Heaven Fated

Voices. Millions of voices, chaotic noise, buzzed in her head. She couldn’t focus. She was scared. Pain infected everything.

“Paddles! We’re losing her!”

Darkness.

She slowly became aware. The edge of a storm, a line that blends the white and blue horizon into gray, abstract parts seen coming. It’s as if thin fingers rake through the soupy sky, the storm speeding closer, drawing the moisture down. From far away it’s like a calm mist that’s being pulled toward the ground in slow motion. But it isn’t. It’s a brew of thick moisture and tumultuous wind and molecules that come together forming a moving, breathing entity that can’t be controlled.

Whirling air drives people to seek shelter, heart rates gallop at what seem to be unstoppable speeds. Fear is a permanent lattice across the skin, hairs on arms dancing to greet what’s coming. Lightening slices the thick and heavy blackening atmosphere in abstract patterns, the wildness bringing hail, causing debris to rip apart the landscape. It touches lives with a menace only the devil would deliver with glee.

But she hadn’t seen the storm coming, didn’t see what held her now in its grip. She was floating. A stillness that was all wrong. She was all wrong. Something was gone. Missing. What had she forgotten?

Hello? Her lips didn’t move.

The woman tried to wiggle her toes. Still, she remained suspended, motionless, trapped in what felt like nothingness. Oh, but she felt fear. Her mind in the soupy thickness of its tendrils. A fear that held her like barbed wire synching ever closer, cutting and slicing. It was the storm just outside her skin and if she moved the barrier holding it back would break and tear her apart.

What had happened before this existence?

Racing panic crept into her consciousness and she tried to breathe through it but when she went to open her mouth for air nothing happened. Not even her jaw moved. She needed to breathe. Oh, God! This made the storm dance macabre across her skin as if it were laughing at her.

You have to go back,” a voice jarring her said, its echo all around, inside and outside of her, like a pitchfork vibrating through her whole being.

What do you mean?” she said inside her head. Her jaw, her voice still not working. Did she want to go back? She wanted to go forward. Something was ahead of her. The woman was sure of it. Whatever it was, it was where she needed to be. A great sadness swelled inside her, pushing and pulling like the tide sluicing over her like she was sand and she would erode more over time finally disappearing into the nothingness that held her.

Flashes snapped in her mind as sadness turned into fear.

Fire. Metal. Hands pulling, voices screaming. No, no, no! She screamed. And then the blackness enfolded her again while the storm still raged. Silence.

You have to go back,” the voice said again. Her mind opened, an aperture letting in the calming voice. She was glad. She didn’t like the storm. Or the dark. She didn’t want to see the awful images in her head. She wanted to forget. Forget the loss, the emptiness that pitted in her belly.

Why?” She asked.

You’ll see. Go back. Go back.” The voice said fading gently, it like hands soothing with a touch. “Go.”

The woman tried to define the voice in her mind. The inflection seemed small and innocent, not touched by the world, the temptation, the agony it could cause. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. She needed to move forward. But the voice said to go back. Should she? What had she forgotten? She couldn’t remember and it made her heart hurt as if a weight kept pressing down on her chest. The weight was growing so heavy that it was crushing her.

I have to go back.

You’ll see.” The voice was a whisper so small she almost didn’t hear it. “It’s important.

What?” The weight pressing down on her was forgotten.

Im…portant.”

The resonating voice suddenly went silent. “Nooooo! Come back. You have to come back and tell me what to do.

Her mind went blank.

With unexpected speed, the weight returned to her chest like an anvil after anvil was being dropped on her heart. If she was breathing she would have passed out. But the weight kept getting heavier and heavier. What did she do? What could she do? What was she forgetting? What had happened? Why was she here? She was scared to go back. Pain awaited her if she went back. She knew it. Felt the truth of it in her mind. But the voice said she should go back. But peace lies forward.

Silence enveloped her as her mind whirled and the storm outside of her skin cinched closer and closer. That barrier shrinking into her pores until it burst.

