassured him. “You need to sit back down before you fall.”
The small threatening sound didn’t stop though. I turned a little to glance at him without breaking contact, and I could see his eyes were fixed on my guards who were still standing close, almost touching me as they protected me from possible attack. One guard turned and saw Natham’s grip on me.
His hand gripping his gun began to lift and he stepped back to get the room he’d need to take a shot. Natham’s mouth opened and his white fangs gleamed in the sun as he let out a louder hiss. He pulled me tighter against his body, wrapping one arm around my waist and one up around my chest. I could feel his body vibrating with the force of his need to assert his claim.
Oh yeah, I was sure now. Natham was definitely my mate. A cat and a bird.
If the situation wasn’t so tense I would have snorted at the irony.
“Hold! He is not attacking me. Step back!” I barked.
“Sir! We can’t…” The other guard had spun around and was now holding his weapon pointed at the ground but only because he was unable to find a clear shot at Natham without risking me.
“You can and will. He is not attacking me, he’s threatening you. NOW STEP BACK!” My guards were reluctant but each took several steps backward away from me. Natham began to relax and his grip eased until he was just gently holding me, his hands stroking my chest. He was still watching the guards warily and hissed quietly when they shifted.
“Natham… It’s okay, they’re not going to touch me. You’re fine, I’m fine.” I soothed him, leaning into his embrace and rubbing his arms so that he knew I wasn’t going to try and get away. He tightened his grip briefly and I felt his mouth and his tongue caressing my neck as he marked me with his scent, rubbing his cheek over my shoulder.
“Mine,” he said, his voice low and distorted. I felt it vibrate in the sensitive bones behind my ear and fought back a moan. My body agreed, becoming limp and heavy.
“Yours,” I said softly. That prompted a new sound to erupt, a sexy erotic purr that threatened to make my knees fail. “But you have to accept that others might touch me sometimes. Especially to protect me.”
“You’re mine!” he insisted but he relaxed and resumed purring when I agreed that I was his again. The deep rumbling purr vibrated in his chest and I could feel it against my wings. It felt good and was very distracting. I was unable to get him to sit back down so he was still holding me and purring when the car pulled up. The third guard driving saw Natham holding me and the alert posture of the guards. He came to a quick stop and then got out of the car, his hand hovering over his gun in his hip holster
“Is there a problem here?” His eyebrow was raised as he looked at me then at the guards standing at some distance from me, much farther than the distance Mishtar would allow for guarding in an open area.
“Just a little casino firmaları misunderstanding. C’mon Natham, let’s get in the car, okay.” I managed to get him to let go of me but kept a hold of his hand which seemed to please him. He seemed to forget the pain of his injuries when he felt challenged but he was still very hurt. I needed to get him to rest as soon as we returned home.
Natham was still purring and rubbing my hand with his as he nodded, following me into the backseat and sitting close. I let him hold me during the ride home and he sat quietly kneading my hand. The small pricks of his claws as they flex in and out didn’t hut but felt strangely good.
The quick trip exhausted him though and it was easy to convince him to lie down once we got home. I helped him straight into my bed. I sat on the edge and stroked his hair back from his face to ease him until he fell asleep snuggled into the pillow I normally used. When I was certain he wouldn’t wake I stood up to go find Mishtar; I knew he would have questions for me.
“What exactly is going on?” Mishtar demanded as soon as he walked into the office.
“Excuse me?” I arched one eyebrow and frowned. I was expecting questions but his tone was not acceptable in the slightest.
Mishtar heard the warning in my voice and saw the way my wings flared a bit in anger. He relaxed from his rigid pose in front of my desk and sat down in one of the chairs.
“What I need to know is why exactly I have a territorial lynx threatening my men when they try to protect you. Your ease with him behaving that way says that you know more than you are telling me. I have to be able to protect you!” He pushed a hand through his hair in frustration. “You know that this is far from over.”
I sighed. “I know, Mishtar, I really was paying attention when you called me yesterday. What did you do with our human guests?”
“They were turned into the local police once we finished questioning them.”
“Good. They will be prosecuted and since Natham is going to be staying here that just makes it easier if they need him for their trial. Humans and their justice system.” I shook my head; their long drawn out system of justice was anathema to us Carthera.
Our justice was swift and often brutal but when dealing with what amounted to animals at times, it was necessary.
“What don’t you want to tell me? You don’t usually stall like this.”
I had to resist the urge to squirm. “I think that Natham and I are mates.” I had put it a bit baldly but after all there was no real way to sugar coat the situation. It was almost unheard of for Carthera to cross-species mate. I had never even heard of a bird and a predator mammal mating.
“Well, it’s more than just a thought. I’m sure we are.”
Mishtar gaped at me. “How is that even possible? You haven’t seen him for months, you said so yourself. We have to be physically with our mates and our families in order for our wings to be sung out and the blood bond to be formed.”
“I think we have been bound for a very long time. I have had these nightmares as long as I can remember; in them I feel fear and pain enough to terrorize me though I believed it wasn’t real. I never knew when they were coming or why but they haunted my sleep. They became more and more vivid until the night I found out about my father’s death. I was dreaming when my wings burst. I think that’s when Natham and I bonded.”
