The following installment of Wolf-Love is dedicated to Nancy Fitzgerald and Dean Bubar, who know firsthand the glory and pride of a shared hunt.
Installment No. 38
The first thing that came to Sofia when she woke was the scent of pine trees and musk, and her belly churned and warmed as though cooking the smell into her flesh, into her memory.
Rubbing her hand across her mouth, she pushed herself up into the sitting position. The scenery rolled by in a green and brown blur while cars jockeyed like metal horses in a long race.
But all that was secondary to what she was really watching.
German. The man who had her thighs moistening and her legs scissoring. Her mate. And man did she want to mate with him right then.
He glanced at her, shaking his head. “Red, I’m going eighty here. Please. Get some clothes on before I aim this Pathfinder for the trees.”
She caught the escalating of his scent with his heat. Her eyes drifted to his zipper and her womb throbbed, twisting deliciously deep within her so she had to work her ass around the pulsing sensation.
“Red, I’m serious. The next exit isn’t for a few miles, and I’m not going to make it, okay? There’s going to be a goddamned wolf at the helm of this vehicle and we both know that won’t end well.”
God, he was right, and she was a horny idiot whose brain napped in the sun while her body rode the Slip-n-Slide. “Ah, yeah, sorry about that.” Rummaging around the floorboards for her shirt, she pulled it over her bare breasts. One leg of her jeans was slung over the back of the front seat and she hadn’t a clue where her boots had wound up.
Obviously she’d undressed in a hurry.
“You okay?” she asked, hiking her jeans up her thighs.
German raked a hand across his scalp, then shot her a shy grin. And something else. But the expression flashed too quick for her to catch. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know what came over me. I mean, you’re right. We’re cruising down the highway. What did I think, we’d pull over on the median and get it on?”
His eyes crinkled over an expanding smile. “That, Red, is a wonderful fantasy, and if we weren’t who we were, I’d be all over it.”
“Weren’t who…oh, right. Two wolves sexing it up in a car on the side of the road would attract some unwanted attention.”
“Bingo. And make no mistake here, Sofe. You drive me wild. Literally. It’s all I can do to keep my human form, and even then I haven’t.”
“You get your fangs,” she purred with the memory of his teeth on her.
Christ, she’d done it again. “Sorry.” But she couldn’t deny she loved how turned on he was around her, that she made him lose control.
“Yeah, well, we get this car parked and those will be the last words you’ll be thinking.”
“Now you’re doing it, so stop it. We’ll talk about something else. Like, where are my boots?”
“You flung them into the back.”
“Don’t even remember, nope. God, it was close, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, but that was my fault. Your trying to back out of the entrance to that restaurant was a pretty strong hint you weren’t all right.”
“So, we won’t be doing it again?” She couldn’t mask her disappointment.
“Of course we will. How else are you going to learn?”
She let her warmth ooze into her smile, but then a shadow passed and she curled into him for comfort. Without hesitation, he invited her body to push up against his, holding her close with his free arm.
Sofia stared out the windshield, letting her thoughts stretch out like the highway in front of them. “What if I never learn? What if I can never be around people again? I’m going to be a burden and you’ll always…”
German tugged her closer. “Stop it, Red. For one thing, you will get the whole walking-upright-around-humans thing because your reasons for freaking out aren’t based on fear. Most wolves who struggle do so because they see danger in everything around them. They can’t trust that the humans aren’t out to kill them. Which isn’t your problem. You’ve just got new and improved senses, and it’s overwhelming for you right now. The only way to learn how to cope with them is to immerse yourself over and over into the stench until you’re pretty much inured to it.”
“Only pretty much, huh?”
“Yeah. There’ll always be an odor, or a sound, or a movement that you just can’t ignore, one you react to instinctively and spontaneously.”
“Plus, I smell and look weird.”
He chuckled, tightening his arm on her. “Plus you smell delicious and look amazing.”
God, I love him.
Her fear of losing him suddenly overwhelming her, she wrapped her right arm across his middle. As if to anchor herself to him. Holy Moses, if something ever happens to this man? She didn’t want to think about it, and turned her thoughts toward the ones she’d had before falling asleep: taking care of him the way he took care of her.
“Hey, we’re in Buxton.” She sat up, craning her neck as the giant green and gray road sign loomed then shrunk in the distance. “I heard there’s a huge deer population down here. Like so many, they get run over like porcupines in the road. We should stop and hunt.”
