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For Michael, one of my early champions and a lover of men and werewolves. Michael, this book is for you. You have been a solid friend, a thoughtful and considerate critic, a careful eye to my men and the worlds they inhabit. I trust you and your views very nearly as if they were my own. I’ll always see you running with my wolves of Sparrow’s Hollow. You’re one of the pack now…go git ‘em boy.
Updated: 07 December 2014 [subject to revisions]
Chapter One - Riley Raintree
Spallow's Hollow, West Virginia
October 27th 1956
I guess the best way to begin is by telling ya who I am. Yeah, that’d be good, I guess.
My name is Henry O’Malley, but most people around here call me Hank. I was named after my daddy, but he ain’t around no more. Not that he left us or nothing. Well, not by choice. See, my mama got pregnant with me a few years before Daddy joined up to the army. This happened shortly after Pearl Harbor at the start of our part in the second world war. I guess the government got desperate. Not that my dad was in poor shape or nothing. From the pictures I’d seen of him, and the man I know’d he’d become before he shipped off, I spied that he was a mountain of a guy. The only reason he flew under the radar for most of the draft I guess was because we were in a Podunk of a town in the furthest backwater you could find and still have to walk a couple of miles further to get here, and even then, you still might get lost.
Sparrows Hollow wasn’t the kind of town that appeared on any map. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. I think the last census had us pegged at about 500 people who called her home. I was surprised by that because I swear you could walk for miles and never see a single person and you wouldn’t have to try too hard to do that, neither.
But as I said, it was just Mama and me now. Daddy wasn’t in the picture on account of him going off to the war and they sorta lost him. No body to bury; no funeral to hold - only because we never knew what happened. It wasn’t like the only time Daddy’d left us neither. While he and Mama got along for the most part, they did have discussions about things I wasn’t a part of. Daddy’d go off for a couple of nights a month. He’d never say where he’d gone or what he’d done. Didn’t make Mama happy none, but he was the man of the house so no one did anything to stop him. It just was the way t’was.
I remember one time when Mama accused him of having another woman in his life in some other town. He told her that there wasn’t any woman and that he had to take care of business on those nights a couple of counties over with some of the boys. A guy thing. But he swore “t’weren’t any women involved.” I don’t know how he convinced her, or what he said, but somehow she believed him. Didn’t make it any easier on them or me, but we’d learned to accept it.
Then came the call from the war; he went and just never came back. Yet, there were times I swear I could feel him near: walking home from school, or when I was out tryin’ like hell to catch some fish in the one creek where I could guarantee wasn’t ruined by the mines. It wasn’t that I heard him, just a familiar scent on the air, something that was intrinsically him, from memory, deeply rooted inside of me since I was a boy. I never knew what to make of it. Mama said it was his spirit watching over me.
We did okay because along with Daddy’s pension from the Army, Mama had inherited the general store from her father when he passed. So at the very least we had food and a roof over our head. To make things a tad easier, Mama took to selling the house and we took to living in the small apartment above the store. Doing so, we were able to eke out a decent life.
That’s when Cora Reiff entered our lives. Cory, as I'd come to call her, was as gentle a soul as you’d ever meet. She was of an average height, but had the appearance of a farm woman of German stock. Though she had probably had the coloring of an Aryan, by the time she came to us her hair had lost any of its original hues in favor of a crown of white. Her eyes flashed with a brilliant blue that rivaled the skies and held a spark that belied her age. She was what you called an old soul, a learned soul. She was not book smart in that way that some people liked to profess but I learned very quickly that she was a walking encyclopedia of life experience that she’d spoil me by letting me plunder her worth whenever the mood struck. It struck quite often, I can tell you that.
Cory and I were like two peas in a pod in the store. Cory didn’t have much of anywhere to go, no family to speak of. She just showed up one day to find work - we had some and she charmed the pants off of me - literally, cause she said they needed cleaning something fierce. I was eight at the time and I was smitten with the attention she lavished on me that never failed to make her smile. Cory was the balance in my home life, mostly cause Mama was not always what they’d call en pointe. She had her good days.
That was unless, of course, if she had one of her quiet spells. Then Cory and I had to pull both our weights around the store to get things covered. Mama was given to severe bouts of depression over what she said was our miserable lives.
