Author's Note: This romance is my first attempt at a werewolf story of any kind. I don't know what I'm doing and I don't know how it's going to come out! It's going to be as much of an adventure for me writing it as it will be for those who choose to read it. This is not my normal genre or style. Please read and review so I can get it right.
How Things Are
Valisa and Sophie gave each other that look. Anyse was going crazy, once again, trying to find that perfect outfit. "What about this one, guys? Does this make me look fat?"
"Of course not! But then again let's talk about that butt. Everything makes that butt look big," answered Valisa as her sister Sophie elbowed her in the ribs. "What?" she asked her, exasperated.
Anyse laughed. "Sophie keeps forgetting that where I come from a big butt is a good thing."
"I think you're hurting yourself all over again," Valisa said with a tired sigh.
Sophie chimed in, "He's your best friend, we get that, but he already told you he's not into your type. He likes those trophy wife types, you know?"
"So why do you keep doing this to yourself?" finished Valisa.
Anyse took a look at her roommates. The twins may not have been identical, but they sure did finish each others thoughts. "Look, ladies, I can at least try, right?"
"We do not want to spend another night worried about you," Valisa said almost vehemently.
"I never complain!" protested Anyse.
"And that's why we worry," Sophie nodded. The redhead was the shorter of the two with big perceptive green eyes. "You don't say anything and that worries us. And the less you talk when you come back from hanging out with him the more we worry."
"We just wish you would come home and vent sometimes. But you don't."
"Oh, who wants to hear my mouth?" Anyse said as she tried on a different skirt.
"We do!" both girls said at the same time.
She looked at the twins and felt an instant love. "You two are wonderful. I couldn't have better friends," she said truthfully. Her cell phone rang. "That'll be Kevin. I have to go." She checked her reflection in the mirror one last time. The thought in the back of her mind was she wished this was a date with him and not just another hang-out night. It stung to think that just three months ago he let her know the two of them could never be more than just friends. She should have known better. He went for girls that looked like Valisa, just 30 pounds lighter. He liked them tall, blonde and thin to the point of almost emaciation. Valisa was pure muscle, though. He wasn't having that type, either.
Anyse was short, dark haired and due to a seriously heavy strain of Latino Indian and Black in her gene pool had a cinnamon colored skin. He once remarked to her that he could handle the dark skin. He just wasn't into large booties. It hurt to hear it, but at least he'd told her the truth. Why did she love him so much?
Kevin was waiting at his car for her just like any other Friday hang-out night. He drove a BMW, black, new model, all the features and amenities included. And he was so handsome and so her type. Nearly tall, but not too tall, dark hair, dreamy blue eyes and a smile that was so nice it made her stomach clench. And he was always dressed…dressed to the nines! He was wearing tailored slacks and a pinstripe shirt and he was only hanging out. Why oh why couldn't he love her the way she loved him? "Hi!" he said in greeting as he leaned down and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "Let's go. We have to hurry."
"Why?" she asked.
"The movie's going to start in like 25 minutes."
"You bought tickets already?"
"Again?" she asked. He was always doing thoughtful things like that, buying what they agreed to do for their hang-out night, not letting her pay him back. As she got into the car she said, "I'm giving you the money back this time."
"Forget about it," he said, as usual. And as usual, she would try and stick the price of the ticket in his glove compartment when he wasn't looking.
While they were at the movies that evening, Anyse began to have that feeling all over again. The one that made her want to run as far away from Kevin as possible, lock herself in the nearest bathroom stall and cry until she flooded the theater out. The want for him was so bad she wondered if it was at all healthy. It wasn't the first time she asked herself that question. But she'd known Kevin for nearly two years and they'd been real friends for over a year, good friends for less than nine months. He was practically her best friend by now. She knew within three months of them becoming very close that she was in love with him. She misread several of his signals and he found himself in the awkward position of having to clarify his feelings a few months back when she'd kissed him on impulse when they were hanging out late one night. She didn't speak to him for a week after that. She wasn't angry with him. Mostly she was just embarrassed.
