Book 1, Chapter 18

After reconsidering and turning a second deadbolt I stacked my change of clothes on the edge of the sink and moved my washcloth into the shower.  Then I stripped down and let my old clothes pile on the floor.

I didn’t like undressing in the cramped confines of my bathroom – but regardless of what Hans had said about his instincts changing with his shape, he’d also said his memories and personality remained the same across forms.  I was less comfortable with him having a memory of me parading around naked to put in his spank bank when he turned back into a human than I was with letting yesterday’s outfit sit in the corner of the bathroom, so I made do.  The clothes would go in the hamper when I was done, anyway.  I’d just have to do a wash whenever I got home tonight.  Or maybe Megan would be okay with swinging by my place after work to pick it up so I could run it at hers while she did that makeover.

I turned on the water and then, although I knew I needed a cold shower, I cranked up the heat anyway.  I like long, hot showers and it had been ages since I’d dared to take one.  I wasn’t going to let Hans being a sexy beast – when he wasn’t being just a beast – stop me now.  Not when I knew that anyone who tried to interrupt me would have to get through said beast, first.

Hans is a werewolf.  The thought was still preposterous and strange, but at least it wasn’t quite so overwhelming anymore.  I stepped into the shower and let the stabbing hot jets wash my thoughts away.  Mmmm….  I do love a long, hot shower.

I’m not sure how long I was in there exactly, but I got out when I could tell my water heater was running out.  I was scrubbed and clean and a little flushed from the heat – and confident that I smelled of vanilla soap and coconut shampoo, and not of ‘do me now, damn you,’ pheromones.  I toweled off and scrubbed the wet out of my hair as thoroughly as I could before getting dressed.  I’d picked out plain panties and socks, one of my padded bras, a less faded pair of jeans, a slightly frilly (and thus the most feminine one I owned) blue blouse and a very soft grey cardigan.

Then I brushed my teeth, tried to brush out my hair, gave up and bit my lip while checking my reflection.  Maybe my frilliest – and then only slightly – blouse was a mistake.  Megan’s makeup was gone, and I was just my plain old neurotic self.  What was this?  An attempt at being enticing?  Ha!  Like that wouldn’t come back and bite me on the ass.  Or fingertip.  Or lip.

I started to blush and looked away from the mirror.  If I were Megan, I’d be able to be enticing on purpose.  Of course, Megan didn’t need props like makeup and frilly clothes – she could pull off ‘enticing’ by sheer force of confidence and charming personality.  And it probably didn’t hurt that she always had the option of undoing three buttons and presenting enough cleavage to distract everyone from anything else, too.

I took a deep breath.  I didn’t have nice makeup, sexy clothes, or awesome cleavage.  God help me, I was going to have to go with confidence (which I also didn’t have) and personality (which I had too much of, if ‘weird and flawed’ counted).  I exhaled and undid two buttons anyway.  Maybe I’d get lucky and Hans would have a kink for a nice expanse of clavicle.  So far he had yet to bite anywhere that wasn’t exposed – but as much as I wanted to expand that territory, I had a sinking feeling that each additional inch would just reveal that much more of my lacks in the ‘alluring anatomy’ department.

Then I gathered up yesterday’s discarded clothes and unlocked the door.  When I went into the living room Hans – still a wolf – sat up and turned around to watch me.  He had a big, doggie grin on his face and I couldn’t help but grin back.  Then I crossed the room and deposited my laundry in the hamper.

“Hans?”  I said to get his attention.  Confidence, Abby, I reminded myself.  “Man.”

Hans barked once and started shifting.  I hastened into the kitchen to collect his clothes so I wouldn’t have to watch.  By the time I got them he was done and naked in my bed – a state of affairs that wasn’t helped by his utter lack of embarrassment.  Confidence!

I walked over and handed him his jeans.  He put them on without comment or fuss, which definitely helped my nerves but didn’t damp down his sexiness at all.  What can I say?  Hans fills out denim well.

