Kiss of the Wolf

Penumbral Realm

Trapped between the politics of the Vampire Senate and the malevolent machinations of a hidden sorcerer, an ancient vampire and a modern werewolf struggle to find the cause behind a plague of the walking dead before it brings a war that will put the entire unsuspecting world of mortal kind under the control of the less than sympathetic vampires.

Category: M/F
WARNING: Explicit!

1877 – The Dead are Walking

Someone gave the Turks, a human government, the means of making the dead walk — a forbidden magic, and it’s been spreading across the Eastern European countryside like wildfire.

The Penumbral Court, the hidden world of magic, has been cleansing the plagued towns by the only known means of stopping the dead from walking – fire. But the source, the maker of the hideous spell, is yet undiscovered.

V^^^V

Desire is a Beast

Thorn Ferrell, a courier for the US Secret service, and a werewolf, is sent to Europe at the dawn of the Turko-Russian war. All she has to do is deliver a package and her term of service is finally over.

Yaroslav, once Prince of Luske during the dark ages, is a vampire. Driven from his home by a plague of the walking dead, Yaroslav is determined to discover who made the dead walk – and why.

High in the Carpathian mountains, werewolf and vampire meet and embrace for a fleeting moment of peace. She flees in the sunlight to continue her mission, but the vampire is determined to keep his newfound lover. During her journey Thorn comes face to face with Max, another werewolf. However, unlike her, this werewolf is insane.

Then the walking dead come to town.

Fleeing the other werewolf and the walking dead, Thorn finds her vampire lover in big trouble. It seems that the Penumbral Court thinks that Yaroslav, a powerful mage in his own right, is the culprit behind the plague of walking dead. Thorn is the vampire’s only proof that there is another mage, an unknown sorcerer, doing forbidden magic.

V^^^V

From the back cover:

Thorn Ferrell is a courier for the new American Secret Service, entrusted with carrying a secret message into Rumania in the dead of winter. It would be impossible for anyone to pass the Carpathian Mountains, but not Thorn, for she is also a werewolf. Settling into a deep cave for the night, she senses something else there in the dark…something not quite human, something that provokes both fear and a primal lust. And then he appears – tall, sensual, predatory, with black eyes and a body of carved beauty…

As a vampire, Yaroslav is used to hunting for prey. But the beautiful naked woman who emerges from the wolf’s form arouses a far different hunger. She is his equal in power, sensual skill, and carnal appetite. If he cannot tame her, he can certainly pleasure her. As they spend the night taking each other to new heights of raw need and unimaginable bliss, Yaroslav experiences something new, a desire so deep he will do anything to keep his new lover by his side forever.

Excerpts

Praise for Kiss of the Wolf

5 Stars – Creative, sexy, romantic and magical

“I thought this book was a great read!

Dating the book back to 1867 during the discovery or development of the steam engine was very creative. I like how Morgan Hawke changed the whole werewolf, vampire and supernatural perspective. Instead of being bitten, like your traditional werewolf stories, a bad sorcerer used magic to unite two souls into one body. The soul of a wolf into the body and soul of Thorne our heroine.

The vampires are not your typical blood-sucking, look into my eyes then drag you off into a dark alley to drain you. No, these vampire have table manners; very regal and diplomatic. The supernatural community has laws and senators that gets to pass or veto laws. Where’s the fun??

Throw in a great plot, great sex, romance, and justice and you have a great story!! I don’t want to give anything away except magic is everything. I thought this was a great book to read!! I simply loved it, loved it, loved it!!! I know it’s an erotic book and it is, but is also helps that the story was also entertaining. It was an easy, light, and enjoyable read. I would totally recommend it. Two thumbs up!”
— Baoweolf —

4 Stars ~ Romantic Times Bookclub

“This book is a page-turner for anyone who likes reading paranormals and historicals. Hawke does a good job of combining passionate paranormal lovers with a historical background. This is one to savor on a cold winter night.”
— Ann Wilwert

5 Stars – Best Book Ever

“I’ve read many books by Morgan Hawke and I loved them all, but Kiss of the Wolf is one of my favorites.I love the character’s, …and the sex scenes were great, sensual and erotic. … Morgan Hawke writes some of the most deliciously erotic romances I’ve ever read.”
Beautiful

5 Stars – Great Erotica

While this would almost fit in with mainstream Romantica, it has strong elements of D/s and some light BDSM. The plot is good; Thorn is a courier and she meets a vampire while on assignment. There is an evil magician and a nicely done plot. The erotic scenes are nearly up there with Angela Knight’s  Master of the Night  et al. Not as imaginative and whimsical as her  Interstellar Service & Discipline: Victorious Star  but still has some humor and is not only an excellent red but fun as well.
G. Robinson

Ch-0

Prologue

It was so cold…

Her breath steamed from her lips. Naked and shivering, she rose from her crouch. Her long pale brown hair falling over her bare shoulders, and the tall white dog pressed against her side, were her only sources of warmth.

The windowless basement of the abandoned textile factory was thick with shadows. She couldn’t see the walls or ceiling at all. The only light came from the circular design inscribed on the worn plank floor blazing an eerie blue, all the way around them.

She needed to get out of there.

Just beyond the edge of the glowing circle, her patched corduroys, sweater, boots, and squashed cap lay in a crumpled heap on top of her canvas shoulder bag still full of undelivered newspapers. Arms across her bare breasts, she padded across the icy planked floor toward the edge of the design, heading for her clothes.

Her dog, Whitethorn, followed her toward the circle’s edge with her black claws clicking on the wood floor. The dog’s head stayed low, though her tall pointed ears swiveled back and forth, her silver fur glowing like the moon in the odd light.

Two rings from the edge she rammed face-first into — nothing. She stepped back and held out her palms. An invisible wall shivered and clung to her skin like spider webbing. She pressed against the shivery nothing. Current vibrated in her bones. She pressed harder against it. The buzzing current increased, vibrating up her arms, down her spine, and in her teeth. Her hair lifted from her back. Pain sparked sharply across her palms. “Ow!” She jerked back and rubbed her hands together. Damn it!

There had to be a way out of this.

Hands outstretched, she wandered the entire glowing inner circle, with Whitethorn’s claws clicking at her side. There was no opening in the nothingness, no way out, no escape.

Whitethorn shoved her head under her hand and rubbed, begging for a pet.

She knelt and swept her hand across the thick silky ruff around Whitethorn’s neck. Her silvery white fur was sleek, warm, against her bare skin.

Whitethorn’s yellow eyes looked into hers, and a long pink tongue swept out to lap along her jaw.

She smiled and kissed the dog’s cheek. She didn’t care that the men who had kidnapped them, insisted that Whitethorn was their escaped wolf. She had found her. Wolf or not, Whitethorn was the sweetest, gentlest, and smartest, animal she had ever known. Finders, keepers…

Whitethorn looked off to the side, laid her ears back and growled. Her black lips curled back revealing long curved fangs. 

Together, they hurried to the design’s center. No one had touched them; other then to take Whitethorn’s collar, and her clothes, but that could change. She’d heard horror stories about what men did to naked girls.

