Authors: Ariana Hawkes
Tags: #4 Part Serial Ebook, #Fiction, #Paranormal, #Werewolf, #Wolf, #Mates, #Adult, #Erotic, #Shape Shifter, #Romance, #Short Story
Isabel and The Wolf
Paranormal erotic romance serial
Copyright ©2014 by Ariana Hawkes
All rights reserved.
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There was something in the road up ahead. Isabel was several hundred yards away when she saw the flashing blue and red police lights, and the flashing orange lights of what looked to be a logging truck – the only illuminations to the dark, straight, two-lane road leading out of town. All else was woods. The trees pressed close on either side; tall, blank-faced pines, leaning towards the road, as if they wanted to repossess it. To Isabel there seemed something sinister about their numberless regularity, stretching ahead in a never-ending line. The thought of how many more were standing behind them, in rows and rows, back into the hills made her shiver.
She began to brake earlier than she needed to, nervous of the road. There had recently been a heavy rainfall and it was waterlogged. To her untrained eye, it looked like it hadn’t been built with the slight curve that roads were supposed to have to let the rain drain off at the sides, but it was totally flat. And roads like these were part of the experience she’d been looking for when she came out here from Chicago, she reminded herself. Her headlights picked out spots where the rain had pooled into potholes, and her little Mini Cooper felt skittish in her hands, as if the slightest wrong move could send it sliding out of control.
Isabel brought the car almost to a stop well ahead of the vehicles, and crawled towards them. Now she was close enough to see that there was a fallen tree in the road. It was huge, blocking both lanes and crashing into the woods on the other side. Her headlights revealed the wet, black trunk and she shuddered, thinking what could have happened if someone hadn’t seen it before she’d come driving down the road. There were some guys from the logging truck talking to the cops, but there didn’t look to be any action going on. She groaned. Until this moment, she’d been on schedule for being 15 minutes early for her date, which, for her, was unheard of.
Let’s arrive on time
,” the final message she’d received from her date said. She’d liked it. It was simple and direct, and it gave her the curious sense that he knew her in some way, although she hadn’t at any point mentioned her flair for disorganization. So, for once, she’d tricked herself into thinking that the meeting time was a full half hour earlier than it was.
But all that effort had come to nothing. She was trapped on the only road that led to the town and the bar where she and Peter would finally meet for the first time. Isabel glared at the men talking to each other as they waved their arms at the tree, scratched their heads, and paid her no attention whatsoever. She needed to make a decision fast. Opening the car door, she looked down at the road. The rain was maybe an inch deep all over, and she was in her new scarlet kitten heels. There was no way she was going to ruin them. She closed the door again and leaned on her horn instead. Immediately, the men turned around to look at her, squinting in her headlights. After a long moment, one of the cops detached himself from the group and walked over to her. Isabel opened her window all the way, and he poked his head through. He had blue eyes and tousled dark-blond hair beneath his sheriff’s hat and he smelled of woodsmoky aftershave.
“Hey there, miss,” he said.
“Hi, Officer,” Isabel replied, stifling annoyance at being referred to as “miss”.
“That tree’s certainly making its presence felt,” she said.
“That it is,” he said. He crinkled his eyes, and waved an arm towards the logging truck. “Looks like we’ll be here a couple more hours.”
“When did it come down?” she asked. He shrugged hugely.
“No way of telling. Someone put a call in an hour ago, but these roads out here can be so quiet, especially when the weather’s like this, it could’ve lain here half a day or more.”
“But no-one got hurt by it?”
“No – by some miracle. They were driving real slow, on account of the storm, and they said they picked it up in the headlights just in time.” Isabel sighed. Gratitude towards the universe at the avoidance of a terrible accident took the edge off her frustration.
“That’s such a relief to hear,” she said. The cop smiled at her, mirroring her own sentiments. He was good looking, she noted, then ticked herself off. She was about to – be very late to – go on a date with another man.
“I don’t suppose there’s some other way of getting to Black Peak City from here?” she asked, already certain what the answer would be. The map had clearly shown that the two-lane road was the only possible route towards the isolated town.
“No, ma’am. Roads are few and far between out here.”
“Damn it! I’m in such a rush for an appointment. It’s really important I get there,” she said, her voice rising.
“An appointment, huh?” the sheriff flicked his eyes over the black dress that was clinging to her curves, and over her lips, carefully painted the same shade as her shoes. He nodded knowingly. Then he glanced towards the other men. “Hey, hang here a second.” She lifted her hands.
“Not like I’ve got many other options right now.” He threw her a wry grin and walked back to the group.
Isabel picked up her phone and stared at it, wondering again why she and Peter hadn’t exchanged phone numbers. What kind of idiot fixes a date with a stranger, and then doesn’t get a number in case they’re running late, due to some kind of mishap, say – for example – a tree crashing into their path and blocking off the only access to the town? The problem was that she was new to internet dating – let alone internet ‘alternative’ dating – and she’d been nervous about giving out personal information. Especially since what she’d been looking for on the site wasn’t exactly run of the mill. Isabel kicked at the car’s foot well in frustration, then remembered she was wearing her new shoes. The one time she’d managed to outsmart herself and arrive for something on time, she’d been thwarted by something completely random. And what was even weirder was that the guy she was about to meet seemed to have had a premonition that she’d be late. Except she wouldn’t be late. She wouldn’t be going at all. A curse escaped her lips. The logical thing would be to turn around and drive back home, then go online and explain what had happened.
