The cabin felt empty without Axel around. Even though we were a couple, I still felt as though I was trespassing by being here without him. Not only that, I didn’t like the way Rebecca King knew her way around Axel’s home like the back of her hand. Jealousy boiled within me like a bad case of stomach flu. I’ve never had something that I was afraid of losing before, and although I knew deep down that Axel would never do anything to hurt me, the thought of someone else pursuing something that was mine kept my nerves on edge. I wanted to like Rebecca King for Axel’s sake. In all fairness, she seemed like a really nice person; someone who I could be friends with and enjoy spending time with here in Forest Lake.
Hell, it wasn’t as if I had made any real friends throughout my life. None that I could consider ‘close’. The closest I had to a best friend was my cousin Sheena. It would be nice to throw myself into the deep end and socialize with normal people for once, meet up for lunch, or just gossip over coffee. It would be nice to have real friends who didn’t stab me in the back the second they saw an opportunity. I wanted nothing more than to lead a normal life, whatever normal was considered to be around here.
The sound of the birds chirping their early morning song prevented me from sleeping past my mobile phone alarm. Sunlight seeped in through the threadbare curtains and flooded the room with a hazy yellow glow. I exhaled a heavy sigh, knowing that I would have to get up and face Rebecca, who was sleeping downstairs on the sofa.
Reluctantly, I slumped out of bed and stuffed a pair of brown Gucci flip flops onto my feet. Axel’s t-shirt hung down to my knees as I stood up and stretched. I could hear movement downstairs and knew that my houseguest was already awake and mobile.
Great, let the fun and games begin.
I wasn’t looking forward to this therapy and learning how to shift. I wished that there could be some other way to jump-start my ovaries but apparently, there wasn’t.
Axel would be back in a matter of days. Hopefully, we would make some progress before he returns.
My fingers gripped the smooth wooden banister rail as I descended down the stairs, each step creaking in protest like an old geriatric, riddled with arthritis.
“Would you like some coffee?” I called out, making friendly conversation.
I stopped dead in the doorway of the kitchen upon witnessing Rebecca maneuvering herself fluidly around Axel’s humble domain.
She let the utensil draw close over with a soft rattle and then spared an over the shoulder glance my way.
“I was just making some,” she mumbled, holding a teaspoon up as evidence.
A twang of jealousy twisted my insides as if her touching his things was a form of territorial sabotage.
Axel told me about their conversation in the limo. He mentioned that she divulged her feelings for him, but he also told me that she had accepted that those feelings were unrequited. In the short time that I had known Axel, he never gave me any reason to doubt him. I knew that I had to fully trust Rebecca King, in order for this therapy of hers to be a success. The only problem was: could I learn to trust her?
I was raised in a world where you had to be suspicious of everyone. This was another one of life’s obstacles that I would have to overcome all on my lonesome. Axel couldn’t help me with this. This was between me and Rebecca king.
“Here,” she said, while pouring some freshly brewed coffee into two mugs. “Let’s have breakfast and then we’ll make a start.”
I guess the first test would be to drink the coffee.
“Thanks,” I replied, bringing the mug to my nose to sniff the contents.
The smokey aroma caused my parched mouth to salivate, prompting me to give in to the velvety taste. I blew away the steam before taking a sip.
“Don’t worry, I haven't poisoned it,” she mentioned, causing me to splutter.
A wry smile spread across her lips as I wiped my coffee splattered mouth with the back of my hand.
Bitch! That’s totally something I would say.
I reached for a dishtowel that was hanging over the oven door handle and used it to mop up the rest of the moisture. Rebecca turned from me, chuckling to herself as if that was the highlight of her morning. She sauntered over to the kitchen sink where she rinsed her empty mug and left it to drain on the metal dish rack. My eyes raked around the simple oak kitchen, making a mental note of how we should redecorate. I wondered whether Axel would mind if I changed a few things, maybe add some matching appliances, and get rid of the salt and pepper shakers that were designed to look like a pair of tits.
Rebecca spared an over the shoulder glance after grabbing a fresh dishtowel from the cupboard under the sink.
“According to the weather report, it’s likely to rain this afternoon. If we want to kickstart the treatment, we ought to leave now.” She turned to face the window and pulled back the red gingham curtains, using the hooks either side to pin them back.
