Saved by My Human Mate
I keep telling myself that I won’t die.
I can’t die in the mountains, where scavengers would scatter my bones, leaving them bleached in the rocks and scrub. I can’t do that to my parents. My family would search for me, but I was well beyond our territory. My Mom would never know what happened to me.
I know I’m choking on my blood on the side of a hill with an antler tine buried in my chest. I was strong, and I was stubborn. I was a damn Beta in my pack and one badass she-wolf.
No, I was going to make it. I’m not quitting.
My determination did not change the fact that the antler had punctured my lung. I was bleeding out my mouth and painfully coughing up blood, and night would be here soon. I had to drag myself to shelter, or I’d never make it through the cold night. My paws stretched forward, my claws digging into the pine straw and dirt of the forest floor. Every inch of progress towards the deadfall fifty feet away was a struggle. Every movement hurt. I labored to catch a breath. When I coughed, the blood would spray my front legs. I couldn’t stand, but my back legs helped push me forward, inch by inch.
I focused on the immediate. Set a target a few feet ahead. Crawl through the pain to get there. Get a new target. Lather, rinse, repeat. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Don’t give up. Don’t EVER give up. Pain is transitory.
No one will even start looking for me until late tomorrow. I had told my parents I was going for a long run and would be back by morning. They had work, and I had been running these mountains my entire life.
I was home from college, and they knew I needed to let my wolf out for a while. Our house was on the edge of our Pack lands and west of Salmon, Idaho. The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area was a short run away, and beyond that was the biggest remaining roadless area in the Lower 48. The name originated when Lewis and Clark tried to take the Salmon River west. They couldn’t get past the rapids and couldn’t paddle back upstream either. It’s a pack hunting ground for us. Now that grey wolves have protection, we can run without being in danger of a rancher shooting us on sight. There are mule deer, antelope, and other tasty prey in abundance.
The mule deer buck wasn’t supposed to hurt me, but I was sloppy and overconfident. I hadn’t hunted such big prey alone, but the animal was limping, and I was hungry. I thought the deer would bolt when it saw me leaping for him. I was already in the air before I realized I was wrong. He twisted, his horns slamming into my chest. One tine broke off between my ribs as he flung me aside. I crashed heavily to the ground while the buck limped away.
I thought about the fun things I could do when I finally returned home. I was going to take a long, hot shower. I’d cuddle up in the window seat with a good book while the snow flew. I could gaze up at the moon and dream about the moment I would meet my mate, the one person made just for me, the one who would be with me forever. I’d known his scent since puberty. I’d daydreamed about what he might look like when I saw him. He smelled like oak, leather, and fresh rain. I dreamed he would be strong, kind, and handsome.
We would sense each other. Our eyes would meet, and then we would run together, ignoring everyone around us. I’d visualized myself as I jumped into my broad chest. I’d feel two strong arms wrapping around me as I spun around. Our lips would meet in an explosion of tingles that would leave me breathless. My new mate would carry me back to his room and make me his woman. He would mark me as his by biting my neck, and I would bite him back.
We’d have our happily ever after, raising our children and serving the Pack.
Well, not if I don’t get my sorry ass to shelter soon.
It was getting more difficult to move as I lost more blood. Every time I stretched my front paws out, I would whine with the pain of doing so. I was concentrating so much on my progress that I didn’t notice the sounds of an intruder.
I smelled him first.
My head snapped up. Oak, leather, fresh rain, it was HIM! My mate!
I held my nose up, sampling the wind as my eyes searched for my destined mate. I could hear his footsteps on the hard ground but could not see anything. I whined, howled, then I howled again despite the pain, but he didn’t answer. He was coming closer, though. His smell was strengthening, making my body shiver in anticipation. I could hear him moving through the brush.
Finally, he broke through.
My first thought was how strong and handsome he looked.
My second thought was to wonder why Luna paired me with a HUMAN?
I whined in anticipation as he approached. He was tall, easily over six feet. He wore a plaid shirt buttoned low. The top gave a hint at the bulging muscles underneath the olive-drab t-shirt. His shoulders were broad, his waist flat and narrow, and his thighs and calves were thick with muscles. He carried a large frame backpack with a tent and sleeping bag on shoulder straps and a waist belt. He also wore a big stainless steel revolver holstered low on his right hip. His hair was dark brown, and he had a scruff of beard like he hadn’t shaved in a week. I was staring at him with my tongue wagging, thanking Luna for giving me such a HOT male. He was more than I had dreamed.
He stopped about ten feet from me, his eyes hidden by his sunglasses as he sized me up.
