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Peter, Peter-Full Moon Rises

Short story By: Cyndi Goodgame
Fantasy



Celeste knew when she married Peter what happened on a full moon. Now that others of his kind have come to call, will she be taken away from the very one she loves.

This is a paranormal twist on the nursery rhyme called Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater.


Submitted:Feb 11, 2014    Reads: 14    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Peter, Peter-A Full Moon Rises

P

Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater,

Had a wife, and couldn't keep her;

He put her in a pumpkin shell,

And there he kept her very well.

Preposterous! That's what I said to him when he locked me up in here. But I went nonetheless.

You see, my husband is a...were-animal. He changes on the full moon into various animals and hunts for hours on end. It didn't make for lovely evenings.

So while he is out there doing who knows what, I am locked inside the silver bullet. Well not really a bullet, more like a pumpkin. Yes, a gourd-shaped shell of a home for me, oh little me.

So now, it's almost morning and my sweet man will come through that door...when I let him.

Knock! Knock!

Here he is?

The daylight peeked through the door. I saw his very normal human hands slip onto the doorknob signaling for me to do my ritual jumping on him and cleaning him up. He would say his ritual words of how I was his perfection masterpiece and all the other pretty words he showered me with.

His broad shoulders were bared with the absence of his green shirt that he left off for the night before. I was used to it. Besides, my husband is gorgeous. His bright iridescent eyes smiled along with his perfect lips as I admired it all.

His jet black hair was a mess, all mused up in every direction.

Yeah, like I said. He is gorgeous.

"Hey babe," Peter's deepened timbre purred the words.

"Hey honey," I sounded too perky. I missed him.

He kissed my cheek and headed straight for the bathroom like he always did. I went back to the sofa...and waited.

Twenty minutes later, Prince Charming emerged.

The warm, earthy smell that was all Peter overwhelmed me. His deep, sultry smile hit his lips when he saw my dropped jaw. A chuckle elapsed from his no doubt still warm lips. And all thoughts of him being on four legs and with fleas left my mind.

He sat beside me and put an arm around my shoulder. I snuggled in close and dared the question I wanted answered.

"After all this time I have never asked, but what happens when you are gone from me."

Peter shifted only slightly. He moved my chestnut brown length of hair to curve around my neck and bent to kiss the side of my neck where he could reach. I helped him by leaning in. Would he tell me?

"Celeste, I will not fill your mind with horror stories."

I relaxed despite the avoidance. "Will you ever tell me?"

"Hopefully not," he snorted.

"Are there girl creatures out there when you are alone?" I finally asked the burning low in the pit of my stomach question that I never dared.

He grunted. "Celeste. You are so feisty sometimes. No. There are no females of my kind anywhere near or any other creature. If they were, they wouldn't hold a candle to you. All I see at night are prey and I'm the..."

He didn't say it, but I knew what he was about to say.

"Okay!" I could survive, for now.

We snuggled even closer and before the day drifted completely away, we went into town to grab steaks for dinner. Yes, my man eats lots of meat. Just saying.

The days went by. Weeks. Another full moon. The routine the same.

I was happy.

But I knew Peter needed more. He wanted someone to understand.

Then it happened. They came.

The three of them were menacing and hot and just.like.Peter.

All males and all creatures.

They smelled each other just like dogs. Not up close and personal but through the air. I'd seen Peter do it hundreds of times. They greeted us with head nods and a two finger salute from the one who stood in front. From my reading days I could have called him the Alpha by the way he led and the other two obeyed.

No, they hadn't even spoken, but the body language was there.

"Collin," his hard, steely voice announced. "This is Merrick," he pointed to the left and then the right, "Jonnick."

Twins. The other two were twins. Cool! And not cool.

Then all eyes...looked at me. And sniffed. Peter took a small, but defined step to cover me.

"She is mine."

Well, hello caveman.

