Installment No. 39
“I had no idea it was so…,” Sofia whispered into German’s warm, thudding chest. She was cradled within his muscled arms as they gazed up into the night sky, the stars blinking and silent above them like an enraptured audience. A little dumbstruck, she let her whisper trail away unfinished, her thoughts submerging under the wave of her feelings.
So much had been happening to her, she could barely comprehend it all. If she tried wrapping her brain around the details, her body flushed with heat, negating the silly idea of any of this being impossible. Because it was possible. It was happening. Lest she think it wasn’t, all she had to do was rub her cheek against the man holding her snug to his naked body like she was something to be cherished. Besides that irrefutable evidence, if she craned her head around the bulge of her mate’s bicep, she’d see the deer carcass. The one they’d stripped. As wolves.
“Amazing,” she said, the word ending her previous statement just fine. This was amazing. Being in German’s arms after he’d tenderly lavished her with his attentions. If she’d let her head interfere while it had been happening and not let her wolf instincts have free rein, she might have been wigged out by it. He had lapped nearly every inch of her with his tongue. He’d licked her. Over and over and over again.
The swiping of his tongue across her fur had been the most sensual thing she’d ever experienced. It wasn’t sexual. More like a man washing his lover’s body, his ministrations those of a man who cared, who couldn’t get enough of touching the one he craved.
Sofia had blissed out, her wolf body rolling to its back to stretch itself in full abandon.
She knew what he was doing. German was reinforcing his claim, binding her tighter so her senses knew nothing of herself in the singular.
Fine by her. She’d been alone too long not to appreciate being coveted. Since it wasn’t just her scent she carried, she could walk around with her head held high, exuding every damned mixed molecule. She could howl her pride as loud as she did earlier.
As loud as German had. She didn’t have to be a wolf to have felt his abandon. His euphoria. As if he’d never experienced anything like the hunt before either. Except she knew he had. He’d caught her rabbits and birds to eat. The difference wasn’t only the size of the kill. This time it was because she was there to share it with him.
Did he not hunt with the other members of his pack?
At the moment, she couldn’t garner the gumption to ask. As she was when the gray wolf had been licking her from toenail to tail, she was blissed out, too sated to do anything but enjoy.
If German let his guilt peer out of his eyes, the stars above wouldn’t be winking peacefully but glaring down at him, accusing him of being the treacherous bastard he was.
Traitorous, too. Mustn’t forget traitorous. The two went hand in hand, after all, one striking with as much devastation as the other. Inhaling to quiet his rising fear, his nose filled with the lush aroma of…a bonded female smothered in his scent. And the metallic tang of blood.
Killer. The scent she bore marked her as a hunter, not just bonded to one. If the odor of fresh blood didn’t fade before he got her to the Compound? Did it matter? Of course, the Alphas would overlook the transgression, see her as under the influence, as a new wolf who didn’t understand the New Order.
German? They would crucify. And rightly so. He understood precisely what he’d done. How could he not? Ever since the day of his scarring, he’d vowed to never again deny what he was. That he’d enticed his mate to follow her wolf heart? It was hard to be sorry for that. Except… Keeping his face upturned, he faced the stars so he wouldn’t have to face the woman in his arms.
Memories filled him so he no longer saw the night sky, but the field where he’d been playing as a cub. He could still hear the screaming drone of the cicadas, smell the freshly clipped grass of the ball field. It had taken him months to convince his mother to let him play with the human children. But it had taken years for him to be ready to try it, because feeling left out wasn’t what drove him. He’d wanted to test himself. Playing with human children was an evolutionary game of survival, just like all the games he’d played as a boy.
A risky game, given he was no submissive wolf pup. But, he’d become very good at denying his instincts, at calming himself so his wolf wouldn’t show. What he hadn’t foreseen was how easily the other kids had pegged him as different, and had picked at him like vultures.
Until he bled raw with his instinct to dominate, to put a swift end to the teasing.
It wasn’t the summer sun burning him up the day he stood next to the little square bag of second base, the screened dirt dusty under his cleats. It was his wolf chafing to come out. German had shoved his missing tail between his legs, had bowed his head, had flattened his ears in submission too many times. Luna knew he’d ceded gracefully to every confrontation. But, when the kid threw the ball at him while he wasn’t looking and hit him in the back of the head, the wolf in him had had enough.
