"Five minutes left," Mr. Hammond chimed. The soles of his brown leather shoes squeaked on the beige floor tiles as he paced around the art studio in a relaxed stroll.
Taking great care to hold the paint-loaded brush steadily between my finger and thumb, I flicked my wrist in upward motions to make gentle strokes on the canvas. My eyes flicked up at the clock on the wall, obsessively keeping track of the time.
The last twenty minutes had dragged by painfully slow. No doubt this would be the longest five minutes in history, I thought, agitated. My mom always joked that a watched pot never boiled, but I couldn't help it. Sam was arriving here today. My heart was homesick and I missed him like crazy.
After what seemed like a torturous eternity, Mr. Hammond grabbed the attention of the class. "OK, guys, brushes down, then clean up your things and pack away," he instructed, cheerfully.
The room filled with the enthusiastic chattering of students, eager to start their weekend plans. I wasted no time in rushing over to the paint-splattered sink to rinse out my palette and brushes.
"Hell-lo..." Brittany dragged out the word in a predatory tone. I glanced over my shoulder to where she was staring through the open window. "Who is that hottie out there?" She pointed her perfectly manicured finger towards someone below.
She re-adjusted her boobs in her tight-fitted vest top and fluffed out her blonde curls. "Look at that fine specimen of male, rocking the mountain man look," she commented, feasting her eyes on whoever it was like she was a hungry lioness and he was a helpless, little gazelle.
Her army of trolls immediately raced over to the window to see for themselves, all gasping open-mouthed and fanning their faces with their hands.
"He's such a snack," a brunette called Maria commented.
Brittany turned towards her with a snarl, "Hands off bitch, I saw him first."
Emma fake coughed, "Thirsty hoes." Then shot them all a sarcastic smile.
Curiosity got the better of me after the mountain man comment. I weaved through the easels, over to where they were all standing there giggling and peered through the next window along. I looked down onto the parking lot and gasped with excitement.
"Sam!" I exclaimed.
His eyes found their way to the second-floor window to where I was standing with a beaming smile on my face. He raised his hand in a single wave and I sighed dreamily, feeling my heart swoon.
"No freaking way!" Brittany barked out, seething with jealousy.
"That's the Sam you were fangirling about?" She spoke as if she could hardly believe it. "How did a loser like you, manage to bag yourself a hot guy like that?"
"What?" I jerked back with an offended scowl.
She rolled her eyes, then huffed. "Fess up bitch, how much are you paying him to pretend to be your boyfriend?"
My mouth flopped open and closed like a fish, half amused, half shocked. All I could do was suck in air and suppress the urge to smack her in the face.
Emma stepped in front of me like a guard dog. "You better watch your mouth," she warned, folding her arms across her puffed out chest.
"Or what?" Brittany arched her brow in a cocky challenge.
"I guess you'll just have to find out," Emma retorted, taking a step towards her.
"Okay, girls! That's enough!" Our teacher stepped in, putting himself between Emma and Brittany, who were staring each other down.
I touched Emma's shoulder. "Em, she's not worth it. C'mon, let's go."
Brittany raised up on her tiptoes to look over Mr. Hammond's shoulder. "That's right, keep walking!"
Emma scowled over her shoulder as she picked up her bag. "Yeah, wouldn't wanna hurt the fake baby."
Brittany's army of trolls gasped. Their over made up face's snapped around to witness their queen's reaction.
Brittany's face contorted in rage. Her eyes narrowed into vicious slits and her lips twisted into something that resembled an asshole.
"I'll show you who's fake!" She screeched, jabbing her finger over Mr. Hammond, who was doing an excellent job in holding her back.
"I'm sure you can," I retorted. "You should have majored in that, instead. You would've passed with flying colors."
Emma and I made a run for it as Brittany's screams of profanities echoed throughout the art studio.
"Did you see her face?" Emma chuckled as we got to the bottom of the stairs. "Fake baby." Her grin spread. "We can't let her find out you're expecting, or else holy hell will break loose."
I pulled the left side of the double doors open, allowing Emma through first, then followed after. "I know. I just want this last semester over already. Less drama, the better."
"What's this about drama?" A deep baritone voice spoke, sending an electrifying sensation straight to my lady parts.
