The contents of the fridge hadn't changed since the last time. Cheese, bread, meat, tomatoes, juice, wine, and beer. How did people live like this? Then I remembered where I was and who I was with. In the city, where everyone ate out, and Kelly, who was a grad student, probably with loans and seemed to run on the frugal side anyhow. She might have been pretty maternal and wanting to take care of me (have you eaten, Jess? How was the couch to sleep on?), but she was all types of a terrible eater and never looked at a salad sideways.
I was a strange mix of anxious and bored. It had been nearly five days since I shifted and I was already feeling ancy about it. How the hell did I think I would be able to last a month without shifting? Most pack members try to limit themselves and only turn for the moon, when we feel like we are about to jump out of our skin.
I however, reveled and indulged in it. It was almost masochistic. I found myself running through the plains every week, sometimes twice. I knew it wasn’t good for me, in the long run, to go out so often. I would most likely end up like my father but there was nothing else that gave the same high as him, running through the wilds.
The clock on the wall said it was nearly 5 pm and therefore totally acceptable to open up one of the six pack we had bought this morning. Using the beer opener on the fridge, I looked at it. It was clearly a relic from the break up since Kelly said she rarely drank beer because it made her go a bit too crazy.
When we arrived at her apartment four days ago, she went full on purge of the ex-boyfriend. Pictures, DVDs, old clothes found under the bed, bottles of supplements, extra razors in the medicine cabinet. It was a goddamn fire sale. She even managed to find the half used bottle of cologne I imagine he had stashed for emergencies under the bathroom sink. It did no good though, at least to my nose, this place still stunk like that dude and I was a hundred percent sure I could pick him out in a line up.
Running water started up in the shower, signaling Kelly had finally stepped into it after our run. We were getting into a routine, she and I. She did her school and I watched some TV, we exercised together and then hit the sack, me on the couch. It wasn’t much for a usually active man, but it worked and was building a little camaraderie between us. She made dinners and I cleaned up, she was on her laptop and I watched TV on near-silent, she would buy the coffees and I would get the pastries.
Abruptly, a loud angry knock at the door startled me into nearly dropping my beer. After a moment of waiting, it came again. I doubted any kind of assailant would knock on a door, but it was a damn good trick if so. Another angry knock came, this time with an irate voice.
“Kelly Jones! Get out here right now, or we are calling the police!”
I straightened up, Kelly hadn’t heard the knock over the shower and I sure as shit wasn’t going to get her, lest Will ever found out I had seen his girl naked. I walked down the corridor to the door and opened it. A girl’s hand was raised in a fist, about to pound it again. I looked the little firecracker up and down, a slim brunette with a pert nose, about five foot five, and looking like she weighed a buck ten. Yet here she was for some reason, fire and brimstone angry at the offending door. She quickly yanked her hand down at my arrival, looking at the door number again. A tall blond man appeared to her side to also look me up and down. She recovered first, asking with suspicion.
“Who are you?”
I leaned my arm above my head on the door frame. Her eyes scanned the length of my body still in sweaty work out clothes, as did his, and I gave them my best smile, complete with dimples. This was obviously Kelly’s friends that she had been avoiding in the corridors of her department, the ones that she hadn’t figured out what to say to. It had been easy so far since she knew their teaching schedules and could do the things she needed to at any time, but I still heard the pings of her phone from their text. Clearly, they loved her and cared enough to come find her. Still, it was a new kind of fun to see this brunette light up.
“I’m Jess. And....you are?” Her eyes flared, and she pushed past me and into the living room. The blond followed, closing the door behind him.
“Kelly!” She shouted, and the sound of water in the bathroom shut off. A few moments later, Kelly, dripping wet with a towel wrapped around her came out, her hair in a messy bun on the top of her head. Both of their eyes widened and the blond man naturally looked Kelly up and down, eyeing her soaking bare legs. Water dripped onto the floor. I smiled, this did not look good and she looked like a stunned mullet.
“Heyyyy guys..,” she began. The woman had crossed her arms and was staring at her, then back at me, while the dude had hung back and was leaning on the back wall, also with a death stare in my direction. Kelly hung her head.
“Okay, let me get dressed and I’ll explain.” Closing the bedroom door behind her, I picked my beer back up and sat on the couch to get ready for the show.