A tall man stepped out of the darkness in a long black overcoat. Under the curving brim of his bowler hat, the circle’s blue light reflected on his dark spectacles. His orange beard and handlebar mustache seemed to glow. “My apologies for keeping you waiting.” He pulled his gloved hands from his pockets.

She hunched down and clutched her dog around the neck, pressing against Whitethorn’s soft furry side. She glared at their kidnapper, the man who had put them in this cage of light. “Are you going to let us go now?”

“Let you go? But I only just acquired you?” He walked around the glowing circle’s edge.

She turned her head to follow him and shouted. “Who are you people, and what do you want with us? I’m just a paperboy and she’s just a dog!” 

He stopped and his red brows rose. “How many times do I have to tell you, young lady? That is not a dog.” He peeled off his black leather gloves. “That is an artic wolf, canus lupis arctos from the Alaskan tundra.”

Her fingers tightened in Whitethorn’s fur. “Fine, what ever you say. What has that got to do with us?”
“I am the Doktor.” He shoved his gloves into his coat pocket, and his smile turned cruel. “And you are my test subjects.”

A chill shivered down her spine. “You’re a scientist?”

“After a fashion, allow me to show you.” He lifted his hands, and recited a string of words in a language she didn’t know.

The design started to shift and move, rotating in counter circles. The light brightened from blue, to white.

Every hair on her body stood up.

Whitethorn’s fur ruffed out and she snarled. 

The light on the floor blazed to blinding brightness.

Pain exploded in her heart and ripped through her. She fell, screaming.

Whitethorn collapsed on top of her, yelping in obvious pain.

Consumed by fire, their terrified voices joined – and ended in a single, long, agonizing howl.

Ch-1

One

November 1876

The Fairwind, American Line steamship
In route to Constantza, Romania

Thorn gasped and jerked upright, knocking the pillows off the small brass bed and onto the floor. Her entire body shook. She pressed one palm over her slamming heart. “A dream…just a dream.” She shoved the long pale brown strands of hair from her damp cheeks. It was long since over, and done. 

She jerked the white cotton sheets from her naked, sweat-soaked body and slid from the cot to stand. The waxed hardwood deck of the steamship’s tiny iron-walled cabin was cool, and rocked gently under her feet. She turned to stare out the cabin’s porthole. The moon floated among rags of cloud and the sound of the sea rushed in her ears.

Once upon a time, she had been Kerry Fiddler, an ordinary girl, with an ordinary paper route, who had found an extraordinary white dog. And then, the Doctor had found them.

But that was years ago.

She couldn’t stop shaking. She moved to the corner, and the small washstand. “It’s over and done, over and done, damn it!” She had long since become used to being someone else, something else; something wilder, something fiercer, something feral. She splashed water on her face.

The moon’s light silvered the mirror’s glass. Beneath her dark slashing brows, her dark gold eyes caught the light and the hearts caught fire, glowing like two green-gold coins — wolf eyes.

The night shadows within the ship’s small cabin seemed to close in on her. Her sweat slick skin chilled in the cool air of the cabin. She shivered, and gasped for breath. She couldn’t get enough air. She shook her head and forced herself to take deep slow breaths. It was over, it was done, and she had escaped. It was nothing but a memory.

Thorn turned to look back at the moon floating outside her small window. The damned nightmare came whenever she spent too much time in too small a space. She needed to get out of this tiny iron box. She needed to run.

She took three long steps to the cabin door and jerked it open. The wind from the ocean caressed her naked skin and swept through her pale brown waist-length hair. Moonlight tinted the fine straight strands with silver. She lifted her face to the moon and let her wolf rise from her soul in a tide of fur and joy. She dropped to four paws and shook her silvery fur into place. Ears forward and long tail lifted, she trotted down the deck, her black claws clicking on the slick wooden surface.

***

“A large white dog was seen running loose on the ship last night.” Seated behind his elegant golden oak desk, carried onboard for his express use, Agent Hackett, fine, upstanding representative of the United States’ Secret Service, wrote with a hasty hand. His Parker fountain pen scratched busily across the very fine parchment. “What do you have to say for yourself?” He did not look up.

Thorn Ferrell’s hand tightened on the brim of her charcoal gray leather hat. “I needed some air.”

Agent Hackett scowled at his writing while working the top back onto his fountain pen. “So you ran around the deck on four legs? You couldn’t do it on two, like a normal human?”

Thorn didn’t bother to answer him. He wouldn’t have liked the reply. Why should she act like something she wasn’t?

 In complete contrast to her farm-boy appearance, he was fashionably dressed in the attire of most governmental associates. His restrained frock coat of midnight green was buttoned closed over a severely understated waistcoat of black damask. A floridly knotted cravat of black silk was tied around the high collar of his white shirt. With his blond hair combed back into a ruthless wave, and neat mustache, he was considered handsome by many.

Thorn considered him a self righteous prig.

Agent Hackett tucked the fountain pen inside his jacket’s breast pocket. “This makes four times you’ve exposed yourself.” He gently blew across the damp ink.

Thorn rolled her eyes. “They only saw a dog…”

“That is not the point.” Agent Hackett ruthlessly folded the paper and reached for his stick of sealing wax. “If you cannot be trusted to control your baser urges and at least act like a human, I do not see why you should be treated as one.” He struck a Lucifer match against the side of his desk.

The stench of sulfur burned in her nose. She winced back. The bastard knew damned well she hated the smell of those things.

A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. “Perhaps your return trip should be done at the end of a leash.” Melted wax dripped onto the folded paper. “Or better yet, in a cage.”

A leash? A cage? Thorn’s temper flared white-hot. Did he honestly think she would allow either to happen? She swallowed to hold back the growl that wanted to boil up from her chest. His attitude clearly begged for a reminder of who, and what, he was dealing with, but a show of temper would only work against her. She needed something far more subtle.

She dropped her white canvas pack and dark gray, black fleeced, sheep-skin coat on the expensive carpet. Casually, she stepped slightly to one side, choosing a spot by the corner of his desk very carefully. She adjusted her position to allow the light from, the small oil lamp, to shine directly into her highly reflective, and inhuman, eyes. It had taken ages to figure out the exact angle, but the results were always worth the effort. Pleased, she jammed her thumbs into the pockets of her faded dungarees, relaxing into her pose.

“Now then, Courier Ferrell…” Agent Hackett looked up from his desk, and froze, staring into her gaze. The pupils of his eyes widened, and the acrid scent of his sweat perfumed the air, betraying his instinctive alarm.

Perfect. Thorn smiled. Yes, my dear Agent Hackett, your brain may be dense, but your body knows very well that it’s in a small room with a dangerous predator.

Agent Hackett tore his gaze from her eyes, and lunged to his feet. Scowling, he yanked opened a desk drawer and pulled out a small brown paper wrapped parcel with a white card. He came around the desk to tower head and shoulders over her, and offered them. “This is the package. You already know the route. The card has the address you are to deliver it to. It is vital that you arrive as swiftly as possible.”

Thorn took the package and card from his hands, then knelt to tuck them into her small canvas pack. She knew the ‘preferred’ route, all right. It hadn’t taken much to memorize the map they had provided, and to deduce that she would cover the territory a hell of a lot faster if she didn’t bother with roads. But Agent Hackett didn’t need to know that.

