Chapter 16: Flashback
The plane trip back home felt weird. After a week spent naked with my new wife, having to share her with the rest of the world was hard for me. I looked down at her, her face tucked into my chest, my arm around her in the first-class cabin. She had fallen asleep as soon as we took off. A part of me was proud that I had worn her out, because she had worn me to a nub. She warned me, but the intensity of the heat was like nothing I had ever experienced.
If I wasn’t totally, completely in love with her before, I was now. Our souls had literally combined in that room under the sea.
I smiled as her nose moved a little, taking in my scent before she calmed again. The little things I noticed, ways her wolf showed herself, fascinated me. She was so unlike any woman I ever dated, and that created some interesting situations.
Flashback- February 12th
“I love her,” I said as I nursed the beer, looking over at Teri as we sat in the booth together. Vivian was out with a couple of the guys, picking up some medical equipment from a clinic near Rochester. “I don’t know when it happened, but when that man was choking her… I knew right then I’d die rather than have her be hurt again.”
“She loves you,” Teri said. “We can all see it, we’re happy for you.”
“You don’t think I’m moving too fast?” I was turning the box over in my jacket pocket, the one with the ring Teri had helped me pick. It was funny, the people at the jewelry store all thought she was my mother and ‘how nice it was’ that a young man like me had his Mom help him with something like this. Teri was that way to everyone, she was the woman who had been in the club the longest as a member. In all biker organizations you could marry into having the club patch, and in our club get a jacket that said, “If Found Return to Hammer,” but she wanted her own Harley. If you could ride, you could vote, and she wanted to be at the table. Through sheer force of personality, she made the all-male club take on their first female member.
“I think she’s scared. Sometimes she looks like a frightened animal. Is she still having flashbacks to the rape?”
“Yes, but not as often now.” We shared a room upstairs now, and occasionally we got some sleep there. It could take an hour to calm her down before she could go after sleep if the nightmare was particularly bad.
“You’re good for her, Snake. Give her a night to remember. Her upbringing was different than ours, she’s never dated or had romance before. Show her how much you love her.”
I couldn’t wait. I had a bunch of stuff to do if I was going to make this a proposal to remember.
I was sitting in my clinic room at the desk, searching eBay and Craigslist for medical equipment I could use. I looked out the window, it was February 13th, and a winter storm was raging outside. I closed my eyes and let my senses out.
The howl of the wind called to my wolf. She missed the woods, the freedom, and the camaraderie of her Pack. She never thought she’d be hiding out with humans in a suburban industrial park, the smell of gasoline and pollution irritating her nose. She wanted a mate, not a fuck buddy.
Even if he COULD rock my world, my wolf missed her mate.
It tore my soul apart. I had never felt such a gulf between us; I was repulsed by my rapist, I hated what he did to me, I hated how he ruined me. My whole life I had dreamed of finding the perfect mate, of running together through the woods, claiming each other, and raising our pups together in a house over the Zumbro River. In a few minutes, that rogue had stripped that all away.
My wolf saw it different, she had bonded immediately with his wolf when he claimed me. She had been giddy, she was chosen by a strong male who could subdue her, one strong enough to protect her and her pups. The bond wove into me, it was for life, it was only through the mating bond that my soul could be complete. It didn’t matter what the human would think. The bond was there, working its magic in my mind, and it would eventually bring the human side around.
When the boys killed him, they killed a part of me too. There was an empty part of my soul, and she wanted to howl her loss to the stars, and I wouldn’t let her. I hated fighting myself, I hated the way I felt. I shouldn’t long after something I tried so hard to prevent.
Tears ran down my face as I was lost in my mind, trying to find peace with the wolf inside me. I heard the door open, and Teri poked her head in. She had become the mother figure I needed, a shoulder to cry on when I couldn’t talk to Snake about how I was feeling. How could I tell a man who looked at me that way that I was dreaming of another? You can’t, but I could trust Teri.
Terri smiled, “Hey, I just stopped to see if Fluffy was coming by today?”
I giggled, the kids in the daycare loved my wolf and I loved them. I was in an impossible situation, and my wolf didn’t like it. Mating with a werewolf was a death sentence, sleeping with a human would never get me pregnant, but my wolf wanted pups to care for. When Snake had brought home the collar and leash, I almost slapped him for making fun of me before he could explain. He wanted me to be able to spend time in my wolf form, and our options were limited. This way, he could pretend to be dogsitting, and my wolf would get to be in the clubhouse and with the kids.
