Make Me Howl, page 23
Mom gave Bella and me the exact purse that she’d demanded Dad give her—as well as the same jewelry and the cat pee perfume that I wouldn’t buy. When she realized she hadn’t received the fragrance, she pouted just a little until we gave her the cruise tickets and Dad promised to go.
Mom and Dad gave Spencer a set of pajamas that I was certain had been purchased with Dad in mind. And Bella gave him a beautiful antique pocket watch.
And finally, after every other present had been opened, Spencer took the small box from the high boughs of the tree. Holding it in both hands, he held it out to Bella.
Bella stared at the present without touching it. Without her telling me, I knew what she thought. The box was the right size and shape to be an engagement ring, and that in itself was a scary thought. They hadn’t known one another long enough—at least on a friendly basis—for him to ask her to marry him.
He had to practically force the gift into her hand. “This is very dear to all the Hollidays.”
As she took it, her thoughts reached me. What if it’s a ring? A family heirloom?
Look at him, sis. He’s not stupid.
She glanced up at him. You’re right; he’s not.
I lost her thoughts then. Well, I really didn’t lose them. They flowed away from me as her fascination with him took over. Very slowly she tore the paper from the box then pulled off the top. Inside was another box made of leather. Pulling it out, she opened the hinged lid and looked inside.
“It came through my mother’s family. It’s a piece of some sort of reward from a great-great somebody. I don’t remember the whole story, but it’s a good thing.” He sounded almost like a little boy, hoping his gift would be the most highly regarded.
Bella blinked hard as she gazed into the box. Wishing I could snatch it away from her and have a look for myself, I peeked over her shoulder.
There on a chain was a golden coin that looked as old as Christmas. “Wow. Looks like someone found the end of the rainbow.”
Spencer chuckled, then took the box and pulled out the necklace. Stepping behind Bella, he put it around her neck and fastened it. “I…hope you like it.”
Bella put both hands on the necklace then turned to him. Tears filled her eyes, making them luminous as she smiled. “I love it.”
Christmas morning, Chase paced the wagon wheel. First his home, then the garden. It had been too long since he’d seen Jazzy. And way too long since he’d held her.
With the blizzard blowing in the panhandle, it was likely to be a while before he saw her again. Damn phone service was out. Damn cells had no reception.
Damn. Damn. Damn!
He grabbed the phone as it rang. Jazzy’s smile played with his libido as he put the receiver to his head. “Hello?” Please be Jazzy.
But he was disappointed. “Chase, darlin’?” Disappointment leached his excitement as his mother’s voice reached his ears.
He couldn’t quite stifle the sigh that built within him. “Yeah?”
Her light chuckle told him she understood way more than he hoped. “Come eat breakfast. And if you have gifts for anyone, bring them now so you won’t have to go back later.”
If he had gifts for anyone? If? As if he’d forgotten to buy gifts more than once in the last few years?
With a snort, he hung up the phone, grabbed the pile of gift bags he’d left on his kitchen counter and stalked out the back door. A brisk walk through the center garden didn’t help his mood much, but the heady fragrance of breakfast made a real difference. Especially the coffee. He walked straight to his mother and took the steaming mug she held out for him before depositing his presents under the tree.
Putting the cup to his lips, he savored a careful drink. How did people live without coffee?
“Breakfast is ready,” Mom announced to the room. “Since we’re all here, why don’t y’all go to the table while I bring it out?”
Mack and Drew argued good-naturedly while everyone took their places.
Mom brought a huge fruit laden pizza to the table. “There’s another one just like this in the kitchen, so don’t hold back.” She sat opposite Dad.
Chase snagged a couple of pieces then passed the platter to Dad before Mack and Drew could take most of the pie for themselves. After waiting for everyone to serve themselves, he took a bite then closed his eyes to enjoy it while he chewed. The slightly tart fruit on the sugar cookie crust was delicious, but it was the sauce, some kind of super sweet white stuff, that made it spectacular.
