HEAT

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Absence of Temporal Touch

Hycinth

Once Leander finally got control of his...situation, Gemma repeated the process Mimi had done on me, trimming his pubic hair short and applying topical pain reliever. She placed a narrow strip of spun silk over his hips to discreetly cover his manhood for the next step. Two bands of smooth silk covered my body as well, one over my breasts and the other over my hips.

The other four wolves reentered the building. Gwen and Willow walked to my side while Aidan and Ryan went to stand next to Leander. Gwen squeezed my hand, caramel brown irises swirling with concern and affection, but she didn’t speak, respectful of the moment.

Mimi stepped in between the beds and stood at the foot so that both Leander and I could see her. Before speaking to us, she gave a purposeful nod to the pairs of wolves standing next to each of us.

Immediately, they were in motion.

I let my head fall to the side so I could watch.

Gwen and Aidan walked to the collection of arranged tables.

Working independently but in tandem, movements almost identical, they assembled multiple ingredients into two antique teapots. Silver with aged verdigris patina, the delicate teapots were a matching pair except for the one in Aidan’s capable hands was a little bit bigger. They looked several hundred years old, and even without asking, I knew these teapots had been handed down through the generations and used in many ceremonies.

When all of the ingredients were combined, Gwen and Aidan turned. Willow and Ryan automatically joined them, and they transferred the teapots from one Wolf to the other.

Delicately holding the little treasures, Willow and Ryan walked to the back of the room, near the shallow pool and carefully perched the teapots into a small nest of hot stones.

The sweet scent of almond wafted into the air along with other scents my sensitive Wolf nose couldn’t identify. Filling and consuming the air around us. I inhaled deeply, letting the alluring scents wash over me, absorbing them into my senses and consciousness.

Abruptly, I was frozen in time...

...stunned by what I saw before me. The spirits of the wolves that had come before danced in the room around us, their translucent bodies moving to an intricate rhythm that perfectly matched the enchanting music being played outside!

I drew in a sharp breath. My eyes immediately searched for Leander. He was already staring at me, and the love and affection I found in his dark cerulean orbs took my breath away. His chin dipped just a little, giving me the barest of nods, but it was enough for me to understand—he saw them too!

My belly tightened, a strange feeling blooming deep inside—an inherent sense of tradition, of belonging...rightness.

No one else in the room seemed to notice them, and the mystery wolves never made eye contact, too wrapped up in their own partners. They glided over the floor, delicately twisting and turning their bodies, beautiful and fluid.

I was enchanted. My gaze shifted back to Leander, but he was no longer looking at me.

He’d sat up, and his eyes had gone wide, mouth partially open, as if wanting to say something but at a loss for words.

I turned to follow his line of sight and saw a beautiful female standing alone in the midst of the paired wolves. Even in her translucency, I could see dark flowing hair, black as midnight, and bright violet eyes. There was only one person she could be—his mother.

Leander had her attention as much as she had his. Eyes only for him, weightless, she drifted over the floor in his direction. When she reached him, Leander’s stunned expression morphed into the most profound sadness I’d ever seen as he stared at her. His grief was tangible and thick in the air.

The drums beat...

Voices outside the dwelling blended in harmony, meaningful sounds that didn’t need words.

The sweet scent of the oil ruminated in the air, filling every crack and crevice.

Lifting a delicate hand, she caressed his cheek. Leander’s bottom lip quivered. A single tear breached his lashes and rolled down his face. He leaned his head into her palm. In the absence of temporal touch, his cheek made no contact with her translucent hand, but his eyes closed in relief, having somehow not just seen but also felt her presence.

I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat and blinked back my own tears.

When Leander lifted his head again, his lips moved, but no sound came out, at least none that my ears could hear. But I didn’t need to hear the words. His lip movement was enough to read what he said, “I’m so fucking sorry.”

He was sorry? What was he sorry for?

His mother’s eyes softened. She shook her head, disagreeing with his words. Another long moment lingered between them before she spoke softly. “I love you, son. Tell your father I miss him. I’m waiting...I’ll always wait for him.” Again, I wasn’t sure if I heard her with my ears, was able to read her lips or if it went deeper than that. Probably the latter.

Without waiting for his response, she leaned forward. Leander dropped his chin, accepting the whisper of her kiss on his forehead. She pulled away. Leander lifted his head. Another tear trailed down his cheek.

I lay perfectly still, clutching the silk that covered over my breasts, not wanting to interrupt their moment, not wanting her to notice me, a new feeling in my belly—guilt.

But I couldn’t avoid her eternal gaze.

