Leo’s body was a stunning example of superior breeding, but his shower rendition of “Dust in the Wind” was terrible.
Pulling the crumpled sheets with me, I crawled back on the naked mattress and savored the rush of endorphins only time next to his skin produced.
Spicy perfume from my clove and honey body wash floated in the steamy bedroom air. I imagined Leo standing under the hot water, smelling my scrubs and conditioners, deciding what bottle to try next.
Over the last few years, Leo’s still teen-like body converted to the muscular athlete’s physique he paraded around naked today. Rugby practice carved a V-pack of stomach muscles into his torso. Go, Colonels, indeed.
The sight of him naked made my insides quiver, especially when I didn’t see him for days at a time, but I would never admit this to him—his ego was too big already.
Leo was a Kane, one of my family’s oldest allies. His father and my mother were longtime friends. Allies like the Kanes were more loyal than blood relatives in my experience. Preserving these relationships was important. Community and secrecy were what protected our Clan from exposure in the end.
As a business major, Leo would graduate next year—well before me. The thought of being so far from home without him drained all the enthusiasm I felt when contemplating my future away from Clan rules.
Switching from full-on Med to Biology this year was not well received by my parents. Still, there’s less math with this major and less of everything else I was at failing at miserably.
Being hidden from Clan gossip had advantages, but Leo and I wouldn’t be allowed to continue our more than friendly interactions once we moved back home.
It wasn’t like we were in love.
Being raised together, Leo and I were like incestuous siblings bound by old secrets and a list of ridiculously outdated Clan traditions.
Someday, Leo and I would be expected to find suitable spouses who advanced our Clan’s way of life. But for now, I could enjoy looking down at him, looking up at him, and looking back at him.
Besides, I was a spectral and Leo was a physical wolf. The physicals are considered warriors—the heavy lifters, whereas my kind was considered the brains to their brawn. Spectrals couldn’t change in this linear realm, but I was strong and fast, and I didn’t get sick or age as rapidly as a full human.
My true worth to my pack lay in producing more physicals and finding a profession that helped hide our secrets. My mother was spectral. My father, her second husband, was very human. She claimed him like a pet when she brought him into the Clan. Now she was responsible for everything he did.
The issue nobody ever talked about was how my younger sister and I were part of our mother’s second life. Leo was a product of his father’s second marriage. Many of our Clan friends of similar age shared the same basic story. Our families split away from a major Clan around twenty-five years ago. They started over with a more progressive set of rules near my family’s farmland.
Nobody ever talked about why.
I’d heard other Clans didn’t even allow their members to date humans, let alone marry and produce mixed children—the opposite of how our Clan operated. Most Clan members my age were half-bloods at best.
It’s rumored my mother was an accomplished Clan leader at one time. Her first husband was related to Leo’s father, Reg. If true, our families were closer than Clan blood alone.
Whatever split them apart happened before my time. Today my mother was a talented but small-town florist. But that’s her life, not mine. I wanted more than to hide away from the world.
Leo walked, dripping from the shower, to a pile of folded laundry, grabbed a towel, and began drying off.
“Hey, this study thing you have today, how long will it take?” His golden olive skin looked great wet.
“Couple of hours. Why, what do you need?” I rolled around on the bed to face him. His practice schedule sounded grueling, but I couldn’t argue with the spectacular results.
“There’s this girl,” Leo started with a serious tone in his already deep voice.
“Oh, my God, not another one? What is wrong with you?” I whined, wrapping the sheet around my bare stomach.
“The girl is stalking me. Everywhere I go, she’s waiting. I need you to pretend to be my girlfriend for twenty minutes tops.”
“Need, the main word used to describe you is needy.” I pounded my pillow back into shape, much like I wanted to pound Leo’s face.
“Come on, Al, Alley Cat, Ally Ally, oxen free. Save me from this one little human girl,” Leo half-heartedly begged, pouting his lower lip and pressing his large palms together.
“You are such a pain in the ass. For the sake of this poor girl’s mental health, I will help you one last time.”
Leo jumped on the bed, rolled me over on my back, and presented his flaccid penis like a gift.
“Put it away, or I’ll snip off the floppy skin.” I flicked at his foreskin before he could jump off the bed. I giggled, thinking how when we were children, Leo would flash his fleshy friend to whoever happened to be nearby.
Leo’s penis was the first one I ever touched. His lips were the first I ever kissed. Now we kept each other entertained because it’s easier than finding new lovers we would need to continually lie to.
“No, no, it doesn’t work that way. The skin keeps the dirt out while I’m running through the leaves at night.”
“Good God, what a visual.” I pictured Leo rolling in the green, manicured flowerbeds lining Student Hall.