I didn’t think they were so miserable. Well, they had their ups and downs just like any other. But we did okay. I was a good student in school, well by Sparrow standards, that is. Not that I’d had to worry about going to college or nothing. It just wasn’t gonna be in the cards for me - no matter how many times Mama had said that was her biggest wish for me. She wanted me to get out and get as far away from Sparrows as I could get. She had her reasons, I suppose.
I wasn’t like the other boys so much. My eyes would rove where they probably shouldn’t. Not that I made a big deal about it. I was careful. I mean, I wasn’t whatcha’d call a priss or what the boys liked to call a flit. Ya know, as queer as a three dollar bill? And it wasn’t that I was light in the loafers or nothing. I wasn’t even overly scrawny - lugging around bags of oats and other produce tended to bulk up a guy. But my eye did rove. And it was the boys what held my interest. But I wasn’t one of those boys that people whispered about bein’ that way. Mostly, cause I kept it all to myself.
Still there were those who suspected - for I was no great actor, so some of them t’weren’t fooled none. Not that I did anything to outwardly suggest it, which is why it plagued upon me something fierce — almost to distraction sometimes — on how they coulda known. But t’weren’t because of my size, I can tell ya that. I was just a nice kid. That’s what everyone said.
I was nice.
Yeah, well, nice boys got picked on.
Nice boys was watched. That’s how that worked.
But I couldn’t help myself - I was just nice. No matter how hard someone’s day was, after talking to me at the shop or on the street, they always said I’d put ‘em in a better mood on account I was just so danged nice.
Sure, I had girls who liked me fine. Several of them said I was handsome and had a real nice body. Some of them tried to press their’s firmly ag’in mine. I wasn’t so sure about that. Cory’d just shake her head and tell me not to fret too much about it, it’d come in my own good time.
Mama just said I had my father’s genes - whatever that meant - that nice girls just couldn’t help themselves about feeling towards me like that. While I had some solid muscle, I was still a few inches shorter than the other guys at my school.
I’d grown up here with the same kids my whole life. Though the Hollow had its own elementary and middle school, the upper grades congregated a town over in Cavanagh Gap. The Cavanagh Gap Regional High School was home to nearly five hundred ninth through twelfth graders from the four towns that surrounded The Gap, Sparrows being just one of them.
I liked my high school for the most part. They had good teachers and a decent principal. Well, for the most part he was fair, though he seemed to favor some above the others. He was a good ol’ boy who tended to look the other way for boys who’d grow up to be just like him. T’were a few fella’s who fell under that banner. And then t’were the other ones.
Cavanagh was home to eight boys who traveled together like some sort of wolf pack. Good ol’ boys - though of a different kind, I guess. It didn’t help much that the high school’s mascot was a wolf neither. These boys took it to heart. I’d grown up with these boys my whole life. And for the most part, they were decent enough guys. Well, while I was a kid, that is.
That all changed when we made the move from the Roosevelt Elementary and Middle School to the high school. Then the boys I’d come to know and considered friends began to fall way like leaves off a tree in the autumn - cast to the wind. By the time I started academic life at Cavanagh, those boys began their reign of terror and intimidation. They went everywhere together. And while I had put on some muscle over the summer from eighth to ninth grade, it was by no means as much as those eight boys.
Maynard Renault, a strapping boy of French-Indian descent was the most likable of the bunch. At nearly six foot three and shoulders as wide as nearly some doorways, he was a strapping brute of a guy who I suspected was protecting a very impressionable and sensitive heart. His rustic hued skin and darkest blue black hair that shimmered in the sunlight just gave me thoughts I shouldn’t be thinking but did whenever I happen to spy him nearby. But I reckon that soft heart thing was just me putting that on him.
His two best friends in that pack were Dylan Addison and Michael Rumsey. Blonde and blue as the day was long those two were, and nearly as beefy as Maynard. They were likable enough, if you were on their good side. I usually wasn’t - though I had Maynard to thank half the time for him pulling them away from me as their favorite chew toy. They was just being boys - even if I’d been the target on more than one occasion.