All three males bowed to Peter. I didn't expect that to happen. At age twenty I wasn't naive. Yeah, Peter was three years older. That didn't make him ancient. I'd been married for two years now and yes, to a Were-animal, but that didn't make me dumb. These men were territorial about everything animal or not.

Guessing the bow meant that they would play nice, I ventured to ask them something coiling around my belly and itching to get free, "Are there more of you?"

Leader boy, Collin, stared a little too long and answered, "Yes."

That's it?

The one named Merrick looked me up and down and then switched his gaze to his brother, "She is human."

"Nice assessment boys. You have any other enlightenments."

"Quiet Celeste." Peter harped. He never took that tone. Was he scared?

"Ah! Celeste. Beautiful name for a beautiful girl." The other twin offered.

Peter's face contorted and I halfway wondered if he might change into his animal right here in the market.

Collin growled at the two. Yep! He growled. They bowed and took a large step backward. He spoke to my husband, "We are just traveling through. If you could be so kind, we wouldn't make trouble if you could allow us to stay in your town for a fortnight."

Two weeks? And why was he asking if he could?

Peter bowed his head like he knew what to do. I watched as the twins ducked into a bar at the end of the road. Collin followed us out of the market after we went in, bought our steaks, and left. Consequently, Collin bought nothing.

We went to the car where Collin waited for us to put the packages into the trunk. Peter asked me to get in the car. I hesitated only because I was worried for Peter.

Once in, I put on my super duper ear alert and listened. They talked low, but I caught some of it.

Collin called his other two cronies part of his pack. Guess I was right about the alpha part. He also said that Peter was the alpha of this area. That was...interesting. I also caught that there were females of their kind although I didn't catch who asked the question or brought it up. The green monster arose in me. I wouldn't lose Peter.

I'd fallen in love with him the second I saw him. A year after high school I was working in the local bookstore when he walked in. I was mesmerized. He was perfect from head to toe and his dark, broodiness just drew me to him more. I greeted him with a smile and asked to help him with anything he needed while a slow buzz rose up through my body with him near. I still remember what happened that day. His eyes lighted up to a glow or something. They still do when he enters the room and looks at me. I love it.

That's how I knew he wasn't...human. The eyes. Then one day after we'd dated for weeks, he told me he had to leave. When I protested, he only grew moody like he was when I met him. He said he had a cabin on the outskirts of town and would not come to town anymore. I couldn't believe I might not see him again. So one night I followed him. I saw what I saw and what he turned into. How, you ask? Um, he was lying naked in his front yard when I watched him change at dawn of the morning I'd staked out his house. He'd not been there because he was...elsewhere.

I was not the least by scared of him, more intrigued. He said then I was morbid and nuts. I agreed, but I loved him nonetheless.

And here we are today standing outside the small town market with three more of his kind. And...there were females...somewhere.

The twins arrived somehow at precisely the time Peter and Collin had decided to shake hands the manly way and depart. I turned my head around in the seat through the tinted windows to get a glimpse of all three of them one more time. All three were watching...me.

Time stood still. They all three, in unison, turned their nose up in the air to me. Was that a snobbish gesture or a goodbye or what? Deciding on the "or what" was the final conclusion because they were not human after all.

A day passed. Peter was uneasy. When I asked, he shrugged and kissed my forehead, holding me close. I even felt him sniff my hair a few times. When I called him on it, he laughed and said how he loved my peach scented shampoo. Hmm!

Another day.

On the third day after our visitors, a knock came on the door. I answered it without checking first and before me stood a dark, unearthly woman whose beauty took me away. She was fifteen to twenty years my elder, but heck she was gorgeous.

"Good afternoon, love."

I tensed. "Can I help you?" I landed my hand on my hip to appear confident.

"I think so." She looked right over my head. Her heels were two inches high and made her a giant goddess. Her black hair contrasted against her bright like light skin. And sunglasses. "Is Peter home?"

I tensed more. "Not for you he isn't. How do you know his name?"

