“Do I have to do this?” Staring at myself in the mirror I fiddle with the line of my shirt as it falls open at my hips. I would much rather be doing something else. Anything really.
“Yes. Clare has put a lot of effort into this. Now stop fiddling with that, you look fine.” Standing on tiptoes, Susie peered over my shoulder with a reassuring smile that only served to frustrate me further. Her sickly rose perfume wrapped round me, tickling my nose so I fought back the urge to sneeze.
“I don’t see why she bothered, it won’t be worth it…”
“You can’t possibly know that!”
“Trust me I do… In fact, I really do wish she wouldn’t continue to try setting me up, it wastes time and makes me seem an ungrateful bitch!”
“You mean you aren’t?” Susie chuckled, trying to make light of my comment, but I was in no mood for teasing. Snarling, I spin round, away from the mirror, to stride across to where my flat soled boots waited by the door. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean it.”Her voice trembled and I was reminded again of the differences between us.
“I know.” I turn back with a wry smile. “I appreciate that you’re the only one that knows…but it is still so frustrating. She seems to be obsessed with the idea that single people are unhappy, or doomed to failure or something like that. But I’m quite happy on my own …”“I don’t understand that though…you’re a pack animal Jules, so why do you not feel the need to search for a mate?” Susie was the only person who knew what I truly was.
On the basis of her chance discovery, I trusted her with the biggest secret of my life, with a bag packed waiting under my bed on the off chance that trust was broken, because I had little choice. I found I couldn’t bear the idea of getting rid of her, and her innocent trust of me was heart warming.
“A Pack doesn’t necessarily mean a mate…only the alpha pair are mated, the rest of us are…well…pack mates I guess you’d best define it. Besides, I’m in a pack…that’s why I share my house with you all, that’s why I spend my evenings in social activities, and work in the school.”
“Oh… but surely, that’s lots of different packs?”
“Well,…um…I guess.” Never having thought of it like that I stared at Susie in astonishment. “In this world, we have to compromise don’t we? There is no way that a group of people living, working and socialising together would avoid attention in a city the size of London.”
“Oh…I see, yes I guess that would be true.”
The shrill cry of her phone made us both jump.
Leaving her to it, I reach for a boot, slipping my foot into the leather tunnel, tugging it into position tightly round my muscled calf.
“Yes, she’s just putting her boots on now. … Yes I know, but you know what she’s like…alright, alright, but I will make it clear that it is your idea, not mine!…Yes, she looks stunning as usual so no need to worry about…what? Oh really Clare why…fine.”
Pausing with my left foot suspended, partway in my boot, I wobble round to raise an eyebrow to Susie as she studied me intently.
“Her black, calf boots under her ripped flare blue jeans…yes, slashes across her thighs…yes, that hint of her tattoo…no, if you want her on time she has to stay as she is…”
Susie glanced up apologetically as she heard my low growl. I hated how Clare judged my wardrobe. If I was forced into this blind date, then at least I would do it wearing what I wanted!
“Yes…her tight blue tank top under that white fitted blouse …yes, the one with the occasional pencil stripes…one button by her rib cage…Don’t be ridiculous Clare, she’d kill me!”
“What does she want?!”
Sophie jumped as I growled down over her shoulder. There were benefits to being able to move silently, aided by soft boots and a carpet. However, instead of answering, she scuttled away and turned back to stare at me with a scowl.
“Look, let me finish so that I can get her out of the house….No Clare. … Yes, of course she is. Her blue and gold one. You haven’t seen it recently? Still short to her jaw line, ruffled with short, spiky layers, but black with blue streaks throughout. Now can we get on? Thank you, see you there.”
“Do you still think I’m ungrateful?” I asked reaching for my denim jacket.
“Does she do that every time?!” Sophie winced as she paused in my doorway.
“Yup. It’s infuriating. Where are you going?” I followed Sophie out, waiting behind her on the stairs as she grabbed her own suede coat from the banister where she habitually draped it.
“Just fancied a walk, think I’ll try and meet Jason for a drink.”
The door closed behind us with a solid click.
“So, where are you walking?”
“How do you know that these things are pointless? I mean you might meet…”
“Because neither one of you know another werewolf, or I’d have smelled them. Why are you walking my way?”
“Am I? Oh yes.”
“Sophie…” I never have had good temper, and could feel it rising as I growled at my companion.
Taking a deep breath, I stop and smile down at Sophie.
“Did Clare as you to accompany me? Was she really that certain I wouldn’t turn up?”
“Well, …um…” Sophie’s shoulders sagged and she looked up with a wry smile. “Yes. But here we are, made it perfect time.”
We stopped outside the restaurant, and I glowered down at Sophie. It wasn’t her fault, but I couldn’t help it. I turned away and opened the door, instantly overwhelmed by the spicy, sweet candles, perfumed customers and drinks that greeted new customers on entry.
“Have fun!” She called after me, pausing long enough with a wink as I turned back with a grimace.
I smelt him even as the head waiter arrived to greet me, a rich smell of human and wolf that sent my pulse racing.
“Waruuf?” A deep snuffling enquiry drifted across the raucous restaurant. My head whirled with the possibility.
“”Whumph!” I acknowledged, fighting to keep the excitement from my voice.
“Can I help you?”
“Hmm?” I dragged my attention back to the waiter, who had not heard our low frequency questing.
“Are you here to meet someone?”
“Oh, um. Yes. Sorry. My mind was elsewhere a moment.” I grinned, catching a glimpse of my gleaming teeth in the mirror behind him. “Clare, um…, Constant.”
“Very good, come this way.” Smoothly, the waiter picked up a menu and turned on his heels, weaving through the tables and shifting customers effortlessly.
By the time we had reached the stairs at the far end of the room, I had bumped into three people he had dodged so efficiently. I didn’t care, with each stride I could smell him getting closer, and my anticipation was reaching fever pitch. With each shallow breath, I took in the contrasting scents of the sweet chocolate desserts and strawberry sauces, the tantalising meats dripping with juices, the spicy perfumes and herbs, all of which were dominated by his powerful musk.
We clipped up the glass stairs, my ears straining for his sounds. Reaching the top, I heard a deep bass undercut the rolling conversation of the upper floor. Single word agreements were all he could muster against Clare’s constant chatter and I smiled despite my verves.
As I stepped into the room, I stopped. A tall gentleman stood, turning to settle his gaze on mine. His dark blue shirt stretched tight against his shoulders, as it tucked into the narrow waist band of black jeans. Clare’s blond bob danced as she turned to follow his gaze, but I barely noticed, captivated as I was by his dark eyes.
“Oh…um…sorry.” The blush that burnt my skin at the waiters prompting lifted the corner of the wolf’s mouth into a cheeky grin.
“Jules, this is Karl, Karl, Jules.” Clare grinned as I settled into my seat.
“Whmmf.” The wolf’s handshake was firm and warm and I squirmed in my seat.
“Wwwllfm, mmgh, hffl, mmm.” I desperately wanted to rub against him, touch him, share his heat and scent and make him mine.
I could read in his brown eyes that he felt the same. We pressed our legs against each other, my knee falling short of his. I reached out to wrap my other leg round his ankle and we played footsie as Clare chattered on.
“…I knew you’d hit it off right away…Jack thought I was mad to try again…and Sophie…” Clare paused to sip her wine. “Hey, are you two alright?”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks Clare.” I have to force myself to look back at my friend, grinning sheepishly before opening the menu.
Can’t figure out what to do with this, could be much longer I realise…but I have other things on my plate…which I must finish!