After depositing the check, they had grabbed their bags, and loaded up the car. It was too late to head out, so they climbed into bed to sleep for a bit. Kate woke up at dawn and the two of them showered quietly. After a quick bite to eat, it was time to go. They gave Zach and Anne some last minute instructions, and headed out of town.
Eric was behind the wheel of the Subaru, and they were headed up into the hills at last. Kate was laying back in the seat, something she normally didn’t do. Her eyes were closed and she was almost asleep. Yesterday had been the final straw for both of them. It was time to get away from everyone and everything. Eric glanced over at Kate and smiled as he realized she was snoring ever so softly. He went back to concentrating on his driving. They stopped for gas a few times and were back on the road quickly. A stop for lunch afforded him a chance for a brief nap. Kate read or dozed the rest of the trip.
It was dark with just a trace of moonlight as Eric pulled into the hotel parking lot. They had chosen the place because it was so off the beaten track. There were no street lights, just the main light over the entrance.
“Kate, Sweetie… Wake up. We’re here.”
Kate yawned and stretched. She looked around and then at Eric. “We’re here already?”
Eric nodded. He started to unload the car and headed towards the front entrance. “Come on Kate, let’s get checked in. I don’t know about you, but I want to crawl into a bath and then bed.”
“I’m coming!” she called after him. Kate grabbed her bag and the backpack she had her clothes in. Both she and Eric packed light. Following him into the entrance, the first thing she noticed was a large sign. It read, ‘Pets Welcome’. It brought a smile to her face, especially as she knew Eric had planned to go hunting. Eric was talking to a gentleman at the desk.
“Yes, we’ll be just fine with that arrangement,” Eric said.
“Ah, this must be your lovely wife,” the man said.
“Hi, my name is Kate.” She held out her hand.
“I’m Henry. Glad to meet you.” His handshake was firm and yet oddly familiar. She took a better look at him, but didn’t have a clue as to what was tweaking her senses.
“Our room is up this way.” Eric pointed as they took the key and headed out of the lobby. Kate picked up her backpack and followed.
Their room was almost at the end of the hall. Eric slid the key into the slot and opened the door. Neither of them really needed the light on as moonlight flooded the room. However, Kate flipped on the light which was soft and easy on the eyes. She looked around and was surprised at the layout of the room.
“Yeah, I thought you’d like it. When I saw it online, I figured it was the place to go.” Eric smiled as he put his stuff down on the bed.
Kate looked around. There was a low queen sized bed, a love seat, desk, chair and a huge sliding glass door. She walked over and looked outside. There was a patio area and an open meadow that was skirted by the woods. She looked down at the corner and started to giggle. There in the corner were two empty animal dishes.
“Gee, they think of everything.” She giggled.
“Well, umm… Kate, it did say pets were welcome.”
“Yeah, but I honestly didn’t expect those.” She turned to unpack. “Oh, that reminds me. Did you notice anything odd when you shook Henry’s hand?”
Eric looked at her, and smiled. “No. Nothing odd at all.”
“What are you smiling about?”
Eric walked up and went to kiss her cheek. His lips were almost to hers when his tongue flicked out and caught her on the end of the nose. He smiled.
“Eric!” Kate dried her nose off with the back of her hand. She looked at him trying to figure out what had brought on his sudden playfulness. Then it struck her. “Oh… Eric, is he a…”
Eric nodded. “Yes. This hotel is a shifter’s haven so to speak. No one will bother you, and if you forget to dress, there are robes by the back door.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Go look for yourself.” He opened the sliding glass door. Kate stuck her head out and looked to the left. There on the wall in a cubby were two generic robes. She giggled.
“Oh my. How on Earth did you find this place?” Kate turned back to putting clothes away.
“Well, you could say that I have a few connections left.”
“So, if you knew that there were shifters in this part of the state, why didn’t you head here in the first place?” Kate was rather confused by this point.
“I didn’t know that they were here. I found this place after a comment my cousin made when she called to check on my a month or so ago.”
“And you didn’t say anything to me?” Kate was puzzled, as Eric was usually so forthright.
“I was hoping to save it as a surprise until our anniversary.”