He held out a second card. “When you return to Constantza, I will be at this address.” His blue eyes narrowed and his painstakingly neat mustache twitched. “No delays on the return trip either, you wanton little beast. I don’t want to remain in this godforsaken country any longer than necessary.”

She looked up at him from her knees. He was standing so close that her lips were but a kiss away from his crotch. Well aware of her suggestive position, she smiled. “Do I really look like a wanton to you?”

Agent Hackett’s eyes widened and the perfume of lust rolled off of him. She could smell the evidence of an erection growing under his knee-length midnight green coat. He jammed the card into her hand and jerked back a step. “You look like a street urchin.” His voice dropped to a growl. “However, your reputation for shameless exploits precedes you.”

“Dungarees are better suited than skirts for what I do, Agent Hackett.” She rose to her feet and dragged on her fleeced coat. “And I’m not ashamed of my exploits.” She shouldered her pack and smiled. “I like sex.”

He jerked his chin up, refusing to look at her. “Why in God’s name did they saddle me with you?”

Thorn snorted. “My guess is you pissed off somebody upstairs.”

His cheeks flushed and his jaw clenched. He pointed at the stateroom door. “Get out of my sight!”

Thorn headed for the door, and jammed her hat on her head, chuckling softly. Agent Hackett simply could not accept his physical attraction to her. His morals wouldn’t let him. Too bad. He was obviously in dire need of a good fuck.

She stepped out onto the steamship’s crowded deck and blinked against the late afternoon, winter brightness. The icy wind from the dark Romanian port city smelled bitterly of coal smoke. The Black Sea, behind her, smelled just as strong, but far cleaner. Damp chill crept down past the collar of her sheep-skin coat, and up the legs of her faded dungarees. She’d thought to bring her good boots, and flannel shirts, but she should have brought a heavy sweater too.

Among good-natured fair-well shouts, and horrific blasts from the steamship’s horns, she eased in among the ship’s debarking third class passengers, and marched toward the narrow roped walkway leading down from the steamship to the dock. Setting her hand on top of her battered hat to keep the wind from blowing it away, she tromped down the gangplank into a maelstrom of humanity.

Keeping her head down, she jogged across the busy docks, dodging drays hauling freight, and coaches with passengers. The occasional steam carriage chugged by, disturbing the horses, with their whistling pops and loud grumbling hisses. The train at the far end loosed a long high whistle that raised the hair on her neck.

She entered the city proper and jogged swiftly through the wasteland of crumbling buildings, garbage heaps and casual violence. She dodged gazes as she hurried by, just another kid in a battered sheepskin coat and faded dungarees. She snorted. The illusion would have been a lot more effective if she’d been a little more flat-chested and narrow-hipped.

Thorn reached the city’s limit just at nightfall. Farmland stretched before her, and beyond that, clean forest. Strands of her pale brown hair escaped her braid and flitted around her cheeks. Snow scented the wind.

The next leg of her journey was the easy part. Run. A lot.

***

The snowstorm finally ended and moonlight bathed the snow-covered mountains and forest, creating near daylight brilliance.

The she-wolf ghosted out from under the snow-heavy ground-sweeping conifer, her silvery winter coat blending perfectly with the fresh snow. The chill hadn’t been a problem, not with her thick arctic coat, and the long nap under the draping tree had given her a much needed rest. She gave herself a firm shake to settle the white pack strapped to her long slender back, then launched into a gliding lope.

Her long strides and wide paws carried her atop the snow, and through the moon bright forest with blinding haste. Her sensitive nose caught occasional traces of the far smaller, and darker, red-coated European wolves that lived in the small mountain range she was passing through. They weren’t too difficult to avoid. They stank from eating human garbage. She smelled them long before they could scent her.

A trace scent of human drifted on the breeze.

She stilled and lifted her nose to sift the wind. What the hell was a human doing all the way out here? Along with wool and sweat, there was something odd about the scent, something subtly wrong… Her tail switched in annoyance. She figured out where the scent was coming from and moved deeper into the trees. She preferred avoiding humans as much as possible. She had no interest in their noisy cramped spaces, their stinking food, and their lies about what they wanted, and didn’t want.

Her loping pace ate distance and the moon drifted across the sky, marking the passage of hours. Her long strides carried her out of the forest, and higher, into the mountains. The pass she was headed for was impassable for humans in winter, but not for a wolf.

She moved swiftly upward, over rock and snow. Her muscles burned with the effort. Her time on the ship had held far too much inactivity. She was going to need to rest again. Dawn was only a few hours away, so finding a safe place to sleep through the day was probably a good idea. She could start out again at sunset.

Halfway up the mountain, among the cliff heights, she found a small opening in the rocks. The opening proved to be the mouth of a small tunnel. She squeezed into it and wove her way into the back where she found a rather roomy cave. There wasn’t one speck of light, but her nose told her that a tiny runnel of water slid down one wall and a crack offered a draft for a small fire.

Perfect.

She shivered into her human form. Her breath steamed out and chill bumps washed across her naked skin. It was way too cold to play human, even with a fire. She hastily dragged her pack off her back and pulled out her sheep-skin coat. Throwing it on the rocky floor, she slid back into her wolf form. Warm and comfy in her thick fur, she curled up, nose to tail, on the black fleece lining of the gray coat, and promptly drifted into sleep.

Scrabbling among the rocks at the mouth of the cave’s tunnel jolted her out of a sound sleep and onto her paws. The fur along her back rose, and she snarled loudly. Whatever was trying to enter needed to get the hell back out, or she would kill it, and eat it.

Shifting stones betrayed that whatever had entered was moving deeper into the tunnel.

Her tall ears flicked forward and her tail switched in annoyance. Just how stupid was this creature? Other than a bear, she was the biggest predator on the mountain. Her snarl should have given that away. She snarled again and gave it some serious volume.

It progressed closer.

She jolted, dancing back on her paws, thoroughly alarmed. What ever it was, it wasn’t heeding her warnings. That meant it thought it could take her in a fight. What the hell thought it could take out a wolf? It couldn’t be a bear; a bear was too big to fit in the cave. It had to be her size or smaller. Was it insane?

Scent drifted into her section of the cave; wool, leather, dust, earth, old blood, and cold human.
A human? She sifted through the more subtle scents. The human was male, with silk, oil, steel, and gunpowder. A gun. She snarled in pure reaction. A stinking hunter? This high in the mountains, in winter? The scent of oiled steel smelled small, like a pistol. What kind of idiot went into a wolf’s cave, carrying only a pistol?

She crouched, her muscles bunching tight, in preparation for a lunge. If he wanted to kill her, he was in for a nasty shock. It took a hell of a lot more than a mere pistol shot to kill her. Her voice dropped to a deep rumbling growl. Last chance to escape death, moron.

Light flared in the inky blackness of the cave.

She blinked and flinched back, but her growl remained.

A man with long straight, silver white hair, swathed in a bulky black wool coat, knelt at the tunnel’s exit with one gloved hand held palm up. A tiny ball of light floated above his hand; a ball of light that did not smell like fire.

