The Wolf Awakens
Jo floated in darkness. The voices she heard were frightened, tense.
Quinn, that’s impossible. All of them died during the battle of the white wolf.
I’m just telling you what I saw, Vera. Will she live?
I don’t know, she’s past any healing that can be done on this side of the Passage.
Then we take her into the Beyond.
If she’s been Were-cursed, she’d be better off there… Sam’s words trailed off, his voice sorrow-filled.
I’m telling you, Lycaon’s line has ended.
Are you willing to take that chance come the next full moon? Evander now, firm and resolute. The signs are there. What happens if we ignore this and she shifts, unknowingly passes the curse on, or worse yet, kills someone. That’s going to be on us, not on her.
Vera sighed, her exhaustion obvious, You’re right. We’ll take her to the Temple Healers. Sam, go to Jo’s place and see if there’s any way to track the wolf that attacked her; we’re going to need all the information we can get.
There had been a wolf in the snow.
Jo remembered. A blizzard. An unimaginable thing with eyes that burned amber like the flame at the heart of a fire, and teeth as long as her fingers.
Impossible, she thought, but then what was that thing?
She focused on the memory, trying to grasp at the images that came. The stranger who had wanted to see Vera. What had he done to her?
Quinn. He had been thoughtful; driven her home in the storm. They were talking when she heard it, a guttural snarl as raw as the winter wind that stung her skin and made her eyes water. It had frozen the blood in her veins and rendered her dumb with cold quicker than the frigid bite of the storm. Jo forced herself back to that moment and watched from afar as she turned in the direction of the sound just as the wolf launched itself into the air. It rammed into her. Quinn shouted and then there was another ferocious growl.
Another wolf? A stray dog? Her body hit the snow-covered ground with a soft whump, her arm bent beneath her. She was in agony when the wolf fell on her. It had been frantic, tearing at her clothes, its jaws snapping at her neck. The last thing she remembered was the taste of blood in her mouth and the searing pain of her skin tearing.
Jo’s awareness flooded back and as she sat up, a scream ripped from her throat. Her arms were flailing, fighting against her attacker, but her fists connected with, Quinn? He was repeating you’re safe, you’re safe. Her fear began to ease.
She was in a room filled with light. The sun poured in through an open window at her bedside, parted white curtains revealing a valley of rolling hills that ringed a range of mountains blanketed with evergreens. The floor of the valley was a kaleidoscope of every shade of green imaginable, from the brilliance of chartreuse to the rich, earthen tones of moss and olive. The meadows of tall grass and fields of wheat bowed and swayed in the wind, like the land itself had come alive.
“Where–” she stopped, wincing at the pain in her abused throat. Quinn handed her a copper cup filled with water. It was cool on her tongue, made fragrant and sweet with sprigs of fresh mint. It soothed her, helped her mind and body recognize that the immediate danger had passed. She was dressed in a white linen gown; her arms and legs were bare. Both of Jo’s hands flew to her chest, racing over her skin searching for injury. Her heart pounded.
“You’re safe, Jo,” Quinn said. He stood an arms-length away, dressed in a tunic that ended mid-thigh. It was girded at the waist with a simple leather belt.
“Am I dead?” she asked, making her voice strong and sure. The fear of further attack had faded, but as it did, the improbability of her situation became more apparent. Death was a reasonable explanation for why she was lying in a strange bed, in a stranger house, in a land that brimmed with sunlight and warmth. Her panic began to mount again. It curled around her chest like a band of iron and squeezed, making it more difficult to draw breath.
“No. You’re very much alive,” he smiled, approaching the bed like a man gentling a frightened horse, “May I sit?”
She nodded, her eyes flicking about the room. The feeling breathlessness made her wheeze when she spoke, “Is this real?”
“Yes, this is real. We…Vera, Evander, Sam, and I…We had to bring you here to heal. You were hurt,” his voice faltered, “There’s so much I need to tell you.”
