Bruce went into the house with Rafferty. Leo snuck out to my garden bench.
“What did Bruce want?”
“To help his friend,” I answered.
“He was out here for a while.”
I took a long sip of tea. “I bet those were the most words out of his mouth in months.”
Leo sat at the end of the bench and patted his thigh, coaxing me to lay down. I obliged him propping my legs up on the armrest.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I admitted, running my fingers over Leo’s arm.
“Stay. The time difference is a bitch, though. Thirty days here is only one day in your realm.”
“It’s your realm too.” I reminded him. “You only need to be here to heal.”
“Yeah, Henry dropped a prayer on me. It’s wearing off.” Leo twisted his body, looking for pain.
“Should I get Rafferty?”
“No, stay with me. I won’t see you enough now. Even if you visited me every day, it would seem like a month for me. And I know you can’t visit me every day.”
“I can’t stay long today. I need to take Henry back to his life for a few days, but I’ll be back.”
Leo brushed my hair off my face and played with my fingers. I looked into his eyes for as long as he would let me. “Stop staring at me, you weirdo.”
“Your eyes are so beautiful. I can’t look away.”
“Stop it,” he blushed.
Rafferty came out of the house, followed by two female friends. “I would like to try something if you would indulge me. I brought some of my special brew for Leo. The pain is going to catch up to you as the adrenaline from your wolf run wears off.”
I sat up and kissed Leo quickly on the cheek.
“Alerie, have you transformed into your wolf, not spectral but from human to wolf? If not, the Grove is a great place to learn.”
“No, but I thought only physicals can change their actual bodies.”
“My grandmother could change just like a physical, but she was considered spectral. She could change while in motion. The way my men described your monsters in the Yolk. The crows were especially impressive to the ancestor wolves.”
“Honestly, don’t know why I can change forms, only there isn’t any reason I can’t. Without a body in the Yolk, what’s to stop me.”
“No one ever told you what you can’t do. I think that’s the key.” Rafferty patted my shoulder.
“How would I even start?”
“Leo, this will help you too. As far as I know, you haven’t transitioned your physical body yet.” Leo was lost in thought as if it was the first time he contemplated the two states of existence—physical and ethereal.
“Visualize the wolf resting in your chest. Call out to the animal in your mind. Ask them to help you change. I brought towels. Undress and sit quietly here with nature. Really try to reach your wolf.”
We did as my father asked. Sitting on the grass, I watched as he morphed and reset over and over. Rafferty could manipulate just his arm, causing claws and fur to appear. He could also sit still and let his wolf claim him silently.
Leo stood up and tossed his towel aside. He seemed to vibrate like a leaf in the wind. Artic white fur sprouted on his back and chest right before he fell to the ground like a newborn calf. Leo stood on all fours and shook his head before taking a timid step toward me. After a few seconds, his paws looked steady, and he trotted around the garden peeing on the bushes.
It felt like I was trying to make myself dive into a dark body of water. My deep, calming breaths were making me paranoid. I’ve seen my wolf, let her run free in the Yolk, and let her use my body to fuck her boyfriend. She should do this for me. I reconciled all the doubts in my mind.
“This is just like the Yolk. Turn for me,” I thought. Every cell of my body itched with pinpricks of fire, absent the pain I expected from the heat.
Slipping from my towel, my white fur shimmered with purple light. A sticky, grape candy color flooded my fur. My paws were huge with black pads and slick clear nails. I licked my purple fur and tasted nothing. A laugh came from my throat like a lion’s roar.
Leo, in his gleaming white fur, took a step back and bowed his head. I didn’t understand why. I walked toward the first pond I found and saw my eyes were bioluminescent purple and white, accented by one red scar on my cheek.
Rafferty put his hand out to me like you would a neighbor’s dog. I sniffed him and smelled fear. Sitting back on my haunches, I noticed my tail flick. The black fur turned purple in the sunlight like a showgirl’s costume under stage lights.
My white wolf tainted by demon blood was dangerously beautiful. I felt an enormous amount of air fill my lungs. My muscles wanted to run. I stretched, looking at every part of me I could see, and took off running around the garden. Leo trotted alongside me, bumping my thick arms. After a moment, what I thought was bees buzzing turned into words.
“Christ, you are one big bitch. How the fuck did you turn purple and black?”
“Demon blood. Why are you smaller than me, and what happened to your cock? Where did it go?” There was no filter on my thoughts. I could see how running in a pack would get people in trouble.
“It goes away, but it comes back, don’t worry.” Leo was getting tired. I could sense his half-blood strength failing, and I wanted to knock him down.
“I want to knock you down and put my paw on your neck. Why is that?”
