More logs went into the fire and shot sparks up into the dark sky, a light breeze blowing them to the river some two hundred feet away. Kelly was sitting in the double swinging lounge chair, staring into the flames with glazed over eyes, looking but not seeing.
I don’t know what I expected for day one after you committed your first murder. For sure, in self defense, but still, she took someone’s life yesterday. My own had been territorial with another Were and my wolf had carried the emotional baggage with that. If anything, he felt proud, determined, and powerful after that first time. But Kelly? She was a newbie to it, and only had the one consciousness to carry her bags. I had hoped to keep her distracted with new surroundings while satisfying my own need to be close to her, but every now and then, her eyes would shift to something out of sight, probably him on the ground.
After breakfast, we looked through my mother’s old container of clothes and found some jeans and a deer skin moccasin coat that was a bit snug on her, but would serve for the next few days. She looked the part in that coat, smooth and a shade darker than beige, with fringes on the back of her arms. I almost forgot that this was her first time in my home as she comfortably walked around my house barefoot. She looked good here, natural and at ease.
It was the truth when I told her I wasn’t ready for the next part, when I would have to lay my cards down and decide what to do about her and ‘us’. I was expecting a fight, but without knowing how and why I had this connection with her, I didn’t have the guns to back it up. Connection, fuck, obsession more like it. We laid in bed last night and while she fell asleep, it was like there was a magnet between my eyes that kept drawing them back to her face.
When Jess had made his frantic call about the abduction, it felt like my heart shot out of my chest. Something more than territorial roared inside, and I wanted to simultaneously butcher someone and comfort her. If she hadn’t killed that man, I would have let myself shift so I could have tracked him down and do it myself.
We spent the rest of the day strolling around the property, looking at the features of the land and where they were in relation to her commune. I watched her closely, keeping quiet while she observed the different perspective of the land. It was clear that she was a new wave of eco-warrior, crooning over the wildflowers that were near blooming, subtly letting her hand brush over the tall wild grass, staring and the flowing river and tilting her head in thought.
My mother’s old greenhouse, where she used to grow flowers, herbs, and orchids all year round right up until the cancer took her, was a highlight for Kelly. It was in a state of disarray when we went in and I was almost embarrassed, but she walked through the aisle, looking at the old pots and flower beds and at the names labeled on the seedlings.
“Your mom really liked purple, huh?”
“Oh yeah. Cornflowers were her favorite, with Chinese Asters a close second.”
Kelly hummed and lingered over one pot, her fingers digging slightly into the earth, thinking or focusing. I guessed she was thinking about Franny and her new flowering monument at home. When we locked eyes that day, I was mad at the revelations I had heard in the barn, but the longer she held my gaze, the more I saw. She might have used me before in bed, but at the funeral she used me for another reason, this time it was an emotional one and I savored it.
After a few moments with the pot, she released her fingers from the soil and looked at me.
“Nope, not yet,” she said simply and continued walking.
Now, after a quiet dinner with my father with general conversation about the land and its history, I led her outside to the fire pit and lit it up. Sitting next to her, I pulled a thick blanket from the house over our laps and she finally turned her attention from the fire towards me.
“You ready for the best first date ever?” I asked.
She gave a hearty laugh, holding my thigh.
“I think we are past that, don’t you?”
“Oh, I don’t know, you met a parent today and we don’t really know much about each other. It’s kind of like a first date. Plus, I have marshmallows and wine,” and from my coat pockets I pulled half a bag of marshmallows and a small bottle of red with two plastic cups stacked on top. Kelly’s eyes flared open with humor.
“I love it.”
I settled back and wrapped an arm behind her.
“I thought you might, you were a student for too long, you have a terrible diet.”
“So... what, we’re dating now?” She slowly asked, cautiously. I studied her face, did she want to? Dating was what normal people did and if anything, I felt way past that. It was when you were trying each other out and I wanted to own Kelly already, hell, I felt I already did. My wolf had implanted her in my forethought for the last five or six weeks. Every curve of her body, every line in that heart shaped face, every moan she had given me. I knew them all. But she didn’t know that and I couldn’t tell her on our first real day together.
I looked down at her and shrugged, I had no idea what this was, what I was trying to do, or where I was going with this. I knew I felt calmer when she was around and slept the best night’s sleep in a month when she was in my bed last night. At this point, I was just going with what made me happy and what helped me to function, and if that meant sitting by a fire and talking with a woman, then that’s what I would do.
I sighed and squeezed her into my side. “Honestly, I spent a month trying to fight the idea of us, and it pretty much turned me into the walking dead. I couldn’t function, you were just... everywhere. Now, I’m just going to go with whatever is happening and truthfully, whatever feels good. When Jess called me yesterday, I felt like my heart shrank three sizes and my stomach dropped out.” I pressed my face into her hair, smelling her.
