The Wolf in His Arms: Chapter 1

Wolf_in_His_Arms_CoverThe Wolf in His Arms is available Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.

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The Arrangement 

Lucy groaned audibly and then flung her head back onto her bed. She looked up at the ceiling as she felt the headboard to her bed rattle from the thumping coming through the wall. She groaned again, louder, and covered her head with the pillow.

When Jared had suggested that the three of them move in together, Lucy had some misgivings. Mostly, she worried that her new “condition” would put Alec and Jared in danger. As it turned out, the real danger was lack of sleep. As soon as Alec and Jared thought she was asleep, they were at it like rabbits—and she was suddenly awake.

She reached for the earphones on her nightstand and turned on her iPod. She chose a mix of classical music and cranked the volume up. As violas and piccolos soothed her ears, she closed her eyes, hoping to drift back off to sleep.

Her bed quaked delicately with each pounding through the wall. Letting out a great grunt of annoyance, Lucy tossed the covers off. She rose, glared at the wall separating her bedroom from Alec and Jared’s, and trudged into the hall to the kitchen. Without flipping on a light, she filled the teakettle and clunked it to the burner and gruffly turned the dial. A flame leaped to life, licking at the bottom of the pot.

A few minutes later, she sat on the couch with a cup of chamomile tea and the soothing classical music still floating through her ears. Lucy pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. Tears formed along the rims of her eyes and gently rolled over her cheeks. The worst part of waking in the middle of the night was the loneliness that swallowed her like a giant, Biblical fish. Her longing for Rene and the life she’d had a few months before huddled in the darkness with her, frail and sad as she.

Lucy wiped her eyes and tossed back a few sips of the tea, determined not to feel sorry for herself. She made a mental list of things she would do. The first, she decided, was tell Alec and Jared that their late-night escapades woke her. She knew they were trying to work their voracious sexual appetites around her, but the late-night rendezvous were a fail. Second, she decided to add an extra hour at the gym the next day. If one day they would go into battle, she decided immediately, she would transform from a bookworm into a bad-ass bookworm. She had started with self-defense classes, and now she was working her way up the belts in taekwondo.

Her mind immediately flipped to her nuisance of an instructor, Mitch McCallahan. Lucy narrowed her eyes just thinking about the boorish, rude, egotistical jerk. He was, unfortunately, an amazing instructor, and Lucy was determined to become as good as she could as quickly.

Lucy set the empty teacup on the coffee table and curled up on the couch. She thought she might try her bed again, but decided it safer to stay on the couch and sleep. She closed her eyes and drifted off as violins cried a melancholy chorus in her ears.

*        *        *        *

Waking, Alec stretched his arms over his head in a large V, his knuckles scraping the headboard. Jared nestled against his chest, and stirred, gripping him tighter, momentarily. “Timetoge’up?” Jared mumbled.

“Yes,” Alec croaked with his dry mouth. “Coffee.”

Jared nodded vigorously and pulled away, stretching. He slung the covers off his body as he did every morning, as if that were the only way to coax himself from bed. The covers pulled off Alec, exposing his bare chest to the cold air in the apartment, and he clamped his arms to his chest and shivered. He smiled as he watched Jared’s bare butt cross the room and grab underwear, jogging pants and a tee-shirt.

Alec tossed the covers off with a groan and hurriedly pulled his own clothes on. He followed Jared out to the kitchen where he was grinding coffee beans. Alec paced up behind him, resting his chin on Jared’s shoulder. “Love that smell,” he said of the coffee beans.

Jared smiled as he scooped the coffee into the coffeemaker. He turned around and rested his hands on Alec’s shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. “I love mornings with you.” After filling their cups, they padded down the hall to the living room in the front of the apartment. “Uh-oh,” Jared said, nodding to Lucy sleeping on the couch. “I think we must have woken her last night.”

“Great,” Alec mumbled. “Let’s have our coffee in the kitchen and let her sleep.”

“You did wake me,” Lucy said groggily from the couch. She sat up with a great stretch and rubbed her eyes. Her face turned to a scowl. “We need to talk about your bedroom acrobatics”—she smiled when both of their jaws dropped—“but coffee first.”