I put my head down and whined softly. The last thing I needed was for him to be scared of me and pull that pistol! Even worse, what would I do if he thought it would be merciful to put me out of my misery? I wished I could change back into my human form, but I didn’t have the energy. Even for a mate, I couldn’t shift in front of a human without risking my own life. I tried to lift my head to keep looking at him, but I was at the end of my energy reserves.
My neck fell to the dirt, and I rolled to my side.
“Damn, girl, that doesn’t look good.” Blood soaked my black fur, and the antler tine was sticking out. I licked the blood off my muzzle and whined again. He moved closer, and I could see his concern for me as he removed his sunglasses.
His right eye was a striking green color. His left eye was gone, the eyelid sewn shut. An angry scar went from just above his nose down to his left ear. I whined softly, trying to get him to come closer. I watched him pull out a bandana from his back pocket. With one hand on his pistol, he circled in front of me while his other held the fabric out. “Easy, girl, I won’t hurt you. I’m going to see if I can help, all right? Just stay calm. Everything will be fine as long as you don’t bite me.” His deep voice soothed me, and I relaxed as he approached. He looped the fabric and tied it around my muzzle as I looked at him in puzzlement.
“Good girl. I’m sorry about this, but I have to protect myself. This next part will hurt, and I don’t want you biting me.”
He set his pack down and started to dig around inside. He pulled out a bag, red with a big red cross on it. “Wilderness first aid kit. Don’t leave home without it.” He smiled and stroked my head and neck as he moved closer. He was kneeling on his right knee next to my chest, looking through the bag for something, when I noticed his leg. His jeans had risen above his boot, and I could see a titanium tube leading to his artificial foot.
I saw him take out gauze, alcohol, forceps, a packet of Quickclot, a scalpel, and a field dressing. He took a powerful headlamp flashlight out and placed it on his forehead. Setting the instruments aside, he took off his plaid shirt and laid it over my head. “Sorry, girl, you don’t want to see what I have to do here.” I focused on remaining still. He was going to help me, and he was my mate, so I could trust him.
I heard the sound of latex gloves snapping on his wrists. Soon he was probing the area near the antler. I whined softly as his artificial leg gently draped over my neck and his shirt, holding my head down so I wouldn’t move. “All right, this will hurt, but I have to do this. If you don’t bite me, I’ll fix you up. Today isn’t the first time I’ve done field surgery on a sucking chest wound, my wolf. You’re lucky I found you in time.” I whined as he gripped the antler, moving it slightly, and then he pulled.
White-hot agony in my chest. I passed out from the pain.
I woke up not knowing how long I had been out. It must have been hours because it was dark out. The only light came from a nearby campfire. My mate’s scent was strong around me, and that helped keep me calm. Everything hurt, especially breathing, but I wasn’t laboring to catch a breath like before.
I looked around without moving my head and paid attention to my senses. The first thing I noticed was that I was warm. I was lying on the top of his sleeping bag, and the soft insulation felt good on my fur. I could see his tent over me. He’d put my head near the entrance and left the flaps wide open. He was wise to do so; if I panicked and ran off, I wouldn’t rip his tent up on the way. The entrance faced a small fire that held back the cooling night air. On the side of the fire was a small metal pan. I could smell the rice and beef dish cooking, and it smelled amazing.
I couldn’t see or hear my mate. I raised my head and looked down at my body. I could feel the bandage on my chest and an ace bandage loosely surrounding it to hold it in place. I could also tell he had cleaned the blood from my fur. I decided to risk moving around and rolled until I was on my stomach. It hurt, and I closed my eyes until the pain ebbed. My aching body wasn’t ready to do it again.
I decided to wait for him to come back. I put my head down on my paws and soon fell asleep again.
I woke to the sounds of him coming up the hill, and soon I could see the light of his flashlight. He walked into the campsite, tossed the pistol on his pack, then hung his clothes on the branches to dry. He was gloriously and amazingly naked in the firelight. My wolf was panting with lust as she looked at his body, seeing the strength to dominate her and protect her pups. My human side was looking at him with shock.
This male went through hell.
I knew about his left leg and left eye, but that was just the start of the damage. The firelight illuminated the dozens of shiny, jagged scars crisscrossing his left side, chest, and legs. Chunks of muscle were missing, and I could make out dozens of surgical scars.
He must have been in agony.
I cried inside for him. I moaned for his pain and his loss. I whined softly, knowing he had gone through that hell without me by his side.
He heard me whine and looked past the fire to me. “Hey, girl. I’m glad you’re up. It was touch and go for a while there.” I didn’t know it was that close. “The good news is that I tied off the bleeder and got your lung reinflated. It will hurt like hell, but if you take it easy for a while, you’ll survive.” I tilted my head to look at him. “Yeah, I know. I’m talking to a wolf who has no idea what I’m saying, but I like talking to you. I need to give you a name, though. ‘Girl’ just doesn’t cut it.”
