The paint fell easy, like rain onto cobblestone streets. The way the image started appearing slowly as I moved my hands was a process that still amazed me. How freeing it was. Taking a vision and pulling it from your mind only to splash it onto a canvas. The world focused sharply as I stood there taking in my chosen view. The stone sitting wall overlooked a steep slope full of flowers and wild grass. The view panned out to uneven rows of country villas on the rolling hills of rural Italy. The red clay shingles on the roofs of the houses faintly contrasted with the dull cream colored walls. There were worn stone streets that had few locals walking around and the occasional group of tourists wandering about. It wasn’t the easiest project I had taken on mostly because I was giving the details too much attention. The way the streets curved and bent, the color of the trees, the types of wild flowers I saw beneath the sitting wall, the way the clouds looked fluid and viscous like they would float off the canvas. There was so much devotion that I was giving to the painting. So much of me that I was pouring onto the canvas. I faded in and out of the world, occasionally realizing the tourists that walked about. This was a popular place to take photos and one of the more scenic attractions. People wandered about and I could feel the stares of the occasional pair of curious eyes.
“Are you sure you aren’t done? It looks done.” I grinned at the question and looked down to the mop of mousy brown hair and big green eyes looking up at me blankly.
“If you're getting restless, Marco, then you should go home and do your work there, no?” The teenager scoffed and crossed his arms before leaning back. “I’m not restless and I’m done with my work, Raiza... well most of it. Stop treating me like a child.” His thick accent only made the small cracks in his voice all the more adorable. “You are a child. Here,” I pulled out a few Euro and handed it to him, “Get some food for us, yes? For for that annoying brain of yours.” He gave me a boyish grin and nodded before running off. I smiled. He was part of the pack that I had been placed in and was one of the few friends I had let myself make. The boy was full of energy, always running about and never sitting in one place and almost never sitting still long enough to finish his school work. His mother, exasperatedly, asked me to take him out and get him to focus. Maybe some fresh air would do him some good, was what she said. I watched him carefully. My wolf was protective of the young wolf and with us being so far out on pack territory one had to be careful.
“Raiza! Look! They had Zeppole.” He came bounding back with two boxes of the dessert in his hands. The boy looked very pleased with himself and placed a box promptly in my hands before sitting down to enjoy his share. I smiled and kneeled down in front of him. I held out the small checkered box in my hands. “Take mine. We’ve been here for a long time. You must be very hungry and I know math takes a lot of energy for you.” I grinned at the small jab that made him huff. Marco just recently ascended into his wolf. Most young wolves develop huge appetites after the ascension, especially high ranked wolves like him. That small serving of Zeppole would no where near satisfy his hunger.
He frowned and shook his head. “Raiza, its yours and you’ve been out here a long time as well.” I smiled. “I don’t get as hungry as you, young wolf. Just take it. Enjoy.” He smiled and barked out a thank you before stuffing his face.
His wolf whined out a small appreciative sound. They were grateful, these small gestures were taken as signs of trust and familiarity between wolves. Sharing food was an intimate and personal gesture reserved exclusively for family.
Besides, I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t have much of an appetite nowadays. Food was something I indulged in when someone either forced me to or when the hunger became unbearable. I suppose I didn’t see the importance in it anymore. Not when I was so absorbed in my work. My work was all I had. I lost everything in the transfer and I could barely stand to exist in the space of my mind for too long so I took it out on the canvas. The painting, it was all about the painting. I zeroed in on the space of the canvas I was working on. The world slowed once again until all that was on my mind was staining the tarp.
It felt relaxing to see the way the crisp sky blue would fade as it touched forest green. So beautiful. There was a peace that the colors brought to me as they merged. I looked back to my view to see the sky had long since changed from its vivid blue to a slight pink that came with sunset. We had been out here for hours by the looks of it. Time slipped by so fast. I looked back to see Marco was heavily focused on his homework. I checked my watch, it was around 6, so, we still had a couple more hours till sunset and I was sure I could finish before then.
The paint had stained my hands deeply, the pinks and blues and reds and yellows clashed like a Jackson Pollock painting all over my fingers that ran down to my forearms. There was even some on my shirt and shoes. I took a few steps back to observe my work. It was some of my best yet.
“Did you finish your homework yet?” He muttered a small, “Almost”, and kept scratching away with his pencil. I nodded with approval before I froze. The air suddenly shifted. It went from the overwhelming smell of earth, rain and humans with a slight hint of wolf to something strange and new. Foreign.