Her ears flicked forward briefly. Light without heat?

He spoke in a language she didn’t know, but there was no mistaking his meaning. “Wolf.”

She curled her lips back and flattened her ears to her skull. Stupid human. What else did he think was growling; a bunny rabbit?

His eyes opened wide, and reflected the light above his hand with an emerald green shimmer.

Every hair on her body rose. This might look human, but it wasn’t human. Human eyes reflected red, like a rat’s, and they did not reflect easily.

The light rose from his palm, floating toward the cave’s low ceiling.

Her gaze followed the curious floating light.  

The man smiled showing long upper incisors and shorter lower ones, the teeth of a hunting predator.

Her gaze locked on the creature’s bared fangs. A deliberate challenge? Snarling in anger, she dropped to a crouch. Fine, die. She lunged, teeth bared to rip out his throat.

He caught her by the fur of her throat, and was bowled over backwards by the momentum of her charge. He snarled, baring his long teeth in her face.

She snarled right back, writhing in his grasp, snapping for his arms, his face, his throat, anything she could reach.

Twisting with incredible dexterity, he kept her fangs from his skin, while holding her with ferocious strength.

She writhed and stretched her neck. Twisting suddenly, she sank long teeth into his forearm, tearing through the wool of his coat to reach flesh, and blood. Got you!

He threw back his head and shouted in pain.

His blood filled her mouth, thick and hot – and nasty. It burned in her throat like whisky. She pulled her fangs free, but couldn’t escape the taste.

His black eyes wide, he stared straight into her eyes, and shouted.

A black spike slammed into her mind and sizzled down her spine. She yelped in surprise and pulled back.

His fingers closed tight in her neck fur, holding her gaze locked to his. He spoke. She didn’t know his language, but the meaning was crystal clear. “Be still.”

Black pressure smothered her anger. Her growls stilled in her throat, and she froze, trembling.

He spoke again, his words an indistinguishable waterfall of liquid syllables, and yet she knew their meaning. “Your bite is deep, but my blood is strong, yes?” He sat up slowly, easing her back, and off of him, while holding eye contact. Gripping her neck fur with one gloved hand, he stroked his other gloved hand down the silver fur of her shoulder. His voice dropped to a low croon.  “Yes, wolf, be stilled. Be at ease.”

Languid ease infiltrated her mind and spread, making it hard to think, making it hard to stand upright. Off balance, she rocked on her paws.

 “Yes, very good, you are a brave wolf.” He stoked her neck and shoulders with both hands. “Rest. Lie down and sleep.”

Pressure increased on her mind. She wanted to rest. She wanted to lie down and sleep, just like he said. She stilled. Like he’d said? It was him, he was in her head! She jerked back.

“Wolf?” He caught her by the neck fur. “What disturbs you?” His narrowed gaze pierced into her mind, probing her thoughts with smoky black fingers.

She twisted sharply fighting to break away, and a frightened whine escaped her throat. Get out! Get out of my head!

“What?” His silver brows rose, then dropped. “A wolf should not have such thoughts.”

She froze. He could hear her? He was listening to her thoughts?

His gaze focused. “Human intelligence? How is this?” His curiosity drove fingers of darkness deeper into her mind; questions looking for answers.

Panicking, she twisted her head to break eye contact. No, no, no! My secret!

“A secret!” He gripped her neck fur and fought to keep eye contact. “Tell me your secret!”

No! She reared up and back, dragging him with her.

“Yes!” He wrestled her to the cave floor, and pinned her on her side, holding her down with his greater weight. He caught her long muzzle and forced her gaze to his. “Tell me, now!”

A steel spike of power slammed through the center of her skull. She howled in agony — and changed.

V^^^V

Thorn snapped aware, naked and curled up on the icy stone floor. She shivered and opened her eyes.

The silver-haired man poised above her on his palms, framing her naked body with his. His expression was one of complete astonishment. His eyes narrowed and his long teeth appeared. “Who has done this sorcery?”

She wrapped her arms about herself and trembled with cold and fear. He had forced her change into her human form. Would he kill her now?

Ch-2

Two

She shivered in the bitter cold, and couldn’t stop her teeth from chattering.

“Glory to the Night, you will freeze!” He jerked open his coat. Catching her shoulders, he pulled her up and into his lap, wrapping his coat closed around them both.

Thorn froze in surprise. What was this? He wasn’t going to kill her?

His arms closed around her. “Be still.”

Thorn could feel the pressure of his mind on hers, and didn’t bother to fight it. He wasn’t going to kill her and that was all that mattered. She curled into his embrace, wrapping her arms around him. His body was not particularly warm against hers, but it was better than nothing. He smelled of wool, and man, and shadows. The shirt under her cheek went to his knees and was made of heavy silk. She could smell a small amount of dried blood on it. Her body heat filled his coat and her shivering eased.

“You are warming, good.” Holding her close, he looked around. “Ah, a coat, and a pack… Yours, I assume?”

Thorn nodded.

“Good.” He inched forward, cradling her in his arms, and eased down. “The fleece will hold warmth.”

The softness of her sheepskin coat pressed against her back. His body draped atop hers, a heavy, and solid, blanket of flesh and muscle. His coat covered her past her feet. He was far broader and much taller. 

He lifted up onto his forearms and gazed down at her. “Where has your fear gone?”

Thorn stared up at him. Stupid question. If he was going to kill her he wouldn’t have wrapped her in his coat to warm her.

“Very practical.” He smiled, carefully hiding his teeth. “And quite lovely.”

So was he. With wolf’s eyes she had not noticed that his mature face was one of carved beauty. She lifted her hand and pressed it to his cheek to explore the exquisite line of his jaw and throat. His skin was soft under her fingers.

He started, then smiled. “Ah, a sensualist.” He rubbed his cheek against her palm. “When I followed you, I did not know that you would prove such a treasure.”

He’d followed her? Thorn frowned up at him. Was he out of his mind? What was he thinking, going into a cave with a wolf?

He smiled. “I was thinking to feed upon wolf, but I find myself hungering for wolf maiden.”

She frowned. He was still following her thoughts?

He brushed a stray hair from her brow. “Yes. You have tasted my blood. Your mind is open to mine.”

She froze. Wait a minute… Did he say, feed?

“Oh yes.” He groaned and shifted his hips against hers. The length of his swelling erection pressed against her belly. “You shall satisfy my appetites most pleasantly.”

The heat of awakening lust coiled in her belly, even as alarm washed through her. She did not want to get eaten! She twisted under him. If she could break loose, she could escape back into wolf-fur.

“What is this?” He caught and pinned her hands above her head, “Now you are afraid?”

She snarled and bucked hard under him.

His legs closed tight around her, holding her firmly beneath him with an ease that was simply not possible by a normal man. “More wolf than maiden.”

She bared her teeth and snapped. If he did not let her go she would take his throat!

He pulled his head back and scowled. “Be at ease, I do not intend your death. Have I not proved this already?”

She stilled. He had had a point. She looked up at him in suspicion.

