Steps to Midnight

Breaching the thick silence hanging in the air, Felicity Marcum opens her car door. A shiver strolls across her exposed skin, and her heart pounds. Her feet to the ground she takes one last glance over her shoulder to the gate that reads, Last Chance Cemetery. The light in its center, or what she assumes is the center, is her only choice to seek out salvation from a walk into town. If the town is close by.

White knuckles grip the car door as she pulls herself up to stand. Pain is a hiss across her lips as a hoot startles her, and her full weight bears down on her leg. Breaths tear through her nose as the ache settles into her bones. Snapshots of her mangled knee flash in her head. She mentally shakes the images to scatter them from her memory, but she never forgets the pain that one distracted smile caused. What Felicity needs to do is ignore the past and think about finding a cell signal to call a place to fix her car. This whole area seems to be a dead zone. She snorts at the thought.

A frown pulls down on her face. “Stupid bucket of junk. I should have replaced you when I had the chance.”

Felicity steps away and pushes the door shut, the eerie whine and screech ending with brittle metal slamming into metal. Her stomach churns with acidic indecision. Should she take the road on foot to the nearest gas station? Or should she chance following the light into the cemetery? She exhausts a breath. Felicity knows she can’t walk far on her stupid knee.

“Cemetery it is.”

The night gives sparse injections of light. Dark, menacing shadows hide the dead all around her as she searches for any signs of life past the tall, menacing bars of the gate.

“Hello?” she says just above a whisper. “Anyone alive out there.” She snickers this time. At least she can find some humor in the day that keeps on giving.

Gripping her threadbare jacket, she pulls the edges together worrying her thumbs across space where the buttons should be. Felicity eyes the towering gate and takes a step. Her gut tells her this decision is going to twist a fork in the road, making what should be a trip from point a to point b something impassible. She’s scared. And the feeling isn’t going away. It’s churning up feelings that she thought she had dealt with. She shakes her head. “Like the Nike commercial,” says Fel, “Just do it!”

With no flashlight and the sliver of moon dropping toward the silhouette of tombstones Felicity’s confidence in her choice diminishes. Each step she takes she makes with care so she doesn’t trip. She stops to lean on one of the headstones to rest. Did she really see the light from the house? She looks at it again. She gasps when the light flickers and then dies.

“Shit!” She looks frantically around wondering what happened as if some giant switch would appear so she could turn on the light. “Keep moving, Fel,” she whispers. “You’ll get where you need to go,” she repeated until she believed it or kept repeating it that is.

Felicity let go of the stone blowing warm air into her cold hands. She headed the direction the light had extinguished.

“The caretakers just in bed,” she said to the dead. “I’ll go to the house, he’ll let me in, and I can call for a tow truck, and then I’ll be able to get to my destination by morning.”

With each step, her focus is to keep her weight off her not so healed knee, her hobble is even more pronounced and her concentration on the bad knee so great she misses a large divot in the ground.

A scream cracks through the cold air, and she hits the ground hard as she twists around trying to avoid landing on her bad knee, instead, twisting her ankle on her good leg. Felicity’s whimper clogs her throat. She holds herself off her knee resting on three limbs while she catches the wind she knocked out of her lungs.

“Stupid Felicity, stupid.” She squeezes her eyes shut holding back her tears because they’re of no use. “I should have taken the train.”

She grabs onto the nearest angel’s wing and brings herself back up to sit with her back to a head stone. She rotates her ankle and grunts through the movement. It hurts like hell but it’s doable. Using the angel’s wings again, she helps herself up, grits her teeth, and limps like a zombie looking for its next meal. She must look ridiculous she thinks to herself. Hysterical laughter launches out of her mouth and echoes throughout the graves bouncing back like a hoard of spirits zeroing in on her. It makes her shiver, but she ignores the chill and keeps on moving.

Walking around an ornate and very large stone monument—she looks at the carved words—dedicated to someone who must have been exorbitantly rich, Felicity comes to a sudden stop. The clouds have spilt apart, the moon shining down making the edges of the monuments glow in an unnerving light. But what makes her freeze is the movement from a shadow silhouetted by the same light. It’s not enough to see who it is but Felicity’s instincts tell her to keep quiet.

Felicity swallows hard and tries to regulate her breathing. She watches and waits to see what the large figure does. A hand reaches out and touches one of the grave stones. Who was the person that lies beneath his feet? She assumes it’s a ‘he’ standing there. The figure is significant. He seems to tower over her. There’s whispering, but she can’t hear what he’s saying. Felicity knows it is a man now. The voice is in too deep of a tone for a woman. She wants to take a step back. His size and that low voice make her nervous. But she doesn’t dare move.

An alarm blares from her coat. “Ahhh!” It’s her alarm. Fingers reach into her pocket for her phone, which had no signal earlier—the reason she couldn’t call anyone to get a tow truck.

