Moonstruck: Awakening

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Chapter 7

To say the half hour trip to the post office and shops of the nearest strip mall was tense would’ve been an understatement of gigantic proportions. There was no conversation in the car, each of us lost in our own thoughts. But I for one was also painfully aware of the heavy silence in the car, broken only by the soft music that was playing

It was a relief when we finally reached our destination. Our first stop was the post office where Laura cleaned out the mail from a post office box, then went inside to collect two packages that were being held. After dropping them off in the car, we moved further down the shops towards a few clothing stores I could see, passing a café, a restaurant, and a beautician. By tacit agreement, James decided to wait in front of the store for us, which seemed to lighten Laura’s mood considerably. Almost as is if she could pretend he wasn’t there if she couldn’t see him.

“Now we can get most of the basics at one of the big chain stores, but for jeans and underwear, you need to go boutique. Lucky for you, I know the good places, so we’ll have you sorted in no time.”

The store was small, but not cramped, with racks of colorful clothes lining the walls and the floor in between. At the back was a glass counter showcasing jewelry and such, as well as the cash register. Just behind that were two small change rooms. Towards the back, along the right wall was a display of lingerie, matching bras and panties ranging from the plain and serviceable to the lacy and racy.

Marching straight to the back, Laura engaged the saleswoman in conversation. Glancing around to get the feel for the fashion and to see if anything caught my eye, I walked over to join Laura at the counter in time to hear her discussing me.

“My friend and I were just having a conversation and I was surprised to hear she’d never had a proper bra fitting. I know, can you believe it?” Laura gushed when the sales lady, a woman in her mid-fifties, looked appropriately horrified.

“Sadly I can,” replied the woman. “It’s amazing how few women realize the importance of having a proper fitting. Most young girls these days, they just go for something padded that’s going to shove their assets up to the ears. They don’t realize how bad it is for them, not to mention how tacky it looks.”

“I don’t think I’m really a push-up bra kind of girl myself.” When the two women looked at me, I shrugged. “Feels kinda like false advertising to me.”

The sales lady nodded knowingly. “Exactly! Well, my name is Phyllis and I will be happy to do a fitting for you. We’re pretty quiet at the moment, so it’s perfect. Why don’t you head into the change room and I’ll be right in.” Eyeing my chest with a critical eye, she pursed her lips. “My guess is you’d be about a 32C, but we’ll confirm with measurements.”

“While you’re in there, I’ll go grab a couple of pairs of jeans for you to try on,” Laura tossed over her shoulder as she headed back towards the front of the shop.

A little bit worried about exactly what a bra fitting entailed, I headed back towards the little cubicle that was covered by a heavy red curtain for privacy. Only moments later Phyllis was back, handing me a little coat hanger with a basic black bra hanging from it.

“Here,” she said as I took the garment. “Start by trying that on so we can get the size right, then once we’ve got that worked out you can start shopping by preference.”

Relieved that she wasn’t going to be in there with me while I tried it on, I closed the red curtain behind me and faced the floor length mirror. When was I going to stop being surprised by the reflection I saw there?

Pushing the thought aside, I slipped my arms out of the straps of the dress and just pushed it down to my waist, so it acted as a kind of a skirt. No point in being almost naked if I could preserve some of my modesty. Grabbing the bra from the hanger, I slipped it on, grateful again that some things I still knew instinctively how to do.

“How are you doing in there?” Phyllis’s voice filtered through the curtain.

“Good, I think. I’ve got it on in any case,” I called back.

“Okay, well I’m just going to slip in here,” and with those words, the red curtain shifted just enough for the other woman to squeeze in, without flashing to the rest of the store.

“Let’s have a look now,” she said and promptly started tugging and jiggling and yanking at the bra. It would be funny if it hadn’t been so disconcerting. Finally, Phyllis made a hmph sound and stepped back.

“Just as I thought. Perfect fit. I’ve got an eye for these things. Okay, so now you know, 32C is the best size for you, though some makes and brands might be a little different, you know if you start with that size, you can fiddle till you find the perfect fit.”

“Thanks,” I said, not really sure what I was supposed to do next. Did I tip her? I mean, she’d provided a service, a pretty damn personal one as well, but was it something she added on to the bill later?

Laura called out from the other side of the curtain, averting a potentially awkward moment. “I’ve got some jeans for you, are you decent?”

“I doubt it,” came my automatic response and Phyllis tittered as if I’d made a joke. It wasn’t a joke.