I saw Marco’s head snap up with alarm. The tourists were mostly gone from around us and occupied the restaurants and boutiques nearby, all except for a tall man and a small girl. The pair were walking towards us and I could immediately tell that they weren’t human. They were watching us, their stances non-threatening. I wasn’t worried. No supernatural would start a fight with a child nearby. It was against all instinct to put the future generation in harms way. Marco however was rigid as ever and I could feel the way his wolf’s hackles were raised in alarm, his age made him naïve and prone to bouts of sudden aggression. It made me nervous, he was a ranked wolf and the amount of power he was giving off was borderline dangerous. I growled low at him. “Never raise alarm near a child, young wolf, that is not who we are. Calm down or I will make you.” He looked at me and I could feel him suppress the need to protect. His wolf was not threatened by my warning but rather understanding of what I was trying to say. The young wolf knew that I would not put him in harms way and if I was calm then he should try to be as well.
The pair walked close to us and Marco growled a bit louder. “Do you have permission to be on this land, stranger?” The threat came clear and strong through his voice, the mark of one made for power. His native accent rolled his R’s and Y’s but the message was clear. I heard paper rustle and out of the corner of my eyes I saw permission papers being produced from the stranger’s pocket. “We are here within legal limits, boy. So I suggest you curb that attitude.” An American, strange.
His voice was a deep timbre that rolled through the air like thunder and suited his tall stature but I still hadn’t turned to see his face. I glanced down at Marco to see him relax a little bit more but he was still very wary.
“You don’t smell like a wolf... what are you?” I tsked at him disapprovingly. “This is why you should pay more attention in history class, young wolf. Don’t you know a Lycan when you see one? Much less smell one?” His pale skin flushed pink with embarrassment as he muttered under his breath, “I knew that.” I chuckled and looked up at the man.
When our eyes met I felt something strange stir in my mind. The wolf in me was intrigued, she had met few lycanthropes in her life but this one was different. He was tall, much more so than the average wolf. He was built like a warrior and his eyes looked like they had seen many battles. So much emotion behind them. He was not very guarded; I could see all the emotions in his head as they ran through his eyes. So much innocent curiosity. The silky black hair on his head was slicked back, it was shorter on the sides and longer on top. His eyes were the signature Lycan brown that started as a light coffee color in the middle, around his pupil, and darkened into a dark black on the edges. They were strange, so very strange, they were unique enough to be immediately identifiable as a lycan. His nose was crooked like it had been broken many times and I could see the start of a five o’clock shadow start to form along his sharp jaw. He was very handsome and my wolf showed a faint, persistent interest in him but it was more than she had shown any male in a long time.
“Did you make that?” The small girlish voice rose from the child’s throat as she watched me with curiosity. I nodded. She looked captivated by the painting. “Its so pretty, isn’t it Uncle Amir? Like a photo.” He nodded and they both fell captive to the colors that I etched onto the canvas. “Which family do you belong to, Lycan?” His eyes snapped to mine and they looked faintly surprised. Like he didn’t expect the question.
Lycans didn’t fall into packs like wolves did. They resided in large families that ran with old blood dating back centuries. There were many families and the most powerful ones changed every few generations based on financial standing and the power of the current Lycan generation. “Ambrose.”
Ambrose, even stranger to see than an American. At least around here.
My eyes widened and I crossed my arms before looking down at Marco. “Take a good look, young wolf. Your looking at royalty.” He gave me an annoyed look. “I know that Ray. I’m not stupid.”
I shrugged, “Your history grades say otherwise- dont you have an essay that you were supposed to finish?” His eyes widened and he muttered a curse under his breath before yanking out his laptop and starting to furiously type. Idiot. “See this is what your mother is talking about. You keep forgetting important things-”The Lycan held his hand up and interrupted. “Wait a second. Wait. I am far from royalty... I... who are you?”
I frowned, forgetting my manners. “I’m Raiza Kor and this is Marco. We belong to the Red Eril pack.” He held out his hand to shake. “Amiras Ambrose. Nice to meet you.” When my hand touched his I felt this deep warmth emanating from his. His large palm felt rough and firm against my brightly colored one. His eyes ran along the paint on my hands with amusement.
“I’m Mila. Nice to meet you.” The little girl gave me a bright smile and held out her hand proudly. I smiled and bent to get eye level with her before shaking her hand. “I’m Raiza but you can call me Ray.”