And here she was, again, sitting in another theater with him and getting that sick 'I want him so bad but I can't have him' feeling. She'd tried to end their friendship, but he wouldn't have it. She was the best friend he'd ever had and he couldn't give her up. She was in love with him so she was willing to do whatever it took just to see him all of the time which included being around him and not getting from him what she needed. A relationship. A real relationship.
The two went for desert and coffee afterward. While they were out as usual Kevin had several females come up to him that he knew from various places. The ones he'd dated in the past, they all looked the same: Tall, thin and blond, never a redhead or brunette in the bunch. It was sickening to Anyse. They all gave her the same look when he would introduce her as his best friend. The looks said, 'we know you're in love with him, but you're not his type…but we are!' She had to concede after awhile that maybe she was imagining things. Half of those girls seemed to be genuinely very nice.
By the end of the night she knew what she had to do. She enjoyed being with him thoroughly at that point, more than usual. Because she knew it was the last night she was going to do this to herself. On the way back to his car since they were about to go home,they ran into a group of guys Kevin knew. He introduced Anyse to them all and mentioned where he knew each one from. Most of them were from his job. But two of the men there Kevin didn't know at all since they were relatives of the guys from his job.
The only man Anyse wound up remembering from that night was Liam. Liam was the first cousin of one of the other guys. He was maybe two inches taller than Kevin. His hair was so black it looked as if it were made from dark ink. His eyebrows were just as black and they framed intense dark brown eyes. That was the thing that stood out to Anyse, his brown eyes and the sharpness to them. His eyes seemed to be looking into her as he said hello and introduced himself. What was it about his eyes? Something about them made it hard for her to look away. Everyone was talking around them as Liam just stood there, looking down at her, his manner unhurried. His eyes went soft as he continued to stare down at her. She should have felt uncomfortable but she didn't. She felt sucked in. "What's your name again?" she asked, not wanting to have the silence stretch on between the two of them, though neither one really seemed to mind.
"Liam," he said again.
"Like Liam Neeson?" she asked.
He laughed softly at her joke and smiled down at her, "Yeah, like Liam Neeson."
His smile made her swallow hard and she looked down at her shoes. Why did this guy have this effect on her? Her senses felt alive to the presence of someone else the first time in months and she didn't know how to take it. Then Kevin was ready to go and was saying goodbye to his job mates. She looked up at Liam to say good night thinking surely this guy's eyes weren't going to do it to her again. But she looked up at him, and yes there they were again pulling her in. "Good night," she said as she began to walk away.
"Good night," he said as his eyes held hers for a few seconds. And then he walked away.
The twins were up and waiting, as usual. Every time she returned from a night with Kevin they were there for her just in case she decided to finally vent. "Well?" asked Valisa. The two of them looked at her and saw she was not herself.
"I've decided that I just can't do this friendship thing with Kevin anymore, you know?"
"Bra-freaking-vo," declared Valisa. Sophie jabbed her in the ribs. "Ouch!"
"What made you finally do this?" Sophie asked.
She sat on the couch and sighed as she honestly went over it in her head. "I was sitting in the movies, in the dark, with a guy that I wished could put his arms around me, you know? And it occurred to me that if he did it still wouldn't mean anything. And I just said to myself 'I want him to love me but he can't'. And I know if I don't cut this out I'm going to wind up some lady living with some cats while he's married to some tall socialite and they have the perfect family of 2.5 kids."
"And don't forget, members of some damn country club," Valisa cut in.
"So the cat lady future did it to you?" asked Sophie.
"Basically that and the fact that I just can't stand looking at perfection anymore and not have it."
"Oh, come on," Valisa said, slightly offended. "That guy is not perfection. He's my friend, too, but he is so not perfection."
"Well what's not perfect about him?" asked Anyse. "He has a great job, drives a great car, has a great condo, dresses like he stepped out of GQ and he's gorgeous and to top it all off the guy has the nerve to actually be a nice person. I mean, where do you find that nowadays?"
"Why is he not perfection?" asked Valisa. "For starters, he can't find it in himself to love you. I mean look at you. You're beautiful. You've got a body that's like 'pow!' You curve in all the right places and your face is just gorgeous. You're the sweetest person I've ever met. You're actually not a bitch, you don't rag on other girls no matter what, friends or not, and you're more than nice to people, like you're genuine. And he keeps dating these stuck up miss-prissy girls? Therefore in my book that is the beginning of him being 'not perfect' in any way."