Chaos swirled around her in beeps and whirs, metal against metal. Silver flashes. Silver. A rush of sound overwhelmed her as her eyes opened to bright light, watering as she tried to focus. Voices gave clipped orders and the body she was in screamed through the silent maw of her mouth.

“Miss, can you tell me your name?”

“My baby!” An inhuman keening echoed, bouncing off the walls. Was that her?

“Your name?”

She blinked and tried to concentrate on the face asking the question.

What was her name?

Someone yelled in the bright room. Her breathing was becoming ragged. She couldn’t remember her name. Her head began to turn side to side, her panic increasing. She needed to do something. The people leaning over her began to blur.

“Miss, you have to calm down.” The man over her was holding her shoulders as her mind screamed for her to get off the table, to find the face that matched the voice in her head. The more they pressed the more she panicked. Her body started to shake and spasm. Her arm radiated with pain and hung useless at her side, her legs seemed to be on fire and pain ricocheted tearing through her skin, her bones and her heart.

“Have to go back,” she gurgled nonsense.

“What?” the man said.

She tried again. “Back.” She needed to go back. Back to the voice. Back to the nothingness. Peace.

“What’s your name?”

Her head began to shake back and forth again.

“I need 5mg of Diazepam IV push STAT!”

She saw the doctor take something from someone and he hovered over her. Her eyes widened. She stared at him and his eyes seemed to soften and hers began to close, get heavy.

“You’ll be alright. Everything will be fine.” He reached out and touched her cheek as if time seemed to stop with the motion. “You’ll see.” The man shook his head and blinked.

You’ll see. You’ll see. You’ll see. The words repeated over and over in her head. Where had she heard those words before? Limbs heavy, eyelids drooping she continued to hold the doctor’s concerned gaze as his hands moved over her. There was a burn along with the darkness that was gradually pulling her lids closed. The last words she heard over all the chaos were, “You’ll see.”

*****

Karo, which wasn’t her real name, woke for what seemed to be the hundredth time in the hospital. Her mind identified the noises she’d cataloged over the days she’d remained in the bed with white sterile sheets and cloying smells and noises that were just as unpleasant. The incessant squeak of rubber-soled shoes. The knocking wheel of the food cart and the beeps and alarms that were the music dancing along the corridors of the hospital kept her awake too often. And don’t forget the formidably atrocious scent of Pine-Sol and urine.

“Karo!” The nurse named Nurse Ratchet clapped. “You’re awake.” Karo smiled. For all the pain, she’d suffered so far, Betty Ratchet was the highlight of her days. One, Nurse Betty was not the Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which for some reason she could remember watching, but not where and with whom. Two, she was as sweet as spun sugar and cared deeply for her patients. Whenever she’d come into Karo’s room it brightened like the sun had stepped into the room.

“You ready for physical therapy today, cookie?” Karo laughed and pouted. Betty had started calling her cookie soon after she’d chosen the name Karo.

She leaned over the wheelchair and whispered in Karo’s ear. “I snuck in some sugar cookies from my friend Angel’s bakery.”

“Thanks, Betty,” Karo said and grabbed the woman’s hand and held on tight. Try as she might she still couldn’t hold back the tears that escaped. She quickly let go and wiped the unwanted tears away. She’d cried enough. Things were going to change again and she wouldn’t see Betty every day. The woman was her touchstone and kept her grounded. Karo feared to let go. Afraid that she would spiral down again into a depressive abyss and not be able to get out.

She shook the pain and fear out of her mind. Karo would be positive, consider the future, and try and forget what she couldn’t remember. Instead, she recalled the first day she met Betty.

The staff had called her Jane when she couldn’t remember her real name. It made her sad to think she would be called Jane Doe. Not knowing her name, she wanted to pick one to make a new place in her uncharted reality. The police hadn’t found any information in her car. Not a purse, or a registration. The car they had pulled her out of had burned through and through.

The memory of that day burst forward in her mind. A morning in physical therapy, when the pain was so great she could have screamed until her voice was shredded.

“I don’t want to be called Jane,” she’d said to the nurse in floral scrubs. She had white blond hair and a thin but muscled stature. Betty had grabbed Karo’s wheelchair and rolled her out from the first day of physical therapy taking over her case while Karo tried to catch her breath through the lingering pain and depression.