She laughed heartily like a man and stuck one manicured hand out to me, "Ginger. I am with Collin. I was told he would be here."

"What do you want?"

She surveyed me long. "Collin said you were a tiger. I am here to see him about...things."

"What things?" We weren't getting anywhere.

"If you must know, dollie, it's about you." The woman named Ginger let her lips curl on the last word for effect.

Great. They want to do away with me and take my man off to Were-animal camp where they teach him the skills of a warrior and marry him off to the princess of wolves.

"I-

"I'm here. What do you want?" Peter walked too fast and placed his body in front of mine. I wasn't overly tall, but an average height and build. My hair was my trademark feature. And well, my eyes. That's what Peter claimed anyway. But I was not stand out worthy either like this woman. Not to me at least.

"I'm here for the girl."

"No!" he said.

"Collin told you this would happen."

What were they talking about?

"I don't believe him."

"You don't have to, but it will come to pass whether you stand in our way or not."

What exactly did Collin and Peter discuss that I missed?

Peter slammed the door in her face. He never told me what it all meant and I never asked. He'd tell me when he was ready?

He was moodier than ever though. He paced the living room, our bedroom, and even the kitchen while I was the one checking on the ingredients to make hamburgers for tonight's meal.

"Come on Peter. You have to tell me."

"NO!"

The next day, we went into town. He tried to get me to stay home, but that just made me more suspicious.

"Will you calm down?" I blew out my breath. Oh, my breath. I could smell it. Ew! It smelled like dirt. Something was very wrong.

He saw my face. "What?" he asked with a look of concern.

"It's nothing. I just forgot to brush my teeth or something."

The look of horror on his face made me note that never, ever would I forget to brush my teeth again.

I ignored him and my teeth both and watched the trees out the window. Just then, my stomach twisted. I felt like I wanted to throw up. My hand went to my mouth.

"What's wrong, Celeste?" Peter's voice rang with confusion and something else.

"Pull over. NOW!"

I vomited all over the side of the road. We were not to town yet. The national forest loomed around us with all it's shadows.

After a good five minutes of losing my breakfast and lunch, I dry heaved into the air. Peter held my hair and handed me a water bottle when all the liquids had drained out of me.

He helped me back into the car and after convincing him I was fine for the tenth time, he went on into town. He was so against it though.

Sure enough, the second we turned down the main road I recognized something that I hadn't noted before. A large, longer than usual Jeep sat in front of the market. How did they know?

I heard Peter grunt and mumble something undecipherable. He rushed around and opened my door. Collin, Ginger, Merrick, and Jonnick were standing before us.

Collin noted my paler than usual face. I covered my mouth to hide the bad breath and now vomit breath. Call me the dragon lady.

"I told you it was inevitable. She will change. She is showing the signs already."

"Just shut up." Peter went postal. He charged the sign post beside us with his fist. "Just leave her alone."

Change? What did that mean? I watched my too far enraged husband who was never violent.

"You have two days till the full moon," Collin's angular shaped brows rose in my direction. His never fear the devil demeanor scared me.

Peter tore off back to the car with me in tow. I was livid. These guys were talking about me and he wanted to avoid the whole situation. Strangely gorgeous people come into town, want to ask about us and talk indirectly about me, and he wants to vamoosh!

"Peter, stop," I tugged back as he still dragged me. He opened the car door and pushed me in. The keyless entry bleeped and I was locked in. He left the car, walked back to the small army of folded arm men and one, still wearing her sunglasses on a cloudy day, Ginger. I tried the door, the buttons, nothing. So I watched.

Peter hauled off and hit Collin. Just slammed his fist into his jaw. Collin's hand shot up stopping the other two boys from doing anything. Next, Peter was screaming in Collin's face who just happened to be a few inches taller than my Peter.

Never understanding the hate words or wanting to know the swear words that emitted from my husband's mouth, I just stared. Suddenly, Peter was in the car with me and our little sporty Mazda was peeling out of the lot.