"Sam!" I threw myself into his arms.
His grin stretched wide beneath his overgrown beard, spreading all the way up so that it creased his grey eyes. I sighed, contented, taking in my fill of his warm scent of honey and citrus, feeling his taut muscles through the red and black checkered lumberjack shirt.
"I've missed you so much!" I mumbled into the groove of his neck.
My feet dangled half a foot from the ground as he held me. "I've missed you too, baby." I could almost hear his smile as he spoke.
After a couple of seconds of enduring a boa constricting hug, I croaked, "Sam...need...to...breathe."
His arms slackened, allowing my feet to hit the ground. "Thanks." I snatched in a huge gasp of air before ambushing his lips in a searing hot kiss. For a moment the world had completely melted away until I remembered my best friend. I ended the kiss with a gasp. "Sam, there's somebody I'd like you to meet." I gestured towards an awkward looking Emma.
"Oh." Sam's eyes widened. He smoothed down his appearance and ran a hand through his dark tousled hair.
"This is my best friend, Emma," I announced to Sam, then turned to Emma, "...and this is my husband, Sam."
Sam offered his hand for her to shake. Emma took it, returning a welcoming smile. "Hi there, Helen's told me so much about you," she babbled away without thinking.
His shovel-sized hand stilled, swallowing her dainty digits right up to her wrist. His grey eyes landed on me, giving me a cautious eye signal. "Oh, she has, has she?"
I rolled my eyes. "Sam, she's OK with it. Emma's my childhood bestie. We're like sisters. Of course, I'm going to tell her everything. I'm glad to have someone to talk to about it, besides you or Mom."
Emma looked back and forth anxiously between Sam and me, as if not wanting to get caught up in a domestic squabble.
Sam blew out a breath that he must've been holding. "It's fine," he reassured, flashing Emma a tight-lipped smile. "Does she know that..."
I finished off the sentence, "That she can't tell anyone. Of course, she knows." I emphasized, by throwing my hands up dramatically.
Emma raised her right forefinger, timidly. Sam acknowledged her, flicking his gaze to hers. "It's alright. I'm not angry. Just shocked you've taken it so well."
"Um, well... it wasn't what I was expecting to hear, but I'm happy if Helen's happy." Emma squirmed, nervously. "I said that she should try and keep the pregnancy a secret until the end of the semester. You know, because of human doctors and stuff."
"That's a good idea," Sam agreed. "You don't want anyone poking their noses in and getting any blood samples from you," he warned in a more serious tone. "Hunters are literally everywhere. Some human doctors are on their payroll to keep a watchful eye out for shifters. I know you're human, but the kids aren't. Who knows what a blood sample would show."
I hadn't thought of the risks involved outside of Forest Lake. "Hunters." My heart sank at the sight of Sam's worried face. Hunters had murdered his mother. All for the sake of a few vials of shifter blood. "Sam, if you want me to drop out of college, then I..."
"No." He shook his head. "That's not what I want at all."
"I don't understand." Emma squinted at me, baffled, "What's this about hunters?"
I took hold of her hand, seeing the concern brewing behind her kind eyes. Nobody was within earshot of us anyway, so I told her.
"There are people who hunt shifters for their blood. To sell it on and use it for its healing properties," I explained, seeing the understanding begin to settle within Emma.
Emma's face morphed into a look of repulsion. "Oh my God. That's just sick." She forced herself to swallow, then moisture glistened in her eyes. If I ever needed evidence of how much Emma cared for me, then this was solid proof, right here.
"Unfortunately, it's a reality," Sam commented, flatly.
"All the more reason to keep this a secret then," Emma replied, squeezing my hand. "You don't have to worry about me, I won't tell a soul. And if anyone ever did try and hurt you, Helen, then they'd have to get through me first."
Fierce loyalty blazed in her tear filled eyes. I knew I could trust Emma. That was never in any doubt. I could tell she knew how serious this situation was. Keeping the secret of my pregnancy from Brittany was the least of my problems. I couldn't risk anything that could land me in the hospital and expose me to hunters.
