Authors: Roxanne Lee
The bed was some kind of cloud on which I drifted. A overly padded mattress and enough pillows to hide beneath like an old offer of worship entombed in secret. I'd stumbled into this room sometime near dawn - straight rum is a sly friend, one that waits silently sleeping in sweetness until the last sip of quiet destruction. Ty was in the next room, at least I think he was, my head wasn't the clearest at the moment.
The chocolate curtains with pale blue accents echoed the theme of the room and I had to look at the clock on the dresser as the heavy material shrouded the room so fully, there was no slap of sunlight to guess the time of day.
I'd woken to a small niggle in my stomach, something akin to a tiny itch. A scratch of nails tapping against the lining, irritating in its need for acknowledgment. I knew that itch well, knew what it signified. Something that needed, something that would grow into an all consuming hunger unless satisfied. I could cope, for the moment, but soon it would be a tidal wave of incessant demand, crashing against a wall of pristine stone and eroding the carefully built barricade. It'd been too long between feedings and soon I would suffer my limitations.
Ty had fed not too long ago - his need greater than mine in line with his structure of more empath than wolf. It would be so easy if I could have fed from him, but that wasn’t a gift we’d been given; a rather punishing little twist for our kind. I'd have to find someone soon, a lost human I’d drag down with my darkness or find enough money to pay the extortionate prices charged in the small brothels hidden deep within the city. It was the easiest option - so much pleasure in one place gave someone like me enough juice to last a good couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I'd leave that house content on the inside and yet covered in a layer of filth, thick with thoughts of perversion. Not from the girls as much, but from men that emanated such sickening depravity it turned my stomach to feel it.
A few more taps from the inside and I threw myself out of bed - even the pack returning would be a welcome distraction from this niggling need. I showered quickly in the adjoining bathroom and dressed in the only clothes I currently had access to - we'd left the supplies we'd bought in that little cave in the hill and that included the small stash of spare clothes. I heard movement in the room next to me and hoped it was indeed Ty, at least he'd understand this increasing need and either send me off to feed or divert my attention to something else. I trusted his judgment, he always sensed that rising tide and if he determined I couldn't wait then I'd be on the first road into town. I heard the pipes kick in as the shower was turned on next door and I left the room to find the kitchen. He'd follow when he was done and I hoped to, not only calm that itch a little with a food substitute, but also to clear the lingering emptiness only copious amounts of alcohol seemed to leave.
As I hit the hallway, sun streamed brightly from the large windows, a swirling staircase spun seamlessly from the ground floor and I had a moment of awe in myself for having traversed that contraption in my inebriated state. The beautifully carved wood was sparsely painted in a soft grey that allowed hints of the natural rings and knots from an aged tree to peek through. With the white walls and burnished copper furniture, the hallway was some designers art piece. I would have loved to have grown up in a house like this - stunningly crafted and kept and yet a golden glow hung heavily over the furnishings, giving the fashionable view a warmth that crept in and held, soothing a coldness only a nomadic life could bring.
The kitchen was easy enough to find, a strong smell of coffee reached my nose halfway down the stairs and frying bacon soon followed. I chased that smell until it brought me right to Conall, standing shirtless and unabashed by the huge, cast iron, aga cooker. He turned at my swift footsteps and his broad, perfectly tanned and sculpted chest, with shoulders packed like boulders were some kind of rugged dream of an Irish warrior. Hair spread evenly and lightly over his pectoral muscles which twitched in movement as his arms indicated I sit at the solid oak table. I caught a glimpse of the 'respect the beard' apron at his waist and I couldn't help but grin widely.
"Doan't laugh, t'was my favourite gift."
He seemed almost serious if it wasn't for the small glint in his eye that said otherwise. I shook my head at him and attempted to stop looking at all the flesh on view - It was a pointless task, the man was especially good to look at. "You cook?"
He shrugged and took some plates down from a high cupboard above the counter top. "Some. I only cook fer pretty girls." His wink was sparkling with those emerald eyes and I found myself somewhat embarrassingly starstruck. Such a shame; all that maleness wrapped up in crazy.
He placed a plate piled high with bacon in the middle of the table and then a pan full to the brim of scrambled eggs. I salivated. I'd be eating like a pig as soon as he gave me a fork, after the ridiculous meal that Ty had left for me, we hadn't eaten and the wolf had burned through that within an hour.
It's like he had a sixth sense of when I was thinking about him and I heard heavy steps clomping down the stairs with his trademark lack of stealth. I took the plate that Conall handed over and I grinned at him in thanks before reaching straight for the bacon.
"Steady on girl, there's more where dat came from. Doan't have tae rush."
I ignored him and loaded my plate to the sound of his deep chuckles. Ty came through the doorway looking a little worse for wear, his hair was at odd angles and his bright eyes were dulled with tiredness. He still however managed a quick scowl to our host and a glaring look of disapproval at his state of dress. I felt a shove to my side and Ty scooted me over to sit between me and the half naked wolf. If my mouth wasn't currently full of food, I'd probably have made some sort of remark but I was too busy eating my way through the mound to be all that bothered.