Phyllis slipped out and Laura stuck her head around the curtain, followed by one arm laden down with several pairs of jeans in varying shades of denim and black. How many pairs of jeans did I need?

My alarm must’ve shown on my face because Laura scoffed. “Relax, you don’t have to take them all, some of them probably won’t fit too great anyway. I got all different cuts so you can see which ones suit you best and go from there.”

“Oh,” was my stunningly witty response. With a smirk, Laura withdrew and left me to it.

She was right, I thought ten minutes later. It was amazing the difference between two standard pairs of jeans. I wasn’t a fan of the skinny jeans, they fit okay, but were too restrictive. If I ever needed to move freely, these were not the pants for me. Likewise, there was one pair that sat so low on my hips that even standing up, my underwear showed over the waist of the jeans, so I could imagine I’d be showing a whole lot more than I’d be comfortable with when I wanted to sit down. Finally, I found a pair I liked that felt comfortable. A classic cut, they weren’t so high as to reach my navel, but not so low that I feared sitting down. They hugged my hips and did amazing things to my butt and thighs, but relaxed as they flowed down the legs so they flared just a little at the ankle. Bootcut, the tag said.

While I was contemplating my ass in the mirror, I became aware of laughter coming from the front of the shop. From the sounds of it, a couple of women had entered and were tittering and giggling like school girls. I couldn’t hear all the conversation, but I caught something about a tight ass and a body to die for, I figured James had just been thoroughly assessed by the gaggle.

The women were loud and obnoxious, walking towards the back of the store and making disparaging remarks about some of the clothing choices, making no effort to keep their less than complimentary comments quiet, not caring if they offended anyone.

“Oh Laura, I didn’t see you there,” said an overly saccharine tone. “How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while. How’s your brother?” The last question was almost purred and if I’d had hackles, they would’ve raised at that very moment.

“Melanie.” Laura’s voice in return held none of the false sweetness the other woman’s had. In fact from Laura’s tone, it was pretty clear that she would rather be chewing on broken glass than talking to the obnoxious twit. I knew I liked Laura for a reason.

“Gabe’s fine. Thanks.”

“Yes he is,” another feminine voice piped up and it was probably a good thing that I was only wearing a bra and jeans. If I’d been fully clothed I might’ve been tempted to go out there and disabuse those women of the notion that they had permission to notice anything about Gabe.

Whoa. The thought had me rearing back a bit. I had no right to do that, no ownership or commitment to Gabe. I needed to reign the anger back in. Unreasonably strong emotions were how the weird shit started.

“You know, Laura, you should really come shopping with us sometime. I mean, just because you didn’t make it into our special club, well that doesn’t mean we think any less of you.” That was Melanie again and based on that oh so subtle mention of a ‘special club’, I was going to go out on a limb and say she was a werewolf. A bitchy one at that, apparently.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Laura, clearly not meaning a word she said either.

“What is that stench?”

The female voice asking the question sounded closer to the changing room where I stood, making at least three women that I counted in the group.

“I don’t smell anything,” said Melanie.

“It’s over here, at the back. God, what is that? Come over here, I’ve never smelled anything like it.” Clearly, she wasn’t a fan of my scent. Oh, boo hoo.

Footsteps sounded as the women moved closer.

“Strange,” said Melanie, that sickly sweet high tone lost, now that she wasn’t talking to Laura. Instead, her next words held a sly note. “That’s an interesting mix, don’t you think?” Her voice soft enough not to travel far. “Human and wolf, pretty strong too.” Her volume rose a bit. “Laura, don’t tell me you finally got a piece of James. We know you’ve been panting after him for years. Did he finally give in to your begging and give you a pity fuck in the dressing room?”

All pretense of niceness was stripped away at Melanie’s bitchy comment and once again my body reacted without my permission, a low growl rolling from my throat.

“What the fuck?”

With those words, the curtain was ripped aside and I got my first glimpse of Melanie. My first impression was; boobs. Either Mother Nature had seriously gone overboard, or more likely, she’d had surgical help, but the first thing I really saw was a gravity-defying shelf this woman called a chest. Once you were able to move past the ample cleavage that was displayed by a very brief top, the white blonde hair and orange tone of her fake tanned skin completely detracted from any natural beauty she might have possessed. Next to her was an almost carbon copy; bleach blonde and buxom, though not quite as buxom as Melanie. This must’ve been the one who first caught my scent.

The two women stood staring at me for a second, surprise showing on their face. Standing there in only jeans and a black bra, my hands clenched into fists at my side, my head lowered in challenge and my lip curled back from my teeth, I exuded aggression.

