The Hungry Wolf Ch. 04bywanderingmindgames©
Sorry, everyone, for the 'cliffhanger' in the last chapter. It was not my intention when I submitted it, it was just a natural stopping point in an already long chapter, and created a natural starting point for the next. But I digress...
As it wasn't my intention to tease with the ending, I am pushing up the submission of the next chapter. Be warned, though, that this may make the wait for any subsequent chapter a bit longer. And it may not be as well edited as the previous three. For any glaring mistakes or typos or incongruous plot points I apologize. I do believe I caught at least the majority, but without a fourth and fifth comb-thru...more may have slipped through than I like.
Let me say again thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement. This has been a lot of fun to write, almost as much fun as reading your emails and comments.
And of course -- thank you to X.
"Shit," Damien muttered, looking down at Charlie's limp form. He knew she would wake up soon, but he was hoping it wouldn't be before he had time to figure out what he was going to say to her. This was not how he wanted her to find out.
'Is Charlie gonna be okay?' Lewis -- the tan wolf -- asked.
'She'll be fine. She's just fainted,' Damien sent back, trying to ease Lewis' conscience. He could feel the remorse rolling off the big guy.
'Sorry Mr. Dimeo, she ran and I couldn't help myself.' Lewis sat back and howled.
'Enough, Lewis. No one is blaming you.' The tan wolf quieted but looked at the woman on the ground, his ears back and tail between his legs. Damien sighed and looked at the brown wolf behind Lewis. 'Adrian -- take Lewis back to the dorm and make sure he's settled for the night.'
'Yes, Mr. Dimeo.' He nudged Lewis to follow him back, pausing to look back at Damien and Charlie. 'Sorry about that, Mr. Dimeo. Lewis just kind of took off after her before I knew what was happening.'
'I understand, Adrian.'
'Congratulations on finding your one,' Adrian offered as he and Lewis head back to the dorm.
"Congratulations indeed," Damien said. He crouched next to Charlie, smoothing her hair away from her face gently. "Fuck it," he sighed, and started to gently to shake her shoulder. "Charlie? Wake up my love," he called softly. She seemed so still, if he couldn't see her heartbeat and the slight rise of her chest he would be worried. He released a breath he didn't realize he was holding when her eyes fluttered open. "Charlotte," he whispered, caressing her cheek.
Her eyes went wide and she scooted back from him. "Don't," was all she said. She quickly stood, brushing herself off and staring at Damien.
"I'm sorry," he said. She snorted at that, but didn't speak. He took a deep breath and stood as he scented her, her anger was overcoming her fear, and he decided to push forward and started moving towards her. "I am so sorry."
"You think that counts for anything? How dare you. How dare you keep something like this from me." She slapped at his shoulder, connecting with a grunt. She looked up at his face as he winced -- it didn't hurt him, but the sound surprised him -- and she went wild, slapping and punching at him uncontrollably. The only sounds were her hands hitting him and her labored breathing. This wasn't anger, it was fury, and all Damien could do was stand and let it run through her until it was spent.
It didn't take long.
One moment she was punching at his chest, her arms swinging wildly, and the next she was on her knees, head down, panting.
"I'm going to puke," she said weakly. Damien dropped to his knees beside her and gathered her hair one hand, his other running up and down her back. She sat still, not acknowledging him, concentrating on her breathing until the urge to vomit passed. "Don't touch me," she said quietly.
"I'm just trying to help," he said.
"I'm fine. Just...don't touch me." She sat back on her bottom and crossed her legs when she felt him move away.
"We need to talk, Charlie," he said, sitting next to her. He was close enough to touch her if she would let him, but not close enough to make her feel threatened by him.
"It's a little late for that," she snorted.
"I...I'm sorry. I really am. I should have told you sooner, I..." he trailed off.
"It never seemed to be the right time, I guess."
She gave a mirthless chuckle at that. "Here's a tip for the next girl you hook up with: tell her before you leave your ball prints embedded in her ass."
"You can't exist; you do know that, right?" she suddenly said, cutting him off. She turned to look at him and the pain on her face made Damien feel as if his heart was being squeezed. "You just can't." She turned away again. "And why the fuck are you naked?"