The three of us took a slow walk across the grounds, relishing the feel of the hot afternoon sun on our backs. The sound of a ride-on mower could be heard somewhere nearby, filling the air with the scent of freshly cut grass. Students lounged lazily along the green. Girls sat together, their legs outstretched in front of them, chatting and laughing. A handful of guys engaged in a relaxed game of soccer, passing the ball back and forth between them, just chilling, enjoying time with friends.
Sam's eyes drank in the scenery while we walked. Returning polite smiles and curt nods in acknowledgment of the students who greeted him with a hello. This was the best part of college: hitting that milestone of adulthood, developing a sense of maturity and demonstrating social inclusion by making a stranger feel welcome.
Most of the students that attended this college were cool. That doesn't mean to say it was asshole-free because it wasn't. We just learned through years of high school torment, how best to deal with them.
Emma stopped me a few yards away from the steps to our dorm. "Here, give me your bag." She held out her hand. "You guys go catch up and I'll take your stuff inside."
I handed her my things. "You sure? You can come with us, can't she, Sam?" I glanced to where Sam was standing to my left.
"You're more than welcome to," Sam invited. "I've brought a picnic. There's plenty to go round."
Emma made a cute face, wrinkling her nose and shaking her head. "No, you haven't seen each other in weeks. And anyway, I've been sweating like a pig. My shirt is sticking to me, flies are circling me, so that's a hint that I really need a shower." She plucked at the lemon cotton blouse and blew her hair off her sweaty face.
"Oh...okay," I responded a little disappointed. "I don't want you to skip lunch though. You ate barely anything at breakfast."
Emma chuckled. "I promise I won't skip meals, Mom."
I rolled my eyes at her cheeky comment.
"Well, how about we all do something later?" Sam suggested, as a compromise. "You girls can choose."
I loved that he was trying hard not to let Emma feel excluded. It meant a lot to me that they got along. "Yeah, that sounds like fun doesn't it? You said you wanted to watch that new horror movie, didn't you?" I remembered, bringing up the scary movie that we both wanted to see.
Emma seemed a little conflicted, not wanting to get in the way of us but super excited to see the movie. "I don't want to be a third wheel, but if you insist, then I'll tag along," she agreed happily. She swung my backpack over her shoulder and took to the stone steps, two at a time. "See you guys later." She turned to wave before disappearing through the doors.
And then there was just the two of us, standing awkwardly and trying hard to fight the sexual tension we both obviously felt. The mate bond was pulling us toward one another, wanting to see us crash together like two magnets. If I gave in to those urges, the only thing I'd be getting would be a public indecency order and a swift kick off campus.
"You know any places around here?" Sam asked. "Any parks or a decent spot by a lake?" The subtle hint in his voice suggested, maybe somewhere secluded where there were no onlookers. Somewhere private where we could become reacquainted in all ways physical.
"Sure, I know just the place," I told him, vaguely remembering there was a woodland park just up the road from here.
We linked arms as we made our way back over to the parking lot. The hot sun had heated the tarmac so that you could practically see the heat waves sizzling in the air. It was easier to hop into Sam's air-conditioned car and drive ten minutes down the road, instead of lugging the picnic basket through the blistering heat, there and back again.
I directed Sam to a small woodland beauty spot that had a man-made boating lake and a children's play area. We had a little trouble parking up. People had turned out here in droves, but that was down to having such good weather. It brought everyone outside.
"This is perfect," I mumbled, lazily, feeling the soft, warm grass tickle my palms.
Sam shook out a blue and white gingham blanket and laid it down beside me. "I know how much you love the outdoors," he commented with a hint of light-hearted sarcasm.
It made me wonder whether Sam had ever ventured outside his own community before. His body language was a little tense and nervous. But then again, that could be down to the fear of running into hunters.
He kneeled on the blanket, reaching inside a wicker picnic hamper and pulled out some ham sandwiches that were wrapped in tin foil. He took out one of my mom's homemade Bakewell tarts, two bottles of flavored water and some strawberries. He arranged everything out on the blanket and nudged my elbow.
"You should eat," he prompted.
"I will in a minute, I'm enjoying the sun," I mumbled lazily while soaking up the rays with my eyes closed. This was bliss. Spending a beautiful day with a beautiful man. Life couldn't get much better than this.