“What are you,” this time Melanie’s voice was breathy.

Stalking forward, I got right into her personal space, almost bumping into those ridiculous boobs.

“Apologise,” I snarled, never breaking eye contact.

Melanie’s bravado kicked in and she tried to bluff and bluster, but I knew she was scared. Something inside me knew that she was the one who was less, not Laura. This skanky little upstart was nothing and needed to be put in her place. The mental image I had of her was an annoying little lap dog, nipping at people’s heels and yipping in an overly confident show of dominance. But she was in no way dominant, not to me, not to Laura. And she was going to be put in her place.

“Who do you think you are, freak? You can’t tell me what to do. I’m alpha and I’ll talk however I want.” The words were tough, but she flinched, just a little.

My mouth twisted in a smirk. “Alpha? You’re a fucking Chihuahua. All bark and false confidence. You’re about as dominant as an armchair.” My face lost its expression and I stared down the blonde bimbo.

“Apologise,” I growled, leaning in a little closer, only to have Melanie lean back with the slightest of whimpers.

“Ladies, is there a problem here?”

The sound of James’ voice cut through the store, giving Melanie a legitimate excuse to look away without backing down. Infuriated, I snarled at James for interrupting and giving that weak excuse of woman a way out.

“James,” Melanie’s voice was throaty as she moved, all be it quickly, towards the front of the shop where the male werewolf stood, watching the tableau unfold. In his favor, he didn’t soften a bit when the other woman latched onto his arm, her two lackeys moving behind her in a show of support.

“James, thank god you’re here. Something’s going on, this is all wrong. That,” there was a pause as she tried to think of a noun to apply to me. “Woman,” she finally went with, dripping with derision. “She’s feral. Not right. You need to take care of her, for the good of the pack.”

James switched his gaze from the woman clinging to his arm, back to me, giving me a slow up and down taking in my half-dressed state. I merely raised an eyebrow, unperturbed. He could look all he wanted, he would never have a piece of me.

“Looking good there, Emma,” he drawled, earning an almost silent snarl from Laura. She was standing off to the left of the store, smart enough not to put herself between two animals in a fight for dominance. Because that was exactly what had just happened between the bimbette and me. And I was okay with that, not just because I know I would‘ve won. Look at me, embracing my animal side.

“You know her?” Melanie lost her coy flirtiness, sneering the words at James as she looked at me in revulsion.

“Sure do,” James said easily. “She’s Gabe’s.

That was it. She’s Gabe’s. Not she’s Gabe’s guest, or friend, or prisoner, or book club pal. Just, she’s Gabe’s. You may as well have shot Melanie with a cattle prod. Her body jerked at the words and she turned horrified eyes up to James. “No,” she pleaded softly. A small and petty part of me enjoyed her reaction.

Now in my defense, it wasn’t pain I’d seen flash through her eyes. No, if she’d genuinely had feelings for Gabe, had actually been hurt by those words so casually spoken, then I would have done something, offered an olive branch, hell I don’t know. Something.

But I didn’t see any sign of pain in her eyes. Nope, instead, there was outrage. I’m guessing the outrage was because that woman had plans, plans that involved Gabe and his position in the pack, whether he was interested or not. On a side note, I really needed to have a conversation with Gabe to confirm that he had nothing to do with this grasping social climber.

“Yup.” James smiled down at Melanie and it wasn’t a very nice look. “Now I believe I heard something about you owing Laura an apology? You know if you don’t have time now, we can always make time during the next meeting. Course, that would make it official and in front of everyone, but if you’re in a hurry...” He let the words trail off, watching to see Melanie’s reaction.

The expression on her face was so pinched I think her overly botoxed forehead almost managed to move. Almost. Falling back into that fake, high pitched coo she had when she’d first spoken to Laura, she managed to push out a laugh.

“What, that? I was joking! I’m sure Laura knows that. No hard feelings, right Laura?”

Completely ignoring the other woman, Laura turned and walked towards me. “You know, Emma, those jeans do amazing things for your ass. Gabe is going to love them,” she said, taking my hand and turning me to the side so I stood in profile to the others.

Melanie’s eyes threw daggers in my direction and her face twisted as if she smelled something foul. “Come on,” she muttered to her entourage and without sparing another glance in our direction, she headed out the door of the shop.

Suddenly I was engulfed in a bone-crushing hug. Laura may not be supernatural, but by god, she was still strong.

“I don’t care what I said to Gabe before. We are keeping you,” she whispered in my ear and I couldn’t help the bark of laughter that escaped.

