The rest of their day flew by. Eric and Henry went a-hunting again that night and Josie curled up with Kate in front of the big fireplace. Cups of tea and fresh oatmeal cookies were slowly consumed while the two women chatted.
“He what?” Josie asked.
“Eric took the rib bones off of my dresser. Ate them on top of his clothes and didn’t notice the grease stains he left. I still have the bit of bone he kept in his pocket for weeks. I figure I’ll give it back to him as an anniversary present.”
Both woman laughed. Josie added a log to the fire. They really didn’t need it, but it was nice to listen to the crackle of the flames.
“Where did you meet Henry?”
“Up here. My ex and I had bought this place and were fixing it up. He was going to cater to the rich and famous ski bums. Too bad they tend to play about two valleys over from here. We hired Henry as day labor. Big biker type who needed a job, didn’t care what he did as long as he never had to work nights.”
“Did you know he was a wolf?”
“No, just thought he was your typical loner. Stinky, leather wearing, beer drinking jerk. Hell, my ex didn’t know about me, so I never even thought to look beyond the rather crusty exterior of Henry.”
“What? You’ve got to be kidding?”
“About Henry? No.”
“No, I mean that your ex didn’t know you were a wolf.”
“Oh him….. Hon, I could have shifted full on and he wouldn’t have noticed. Talk about stuck on himself. That and the fact that he had a real pair of blinkers when it came to reality other than his own.”
“I find that hard to believe. But, Eric said his ex didn’t know either.”
“I wondered about that. About him having an ex.”
“Yeah, seems that lots of us shifters have ex’s before we find mates.”
Kate thought about that for a minute. “I guess you’d have to include me in that statistic. Although my husband died, and I wasn’t shifting. However, I was pagan for years before he really got a clue about that. I guess blinders come with all sorts of subjects.”
Josie nodded. “Henry disappeared one evening right before supper. I didn’t think much of it, and as the ex was going into town, I had planned to go hunting. It had been a while, and I really needed to shift. So, with everyone gone, I figured I could slip out the door. Forty minutes and a rabbit later, I ran into another wolf. Big male. He was shy, and so I figured he was probably a local that I didn’t know about. Never even thought about the possibility that he might be a shifter. We have a big wolf-dog rehab sanctuary just up the valley.” She pointed her hand in the general directions of the sanctuary. “We ran around the meadows and then I came home. He didn’t follow past the forest edge, so I figured he was wild.”
“Okay, so how did you discover that the wolf was Henry?”
“Mike came up to sponge off of us and run wild for a weekend and he said after about an hour that Henry was a shifter.”
“Well, I didn’t believe him. Asked him what the hell he was basing that assumption on and what proof did he have.”
“So, what did he say?”
“Mike went on about how he just looked like a wolf, and that I should have smelled it and things like that. Granted, if I could have gotten past the unwashed biker stench, I might have. Then again, who knows.”
“Said he looked like a shifter?”
This made Kate start to laugh. Josie gave her an odd look, and waited for her to stop laughing. Kate finally got her giggles under control enough for Josie to ask what was so funny.
“If Mike could tell just by looking, how did he miss the wereprairie dog down at the gas station?”
“What are you talking about?” Josie was totally perplexed.
“On the way up here, just before the turn off to this valley, there is a gas station. We stopped there and when we went in to pay, we woke up the attendant behind the counter. He was asleep. He was sitting up with his hands curled up on his chest. Great big coke bottle bottom glasses, short buzz cut hair, no teeth and a pot belly. The guy woke with a start and popped up just like a prairie dog out of his hole. Hands stayed right at his chest and just bobbed in place.” Kate demonstrated, with her hands cupping her fingers forward like a puppy or dog when they stand on their back legs to beg. “ I swear the guy barked. It was a riot. In fact, it was all we could do not to burst out laughing.”
Josie thought about it and then started laughing. “You’re right! I know who you’re talking about. The gas station is about fifty miles down the valley, and all out by itself. Right?”
“Oh god! I’ll never be able to look at that guy again without thinking of him as a prairie dog.” Josie started to laugh, and both women dissolved into giggles. A few minutes later, conversation won out over giggles.
“So you have Mike telling you that Henry is a wolf. Did you just go up and ask him?”
“Oh no! I was way too much of a chicken at that point to do that. Hell, Mike was the only one who knew I was a shifter. I wasn’t about to tell the ex. No, I just started watching Henry. Hell, I even suggested he take a nice long shower in hopes that I’d catch a bit of scent.” Josie took a sip of tea. “No such luck.”
