Today our guest author, Taylor Anne Vigil, has a special treat!
She’s decided to give you a look at her current Work In Progress, The Last Guardian. She’s even given us some background, so dive in and enjoy!
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion”. – Anonymous
The wolf, the alpha species, was the beginning of the Guardians. Wild and beautiful, these creatures captured the attention of humanity.
The partnership between man and Guardian solidified
after a wolf saved a human child from freezing to his death. But, greed took over the hearts of mankind and the wolves were soon enslaved, sent overseas to help the growing population of humans and forced to breed with other species of their kind, creating the lovable, protective Guardians that we know and love today.
Lab mix Guardian, Jack has always thought that his purpose was to love and protect his girl, Taylor, who he loves more than life itself. But, when a wolf attack breaks the foundation of their peaceful life in the woods, Jack is forced to confront the truth about his past and accept the possibility that his purpose as a Guardian may extend to all of humanity as well of others of his kind.
My hands felt slippery against the tiles of the countertop. My fingers gripped the corner for better support. I couldn’t stop shaking. In my head, Jack lay pinned beneath a wolf that was as black as he was.
I reached over to flip on the little light that was nestled between the tea kettle and coffee maker.
My nails dug into the moist soil as I watched the wolf begin to tear Jack to shreds.
The moon shaped light was just bright enough to help me see what was directly in front of me; the tea leaves that Jack and I gathered from the garden, the faded tins of coffee beans and oatmeal, the crinkled bags of cane sugar and rice.
Jack was gasping, crying out as the wolf sank her teeth into his throat and muzzle.
“Keep it together,” I whispered to myself. “Keep it together!”
My stomach knotted and twisted, even as I went around lighting several scented candles with a match. The warm colors of the counters and walls of our tiny kitchen, combined with the scent of lavender, should’ve brought me comfort. But- all I could do was try to fight the nausea when I remembered the light in the woods. It came from Jack. I saw it happen. I watched it get brighter and brighter until it disappeared completely. I’d seen the wolf run off as quickly as she’d attacked. It didn’t seem possible that the light was what frightened her off. Light was harmless. Wasn’t it? Jack had pushed me out of the way, so maybe it was me she was after. I shivered. I clutched my arms around myself.
“We’re safe here,” I told myself, hoping that Jack wouldn’t hear. “Jack is healing. It’s over.”
Above me, I could hear the gentle tapping of rain drops on the skylight, our only source of bright light during the day.
I walked back to where I was earlier and braced my arms on the counter, praying that I could stay composed. I heard a low whimper, a soft, awful sound, come from the living room. Jack was in there, sitting curled up under a blanket. And, he needed me now.
I sucked in a breath and looked at the tin of coffee for the second time. Something hot would probably settle Jack’s churning stomach. And, mine too. So, I made myself busy, grinding up the beans and tea leaves by hand and waiting for them to brew on the stove.
I took the steaming mugs to the living room. I paused in the doorway. I closed my eyes and inhaled. The scent of smoke, of the sweet apple wood that burned in the fireplace, soothed me. Hearing the rain start to pour outside made the room seem even more warm and comfortable. As I opened my eyes, I thought about how truly lucky we were to have this quaint little cottage, with its redwood walls and old fashioned bookshelves and soft woven rugs.
Jack’s ears pricked as I approached, walking past our couch, which I now realized was full of black dog hair, and our coffee table that was cluttered with opened books and dried flowers.
Jack sat on his haunches, his tail still, his paws clutching the blanket around himself. I crouched beside him and kissed his wet nose. He took his mug of black tea, wrapping his chilled paws around it. I took a sip from my own cup. Warmth shot through my fingers and arms. Immediately, my stiff limbs and aching muscles began to relax. Even my fluttering heart slowed down a bit. But, thenJack turned his face to look at me and I saw the bandages on his face, and I remembered the gashes that hid behind them. Without saying anything, I set down my mug and retreated to the kitchen.
There were still some medicinal herbs on the countertop, courtesy of Zachary’s gathering skills. I crushed them into a bowl and filled what Jack affectionately called, “The First-Aid Kettle” with water. The mixture was still steaming when I brought it into the living room and set it down next to the fire.