“What do you want to be called, sweetie?”

“Karo.”

When Betty helped her back into bed she’d looked at Karo with a tilt of her head, bright eyes and with arms crossed, she nodded once. “Alright cookie,” she’d said with a laugh. Karo couldn’t help but smile because Karo knew why she’d picked it even if Betty didn’t get it, she seemed to understand.

Karo thought of it now. Cookies. She had been making cookies in the memory. And she was happy. Really happy.

Karo saw herself pouring and measuring. Her hands were smaller, softer, younger, as she held the red and bronze labeled curvy bottle of syrup in her hand. Batter blended together as she stirred over and over folding in the thick syrup. Wrinkled hands, not hers, she noted as she looked down at her own, were framed in the snapshot but when she tried to look up to see into the face a pain would slice through her forehead and make her grab the sides of her head. Something was blocking her from the wonderful view.

She hadn’t told anyone about the memory. It was private and hers. No. She wouldn’t share.

As Betty rolled her out of her room for one of the last times Betty spoke about the small town where she grew up. “You’re going to love it, Karo. Angel’s bakery sells the most delicious cakes and cookies and pastries.”

When Karo heard the word angel images of her floating in the storm flooded her mind. Angel. She put away the thought for later. She didn’t have time to think about it right now when she was going in to be stretched like a rubber-band. One that she hoped would find its shape again.

“Even the recipes we concocted when were out of control twenty-somethings Angel still uses on occasion,” Betty continued not sensing Karo’s distress. And then the woman laughed like she was remembering how much trouble she got into and Karo looked at her over her shoulder to see, yes, a wicked smile from the remembering. Karo laughed.

“What kind of trouble did you get into, Betty? You seem pretty uptight and straight-laced to me.” Karo pressed her lips together trying not to laugh herself.

“Oh, you! I’m definitely not all starch young lady.” She whopped her on the head gently.

Before she knew it, they were at the entrance to the TP room.

“Hi Trevor,” Karo said. “I’m ready for your idea of a walk in the park.” Trevor looked up at Betty as she stopped her in front of the padded vinyl covered table.

“Alright miss, let’s see what you got today.” He nodded to Betty as she locked Karo’s ride and Karo gripped the chair handles. Trevor tipped up the footrests. He was there to support her if she needed it but didn’t touch her until she stood. Karo gritted her teeth as her skin grafts, not so freshly pink, pulled and stretched unnaturally with the effort.

Trevor helped her up onto the table for the first big push of the morning and then they got down to business.

She looked down at her legs, the burns not as bad as when the emergency bay was the first thing she remembered. Her rescuers had gotten her out in time.

Karo pulled in a slow breath that she released just as slowly so she wouldn’t remember what else they’d told her not soon after she woke up. She touched her stomach, her fingers shaking as Trevor pushed her leg up to give it a good stretch.

His lips pinched a bit when he saw where her hand lay. He looked quickly back down. It was a sadness they shared. He’d lost a child too, but his memory wasn’t faulty. She couldn’t even remember being pregnant. Was the baby’s father important? Did she need to find the man? Did she love this person? She wouldn’t know. She couldn’t remember any damn thing. Her anger she used and pushed it through her limbs too hard. A grunt alerted Trevor to the discomfort and he pulled her back from the edge. Sweat gathered all over her skin and soaked her clothes that Betty had bought her. She kept working the routine as hard as Trevor demanded. Maybe if she could fix her body, her memories would return too.

She shook her head.

“Settle down, Karo.” He sighed, as she brought her leg down for the last time that day.

She wiped some of the sweat and swallowed almost a full bottle of water Trevor handed her.

“I’ll miss you, kiddo.” He sat next to her on the bench. One foot on the floor the other bent and on the table. “I’m glad you’re getting out of here. I hope you’ll find some peace.”

He helped her sit up, her arm sore but okay now. It had only been dislocated.

“You know what you’re doing, where you’re going?”

