Chapter 5: Final Destination
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I hastily pulled my clothes back on, the thrill of our recent encounter dissipating.

"Who are they?" I asked, my voice a mix of curiosity and concern.

Silver's intense yellow eyes met mine as he finished putting on his shorts. "They're my pack, the Ironfang Clan. They're hunting nearby. You need to turn back, Red. It's not safe for you here."

"Wait," I blurted out. "You're an Ironfang werewolf?" My heart raced, and my cheeks flushed.

"So what?" Silver replied, frowning.

I scoffed and shook my head in disbelief, feeling the weight of the situation sink in. I was screwed. But I couldn't turn back now – Grandma's house was just ahead. Images of her alone in her hideout flashed through my mind, stirring both worry and determination. The Ironfang Clan was known for being bloodthirsty, their brutal reputation preceding them. We Hoods had even moved away from the Fontainebleau forest to give them chase, hoping to protect humankind from their vicious nature.

As I laced up my boots, I glanced at Silver, the realization dawning that I'd just slept with a member of the very pack we feared the most. What would Mom think if she found out? Would she have one of her mental breakdowns or worse? A wave of embarrassment washed over me, but I quickly pushed it aside. There were more pressing matters at hand.

"Promise me you won't tell anyone about... what we just did," I pleaded, desperate to keep our encounter a secret. The last thing I needed was for my fellow Hoods to know I'd slept with the enemy, especially after all the effort they'd put into hunting down the Ironfang Clan.

"Of course," he agreed, his voice laced with a hint of hurt. "I promise." But even as he spoke the words, I could see the offense flickering behind his yellow eyes. What was going through his mind?

"Thank you," I whispered, avoiding his gaze. There was no time to think about my feelings. I had to focus on reaching my grandmother and ensuring her safety.

As I put on my backpack, I turned away from Silver, trying to ignore the longing tugging at my heart. It didn't matter how much chemistry there was between us; he was still a werewolf, and I was a Hood. Our worlds were never meant to collide, and I couldn't afford to let my guard down around him.

"Goodbye, Silver," I said stubbornly, picking up the broken pieces of my crossbow.

With renewed determination, I tried to push past him and continue on my way. But before I could do it, Silver's grip closed around my wrists, bringing me to a standstill.

"What are you doing?" he asked, the grip on my wrists firm, but not hurtful.

Annoyance surged within me as I wrenched free from his grasp, spitting back, "Don't touch me!"

"What's the matter...?" he spat back.

"I need to go and my way is just ahead," I said, my voice strained as I clenched my hands into fists. "I need to hurry if your pack is nearby."

"But you're hurt," Silver argued, his eyes scanning me up and down as if assessing my ability to handle danger. "You don't even have your crossbow."

"Well, that's your fault, isn't it?" I snapped.

"Red, let me come with you. At least until you reach your destination," he pleaded, stepping closer to me until I could feel his warm breath against my skin. It was intoxicating, but I couldn't let myself be tempted again.

"No," I said firmly, pushing him away. "I can't trust you, Silver. You're one of them." The pain in his eyes cut through me like a dagger, but I steeled myself against the guilt. This was the right decision, no matter how much it hurt.

"Fine," he spat, anger clouding his features. "Go then. But don't expect me to save you when you run into trouble."

With a growl of frustration, Silver retreated into the dense forest, swiftly disappearing amidst the foliage. His abrupt departure left me standing alone, the echoes of our confrontation fading into the rustling silence of the forest.

"Save me?" I scoffed, rolling my eyes at his arrogance. "I've been taking care of myself for years. I don't need you or anyone else to protect me," I murmured to myself as I began my trek towards my grandmother's house.

The forest loomed before me, again dark and foreboding, but I refused to let fear hold me back. Striding through the dense forest, a fresh wave of pain seared through my wounded leg, yet I gritted my teeth and forced myself onwards. I'd faced worse than this, and I would do it again.

Within minutes, I arrived at the Birdstone, an ancient rock carved into the shape of a raven. According to the letter, it marked a hidden path that led directly to my Grandma's cabin. The afternoon sun cast eerie shadows across the stone, and a chill ran down my spine. I knew I had to hurry.

"Almost there, Grandma," I whispered, as I slipped through the dense foliage that concealed the narrow trail. My throat felt tight. I hoped that she was safe from the Ironfang menace.

Finally, after what felt like hours of navigating the thick forest, Grandma's cabin emerged in the distance. Seeing the cabin brought a mixture of comfort and anxiety; I was on the verge of uncovering the importance of Grandma's urgent message.

As I crept closer to my destination, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched. My senses heightened, every rustle in the undergrowth setting my nerves on edge. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I whirled around, my father's knife clenched tightly in my hand.

"Silver! What the hell are you doing here?" I snapped, anger flaring inside me. "I thought I made it perfectly clear that I didn't want you following me!"

Emerging from the foliage, Silver appeared, having somehow found time to garb himself.