“Josie, how did you find out?”
“Well, Mike as you know can be a real asshole. He went out hunting the same night that Henry went out. He was stupid enough to try and steal Henry’s kill.”
Kate shook her head, she thought she knew where this was going. “Just how stupid was Mike?”
“Stupid enough to almost get himself killed. Mike attacked Henry and Henry fought back. By this time, Henry had a few friends running with him. Real wolves. He tore into Mike, and they tore into each other. When they’d both come home, neither was surprised to see wounds and they had a talk.”
“I take it that it wasn’t a friendly one.”
“No, it wasn’t. In fact, Mike was stupid enough to try and threaten Henry’s job. Said that I’d fire him for being a shifter, and other such bullshit.”
“So, Henry didn’t know you shifted?”
“Not at that point.”
“No, oh shit! I was so far in the closet, that the last thing I wanted was for anyone to know I shifted. Dad had been killed by hunters and mom wasn’t a shifter. Mike and I had both been raised by an Aunty that wasn’t too stable herself, but she at least shifted.”
“Oh… So, how ?”
“Henry came storming into my office as soon as the ex left for town. Started yelling and pounding his fists on the desk and in general, scaring the hell out of me before I had a clue as to what was going on. I finally got him to settle down and talk to me. Without explaining anything, he just asked me straight out if I had any problems with shifters.”
“I said no, I didn’t. He asked me why I let meat heads like Mike up here. Then I had to explain that Mike was distantly family I had to put up with from time to time. At that point, he shut up and just sat there.”
“He looked at me, sniffed and then got a funny look in his eyes.” Josie took a sip of tea. “I knew then that he had probably caught my scent at last. So, I very cautiously said that I was a shifter too.”
“What did he do then?”
“He started laughing!”
“Laughing? Why on earth was he laughing?” Kate was totally puzzled by this point.
“He was laughing because all this time he had been looking for a lady friend, and here was one literally under his nose and he had missed me.”
“How could he smell anything? From the sounds of it, he was the great unwashed.”
“He’d been rolling in ‘things’ to try and cover his own smell. A habit he’d gotten into a long time ago apparently, and so when he smelled wolf up here, he just thought it was him, or one of the wild things from up in the valley. Henry had totally missed that it was me.”
“Oh, that is just so wrong it’s silly!”
“I agree. After that, we had a long talk. Discovered that we had a lot in common, and one of them being that neither of us really liked Mike. We also discovered that we found each other rather attractive. Especially once he washed.” Josie grinned.
“He is a rather striking man. Especially with those eyes and that hair.”
It was Josie’s turn to smile. “Eric is a handsome man as well. In both fur and flesh.”
Kate smiled. “I agree. Furry is so different. Although, the first time I really took a good look at Eric, we were in bed. I had just woke up to see this rather large animal next to me in bed.”
“It is startling at first.” Josie had a knowing smile playing over her face.
Kate nodded in agreement. “So, did you two go hunting?” Kate asked, when she really wanted to ask more and wasn’t sure how to broach the subject.
“Yes, we went hunting two nights later. Made sure Mike knew that he was beta wolf too. We had a wonderful night. So nice to run and hunt with another wolf.”
“How long did it take before you two became lovers?” Kate finally asked. She felt herself blushing and was glad that the room was only lit by the firelight.
“It was a couple of weeks. My ex had a real jealous streak, so we tried to stay apart during the day. He wasn’t the worlds nicest person. I knew that going into the relationship, but… you know, you always think you can fix things. It took me a while to realize I couldn’t fix my ex. He was just breaking me. The turning point in the whole relationship was when I hit that midpoint in my cycle. It was like Henry couldn’t concentrate to save his soul. Too may pheromones for one nose to handle. He excused himself from work and said he was going to town. I did my work and then headed to bed. Waited for the ex to fall asleep and then slipped out the back door. I shifted and wasn’t forty yards away from the building when this big wolf came tearing out of the trees.”
“Yes. He was all playful and nipping at me. We had a wonderful time.” Josie’s eyes lit up.
“So, the first time you made love was as wolves?”
“Yes. I’d never had anyone fit to me so well in my life. I won’t say that Henry is perfect, but he is the best mate I could have. Next morning, I showered and had teethmarks on my neck. That was trouble. I tried to cover them up, but the ex noticed and had a fit. Wondered which one I was fucking, Henry or Mike. He was yelling and hitting the wall with his fists and moving towards me when Henry came tearing around the corner.”