I just wish the collar he bought didn’t have “Fluffy” on the nametag. I was pretty sure Doc had a hand in that, but I couldn’t prove it yet.
“Did Kelly ask?”
“Yes, they are having their snack, then they are going outside.”
My wolf was pushing forward, she wanted to play in the snow, to run around with them. “I think I can do that,” I said.
I thought about everything going on right now. In six months, I had lost my family, my job, my confidence and my mate. I was reeling, and I no longer had my parents or pack mates to help me. I was doubting myself, wondering once again how this all was supposed to work. Did Snake feel for me like I hoped he did? Was I was doing the right thing? Would it really be that bad to go back to the Boundary Waters Pack and take a choice mate? Or did I belong with the club? The emotions snuck out, just for a moment, but Teri saw them on my face.
She pulled me into her arms as the tears started to flow again. “Terri, can I ask you something?” I chewed my lower lip, my nerves showing through. “Has Snake said anything to you or Hammer about… me… or us…” I blew out a breath, shaking my head before chickening out. “Never mind, I’ll just go back to our room and shift.”
“Are you okay? Are you and Snake having troubles or something?”
“No, it’s… it’s just there is something off. He’s been acting squirrely, distant. He practically ran out of our room this morning and left with Viper right after breakfast without saying goodbye. I never dated so I don’t know… I mean what if he’s bored with me? Or maybe he found someone else? Someone he can have babies with?”
“Oh honey, I am sure it’s fine. Snake’s never loved anyone like he loves you. He just as nervous about this as you are, I think. being loved is a big deal to him, he wants what his parents had. He watched his father as his mother fought for five years before she lost her battle with cancer, he never stopped loving her. His Dad always made a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, especially towards the end.” She wiped her eyes. “He’s kinda like a little girl this time of year, he always wants the perfect moment and the perfect food and…”
Terri laughed, covering her face, then started again. “It’s just Valentine’s chaos, every year he throws a special dinner for all the attached club members. He goes all out, he’s probably running all over town to find the perfect decorations or something.”
“Oh.” I felt even worse now, not only did he not think of asking me to help him, but he was doing all this for everyone else BUT me.
“And as for running off, he’s probably just out looking for the perfect card and gift ’cause he’s never had a woman worth sharing his Valentine’s Day dreams with. I mean, really? How tough can it be? Flowers, chocolate and some sexy lingerie that lasts thirty seconds before it’s in a pile in the corner.” I laughed a little, thirty seconds would be a record for us. Usually, we didn’t wear it. “Seriously, men get all wrapped around the axle about finding something meaningful, when all we REALLY want is for them to show everyone how much they love us. That’s why flowers get delivered to work and not the house.”
I laughed a little, Valentine’s Day was not exactly a Werewolf holiday. What was the point? You were mated or you weren’t, there wasn’t much courting or romance. You found your fated, or made a choice, then the bond took you the rest of the way.
“It’s like they don’t believe we’ll give them the sex unless they buy us the right thing. I finally got him to stop wasting his money on that stuff, when what I really want is…” She didn’t want to say it.
“I want him to toss me over his shoulder after dinner and carry me out, smacking my ass before taking me home to ravish me. Oh, and I want a babysitter. It’s nice when he rocks my world and I don’t have to gag myself to keep from waking the kids up.”
I giggled. “We’ve had to get a couple new pillows, I’ve chewed through them.” She cracked up laughing.
“Oh, I… didn’t know it was such a big deal… Should I get him something?”
She just shook her head. “If you want, it’s not the same for them. They want a beer, and they want to see you naked.” That sounded right. “I got Hammer one of those combo Drill and Saw packs from Home Depot.”
“I hope it was a DeWalt, they’re the best!”
She started crying. “Viv, I can’t thank you enough for what you did last fall.” She wipe a surprise tear away. “If you hadn’t been on that road…” She couldn’t finish. She was a strong woman, a survivor of a terrible childhood and street life as a teenage runaway. She would probably have ended up dead if Hammer hadn’t practically kidnapped her from the future she faced. She loved him more than anything except their kids.
“I’m glad I was there, I think it was fate that brought me down that road because I wouldn’t have met you or the others without it.” We held each other until the tears stopped. “Now let’s go get me leashed up.”
