The conversation continued, but Wolf wasn’t listening anymore, his focus on the lactating woman. There were four people sitting around a low fire, and the small breathing sounds of young children came from two big tents twenty yards away. Quite young. Urine. Breast milk. He turned his attention back to the adults, specifically the dark-haired woman, the mother, who was standing up and stretching.
“I need to pee,” she announced. “Where are the headlamps, Max?”
Max pressed something into her hand as she bent to kiss him lightly on the mouth. Adjusting the headlamp he’d given her, she headed for the trees, and Wolf stepped silently behind an oak as she picked her way along a fresh-cut path. She ducked into a copse of Russian olive trees and out of sight. Wolf balled his hands into fists and ground his back teeth together as the smell of her blood, laced with mother’s hormones and milk, taunted him. His fangs clicked down. He waited for the woman to put her clothing back in order, and when she looked up, his eyes glowed with a dark light. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
“Shhh,” Wolf soothed, moving toward her.
Paralyzed by fear and his gaze, she didn’t try to run or scream, but her hands began a fine trembling.
“Relax.” His voice filled her chest as he ran his hand along her shoulder to her neck, lifting the heavy curtain of wavy, dark hair. The woman stopped shaking, but she never took her eyes off his as he dragged her to him and spun her around. He tilted her head to one side, exposing her white neck and stretching it into a long, tight line. Resting his mouth over her jumping pulse, he bit. She jerked beneath him, her eyes fluttering and drifting closed. He gripped her tighter, drawing sweet blood in quiet gulps. It was sweeter than usual, and he flashed on a mental image of his own mother: young, strong, dark, and beautiful, but all mothers were beautiful to their sons. Was she as beautiful as he remembered? Or had time and memory worked their magic, softening the rough edges and creating an aura of nostalgia? Had 500 years edited his memory? His mother held a small, dark berry out to him, the sun blazing behind her in a clear, blue sky.
“Taste it, Wolf. It’s perfectly ripe.”
Her voice echoed down the years, waking up his humanity. He yanked his fangs from her neck. What was he doing? He blinked. She was tranquil in his arms, breathing deeply, relaxed in the vampire’s spell. As sharp guilt cut through Wolf, he fortified himself against the warring wants. With a practiced detachment, he licked the bite wounds until the blood coagulated and the skin and tissue knitted back together. By morning it would itch like a bug bite and other than the two faint marks, she’d think they were bug bites.
“You went into the woods to relieve yourself and noticed how unusual the moon is tonight,” he whispered into her ear.
She nodded. “The halo is beautiful. What is it?” Her voice thick with magic.
“It’s the wolf moon.”
He nudged her away until she walked on her own, her vacant face tilted up. The spell dissipated and awareness firmed her eyes as she looked to her left then right. She hesitated, looking up at the moon once more and glanced over her shoulder, but Wolf was gone. She had a vague sense of well-being mingled with fear and arousal. What a strange sensation, she thought. He’d taken the memory from her. It was his alone.
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