This time dinner went smoother. Since all of our food was already there we didn’t waste time trying to make awkward conversation or getting nibbled on. And Hans paid enough attention to his meal to not be constantly looking at me. I think I may have snuck more looks at him than the other way around, this time. But it was mutual, and whenever Hans caught me at it he just grinned without comment.
I still always blushed and looked away.
When we were done I hastened to clear the dishes because Hans looked like he was about to offer to do it for me. I’m not sure how I would have reacted if I’d been forced to sit and stew in my thoughts while he bustled about around me.
The leftovers disappeared into my fridge – I was going to have to share that veggie platter with Megan – and then I was walking Hans to the door. I stopped in front of it and turned around. I wanted my goodnight kiss, but there was no way I was ready to do anything like that out where people could see.
Hans stopped and smiled. There was a glimmer of amusement in his eye. I think he thought he had me figured out. Hell, maybe he did. I figured he was probably in his thirties, so he had a good decade of life experience on me. And he was a hunky Viking Adonis, so double that for relationships. Maybe he’d made it with a terminally shy psychopath before.
That was totally going in my Hans/Salvatore mental slashfic.
Okay, anyway: back in reality. Hans smiled at me, and I folded my arms angrily. “Okay, this is not going to work,” I said.
That startled him right out of his complacent amusement. “What?” He asked.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I said. I had to crane my head back to look up at him, but that didn’t stop me from trying to stare him down. “You know I wanted a goodnight kiss, but you were going to wait there and make me ask for it again, huh? No dice. I’m not putting myself through that every single time.”
Hans had the decency to look chagrined, which didn’t really surprise me at all. I was starting to realize he was way too nice for his own good. Appearances aside, the man was not the romantic lead in a swashbuckling bodice ripper. Which was about as big a shame as it was a relief.
“I see,” Hans said slowly, and maybe he did – but I spelled it out anyway.
“Yeah,” I said. “Now: I appreciate that you’re trying not to push me, but if I’m the only one asking for anything then I’m the only one putting herself out on a limb, and that’s just not fair. Plus, we’ve already established that I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, so I probably wouldn’t even know what to tell you to do half the time, anyway.” More than half, I was sure, unless I started to crib from things Megan had told me or I’d read in naughty manga or online erotica. But I thought I’d let that slide for now. “So here’s the new rule: instead of ignoring it if you think I want something, or might want to do something or try something or whatever, just ask, and we’ll see.”
Was this conversation weird? Was I being too blunt? I didn’t know. But Megan had once found out a guy was a foot fetishist within minutes of meeting him. She’d probably used some kind of subtle intuition. But here I’d been sitting with Hans all evening and I still didn’t know why he’d asked me out to begin with, let alone why he’d put up with me this long. Subtle intuition wasn’t my strong point, so I was going with blunt.
“That certainly seems fair,” Hans allowed.
“Good,” I said. “And another one: if it’s something like the restaurant and I decide to opt out half way through, that’s got to be just as good as if I’d said ‘no’ to begin with.” I frowned at him. “Look,” I added, “I don’t make the rules; I’m just laying them out so you know them. All you have to do is decide if you want to follow them or if I’m not worth it.” I wished I had enough hair to flip it or something for punctuation. I put my fist on my hip and waved my other hand dismissively, instead. I’d told him I was difficult. Maybe now he’d realize I meant it. “Whatever,” I said.
But Hans just nodded amicably. “All of that is perfectly reasonable,” he agreed. “And I would never force someone to carry through with anything against their will.”
“Alright,” I said. “Okay then.”
“Yes,” Hans agreed. “Are there any more rules?”
I shook my head. “Not yet,” I said. I was feeling a little off balance again. I’d been braced for him to say ‘no deal’ and leave.
“Then may I kiss you?” Hans asked instead.
I took a deep breath. “Only if you’re more enthusiastic about it,” I said. Oh God. Did I actually say that? But I had. I fought down a nervous laugh. Either I was riding some kind of bitchy high from having my demands met – or in my relief my nerves had demanded I be insane. Or both.
“Oh, really?” Hans asked with deceptive ease.
And I knew it was deceptive – it was that tone of voice – but I heard myself say: “Yeah. Your first one was too tame. The only part I really liked was being trapped against the counter.”
What?! What the hell? Why are you provoking him?! My consciousness yelled at whatever psychotic subconscious urge had briefly taken over. I tried to hold in a nervous laugh – but I didn’t have time. Hans grinned and swept forward with a growl and I shrieked instead – because the next thing I knew he had picked me up.
Hans was fast – way too fast for someone that big. He had one arm under my butt, lifting me up, and his other hand was cradling my head again, protecting it. My shoulders hit my living room door before I’d finished my shriek. I was pinned between the door and his muscled bulk, my feet dangling off the ground and my arms trapped: one under his arm, near his waist, and the other pinned between his shoulder and mine. He was leaning into me, way too close for comfort, and he didn’t have to lean down to reach my lips this time. Hans tilted his head and pressed his mouth over mine.