Anyse's eyes welled up with tears. "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me."
Sophie sat next to her on the couch. "He's also not perfect because he's too perfect."
"What?!" asked Anyse and Valisa.
"I mean the guy has got it all. Why should he really have it all and get to have a jewel like you, too?"
"Oh, you guys, stop it!" said Anyse. She knew Sophie was joking and laughed with them about it. "I'm going to bed now. I have to figure out a way to avoid hanging out with him for a few weeks."
"Why can't you just come out and tell him?" asked Valisa. "Frak what he thinks."
"The last time I tried to parachute out of our friendship because of my feelings he wouldn't leave me alone until I started hanging out with him again. This time I need to be more creative. I mean, under any circumstances, who wants their best friend to bounce on them never to be seen again? It's almost like death."
Anyse went to bed that night, thinking of her Kevin problem. She expected to be up all night, tossing and turning and not knock out until the wee hours of the morning; then she expected the problem to follow her into her dreams. But within an hour she was asleep. And her dream made no sense.
Kevin was there, sitting beside her. They were hanging out at her place like any other Saturday or Sunday…or wait, was it his place? She didn't recognize it. She turned to tell him something but he was no longer sitting there. It was Liam. Liam? His eyes held her in their spell once more and she couldn't look away. As she sat there, his eyes began to change. They were the eyes of a wolf, mesmerizing, complex. And he was no longer Liam, at least not the Liam that showed his face to the world.
She awoke with a racing heart. Strangely enough she wasn't afraid, just a little confused. "What the hell kinda' dream was that? I gotta quit the late night eating." She looked out of her heavily curtained window and saw the sun was already up. How long had she been gazing into that guy's eyes in her dream? And why?
"Anyse, this is Kevin again. Look, I haven't heard from you in like four days. Where are you? Please call me when you get this message. Bye."
Sophie wrote down the message. Kevin had called again. It was the tenth time in four days. He was getting desperate she could tell. Just then, her roommate and sister walked in. "We went shopping!" said Valisa.
"You guys don't do shopping!" protested Sophie, the only one out of the three of them who enjoyed that pastime.
"Well you weren't home so we went without you," said Valisa, seemingly unapologetic. "Oh, but I bought you this." She pulled out a new pack of underwear.
"Aw!" gushed Sophie. "You bought me undies! How sweet!" And the three ladies started laughing. "How come you guys went shopping anyway? Wild dogs couldn't drag you two out into a mall voluntarily."
For some reason Anyse flinched at the 'wild dog' analogy but didn't know why. "We're going to Dedication Night on Sunday."
"You are?" said Sophie, shocked. Dedication Night was held at a ballroom. Said ballroom rented out space to the same vendors for different blocks of time. The first Saturday of every month was for Swing Dancing. The second and third Saturday/Sunday was a swap meet. And Dedication Night was held every last Sunday of the month. A DJ would show up, unpack his equipment and set up. People got on a big honking list and paid to put their names on it.
The people who'd signed the list would dedicate songs to someone either in the room, relatives they haven't seen in forever and in some cases dead loved ones. They would come to the mic and explain who they were dedicating the song to and why. Every once in a while you got a guy dedicating to some girl or a girl dedicating to some guy. The most uncomfortable moments usually happened when said guy/girl turned them down. The most awkward moment at Dedication Night was a year before when some guy dedicated a song to another guy and then he went up to him for the moment of truth. The guy went, "Dude, I'm so not gay," and that was the end of that one.
Valisa's cell rang. She looked at the caller ID and flinched. "Crap. It's Kevin again. What do I say?"
"Oh, all right. Tell him I just got home and to give me a call if he wants to."
"Okay," she said, relieved to no longer have to jockey between the two friends. She picked the phone up. "Hello?-- Hey, man, how you doing?-- Oh, she hasn't called you back yet?-- Well yeah, she's home now. We were out shopping, man!-- Um, yeah, we do that," she said, obviously offended. Who knows what else he said because next, "Yeah, well, whatever. You can call her on the house phone and stop eating the minutes on my cell, bitch," came out of her mouth. "Bye," she finished the conversation and hung up.
