Yeaaaaah. You guys might hate me. I’m planning on posting two parts for this full moon. One for today and one tomorrow…and then I was posting a giveaway related to this serial on Wednesday, but Tuesday’s part leaves off in a bad part. Hmmm. I guess you’ll have to mention if you care. If no one comments, I’ll assume you’re cool with where the next part leaves. If you’re not, I might post one more part on Wednesday and then do the giveaway post on Friday.
Obviously, this is the eighth part–so if you haven’t read all previous installments, see the tab at the top. (There will be thirteen parts total, so it’ll conclude with October’s full moon.)
The Cold and Lovely Moon VIII
With or without fangs—water sucked. Strangely enough, I could swim after I changed, and the stinging wasn’t nearly as bad as last night, but I still wasn’t planning on spending any extra time in the water than I had to. I shot out of the water and shook it off, feeling more like a drowned rat than an undrowned whatever I was.
Tiberius leapt out, gracefully, and gave me a look that said “pull yourself together and stop hopping around like a cranked-up rabbit.”
I laid down the ground—which didn’t seem to impress him. I think all his concerns about me taking over as alpha were laid to rest, though. So, there was that.
He jerked his head in the direction the moon was rising.
I got back to my feet.
He started walking, waiting to see if I’d follow.
I’m not sure, but I think I might have managed to roll my eyes…but it was hard to tell because this new body still felt really weird. It felt like I was wearing an animal costume rather than being an actual creature. I felt more…aggressive and powerful, but I was still me inside this thing. Also, I was hungry.
I tried to tell Tiberius of that, but it came out as a burbling growl that made him stop and look at me. Maybe all animals could really talk if they could convince their vocal chords to make the right noises. I was going to be a lot less judgmental of animals from now on—well, not hairless cats—I can only do so much. I might even stop harassing the chimpanzees next time I went to the zoo.
I nodded at the lake and made chomping motions with my mouth.
He immediately jumped back into the lake and a moment later, he’d tossed a fish out on the ground in front of me. I just sat there staring at it. Was he kidding me? Another hit me upside the head and then it fell to the ground and flopped around with its friend.
Uhh, once again, was he kidding me? What was I supposed to do with a couple of live fish?
Three more salmon were tossed out at my feet before he rejoined me, shaking off the lake water like a dog. Instead of staring down at the fish flopping all around me like water in oil, Tiberius stared at me, like I was the strange part of this whole business. He even tilted his head, and I could almost hear the human version of him saying, “Hmm.” Meanwhile, the fish all jumped around at our feet beating out “Save me!” in Morris code. One hit my leg, and I jumped back.
Tiberius snorted before picking each one up and slamming it against a nearby rock. Then he set them in front of me again…and waited. He was testing me. This felt like a test.
Well, this was like sushi really. Bears ate this. I was much more badass than a bear. In this form. Maybe. Plus, they were dead now.
Tiberius picked it up and smacked it again.
Okay, now they were all dead.
Maybe if he went first.
He must have some wicked good mind-reading skills because he started pacing around me. Clearly, I had to go first. I wasn’t sure if it was part of the whole courtship thing—he had brought me food again—or he just wanted me to…man-up…monster-up…whatever the right phrase would be.
I could do this. I could do this. Well, not with them staring at me with their “why are you eating me” eyes. I grabbed one with my front claws, and the sight of my talons took me back at first. Whoa! That’s right…I had those. I looked away as I beheaded the thing and tossed the head. My limbs weren’t vastly coordinated—especially with a no look throw, and it hit Tiberius. I acted like it was on purpose. Leaning down, I sniffed the salmon’s body. It smelled good. And there weren’t eyes now giving me shaming looks. I took a tentative bite.
Yeah, that hit the spot. I gobbled it up before beheading another one and eating it. When we were back to human, I’d still want them cooked, but I could handle this. Plus, it was fun to throw the heads at Tiberius on purpose. That probably made me a monster, but, hey, if the talons fit….
He let me have three salmon to his two. This had to be some sort of courtship thing. He was still going to have to call me by name, but he sure knew the way to my heart.
We went back to running, and it was awesome. We ran and ran and ran. He stopped every so often and listened for sound, but then we went back to running. All the fear of the day just fell away. I felt free all over again.
I could feel the night was half over when he started slowing down and sniffing around periodically. He had some sort of scent goal in mind because each time he’d stop to search for a scent, he’d reorient us slightly, and we’d take off at a trot in another direction. I couldn’t tell time, but I could feel the moon passing through the sky. It was like watching an hourglass, only I felt it inside.
Tiberius stopped for longer, listening and smelling.
This time, I could smell two things that seemed at odds with each other, gasoline and something musky and natural—an animal—a big animal. It smelled like a bear if I had to guess. He really was going to take on a bear. He was insane. We hadn’t heard a helicopter all night. I prodded my nose into his side to get his attention and then shook my head when he looked at me. His snarl took me back, and I dropped my gaze to the ground, feeling subdued. Fine.
He growled again and when I looked up, he nodded toward a rocky area—probably where we’d find our bear den. Great.