I took a deep breath and totally failed to hand him his shirt.  “So,” I said instead, “we’ve got about an hour before Megan shows up to take me to work.”

Hans smiled and nodded.  “I suppose that means I need to get going, then,” he said slowly.

I think I was blushing.  “Uhm… not quite yet,” I said.  I mean: I still had his shirt; I couldn’t let him leave without it.  What would the neighbors think?  But then again, what would Megan think if Hans was still here when she showed up?  It probably wouldn’t be: ‘Oh, wow, I bet he’s a werewolf and the two of you spent all night talking about the secret history of the supernatural world.’  No, she was probably going to be enormously pleased with herself for finally hooking me up, and then enormously annoyed that I was withholding all the sexy details…that didn’t actually exist since they hadn’t actually happened.

I sat down on my bed and put Hans’ shirt aside.  He twisted to face me, and I took in the eye candy.  Maybe if I had more real sexy details I could fill in the blanks when Megan showed up.  Plus… hell: I’d liked the making out, up until the evening went sideways.  “I kind of want to continue with last night.”

Hans nodded.  “Of course.  What would you like to know…?”

I didn’t ask anything, though, because I hadn’t meant last night’s conversation.  I leaned forward with my lips pursed.  I wondered if maybe I should’ve popped that third button before leaving the bathroom, too.  But despite everything Hans had said about not trying to read my signals, he definitely got this one.

He had to tilt his head and bend at the waist to kiss me.  And in my opinion it was totally worth the effort on his part, because being all lithe and flexible just made him yummier.

The kiss started out gentle.  Hans was propping himself up with one arm and the other slipped around me; his forearm paralleled my spine and his hand cradled the back of my head.  It was warm and soft and nice and I liked it… but I’d liked last night better, and I was a little alarmed by what that seemed to say about me.

So, in order to give myself something more immediate to worry about, I bit Hans’ lower lip and dragged my teeth over it like he had to mine last night.  So much for gentle.  “Come on,” I dared him when his lip tugged free.  “That’s not where we left off.  Be enthusiastic.”

Craaaaap.  There I went, baiting the werewolf again.  I would have been worried about myself except that the next thing I knew Hans had shoved me back and was stretched out over me, pinning me against the bed with his massive bulk.  His massive, hot, half-naked bulk.

Hans had one of my arms trapped at my side.  He caught my opposite wrist with one hand and held it down over my head; his legs straddled my hips.  I couldn’t do much more than wriggle, and when I tried Hans twisted his fingers in my hair and pulled my head back.  As he sat up my body was forced to arch until I was staring at the curtained window behind me and I was too taut to move at all.

My heart was pounding.

I couldn’t see him, but I felt Hans lean forward.  His breath caressed my neck.  He kissed my throat and worked his way down, pausing to suck on my skin at the junction of my shoulder.  I trembled.  I wanted to collapse and I wanted to explode, but Hans didn’t let me go.  His breath was hot on my skin; it stroked my chest where those two buttons were undone.

I whimpered, but then Hans was kissing me again; his lips brushing my skin through the narrow vee of parted fabric at the neck of my blouse.  His teeth closed in a teasing nip before he straightened again.

Hans uncurled the fingers in my hair and lowered me to the bed.  He even released my wrist, but I barely noticed: I was too busy staring up at him, wide-eyed and desperate to catch my breath.  He looked back at me with heavy-lidded, hungry eyes.  When he spoke, there was a growl in his voice that worked very well with his accent and left me almost as terrified as it did turned on.

“Well now,” he asked rhetorically – it had to be rhetorical, because I was in no shape to reply – “What was it you requested last night?”

I stared at him.  If he really stopped and made me wait until next year for more now, I was going to… to…  Hell, I would kick him out and hope I had fresh batteries in my nightstand, probably.

Hans stroked my cheek with his thumb.  Then he dragged the tip of his index finger down my jaw and neck and hooked it into the vee of my blouse, where he tugged down sharply enough to pop open the button I’d left done and three more below it.