“I think I broke more than a dozen laws getting to you in Seattle yesterday. I just wanted to wrap you up in wool, bring you back here and never feel that way again.”
She was silent for a moment before nodding thoughtfully and grabbed the bag of marshmallows and stood. Searching for a thin stick around the fire, she settled on one and started to toast it. I poured us both a glass of wine and started to sip mine, observing the way she moved when she was thinking hard on something. Fire lit her hair up just like it did the first night I saw her, and her my throat clogged thinking about what my father said about mates.
Kelly wasn’t a wolf, so she couldn’t be my mate, but I couldn’t imagine wanting someone as much as I wanted her right now. At this point, I would happily forsake any future scenario that didn’t have anything to do with Kelly Jones. Relieved that she didn’t voice any protest to my plan to essentially keep her here, I studied the silhouette of her soft curves in the fire and felt myself relax into the seat, as if I had been carrying a great weight that was suddenly gone.
Sitting in silence, with only the fire crackling, I became aware of two voices walking towards us from the west, still some distance away. They were discussing how one of my neighbors to the East had seen a white woman walking around today with the chief. Shit, Justin and Smith were coming around to be nosey. Kelly couldn’t hear them, still roasting and deep in thought at the fire.
Well, she had met my family, might as well get the friends out of the way. Justin, living close to the road out of the Res, would have heard me flown out of here yesterday afternoon and return late last night. Hopefully he would have done a little gossiping and told Smith what he knew so we could avoid any awkwardness or any thrown male testosterone.
Having consciously been absent from the dating pool at parties for our tribe, there had never been any competition between us for ladies. I still didn’t like the idea of showing up a friend, but there was a reason my bloodline held the title Alpha. We weren’t helpless puppies.
The two walked closer and became visible in the ring of light. I watched them approach with Kelly still unaware. Justin’s eyes lit up in mirth, he knew exactly what was happening, while Smith’s became puzzled. Goddammit.
“Kelly,” I announced, and she turned to the newcomers.
“You know Justin and Smith.” They both nodded in her direction and took the remaining seats to the side of the fire.
Kelly gave a slight wave to them, pointing to them.
“From the bonfire, right? And my volunteer bodyguard.”
Smith nodded, looking her up and down.
“Nice to see you back from the city.”
Kelly smiled and moved back to my side, placed close to me with our knees touching. Smith’s eyes narrowed at the slight, but undeniable contact and they moved up to meet mine. We stared at each other for a long moment, Kelly unaware of the exchange, began to eat her marshmallow.
After some tense moments, he leaned back and looked at the fire.
“You should have said something,” he commented, a little ticked off.
“There wasn’t anything to say at the time.”
“But you’re saying something now?” He looked up from the fire back to me.
Kelly now piped up, not understanding our conversation, “What’s this, now?”
I ignored her. I knew what he was asking. In Were culture, you didn’t fight for something unless you were keeping it forever. You didn’t go against each other unless it was worth getting ripped to shreds over. Was Kelly worth being ripped to shreds?
“Yes, I’m saying something now.”
“Saying what?” Kelly asked.
Justin and Smith’s eyebrows perked and former’s face broke out into a small smile while latter’s remained stoic.
“Well then, that is some news.” Justin quipped at my admission. I narrowed my eyes at him and asserted clearly.
“News you won’t be sharing. No one knows she is here except family. There was an incident in Seattle, she’s laying low for the next few days.”
Both of the visitors frowned.
“I should have gone with her,” Smith voiced. Like fuck he should have, I nearly bristled at his insinuation, but Kelly, finally catching on about her attack, spoke for herself.
“It wouldn’t have done any good, Jess was tasered to the ground from behind. And, plus,...I took care of it myself.” She added quietly, returning her stare back at the fire while I rubbed her back in comfort. Justin’s mouth started to open, looking like he was about to ask about it, but I warned him off with a glare and gave both the nod to get outta here. He took the hint and bumped Smith’s shoulder to signal such. Together they stood up and Justin addressed Kelly.
“Well, we were just coming back to see who the ‘white woman with new corn hair’ was. Kelly, we will see you around.”
“Bye guys.” She waved and the two left the way they came. After a few moments of listening to the fire crackle, she curled into my side once more and looked up to me,
“Did I sense a small pissing contest?”
I smiled down at her. “If you have to ask, then was it really a contest?”
Kelly suddenly sharply inhaled and gripped her left wrist.
“Jesus!” She gasped.
“My charm bracelet. It keeps catching my skin or something, pulling the hairs I guess.”