“Alright, just let me go and change,” I replied, tipping the remnants of coffee down the drain and setting the mug down in the washbowl.
I figured that while she was playing hostess she could wash my dirty mug out too. Her face scrunched with outrage as I flounced back upstairs, leaving her to it.
As I sifted through my luggage to find some suitable outdoor leisurewear, I could hear Rebecca huffing and puffing downstairs, muttering about why it was taking me so long to get ready. It was alright for her, little miss organized. I was in a tricky predicament. My wardrobe didn’t exactly accommodate for outdoor activities. The best I could find at such short notice was a pair of Juicy Couture sweatpants and a matching hoodie, and a pair of Louis Vuitton sneakers that had the logo stitched into the sides with glitzy golden thread. I finished the look with a Chloe Kardashian sweatband in Aztec gold. Rebecca came up the stairs to spy on me as I was fixing it into place across my forehead, then paused in the doorway.
“What the actual fuckery is all of this?” She eyed my outfit choice with scrutiny. “J.Lo called, she said she wants her old look back,” Rebecca quipped, then covered her mouth with her French manicured fingertips as she chuckled.
I turned to face her, placing my hands on my hips and inhaling a long intake through my nose.
“This is the best that I could find at the last minute,” I replied, ignoring the amusement that highlighted her face. “Not all of us can pull off the ‘sponsored by Nike’ look as well as you do,” I retorted, with reference to her gym bunny attire.
She looked like some plant-eating Yoga instructor, the way she was dressed in three quarter length leggings, a bright green vest top, and colorful training shoes.
Rebecca responded with an exaggerated eye-roll, then walked away from me with an amused smirk on her face.
Were we bonding?
Was it me or was this considered an exchange of friendly teasing?
I’d never experienced this before. Not in the cut-throat world of the high-class elite. Women generally spat venom at one another before plotting their social demise behind their back. This face to face brutal honesty was nothing new to me but the fact that there was no malicious intent lingering behind those words was like a whole new level of communication.
Rebecca lead me out past the small plot of land that Axel had claimed as his back yard. The blade of his ax was buried deep into the tree stump where he had flung it, the last time he was here. The cool morning breeze held moisture from when it rained during the night. I could feel the soft patterings of dampness tickle my face. The ground was still wet but drying in patches where the light kissed the ground. The fast-moving clouds that hovered overhead looked ominous with patches of angry grey swirling amongst them. Rebecca was right. At some point during the morning, we were in for another heavy downpour.
I filled my lungs with a fresh intake of clean forest air, almost tasting the earthy loam and wet pine at the back of my tongue. It reminded me of the time where I thought those tree-shaped car fresheners actually smelled like the forest, when in actual fact, they were nothing in comparison. It was this forest scent that I associated with Axel: the scent of fresh pine, wood, earth, and the great outdoors.
“Are you feeling alright, Riley?” Rebecca inquired, giving the top of my arm an affectionate pat as we walked.
“Yeah,” I replied with a weak, breathy smile.
The anxiety began to churn the contents of my stomach but thanks to the memories that Axel and I had made down at the falls, it managed to placate it and hold it at bay. I clung on to the image of him swimming naked in the cool, rippling waters. The sight of him floating on his back, his wet hair brushed back off his face, his vast masculine body bathed in the silvery rays of the moon, and the way the reflection of the stars imitated diamonds as the water cast their reflection back up at them.
I could remember exactly how I felt that night, ready to give my heart and soul to the man I barely knew, but a man that I knew I loved no less. Whether some people understood it or they didn’t, soulmates were real, and when you manage to find the one that the universe has paired you with, you don’t always stop to question logic and reason. It made me feel bad for Rebecca King because I knew what she was missing out on. Everybody deserved to be happy. Axel and I had stumbled upon one another by chance, back when neither one of us was looking. Maybe that was how fate worked its will?
“We don’t have to go far,” Rebecca explained while we walked, stepping over the fallen branches and loose bark chippings. “We just have to surround ourselves with the beauty of nature, preferably without any human distractions.”