Peter fumed. If he weren't what I knew him to be I'd swear he was breathing fire he was so angry.

"Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

"Let me calm down."

"NO! I want to know now Peter. I'm scared for you."

He looked at me. His eyes were a trippy color of yellow nothing like the burning glow that started up when he was hot for me. He looked...dangerous.

"I'm going to change if I don't calm down," he blew out.

I should have heard what he said and made a loud gasp and tried to calm him down the best I could but one word shot out at me like getting hit with a real dart when you thought it was fake. He wasn't playing around about the "change" part and I knew exactly what the others where meaning.

I swallowed the largest bit of air left in the car and exhaled really slow. My hand covered my mouth like the words were lethal to utter, "Did Collin mean that I would change...like you?"

Peter growled and hit the steering wheel. He threw the gear into the highest speed leaving the dirt flying everywhere. Before long we were slamming into neutral and then stopping the car like a freight train who saw a kid on the tracks. My body jolted against the seat belt that held me in.

Peter jumped out of the car and ran two steps at a time around to my side, pulled me out, and hugged me.

He was all arms and legs and warm breath. I wanted to scream out, but his body was shaking. He pushed his face into the corner of my neck where he often did on the mornings he returned from the full moon.

After a while he said into my skin, "You are so perfect. Your scent is all that calms me."

My scent? "So you do like to smell me. I knew that's what you were doing."

"I didn't want you to think less of me," he hadn't raised his head yet.

"Think less? Peter...I married you just like you are. Nothing you can do will weird me out. Well, maybe a few things, but that doesn't make me love you less."

He chuckled letting his lips vibrate in stereo against my skin with his laugh. "You only married me for my body, babe."

"Mostly. But your heart and soul won me over."

"And the classics," his face surfaced with a small smile.

My confused look made him carry on, "the bookstore. I wanted a copy of Dickens classics and that's what won you over."

"No," I clarified, "It was the fact that a hot dude was intelligent enough to read, read good literature, and not hunt, pop beer cans open with his teeth, or jump naked into the lake for entertainment."

His brow rose a touch, his lip curled. "You think I haven't done those things?"

Oh! "You have?"

"Not in the way your thinking?"

Oh! He meant while he was...an animal. And would I be one too?

"I have to ask Peter." He knew what I wanted to know.

"Yes."

Okay! "You have to tell me more."

He buried his face into my neck again. "They came because of you, not me."

I waited.

Muffled still, "Collin is the leader of the pack from one of the neighboring areas. He needs a female and went looking for one. He found one."

"Oh, good. That's good isn't it?"

His face lifted. "He wants you."

If my face was pale before, it was completely drained of color now. "What? No. He can't have me." I jerked back and lifted my hands like I might fight something. I looked down to my hands that resembled claws with the way I curled them.

"Kitten, you couldn't hurt a fly."

"I will die trying."

At those words, he slammed me back in the car and drove us home. Almost there, he said very softly, "You will not die."

I got his fury. I knew why he'd been acting the way he had. He didn't want to lose me. My heart cranked up a notch on the how much I love Peter scale. I love him so deeply it hurts.

"What can we do?" And my other question that will remain quiet for now, when will I change? He must of heard me.

"I can hear your thoughts when I am changed," his eyes burned into mine.

He could?

"I've never told you that. I know you love to take rose petal baths on the nights I am gone. I know you only eat vegetables to honor me in the twisted way your mind works. And I know you sleep...in nothing when I'm gone." His eyes glowed.

Aaa! That was too much. "When's it my turn?"

His face didn't smile. "Celeste. On the full moon tomorrow night you will change into what I am." He let that sink in.

"How? Do I take my clothes off and just think animal thoughts like 'Follow the bunny'?"

I detected a small lift in his upper lip. "No. It will be natural. You weren't just attracted to me because of my book fetish."

I wasn't?

