I awoke to the smell of bacon. It was followed by the sense of confusion: had someone broken into my apartment and decided to make themselves breakfast while they waited for me to wake up so they could murder me to my face? What do you do in a situation like that? Feign sleep and hope they get bored enough to go find someone else to murder? Or take one for the community, be a good hostess, and let them know you were up and there was an unopened syrup in the cupboard and pancakes under the popsicles in the freezer?
I popped one eye open to check. Maybe the murderer had already found the syrup and pancakes. Or maybe it was just an electrical fire consuming my fridge, and the appropriate response would be to run screaming into the parking lot. Or, if it were a more manageable blaze, to hope my home fire extinguisher was charged. Maybe.
It was none of those things, however. Instead, it was Hans in all his “good ol’ Viking” glory. Seriously, I know that ‘the country boy next door’ is a type, but what about ‘the Norse barbarian country boy prince next door,’ is that a thing? There was one in my kitchen, anyway. Apparently making breakfast.
Hans glanced at me before I could close my eye and pretend to be asleep until he left. “Good morning,” he said even though mornings, by definition, aren’t. “I thought that after last night you might appreciate breakfast in bed. How do you like your eggs?”
“Over-easy,” I said. Because it was true and because no one can make them that way without working in a restaurant, and my morning routine was already screwed to hell and my response to being out of my element has always been to be as difficult and insane as possible. But ‘actually, I am a werewolf’ Hans had me trumped on insane, so I was just going to have to overcompensate on the difficult side of the scale. “With toast,” I added. That’d show him I wasn’t to be trifled with in the mornings… or that I was too tired to come up with things to show him that I wasn’t to be trifled with in the mornings. One of the two.
Since there was no pretending to be asleep now I opened my other eye and pulled myself up to sitting. “There are pancakes in the freezer,” I told Hans. “Enough for both of us, I think. And syrup in the pantry.” Being difficult was a knee-jerk thing. I didn’t actually want to be mean, and I hoped the offering of pancakes would be enough to offset whatever crabby fussiness I couldn’t keep under wraps. Since I was I sitting I could see Hans was putting together a plate for himself, too, so that was okay. I left him to it and scrubbed the sleep from my eyes, doing my best to wake up despite the very long night and my ruined routine.
I must have dozed off while we were talking. I was still wearing yesterday’s clothes. That was almost as disappointing as the fact that Hans was not a random murderer who’d happened to be peckish in the mornings. On the one hand, I was glad I was all in one piece. But on the other, it meant that everything that had happened last night had actually happened. And everything that hadn’t happened, actually hadn’t.
Every once in a while Megan had worn the same outfit two mornings in a row after spending the night with someone – but only if that had meant spending the night at his place. So, vampires and werewolves and goblins aside, it was a little disheartening to wake up wearing the proof of my inability to even do a one night stand right.
Still, that was probably for the best. I needed a shower, but couldn’t quite make myself imagine getting naked in the bathroom while Hans was in the kitchen – even with a door and a bunch of deadbolts between us. So I was probably dealing with waking up to the smell of bacon much better than I would have dealt with waking up to the sensation of his hot, naked flesh spooning against mine.
I thought about getting something to read while Hans cooked, but decided against it. I’ve never been served breakfast in bed before so I didn’t really know what was expected of me – but ‘staying in bed’ was probably a safe assumption. I watched Hans instead.
He finished the eggs with no apparent difficulty and fished the pancakes out of the freezer. While those were cooking in the toaster he buttered some bread and toasted it in the pan he’d used for the bacon. By the time he was done and brought out my plate, my stomach was growling. I accepted his offering without hesitation. “Syrup,” I demanded as the plate exchanged hands, and Hans hastened to the kitchen to fetch the bottle. While I was drenching my pancakes Hans made another trip and put a tall glass of orange juice on my night stand. I handed him the syrup back and tucked in without waiting. Okay, I’m willing to admit that I’m not a polite person at the best of times – which is when I’m actually trying. But when I’m waking up, hungry, and completely off my routine is not the best of times.
Hans didn’t seem to mind. He put away the syrup and brought his own plate over to join me. “So,” he asked as he sat on the foot of my bed, “How is it?”
I swallowed my current mouthful. “Can’t talk,” I growled. “Eating.”
Hans chuckled and further conversation was replaced with further consumption of eggs, bacon, the best toast ever, and syrupy, syrupy pancakes.
When I was done I stared at my plate. If I’d been alone I don’t think I would have been above licking it clean – but I wasn’t alone, and now that I wasn’t hungry I had enough of my equilibrium back to know it. I glanced at Hans. Now that breakfast was done, did that mean it was okay for me to get out of bed and put up the dishes?
Hans’ plate was empty, too, but he was just watching me back. So: no help there. In fact, he had that same ‘mmm, dessert,’ look in his eye that he’d favored me with last night – which was about the opposite of ‘help’ for my fragile ability to reason in the mornings.
“It was good,” I said before I could get too invested in the idea of taking off my blouse and offering to let him lick syrup off my breasts. I mean… ew. I hadn’t even showered yet. Damn him for giving me sexy eyes this early in the morning. And hadn’t he agreed to hold off on that stuff until next year, last night?
I could feel myself starting to blush because it had occurred to me that if I was going to have sticky substances drizzled over my flesh then maybe it would be best to do it prior to showering. Otherwise I’d just have to get right back in there, even if Hans’ tongue was very thorough. Very, very thorough.