Anyse couldn't help but laugh out loud. Valisa was guilty of calling anyone 'bitch' that insulted her in any way, shape or form, male or female. It was one of the reasons she loved her, that almost-tomboy didn't give a flying fig what anyone thought of her. Sophie was different. She was sensitive and practical and very girly. Despite these differences it was amazing to her that the twins couldn't have been any closer. The house phone rang then, forcing her to confront the moment. She inhaled and pasted a grin on her face. "Hello?" she said as she picked up the phone.
"It's Kevin," he said.
"How you doing?" she asked.
"I'm fine. How are you?" he asked, sensing something different in her voice.
"Fine. So what's up?" she asked, trying to sound casual.
"What's up? I can't reach you for four days and you sound so—almost normal. What's going on, Anyse?"
"Nothing, man. I've been like ultra busy."
"Nah, for real though, busy." In the background she could see the twins look at each other. They knew every time she fell into the phrase 'nah, for real though' she was lying her butt off. "I've got a lot on my plate right now."
"Like?" he asked, not believing her. He'd also caught the 'nah, for real though' she'd thrown out.
"Like at work I've got three projects back to back and I would like to keep my job, you know."
"But you hate your job," he reminded her.
"But I have bills and I like to eat," she said with a smile.
"So you have three projects at work?"
"Yep. Been burning the midnight oil all this week. Sorry I haven't been able to get to the phone. Today was the first day I've seen daylight in relation to not-work."
"Well you could have called, you know. I was getting worried about you."
She couldn't put her finger on why, but she was suddenly angry. "Dude, I haven't even called my mom this week."
He sensed her anger and knew he'd better back off. Anyse was a sweet girl with not one vindictive bone in her body. But if you got her angry… "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said quickly. "Are you busy right now?"
She felt like she was between a rock and a hard place. "I'm doing some work tonight at the office."
"What about tomorrow night?"
She thought about it. Wednesday. "The only night I have free is Saturday," she said as she wanted to kick herself for giving in to him. "I'm going out Sunday with Sophie and Valisa."
"That's great! My job's having a barbeque on Saturday. Why don't you come with me?" he asked.
"Don't you want to like bring a date to that or something instead?" she asked warily.
"Ah, no, it's totally informal," he said.
She smiled evilly. The twins looked at each other, worried. She never got that look on her face. 'Where the hell is this coming from?' wondered Valisa. "So you won't mind if I bring the twins with me." Anyse said next.
"What?" he asked.
"Well you said it's informal. And I kind of promised the girls we'd hang out together whatever one of us did on Saturday." She looked at the two of them, "What do you think, girls, barbeque?"
"Hell yeah! Free food, man!" yelled Valisa as Sophie laughed out loud while nodding 'yes'.
Anyse hoped he would say he was not allowed to bring that many people. But he just smiled and said, "Great. The more the merrier."
She smiled, too. At least her girls would be there to back her up. "Great. Saturday it is." And she hung up.
Valisa walked up to her and grabbed her arms. "I have never seen you throw down the gauntlet." She hugged her. "I'm so proud of you! My baby's growing up!" she said jokingly as her voice cracked dramatically.
"Oh please," mumbled Sophie behind them as Anyse giggled.
She woke up Saturday morning and was about to start losing her mind finding the right stuff to wear. Then apart of her asked 'what are you trying to prove and to whom? And exactly why?' She backed away from the nice section of her closet and instead went into her casual dresser drawer. She found her most comfortable pair of jeans, a soft presentable cotton shirt and her favorite flip flops. Now that was barbeque wear. The only plus about it was the shirt was red and looked great with her complexion. She left her curls the way they were and only went to the trouble of running a little oil and pomade through it to give them manageability and sheen, then she pulled it up and back into a long curly ponytail. Looking in the mirror she mumbled, "Great. Now I look 16 instead of 26." She shrugged and left her room with her cheapest utilitarian purse.
Sophie couldn't believe her eyes. "Oh my God. You actually really look casual for once when you're about to go see Kevin. I can't believe it."
