Despite my best intentions to laze about as much as possible, Rami’s afternoon weight programme had woken me up. I was rummaging in the mini fridge for a snack to tide me over till dinner when I heard the key lock activate with a beep.
The moment Naveen walked into the suite, Rami announced, “Devlin’s passed!”
Naveen’s face split into a heartbreakingly sincere smile, but then the smells still drifting through our rooms must have hit him then because his face went black with shock.
He visibly swallowed before he offered, “Congratulations, I knew you would do well,” in a voice so flat as to be almost unrecognizable.
He approached me slowly, and even though I straightened to meet him, he hesitated before putting his arms around me and then squeezed for longer than a congratulatory hug should have taken. I hugged him back, feeling a bit guilty for upsetting him. It hadn’t been my intention, of course, but I had forgotten how vulnerable Naveen’s youth made him. Because they were inconvenient, I had ignored the feelings I knew he had been developing for me. I promised myself to be more careful, and when we got to the car I followed him into the backseat, instead of taking the passenger seat that had become my default spot in any car Rami drove. Naveen’s smiled was definitely flirtatious and he seemed to take the gesture as a free pass to get his hands all over me, mostly all over the parts of me a friend could have touched casually but with such frequency that it was clear none of the touches were accidental.
By the time we were halfway to the restaurant Rami had chosen on the other side of town and was now having trouble locating even with helpful advice from the GPS. I leaned over and pressed my mouth to his. Naveen clutched at my forearms, wrinkling the dress shirt I had on mostly at Rami’s insistence, and sucked on my tongue. I sighed, happy to get lost in the sensation of his lips on mine. Fortunately, we were holding onto each other so well that when Rami braked rather more violently than any traffic in a quiet place like St. only jostled us.
“I am trying to drive,” he remarked rather testily.
And heaving a sigh, Naveen raised his hands over his head and then Andrews could have accounted for, it
very pointedly crossed them over his own lap. “Happy?”
“Over the moon,” Rami replied, sarcasm obvious.
“You better make it up to me later,” Naveen snipped back. And he was looking at Rami but he glanced back at me as he hinted. Subtlety was not exactly his strong suit, but boy, was he sweet when he tried.
“So are you going to publish it?” Rami wanted to know when I told them about it.
“Well, yes, but I would like someone else to proofread it one more time before…”
Naveen laughed. “You are such a perfectionist!”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” I replied, frowning and pretending to take offense. Naveen fell for it, shoulders tensing. “I’m teasing,” I clarified just when he opened his mouth to apologize. “I know I’m a bit anal.”
“A bit?” Rami intervened. “You colour coded the dishes, Devlin.”
“I did not!”
Naveen shook his head sadly. “You did. By shades, red, then purple, then blue.”
“I just had to pile them up in some order and mixing colours didn’t look as nice,” I explained.
“As nice?” Naveen echoed, getting in the spirit of the thing. “They’re dishes! They are for eating!”
“I will have you know pottery is an art form,” I insisted, not quite able to repress my smile.
At that moment the waiter showed up with the seconds. Meat, meat, meat, of course. In my defence, at least I hadn’t ordered lamb.
Naveen fell upon his lamb chops and potatoes like he hadn’t just finished devouring a large portion entre made of precisely that vegetable. I didn’t hold back: if there was one advantage of dinning with other werewolves it had to be that I could stop hiding all the little differences that gave me away. I cut my steak, the smell of half cooked blood making my mouth water with longing before I even put the piece in my mouth. Rami had chosen well. It was good meat, fresh and recently killed, not stored for days in a fridge somewhere.
By the time I looked up, Rami was bringing down the restaurant a whole star by eating his ribs with his hands. Or, I might say, sucking on them. I stared, half horrified, and half turned on. After all, the last thing I had seen Rami go at with such enthusiasm had been me. His eyes flashed in challenge when he looked up and met mine. And I laughed. I didn’t much care what the waiter might think. Not even when Rami upped the ante and snapped the bones in two to suck on the marrow, quite an absurd imagine for my blonde, soft-eyed giant. And they were ribs anyway, who put ribs in their menu and expected people to use knife and fork to eat them?