It wasn’t tame. It wasn’t vanilla. Hell, it wasn’t even French Vanilla or Vanilla Bean or any other ice-cream I knew of. His lips parted; his tongue parted mine. This kiss was hungry. My heart raced. I may have kicked his shins; my heels bounced against the door. And then his lips dragged down ever so slightly. His mouth trapped my lower lip, he sucked on it, teased his tongue over it – and then bit.
Hans bites. I dimly remembered my warning to Sarah, and couldn’t figure out why I was so shocked now. Hans’ teeth scraped over my skin as he pulled away, tugging at my lip and dragging a whimper – or moan – out of me. Then my lip popped free and Hans’ teeth closed on air and he was just kissing me: lips pressed against lips but otherwise tame.
When he was done he sighed. His hot breath caressed my cheek and he leaned forward. “I’m going to keep kissing you,” he said softly in my ear. “If that’s acceptable?”
I didn’t know what to say. Don’t? Stop? My heart was pounding and my breath would have been ragged if I could have even remembered how to breathe. Megan was wrong. I had been wrong. Hans didn’t have a submissive streak. He was a wolf. He just kept himself caged and kenneled and safely leashed, until some stupid fucking bunny like me came along and rattled the bars and unclipped the lead and basically hopped around singing ‘look how tasty I am!’
“Don’t stop,” I managed to gasp.
Hans growled again. His hand dropped from the back of my head and he hitched me up. My shoulders scraped against the door and he leaned into me again. Hans kissed the hollow of my throat. Repeatedly. His breath was hot on my skin. His kisses wound lower along my neck. His lips nibbled at my throat; sucked at my skin. And… Hans bites.
He didn’t, but the thought threw me into a panic. “Stop!” I gasped. “Oh, God, stop!”
And Hans stopped. His mouth was just above the collar of my blouse when he pulled his lips away and set me down. I think he set me down, but he could have dropped me and I probably wouldn’t have known the difference. My feet hit the floor and the only reason I stayed standing was that I had the door to lean against. I caught myself on the doorknob and held myself up. I felt like my knees were going to give out any moment.
“Wow,” I stammered. “Oh, wow. That was…”
“Too enthusiastic?” Hans asked ruefully.
I looked at him. Probably wide-eyed. The wolf was caged again. Hans looked…sheepish. Sheepish! A wolf in sheep’s facial expression.
I giggled. Nerves and relief and the thrill of it all had definitely done in my good sense. “No,” I said. “That was better. I’m sorry. It’s just…” I laughed. “You bite, Hans. And for a moment there I thought you were going to go ahead and turn into a wolf on me and tear my throat out.” Oh damn, it sounded like my verbal filters were off. That could get bad fast, because I was thinking that if Hans wanted to go back to enthusiastic kissing I’d be fine with it if he just skipped my neck and, say, tore open my blouse so he could get to my breasts or somewhere else where it probably wouldn’t kill me if he got too enthusiastic and accidentally took out a chunk.
“Actually,” I found myself saying, “If you want to…” but I was distracted from whatever I’d been thinking by the look of pure horror that descended over Hans’ face.
I’m familiar with panic. I’ve spent most of my life a step away from it, and I think I’m pretty good at not letting on. But all that time I’ve spent schooling myself to not give off the signs also meant I was pretty good at spotting them. Plus, it helped that Hans was pretty obvious about it.
His eyes went wide. The blood drained from his face. He backed as far away from me as he could, which practically put him in my bed – but I don’t think he noticed.
“Hans?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
“I wouldn’t…” Hans said. “I’ve never…” He took a deep breath. “You know?” he asked. He did a pretty convincing ‘relieved laugh’ and sat down on the edge of my bed. “Wow,” he said. “You know. It’s actually a relief,” Hans said to me. “Usually I have to agonize whether or not to say anything or to just break things off before I get found out.”
“Uh… right,” I said.
“You don’t have to worry,” Hans said. “I have complete control over it, even after I have ‘wolfed out.’ I mean, as long as it isn’t the full moon. And the next one of those isn’t for another week.
Oh. Oh! I still didn’t know why Hans had freaked – but if there’s one thing I know as well as I know panic, it’s making up crazy stories to cover it up. ‘I am a werewolf, not a sexual predator’ was pretty much just the sort of thing I’d spout off, too.
“That’s good to hear,” I said, playing along. “Have you made arrangements for then?” I asked. “I mean, I don’t exactly have shackles in my nightstand.” I paused thoughtfully. Hans chained to my bed? I don’t know if I’d ever be ready for that, but if I were I could probably borrow some. Megan didn’t have a nightstand for her toys. She had a small travel chest at the foot of her bed and a couple of drawers in her wardrobe.
Hans snorted. “Yeah, I have,” he said. “Shackles wouldn’t work, anyway. Unless they were silver I’d just slip out of them when the transformation hit.” He shook his head wryly. “I can’t believe you knew. Why didn’t you tell me?”
I folded my arms. “Hey,” I protested. “I told you I was new at this! What do you want from me?”
Hans glared at me, but not angrily. “You said you were new to dating,” he said with a chuckle. “Not that you were new to dating werewolves.” His eyes softened. “That’s really not going to be a problem?”
