Installment No. 25
By dusk, Sofia was still sitting beside a cold campfire and an uneaten bird. German, in human form, had returned to what was by now becoming his defensive position at the base of a tree: his heels tucked to his ass and his elbows roosting on his knees. The woman, his rogue, hadn’t flipped out, but she was still digesting what she’d witnessed.
She kept glancing his way, and the blushing of her skin was what allowed him to finally claim her as his. Even if he played it safe and kept her labeled as a stray, she was his, and that tug in his guts liked it awfully well. It made him want to smile. A lot. And he hadn’t had much to smile about in his life.
So what if his slice of watermelon would take a permanent vacation once he turned her in. This was his freedom he was salvaging—a dumbass grin wasn’t even a fair trade for the price of his liberty. Neither was this wholesome sense of well-being. He’d recoup that once he no longer had the damned Alphas jerking his short leash. Yes. He. Would.
German sat quiet while his thoughts circled like vultures.
When darkness finally descended, he figured it was a good time to start talking to her, because most people tended to open up when they felt less visible. It didn’t matter she could see just fine. Just like he could.
To crack the silence, he pointed at the dried out carcass of the bird on its stick. “Your dinner’s getting cold.”
Sofia gave him a little grin when she looked up at him, then dropped her eyes to the ground between her feet before she answered him. “Yeah, I was waiting for my man to come home before I ate.”
German’s chest got too tight, like it swelled with something akin to pride. And ownership. He liked how she still had her humor, too. It was a damned fine sign as to the state of things.
In the darkness, he watched the shadows play on her face as she turned to him.
“You’re not scared, are you?” So sincere he was, it hurt him. She had her humor, but they had yet to discuss what he’d revealed.
“Nah. I figured something was up with you. I mean, you wanted to tag along with me. Usually, people recoil in the opposite direction.”
“You know why, right?” Dearest Luna, she was too quiet.
“I think so. I mean…” She picked at the stubble of a thin root between her feet. “I’m really not sure, actually. Unless it means you like being around me because I’m probably dinner, right?”
He let her comment slide, knowing she was kidding about that last part. If she was worried about becoming wolf chow, she’d have been screaming hours ago.
“You’re funny, but a little off base.” He got up from his position by the tree and approached her slowly, moving in on his hands and knees with his head down and his jaw tilted to the side.
Submission. Fuck. He was so fucked. This situation had screwed written all over it. No way in hell either of them were going to come out as winners. Still, he pushed forward, hoping she read his posturing accurately. She’d batted a thousand so far, so he kept up with the easy-does-it.
She smelled nice, too: her sadness heightening her earthy scent. Although, he didn’t like that she was sad, couldn’t understand it, really. Anger, he expected. Horror, too, with maybe a whole lot of revulsion thrown in for good measure.
But sorrow? Nope. If he took a gondola ride through the channels of his brain he’d never find out why she was sad. He was going to have to ask her. Peel her scabs.
German lifted his hand toward her forearm, which she had stretched out in front of her with the other one. Because she was still lashed tight as a pitbull.
Christ. He had left her tied. Could he trust her not to bolt?
Even if she did, where would she go? They were still deep in the woods and he could catch her if she did. Besides, she was the one who’d led them this far into the forest. Where she preferred to be. So, yeah…she wasn’t going anywhere.
She lifted her lashes when he spread his fingers around the ball of her hands. Her tears shimmered silver like the stars above them, beckoning him in to place his lips over one gray eye, to taste the salt of her tears.
Sofia pressed her head against the touch of his lips, and the tug at his belly coiled tight. German licked his lips before turning his ministrations to her other eye.
When he pulled away, their gazes strung out like taffy.
“Let me untie you,” he rasped.
His stray sat so very still as he unwound the strips of his shirt from her wrists. The bruises and cuts on her bones turned his windpipe into a drinking straw, his lungs into wilting balloons.
He shook his head as he kept it bowed before her. “I am so sorry.”
He was too, which was an emotion he’d been feeling all too keenly lately. One he wasn’t all that familiar with, either.
“I know you are.”
Well, wasn’t that just a kick to his nuts.