When she turned, her intense eyes locked on mine. Stepping away from Leander, she drifted to my side. I stared up at her, frozen, unsure what to do or say, held utterly captive in her penetrating regard.

Lifting her hand, she gently cupped my cheek. I couldn’t feel the contact on my skin, but her touch reached deep into my heart.

And then she let go...

Taking a step away, she shifted and stood with all four paws on the ground, proud and regal. Twisting her head, the beautiful Wolf made eye contact with Leander for just the briefest moment before turning back and heading in a direction I couldn’t even fathom.

I blinked.

When I opened my eyes again, she was gone.

They were all gone.

For a moment, I questioned everything I’d just seen. Was the oil a hallucinogen? Had I just imagined seeing her... seeing all of the wolves dancing? But one glance at Leander’s stricken expression told me otherwise. He’d laid back, eyes closed but his beautiful face was still etched with agony.

My eyelids drifted shut, too heavy to hold open. Swimming in my own grief, all I could do was breathe and try not to drown.

Mimi drew my attention back to her, speaking softly, “Abhyanga is the Sanskrit word for oil massage applied to the whole body.”

I didn’t look at her, still needing a minute to pull myself back together.

I was almost certain no one else saw them but Leander and I, but how then did Mimi know when to begin again? I couldn’t piece it together. Maybe there was no answer.

Nearby movement indicated Willow and Gwen had returned, one on each side of me. I could only assume Ryan and Aidan were similarly positioned next to Leander.

Mimi continued, “Made with almond, Jojoba, rosewood, and avocado, this hot oil will increase your immunity and circulation as well as create deep relaxation in the body and mind.”

Both Leander and I needed deep relaxation, after the last few minutes, particularly for our minds. Taking a few deep breaths first, I opened my eyes and watched Gwen lift the top off of the teapot, dip her finger inside, extracting some of the oil and rubbing it on her wrist, checking the temperature. Satisfied with her finding, she nodded to Mimi.

Mimi turned to Aidan. He gave her the same nod.

Mimi stepped away, returning to stand by Gemma near the preparation tables.

Gwen replaced the top of the teapot and then lifted it so that it hovered over my body. From my peripheral vision, I could see Aidan did the same. Pouring slowly and carefully, Gwen trailed the warm oil from my hand up to my shoulder, followed the path of my clavicle bone and down my other arm. The hot liquid tingled against my skin.

She handed the teapot to Willow who proceeded to apply the liquid in an intricate pattern over my belly, from one side to the next. Transferring the little container again, Gwen ran the oil up my left leg before Willow poured it down my right leg.

When they set the teapot aside, they reached over me and twined their fingers together.

I closed my eyes...

Using their clasped hands and forearms, they moved in perfect synchronization, massaging my skin, starting with my shoulders. Push and pull, fluid and graceful, their bodies angled side to side over me, their joined hands applying just the right amount of pressure to soothe and relax each muscle.

Every inch of my skin was taken into consideration as they moved from my upper body down my arms, even my hands and fingertips. When they reached my middle, they untwined their hands and continued with wrists side-by-side, never losing touch with each other, always perfectly synchronized in pure harmony as they massaged up my right side in a circular clockwise motion, across the top of my abdomen, and then down my left side.

My lower body was next. Thumbs interlocked, fingers tight together, their pointer fingers touching at the tips, they used long sweeping strokes down my thighs and calves, stimulating my knees and ankles with small circles and pinpoint pressure.

Once the front of my body was complete, I was rolled over. Of course, Leander was placed on his stomach at the exact same time. I suspected not only had Gwen and Willow been in perfect sync but Aiden and Ryan had matched their movement and timing exactly.

The process began again...

How long had it taken Gwen and Willow to learn how to do this? No doubt, Aidan, and Ryan had gone through the same learning process. And from the expressions on their faces earlier and the perfection of precise movements with which they moved in tandem, each one of them held their duty in high esteem.

I relaxed into their soothing touch, letting my mind drift, healing from the earlier deep emotional strain. After nearly another hour went by, they finally finished. Mimi dismissed Gwen, Willow, Aidan, and Ryan. Gwen gave me a small smile of encouragement before they left.

“Come to the pool so that we can rinse the excess oil from your skin,” Mimi instructed.

Every part of my body felt loose and wiggly, a little bit like Jell-O so I was careful as I lifted from the bed and placed my feet on the floor. Leander wrapped an arm around my back as we walked to the water. Again, he climbed in first and lifted me next to him.

Leander held me close, only releasing as Mimi and Gemma poured soothing freshwater over our bodies. Silence lingered between us. I wanted to talk to Leander, ask if he was okay. But I couldn’t...I couldn’t face his grief...not right now.

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