In the same manner as a mother tiger lifted her cubs to carry them, Hoda, in tiger form, used his strong jaws to lift the unconscious man. Edwards was fully grown, and although Hoda raised him as high as possible, he could only make head and torso clear the ground.
He’d already burned energy hiding the deer’s body. The weight of this burden was heavy, too, and he was forced to stop and rest despite his strength. He laid Trent on his right side to protect his bleeding left shoulder.
Aware that the drainer he’d seen stalked them, flitting in silence through the trees, no doubt hoping he’d give up and abandon his burden, the tiger remained alert to the creature’s presence and continued his vigilance. The scent of the blood must be whipping up the vampire’s crazed thirst to unbearable levels. Even if the man were freshly dead, the vamp would suck him dry.
If he could have removed Edwards’ jacket, Hoda could have licked the bleeding shoulder to cleanse it and lesson the smell that so tantalized the vampire. But he couldn’t remove the jacket, and even though he’d eaten that evening in both human and his present form, he feared he wouldn’t be able to control the primal urge to tear and sink his canines into flesh again. Besides, his tongue was as rough as a steel brush, and his saliva didn’t have the healing power vamp saliva did. Since Edwards wasn’t bleeding out, he’d best leave the wound alone for now.
Touching his nose lightly to Trent’s cheek so as not to alarm him, he tested its temperature and knew he was close to hypothermia. Fear fluttered through him at the thought that the punks might have killed Trent with their cruelty, despite his efforts to save him. He knew people lost heat fastest from their heads, so he laid his chin over Trent’s skull, then lifted one foreleg over his belly and a hind leg over his hipbone. Even in tiger form he loved touching and sharing his warmth with the vulnerable man. His big dick nestled against jeans covering Edwards’s tight butt, sending thoughts of what it might be like if his human cock were there, filled and rubbing.
Despite the precariousness of their situation, as he sheltered and warmed Trent, he was unable to prevent the short chuffs of pleasure tigers make.
Edwards was a decent guy who must’ve stumbled onto or been tricked into something bad. He didn’t deserve what the hyped-up lowlifes had planned to do to him. Even if they hadn’t killed him, if Hoda hadn’t found him, he’d have died from the plunging temperatures or as prey to other dangerous creatures inhabiting the night. Like the blood-sucker.
The tiger felt lucky the culprits hadn’t had guns and realized he wasn’t a ghost, but was real. For a moment, anger at their cruelty caused his soft chuffing to falter, but he pushed his emotions aside and the brief bursts of sound from his nostrils continued to soothe.
It was time to move again. The drainer needed to know he wasn’t going to get this man. Thinking he could make it to his cabin now, Hoda pressed his nose to Trent’s cheek. It was warmer. He stood and grasped his clothing at the neck, then paused. His blue eyes glared a deliberate warning at the vamp.
The creature derided him by saluting him with his middle finger and then disappearing into the woods one last time.
Probably thinks I intend to eat him myself.
If Hoda could’ve laughed, he would have. Soon he no longer sensed the creature’s presence and knowing it was the one who’d given up, he walked on with his burden.
When he reached the cabin, getting Trent’s body over the threshold without worsening his wound was even more difficult than the journey there. Finally, he plucked pillows from the couch with his teeth and dropped them over the rough threshold and dragged him inside. He lifted Edwards’ torso and then his hips and legs onto the bed. When he lifted Trent’s legs, the man moaned in pain. Lord, he hoped he hadn’t hurt him more than he already was. Even if he had, it was better than what had awaited him in the meadow.
It was too soon to shift into human form again, so he crouched on the floor to guard him and rest. He prayed Trent wouldn’t waken to find a white Bengal with light charcoal stripes on its coat waiting nearby. Fortunately, Edwards’ breathing was even and his eyes remained closed.
Hoda was convinced they’d slipped something into his beer or whatever he’d ordered at the bar. It would take time for that to clear from his system.
It was difficult to squelch the familiar thoughts that pushed into his mind as he waited until he could change. It was foolish to feel betrayed by his mother for letting herself be seduced by one such as he was now. Fact was, as a child, Hoda had adored his father, wanted to be just like the man with the blazing blue eyes and the mane of platinum blond hair who wore it brushed back over his shoulders. In the Iroquois way, he’d been born into his mother’s clan. Her lover, his father, had been an Iroquois shaman who walked tall because all the tribal secrets were in his memory and he was a respected witch hunter. Drawn in by his father’s charm, the little boy ached to have the same strength as that warrior-like body and to move with the same athletic grace.
Unfortunately, the time came when he did.
Now Hoda thought the magnificent color of his father’s hair was due to the genes of the white tiger in him. Pantheris tigris tigris
. Hoda’s only marking of this was a slight silvering in the dark hair at his temples.
He reminded himself for the millionth time that he really couldn’t blame his mother for falling in love with such a charming and admirable man. Until he’d turned sixteen, his father had hidden this part of his nature Hoda would inherit. Had hidden it from his wife. And then, like schizophrenia manifesting itself in a young teen, Hoda had changed and learned the horror of his dual nature.
Only then did his father reveal his secret. His excuse was he’d hoped he wouldn’t pass his curse on to his child since his wife wasn’t a shifter. He taught Hoda to hunt in tiger form, but deserted his wife and son soon after.
Deserted. Or was hunted and killed.
That his father might not have deserted his family but been slaughtered so some rich woman would have a rare and beautiful coat had not only marked Hoda with sadness but increased his awareness of his safety whenever he changed and hunted. Tonight that alertness had made him aware of the punks and the vamp, and he’d rescued a man from gang rape and death.
When he’d regained his strength, he rose and padded to the window he always left open when the moon was a complete silver orb in the sky. He leaped noiselessly through it and disappeared into the depths of the forest.