Shiver, page 36part #1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series
“We’d have to drive to Vegas,” I said. “No one around here to marry us at this hour except deer and a few drunk guys. ”
“It would have to be the deer,” Grace said firmly. “The drunk guys would slur our names and that would ruin the moment. ”
“Somehow, having a deer preside over the ceremony of a werewolf and a girl seems oddly appropriate, anyway. ”
Grace laughed. “And it would get my parents’ attention. ‘Mom, Dad, I’ve gotten married. Don’t look at me like that. He only sheds part of the year. ’”
I shook my head. I felt like telling her thanks, but instead, I said, “It was Beck on the phone. ”
“Yeah. He was in Canada with Salem—one of the wolves who’s gone completely crazy. ” It was only part of the truth, but at least it was the truth.
“I want to meet him,” Grace said immediately. My face must’ve gone funny, because she said, “Beck, I mean. He’s practically your dad, isn’t he?”
I rubbed my fingers over the steering wheel, eyes glancing from the road to my knuckles pressed into a white grip. Strange how some people took their skin for granted, never thought of what it would be like to lose it. Sloughing my skin / escaping its grip / stripped of my wit / it hurts to be me. I thought of the most fatherly memory I had of Beck. “We had this big grill at his house, and I remember, one night, he was tired of doing the cooking and he said, ‘Sam, tonight you’re feeding us. ’ He showed me how to push on the middle of the steaks to see how done they were, and how to sear them fast on each side to keep the juices in. ”
“And they were awesome, weren’t they?”
“I burned the hell out of them,” I said, matter-of-fact. “I’d compare them to charcoal, but charcoal is still sort of edible. ”
Grace started to laugh.
“Beck ate his,” I said, smiling ruefully at the memory. “He said it was the best steak he’d ever had, because he hadn’t had to make it. ”
That felt like a long time ago.
Grace was smiling at me, like old stories about me and my pack leader were the greatest thing in the world. Like it was inspirational. Like we had something, Beck and me, father and son.
In my head, the kid in the back of the Tahoe looked at me and said, “Help. ”
Grace asked, “How long has it been? I mean—not since the steaks. Since you were bitten. ”
“I was seven. Eleven years ago. ”
She asked, “Why were you in the woods? I mean, you’re from Duluth, aren’t you? Or at least that’s what it said on your driver’s license. ”
“I wasn’t attacked in the woods,” I said. “It was all over the papers. ”
Grace’s eyes held me; I looked away to the dim road in front of us.
“Two wolves attacked me while I was getting onto the school bus. One of them held me down, and the other one bit me. ” Ripped at me, really, as if its only goal had been to draw blood. But of course, that had been the goal, hadn’t it? Looking back, it all seemed painfully clear. I’d never thought to look beyond my simple childhood memory of being attacked by wolves, and Beck stepping in as my savior after my parents had tried to kill me. I had been so close to Beck, and Beck had been so above reproach, that I hadn’t wanted to look any deeper. But now, retelling the story to Grace shoved the unavoidable truth right at me: My attack had been no accident. I’d been chosen, hunted down, and dragged into the street to be infected, just like those kids in the back of the Tahoe. Later Beck had arrived to pick up the pieces.
You’re the best of them, Beck’s voice said in my head. He had thought I’d outlive him and take over the pack. I should’ve been angry. Furious at having my life ripped away from me. But there was just white noise inside me, a dull hum of nothingness.
“In the city?” Grace asked.
“The suburbs. There weren’t any woods around. Neighbors said they saw the wolves running through their backyards to escape afterward. ”
Grace didn’t say anything. The fact that I’d been deliberately hunted felt obvious to me, and I kept waiting for her to say it. I kind of wanted her to say it, to point out the unfairness. But she didn’t. I just felt her frowning at me, thinking.
“Which wolves?” Grace asked finally.
“I don’t remember. One of them might’ve been Paul, because one of them was black. That’s all I know. ”
There was silence for several long moments, and then we were home. The driveway of the house still stood empty, and Grace blew out a long breath.
“Looks like we’re on our own again,” she said. “Stay here until I get the door unlocked, okay?”
Grace jumped out of the car, letting in a blast of cold air that bit my cheeks; I turned the heater up as high as it would go to prepare myself for the journey inside. Leaning on the vents, feeling the heat sting my skin, I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to will myself back into the distraction I had felt earlier. Back when I was holding Grace against me in the candy shop, feeling her warm body searing against mine, watching her smell the air, knowing she was smelling me—I shivered. I didn’t know if I could stand another night with her, behaving myself.
“Sam!” called Grace from outside. I opened my eyes, focusing on her head poking out of the cracked front door. She was trying to keep the entryway as warm as possible for me. Clever.
Time to run. Shutting off the Bronco, I leaped out and bolted up the slick sidewalk, feet slipping a bit on the ice, my skin prickling and twisting.