“This should be good,” I muttered, kicking my feet up. The blond turned on me and again took in all six foot two of me sprawled on Kelly’s couch.
“So...Jess. How do you know our Kelly?” Every syllable of that sentence dripped with possessiveness, and maybe a little more than the friend kind. I assessed him leaning against the other side of the room. A little shorter, broad, probably some muscle under the shirt, but not everywhere. I thought about my answer. Kelly and I hadn’t discussed any specifics about what we were going to tell anyone, simply because we didn’t plan on being with anyone long enough.
“Family.” I simply replied and didn’t elaborate.
Kelly came out a moment later, barefoot and in a cotton shirt with baggy jeans, wet patches showing through the tee. Her eyes darted between all three of us, looking at my beer. She turned to the woman, eyebrows raising.
“Beer?” She moved past her to the kitchen.
“Jesus, am I going to need it?”
“Bec, just take the beer.” Kelly went to the fridge, and got out three beers, popped them, and handed out the other two. She took a long swig and sat down near my feet on the couch, the two others staring down at her, perplexed. Bec spoke up.
“Kel, what the hell is so bad that you can’t tell us? And quitting your job and leaving early? Please tell me it’s not to do with that ex douche or something with this new dou...guy.” Kelly shook her head and looked to me. I shrugged and she took another large swig and started to ramble.
“Okay, truth. I witnessed my aunt’s murder over the break and had a massive breakdown over it. They kind of didn’t catch the guy responsible, and it has really shaken up the rest of my family. They definitely need me back home which is why I need to finish up this fuckin doctorate and head back. But on the other hand, they didn’t catch the guy, you know, and I saw it all, so I feel like I should be looking over my shoulder all the time.” She finished her spiel with a long inhale.
Well okay then, we were going with the truth route.
Her two friends’ shocked faces showed that this was not what they expected. Bec snapped out of it first, disbelief and horror on her face.
“What? Wait...Franny?” The blond had pushed himself off the wall and took the seat next to the TV. Kelly just nodded her head, tears brimming in her eyes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call. I just.. How do you start that conversation? You know?” She took another swig and Bec came down to the floor in front of her and held her hands. Not speaking, just holding her friend's hands. She glanced over at me.
“And this guy?”
Kelly looked over at me,
“Jess is a friend of the family. He offered to come back with me for the month and you know, be my muscle, just in case.” Both of the visitors looked to me and the beer in my hand. Kelly quipped in a sarcastic voice.
“He knows Krav Maga,” I gave them both a lazily smile and the two girls broke out into a chuckle.
An hour later the two visitors were leaving, Kelly had answered their questions and talked about whatever she needed to do at school. I listened in with mild curiosity but a lot of it went above my head as they talked about research stuff and school requirements.
She had told them the reasons why she was laying low and not out too much, but she promised to have a coffee date with blond Chuck and a pizza night with Bec sometime before she left for the month. The blond had eyed me and Kelly a few times and I unexpectedly felt sorry for him when it clicked. To be friends with her for so long, then when she was finally single, have some unknown presence come and live in her space. Will had some crazy luck. Finally, Kelly closed the door on her friends and walked back to the living room.
“So, they don’t know anything about your...family?”
She shook her head. “Of course not. They know I grew up on a commune, but essentially I only escaped a lifetime of hippy, organic, veganism. Actually, I’m not sure what is worse, the truth or that idea,” she smiled.
My own phone in my pocket jingled and I took it out to see a text from Will.
I looked up at Kelly, in the kitchen, starting on preparing some sandwiches for dinner. I wondered what she would think if she knew Will was asking for daily reports on anything and everything. Better yet, what if I told him the truth, that she had a friend and a guy in the friendzone who came over here.
School, run, friends arrived to check on her then left. Now dinner and bed.
I threw the phone on the couch and settled on the floor and clicked on the TV. After flipping through a few channels and settling on a documentary about Montana wildlife, Kelly sat down next to me a few minutes later, handing me a sandwich and the last beer. She placed her practice light bulb at the end of her feet and would occasionally do the trick where she would light it up. We ate in silence until the documentary showed some wolves in a pack hunting an elk. The phone pinged again.