“Our anniversary? Oh Eric, and then all this happened.” Kate left off putting stuff in drawers and walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him. He bent to kiss her, their lips meeting as their hands caressed. Kate was the first to break away. “Eric, we have too many clothes on.” A wry smile crossed her face.
“Oh yes.” His voice went all husky. His clothes were dropping to the floor as fast as he could undo them. Kate was down to her panties when Eric pounced and knocked her back on the bed. He was kissing his way down her stomach and when he got to the panties he grabbed them with his teeth and growled.
“Eric! Wait a minute!” Kate was trying to get him to stop long enough to shimmy out of them. There was a tearing noise and then they slid down her hips and were off. “You are just too damn rough on clothes some days Eric!” Kate said in a chiding tone.
Eric just smiled, his canines showing rather predominantly. He lowered his lips to her knees and started kissing his way up. Kate scooted farther up on the bed when he grabbed her leg and held her still. His kisses moved up and in until his lips caressed the curls her panties had hidden.
“Oh, Eric.“ Kate moaned as his tongue teased her lips. His fingers followed and soon Kate was wriggling under him. Her fingers ran through his hair which had come loose of it’s leather band. The curly hair twined in her fingers as she tried to pull his head closer to her. Eric concentrated on licking and kissing Kate until she couldn’t talk as orgasms began to wash over her. She arched and then collapsed on the bed. Eric brought his head up and smiled at Kate as she lay there with a silly grin on her face. He laid down beside her.
Kate rolled on her side and started to run her fingertips over his skin. That cinnamon chocolate smell drifted off of his skin. She stuck her nose up against his ear and inhaled. The scent seemed to tickle down her throat and heat her up straight down to her crotch. Kate kissed his ear and Eric couldn’t hold still any longer. His fingers went for her ribs and that sweet spot that she both loved and hated to have scritched.
“Oh no you don’t Eric!” Kate moved away from his fingers. Eric grabbed her around the waist and pulled her closer to him. Kate bit his neck and shoulder with small nips. A growl of pleasure started deep in his throat, and he relaxed his grip on her. She then started kissing down his chest. Her hands preceded her lips and found him hard and wanting. Her fingertips touching him made everything twitch. Kate smiled as she kissed farther down. When her lips touched the head, she thought he was going to come straight up off the bed. Her lips moved down the shaft and he groaned with deep growls of pleasure. Kate’s lips and tongue soon had him slippery and wet. Eric’s hips began to move with her wanting to push deeper. His own fingers found the cleft between her legs, wet and hot. He began playing with her nether lips and soon she was having trouble concentrating on what her mouth was doing. Kate came up for air and Eric pulled her to him. Kissing her lips, the taste of one another blended. He pulled her closer and she moved her legs so that she was sitting astride him. Eric moved his hips and thrust deep into her. Kate moaned as he slid back and forth. Her hands braced on the wall as his hands gripped her hips. They moved together in a fast hard rhythm.
Eric slowed his pace down and whispered in Kate’s ear. She nodded and moved off of his lap. He got up and moved around until he was behind her. Kate bent forward and Eric slid back between those hot wet lips. He held onto her hips and they moved together in increasing intensity. He bent forward and bit her neck where it joined the shoulder. She growled and moaned as his thrusts increased as he began to orgasm. Kate responded and moved her hips to match his pace. He let go of her neck, grabbed her hips again and thrust hard as the orgasm washed over him. Kate growled and felt herself arch and shudder with orgasm as well. They froze as everything came to an overload of pleasure. Kate shuddered and then felt the weight of Eric on her back as he began to loose control of his muscles. They lowered themselves to the bed and laid there spooned up to catch their breath.
Eric smiled in the dark as his hands moved towards Kate’s crotch. His fingertips began to tease that sensitive button of flesh until her hips arched again as another orgasm washed over Kate. Kate moaned and started to say something when he brought her to orgasm again. This time, the feeling was so intense that she felt as if she was going to pass out.
“Er…” was all she managed to say before he did it one last time. This time, she did pass out. Eric smiled and wrapped her in his arms. He pulled part of the covers up over them and they slept.