Then there was the unholy trio: Toby Moynahan, Darby Pembroke, and Spike McGhee. Spike’s name wasn’t really Spike - it was Raymond. But you didn’t dare call him anything but Spike. When that first day at Cavanagh I’d heard that Raymond had changed his name along with his new tough as nails bad boy status to Spike, I couldn’t figure out why he wanted that name. Then I found out in PE that same day. It seemed that Raymond was packing a helluva spike in his drawers. Come to think of it, the entire pack of boys were not shortchanged by much when it came to their manly bits. I wasn’t any slouch there neither, but I didn’t have the need to walk around like the cock of the walk about it.
They did, and how.
These boys were dark and ominous, with their DA’s combed neatly and greased back with so much pomade that you could fry up an egg with it. Not that I’d want to mind you, ‘cause I wasn’t too sure how often their hair was washed. If there was mischief to be had, you can bet this trio of terror had to have their fingers all over it.
That left the two boys that rounded out this particular Cavanagh wolf pack - Tanner Tallman and Riley Raintree. Riley was definitely alpha with these boys. No doubt about it. And wherever Riley went, Tanner and the pack weren’t too far behind. Those two, however, were as thick as thieves, always within inches of each other - whispering and colludin’ on who was going to be their next target, or so I’d imagined.
As of late, it’d been me.
Like I said, they’d roam the halls of Cavanagh like they owned the place. In a very real way, they did. Girls followed them, while boys who weren’t part of their crew, wanted to be. The Pack, as I’d come to call them, played for the varsity football team during the autumn and then baseball in the spring. Not that I think the unholy trio was into sports much, that was Riley’s call, it seemed. Whatever Riley wanted, the boys did - plain and simple. If they hadn’t been a constant thorn in my side, I coulda admired that from afar. The way they cohesively moved about the school: confidence and cockiness; grace and musky testosterone.
Anyway, it was the middle of autumn and the team was doing fairly well for themselves. Looked like they might actually go out on top this year. In a real way I followed the school football team because if they were happy then they usually were celebrating with their girlfriends and leaving me to myself at the store. So things were coasting along fairly well for me since the start of my senior year. As Halloween approached, changing the leaves from green to a myriad of colors, like Mama liked to say, so did the fortunes of the team. This didn’t bode well for me.
In fact, three days out from Halloween I was picking up the last of my books from my locker and hastily shoving them into my rucksack to make as quick a getaway as possible. I had reason to and it all began at lunch.
The trio had been quite aggressive with their torments when all I wanted to do was be left alone to eat my small sandwich and some carrots Mama had cut up for me. She was having one of her spells so the fact that she took the time to prepare a lunch for me was rather remarkable. Though in hindsight that mighta been Cory that took care of it. Either way I was thankful. I didn’t want it to go to waste. I trembled inside like I always did whenever they circled me. Clad in their tight jeans cuffed at the hem, white t-shirts with jackets that James Dean woulda wore - they cut an impressive image. Their collars were turned up, their cockiness reaching me before they did. But Toby, Darby and Spike weren’t about to leave me to my little lunch. They were having nothing of it. Spike, as usual, was taking point.
“Whatcha got there, pantywaist?” Seeing the fear in my face, he pouted his lips and made a make believe cry, leaping up onto the planter, gripping the branch of the tree like some evil recreation of Puck from a Mid-Summer’s Night Dream. “A sammich from your mommy?”
Toby nicked my lunch sack before I could reach for it and tossed it to Spike.
“Ooh, lookie here boys, carrots! And cut up so nice and pretty-like.”
I made to snatch the bag outta his hands only to miscalculate and slip from the planter box I had chosen far away from the general lunch area, just to keep out of the sights of the pack. Obviously my little plan hadn’t worked out quite as I’d imagined it.
I collided with the ground hard, nearly knocking the wind outta me. I moaned in a fair amount of pain as I pushed forward a bit to pick myself up. I don’t know why I was their favorite chew toy, but it probably had to do with that I was known to them. Familiar. Obviously, with no lunch of their own in sight, they were out roaming the halls seeking out boys like me. Chew toys - dogs with chew toys, that’s all I could think of when I saw them. That’s what these boys seemed to live for when they weren’t wrapped up with trying to bag some girl in the hallway or out by the bleachers.