"Red, I'm sorry, but I can't just let you go off alone," he said, his voice strained with concern. "Not with your leg like that."

"Damn it, Silver!" I shouted, my face burning with frustration. "I told you to stay away!"

Panic surged through me as I realised that my Grandma's cabin was already in plain view, the safe haven now alarmingly vulnerable. Silver, with his Ironfang ties, had inadvertently followed me to our well-guarded secret, the hideout of the Hood's Matriarch. Anxiety gnawed at my insides - how on earth could I explain this to my own people?

"Listen, I don't need you playing the watchful guardian!" I spat out, my voice resonating through the silent forest. "Just leave me alone."

Silver stood there, his golden eyes wide with disbelief and hurt. "I merely wanted to ensure you were safe," he said, resentful. "You're welcome."

I scoffed, crossing my arms over my chest. "Safe? From what? You?" I asked, sarcasm lacing my words. I did not trust him. He was an Ironfang, and I was a Hood. "Our... moment in the forest doesn't change the fact that you're my enemy," I bit back, ignoring the pang of regret that twisted my gut.

Silver looked genuinely hurt, his broad shoulders sagging as he took a step back. He glanced down, his gaze masked by the shadow of his silver hair, and smiled sardonically. "I guess it's always the same, isn't it? I'm always the enemy..."

I bit my lip, feeling a twinge of guilt. But it was overshadowed by suspicion and a lingering distrust that had been ingrained in me for years. No matter the sparks that had flown between us, I couldn't let my guard down. Not for Silver. Not for any werewolf.

"Smell that?" Silver said suddenly, his nostrils flaring as he sniffed the air. He looked around, his yellow eyes narrowing with concern.

I took a deep breath, and my heart dropped like a stone in my chest. Blood. The metallic, coppery scent was unmistakable. My thoughts raced, panic coursing through me like wildfire. I had to get to Grandma's cabin – now.

"Come on," I urged, breaking into a sprint. Silver followed closely behind, his shiny hair whipping in the wind as we raced down the narrow path.

The sight of Grandma's cabin caused my pulse to race even faster – the front door hung wide open, swaying gently in the breeze. An awful feeling twisted my gut, making it hard to breathe. "No," I whispered, my voice barely audible.

"Red, be careful," Silver warned as I approached the door, every muscle in my body tensed and ready for anything.

"Grandma?" I called out hesitantly, peering into the dimly lit cabin. I stepped inside, the floorboards creaking beneath my feet, and felt my heart shatter at the chaos before me.

"Grandma!" I yelled louder, searching desperately for any sign of her. Furniture had been overturned, and books and trinkets were scattered everywhere. The place was a mess as if someone – or something – had come in and wreaked havoc.

"Where is she? What happened here?" My mind raced with horrifying possibilities, each one worse than the last. "How did anyone find this place?"

"Is this your Grandma's place...?" Silver murmured from the doorway, his voice steady but cautious.

"Damn it, how could I have been so stupid?" I berated myself, anger and fear mingling within me. "Why did I let you distract me? I should have been here!"

"Red, you didn't know this would happen. You can't blame yourself," Silver said softly, but I could hear something like guilt in his voice too.

Tears pricked my eyes as I surveyed the wreckage. "Grandma!" I yelled again, my heart thundering in my chest. The silence that followed was deafening.

I continued searching through the cabin, my heart pounding in my ears. The scent of blood grew stronger, and I felt bile rising in my throat. A cold dread settled over me as I pushed open the door to Grandma's bedroom.

"Please, no," I whispered, praying that I wouldn't find what I feared most.

But there she was – my beloved grandmother, lying lifeless on the floor, her once vibrant eyes now vacant and unseeing. Claw marks marred her body, a gruesome testament to the brutal attack that had taken her life. I choked back a sob, my entire world shattering in an instant.

"Grandma..." I choked out, collapsing to my knees beside her. My hands shook uncontrollably as I reached out to touch her face, still warm from the last remnants of life. "Why? How could this happen?"

"Red," Silver breathed, his voice heavy with sorrow. "I'm so sorry."

"Sorry?" I spun to face him, my grief turning into a white-hot rage. "Were you keeping me away so one of your friends could do this?!" Tears streamed down my face as I stared at him, searching for any sign of guilt in his yellow eyes.

"Red, I would never –"

"Was this all just a distraction?!" I shouted, my voice cracking. "A way to keep me from protecting her?"

"Of course not," Silver said, hurt flashing across his face. "I swear it. I had no idea about any of this."

"Get out," I spat, my words dripping with venom. "Just get out! I don't want to see you ever again!"

"Red, please –" he began, but I cut him off with a glare that could have melted steel.

"Leave!"

Silently, Silver turned and walked out of the cabin. The magic connection between us shattered and died, leaving me feeling more alone than ever before. With him gone, I collapsed onto the floor beside my grandmother's body, my sobs echoing through the empty cabin.

"Grandma," I cried, my tears mingling with the blood that stained the wooden floor. "I'm so sorry. I should have been here for you."

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