“Oh yeah. He demanded to know what the hell all the yelling was about. The ex accused him of screwing me under his nose, etc. Henry let him know that the night before had been the first time, and if I didn’t mind, it wouldn’t be the last.”
“He tried to punch Henry and Henry took him down. Just grabbed him and put him on the floor. I’m not certain, but I think he let his eyes shift just a bit and growled in his ear that if he didn’t like it, he could just leave. Take his stuff and no questions asked. Even said he’d pay him his share of the hotel.”
“Henry had that kind of money?”
“I don’t know, because the ex got up, packed and left. Divorce papers showed up three weeks later and I signed them. I got the hotel and the land and that was all I wanted.”
“And you got Henry.”
“Oh yes. You’d have thought that the man had never had sex!” Josie giggled. “Didn’t think I’d be able to walk after the first week.”
Kate laughed. “Eric and I were the same way. It had been nearly five years since I’d last had sex, and about two for Eric. I’d forgotten how wonderful sex could be. Then I realized just how good sex was with Eric. So very different than with my husband.”
Josie nodded. “Henry cleaned up really well. He trimmed his beard, and stopped rolling in things. Plus, he treats me so well.” She stopped to get another cookie.
“I understand what you mean. Eric just kept getting better looking as his hair grew and he lost that haunted look. The beard was just icing on the cake. Oh, and the sex…”
It was Josie’s turn to laugh. She knew exactly what Kate meant. Sex with the energy of the wolf was something that took just a little getting use to. She washed down the last of her cookie with the tea and then set the cup aside.
“When was the first time you noticed the wolf shifting in Eric during sex?”
“Beltaine I think. There was a full moon, and we had the curtains open. I swore he got heavier, and then he bit my neck and oh my…” Kate was remembering how things felt. She smiled. “It wasn’t too long after that that Eric and I started discussing the possibilities that I might be a latent shifter.”
“I was wondering about that. Like I said, my aunt that raised us wasn’t a shifter in the same way Mike and I were. She only shifted under stress. Even then, she still seemed more human than wolf. That was the first time I really thought about the fact that not everyone shifts in the same way.”
Kate nodded. “I don’t know if I will ever shift at will. I don’t worry about it. I’m more concerned about growling at people who annoy me or smelling things that others don’t.”
Josie nodded. “Oh do I understand that one. Trying to hide wolfish behavior is so hard some days. Especially when something smells.”
“Speaking of smells, what is that?” Kate asked, as Josie turned to smell the odor Kate had noticed.
“Oh god! Skunk!”
“No… They wouldn’t have? Would they?” Kate started to stand up.
Josie grabbed the cups. “I don’t know, but there are only two reasons for something smelling that bad. One is a live skunk. The other is a skunked wolf.” She started down the hall, and the smell got stronger. Kate was following behind her and had put her hand over her mouth and nose by the time they reached the kitchen.
Josie opened the kitchen door to see two naked men digging through the pantry cupboards. “Oh you two stink! Get out of my kitchen! Out now! On the back porch! I’ll find the hydrogen peroxide. Just get out!” She was shouting and pointing at Eric and Henry. The two men departed the kitchen without saying a word.
“Oh the smell.” Kate had forgotten just how rank skunk could be inside. “What the hell are we going to do with them?”
“Make them bathe in this mix we’ve got to make, and then scrub them till the skin comes off. Digging around in my kitchen. Smelling up the place. Ooohh.” Josie was getting more and more upset, and the stench was getting worse. She had an armful of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, a big mixing bowl and shampoo. She headed out the back door that the two had exited a few minutes earlier. Kate followed.
Out on the back porch were the two men. Kate was doing her best not to gag. Josie handed her a paper towel. It was soaked in vanilla.
“Hold this over your nose and you won’t throw up. Vanilla hides the smell,” Josie said as she began pouring things into the bowl. She mixed it up until it was a thick viscous fluid. She turned to the men. “Come here. I don’t know if I even want to hear how you got this way. However, you two can explain yourselves once you don’t smell. “
“Hon, I’m sorry…” Henry started to apologize.
“Don’t. Just don’t.” Josie gave him a look that stopped him cold.
“Kate, “ Eric started.
“I agree with Josie. I don’t know what you did to get skunked, and I don’t want to know until you smell better,” Kate’s voice was muffled by the paper towel.
Both men visibly slumped. They took the bowl and started rubbing the stuff on their skin. Josie mixed up more as they used it up. Each man helped the other reach their backs. Kate handed them washrags. When they were as soaked as they could get, Josie went back into the kitchen and came out with a hose that trailed behind her.