“Before I...” The fear overwhelmed the last of whatever equanimity she had been holding on to and her chest started to heave as she fought for breath. Her clear, unblemished skin. The absence of pain. The summer landscape outside the window.
It was as impossible as being attacked by a wolf in a blizzard.
Quinn brushed away a lock of hair that fallen in her eyes with one hand and settled the other on her upper chest. The pressure of his palm felt real and Jo focused on that as she tried to slow her breathing.
“Breathe in and out with me.” His touch was kind, firm. The touch of a lover, she thought and arousal began to simmer in her blood.
The flare of want was strong enough to make her gasp. “What’s happening to me?”
“What do you remember?”
“We were saying goodnight. You asked me on a date,” she smiled, desire overshadowing her fear and confusion, “You have zero game.”
He blushed, red spreading from the tips of ears to his throat. “You’re not the first person to say so. Would it surprise you to know, Evy and Sam cooked up that stupid dinner to give me a chance to get to know you? They just didn’t plan on the snowstorm.”
“Or the wolf.”
“Or the wolf,” he echoed.
“Wolves,” she said rubbing her eyes, “I swear I heard two of them, but that’s impossible because wolves aren’t exactly native to Arcadia City. It attacked me,” terror crested again, “Holy shit, I’m at Riverton Memorial in a coma, aren’t I?”
“You’re not in a coma. You’re not even in Arcadia City. There are some things I need to tell you that are going to be hard to credit.”
“About the Beyond?”
Quinn’s eyebrows climbed to his hairline, “How did you–”
“I heard say you needed to take me into the Beyond. Is that where we are?”
He leaned back, searching her face, “Yes, you’re in the Beyond. Think of it like another dimension, one that lies beside the earth that you know, like a mirrored reflection–”
“But everything here is real.”
“Exactly. Vera, Evander, Sam, and I were born here.”
“Are you human?” Jo said and reached out to touch Quinn’s shoulder, as if she were assuring herself that he was there and not a figment of her imagination.
“Sort of?” Quinn hedged, “We’re descendants of the humans that chose to live apart from the earth you know, but it changed us. This world made us something…different.”
Jo sighed, looking out at the world beyond her window. “I believe you. I’ve got no idea why, but I do.”
“Good,” Quinn nodded, “Do you remember the wolf that attacked you? Vera thinks it may be the stranger who came into the store looking for her. When he couldn’t find her, he decided to follow you home, and passed the Were-Curse on to you to draw her out.”
“A Were-Curse? You mean that man, that thing, was a Werewolf?” Jo’s eyes widened.
The situation she found herself in did not just strain credulity, it set it on fire and threw it out the window. Still, she thought, what else could this be?
“Think of it like a virus. It draws out and strengthens the animal-nature of the cursed. The wildness that lives within you manifests itself, makes you dangerous, but also more resilient. It’s why your broken bones and your body healed as fast as they did. Look inside yourself; you should feel your body starting to change.”
She closed her eyes. There was an unfamiliar strength coiling inside her. She was burning to unleash the power within her, to run, or fight, or fuck. A foreign consciousness was growing in her mind, one that was untamed and wanting. Her emotions were whipping from one extreme to another, but instead of being exhausting, Jo was exhilarated. She opened her eyes and focused on Quinn, shocked that the first thought when he met her gaze was: he is mine. The certainty of it was delicious and she leaned into him, basking in his warmth. She indulged the want coursing through her veins and brushed her lips against his. He melted into her body, twining his arms around her, while she deepened the kiss, flicking her tongue along the seam of his lips.
A rumbling sound rolled through Jo’s chest and Quinn pulled away, apologizing, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to get carried away. Evander and Sam are going to kill me. You’re–”
Jo cut him off with a growl and straddled his lap, pushing him backwards onto the bed. She felt his cock thickening through the thin material of his tunic and she rolled her hips.
