Make Me Howl, page 9
Spencer snorted and, using his shoulder, turned Chase toward the exit again. “Right. Beautiful Bella can hardly talk to me without wanting to smack me. What makes you think I can keep her from calling security?” Chase shook his head, irritation with his brother crowding his gut like so much gravel. He had to see Jazzy again. Now. Had to touch her. Be with her.
But that damned sister of hers—
He stopped himself mid-thought. Bella wasn’t “that damned sister.” She was his friend and coworker. And Jazzy was…
This time, when Spencer grabbed his arm, he let himself be led away.
I stepped out of the shower and glanced around the steam filled bathroom. After being in there all that time, I figured I’d drained every drop of hot water from the entire spa—hot tub and all. The bathroom was so heavy with fog it looked like a lost world sequence in an old TV show. After using every towel in the place, I opened the door to go into the bedroom. Bella waited just on the other side.
I quirked a one-sided smile at her. “Standing guard?”
She glared at me as if I’d come out doing a bump and grind. “What else can I do?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but she cut me off. “From the time we got here, you haven’t even tried to fight this thing. You walked into the room and disappeared out the backdoor before I could even get inside. You went skiing yesterday morning and you didn’t come in all night long.
“When you finally came in this morning, you were talking about having made love with my coworker, who should have been hundreds of miles away. Then he shows up. Now I can’t tell if you’re delusional, imaginative or if your spores actually drew him this far.”
“I don’t know either.”
Her startled look at my admission almost made me laugh. Almost. “What?”
“I said, I don’t know if I’m delusional or not.” I took a breath as I tried to clear my head. “I clearly remember going skiing yesterday morning. I skied on the Rocky Raccoon slope when I heard some boys cheering and laughing. They made a run through the trees and it looked like a great one, so I decided to try it.”
“Jazzy.” Her tone held a lethal combo of shock, scold and disappointment. “You know how dangerous that can be. When you found yourself wanting to do something that risky, it should have been a red flag. Why didn’t you come back to the condo right then?”
“‘Should have’ isn’t any fun.” I shrugged. “Anyway I went back to the bottom, and that’s when things started to get toggled.”
“Toggled?” she interrupted.
“Yes, toggled. You know. Weird. Right place, wrong head.” I struggled to explain. “Anyway, I caught a familiar scent while I was at the bottom, but I couldn’t get enough of it to recognize. So I got on the lift and went to the top of the mountain. It was a double black slope called Booger Bear. It was great, Bella. Tons of moguls.”
“I hate moguls,” Bella murmured.
“I know. I love them. I went right over them from top to top. Whap! Whap! Whap!”
Unsmiling, she lifted an eyebrow. “Go on about getting…toggled.”
I thought for a moment. “I caught the scent again when I got off the lift, but it still wasn’t enough to recognize. Anyway, I finally found the path into the trees. It was wonderful, Bella. Faster than the regular slope with loose snow and very narrow. No room to maneuver. Like riding a rocket through space. My heart pounding a million times a minute.”
The memory of that thrill was almost as exciting as living it. I closed my eyes and hurtled down the hill again, just a hair’s breadth from disaster.
“Go on.” By the sound of her voice, the second hand experience wasn’t as exhilarating as being there.
“I didn’t realize there was a ninety degree hairpin at the end. And if you don’t make the turn, there’s a drop onto a pile of boulders.” I couldn’t let her know how close I’d come. “Just when I thought I was going to have to either lie down or grow wings, something dark hit me from the side. Doc.”
Her voice grew soft, almost gentle. “Jazzy, there’s no way Doc could have gotten here that quickly. There were no flights out of Dallas until this morning, and he couldn’t drive that fast.” She shook her head. “The time is just too short.”
“It looked like Doc. And smelled like him, too.” I tried to make her understand. “It was his odor. There’s no mistaking one for another.”
“Are you even sure you had sex?” Her voice was hushed as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to ask.
Sure I’d had sex? What kind of question was that? “What do you mean?”
“I mean in the shower.” She swallowed hard, took a breath and continued. “Did you…find evidence of having sex?”
I almost laughed when I realized her question. “I don’t know. I wasn’t looking for verification. So either I had sex or I had the female equivalent of a wet dream. Or maybe he used a condom.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “If he wasn’t actually a wolf.”
Now that startled me. I couldn’t begin to embrace that. “No. Way.”
“That’s one of the reasons I’ve tried so hard to keep you locked up at night. There’s no telling what might happen with you in heat during the phase of a full blood moon.” She tipped her head to one side. “If you got pregnant right now, would they be babies or cubs?”
Yanking my towel tighter, I started pacing. I could hardly bear to stay in the room with her talk of me getting pregnant. And for my sister to worry about the species of my offspring. Unbelievable.
I wanted to just throw on some clothes and go out to work off the frustration, energizing my muscles. But that was exactly what I couldn’t do. I had to stay there. Locked up. Immobile.
I glanced around, trying to think of a way through this. Bella must have seen my look of desperation. “Get dressed. We’re going to take advantage of this spa while it’s still daylight.”