"You were always a Were, you just didn't know it. Nor I. Collin explained it."

His face twisted and a small growl emerged at saying the guy's name. He continued, "I was born elsewhere and brought by my family to live here. I am the son of the alpha from Collin's pack. If I choose to stay here, I lose you. If I go back..."

I interrupted though he'd stopped anyway, "What's to choose? I won't lose you Peter. What did you say about Collin taking me?"

"He is the current heir to the alpha. He cannot take the lead without a female. He means to make you his." His hands went through his hair like when he was stressed. We walked into the house and he went straight to the sofa. I followed and wrapped my arms around the back of him in comfort.

"And what alternative do we have since I'm not going to let that happen?"

Peter sighed, heavily. "I have to go with them to keep you."

Oh! "It isn't fair."

"Tell me about it."

We were quiet awhile.

"What are you not telling me?"

"The alpha is my father Celeste. What do you think that means?"

I deliberated a second adding up details in my head. I retold the conversations from the market, the roadside, and just a few minutes ago in my head.

It hit me. "You're the new alpha if you go?"

He shook his head without looking up. I rubbed his shoulders with my fingers enjoying the little moans he offered. Man stress is way worse than our stress, I decided.

"I get that you're not happy about having to leave. I also understand that you're worried about me. And while it's not what I would have picked for our next step in our relationship, it's definitely puts us on equal ground a bit more. Maybe this could work."

I could handle anything if Peter was in my life. Without him, I'm lost.

"You don't understand, sweet. If...when you change, you will become...fair game."

"What?"

His face was sad. "When you change tomorrow night, you will not be mine necessarily."

"So what do you have to do to win me?" I said saucily.

He did smile but it vanished, "I have to mark you."

My horrified look made me blush and then some. "How is that Peter?"

He laughed so loud I thought he'd gone mad. "Come on. Let's go to bed. I just want to hold you all night and make it all go away."

So not Peter like. I followed my husband to bed where he only took his shoes off and climbed in and tucked me all up under him. Fully clothed and warm.

"I have to mark you in a different way. I have to cut you."

"Where?"

He took in a whiff of me before saying, "On your arms where others can see that you are mine."

"So that doesn't sound so horrible."

"Yes it does. I don't want to destroy your beauty. You are perfect just the way you are." He was very poetic tonight. More so than ever.

"Come on. A couple of marks on my arm won't mar me for life. What's the bigger deal in this Peter." He always jilted a bit when I said his name so...I said it often and with different voices to capture his attention.

"I have to chase you."

I waited some more, a little unsettled.

"Collin gets equal ground. We wait for midnight, and you change. At your change we will both be elsewhere and have to make our way to you. First one to mark you wins." His words sounded like he was spitting poison.

Now I see. And I was scared now. A shiver crawled up my spine. I didn't like this all of the sudden.

We laid there awake for hours in the still and quiet. When dawn breached, we both were asleep. After two hours of fitful, closer than we'd even been rest, we both took turns getting ready and making a plan for the day. I convinced him to let me talk to Collin and express my reluctance. He hemmed and hawed for the longest but relented.

Parked outside the restaurant by the market, we met in the first booth over coffee. Guess other Weres drink coffee too.

"Peter told me everything. I want to make sure I am clear on what you intend." I sipped slowly.

He coughed. "He told you everything?" he questioned with one eyebrow in Peter's direction.

Peter nodded a yes and grabbed my hand under the table. The one that wasn't hard fisting the coffee mug at the time.

"I don't want to hurt you Celeste."

That was it. "You don't?" My voice rose an octave. "You come here, threaten to break the two of us apart, say that our life means nothing and we have to drop everything and go with you, and by the way, your just a slimeball daddy's boy who doesn't like to lose. Well, think again Collie boy. I'm not going willingly." I threw my coffee down on the table making it spill in all directions. As I stood very ungracefully, Ginger laughed her man laugh and said for all of us to hear, "Guess she got her tiger ways from her momma."