I put another piece of beef in my mouth, and saw Naveen take the pepper shaker and start shaking like there was no tomorrow and no meat spicy enough. I raised my eyebrows at him and he shrugged. “It doesn’t taste of anything if it’s not spicy enough. All my brain can do is shout ‘not spicy enough.’”
“You already ate half of it…” I pointed out between bites.
He shrugged again. “Was hungry.” And that was the last he said till the five pieces were simple bones.
I finished first, not because I hadn’t eaten a lot but because after they had cleaned their plates they had decided to split an extra rare steak.
“That way it won’t take long,” Naveen pointed out conciliatorily.
“You don’t need to justify it to me,” I told him. “I’m not human.”
Naveen looked at me oddly, making me wonder if he never spent any time with humans or, on the contrary, if he thought it was odd of me to make the distinction. “I know, but you have finished.”
“Because I’m not a growing kid anymore, Naveen. And I haven’t done anything much today anyway. If we had gone for a run or something…”
His eyes brightened. “Can we?” He asked, almost breathless with excitement. “It is almost the full moon…”
It was a weak reason – to a wolf it made very little difference whether the moon was visible to the naked eye or not, its existence was a constant as much as the sun’s. Let me tell you a secret: wolves don’t howl at the moon, they howl at other wolves, whether there’s moon or not. They raise their heads because sound carries much farther through open air than through thick vegetation.
I was at a loss. I wasn’t sure if Naveen’s request came from desire or need, but I couldn’t use myself to gauge it: I had spent years subjecting my wolf to my will and changing less and less. I had told my wolf we would run when we got here, and while I was pretty sure it didn’t remember even if it had understood…
Rami tilted his head, looking thoughtful. “I don’t know… there’s no wolves in Scotland and it seems like there’s humans everywhere.”
I laughed. He was such a country boy. “That’s just the city, Rami.” I rolled my eyes. “If you can manage to separate yourself from your car and walk like the supernatural predator you are, you’ll realise there’s barely anybody living here. Although they did kill the wolves…” Naveen shuddered, “two or three centuries ago.”
“So that’s a no to running?”
“No, we could go… there’s deer in the state park, even. I just… I haven’t shifted much around these parts, to be honest.”
Naveen frowned, “Haven’t you been living here for six years?”
I kept my gaze down, drank a sip of my wine. “Yes. But I shifted when I went back to Windermere, which was all the time because my pack is needy and suspicious like that…”
Naveen wasn’t deterred or distracted. “But this… this is your home.”
“Yes,” I said. Of that, I had no doubts.
“You… how can it be your home if it’s not your wolf’s?”
“It just is,” I looked him in the eye. A useless and clumsy human gesture; he didn’t need any windows into my soul when he could hear my pulse. “It is my home.”
Rami interrupted our unintentional standoff. “Should we get dessert before this run of ours? Gonna need the energy.”
I held on a second longer, then broke away from Naveen’s intensely sad eyes. It wasn’t his fault he was so young, or so lucky so that he had never had to learn that finding a home for half of yourself was something to be grateful for.
“Yeah, something with chocolate,” I said.
Naveen got a menu and went crazy on that, ending with an order that came closer to everything with chocolate: chocolate mousse, chocolate brownie with cream and a chocolate sundae. Rami resisted and ordered crème caramel instead. I shook my head at the waiter; I still wasn’t sure in what form I wanted my chocolate but I was confident I could get Naveen to surrender whichever dessert I ended up wanting.
The sundae came with two spoons, making Naveen thank the waiter with a wide grin that made me look away. I leaned closer and got started on it, stealing a good chunk with plenty of chocolate sauce and earning a disgruntled sound from the sundae’s nominal owner. “If you eat all the sauce, the rest will just be ice-cream.”
“Oh, my, what a tragedy,” I commented, and sucked on my spoon. Naveen’s eyes flickered to my lips, but he didn’t let that distract him for long. Instead he dipped his spoon in the ice-cream and then leaned forward and offered it to me. I stared. I couldn’t remember anybody ever trying to feed me anything. Then I opened my mouth for it and let him place the spoon in my mouth before closing my lips over it. He slowly, almost sensually, slid it out; his dark eyes stuck on mine with an intensity I found almost overwhelming. Rami softly knocked his elbow against my side.