I opened my jaws and let my tongue hang out.
“Any ideas? Wolfie? Fido? Spike?” I growled at that one. “OK, not a fan. Lucky? Gray Eyes?” I tilted my head. “You know, your fur reminds me of a friend. He had black hair like you and a beard with a bit of white. His nickname was Raven. That work for you?” I gave him a chuff and nodded my head. “Raven it is. You’re a smart one, I bet. I didn’t think you would let me work on you without trying to bite me. It was a coin flip on whether I’d need a rabies shot after trying to treat you.”
He moved over to his pack and pulled out boxers and jeans. I let out a soft moan as he covered up his privates. My wolf didn’t like losing her view of his sizeable equipment. My wolf had been a horn-dog since I came of age, overly focused on thoughts of sex and mating. My male was well-equipped for that.
I admit my human side enjoyed the show, especially his muscled ass as he pulled his jeans on. He grabbed a T-shirt and pulled it on, the fabric covering the tattoos on his back and shoulders. “You missed out on a bath, Raven. There is a hot spring about two clicks that way. I had a nice long soak in it, and my legs feel much better now. I love hiking these mountains because I can get a hot bath before bed. There’s nothing like that in the mountains of Afghanistan.”
I kept watching as he moved over to the fire. Using a glove, he pulled the pot off and used a spoon to scoop half onto a plate. He spread it out, letting the steam escape. My mouth was watering at the smell, and my stomach growled loud enough for him to hear. “I have to let it cool first, Raven. I’ll get you some water while we wait.” He walked to the tent and carefully lifted me off the sleeping bag, setting me on my stomach next to the fire. He sat down next to me with a groan. “I’m glad you get along with me, Raven. It’s nice having someone to talk to who can’t talk back. With you, I don’t have to deal with the looks of pity or feigned sympathy. You don’t look away when you see my body or hide your children when you see me coming.”
I whined, angry that anyone would do that to him. Afghanistan meant he was a soldier and someone deserving of the respect and thanks of all Americans.
“That’s why I like hiking back here. I can go for days without seeing another person. You accept me as I am, and I take you as you are. Well, that and you can’t walk away from me yet.” He laughed at his joke, and I made a soft chuffing noise. I’d never leave him.
He poured water from his canteen into a bowl and set it down. I was very thirsty, so soon it was gone, and he poured out more. “I think that’s enough for now, Raven. I don’t need you waking up to pee five times tonight. How about we get you that food now?” My tongue was hanging out the side of my mouth, water dripping to the ground.
He took the plate and set it down before me. I looked at him for a second, then put my head down and started in on it. He was a great camp cook; I’ll give him that. The rice was soft, and the beef pieces had absorbed enough water to be chewy. I finished my plate quickly, licking the plate clean. I looked at him, my head to the side and tongue hanging out, begging for more. He saw me eyeballing his plate and turned it away. “Sorry, this is mine.” He finished eating out of the pot, then set all the dishes aside. He pulled out a couple of chewy granola bars from his backpack and fed me one.
In the distance, I could hear thunder. My mate looked in the direction of the coming storm. “Looks like we’re in for some weather. Go out there and do your business, then get ready for bed. I’ve got to get everything put away before this hits.” He picked up the dishes and headed down to the stream below. I took the opportunity to limp to the trees and relieve myself. I was back in the tent and laid down on the sleeping bag before he returned. I watched him toss a rope over a high branch, then haul his food bag out of the way of any bears. Hopefully, my scent would deter them from approaching. If any came into camp, my male had his pistol. It looked like a .44 Magnum, powerful enough to kill the beast before it ripped you to shreds.
He put a few more logs on the fire to keep it going, stacking them to keep some of the rain off the coals underneath. As long as a few coals lingered, he’d be able to refire it quickly in the morning. He used a tarp to cover his pack and some firewood, tucking the edges down so it wouldn’t blow away. Finally, he tried to come into his tent.
“Geez, Raven, make yourself at home,” he grumbled. I yipped at him as he moved past me. “Move over a little, and let me get in.” He unzipped the sleeping bag halfway, then took off his leg and set it in the corner. He pulled off his jeans and slid inside the bag.
I nosed my head under the covers by his hip. He held the sleeping bag open, and I squirmed until I was lying on my uninjured side with my back next to his chest. I put my head on the shirts he had rolled up as a pillow and relaxed. I could feel his breath on my neck as he draped an arm over my stomach.
He was asleep within seconds.
