Authors: Jamie Lake
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Gay Romance, #45 Minutes (22-32 Pages), #Genre Fiction
Marked for Love
Werewolf Shifter Series Book 1
This is Book 1 in the
Marked for Love
Series. This is a short book with a cliff-hanger at the end.
knew I shouldn’t have gotten in the truck. Something inside me told me I shouldn’t. Maybe it was the way it was cruising much slower than the other cars on this road, almost like it wasn’t in the same hurry as everyone else – or like it was looking for a stray hitchhiker. Or maybe it was how the driver slowed behind me, longer than necessary, sizing me up as if deciding whether I was worth the offer for a ride.
It was raining outside, I’d been walking along the lonely highway for hours, and I was furious. Max had tricked me. He said we were going to drive into the city, maybe meet up with some friends; but when we stopped at the last gas station, maybe six or so miles back, he drove off without me. At first, I thought it was a joke. He just wanted to give me a little scare, then he’d come back and get me. I walked around the store for a while, then went outside to wait, and then I came back inside to get out of the rain. After three hours, the store clerk was terrified I was there to rob her. She was giving me a look that said,
Get out or I’m calling the cops.
Not wanting to explain myself to anyone, I started walking. Hopefully someone would let me hitch a ride. My thin hoodie stood no chance against this storm, and I was thoroughly drenched. Every rare car that zoomed past me sprayed mud over my shoes with callous disregard, not slowing for a second to consider helping me out.
In three hours, not a single person had stopped for my raised thumb, which was my way of pleading to hitch a ride. My teeth were chattering by then, and what had started out as a slow drizzle had formed into a full-blown lightning storm. Lightning danced across the sky frighteningly close to me, and if there’s one thing I’m afraid of, it’s lightning.
I saw nothing but trees and more trees ahead of me. This place seemed familiar: I had known that Max wasn’t staying too far from where I had grown up, and then I realized, I’d been in this forest before. It had been what, five years? I actually had to focus hard to remember the details of that last trip. Sometimes the brain shelters you from things you don’t want to remember.
Although it’d been years since I’d been anywhere near here, the memories still haunted me. Not since I was 16 and my dad would drag my younger brother Jerry and me out for our annual camping trips had I stepped foot anywhere near here. My dad really enjoyed coming here. He always told my mom that the city was no place to raise two boys. He loved the way the trees grew up around you: how if you got three steps ahead of each other, it was hard to make out the other person in the dense foliage. The sun set early behind the tree tops, and I think that most of all, he enjoyed the peaceful thunder of birds’ choruses and crickets’ chirpings. I enjoyed none of those things. And I was the most creeped out when I could hear the thick leaves rustling to my left and right, but there was no sign of what caused the disturbance. My dad convinced Jerry that it was just rabbits or harmless snakes, but I wasn’t so sure. I felt like there were intelligent eyes watching me walk to and fro through our small campsite, especially when I had to go off to relieve myself, and it terrified me. Coming to this forest was my dad’s way to get away from the city.
When I refused to go on our next camping trip, right after my 17th birthday, I offered my dad no explanation why. I could tell he was hurt, but I think he sensed that something out here had shaken me to my core.
With the forest rolling out in front of me like this, the dark trees starting to climb up either side of the road, details started tumbling back to me. They called this the Hallowed Forest, and it still terrified me. You couldn’t see more than two trees deep into the expanse, but it felt like there was a presence following you; its form trembling with pleasure that you were back, alone, and all for the taking. I shook my shoulders, trying to dispel that idea. I was just creeping myself out.
“Nathan, God damn it, will you please put some bass in your voice?” I could almost hear my father telling me. I’d had a shallow voice my whole life. Not like a girl’s high-pitched waiver; just softer than what most men have developed. It was because of him I was always so self-conscious about my voice.