Before he knew it, Mom brought in the second pizza and he and his Dad and brothers finished it off, too.
When the last piece disappeared, Mom quickly stacked the plates. “Mack and Drew, since you ate the lion’s share, you get to do the dishes.”
When the pair started to groan, she held up one hand. “After we open presents, that is.”
The boys grinned like a pair of death row inmates who’d been handed a reprieve then they jumped from their chairs. “Last one to the tree has to be Santa,” Mack yelled as they sprinted for the living room.
Dad shook his head as he stood. “I don’t know that those two will ever grow up,” he said to no one in particular.
Mom slid her arm through his. “They will someday, Sam. I promise.”
Dad walked her to the most comfortable chair in the room, which Mack was in, and they stood next to it until Mack looked up. “Your mother would like to sit down.”
Mack shot them a sharp smile then glanced around the room at the furniture. “Well, she can si—”
At Dad’s sharp intake of breath, Mack stopped speaking as he shot out of the chair. “Yes, sir. Just kidding.”
Dad closed one eye in a slow wink. “I thought you were. You had to be. No son of mine would be disrespectful t—”
“No, sir. I wouldn’t be disrespectful to Mom anytime. Ever.”
Once they were all gathered around the tree, Mack was appointed to hand out gifts. Chase joined the chaos half-heartedly as everyone tore through wrapping, opened boxes and bags. As he opened the usual belts, boots and Stetsons, he couldn’t keep his mind off Jazzy.
When Spence had told him he was going to the panhandle for Christmas, he’d been only too glad to have a reason not to go with him. Not that the idea of being snowed in with Jazzy for a week or two wasn’t appealing. It was. But if he spent that kind of time with her, he’d be tempted to make a commitment—maybe do something permanent—and they weren’t ready for that.
Make that, he wasn’t ready. Until he could bare his soul to her, he wouldn’t allow himself to go there. And he was pretty sure his soul was unbearable.
But going over it again and again in his mind didn’t make not seeing her any easier. When the boys went to wash the dishes and Dad followed them in search of more coffee, Chase cleared his throat. “Uh, Mom?
Beatrice looked up from the book she’d received from Mack. After a searching look, during which he hoped she couldn’t see too much, she smiled. “What is it, Chase?”
“I’ve got to run out to the clinic.” He cleared his throat, hoping to keep from blurting all his reasons for going. She didn’t need to know he couldn’t sit still because he missed Jazzy so much it was like a pain in his gut. And she couldn’t know that every time he visualized Jazzy’s face, he grew hard with wanting her. “I’m running a research test that I need to check on.”
Her brow furrowed slightly as concern stole the smile from her mouth. “Is it that critical?”
Only if he was going to stop a whole new crop of neophytes from being loosed on the citizens of Texas. “Yeah. I think it is.”
“Then definitely. Go.” She closed the book and laid it aside. “If we can do anything, call. You know we’re here for you.”
Pulling into the zoo, Chase stopped to check in with the security guard then drove to the clinic. Being a holiday, only the lightest of skeleton crews would be there, so h
Not wasting any time, he went to the lab where he took out the specimen he’d grown from a small sample of Tony’s blood then injected the antigen. If all had gone well, the healthy growth that had been there yesterday should have stopped growing completely.
He removed the lid from the Petri dish. The clock slowed as he prepared a sample and slid it under the microscope. Then time stopped completely.
The antigen not only hadn’t stopped the infection. It appeared to have fed it. The werewolf infection must have developed a sub-strain that wasn’t just resistant to the antigen, it thrived on it.
He glanced at the calendar. Not quite two weeks before the next full moon. Not much time for what had to be done, but was it enough? If he could find what he needed, he’d have to get with it to make the new antigen.
And the first thing he’d need was Jazzy.
