Hist, now. Hist! Listen closely and you’ll find a story that otherwise only the trees and blood-soaked soil will remember. There’s a girl out here in these woods, a girl who looks ordinary at first glance. You’ve seen her type before: raised with a pampered childhood and gliding through life in new cars and good careers. The type that never has to worry about money.
Ah, but don’t envy this girl in her little house surrounded by towering pines. She has scars, this one, hidden deep beneath her freshly showered skin while she picks an outfit for the evening. Her mother went mad and abandoned her as a child when she was old enough to remember what happened but too young to understand why. Her last lover came into her life as bright and otherworldly as a star, later proving instead to be a spider who wrapped a web around her and fed without ever being sated.
And yet the girl doesn’t seem sad now, does she? That soft smile as she lets the bath towel fall from her... How her hands musingly trail over the bite marks on her heavy, red-tipped breasts, and then the bruises on her hips and thighs. Behind her, the man in the bed shifts and begins to lazily stroke his cock. Even before she turns to look, she knows what he’s doing, and her smile widens.
“I have to leave in twenty minutes,” she says, fingers deft as they twist her hair into a neat updo.
It’s an invitation. Perhaps a challenge, as well. She doesn’t even have time to reach for a bobby pin from the dressing table before he’s on her.
His breaths sound like growls from a beast as he takes her from behind; hers are quieter, rising whenever his slow, hard rhythm jolts her against the table. There’s a fresh sheen of sweat on her skin when he catches the back of her neck with his teeth and then pushes in deep. It makes her yelp and writhe, already anticipating his cock unloading into her, and in response he bites harder and pins her still with his weight. His shuddering climax draws her into one, and for long, breathless moments, the girl remembers what it was like to have the savage abandon of a beast.
Oh yes, this girl is something more than human, even once the flush of sex fades from her skin and she puts on a shimmering dress with a neck high enough to hide the love bite left behind. She knows strange things live in the shadows of the mundane world. Magic, the supernatural... Call it what you will. She knows it, and the man does, too.
He lingers close by, now, hands skimming along her bare arms while she fusses with earrings before a full-length mirror. The sky outside shows streaks of lavender from the approaching dusk. The girl is already late for the party, but hesitates even so, meeting the man’s gaze through their reflections in the mirror.
“You can join me.” She tries to sound casual instead of hopeful.
He’s taller than her, and tucks her head into the hollow of his throat so that his response rumbles in her ear. “Not tonight.”
It’s the same answer as he always gives. He holds her close in those endless nocturnal hours when she wakes from nightmares and can’t stop shaking. He makes her shake for much sweeter reasons with that clever tongue and those teasing teeth. He’s even spilled blood for her. Yet he’s never joined her life of cocktails and caviar. The shadowy otherworld that she’s glimpsed—where witches spin spells and beasts carry the dreams of men—is his birth realm, and he only knows how to look human.
She accepts the answer but can’t help twisting around to nuzzle for one final kiss. His mouth is hot, hungry, and her heart clenches at what’s about to happen. But the girl has survived the wounds of loss before, and this will be but a papercut in comparison. She steps back, ankles trembling in their high heels even as her gaze remains steady. She loves watching him change, loves it even as she hates not being able to do the same.
It’s like watching firelight flicker, a sense of movement too fast to truly grasp. The hard muscle and hot skin that had only minutes before rutted her senseless now shifts into a thick black pelt. Teeth flash in the warm lamplight. Green eyes sharpen into a piercing yellow, and only their feral gleam remains the same as what had been the man gives a quick shake from muzzle to tail.
A black wolf now circles around the girl on rangy limbs, panting easily and nuzzling as if to say he hasn’t forgotten her even with the lure of the forest just outside. Tears shine in her eyes, but she smiles while kneeling down to bury her face and hands in the wolf’s coarse fur.
“Be safe,” she murmurs, knowing his ears will catch the words. Knowing he can still understand them. “And come back to me.”
The wolf nudges her, all cold nose and velvet tongue. Then he’s gone like a shadow, out through the opened sliding door and into the shrouded wilderness. The girl watches him disappear in the gloom, hands fisted in her lap. When she stands up again, her jewelry feels heavy as chains. She knows wildness, you see, and used to live it, too, running at his side as a she-wolf. It haunts her to stay behind among humans, and for all that it’s been months since she last shared a night with the black wolf, she still grieves as one would grieve over a death.
Yet the girl doesn’t realize how the past may become more than memory. Sometimes, the past may come alive. A comforting thought, no? Well... It depends on what returns to life. This girl, whose name is Alice, has many ghosts indeed—her mother’s madness is never far from her mind. Her last lover’s name is never far from her lips. And on the liminal path she walks between the mundane world and its furtive shadow, anything might happen.
No, do not envy poor Alice, for she’s about to find out how the past has teeth sharper than any wolf’s.