Karo nodded. “Yeah. Betty’s set me up to work with her friend Angel. One of her employees is going back to school. Angel’s also got a vacant room above the bakery.”

“That’s good. You’ll be happy working with all that goo and sugar.”

Karo laughed.

“Just remember it’s not good to eat too much of what you love. You still need to get into tip-top shape to keep up with the healing process. You’re doing great but you’ve still got a lot of therapy in front of you.” He tapped her head and her heart and her knees.

“I’m quite aware of how far I still need to go. At least I have someplace to go.” She scrubbed her face with a towel with tired shaking hands. “The police came to visit me again. Officer Clomb was really nice about telling me they never were able to find any information about where I’m from. I wouldn’t have anywhere to go if Betty hadn’t suggested it.”

“You be fine. You’ll see.” She had been looking at her hands lying in her lap when her head snapped up at his words.

“What?” he asked. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” she answered shaking her head to clear it just as Betty walked in.

“All finished?” she asked and smiled with a sparkle in her eyes at Trevor. Karo was sure there was something between them. It was the only time Trevor seemed to smile a genuine smile.

“Yep,” Karo replied. She looked up at Trevor his hairs grayed at the tips, and the smile wrinkles ingrained around his eyes. “Thank you, Trevor.”

He didn’t say anything just came over and kneeled to give her a long hug once settled in the wheelchair. He touched her cheek and held it as his stare started to sink into hers as if he wanted to tell her something but couldn’t get the words out, just the emotion. Then he gave her a short peck on the cheek, stood up and took a quick step back. They’d adopted her it seemed and become like her little family. She wiped a tear from her cheek. He smiled, nodded, and went to his desk in the corner and started to write something down.

As Betty rolled her out of the room Karo’s head was down, not paying attention. Her thoughts stuck on a list she was making in her head of the things she would have to do when she moved to the small-town Betty had grown up in. It was only a few miles and minutes away. It would be a fresh start she told herself. She was nervous. Excited. Scared. And then none of that mattered because Betty’s running monologue about things to know about the small town was abruptly cut short. There was a loud crash as they turned a corner. Karo screamed and moaned as her leg met silver metal. Silver. Silver. Silver. Her heart started racing and her mind was struck by a streak of white light reflected off a small silver object moving too fast to get out of the way. Memory twisted with reality as past crashed with the present. She whimpered. What was real? She tried to shift away from what was falling toward her but Betty was locking the chair and coming around to her. Karo couldn’t move. Images that blurred one after the other took hold of her as Betty’s voice tried to creep in.

The images fled, metal crashed to the floor along with the man who was carrying it. Crutches met the linoleum and a hand came down to the wheelchair right next to hers. Betty was on the other side. She was asking if Karo was okay and put a hand on the man too also trying to get his attention. Harsh breaths came out of his mouth burrowing heat across her compression bandaged legs. All Karo could see though was the man at her feet bent over her legs holding the wheelchair with white knuckles.

Her voice shook. “Are you okay?”

Dark hair was spread across her lap as people raced from down the hall to help. His breathing was heavy and she noticed his hands again. They gripped the chair as if once he let go he would keep on falling.

She reached out and touched the man’s head. “Hey?” She said and couldn’t help but stroke his hair. It was thick and long with iridescent strands of black scattered with dark browns. It was beautiful and lush.

“I’m sorry,” his words whispered across her skin. Karo shivered she didn’t know if it was the unexpected pain or the man’s touch.

He looked up and their eyes met. And something inside her settled with inexplicable peace. But it didn’t last long. His gaze bored into hers. It was so dark she thought she was looking into lost caverns deep on the ocean’s floor, they were that deep of a blue. There was pain there and she wanted to make it go away.

“Able Prescott, you know you’re not supposed to leave your room!” A nurse was sprinting down the hall alongside another woman.

“Dammit, Jacklyn! I can’t stay in that room another second.” When he spoke, his head jerked around and he almost fell in Karo’s lap.

She squeaked when he landed on her again. The pressure uncomfortable because she still wasn’t fully healed.