Christmas afternoon as I watched Bella and Spencer watch each other, touch each other when they thought no one would see, I thought I’d go crazy. Were they so stupid they couldn’t tell I was about ready to bite a hole in both of them? Or didn’t they care?
Finally I couldn’t sit still any longer. I lunged from my chair and headed for my room. “I’m going to put on a few layers and go out.”
“It’s cold out there,” Dad called through the open door of the bedroom where he’d gone to take his annual after-the-festivities nap. “It might be Texas, but the temperature is still low enough to freeze your nose off.”
I tried to hide my scowl, but I heard Spencer chuckle softly as I went through the door into the stairway.
I took the stairs two at a time, hoping to dress and get outside before I exploded. I slammed into my room, threw on the clothes and my boots and was just heading out when my text message signal beeped. I opened my phone and focused on the message as I jogged back down the stairs.
It was from Doc. In desperate need of your help, Jazzy. I’m coming to get you. Be ready to leave by three.
Coming to get me? Without telling me why he needed my help, he expected me to leave my family at Christmas and run off with him? My explosion was going to happen at any moment. I stormed through the living room, out the front door and across the yard.
It was almost two o’clock now. He’d be here in an hour, and he was just now letting me know about it? As if he knew for certain that I’d go?
I turned and started for the pond, digging in my heels as I walked to keep from sliding. The snow had all but stopped falling with just a few flakes coming down from time to time.
I blew past the barn and was almost to the pond before I realized how much had disappeared beneath the white blanket. Small depressions, rocks, grasses—anything less than eighteen inches high was lost in the blue-white world.
Would I be able to tell where the edge of the pond started or would I walk out on the ice where I could very easily fall through? Taking a wide track, I circled the pond, hiking all the way around before climbing the rise on the far side. After gazing down at the small creek, which was now mostly obscured by the snow, I turned back.
I stopped at an outcropping of rock above the pond and, clearing a small area, sat down.
The sun peeked out for a moment, casting a whole pot of glittering gold coins across the landscape. The beauty of it stole my breath away. But as I admired the scenery, my thoughts circled like so many vultures. The kernel of envy that had lodged high in my chest when Bella opened her necklace began to burn with life.
Surprise straightened my spine as I sat there. I’d never in my life been jealous of Bella. Usually I carried a little sympathy for her because she’d missed out on the Lycan in her life. How could I be jealous now, just because she’d received a coin necklace?
But it wasn’t the necklace. It was the feeling behind it. The love I could see in Spencer’s face each time he gazed at her. The emotion that colored hers when he was near.
Okay, maybe I was jealous, but I could get past it. After all, I’d have to live with it someday. She’d marry and go on to have a “normal” life. But unless I found an open-minded man who loved me—every facet of me—which would have to include a love of animals and sudden volatile changes, I’d be forever alone.
That necessitated putting Doc from my mind when it came to my future. He’d never be able to love all my components. A man who’d made it his life’s mission to put an end to Lycans couldn’t love one, could he? Not the kind of love I needed. I had to have someone who would support me, even if he didn’t understand me. Who would evolve with me as I grew.
No. Doc was the kind of man who set himself a future, and then charged toward it at full speed. Never changing. Never adjusting.
A sigh filled me until I ached with it. I’d have to get over this before I went back to the house to meet him. After he told me why he needed me so badly, I’d decide whether or not I’d go.
I returned my thoughts to the coin in Bella’s necklace. Where had it come from? Why had the family been gifted with them, and more interestingly, why didn’t Spencer know more about it? Or did he know and just not want to talk about it?
At least now I understood where their family money had started.
Getting up, I dusted my behind. I had to go back and pack my things in case I decided to leave with Doc. And I couldn’t forget to take Grandma’s journals, which I’d had only a little time to read since we’d left Dallas.
As I walked, the sun disappeared again, replaced by bulging clouds, hanging low overhead again. I glanced at my watch and saw it getting dangerously close to three. If Doc hadn’t run into the same kind of trouble that had put Spencer’s car out of commission, and he’d calculated correctly, he should be at the house soon.