She went on to advise that I calm myself with some easy breathing techniques: in through the nose and out through the mouth. I could feel it already start to take effect. My anxiety had faded into nothing and I started to appreciate the calming atmosphere that swaddled me with comfort. I’m not saying that I was ready to sit around a campfire, toasting marshmallows, and singing ‘Kum ba Yah’ but I was at ease with taking a chaperoned walk through the forest without the need for a GPS tracker and a flare gun. I wasn’t knocking this progress. Not at all. I only wished that I had thought to bring a bottle of water along for the trip because my mouth was feeling as dry as the Sahara desert.
“This looks like a good place to start,” Rebecca suggested, taking a look around the dense forest that surrounded us. “You won’t have to worry about prying eyes because there’s nobody around here for miles.”
I wrinkled my nose as I recalled something that Axel once told me. “Isn’t there another cabin out here?” I remembered vaguely. “I’m pretty sure that Axel said that there was a wolf family living out here.” I thumbed behind me as if I knew exactly where that was, which was funny because I couldn't even tell which way leads back to the cabin. Without Rebecca, I would be so screwed.
Rebecca almost choked on thin air. “Wolf family—that’s an understatement of the century,” she spluttered, then swatted the air in dismissal. “They won't be bothering us. The Bennett’s are practically a whole pack of their own,” she mentioned, then gazed dreamily into the thicket. “But to think, having four gorgeous men at your beck and call, waiting on you hand and foot and worshipping you in bed each night. That mate of theirs is one lucky bitch. But don’t ever let her catch you saying that. She’s territorial over her boys.”
I flared my eyes wide as I replied, “Don’t worry, I’m fully content with what I have at home, thanks.”
Rebecca made a face that suggested she wished that she had something in comparison. “Maybe one day, perhaps,” she mumbled, trying to install a level of optimism in her voice.
The girl needed reassurance. That was my cue to step in and say something to reinforce that thought.
“It’ll happen,” I told her, nodding my head as if I was certain of it. Rebecca smiled a sad smile that was gone in a flash. “Look, if it can happen to me then that means there’s hope for everyone,” I added, coaxing a genuine smile from her.
An awkward silence fell around us, where neither of us knew what to say next, then Rebecca clapped her hands together and suggested that we make a start.
“I need you to focus,” she coached, placing her hands on top of my shoulders and looking me level in the eyes. “You have to clear your mind of all thoughts and picture yourself standing amongst the forest in the form of a fox.”
I gave a sharp nod of my head to indicate that I understood. Rebecca took a few steps back to maintain a safer distance, then I exhaled a forced breath, rolling my shoulders and giving a little motivational bounce to psyche myself up.
“Alright, clear my thoughts,” I muttered to myself as I closed my eyes and mentally erased everything that didn’t belong in there.
“That’s it,” Rebecca praised, assuming that I had followed the instruction correctly. “Now picture yourself as a fox.”
Now that was the tricky part, picturing what I thought I would look like as a fox. The image of coarse red fur with a dash of white beneath the chin, tip of the tail and paws sprang to mind. In my mind's eye, I began to envision two pointed ears and a thin snout, sharp teeth, and amber-colored eyes. I could feel my skin beginning to tingle as the strange sensation migrated through the current of my veins, gradually reaching the tips of my fingers and toes, spreading warmth that seemed to emanate through the pores of my skin.
“Easy,” Rebecca warned, obviously witnessing something that I was oblivious to. “Just take it a little bit at a time.”
It only lasted for a couple of seconds before the feeling was snatched away like a snapped elastic band. The overwhelming feeling of nausea hit me and my knees gave way, forcing me to brace myself against the damp, earthy ground. I opened my eyes to the distorted image of dancing ferns and tree trunks that blurred in and out of focus. It wasn’t enough to reunite me with the toast that I had for breakfast but it was enough to put me out of action for a little while. Rebecca rubbed the center of my back as I struggled to grasp a steady breathing pattern. The first attempt had proven too much for my suppressed genes, leaving me feeling weak and lethargic. I knew that I couldn't push myself and further today.
“This wasn’t going to happen overnight,” Rebecca soothed.
She then placed her hand under my arm to help me stand.
“I said that it was going to take time before you see anything substantial,” she reassured, with logic.
I wasn’t disappointed. If anything, I was impressed that the first attempt helped me to feel something. I couldn’t wait to call Axel and share the good news.
“It’s a start, right?” I groaned, wrapping my arm around her shoulders for support.
Rebecca took most of my weight whilst we walked back across the rugged terrain.
