Rowan walked swiftly down the rapidly darkening street, trying to put as much distance between her and the hole where she worked as possible. The evening was chilly and the scent of burning wood floated on the air so heavily she could almost taste it. This was her favorite time of day. Everything was so peaceful with all the daytime shoppers gone for the evening and at least an hour before the crowds for the clubs really started to pick up. She paused briefly at the window of an aging used bookstore, digging in her bag for her keys. The owner of the shop stared at her for a moment before calling her inside,
"Hey, Miss Lottie," Rowan greeted the older woman, "What's up?" the shop owner blanched gently at Rowan's use of the phrase "What's up?" but decided to ignore the irritating slang.
"I was just about to call you, your book is in," Miss Lottie delighted privately in the shine of Rowan's eyes at the news. It was moments like this that the old woman had gotten into the used book trade in the first place. Without hesitation, Rowan dug into her pockets for all the tips she had made that evening and frowned slightly. Business had been slow and if she paid for the book tonight, she would have to get really creative for dinner. She looked at the money and looked at the heavy volume in the shop owner's hand and without a second thought handed the cash over. Miss Lottie smiled, "Is there anything else I can do for you, dear?"
"No thank-you, ma'am. Actually, I have to get home before the landlady locks me out again"
"Well, hurry along then. And don't let that dragon sister of mine bully you," Rowan slid the book into her bag,
"Goodnight, Miss Lottie" She shouted over her shoulder as she raced out the door and down the block toward the bakery where she lived.
Less than five minutes later she crashed noisily through the front door of the bakery with a cry of "Evening, Miss Scarlett" as she dashed through the dining area, past the kitchen, and up the back stairs to her rented room while her landlady, Miss Lottie's older sister, Scarlett, hollered after her about being late. Rowan silenced her with a quick slam of the door.
"Goodnight, Miss Lottie," was the only warning Kai had before nearly being knocked over by a blur in a long blue sweater charging out of the bookstore he was about to enter. He walked into the tiny shop and noticed the scent that lingered there; it had to belong to the girl who had just run past him. It was lovely, and it engaged his wolf's attention completely. He walked up to the counter and was greeted by the elderly proprietor,
"Sorry, but I am closing up in five," Kai smiled charmingly, hoping that he might be able to get some information about the girl from the woman,
"I know, and I am really sorry to come in at the last minute but I was wondering if there was any chance that you could track down a copy of this book for me," He handed her the slip of paper with his order and information on it. The shop keeper glanced over the order and promised to see what she could do.
"Is there anything else?" the lady asked,
"Well, yes, actually, there is. I know this is going to sound strange, but what can you tell me about the girl that just left here?" The old woman looked at him cautiously, trying to edit as much as she could without being impolite to the gentleman who had just ordered and incredibly rare and expensive tome.
"Her name is Rowan. She's one of my best customers. In fact, she just spent her last dollar on a Kaufmann translation of Faust," Kai's wolf stirred at the name, Rowan. He was already getting attached. He knew that he could not press for any more information without arousing suspicion, so he thanked the lady and left. Traces of her scent still hung in the air outside the shop, mixing pleasantly with the earthy smells of autumn. Inside him, Kai's wolf demanded that they follow the scent; his human half reasoned that the girl was small and this was not a great neighborhood, it would only be considerate to make sure that she made it home safely.
The trail ended at a bakery that was already closed for the night. Kai felt a nip of disappointment at having missed her, but the wolf was unwilling to concede so easily, insisting that they stay and investigate further. In the alley behind the bakery, Kai noticed a sign that read ROOMS FOR RENT. Not believing his good luck, he climbed the fire escape peering through each lit window until he found his target.
She was beautiful, and she was alone.
Rowan stared at the screen of her laptop, willing pages and pages of research material to organize and outline themselves. So far, she was having no luck. Giving up, she shut her computer and padded over to her tiny kitchen area to make some tea. She looked around her miniscule apartment and sighed. It was only one room (two if you counted the bathroom) barely big enough for her bed, dresser, dressing table, and bookshelves, it had a sink, miniature stove, and shelf in a corner that the landlady had rather generously referred to as a kitchen, but it was cheap, it was convenient, and most importantly, it was hers. Just the right size for her and her guinea pig, Sodapop, who was chirping happily from his cage in the corner. Once her tea was poured, Rowan grabbed her latest acquisition and headed to bed. It had been a long day. She opened her book and began to read.
Kai crouched low on the fire escape, trying to convince himself that what he was doing was not a little sick. While Kai's human half was screaming at him for being perverted, the wolf was endeavoring to push him through the window and into Rowan's home. It wanted to be near her. Kai knew that would frighten her, and he tried to force his wolf to see reason, promising that they would find some way to meet Rowan in a more socially acceptable way. It was just about to give in when the light went off in the girl's room. Even though Kai could clearly smell her and hear her heartbeat and her steady breathing, it somehow felt profoundly wrong not to be able to see her. He was clawing through the screen without another thought. He was just about to enter the room when his phone vibrated in his pocket. Swearing under his breath he leapt from the fire escape and onto the ground before answering the phone, "Hello?"
"Hey honey, where are you?" Kai tensed; of course that bitch would have to call now,
"I'm just out for a walk, be home soon," He was kicking himself. If Emma ever found out about his little peeping tom transgression it would mean a world of misery for him.
"Hurry, everyone is waiting," Crap. He had forgotten about the meeting. He could not believe that he had gotten so sidetracked. With a quick glance back at the darkened window, he headed toward home, shifting as he ran. His wolf would have to wait.