I had gotten Astrid to bring me the chemicals needed to strip the ugly and grown out box dye job I had done months ago in some run down motel bathroom. I had been in a different state of mind then when I had built the facade that I had hidden behind. I was simply a girl trying to survive, a girl trying to keep any small sliver of freedom that she had gained by running away from Silas and his pack. I was now in a place that I didn’t need to pretend to be anyone other than myself anymore. I wasn’t trying to hide from the monsters of my past, even though they still roamed freely through the lands. Being with Rhys had given me the courage I needed to face the day, his strength had become my strength.
I was ready to be myself, again. Of course, I wouldn’t be the same naive girl that had left her home and ended up trapped in a relationship with a monster. That girl long gone. I was going to be Dove, the girl who had survived imprisonment and fought to take control of her own life and destiny. The girl who had found her way in a world that was full of violence and mystery. The girl who had learned to love a man when she thought she would never love or trust, again.
I stared at myself in the mirror, admiring the girl staring back at me. She was no longer skin and bones. Instead, she had built muscle over the past couple of weeks through hard labor and training with Astrid and Dace. She no longer looked run down and haggard. Her eyes were wide and filled with a determined light, and her skin glowed with vitality. I reached up and combed my fingers through the dirty blonde hair, the brown hadn’t come out completely but it had come out enough for me to feel like I was no longer looking at a stranger.
“Here you are,” Rhys commented as he strolled into the bathroom. I caught his reflection in the mirror as I spun around to face him. I hadn’t been expecting him back from the office so early. I had been hoping I would have been able to surprise him with dinner and the new me, which was really the old me. I opened my mouth to speak but he caught it in a deep kiss as he wrapped me up in his arms. I found myself melting against him, my body molding to his without hesitation. Being with Rhys was becoming like second nature, like blinking or breathing, it just happened without conscious thought or effort on my part.
He scooped me up off the floor when my back collided with the countertop, sitting me down on top of it. The kiss deepened, his tongue tantalizing my mouth before he finally broke away, leaving us both breathless. My face felt flushed from the desire he had awakened in me, “Welcome home.” I whispered to him with an undercurrent of humor as I met his mischievous gaze.
Rhys looked me over slowly from head to toe, reaching out he twisted the blonde strands around his finger, tugging gently, “This is different.”
“Do you hate it?” I nibbled on my lip, feeling slightly self-conscious. This was the first time that Rhys was seeing me completely as myself. I knew that we were mates but that didn’t mean we were going to like everything about one another. Perhaps he was more partial to brunettes. What did I truly know about him or the things he liked?
He shrugged his shoulders, holding my gaze, “This might take some getting used to, but I definitely don’t hate it.” He leaned in closer, brushing his lips against my cheek, “In fact, I think I might love you even more as a blonde.”
I gave him a playful smile, “They do say blondes have more fun.” I enjoyed the lightness in my soul. The past couple of weeks had done wonders for the confidence that I had lost.
Rhys’s lips danced over the fading bruises on my shoulder as he gently kneaded the muscles in my upper thighs, “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I thought that the moment I spied you across the bar. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if you were blonde, brunette, red...whatever fucking other colors you can think of. You would have still been you. You still would have been the other piece of me.” He had claimed he wasn’t the romantic type but he sure was learning how to speak like one. I felt warmth move through me at the subtly of our bond flexing it’s invisible fingers. I grabbed onto his shoulders and pushed back against him so that I could look at his face.
He pushed back against me, nipping at my shoulder with his teeth, causing me laugh lightly. Rhys obviously had plans about where this conversation was leading to, which was probably the same place most of our conversations ended. The bedroom. My body completely agreed with his thoughts, the feeling of his lips moving over my shoulder and up my neck had shivers racing up my spine. He pulled the skin between his teeth while he suck at it, causing a sort of stinging pleasure. A whimper of need echoed from my throat as I dug my fingers into his shoulders, holding tighter.
A low rumbling growl of content passed through his chest as he pulled back, fingers stroking the now sensitive flesh of my neck, “Soon you will be mine, Dove.”
My eyes fluttered open, “I already yours.” I corrected him.
Rhys lips curved up into a wicked smile, “Yes, your heart...” His hand dipped to my chest, pressing the skin above my left breast. I watched his eyes swirl with desire as his hand dropped further down my body, moving slowly over the cotton towel that shielded me from his view. I bit my lip as his hand slipped under and cupped my mound, “and your body...those are mine.”
He leaned forward holding my gaze as he flicked his tongue over his lips like he was a ravenous beast and I was his prey, “But I want to stake my claim on your soul and make sure the whole world knows that you are mine completely.”
That was what I wanted too. I had wanted that for weeks now but Rhys had wanted to wait and I was glad I hadn’t pressed the issue. These past couple of weeks had been almost necessary for me to feel ready to make this leap with him. There was only one more thing that I felt like we needed before any claiming could commence.
“I want to see you,” I stated rather firmly.
He lifted a brow in confusion, not understanding what I was telling him. I heaved a tiny sigh, “What I mean is, I want to see the other you.” I had yet to see him in his wolf form. I wondered if he was embarrassed to show me at first but the more I got to know Rhys I had decided there wasn’t a humble bone in his body. He probably had never been embarrassed a day in his life. I had pieced together that it probably had to do with the fact that I was human and some part of him, latent it may be, had an extreme distrust for them.
Rhys held my gaze, silently, “Are you sure you can handle it? I don’t want you to run away screaming or something like that.”
I rolled my eyes, “I think can handle it, Alpha.”
He looked a little putout, “And you want to see this right now? Don’t you want to wait until after we’ve seen how much more fun a blonde can be?” It was a wonder how we ever left his bed with him constantly wanting to fuck me like he did. Not that I was complaining, it was nice to know he wanted me as much as I wanted him.