“It is, and to celebrate, why don’t we hit one of the bars here in Hawcroft?” She suggested, giving me an offer that I could hardly refuse: a night on the tiles with an endless supply of alcohol and no paparazzi.
“I need a nap first, then a long soak in a warm bath,” I replied, fighting hard not to yawn.
Yikes! I had barely been awake for a few hours and already I was itching to crawl back into bed. Whatever happened back there had drained me of all my energy. All I could think about was sleeping for a week, then ordering everything from the take-out menu that was stuck to the side of the fridge.
We arrived back home just as it had started to rain. The patchy lawn that spread around the cabin was soon flooded with a river of rainfall. As I glanced through the kitchen window, I watched how each droplet bounced off the muddy ground like scattered marbles.
I filled up a glass of water from the tap and brought the rim to my lips. I had never taken a drink straight from a tap before. My usual choice of water comes from a mountain-fed aquifer from the southern region of Argentina. That particular spring is 500 meters below the ground and is surrounded by 20 acres of untouched forest. I prefer it to be chilled between forty-nine to fifty-five degrees. It was the equivalent to drinking heaven in a bottle and came with a price tag of $6 per 750ml. The thought occurred to me that my old habits seemed utterly ridiculous right about now, especially as I guzzled down the cool, fresh liquid that was filtered straight from the mountains of Bear Creek. Water is water when you’re thirsty. To be honest, I couldn’t even taste the difference.
Rebecca claimed the small kitchen table as her temporary workspace during her stay. She opened her laptop and began replying to some of the emails that pinged through while she was making a fresh pot of coffee. The stress lined her face as she read some of the contents, letting me see that her client's problems weighed heavily on her mind. Rebecca cared about the people she helped. I could see that she took her role seriously and that was why she had earned the solid reputation that Axel spoke highly of.
“Shit,” she muttered, getting annoyed with the dongle that was plugged into the side of the device, “I wish Axel had WIFI,” she grumbled something we both agreed on. “I keep losing signal and the attachments won’t fucking load.”
“Do you mind if I go take a lie down?” I asked, not wanting to be rude and just leave her there.
She flicked her blue eyes up and over to me, her frown lines leaving deep divots across her forehead. “No, not at all, but if you hear a smash, it’s me throwing the laptop through the window,” she half-joked, saying something else that was totally like me.
I left her to it and went upstairs to lay on Axel’s bed, cocooning myself in the duvet because it still smelled of him. I wasted no time in calling him, just like I promised him I would. I was tempted to let my fingers wander south as I listened to the deep, husky tones of his voice. The only thing that was stopping me was the fact that Rebecca was downstairs and could no doubt hear and scent everything that took place. So I decided to resist the temptation and kept the conversation clean.
“No you go first,” I insisted, after hearing the excitement in my husband’s voice as he began our conversation with, “You’ll never guess what?”
“Beast let the tour lady touch his biceps and we got tickets to the exclusive V.I.P tour around Elvis’s private collection,” he gushed, and I heard Beast grunt from somewhere in the room which confirmed that all what Axel just said was true.
“I’m so glad that you’re having yourself a great time,” I replied, feeling pleased for him.
“What about you, honey? How did the first therapy session go?” Axel asked, sounding a little cautious. “You two are getting along, I hope?”
“We haven’t killed each other yet, if that’s what you’re asking?” I kept my response a little vague, just to mess with his head.
I heard an ominous chuckle from Beast rumbling down the line, no doubt having just heard me mention the one thing that Axel had been fretting about during their trip. Axel’s pause let me know that my assumptions were right.
“I like her, she’s nice,” I told him, hearing him exhale a huge sigh of relief.
“Thank God,” he mumbled, sounding as if that took a load off his mind.
“We’re going out tonight to celebrate,” I mentioned before telling him how the first session went.
Axel took the news positively, telling me that this was a great start and that I shouldn’t try to force things. He also made me promise not to wander into the sketchy parts of town, telling me that there are bad people who hang out there and how they would devour a peach like me.
“Just stick with Becca and you'll be fine,” he counseled, "as for the treatment, it's all good news," his tone full of compassion as our conversation diverted back to today's progress. “The last thing you want is to suffer a forced shift.”
I cringed at the thought.