"Does she bother you a lot?" There was an air of concern in Sam's voice and my eyes snapped open.
I shot him a side glance. "Who?" I asked, feeling confused about who he was referring to.
"That girl in your class. The obnoxious one with the drastic makeup," he elaborated, remaining straight-faced.
His blunt comment forced a grin to spread across my face. "Brittany." I rolled my eyes, knowing exactly who he meant. "Pfft, her and I have been this way ever since we were kids," I revealed, looking away.
There was a time when we got along just fine. She and I used to invite each other to birthday parties. Something changed between us after my dad died. Around the same time as his motorcycle accident, her dad upped and left. Maybe it was related, maybe it wasn't. I guess I'll never know.
I just remember her screaming at me, this one day at school. She burst into tears, yelling that at least my dad loved me, dead or not and that her dad leaving symbolized just how little he thought of her. She was eight, just like me. It was only natural for her to assume that he didn't care. I felt sorry for her, having such an asshole for a father. Him taking off as he did obviously left her mentally scarred. And now she was a first class bitch to all those around her. Even her mom moved on, met some rich guy, then cast her to one side like a failed project, allowing a nanny to raise her instead.
"Why?" His eyes crinkled.
I adjusted my sitting position so that I was facing him. I didn't want to have to explain mine and Brittany's history from start to finish. Just thinking about it drained me of energy.
"She's had both parents screw her over. Emma says it's jealousy because we both lost our dads at the same time. Mine died but hers left." I shrugged, feeling a little empathic because I could see her point.
"She made it her mission to make me as miserable as she felt and has literally taken everything from me, all through school." I shook my head with a weak smile. "It's exhausting and I wish we could just let go of the past and start over. I would be willing to do that, you know, be the bigger person. But hey," I reached over and slapped my palm against Sam's thigh, seeing how his brows were drawn together in a worried frown.
"I only have to put up with her for a few more weeks, then I never have to see her again," I finished before reaching forward for a sandwich. The first one I passed to Sam. "I'll eat if you eat too," I reasoned. He took it and scarfed it down in three large bites. I picked up one for myself and began pulling off the crust.
"You will never have curly hair if you don't eat the crust," Sam advised with a mocking edge to his voice. "My mom always said that was the key to thick, luscious locks."
I giggled at the stupid, old wives tale. "Good, because I like my hair straight and tame," I retorted, shaking my head so that my hair moved around my shoulders.
After the first bite, it made me realize just how hungry I was, and finished it gratefully, washing it down with the strawberry flavored water.
Sam's gaze traveled across the park, stopping to watch a group of moms following their kids around on the play equipment like they were as fragile as fine bone china. His grey eyes shone with happiness, watching the kids squeal with delight.
"I just worry about you and the cubs." His eyes flicked to mine. "You know, when I'm not there to protect you." His tongue darted out to moisten his lips. "She's not pregnant, you know," he announced as a matter of fact. "But you are."
"I gathered that much," I replied, widening my eyes. "It's so typical of her to make something like this up for attention."
"Why lie about something like that though?" He scrunched his face in disapproval. "That's a really sick thing to lie about. What's she gonna say when people start to put two and two together? That she lost it or had a termination? I'll never understand the mentality of some people," Sam mumbled.
I picked at the grass, hypnotized by the scent of the wildflowers that carried on the warm breeze. "Who knows? Maybe she's insecure and wants a bit of attention and this is the only way she feels she can get it." I twirled a single blade of grass between my finger and thumb. "Maybe this was what it was all about the whole time. Just needing to prove her worth. I sort of feel sorry for her."
Sam cleared his throat, grabbing my attention. "She sounds a little obsessive if you ask me." He took a bite out of his second sandwich, then finished it in two large bites. "Just watch yourself around her, okay? I don't want her lashing out at you, out of spite."
"Maybe she is a little obsessed, I dunno," I mumbled. "As I said, I just want to get through these last few weeks with bare minimum drama. Believe me, the last thing I want is any further conflict with Brittany."
Sam propped his elbows against his knees and sighed. "Let's not dwell on the negative. I've missed you so much. I don't want anything to spoil this weekend, alright? Let's do something fun to take your mind off it," he suggested in a more upbeat tone.