I pushed him away, sliding off the counter, “Right now seems like good a time as any.” I could hear him grumbling behind me as I walked out of the bathroom to put some clothes on. I couldn’t help but snicker to myself.
“I just want you to know that I won’t hurt you, but it’s important for you not to run if you get scared,” Rhys explained as he stepped out of his pants and held them out for me to take.
I took them with an annoyed huff, “I’ve told you already that I’m not scared of you or your wolf. Now stop stalling, it’s cold and I’m getting hangry.” It was starting to get a little chilly as the evening breeze began to pick up, and I had put dinner in the oven before we came outside which meant we only had a limited amount of time to be out here.
I heard Rhys chuckle as if amused by my rising irritation. I leveled him with a stern look, “Okay. Okay...you might want to stand back.” He waved his hand dismissively at me as he closed his eyes, face pinching as he focused his energy. I watched him with fascination as, nothing in particular, happened for the first thirty seconds but I began to see his steam rising from his skin. It grew thicker with each passing second and I found that I needed to take a few steps back as he heated the air around him to an uncomfortable degree.
Soon it became impossible to see him, even as I squinted to try and get a better look at the process. I sucked in a breath as a pair of golden eyes were suddenly staring out at me through the thick steam. I remained frozen in place as Rhys’s beast stepped out and into view. He was a magnificent creature, large head held high atop a thick neck. Its body was covered in silver fur, though its face was marked with patches of black.
I slowly lowered myself to my knees, placing Rhys clothes on the ground next to me, “Aren’t you handsome?” I questioned in a cajoling tone.
I smiled softly as his ears twitched as they registered the sound of my voice. He moved towards me on his strong legs, large paws digging into the earth. It was hard not feel some kind of reverent fear towards the creature. I knew that he wasn’t going to hurt me because I belonged to both the beast and the man but still, this was a creature of strength and intelligence that deserved to be respected. He was built to take down large prey, I would be unable to stand against him. I was finally understanding why Astrid and Dace had told me that I wanted to incapacitate my enemy before they could shift, because if they did then I stood no chance.
I remained completely still as his wolf sniffed at my face, digging his nose into my hair. I tried to hold back nervous laughter as he pressed his cold nose to the skin on my neck, letting out a loud snuffle before pulling back. I stared into his eyes which held such intelligence that I knew Rhys was in there, looking out at me from behind the beast’s heavy stare. I lifted one of my hands from the ground and hesitantly stretched it forward, wanting to touch him.
His lips curled up a little and a small growl rumbled from his chest, in warning. I froze in place with my hand hanging in the small space between us, unsure what to do or how to react. The wolf pressed his nose to the palm of my hand, sniffing once more before licking at it. Soon he was dropping his head and pressing it to my palm, eyes closing as if to tell me that I had his trust.
I dug my fingers in through the thick coat of fur, hesitantly at first, sort of waiting to see if what I was doing was deemed acceptable. When the wolf pressed himself harder against my hand I smiled, scratching and combing at the fur atop his head, moving to massage the tips of his ears, “You are such a strong beasty, aren’t you? You’ve been keeping an eye on me haven’t you?” I talked softly.
He peeked open one of his eyes to look at me, snorting as if to answer my question. I scratched at the patch of fur behind his ear, “Well thank you for that, I guess.” His other eye opened at that and he surged forward, knocking me off balance and flat onto my back. Soon there was a tongue swiping at my face over and over, as I tried my best to avoid the slobber filled kisses.
“Rhys, stop it!” I screeched as I tossed my head back and forth, laughing as he continued despite my pleas that he do otherwise. The attack ended abruptly but it took a moment for me to get myself under control. By the time I pushed myself up off the ground Rhys was back in his usual form, skin flushed and steaming from the change.
“So what did you think? Not too scary?”
I looked him over slowly, enjoying the view of him stark naked with the wilderness around him. It seemed like this was exactly the image I had of him since we had met, something more than human. He was a man that contained the spirit of the wild inside of him, it stirred with a passion for all of life and a need to protect it. His lips twitched upward into a hungry smirk, his cock beginning to grow hard, “Keep looking at me like that and I’ll take you right here.”
I forced myself to keep my gaze focused on his face even as my panties were flooded with my desire for him to do just that, “I think you’re magnificent. I think you’re both magnificent...” I meant what I was saying, though I knew it wasn’t going to help his already inflated ego. He bent forward and gathered clothes up off the ground, before reaching his hand out towards me. I accepted his offer, enjoying the feel of his heated skin against mine though it caused gooseflesh to rise on my arm.
“You weren’t afraid were you?” He questioned, voice dropping low. I shook my head as he helped me back up to my feet. Rhys gave my hand a firm squeeze before releasing it, “Good, you never need to be afraid of us. We would never do anything to hurt you.”
I smiled softly, rising up on tiptoes to press a chaste kiss to his cheek, “I know. I trust you both, with my life.” I couldn’t help but bask in the look of awe and wonderment in Rhys’s eyes as I pulled back. It was like he thought I was the one with supernatural abilities. I turned away from him with a soft laugh, dinner was probably burning as we stood around making googly eyes at one another like a couple of lovesick teenagers.
“I love you, beyond words.” He remarked as he followed behind me.
I flipped a look over my shoulder at him, eyes hooded, “I know. I hope you plan to show me how far beyond words you do love me, Mr. Alpha.” His eyes swirled with desire as he caught the double meaning of my words. I gave him a mischievous grin before I turned and took off towards the house, completely attuned to the sound of his heavy footfalls as he gave chase.