Standing, she checked the backdoor to see that it was still locked then went into the living room to wait while I dressed. “Put on your running clothes and don’t bother with makeup,” she called through the door.
Tossing my towel aside, I shuffled through my suitcase, pulled out the requested clothes and yanked them on. Then I took the towel off my head and ran a comb through my hair. In record time I opened the bedroom door and gave her a smile. “Done. What’s first?”
She hung up the phone. “First, we’re going to the sauna.”
“I get it,” I said as we headed out the door. “You’re going to roast the devil out of me.”
After the sauna, we had massages. The dig-deep-until-you-cry kind. By the time we were finished, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to marshal my muscles so I could walk again.
Next we went for a mud bath. Talk about a throwback to childhood. The mud squishes between your toes and oozes all around you, except this smelled clean, where the stuff from kid-dom usually smelled like a swamp.
“You know, I have a vivid memory of being in a mud puddle at Grandma’s house. Do you remember?” I asked as I settled in.
“Of course, I remember. We were on our way to Sunday school and wearing our pink Easter dresses.” She gingerly eased into the expensive mud. “I just knew you were going to get in big trouble.”
“Yeah. You stood there begging me to get out—”
“And you were trying to make me mad enough to get in and smack you.”
“And I got punished for the mud on me and you.”
“You should have been. You threw it on me.”
I took a tiny ball of mud and tossed it in her direction. “But I didn’t tell you to stand where I could.”
“And now these people make real money, letting adults get into gigantic puddles.” She shook her towel shrouded head. “You were way ahead of your time.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s me. Ahead of my time.” Moving in the warm muck was slow going. Even a shrug took time and concentration. “You know who likes mud more than kids? Pigs.”
I couldn’t help getting serious. “I just wish there was a way to get a handle on my animal life.”
Raising one knee, she wrapped her arms around it. “I’ve never seen a study on the lives of werewolves, but Doc might have one. He’s got a ton of research in his lab.”
“It’s probably all about killing werewolves.” I leaned toward her. “He wants to wipe us out.”
“It’s the gene he wants to wipe out,” she corrected.
“Which will result in removing werewolves from the face of the earth.” My voice rose a little higher than I intended. But I was upset. Didn’t Bella understand? This man I found myself attracted to hated my kind enough to dedicate his life to getting rid of us. “Look, Bella. I know this week is a rough one. But it’s not like this all the time. Usually I like being a werewolf. I like having the ability at my fingertips, to use whenever I please. The strength, power, speed, cunning…it’s wonderful.”
“But you will admit to a downside.” It wasn’t a question.
“Okay, there’s a downside, but it’s outweighed by the good. Most of the time, I like my life.”
“Yeah,” Bella mocked. “And everyone around has the pleasure of spending time with a wolf.”
The attendant came in and introduced herself as Mary. She gave us an easy smile as she checked the equipment. “Have you seen one of our wolves on the slopes? How lucky! Usually there’s nothing to worry about with the wild animals around here as long as it’s daytime. Just don’t wander too far out by yourself after dark.”
We nodded like a pair of bobble heads in the back of a redneck sedan as she checked her watch. “About ten more minutes and it’ll be time for you to get out.”
“What’s next on the agenda?” I asked Bella, but the attendant thought I spoke to her.
Mary lifted her clipboard. “Let’s see. Next you’re going to the salon. First a deep pore vacuum, an exfoliating facial, and then a session with Line Arrester.”
“Line Arrester?” That didn’t sound good.
“Yes. It’s one of our consultants who’s trained in assessing you to determine what your next step should be—Botox, Restylane, hyaluronic acid filler, fat transfer or Thermage.”
Could any of that be good? “Consultants do the actual work?”
Her mirth sounded plastic, as if she’d been trained in laughter. “No. We have doctors, plastic surgeons, on staff for that.”
“Oh.” I tried to put some enthusiasm in my words. “Good.”
Bella shot a look at me as the woman left the room. “No way, I’m letting anyone get near my face with a needle.”
I shook my head. “Me, either. But for future reference it might not hurt to at least meet with the Wrinkle Sheriff.”
“Line Arrester,” Bella corrected me.
After we left the “sty,” we showered then redressed in our own clothes. Mary took us to another part of the spa. I was more than a little wary—until they started my facial massage. Talk about heaven! The technician said it was to help break up the grime in the pores, but I’m sure it was to get me addicted. And it worked.
I knew when the sun drifted near the west horizon because, on cue, the choir started to hum and my energy level increased, which stimulated my muscles. I had a real problem sitting still.
When we went into the exfoliating session, I was tense as a clothes rack. The technician kept telling me to relax, but she might as well have been talking to a steel rod. I just couldn’t do it.
By the time we got to the Wrinkle Sheriff, I couldn’t even sit.
She was a blonde with a long face and a bottom so wide she emitted a beeping sound when she backed up. She took an instant dislike to me.
I was in the chair just long enough for her to focus her lighted magnifying glass over my face. Almost immediately the energy inside me built to explosion proportions. I jumped out of the chair.