I didn’t have such luck. My mate was RIGHT HERE! I loved him, and I wanted to claim him. I couldn’t because my injuries were too severe to change forms until I’d healed some. His bare legs were by my tail, and I could feel his cock twitch as he dreamed.
I’d have to wait until I healed before I could shift. I’d reveal what I was and what that meant for us, and we could start our life together.
He woke me just as the first glow of dawn was coming over the mountains. He opened up the tent before putting on his leg. He grabbed his jeans before his morning wood led the way out. I watched him go before I slipped out to pee, whining a few times as my wounds protested the movement. He disappeared down the hill with his canteen, too far to follow.
I made my way over to the remains of the fire. We had gotten lucky, the storm had missed us last night, and I could feel the heat from the remaining coals.
He made us breakfast, cooking up oatmeal with raisins. He was relaxed enough with me now that he just scooped it with his fingers and let me eat out of his hand. “You’re the tamest wolf I’ve ever heard of, Raven. You’re bigger than any wolf I’ve seen, so I wonder if you’re a cross-breed. I don’t see signs of a collar, or I’d be sure you were domesticated. You’ve got to go a hundred pounds with not an ounce of fat.” I chuffed; I weighed one-twenty, and my five-foot-six frame looked damn good as a human. “I’m glad I came out here. Life makes sense in the mountains, you know? You eat, you sleep, you hunt your food. You don’t have rent, jobs, or appointments with yet another shrink who can’t help you. No red tape, no endless forms, no stupid bosses who think they are ‘all that and a bag of chips’ when they couldn’t lead people out of a burning building. You know what you are and where you are.” He scratched my neck. “It’s so peaceful up here. I’ve been to other places with tall mountains, long hikes, and rough campsites in my life. In THIS place, no one is shooting at me. There aren’t people blowing themselves up to get a free ticket to heaven. I wish I could stay in these mountains forever.”
I laid my head in his lap and let him scratch my ears. “I miss my buddies. We came from all over, but we were closer than brothers. We would do anything for each other and could talk about anything. Who the hell can I talk to about us back here? My friends from high school? What are they going to tell me? They’ve never been in a situation more dangerous than playing Call of Duty on a work night.” He tossed a rock into the woods. “They don’t know what it is like to lose buddies. They don’t know the sound of a buddy wanting his Mom while you’re fighting to save him, and you can’t. They’ve never watched the light go from their eyes or heard the death rattle of their last breath.” A tear dripped from his face onto my neck. “Six of my friends died when that IED blasted the Humvee to kingdom come. I’m working on my Lieutenant; his leg is missing, I’m getting a tourniquet on before he bleeds out, and his guts are spilling onto the ground. Sarge is on the radio, and the others are pulling the dead out. I feel like something hit me in the side, and everything goes black. The next thing I know, I wake up in Germany. A suicide bomber ran in next to us and blew himself up. What kind of sick fucks blow up wounded people?” I can’t cry in wolf form, but my wolf is howling inside at her mate’s pain. “My whole fucking squad and only three of us survived.” Another tear dropped. “Vic killed himself six months later. His suffering is over now.”
I licked his hand. “I can’t take much more of this, Raven. I can’t function here in the States. Every time I sleep, the nightmares come back. I see my Lieutenant looking at me, reaching for me, pleading, “Doc, help me.” And I can’t. I try, but I can’t. Last night was the first night without a nightmare I can remember since I came stateside.”
I licked his hand again and snuggled my head against his wrist. My heart was breaking with every word. “The wilderness is better therapy for me than seeing some VA hack doctor. All he ever does is try more drugs. The drugs don’t stop the nightmares, and I can’t function in school when I am on them. This air, this scenery? It clears my head better than any drug.” He scratched my ears and started to get up. “I have to return to the world, Raven, though I’d rather stay here with you. I hate being in classes, but I can’t be a Ranger medic anymore. I need something I can make a living at, and disability isn’t living for me.” He looked down at me as he kicked the fire apart. “Time to break camp, Raven. You sit there and rest for a while. I got this.”
Twenty minutes later, he had his backpack ready. He poured the rest of his canteen on the fire and made damn sure it was out.
I was whining at him the whole time. I didn’t want him to leave, and I wasn’t ready to walk out of here with him.
Fate had other plans for us, I guess. I heard a wolf howling in the distance. It was my father; he was looking for me. My brother howled next, but in a slightly different direction. It hurt like a bitch, but I howled in reply.
“Your friends, huh?” He walked over and gently stroked my neck. “That’s good. I’ll get out of the way. I’m glad I found you. You’re a strange wolf, Raven, but I love you. Come and find me if you ever want to stop being a wild animal.” He walked off and didn’t look back, even as I whined and howled my grief. I panicked, realizing I didn’t even know his name. I didn’t know where he lived. I tried to get up and follow him, but the sharp pains in my chest stopped me. Soon he disappeared around the mountain, and I was all alone.