My breath caught.  Oh, yeah: I had mentioned something about having my clothes torn off, hadn’t I?

Hans splayed his fingers down over the expanse of my newly exposed flesh.  His nostrils flared briefly and he leaned forward, holding me down with his hand on my chest while he brought his mouth to my ear.  “Abigail,” he whispered while kissing the lobe of my ear, “you smell intoxicating.”  He took a deep breath and growled – a rumbling burr in the back of his throat.  “Like coconut and vanilla and adrenaline and sex,” he confided.

Oh damn: so he could tell when he was turning me on.  So unfair.  I think I might have started to hyperventilate, but Hans covered my mouth with his lips before I could start to.  I moaned against him instead, and his hand slipped to the side, under my blouse, under my bra; cupping my breast.

I have small breasts.  Hans’ hand completely covered it.  A flex of his fingers massaged what little flesh I have, and then his thumb brushed roughly across my nipple.  My areola puckered from the stroke, and I clamped my legs together as the rest of my body responded with a spike of lust.  I don’t think an ansible could have gotten a faster response.

I have never – never – been touched like that.  Groped by a drunken frat boy?  Yes, once.  Fondled – under my clothes?  Never.

The shock kept me from doing anything.  I liked it.  I liked it.  I liked it!  What the hell was wrong with me?  I was letting someone – a man so big there would be no stopping him if push came to rape – fondle my flesh while pinning me to the bed, and I liked it.  Was I insane?  Or just depraved?  Proper women don’t let men do that, no matter how sexy said men may be.  And they certainly don’t enjoy it if it happens anyway!  But here I was: moaning under Hans’ kisses; letting his mouth crush me into my mattress and his hands wander freely over my breasts while my hips bucked and squirmed with a need I’ve never felt for anyone who wasn’t a figment of my imagination getting it on with another such figment, and I was raking my fingers over Hans’ back and biceps like some sort of morally depraved slut.

Which was bullshit, of course.  I mean: I love Megan.  And Megan loves sex.  But she isn’t just my best friend: she’s the best person I know.  So it was kind of hypocritical of me to think she was awesome while I was freaking out that I was enjoying what Hans was doing… except panic had already set in, so it was definitely too late to stop myself from hypocriticizing all over the place.

I pushed Hans away, which was completely ineffective, and gasped “Stop,” which wasn’t.  Hans froze, took a ragged breath, and pulled back.

“Are you alright, Abigail?” he asked.  “I wasn’t hurting you, was I?”

I swallowed and shook my head.  Even through my panic I felt a gratifying thrill at how husky his voice was – he was breathing shallowly, too.  “I’m okay,” I managed to assure him.  “But: New rules.”

Hans chuckled and sat back.  He seemed to be recovering a lot faster than I was.  Seriously, the man had a very unfair advantage here.  “Alright,” he said.  “What are these ones?”

I took a couple of deep breaths and sat up as much as I could.  I had to prop myself up on my elbows – I couldn’t do better because when Hans had sat back he’d trapped my legs and all I could really do was bend at the waist, which was a little bit of a thrill and a little bit scary.  Trapped, you know?

“Clothes,” I said.  Did I really want to disallow what had been happening?  Honestly, frenzied undressing – or, at least, partial undressing – featured in a lot of my fantasies.  It’s just that the person being undressed in them was never me.

“Clothes?”  Hans asked.  There was a crinkle at the corner of his eyes, like he was suppressing a smile.  Bastard!  He was enjoying this, and I didn’t know if it was that he liked being told what to do or if he was just being smugly self-satisfied that in the span of a few minutes he could push my boundaries to the point that I had to make up new ones.

“Uh,” I said.  “Yeah.  Clothes.  Um.  They’re there for a reason.  So, skipping under is an ‘ask first’ thing.”  I was breathing a little more steadily.  Making rules put me in control; being in control calmed me down… a little.  I was kind of disappointed by that.  The sort of un-calm that Hans provoked was pretty incredible – up until the panicky meltdown part.