Grabbing her wrist, I examined it. It was a silver circle band with something inscribed on it and a little picture dangling from a small silver plate.
“What does it mean?”
“Mmm, I know that this part right here around the band is something like heavy, or weighty, cumbersome. I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I’m alive, actually. That guy trying to drag me away couldn’t seem to believe I was so heavy. I don’t know the other though, probably for the same thing.”
I shot my eyebrows in surprise, “That’s some pretty cool magic. Who made it?”
“Gran, of course. She pretty much does all the charms for the coven. Though my mom was the real artist, apparently, before... you know.” Kelly’s smile died away before remembering something she didn’t want to think about. Instead, she stood again and took another marshmallow out to roast. A minute later, she sat back down next to me with the mallow lit and after a second, blew it out. Instead of biting it, she used her finger to dip into it and brought it to her lips.
“Why do you hate your mother?” I asked, breaking the silence.
Her finger stopped halfway to her mouth and her eyes widened.
“Hard stuff first, huh? Just diving right in?”
I shrugged. “It seems like an important thing, you coming from the family you do.”
“And what makes you think I hate her?”
“Just little things. No photos in your apartment or bedroom at the commune house. You talk about your father, but not your mother. And Jess mentioned the conversation you had the first time in the truck. Something about a complicated relationship. Doesn’t take a genius.”
Kelly stared at her marshmallow, twirling it, and listening in thought. Finally, she sighed and her shoulders slumped.
“I don’t exactly hate her, or I wouldn’t if she were alive. She just did something to my dad and I can’t seem to understand why or forgive something like that.”
“Don’t be vague, Kelly, what did she do?”
Kelly sighed and tilted her head to look back up at the clear, moonless sky. After a few moments, she exhaled.
“She had him under a love spell, or compulsion spell, from what I can tell, for most of their marriage. If you could call it that.”
I leaned back. Well, that explained the outburst on our first night.
“How do you know this?”
She leaned back against me, eyes set on the fire.
“Well, there were a few times that gave it away, but the one I remember most was when I was, like 11, I think.” She paused and closed her eyes, recalling memories she hadn’t remembered in years, hadn’t wanted to. “He and I were sitting in our living room and one of our neighbor's dogs outside, a few football fields away, started howling. It was like, eight at night or later, so the dog was probably howling at the moon or a rabbit or something stupid like that. Then all of a sudden, as if the sound triggered him, my dad looks up at me like he’s never seen me before and asks who I was like he was confused. This goes on for a minute as he questions me. The more I answer the more upset he gets. And at this point, I knew he wasn’t doing a skit or anything, like a dad joke. Like, something was wrong with my dad.”
She stopped talking and stared down at her lap. This was painful for her, I was starting to feel like an asshole, but if I was going to be in it with her, I would be in all the way and I needed to know.
“He starts talking about ‘where is the family’, and he..he starts getting louder, then my mother runs in from the kitchen, and runs a hand through his hair, whispering something in his ear, then he is calm and forgets the last two minutes.”
She was still looking down at the fire. Her eyes weren’t here, they were back in that living room.
“I’ll never forget it, though it wasn’t until after they died that I realized what it was, and I pieced a few other little incidents like that one together. Just suddenly looking at me like he didn’t know me, like our life together was a lie, or he was confused. He never talked about his previous life before he met my mother, he never had any family from his side, my parents were literally never more than 200 feet apart. I don’t hate my mom, but after seeing the fear in my dad’s face that one night, I can’t ever really forgive her. I don’t know, maybe there is a good reason for what she did. But I guess I’ll never know.”
“What did Franny or Margaret say?”
“They didn’t believe me, why would Jolene Jones, the most attractive Wardwell sister need to use dark magic like a compulsion spell?”
“Could it have been something else?”
Kelly thought about it.
“I don’t see what. Anyway, they are long gone, and I forget about it most days.”
“Yet they still affect you.”
She looked at me sideways with a small grin.
“Alright, that’s enough pop psychology for one night, thank you.” I raised my hands in defeat.
“First dates are the worst. Just trying to understand what underlying psychological daddy issues I’m up against.” I countered.
She shifted to kiss me, and I grabbed her closer, hugging her tight as we leaned back and swung in the chair. After a few minutes, she pushed herself back and listened to the fire pop and crackle. A sliver of the crescent moon had risen and was staring at us, only barely humming.
“What’s it like being a wolf?” She quietly asked. I pursed my lips to think. How to explain something that made you into another being? That limited you in life, but made you limitless in nature.
“It’s wonderful. The freedom of running through the wild, being part of something bigger than you. I feel and see everything he does but I have no real control over him. Having heightened senses for everything in both forms is nice. Being able to smell you in my house is definitely a perk,” I leaned my head back on the seat but continued.