I had the distinction of being their most coveted. No matter what they were caught up with, if I was within spitting distance then whatever had held their attention before seemed to vanish into thin air. It was as if they didn’t need to see me, they could smell me on the wind. It was totally unnatural, crazy even. But t’weren’t any other way to explain it. There ain’t no way that it could be like that; I was imagining it, I was sure. But even now, with those boys closing in on me, it was like they could sense where I was. Smell it.
I felt Toby and Darby’s firm hands on my arms, picking me up and hoisting me back onto the planter. They leaned in, their faces so close that the breaths from their nostrils punctuated my skin. Then the strangest thing happened. Each of them leaned in even closer and inhaled deeply - on either side of my face then pulled back, their eyes wild, with what I couldn’t begin to say. Whatever it was, it didn’t bode well for me. It never did.
“Yeah, he’s prime, boys,” Spike said, his breath buffeting against my skin in soft puffs, raising the small hairs along the back of my neck.
I hadn’t even realized he’d moved in behind me. He inhaled as well, running his nose bare inches from the back of my neck. As if that didn’t satisfy, I felt the graze of his tongue, gently along my nape, tasting me. He purred from the sensation.
“Oh, yeah. He’s prime for the plucking,” Spike said.
The other boys glanced knowingly at each other and smiled, darkly. A deep malice percolated there in their eyes. A low guttural growl purred from Spike’s throat. I involuntarily shivered from head to toe. I couldn’t help it. Riddled with shame over what these boys did to me, I found I couldn’t look them in the eye. A hand firmly on my shoulder from Spike brought me out of my shivering stupor. That slap, so sudden that it was jarring, caused me to cough as I’d accidentally inhaled quite a bit of spit in the process.
“Easy, Hank, easy there boy,” he cooed softly, rubbing my back with his hand, ever so gentle like.
I sputtered and tried to gather myself. It was a lot harder than I thought. The boys chuckled softly as if they were all sharing a little joke at my expense. Their behavior this time around was far different than they’d ever acted before, almost friendly like. I didn’t know how to respond.
Spike moved to the right side of me, plopping his butt down along side mine; I felt the force of his landing as it shook the planter bench. Toby countered by moving next to Darby. I spied them all slowly. Each of them had a gleeful, dark look as they watched me back. Inside my stomach flipped and for a moment I thought I’d toss up the few bites of my sandwich I was able to take. Spike slinked his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close so the side of my face burned with his breath as he spoke softly to me, dark like, with a brutal coldness to it that would burn enough to make Lucifer hisself proud.
“Now see, we was sent out to find ya, Hank. It’s time.” Spike shook his hand on my shoulder, coaxing me to lean into him the tiniest bit. “Riley says so.”
Darby and Toby nodded just once but their eyes, that dark and pointed stare cutting me. Then it dawned on me what that look was. It was the same one I’d spied on Tanner once when he’d cornered Julie Pinkett out by the bleachers. Lust. That’s what that was. Hunger and lust. No mistaking it.
But why me?
Because they know…that’s why. A dark thought slithered to the front of my mind. I couldn’t help it.
“‘Sokay, buddy. Really. Ain’t it boys?”
Toby and Darby just nodded their heads.
“Why sure it is.”
Toby placed a hand on my knee. “Things have changed, Hank.”
“Yeah, you’re one of us now,” Darby said, then ducked because Spike’s hand lifted like was meanin’ to backhand the guy. Even I jumped a little.
“Way to speak out of turn, Darb. Keep it in your pants for a bit, willya?”
Spike’s dark stare softened considerably as he turned back to me. He smiled warmly shaking the arm around my shoulder and he leaned in again.
“Riley says it’s just time. Time for you to be one of the guys. And you know you ain’t gonna disappoint a guy like Riley when he calls ya up, now are ya?”
I was speechless. I mean, while the unholy trio made no bones about making my life a veritable hell from time to time, I wasn’t even so sure that Riley had ever taken any real notice of a guy like me. When I hadn’t responded in what Spike considered an adequate amount of time, he pressed me to do so, “Well, are ya?”
“A-am- am I, what?” I stuttered.