Hans nodded amicably.  “And what about removing them instead?”  He raised one hand and trailed it down my blouse’s open vee of parted buttons.  I shivered and goose bumps raced up my arms.  There was that sense of un-calm again.  His fingers stopped at the first button to have held against his earlier assault.  He toyed with it absently while he waited on me.

My mouth felt too dry to talk, but somehow I managed.  “You can always ask,” I croaked.  Except that I liked the rush when he took charge – when it didn’t panic me.  “But if it’s something I’ve let you take off before, you don’t have to.”  I did better when something wasn’t completely new.  I figured that caveat ought to give him the room to provoke that rush and me the prior experience to prevent a freakout.  Right?

Hans smiled and tapped the button he’d been toying with.  “Anything else?”

I swallowed and shook my head.  There was a sparkle in his eye that made me wonder if he took my restrictions as a dare.  Sort of a ‘I bet you can’t control yourself enough to follow this one,’ kind of thing.  “Nope,” I said.  “That’s all.  Carry on.”  I don’t know why I was being so brazen.  The ‘oh shit, paranoia!’ part of me refused to let go of the fact that I would be in serious trouble if I lost that dare – and there was that un-calm rush again.

The rush was furthered by Hans’ abruptly enthusiastic grin.  I squeaked in alarm.

“Wait!”  I said, and Hans actually did.  “On second thought, you should probably go.”

Hans blinked at my abrupt one-eighty.  “I should?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “I mean, Megan’s going to be here in about forty five minutes, and I don’t want another awkward interruption like last night.  So you’d only have half an hour, and, honestly, how many points would that even be worth?”

“Points?”  Hans asked in clear confusion.

I gave him my best “don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about” glare because I was perfectly aware of the national nightly pastime of whatever nation men like Hans come from, and I was too embarrassed about going all hot and cold on him to let him play innocent.  Besides, I was pretty sure if he didn’t put in his best effort for at least three hours then a horde of his countrymen would start shouting at my window.  I’ve seen frat boys in the lounge during football season – I know how sports fanatics work.  When someone drops the ball they always think they could do better.

But there was no way I was going to let them try, even if Hans needed an object lesson in better lovemaking.  Because, let’s face it: I am not ready for a barbarian gangbang.  I can’t even handle one remarkably considerate werewolf.  And if we tried to do anything else in the time remaining, some referee in a black and white striped kilt would probably show up and penalize Hans for being shut down three times in the same twenty-four hours by the same wench.  They might revoke his right to use that sexy accent.  I couldn’t be responsible for that!  It was too much pressure.  And besides…..

“Oh my God,” I shouted as my thoughts completely derailed.  “Hans, your arm!”

Hans’ confusion pivoted to match my alarm – then dissolved in a chuckle as he saw what I was staring at.

“This isn’t funny,” I protested.  I pushed him back until I could sit up and then grabbed his arm and held it so I could look closer.  There was a nasty series of long red abrasions running down his bicep.  “What…”  I started to say.  Then: “When…?  How?!”

Hans chuckled again and caught my hand by the palm.  He pressed my fingers against his arm so that they splayed out along the lines.  Then he pulled my hand down over his biceps; my fingertips trailed perfectly over the scratches as though they were paths meant for my hand.


Or: paths placed by my hand.  Was I a scratcher?  I risked a glance at Hans’ side.  According to the long, angry red lines running from the bottom of his pec and down along his waist: yes, yes I was.


“I am so sorry,” I cried, and Hans seemed taken aback.

“Why?” he asked.

I frowned, nonplussed.  “Well…  Doesn’t it hurt?”

His lips curved in a cheerful grin.  “Yes.  Pleasantly.”  His grin widened.  “And I take heart from the fact that despite our rather rough start last night you seem to have felt the urge to stake a claim.”

“What?”  I asked.