“Ladies, I hate to break up what is sure to become my number one spank bank material,” James said, referring to my half-naked girl clinch with Laura. “But I think we may want to move on now. The woman behind the counter is looking a little edgy.

I looked over at the counter and Phyllis ducked her head a little, not meeting my eyes, a nervous expression on her face. Gee, so much for being normal.

“Turn around,” said Laura, who didn’t wait for me to move, but simply grabbed my shoulders and twisted me. The back of the bra pull away from my skin, then snapped back. When when I faced her again, she dangled the tag she’d just removed in front of my face.

“Keep that on for now. Go change, and hand me the jeans. I’ll pay while you get dressed and we’ll head off to one of the bigger shops.” Not willing to argue as I was more than ready to leave, I headed back towards the change room. I don’t want to say I scurried exactly, more that I moved with alacrity.

Shucking the jeans, I handed them blindly through the curtains and pulled the dress over my head. Slipping on shoes, I was fully clothed once again, I walked with my head down and left the store, my cheeks burning with embarrassment. What had I been thinking? Sure, Melanie had been a bitch, but who the hell did I think I was? What right did I have to fight Laura’s battles for her?

Outside I squinted against the blinding sun and looked for James. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to see him leaning against the shop window. To anyone passing by, he seemed to be scanning his surroundings with disinterest, the very picture of a bored boyfriend waiting for his girlfriend to finish shopping. But up close you could see the focus of his expression, those scanning eyes missing nothing. Sidling up next to him, I mirrored his pose against the window but kept my head lowered, intently studying my toes where they peeped out from under my dress.

After only a minute Laura hurried out of the shop, a plastic bag containing my new jeans in her hand. Without slowing her stride, she motioned us with her hands and we fell in behind, heading towards the car. As before, James took the driver’s side and Laura all but dived in the back, leaving me to let myself into the front passenger seat. Nothing had been said since we’d left the shop and my stomach was churning. I had no idea what to say to excuse my actions, no idea where to start. As I sat there stewing, and working myself up into a nervous wreck, Laura’s arms came around the back of my seat, encircling my shoulders in a hug. “Thank you.”

“Um, you’re welcome?” Ok, now I was confused. Was she thanking me for real or in a sarcastic way? It didn’t sound sarcastic.

Laura laughed. “You don’t realize just how awesome that scene in there was. I’ve dreamed for years of someone putting that skank in her place. The only way it could’ve been any better is if boy blunder hadn’t come in when he did. Melanie was about to break and I would’ve paid my entire life savings to be there to see it, let alone to have her finally knocked down a peg because she had to apologize to me. You’ve just officially become my hero.”

“Oh, thank god,” I gushed out on a breath I hadn’t even known I’d been holding. “I was trying to think of a way to grovel to you for stepping in and trying to fight your battles for you. Guess some of that dominance shit has come through with the freaky claws and eyes, huh.” As I said those words, I had another thought. “Oh crap, I didn’t do the eyes thing, did I?”

“Relax,” James said slipping the keys into the ignition. “You didn’t do anything freaky. Looks like you’re a naturally dominant wolf and you’ve taken Laura under your wing so to speak.”

James words just confused me. “What do you mean?”

Sighing, James settled more comfortably in the driver’s seat, getting ready to go into lecture mode.

“Okay, so as I mentioned before, we’re humans that can turn into wolves, we retain our humanity at all times, remember?” He glanced over to see me nod my head before he continued. “Right. So even though we’re always human, just with multiple forms, there’s been some bleed through of natural wolf behavior. Like our pack for example. Natural wolves live in packs for survival. Lycans also adopted that habit, though a little more loosely. And as with a wolf pack, we have a hierarchy. You know, Gabe’s top dog, I’m his second and enforcer and so forth and so forth, till you have the lowest members of the pack.

“Now, that’s not to say that the bottom members of the pack are like doormats that we kick around. They’re people first and foremost, not slaves or minions. But it does mean they tend to be pretty submissive within the group. And by submissive I mean they’re not particularly assertive. They’re more like that annoying friend everyone has that can never offer an opinion, always happy to go along with the flow, but not contributing to decisions. And for the most part, they’re happy with their position in the crowd.”

With a slight smirk playing around his lips, he continued. “Then you have those of us that are assertive and display the leadership skills required to run a group of people and avoid anarchy. We help balance out the dynamic, provide protection and direction when needed and make the pack as pleasant a place to be as possible.”

“Then you have Melanie,” interrupted Laura, earning a sour look from James.