She was almost at the point of starting her car, but at the same time, there was an almost magnetic force keeping her where she was. Ever since she’d clicked on the somewhat grainy photos in the message Peter had sent her, and seen that he looked like a regular, attractive guy, she’d been fired up to meet him. Compared to all the weird profiles she’d been trawling through on the dating site, he was a god. He didn’t list any nerdy hobbies or have any photos of himself in an ill-fitting PVC bodysuit; he came across as a normal guy, who happened to have a penchant for dominance. And to be dominated was what Isabel craved, more than anything. The mere thought of it kindled something inside her, from embers that had long glowed but lacked the right man to fan them to a flame. She was damned if she was going to let that opportunity slip away so easily.
At last the officer was walking back towards her. He leaned into her window again.
“Looks like your luck might be in, ma’am. Turns out there’s a logging road a mile or so back. It’ll bring you out at the edge of the wood by Black Peak City.”
“That’s great! But – ” Isabel glanced at the pines, which looked more forbidding than ever. “I’m just not sure I’ll be safe driving through the forest by myself. It’s pitch black in there.”
“Well – ” The sheriff tugged on the edge of his hat. “I’d be only too happy to escort you through it.”
Isabel’s face broke into a million-watt grin.
“You would? That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time!”
“Well, we can’t leave a little lady marooned in a storm. Her having an important appointment and all!” He grinned at her impishly. Isabel liked his playfulness and found herself blushing.
“Thank you so much!” she said.
“I’ll get the car. When we get to the turn off, it’s a dirt road all the way for a good three miles. It’ll probably be churned up pretty good, so follow me, but not too close behind, and sound your horn if you get into any trouble.” Isabel nodded.
“Yes, sure thing, officer!” she said, her mood lightening. The sheriff walked over to his car and she closed her window and turned her Mini Cooper around. He drew level with her and then she followed him back down the unlit road.
Isabel turned her music back on. Now that meeting her date tonight was once again becoming a possibility, she needed to trick herself into relaxing. She leaned back against the headrest and let the melancholic tones of
ease the tension running through her muscles. Her knees fell apart a little. She’d been feeling sexy and full of anticipation when she’d been preparing for her date, and at least a spark of that sensation was still there.
A moment later, the sheriff’s car indicated right and they turned directly into the woods. It was pure, unfathomable blackness, the kind of dark Isabel had never experienced until now. In her rear-view mirror she saw it closing behind them, and she had the sense they were being swallowed by it. She shivered again, with the unease she’d felt before, but this time it seemed more imminent. The road was exceptionally bumpy. Isabel crawled along behind the cop car, sloshing through vast puddles, falling in and out of tire tracks left by a far bigger vehicle. A few, heart-stopping times, the wheels span in the mud, but her little Mini Cooper recovered and she managed to keep the patrol car in sight. The red and blue lights, lazily blinking, were reassuring, as was the calm authority of its driver.
At the speed they were going, the journey was taking a long time. Isabel pressed a key on her phone, lighting up the display. It was now the exact time she was supposed to be meeting Peter, or Lupus11, as he was known on the dating site.
Lupus11 – what a weird screen name
, she thought, not for the first time, giggling. Her screen name was Little Red, after the Corvette, the girl who got eaten by the wolf, and the auburn hints in her mostly caramel-colored hair. The whole thing seemed pretty ridiculous actually, but her short experience online was teaching her that you needed a made-up, fantasy name to keep people at a distance until you had some reassurance that they were ok. And she was learning that some of the phrases in her profile attracted all kinds of freaks and weirdoes. Peter seemed different though. He hadn’t said anything sleazy or gross, he’d just been very direct, and seemed to understand exactly what she was looking for. Well, she would find out if her intuition was right very soon. That was, if she ever got out of this forest.
Suddenly, something pale ran across her path. Isabel jumped and hit the brakes. But it had gone already, into the pines on her right-hand side. It was silver, or maybe white, and big, like a dog perhaps, but even bigger than that. She shook her head. It was more likely to be a jackrabbit, or a deer – did they even have deer in the woods here? Never mind. At least she hadn’t hit it. They drove on, and, after a couple more minutes, she saw lights ahead of the patrol car. The track opened out into a clearing and the cop pulled over. She opened her far-side window.
“Still in one piece? Bit of a bone shaker, wasn’t it?” the sheriff called to her.
“Oh, I’ve had worse,” she shouted. “Just glad to have made it through to the other end!”
“So, where you headed now?”
“Oh, this bar, called – uh – ” She scrabbled around for a post-it note. “Silver Dime Saloon.” The cop winced.
“Really? That bad?”
“Oh, no. Just it can get a little hectic in there,” he said. “You’re new to this town, right?”
“Uh huh, first time here.”
“Ok, well, to get to the bar, you turn left here, go straight ahead, take the left at the junction, and then it’s right on the corner, just past the gas station.”
“Thanks!” Isabel said. “I can’t thank you enough for your help tonight.”
“Well, if your appointment doesn’t work out for any reason, maybe you can buy me a drink some time. Stop by the police station and ask for Jed.”
“I might just do that,” Isabel said, momentarily wishing she was going for some comfortable beers in a safe, comfortable bar with him instead. Jed waved goodbye and pulled away from her.
Isabel stayed where she was for a little longer. She had to put one man out of her mind and prepare herself to meet another. On the plus side, the butterflies she’d felt at meeting Peter had dissipated in the stress of the past half hour. She took her compact out of her glove compartment and examined her reflection. She’d done a good job with her hair – it fell in long waves, with the hint of wildness she liked. Her lipstick needed reapplying. As often happened when she was stressed, she’d licked most of it off. Her liquid eyeliner was still satisfyingly perfect though, with a symmetrical flick at the outer corner of each peridot-green eye. She swirled a dab of rose blusher on her cheeks, and she was good to go.