With a snarl, German had lunged, fangs dropping.
Quick to react, his mother had charged into the fray like a stampeding elephant, snatching his hair like it was the scruff of his neck. Almost, he tucked his legs up, but never lost sight he was supposed to be a human boy. He let his mother drag him to the car and speed for the den.
She didn’t say a word during the entire drive up the mountain. He sat in his seat, angry his mother had interfered. And proud. Because in spite of the whisper of wolf that had surfaced, he’d let no more out. He’d kept control even in his pique of anger.
Not understanding, his mother had humiliated him. She had forced him to bare his young back for the lash. To teach him a lesson. In order for the lesson to last a lifetime, she’d salted the wound so it welted and scarred.
For his own good. For the good of the pack, she’d said.
Dearest Luna. His mother had broken more than his skin that day. She’d broken his ties to the wolf-people. And now he was giving them something far more precious than a pound of flesh?
“Sofia.” Saying her name unleashed the lake of tension damming up inside of him. Fuck. Was he really going to tell her how bad he’d screwed her over? If he had any decency, any honor, he would. For all that she’d loved her first hunt, he should tell her the pack was forbidden to do so. Hunting kept them too close to the wolves they were, kept their hunger for flesh too finely honed. According to the Alphas, wolves were hair triggers in human society. To keep them sharpened asked for trouble.
“Hmmm?” She snuggled deeper and his arms automatically gripped tighter, securing her. Her skin was so soft against his, she seemed fragile. Yet, he knew it to be the paradox of his she-wolf. Sofia was delicate femininity with a core of steel, and she was incredible because of it. As iron-willed as any alpha should be. And he’d selfishly introduced her to the violent rush of the kill, honed her wolf instincts in defiance to the Alphas’ New Order. As if she wasn’t going to have a hard enough time conforming as it was, he was doing everything to undermine her dream of having a family.
Maybe he could just present her to the Alphas, prove he’d let a rogue live, and then take off with her. After all, he and Sofia were a pack. Tiny, but his wolf had howled his pride just the same. Pathetic. He was just one man. Sofia craved a family.
“You were going to say something?” Her breath brushed his skin, as warm as her voice.
“Was I?” He forced a smile, but as soon as he looked down at her, it spread like soft butter on hard bread: easy. She made him smile, just like that.
The stars shined glorious in her dark gray eyes, her lids lazy, heavy with thick lashes.
In his mind he saw the red wolf streaking through the forest, then the darker crimson of fresh blood on her muzzle. Glorious, indeed.
She pushed off from him, tucking a red tress behind her ear. “Yeah, you were.” Her eyes lost their dreamy sheen. “What gives?” She read him like the wolf she was, and his smile faded under the crush of his guilt.
“If I told you it was a surprise, would you believe me?”
Gray eyes narrowed, assessing. “Yes. Yes, I would.” She didn’t look happy about it, though. Couldn’t say as her blamed her. Not with the shame he was wafting.
“Good. Then it’s a surprise.” Coward. Maybe. But he was also a realist, and very good at weighing the odds. German didn’t come close to measuring up to what the pack in Minnesota could give Sofia. He was just one wolf. One lone—and soon to be lonesome—wolf. Yeah, he’d taken supreme pleasure in hunting with his mate. A splendid moment he would cherish the rest of his life, would set high upon the shelf with the other wondrous memories of his red she-wolf.
Which is what he had to do: put her on the shelf of his past. Not his present. And certainly not his future. She deserved so much better. Resolved, he stood up, holding onto the silk of her naked body until she got to her feet. Running his hand down the curve of her lean waist, he released her, his empty hand curling into a fist. “We should get going. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Like an ant trapped in pine sap, he turned his back to her and walked toward the car, his every sense screaming, his ears pitched so hard to his mate he had to force his face forward. A single word from her now and his resolve would scatter to the winds, he’d crumple to the ground at her feet, confessing everything. Stealing more of her choices with his groveling. No. He’d done enough damage, and was determined to do no more. He’d teach her how to be wolf in the human world. No more wild forays into the woods.
Sofia said nothing. They got dressed in silence.
~Installment No. 40 coming Saturday, March 29, 2014.