My family found me and carried me home to the Pack doctor. After surgery and a few weeks of rest, I was back to normal. Physically, I’d fully recovered, but I was far from well. My wolf pined for her mate, and I was going nuts, wondering where he was! His absence left a hole in my heart that I couldn’t fill.
We didn’t have many clues. My brother had tracked his scent to the trailhead where he’d parked his truck. After that, nothing.
My family fully supported my search for my mate. After all, he had saved my life and was my one chance at true happiness in this life. Family members ran the mountains every weekend until the heavy snow arrived, but we never caught his scent again. The longer it went on, the more distraught I became.
I started the fall semester a few weeks late due to my injuries. I asked to drop out and search for him full-time, but my parents insisted I stay with my class. Soon I was too busy with that for anything else. I could never forget him, though. He was my mate and my only chance at a moon-blessed life.
My room at home became the center of my detective work. I put every clue I could remember from his talks on my wall and hit the Internet for information. I knew he was a Ranger medic injured in an IED and suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan. In February, I struck paydirt in an old article from 2008 in the Denver Post.
“A terrorist attack on a Green Beret unit left nine soldiers dead and three injured in the mountains outside Kandahar. An Army spokesman said most of the soldiers lost were victims of an IED attack on their vehicle, soon followed by a suicide bomber attack. The Defense Department identified the soldiers killed in action as:
1LT Tom Coronado from Orlando, Florida
SFC Robert Prentice from Hannibal, Missouri
SSGT Don Frandel of Jacksonville, Florida
SSGT Juan Hernandez of San Antonio, Texas
SGT Ricardo Carduzzi of Frederick, Maryland
SGT Dave Kemp of Rochester, Minnesota
SGT Rufus Ray of Chicago, Illinois
SGT Hassan Mikbar of New York, New York
SGT Alberto Miller of Amarillo, Texas
Injured in the attack were SGT Marcus Mendez of Colorado Springs, Colorado, SSGT Charles Hicks of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and SGT Victor Hammond of Toledo, Ohio. The Air Force evacuated the injured soldiers to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for treatment. All casualties were members of the Third Special Forces Group, headquartered in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.”
There were no photos, but at least I had some names. I hit the jackpot on a search for Marcus Mendez. It was an article in Stars and Stripes.
“Green Beret Medic receives Bronze Star, Second Purple Heart in Ceremony
Sergeant Marcus Mendez received the awards in a ceremony while recovering from his injuries in Landstuhl, Germany. Brigadier General Matthew Moeller presented Sgt Mendez the award for conspicuous valor during a firefight in which he crawled to and tended a wounded soldier. Disregarding his safety and under constant enemy fire, Sgt Mendez removed the man from the battlefield and cared for him until a Medevac helicopter arrived. Sgt Mendez was injured during the engagement but refused treatment while caring for the severely injured soldier. General Moeller praised his honor and courage, stating that he was a credit to the Green Berets and the US Army. Sgt Mendez had previously received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in that battle. His second Purple Heart was for Sgt Mendez’s severe injuries in a recent suicide bomber attack. Sgt Mendez thanked those in attendance but said the real heroes in his unit never made it home. Sgt Mendez will be medically retired once recovered from his injuries.”
Wow. My mate was a badass! A Green Beret, a fighter, AND a healer!
With a name and date, I thought I would find him quickly. That didn’t happen. The trail went cold when he left the Army, almost like Marcus didn’t want to be found. I couldn’t find anything on him directly, so I went to Facebook and Green Beret chat boards. I even contacted the listed family members of those killed in his unit and asked if he had been in contact. Over MLK weekend, I drove to Colorado Springs but couldn’t locate any family there.
I did everything I could think of to find him. Finally, I found information linking Marcus to a college in Pocatello, Idaho. That was just a few hours away! I couldn’t find an address for him on the Internet, though. I packed my bags and threw them in the passenger seat of my old Ford Ranger and headed south.
I knew the school wouldn’t release his address, so I pretended to be a prospective student interested in their nursing program. I told them I’d lost my manufacturing job after Christmas and wanted a change. Even though it was the middle of the semester, I requested and received a tour. The ladies at the admissions office even invited me to audit some of the classes to see what I thought. So with that, I started popping in on nursing classes. On the third one I hit the jackpot.
I had just taken a seat in the back when Marcus walked in. He looked damn good; he had shaved and gotten a haircut since I last saw him. Marcus ignored them while limping over to his seat. He checked me out on the way, and I could see he liked what he saw. He couldn’t miss my look.
