Installment No. 35
The gray light of pre-dawn was what German opened his eyes to. That, and his mate’s slender back curved against his chest and belly. They’d fallen asleep in that position and hadn’t moved. Such a wonderful way to greet a day, he thought, and before reality could press cold fingers around his heart he burrowed his face into the red tendrils at her nape to breathe her in.
Oh, yes. Unmistakably, she carried his scent with her own. Nuzzling deeper, he gave his pride full rein. His mate was beautiful, her red fur breathtaking, and so rare he’d never seen it on another wolf before. Her eyes, framed within that fiery crimson, had been like tide worn stones a beachcomber picks up simply because of the irresistible depth and shine in the glossy gray. They had remained that way even after she’d shifted back to her human shape. A wolf’s eyes.
“Good morning,” Sofia murmured, her voice thick with sleep as she snuggled closer.
German pressed his lips to the warmth of her skin. “Morning to you, too. How do you feel?” His arms closed tighter around her of their own accord.
“Still tired, honestly.” Her stomach growled, its emptiness gurgling across his forearms. Anxiety squirmed its unwelcome self through his own belly. He did not like that his mate was hungry, and the alien yet familiar urgency to rectify it had him loosening his hold to take care of her needs. “Can I feed you again?”
“Only if I actually eat this time.” Her grin was sleepy, heavy.
“I will make sure you devour every morsel.”
“Good, then yes. Feed me until I’m stuffed.”
He dabbed a quick kiss to her cheek before rising, his wolf taking over the impulses of the man. He was a selfish prick for giving in to it. What he was about to do wasn’t fair to Sofia, but screw it. He’d already stepped over that line like he was Paul Bunyan. So, yeah, to hell with it. His wolf wanted his mate fed, and not just symbolically. German’s body was strumming with excitement as he retrieved the rabbit he’d skinned earlier.
This time he handed her the entire carcass, a sudden shyness overtaking him. “Here. This probably looks disgusting as hell, but if you, ah, well, actually, I would love to see you tear into it. Like you wanted to earlier so soon after you changed from wolf.”
When she said no effing problem, he thought he’d fly off to the sky, but dropped to his knees instead, as if doing so grounded him. He watched Sofia sink her teeth into the rubbery muscle and rip at the flesh. Accompanying her appetite was a low, menacing growl. Her lashes lifted as her cheeks blossomed with pink rosettes, like she’d burped in a public place.
“Yes! That’s wolf,” he boasted, a triumphant smile splattering across his face. The male wolf in him preened, until his mate grinned sheepishly and offered him the half-eaten carcass.
German shook his head, his smile ebbing. “Absolutely not. It’s all yours, every scrap. Suck the bones dry if you want to. I’m loving this.” He couldn’t drag his eyes off the sight of her.
“You really do, don’t you,” she replied around a bloody mouthful, like she felt his pride shining forth so bright it was eclipsing the rising sun.
“Share this with me. As our first meal together.”
The man in him wanted to, but the wolf was stronger. “No, but thank you. Your body needs the nourishment.”
“Eat with me,” she insisted. “I’m getting stuffed already and I would feel better if you ate something, too.”
“Please.” She whipped him with her plea.
“Wolf, you hurt me,” he admitted, his jaw hardening as he defied her. “I brought that to you as your mate, to nourish the she-wolf who will carry my pups. It is my honorable duty to you.”
German’s breath locked in his lungs, and he eyed her warily. Shit. He shouldn’t have said that. “Yes,” he exhaled slowly, wishing he could rewind, or magically erase the words he’d let spill from his ignorant lips.
“As in fluffy puppies?” She hadn’t paled, but she’d fallen utterly still, like she felt herself sitting in the crosshairs of a hunter’s rifle scope.
I should have told you that before claiming you. You were raised as a human, how were you supposed to know.”
“That’s rhetorical, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” he sighed, and then rose to pace in front of her.
“Keep walking back and forth like that.”
He halted in front of her and she waved her hand impatiently. “Go on. I never said you could stop.”
His hands went to his hips.
“I love the sight of you naked and moving. Keep it up.”
“You’re incorrigible.” But the corners of his mouth twitched.