I laughed. He was doing such a convincing job of being worried about my reaction to his ‘lycanthropy.’ I wondered what he’d really been upset about. But… given how big a difference there was between casual-Hans and passionate-Hans, I bet he’d scared a lot of girls off over the years. “Hans, please. Mr. Salvatore is a vampire, and you don’t see me trying to stake him, do you?” My mouth was running rampant again – because I’d just remembered what I’d been thinking before Hans had freaked, and it was winding me up pretty bad. “I’m not going to freak out if you get a little bestial every now and again.” I swallowed. “Or maybe I will.” After all, I’d freaked out a bit when he’d been kissing my neck. But I’d liked it a lot, too. A lot. But was I really ready to have my clothes torn off and his hands and mouth raking over my body and… “Whatever,” I said. “If I freak, I freak. But you said you’re in control, so if I do you just have to stop and let me pull myself together, okay?”
Hans chuckled. “Alright,” he said. “Is that the rule?”
“Yeah.” I bit my lip. I was thinking about Hans picking me up and trapping me against the door again; his hands on my ass – maybe after pulling off my sweater and tearing open my blouse so his mouth could do wolfish things to my breasts. “In fact, why don’t we give it a try,” I heard myself say. Shit! What was I thinking? Was I actually provoking him again… while wearing a plain, padded bra? Yeah, like that would keep him enticed. I found myself thinking about those two drawers of Megan’s. This would be an excellent time for her to be here instead of me. She had lots of silky, lacy, sexy things. She’d encouraged me to get some for myself when she’d been trying to get me to expand my wardrobe, but nooooo: I’d been too much of a self-conscious moron for that.
Hans frowned. “Are you sure?” he asked, conveniently giving me an out.
“Yeah!” I said, re: moron; no verbal filters. Maybe I should add self-betrayal to that subject line? Whatever. “I mean, it’s not like I don’t know it’s there, right? So go ahead and ‘wolf out’ and we’ll see if I can handle it.” Well, maybe I’d get lucky and he wouldn’t realize what I was thinking. I shivered. Maybe he’d do something worse.
Hans smiled crookedly and kicked off his shoes. “Okay,” he said as he stood.
I blinked: he wasn’t wearing socks. But before I could even think to comment he reached down – and a second later he wasn’t wearing his t-shirt, either. He pulled it up over his head and tossed it carelessly aside.
There were no comments to be made at that point. I know my mouth was hanging open, but nothing came out – and thank God, because right then I was torn between screaming and drooling. The part of me that is constantly concerned with survival was yelling at me to get out – but the part of me that comes up with graphic, indecent mentalrotica at the drop of a hat was too busy being all aflutter at the sight of Hans’ chiseled abs and broad shoulders and slender waist and all those muscles and bare skin and….
If the options had been to tear off his shirt or tear off mine, all I could think was: Good. Choice.
Also… the door behind me was locked, so there was no way I could run away. Which made it good timing, too. Unless I needed to run away. Did I? Oh, God, what was he going to do?
I stood, paralyzed from internal conflict. Then Hans stepped forward and unbuttoned his jeans. That tipped it. Survival won.
No! My thoughts screamed. Oh no. No, no, no NO! But I was still frozen, too scared to move or speak. Too terrified.
Hans’ jeans slipped down over his hips. He was going commando. That’s the term, right? My mind was scrambling for anything inconsequential to take it away from what was happening, and urban slang fit the bill. I yanked my gaze up to Hans’ face before anything else could register. I couldn’t believe he was doing this, even though the paranoid part of me – the part I have to fight down just to go out to the store – was smugly satisfied that I was finally going to get what was coming. That it had been right, and I was fucked because I was too scared to even say “stop.”
The expression on Hans’ face was unreal, it was frighteningly intense. Focused. The entire situation was unreal. I sucked in a breath to scream with, even though it would do no good. I live at the far end of a row of apartments, with no neighbors. No one would hear.
But then Hans’ face spasmed, and I clamped my jaw shut. He was focused – but I’d seen him watching me all night, and he wasn’t focused on me. His mouth twisted in a snarl, and he threw his head back. Then his face just… it exploded outward, stretching freakishly, elongating into a snout. And there was fur. Fur was growing everywhere: a thick, golden brown coat.
Hans’ hands curled into fists and he lurched forward. He hit the ground on his hands and knees, but his legs and arms were withering. His whole body was twisting grotesquely, bones and flesh reordering themselves in defiance of nature.
And then it was done. Hans stretched. His snout – muzzle? – crinkled and he opened his mouth wide, exposing fangs and canines and far too many other teeth meant for rending flesh. Then he shook out his coat and sat. He tilted his head and looked at me. His tongue lolled out the side of his mouth; he was still panting from the exertion. But his tail was wagging. It thumped against the side of my bed.
I just stared in shock. Hans was a wolf. There was a wolf in my living room. A werewolf. A werewolf I’d been making out with. Or, who’d been making out with me. Or necking with, at least. Holy shit: Hans was a werewolf?!