“Oh gods, that fits.” Mishtar was rubbing his face.
“The humans said that the man in charge, Natham’s father, drugged him and goaded him into killing your father. From what I understand, a lynx Carthera only matures when he has made a kill for the first time and then they bond with their mate. They bound your father and left him for the slaughter. That night must have been Natham’s initiation. I don’t understand how it worked on you though, being another species.”
I had stood back up, pacing the room in my agitation.
“Don’t you get it? They used my father and his blood tie to me. When Natham killed him it was like when we blood bond. That must have been why they attacked him. The damn human cops down there must be in on it. They told us he was dead before my wings came out. If my father wasn’t killed until Natham and I bonded, they must have known it was going to happen and how.” I was close to shrieking in my anger. I hadn’t thought of that aspect before Mishtar talked about turning over the humans we captured with Natham to the police. Now I wanted them back. I wanted to tear them to pieces myself.
“But how did they know about your bond? Who is Natham’s father? The local Lynx clan has no knowledge of him, I’m sure of it. None of the humans we captured knew who he was either.”
I thought hard, trying to think of the times I had been around Natham before my father’s death. All of a sudden that afternoon on the field flashed in my mind as well as the kiss we shared. Even more vivid was the look of fear on Natham’s güvenilir casino face when he saw the other boy watching us.
“What?” Mishtar had been watching me pace silently but now he leaned forward.
“The day before he moved away, Natham and I were um… well; we were kissing on the field. Some kids came on the field for phys. ed and one was glaring at us. I didn’t recognize him. The second Natham saw him he took off.
“I didn’t know cross species bonds happened. I knew he was a lynx but I just thought… well, I don’t know. But we must have begun the bond that day and that kid must have known him and his father somehow. Natham never came back to school and now that I think of it, neither did that guy. That’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“But you have no idea who this kid was or who Natham’s father could be?”
I shook my head, sitting back in my chair and sighed in frustration; Mishtar slumped back as well. We knew a little more now about what happened but we still had no real idea what the motive behind all of this was. Was it a simply a personal attack, some grudge against my family? Was Natham’s father trying to take over the territory and what would that gain him? The other leaders across the country would band together and eliminate him.
“We need to talk to Natham,” Mishtar said.
“I know but right now he just isn’t able to talk. I don’t think his mind is really recovered from all that has happened to him. He needs time.”
“We might not have time,” Mishtar reminded me. I sat back down in my chair heavily.
“I know. Look, give me a few days to get him healed up and trusting me before we try to pick his brain. I promise if he says anything you will be the first to know.” I wasn’t trying to bury my head in the sand but I felt a need to be with my mate and the thought of distressing Natham right now went against every protective instinct I had.
My mate. I marveled at the words but under the amazement and feelings of joy was a deep sense of unease. We were different species.
Would we be able to truly bond?
Mishtar didn’t look happy but he nodded slowly.
“Keep investigating. See if you can find more information on who contacted my mother and found my father’s body. I would bet my left talons that they will be involved.”
“Good idea.” Mishtar stood and bowed. I came to my feet and returned the gesture. I barely waited for him to leave the room before I was headed back to my own. I couldn’t help but hurry back to the sleeping cat in my bed. Now that I knew for sure what it was, the bond to my mate was calling me.
The next few days were a rollercoaster of emotions. It was by turns stressful and blissful. Being with Natham was a joy, the connection that we felt that let us talk comfortably for hours the one time we met before was still there. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized it was the bond mates feel when they meet but cross-species mating was just something he hadn’t heard of before. We talked about just about anything they could think of but by unspoken agreement, recent events went unmentioned. I treasured the time he spent next to Natham, gently touching and getting to know him though he was in pain and slept a lot.
I used those times to practice my combat techniques and to talk with Mishtar. His men were working on finding out the identity of the police conspirators and they kept running into a lot of roadblocks. Grants Pass was toward the southern edge of our territory and not many Carthera lived there. Many of the clans had moved northward to be closer to the center of the land my father had claimed. The local humans were used to us here and we had very little problems between our kinds.
That was due to my father and his tireless work to get the humans to understand the different Carthera clans and to elect government and police officials that were sympathetic to the discrimination that Carthera came up against all the time. He had told me many times that my birth was what really galvanized him into action. He wanted me to grow up in a world safe for Carthera and humans both.
I wanted to continue my father’s work but I was afraid that whoever Natham’s dad was, he would continue to come after him and me.
More and more the idea that my father’s death was part of some bigger plot played in my mind. I had held Mishtar off for two days so that Natham could heal and become more at ease around me. To my shock, my mother took pity on him rather than hating him when she met him the second day he had been recovering with me. He had been sitting in one corner of the office near my desk when the door slammed open and my mother stormed in, raging and shrieking about my father’s murderer being in her home.
I had looked up at her in shock but her anger had suddenly died before I could say a word. Instead she looked stricken as she stared toward where Natham had been sitting. I looked over at him and darted out of my chair to kneel beside him. His body had been frozen into a submissive posture and all I could see only stark terror on his face when I pried it off the floor. When he saw my mother looking at him he curled up tighter and started shaking, putting up his hands as if to ward off a blow.
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