“Good.” He nodded, releasing her hands, then shifted his hips, settling himself between her thighs. The rigid heat of his fabric-trapped shaft pressed against her bare and moist flesh.

Delight sparked from the friction of his trousers against her. She sucked in a breath.

He smiled, and very deliberately, rubbed against the softness of her core. “Ah, yes, very much a sensualist.”

She bit her lip against the heat throbbing in her flesh. She didn’t trust him. She didn’t know what he was, or what he meant by hungers and feeding.

“My hunger?” He smiled. “Allow me…” He dropped his head and his mouth opened on her bare breast. His lips claimed a nipple, and his tongue flicked the captured tip.

Heat speared straight down and clenched deliciously in her belly. She arched up toward his mouth, her lips opening on a moan. Oh, he meant lust, hungers of the flesh. This she understood.

He groaned and sucked hard on her breast. Yes, I hunger for your lust.

She blinked. Was that his thought? She could hear his thoughts?  

As I hear yours. His hand slid between their bodies, and his fingers closed on her thigh. Open. He caught her nipple in his front teeth and tugged.

Fire burned from her nipple straight down to throb in her clit. She gasped and parted her thighs. She couldn’t help herself.

 Yes… He leaned back onto his side and pulled her with him, tugging her thigh over his hip. He raised his knee, spreading her and holding her open. He reached down to cup her feminine heat then slid one finger along her moist folds.

She clutched at his shoulders and shifted against his fingers, rubbing her moistening flesh against his palm.

“Yes, yes… That is what I want.” His fingers played among her intimate folds, lightly stroking the tiny sensitive nub, encouraging her body into bucking response until her cream slicked his fingers. He flashed a smile. “Excellent.” He insinuated a finger deep into her, found something deep within, and flicked.

She jolted under his touch and writhed in delight. It had been too long since she had played with a skilled lover. She dug under his shirt to sweep her hands across his muscular chest. She found his hard nipples, and rubbed her palms against them.

He groaned. “Now I am being seduced!”

She smiled. Did he think he was the only one with skills?

 “Ah, a challenge.” He flashed a brief smile and lowered his head to scrape his sharp overlong teeth along her breast, his tongue following the path of his teeth.

She moaned. The light sharp pricks of his fangs and the delicious wet velvet of his tongue added to the delight of his fingers, coiling into a lascivious trembling pleasure just shy of ecstasy. She bucked against his hand and released a soft cry, begging for the release that was so close.

He lifted his head from her breast to catch her gaze. He pressed her onto her back, his hips cradled between her spread thighs. Staring straight into her eyes, he lowered his head.

She raised her chin, offering her lips.

His mouth took hers, his tongue surging in to take possession. Propped up on one forearm, he slid his other hand down her waist and over her hips in a long caress.

She sucked and nipped on his tongue. He tasted of fresh water, strongly aroused male, and oddly, of blood. There was another more subtle flavor beneath it, something dark and dangerous. She found it painfully exciting. Her tongue found a long fang and she explored carefully.

He groaned and his hand moved between them. He jerked at himself and grunted. The hot length of his extremely rigid cock pressed against her soft belly. He lifted his mouth from hers and centered his cock at the moist entrance to her body. Heat and intent narrowed his gaze. “I am going to take you.”

She nearly grinned. “If you don’t, I’m going to take you instead!”

He blinked startled. “Oh, you are American, yes?” He spoke in heavily accented, but perfectly understandable, English.

Her mouth opened in surprise. “Yes.”

“You are very far from your home.” He nodded, clearly pleased. “Very good.”

Her brows shot up. “Very good?” 

Coiling one arm under hers, he grasped her shoulder from underneath, rose over her and smiled. “Yes, very good, for me.” He thrust, with power.

His cock speared into her with a strength she hadn’t encountered before, striking something deep within. Pleasure slammed her with a hammer’s blow. She arched and gasped. “God!” She clutched him under his shirt and dug her fingers into his bare back. “More!”

He flashed a broad smile, and slid his hand under her to cup her ass. “Very good.” He thrust again.

She cried out and bucked under him in response, without bothering to hold back.

He gasped and his fingers tightened on her shoulder. “Night! You have strength!” His other hand closed on her ass, his fingers digging in. “Very good, very much a pleasure for me.” He ground his rigid cock into her.

She grinned and rolled up under him. “A pleasure for me too. Finally, a man I can’t break.”

He licked his lips and his eyes narrowed. “Oh, I will not…break.” He tightened his grip on her ass and slammed into her with a thoroughly male grunt, then again, and again…  

She wrapped her legs around his hips, bucking violently under him, matching him, stroke for stroke, and moaning in greedy delight.

His face a tight mask of concentration and hunger, he groaned and thrust, fucking her brutally, and without reservation.

She replied with ferocious counterthrusts. Sliding her hand down, and into his loosened pants, she felt the muscles of his ass flexing under her palm, and dug her fingers in to encourage him.

He responded with swifter thrusts and soft groans.

The sounds of damp flesh striking damp flesh filled the cave, underscored by masculine grunts and soft feminine cries. The raw scent of sweat, and lust, thickened the air.

She writhed under him, his hard thrusts delivering lightning flashes of pleasure. Erotic tension coiled tight in her belly. She was going to cum, and cum hard.

His mouth dropped to her throat and his tongue made exciting wet swirls against her pulse. His hand slid down from under her shoulder and came around to close on her breast. He trapped her nipple, between thumb and forefinger, and squeezed with ruthless strength.

The bright stab of delight from her nipple jolted her clit hard. Her breath stopped, and she trembled uncontrollably, balancing on the edge of the abyss.

He reached under to cup her ass with both hands. “Cum for me!” He slammed into her. “Now!” He thrust again.

Release struck, burning up her spine to explode in the back of her skull. Drowning under a molten wave of carnal euphoria, she threw her head back and howled, bucking wildly.

Holding her tight, and riding her frantic body, he sank his teeth into the side of her throat.

The bright hot pain of his bite slammed her back up, and over, into a second violent climax. She clawed at his back and shrieked.

He sucked on her throat, and a deep groan escaped. He thrust powerfully, then thrust again, and trembled violently.

She felt his cock releasing within her, and writhed under him, shuddering with tremors.

He pulled his mouth away from her throat with a gasp. “Night!”

They collapsed together, trembling with the ebb of passion.

“Forgive me, I am undone.” He pressed a kiss to her shoulder. “Your taste is intoxicating.”

She panted with his heavy weight in her arms. “Thank you. You’re pretty impressive yourself.” She raised a hand to her stinging neck.

He reached out and caught her wrist. “Do not. The wound is still fresh.” He slid to her left side and pushed her hip. “Up. Up on your side.”

She rolled onto her side and pillowed her head on her arm. Languorous repletion washed through her. “God I haven’t let go like that, in…” She frowned. “In ever.”

“I too, have long been…cautious, in my, affairs.” He tucked his long coat over them both. Wrapping an arm around her, he leaned up behind her. “It was a very great pleasure.”

She snuggled back against him. “It was incredible.”

He leaned down to stroke the wounds on her throat with his tongue.

She pushed her hair out of the way and lifted her chin to give him better access.

He started. “You do not mind?”