"I do exist Charlie. We do exist. What you saw was real." He paused, wanting so desperately for her to believe him. "I'm naked because the clothes tear when we change."
She shook her head in denial even as she continued to question him. "Everyone here are...they're like you?"
"Yes. Everyone on the ranch." She made an odd coughing noise at that. "What?"
"Impossible," she muttered.
"No!" She turned to look at him. "It's not possible. You can't turn in to a giant dog at will."
"Making barking noises? Really?" she gave him a cold look.
"What? No. No, not 'woof'," Damien clarified. "Wolf. With an 'l'."
"I turn in to a wolf, not a dog. I'm a werewolf."
"Impossible." She sighed, looking away from him again. "It's not even a full moon! And -- and --who ever heard of werewolf cowboys?"
"Seriously? Correcting me? That's rich coming from a naked guy in a field." She rolled her eyes. "That can't even fucking exist!" She clenched her fists and pounded on her thighs, looking -- for all her forty years -- as if she was in the middle of a temper tantrum. "Werewolves are myths! Made up tales to account for man's baser nature. You're not fucking real."
"I am, dolcezza. I am real, I am a werewolf." He looked at her, the tension in her readily apparent. "I wish you would look at me."
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, and his heart wept at her broken tone.
"I was going to. Tonight, in fact." She looked at him at that but didn't speak. "I should have before. I should have told you at the beginning, but..."
"I was scared to. I was afraid I would chase you away." She raised a brow at that, but she didn't look away, and Damien took it as a good sign. "I was. I had only just found you, and I didn't want to risk losing you."
"You're mine. You're my mate, my one."
"Werewolves have one mate, one partner they are fated to be with. We can't settle down or start a family with anyone else. And we search for them until we either find them or die."
"And you believe I am the one you're fated to be with?"
"I know you are."
"I'm not a werewolf."
"No..." he said, dropping his eyes.
"What are you hiding now?"
"I can turn you."
"Into a werewolf. Like me."
"Just...just hear me out." He got up on his knees in front of her. "Tell me you haven't felt drawn to me. Tell me that you don't feel right, feel whole when we're together. Tell me the thought of you leaving doesn't make your heart ache." It was her turn to drop her eyes. "That's the sign that we're meant to be mated. It's fate. You are mine, dolcezza, my mate, my one, the other part of me, the best part of my soul. As I am yours, completely and utterly. I will never be with another, I could never be with another now that I found you. I would forfeit my life for you, because my life would be forfeit without you. I love you and only you. I will until I die." She looked at him as he finished.
"If I stay with you."
"No, actually. Even if you don't." Her brow creased.
"But you said your life would be forfeit without me?"
"I did," he sighed, looking at her. He longed to take her into his arms and hold her until she agreed to mate with him, to force her, but he knew that path condemned them both. He sat back down next to her. "It's...it's complicated."
"And up until now it hasn't been." She rolled her eyes at him and looked away again. "Just nut up and tell me."
"You have...options, my love. Choices. I don't. You could choose to leave, to get your car Saturday and just...go." He looked away from her; not telling her that while she could physically leave, she likely wouldn't be allowed to, and he didn't want her to see that he was hiding something from her. "You most likely would be depressed for a long while, but I believe you would eventually get over it. You might even fall in love."
"Well, yes. We have no way to know for sure what would happen. But -- yes -- I believe you could leave. Forget about me-" she snorted at that "- and get on with your life."
"And that would cause your life to end?"
"It might. Not right away...but eventually. It might."
"Everyone dies eventually."
"My life would end long before it should." She rolled her eyes again at that. "We live a lot longer than humans, my love. A lot longer. My parents are well into their sixth century."
"And that would make you...?"
"Years?" she squeaked.
"Yes." He smiled at her and felt as if his heart was ripped from his chest when she merely looked away.
"And when I leave you would...what? Spontaneously combust?" She tried to sound sarcastic, but Damien could hear the concern in her voice.
"Not literally, no. There is a good chance it would...change me."