Right. No, I needed a shower first. A cold one, apparently.
“I’m sorry I was so crabby,” I said – hoping that Hans would think my blushes were from embarrassment over my unsocial behavior. “I don’t do well with new things, and I’ve never had someone make me breakfast in bed before. I’ll be less snappish next time,” I promised.
Hans’ lips spread in a wide grin, and the cheerful twinkle in his eye was replaced with a hungry glint just in time for me to realize the implications of that promise.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Hans said. His accent made me shiver. His tone of voice implied I’d be getting just as little sleep next time, but for entirely different reasons.
“Um,” I said. “Can you do me a favor?”
Hans leaned forward. “Of course,” he said. I’m pretty sure he was thinking about licking syrup off of me, too.
“Turn into a wolf?” I squeaked. “I need to know last night wasn’t a dream,” I hastily added – which was a lie. What I needed was a very long, very cold shower – but Hans had told me last night that boogeymen were real and that creatures from nightmare literally found it easier to break into my home the more terrified of them I was. So I wanted him around to be on guard while I was all wet, naked and vulnerable – but I didn’t want him to be in a form that had the right instincts to be enticed by my wet, naked, vulnerable self.
Especially since I was definitely turned on enough to leave the bathroom door unlocked in invitation. And to not say ‘no’ until after he took me up on said invitation and I had another complete freak out.
Hans looked at me askance. “Are you sure?” He asked.
I nodded. “I’ll do better,” I promised. “It won’t be new this time.”
Hans chuckled. “Alright,” he said. Then he stood, took our dishes into the kitchen and placed them in the sink before he turned to face me. I smiled at him as guilelessly as I could. I don’t know if he bought it, but he peeled his t-shirt off anyway.
I was starting to suspect that Hans would always be willing to take an excuse to get naked – but with a body like that, who could blame him? I don’t think I’ve ever seen abs like those outside of home gym infomercials.
My gaze followed his shirt up and off, so I caught a glimpse of Hans’ nostrils flaring for just a second before he started grinning at me. His expression was smugly self-satisfied, and I don’t know if it was because I was obviously staring – or if he had some supernatural sense of smell that let him know when I was getting extra turned on.
On the one hand, the idea that I was giving off some sort of ‘woman in lust’ pheromone might explain why he’d asked me out to begin with. On the other, if that were the case then it was really unfair, really embarrassing, and meant I really, really needed that shower. And it definitely couldn’t be one of the scalding ones I prefer.
My train of thought was derailed when Hans dropped his shirt on my kitchen chair and thumbed open the button on his jeans. He gave me a sexy as sin wink and stepped behind the counter to finish disrobing.
I was kind of thankful for that. Not only did it spare my over-active imagination from receiving extra fuel, but when he suddenly snarled and doubled over, it put him out of sight. Just like when he turned human last night, the sound of meat stretching, flesh twisting and bones crackling was freaky enough without the sight of him turning into a wolf, too. I swallowed. The creepiest part – outside of the whole ‘defying the laws of nature’ bit – was how quick and quiet the process actually was. Hollywood had told me to expect screams, howls, and thumping, discordant, angry music. But Hollywood had lied.
When Hans-the-wolf came padding out from behind the counter he was panting slightly and his tongue was hanging out. He also wasn’t quite as huge as I seemed to remember from last night, but he was still a big canine.
“Does that hurt?” I asked in morbid fascination.
Hans sat on his haunches and tilted his head inquisitively.
“Uh… right,” I said. “One bark for yes, two barks for no?”
Hans wuffled with amusement and then barked once.
I cringed slightly. “Sorry,” I said shamefacedly. Weirdly enough it was a lot easier to be nice and sympathetic toward him when sexual tension wasn’t an issue. Go figure. I patted the mattress at the foot of my bed. “Come on up; have a seat,” I offered.
Hans came over and hopped onto the bed, then turned a couple of circles before settling down so that he was facing me. I reached over to pet him, and ended up scratching behind his ears until his tail started thumping. See? I was doing much better than last night.
I scrubbed my fingers through the fur down Hans’ neck and then straightened. “Okay,” I said as I threw off the covers and slid out of bed. “I’m going to take my shower now, so you just… Guard. If any monsters come out from under my bed or whatever while I’m all wet and soapy: eat ‘em, alright?”
Hans looked at me funny, but then he barked once and repositioned himself to watch the closet.
“Awesome,” I said. “Oh, and any mundane robbers, kidnappers, peepers or murderers,” I added as I went to pick out a change of clothes. I looked at Hans over my shoulder. “You’re totally allowed to eat their faces, too.”
Hans tilted his head at me and snuffled, then twisted around so that he could watch the front door, too. I hastily added a couple of towels and a washcloth to my pile and then started toward the bathroom. I detoured to give Hans another petting, though. “Thanks,” I said.
Hans’ jaws stretched open in a lazy ‘think nothing of it’ yawn, but his attention didn’t waver from the closet or front door, and his tail started wagging again. I gathered up my things again and took myself to the bathroom. Once there, I only turned one of the locks.
I was feeling remarkably relaxed, especially for it being a morning – and being completely outside my routine, and being just about to get naked and helpless. Sure, I didn’t have a big dog to keep me safe… but I did have a watch-werewolf. And you know what? That was kind of awesome in and of itself.