We left his house as his parents were coming home from work. He gave a half-hearted wave to his mom as she drove up the driveway.
I forced him to listen to Mumford & Sons on the drive to Willow Hill. Though he bitched about it, it didn’t pass my notice that he mouthed along to “Little Lion Man” and “Broken Crown.”
The sun was low in the sky as we parked the car. This time, the cemetery was deserted. We didn’t bother looking where we had already checked, instead concentrating on the back area we missed.
We scoured the graves until it got difficult to see the path ahead of us. I yanked my phone from my pocket, intending to turn on the flashlight app, but before I could illuminate the phone, Penny put his arm out in front of me, holding me back with the soccer-mom-arm-save.
“What the hell?” I whispered, swatting his arm away to continue walking.
“Caro, shut-up and stand still,” he said, crouching to the ground. He put his palm flat to the earth, eyes scanning the wooded area to the north of the cemetery. His chest expanded and contracted as he took slow, even breaths.
I wasn’t aware of any change in the still night air, but Penny’s mouth quirked upside down, eyes darkening.
“We have to get out of here,” he said, standing.
“We’re not done looking yet,” I dug my boot heels into the ground.
“Yeah, we are,” he said.
I opened my mouth to argue further, but he put a hand out to silence me. “Trust me. Please,” he said.
Our eyes caught. There was no light in his, only concerned seriousness. I jerked my chin in agreement and we jogged back to the car.
“What was that about?” I asked, turning the key in the ignition.
“Others were coming,” he answered.
“Werewolves,” he said.
“Oh.” I focused on driving, pondering how to formulate my next question. “But they wouldn’t be…” I started.
He threw me a look of such deep scorn, I blushed. “Obviously,” he said.
“And we ran away because?” I asked.
“It’s safer if they didn’t know us.”
“Us?” My eyes left the road to gauge his reaction.
“Yeah, us,” he said, “Watch the fucking road.”
“They might be able to help.”
He shook his head. “Nope.”
I sat in irritated silence until we pulled up to the office.
“This isn’t my house,” he said.
“How astute of you,” I slammed my door, fiddling through my keys for the right one. “I need to grab a few books.”
“Can’t you at least take me home first?” he grabbed for the keys, but I folded them in my fist.
“You can walk,” I said.
He followed me in, grumbling all the way up the stairs, while I unlocked the door, and when he stepped into the office behind me.
“Sit down and shut-up,” I said, pointing him to the couch.
I unlocked the door to the inner office and crossed to the bookshelf. The bottom shelves were packed with three-ring binders, a selection of primary sources found online and printed out in case they ever came in handy. I was searching for two binders, the contents of which dealt with lycanthropy in France and Germany from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Searching for the right binders gave me time to think. I didn’t often come into contact with supernaturals that could be allies. Witches were notoriously reticent at helping outsiders—with all the persecution they’d faced throughout history, I couldn’t blame them, but I was allowed to be irritated. Vampires were untrustworthy to the extreme, and frankly, since I watched a couple of them drink my friends, I wasn’t so keen on building an association. These werewolves could be exactly what I needed, but it wouldn’t work without Penny.
I located the correct binders, but hung back to decide the best way to get him on board, while not invoking the wrath of his rage-beast.
I stepped back into the outer office, keeping my voice neutral as I asked, “Why did we leave? The werewolves weren’t transformed—not too much of a threat.”
He was lying on the sofa. Eyes closed. He kept them that way as he answered. “We didn’t just run away from a couple of them out for a stroll, Caro, it was a pack. Transformed or not, that’s too much for the two of us to take on.”
“They might have been friendly,” I said. “You can’t know that they were dangerous.”
“It doesn’t matter whether or not I know, it’s safer not to get mixed up with them.”
“Safer for whom?” I asked.
His eyes popped open, flush climbing his neck. “I can take care of myself,” he said. I recognized the low, dangerous tone from earlier that afternoon.
“So can I,” I said.
He stood, pacing in an attempt to get control of his anger. He crossed the room a couple times before asking, “Against a pack of werewolves?” he raised a dark eyebrow at me. “You’re tough, but not even you could handle that.”
“Of course I can,” my arms crossed over my chest. “Do you think I’ve done this for the last four years without learning how to defend myself in impossible circumstances? Anyway, you don’t even know that they’re dangerous.”
“Fine,” he said, sharp wrinkles forming on his forehead. “It’s obvious that what I think doesn’t matter. You’re going to do what you want. Like always. But don’t come to me for help. You’re on your own with this one.”
“Good,” I snapped, all plans for keeping Penny calm evaporating with the growing buzz of my anger. “You’re pretty much useless anyway.”
His eyes turned to slits, but they were still their normal dark blue—he hadn’t yet been lost to his animalistic side. Despite that knowledge, every muscle in my body hummed with tension. Almost unconsciously, I squared my shoulders, readying myself for attack. He turned his head, breaking our eye contact. The intensity of the moment washed away like drained bath water.
“What information could they possibly have, Caro?” he asked, still facing away from me. “I’m honestly at a loss.”
