And we’re down to three…bwahahahaha! Are you excited? I’m excited. It’d be cool if you actually commented now that we’re getting down to three parts left. Okay….GO! Comment!
The Cold and Lovely Moon XI
“Damn. We should probably park here, but we might not make it to where the clan stays before the moon rises,” he said, pulling to the side of the road and hitting the steering wheel. He shook his head. “I shouldn’t have let you sleep in, but you looked tired.”
“I looked tired?” While I was sleeping? He better not be trying to blame this on me. We were just starting to get along.
“Yeah, your eyes….” He gestured at me. “They looked all pink and….” He sighed and shook his head.
Oh, right, I’d been crying all night because he’d been behaving like a jerk. I wasn’t about to tell him that though—especially since maybe he wasn’t being as much of a jerk as I’d thought. I used my shirt to wipe down everything I’d touched as Tiberius reached for the door handle.
“What are you doing?” He seemed to find my behavior endlessly fascinating.
“My fingerprints are on file.”
“Do you really think they’ll do a full police sweep on a piece of rust worth less than the gas in it?”
He was probably right, but I couldn’t resist adding, “Maybe wherever you’re from they don’t look into crimes…”
“I’m from thirty miles that way,” he said, pointing. “I usually come at the gathering place from another angle but we’re practically in my backyard.”
“Well, what about your accent?”
“I drifted around the UK until I turned fifteen, but I’ve lived here since—so half my life.”
Oh, that explained how come I couldn’t seem to figure out what kind of accent it was and why it was faint. “I guess that’s how come all your profanity has an accent. You pretty much have heard everything by fifteen.”
He grinned. “Hell yeah.” He opened the door. “Let’s go find the clan.”
I got out. I was having irrational thoughts about that. What if they didn’t like me? What if they thought I wasn’t right for Tiberius? This was a little like meeting the family, right? What if they thought I sucked? “Are you going to tell them I’m a felon?”
“Only if I’m bragging, sweetheart.”
It wasn’t my name, but it might have been even better.
“Just think…now you’re an escaped felon. How great is that?”
I smiled. It was pretty great.
“I know how much you like running. You ready to do some?” He gestured at the forest that edged the road.
“This is going all in. You know that, right? If you don’t want to be part of the clan, you should take that SUV and drive off before the black helicopters arrive.”
I shrugged and walked toward him. “I’m not sure about the clan, but I figure if I want to be with you, they’re part of the package.”
He tilted his head, and his lips twitched. “Is that your way of saying you’re interested in my package?”
I rolled my eyes. He thought he was so clever. I gestured at the forest. “We going?”
He nodded at the woods. “Ladies first.”
I ran in…and he let me be ahead for the first fifty feet so, you know, that’s progress.
The level of profanity rose as the sun dropped. By a half an hour before sunset, his swearing was so far beyond what I’d ever said…even in my head or under my breath, it was freaking me out. Then, when I could feel the itch of the moon rising—I could recognize that’s what it was, not just a fast-acting skin condition, he turned so suddenly I ran into him.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” he said as if we’d been having a long conversation when I’d been sacrificing breathing for speed this last half an hour. He stopped me from knocking both of us over and then kept his arms around me. “There aren’t any bears around here because the clan has been using this land for so long. There isn’t anything bigger than a raccoon for miles. And there are only raccoons because raccoons taste terrible. This normally would be good news but we don’t spend much time creating underground hiding places because we’re the biggest things around. Do you understand?”
He had his arms around me—which felt so good—and he was talking really fast. We’d been running for two hours. I could smell my fear from the progression of profanity. And he’d just told me raccoons taste terrible. Honestly, my response of, “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about,” was fairly reasonable. But I didn’t have to know what he was talking about to be afraid…to be really afraid…and if he did read minds, he was hearing, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!” over and over again this last hour. “Wait, can you read minds?”
He blinked and stared down at me. “Shite, woman, was that meant to be a reply?”