"I'm so glad you're not all dressed trying to catch his eye anymore," said Valisa. "It was getting terrible to watch you get ready and all cute for a guy that didn't even appreciate the effort."
"I've decided to show off my backside instead of trying to camouflage it," said the almost newly liberated girl.
"Nothing could hide that caboose," laughed Valisa as she smacked Anyse in the butt displaying a huge grin. "I've got one, too, see!" she said as she pointed at her backside in her tight jeans. "Want to smack mine?" Anyse did so as Valisa started to laugh.
Sophie opened the apartment door and declared, "Ladies—and I use that term for you two very lightly-- stop being absurd and let's get to the car."
Kevin's eyes almost crossed. Anyse looked…not like the way she usually looked when she saw him. He was used to seeing a girl who took meticulous care with what she wore. But not today. He wondered what had come over her. First she just disappeared on him for days and didn't even have their usual Saturday breakfast together the week before. Then she didn't return his calls. Now she was dressed like…like a normal person? What was going on here? Of course she was beautiful, she always was, she just wasn't his 'type'. But he had to admit she looked kind of good in those jeans.
"Hey girls," he said to the twins and her as they approached him at the park his company picnic was being held. Employees and their friends and relatives were everywhere, there had to be at least 70 people gathered already. He also couldn't help but notice that he went to give Anyse his usual peck on the cheek and she walked right by him.
"Are those barbecued hot dogs?" she exclaimed as she went straight for a table full of food.
"Oh, beer!" exclaimed Valisa as she grabbed her sister's reluctant arm and ran straight for the cooler.
Liam was there. He had been invited to the company picnic by his cousin whom worked for the company sponsoring it. Usually antisocial he agreed on the off chance that she would be there. And there she was. So the day would be worth it after all.
She was wearing jeans that hugged every curve the right way and a red shirt that made her stand out like a beacon of beauty. She was physically shorter than her two companions, but quite strong he could tell. She wasn't frail in the least. The light hit her brown skin and her extra black curly hair and made them almost shine. And her smile was infectious. He wanted to look in her eyes again. He couldn't forget her since meeting her the week before and now here she was again. Without thinking, he found himself going to meet her.
"Whoa," said his cousin as he intercepted him. "What are you doing?"
"She's here," said Liam.
"Is that the woman? The one we met with Kevin?" Tealin nodded in the negative. "Kevin. Rich trust fund prick. If she's friends with him, maybe she's not worth knowing."
Liam moved Tealin out of the way. "I think that's my decision to make, not yours."
"Fair enough," his cousin called after him. "But if she's some stuck up snob who won't give you the time of day don't come crying to me."
"As if I ever would," said Liam with a slight grin.
Anyse was just about to get a hot dog when the man from that night came up to her. "Liam," she found herself saying without thinking. And there were those eyes again staring into hers. His hair was just as black, just as beautiful as when she'd met him. But in broad daylight she noticed a few more things about him. There was a twinkle in his eyes when he looked at her, an almost playfulness. But it didn't reach his face. His face was stoic, almost unreadable. And she got that feeling in her stomach again just from staring at him.
"You remembered my name," he said as he almost leaned in to speak to her. He was taller than she thought he was from the last time she'd seen him.
"Yes, I did," she said as she tried to shake the feeling of nervousness overwhelming her.
"I remembered yours, too," he said. "Anyse."
She liked the way he said it. But she didn't let it show. "Who's this?" asked Valisa as she walked up, open beer in hand. Sophie was not too far behind. Both girls were grinning ear to ear.
Anyse and Liam turned to them as she said, "This is Liam. I met him last week when Kevin and I were at the Dessert Shoppe after the movie. A bunch of guys from his job were there and--"
"So you work at Kevin's job?" asked Sophie.
He gave a slight smile. He didn't look like the type that was used to smiling. "No. My cousin works there. I just happened to be along and met Anyse that night."
The two noticed the way he looked at their roommate and resisted the urge to giggle. "These are my friends," said Anyse. "Sophie and Valisa."
"Nice to meet you," they said in stereo, their twin radar engaging. "Well," began Sophie-- "We have to go," finished Valisa. "There's some food over there we want," both girls said at the same time.