"What the heck does that mean?" I stopped in my tracks. Peter was right behind me so I bumped into him and he moved aside for me to blow again. He hadn't said a word. I hoped maybe if he let me be a total wench to Collin maybe the boy wouldn't want me anymore. Collin that is.

"You are my daughter."

Didn't see that coming.

"Yeah, the Pope coming in the door next? I don't have a mother." I looked at Peter's shocked face trying to hide my "how did she know look" that I am adopted. He didn't know either or that my parents were not really my parents. I felt a small ping of regret for never telling him. It was terrible to find out this way.

"I am your real one. You know full well that you were adopted as a child. I wanted you safe...and hidden."

I turned to Collin for some kind of answers, "WHO is this woman?"

"She is what she says."

I turned back to Ginger who I looked nothing like in any way, "And what else are you? I know there's more. There always is with you guys."

Maybe she is.

"Very good first born daughter of the widowed wife of the alpha from this area," one of the twins snagged out. I couldn't tell which one without the usual captain and enlisted order of things they kept when they stood.

I'll play along to see what it gets me. Peter, I hoped. The prince and princess thing is going a little too far in the fairy tale sense. I could so write this story better.

"Fine. Thanks, mom. Now let's get something clear. You have your agenda tonight at this glorious undertaking, but I have my own. I will not be taken from Peter. I don't care what you say or do."

Ginger turned to Collin and he nodded. I'd had it. Enough of the nodding and bowing already.

I stomped back over to Collin and put my finger in his face, "I will not go with you. You can mark me, kill me, whatever. I.Will.Not.Like.You. Whatever you do, I will do the opposite. I will fight you. Kill me now if that's what you have to. I will hate you forever if you take me from him."

Collin didn't look particularly angry, but he didn't look happy. I couldn't read him at all.

With that, I left. Peter followed having never said a word the entire time.

In the car Peter finally spoke low and shaky, "Remind me when you change to never, ever stand in your way love. I would hate to have that wrath reign down on me."
I exhaled loud and to the point, "Let's just get through tonight."

Night did come. I was left alone in the woods. I couldn't have ever predicted that I'd be here, like this. Peter was taken elsewhere as was Collin.

My mom came to see me though.

"I know this was abrupt and not at all like you thought it would be, but I am happy I was able to know you nevertheless."
"How do you know I am your daughter?" I asked. I could be some random bum's child. That's what I'd always pictured, but that's what made me know she wasn't lying though. No one else knew I was adopted. Not even Peter.

"You have my scent. That's how Collin found you. It's how Peter found you."

Oh! "So the day I met him wasn't just a chance happening?"

"I imagine it was. Peter didn't even know who you were till just now. He was only following your scent back then. He just knew what he wanted and that he would have you no matter what the cost."

I understood the reasoning because I felt the same. "He is mine."

"I understand. But also understand that Collin is having the exact same feeling that Peter felt that day. You two grew in love, but at the moment Collin just sees you as perfection."

Like what Peter always says. Did he see past the alpha daughter scent of blood line thing? Now I worried my girl mind too death.

"May your fortune turn out the way you wish, my daughter. If you ever see fit to know me more, I live on the other side of your little cottage through the woods."

My step faltered. "Did you know me...all this time?"

Ginger turned around one last time and nodded a very solemn yes in my direction. Maybe she was my mother, but I wasn't ready to accept it yet.

Alone. The quiet of the woods settled in. My watch said it was four minutes till show time. I just kept reacting, not stopping. I knew all of this seemed like a dream kind of like in fast forward motion, but I tried to keep up with the pace.

I felt my stomach want to vomit like yesterday. My skin tingled. Two minutes. My body ached.

My hands burned. The long satin white robe I wrapped myself in was itching. I told Peter I didn't want blood on my clothes or to ruin them in the change. That didn't help matters.

My face hurt.