I did, feeling my cheeks flush.
“You two are unbearable today,” Rami commented, and took another bite of his crème caramel with perfectly acceptable levels of enjoyment. “If I had known, I would have ordered in.”
“Oh, shut up,” said Naveen, who had somehow finished the ice cream and was now taking his first bite of mousse. He looked up at me. “Do you like dark chocolate?”
“Not too dark,” I said, and he hummed thoughtfully.
“I don’t know, then – try it.” And just like that he was placing a new spoonful to my parted lips. I ate it, and asked for another to be sure. By the fifth spoonful I think Naveen figured out the mousse wasn’t too dark for my tastes, or maybe that I was having way too much fun licking the spoon and watching him squirm.
But Rami sighed. “Do you want that brownie to go?”
We turned to him. “What?”
“The waiter is about to kick us out, is all.”
Naveen turned straight around to look, like the hapless creature he was. I didn’t even need to look at the waiter in question myself, just watch Naveen’s startled expression. I kept my laugh back and stole the brownie.
Naveen was too excited to wait for Rami to actually park, or even get to our destination; as soon as we were in a highway dark enough, he started undressing. Rami’s eyes snapped to his torso, luminescent in the dark despite his dark skin.
“Rami, the road?” I reminded him, and he immediately turned back, muttering, “I don’t understand why you insist on distracting me while I’m driving. It’s not like we are actually invulnerable!”
“Sorry!” Naveen chirped, not sounding it much at all, and proceeded to toe off his tennis shoes. I kept my eyes on the road and so did Rami, despite his grumbling. To be fair to Naveen, once he was naked, he shifted into his wolf form immediately. Of course, once he was a wolf in a moving vehicle, he got even more impatient, nuzzling at my side and playfully tugging on my clothes.
“Stop it,” I told him, tugging at the scruff of hair behind his neck till he laid his head on my lap and let me pet him. “I need to tell Rami where we are going.” The wolf whined pitifully, making me laugh. “If you think I’m going to fall for that…”
“Is that the one?” Rami asked me then, and he was spot-on, night vision being quite helpful in navigating.
I opened the back door for Naveen, who jumped out like the car was about to explode, and started taking my own clothes off. I was about to shift when I remembered what Naveen had said about my wolf, that it would shift even further… would that happen before or after I… my doubts distracted me long enough that Rami came around to check on me.
“Devlin?” he asked and I realised I was holding onto my trousers like they were a security blanket.
“Sorry, I just…”
“You look pale.”
“Just remembering something Naveen said. It’s no big deal.”
“Then tell me,” Rami offered.
I smiled at him, appreciating his interest. “I would rather not talk, really,” I told him, and dropped the trousers on the backseat before pulling my underwear off. Rami had werewolf reflexes so he surely could have moved away before I ended up standing completely naked in front of him. He had taken a step back, though, enough for me to see that he was naked, too. I raised an eyebrow, but I didn’t get to say anything because in that moment Naveen came careening out of the trees and jumped on Rami, toppling him to the ground. A moment later a huge white wolf was wrestling the black one to the ground.
I closed my one eyes and let the wolf come forth, worries and words melting away into fur and claws. It hit the ground running, the wolf too desperate for its freedom to wait one millisecond longer than necessary. It didn’t stop for the Alphas – it just kept going, dragging me along, paws hitting the soft mossy grass so fast I couldn’t really feel the moisture of the ground, and then we were in the forest. Twigs, branches, and leaves were sliding under our feet; moving so fast they wouldn’t even break. The wolf still didn’t care, its panting breath made me feel like I was enclosed inside my own head, listening to a song I knew too well and had not been able to recall properly till that very instant.