Moonlight flooded the room as Kate woke some time later. She was cold, and it took her a moment to realize that Eric was not in the room. The sliding door was open just the slightest bit. It was the breeze from there that had woke her up. On the pillow was a note.
Couldn’t wait, gone hunting.
She smiled as she read it. Kate pulled the covers on the bed straight and then crawled under them. Sleep was the best way to pass the time until he returned. She needed it too.
Eric had left the hotel grounds and headed up into the forest. He loped with ease he didn’t expect after the wounds he received in the fight. He had healed up faster than he expected. Following a game trail, he came across two scents in the breeze. Wolf and elk. There was a hunt on. Eric was cautious as he wasn’t local to this area. He wasn’t sure if the wolves he scented were shifters or just a local pack. Coming around the corner of a clump of bushes he was met with growls. Standing very still, he stiffened as a large wolf met him muzzle to muzzle. They sniffed and then the other wolf made to move off. He looked back at Eric and made it clear that Eric was welcome to follow. Eric glided down the path with the other wolf. Two more joined at various branches in the game trail. They were following the scent of an old elk.
The elk burst out of the undergrowth followed by a wolf. Eric and the others moved in to take down the elk. Eric took flank and tried to keep the animal from turning back to the underbrush and thicker trees. The large wolf that had greeted him launched himself at the elk’s throat. His teeth tore into the flesh and as he twisted. Another wolf had bounded up on the shoulders to bring the elk to the ground. Eric and another smaller wolf moved in as well. Eric grabbed the muzzle and the first wolf finished ripping the throat out of the elk. The elk shuddered and then died. Five wolves howled in victory.
Eric stood back as the first wolf began to rip into the belly of the elk. He ripped into the under skin and soon had the liver in his mouth. He took it over to the smaller wolf and shared it. The other wolves moved in to take their bits. Eric waited. The first wolf looked up from his shared treat and motioned to Eric to help himself to a share of the hunt. Eric moved in and slowly took a chunk of the foreleg. The wolf who had jumped on the back of the elk growled, but didn’t move. The first wolf growled at the other one and it backed down. Eric moved off from the elk to eat his share.
Finishing his bit, bone well gnawed, Eric got up to leave. He went and bumped noses with the first wolf again and then moved out into the forest. He had a lot of questions to ask Henry in the morning.
Kate thought that she heard something. Grabbing Eric’s shirt off of the floor, she looked around the room. On the floor near the door was a piece of paper. Written in pencil with blood smears daubing the paper was one word.
Kate was puzzled, as she wasn’t sure what the term meant. Checking to see that the door was still locked, she curled up on the bed to wait for Eric’s return.
Eric ran until he could run no more. It felt so good to move. A few field mice had sufficed as dessert after his meal of elk. Loping around the back of the hotel, he was surprised to see the lights on in their room. He shifted and stepped onto the decking. Through the glass he could see Kate sitting on the bed reading something. He opened the door and stepped through, latching it behind him. “Hello Kate, I didn’t expect to see you awake.”
“I got woke up by a noise.”
“Yes, and when I got up, I found this had been shoved under the door.” She handed him the piece of paper.
Eric took it and read the scribble. He sniffed the bloodstains. Elk, and the odor of one of the wolves from the hunt. A low rumble was starting in his throat.
“Eric, what does it mean, and why are you growling?”
“Sheeple. It’s a derogatory term some shifters use for non-shifters. Sheep-people. Sheeple. Someone decided that you were a sheep. A non-shifter. Then, also decided that you didn’t belong here and that I’m rather lacking in judgment by bringing you here.” Eric still had that undertone growl to his voice. His eyes were shimmering to yellow.
“What? Me? A sheeple? Eric, who would do this?” Her own voice was taking on a bit of a growl.
“One of the guests from what I can tell. I met him on the hunt. He was rather hostile earlier. He must have come straight back here and sniffed about. Probably figured the wolf smell was all me. Idiot.” Eric started to move towards the door.
“Umm, Eric, you’re nude.”
Eric looked down, and just shook his head. “Gods, got so peeved I forgot to dress.”
“Can’t this wait till morning?” Kate tried to wrap her arms around him. “It’s almost dawn, and neither one of us has slept much.”