They followed her to the kitchen, where she poured herself coffee and sat at the table. “Sit,” she said.

“We try to, ah, work around your schedule,” Jared started.

“I know,” Lucy said, nodding. “But you guys are not quiet. In fact, my entire bed shakes. Seriously.”

Alec looked down at the table, silent. Lucy could tell he was blushing.

“Why not just schedule your fun time while I’m at the gym?”

“We do,” Jared said. He arched his eyebrow. “That’s round one.”

Lucy rolled her eyes histrionically and sipped her coffee. “Well, waiting until after I’m asleep is no good.”

“We could move our bedroom to the living room,” Alec suggested. Jared snarled his lip, and Alec added, “It’s not like we have guests.”

Jared countered, “What about this: if you’re home, we knock, tell you to put headphones in, and you can plan on coming to the living room. And we’ll make it a reasonable hour, since the late-night thing isn’t working.”

“I really don’t want to know every time you do the nasty,” Lucy said.

“And I don’t want her to know,” Alec agreed.

“I appreciate your incredibly mature feedback, and I’m open to other suggestions,” Jared said.

Alec finally suggested, “We could schedule it.” He turned his gaze to Lucy. “You’re not to be in your bedroom between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. any night. We may or may not be—”

“Copulating?” Jared interjected with a smirk.

“Yeah, that.”

Lucy nodded. “I think that’s reasonable.”

“Since we resolved that, and we’re all up, shall we have breakfast?” Jared asked, standing and walking toward the refrigerator.

Alec stood, casting his eyes down at Lucy. “You sit. We’ll make breakfast to make up for waking you.”

Lucy stood anyway to refill her coffee cup. She leaned against the counter as Jared broke eggs into a bowl for scrambled eggs and Alec laid bacon on the microwave dish. He popped it in the microwave.

“So two days until the full moon,” Lucy said. She leaned against the counter.

“We’ve not had a problem so far,” Alec said.

“True. But I don’t want to get too relaxed.”

Jared dumped the egg mixture into the frying pan. “The spot we’re using is perfect. We can use it until we find a cure.”

“Sure,” Lucy said. She admired Jared’s optimism for finding a cure—something she no longer shared.

“We’ve barely made a dent in the files from the barn,” Jared said, as if reading her mind.

Lucy nodded. While months passed, grief and depression took their toll, debilitating her. After the shock of the night of the fire had worn off, the grief over losing Rene sank in, and Lucy had spent days on end in bed. She had canceled classes for the previous semester, though she was taking classes again now. Alec, too, had taken a semester off. Jared had soldiered through and was now writing his dissertation, a process he planned “to drag out.”

Alec and Jared had made finding Lucy a place to transform safely their priority. Jared found an abandoned building: six vacant floors with an empty bank in the first floor. The vault in the basement made the perfect place to transform. Each full moon Jared and Alec camped outside the vault while she thrashed at the walls maniacally until the morning. She never remembered any of it.

Lucy thought of the morning after her first transformation. Jared eased the vault door open, Alec pressed against it in case they needed to slam the door shut if she were still a werewolf. Though Alec tried to hide his feelings behind a faltering mask, Lucy could read him: apprehension, embarrassment, and relief as he handed clothes to her and breathed, “Lucy.”

Lucy did not need to remember the full moons and the monster they made her; the mornings after, and the looks on their faces told her everything. And each time she changed, the walls of the vault became more gouged and pummeled so that she doubted Jared’s assertion that they “could use it until we find a cure.” Lucy feared that one day the door would rip from its hinges and she would awake with them dead, and no memory, just a new morning of regret.

“Luce?” Alec said.

She looked at him quizzically.

“Breakfast is ready,” he said with a smile. “What were you thinking about? You really zoned out.”

“My annoying instructor, Mitch,” she lied.

Alec nodded but she could tell Jared saw through her, as he always did. “I’m famished,” she said and grabbed a plate of steaming eggs and bacon.

“I’m gonna hit those files after breakfast,” Jared said.

“Together,” Alec said, smiling at Lucy.

“Together,” she agreed.

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