It was those cool early mornings at the tail end of fall that she disliked the most. The echoes of gunfire between the trees never failed to leave her with goose flesh on her bare arms as she watched out the front window, wrapped in her warmest throw.
A gunshot broke the silence, too close for comfort.
She rose from her chair, flicking on the porch light as she pulled open the storm door. There were no sounds of early morning birds to greet her, nor could she hear the scampering of hooves in the decaying leaves. She could smell the faint trace of rain and blood in the cool breeze; she pulled the throw tighter over her shoulders.
The silence was deafening.
Another shot rang through the woods. She jumped back and slammed the door closed, pressing her back to the solid wood while her heart beat with fear. The mornings of late November were the worst.
Like the others, he would hunt while the herd was at its largest. Unlike the others, he would not wear the bright orange and reflective clothing that prevented one from mistakenly shooting another.
The softest whisper of a paw on leaves caught her ear. Inching around the corner of the window, she peered out. There was the faintest glint of light between the pine needles she loved to decorate in the early days of December. So close, yet so far away. The twin lights flashed away before returning, boring into her eyes as she hypnotically stared back.
Her hand raised lazily and flipped the light off. Above the trees she could make out the faint pink of the morning sun, washing away the diamonds glittering the sky.
The twin orbs were gone when her eyes returned to the pine.
She rushed through the room, dropping her throw to the bare wood floor. She pulled open the side door leading into the garage they used as a changing room and rolled up the large door. Standing in the near absent light was a large shaggy wolf, its teeth sunk into the blood red neck of a stag.
She moved forward quickly, helping the wolf to pull in the corpse before it released its powerful jaws and backed away. Back stepping, she closed the rolling door.
The wolf licked at its paw, blood staining the white trail leading up to its withers. The hair faded to a light pink before the yellow watchful eyes fell upon her. She held her arms crossed over her chest, the chill in the air paling her arms and face. The wolf padded over and pressed his head against her thigh, a gentle force belying his strength.
She smiled, dropping a hand to his head and running her fingers through the soft grey hair at his ears. They twitched before lying back.
She pulled away to cover her mouth as a yawn overtook her. “Let’s get to bed, I’m tired.” She left him in the changing room and went back into the bedroom, pausing to blow out each flickering candle as she passed.
The last candle, on her bedside table, went out as a shadow darkened the doorway.
“I still have to process it.”
She patted the empty spot beside her and shook her head. “It’ll wait until morning. I missed you.”
He slid into the sheets and pulled her close. “It wasn’t that bad today.”
“I won’t believe you until they’re all gone.” She buried her head against his chest and he rested his chin on her dark hair. His heart beat in her ear, releasing the tension from her shoulders.
“It’ll never be any different unless you come with me. I steer clear of them.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
His fingers ran through her hair. Purring filled the room as she took in his scent and embraced his warmth. The sky would carry violet over them as they fell asleep.