As I turned back, a tingle of excitement sizzled through me. If I looked into the face of that exhilaration, I realized it was my feelings for Doc that caused it.
I tried to tell myself it was a physical thing. That we were simpatico physically, so naturally I’d look forward to being with him again.
Deep down, I knew better.
Snow started falling again. This time the flakes were smaller, but there were more of them and they were coming down faster. For a moment the entire world became a white blur, startling me into pausing. What if I got off course and missed the house? People got lost in snowstorms, didn’t they? And sometimes they froze to death. Then self-awareness spurred me toward home.
As I passed the barn, which I could barely make out, a ghost materialized in the storm. When the apparition hovered closer, I realized it was Doc.
He caught me to him, practically knocking the breath out of me as he took me in his arms. His kiss seared the chill right out of me.
I wanted him. Couldn’t wait to be alone with him. I knew I’d never be able to ride in the car with him all the way back to Dallas. We wouldn’t get far before we’d have to pull over and make love.
The barn was close, and the loft more private, at least for the moment. Taking his gloved hand in my mittened one, I dragged him with me.
Shoving the door open in all that snow proved harder than I expected, but somehow Doc got it done. We stumbled into the dim, dusty atmosphere, past the stored garden equipment and climbed the ladder.
Mr. Newkirk always bought straw in the fall to use in the hen house and to mulch the garden, so I knew we’d have a sweet smelling bed if not a particularly comfortable one.
Without a word, I rushed to pull a bale apart. The storm blowing outside would cause everyone in the house to worry and come looking for us. I didn’t want to waste a nanosecond of our time, and the last thing I wanted was to get caught.
The threat of being found naked with my lover put an edge to our lovemaking. He took my face between his hands and kissed me until I was nearly senseless. “I’ve missed you.”
I tried to catch my breath so I wouldn’t sound like a bad Marilyn Monroe imitation, but with my heart pounding a million times a minute, it was imp
He didn’t say anything else because he kissed me.
My joints turned to warm butter, my muscles mush. I sank to the straw and pulled him on top of me, relishing the weight of his body against mine.
Taking off his gloves, he reached under my jacket where he found the layers of sweaters and shirts. Burying his face in my shoulder, he started to laugh. Each chuckle sent spirals of desire through me.
I shoved him to his back, and straddling him, I rocked against him. His laughter morphed to moaning as I rotated my hips. He reached for me, but I pushed his hands away. Two could play that hand of poker. He was going to be as needy as me before I relented.
But rocking my hips to entice him made me want him so badly, I couldn’t stand it. No, I wouldn’t stand it.
I sucked a long breath. “Doc.”
Scrambling off, I rushed to loosen just enough clothing to give him access to my body while he hurried to do the same.
Then, finally, we were one. I couldn’t help but think for a brief moment that at last, I was complete, and he’d made me that way.
It wasn’t only the physical part. Something in him made me better than I was alone. It was as if he made me whole. And I him. When we weren’t together, we were only a portion of what we were meant to be.
And the sex wasn’t bad.
Even with straw creeping into places it was never supposed to go, frigid air biting tender body parts and the barn cat nosing around, it was spectacular.
As we moved together, making love as though we’d been at it for years, he fulfilled my secret yearnings and I stroked places that made him shiver all over.
He rolled me beneath him, moving as if his life depended on it. The end spiraled dangerously close, my love arcing as I neared the end. I barely controlled the bristles charging my skin as a howl lodged in my throat.
Would I be able to do it? Would I be able to finish this perfect love making, handle the explosion of my climax along with my love for him without morphing into my animal state? Did I really want to?
But as the howl crept up my throat, he arched over me. Then something happened. Just when I thought he was going to explode with passion and take me with him, he died. It was as if we’d just worked to build a beautiful, raging wild fire, then at the last moment he’d turned and dropped a wet blanket on it.