German walked back with the grouse’s neck in his warm hands and let its scaly legs dangle alongside his bare ones. He was a little relieved he’d caught something to bring back. Otherwise, he was going to come across as a little crazier than he already did.
Whatever possessed him to reveal this particular little nugget, that he could hunt without her .22? The truth wasn’t something he wanted to speculate on. Besides, he trusted the rogue, which could be more of a hindrance than any kind of help, especially since she shouldn’t trust him.
Shut up. He couldn’t think of his turning her over to the Alphas as a betrayal. It would be for her own good. In the end. Riiiight. And he if he kept repeating it to himself he was going to believe it as much as he wanted Sofia to.
He could argue with himself all night, but first she had to survive her initial change. Showing her pinches of things at a time, he rationalized, would open her mind up for when the big whammy finally hit. Starting with her thinking he ran naked in the woods and killed small game. Odd, yes. But something a person could wrap her brain around. So there. He’d wanted to feed her in order to ease her transition.
With that little lie to comfort him, he stepped into the glow of the fire and dropped the bird at the woman’s feet.
“I caught it, you clean it.” He grinned down at her upturned face, the blush of her cheeks hitting him low in the gut. He was naked. Something he’d completely overlooked while he’d been playing mental tennis with himself. Idiot.
“You actually got something?” To her credit, she ignored it. Flushed cheeks aside.
Pride crept across his chest, swelling it a little. She was hungry and he was pleased to be feeding her. The tug in his belly yanked like a primordial bitch.
Ignoring it, German shook out his clothes and started dressing. Except his eyes wandered to where he’d left Sofia with his gift, like his wolf needed to be there with her. Sitting back on his haunches while his mate grew strong from…
Half dressed, he drifted over to her, like a fish on a damned hook. Sofia was already shredding the bird bald, and spitting out errant pin feathers.
“Ptheth. The trouble, ptheth, with birds is that once you get, ptheth, one feather in your mouth, you can’t, ptheth, keep the rest of them out.”
His laugh exploded before he could stop it, and once it was loosed it kept gurgling forth. All he could think of was the story of the guy who couldn’t stop the leaking of the dam no matter how many fingers he used to stop up the holes. The levee was weak, cracking as fast as he tried shoring it up. German couldn’t remember when he’d laughed so abundantly, and bless the rogue, she caught it like a contagion.
“I hope this tastes as good as it looks.” Sofia held up the massacred carcass in the firelight, and another fissure in the dam rumbled forth.
“Ah, woman. You makum good food.” He bragged, caveman style.
Sofia waved a limp arm. “You’re killing me,” she managed to gasp between giggling. “Stop it. You’re offending the bird.”
“The bird already looks offended. In fact, it looks rather miffed.”
He pinched its plucked wings and waddled it back and forth for an air dance.
Sofia snagged it from his clutches. “Give me that. I do plan to eat the thing.” She was still grinning when she skewered the spit up its ass. “There. That oughta do it.”
German looked at the grouse on its stick. He’d have preferred it raw, and gnawed on the reality to sober him. He was animal. Wolf. And a solitary one at that. He should not be enjoying the rogue’s company this much. In fact, he didn’t enjoy anyone’s company. As if finely attuned, the rogue fell still, too. How was that for a little demo on how much wolf ran in her veins?
He crouched by the fire, letting his eyes narrow as he sifted her scent from the smoke. Her skin emanated the ancient earth, the rich soil he smelled only when he ventured into the deeper forests. Very nice. Like she was wild, through and through. Maybe they’d run—
“You said yet. When you said I could make myself hot.” Her voice was velvet. Her lashes low.
“I’m sorry. What?” Shit. He’d lost focus while humping her scent.
“I asked what you meant by I’m not hot yet.”
“Oh. That.” She was asking specifics. Not good. But it was too late to shove the mistake back in the bag. “I think you’re hot.”
Christ-love, but she was very pretty when she blushed. Sucked him in, really. He wanted to smell her breath, to lick the taste of her, memorize it on his tongue. He needed to know if she was every inch of that primordial earth, while his mouth watered at the sight of her skin flickering in the flames of the fire.
She said nothing, but kept her gray eyes on him as her pupils stretched, the firelight a living thing in their black depths.
Hot? He was burning up. He shouldn’t go to her. No, no. No way. But he crawled to her, touching his knuckle to her flaming cheek. He shut his eyes and sniffed.
“Sweet Luna,” he breathed upon her lips. Their bodies trembled, yet she did not pull from him. Her breath came in tremulous puffs; moths dancing to his flame. He shifted his weight to his arms, caging her as she submitted, exposing her slender belly as she lay her back to the ground. A possessive growl shuddered through his chest as he ran his tongue the length of her windpipe, sampling the primal earth she was. His fangs slipped down to grip her tender skin.
German flung himself backward, retreating to the edge of the firelight before glancing back. The squeezing of his heart nearly suffocated him when he beheld the woman who’d triggered his shift. She was kneeling now, her arms hugged round her middle, looking utterly bereft.
“I’m sorry.” Guttural, slurred by his fangs. He couldn’t have said more—his skin was tingling with his emerging fur. He dropped away into the protection of the trees as he stripped, fumbling desperately so as not to shred his clothes. How would he explain that if he had nothing to wear when he finally calmed down enough to look human?
And how much effing worse could he really mess this mission up? Make out with her? Change into a wolf right in front of her? What a moron he was. And what a goddamned shocker she turned out to be. The last time he’d lost control like that? He’d been given a lovely, puckered scar across his backside.
Shifting in front of the rogue before she was ready?
Didn’t he care about his own skin?
Sofia knelt beside the fire feeling mighty mutual with the bird with the stick jabbed through its insides. She was no tramp. Hell, she didn’t have any experience with seduction. But, she understood just fine when a man retreated like he’d just awakened from a dream and found his reality was a pit of vipers. Being on the receiving end of that kind of evacuation? Why, it just made a girl go all…ape shit on the inside. Because no way could she sort through the shit storm between her head and her heart.
Rejected? She’d just gotten catapulted out of the freakin’ castle. The one time she finally felt comfortable around another human being and he bolted like she’d set his hands on fire.
Great. How was that for a healthy dose of real?
He was sorry? She bet he was sorry. He was probably trying to drown himself in the nearby pond he was so distressed. She’d seen the look on his face. Christ, how was she going to forget it? He was repentant, all right. And she was about as shamed as she’d ever been in her entire life. At least, before she’d had her guard up and struck back at the kids who’d teased her, who’d called her freak or loser.
But this tonight? It hurt on a level she would have never believed existed. Because she’d trusted him. Laid herself wide open to a man she barely knew based on the fact that his body didn’t lie.
Oh, yeah. She was a social divining rod, she was.
The tears stung her burning cheeks and she swiped hard at her face to rid herself of their humiliation. She huddled up like the toad she was and stared into the fire, no longer hungry for the bird searing and spitting juices at the licking flames.
Sofia curled onto her side and shut her eyes. Maybe, if her luck hadn’t fled out the back door without her, she’d find respite in a little sleep? She kept her eyes squeezed shut as her tears subsided then finally quieted. Her breaths were those of one who had at least found lethargy.
Installment #22 coming Saturday, January 25, 2014.