Second to last chapter to share. I hope you’ve enjoyed this!
From Charlie and Natalia:
The moon was streaming in through the window, glinting off Natalia’s black hair. They were sitting on the window seat, in a now familiar position. Charlie’s back was to the wall; she was sitting between his legs. His arms were wrapped around her, her head leaned back on his shoulder; their cheeks were touching. He kissed her neck, feeling light and euphoric. Neither had had to work; they had spent the whole day in bed.
It was three days to the full moon. Over the past year the werewolf had been able to control himself well enough around Natalia that he only had to stay away for two days before the actual full moon and two days after. It cut his time away from her down to five days. He was willing to try for closer, but Natalia was not. She didn’t want to risk being ripped apart by a snarling beast. He concurred and stayed away.
Charlie turned his head a bit and rubbed his lips and nose in her soft hair. He took a deep breath, smelling their scent mingling in her dark strands. He started to nibble at her ear, but she pulled away, giggling.
“Charlie, stop. Every inch of me is sore.”
He breathed into her ear. “There has to be some inch that isn’t.”
She groaned, half with pleasure, half with ache. He laughed softly in her ear, kissed her lobe and stopped. He was rather sore as well, and didn’t yet have enough energy to convince her. She settled her head on his shoulder and sighed. A familiar feeling stole over him, shaking his tranquility. He closed his eyes and breathed deep until the feeling passed. His hold on her tightened for a couple seconds then went slack.
“What’s wrong, Charlie?”
“Nothing. Just, I don’t know. It’s like I’m losing you.”
“To what? To who?” Her voice was gentle. They had had this discussion before and it was always the same. He felt like she was slipping away, even though she had no reason to. They both knew their relationship was going to end, but neither of them knew or cared when that would be. Natalia was content to be with Charlie. He made her feel alive, made her feel normal, especially when she was talking about Slayers and vampires and her meetings with them. However, the disquieting feeling kept coming, and she was worried.
“I don’t know.” He tried to get up to pace, but Natalia held on to him. When he settled back down, she turned, tucked one leg under her and let the other dangle over the edge of the seat. She took his head in her hands and stared in his eyes.
“Charlie, lover, we both know this isn’t forever. If we’re splitting soon, we need to let it happen. I love being with you; you make me feel like…” she closed her eyes, sighed, opened them again. “Like the world is not as dark and ugly as I know it is. But I’m not what you want; you want a werewolf. I wish things could be different, but they’re not. You want a werewolf, and I don’t think I want to be one, even if I could. We can’t change what we are. So let’s just enjoy this.”
She watched as his mood changed, and a slow smile appeared on his face. “You always know what to say to make me feel good.” He brought her closer, giving her a soft kiss. He pulled away and stared in her eyes, not saying a word. He gave her a hard hug and buried his face in her neck and hair, inhaling her fragrance. He was still sore, but he was coming back to life. He growled in her ear and swept her up in his arms.
“Charlie, I’m still sore!”
“Won’t be in a few minutes.” He was right.
“She’s right, you know, you have to let it happen.” The sun was rising in the west again, but by now Charlie was used to it.
“I love being with her.”
“But do you love her? Can you love her?”
“If she were a wolf…”
“But she’s not.”
“She could be.”
“Don’t go there Charlie. You’ll regret it.”
He turned and realized he could see right through her. “Wait, where are you going?”
where the sun sets…meet me there, Charlie…
He woke, the sun in his eyes, sand under his back. He could smell the seaweed and salt. The full moon had passed and he was in his usual place, on the beach in Marin County. It was daybreak and he was aching. There were scratches all over his body. The worst was on his chest. It was deep; there was blood and sand drying in the wound. He sat up carefully, wincing at the pain. He groaned as his head threatened to split open with each beat of his heart. He leaned forward and threw up into the sand between his legs. Mostly liquid, some random chunks of meat, some fur, but no fresh blood. So the fight he had been in had left him with superficial wounds only.
Then why did his head hurt so much? And why did his stomach turn with every breath? Charlie didn’t know, but leaned forward again and gagged. There was nothing in his stomach now, so it was mostly dry heaves. He breathed out carefully, then took slow, deep breathes, trying to control, everything. Eventually, he was able to get his stomach under control and looked around.
“Crazy.” There was a set of clothing lying next to him. Long sleeved top, pants, socks and shoes, all in black. There were even a pair of underwear, but he left those alone. There was sand all over and in everything, so he shook the clothing out. Everything was a little small, and ripped, but Charlie didn’t care. It was a set of clothing and he hadn’t had to search for it, as per usual. He just hoped Daniel was available.
Dan picked up on the third ring and told him he’d be out shortly. Daniel dropped him off at Natalia’s, kidding with him the whole way out. Charlie let himself into the house going to the bathroom first. He liked to shower before joining Natalia in bed. His head was under the water when he felt cool air hit his back, then soft familiar hands were touching him. He turned and took her in his arms. They kissed as the water stung his back. The water ran cold before it was turned off.
Dried off and dressed in robes, they sat in the window seat, sipping orange juice with ice and munching on toast and jam.
“So where’d you get the outfit?” Natalia asked between bites.
“It was next to me when I woke up.” He was kissing her neck between bites of toast.
“The whole thing?”
“Yeah.” Munch, munch, kiss.
“Was there anything unusual about it?”
“Other then the fact that it was there?” Munch, munch, kiss.
“Yeah, like dust or anything?”
“I was on a beach, it was kinda hard to tell, Nat.” Munch, munch, kiss. “What are you getting at?”
“Do you remember anything?”
“Nope. Unless I feel I should, like waking up in town, I usually just leave it to dreams. What’s up lover? What are you thinking?”