“Fuck, Sofia. I’m not sure what to do here, to be honest. Usually when I reveal my, ah, particular talent, those who see it don’t get sad. You know? They kind of go ballistic, actually. You’re setting a bit of precedent here.”
With a knife-like stare, he cut through the bullshit. But the edge got dulled by his creeping grin. Which meant he was in a bit too deep with this woman and he knew it. It mattered a hell of a lot that she handled this well. For reasons he just couldn’t dissect at the moment.
“Figures, right?” She scoffed, plucking at the root between her feet without rubbing her injured wrists, like every human on the planet would have naturally done. When she finally did raise her face, he recognized the flicker of an angry flame, and sat back to bear the brunt of it. She was going to rev herself up, filling her lungs with a good breath before spilling. “All my life I’m some outcast. Nobody wants me around them. And I’m cool with that, you know. Because, I don’t really want to be around them either. But then, you come along…” She went back to picking at the battered root.
All right. Here we go, finally. “And then I come along…” he coaxed, even as his pulse hammered at his skin like the bellows to a smithy’s forge, stoking his inner furnace. What she would say in the next few minutes would decide everything. Which meant he’d better start sucking up his ball sac if this didn’t go in his favor.
“So, you come and suddenly, aside from Sol-Dog, you’re the first person I can stand to be around. You’re the first person who actually wants to be around me, and maybe we have something in common. But then…”
Ah, yes, here it comes. Never mind that she thought of her dog as a someone, he couldn’t get that hopeful.
“But then it turns out we don’t have much in common at all.”
German backed his ass up when she got to her feet, giving her the space she needed to work her thoughts to their logical end as she paced. Just like the space he’d given the others—except their logical conclusions hadn’t coincided with his or the pack’s and he’d had to scrub them. Which had never bothered him before. He figured it was like human hunters out shooting deer. Not the same species, so no problemo.
But this woman? Her wolf scent was so thick he was surprised she wasn’t born shifting.
“Ah. So that’s it, huh?” The invisible fist squeezing his throat let go. This wasn’t about being the same. Sofia’s anxiety was because she thought they were different. “Hey, remember last night?” God, was it only a night ago? “And I ticked off the things I knew about you? They’re things I know because you’re…” tread easy “…you’re wolf, too. You’re not shifting yet, but you will. It’s why I was sent here to get you. We can’t exactly have you turning into a wolf in the middle of a human crowd.”
That was a soft step, fidiot.
Sofia quit orbiting around her pacing feet to stare at him. Okay. Shock is normal, happened all the time. He’d probably react the same way if some stranger he barely knew was dumping this load of shit on him.
“Yes, really. This isn’t exactly a hobby of mine, you know, telling people they aren’t who or what they thought they were. Shit goes bad when they hear it, Sofia, I won’t lie to you.” I’m also not going to tell you how I killed them, either.
“So people don’t like to hear it?”
Okay. An odd question, but he could roll. “Not usually, no.”
She nodded with an ah-hah.
Ah-hah, what? “Ah-hah, what, Sofe?” Dear Luna he was turning into an affectionate pup.
“Then I am a freak. Because I’ve got to admit, this is fucking off the charts cool!”
Jee-zus, he loved that wide smile on her face, and his body went all helium balloon, defying gravity as he got light on his feet. “Really? You’re not upset? I mean, shouldn’t you, I don’t know, be afraid you’ll miss hanging out with humans?” He knew as soon as he asked it he was just working his mouth to keep his heart from blowing out the front of his chest. She was actually excited. And of course, while he’d been yammering without his brain, he’d forgotten she didn’t exactly have humans in her life anyway.
“Upset? Are you kidding? You’ve just delivered me out of Hell. All my life, German, I haven’t fit in with the people I was forced to be with. Always it was like we didn’t speak the same language. You’ve just delivered the reason why.”
Well, shit. He was a hero.
But then she sobered, and his blood stilled, like frigid air descending on a summer picnic. “What?” Given the way her sudden dip in enthusiasm hit him, he was a little surprised his skin caught fire.
“This isn’t some kind of hoax is it? Because if it is…”
German succumbed to the flaming of his body, crouched, and looked up at the woman from his four paws for the second time in less than a day.
Installment No. 26 coming Saturday, February 8, 2014.