"Change you how?"
"It's like I would go insane. But it's so much worse for us. I would slowly lose myself. If it happened, I would lose my compassion, my sense of decency, and would likely have to be terminated."
"Killed. Put down. Executed." He sighed and looked at the side of her face, leaning forward a bit to see past her hair. "If it happens, I would be a risk, too great a risk and Darian would have to take care of it."
"Because he's your brother?"
"Because he's the alpha."
"We have a hierarchy, dolcezza. One wolf is the head of the pack, the alpha, and here that's Darian."
"Yes and no. He was the firstborn, but even if he hadn't been, he was the one born to be the alpha."
"What does that mean?" she asked, looking back at him. "You know what -- never mind. Totally off topic." She paused a moment, her face neutral. "So, when I leave, I am in essence killing you." Damien started to protest but she held up her hand. "You will go insane and need to be killed; therefore, my leaving sentences you to die."
"It might," he admitted again quietly, his wolf was howling at her assertion she would be leaving. "But...I don't...that shouldn't influence your decision."
"Oh really? Let's see, if I stay you live, if I leave you die. Yeah, no pressure there." She shook her head. "Do I have to change if I stay? I can't just kinda...hang out here? You know, maybe be like a mascot or something?"
"We would have to mate."
"Of course we would." She rubbed her eyes, suddenly exhausted. "And I would have to become like you."
"Yes. You would have to be changed."
"And I don't suppose there's any way for you to not be a werewolf, to reverse it, is there?" She laughed at that, harshly. "I can't believe I'm sitting here talking about werewolves like they actually exist. I keep wanting to believe I must have wrecked my car and I'm in a coma somewhere dreaming all this."
"You're not dreaming."
"I know I'm not," she ground out. They were quiet for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. "So can you?" she asked at last.
"Can I what?"
"Can you stop being one? Can it be reversed?" He looked at her, appalled at the suggestion. "What?"
"No one's ever wanted to stop. I...would you want me to stop being a werewolf?" He seemed offended that she would even think of asking him to do that.
"Maybe." He grimaced and looked away, upset she would even think to ask him to change who he is. "What's the matter? Did I offend you? Are you angry that I would ask you to do that? To change yourself for me? To change who you are so fundamentally?" His eyes went wide at that. "How is that any different than what you would ask of me?" He hung his head and didn't answer. "Answer me, dammit."
He looked back at her and she could see the understanding in his eyes. Charlie nearly sobbed, looking at him laid so emotionally bare to her was overwhelming, and she hated being the cause of any of his pain, but he needed to see her perspective, as much as he could. Their eyes held for another moment before Damien shifted, making Charlie jump at the suddenness of it and reflexively scoot herself back a few feet.
Damien looked at her and whimpered, laying himself on the ground in front of her. He puts his head on his paws and laid his ears back, looking -- as much as he could -- contrite.
"Are you fucking serious? Did you really just change to get out of answering my question?" Damien whined a bit but didn't change back. "Un-fucking-real." She stood up and dusted herself off, tucking her hair behind her ears and staring down at the huge wolf at her feet. Damien remained still, following her with only his eyes. "I can't believe you changed to avoid admitting I'm right." Another whimper. "No -- giving me puppy-dog or big wolf eyes is not the same thing."
She turned to head back to the ranch house but decided to turn back, making her spin in a complete circle. Damien would have laughed if he was able to. Instead, he just grinned with his tongue out.
"You know what? You're an idiot. Just because you can't speak to me doesn't mean I'm going to shut up. It only means you can't shut me up." She turned again and stalked back towards the house. "I swear I feel like I'm in a bad Ozzy video." She heard the wolf snort behind her, and turned her head to glance at him. "Yes. I know that's redundant. Not my point, asshole."
Damien stopped, stunned. Somehow Charlie had picked up on what he had been thinking. Twice. He grinned again, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. My mate, he thought, pleased. He started after her again, trotting a bit to catch up. She was still muttering under her breath -- something about neutering and flea collars -- but she didn't flinch away when he nosed her hand.