“No, this isn’t going to wait. I won’t be able to sleep. Just too much has gone on this week and I’m not in the mood for this. Get your clothes on, We’ll go see if Henry is back.” Eric grabbed his jeans and went looking for his shirt when he realized that Kate was wearing it. He reached into the drawer and grabbed a teeshirt. Pulling it over his head, he started towards the door. Kate pulled on her jeans and followed him, the note in her hand. Both of them headed down the hall barefoot.
They found Henry talking to a small woman near the entrance to what looked like the kitchen. Henry looked up smiling, an expression that faded quickly when he saw the look on Eric’s face.
“Eric, what’s wrong? Didn’t you enjoy the hunt?”
Eric handed the scrap of paper he took from Kate’s hand and gave it to Henry. Henry looked at it, read it and sniffed it. He then handed it over to the small woman in the doorway. She too read and sniffed it.
“I am very sorry about this. Mike is an idiot.” Henry turned to Kate. “Kate, I don’t know you, but I am sorry about this.” As he spoke, he looked from Kate to Eric, silently asking something Kate missed.
“Well, I’m no bloody sheep,” Kate said, a growl present in her voice.
Henry looked to Eric again with that unvoiced request hanging in the air between the two men. Eric nodded.
“Kate, would you mind if Henry sniffed your neck?”
“Why?” Irritation leaked into her voice and her eyes were graying out of their normal blue.
“To smell you better. To prove to me that you aren’t a sheeple.”
Realization dawned on Kate, and she stepped forward to Henry. Turning her head to the side, she stood still while Henry and then the woman came forward and sniffed. The hot air on her neck tickled and made a giggle rise in her throat. She looked at the two of them and was rather surprised to see Henry’s eyes changing color like Eric’s did. The woman just looked at her and smiled.
“Kate, I deeply apologize for Mike’s stupidity. You are certainly no sheep. Just a bit new to shifting aren’t you?” Henry asked.
“Um…. yes. I don’t do it voluntarily.”
“No, but your eyes are graying out, just talking about it,” the woman said. “My name is Josie, since Henry isn’t going to bother to introduce us.”
“Sorry dearest!” Henry slapped his hand to his forehead. Both women laughed.
“We met Eric out hunting last night, and I forgot that he didn’t know people in two legged form. Mike was the aggressive idiot and Dave was the other one. He’s a guest, but Mike.” Josie paused. “Mike is just a distant relative I wish would just go away. His only talent lately is trouble.”
Henry nodded. “He use to do handy-work around here, and now all he does is run four legged most of the time.”
“Too bad his handwriting is better than his nose,” Kate said with a smile.
That made everyone laugh.
“And it’s too bad I can’t just shift when I want, so that I could tell him just that with a bit of fang.”
Eric smiled. “You don’t have to.” He pointed towards the hall they had come down earlier. Kate turned to see a scrawny man wearing jeans coming down the hall. Henry visibly bristled and Josie pulled Kate off to one side so that the two men could bring Mike to Kate. He started to head back down the hall, but something on the men’s faces stopped him in his tracks. Moving each to a side, they bracketed Mike and came all the way down to the doorway where the two women were standing.
Henry took Mike by the scruff of the neck and gave him a shake that would have rattled teeth loose in a normal human. “You owe her an apology,” he growled. “Now!”
Mike looked from Henry to Eric, who was also growling. Kate didn’t want him to get close enough to her neck to sniff, so she rubbed her fingertips behind her ear, where she knew the others had sniffed earlier. She held her hand out to him. Mike looked like he was holding his breath, when Eric let out a sub vocal growl. He took a sniff. Then another. Mike’s eyes went a bit wide, and then his entire body posture seemed to visibly collapse. Henry let go of him and crossed his arms over his chest. Eric took Kate’s hand and kissed her fingertips.
“How the hell was I suppose to know? She didn’t come out on the hunt. Just laid there sleeping while the rest of us were out under the moonlight,” Mike mumbled into his chest, as Henry had him by the scruff of the neck again.
“Just because you have no manners, doesn’t mean that others are instantly prey. Just because she didn’t shift and come with us doesn’t mean she is a sheeple.” Henry shook Mike again. “Most of us have been wolf a tad too much and have lost most of the manners we ever had, but it doesn’t mean we have to be rude. You disgust me. Apologize to Kate.”