Toby and Darby just snickered softly at my little flub.
Spike practically growled at them and they were smart enough to look sheepish under his gaze. It seemed even this trio had an alpha amongst them. Then Spike turned his attention back to me.
“Now, listen up Hank. It’s all really quite simple. Riley says it’s time. So what that means to you is you gotta meet us out at the old Witherspoon place on Halloween. Now, can you do that, Hank? You wouldn’t want to disappoint Riley, now would ya?” He shook his arm around me again.
“No,” I whispered, and Spike chuckled bringing the side of my face to his lips as he kissed my temple, out in the open and everything! I froze, watching Toby and Darby carefully at Spike’s little show of affection. “That’s our boy. Things’ll get better now. You’ll see, right boys?”
Toby and Darby stood up and each patted me softly.
“Yeah, Hank. It’s all gonna work out. No sweat. You’ll see.”
“Yeah, Hank. Riley’s gonna be over the moon that you’ve agreed. I promise ya that,” Darby continued that train of thought.
“Yeah, uh, okay. When?” I turned to Spike who was grinnin’ like that Cheshire Cat from that Alice in Wonderland in that Disney movie that played here a year or so back. It was a welcoming smile that had no small degree of evil mixed in. Hunger. Lust. They were there, too.
“Halloween, at dusk. Don’t disappoint him, Hank. You wouldn’t like Riley when he’s disappointed.” The boys looked away, uncomfortable as if the very thought of a pissed off Riley was one of the worst things that could happen. As if to drive home his point, Spike continued, “And he’d come looking for you. So don’t even think about hiding out. He’d know where to find you.”
Spike ran a finger along the side of his nose - furthering my suspicion on how they were taking this whole sniffing things out to a whole different place.
“I won’t, I swear it,” I said softly.
The boys and Spike seemed to release a breath they didn’t know they were holdin’ in.
“Great. Well, we gotta get. Becky Sue and Bobbie Jo ain’t gonna get all hot and bothered if we ain’t there to do the rustlin’, right boys?”
They both chuckled in their dark shared joke at the girls’ expense. I eyed them all with what I knew was a thinly disguised look of worry on my part. To my great surprise, Spike responded by leaning in real close, his eyes carrying none of their darker shades of malice. Only softness radiated there.
“Hey now, we’re just blowin’ steam, Hank. Don’t you worry your pretty head about those girls. They don’t mean half as much as you do to us. Just wait. You’ll soon see.”
He ran a hand along the side of my face while his was a myriad of emotions the likes I never thought I’d see on him. My eyes darted to Toby and Darby, and their expressions were very soft too. They all looked like they were gonna hug me or somethin’ - I just didn’t know what to think.
“C’mon boys. Let’s leave Hank here to his lunch.”
Then to me, “You eat up, Hank. And don’t you worry about the boys none. You’re gonna be one of us. Protected. We care for our own. You’ll see.”
He stood up and the boys started to move off. I watched them go, each of them turning to watch me sitting there watching them. Dumbfounded, confused and thoroughly upside down with emotions I really didn’t have any way to sort out.
In short, I was a complete mess.
So when the end of day bell sounded I made a mad dash to my locker to gather my things. Thinking of grabbing only what was necessary and with all haste make my way out to my bike and home. I hadn’t counted on Riley and Tanner intercepting me half way to my goal.
“Hank…,” he whispered so soft over the din of the other students’ coming and going - a cacophonous rattle of voices and clanging locker doors, that I shouldn’t have been able to hear him at all.
But I did… and I trembled. From head to toe I could barely keep my insides from flopping around and collapsing under its weight.
“Hank…” a pull so strong, right from the inside of my chest. My heart raced and was utterly calm all at the same time. I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t have any idea on how to deal with it.
“Come to me Hank… find me.”
I didn’t know why I knew it was Riley, but I did. I don’t think he’d spent no more than five or ten words in my general direction in my entire life. Now he’d just racked eight more in the span of only a few seconds.
“You okay, Hank?” Miss Appleby suddenly appeared to my right, stepping out of the music room and startling me. “My goodness, Hank. You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Are you feelin’ okay, son?”