Snake’s Flashback, before lunch
I was sitting on a barstool, cutting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into heart shapes with large cookie cutters for the kids, when she came downstairs. Teri walked up behind me and next thing I know, she’s smacking me in the back of my head! It wasn’t gentle either. “Hey!” I checked for a lump. “What was that for?”
“You need to chill the hell out, Snake.” Terri hissed.
“What did I do to you?”
“Not me, DeWalt… You’ve been acting squirrely and she knows something is up, but she thinks it’s a bad something and not you popping the question.” Scowling, she picked up the tray of sandwiches. “Screw this up tomorrow night, and werewolves will be the least of your worries, ’cause this mama bear will be coming for your balls first.”
I shivered as I watched her going back upstairs. Terri was sweet, gentle, motherly, but I had seen her drop a guy twice her size. As much as Hammer loved her, he also feared her. Terri was not to be messed with.
I knew I had to come through with the perfect proposal, and get it done before I had to come back to prepare the big dinner. I still didn’t know what to get her, what to do, or how to do it. Valentine’s Day had never been so much pressure.
A few moments later, Vivian’s wolf appeared in the entryway, covered with snow, and shook herself off. I got down to pet her, she smelled like a wet puppy and I laughed as she licked at my neck. “Hello, beautiful. Did you have fun?” She barked, her tail whapping the carpet. “I wish I was a wolf, I’d be the best mate you could ever have.” Again she whined before licking at my neck. Her teeth nipped at where my right shoulder met my neck, in the spot where Vivian said wolves marked each other. “I love you, too,” I said quietly. I led her upstairs just as the kids started filing in, their coats and winter gear filling the racks and hooks by the entry.
I spent a sleepless night, holding Vivian in my arms and trying to figure out how to do all this. It was somewhere after three in the morning when I finally asked myself what was important to her.
Family. Club. Medicine. Motorcycles. Me.
I woke him up on Valentine’s Day morning the best way I could think of... from under the sheets. I smiled as he pulled me up to kiss him, all I needed to get him was a steak and he’d have the perfect day.
“What is the plan,” I said as I looked over at the clock. It was just after eight in the morning.
“Dress casual and warm, with boots, we’ve got some driving to do,” he said.
“Nope.” It was a Saturday, so the breakfast grill wasn’t open. “We’ll get some food on the way.” Twenty minutes later, we were in his truck and heading south on Highway 52. He had brought a couple bags with him, placing them behind my seat where I couldn’t see them. He even smacked my leg when I tried to turn around. “No peeking.”
It was when he took the Zumbrota exit that my stomach sank. I grabbed his leg, nervously looking at the familiar town. “Are we?”
“Going to your land? Yes.” I didn’t let go as we went through the town, finally turning into the road that led up to the old Pack houses. “The Sheriff’s Department investigation closed; there have been several other property crimes like this, where buildings are burned, and dogs are killed. They released it last week. I knew you weren’t ready, so I took care of the arrangements for you.”
“The remains. After they determined they weren’t human, they were going to toss them. I convinced them to give them to you, I picked them up yesterday and had them cremated.” Tears were flowing down my face. “I wanted you to have a chance to say goodbye to them.”
He hopped out, taking the key and opening the gate before driving through. He parked in the driveway of what used to be my parent’s house, and now was a pile of rubble covered by snow. I couldn’t move; he came around, unbuckled me, and set me on my feet. Reaching into the truck, he pulled out the box and took my hand. “What was your favorite place here?”
“The point,” I said. I walked through the snow, leading him through the woods until we broke through to a rocky point overlooking a bend in the river. “We used to swim here, and you could jump off the point into the water if it was high enough.”
He handed me a box, I opened it up, the ashes were in the plastic bag. “Do you want to say anything?”
Tears were streaming down my face as I looked at all that remained of my family and friends. “I love you all, I miss you every day. May Luna hold you tight in her embrace.” I moved to the edge and opened the bag, slowly letting the ashes fall to the river below as Snake hugged me from behind. When it was over, I collapsed in his arms. He carried me back to the truck. “How are you doing?”
“I’m restless.” He looked into my eyes, he could sense my wolf wanted out by how my eyes looked.
“You should run then.” He helped me out of my clothes, and I shifted into my wolf. “I’ll wait here for you.”
She spent a good two hours running around her old Pack grounds before she returned to me. She jumped into the truck, shifting, and I wrapped her in a blanket. “Better?”