James continued with his explanation, ignoring the woman in the back. “Of course, nothing in this world is black and white, so there are some Lycans who are mid-range personalities. They’re happy with the status of being in power and enjoy bossing other people around, having them do their bidding. But at the same time, they don’t want to take responsibility for large-scale decisions. Most people like that form their own little clique within the pack, with lower status wolves, and everyone’s happy. But if you have a power vacuum at the top, say for example, you don’t have any really dominant females in the pack, then sometimes those mid-range posers can actually attain a higher status than they normally would, simply because there’s no one there to challenge them or put them in their place.”

Nodding to show I understood, I thought of my impression of Melanie. “So I’m guessing that’s what happened with the bimbette from the store?”

Laura snorted at my description. Looking over my shoulder into the back seat, I raised my eyebrow. “I’m also guessing there’s a certain amount of history between you two ”

This time James snorted. “That’s putting it mildly.”

He ignored the withering stare Laura shot at him and addressed me. “Laura and Melanie went to school together, same year. Now kids that haven’t hit puberty yet have a bit of a power structure themselves, essentially they reflect the position their parent has in the pack. Laura’s dad was the Alpha before Gabe. Melanie’s father was a lesser wolf. Because of that, Laura outranked Melanie and Melanie didn’t take that too kindly. She’s a bit of a social climber. Needless to say, when puberty came around and Melanie changed but Laura didn’t, well Melanie went out of her way to completely knock Laura’s social standing to nil and wasn’t too shy about also publicly dissing her for not changing. The truth is, if Laura had changed, Melanie would’ve most likely have moved into another pack, because Laura would clearly have been more dominant and would’ve put Melanie in her place long ago.”

I looked over the seat to see how Laura was reacting to what was obviously a touchy subject, only to find her staring at James with an arrested and slightly confused look on her face. Making a note to ask about that when we were alone, I addressed the real issue that had pushed my buttons.

“What about her and Gabe?”

Laura shook off her confusion and laughed. “Oh, she wishes there was a ‘her and Gabe’. She’s been angling after him for years, partly because the rest of the females on the planet seem to find my brother attractive for some reason. Also because she knew that when Gabe finally did find a mate, that woman would automatically outrank her within the pack, even if she wasn’t a more dominant wolf. So Melanie figures she’ll kill two birds with one stone and snag Gabe, so she’ll have all the status and no responsibility.”

I was pretty sure I already knew the answer, but I had to be sure. “And what’s Gabe’s opinion of this?”

This time both James and Laura laughed as if sharing some kind of private joke. Looking back and forth between the two, I waited for one of them to explain.

“Sorry,” Laura said. “It’s something we’ve been giving Gabe shit about for years. He wants nothing to do with the woman, but she just won’t take no for an answer. He’s tried being nice, he’s tried being blunt and he’s tried being rude. Nothing works. So now, he’s resorted to avoidance at all costs.”

Absurdly relieved to hear that and a little angry at myself for that relief, I sank back in my seat and brooded the rest of the way through the shopping trip. The term Laura had used, ‘mate’, was niggling at the back of my head. There was something important, something that was hovering at the back of my head, but turned elusive whenever I tried to pin it down.

Thankfully, apart from the odd opinion here and there, along with physically trying on some things, my participation wasn’t really required during the rest of the expedition. Laura took to the challenge like a General organising a battle campaign and by the time we left the large chain store, I had an entire wardrobe, with several pairs of shoes, work-out clothes, casual clothes, a couple of pretty sundresses and plenty of underwear, although some of it I would more classify as lingerie. If I hadn’t been so distracted by my own thoughts, I would’ve protested that we were buying way more than I needed. Unfortunately, by the time I clued back in, it was too late and Laura had already handed over a credit card to pay for the shopping cart full of apparel.

Realising the futility in arguing, I sighed and resigned myself to working and doing odd jobs around the house till I could find some form of income to start paying my debt back. I’d paid special attention to which bag Laura had stuck the receipt in and was going to make sure I got to it as soon as possible so I knew exactly how much I owed.

We went through a drive-thru on the way back home and given the way I hoed into my burger and fries, not to mention the sheer bliss I experienced at the taste, I was going to go out on a limb and assume that I was a big fan of fast food.

Arriving back at the house, Laura helped me carry the bags to my room, dumping them on the bed for sorting out later. James had given me ten minutes to meet him down in the dojo so I quickly grabbed some yoga pants, a workout top with built-in bra support and changed. Grabbing a bottle of water from the kitchen as I headed through, I headed down for the daily training to begin.

Authors Note:

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