It was the same look I get when Dad sets a medium-rare steak in front of me. I wanted to taste him, smell him, and devour him.
I smiled and flipped my long black hair over my shoulder. Marcus met my smile briefly, then looked away and sat down. He didn’t show any further interest, and I noticed few of the people in class interacted with him. It probably was a combination of his age and injuries that kept people from approaching him. He just took his notes and occasionally asked questions.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything else during class. The professor may as well have been the Swedish chef from the Muppets; I understood nothing she said. I was busy watching my man, studying every line, every emotion, every move. I tried not to make it obvious, but he still caught me staring a few times. He might mistake me for a stalker, but I couldn’t look away. Hell, I WAS a stalker.
When the class ended, I made my way over to him. “Hi, I’m Rachel. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I’m sure I know you from somewhere, but I can’t figure it out. Sorry I was staring.”
He looked into my gray eyes. I saw the sadness in his eyes as he casually shut me down. “I’m sorry, Rachel, but I’m not ready to be anyone’s friend. You should find someone capable of giving you the time and love you deserve. You’re young and beautiful, so I’m sure that will be easy for you.” With that, he turned and walked out.
I wasn’t going to let him push me away.
I followed him from a distance as he went through the rest of his classes. My heart broke as I watched his lack of integration with the other students. Even among all these people, Marcus was alone. He ate lunch by himself in the corner of the cafeteria. Was he too old? Were his injuries putting them off, or was it his stellar personality? Whatever the reason, he sat with his nose in a book between classes. He spread bags and books over the table so no one would ask to sit there.
I watched with anger building in me at the looks he got from the younger students. The ones that just recoiled at his facial scars or his artificial leg weren’t so bad. The ones that walked away while making fun of him? He didn’t hear them, but with wolf hearing, I certainly could. It took every bit of self-control I possessed to stay seated. I wanted to chase them down and beat the living shit out of them.
The words he said to me on the mountain rang in my head. Marcus would never be at home here.
He was stuck on the outside, and he wasn’t making any attempts to socialize. While he was in his last class, I found his beat-up truck in the handicapped spot. I moved my truck to a place where I could see him leave.
He was the last to leave the class, staying late to speak to his professor. I watched as he tossed his book bag in the seat and drove away, waiting a minute so I wouldn’t follow too close. I followed him through the night as the rain began. He went outside city limits and turned down a back road.
He must have rented an apartment in this older house at the edge of a potato field. As I drove past, I watched him park next to a newer truck at the edge of the driveway.
I found a place to park a few blocks away near a treeline. I went into the thickest part of the trees after making sure no one was nearby, removing my clothes and folding them before placing them in a plastic bag I set on the pine needles. I shifted into my wolf and shook out my fur. I stalked closer, alert for movement. When I got close to the window, I heard voices.
“Marcus, I left some dinners for you in the freezer. I need you to eat better! I don’t like how you’re losing weight. You can’t exist on microwave food and potato chips.”
“I’m trying, Mary. I forget to eat sometimes when I’m studying for an exam.”
I started to growl low in my chest. My man was in there with another woman, and my wolf saw red.
“I’ll be back to check on you this weekend. You need to unpack and settle in, Marcus. This apartment looks like you’re living out of a duffel bag.”
“That’s because I am. It’s just another place, and I’ll be moving along soon enough.”
“Until when? When do you settle down and get back to normal, Marcus?”
There was silence for a few moments. “This IS my normal, Mary. I’m not the idealistic young man I was when I left for the Army. I’m damaged goods. I can’t cope with people, I can’t stop the nightmares, and nothing the VA can do helps me. Not the drugs, not the therapists, not the groups. I have demons, Mary. When they come out, I don’t want anyone around me. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep, Marcus? You’re like a zombie sometimes.”
He laughed. “It’s been months. The last time was at the end of the summer while I was hiking up north. The nightmares haven’t gone away, Mary; they are getting worse. The only place I feel at home is in the mountains.”
“Well, you can’t live in some remote cabin like the Unabomber. Let me help you, Marcus! I love you, and I’ll never turn my back on you.” She pulled him into a hug. “I better get going.”
I had moved to the front door by then, and my growling was getting louder. When the door opened up, it surprised both of us.
“AAAAGH! MARCUS! THERE’S A HUGE FUCKING WOLF ON YOUR PORCH!” Mary screamed and ran back into the house, running into his arms as he came out of the kitchen. I growled even louder as she touched MY man. I was standing in the open doorway, slowly advancing. He looked at me and smiled.
“It’s all right, Sis, this wolf is my Raven. Raven, my sister, Mary.” Sister? I stopped growling and sat down, my head to the side and tongue out as I took in this change in status. She wasn’t a threat to take away my mate.