“I said goodbye,” she said softly. “I’m selling the place, I can’t be here again.” She pulled on her clothes before buckling up again. “Snake? Thank you.”
“I’ll do anything for you, Vivian, even if it is just to be with you during the hard times.” I pulled back onto the road. We stopped for lunch before I took her to St. Paul Harley Davidson.
“What are we doing here?”
“You can’t ride, you can’t vote, those are the rules,” I said. “The guys say that bike of yours isn’t worth the money to fix it, so I thought we could do some shopping together.”
She pulled me inside, excited over the idea. “You romantic fool, you!”
“As much as I like you riding with me, I’d rather see you riding by my side,” I said. We spent a few hours there before she made her choice. It was a classic style, a Sportster 1200 Deluxe. It had lots of power but wasn’t so big it would be difficult for her to ride. She was giggling like a schoolgirl as she filled out the papers, it was a sweet ride.
When we were done, she had to sit on it one last time. As she sat on the seat, her face plastered in a smile, I gathered my courage and pulled the box out of my jacket. Opening it up, I knelt down by her knee until she looked down.
Her face turned to shock when she saw the ring. “Vivian, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love you, and I want to be your Old Man. Will you marry me?”
She stared at me, I could see the emotions going through her as she looked between me and the ring. Tears started coming down her eyes, I thought they were happy tears, but then she jumped off the other side of the bike and ran to the ladies’ room. I couldn’t believe it. I closed the case, putting it back in my pocked, and walked to the door.
I knocked softly. “Vivian?” I could hear her crying. “It’s all right, it’s my fault. I asked before you were ready.” She didn’t say anything. “I’ll be in the truck,” I said. “You just take your time.”
I walked out, feeling crushed. I couldn’t believe she didn’t say yes. I consoled myself by saying she didn’t say no, either.
I hated myself as I sat in the bathroom, crying my eyes out. Snake was a good man, I think I loved him, and I knew he loved me. I was just broken.
I looked at myself in the mirror after cleaning my face of the tear tracks. It had been a great day, right until I panicked. I still couldn’t believe that he had cared enough to give me a way to say goodbye like that, then the afternoon. I walked out, making my way to the lot where he was sitting in the truck, his eyes closed. I got in, and he still looked at me like I hung the moon. “Are you all right,” he asked.
“I’m a mess,” I said. We sat there for an hour as I told him about the fight I was having with my wolf, about how the forced mating had screwed with my wolf and my emotions. “I don’t want another man, I want you, I want to keep what we have if I haven’t blown it already.”
He pulled me across into his lap. “If I have to wait forever for you to be my wife, it will still be worth it,” he said. “So, since we aren’t engaged yet, can I get you to help me cook dinner for everyone tonight?”
“Sure,” I said as I laughed.
“Put in a good word with Teri for me, she threatened physical harm if I screwed this up.”
I giggled. “She’s pulling for us. It’s my fault, Snake. When I’m ready, there’s no one else I’d rather marry than you.”
I did a lot of talking over the next few months, both with Teri and with Snake. Somehow, he got the idea that what I really needed was permanence, something the mating bond had but marriage wouldn’t. I could tell it grated at him that he couldn’t give me what my soul craved.
It was a week before Easter, and the kids were off school for Spring Break. I was reading some medical journals in bed when Snake came in. He kissed me, told me he had missed me all day, then went into the shower.
I was tired after a long day in the books and frustrated because I still had no idea what was causing the female werewolves to bleed out. I called it a night, deciding to pull my clothes off and join him instead. His back was towards me, and I moved my hands around his waist as I came in. “Hello, beautiful,” he said.
“How was your day?”
“It was good. I did something. Something that can never be changed, ever, no matter what you say next.” My stomach sank, fearing the worst. He turned around, and my eyes were immediately drawn to his right shoulder. A huge new tattoo went up his chest. It was a grey wolf that looked exactly like mine, with a snake curling up her front leg and circling her neck. Under the wolf, in flowing script it said, “Will you Marry Me, Vivian?”
He dropped to his knees, removing the same ring from his finger I had rejected earlier. “Vivian, will you be my wife and mate?”
I pointed at the writing. “That’s permanent?”
“Your name is, the proposal is temporary,” he said. “When you say yes, I’ll get my name and our anniversary date put there with it.”
I threw myself into his arms, kissing him deeply. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.