"Alright." My mood lifted. "What do you feel like doing?"
Sam cocked a brow as if to say 'what do you think.'
I giggled. "And where do you suggest we do it, huh? There are too many people here, we'd be seen for sure. And Emma shares my dorm so that's out of the question."
"So Netflix and chill it isn't, then?" Sam's deep, husky voice was drizzled in mischief. "How about we go for dinner and a movie instead, just like we planned. Then we drop Emma back at the dorm, then you and I take a late night drive to somewhere remote."
I was laughing out loud, clutching my abdomen. "I so can't believe you said Netflix and chill."
Sam's sexy expression morphed into an amused smirk. "What's so funny about that?"
"Because," I slurred through a burst of laughter. "I can marathon Netflix like it's an Olympic sport. So if you thought we'd be chilling, you'd have no chance."
I'd literally binge watched box sets during my spare time. Nobody could get any sense out of me while I was engrossed. The dorm could've burned down around me and I'd still be there, hyper-focusing on the T.V.
"Come here." Sam opened his arms.
I dusted off my hands, ridding myself of the blades of grass that stuck to my palms and went to snuggle with Sam. The minute I got within a close proximity, he pulled me onto his lap so that I was straddling him.
"People are looking," I mumbled as he moved in for a kiss.
"So?" He made a face to show that he didn't care. "It's not like we're having sex. Just a husband wanting to kiss his beautiful, pregnant wife." His eyes widened with mischief as he pressed his lips to mine.
I was gone. My heart pounded in my chest amongst a swarm of butterflies. My fingers delved into his soft, dark hair as his hands snaked around my waist, pulling me into him. My tongue tasted him, his swirled around mine. I inhaled the scent of his skin, getting flashback after flashback of every intimate encounter rising to the forefront of my mind, playing in sequence like a romantic silent movie. The story of us. He loved me and he had missed me, showing me just how much as he kissed me back with a blazing passion. Hotter than the mid-afternoon sun that was beating down upon us. Sam was mine. I had craved the feel of his hands on my skin, just as much as I needed air to breathe.
We pulled away, our lips were swollen and our breathing ragged. "We better stop," I murmured. Sam's cock strained beneath his denim jeans and rocking against it was as equally frustrating for me as it was for him.
"You're right, babe," Sam replied, his voice all fuelled with sex. "Or else, I'll eat you for dessert."
I eased up off his lap, standing to my feet while Sam placed the remainder of our lunch back in the hamper, taking care not to squish the untouched Bakewell tart.
"Who knew a picnic in the park could be torture." He smirked at me. "I need to chill with you really, really bad. It's been forever and my balls feel like they're gonna explode." He readjusted himself discreetly.
I scrunched my nose. "Oh, Sam!" I hissed, swatting him across his huge bicep. "And there I was, waiting for you to say something all romantic...typical male."
He pulled me against his solid chest, meeting my gaze with that same desire in his eyes.
"I'm so hungry for you, I could eat you, right here." His hands cradled my face, running the pad of his thumb across my lips. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world." The husky rumble of his voice opened the floodgates to my lady parts and my pussy pulsed with wanton need. He brought one of my hands up and placed it below his left breastbone. "It only beats for you," he whispered against my ear. "How am I doing?"
Pleasurable shivers shot up my spine, hearing the deep husky tone of his voice. "If this wasn't a kiddie park, I'd be riding you like a pony." My own voice came out desperate and needy.
Curse my sex starved pussy, making me sound like a desperate, thirsty hoe.
Sam shrugged. "We're married," he commented in an attempt to justify our actions. "It's not like we're just a couple of horny teenagers."
I nodded. "And we're going to be parents...responsible parents," I added. "So if we were to say... come back here at night when nobody is around, that wouldn't be that bad, would it?" I eyed him questioningly, slightly sheepish because I felt like a naughty schoolgirl, sneaking off to have sex in the store cupboard.
"If we were in Forest Lake, then no. There are no laws on outdoor sex, but human cops," Sam winced as he spoke. "I dunno...they don't like it."
"We're still gonna do it though, aren't we?" I asked, worried that he was chickening out.
"Absolutely," Sam replied, giving me a look as if I was insane.