As the two walked away his smile became genuine. "They're twins," he said with certainty.
She looked at him, a little shocked. "How'd you know? Most people don't."
"Just something they give off," he said as his smile slowly disappeared. "Can I ask you something? I hope you don't think it's too personal a question."
"What's your relationship to Mr. Farrington?"
"Kevin?" She shrugged. "Nothing and everything."
"It's complicated?" he asked.
"Well he's my best friend but--"
"But you wish it were more than that."
She was uncomfortable with how right this man was turning out to be about things. "Yes, at least I did in the past."
"Reality is finally hitting me here," she said as she pointed to her heart.
"And what reality is that?"
"Kevin likes what Kevin likes. And he likes tall blondes who weigh no more than 125 pounds."
"And you weigh?"
"Next question," she said with a smile. He was looking directly into her eyes again and his face lit up in what she suspected was a very rare true smile. It was open and beautiful and she looked away because this was not the way she was supposed to feel for someone else when she was supposedly in love with her best friend. Who was this man?
"All right. Another question. A fair one. And then you can ask me whatever you want."
"What would you do if the right man came along?"
She was taken aback. What was this? Anyse found herself wanting to sit down somewhere. "I have no idea to tell you the truth."
"Were you putting all your eggs into that basket?" he asked as he referred to the man they were speaking about as he was making his way to them.
"Ironic you should put it that way because yes I was hoping he'd fertilize a couple of these eggs in the future," she said as she placed both hands on either side of her abdomen. "…of course after some wedding vows and rings. But you get the point."
Liam couldn't help it but as the man approached he felt instant hostility toward him. He knew what he wanted and it was this woman standing here with him. And that man not only didn't appreciate what was being offered to him, he still kept her heart in thrall. "How about you ask me whatever you want now?"
"Where do you come from? I mean where do you live?" she asked, honestly wanting to know. The man seemed there with her at that moment but something about him seemed as if he'd crossed over from some other world just for the day.
"I live over on the edge of the Thrace Preserve."
"Really?" she asked with genuine enthusiasm in her voice.
He smiled at her obvious pleasure. "You know the place?"
"I used to spend time out there a lot as a teenager."
"What for? There's nothing out there. Well, except nature," he laughed.
She shrugged, not believing she was about to let spill a tiny piece of her past so quickly after meeting a man. "I like the quiet. I like the woods. The feel of no one watching and judging what you're doing all of the time. Also in my teens I developed an-- I guess you could call it an unhealthy obsession with wolves. And since Thrace Preserve held several packs back then--"
"Those were the days before they migrated away."
"Yeah, but I heard there's still one pack in the area, sort of. Sometimes they're seen and sometimes they're not. I don't know what's going on with that."
"What's so curious about that?"
"Wolves are very territorial. They don't just up and leave for a time just when the humans get nervous and start talking about hunting them down. They either live there on their usual rotation or they do not. So this pack is very unusual because every time people start to get nervous then, poof! They're gone. It's almost as if they know they're about to be hunted and beat it out of there for a while until the fear dies down. Then they're spotted again."
"But you haven't been able to keep track of them anymore?" he asked.
"No. The demands of real life got in the way," she said almost sadly.
"What a shame," he said.
She looked up at him. He really meant it. How stoic and yet how sweet this man was. Just like his eyes. 'Eyes deep and sweet like sugared raisins looking down into my soul,' she found herself thinking.
"Anyse," said Kevin as he walked up to the two of them. "They're about to do the three legged race. Want to enter?"
She smiled up at him. "Yeah, sure, Kevin. You remember Liam from last week, right?"
He was about to shake the hand offered to him but Kevin got this strange sensation that a rival male was staring down at him. Was the guy this large in the shoulders last week? As he shook his hand the feeling of danger intensified for a split second and then it was gone. "Yeah, sure. I remember Liam. You're Tealin's cousin, right?"
"Yes," he answered, just barely fighting the urge to knock him out. Looking down at Anyse, he said, "We'll speak later."
"Later," she said as she realized he hadn't asked, he'd declared it. It would bother her from anyone else. But for him…why did she feel gooseflesh up her back? The arousing kind?