She was a brave little creature, so eager to speak her mind. She walked to stand in front of a panicking Marco and stuck her little hand out. “I’m Mila.” Marco snapped his head up to her. The sheer panic on his face made me stifle a laugh. “Marco Barone.” He shook her hand quickly and went back to typing furiously. She looked curiously at his screen and proceeded to ask him a series of questions that he answered distractedly. Amiras came to stand by me as we watched the two young wolves talk. I started to laugh quietly when Marco started to get annoyed as the stream of questions ceaselessly poured out of the small female while he was furiously trying to meet his deadline.
“Sorry about her. She’s very inquisitive, it drives her parents nuts.” I looked up at him and shook my head. “Are you kidding? Don’t be sorry. This is quality entertainment.” I checked my watch, we had a maybe half an hour before I had to get Marco home. I turned back to the painting and continued. Just a little bit left. I wanted to finish my horizon. “It’s rare to see a wolf who paints.” I glanced at his eyes. “Is that an issue?” He shook his head. “No... Just interesting to see. You’re quite good.” I hummed a quiet thanks and went back to the canvas. The silence resumed but it was neither comfortable nor awkward. More like an uneasy in-between. I kept dabbing at the blues and soon I started to swirl upwards into the painted sky with long controlled strokes. Brown eyes watched as my slim fingers ravished the tarp with dedication and delicacy. His gaze was steady and docile, no harm intended, just curiosity that drove his watchful gaze. The whole thing finally came together into what I wanted. It was a beautiful piece I had to admit. It would take a few more minutes till the paint dried so I started to pack up while I waited. I looked behind me to see that the three of them were staring at the canvas. “Is it done, Raiza?” Marco asked quietly. I nodded at him and dipped the brushes in water before wiping them down with an old rag. “Finally. Took long enough.” He nodded and gave me a tilted look. “Are you putting it on auction at the viewing?” I nodded. “It will probably sell for a decent amount. Besides, it isn’t pretty enough keep.” I started closing paint bottles and cleaning off the rest of my things. “I think it's beautiful.” There was that deep voice. It was soothing and almost rolled through the air. I shook my head and said with a laugh, “You should buy it then.” Marco chuckled but Amiras just gave me a look. “When is the auction?”
My eyes widened. “I was just kidding.” He raised an eyebrow. “Do you try and chase off all potential clientele? Not a very good business model, don’t you think?” Marco stood up and handed him a flier before sitting back down. “That’s the gallery where this painting, and the rest of Raiza’s collection, is being auctioned. It’s a three-day event, Ray shows her work on the third day and it starts the day after tomorrow. This isn’t even her best work, there’s a lot of stuff there that you might like.” I gave him a grin and cuffed him upside the head, playfully. “Thank you for the shameless advertising, cucciolo.” He narrowed his eyes at the pet name. “Someone’s gotta sell these things.”
I shook my head and pointed at his stuff with the brush in my hand. “I have an agent for that and besides your mother is expecting you, so pack up.” He groaned and bent down to get the rest of his things. I glanced up at the Lycan, he was still holding the flier. “You don’t have to go but if you do there is a lot of great talent being showed.” He nodded and gestured towards my painting. “I can see that.” I shook my head and frowned. “Better than this I can assure you.” I put everything back into my bags and carefully slipped the dry canvas into its cover. I slung my backpack over my shoulders and gingerly held the painting while I waited for Marco.
“Will I see you there?” I looked at the Lycan with surprise. “I... Well yes... My agent likes it when I meet the actual people that buy my art.” He nodded and pocketed the flier before grabbing Mila’s hand. “I’ll see you then.” I tilted my head. Why would a lycan from the Ambrose family be interested in local art?
“Raiza can I stay at your house tonight? The twins wont be quiet long enough for me to finish this.” Marco pleaded with me and I sighed. His sisters were quite the handful and I knew how hard it was for him to finish his work already without the added distractions. I pulled out my phone and handed it to him. “That’s fine. Just tell your mother.” He grinned and pumped his fist in the air. “Awesome.”
We started to walk away and I turned around to take one last look at the lycans. “Bye Mila. Goodbye Mr. Ambrose.”
I saw Mila waving with a big childish smile and as I turned I faintly heard a small goodbye come from Amiras Ambrose. I was intrigued to say the least. He was a different male and my wolf was curious. The curiosity, however, was tainted. We didn’t want to get close to anyone, much less a male. The few friends we had that were male, like Marco, were the exception. We trusted the few friends we had and weren’t looking for any more. However, I felt myself wanting to make an exception. Just this once.