I nodded, unsure of how I’d sound if I said anything else to the contrary. Besides, I didn’t know how I’d be able to explain how I was hearing Riley Raintree’s voice over everyone else and how it made me go all weak inside like just the thought of going to him did right now.
“Tell her you’re fine, Hank. Come to me and all of it will be fine.”
Like that command alone evened everything out, I regained my composure and ran a hand through my hair, straightening up a bit as I did so.
“I - I’m fine, Miss Appleby. Thank you for your concern. I guess I just felt a bit off for a second or so. I’m fine now.”
Her face had only relented the tiniest bit of concern at my response. But she seemed resigned to let it go.
“All right then, but why don’t you get on home, just in case you feel like that again. All right?”
I moved off, hiking my rucksack onto my shoulder with all haste to get outside.
I strode as quickly as my feet would carry me without running like a mad fiend to my bike.
I stopped. I couldn’t move. His words alone guided me.
“You need to come to me. I haven’t left school yet. You need to find me. You know you do. It wouldn’t go well for you to put me off. I know you feel that.”
The trembling began again, as if I could feel his eyes on me already.
“I feel it too… it hurts. Come to me and make it better.”
His voice was everywhere and nowhere - all at the same time. Yet, no one but me seemed to take notice.
I stopped suddenly only two or three steps away from my bike. I couldn’t explain it but I suddenly knew where he was. I knew it as sure as I was standing here looking at my bike and the path to home stretching before me, just beyond my finger tips. But the pull from Riley was so strong. My heart… he was right, I was hurting.
“Hank. please…don’t deny me.”
I struggled with one more step. The pull deepened; I gasped. Whatever this was, however it was happening, it was unbearable the more I struggled against it. I burned for Riley, burned in ways I never dreamt possible. This was ludicrous. I didn’t even know him. Not really. And yet…
“Hank… make it stop.”
I could almost hear him panting. He was in pain and I was the cause.
So I turned, walked past the front of the school. A glance back at my bike still racked up, all by itself now, faded into the distance. I moved further onto the school grounds, past the school building toward the stadium. I looked around – no one seemed to be here, so I continued across the football field to the far side where the bleachers ran alongside the forest.
I stopped at the first step that would take me beyond the fence that separated the football field from the stands themselves. I knew that Riley was on the other side of these bleachers. I knew that as sure as I was breathing, panting, with a mix of trepidation and fear over what would come next.
As if sensing my dilemma, Tanner stepped out from the shadow of the bleacher.
“He needs to see you. He knows it’s early. But it’s been hard for him lately,” Tanner said quietly, almost reverently, as he walked toward me, a deep look of concern coloring his face.
Tanner Tallman, the most appropriately named guy I ever did meet, his name not only fit, but it was descriptive from the moment you saw him - he was a big guy - easily 6’3” or 4” and built like a linebacker should be. He was ruggedly handsome with that ruddy tone to his skin like he had some Injin in him but with the most brilliant hazel eyes that sparkled just as bright as they can be, wolf-like eyes — a great catch for some lucky girl, I was sure. I started to move past Tanner, but as I did, he placed a big, though gentle, hand on my shoulder. I froze — not knowing what the hell I was doing or what Tanner was about to do to me. I know my eyes were wide with fear as I looked slowly from his big hand on my shoulder up his massive arm to his gentle face.
“Want me to hold that for you?” he glanced at my rucksack.
I’d forgotten I still had the damned thing on.
“Uh, yeah, sure,” I shrugged it off and handed it over to him. “Thanks…”
“Uh-huh, and Hank?”
“Yeah?” I stared, just as wide-eyed at this upside-down moment I was having.
“Go easy on him. Just, uh…” He scratched his head like he was at a loss for words. “Well, do what he says. Ah, hell. You’ll see soon enough.” He glanced back over his shoulder. “I’ll go and get your bike for ya. That way you won’t make anyone worry about what happened to ya, okay?”
Tanner moved away from me to go gather my bike from the rack out front, leaving me completely alone with Riley Raintree.
I slowly, and as quietly as I could, moved along the bleachers, glancing around to make sure that it wasn’t some kind of set up by the boys. Given my recent past with them it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I was safe, by any stretch of the imagination.