“Which part?” I shook my head and asked, “So are you saying there are no bear dens to hide in or was the part about raccoons supposed to be what I got from that?”
“No bear dens!”
“Well, that’s what I thought, but the raccoons thing confused me.” I dropped my head against his chest. It felt good with his arms around me. Nobody ever just held me like this…partly because normally I was the one in the relationship swearing and trying to be more badass than bears. “Can you read minds?”
“Like literally?” He asked it like I wasn’t speaking English, but he’d used the word literally correctly, so he could be as weird as he wanted and I’d allow it.
“I shouldn’t have let them give you so many of those books. Of course I can’t. Vampires aren’t real. And werewolves would get their pansy-asses kicked. Also, Bigfoot…that’s only ever been us or hoaxes.”
“I’ve never read any books about Bigfoot.” There just weren’t Bigfoot romances. Wow, was that an untapped market.
He grabbed my chin as he leaned back and forced me to make eye contact. “I’m telling you that things could get ugly out there. If I imply you should get the hell out of there without me…you get the hell out of there without me. You got it?”
I gave him a dead-pan stare. “No.”
His eyes narrowed.
“You can glare all you want. You can even knock me flat on my back again—though, fair warning, your uhh…junk will be in danger if you do that. Last night, I wasn’t chasing you because I thought I could help you take on a bear. Are you freaking kidding me? It was a bear! I was chasing you so that if you got killed, I’d get killed too. I’m stupidly loyal.”
There wasn’t a lot of heat behind his glare anymore, but he was still glaring. “Of course I could take a bear! They’re bears!” He said it as if that’d explain everything. It was how I referred to hairless cats.
I yanked my chin from his grasp. “Look, ask me to follow you, I will. Ask me to stand on my head, I will. Ask me to do just about anything else, I will. I’m not leaving you to save myself. That’s not me. If you wanted that girl then you should have picked her yourself and begged them to leave me in my cell.”
He licked his lips and raised his eyebrows. “Anything else? You’ll do anything else?”
I dropped my head against his chest again. Wow, this felt good. Even my mad panicky side thought so. I slid my hands underneath the back of his shirt. Mmm. Shirtless chin-ups did a body good. Well, the fact that he was shirtless probably hadn’t impacted his muscles that much. It had definitely impacted my viewing pleasure, though. Yes, he was adequate. “If you could read my mind now, you’d hear a few suggestions for what you can go do with yourself.” He could probably tell from my scent that I was lying.
With a sigh that made his chest rise and fall beneath my head, Tiberius tightened his arms around me. “Maybe if I’d been able to find a damn car or something yesterday, but they all had enormous RVs at that campground, and I think they would have noticed if we’d tried to drive those off.” I felt him brush what seemed like a kiss across the top of my head. “Or maybe if I’d woken you up sooner….”
“Tiberius, how far are we from this gathering spot?”
“An hour as humans…about twenty minutes as dark beasts.”
“How long would it have taken you to gather everyone together to explain things to them?”
“Possibly some time….”
“How far are they then from any vehicles they could get away in?”
“Two or three hours…as humans.”
“So, at the very least, you would have had to wake me up three hours earlier, and that’s assuming you convinced them to leave. I bet they’re all as stubborn as you and would be trying to send their womenfolk off to knit them some socks and stayed themselves.”
“But I could have warned them.”
“How long did you let me sleep in?”
He mumbled something.
Whatever he’d said, it wasn’t like seven hours…I knew that much. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I said…with a healthy amount of conviction. And then I added, “I’m hungry. I know it’s probably weird to want to start off a brave last stand with a full stomach, but I can smell fish…are we near fish again?” Those granola bars were a long ago memory, and I’d let him have the nasty box of raisins. Eww.
“It is weird, and of course we’re near a lake with fish—this wouldn’t be our gathering land if there weren’t fish here. I told you there isn’t anything bigger than a raccoon—ergo no deer.”
“And yeah, yeah raccoons taste terrible. Since we’re so close to turning, I’d rather wait to eat until I can pop off their heads easily, and when it’s not revolting to eat them raw.”