Hans let go of my hand and brushed his fingers over the scratches I’d given him.  “Yes,” he said, “and quite a clear one.  I think if any would-be rival – because I assure you, I am not currently courting anyone else – were to see these she would think twice about making a bid for your territory.”

I stared.  In my enthusiasm…  I mean, in my panic – I’d hurt him, and he was acting like that was something for him to be proud of.  His grin was certainly smug.  My eyes narrowed.  “This isn’t some sort of weird werewolf thing, is it?”

Hans laughed.  “In my experience,” he said while leaning forward, “it is a passionate, possessive, fiery woman ‘thing.’”

I found myself being borne backward by his proximity until I was somehow stretched out across the bed again with Hans leaning over me.  He kissed me with a fervent desire that made my toes curl.  I think I whimpered somewhere in the back of my throat, and that just encouraged him.

I raised my hands with the intention of pushing him away, but somehow they ended up wrapped around him, running over his shoulder blades and pulling him closer.  Except he was propped up on his elbows so as not to crush me, and I ended up lifting myself up instead; clinging to him and kissing him back until I was desperate for breath and my arms were trembling and I had to let go.

I plopped back down against the bed with a gasp.  I felt a little tingly in my extremities.  Probably because of all the kissing instead of breathing.  Right?  But at least I knew Hans’ type now.  Too bad he was such a bad judge of character: passionate, possessive, and fiery did not describe me.  I was more the spastic, neurotic, freakish type if you wanted to be accurate.

This time I did manage to put my hands on his chest.  “You need to go,” I said with a push.  It was a feeble one; I was still shaky.  There were pins and needles in my fingers and toes, and I felt a little light headed.  Definitely the after-effects of kissing-induced asphyxiation.

Hans grunted and rolled off of me.  “You’re probably right,” he said huskily – and I wondered if my lack of control was finally wearing at his.  He sat up and reclaimed his shirt, then pulled it on.  My scratches stretched down below his sleeve.  While he was getting his shoes I hastily redid the buttons that my blouse hadn’t lost – all of them, all the way up to the top.  I was missing three; I would have to change after I chased Hans out.  But I could probably convince Fumiko to repair the garment – Fumiko had worked on costumes when she and Megan had worked at the theatre in college, and she was still big into cosplay.  So that was okay, at least.

When I was done I joined Hans at the door and did my best to ignore the gaping opening in my blouse.  Then I undid the front locks.  Hans stopped me before I could open the door, though.  He caught my chin and tilted my mouth up for a kiss.  His teeth scraped teasingly over the swell of my lower lip when he finished.  “I do hope to see you at tonight’s festivities, Abigail,” he said.  “And at tomorrow’s breakfast, as well.”

I stared and tried to figure out what to say to turn him down.  ‘No’ is pretty definitive, I thought.  “I’m out of pancakes,” I said instead.

Hans leaned forward.  “I’ll stop at the store,” he promised.  My heart felt like it was doing flip-flops.  How could the man make a promise to buy toaster pancakes sexy?

It had to be the accent.

Or the implications of how the preceding night would proceed.

But probably the accent.

I opened the door and hustled Hans out of it before I could demand he also get strawberry jam, syrup, whipped cream and condoms.  That would be bad: I liked what Hans’ accent seemed to be promising about tomorrow morning’s preceding night, but if I really went for it and didn’t want to screw things up I’d probably have to add rope and a gag to that list, too.  Because as long as I was mobile and audible, I would find a way to end up with my foot in my mouth.

“Go,” I said, and Hans went.  I closed the door behind him, locked it, and then collapsed against it while I tried to get a grip on myself, the fact that reality was upside-down, and that my sexy new boss was not just a Viking werewolf.  No, he had somehow been deluded into thinking I was his type, too.

At least Megan would be here soon.  I was in it way over my head and really need her advice… if only I could figure out how to get it without giving away the whole ‘paranormal shadow war’ and ‘Hans is a werewolf’ and ‘Mr. Salvatore is a vampire’ thing and dragging her into this mess with me.


Well, Damn.

Midnight Moonlight, Book 1

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