She’d set it to remind herself that she had thirty minutes until midnight to get to her destination per her grandmother’s instructions. For the life of her Felicity doesn’t know why she still listens to the old woman, but when she speaks, all in her family listen. Felicity was to be in the small town of Humble by midnight, so that’s what she was doing. The woman is crazy, but she has a way. She knows things.

She slaps at it to get the alarm to shut off and hits the flashlight app instead.

“The flashlight app. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?”

Movement in the grass ahead of her reminds her she’s not alone. She brings up the light, and it shines on the huge goliath of a man a few yards away. His arm goes up to block his face, and he freezes.

“Don’t move! I have mace.” She does, but it’s in her car. “Crap.”

“You want to shine that damn thing somewhere else?” His words vibrate with almost a growl.

The words he says don’t really resonate though, and the rumbling tenor in his voice sings through Fel’s body like the purest chord lighting her up everywhere it touches. But then she realizes she’s in a graveyard with a strange giant of a man that could really do some damage, and she decides that it’s a good idea to direct the light somewhere else. She shifts it down so it’s not in his eyes but on him enough that she feels she could blind him again if she needs to.

Redirected the lights shows he’s holding a wreath at least three times as large as the engraved headstone he stands near. When she looks up again, the man’s body faces the grave but his face is at an angle such that the moon hits it just right and his eyes seem to glow. And his eyes are staring at her.

“Oh my,” she whispers, covering her mouth, the words and the sexual inflection she’s projecting toward this man coming out in full force, not appropriate for the mood of the hour.

He doesn’t say anything, and their gazes remain locked. Felicity’s body jerks when he says, “Your alarm’s still beeping.”

“Oh.” She unfreezes and turns it off. When she looks back up, he’s gone. She turns with unsteady movements searching but doesn’t see where he’s gone. “What the hell.” She turns again. “Ow. Stupid knee.” She looks around again. “Hello,” she yells. “I could use some help.”

There’s no response. “Jerk.”

She needs to keep moving, but before she does, she sees the wreath left at the grave. Grabbing her now remembered flashlight app she reads the inscription. “Beloved wife. 1984-2016. May you find what you were looking for.” What an odd epitaph.

She shakes off the sad feelings that the words invoke and then she gets angry. Didn’t the guy wonder why she was out here close to midnight?

“Fine!” she shouts to the world at large. The world hasn’t been that good to her in the first place. “But dammit, throw me a bone here.”

No answer.

She limps forward more determined than ever to get to the house. It isn’t like she has anywhere else to go…like the town thirty minutes away. Her grandmother always said she was traveling a new road soon. Felicity laughs so loud she stirs something in a bush, and it makes her stumble as the little critter races for cover. Her hand catches on a stone. She doesn’t fall. A breath huffs out, and Felicity keeps going.

Right before her grandmother stomped into the spiritual store they co-owned, Enchanted Glen, the stomping coming from the use of a cane she did not need, she had just returned from the grocers to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend. There had been an eviction notice on the door. Groceries in hand she did a little stomping and saw said boyfriend entangled with a blond that was not her. “What the hell,” she’d said. She hadn’t even yelled at him more surprised than anything. “You said you paid the rent.” He’d stood there with his mouth open which had a slight smile on it. He had probably been waiting for a pulling-the-hair-drag-down-fight with the girl in his arms. She hadn’t really cared. She’d been his roommate more than less. They hadn’t had sex but a handful of times since her car accident. He’d told her that he’d gotten another place to live, which she’d seen on the smirking blonds face. Felicity’s mind had been blank at that point. She hadn’t cared about food, not her job, not even her boyfriend. He had been a placeholder, really.

Her life isn’t moving forward or back unless you count her steps toward the elusive house she’s heading toward. Every time she thinks of the future, she feels more like she’s sinking, hoping for something to jump out of the proverbial dense woods of her reality that surrounds her dragging her in the right direction out of the mire that keeps pulling her under.

Felicity sighs at the memories folding over in her mind and keeps limping toward her destination. Lifting her face to the moon soaking in white light that gleams down on her, she is energized by its majesty. The darkness is what she’s afraid of more. The bleakness of it.

A year ago, her crushed car trapped for hours it seemed, her knee crushed, night falling over her as lethargy from all her wounds and blood loss covered her like a leaden blanket, swallowing her up in a mindless darkness.

“Oh, Jesus,” she exclaimed when she finally looked up.

A white Queen Ann style house a colossal slice of history cast in shadows comes into view as she tops a hill. Row after row of headstones strangles the house in ever tightening circles. She looks around noticing now that the path she’s walking is a ripple of graves from the center of the cemetery and as she moves forward taking the last step, her hand grabbing the newel post, she feels the power of it deep in her bones past her pain and the past. Like the power is centering her bringing her to the present.