“You’re such a girl. Real men eat the heads too.”
Yeah, I’d noticed that. It was gross. If we ever kissed as dark beasts, I’d have insisted he brush his teeth first or gargle or something. “Are you saying you wish I was a man?”
He was actually relaxing. In fact, he was stroking a hand down my back. Mmm. “I’m surprised you’re not insisting we keep running.” I wrapped my arms tighter around him just in case he got any ideas.
“We’ll move faster after we turn. There’s no use expending that energy when it’s pointless.”
“I thought it was something romantic like that.”
“You wanted romance? I was just about to suggest we take off all our clothes so we don’t ruin them, and we can come grab them possibly in the morning.”
“Sure. Right. I’m sure that’s the reason. You just didn’t get a very good look this morning, and you figured you could con me. You can’t con a convict, Tiberius. I’m on to your games.”
“You did hear me say that I let you sleep in, right? You toss and turn in your sleep, and I can see well in the dark.”
“I would punch you but we don’t have time for that.” Also, I sort of didn’t mind—it’d give him something to think about if he ever pulled his “worship me, woman” act again.
“How much time do you think we’ve got left?” he asked.
“Uhh…is this like a test?”
I guess that meant yes. “About five minutes…maybe.”
“Seven, but you’re getting closer. Possibly by the next moon’s cycle, you’ll be able to tell to the minute.” It went without saying that we’d have to be alive for that.
“Maybe they won’t come here tonight,” I said. “Maybe the scientists or whoever won’t come here looking for revenge or more people to prod. Maybe it’ll be a boring night and tomorrow you can introduce me around before everyone goes home. Does everyone go home when the newbs can’t change anymore?”
“Most of the clan leaves—goes back to their human way of living—jobs, houses, so on.”
“Do you have that?” Wow, that was weird. I didn’t even know if he lived out in the woods full-time. I guess I’d just sort of thought he did, but that was dumb.
I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “I do. I even have a giant TV and cable…and a pool. Just think, we can teach you how to swim.”
Yeah, I was going to ignore that. “So, I assume that means you have a job?” Normally, these were the questions I asked early on in dating, but it turned out my first question should have been: do you have fur? I never asked that. And, really, I could see that being misinterpreted if I ever did ask that.
“I do. I build boats. Nice ones. My assistant has probably reported me as missing and is in a mad panic by now. At least I parked my truck on our land so it hasn’t been towed. Actually, if anyone in the clan saw my truck still there, they may already be on their guard.”
“I’m assuming they’d be able to tell you never left here.”
“Yeah, the pollen and so on would make it obvious.”
“But no one was around to see them trap you?” He was just hanging out here by himself? That sounded a bit…lonely. Maybe he liked it that way. Maybe I’d get to be annoying eventually.
“No, I’d decided to take a few extra days off work the last lunar cycle, so I’d stayed around last time—which is when they caught me. I think the fact that I could change back made them believe it was more a choice than it is around a full moon. At first, they were going to force me to switch back but I told them I couldn’t do it unless the moon was full. That was probably my first mistake.” He sighed, and his muscles stiffened up beneath my cheek again. He was back to feeling guilty again.
“I thought you’d decided since you got me, you were a lucky bastard?”
“Yeah, but if I lose you….”
I tipped my head back. “Of course you won’t. You’re the alpha. You took on a bear last night. Helicopters don’t even have teeth or claws.”
“No, they have blades and humans carrying guns. You’re right, that’s so much better.”
I pushed back from him. “Okay, you talked me into it.”
I glared at him. Then, I spun away from him and pulled off the Catch and Release t-shirt and tossed it at a nearby tree. I’d just stepped out of the jeans when my skin started to sting. “Show’s over,” I called over my shoulder and, whoa, I’d totally missed out on…and he changed. Damn. It was so much less cool hanging out naked in dark beast form. Warmer, though…so it was less cool in a few ways.
Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Sparrow
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