I lifted my shoulders. “What were they doing, going to a recently vandalized cemetery at night?” I asked. “Sure, it could’ve been a wolfly stroll through the woods, but what if they know something’s up? Maybe they have connections with other supernaturals; have heard rumors of a witch trying to call up zombies—whatever! They’re a lead and so far we have nothing.”
He put his hand over his face. “This is insane,” he said, steepling his fingers under his chin. “You’ve been doing crazy things for the last few years, but even for you this is…” he seemed to have run out of words, relying on the emphatic shake of his head to get his point across.
Again the anger rose up with such swiftness that I didn’t have time to temper my words. “You’re scared,” I said, jabbing my index finger at him. “It’s not that you don’t think we could hold our own in a fight or that they might not be viable allies, you just don’t want them to know about you.”
“Drop it, Caro,” he snarled, nerve in his jaw jumping and twitching.
I dropped my voice so that it wasn’t much above a whisper. “They could help you.”
Each word hit him with the same impact as if I had punched him, his face falling into a sagging grimace.
He crossed to me in two long steps, seizing my shoulders, digging his fingernails into my skin. The pulse thrummed in his neck, but he was still in control.
We stood so close that I was forced to lift my chin to see him properly. His eyes scanned my face before dropping to my exposed throat. A distressed hum issued from his mouth. One of the hands gripping my shoulder relaxed, moving to trace the area his fingers had squeezed that afternoon; bruises were already forming.
“It’s not okay,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.”
He pushed me back a bit, bowing his head to my neck, warm lips connecting with sore tissue. My heart leapt to my throat; for the second time that day, Penny was the cause of me being unable to breath. I much preferred his current method.
He trailed kisses up to my jaw, his mouth tugging softly at my skin. I was no longer thinking in complete sentences and when he took my top lip between his, my mind scrambled. I didn’t resist, allowing him to pull me flush against him, our bodies touching at every possible point, his warmth flooding into me. His teeth nipped at my bottom lip, but were quickly replaced with the tip of his tongue, licking in small swipes. My mouth opened, his tongue twining with mine.
Our mouths moved together and the world seemed to tilt on its axis. I wrapped a hand around his neck, while one of his clutched at my hair.
I couldn’t say how long we kissed, but eventually he moved his mouth from mine—lips throbbing, swollen, and raw—to kiss down my neck. These weren’t the tender, gentle kisses of contrition from before; now his teeth nipped at my flesh, sucking and biting a line to my collar bone. His tongue swiped languid circles from my shoulder to the hollow in my throat. I arched my hips against him, grinding against the growing bulge in his jeans. He groaned, mouthing down my cleavage, leaving a trail of hot breath and tingling skin. The hand he had around my waist skimmed my side, before sliding up to cup my breast, rubbing his palm against my pebbling nipples.
I was lying flat on the desk before I had a chance to register it was happening. Penny leaned above me, eyes—pupils completely dilated with lust—greedily exploring my curves. I reached out, balling the hem of his t-shirt in my fists, drawing our lips back together. He plundered my mouth with his tongue, and I allowed my hands to slip under his shirt, pressing my palms to his torso. His muscles jumped under my fingers as I traced the lines of his six-pack.
I was so lost in the silken slide of our tongues and the warmth of his body, that I hadn’t noticed the tips of his fingers slipping against the bare skin of my stomach. The tingling sensation made me shiver, causing a warm rumble to grow in his throat. One hand, more adventurous than the other, skimmed along the fabric of my bra, circling my hardened nipple, exerting enough pressure to be maddening. I ghosted my fingernails along his pecs, and he moaned into my mouth.
I pulled my hands from beneath his shirt at the same time that my knees moved apart, and he adjusted so that his hardness pulsed against the seam in my jeans. We moved together, our hips, our mouths, hands twisting into hair, until my desire reached a frenzied point. I pulled my hands from where they scratched along his back to rub against his thighs, sliding along his length.
Our mouths disconnected. His hair was disheveled, face flushed, eyes fixed on me with such intensity that I trembled. I knew that he intended to rip my shirt in half even before I heard the snap of breaking threads.
My brain melted. I let out a mewling noise, part moan part whine, grabbing at the fastenings of his jeans. He stilled, going from rapid, frenzied movement to utter stillness—air not moving in his lungs, heart seeming to cease beating. His hands lifted from the bottom of my shirt to rest on the desk. He pushed himself up, breaking the contact of our bodies.
His eyes were clenched shut, mouth compressed into nothingness, shoulders heaving with his hard, rapid breaths. With several quick, deliberate movements, he was on his feet, tugging at his clothes, and then he was gone.
The sound of his shoes hitting the stairs at a run echoed through the empty building. The outside door slammed hard enough that the windows shuddered in their frames.
I sat up, blinking, trying to compose my lust scattered thoughts, half-disappointed and half-relieved that we hadn’t finished what we’d started. Cause I had seen what Penny had rushed out to hide—that luminescent sheen transforming his eyes into something utterly foreign, feral, and dangerous.