Bringing us out here was his way of turning us into men. He figured that if we learned to light a match and skin a hare on those trips, it might make up for the long hours he worked. I rubbed my wrist, right where the scar was etched in my skin. It gnawed at me as if it was a reminder of that day: the day I had gotten separated from Dad and Jerry and had wandered around lost for hours. Suddenly, the memory made me want to walk even faster and get the hell out of here.
Now, any forest gave me the creeps. Anytime I drove past a dense patch of trees, I felt like there were eyes on me, watching my every move. I felt like they could sense my fear and they relished it. This feeling had clung to me, ever since that day I was lost in the forest. It was a feeling I hadn’t been able to shake since I was 16. It stayed with me, omnipresent, even after I stopped going on the camping trips. And it even haunts me now as an adult who no longer lives in the suburbs with my parents. But even more so, since my father kicked me out of the house when he caught me giving my best friend, Jay, a blow job. He hadn’t planned on raising a gay son. He certainly didn’t want to have that on his reputation. His realization that I was never going to be the kind of man that he was drove him to push me away.
Since then it’d been couch-to-couch, odd jobs here and there, looking for money, and looking for love in all the wrong places.
I had all but given up hope I’d ever get to the nearest town by anything but foot when the dark pickup truck cruised up behind me and rumbled to a stop a few feet in front of me, off onto the highway’s shoulder. I could see nothing but its red tail lights and the silhouette of a man with long, dark hair sitting behind the wheel. He didn’t step out of his truck or even look over his shoulder to see me walking up on the passenger side of the door. Instead, he waited for me to come to him with a steely patience that prickled the skin on the back of my neck.
When I got to the passenger’s side door, he reached across the cab and rolled down the window. Suddenly, a long stab of lightning illuminated his harsh silhouette. I hoped that he hadn’t noticed the way the lightning made me jump, just slightly. With a deep gravelly voice, he said, “Want a ride?”
The back of my neck tingled as I hesitated for a second, thinking about how maybe I’d be better off after all to make the walk by myself. Reason told me not to, but something drew me inside: a magnetism that I couldn’t explain. The rain was coming down like a thunderous stampede, and I felt a beckoning that drew me to open the door. Before I could talk myself out of it, my hand opened the door and I let myself inside.
“Sure,” I said, a slight quiver in my voice giving away the anxiety I had hoped to hide. I’m not sure, but I think I saw a sliver of a wicked smile across his lips. By the time another strike of lightning gave me enough light to see, the sliver was gone.
Rain pounded the old truck’s windshield, putting up a mighty fight against the windshield wipers, and I pulled the heavy door shut, cutting off the onslaught of pouring rain. I put my hoodie down. There was a small carved wooden swing hanging by a leather string from the review mirror. The wood was carved into a wolf’s head, its mouth pulled back in a terrifying snarl. That's the first time I got a decent look at him. He had long dark hair, salt and peppered, and a closely trimmed light beard. His skin was olive complexioned, and he was ruggedly handsome: that I could tell right away. He had the most intriguing green eyes, with speckles of multiple colors that held a mystery, a history, but these were intense eyes: the type you don’t want to cross and you know to obey.
His hard physique told me that he must be some kind of prior military. Obviously no longer, because of how long his hair was, but he certainly hadn’t let himself go. Something made me intensely interested in this guy’s story. He wore no jewelry, not a watch or necklace to give away any kind of preferences. His long-sleeved shirt was red checkered flannel, at least it seemed to be in this lighting, and the sleeves were rolled up to just above his elbows, like a working man would do. I couldn’t help but
notice a few scars across his knuckles, as if he was used to fighting or grappling something. One of the marks seemed to be fresh. It was a dark mark, darker than the other ones, because it was brimming with blood, and it extended around his right hand, down the side of his pinkie finger.
I jolted when I realized he had caught me ogling his hands. I almost apologized, but he cut off my words with “Where you heading to?” It was only the second thing he’d said to me as he started up the engine again. There was an authority in his voice that I feared would make my own voice quiver even more.
