Installment No. 46
Dining room? Ah, heck no, it wasn’t. More like a dining hall. The table was longer than the mobile home trailers dotting most of Washington County, Maine. Sofia could run the hundred yard dash across the top of it and have enough room to slow down from her sprint before reaching the end. A small plane could use the frigging thing as a runway. Okay, she was exaggerating, but seriously. The room was enormous, and had to be to accommodate a table this size. And all the diners.
Holy shit. Sofia faltered a step backward, bumping right into German, who stood behind her like a solid wall of…reassurance. Instantly her body settled against his, seeking comfort. His fingers found hers, his breath a warm whisper.
Yeah, she could do that. Was already doing it, in fact, the nano-second her mate suggested it. It helped to clear her head, force her eyes to focus on the details, not the overwhelming sense of everything smushed together. Even the din of all the diners abruptly ceased, as if they no longer murmured their conversations, or tinkled their crystal, or scraped their flatware against the china.
Oh. Because they had ceased all motion. Jesus H. Christ. Sofia took another breath. But what she really needed was a Border collie in her brain to herd her thoughts into a cohesive unit, like a well-ordered flock. She was taking everything in at once again: the thirty pairs of eyes, the conglomerated scent of too many people together in one room, the warm earthy scent of beef from the broth in the shallow bowls in front of each diner. Gold glinted as flatware was returned to the table cloth, or lowered back into the bowls. Forgotten.
Forgotten because all eyes were on her. Not the man holding her up like a Velcro backdrop. The silence expanded, rising like a giant bubble to the vaulted, stone ceiling without rupturing. It pressed on her skin, thinning her, flattening her lungs so she could barely get a breath.
Oh God, she was going to…need a place to puke and the potted palm tree beside her would hold the contents of her stomach just fine. A flash of pale blue to her left caught her eye, making her forget about her rebelling innards. Kyrenn. The Alpha female stood at the head of the ark of a table, stepping away to be better noticed in the sea of people. Sofia’s eyes followed the movement like the woman was a shiny object and she a crow.
“German, my son. Sofia.” Kyrenn held her hands out, welcoming them. Weapons anyone? The thought crossed her mind the same instant German stiffened behind her.
The Alpha halted, but with so much grace it looked as if she’d intended to, not because her approach had been warded off by their stiffening bodies. “Please, join us.” In a swirl of sky blue silk, she turned back to the table, gesturing toward two empty chairs. One to the right of where she’d been sitting, and the other a furlong away on the other side of the table. Granted, it was directly across, but given the size of that tree planed down to be a surface on which to eat, she and German might as well be separated by a solid wall. Did she mention the damned floral arrangements? The sculpted fruit and feathers?
German squeezed her middle. When had he coiled his arms around her? “Hey, Baby. You with me?” He nuzzled behind her ear, but by the tilt of his chin she could tell he stared outward at their audience as he did so.
“Yeah.” She took a breath. Doing it pushed German’s stubbled cheek closer to her sensitive skin. Her lower belly quickened then rolled, like a cat stretching on a sunny window sill. “Yeah, I’m okay.” To prove she was, she stepped toward the Alpha female. Be brave. She could do this. For no one else, but for German and herself. Certainly not for Kyrenn.
The spot she could never reach between her shoulder blades tingled, like if she’d had her fur her hackles would be lifting. Funny. Less than two weeks of turning into a wolf and her mind operated like it had always dealt with this duality of selves. As if it had always been wolf and human and had only been waiting for the former to awaken. Maybe it had. Which was something to analyze later. At the moment, she was free-falling back to her childhood, when the world around her made little sense. When the adults in control said one thing, but their bodies another. Kyrenn was far more subtle than that, but the feeling was there just the same. The other people in the room bled into the background. A small mercy.
“German.” She didn’t think she sounded uncertain, but strong arms closed around her, lifting her a little as he bristled behind her. As if he knew why. That he might know filled her with courage as much as his embrace did.
“Say zombie apocalypse and we’ll go, all right?”
“A safe word?” The odd track of this conversation let her loosen up on her rigid attention of Kyrenn and what the older woman was up to. It didn’t distract her from it, just made her muscles smoothen out so she could move better.
“Yep. I want to see how you work it into the conversation.” His chuckle wasn’t far removed from his growl in the way it tickled across her skin, lifting the fine hair on her arms.
“Truly, you must be Satan’s spawn.” She felt him shrug, then followed his lead as he moved them to the empty seats, gracefully as any partner in a dance. He deposited her in the seat next to Kyrenn’s, pressing his lips to her knuckles before taking his place across from her. Sofia rubbed her palm across her knuckles, savoring the warm impression of his kiss. When she looked up, green eyes held hers, intensely as any predator. The look kept her together, reminded her that no matter the width of the table, German was with her, watching her, alert for any danger.
Her gray wolf. Loyal. Fierce. She could face this assault and the subterfuge of the female Alpha. So what if there were three other leaders. They had yet to speak, and so far she hadn’t picked them out. It was as if Kyrenn was the only creature, besides German, with enough magnetism to arrest her attention.
Until…”Good of you to finally join us, German.” The snarl made its way up from the other end of the mile-long table, kicking Sofia’s smug attitude square in its ass. Suddenly, she realized exactly where the Alphas were: positioned on every side of the table, covering north, south, east, and west.
Shit. Who said Mr. Fox had the market cornered on sly? Seated as they were, the four Alphas missed nothing, and that was pretty stinking…clever.
Sofia’s hackles went good soldier, springing to erect attention as her spine flared like a match stick. Thank God she was barefoot. Shoes would be one less thing to shed, because her wolf just invited herself to dinner.
~Installment No. 47 coming Tuesday, April 22, 2014.