Never Trust a Fox
The clenching of Jackson’s heart and the tightening of his chest sent a painful ache up and down his core.
Keep running, keep running, keep running, he told himself. With only the moonlight to guide him and the knives at his side to protect him, Jackson curved both vertical and horizontal tree trunks, not quite sure how he was managing to outrun these foxes. Oddly enough, being chased by a skulk of nasty foxes wasn’t the most peculiar thing to happen to him. In Winwood, there were normal people, but by normal, that meant some were witches and some could readily transform into a wolf or a fox. Jackson thought of himself as normal, but the daggers and weapons tucked into his clothes, along with his masterful skills in fighting and hunting, reminded him that he would never be normal.
Despite the navy blue sky reflecting nothing but darkness, he made sure to take note of Sofia’s long brunette ponytail swishing as she sprinted nearby.
A bead of sweat trickled down his face as his chest heaved and his hand unsheathed a dagger. He heard Sofia grunt and stopped hearing her boots crush leaves and sticks. Jackson risked a turn of his head and witnessed Sofia’s body already swinging. She’d thrown up her rope, letting it twirl and twirl around a thick branch connected to a tree ahead until it was snug enough to hold her weight. She clutched the rope and leapt, allowing the momentum of her gallop to swing her body around the thick trunk as she unsheathed her own dagger.
Sofia was proud of her timing. Just as she swung around, she was greeted by one of the foxes. As she crossed the animal, she glided the edge of her knife across its throat quick enough so it didn’t catch her wrist between its fangs.
The fox whimpered and dropped to the ground with the blood gushing from its neck. It writhed on the dewy forest ground before settling into a lifeless lump.
Fox after fox. One leapt up, which Sofia sliced the blade across its stomach. Instantly, she shoved the top of another blade into one’s heart as she picked up her foot and struck the struggling fox she’d sliced across the stomach.
She pushed the dagger toward the ground, staring into the fox’s eyes as it fell lifeless, too.
Jackson cursed while decelerating, sliding out the other dagger and spinning, ready to attack. Pressing a button at the end of the daggers’ hilts, the blade shot out, extending to its full sword-length.
“You know,” Jackson called out to Sofia while battling the oncoming foxes, “I really hate you for this!”
For as long as he could remember, Sofia had a flair for violence. He’d noticed right when they’d met, after Jackson’s boss had ordered him to sidle up beside her to discreetly gather information about the skulk she belonged to.
Liam, the lead of Sofia’s skulk, was a deadly person-fox-thing (Jackson still didn’t actually know what to call them). Liam mercilessly slaughtered innocents, and Jackson’s boss anticipated a mass killing from him, and so Jackson had a job.
Only, he’d fallen for Sofia, another fox-person-thing.
The Sofia that just thrust a knife into someone part of her own skulk. A fox jumped on her and she fell back, the dagger flying from her hand. It bit into her shoulder, so she occupied her hands by feeling the soft fur on either side of its face. She twisted her grasp and felt and heard a satisfying snap. She wriggled out from under her friend, and she wasn’t sure who it was. Damn Liam for sending them. They’ll just die. His infuriated expression had stained into her mind, and she knew it would haunt her.
“I didn’t send them!” she shouted.
She’d fallen for Jackson, too.
“How do I know you’re not lying?” he asked.
Jackson slaughtered an especially violent fox, not only cutting its throat but driving the sword into its side, too. Sofia hopped up at the sight of another charging at his back. In one swift movement, she skillfully flung her dagger at the fox’s neck, the blade easily lodging itself.
“Because I just saved your life,” she said, flinging the another blade at a sprinting threat.
At least eight foxes lay dead around them.
Right when he turned, there was the ninth fox, and without thinking, Jackson yanked the blade Sofia had thrown and severed the skin at its throat. His hands were slick with gore.
It hurt, she admitted, killing her friends. She wasn’t even sure who she was killing: Marco? Olivia? Hazel? All of her friends, her family, and she’d betrayed them.
Jackson got to his feet and marched over at the reluctance flashing across Sofia’s face and the distraught in her eyes when she evaluated the blood smearing her body. Sweat glistened against his dark skin, the moonlight brightening his agitated expression.
“Stop,” he warned. “They didn’t want you. They don’t want you. You’re better with me.”
She’d subconsciously pulled out a spiked star, but it dropped from her hand as she stared up at Jackson. He pointed toward the place the animals were running from.
“They’re trying to kill us, and if we don’t get out of here fast, they will. They’re coming, Sofia. Are you with me or are you not?”
Sofia gulped, noting how going with Jackson meant running for the rest of her life. The only way out of a skulk or a pack was to die.
Before she could do anything further, he pressed his lips to hers and pushed her against the tree. Perhaps it would be romantic if they weren’t slicked with blood.
“Stay with me,” he whispered.
“They raised me,” she whispered back.
“And now they’re trying to kill you.”
“Because of you,” Sofia argued, pushing him away.
He furrowed his brow and took another step back, his defensive shield gathering before him. “Sof, I’m begging you. Don’t do this.”
She suddenly felt malice toward Jackson. Despite her feelings for him, he was a hunter, and she was what he hunted.
“I guess you really shouldn’t trust a fox,” Sofia seethed with tears gathering in her eyes.
He slowly rose the sword in defense. “Sofia.”
Now she looked pained with a grimace crossing her face. Her breath caught in her throat as a tear escaped. She wiped it away with the back of her hand, but it was pointless. A fox’s blood smeared on her cheek.
“I’ll give you a head start,” she croaked, never meeting his eyes. “I’m sorry… I’ll try and avert them from you.”
Liam’s skulk might very well kill both of them in the end.
Jackson didn’t hesitate; he took off running with only swords and ambition to protect him. Sofia watched him go with the moonlight illuminating her face.