Mike looked from Henry to Eric and then finally to Kate. He could have sworn she was not a shifter. Newbie, damned odd smelling newbie. He stuffed his hands in his pockets. Eric growled and even Josie was shooting him dirty looks.
“I’m sorry for the note. Just didn’t think you belonged here,” he said at last. Henry shook him one last time and shoved him down the hall all in one motion.
“Now get the hell out of here. Be gone by noon,” Henry shouted after him. He turned back towards Kate who was shaking her head. “That was the lamest apology I’ve ever heard. Sorry Kate.”
“It’s okay. If nothing else, I learned a new bit of vocabulary.”
“Yeah, and a bit about wolves and pack behavior,” Josie said.
Kate looked at her and thought for a moment. “Pack behavior?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. Technically, I was lowest member of this ‘pack’ at the hunt,. Henry here greeted me and let everyone know I was okay,” Eric started to explain. “You would have been low wolf when everyone met you. Social pecking order and all that entails.”
“Oh, I get it. Like Luna being beta dog at the house,” Kate said.
“Exactly. However, by attacking the beta wolf before anyone met you, he erred in more ways than one,” Eric continued.
“I’m not sure I follow. Besides being rude, I’m not seeing something am I?” Kate asked
“Not only are you a stranger welcome in our house, but technically you’re a baby.” Josie had a smile on her face.
The thought of being a baby, or in this case a puppy just cracked Kate up. She began to giggle as everything began to slip into place. “Never thought of myself in that way.
“No one ever attacks a baby. Mike also disobeyed ‘house rules’ which very simply state that anyone staying here is welcome. Shifter or not,” Henry said rather firmly.
Josie began to move back towards the kitchen. “Anyone hungry? I have some nice elk steaks all sliced and ready to grill,” she called back over her shoulder.
“Oh that sounds good.” Kate didn’t realize how hungry she was until food was mentioned.
Henry and Eric nodded and the three of them headed for the kitchen to see if they could help.
Kate sopped up the rest of the juice from the steak and eggs with a bit of toast. Eric and Henry were still stuffing themselves with bites of steak. Josie was starting to clean up the table when Henry put his hand out to stop her.
“Take a break Josie. You’ve been up just as long as I have. Let that food settle a minute.”
Josie looked at Henry and then sat down. “Just for a moment. Considering that my dishwasher should be leaving any minute now, I’ll have to get to work before too long.”
“I’ll help with the dishes in a bit,” Henry said, and turned back to Eric and their conversation. They’d been discussing various events and Eric had just finished telling about the shifter attack at the house.
“You two were lucky that things didn’t go more seriously. I’d read the story in the paper and wondered what the truth was.”
“I agree. Especially with Kate here new to all of this. She could have found herself a widow twice over,” said Josie.
“I try not to think of that,” Kate said as she pushed her plate to one side. “Nor, to think what would have happened if Eric had been more injured. Hospitalization was just not a option. One that I am only just beginning to understand in all it’s ramifications.”
The other three nodded. The more Kate discovered about this world, the more complicated it became. She wondered just how much of this Zach had begun to puzzle out as well. They would need to talk when everything was said and done. He tended to act first and think later at times. Zach would have to deal with this and a few other issues that were descending hard and fast on his world. She hadn’t even mentioned to Eric that she suspected Anne was pregnant. She wasn’t sure Anne knew. All this talk of babies had reminded her. She’d have to talk to Josie later.
“Kate? Are you falling asleep?” Eric was bending towards her.
“No, just lost in thought. However, I am tired.”
“Well, Let’s go take a nap.”
“That sounds like a great idea.” Stretching upwards made all sorts of bones and tendons pop.
Henry smiled. “Kate, you may not shift at will, but parts of your body sure do. You sound just like Josie in the morning.”
“That’s just old age you mutt!” Josie said as she reached for his empty plate.
“Neither of you two are that old. And don’t tell me you don’t have waring muscles and bones. I’ve known you way too long.”
“You have eh? Ah well, then I guess it must be true. Now tuck that tail back in and give me a hand with the dishes.” Josie took a handful and turned back towards the kitchen.