“Josie, please,” Henry began. Before he could even close his mouth, Josie had turned the nozzle and let loose a stream of water over the two men. Kate could see that it was warm water, as the steam rose up from the puddles. Once the men were rinsed off, they looked around for towels.
“Eric and Henry, you know we are only half done. Get on with it.”
Kate wondered what she was talking about when the two men shifted back into wolf form. The smell wafted up almost as strongly as it had when they started cleaning. Josie headed towards the two wolves and started working the mix into their fur.
“Can you give me a hand?”
Kate nodded. She grabbed a handful of the mix and started slathering it on Eric. She remembered having to do this for Luna one time as that dog just couldn’t stay away from skunks. “This is the pits. They get skunked, and we have to do all the work to clean them up.”
“Isn’t that the truth!” Josie said rather sharply. She was on her second handful of the mix. Henry was a large and very furry wolf. “And, if you don’t do them in both forms, the smell won’t go away.”
“I’d have never thought of that. Makes sense though.” Kate went back to smearing goo on Eric.
Thirty minutes later, the wolves had been hosed down and shampooed. They shook off while Josie hosed off the porch. Kate had rinsed her arms and was standing off to one side. Josie took the hose back into the kitchen. Both wolves just sat down in a dry spot on the porch. A few minutes passed and then Josie came back out with towels.
“Okay Henry, I’ve brought you a towel.” Josie held out a towel towards the wolf. He sniffed it and then began to shift back to Henry. Josie handed Henry a towel and then one to Eric. Both men dried off and wrapped the towels around their waists.
“Modesty at this point?” teased Kate.
“Kate, please,” Eric was turning red under the porch lights.
She smiled and then took him in her arms. “You know, I never knew you blushed from the toes up before.” Kate was giggling.
Henry started laughing and Josie joined him. Kate hugged Eric too and they all had a good laugh.
“I still can’t believe you startled a skunk. Let alone got sprayed by it,” Kate was laughing as she said it.
“We were hunting a deer and it crashed through this thicket. What we didn’t know was that there was a skunk on the other side, “ said Eric.
Henry nodded in agreement. They were all lounging next to the fire with tea and cookies for everyone. The men had put on their jeans and nothing else. Josie and Kate were sitting near them, but not cuddled up as they still whiffed faintly of skunk.
“Yeah, and the score is Skunk 2 and Wolves 0,” Josie said with a smile. “I hope you two gentlemen have aired out by bedtime. Otherwise, I think Kate and I will just curl up by ourselves.”
“Hey now! We scrubbed! And shampooed!” Henry said.
“Yeah, you try taking a bath in hydrogen peroxide, shampoo and baking soda. Oh, and don’t forget getingt blasted by a hose. I think you’d be a bit more sympathetic Kate.” Eric almost whined.
“I would be if my nose didn’t burn every time you moved. I understand that your noses are dead at the moment, but ours aren’t.” Kate waved her vanilla soaked handkerchief towards Eric.
“Oh. Yeah, forgot about that. But still…”
‘You men are pitiful!” Josie hurled pillows at them. Henry caught the one tossed at him and lobbed it back. A pillow fight commenced that lasted until Kate caught one just before it hit the fireplace.
“Eric, I think I’ve had enough excitement for one night. Care to go to bed?”
Eric smiled. “Yes, it sounds like a good idea.” They said their good nights and headed to bed.
Thirty minutes later, they were cuddled up in bed, relaxing. Eric reached over and kissed Kate’s neck where he had bitten her. “Is it tender Kate?”
“Not too bad. I was enjoying myself to much to care.” She rolled over and snuggled into the crook of his arm and rested her head on his shoulder. “In fact, I find myself waiting with anticipation for that moment when you do bite.”
“And what about those times that the wolf stays out of our sex life?”
“Sometimes I miss the wolf, and sometimes I don’t.” She snuggled closer and pulled the covers up over them.
“That’s good to know. There are times I feel like the wolf takes over too much of my life. It makes me understand how various members of my family forget what it is to be human.” Eric sighed and moved farther under the covers.
“Eric, I love you for you. Not the wolf, you. I enjoy what the wolfish part of both of our natures brings to our lives, but it is not the sum total of our lives.” Kate reached up and stroked Eric’s jawline.
“Thank you Kate. Life has gone on so quickly as of late that some days I don’t know which end is up.”
Kate moved up and kissed Eric. As they kissed, they snuggled deeper into the covers and were soon asleep.