Then like that, I could smell and feel and hear everything.

Peter!

All kinds of voices. Male. Female. Chittering. Cawing. Everything.

And smells. I could smell the trees and dirt and stale water.

Yes, water had a scent and I could tell it apart from all others. Weird how the knowledge just comes to you.

I started to run. Wow! This was amazing. I could see in the dark also. I could smell the water so that's what I went to.

Left. The path was hard to follow because of the tall brush. I felt a few pricks from thorns and such but the new tougher skin made me stronger. I found the unmoving water.

I padded my large feet to the edge of where it would wet my skin. The moon was shining on the water like a glass mirror. I looked over the top of it and saw what I thought I'd never see even after the day I say my husband turn into the very same animal.

I was an animal. I was a mountain lion. Or rather, lioness.

And I was powerful. I turned at the sound of something. I watched with my newfound eyesight.

A voice came through.

Celeste, where are you?

I heard him. Peter. But caution took my mind over. If I say, will both of you pounce on me at once?

Talk in code. Tell me where you are? I could tell he was running. Could he tell all the times I panted when the water was too hot in the tub on the nights he could hear me?

Yes.

Oh. Be careful with my thoughts now for sure. I had to think. Our favorite vacation we always talk about has this.

On it. I love you Celeste. You are mine and I am yours.

I know. I love you too my Peter.

A growl.

Oh no. Someone found me. I arched my back in wait, ready for attack praying it wasn't Collin. My mind befuddled, I couldn't remember where Peter said he would mark me but I wanted to cover myself. I spun in every direction the trees moved in the breeze. Nothing.

But I didn't lower my stance. I was ready.

Time seemed different. I felt like I'd been here for hours, but I was sure it was only minutes.

Almost there love. I'm coming to you.

Here.

What will you do if he does not mark you first?

I tossed my head both ways. I heard him. Collin, is that you?

What will you do?

I will fight you till the end. I told you. I want Peter.

And if I take you anyway?

I will hate you. Hurry Peter. I'm scared.

I'm coming.

I still didn't see anyone. Well, anything. The water still behind me, I stood perfectly still so as to catch any scent or sound. I did find something odd on the wind. And something else too. Something familiar to me. Like the earth. And fresh pine. PETER. I could smell Peter.

Very good love. I scent you too.

I giggled on the inside with that. It sounded like an I love you between animalistic lovers.

That's what we are. Now concentrate on what trees and bushes are around you.

A holly bush.

Great. I know just where you are.

Another scent hit me like a brick. I knew it was another male. An alpha male. How did I know that?

You will be a great one Celeste. I hope...

Collin. I lifted my nose to the air. I found them both. And others.

Just then, someone pummeled me to the ground. I used my sharp teeth to snap at the intruder.

Stop love. It's me.

I fell over and hunched under him. HE was a lion. No freaking way.

Yes. I told you. You are mine and I am yours. He licked my nose with his pink tongue. I should be grossed out, but I wasn't.

If you could call it a hug or just animal love pats, it was love either way. He pawed my face. Are you ready, love? I need to mark you. And preferably sooner than later.

Yes. I pushed out my leg (arm) finally remembering subconsciously where he'd told me he would mark me.

In a fast swoop, his claw slit my arm open and blood gushed. Beside me, Peter, the lion, bowed his head. You are so brave to accept all this so calmly.

Only way to keep you.

I am honored.

His head bowed, I marveled at his turn in mood. He was this loving, devout creature who loved me enough to go through all this for me. And I for him. I would love him forever.

Just then, something overtook Peter. The two creatures rolled over and over and into the water.

Stop. He marked me. It's over. I knew it was Collin. I smelled him.

Both continued to lash out at each other. Gashes and blood making horrendous sounds in my head.

STOP, please. I was scared. Stop. I knew you were there.

With that, the wolf stopped and flipped over the top of the lion. Humongous in size, the wolf was not your average wolf. Fits him really.