“A set of black clothing with some rips in them? The gouge on your chest? Sounds like you fought and killed a vampire.”
He snickered. “Cool.”
“Don’t like vampires?”
“Don’t hate or like them. They’re kinda like other werewolves. Sometimes they’re useful; sometimes they get in your way. But I’ve never killed one before.” Charlie seemed bored with the topic, so Natalia let it drop. Having read a great deal on both creatures, she wondered why a vampire would chase a werewolf. There were Slayer accounts of vampires hiring werewolves, but not many. For the most part, the two creatures stayed out of each other’s way, like Charlie said.
Her breath hissed in as something icy touched her neck. She sighed as Charlie traced the top of her shoulder with the ice between his teeth. He followed the same path back up to her ear and crunched the melting ice as his lips moved to her ear. “I’ve got an idea.”
She heard ice clink on glass and felt the cool wetness on her opposite shoulder. He ran the ice down the middle of her chest, and down her belly. By the time his questing fingers reached her trimmed hair, the ice had melted, but his fingers were still slightly chilled. His fingers felt downright frosty when his hands slipped past her clit and into her heat.
She groaned, disappointed as he pulled his fingers out. Charlie handed her the glass with the ice, picking her up as he stood.
A breathless word escaped her lips. “Where?”
“Bedroom; more space.”
She laughed as he carried her in.
Two days later Natalia was pleading with Charlie. “You can’t go back there, Charlie, it’s too dangerous.”
“Nat, I’ve gone there for the past five years, this is the only weird thing that’s ever happened.”
She laid the large book she was holding down on the kitchen table and started flipping through it. “A full set of ripped clothing beside you is not weird, Charlie, it’s alarming. When you told me, something tickled my brain. It’s taken me two days, but I finally found it.”
She was pointing to a hand written paragraph in a leather bound book that seemed to be falling apart. Charlie took his feet off the table and leaned forward. The words were tiny, and not in English.
“Nat, I can’t read this.” He looked a little frustrated with the whole conversation.
“Sorry. It’s in Romanian. It’s a Slayer’s journal. She stated that the werewolf problem in a neighboring village has been diminished. ‘The local citizens are thankful, and we are loath to tell them the truth: it was not our doing. We were there, yes, but the vampires came to hunt them. When they killed a wolf, they simply left the creature to rot. When a wolf changed, they threw the body in a cart. My colleagues and I did not know the men were vampires until Josiah walked up to introduce himself. One reached out, grabbed him and drank his blood. The body was tossed into the cart with the rest of the treasure. The two of us remaining did not feel we had enough power to over take them…’ She goes on about their failure for two pages, like she’s apologizing.”
“So you think someone was hunting wolves to find werewolves?” He looked slightly concerned.
“No, I know they were.” She threw a paper down on top of the book. The front page showed pictures of two men. They looked younger then Charlie, about 18 or 20. “They disappeared the night of the full moon. Then there’s this.” She opened the paper to the sixth page. The main story was about a pack of wolves found dead in Golden Gate National Park, also on the night of the full moon. There were no suspects.
Charlie looked up at Natalia. “Ok, you’ve scared me. But Natalia, I have no where else to go.”
She sat in the seat closest to him and took his hands. “There’s time to find a new place.”
He gave her a pained look. “But the dreams.”
She moved to his lap and gave him a frightened look. “You. Could. Die.” She kissed him softly on the lips. “Please, Charlie.”
His resolve broke and he hugged her hard. “Ok. We’ll look for a new place.”
She kissed him hard. A minute later, she was straddling him, and a minute after that, Charlie was carefully placing the ancient book on the floor to make room on the sturdy kitchen table.
He was running alone. She was nowhere to be seen. He ran to the edge of the cliff and looked around. She was gone and so were the sun and the moon. There was nothing, but him and the beach and the ocean. And soon, the ocean was gone, too. He yelled a name, but no sound escaped him. He was suddenly falling. Everything had been taken away.
He woke, scared and alone, in a forest four hours north of San Francisco. It was his third full moon in this area. He hated it. As far as he could tell, he was the only wolfish creature in the area. But the stories in the paper were clear. Wolves were being hunted and people were disappearing on each full moon. The first time had been the worse with two disappearances. Each full moon after only one person had disappeared. Last month, no one had disappeared, but Natalia had begged him to give it one more month. As he stood and looked around, he hoped no one had disappeared this time.
Trying to listen for telltale signs of civilization, he headed downhill. He was naked, as usual, but he had parked Natalia’s borrowed car in a secluded area and there was a set of clothing in it waiting for him. If he ever found the spot he had parked in. He felt his anger taking over, making his control unwind. He leaned against a tree and took some deep breaths. He was letting his fear turn into anger because he didn’t want to face it.
He hadn’t dreamt of her in three months, and it was causing him to cling to Natalia. He knew his dream woman was not Natalia, but they were connected somehow. He looked up and stared off into the dense forest, trying to see past his emotions. The end of it was that he had grown used to seeing his lady wolf, and now, she was gone. Thus far, all the disappearances had been men, which meant she wasn’t among the missing. She was just absent from his dreams. He felt the loss in the pit of his stomach.
Then Charlie realized he didn’t even know if she ran in those hills. He tried hard not to find the wolves in the hills, as he didn’t want to kill his brethren. He had encountered a pack on two or three different occasions, and somehow managed not to kill them. He also encountered a werewolf in Blitzkrieg form on occasion, but didn’t know what happened to it. His memory was never clear during his rage. Charlie growled as his thoughts strayed back to his lonely dreams. He didn’t want her to be gone. He balled his hands into fists and slammed his fists into the tree in an effort to subdue his frustration. It didn’t work. Rage uncoiled and his scream turned into a howl. He was off like a shot, wearing his Blitzkrieg form.