A song I had missed. A song I had been listening for and hadn’t been able to find again, both annoying and desperately nostalgic. Till now. Suddenly, I was home. Not half there, but completely, free and connected to the world around me both: the wind brushing against my fur and nose, the blurred sight of trees and sky, the smell of grass, and soil, and rabbit, and deer. I followed the tracks without conscious thought, uncaring of my lack of hunger because what I needed was the joy of the hunt: the speed and the skill.
I don’t remember any particular moment in which I became aware of their presence, just the flash of Rami’s teeth, and Naveen jumping on the deer’s neck, faster than my eyes could perceive. And then I forgot about them, lost them in the taste of a fresh kill in my mouth, in the joy of howling my triumph at the world. Next thing I knew I was tumbling Rami to the ground and he was growling at me, not finished eating, till Naveen came to my aid and pushed under his foreleg and stood, making him lose his balance. And just like that we were getting tangled together, the three of us: biting a little and scrambling for balance, like pups not much caring for property or hierarchy, just wanting to make as much of a mess as possible.
We ran till the sky started to lighten up, and then we found a cluster of trees and curled up under it, full, and close and tired enough nothing could intrude, not even the biggest star.
I woke because I was cold. I had shifted back in my sleep and although Rami and Naveen were still curled up close to me, not even two fully grown wolves could really cover me up enough in a chilly Scottish morning. I blinked, squinting against the filtered sunlight and trying to remember where we had left the car. I had no idea, so I pulled at Rami’s hair, long and as silky as his human hair was, till he stirred and yawned, teeth as big as my thumbs and powerfully offensive morning breath. I wrinkled my nose and rolled away from him, getting to my feet, but I didn’t get far. Behind me I suddenly felt a warm body pressing close to mine. Naveen was awake – in more than one sense, it seemed.
“Good morning,” he murmured into my ear, arms sneaking around my ribcage.
I remembered what Rami had said, and how I had joked about it. But of course he was right: Naveen was jealous. He had never before touched me intimately without invitation, but now he felt the need to press close and offer himself at every opportunity. I turned in his arms and walked him back till his spine was pressed against a large oak.
“You’re very touchy today,” I said.
He frowned. “Is that okay?” he tried.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It depends. Why are you touchy?”
“Because I want to touch you?” he offered, a little amused.
“Don’t you always?”
He laughed. “That’s true,” he admitted. “And very modest of you to say.”
“So why now?” I insisted, meeting his eyes.
He sighed and lowered his. “Jesus, Devlin, I’m sorry. I’m jealous, okay? I can’t… I can’t help it.” I was quiet, waiting. “You haven’t… you haven’t come to join us since we came to St. Andrews, even though you said you liked it. And yesterday you changed your mind and I wasn’t there.”
“So you know I wasn’t trying to make you feel left out,” I said.
“Yes,” Naveen said, looking up at me with a frustrated expression. “But you still didn’t… I mean, I didn’t get to…” He licked his lips, then blurted out, “I want you.”
“Any way you want – we agreed, remember?” His hand on my side slid down in a slow caress.
I didn’t make any absurd demands or offers. I didn’t talk about fucking or the fact that neither of us wanted to be on the receiving end, but he had a choice and I didn’t. I felt too good to sour the moment, and Naveen didn’t deserve my rage any more than Rami had.
He misinterpreted my silence, going stiff in my arms, and if I hadn’t had him trapped against the tree he would have probably moved away. “Do you want me to get Rami?” he asked in a small voice.
I looked up, surprised. “No,” I told him, and leaned in and licked a line up his collarbone to his shoulder. Naveen shuddered, hands clutching harder and dick twitching against my thigh.
“Just stay there,” I said and pressed firmly on his arms, unthinking, and then immediately braced myself for the wolf’s objection to me bossing an Alpha around. But it didn’t come – there was nothing. I reached for it and it was there, but it was happy and satisfied and an excited to be so close to an Alpha who wanted us.
Naveen obeyed, tilting his head back to lean against the tree trunk and I couldn’t resist leaning in to suck his earlobe into my mouth. The wolf was quiet – I could worry about it later. Then, not getting much of a reaction out of Naveen, I detoured to his neck. He tensed at that, probably fighting the instinct to get his vulnerable throat out of range of my sharp teeth. But he didn’t ask me to stop or pull away, just exhaled heavily and let me place a kiss there, limbs trembling. As a reward, I pushed my knee between his legs and flush against his cock, and his hips snapped to meet me. “Let me,” I asked him, softly, as far from an order as I could make it.