Without a word, German glanced up into the rearview before flicking on the blinker, the Pathfinder cruising to the right and slowing as it hit the off-ramp.
German didn’t hesitate to take the exit. Hunting with Sofia? Hell, yeah. He’d told her he’d be honored to hunt with her at his side, and he’d meant it. So he’d launched himself onto her suggestion like the horny wolf he was. Was it one of his better ideas? Hell, no. If he wasn’t such a heartless bastard, he wouldn’t take Sofia hunting, giving her wolf a taste of hot, spurting blood. He wouldn’t let her learn what it was to run flat out, the pungent scent of musk and fear biting ruthlessly at her nose, taunting her toward the kill. He wouldn’t introduce her to the intoxicating power of balancing a vigorous life between a glorious death.
But she was going to love it.
Twenty minutes later the SUV was stashed on a back road and they were standing along the shaded edge of an old hay field abutting a dense forest. He eyed his naked mate with a hunger that eclipsed the one cramping his stomach.
“Sofia,” he growled, stepping toward her.
She stuck her hand out like a traffic cop. “Stop right there, German. I know that look in your eyes. But first you feed. Then you get dessert.”
He did stop, too. As soon as she’d commanded it. He was hopeless, but would savor every delicious moment of being mated to her.
“Just a little taste?” He whined. Pouted. Played.
“Nope. Meat first, dessert second.” She fought her grin, determined to play this game, too. She didn’t cave an inch.
“Okay, okay,” he ceded. But he couldn’t fight a sudden tingle, which shivered straight through the center of him. Willpower alone kept his toes from curling. “We’ll go hunting. But first, some schooling.”
“Agreed.” Sofia sidled up to him with such a studious look upon her face, his wolf wanted to strut with pride for the mate the Fates had chosen for him. He reined in his enthusiasm.
“First, have patience. Which isn’t always easy, but I think you’ve got that part covered.” Especially if her stubborn silence when he’d had her tied up was any indication. She’d sat like a stone until he’d caved.
“Second, don’t get hurt. And I don’t mean that to be overbearingly protective. We’re hunting deer and they’re quicker with their hooves than you’d think. They’re also stronger than they look, so you always have to watch.”
A quick nod. “Fine. I’ve wrestled calves on the farm, and handled the cattle and horses.”
“Good. Then you have an idea of what you’re up against. Third, you’ll sweep and I’ll tackle first. Once I’ve got the deer, I want you up front with me to take my place, then I’ll go to the rear and finish. Got it?”
“Why can’t I finish?”
“Because you’ve never done it before and could get hurt. Watch first. Then you can do.”
“Fine.” He’d believe her disappointment if her eyes weren’t practically luminescent with anticipation.
“This is going to be harder than you think, Red. We’re not hunting with guns here. We’re putting our bodies into the fray and shit can go wrong in a hurry. They might look like Bambi, but there’s nothing harmless or naïve about deer. They know they might die, so they fight with everything they’ve got.”
“Fine. I’ll watch and learn.”
“Good. Okay, ready?”
Sofia shook out her strong, slender arms and looked up at him expectantly.
Her chin stuck out defiantly. “I don’t know what to do.”
She’d been doing so well, he’d overlooked teaching her how to transform when she wasn’t emotionally charged. He nudged her chin with his knuckle. “You know how you shook your arms out? You did it instinctively. Now all you’ve got to do is shiver like that, only over your whole body. Shake like you’re covered in fur and soaking wet.”
“Like Sol-Dog after a swim,” she blurted, pain flaring in her eyes half a second later.
“Yeah,” he said softly, knowing how fresh the loss still was. “Like that.”
Sofia braced her feet and shook her body. Hard. “Hey!” She snapped her face up, her gray eyes wide with fresh excitement. “It’s like sparks setting my muscles on fire.”
“Bingo, Red. Do it again. Only this time, don’t stop, and keep thinking wolf.”
She nodded, rattled her body, and buckled to the floor, where her bones and muscles stilled in mid-transition.
“Again, Sofe, don’t quit now. Shake!”
He watched her clamp her teeth together, determined to succeed. Then she shook and rocked herself right into her wolf form. His breath locked as he waited, apprehensive. A heartbeat later, Sofia flipped her paws beneath her and yipped up at him, her tail fanning from side to side behind her.