Felicity breathes deep trying not to whimper as she lifts her leg to reach the next step and then the next. Reaching the door, she lifts her hand to knock but just as she does the moon shines on the center knocker, an open mouths skeleton holding a crystal stone in its giant jaws. She looks closer. Is it a wolf’s skeleton? The shudder she feels race down her spine is not welcome. As she stares at it, she feels the hum start to echo inside her, and it takes its cadence and changes her own. Her heart finds the rhythm easily which makes her nerves skitter. She looks over her shoulder. It feels like someone is watching her, eyes everywhere.

Grandma said to be at the rendezvous point at midnight. Felicity looks down at her watch just as her hand lifts the ornate knocker. Before she has time to react the knocker comes down, and the digits on her clock click over to midnight. She thinks maybe her grandmother lied and this is really her destination. Her destiny.

The hum under her skin feels bigger, somehow louder, and she knocks again. And again, until her hand is gripping the knocker so tightly she thinks her fingers will never release it.

This time she does whimper, confused, scared. The lights turn on, and she blinks. The door opens, but her hand is still on the knocker. She stumbles across the threshold, and three things happen she never thought would. One, arms wrap around so securely and strong, they feel so good she never wants them to let go. Two, the pain in her knee is so excruciating that she’s not walking anymore, she really does need to be held and carried someplace to lay down. And three, when she looks up into the face the bright light covers, she gasps.

“You,” Felicity says, the words so small she barely can hear them herself.

The man, holding her, gazes down into her eyes with an intensity that shakes her to the core. It’s the man from the cemetery.

Not only is he the man from the cemetery, but now that she sees him in the stark light, he’s the same man that a year ago changed her life forever. All because of a smile, another driver’s carelessness, and bad timing.

“Do I know you?” The man says, and his eyes narrow in what she suspects is confusion.

Hysterical laughter floats into the room from her mouth causing the man to smile. It’s stunning making her body heat up like a summer storm waiting to rain down on him.

“No,” she whispers. The man brings her to standing. “Ow,” she says when her weight hits her bad leg. And then just like in all her fantasies, the stranger lifts her up carrying her to a sofa in the next room gently sitting her down. But it’s not to sit her on the sofa. Because she can’t sit on the sofa if he’s still holding her on his lap.

She figures at this point she must be dreaming because things like this don’t happen to her.

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Moon Eyes

Her name was Beebe Rizzoli, but everyone called her Jersey. She was a transplant due to things out of her control. Her accent was something that people had a hard time ignoring. Trying to get rid of it was useless. She wasn’t adept at changing to conform with what society expected.

She was just Beebe and maybe something a bit more. Or at least, that’s what someone told her when she was told to leave her home. She was just about fourteen, fifteen. It was a life of scary ups and downs back then. Shaking her head, she tried to ignore that part of her life, but lately, she’d felt this itch under her skin, a constant reminder that her past was catching up with her. At least that’s what she thought. Her leaving her home had been like a tear in her consciousness and never made sense. She’d turn twenty-five in a few days. It was always in the back of her mind, the mysterious stirring that churned in her gut. She wasn’t just Beebe, but something else. And Beebe was running out of time.

“Jersey, you alright?”

She blinked a few times, tilted her head her hearing absorbing too much of her friend’s voice. She grabbed her ears and rubbed. Putting on a fake smile she turned to her friend Rhyme who’d started at the coffee shop around the same time she had. “Yeah.”

Beebe was working at Starbucks, it was going on seven years now, and she loved it. The smell of coffee, the look of coffee beans, the milk frothing, and then the mixing of the espresso into a beautiful treat. It was all delicious, but crushing on coffee wasn’t the greatest idea of real romance. A person couldn’t date coffee or snuggle up to coffee. Well, they could, but then most people would think it would be straight jacket city for her. She just hadn’t found anyone that interested her enough to take the next step or even turned her on for that matter.

Her hand grabbed the 2% in the fridge under the bar, she poured to the appropriate line, put the pitcher under the steam wand, and listened to the machine catch the milk in a shush and hiss, voicing its frustration at having to take another dip in a milk bath. The cup got pumps of chocolate, the espresso joined the chocolate, and she swirled the pair mixing the perfect amount of dark chocolate to espresso. The steam wand sighed into silence and Beebe grabbed the milk and poured it with a flare into the cup, the force mixing everything together. She grabbed the whip cream canister that was sprawled across the bar with other ingredients and topped the cup off with the perfect aplomb handing it off to a drive-thru customer.

“Jersey! You’re off the floor.”

She nodded to her shift manager and took off her apron heading toward the back.

Clocking out her stomach started to dance in excitement. She was staying in the café to work on her latest art project which involved coffee grounds and water. It was the first time she was trying anything like it. Beebe would grind up separately light, medium and dark roast coffees to see how the color, when applied to paper, would fare. If it didn’t work how she imagined it, Beebe would make due and supplement the project with another medium. She was trying for a sepia colored work. She thought the yellows and browns of the coffees would be perfect.

First, she would eat.

Up at the counter, she got a blueberry muffin and a protein box. Maybe I should get a yogurt too and the salad. She was hungry all the time now.