We ate in blissful silence for some time before Ty's little whisper caught my attention. "You trying to fill a hole there, Sash?"
I caught his slightly more aware gaze and nodded at him in return.
"Perhaps you should pop into town for a little bit today, before the Alpha gets here."
I understood his point, if my need grew much more and this Alpha had a bit of a problem with empaths, I'd only put us in a worse situation if I accidentally let the lid off that simmering pot. Best to catch that escaping boil before it bubbled over, I doubt he'd appreciate me feeding off his wolves - they wouldn't feel much if I only took a little but it was akin to stealing energy and they would become quite obviously weakened for a while. "I'll leave in a bit, I'll be back as soon as possible." Meaning I'd try very hard to not leave him in the pack's hands for longer than necessary. They'd not made an appearance yet but it was nearing mid afternoon and I doubt we'd be alone for much longer.
Conall cocked his head to the side while looking at me strangely, "yer can use my truck if yer want. No sense yer walkin' all dat way fer nothin'."
I nodded thankfully, a shift right now would only burn up calories I couldn't afford to lose - the empath used the same metabolic system as the wolf and I had no sudden urge to make that itch any more noticeable.
Conall stood and took keys from a hook near the back door. He threw them my way and I caught them easily. "Probably a good idea yer get dat feed out the way, he won't like tae have tae feel dat happening."
I turned confused eyes his way but he only shook his head and left the kitchen. I didn't understand quite what he meant by feeling it, nor how he caught onto what I needed so quickly. I rubbed a hand across Ty's hair and messed it up more than it already was, I got a scowl in return and smiled my goodbye as he continued to eat.
Conall's truck was literally one pothole away from completely disintegrating. Rust clung happily to every metal component and I dubiously shut the door while praying it stayed in one piece. It seemed the man had not invested in a new car since the nineteen fifties. The engine however, started on my first attempt. I quickly eased the truck to a decent speed and swerved the graveled road leading away from the house, avoiding any dips in the track. The town wasn't far, I probably could have walked it but I'd be quicker getting back with the truck and I didn't like the thought of leaving Ty to the wolves.
I picked a spot behind the local bank, a tiny car park that hid in the shade of the colonial building, pillars of commerce that shadowed passing people like insects beneath a slumbering giant. To the right of the bank, an alleyway dissected one building from another and I knew I'd find my quarry there. The afternoon sun was a disability. I disliked doing this in the daytime, it seemed something to be done at night - like stalkers in the evening gloom, it was stealing a part of someone and I felt criminal in my actions. I found Harry behind his usual dumpster. He was an aging veteran, returned from war only to find society a drain on his mind. He was happy enough in his solitary, vagrant lifestyle and slightly mad in his delusions. He wasn't the best option for me but he had enough happiness of the slightly barmy variety to suffice for now. He looked up as my footsteps registered and he grinned from a dirt covered face. He knew me well, I'd often turned to him in my most desperate times. It's not something I'm proud of, taking when he wasn’t quite fully aware, but I made sure not to leave any sort of permanent mark and I satisfied my guilt with that thought.
I pulled a bottle out of my jacket, one that I'd found in Conall's glove box, and handed it over. He eagerly grabbed for it and I let him take his first sips before I sipped from him. It was something close to exquisite release; letting the lid slip on that boiling pot, allowing the tide a bit of freedom to break through a crack in the wall. One giant inhalation and the gasping satisfaction of letting those lungs deflate once more, I sat next to Harry and felt searching fingers tug and pull on a string, one that bound me to the homeless man I fed on, one that vibrated with the ethereal light he gave me. That hole became smaller, filled with sustenance only I could feel. I closed my eyes, smiling at the effervescent mixture of satin golds and pearly whites that turned a dark and needy place into euphoric sunshine. Such rapturous paradise I find, such bliss that smothers misery.
I felt drugged. Heavy in my movements and clumsy as I stood. I snapped that lid shut - Harry was weak enough and perhaps he'd sleep through his ever present nightmares now that I'd taken away his manic alertness.
I walked back to the mouth of the alley, swaying slightly in a head-rush of energy that pounded around my body in an effort to settle. I looked back once and smiled at Harry's soft snores that rumbled from his weather beaten face - if one full day of sleep is all I gave him then perhaps I wasn't so bad. I sat in the truck for a while, calming the racing heart that pushed blood as much as essence through my veins. It took several minutes for that rush to settle and a good half hour before I finally returned to the pack house. I was disappointed in myself for leaving Ty alone so long and hoped that Conall kept the pack from leaping at the boy I'd grown up with.
I saw a gathered pack as I drove in, over two hundred wolves that had shifted back to human and wore clothes that were simple to throw on. Ninety percent of them were female, a random male or teenage boy was hidden within the tightly grouped crowd every so often, but not many compared to the posturing females. I stopped the truck and jumped out, glancing at the stares I received and making no expression when anger fell quickly over every face that looked my way. I sighed deeply; there was no point in even trying anymore.