His breath came with a relieved smile. “Well done, Red. Next time, I promise, it’ll be even easier. As easy as this.” With little effort, he conjured the heat and with it, his gray and black wolf. The instant he felt himself come together, Sofia smashed her smaller frame into his bulk, pitching him off balance. Digging his claws into the dirt, he shoved back, rubbing himself along her entire length. Then he took off, hell bent for the hunt with his nose skimming the ground, confident the red wolf would stay on his tail.
He’d hunted alone for so many years that her being with him thrilled him to distraction, and he had to work at sifting the myriad scents of a new area while getting tasty tidbits of her presence. More than once he caught himself listening to her steady pant as they loped through the woods.
Until the earth gave up the scent they were hunting for.
He slowed to let Sofia come abreast. If she was running hard when the sweet odor of a grass eater was strong, she’d bolt their prey and they’d expend valuable energy chasing it for miles until it tired.
German stopped them when his mouth watered. Close enough. It was time to send the red wolf on her sweep. Watching her rump glide silent through the trees, he resigned himself to another day with an empty stomach. Hunting took skill, and Sofia just didn’t have the experience. She was yet untested, and he wasn’t sure if she’d instinctively know to counter, to re-adjust, or take the initiative when the chance to make contact with the prey opened. Or if she’d just run pell-mell without trying to direct the deer toward her partner.
He’d worried for nothing. Hunting came to Sofia like she was born to it. She pressed or backed off, whichever was needed to keep the deer moving. She was fucking amazing, and German had to force himself not to ogle, to keep up his part in the hunt while she darted and leapt through the sun-dappled forest fluid as a red serpent.
Damn, though, it felt good to push his own body, to stretch his limbs, to savor the steady thump of his heart as it pushed his blood through his veins. He rejoiced in the puncturing of his claws into the cool, dark earth as he catapulted himself through one stride to the next, to the next, to the next.
He could simply rejoice in the bounty of living with his mate, but his stomach protested with a painful twist. He really did need to eat, so he lunged when the warmth of the deer’s breath tickled his cheek, bowling it over in a somersault of spindly legs, snarling as he snatched its neck in his jaws to ground her.
The red wolf descended like a flaming comet smack into the deer’s abdomen and slashed with a furious shaking of her head. Blood spattered, and the deer bleated frantically, screaming in protest against its death. Its liquid brown eyes strained and rolled as it thrashed, punching panicked jabs with its sharp hooves.
German sank his fangs deeper, fought for purchase with his hind paws, and ripped backward, wrenching his shoulder and back muscles with such force the deer pitched toward him. From the corner of his eye, he saw the red wolf spin and catapult herself back at the doe like an arrow sprung from a string.
With his body, he weighed down the deer’s neck and shoulders, pinning it so it couldn’t rise. The whole time he watched Sofia, too wondrously curious to interrupt her. The deer flagged in his jaws, its life ebbing with the blood pooling beneath it. German released his hold to join his mate in the eviscerating, where their excitement crescendoed into yips, snarls and the snapping of jaws, and ended in the tearing of flesh like fabric.
They glutted and gulped, and lapped at the blood saturating their muzzles.
Sweetest Luna, the submersion into the kill was glorious and swelled to a painful tension of bliss with his mate beside him. This bumping of bodies, the shared snarls and rending of meat between two sets of flashing, blood stained teeth was wolf, and German transported to a plane of sheer being, surrendered himself to the unity of pack, tiny though it was.
He’d never known it.
He had lived within himself, a lone wolf, where experience just was but not reflected. Now it was magnified because it was shared, and the joy of the other was like wind to a fire, fanning it into a consuming, savage beauty. German yipped to relieve the crushing euphoria, but finally he could stand the pressure no longer, and threw his bloodied muzzle upward, heaving his enraptured howls skyward.
As she’d done with the hunt, the red wolf intuitively joined him in the triumphant celebration of life, and they did not stop until they were breathless, stuffed, and utterly sated.
Then they turned their attentions to the smaller joys: the ministrations to one another, the cleaning of fur with gentle rasps of their tongues, and nudges of affections. These were the stitches in their unity, and like the hunt, it welded them together as the bonded pair they were.
~Installment No. 39 coming Tuesday, March 25, 2014.