Marcus put her behind him and walked up to me. I wagged my tail and shivered with excitement as he came closer. I leaned my head against his leg while he scratched my ears. “Raven, what in the hell are you doing here?”
Mary was hiding around the corner in the kitchen, peeking out with a carving knife in her hand. She saw Marcus leaning down for a face lick. “You know that wild beast?”
“Yep. Raven is my friend. We met on a hiking trip last year. Smartest wolf I’ve ever seen and strangely friendly to me. Of course, I did save her life. When I stumbled across Raven, she’d been gored by a deer. I had to remove the antler embedded in her chest.” He rubbed my chest, feeling the scar tissue where the wound had been. “She looks to be fully healed. Want to say hi?”
“Uh... no. I’ll just be going. John is taking me to Salt Lake City tomorrow, and I need to get packed.” She moved slowly past me, keeping Marcus between us. She kissed her brother on the cheek, then walked out the door. “Give me a call tomorrow. I need to know that dog didn’t eat you.”
“Wolf... she’s all wolf. I’ll be fine, though. It won’t be our first night in bed together.”
Mary shook her head as she walked to the car. “You’re certifiable, Marcus, but I love you. Have a good week.”
We watched her go, and then I looked up at him. “Come on, girl. It’s late, and you are all wet. Let’s get you dried off and ready for bed.” I followed him to the small bedroom while he continued into the bathroom to get towels.
The whole time I focused on finding him, I never once figured out a good way to tell him who and what I was. How do you explain that you are a werewolf, much less that you followed him here because Luna had decreed him to be your mate?
Throwing caution to the wind, I quickly ripped off the bandaid.
He walked out of the bathroom, having stripped down to his boxers so his clothes wouldn’t get wet. I reared up on my haunches and put my front paws on his shoulders. I looked in his one eye as he looked in mine. Then I closed my eyes and focused on the change.
The sound of bones cracking and realigning filled the room for a few seconds, and then my naked human form was in front of him, my hands behind his neck.
“What. The. Actual. Fuck.” He stared at me, then looked down my body and back up to my face. He touched my face tentatively, not accepting that what he’d seen was real. I kissed his lips, pressing my naked body against his.
His body reacted to this faster than his mind did.
“I’m not trying to scare you, Marcus. I’m Rachel. I’m also Raven. I’m a werewolf.” He stepped back from me, and I could sense his fear. “I’m not going to hurt you, Marcus. Far from it. I’m here to help you.”
“Because I love you. I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you.”
I watched as he walked over to the bed and sat on it, placing his head in his hands. “Please, don’t say anything. You don’t have to. Just let me be with you tonight.”
It took a few minutes before he sat up and extended a hand to me. I sat down on the bed next to him. “I guess this explains a lot. You were too big and smart to be a real wolf.”
“Oh, I’m real. I’m here. But we don’t have to talk about this until tomorrow. Let’s ignore the whole werewolf thing and get some sleep. You look exhausted.”
“I stink, too. I need a shower.” He stood up and walked over to the bathroom, closing the door on me as he went in. My wolf didn’t appreciate having him out of our sight. I stood up and walked into the bathroom, surprising him as he stood naked with his back to me. I was already naked, and his backside was his best feature. He had just taken off his artificial leg and was about to hop into the shower, using the handrails installed in his bathroom. “I’m sorry you have to see me like this, Rachel. I’m sure I’m not what you expected.”
“I’m not sorry, Marcus. I’m enjoying the view quite a bit.” I walked past him, opening the shower curtain and stepping into the large clawfoot tub. “Grab my shoulder and get in here with me.”
“You can take my weight?”
“You’ll find werewolves are much stronger than humans. Don’t underestimate my strength.” Marcus put his arm on me while holding the bar in his left hand. He sat on the tub edge before swinging his legs inside. I helped him stand on his good leg.
I turned on the water while he was staring at me. My wolf loved our progress; we were naked in his den, and I could smell his arousal already. “Why don’t I get you clean, and you can get my back?” I looked at his face and thought I could see embarrassment. He was waiting for something. “Marcus, what do you think I see when I look at you?”
He sighed. “I don’t know. My sister and my friends from before? They see me as I used to be, and I can tell they see the loss. Strangers look at me, and sometimes I see their fear, others their pity.” I used the portable shower wand to soak his head, then used his shampoo. “I haven’t figured you out. Even as a wolf, there was something about you.”
“Werewolves have dual natures, our civilized human half and our more primal wolf half. When we look at someone, we see different things than beauty or imperfection.” I soaped a washcloth and started with his face. I didn’t avoid his missing eye. Instead, I traced the scars as I cleaned him up. “When I look at you, I see many things my wolf and I admire.”