“You are bigger and carry a more dominant bloodline. Please try to resist hurting me anymore.”
“Anymore? What are you talking about? I’m here because you were cutting your wrists like a coward.”
“The tree was making me do it. I didn’t want to die.” Sniffing Leo’s neck, I felt superior. His loss and pain, and jealousy over Dagen came to me next. I didn’t like the new information.
A new wolf’s heartbeat crept onto my radar.
The black fur body crept easily in the shadows along the wall of the garden. I snarled and lunged at the creature, sinking my teeth into its neck just enough to break the skin. The wolf’s heartbeat slowed as it submitted to my will.
“Al, come on, let Bruce go. He’s not an enemy. You are too powerful like this, Darlin. Let him live.”
“Live, oh shit, I didn’t want to kill him. I just wanted to eat him?”
“You will kill him as you eat him.” Leo’s logic seemed sound. A glimpse of a thick porterhouse steak topped with mushrooms filled my mind.
I licked my lipless mouth, dropping Bruce on the cold stone pathway. One last pirouette in my purple fur was all I needed before returning to my human form.
“Ugg, nasty, you taste like sweat.” I lay naked next to Bruce, covered in dirt and slimy moss pond water. “I peed myself a little.”
Bruce laughed and pulled me off the ground holding his punctured neck wound.
“Here, let me help you. Does anyone have a knife?” Rafferty produced a small but sharp knife from his pocket.
I found a relatively clean patch of skin on my arm and made a little slice presenting my arm to Bruce. He licked my blood appreciatively. The wound on his neck healed so fast the dead skin peeled off and fell to the ground like old scotch tape.
“That is almost pure demon blood. You taste like tequila and hot sauce. Where did you learn the blood trick?”
“Dagen,” I replied, reminiscing about the morning he showed me.
“Don’t do that in pubic, wolf public or people public. It’s a fetish and not well-tolerated by old school wolves.”
Leo walked by wrapped in a dirt-smeared towel. “Licking blood, biting demon wings. What are we going to do with you?”
“Shut up,” I laughed. Leo looked tired. I wanted to see him settled in before I left for the day.
Rafferty explained how an extra-huge, blackish-purple wolf couldn’t run free in the Grove. He suggested I give it a few months for the demon blood to clear before trying it again.
“You stay at the family estate. You are not homeless. Everything there is yours to enjoy. Come back and visit when you can. I know you will be busy with Henry and the new internship.”
“Thank you. I don’t think I’m welcome at Dagen’s now.”
“He’s one of my oldest friends, and I could be happy for you both if he didn’t make you so miserable.”
“Take care of Leo. He’s important to me. I know you understand how much.”
“Of course, he’s welcome here. The old Kane estate is across the river. I’ll show him the ropes, don’t worry.”
“What I mean is find him, somebody, so he’s not alone. So, he’s happy here.”
“I don’t think he will be alone long. There aren’t many young new wolves in the Grove. The girls will find him a friend.”
“Thank you. I’ll be able to relax knowing Leo is safe.”
I was getting too comfortable being naked. I wrapped a towel around my body and went into the house to clean up. I soaked in a warm tub. I didn’t feel perfectly clean, but I looked and smelled much better.
Rafferty’s friends set Leo up in a cozy room and left him a pile of clean clothes. Leo stood washing up in a big bowl over a towel. I walked up behind him and took his washcloth. I started at his neck and wiped down his muscle ripped chest. Kissing him as I went along.
“This is like Amish porn. I guess there’s no running water here.”
“I think I like Amish porn.” Leo turned, raising his arms over his head, accentuating his chest, stomach, and now rock-hard cock. “See, I told you it would come back.”
“Yes, you did. I heard your thoughts while we—.”
Leo interrupted. “Yeah, that’s one of the perks and problems. I know exactly how much Dagen hates me, and because I was eavesdropping, I know how much he loves you.”
“Well, I know how jealous you feel after hearing, you think. I’m not concerned with Dagen at all right now.” I rinsed out the washcloth and filled it with hot water wiping down Leo’s back.
“Hmm, then do you see any condoms around here?”
“No, but may I suggest a mutually satisfactory alternative.” Leading Leo to the bed, he kissed my back and pressed his body into mine, wrapping himself around me. I coaxed him to the middle of the narrow bed and straddled his injured chest with my cheeks in his face.
“Oh, miss sixty-nine me all day long has returned.” Leo smacked my ass playfully.
“I never heard you complain.” I grabbed a hard handful of him.
“And you won’t. Not in this realm or any other. Good God, that’s perfect.” Leo’s talent was always making me feel loved and accepted. I wanted him to feel the same, but I couldn’t stay in the Grove until he recovered. All I could hope for was a few friendly visits.