“Axel?” My voice came out a strangled whisper. “Does it hurt while shifting?” I asked, unable to recall the time that it happened to me.
Maybe it hurt so bad that my brain decided to block out the trauma.
“A little,” he answered honestly, but from the dismissive tone of his voice, it indicated that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. “Mom always says it’s like childbirth; she describes it as a bearable sort of pain that you can handle again and again without being put off by it. I mean, if it were to hurt so bad then we would only shift once, right?”
I guess he has a valid point.
“Just like if childbirth was so excruciatingly painful then people would only have one child?” I thought about the woman who had given birth to quadruplets and wondered if she had birthed them naturally or whether they were delivered by caesarian.
I found myself mindlessly crossing my legs under the duvet with the deepest look of sympathy.
“I can’t wait until you’re pregnant with my cub,” Axel lowered his voice to a low rasp, sending a tingling sensation straight to my clit.
Oh, fuck it! Who’s going to know?
The bedroom door was closed and the window was open just a crack. The pattering sound of raindrops formed the background noise. I could be quiet and it’s not as if Axel was here to pound the headboard against the wall.
“Babe?” The husky tone of my voice gave him a subtle hint of what I was thinking about.
“Are you thinking dirty thoughts while you’re lying in our bed?” He asked, sounding thrilled about that.
“Maybe,” I hinted, “Can you go someplace where you can be alone?”
Axel chuckled. “Beast just said something about going to buy beers. He will be gone for about ten to fifteen minutes...why?”
“I want you to talk dirty with me and touch yourself at the same time,” I told him, hearing his breath release with surprise. “I’m completely naked in bed and I’m brushing my fingers over my pussy, imagining that they’re yours. I’m getting wetter and wetter just thinking about it.”
Axle’s breath caught in his throat. Then I heard the jingling sound of a belt buckle being released, followed by the sound of a zipper being pulled down and the loose change jingling in his pocket as it hit the floor. I almost forgot that he was used to pleasuring himself whilst living the lonely life of a bachelor. He must’ve been a dab hand at whipping his pants off in record timing.
“Go on, give it to me, baby,” he replied in a breathy moan. “I was hard the second I heard your voice.”
The fact that he jumped at the opportunity almost caused me to laugh out loud, but then I heard the distinct pounding of flesh and knew that he was jerking off to the sound of my voice. My pussy clenched at the thought.
“Tell me what you want to do to me, right now?” I asked, delving my finger into my center to moisten it, then dragging it around the engorged nub at the height of my arousal.
The electrifying feeling caused my toes to curl as I played, remembering how good I was at delivering myself a decent service. Our conversation was filthy and breathy, both getting lost in the moment.
“I want you to swallow my cock down your throat and let me empty my balls inside you,” he rasped, his voice sounding desperate and full of need. I heard the crack of a lid, followed by the wet sound of liquid as he jerked himself.
“I’m pretending that this hotel body lotion is your juices sliding down my cock,” he groaned, spurring me to work my clit faster.
“Imagine me sliding down onto it and seating myself on your lap, arching my back slightly as I bounce upon it,” I encouraged, giving him a visual. "Fuck, Axel, you're so big!"
“Oh yeah, I love the way your tits bounce, lookin' all perky and waiting to be sucked,” he breathed, sounding close to cumming by the way he rushed his words.
Lights danced in my vision, my finger hitting the detonator button of my pleasure center, “Axel, fuck me harder! I begged, needing one final filthy word to tip me over the edge. "Take control and fuck me however you want."
“I’d pull you off me and flip you over so that you can suck my cock while I eat your pussy at the same time, because you’re my filthy little cum-slut and you love to be fucked like a dirty whore, don’t you?” By the vehement tone of his voice, he had lost all self-control.
“Yes! Oh God, that’s it!” I panted, my pussy clenching into tight spasms as I flooded the bottom sheet with the essence of my climax, lights flashed behind my eyelids as I came fast and hard.
Axel roared a strangled cry as he chased his own release, then his heavy panting rattled down the other end of the line, followed by his satisfied groan.
“Fuck, woman, what have you done to me?” He chuckled, breathlessly.
My body trembled beneath the softness of the duvet, coming down from my euphoric high.
“Awaked a sexy beast, I hope,” I replied, as equally spent as he sounded.