I squeezed his bicep. I couldn’t get my hand around half of it! “I see your strength.” I moved to his chest, running the cloth and my fingers over the long scars. “I see your courage and toughness.” As I got to his legs, I continued to soap him down, avoiding his private parts. I washed the end of his stump carefully as I knelt before him. “I see your willingness to sacrifice yourself. Your courage to put the needs of your country and your friends ahead of your survival.”
I finished with his feet and then had him turn around. I continued cleaning his neck. My fingers and the washcloth worked past his strong shoulders and down his body. My hands tingled as I played with my mate’s body, tracing his muscular back. When done, I reached around him, pressing until my firm breasts smashed against his back and my hips spooned into him. I reached around with the washcloth, cleaning his equipment. I gripped the girth of it, my wolf jumping in my head as she imagined what pleasure it would bring us. “And when I see this, I see our future. I see a strong mate, a loving father who will satisfy me like no other man.” I turned him around and hugged his waist while looking into his eye. I wanted him to see in mine the truth of what I was saying. “I see the man I love. I see the man I want to share my life with.”
His hands moved to my back, pulling me closer and pressing his erection into my stomach. Tingles exploded along my body as he leaned down and captured my lips with a kiss.
It wasn’t just a kiss, though. It was a ‘fireworks going off while the orchestra plays in the background and the credits roll’ kind of kiss. Marcus moved his hands up to cup my face, all while his mouth took possession of mine. I pulled myself close, unable to tell where his body ended and mine began. It was amazing, epic, and the stuff of little werewolf girl dreams.
When the kiss finally ended, all I wanted was to kiss him again. Marcus opened his eye and looked down at me. “What was that... tingling... I’ve never felt that.”
“It’s the start of the mating bond, Marcus. You are human, but you recognize me as yours at some level. Maybe there is a werewolf in your ancestry somewhere? I don’t care. I can’t describe how it felt to me. I never wanted to come up for air.” He kissed me again, then pulled away.
“Turn around. It’s my turn to clean you.” My insides were doing backflips, and my arousal was in high gear now. I was flush with arousal, and I could smell that my sex was ready for him. I turned as he got my hair wet, then started to wash my hair. “Do you want to know how I see you?” I nodded, not daring to look back at him. He worked his fingers through my hair and massaged my scalp. The grooming was turning me into a little puddle of desire. “I see your dark hair, and I see my Raven. I see the strange wolf who understood me, the one who listened to me and tracked me down hundreds of miles away.”
He rinsed the shampoo out. Grabbing a clean washcloth, he soaped it up. He started on my face, then rinsed me off. He turned me away to work his way down my neck, shoulders, and back, then turned me around again. He moved down my neck and shoulders, then my sides. He carefully cleaned the scar from the antler wound. “When I see this, I see your courage and determination. I traced your blood trail back as you were sleeping. I know how far you dragged yourself, and I imagined how much pain you must have been in.” I was burning with want when he ran his hands and the cloth over my breasts, the nipples rock hard with excitement. “When I see these, I think of the children we will have, how you will nourish them and help them grow strong.” He moved down to my stomach, tracing the lines of the muscles just under the skin. “I see your inner strength. I see a woman strong enough to stand up to me and capable enough to stand at my side.” He carefully lowered himself to his knees.
He skipped past my sex, leaving me panting in frustration as he did my legs and feet. Finally, he moved up and gently cleaned me, front and back. “I see your eyes closing in pleasure as I make love to you.” He stuck his tongue out, gently tracing the outline of my lips as I opened like a flower to him. He used his mouth and hands with gentleness and skill. It wasn’t long before my world exploded in a burst of sensations. He held me up as my legs threatened to give out on me.
When I caught my breath, I looked down at his face with love and appreciation. “Oh, Luna, you can do that to me forever. I’ve never felt anything like that.”
“You’ve never had oral sex?”
“I’ve never had any sex. Until you find your mate, it’s pointless.” I helped him stand up. “You and I are going to explore this together. And if you think it is good tonight, just wait until we are fully mated! When you are a werewolf, you can feel my emotions too. I’ve heard that it’s ten times better.”
“Then we should finish here before the hot water is gone.” He rinsed us off, then we got out and dried each other. He grabbed his artificial leg and carried it as he hopped into the bedroom with his arm on my shoulder. As soon as he was horizontal, he was kissing the life out of me.
“Make a woman out of me, Marcus. I need you in me.”
“Make a werewolf out of me, Rachel. I need to be with you.”
He did. Then I did.
And it was spectacular.
(Thank you to Designed Up for the cover design!)