He moaned and the hand that didn’t have a white-knuckled grip on the chair went to his head and their fingers touched. She sucked in a breath as an energy tingled through the contact. He turned back to her and their eyes met again and held. Her heartbeat tripped up and she asked herself, who was this man. Why did his glance put her at ease?

And within seconds the connection was broken. People moved all around them to get him back to where he had escaped from, she guessed. Her fingers dragged across his jaw, the rough hairs making her tingle again, as he was helped up. Then the woman who had yelled at him was at his side.

“Able! You know I don’t like it when you call me that.” She said with almost a chihuahua growl. Karo looked between the two.

“Step-mother quit coddling me. I feel like I’m suffocating in this God-awful place.” And as people got him into a chair like hers he really did growl, but more like an alpha wolf. It made her shiver. “Dammit. I can walk.” His head turned slowly back to hers but he turned away when the woman started chirping words at him. He grabbed his head again.

“Obviously you can’t since you were practically laid out in that woman’s lap.”

As their words drifted down the hallway Karo was struck by the feelings that had enveloped her when their fingers touched. She felt less indifferent to her fate. It gave her hope that she would feel something. Less empty. She touched her belly again. She wanted to feel full. And maybe once she started her new life in Buckington doing what she remembered things would be okay. She’d see.

You’ll see.

 

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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.

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.

 

 

 

A Fork in the Road

Creed’s fists came down on the steering wheel over and over with enough force he’d have bruises. And if his glare didn’t set the damn piece-of-shit rental car on fire Creed didn’t know what would do it.

“Shit!”

He popped the hood and got out of the car. Wing-tip shoes he wore crunched through the deep, uneven graveled road and the one remaining thousand-dollar suit he hadn’t sold gathered dust. He slapped his legs and suit jacket, but it didn’t really help. The wind swirled around him regardless the desire to keep his suit spotless. He should probably sell the suit. It wouldn’t be needed anyway once he lost his job. He wasn’t even going to be able to afford the dry-cleaning bill after this fuck-up.

Creed’s life had been going south, creeping toward hell and brimstone, but this just topped off his cocktail of disaster. More money he couldn’t afford to lose. And he’d lost a lot of it. A business meeting he’d planned over two months ago to bring him back in with the big boys of investments fell through at the last minute leaving him stranded in bum-fuck-no-where’s-Ville. He had no clue why they’d canceled.

Creed counted on the account to get him noticed by the investment firm he works for, making him a partner instead of a drone. It was also supposed to help get his fiancé back. He remembered the surprise and numbness that had come with the confrontation. The last time he’d seen her she had been winding up to throw her engagement ring at his face. At the last second, she’d clenched her fist around it, screamed, “Fuck you, Creed Dalton! I’m keeping the ring.” She’d said she needed something to compensate for the time she’d wasted on him.

But now, stuck on this dirt road because the GPS had sent him the wrong way, Creed could see that his relationship was as dried up as the road. Busy trying to make millions he’d neglected the one person that should have been the most important to him. He ran his hand through his hair. Why had it been so easy for her to walk away? She’d said all the right things. Their sex life had been hot as hell. When he was home. Hadn’t she loved him?

But now looking back at the past few months there were other signs that something was off. The looks she’d given his best friend. The times she wasn’t with him she’d get all decked out in tight-fitting dresses, fuck me heels, with just a touch of perfume that made a guy want to dip his face right into the crease of her neck and linger. He should have known she was looking for something he wasn’t giving her. All the comments his best friend kept blasting at him. “Go home Creed take care of your woman.”, “She’s worth taking care of man.”, “Don’t let her go, man.”

Was his friend taking his place? No, Creed thought. Creed shook his head. His buddy wouldn’t do that. Would he? No. He was just looking out for him. Every indication told Creed he was the one who was the asshole.

“Idiot,” he said, thinking that his reaction to both his fiancé and his friend were all screwed up.

Did he really love Christina? Would he have let her walk away and not gone after her if he had loved her enough? He would have stopped her before she had walked out the door. But what had he done? He’d let her go, went back to work to make the millions that he’d promised himself he’d have before the age of thirty. It had taken him a bit longer than that. At thirty-five, he was multi-millionaire. At thirty-six he was almost broke.