“I really can’t do a proper assessment without making an examination.” She had a definite whine to her tone.
But I couldn’t do it.
“Just sit down. I’m not going to do anything but look. It can’t hurt you.”
But I can hurt you, I wanted to snap. Maybe I should have. “Sorry. I’m just a little…” Shy? Not even a complete idiot would believe that. I don’t like to be touched? Like she’d believe that after I’d spent the entire day being touched by these people. “The light hurts my eyes.” I hated lying…when the lie was so obvious.
“Well, f—” She caught herself just before blurting the entire word, which I’m positive was part of her every day vocabulary.
It made me angry, but that didn’t surprise me. The choir hummed louder, their harmony growing closer. Pressure built inside me.
Good thing she was actually the Line Arrester, because if she’d had sheriff status, she’d have detained me for sure. And the night might have been better for everyone involved if she had.
Instead, I pretended to have a real aversion to foul language and huffed out of the room. I tried for an exit into the coming twilight, but Bella caught me at the door. “We’re going back to the room.” Having her hand on my wrist, I was trapped. She all but dragged me back to the condo.
With only moments to spare, she hauled me into the bedroom, made a quick circuit, looking for anything dangerous then locked me in.
I stood in the middle of the room for a long time, fighting the coming change. As much as it hurt me, I can honestly say I worked at staying human that night. Tried to hold back the fur, deny the muscles, keep my body erect.
I paced the room. How could I stop the change? Maybe if I kept my mind occupied, it wouldn’t happen. I grabbed a book from a nearby shelf, but found I couldn’t read. The words were just nonsense, so I slung it against the wall.
I looked for something else to focus on. A pastoral painting—which had lost all color—caught my attention. But in the brush strokes, I found hidden pictures of wolves stalking their prey, dying animals, bleeding humans and dens of pups.
When the metamorphosis took me, it was painful but welcome—like intense pain just before one passes out. Or dies.
The next thing I remember about that night—and I’m still unsure if it was reality or a dream—was the silvery light of the moon, falling on pristine snow. Moments before the eclipse, the rest of the world was black. The trees were black. Mountains were black. Clouds scudding across a pewter sky were black.
I was so alone…and lost. My one soul mate for eternity hadn’t found me and I ached for him. I lifted my chin and wailed my loneliness. Where could he be? When would he come? I hated being isolated.
The pain was almost more than I could bear.
As Earth’s shadow edged over the moon, I saw him, creeping toward me. At first, I thought my mind had created him, playing in the shadows of the blood moon. Then he bounded over the snow, and at last, streaked to my side. My heart lightened, making me want to tease and nip and run. We played and romped until I could no longer stand it.
I attacked him.
Two weeks later, having survived both being in heat and the BMW phase, which I always remember as the cycle-from-hell, I was back at work. I hadn’t seen Doc again while we were at the spa, so I figured his brother dragged him away—not unlike the way my sister dragged me.
Having accepted an appointment with Beatrice to help with her cruise wardrobe, I drove to the Holliday home. I grabbed my tote, stepped from the Z and tried to keep my jaw from dropping. If the Holliday house was a wagon wheel, as Beatrice had described it, the wagon must be a Rolls Royce.
The estate was beautiful. From where I stood, I could barely tell there were other houses connected to it.
Straightening my shoulders, I moved up the brick walk to the door. I pressed the doorbell, and the chimes played, Embrace Me… my sweet embraceable you.
In moments, Beatrice opened the door and ushered me into a v
“Do you play that song just to match your doorbell tones?”
Beatrice moved to a control panel and turned down the music. “That’s one of Sam’s new toys. He connected the sound system to the door chimes, so whatever we have playing, the bell picks up the first few notes.” She shrugged. “I know it’s silly, but it keeps him busy and out of trouble.”
I stood in the midst of understated opulence; the study of which I’d made certain was part of my undergrad degree. “He must do well with it.”
She chuckled as she shook her head. “He only does it for his amusement.”
Then you must get a real kick as you haul your bucks to the bank. I kept my thoughts deep inside me. If I didn’t know her son, I’d wonder if the family didn’t have a Lycan connection.
While it’s not universally known, being part of a family with a werewolf, while aggravating and sometimes horrifying, tends to bring certain good things—maybe it’s the cosmos making up for it. My own father had struggled to make a living for his family until I was born. Then things smoothed into place quite nicely.
“Is he a veterinarian like Chase?” I asked. If so, he had to be vet to the stars to afford a home like this.
“Oh, no, dear. Sam’s a geologist. Spence works in the family business with him.”
The brother who’d irritated Bella so. “Is he a geologist, too?”
“No, he has a degree in finance. His father thought he was too valuable to let work for someone else, so he hired him.”
I nodded as I strolled to a wall of family pictures. “What a beautiful arrangement.”
“That picture is Drew and Mack when they were babies.” Pride for her family rose in her voice. “I think the only major they’ve declared so far in college is girls. Or partying. It’s hard to tell which.”