Then why didn't you run?

I didn't know. I just knew I couldn't move until Peter found me. I didn't answer.

Why didn't you mark me?

He never answered. He bowed his head to Peter and padded off.

I washed my husband's wounds in the water and we wandered for a while. I learned a few things about how to read a scent and what to hear for. I knew now he could change into several animals, but my change made his final. I found out he hunted sometimes for the fun of it out of boredom. He'd even eaten raw meat. Figures. He is such a guy.

I didn't think I could do that.

Don't knock it till you've tried it babe.

Ewww!

It's nearly dawn and the others are waiting.

Why are they waiting?

He never answered.

I worried the whole way about being naked and possibly in front of others. I lost the pretty robe that shredded to pieces. I guess that answered the whole naked when you turn thing.

I worried about what happens next for us, for Peter, for me. For Collin.

Collin.

He let Peter have me.

We did arrive at our cottage and we did have clothes lying behind the house on the porch for us. Only ours. I don't know where the rest were, but only my husband was there. Thank goodness.

An hour after dawn, and a shower, we were meeting with the others in the woods. Talk about creepy.

Thick, gray clouds rolled across the sky in slow wavy lines. The air was measurably humid and made my skin moist and my clothes clingy with sweat.

"It is our way," Ginger, mom, said when I asked.

I felt a little more free to be bold with the circumstances so I snapped at Collin a little more than I should have.

"Well, I figured you'd be up on your deity throne bumping us off, not out talking to the unwanted," I shrugged not at all embarrassed as I looked to Collin. He was dark and brooding not unlike when I'd met Peter.

He didn't say a word.

"This is who we are. I will tell you," Ginger spoke but was interrupted.

"No. I will do this," Collin interrupted. She bowed to him and stepped back. "You will return now and be ceremonied into our pack. After you two are ready with what things you are taking, we will show you your new home." His voice was choked. He looked away from me to the ground. He never looked at Peter once today.

I can do this...for Peter.

We finished the business side of things and I asked to talk to Collin...alone. Peter nodded and then something odd occurred. I heard him otherwise.

I will be close.

I turned with a jerk. His face said it all. Did I just hear you?

He smiled so large I almost attacked him with kisses.

How?

Alpha male and his mate.

Oh, a perk. I like. My own smile was too large to contain.

Hurry up with him so we can be alone. He growled...differently. I like.

His face said all kinds of danger ahead. The good kind.

I approached Collin only after my flushed cheeks had be contained. I had to look away from my hot to trot husband to do so.

"Blasted!" I stepped in mud. Collin took my arm and helped me out. I thanked him and looked back to see that we didn't have an audience.

Here goes. "Why did you let him win?" I hadn't spoken to him out loud since yesterday.

Eyes downcast, "I saw the way you two love each other. I've never seen it. In our kind that is. I wanted you so much just like him, but he saw something more. When he called to you last night it was like he couldn't breathe if he didn't get to you. I was full of adrenaline and hormones. He was filled with love. He loves you above everything else. And to do all this for just you," he paused and looked at me now, "I just am not sure I could love you like that."

I felt sorry for him now. "I hope you find your mate one day. I will help you look now that I have a better understanding of what to sniff for." I tried humor to lighten the conversation and his unease. His shoulders were hunched up and his body was too rigid. The smile he let out helped the shoulders relax a little.

"I am sorry for you, but I can't thank you enough. And I'm sorry about what this will look like to your father. I will make sure to honor you in any way I can to repay what you've done for me."

His eyes narrowed. "Do you have a sister?" his young face lit up.

"Uh, no. Wouldn't you know already anyways?" So I wasn't completely enlightened in their ways yet.

"No Celeste. I hunted for you for years. It's just your scent was covered by him." He looked towards Peter but wouldn't say his name. I realized something then with the look he gave. It was familiar to me. My body gave me away.

"He is-

"My brother," Collin finished for me.

&nb





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