“Speaking of a Beast, I think he just pulled into the parking lot,” Axel informed, sounding as if he needed to hurry to hide the evidence. “Gotta go, baby, I’ll call you tonight.”
“Bye, honey,” I returned, ending the call so that I could roll over in seventh heaven and sleep like a log.
Rebecca showered and changed before I woke up, which left the bathroom free for me to use at my disposal. By the time I had finished, the room had filled with the sweet scent of fruit-infused steam. I scrubbed my teeth then set my long red locks into heated rollers.
“Hey, does this look OK?” Rebecca asked as she came to my room, wanting some advice on the little black dress she brought with her.
I could tell that it was expensive, probably cost her a huge chunk out of her salary. The classic black Jimmy Choo pumps complemented her look and simple black quilted-style purse and golden chain strap went well with her outfit. She had style and that was something that I could appreciate: a woman who knew how to dress.
“You look great,” I complimented, truthfully.
The black and gold embroidered catsuit and golden twist heels that I had chosen to wear were both one of a kind design. They hadn’t seen the light of day before now and the bold pattern made me feel sexy and confident. This outfit choice felt like a celebration of empowerment and the start of embracing something new. I couldn’t wait to become part of the community here at Forest Lake and begin my role as ambassador. Accepting a seat on the council, alongside my father was not only a pleasure but an honor. Tonight, I wanted to go out and get a feel for the place and mix with some of the locals. I wondered whether they were all as accommodating as Axel’s family had been, and the White’s who I had briefly just met.
“There’s just one minor detail that I have to warn you about.” Rebecca cringed, bearing her teeth in apology.
I retrieved my makeup bag and tipped it onto the bed so that I could find the blasted eyeliner that always found its way to the bottom.
“What’s that?” I muttered, not really paying much attention because now my fingers were covered in glitter from the eyeshadow that had crumbled and spilled everywhere.
Fuck my life!
“It’s been announced all over the news that you are Carlton Griffiths’s daughter and that you have been appointed a seat on the United Shifter Council,” she mentioned, grabbing my attention because I knew that this was more important.
I shrugged my shoulders, not seeing the issue, “Yeah, so. Why would that cause a problem if we go out?”
The look on her face suggested that we tread with caution, “There are a few things you need to know about our president: the work he’s doing and the toes he’s treading on.” She took a seat on the edge of the bed while I dusted the glitter from my fingers.
“I’ve always been a strong supporter of Alpha Alec and the order he’s enforced across the state, but there are a select few who are proving to be problematic.” Rebecca sighed through her nose before continuing, “Look, the alpha is due to go away on business, so that means that the likelihood of the Reaper crawling out of his sewers is a strong possibility. With you being the fox king’s daughter, and the alphas, goddaughter, it’s safe to say that you‘re probably his main target.”
I felt the color drain from my body as all the blood seemed to rush to my feet.
Alec is my Godfather? I never knew that?
“Me?” I gulped hard, “You’ll think he’ll try and hurt me?”
Rebecca made a face that suggested that she didn’t know for sure.
“I highly doubt that he would go as far as to hurt you, Riley. Not when he’s trying to get into the communities good graces. He wants a seat on the council. That’s all he’s ever wanted. And as the reptile community is borderline extinct, there’s a loophole which gives him an opportunity to be seated by default.”
My jaw hung open as I struggled to process everything she just said.
“He’s tried something similar with the Luna of Stonevale a couple of years ago, but all he needs is for one member to back him and he’s home and dry,” she revealed, her words somber and foreboding.
I felt my shoulders drop as I spoke, “He thinks that I’m easy pickings because I haven’t grown up in the community?” I stated with an aggravated huff because I was sick of men underestimating me.
Rebecca shook her head, timidly. I could see that she was worried and that frightened me a little. “He’s pissed because you’ve been welcomed in with open arms.” She hesitated, struggling to find the diplomatic way to put what she wanted to say. “Every minor discretion, scandal, public fuck-up of any kind, and he’s going to either exploit you as an unsuitable candidate, or he’s going to blackmail you with the leverage.”
She stood to her feet, her blue eyes swamping with sympathy, “He can’t know about your current situation, Riley,” she applied pressure to her statement as if that was of huge importance, “or it’s game over.”
Rebecca's expression darkened. "If he gets in, Riley, Forest Lake is screwed."