“Bah, if I run through a park naked, all I’m getting is arrested. Hey, your math geek, what’s wrong with him? He was on campus at the bagel place. There is something off about the guy.”
“He’s blind. There’s nothing wrong with him.” I tossed my pillow back into place. “He’s absolutely brilliant.”
“No shit, a blind math geek? How does he see the math problems in the books?” Leo asked, searching through my dresser drawers for his pile of extra clothes.
“Seriously, computers and braille, I guess. Whatever he uses instead of his eyes. Without him, I would be failing two of my classes. Being sighted hasn’t helped me this semester.”
“You should bring him to the next family gathering,” Leo suggested, taking the time to pinch my right nipple with excessive force.
I slapped his hand away with equal vigor.
“Would not go over well with my mother.” I rolled my eyes and flopped back on my stomach, pulling the last blanket off the floor.
“You have to bring somebody since you lied and told them you found a boyfriend. It’s not like he can see what’s going on. It’s the open event. Everybody brings their new pets.”
“He’s not my fricken pet.” I thumped a pillow behind Leo’s knee with all the strength I could gather—it didn’t faze him. “Besides, there’s almost a month left to find a new boyfriend.”
“Lies and betrayals. You should be better at them by now.” Leo wagged his finger. He is only one year older than me and not nearly as smart as he thinks.
“Oh, whatever, do everyone a favor and stop flirting with the human girls. You’re too pretty for the weak ones to ignore. Honestly, with that mess of brown curls covering your face, I’m surprised anyone can see you at all.”
“The gathering is in three weeks, and I’m not nearly as pretty as you, red cheeks.” Leo smacked my left butt cheek with his heavy open palm, leaving behind a dark-red, hand-shaped welt.
“Jesus, Leo, not so hard.” The welt rose and reddened before slowly fading away. “Asshole,” I seethed.
“Aww, let me kiss your peachy cheeks. I’ll make it all better,” Leo whispered in his husky voice.
“Get your face away from my ass crack, you troglodyte.” I slung the sheets around my body to cover my butt.
“Al, I don’t know what stupid son of a bitch ruined you, but as a representative for all cavemen, we will put our faces in any steamy parts you allow. I would love to get my hands on the idiot who convinced you otherwise and beat the crap out of him.”
“You would never make it as a lesbian,” Leo declared, shaking out his jeans. “Never, ever. You’re stuck hetero and missing out on fifty percent of the people out there to be fucked.”
“Not the same thing. Lesbians use strap-on sparkly dicks and whatever else they want to get off. They don’t employ actual men.”
“If you need a dick, just open the front door and yell out. Anyone mind if we use your dick? Guarantee, most women will get takers.”
“I doubt that’s the point of the strap-on. I don’t think lesbians like anything with a penis.” Leo knelt to kiss my shoulder. His gray-rimmed brown eyes were hard to look away from.
“Not true. I know plenty of lesbians. They don’t have any problems with me.” Leo pulled a shirt over his head and ran his hands through his wet hair. “All I know is you have the cutest little clit I’ve ever worked so hard to coax out to play. I know you like me to lick it. You need to let other people lick it too—get over yourself already.”
“I’ll add it to my list of daily affirmations. Allow strangers to lick my steamy bits.” I recited the words as if I were reading a passage from the Upanishads.
“Hey, works for me. Don’t forget, meet me later and wear something sexy. Get the creepy girl to leave me alone.” Leo patted his hard stomach. “She’s messing with my head.”
“Yeah, yeah. What time do you think?”
“Five-thirty, maybe six. I’ll text you after practice, let you know where we end up,” Leo mumbled while looking over his text messages.
With his longer than average torso, Leo’s regular-cut t-shirts hung just below his waistline, allowing a ripple of muscled flesh to peak out as he moved.
“Fine. Hey,” I said, motioning toward his crotch, “zipper.”
Leo grabbed his jeans and carefully pulled the zipper to his waistband.
“Close one. Thanks, darlin.” Leo swiped his backpack from the floor and headed down the staircase to the door.
My apartment was tiny, but one requirement for actual secrecy was to live alone. Leo shared a two-bedroom closer to campus with a teammate. So far, without problems. His key turned the lock on my door, then moved to secure the deadbolt. Above all, he made sure I was safe.
Leo was a necessary component of my life, like food or water. I could live on protein bars, but eventually, I needed a person with the right chemicals and pheromones in their blood to satisfy me. He needed the same things.
It’s a safe arrangement for now but not easy to balance when adding outsiders to the equation. Monogamy was a lovely, frilly concept our kind couldn’t practice with any degree of mastery for long.
Noticing the time, I took a deep breath and forced myself to roll off the bed and head toward the shower.