He was leading her, or trying to anyway, towards the back entrance to the main house, but she kept veering off. Not intentionally. At least, he didn't think so. She was just lost in her own mind, caught up in her own anger. It took her a bit to realize what he was doing.
"Are you -- for fuck's sake, you're herding me? Seriously?" she stopped walking and looked at him. He sat and looked at her, wagging his tail. "I can't believe this. I'm sitting here talking to a giant wolf who happens to be the man I'm dating. There is not enough therapy in the world to make sense of this shit." She started off again, and Damien was happy to see she was heading the right direction.
'Everything alright?' Darian sent to his brother.
'Adrian stopped by.'
'How is she taking it?'
'She's mad. Really mad. Keeps talking about neutering.'
'Do you need anything?'
'A time machine.'
'Tapped out there, brother.' Damien could hear the chuckle.
'Then I suppose I am out of options.'
'Come by after you get her settled. Have Eric and Lisa join us. We'll figure it out.'
They had reached the back of the main house and were standing outside the door. While all the internal doors had levers or opened with a push, the doors leading into the house had knobs. Charlie stopped and looked at the door, turning to look back at Damien with a smirk.
"Aren't you going to get the door for me this time?" He whined. "Manners give way to the wolf, huh?" She squat down in front of the big black wolf to look into its eyes. "Eventually you will have to change back and talk to me," she said quietly, her tone defeated.
She stood back up and opened the door, pushing it wide before walking through. She heard his claws clicking on the wood stairs behind her as they head up to his apartment. Once inside she quickly turned and head for one of the bedrooms on the bottom floor, closing the door behind her. Damien paced back and forth in front of the door whining, but Charlie ignored him.
She climbed on to the bed, only kicking off her shoes, and laid down, curling up on her side and facing the door. She could hear him on the other side, pacing, trying to shove his nose under the door and whining softly for a long time, his shadow dancing in the small space between the bottom of the door and the floor. When she finally heard his claws heading away from the door she sat up, surprised at the uneasy feeling of having him gone. She laid back down, rolling on to her other side and looking out the window, watching tree tops sway in the breeze, and quickly fell into a dreamless sleep.
Damien, once again human and dressed, came back downstairs and paused by the door of the bedroom Charlie had taken. He could hear her deep and even breathing and knew she had fallen asleep. He considered going in and moving her to his bed, but thought better of it, smiling ruefully as he imagined her reaction to waking up there. Instead, he turned and head towards the front door, needing to talk with his brother. He 'called' to Eric to have him and Lisa join them in his brother's apartment.
Eva opened the door as he walked up, grabbing him into a hug as he passed. "Sorry to hear it went so badly, Damien." They walked in to the sitting room to find Darian there, sipping a cup of tea.
"How is she?" Eva asked, taking a seat next to her mate.
"Sleeping." Damien paced, in too much turmoil to even think of sitting. "Something weird happened tonight. Twice when I was my wolf, Charlie picked up on my thoughts."
"She heard you?" Darian asked, leaning forward to look at his brother closely.
"Not exactly. At least, I don't think she did." He stopped, running his hands through his hair and gathering his thoughts. "I think she just barely picked up on what I was thinking. She caught the sentiment, the gist of it, but not the exact thought. It made my wolf so happy when she did, happy and proud."
"That's not surprising," Eva said. "It's the pull, the bond you two are meant to share. She's able to pick up on your emotions. It bodes well for you that she is so receptive."
"She's not exactly receptive yet."
"What did you tell her?" Darian asked.
"The truth. Or most of it, anyway."
"Does she know what will happen if she denies you?"
"She knows it might happen."
"Damien!" Eva said, horrified. "Why didn't you tell her the truth?"
"I didn't want her to feel forced, Eva. Not after what she went through before."
"This is not the same thing." Eva was getting angry at her mate's brother. "To play with your life like this..."
"She needs to make the decision because she wants to, Eva. Not because she has to. The last time she felt she had to do something..." Damien trailed off, unwilling to speak about what her ex-husband had done to her.
"We understand, brother," Darian said, putting his hand on his mate's back to calm her. "We're just concerned."