“You stickin’ around for a while?” Rhyme asked.

“Yeah. I’m trying something new tonight.”

Rhyme smiled. Her friend knew Beebe held a great passion for art.

Beebe worked at a 24-hour location which allowed her to stay late, relax, and think about how she could approach a project. It was great thinking space.

“Jersey? Do you want anything else?”

Beebe blinked distracted again.

“Ah…yeah. I’ll get this yogurt,” she grabbed it from the chill wall, “and a slice of Double Chocolate Loaf. Um, this salad too. Oh, and a Venti Flat White.”

Rhyme’s eyes widened. “Hungry much?”

A buzzing rang in her ears. She tried to shake it off.

“Did you see how much that girl ordered? She’ll be a cow in no time,” someone said and then giggled.

Beebe looked behind her to glare at the person who’d been so rude, but the line was empty. Until they spoke again. Her head tilted and the words could be heard clearly again. Almost at the vestibule door she saw what looked to be a teenager and her friends. Breath hitching, she realized she could hear everything they were saying, and then it just stopped.

“Beebe? You need something else?”

Beebe turned back to her friend and opened her mouth but closed it and shrugged. She didn’t know what to tell her. When done gathering all her food items, she took them to a high table and sat, got out her sketchbook and started to sketch while she ate and everything else faded away.

Beebe had just taken her last bite of food when Rhyme sat down opposite her.

“So, what’s up with you?”

From staring at a blank page in her sketchbook she blinked up at her friend. “Huh?” She looked down again. Her head seemed foggy. She flipped black through the pages she’d drawn on, and her eyes widened. She looked at the next, and the next, and the next and her panic grew with such intensity she couldn’t breathe.

She heard a bluster of noise when Rhyme got in her face.

“Breathe?! Breath. Are you okay?”

Beebe looked up into her friend’s eyes and tried to shut down the panic stirring in her belly.

“Who is that?” Rhyme pointed to the open pages. “He’s hot as hell.”

Beebe didn’t want to look down, squeezing her eyes shut until they hurt. She couldn’t remember drawing the man staring back at her, his face she couldn’t decipher, only his eyes were bright, the artic-blue gaze searing into her memory, the need and lust staring back at her freezing her in place.

Her pulse raced. Her veins throbbed. She didn’t remember drawing any of it. Any of him. Her fingers clawed into the wood table as her fingertips itched and burned as she tried to hold on to reality. Her breaths came harder and faster. Her fingers burned more.

“Dammit, Beebe! Take it easy.” Rhyme touched her hand.

Beebe swallowed a scream that came out as a squeak.

Aching all over Beebe opened her eyes to the image that she’d drawn and blew out the slowest breath she could manage before hyperventilating. Surrounded by tall needled pine in a meadow covered by a plush blanket of wildflowers she was on her hands and knees staring out from the paper. Her bright green eyes flashed with what could only be lust and the knowing smirk on her lips made her tremble. Tingles danced along her skin, her breasts peaked and strained against her bra. Beebe’s sex tightened as if trying to grab onto something.

She held in a groan.

Desire that always evaded her when with her partners of the moment unfurled deep within her sex making her gasp and flush. Embarrassed, she covered her face and rubbed furiously to get the image of the mystery man out of her mind and turn off her awakened libido. But she couldn’t.

She looked up at her friend. “I don’t know who he is.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to use him as the best fantasy fodder every created. Mmm. Mmm.”

Beebe jumped out of her seat so fast her friend tripped backward until momentum carried her down to the tile. Beebe’s lips curled back, teeth exposed along with a deep, menacing growl. She slapped her hand over her mouth horrified.

Beebe whimpered. The urge so overwhelming to attack her friend she stumbled back knocking into the table. The white of Rhyme’s eyes grew to the size of the moon. Beebe’s breaths came fast, the scent of a bitter metallic coming off her friend, filling her nostrils. Her shaking hands grabbed her things throwing them in her bag. She had to get away.

‘I’m sorry, Rhyme. I’m sorry,” she cried.

Tears slipped from Beebe’s eyes. She raced out of the store, all the other partners staring at her as Rhyme got up. Beebe tripped as the unknown primal urge to claim what was hers, the man she’d drawn, and turn back and rip her friend’s throat out.

“Oh, God! What’s wrong with me?”

She ran like hell was lighting her heels on fire. Closer to her car she looked back and couldn’t see the store anymore or Rhyme. When she turned, she heard a noise like a low rumble. It distracted her enough she stumbled on a loose chunk of pavement, her things thrown everywhere. She fell to her knees and gathered them in a hurry, pulse pounding in her ears.

The rumble came again.

And again.

She ran even harder, the distance to her car seeming miles away. With a desperation she’d never known before, she prayed to anyone that would listen for her to reach her car safely. Time slowed but chased her like the wick on dynamite. Beebe cried out as she reached her car, fingers aching tangling with her keys, the tips pulsing like something wanted to tear through her skin. Precious moments lengthened until she finally opened the door of her car. She threw her things onto the passenger seat and slammed the door, locking it. Her head hit her steering wheel as she tried to settle her racing heart.