Gently, I picked at Jack’s bandages, peeling them away with the gauze, but I couldn’t see the wounds clear enough to examine them properly. I grunted softly, wondering why my already poor vision was even poorer now that I needed it the most. After a few seconds, I laughed at myself, realizing that I still had my distance glasses on and that my reading ones were still on the edge of the coffee table. I exchanged them, my eyes just barely able to make out the fuzzy silhouettes and colors of the table and bookshelves in the seconds it took to do the job.
Jack, my gentle Guardian, looked tired and drained in the flickering firelight. I could see his wounds now, the way the blood had dried up and caked to his fur.
“They’ll heal.” Jack whispered.
It was true. Though I’d nearly forgotten about the process because it didn’t happen often, Jack’s accelerated healing started almost immediately after he was hurt. Wounds like scrapes and cuts, a burn to his paw or an abrasion to his tail, would be healed before I even had the chance to treat it. But, it had been 15 minutes since we’d returned from the woods, 15 minutes since I’d applied pressure to the wounds before cutting the mud and burrs out of his fur.
I dipped an edge of the cloth into the warm water, held it in the air to cool, and then dabbed at the mangled flesh of Jack’s face. His paws gripped the blanket that was wrapped around his shoulders. A whimper, barely audible, whistled through his nostrils. His ears pulled back and his eyes closed briefly.
“Sorry, Jack.” I whimpered, fighting back my tears.
He was too gentle to be hurt like this. I couldn’t do this, yet. I needed to do this.
I swallowed and continued to tend to his wounds with just the barest brush of the cloth.
“They’ve never been this deep.”
Did I just say that? Had I really just transferred my suffering onto Jack’s already aching shoulders?
I lowered my hand and turned my face away. I couldn’t let him see me like this, couldn’t hurt him more than he already was. But, my actions were pointless. It was impossible to hide my emotions from Jack. He could smell my anxiety, sense my sadness.
“Tay, it’s ok.”
Jack cupped my chin in his paws and guided my gaze to meet his. In the flickering light of the fire, I saw that the gashes on his face began to close. It was fascinating, seeing every little fiber of flesh and tissue, shining with blood, reconnect and form several large grey patches in an instant.
“You’re not going to lose me, Taylor,” he whispered, ears tilted forward. “That’s a promise.”
I could tell by his use of my full first name that he meant it. He wiped at my tears. The bits of fur between the soft pads of his paws tickled my face and I couldn’t help but smile. The blanket he was wrapped in slid from his shoulders as he pressed the bridge of his nose against my forehead. His eyes, so gold they glowed in the light, held me in their gaze as we sat there, our faces fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle. His fur was soft and warm and upon seeing those eyes, I felt safe.
Jack blinked, leaned back and let his paws rest against my shoulders. As he did, I saw that his right jowl had risen slightly, forming the crooked half smile that I loved so much.
“It’s you and me, Tay.”
I looked at him, eyes gleaming.
“Always?” I asked.
He pulled me close and took me into his arms. His paw ran over my hair, claws catching in the strands. I heard his tail swish back and forth across the rug as I leaned into his fur. I felt his heartbeat, soft and steady. Just like his voice.
“Always.” he answered.
My stomach clenched and unclenched. Taylor snuggled against me, sensing my tension, even in sleep. I licked her cheek and nibbled lightly on her shoulder. She smiled and giggled.
I pressed my nose to her head and inhaled, drinking in her scent. She smelled like the woods, like pine needles and wet earth, but also like the cottage, smokey and comforting.
I closed my eyes and sniffed her again. I wagged my tail at the knowledge that I’d saved her from the wolf and that, in doing so, I’d fulfilled my purpose as her Guardian. She snuggled closer to me. I licked her once more, before resting my head on her side. A sigh, long and heavy, escaped me.
“I love you, Tay.”
I hoped she heard me. I hoped she hadn’t heard me. It came so easily, these words, that I was momentarily puzzled as to why I didn’t say them to her as often as she said them to me. As a Guardian, I was able to do many of the things that humans could do. I knew how to walk on two legs, cook, drive, clean, and do whatever else that my girl needed from me. But, I was still a dog and expressed my affection as such, preferring to nuzzle, lick and sleep against my girl as opposed to using my words to let her know how much she meant to me. She was the center of my world and I was hers. She was far too gentle to be hurt like she was tonight.
Don’t let her be sad.