Why was he doing this to himself? I had known adult Will since his coming of age ritual at 16 and I was 9. He would go into town once a year when he wanted his ‘needs’ met, usually with some random traveler at a bar who he would never see again. But that was it. Always presenting the same stoic, untouchable, Will. Future chief. This whole Kelly thing screamed interest beyond that, even if he couldn’t see it, or didn’t want to. Smirking down at my phone, I replied.
A BFF and a potential bf
I looked aside at Kelly, and aimed the phone at her, quickly taking a picture. Focused on the TV, she had a beer between her crossed legs and the sandwich plate on her thighs. She was fresh faced and rosey cheeked from the beer and smelt like her brand of vanilla. Will would absolutely get off on this, probably literally. I pressed send and again dropped the phone and didn’t expect anymore, let him stew.
After a few minutes of watching the wolves hunt, Kelly asked.
“So, the full moon is coming...” I grunted in agreement and she continued.
“...and you will change. Is that something I could see?”
I looked over at her like she had grown two heads. Is that something she could see? She looked from the TV to me, like she had just asked if she could watch me fold laundry.
“Is that something you could see?” I confirmed. She nodded again. I put my plate down and turned to her.
“Oh, god, Jonesy, where do I start? First of all, I am putting it off until we get back to the Res. And second, have you ever thought about what happens when a person, a human being, changes to a wolf? Like really thought about the science and physics behind it?" She puckered her lips in thought but I powered through.
“Kelly, my bones change their structure, my internal organs rearrange, my brain is not the same, I grow fur for fuck’s sake. For a good ten minutes, that the very fast transformation takes place, it is probably the most vulnerable and painful thing any Were ever experiences. Most werewolves take a shit load of painkillers before they change. Not to mention, it’s terrifying to watch.” Her eyes frowned in confusion.
“It’s not like I walk behind a bush, you hear some growls and rustling, then I walk out as a wolf, fully formed. If you watched me transform, I guarantee it would haunt your dreams. To hear my bones crack, watch me clutch my stomach as it empties itself, watch my jaw unhinge. And then, say if you stay in the area to watch it all, you are then very close to a wolf. A real, big, wolf.”
Her eyes squinted.
“But... you are the wolf. You wouldn’t... I mean, you wouldn’t hurt me?”
I put my fingers to my brow to try and think about how to explain this. My wolf would absolutely mutilate and rip her intestines out. He might listen to me when we had general things to do, catch a trespasser on the South side, listen out for coyotes raiding chicken coops, and other similar things the Alpha of the pack asked for in his domineering manner and voice, but unless my wolf knew Kelly, he wouldn’t differentiate her from a meal if he was hungry. And wolves were always hungry.
But I couldn’t tell her that.
“Did you ever wonder why your coven has had the treaty with us for so long? I mean, Witches can pretty much get around anything, have so much ‘influence’ nothing really seems out of your abilities. Why a pack of wolves? ”
She shook her head, she had no clue. For all her smarts, she could be so naive.
“Because, a treaty with werewolves is like commanding a force of nature. Wolves kill in the wild, there is no reasoning with them, nothing they are scared of, no calling something off once they get going. They go to kill or be killed. And werewolves are no different. We just have another subconscious along for the ride, occasionally allowed to give directions.” I paused.
“Jones, don’t try to find any wolf, any kind. Unless you can defend yourself enough, they will kill you. If you hear a wolf coming, you run.”
She furrowed her brow for the umpteenth time.
“Okay then, no werewolf viewing party then.”
I patted her shoulder.
“Smart choice, Doc Jones.”
Kelly and I burst through the department doors into the mid afternoon sun. She raised her hands above her head in a classic Rocky stance and let out a holler of joy. I laughed with her when she was done.
“Oh, god, I nailed that! Oh man, I feel good.” She laughed and we walked down the stone steps to the main center of campus.
“You knew all the answers?”
“Well, yes, they gave me the questions a few days ago, but still, writing 3 essay length answers in two hours with no notes is tough. But I am fiiiiiinnnnnished with exams!” She hollered out again as we made our way across the campus. Girl exuded radiance, and it made me happy to see another emotion rather than worry. It was definitely time to break some rules and get some fun out of this trip to Seattle. Will would kill me, but maybe not if Kelly actually had fun. I put my arms around her shoulders.