As her chest ached, she put the keys in the ignition and got the hell out of there. Only as she hit the gas, a heart-wrenching howl filled the night becoming a thick fog in her mind, like she was forgetting something. Or was it someone. She sniffed.

Its cry crawled along her spine and caused a whole-body shiver. She looked over her shoulder afraid of what she might see, afraid of the pull that made her long to turn around a follow the passionate howl. She wiped her face, tears coming away on her hand. How long had she been crying? Beebe hit the gas, but she looked over her shoulder again. She swerved out of the line of oncoming traffic into her own lane. Her tires squealed, and she rocketed down the street as she fled.

But the feeling of being held by that desperate cry, the need to turn back and seek what made it had her mind reeling. Why would she need to do that? She shook her head and kept driving. She had to get home, safe in her apartment.

Behind a locked door, she sank to her butt in a hard thump, her things pouring out of her bag a page opening to the eyes that cut deep into her soul seeking her own.

Beebe lifted the sketch book, flipped on the light and held the image in front of her. Who belonged to the ice blue eyes? Why had she drawn them?

An animal’s wail broke the silence of her apartment. It was just a stray dog she told herself. Up on shaking legs, she went to her room and readied for bed, not realizing she still held the sketchbook when she went to the bathroom. She threw it on the bed with enough force that it bounced off and onto the floor. She left it where it fell and went to brush her teeth. Beebe couldn’t get the image out of her mind.

When she finished her tasks before bed, she still couldn’t make the image quiet in her mind and decided to hell with it. She snatched the sketchbook of the floor and went to her art table to see if she could draw any more of the stranger. But her mind was stuck on the glacial stare, so Beebe began to draw something else. Her eyes started to get heavy and her lids fluttered down until she wound up crawling into her bed and falling asleep. The image of the stranger with ice blue eyes was the last thing she saw until she woke in the meadow of wild flowers.

Beebe looked down at herself and around. She didn’t feel right. Hadn’t she gone to bed? But she wore a dress made of linen and lace in a soft, almost nothing, blue that was so light that she could barely feel it caressing her skin as the breeze whispered through the fabric making it dance across her knees and flutter up to stroke her naked skin. She gasped. Where were her panties? She looked around again. More wild flowers appeared almost creating a cage of beauty.

“Hello?” Her skin prickled, and heat bloomed as the wind danced catching her bodies hairs. The silence of her question not carrying at all, as if she was still back in her room. She moaned. “Is anyone out there?” Was she dreaming? It had to be a dream.

A rustling came. A chuff. A yip. Beebe could see the flowers sway and dance as something brushed up against them too low for her to see. Her heart thumped faster. Excitement or fear she didn’t know. “Hello?” Her voice whispered so small she could barely hear it. “Hello?” A little bit louder now.

Foot beats sounded as she glanced over her shoulder. She circled. In front of her, behind her, once again. “Please, show yourself!” She yelled.

The beats went silent. She turned and turned to see if anything was out there, but the meadow had an eerie stillness that had her holding her breath. And then just in front of her a great beast stepped out of the wild flowers, it’s black coat thick and rich as shimmering coal and its eyes…It’s eyes shining like a beacon. The power of them held in their depths like the glaciers that hide the balance of nature below the Arctic waters in the north.

Beebe took a step forward not afraid. But why? And then the beast’s eyes took her in from head to toes. She began to shake as the beast came closer circling ever closer. As time slowed, fur brushed up against her bare legs. She moaned, but quieted when the great snout tipped up and skimmed along the underside of her breast. Her hands went to push the great head away but she stopped afraid of what it might do if she touched it. When the beast touched her again it brushed back and forth along her waist until it skimmed the hem of her dress, the wind exposing more of her legs.

A noise emanated from the animal. “Purring?” she said aloud. It butted her butt as if he was insulted. As it made another pass, the animal took another poke at her and lingered places it shouldn’t. “Stop that,” she snapped. Beebe tried to push it away, but then it came around and suddenly she was lying on her back on a bed of flowers covered by the animal. But soon that changed. The beasts’ eyes. Beebe gasped. Wolf.

Light fractured, and heat flashed across its skin. The weight of the animal shifted as the light splintered unspooling from the center of the wolf. It whipped gently across her skin in small lightning strikes, drumming sensitive areas, making her moan and writhe. But she knew it was odd to think this was alright. As more came at her, she couldn’t help the need it created inside her. Soft fur blanketed her. Beebe’s fingers locked onto the shoulders of the beast. She needed to hold it away, to get control of her reality, to wake up. This place couldn’t be real. It was just a dream. The light grew, and she squeezed her eyes shut, afraid of what might become of her mind if she lost herself in what was happening, if she let whatever she felt for this creature consume her. As her fingers held its fur they slipped onto flesh, and she gasped. She held on tighter and dug her fingertips into muscle. She was breathing with such force she thought she might lose consciousness. But at last, the sparks died and snapped out just as quickly as they exploded. The searing warmth made her skin dewy and aroused. She still didn’t dare open her eyes.

