It’s been three days since I’ve seen the beast. I’ve found myself loitering after my shift in case he was coming in later. Even now, I’m hesitating in the doorway though my shift ended thirty minutes ago. What am I waiting for? I thought I would enjoy not seeing him, not worrying that he would see through the disguise, but I’m lingering, just in case.
“You’re an idiot,” I muttered to myself and gripped the ring. I’m ready to shed the spell for the night, ready to be me again. I slid it to my first knuckle and felt lighter. I looked down at my hand and a swath of my hair fell forward, the red leeching back in as the spell eased. Then… what was that? Was that a growl?
My heart raced as I jerked my head up and I slid the ring back down so fast it scraped my knuckle. Blood welled and I cursed and shook my hand to ease the sting. I stepped out of the doorway and closer to a streetlight so I could see what damage I’d done.
“You okay Poppy?”
He stepped out of the shadows… well okay he didn’t really. He just walked towards me, a frown of concern on his roughly hewn face.
“Oh fine thanks.” I managed a nervous smile. “Just scraped my knuckle.”
His arm snapped out and he gripped my wrist. “Show me.” He didn’t ask, he just took, lifting my hand closer to his face. “It’s nothing,” he proclaimed arrogantly then before I could pull my hand away, his lips are brushing against the small hurt. “A kiss to make it better.”
His low words covered my gasp of shock, at the kiss, at the brush of his tongue against my flesh. My traitorous body reacted and I wanted nothing more than to press myself against him, tilt my head back and offer him my throat. My hair would cascade over his arm, a river of red to match the blood that would flow when he bit me. Except it wouldn’t. My hair was blonde. He wasn’t kissing me, he was kissing Poppy.
“You shouldn’t do that,” I snapped and pulled my hand from his grasp.
He laughed, low and mocking. “I’ve missed you Poppy. Did you miss me?” he asked with a smirk.
“Were you gone?” I gave him my most guileless look, blinking my big blue eyes up at him.
He regarded me, his good humour fading, his eyes narrowing. Then he lifted his hand and pulled a lock of my hair. “Come now darlin’, no need to play games and pretend with me.” His head turned and he watched as he wrapped the hair around his hand.
“Do you mind.” I glared up at him and reached for his hand, giving it a light tap.
A growl rumbled and when he looked at me I could see the wolf so clearly, his eyes aglow, his teeth so big.
“Do that again,” he invited silkily. “But harder this time.”
For a moment I couldn’t look away, couldn’t breath, couldn’t blink. Then he gave a last tug on my hair and let go, the blonde strands falling against my shoulder. “Not me,” I thought, “it’s Poppy he wants.” What would Poppy do?
I lowered my head a fraction, looked up at him through the sweep of my lashes, lifted my shoulders in a nervous shrug.
“Maybe I did notice you weren’t around,” I admitted shyly, letting a smile touch my lips, feeling a flush rise on my cheeks.
The wolf smiled and rocked back on his heels. “Maybe hey?”
I lifted my head and rolled my eyes. “Just a little.” I held my thumb and finger an inch apart. “My shift is over though so…” I took a step back and he took one forward. My heart thrilled at being chased again. “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“It’s early yet,” he countered and we both stepped again. “Could I buy you a drink?” he gestured to the bar. “Or dinner?”
Dinner? His teeth flashed and my courage faltered. “Oh I don’t know, I’m pretty tired. From work.”
“Work?” He stopped and I took another step back then stopped. I should walk away, I should run. “Not from running?”
I shook my head in confusion, how could he know what I was thinking?
“I mean, you’re in incredible shape.” He looked me over, bit his lip and made a hum of pleasure. “You must work out somehow. Running?”
He meant exercise? “Ah no. I just,” I waved my hand vaguely towards the bar. “Work. I’m usually too tired after that for anything else.”
“Sounds like you’re overworked. Sure I can’t buy you dinner then walk you home? You need to look after yourself Poppy. Or let someone else do it.”
He lifted a hand and stroked the back of his fingers down my cheek. When had he gotten so close? I stood still, let him slide his hand around my neck, stroke my pulse with his thumb. I stared into his eyes, felt his hand, felt his breath against my lips as he whispered my name, “Poppy.”
Except I wasn’t Poppy, not really. But it was Poppy he had come back to see, Poppy he wanted to take to dinner, Poppy he wanted to look after. Me? He wanted to chase, catch, destroy. He would leave me broken and bleeding. Then he would look after Poppy.
“No.” The word was a thought, a breath, less than a whisper, but he heard and stopped. His eyes glowed as they stared into mine. “It’s late,” I added and tilted my head away from his touch.
His hand dropped away to his side as he straightened up and nodded. “Maybe another time.”
I answered with a shrug then somehow found the courage to turn my back to him and walk away. I expected him to pounce, could all but feel his claws in my flesh, but nothing happened. I made it to the end of the street and looked back over my shoulder but he was gone. I was alone again. Just me, myself, and Poppy.
*earlier episodes available here