Quinn scrambled back on the mattress, holding Jo back, his hands on her shoulders, “Not that I’m saying I don’t want this, because I do. I’d have to be dead not to want you, but Jo, you’re not yourself right now. There is still so much you need to know.”
“I know I want you.” She shook off his hands and pulled the dress over her head. She was naked beneath and her nipples hardened into peaks as she plucked at them. “I know we belong to each other. Can’t you feel it?”
“I do. I feel it, believe me,” Quinn groaned, pulling Jo’s hands away from her breasts, “But you’re not thinking straight. I don’t want the only time we do this to be when you’re half out of your mind and at the mercy of magic that even Vera doesn’t wholly comprehend yet.”
“Magic?” Jo stopped and considered what Quinn was saying. If there can be another earth and a werewolf can attack me in Arcadia City, what makes magic so far-fetched, she thought.
Jo knew he was right, something was happening to her. She closed her eyes and turned her mind further inward. There was something else, a growing shift, a dual consciousness. It was magic, it had to be, but not the magic of films or books. This was not about flying brooms or dueling wands. This came from the bones of the earth and was changing her. The Jo that existed before the attack had fallen away and the one that was emerging had been forged of power and lust, fury and lunacy. It drove the need for Quinn that blazed within her and she felt the wetness of her own slick between her thighs.
Josephine McKissic was alive for the first time.
“I know who I am,” she said to Quinn, catching his chin in her hand and forcing his eyes to meet hers, “I may not know exactly what is happening, but I know that this is what I want. You are what I want. Now,” she growled and slid her other hand a hand up beneath his tunic, grasping his shaft and stroking it from root to tip.
Quinn gasped at the sensation, sliding his hands around to clutch at the globes of her ass and rock her against him. “You have no idea. I’ve wanted you since I first saw you,” he sat up and ran his tongue up the length of her neck. He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled like her scent was the sweetest ambrosia, “You’re amazing,” he whispered, his voice hoarse with lust.
Jo scrambled to loosen his belt, laughing as she whipped it off and pulled his tunic over his head. He was nude beneath her, his fingers tracing patterns over her skin. She pumped him until his cock was like steel against her palm.
“I need you inside me.” She turned her back to Quinn, supporting herself on her hands and knees. Jo reached between her legs and spread herself open for him. He surged forward, tilting her hips so he could lick her from her clit to her tailbone, alternating between probing her with his tongue and sucking at the delicate folds of her sex. She ground her hips backward and panting, her hands clawing at the sheets, and her head hung low between her shoulders.
Quinn draped himself over her back and guided his length inside her in one long, slow push, until she felt him flush against her. He pawed at her shoulders, pulling her up until she was seated on his cock, her back against his chest. She writhed, his shaft pulsing inside her, one hand clasped across her breasts, the other between her legs, stroking her clit.
“I’m so fucking close,” she snarled and doubled the intensity of her movement, riding him until her climax was beginning to curl within her. Teetering on the edge of her orgasm was the sweetest form of torment and she shouted, as pleasure shot out from her center and unwound beneath her skin like vines of fire.
“Mark me,” Quinn rasped and the thing, the beast, that had been growing inside of Jo’s soul howled in pleasure, “Fuck, please mark me, I need you to. I’m yours, Jo. I don’t care, just make me yours.”
“Yes,” Jo cried, turning so she faced Quinn, her legs wrapped around his waist. He mouthed at her breasts, biting her nipples, sending little shocks of pleasure-pain skittering along her skin. Her climax crashed over her and the beast inside bayed with pleasure, possessive and unyielding. She raked Quinn’s head to the side and buried her teeth in his neck. His body began to tremor as he peaked. She tasted the surge of his orgasm in her mind and in her flesh. It was as if they were one person and she held him close to her, licking and biting at her mark while he sobbed through his release.
Anne Stagg's 'Mound of Gaia' series is a Bellesa exclusive.