She couldn’t comprehend how or why this was happening. It seemed more than a dream. This wolf was somehow hers. At least that’s what she thought as her hips began to rock and hands that were no longer paws brushed up her sides gripping her wrists to stretch her arms over her head, the material of her dress inching up to expose her sex. She moaned, as the wolf that had transformed to a man held her down and spread her legs so he could fall into the v made by her spread legs.

“Please,” she said. Beebe didn’t know if she meant for him to stop or for him to keep touching her in such a sensual way. The man’s head nuzzled against her neck and his tongue tantalized the skin at her ear.

Her desire grew as her want for this man, who was not a man, began to pull back and adjust himself to skim her entrance. Beebe’s back arched just enough so with the next glide he thrust into her sitting himself deep within her core. The moans rolled over them both now like thunder in a never-ending storm. Each drag and thrust he slid over the most delicious spot, and her arousal grew. With each touch, she wanted him to go faster. And he did. With each kiss and lick, she danced closer and closer to the ultimate precipice of release. Beebe wanted it. Needed it. And she took it.

“Ahhhh!” Beebe screamed. Her orgasm hit her at Mach one, and she knew she had to be flying. She convulsed again, and again squeezing him tight, the pleasure so strong that she thought she would die from it. As another rush caught her, reality tipped once again. She gasped and moaned and writhed, the ache inside growing again until she fell over the edge, just as the man disappeared.

She woke to a scream, her own, it from pleasure and pain she didn’t know. He wasn’t real.

“It wasn’t real. None of it was true. It was just a dream. Just a dream,” she muttered.

“Hello, Beebeanna.”

Her eyes snapped open. Her heart raced. She turned to glowing glacial-blue eyes staring back at her.

Wolf.

It was the last thing she had thought before she passed out.

Raya’s Pride

Padding across the cool morning earth, Raya’s muscles were loose and heated after her morning run. She carried herself to the low stream at the back of her property and lapped up the icy water. The surrounding woods came alive with the wild things. The sound of her pack an echo in the distance that she kept between them. They knew where she was but they left her alone. She didn’t deal lightly with anyone invading her territory.

The snap of a twig at her flank caused her to whip 180 degrees, a threatening growl parting her lips. She flashed her sharp teeth, warning off the intruder. Her body became a taught weapon ready to pounce. Shifting, waiting, Raya gazed across the dark copse of lush pine. The thick eerie silence grew like a taut band. She crept forward inching toward the darkness when the bluest eyes illuminated by the rising sun stilled her.

Raya whined. Automatically she backed up, fear she was losing her mind gathering. Her paws hit the stream. She didn’t feel the cold water. Mind frozen, her breaths quickened.

“No,” she said, but it came out as a mangled moan. Raya blinked and shook her head. He couldn’t be here. She tried to lock out her past, it was like an unstoppable bullet train racing toward its destination; memories flooded her mind of a time when her heart had been full to bursting.

She whimpered as her heart skipped a beat with hope. It couldn’t be him. Raya licked her muzzle. The wolf in front of her followed the movement with a slight tilt of his head and a huff of breath that misted in front of him. The last time she had seen him he had promised they would be together forever. It was a childish dream to believe that she would be with the boy she loved until the end of eternity, but she believed it nonetheless. She’d not seen him since. Until now.

Caleb Finnegan.

She inched forward on her paws but didn’t take her eyes off the wolf as he peeled away from the pines, his head up sniffing the air as he neared, and his strong legs and thick shiny black coat telling of his heritage.

The black wolf lifted his muzzle up, back down, and then quieted, his stillness unnatural.

Tremors needled out from her heart, her memories of the love they’d shared burning through her veins. Her legs began to shake. She knew what was coming and wanted to close her eyes, deny that it was Caleb in front of her. Her muzzle swayed back and forth, her disbelief in motion, not willing to give an inch to the reality that was upon her.

The air wavered in front of the great wolf. Heat roiled and began to swell suffusing his coat, flaring with invisible fingers as if a wind used them as whips and would scald anything within reach. Color and brilliant light washed through his fur undulating like a tide, energy forming waves that reflected too brightly in her eyes. She blinked to clear them as they stung, going down to her belly, hiding from the light, that last burst of energy singing her skin only meant one thing.

“Raya?”

“Oh, God!” she said, the words a small howl. Raya’s body quaked at the sound of her name. It made her belly toss with emotion, awakening old feelings she thought she had buried for good. She jumped to her feet ready to bolt, but couldn’t quite get herself to move. She didn’t dare look up. Raya was scared he would disappear on the wind. But she had to see, she had to know it was Caleb.

