Installment No. 29
Dawn brought with it a plan. German would return to the farmhouse for his SUV, get Sofia’s personal things if Charlie would give them to him, then together they would head to Minnesota, pedal to the metal.
So, it was a surprise to her when he growled low in his throat, “This is not a good idea,” as they followed their old trail back.
To where Sofia didn’t want to go. “No, it’s not,” she agreed, presuming he meant back to the farm. She might be preoccupied with the wolf thing, but the hole in her heart where Sol-Dog once dwelled still throbbed like a hammered thumb. Her burning desire to drill a .22 bullet into the girl’s forehead hadn’t abated, either. Despite all that had happened since the attack, it had only been mere days, and Sofia didn’t trust herself to step foot on the farmhouse porch. It would have to be German. Besides, she didn’t have a vehicle. He did. “But if we’re traveling to Minnesota, then we need wheels.”
He growled again, but kept walking, his warm fingers curling around hers as if he didn’t want to let her go. And not because she wasn’t tethered. Her own feelings were queerly possessive, but then she’d never had any kind of relationship with anyone besides Sol, so what did she know?
Except this thing with German did feel right, so she was going to clutch onto it with both fists. She didn’t want to lose it. German was offering her a family, one where she could be herself, where her weirdness was the norm. If the wolf-people were all like him then she was heading toward a veritable heaven. God, she couldn’t believe it, as if all of her childhood yearnings were finally being realized.
A serenity misted through her blood and blissed her out for a moment. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but she knew it had everything to do with the man clasping her fingers. If she kept experiencing bits of sublime peace like this, she’d embrace this new, intense affection German seemed to have for her. She guessed the only reason they hadn’t had sex yet was because he couldn’t. His wolfy side kept getting in the way, like he couldn’t control it. Which for now, was okay. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t enjoying the view at the moment. The man was a walking feast for the eyes. Bare chested because he’d ruined his shirt to tie her up—that isn’t a happy thought!—it gave her a clear view of his faded jeans riding low on his hips, cutting off the silky line of dark hair trailing from his belly button down to his…egads, he went commando, too. Part of having to shuck clothes in a hurry, she figured.
He stopped along the trail abruptly, and Sofia bumped into him, too distracted to pay attention to anything but the way German’s body moved. Sleek, effortless, like the wolf skulked under the human skin, barely concealed.
He sniffed the air, his chin lifting with each quick inhalation. Obviously not pleased with whatever it was he caught on the air currents, he closed his fingers tighter around hers and led them off the trail into the thicker woods.
“Wait here.” Silent as a woodland phantom, German bounded off. Sofia’s breath made a home in her lungs, lodging there like they never planned to move again. She didn’t notice, so wrapped up was she in watching him move through the trees. Her stomach executed a delicious twist, tingling a path straight through her core. She throbbed in needy places which had nothing to do with grief or revenge.
Sofia willed her brain to focus on something that wasn’t German, and turned to lift her nose into the light breezes wafting east. She detected something foreign in the forest, but damned if she could identify it. For all she knew, she was just being a hopeful twit who thought she could really become a wolf.
A hundred feet in and her eyes registered what her nose had been telling her: there was another hiker on the trail. Without even snapping a twig, German slid up behind her, his finger held to his lips as he crouched low beside her. She chalked his stealth up to predatory talent—something she ought to pay stricter attention to, except her heart was too busy twirling about like Maria on a mountain meadow. Did he even realize he was leaning into her space, as if inviting her touch? Hey, who was she to play the part of a cautious Trojan? She happily soaked up his heat—especially since she’d been having her hot flashes, the periods when they abated left her feeling cool, and not comfortably so.
She felt like a reptile who needed to bask on hot rocks in the sun to get her body heat back to normal. Except the rise in her core temperature wasn’t normal. At least it never used to be, and just thinking of what it might mean shot a ripple of heat along her spine and across her back like she was being wrapped in a blanket.
An electric blanket cranked on the highest setting. Was she sweating?
Sofia cast a sideways glance at the man beside her, who was intently watching the other hiker. He had one fist stuck into the ground to keep his body steady and the arm, so close to her, rippled as the deltoid flexed to support his shifting weight.
Her eyes slid down the rest of that strapping limb, along the ribboned forearm covered with a downy blanket of pewter hair dappled with black tips. The corded tendons strained taut as he pulled his fist away from the dark earth.
Ooh, my, he makes me hot.
Seriously. She was roasting; and while she’d been fawning over the man beside her, her own hand had been unbuttoning her shirt. She was peeling it off her shoulders before her brain registered what she was doing.
What the hell am I doing?
But Christ, she was burning up. Catch-on-fire hot, and the bonfire that had once been her spine blasted plumes of fire into her arms and legs. Her heart fluttered wildly while her breath, released from her lungs like kids exploding from a school building at the final bell, seared her windpipe.
Fucking-A, but what the hell?
Frantically, she pushed at her jeans, stripping them down her thighs. Relief. She desperately needed relief from this suffocating heat!
A vice clamped itself just above her knee and her whole body went tight like she suffered a seizure. She peered down her legs and into German’s calm face.
“Breathe,” he whispered, a shy grin lighting his features.
“Breathe. Nice and deep.”
Jesus, but his voice rolled like pearls in her blood, and every cell hastened to obey it.
Sofia sucked in a long breath.
“Nice, Red. Now, again.” German took his own deep breaths to demonstrate.
Maybe. She might have been losing it there, but the man couldn’t hide how hard he was for her. The fire within her flared again.
“Sofe?” The clamp at her thigh tightened, grounding her.
“Breathe again, okay? Slow and deep.”
God, though, that voice. Stilled her, layered like cool, thick cream across her nerve endings. “Talk to me again.”
“Anything for you.”
Those green eyes staggered her, tripping her so she fell right into them, like she was taking a refreshing swim in a sun-kissed pond.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Like that.”
He grinned again. Shy, but adoringly so, as if he was unaccustomed to his own strength of feeling.
Sofia lifted her hand to the scraggly beard that never seemed to grow beyond the five o’clock shadow, and he kissed her palm. “Feeling okay? A little cooler, maybe?”
“Um…yes. Yeah, I am. What the hell was that?”
“Your change. It was pretty close, too. But you should know, just so you’re not scared, it could come a few more times before your body finally makes the jump.”
“Ah…yeah. Okay.” At that point, anything he told her she’d only half register. Shit, that was fucking intense, and she’d thought for a few seconds there she was toast. Literally. Like those people who spontaneously combust and all that’s left of them is their hands and feet and a big charred spot where their bodies used to be.
Scared? Yep. Until German had started talking to her. That voice of his? Well, Sofia squirmed around the succulent laps of it, indulging in the physical reminiscence. Because it was hers, yet in turn, it owned her. Her body sang in its presence, sprang to glorious attention whenever his tones caressed her ears.
Trust German? With her life. And she was willing to put it to the test.
~Installment No. 30 coming Saturday, February 22, 2014.