Grace slammed the door shut behind me, locking the cold outside, and threw her arms around me, lending her heat to my body. Her voice was a breathless whisper near my ear. “Are you warm enough?”
My eyes, starting to adjust to the darkness in the hall, caught the glimmer of light in her eyes, the outline of her hair, the curve of her arms around me. A mirror on the wall offered a similarly dim portrait of the shape of her body against mine. I let her hold me for a long moment before I said, “I’m okay. ”
“Do you want anything to eat?” Her voice sounded loud in the empty house, echoing off the wood floor. The only other sound was the air through the heating vents, a steady, low breath. I was acutely aware that we were alone.
I swallowed. “I want to go to bed. ”
She sounded relieved. “I do, too. ”
I almost regretted that she agreed with me, because maybe if I’d stayed up, eaten a sandwich, watched TV, something, I could’ve distracted myself from how badly I wanted her.
But she hadn’t disagreed. Kicking off her shoes behind the door, she padded down the hallway in front of me. We slipped into her dark bedroom, no light but the moon reflecting off the thin layer of snow outside the window. The door closed with a soft sigh and snick and she leaned on it, her hands still on the doorknob behind her. A long moment passed before she said anything. “Why are you so careful with me, Sam Roth?”
I tried to tell her the truth. “I—it’s—I’m not an animal. ”
“I’m not afraid of you,” she said.
She didn’t look afraid of me. She looked beautiful, moonlit, tempting, smelling of peppermint and soap and skin. I’d spent eleven years watching the rest of the pack become animals, pushing down my instincts, controlling myself, fighting to stay human, fighting to do the right thing.
As if reading my thoughts, she said, “Can you tell me it’s only the wolf in you that wants to kiss me?”
All of me wanted to kiss her hard enough to make me disappear. I braced my arms on either side of her head, the door giving out a creak as I leaned against it, and I pressed my mouth against hers. She kissed me back, lips hot, tongue flicking against my teeth, hands still behind her, body still pressed against the door. Everything in me buzzed, electric, wanting to close the few inches of space between us.
She kissed me harder, breath huffing into my mouth, and bit my lower lip. Oh, hell, that was amazing. I growled before I could stop myself, but before I could even think to
“That was so sexy,” she said, voice uneven. “I didn’t think you could get any sexier. ”
I kissed her again before she could say anything else, backing into the room with her, a tangle of arms in the moonlight. Her fingers hooked into the back of my jeans, thumbs brushing my hip bones, pulling me even closer to her.
“Oh, God, Grace,” I gasped. “You—you greatly overestimate my self-control. ”
“I’m not looking for self-control. ”
My hands were inside her shirt, palms pressed on her back, fingers spread on her sides; I didn’t even remember how they got there. “I—I don’t want to do anything you’ll regret. ”
Grace’s back curved against my fingers as if my touch brought her to life. “Then don’t stop. ”
I’d imagined her saying this in so many different ways, but none of my fantasies had come close to the breathless reality.
Clumsily, we backed onto her bed, part of me thinking we should be quiet in case her parents came home. But she helped me tug my shirt over my head and ran a hand down my chest, and I groaned, forgetting everything but her fingers on my skin. My mind searched for lyrics, words to string together to describe the moment, but nothing came. I couldn’t think of anything but her palm grazing my skin.
“You smell so good,” Grace whispered. “Every time I touch you, it comes off you even stronger. ” Her nostrils flared, all wolf, smelling how much I wanted her. Knowing what I was, and wanting me, anyway.
She let me push her gently down onto the pillows and I braced my arms on either side of her, straddling her in my jeans.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
Her eyes were bright, excited. She nodded.
I slid down to kiss her belly; it felt so right, so natural, like I’d done it a thousand times before and would do it a thousand times again.
I saw the shiny, ugly scars the pack had left on her neck and collarbone, and I kissed them, too.
Grace pulled the blankets up over us and we kicked off our clothes beneath them. As we pressed our bodies against each other, I shrugged off my skin with a growl, giving in, neither wolf nor man, just Sam.
CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE • GRACE
The phone was ringing. That was the first thing I thought. The second thing I thought was that Sam’s bare arm was lying across my chest. The third thing was that my face was cold where it was sticking out from under the blankets. I blinked, trying to wake up, strangely disoriented in my own room. It took me a moment to realize that my alarm clock’s normally glowing face was dark and that the only lights in the room were coming from the moon outside the window and the face of the ringing cell phone.
I snaked a hand out into the air to retrieve it, careful not to disturb Sam’s arm on me; the phone was silent by the time I got to it. God, it was freezing in here. The power must’ve gone down with the ice storm the forecasters had promised. I wondered how long it would be down and if I’d have to worry about Sam getting too cold. I carefully peeled back the covers and found him curled against me, head buried against my side, only the pale, naked curve of his shoulders visible in the dim light.