He was Cutter, the Blood of Ten Chiefs! He submitted to no one.

Why then did she have this power over him?

Her warm brown skin, vibrant green eyes, and silk auburn curls beckoned to him. He'd do anything for her. Why did she reject him so? Was he really unacceptable as a mate? He'd never entertained the thought about having a mate, even less what kind of a mate he would be. He just figured one day he'd have one.

He was too busy being chief, taking care of the pack, making his ancestors proud.

There was no time for "intimacy needs" as Skywise put it. His best friend knew his way around the opposite sex, unlike him. He had a knack of finding the eligible maidens. They flocked to him as if they could smell him, but Cutter didn't mind. He was happy on his own.

Until recognition hit him like a punch in the face.

Not only was she his complete opposite, in customs, beliefs, and age, she was also not a Wolf Rider. At least then they would have the same mindset about the pack, but no not him. He had to recognize someone all the way across the desert. Yet, it felt right.

No! He couldn't doubt himself, not now. He had to trust this was meant to be, that Timmorn was guiding them. Otherwise, why would fate have had them leave their home to join with other elves. Only fate knew why they'd been drawn here. But why did Leetah have to be so difficult?!

Of course, thinking back, carrying her away like a sack of dream berries, without a second thought the first time he'd laid eyes on her didn't help. He could just kick himself!

He did it as if by instinct, which was the wolf in him. It had always served him in the past, as far as survival was concerned, just not when it came to her.

What if Joyleaf had rejected Black Claw? His father would have probably have gotten drunk with the trolls and later come back to proclaim his stake on her again anyway, in a perfectly drunk stupor. He was a ridiculously stubborn elf. His mother, Joyleaf, was the only one that could have tamed his father, but she never did. She would talk sense into him, but she never tried to control him, probably because she was as free a spirit as he was.

Leetah wasn't.

She had boundaries. About everything that had to do with him anyways.

Was she going to try to put restrictions on him? Try to control him?

By Timmorn's blood, he wouldn't have it! He was free and planned on staying that way as long as he had breath in his body!

But something deep down nagged him. That mocking voice confronting him, "Who are you kidding? You'll do whatever it takes to please her", and he knew it was right. He had a deeply ingrained desire to satisfy her every need. It had to be him and only him who did it, not Rayek. On the other hand, she could be so infuriating! Believing she could reject recognition, as if she had a choice!

Oh Madcoil's fangs, what was he going to do? He was blowing hot and cold!

He had to think of his tribe first, what kind of chief was he if he was this afflicted by one stubborn maiden. His tribe must always come first even before him, even if he was miserable. Damn! She was going to be his undoing.

Treestump sensed the inner conflict within his nephew and chief. He sat next to him, his back to the boulder Cutter had draped himself over. His heart went out to him. The poor cub looked so dejected, like a kicked pup.

They sat quietly next to each other. Cutter fiddled with an oddly shaped stone he'd found on the ground, while Treestump whittled a piece of wood Scouter had found in one of his explorations. He'd begin to whittle and the piece would become whatever it was meant to be. Cutter used to love watching him when he was a cub. Once, when he had asked him how he did it, Treestump simply stated, "I just think of what I want it to be and it becomes it."

How he wished he could think Leetah into his arms too, a welcoming smile on her beautiful face, her warm soft body pressed against his. All he got was that scowl on her face whenever she looked at him, openly reflecting her disappointment in him. How it hurt to know he disappointed her, it left a cold bitter lump in the pit of his stomach.

Couldn't she see what he saw? They were a match, perfect opposites of the same coin.

"How you holding up lad?", Treestump asked, already knowing the answer.

Cutter forcefully threw down the stone causing it to skip thrice and scatter down the cave, plinking and planking all the way down into the cave.

"I see", Treestump quipped, giving Cutter a sideways glance. Cutter's gaze remained straight ahead, a storm of controlled turmoil and passion within his eyes.

"How can she deny recognition, I can't understand that, she must be suffering as much as I am. I'm sure of it. Does she really hate me so Treestump? I wish I'd never carried her off like that now", Cutter ended, laying his head on his folded arms, near tears.

"I don't believe she hates you lad. I know carrying her off mighta injured her pride, but I don't think she's that petty to hold it against you", Treestump said, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I think you two are more alike than you think. She values her freedom just as highly as you do yours, and is afraid of losing it, that's all. Give her time she'll come around, son."

Cutter's mouth popped open, what if Treetrump was right.

"If you're right Treestump, then may Timmain give me Joyleaf's patience and wisdom. I don't know how much longer I can take her rejection", Cutter quietly lamented.

"Well, if it makes you feel any better lad, Bearclaw didn't always have it easy with my sister either. She respected your father way too much to let any of us see her dress him down, but she didn't take any dung from him. She knew how to put him in his place if he got out of control with that temper and impulsivity of his. She was about the only person that could do it too. Sometimes all it took was a look" , Treestump quietly chuckled remembering his sister's lack of tolerance for disrespect and recklessness.

"Yeah, I know, she used to do the same to me, but I actually got swatted, unlike Bearclaw", Cutter added, happy for the distraction and fondly remembering all the trouble he and Skywise used to get into and how much fun it was, until they got caught that is.

"Yeah, sure", his uncle ironically laughed out loud.

"Yeah", Cutter repeated, looking quizzically at his uncle, who looked like he'd just spilled milk.

Treestump fidgeted rubbing the back of his neck, his cheeks reddening, "Well, I'll just leave you to your thoughts", he said backing away.

Cutter scratched his head, "What was that all about?"