Henry almost stopped himself from looking in time. Eric started to laugh, and so did Kate. She grabbed the last of the dishes and followed Josie to the kitchen. Josie was at the sink running hot water.
“That was well timed. Henry did look.”
“Oh, I knew he would. He’s forgotten often enough that it’s almost not a joke,” Josie said.
Kate smiled. “Eric’s eyes and eyebrows tend to give him away. I have a picture of us at a costume dance and if you look really close, he has pointy ears.”
Josie laughed. She had the dishes in the sink fast enough that all Kate could do was hand her the last few pieces.
“I think I’ll take Eric up on that nap.”
“Sounds good. We’ll probably nap too. Most of us who run at night take long naps. Luckily, we have a gal who keeps the desk for us during the day.”
“That’s good. I don’t think it would be good to try and sign someone in in fur.”
“Nope, No opposable thumbs. Makes writing real difficult.” Josie smiled and turned back to the last of the dishes.
Kate left the kitchen and saw Henry and Eric talking quietly and rather seriously. They moved apart before she could hear any of what they were saying. She’d ask Eric later.
“Are you ready for that nap?”
“Oh yes. It was a long night and this morning is already way too long.” Eric smiled and wrapped his arm around her as they headed back to their room.
Kate woke up and couldn’t move. She was wedged between what she thought was Eric and the wall. Untangling herself from Eric, she went to roll over when she realized that it wasn’t a wall behind her. It was a wolf. Smaller than Eric when in fur form, but still a wolf. Kate reached back and tapped Eric on the check, and woke him as gently as he could.
“Eric, there’s a wolf in bed with us,” she whispered.
Eric opened one eye, looked over Kate’s shoulder and sniffed. He blinked a time or two and then opened his eyes again. “That should be Josie,” he said quietly.
“Why is she here?” Kate was just a bit confused at this point.
“She was worried that Mike would be stupid. They both were. I think that’s Henry over by the door.” Eric pointed with his hand in the general direction of the door.
Kate looked and then heard the low snoring noise. It was a combination of snores and low growls. Snore,,, grrrowl….snoooorrre….. gggrrrrowwwl…. snooore. It was hilarious. Kate started gigging and then so did Eric. They tried to muffle it under the covers and when a particularly loud snore/growl combination hit, they both just broke out laughing. The wolf next to them on the bed woke up with a look of confusion on her face. The wolf looked from them to the door where a huge wolf lay curled up snoring and growling in his sleep. The wolf jumped off the bed and went over to nuzzle the snorer. All Eric and Kate could do was laugh.
Fifteen minutes later, bath robed and sleepy eyed, Henry and Josie sat on the end of the bed while Eric and Kate were still curled up under the covers. Henry was still trying to wake up and deny that he snored or growled in his sleep.
“It’s really cute Henry. I’ll have to see if Eric growls in his sleep now.”
Eric went to bat at her with his pillow and she dodged him and started tickling his sweet spot.
“Nnnooo fair!” he said as she continued to tickle him. This made Josie and Henry start laughing too. After a few minutes, they both stopped to catch their breath.
“I take it that guarding me was what you two were talking about this morning when I came back in from the kitchen?” The two men nodded.
“Henry was concerned because in two leg form, you are at a disadvantage. You don’t shift voluntarily and so if Mike decided to be an idiot and attack us while we were asleep, you’d be defenseless. Henry mentioned moving rooms, but I didn’t want to alarm you in case it was just nerves on our part. Josie decided later that they ought to just sleep in here with us. You were already asleep when she hopped on the bed. It was funny, because you two curled up tight. It gave me a look at what Zach and Andy have seen from time to time when they’ve come to wake us up.” Eric smiled at Kate and then kissed her.
“The idea was to be up and gone before you woke.” Henry yawned as he spoke.
“I am a light sleeper most of the time, and I remember that something woke me up. I just don’t know what that was. Next thing I knew, there was an extra body in the bed and then the snory-growls made me laugh.” Kate smiled as Henry started to turn red.
“Hey Josie, is there any of that elk left? I’m hungry,” Eric asked as his stomach growled. It was so loud that they all could hear it. Laughter broke out again.