“Oh, just in town. Anywhere in town would be fine,” I answered, getting a little nervous and intimidated by how certain and unwavering he sounded. Over the rain it was impossible to make out the lyrics to the song coming through the radio. It was something slow, and the male singer had a deep rumble to his voice that had a way of lulling you to sleep.
“All right,” he said as his truck slowly ambled off the shoulder and back onto the highway, picking up speed down this lonely forested freeway, sloshing through the slippery and winding roads. I imagined that it had to at least be from the mid-'90s. There was an original cassette player in the middle of the dash. With that, the deep red pleather seats, and the unshakable smell of smoking tobacco, it reminded me perfectly of my grandfather’s old pickup. Back then, these trucks were the fabric of society. You drove your produce into town, hauled wood around your farm, or packed in your family for the trip to Sunday morning church. It seemed like he tried to take care of it: he probably took the same kind of care with all of his belongings, but age was getting the better of this truck. Cracks were showing in the dash. The pleather was frayed around the edges of the seat, most noticeably where your legs scrape against it to get in and out. Maybe this guy got the truck from his dad, or his grand dad. It didn’t seem like he was old enough to be the original owner. This truck looked like it belonged to an age nearly forgotten.
“What about you, um, where are you going?” I asked, wiping my face from the rain.
He took a deep breath. “Home.” Maybe he was just weary, or maybe he didn’t like answering small talk; I couldn’t tell.
“Oh, okay,” I said, trying to be perky. “What were you doing all the way out here?” We had to be at least 20 miles away from the city, but maybe there was a town along this road I didn’t know about. I knew this forest covered a lot of ground.
“Hunting,” he said flatly. There was a heaviness in his words. I tried to remember: was it deer season already? Or maybe this man hunted something else. I almost wished I had paid more attention to my father’s teachings on different game and when the best time was to snare each one.
So instead I had to meekly ask, “Oh...get anything good?”
He looked at me, and I swear just a hint of that wicked smile returned as his eyes ran from my crotch to my face. “Maybe.” I couldn’t control the tremor through my body. I think he enjoyed the way he made me quiver.
Something in the way he looked at me turned me on. Something that made me feel like he wanted to possess me, to do to me as he wished with me, and I could tell he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. It was a look that intimidated me to my core, but at the same time thrilled me just as much. I thought it best not to ask him any more questions for fear of tempting his temper. From the very beginning I seemed to know where my place was, and his energy made me feel I had better follow it, or there would be consequences. Consequences for which I wasn’t sure I would be prepared.
We drove for a long time in this electric silence. I couldn’t even feel my usual fear of the forest. Even if there were thousands of unseen eyes falling over me, I was captivated in the presence of this man. This man, silent and steely as stone, had my rapt attention, like cult leaders have devout followers who are willing to obey their every command, no matter what they order them to do. My body ached to be told what to do.
This road wound through the Hallowed Forest. At some points, the moonlight was completely obscured by trees that had wilted over the highway, creating a dense, leafy barrier that trapped its travelers away from the rest of the world. At other times, the forest receded quite a bit away from the road side and it gave us beautiful views of meadows and small forest creatures. To my right I saw an entire family of deer flocking together from somewhere behind us, fleeing beside the truck for only a moment before their path took them away from the highway. I loved the way their nimble legs could carry them so quickly, and I wondered if this man admired that about them, or if he just saw them as prey to be hunted and slain.
Then I saw another family of deer out of the corner of my left eye. The sudden increase in wildlife must have meant that we were close to a large source of water. Maybe a mile ahead, I could start to make out lights that were coming from a city. We drove a little further, up the steepest hill that we had come to yet, and as we crested the top of it, we could see the lights of the city like a million diamonds. The city was gorgeous, no doubt about it, framed by the vast coastline of the Willamette River. It’d been a long time since I was in Portland, Oregon: not since I was little. That was back when life was very tough for me and my family, and Portland represented hope for us. Little did I know how much more terror and difficulty it would bring upon us.