And he did – he didn’t pull his hips back, but he stopped moving them, letting me thrust against him instead, the slow circular motion I preferred. I could tell it was too slow for Naveen, who was digging his nails into my sides and tossing his head in an attempt to keep from rubbing himself off against me. My own cock was hard and leaking against him and his mounting desperation was starting to make me impatient as well, so I leaned back and took hold of both our dicks, pressing them against each other, the hot, velvety feeling coming at me from both sides and leaving me reeling with need. When I opened my eyes again and looked down I discovered I had half soaked my hand with my own precome.
Naveen followed my gaze and moaned brokenly, “Devlin!”
So I responded, closing my fist firmly around us both and twisting my wrist in a motion I had perfected back when I was too young for anybody else to learn how to please me. At the first stroke, Naveen grunted and his hands left my sides to embed themselves into the tree behind him; his hips raised themselves to follow my movements as I stroked faster and harder. The noises coming out of his mouth were like a symphony of confession, each one a small admission of devotion, of need, of… I raised my left hand from his arm to his neck and crushed our mouths together, pushed my tongue between his lips, uncaring of the sharpness of his teeth. Naveen opened his mouth to it, panting like no air would ever be enough, and then, despite the lack of oxygen, kissed me back just as hard and sloppy, just as uncoordinated as my hand between us.
Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but in that moment I understood something: we were doing it together, stumbling along the path in the dark while clutching each other’s hands, not sure if it would help or hinder, but comforted by the company nonetheless.
I think Naveen must have come first and triggered my own orgasm, but that’s just the theory. In truth, I remember rising higher and higher and then the fall; delicious and terrifying at once. I remember slumping into Naveen’s embrace and somehow managing to get us both to the ground without getting bark anywhere painful.
Only when we were catching our breath did I notice Rami was gone. He had probably left as soon as I had woken him up, I realised. We shifted back into four legs and smelled our way back to him, easier to detect than the car, his path fresh and clear through the forest. I had to stop Naveen from walking out of the tree cover like that, shifting myself and giving his hair a sharp pull to get his attention. It was bad enough that somebody might find that deer carcass and freak out about the sudden reappearance of wolves in the highlands. We didn’t need anybody to actually see us, too.
When we got to the car, Rami was already dressed, which did something to disguise the fact that he was half hard, but not much. Naveen didn’t stop or hesitate, just walked up to where he was leaning against the side of the car and made quick work of his jeans, getting his cock out so fast I saw Rami start almost violently, hands scrabbling for purchase. Naveen leaned forward and sucked it into his mouth with a pleased moan, like he was happy Rami had waited for him or something. I noticed Rami kept his hands out of Naveen’s hair, but I wasn’t sure if it was an Alpha thing or a Naveen thing. And it didn’t matter, I liked hands on my hair during oral sex.
I stayed far enough that neither of them would feel the need to pay me any particular attention, but I didn’t look away until Rami arched up and cried out sharply. I couldn’t see his groin but I didn’t need to, the keening, almost hurt sound he let out would have been enough even if I hadn’t been able to see Naveen’s shoulders flex as he pulled Rami closer to him as he swallowed.
Maybe it’s true what they say and you should never return to a place where you have been really happy. It is not the place that made you happy, most likely, but a series of circumstances of which the place is only the scene. And with those other things gone, what can a piece of land, a set of rooms, the smells of the same food that surrounded your happy hours be, but a constant reminder of what you have lost? Leaving Scotland was almost a relief, even knowing what I was headed for, what my life in Windermere would be like... just knowing I wouldn’t run into Dan or Sarah or any of the others in the supermarket or the library would be like being allowed to let a wound scar. And scar it would. I would never forget the life I had forged for myself here, the life that Brennan had snatched from my hands as easily as candy from a child. But I was so tired of being angry about it: I wanted to be sad now, sad and alone till I just felt alone.