It would be a month before I dropped my wolven armor. Blankets of snow covered the ground as ice clung to the nearby pine trees. Only a gray speckled sky hung above us, day in and out. Even at night, it was impossible to see the stars. We lived in a cold white void and I believed it was never going to end.
We found shelter in an abandoned cabin. A tree had crashed into the side of it, taking out the kitchen, but being hunters for the past five months, we didn’t have a need for cooked food. The memory of that diner food stayed on my tongue, causing the worst craving I’ve ever had in my life. The previous owner must not have known about the hole in the building because all their furniture was still there: a living room set, a nice rug, bookshelves and a dinning table, all ruined by the torrent weather. Patches of snow and ice crept inside these walls, but we found that the bedroom walls were still intact. We just prayed that the owners would stay gone long enough for us to wait out the winter.
I stumbled into the bedroom, along with a rush of brilliant white light. It encased me as I transformed back into my human body. The moment my feet touched the wood floor, I crumbled. Pain erupted from my neck. It felt like someone splashed boiling grease onto my skin and I couldn’t breathe. I gasped, desperate for a full gulp of air, but it was just beyond my fingertips. Even my bones shuddered as a gust of wind flew into the room, wrapping around me. My neck pounded and I broke into a terrible sweat. Pressing my head into the mattress, I gripped handfuls of the woolen blanket and unleashed a scream. Thankfully, the bed muffled my cries, but it did nothing to stop the pain. The pain was getting worse.
It felt like I was breaking apart.
I might have been dying.
“Drew?” I heard Jess call and I raised my head. I had to get it together, push the pain out of the way so it wouldn’t show on my face. I couldn’t put anymore stress on Jess’ shoulders. I’ve already become such a burden. Pushing myself up, my arms trembled and I couldn’t do more than plop myself on the bed. Sitting was good. Standing was impossible. My head felt higher than this bed, higher than the clouds.
I could feel Jess enter the room and move the air. Jess stepped closer, nudging my knee with his cold wet nose. In wolf form, his eyes turned red, like the ball of blood from a fresh finger prick. Red like a rose. They had been like this for a while, since even before the diner. Sometimes they flashed red, but after everything that happened, they never faded away. They were the eyes of a Rogue as good as a badge or a form of ID. Only Rogues had red eyes.
“What are you doing here? Like this?” He asked, nudging me again. I reached out, scratching his snout and up to his ears with a smile. His touch sent tremors through my limbs, like butterflies in the Spring, enjoying the sun. He nudged me again, bumping my arm and then licking my fingers and I laughed.
He said, “You’ll be warmer if you stay in wolf form-”
“Come here,” I grinned and scooted back on the bed. Motioning him closer, I insisted, “come on.”
After a flash of light, my Jess stood at full height. We both still wore our stolen clothes, more tattered and dirty, but wearable. Jess tilted his head, his eyes a darker red, but still red and a little sunken. We hadn’t been eating enough at all. I had been too weak to hunt and Jess couldn’t go far enough to find anything better than the occasional snow rabbit or squirrel.
He stated, “You look pale.”
“It’s my camouflage,” I smiled, screwing it tighter to my face. “You’re still not over here.” I opened my arms out, making a face at him like a little begging puppy with the pout and everything. He folded easy. Jess would do anything I asked. He does a lot I don’t ask for, but he’ll always do what I want.
Jess groaned, pretending he had to drag himself to the bed. He said, “There’s something wrong.” The bed squeaked as he crawled onto the old mattress, probably riddled with rust and some unknown disease. He touched my face. His hands were so warm, I almost went into shock. I nuzzled into that coarse hand. “I’m the expert on you, Drew. I know when something’s wrong.”
“I don’t want to talk,” I whispered, grabbing him and flipping him around. He landed flat on the bed and we both bounced up and down. He climbed up, still wearing a distrustful look. On the verge of crying again, I said as I straddled him. “I don’t want to talk Jess, just kiss me.”
I cradled his bearded face, searching his eyes again for that look.
I’ve seen that particular look from Jess quite a few times.
The first time, it was when I was in high school and no one asked me to prom and I came home, feeling like an ugly loser. I was sitting on my porch, waiting on my grandmother to get home. I lied. I told her I would be out with friends all night and that I’d be spending the night, so she locked the door and I was stuck outside. That was until Jess came around on his motorcycle. He took his helmet off and his fluffy dark hair was sticking out everywhere. He playfully pouted at me and said, “Aw, did your fairy godmother skip you? That’s not nice.”
“Are you here to mock me?” I had asked, glaring past my raging heartbeat. At the time, admitting to liking Jess Castellano felt like a dumb cliche. The good kid falling for the bad boy. I watched countless people get their hearts broken by the charming and no good Jess Castellano and promised not to be another statistic. No matter how dreamy. No matter how much I drooled at the sight of him. No matter how much better he looked after a freshly broken nose.
“No,” he shook his head. He climbed off his bike and pulled out McDonalds from his small trunk. He sat with me on the steps and listened to me talk about the entire night. He didn’t say anything when I started to tear up over Mitchell Greene kissing five different people and I wasn’t even one of them.
“You deserve more than Mitchell Davis’ sloppy seconds,” Jess said and he was genuine. He leaned closer until I smiled and I thought that was going to be enough, but he didn’t move away and neither did I. He gave me a look, a look that made my heart bloom like never before. He looked at me like he could melt my clothes off my body, like had a pair of lips and he might as well use them.
He smirked. “I’m gonna pick the lock and get you inside.”
He hopped up and I blinked, doing more than just a double take. “You could’ve done that already? Jess, it’s cold.”
The next time he gave me that look, he was in the hospital after a car accident. I had visited him, sleeping in an uncomfortable chair by his side. I woke up, some time around one in the morning and he was looking at me with that look that look that started a fire in my belly and made my toes curl. He reached out and caressed his knuckle up and down my cheek.
I kept seeing that look.
The look that said he wanted to kiss me.
The look staring back at me now. I pressed my lips to his, feeling the scratch of his beard. He stroked my back, unwrapping in front of me like the Christmas present I always wanted. I kissed him deeper, opening his mouth and taking a deep breath, full of him. He tasted like the best liquor, making my head spin and my skin tingle. Jess’ tongue slipped into my mouth and a jolt went up my system, straight to my groin. I ran my hands through his piles of hair, moving my hips as if they had a mind of their own.
“Drew,” he whispered and I kissed him to stop him from continuing.
“I don’t want to talk,” I said it again.
“Drew, you’re burning up-”
I ignored him and decided to count his teeth with my tongue instead. I kissed him faster, a little more rough and sloppy. This wasn’t a reflection of my lack of skills, but I really couldn’t help it. The room tilted and suddenly, my head became twice as heavy. It was like I was holding onto a rope. It was my job to hold tightly onto the rope, but something invisible on the other side yanked back and I let go. I let go and my whole world gave as I lost all my strength and the world went pitch black.