One mistake, one bad choice in investments with his money and clients’ money, and his sure thing had turned into millions lost. No one trusted him. And with the meeting being canceled his last chance to redeem himself was like a check mark in the screw you pile by fate herself.

Creed angled his hand above his brow blocking out the oppressive heat the midday sun beat down on him. He loosened his tie. He looked up and down the road to see if any other life form was around that could help him out. Dust swirls danced through the barren field’s as the only sounds were the wind gusts carrying the dirt. He really was out in the middle of nowhere.

Creed opened the car and reached in for his phone to call a tow. He pushed the unlock button. The screen stayed dark. He just stared at it like he couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing. Then he squeezed the dead phone so tight he thought he might break. He clenched his jaw to keep from screaming out his frustrations. It wouldn’t do him any good.

When he was done throwing an inner temper tantrum, he secured his tablet in the trunk, took off his suit coat and lay it over his suitcase. Then he looked to the west and started walking. There had to be something over the hill, what was it, about a mile maybe. He hoped.

What the hell was he going to do now? Creed would just have to hole up in a hotel until he could get himself sorted.

****

Celeste needed the open road. She was desperate for the time to herself. She needed it like she needed an alternate universe. One where friends didn’t die, and she had time and money to fix the mess she was in.

She secured her helmet, got on her Harley Fatboy motorcycle and listened to the engine roar, the rumble settling in her chest replacing some of her pain.

After years of struggling and getting the experience, she needed to have her own medical practice she easily slipped into her mentor’s practice and took over.

She’d gone to school in Michigan, but she knew she’d always come home to the little town she grew up in just outside of Austin, Texas.

What she didn’t realize was the mess she’d walk into. Dr. Fellows had had cancer. Celeste hit the accelerator.  She took a breath, sucking it in hard. He hadn’t told her. The thought that he didn’t want to confide in anyone, to lay the burden on anyone else broke her heart. She wouldn’t cry anymore. She squeezed the handle bars harder. Her heart was feeling hollow, like nothing she’d felt before, she pressed harder into the bike and went faster. She had to forget. Just for a little while.

The funeral had nearly split Celeste in two. The pain had been too great. Watching the casket dip past the line of soil at her feet, hearing the cries of pain, the tears the town added to the earth where he would rest, remembering such a great man made her sob even harder. He had been more than just a mentor. He had been like a father to her. More than her own.

Her father had been mired in his grief and bottles and bottles of scotch, swallowed up by his failings. Or what he thought were his failings. Her father had become twisted, pulled apart and thrown away like garbage when his wife, Celeste’s Stepmother, left him.  Celeste’s father had done everything he could to make his second wife happy, but it had never been enough. He’d been left a husk of the man.

When Celeste’s stepmother’s demands had gotten to be too much, Celeste would run to Dr. Fellows house and hang out with him if he was off work, which wasn’t very often. So, when he was, she would spend time with Mrs. Fellows learning as much as she could from the man. The woman had doted on Celeste like she was her grandchild, which she guessed she was since they hadn’t had any children. She learned to cook and sew, and plant flowers. The woman was wonderful but died too soon. The loss was another layer of pain compounded onto others.

She shook her head to rid herself of the memories and went faster.

Presently, Celeste had other things to worry her.

She had to figure out where all the money had gone. Dr. Fellows’ books weren’t balancing. There were also medical supplies not accounted for in the store room.

Anxiety entrenched Celeste. What would have to happen to correct the situation? The office assistant who’d worked for Dr. Fellows for over ten years had left on vacation right after the funeral, so there was no help there. She didn’t want to go to the police before she looked at the books again. Maybe there was another place he stored supplies that he hadn’t told her about. The practice was attached to his house. But she hadn’t gone searching for anything. Not yet. She had been distracted with planning the funeral.