She slowly lifted her eyes to his. Raya barked sharp and loud, voicing her disbelief. The beat of her heart thumped rapidly against her chest. Caleb stood in front of her as a man, flesh, blood, not a teenage boy any longer. The ache in her chest fluttered to life. Why was he here, after all this time?  If he was back in these woods, it was for a good reason.

Raya took the man in, enjoying his human form. His once, long and awkward sinew was now solid muscle, roughly hitting around 6’-5”, in one of the most exquisite bodies she had ever seen. Caleb was tanned and scruffy, his five o’clock shadow adding to his allure. Beautiful. She began to move around him, tightening the circuit as she circled him, padding closer and closer, until she brushed her head along the back of his leg, marking him with her scent.

Caleb remained patient until he wasn’t.

“Raya?” She turned and came back dancing nearer until she brushed along his firm, and oh so bare, backside. Caleb jumped a step forward with the contact. A laughing noise filled her throat in a rapid chuffing noise.

“Raya!” he snapped with impatience, “please transform.”

As a kid, he always wanted to get to the action. No wasting time for Caleb, but she wouldn’t let his impatience hinder her fun.

Just to irritate him more she came around to his front. She gave a look of satisfaction when he stumbled backward after she stroked her muzzle across his thigh, and then quickly snapped near his growing cock. She could see that the years had endowed him with plenty to pleasure a she-wolf.

Caleb fisted his fingers and stood very still. She moved away from him and made to come back at him for another round of fun, when Caleb started to speak his consternation, but she put a stop to that. Raya willed herself to change from wolf to woman. It was time to face the man that broke her heart.

The air stirred, a little colder and slower making it more painful than usual, but she was nervous. Raya’s transformations never were graceful because her father was human. Half-breeds always had trouble, but the wolf was always dominant. Her breathing grew rough and sweat began to trickle down her spine and soak her coat. The light surrounded her form, the change making her skin itch and her body ache. Her limbs stretched and grew to stand just inches short of Caleb’s huge frame. Her breath billowed out painfully as she tried to recover. All wolves were tall in human form, but Caleb’s body was grander than most. He surely would have become the alpha if he had not fled.

Raya couldn’t help but stare through her human eyes at the older, new and improved Caleb in front of her.

“Ray,” Caleb whispered.

She cleared her throat, words forming a knot before she could speak them. Caleb was the one to move first. His hands reached out, grabbed and pulled her in tight to his naked body, and his arms wrapped around her, their bodies recognizing each other still, after all this time. She couldn’t help it, and groaned as her skin molded to his. He felt so good.

*****

Caleb had missed her so much, but he did not dare speak the words for fear that she would push him away. His hands began to wander making himself familiar with the woman she’d grown into. She was soft and curves moved from breasts to hips to thighs. Caleb wanted to devour her, right here on the blanket of grass under his feet. He buried his nose in the crook of her neck and breathed in her familiar earthy flowery scent. He lifted his head only a little and skimmed his lips just under her ear. She shivered and Caleb smiled to himself. She was always so responsive, even when she had just become a woman of eighteen.

“Mmm, Caleb. Don’t stop.”

He nipped her neck and moved down to explore the more forbidden. Her plump breasts now more voluptuous at twenty-five filled his hands as he pressed and molded his fingers over her. She moaned when he took her sweet pink nipples that had grown taut as soon as she had taken on human form, and pinched them, adding just enough pain to make her squirm. He laved at them taking away the sting, making her writhe with want. He tightened his hold and she sucked in a breath when he took the nipple into his mouth once again and sucked hard adding his tongue in rough then soft swipes, over and over until she couldn’t take it anymore. He moved onto her other, breath and tongue laving with the same attention.

Caleb knelt in front of her, taking her hips in both hands, his grip hard and unforgiving in his rush to taste her, his control right on the edge, ready to come undone. He’d wished every day that he could return to her, be with her like this, but he hadn’t been strong enough until now to return. His name was a chant on her lips as he buried his nose at the juncture of her sex rubbing right over her clit, the scent of her pussy finally sending him over the edge, letting the animal inside him out to play. With long strokes, his tongue tasted her, feeding on her arousal, the sounds she made and the scent of her core. Over and over Caleb lapped at her juices until she was shaking uncontrollably, then and only then did he slide one finger into her bringing a scream to her lips. The sound of her pleasure made his cock harder than it had ever been before. He continued to torment her until he knew she was getting close, the walls of her sex dancing with little spasms over his finger. He pulled back. She’d barely opened her mouth to protest when Caleb quickly added another finger. Raya matched the pumping of his fingers with every stroke, her pussy grinding into his palm as she tried to rub her clit just so. Raya’s body was so close but this time, Caleb wasn’t letting her come without him inside her.

Caleb pulled his fingers out and she tried to grab his hand back, but he was too fast and took her down, flipping her around to her hands and knees pressing her head close to the ground. Raya looked over her shoulder, and Caleb watched as she focused on the engorged head of his cock as he stroked himself a few times before moving in behind her. Her eyes glazed and dilated with pleasure as they met his and the tip of his hard length touched the heat at her weeping opening. Finally, he was home and he plunged into her. His head fell back and he growled to the sky.