She snorted. “I am a wolf. I lick all my wounds.”

“Ah, yes, of course.” His head dropped and his tongue swept across the wounds on her neck. He stopped. “You are healing very quickly.”

“I do that.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “You could have told me you wanted a taste of blood.”

He leaned up on one elbow to look down on her. “If I had told you such, would you have let me?”

She turned and looked up at him. “I am a wolf. I understand the occasional need to taste blood during sex.”

His brows shot up. “You need to taste blood?”

She smiled. “Occasionally.”

He brushed a finger across her cheek and chuckled. “Oh yes, you are perfect for my needs.”

“What?” A chill slithered down her spine. That better not be what it sounded like.

He raised a brow and smiled. “Fear not, I will take very good care of you.”

She caught his arm and dug her fingers in. “I can’t stay with you.”

He frowned. “And why is that?”

She avoided his gaze. “I have responsibilities…”

He caught her chin and made her look at him. His silver brows lowered and his eyes narrowed. “To whom?”

To her government; she had a package to deliver. She scowled and jerked her chin from his hand. “That is none of your business.”

He perched his chin on his hand and pursed his lips. “Ah, you are a messenger, a courier, for your government.” He shrugged. “I care not.”  

She twisted out of his arms and sat up. She’d forgotten that he could pluck the thoughts from her head.

He smiled. “I will show my kindness. You may deliver your package, then you will return to me.”

“What?” She curled her lip at him. “I am not a dog to come to your heel. I am a wolf! I wear no one’s collar.”  

He smiled and caressed her thigh. “And your United States does not have a collar on you?”

She stilled. They did, but not for much longer. She glared at him. “That was a low blow. My contract ends after this delivery.”

“Excellent.” He smiled, showing a hint of his long teeth. “You will be very good for me.”

“You’re assuming that I’ll come back after my delivery.” She closed her arms about her breasts. It was chilly in the cave and only the bottom half of her was covered by his coat. “What if I don’t?”  

“You will return.” He grinned and tugged her down into his arms. “Or, I will find you.”

It was too cold to fight, so she didn’t bother. She snuggled into his embrace. “Fair warning, I am not so easily tracked.”

“Ah, but I am not so easily lost.” He tucked his coat around them both, and curled against her back. His hand slid up to cup her breast. “Do you have a name?”

She started. She didn’t know his name either. “I’m Thorn, Thorn Ferrell.”

He chuckled softly. “A good name. You may call me by Yaroslav.”

She turned to look at him. “No last name?”

He smiled. “I have many, and all difficult for your American tongue. Better to use Yaroslav.” He pressed her down and held her close. “Sleep.”

She yawned and a question tugged at her. “What are you?”

He chuckled against her throat. “You could not tell?”

“You’re not human…”

“No. I am upir, vampire.”

A vampire? Not likely. She snorted. “You’re nothing like a vampire. Well, other than drinking my blood.”

“I assure you, I am upir. And you are were-wolf, yes?”

She frowned. “Yes.”

“Much that is told of your kind, is incorrect, yes?”

She nibbled on her bottom lip. “Yes.” The big one being that she didn’t need to eat people.

“Same is with upir. A very great much that is told of my kind, is incorrect.”

“I see.” She frowned. If this man was a vampire, then somebody definitely had their definitions wrong. Just for starters, Yaroslav was very much alive.

“Thorn?” His voice was soft against her neck. “I would be very much interested in who has made you such?”

Thorn stared into the shadows. “So would I, Yaroslav.” Her jaw tightened. “So would I.”

“You do not know?”

“I know what he looks like, but I never got his name. He called himself, the Doctor.”

“Ah…” His lips pressed against her shoulder and his arms tightened around her. “Sleep, sweet Thorn.”

V^^^V

She dreamed…of fire.

A city was burning in the night. Smoke and red-tinted shadows leaped, towering over acres and acres of wood and stone buildings. A roaring red wind full of ash tore the city apart, nearly obscuring the sound of screams…

Thorn jerked awake shivering. She took deep breaths and forced her slamming heart to calm. A dream, it was just a dream.

Yaroslav moaned softly at her back. His hands tightened around her.

Thorn looked over her shoulder. Yaroslav was asleep and apparently having a bad dream too. She turned in his arms and slid her arms around him. She pressed her lips to his brow.

He pressed closer, rubbing his cheek against hers, sighing softly. He shivered, hard.

She winced in sheer sympathy. It must be a really bad dream. She frowned. He had said that her mind was open to his, and his was just as open to hers. Could see have seen his dream? Her brows lifted. Could she deliver a better dream?

What could it hurt to try?
She closed her eyes and pressed her brow to his. Concentrating, she pictured mountains, her mountains, the snow-peaked Adirondacks under a midnight summer sky full of stars bright enough to touch. Forests of tall straight trees marching up steep mountainsides filled with white-tailed deer. Sparkling waterfalls falling into pools of mist, and meadows of wildflowers…

Yaroslav drew in a breath. “Is this your America?”

She smiled. He could see it. “Yes, these are my mountains.” She concentrated harder, focusing on the cliff-heights and the storms that filled the valleys…

“They seem…big.”

She chuckled. “It takes months to walk from one end of the Adirondacks to the other. The Rockies, at the other end of the country, are much bigger and take over a month just to simply cross.”

His lips brushed her ear and he sighed deeply. “You give me good dreams.”

She leaned back to press her cheek against his. “That was the idea.”

His breathing deepened and his body relaxed.

She smiled. He’d fallen asleep. Good. She snuggled into his embrace, and her memories of home.

Ch-3

Three

Thorn’s eyes snapped open. She was curled up tight in a cave, under a warm, and heavy, weight. She turned her head. A man was sleeping practically on top of her. Oh yes, Yaroslav – the vampire. She looked up. His tiny glowing heatless light still floated above them.

Light trickled down the cave’s tunnel. Her wolf instincts suggested that sunset was not far away. It was time to go.

Thorn wriggled out from under Yaroslav. Her breath steamed out and chills raced across her skin. It was seriously cold. She grabbed her pack, then turned to stare at the black and gray sheep-fleeced coat Yaroslav was sleeping on top of. She couldn’t leave without that coat.

The pressure in her bladder forced her into her wolf shape and outside. The late afternoon sun was bright, and the sky a clear hard blue, but she could smell a coming snow on the wind. A quick sniff, and a hasty dig, turned up a hibernating rabbit for a breakfast snack. However, at the speed she was traveling, she was going to need to eat something larger than a rabbit before the day ended.

She dove back into the cave. She needed to go.

Yaroslav was sprawled belly down across her entire coat.

Thorn laid her tall ears back. She needed that coat as a human. Braving the chill, she assumed her human form and gripped the edge of her coat.

Yaroslav opened his eyes halfway, and yawned. “Ah, a naked woman; how pleasing.”

Thorn shivered. “I need my coat. I have to go.”

“I see.” He winced, rolled over onto his back and sprawled in a full-body stretch. He smiled and held out one hand. “You may leave, after I have a kiss.”

Pushy bastard. Thorn rolled her eyes. “Oh, all right.” She crawled over to grasp his hand.