“I’m telling you what it means to be mated, that you could carry wolf pups, and you’re commanding me to walk in front of you?”
“Yeah. I wasn’t going to use so many words, but yeah.” She grinned up at him.
“Sophia, you’ve mated a wolf, for Luna’s sake. I’m a four-legged animal. I’m not human, no matter how much I look like one. Jesus, female—I cock my leg to mark my territory.”
She was rock solid and leveled her gray eyes on him. “Are you freaking out? Because, that’s my job, you know, and you’re stealing my thunder.”
Her tone silenced him, and he felt stupid in his moment of anxiety.
“Look. Last I checked, I’m wolf, too. And if my recent behavior is any clue, I’m about as feral as you are. And I’m loving it. But it’s still new, so yeah, there’ll be times I’m going to be a little shocked.” She stood up and pointed her finger into his chest. “But if you ever doubt my bonding to you, so help me I’ll tear your furry balls off.”
His eyebrows leapt out of their furrow.
“And another thing,” she was on a roll so she was taking advantage of the momentum. Besides, her outburst had scattered his thoughts, as if all that existed was right then, right there in front of him. He couldn’t have interrupted her if he tried. “I’ll eat every bit of this rabbit if it splits my guts wide open, but as soon as I’m done, we’re going hunting for you.” The finger she’d been pointing bumped his sternum. The sharp period at the end of her demand.
His pride for her flushed outward, fanning into a joyous smile as he bent upon one knee and looked up at her. “You would do me a great honor by hunting at my side.”
Saucy tart. He itched to claim her anew, to worry his teeth at her neck. However.
“However…I think we should put off hunting and stop at a restaurant once we drive out of here.” There. He was back on track, the thing he’d reclaimed hadn’t been this she-wolf, but his bid for freedom.
“Go to a restaurant? That sounds so human, doesn’t it?” Her reluctance was plain, not that he’d blame her. Less than twelve hours as a wolf and she was already shunning the two-legs. Not an encouraging sign as far as his plan went, but he still felt the niggling of pride within his heart. But still. No matter their stance, this was something all wolf-people deemed important.
“Because it is a very human thing to do. Being able to walk upright among humans is a skill, and not all of us can do it. Not being able to do so puts a wolf in jeopardy, it limits his resources for staying alive.”
“You make it sound like you’re hunted.”
German gave her his best isn’t it obvious? look.
Sofia shook her head. “I’m an idiot. You’re wolves. Men hunt and kill wolves all the time.”
“Yeah, but you’ve forgotten that you’re wolf, too, which means we need to test your capabilities.”
“I’ve lived with people my whole life, I think I’ll do just fine.”
“Don’t be so sure, Red. You look different now, smell different. If you think their reactions to you before were off-putting, just wait. Humans tend to stare at our eyes and teeth.”
“I didn’t stare and I was human.”
“You were never human, so you don’t count.”
“God, it’s so weird. Wait! What do you mean I look different?”
Sofia jumped up, her gaze searching and a little nervous, like she thought her ears were poking out of the top of her head, or worse.
“You’re fine. You look like me.”
“I have a scraggly beard?”
With her he always seemed to be on the verge of smiling. Happy. “Very funny, but no, you don’t have facial hair. What you do have is a magnificent set of chompers.”
“Really?” She dashed to the SUV to have a look in the side mirror.
“Holy shit, I do!” Sofia turned, grinning. “That is sooo cool. Hey, but wait? Where’d my other teeth go?”
“I don’t know exactly. Maybe you’ll shit them out.”
She punched him hard in the arm.
“Ow! That hurt!” he yelped, rubbing his bruised bicep.
“Baby. Now come on.” She snagged his hand. “Let’s find you a restaurant to eat in so I can take my big test.”
German let her drag him into the Pathfinder. Maybe it was a little too early to be testing her, but damn him, they didn’t have much time, and he wanted to see, wanted to be the one to witness Sofia’s firsts. Fuck the reasons why and what they meant. If he couldn’t have her, he wanted the memories. He’d just have to watch her very closely. And perhaps she was right. Sofia had lived among humans for a long time, maybe she would be fine.
~Installment No. 36 coming Saturday, March 15, 2014.