“Jonesy, I think we should celebrate you and this ‘comps’ exam.” She glanced aside at me.
“What did you have in mind?”
“The bar down the road from your apartment.”
“Mmmm, I don’t know, Jess. I still have my defense to go in a week and attention is not good, especially with alcohol. You don’t exactly blend in.”
“Says the woman that just announced to the whole state of Washington that she finished her exams. Come on Kel, I need to be somewhere else than your apartment and school.” Oh man, wasn’t it the truth, I felt like an animal in a cage for the ten days we had been back. Though I wouldn’t tell her that.
She frowned and looked ahead, thinking of a reason to refuse, when she suddenly stopped dead. I stopped with her, my arm still over her shoulder.
“What?“I asked down to her. She wasn’t listening to me, and her breathing started to pick up like she was about to hyperventilate.
“Kel, what’s going on?” I asked again. She kept her stare in front of her but whispered.
“Chad. Walking straight towards us. With her.”
I followed her gaze, about a hundred feet away, across the food courtyard. A blond with a sharp face was walking our way, his arm in a similar manner as mine, except he had a short dark girl in his clutch and was looking down at her as they were walking. This had to be the ex with the girl he left Kel for. She hadn’t actually said his name, so I assumed this wasn’t yet a matter she was handling well. Her breathing picked up and I could hear her heart starting to hustle itself. Underneath my arm, I felt a slight vibration and the hairs on my arm rose up.
“Kelllll, just take a big breath, you’re starting to freak out.” She listened to the advice and blew out a big exhale, her breathing slowing down a little. Will had told me the brief version of Kelly on the night of the massacre and no one wanted a repeat, especially me, who was still holding her.
Her heart was still fast, and the hairs on my arm were still standing tall. I looked down at her again, this time, the look of panic was gone, and instead she looked pissed.
“Kel!” I emphatically stated. “Calm the fuck down.” I looked back up at the pair, still walking towards us. If he raised his head to stop his crooning, he would look her straight in the eye. Fuck, how could I stop this without causing a scene? Kelly was not listening at all and seemed like she couldn’t look away. Grabbing her other shoulder to turn her to me, I leaned down and kissed her forcefully, hopefully bruising her lips.
The hairs on my arm immediately dropped and after a moment of shock, I felt her respond the kiss with her lips moving but not open. I smelt that cologne from the apartment and heard two pairs of feet stop a few meters to our side. I moved into her body, wrapping my arms around her for a wholesome look. Might as well play this out like Shakespeare if he was stopping for a show.
She broke away and looked up at me with a smile.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I smiled back and released her. When we broke apart, she turned and there was her ex with his new girl, who was wondering why they had stopped.
“Kel?” he asked, looking her over and stopping at her hair, disbelief in his eyes. Kelly let out a quick exhale, eyes slightly widened. Giving the guy a once over before dismissing him, I grabbed her hand and started to walk away with it. Better not to give the asshole any more time to stir her up again. I heard her mutter, “Bye Chad,” before we were out of speaking distance. We walked hand in hand out of campus and towards the apartment, plans for a bar now forgotten. We finally got to her building and in the elevator before speaking again. She turned to me.
“You know the saying ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’? Its bullshit, revenge tastes better steaming hot with a side of fuck you and a piece of eye candy for dessert.” I heartily laughed.
“Well, I’m always happy to serve as eye candy.” I paused and thought it out.
“Let’s just, you know, not mention this to anyone, yeah?” Her eyes scanned my face.
“Ah, yeah, agreed.” She took the hint. I doubt she knew anything about Will being into her, based on the fact that she hadn’t inquired into him, herself. In fact, no mention of my brother this entire time, I thought I once heard her say his name one night from behind her door, but couldn’t be sure. But kissing his brother, whether it was an act or not, would not go down well with the Alpha who every now and then was violently territorial.
The elevator pinged and we both stepped out, my phone chimed as we reached the door and Kelly went for her keys. I looked at the daily text from the devil himself.
We walked inside and Kelly went straight for the kitchen while I hung back on the door, typing a response.
Kelly did her exams. Celebrating with a beer at home.
I pressed send and kicked off my shoes. I liked stirring my brother to admit his feelings, but I wasn’t suicidal.