Cresting over another hill in her journey, to nowhere really, Celeste thought she saw a mirage. The day’s dry heat rippled across the road making the land seem to dance, the illusion getting larger and larger. Was it a lost dog? Closer now, she gasped inside her helmet. She blinked a few times thinking it could be the tears she’d let fall making her see something that was not there. She downshifted and approached with caution. Not a dog. A man sat at the edge of a culvert. Facing away from her. A very dirty man with blood dripping from the side of his head.

With precision only a seasoned biker had, she stopped the bike in quick, efficient movements, took her helmet off and called 911. “This is Dr. Celeste Breckinridge. I’m on Route 1 just West of Old Town. A man looks like he’s fallen into the culvert, possible concussion, lacerations to the arms, back and,” she paused and looked down, “and legs. I’m going to need an ambulance. I’ve got limited supplies with me on my motorcycle.” She heard a tsk from the operator’s voice, and had to hold back a laugh. Trinity Jones was on call it seemed. A friend of Dr. Fellows, she didn’t like Celeste riding the Fat Boy.

“Alright, Celeste. We’ll get a bus out there asap.”

“Thanks, Trinity.” Celeste hung up and put her phone in the back pocket of her leather pants. She grabbed the first aid kit that she always had in her saddle bag.

Approaching the very well dressed dust-covered man, she noticed a lot of things all at once. The suit he wore looked expensive. Now though, the arm of the white dress shirt was torn open and not from the large biceps that stretched the fabric. She could see a dirt covered scratch mixed with blood. Her eyes roamed again. She slowed her steps. The back of the shirt was torn exposing more bloodied skin caked with dirt. He’d fallen into the culvert. “Shit!” She cussed softly, but not soft enough that he wouldn’t have heard her approaching. But he didn’t respond, and the cut oozing blood on his head made her worry rise even more.

“Are you okay?” She said. No response. “Sir?” That got a reaction, but not a fast one. He slowly turned his head and winced, but didn’t do anything else. Just stared at her. Kneeling next to him ignoring the gravel digging into her leathers, she put down the first aid kit and looked into his eyes. They were dilated, but they followed her hands as they opened the first aid kit and then moved toward his head. The color was a brilliant blue that matched the crystalline blue sky. “You’re going to be okay. I’m Dr. Breckinridge, the local doctor.” As she said the words, she felt a pang in her heart. Dr. Fellows was gone. But she needed to focus. As she continued getting out the supplies she needed for clean up, he still followed her movements, but he still hadn’t spoken. “Can you tell me your name?” He licked his plump lips and Celeste couldn’t help but follow the motion. She cleared her throat as he tried to speak. Nothing came out. How long had he been out here? Jesus, he was probably dehydrated too. “I’ll be right back.” She ran to her saddle bag and grabbed a bottle of water. “Here,” she said and uncapped the bottle and put it to his lips. She watched him swallow and had to swallow herself as the motion made her react in an inappropriate way. “Now can you tell me your name?”

He licked his lips, and she almost groaned from the action.

The man cleared his throat and said, “Creed.”

“Good, good.”

Creed lifted his hand to his head, but she grabbed his arm stopping him mid-motion. “Let me clean it first.” He put his arm down, but once again said nothing. She noticed that his hands were all cut up too.

“Did you fall in the culvert?” He obviously had, but she wanted to get him talking. She looked over his legs, his very muscled legs, which she was totally ignoring, and saw the rocks at the bottom of the culvert, the dry environment and sharp objects giving more clues to the evidence that Creed had fallen into the culvert. She rinsed the blood away with a saline bottle catching the excess with a swab of cotton so it wouldn’t go in his eyes. When she wiped across the laceration on his head with alcohol, he hissed and then groaned.

She looked down at his large hands. Very large hands. They were also cut up. “Can you tell me if you’re hurt anywhere else?”

“I’m fine,” he spoke finally and tried to get up. “My meeting.” She ignored whatever nonsense he was spouting because he did not get up on two feet. He nearly buckled to the ground when he put weight on his left leg, but Celeste caught him just before he would have gone over again and sat him down. She noticed his knee, now that he was sitting again, had swelled up like a grapefruit.

She looked over her shoulder when she heard sirens in the distance. Thank God.