He tugged, hard.

She fell, sprawling, on top of him.

He grinned and rolled her under him.

Thorn grabbed his shoulders. “Hey!”

He pouted ferociously. “What? I am merely trying to keep you warm.”

Thorn lifted her brow. He was a hard substantial weight atop her, and heavily aroused. “Oh, is that all?”

“But of course.” He lowered his head. “I will have my kiss now, if you please?”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, leaned up and met his lips, then his warm velvety tongue. Her eyes drifted closed, and she explored the softness of his lips and tongue.

He groaned in appreciation and fit his mouth to hers, his tongue stroking hers as though he could not get his fill.

Heat flashed and coiled tight with merciless greed. She moaned. Her thighs parted and her knees lifted, to let him rest between them.

His hips shifted, and his hand slipped between them. He grunted and the heated weight of his unrestrained shaft pressed against her moistening flesh. 

She pulled from his lips. “I thought all you wanted was a kiss?”

He smiled. “I am not such a fool as to turn down a woman who clearly wishes more than a kiss.”

Her mouth opened. “Who, me?”

“Was I mistaken?” His fingers explored her sensitive folds and ripe clit.

Her body jolted under the sparks of delight that danced through her. She gasped, pushing up against his fingers.  

He smiled. “Shall I stop?”

She groaned. “You do, and you die.”

His brows lifted. “Ah, now you are demanding?” His fingers gently rolled her swollen clit. “This sweet fruit, I look forward to tasting when there is a bed, and a fire.”

She choked and bucked hard. His brutally tender caress was so pleasurable it was closer to pain.

His finger entered her and flicked within.

She shuddered with violent urgency and writhed against his deliciously stroking fingers. “All right, you win.” She lifted her legs, hooking her heels around his waist. “You can have more than a kiss.”

His fingers stroked deep into her. “Are you quite sure?” His thumb swept across her swollen clit.

She jolted right to the edge of ecstasy. With a gasp, she threw back her head and arched up hard. “God yes! Please, damn you, fuck me already!”

He grinned. “Such a sweet invitation…” He shifted and set the broad head of his cock to her slick entrance. “How can one resist?” He thrust.

She met his stroke with an upward push and he sheathed himself deep within her.

They both groaned in satisfaction.

His mouth took her breast and his teeth worried at her swollen nipple.

The exquisite torment of his tender bite speared into her belly. She tightened her legs around him, and burrowed under his shirt to pull him tighter to her.

Stroke and counterstroke was agonizingly slow, yet deep, punctuated by heartfelt sighs and greedy moans.

Climax rose and held on the trembling edge. She set her heels into the floor and pushed to encourage him to a quicker pace. She was right there…

“Not so quickly.” He groaned and slid his hands down to cup her ass. “Control your greed.”

“Please!” She writhed, fighting his hold. “I’m right there!”

“In time.” He dug his fingers into her cheeks, holding her rhythm to his brutally slower pace. “I wish to savor.”

“Damn you…” She fought to get closer, but he held her back with his slow yet powerful strokes. Frustration made her shudder beneath him.

He opened the collar of his shirt, then tugged both the shirt and his coat down, baring his right shoulder. He cupped the back of her head, and pressed her mouth to the hard muscle of his shoulder. “Bite, and taste my blood.” He thrust, and groaned. “As I tasted yours.”

So close to the edge of bliss, and held back from reaching it, she seriously wanted to bite him. She opened her mouth and bit down, hard.

“Yes…” He gasped. “Yes…yes…”

His skin parted under her teeth and his blood, thick and sweet, slid over her tongue. It barely tasted like blood at all, and it burned, like potent whisky. She jerked back.

“No.” His hand cupped the back of her head, keeping her mouth against his shoulder. “Drink.”

She didn’t want to, he didn’t taste right. She pushed against him.

His fingers locked in her hair. “Drink.”

Her mouth filled, she had to swallow or choke.

“Drink!”

A spike of darkness shoved at her mind. She whimpered in alarm and swallowed. The thick liquid burned all the way to her stomach. She groaned.

“Ah…yes, very good.” He shuddered, and his thrusts increased in power. “Again.”

Her mouth was already filling with his burningly potent blood. She swallowed and languorous heat spilled down her throat and spread from her belly. Her thoughts drifted apart.

He stilled, hard and deep within her, holding her fiercely tight. “Now, cum!”

Climax rose and clenched violently within her, stopping her breath.

His mouth closed on her throat and his teeth sank viciously deep. He thrust, slamming into her without mercy.

The sharp bite pushed her over the edge, and her release exploded in a horrific torrent of fire that burned up her spine, spilling over her in a wave of unexpectedly ferocious, carnal euphoria. She hammered up to meet his violent thrusts and screamed her delight.

Moaning, he thrust deep and held, his cock trembling within her. He swallowed, drinking the blood pumping from her throat.

Clinging tightly to his shoulders, she moaned through the aftermath of her ferocious pleasure, and the aching sting of his feeding.

He pulled his teeth from her throat and shuddered. “Night and blood…” His tongue swept across her wounds. 

She sprawled under him, struggling to think through the fog in her mind. An odd heat coursed through her.

He leaned back and smiled down at her. “Yes, very good.” He licked his lips and then nodded. “In fact, most excellent.”

She stared up her bite on his neck. His wound had already stopped bleeding. Apparently he healed as fast as she did. She frowned, reached up and slid her hands through his hair. His hair was no longer pure silver, but streaked in black, and his face had smoothed. She pressed her palm to his cheek. “Are you getting…younger?”

His brows swept up, then he shrugged, his gaze drifting from hers. “I am vampire, and your blood is…potent.”

She frowned. “Is that a yes, or a no?”

He dropped his head and smiled. “That is a yes. The magic in your blood feeds mine.”

Thorn licked her lips, and tasted the sweet potency of his blood. “Magic?”

He snorted. “But of course. That is how one makes one such as you. That is what allows you to move between bodies. How else would two souls and two bodies be joined?”

She looked away, remembering the glowing ring. “But the Doctor said he was a scientist.” She looked up at him. “I thought what he did was science?”

“Your Doctor…” He curled his lip. “Is magi, a user of magic.”

She frowned. “Are you sure?”

He smiled sourly. “I am without a doubt.” He lowered his head and softly brushed his lips against hers. “We will speak on this, at another time.” He took her lips, pressing her mouth open under his. He explored her mouth and lapped at the traces of his blood on her tongue. He pulled back, dropped a quick kiss on her brow, then lifted up on his palms. “Now, you may go.”

She scowled. “Oh, gee, thanks.”

He tilted his head and his gaze brightened. “You do not wish to go?”

Of course she did. She opened her mouth to say so, and felt reluctance. She frowned. She didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to leave him. But she had to deliver her package. She leaned up on her elbows.  “I have to go.”

A smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “I am in anticipation, of the delights, of your return.”

She smiled. “So sure I’ll come back?”

Yaroslav sat up, and then leaned back on his heels to straighten his clothes. “I am.”

“Is that so?” Thorn lifted her coat from the floor and shook it. She winced against the thrown sand. “I may not.”