I thought of protesting again, but the stare he was giving me withered that impulse right up. That look fried a lot of things in fact. Either he was a lot more aggressive and a lot less friendly or he was pissed…or both. If he was pissed about what I’d said right before we’d changed, well, maybe things hadn’t shifted between us as much as I’d thought. Either that or his pride was going to be more of a monster in our relationship than the actual monsters in our relationship.
When we were back to being human, maybe we’d be back to him knocking me on my back and expecting me to just be grateful for his attention.
He headed off toward the rocks and, this time, he didn’t wait for me. And I still followed him because I was stupidly falling for him—plus, I’d told him I would. Tomorrow, I might have to do some damage control. Ease off…or neither one of us would be holding to my rules. And, hell, there were only three rules. And I’d followed him all day and all night. Like I’d said I would.
If he sensed I was following him, he didn’t acknowledge it in any way.
I’d said I would, though.
Why had I even suggested this? I was full of dumb ideas today. Drowning and fighting bears. Or maybe drowning and dying would be a better summary of my input for the day. The farther he wove through the dark rocks, the more I hung back. He couldn’t be serious, right? We could sleep near some trees like last night and tossing a bear could be our back-up plan. Maybe he thought he had something to prove. To me. Maybe I’d gone too far, and he thought this was the only way to establish he was in charge.
We really shouldn’t do this.
That got his attention. I saw the flash of fangs in the moonlight as he turned and snarled at me. It was the less indulgent and friendly version of “Shut it!”
I backed off, almost stumbling in my haste. Okay, so…fine. He could get himself killed. He could get us both killed. I would let him. If he wanted it that badly who was I to stop him?
He disappeared into the cleft between two rocks. A second later, I heard a sound that chilled me. All that fur I had—it stood up on end all across me. Whatever Tiberius was facing now was feeling his full foul mood. If he’d ever used that growl on me, I would have passed out.
I was badass, but I was not that badass.
Then, the thing snarled right back at him, and I bolted up to the cave. If he was determined to kill himself—it could take me too. I reached the mouth of the cave just as Tiberius roared again and there, sure enough, in the dark interior was the biggest damn bear I’d ever seen in my life. It made the zoo bears look like malnourished refugees. And my dumbass mate was stalking toward it like a panther who’d cornered a mouse. And I was frozen in my spot. I could smell the scent of my fear—no, I was way beyond fear. This was stark terror. I had huge talons and a jaw full of fangs, but I was a house cat compared to that bear.
The bear growled and feinted forward.
Tiberius didn’t even flinch and let loose another of those snarls that should have cowed everything…other than this bear.
The bear got up on its back legs and growled again.
This was my fault. If anything happened to Tiberius it was my fault.
Then, Tiberius did something that I don’t think either the bear or I anticipated. Instead of continuing the gradual rising pissing match of growling, Tiberius bolted forward and slammed into the bear, knocking it against the wall. Then, he stood above it, snarled again, and slashed across its stomach with one of his claws.
The bear howled. It got to its feet and considered attacking, but then Tiberius snarled again. And it ran straight at me.
Tiberius snarled again, either at me or at the bear, and I pulled back enough that the escaping bear only brushed against me as it bolted out into the night.
I was a monster. I was this creature of the night. I had claws. I had fangs. I just wanted to be human again and out of this world where my new boyfriend could scare the crap out of an enormous bear.
This time the snarl from inside the den was more imperious than frightening. “Come in, woman! I have conquered.”
I didn’t want to. I sort of wanted to go hang out with the bear. At this point, he and I had a lot in common: we both thought Tiberius had a lot of power to hurt us. My mate came out of the cave and stared at me. He jerked his head in a gesture. Come in.
I gave up. I gave up on all of it. If this was his reaction to me feeling like I was an equal, then screw this. He’d been holding me just before I’d turned. We’d been kissing moments before. And now…this. I nearly crawled by him. If it made him feel better to have me subdued and afraid of him—then, whatever, he had tonight. I told him I’d follow him tonight.
He nodded toward a corner. There, woman. Lie there.
The whole place reeked of bear. I’d never be able to be near a bear rug again without remembering this place. But I went to the corner and lay down, facing away from him. Maybe he’d come curl around me again like he did last night, and I’d be able to get over this…brush it off as a gut reaction like when he’d dropped me on my back.
But he didn’t.
When I dared a look back, he was lying across the front of the cave possessively. He was lying where a helicopter could spot him—thus negating the whole reason we’d done this.
I’ve never thought much about whether animals can cry…whether they feel sadness. Maybe some can. I don’t know. Apparently dark beasts can. Because I did. Until I finally fell asleep.
Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Sparrow
If you liked this, comment below.
If you liked this and you’re getting all jittery for a happily-ever-after fix, I have short stories in the tab above. *points* That one. But I know what you’re saying, you’re saying, “Wendy, but I want longer stories!” Gah! I know. I know how that is. Well, Frosted is out. But, wait, you’ve already read and reviewed Frosted? Ohhhhh…huh. Well, for you, and just for you, I’m going to have two more novellas come out within about a month. It’s weird that their pub dates worked out like that. I’ll be yelling about them like crazy, and I’ll probably have an awesome giveaway with each one…because I’m cool like that. So, watch for that. Keep your eyeballs peeled. (Actually, don’t do that…that’s gross.)
Thanks for reading. : )