“Where were you headed?”

“A meeting,” he said again.

“Well, it doesn’t look like you’ll be making that meeting.”

He blinked a couple of times. She looked at his eyes and lost herself for a couple of seconds which she didn’t have time for but was drawn in any way.

When his arm started to lift, she froze. His scratched-up fingers tangled with a loose piece of hair that had come out of her braid. He put it behind her ear, and she couldn’t help but suck in a breath when his finger lingered on her cheek.

“You have pretty hair, all brown and chestnut mixed,” he said, the words almost like they were floating across her skin. The words gave her goosebumps even as the heat pressed down on her skin. Holy cow this guy was potent. And he wasn’t even at 100%. His hair was darker than hers, almost black, and almost touching his shoulders. A frown stretched his lips down and accentuated the stern but strong line of the bridge of his nose which only highlighted the strong brow that formed his chiseled face. He was damn gorgeous. Gah! She needed to stop thinking about him and get back to get him to the hospital.

His frown went even longer, and out of the blue, he said, “That’s alright.

“What’s alright?” she asked confused.

“The meeting was canceled,” he said and then looked away from her.

“What do you do?”

“Investment Banking with an occasional foray into Forensic Accounting.” That had her perking up. He could help her with the mess doc left her. But no, he was from out of town. He wouldn’t be able to stay. But she was curious to see what he might say about it. And what had brought this man to her small town in the middle of nowhere? She didn’t believe in fate because fate usually kicked her in the ass if she granted it too much attention. Just as she was about to ask another question about his job the ambulance had come to a stop alongside her bike.

“Doc, what do we got?”

“Hey Jeremy,” she said, and then gave him a rundown of what she thought was wrong while they worked to get him on the gurney. Which wasn’t easy being that Jeremy was only about two inches shorter than her five foot six and Melanie who was Jeremy’s partner, was as petite as you could get. It probably looked more like a circus than professional medical staff because when Creed stood at his full height, he was more like a giant compared to the three of them. And every time they moved Creed he groaned or hissed at them. And his vocabulary of swear words was inventive. She couldn’t help but laugh a couple of times which caused Creed to glare, which only caused her to laugh more.

“Sorry,” she said finally getting him to a sitting position on the gurney. “I’m not being very professional, am I?”

“Sure, you’re a doctor and not a biker chick?” He flicked his eyes toward her bike and smiled, which caused her heart rate to skyrocket, her hands to get clammy and the other parts she tried to ignore.

“Well, I am right now.” She smiled back, but then she remembered why she had been riding in the first place and her smile disappeared. Melanie and Jeremy glanced over at her knowingly. She looked away right onto Creed whose focus was startling. She didn’t like the attention. It unnerved her, but it turned her on, too. He would have been a nice distraction, but he was sure to go back where he came from.

“Hmm.”

They stared at each other until Jeremy cleared his throat.

“Alright,” she said with a sigh. Let’s get you to the hospital.

“I don’t need the hospital,” Creed grumbled.

“Not your call.” Celeste chimed in as Melanie got Creed to lay down. Not easily.

“But…” Celeste cut him off.

“Nope. You’re going. You could have a concussion and I don’t have the equipment at my office to get an MRI done. Plus, I’m worried about that knee of yours.”

“Can someone get my things out of my rental car?” He flicked his fingers down the road and practically snarled. “If the damned car hadn’t decided to quit I wouldn’t be in this situation, so leave it. The rental place can deal with it.”

“Fine, but we can’t wait any longer.” She nodded to Melanie and Jeremy and they put him in the back. “I’ll have the sheriff get someone on that. Meet you at the hospital, Mel.” She nodded and rounded to the front and got in the ambulance. Jeremy, stayed in the back and nodded and went to shut the doors, but before he could, Creed yelled, “What’s your name?”

“Celeste,” She said.

“Nice to meet you, Celeste.” His head went to the gurney, and Jeremy shut the doors while smiling and shaking his head. The smile that pulled at Celeste’s mouth was the first genuine smile she’d had in days, and it stayed with her for the rest of it as she walked into the hospital and found Creed.