“But it’s also exhausting, and confusing, having two consciousnesses inside one body and brain. I’m not wild over how much it hurts to shift. And being the new chief from a long line who prospered is pretty terrifying. Especially since I feel like I am about to fuck it up.”
She turned to me.
“Because of the Hunters?”
I shook my head.
“Worse; government.” Her face started to smile.
“Government? What are you talking about?”
“Well, it was something I was going to approach the Coven with to help out under the treaty guidelines. Seems the local county supervisor wants to find out what’s on our land, or somehow he already knows and has plans to move the pack off it. Wants me to let some surveyors in. To be honest, I’m looking much more forward to killing hunters than dealing with the bureaucracy of county officials.”
Kelly’s face contorted.
“But, your land is protected, its Native American land.”
I shrugged that I didn’t know. “They quoted some court case for precedence.”
She also leaned back and stared into the fire for a moment.
“They just want a survey done?”
“Why don’t I do it for you?”
“Do you know that much magic yet?” Kelly shook her head.
“Well, no, but I mean, why doesn’t Doctor Jones, Ph.D. in Earth Science do your survey? I could easily do it with the right equipment, and make it super boring. Nothing worth lifting even a trowel.”
I looked at her in awe.
“You can do that?”
“Easily, I mean, it wasn’t going to be my chosen profession, but I can definitely do it. If you want that is?” She looked down at her hands, unsure. God, this woman was driving me crazy with her facade of hard edges when she was really just soft inside.
I placed a hand under her chin and lifted it to mine, kissing her and turning her body. Clutching it close, willing her to feel what I felt without words. I slipped my hand under the blanket to her waist and found the button of her jeans, unclasping it.
“What are you doing?” She murmured through a smile.
I pushed my hand down to the top of her panties and she squirmed.
“Congratulating you, Doctor Jones.” Kelly mhmmmed in my ear and I squeezed my finger down to her clit. She straightened out her legs and opened them up to give me more access against her tight jeans. Rubbing my finger in circles against her nub, I felt it getting wetter with each stroke.
“How do you like it?” I muttered against her lips while we were kissing.
After a moment she huskily replied, almost shy to say.
“Inside, two fingers.”
I shifted across to be closer and slid my hand further down into her as she asked. Blonde hair fanned against my shoulder as her head leaned back and we kissed while I thrust my fingers back and forth. Wiggling in my hold she clutched my thigh and moaned into my mouth. My thumb began to brush her clit and she exhaled a long sigh.
“Right there,” she muttered and I made my motions faster, loving the tempo of her breath quickening. I pulled back from kissing her and stared down at her face to watch. The glow of the fire made her skin blossom and her lips were a violent shade of pink. Eyes closed, she was absorbed in what my fingers were doing to her and I felt a swell of pride that it was me doing it. After a minute, her nails dug into my thigh and her face scrunched in pleasure. Her eyes popped open to look up at the stars hanging above us and below the blanket, her insides clenched and pulsed around my fingers.
I kept the motion up until she had ridden her orgasm out and she grabbed my arm above the blanket to still it. Pulling out of her pants, I brought my fingers to my mouth and sucked on the tanginess while she watched me, her mouth slightly agape.
I stopped sucking and leaned down to her.
“I’ll never forget that image right there of me making you cum in the firelight.”
“I think we should go inside,” she whispered. I wholeheartedly agreed and taking her hand we walked back inside for the night.
Kelly gasped and shot up in the bed.
“What? What is it?” I sleepily muttered.
She quickly fell back down on the bed beside me where I wrapped my arm over her.
“My bracelet snagged me again,” she mumbled, slipping back to a doze.
I looked over at the clock. Still early, but not enough that I could avoid all the shit I had been putting off for the last few days. I kissed Kelly’s shoulder and left the bed. After last night she would probably sleep for a few more hours.
There was a knock at the front door and I heard my dad opening it, speaking to guest, and walking them across to the kitchen. Guessing it was Joe, just a little early, I stood and looked down at her in my bed. Her hair was sprayed against the pillows and her face was soft in sleep. I was so fucking gone, it was almost a joke to think I could give her up in three days. How would she react if I asked her to stay? What would I do if she said no?
I pushed the thought away and shucked on jeans and a fleece shirt. I had to get shit done today. Then we would call Gran or one of Kelly’s family to let them in on the news that she wouldn’t be returning for a while. If ever if I had my way.
I walked over to the office with my thoughts racing when the sound of coffee being made and a lady’s laugh came from the kitchen. My dad having a lady visitor? I followed the sounds to the kitchen and was stopped dead in my tracks to see Margaret Wardwell holding a cup of coffee and giving me a look that made my wolf curl.