“You will.” Yaroslav lifted his chin to button his dark silk shirt. “There is much you do not understand about what you are, and what I am to you.”

Thorn rolled her coat into a bundle and grabbed her pack. “And you know all the answers?” She shoved her coat into her pack.

Yaroslav winced. “Not all the answers, no.” He focused on her. “However, I have no doubt that you will return to me.”

She rolled her eyes and slid her arms into the straps of her pack. “You’re awfully sure of yourself.”

“You will come…” He leaned forward on his knees and caught her face. “Because you cannot resist me.” He smiled from only a kiss away.

She lifted her brow, and bit back a smile of her own. “Really?”

He leaned close and brushed his lips against hers.

She answered his caress without thinking. Their mouths joined in a sweet hot kiss. Warmth coiled around her heart. She jerked back, startled. What the hell was that?

 “There, you see?” He released her and smiled tiredly. “You already have love for me.”

She froze. Love? Her mouth curved up into a cynical smile. “I’ll admit to lust, but I am not in love with you.”

 “Of course you are.” He nodded and tugged at his coat. “I am of great age. I know love when I feel it.” He waved a hand toward the cave entrance. “You must go.” His smile broadened. “I will follow with the night.”

She sat back on her heels. “You’re going to follow me?”

He groaned and sprawled out on his back. “Later, when full night has come. Now, I will sleep.” He folded his harms behind his head.

She scowled and shivered, but she couldn’t tell if she trembled from the cold, or from the idea of him following her, of her seeing him again. She shook her head in confusion. Later, she would worry about it later. Her wolf rose from within in a wash of joy, heat and power.

Standing firmly on four paws, she leaned back to stretch her long forelegs, then leaned forward to stretch her back legs. Oh yes, the rest, and the bed-sport, had done her a world of good. She shook hard to settle her fur and her pack.

Yaroslav looked over at her. “You have great beauty, as a woman and as a wolf.” He held out his hand. “Come, I would touch your glorious coat.”

She padded over to him, though not sure why. As a wolf, she normally did not want to be touched.

His fingers slid through her fur in a long caress. “You are silver, like the moon, and so large.” 

Pleasure stirred along her spine. His touch felt good. Too good. She had to resist the urge to rub against him for more. She moved away.

He waved his hand. “Yes, yes, you must go.”

She turned to the cave mouth and scrabbled her way out and into the setting sun. The chill wind ruffled her fur. She turned her nose toward the pass, and hesitated. Her tail switched. She didn’t want to leave him alone, and undefended.

She shook herself hard. He had defended himself just fine against her fangs. He could handle anything else. She stepped away, and each long step became easier to take. She bounded up onto the snowy ledges and the joy of running in fur took her.

The sun fell completely, and the stars filled the blue velvet of the night sky. 

She reached the pass at the mountain’s peak just as the moon rose. Standing atop snow that would not hold a man’s weight, she looked back. The cave was very far away and well down the mountainside. She lifted her nose to the waning moon and sang. Her voice sailed into the sky, deep and strong, and then high, like the whistle of a hawk, echoing across the mountains. I am here…!

Laughter echoed in the back of her thoughts. Why so you are.

The journey down the mountainside was swift and full of bounding, joyful leaps from cliff edge to cliff edge. Visibility was excellent. The moon on the snow made the night very nearly as bright as day. The cliff-heights became rolling heavily forested foothills and the snow thinned underfoot.

A small deer started before her and she gave chase. She needed to eat. She had changed too many times in too short a period. The deer fell under her fangs and she feasted on sweet hot meat.

The scent of wolves drifted on the breeze.

She lifted her head and detected movement in the deep shadows under the trees. She licked her lips, cleaning her teeth. She turned and left her kill for them to feast on. She couldn’t eat the whole deer anyway, not on a run. It was better this way, no waste.

She entered the farmland valleys. Ears forward and tail straight out, she bounded across snow covered fallow fields. Dogs barked in the night. Small villages dotted the valleys, but she continued by. She was looking for something much larger, a town with a railway station.

The night passed and dawn colored the thick dark clouds in bruising shades. There was snow on the wind.

The bitter scent of coal fires and the distinctive scent of train steam warned her that was coming to the town she was looking for. On a small rise she stopped to look. Her wolf eyes were not particularly keen on details, but there was no mistaking that she was looking at a good-sized town, nestled deep in a valley, surrounded by the mountains she had just crossed. However, the sour scent of burning scrap-wood overwhelmed the sharp scent of burning coal. More people were using cheap wood rather than coal to heat their homes.

Or houses were burning.

She didn’t see any leaping flames and only traces of black smoke. Puzzled, but determined, she trotted toward the town.

Head low, she followed the muddy road into town, but stayed among the hedges to avoid being seen by the early morning farm traffic. Wolves tended to draw bullets. Luckily, her coat blended in with the winter terrain.

A row of massive factories squatted right on the town’s edge. Steam whistles announced the stoking of the factory boilers, and the change in shift. People bundled in heavy coats, caps and mufflers, slowly made their way in, and out, of the multi-storied brick monstrosities.

Slipping out from the brush, she bounded over railroad tracks and skirted the walls of the factories, avoiding the pools of light cast from the tall paned windows. She spotted a gate into the town proper, but people and wagons moved in and out of it. A momentary lull in traffic came. She bolted across the icy cobbled yard and into the town.

Shouts followed her down the street.

She ducked into an alley, her claws clicking on the cobbles. She lifted her head, searching the backs of the cheek to jowl buildings for an abandoned stable. It was time to assume her human form.

Slender red-coated wolf dogs drifted slyly from the backs of the scattered houses. They were half her size and weight, and stank of the human garbage they ate.

She lowered her head, but kept her ears up and her tail lifted in deliberate warning that she would kill any that came too close.

They eyed her and kept their distance.

Behind a crumbling fire scorched house, she found a stable in relatively good condition. She ducked inside and changed. Shivering in bare human skin, she padded into a stall and tugged off her pack. Dressing with haste, she pulled on her warmest socks and her thickest creamy flannel shirt, before stepping into her dungarees.

One of the odd advantages of moving between shapes was that it kept her clean. Dirt, and fleas, left with the shift between bodies. There was no trace of the blood, and other things, from her love-making with Yaroslav. She smiled. Trying to find clean and unfrozen water to wash with before dressing would have been a nightmare.

She pulled her pale brown hair back and secured her braid with a thong, then tugged on her grey sheepskin coat. She stopped and sniffed. The black fleece lining smelled of Yaroslav. She smiled and her belly warmed with memory. She doubted she would see him again, but what they had shared had been well worth the delay.

She shrugged her pack onto her back and stepped out of the stable into gray morning daylight. Jamming her hat on her head, she pulled the card from her coat pocket. It was time to find her delivery address. She strode out to the main road.

There were Russian soldiers everywhere.

From the mouths of the alley, Thorn watched line after line of them march by without stopping. The local townsfolk stared at them in confusion. Apparently, no one had any idea what the Russian army was doing there, but they didn’t seem to be bothering anyone and they all appeared to be heading for the main gate out of town.

Thorn shrugged. The Russian army was not her problem, and started searching.

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