He rocked forward, his breath leaving him faster and faster as his wolf took its mate. Caleb set the pace and Raya rocked back into him until his body was snug up against hers.

“More beautiful than ever.” He kissed under her ear as his body curled over hers, his hips rocking languidly into her plump ass. He trailed a smattering of kisses down her spine following each with a wet swipe of his tongue marking her as his. Caleb tipped her forehead to the ground, his cock going even deeper and he swelled inside her, the tingle in his balls warning him that he was close to coming, but he didn’t want to go until she was right there with him.

“Raya?” His movements became faster and she moved with him, slamming into her the sound of flesh slapping flesh indication of the urgency of the reconnection. Before he could stop himself, he was pounding into her. His hold on her hips becoming desperate. He’d leave bruises, but at this point all his wolf cared about was making Raya his once again.

Her inner walls started to ripple and pulled him deeper.

“Raya!” Her name was like a groan as it slipped over his lips and she groaned with her release and he joined her, his come filling her, marking her as his. Always his.

When he didn’t think he would fall on top of her, he lifted her limp and sated body off the grass. Caleb wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, one hand going over her breasts and the other going down to her sex. He found the still swollen and slick button and circled a finger there making her moan.

“Caleb, enough,” she whispered. She pressed up off the ground, stood to her full height, and walked away from him.

“Raya? He went after her grabbing her arm. “Where are you going?”

“Home.”

His grip hardened. He didn’t understand. “But I’ve claimed you.”

“You’re too late.”

“What?” He turned her to face him but she wouldn’t look at him. “I just claimed you.”

“No! You just fucked me.”

His hand dropped and he stepped away. “That was not fucking.” He paused and sorted through his thoughts. He had to make her understand. “I’ve never wanted anyone else, Raya. After all this time, I’ve never taken anyone else. You’ve always been the one. I love you. I’ve never stopped loving you.”

“Then why didn’t you come back for me?”

“I’m back now.”

She shook her head and turned away from him. “I would have gone to the ends of the Earth for you. I would have gone with you.” She walked away, but he thought he heard her say, “I love you too, but it’s still too late.”

“Stop Ray. What do you mean, too late?”

Raya turned back and the look in her eyes were so sad he wanted to grab her up and never let her go, protecting her from every hurt she’d ever experienced.

“I’m to be mated to the Alpha’s son the night before the full moon.” He looked up into the sky, the sun almost halfway to its apex. The moon just a memory until the sun dipped low in the sky again.

“No.” In two night’s she would be mated to someone else, over his dead body. And he was being literal. The only way to change the outcome of this shitty fate was to challenge the Alpha.

“Yes.” Raya’s chin tipped down and her arms fell heavy at her sides. “As I said, it’s too late.”

“It’s not too late.” He took her in his arms when she would have pushed him away. “I won’t let you take anyone else but me, Raya.” His lips met hers and she whimpered and grabbed onto his shoulders, her kiss turning desperate. Caleb pulled away but didn’t let her go.

She leaned her head against his chest and tucked it under his chin wrapping herself around him, causing his dick to harden, but he ignored it. Her warmth felt too good and he held her just as he’d wanted to for the last seven years. Whatever he had to do, he would do it. The one thing he wouldn’t do was cower and run. Caleb was the true Alpha of their pack and he was going to reclaim it and Raya.

*****

“Come on,” Raya said, pulling him toward her small cabin she treasured more than anything else in the world.

“Just a second.” He ran to the line of trees that he had come from and picked up a backpack.

Her hands went to her hips. “How long have you been here?”

Caleb shrugged. “I was here when you went on your run. You always would take a morning run and end at the stream here. Finding you here in the morning was always the best part of my day…before my mother took me away.” His head dipped down and he shook as if something danced across his skin.

“Where is your mother?” Caleb’s face looked tortured, the anguish making her come to him. She lifted her hands to his face and swiped at the tear that she couldn’t believe stained his face. But she quickly pulled back. She shouldn’t be touching him. She shouldn’t have had sex with him.

She watched him adjust the backpack over his shoulder. “Let’s go in and I’ll tell you what happened. Okay?”

“Okay.” Caleb took her hand and they walked up the steps. She opened the door. She didn’t lock them. No one would dare enter her home. She had too much magic and no one dared get near her. Or so she thought.

*****

Slinking undetected because of his position the gray wolf watched from the edge of the woods as the bastard, son of the previous Alpha, Caleb, took hold of Raya and fucked her. The gray wolf held back the howl of rage that was a spike in his throat, lips pealing back from yellow teeth. He would eviscerate the bastard black wolf taking back what was his by law, the coveted she-wolf witch of the pack. She was his. Only his. His fury shook through his legs, causing tremors throughout his body. He moved away from the protected cabin and began to plan.