The thing was, there were absolutely no sounds to be had out here, like the forest itself was holding its collective breath while I made my way back to Riley. This served to only add to my apprehension in this whole mess. As I took each step my mind grappled with the very thought that Riley Raintree wanted to see me. Riley was so beautiful, so unattainable, so, well, everything that a guy can be blessed with. And he was an Injin, too. Not that I had any prejudice towards them. Hell, I wasn’t so bold to think I was above it all just cause I was white or nuttin’.
I came up to the corner of the bleachers, a do or die moment. I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t even sure why I was really here. All I knew was that the pull had intensified the closer I got to him, but in a way that was completely calming now. I knew he could feel it too. I didn’t know why I thought these things, or why I felt them, even. This whole set of events had completely rewritten my world as I knew it.
I turned the corner and found Riley sitting on an inverted milk crate, his head in his hands, hunched over, very much in pain.
“R- Riley?” I said so softly, afraid I’d startle him.
I spied him sitting there - tight fitting jeans hugging every inch of his muscular legs, down to his size 12 loafers . He had on a simple white T-shirt that I knew was so tight it looked painted on - as if it were ready to bust at the seams. Over this he had the requisite letterman’s jacket, bearing the school’s red and white colors, that had become as iconic on him as he had become iconic at the school. Riley Raintree was admired by most in the five towns that made up this school district. He was known in all of them.
He looked up, his dark brown eyes wet with tears. Bloodshot. Worry across his handsome face, plain as the day was long. All I could think was I had somehow caused this to happen to him. I didn’t know how; I didn’t understand it. But every fiber of my soul said that Riley’s pain was my own. And in equal parts, I was the cure and life itself to him. I just knew it. Plain and simple.
He launched himself from that crate like he was shot out of a cannon. I didn’t have any time to react as he had me pinned up against the bleacher supports, his mouth was on mine with his hands on either side of my face, ravenously drinking from my mouth as a parched man from a well. At first I was in a dizzying array of feelings and emotions, confusion laced with fear, lust mingling with, dare I even think it, love?
Love? How could I go there? It didn’t seem possible, did it?
But drink he did. As he took from me I found I had a well of, well, something to give him, like it was coming from the very center of me and it was only for him now. Like that kiss would bind me to him forever.
I knew somehow that whatever was going on was right. Even though it went against everything I’d ever been told about how life works, how men are supposed to be with one another, how wrong I knew I was with the feelings I’d had all along about other boys in town. And as the kiss from Riley deepened, those feelings I’d suppressed all along for Riley Raintree came roiling to the top. Wave after wave of it poured through me as Riley’s tongue finally pressed into my mouth and my brain lit up with such color and emotion that I sagged under its power. He felt me stumble beneath him and his arms came around me, keeping me bound to him, pulling me tight against him.
I shook, trembled, quaked with how strong the emotions were passing between us. In that moment, in that torrential, earth shattering moment, I knew I belonged to him. I belonged to him in ways that were unthinkable, improbable. Yet here I was clinging to him and kissing him with a ferocity I scarce knew I had in me.
As sudden as it all began he broke the kiss and pushed back a couple of steps, both of us panting as if we’d just run the fastest mile on record. I literally fell to the ground on my knees - breathing hard myself.
“Riley?” I muttered between breaths.
Riley turned and started to walk away. My heart ached somethin’ fierce the further he pulled away from me. His blue-black hair caught the sun as he stepped away from the bleachers. Riley was a very good looking boy. I knew he was one hundred percent Indian - adopted by the town’s doctor - but the darkness from his rustic smooth skin, to those angled cheekbones caught my attention like no other. Mingo they’d said. He didn’t know much about his family life. The doctor and his wife were good to him. He seemed happy, though not nearly as happy as when I was in his arms. That kiss told me everything I needed to know about Riley Raintree. I opened my mouth to call to him once more and he stopped before I could form the words in my mouth.
I pursed my lips a little, ran my tongue along the inside - I could still taste him on me. It was like a powerful drug or toxin; somehow that kiss had infected me. It was the only explanation I could come up with. I pulled away from the bleachers and took a step toward him.
“Come with me,” he whispered, not bothering to look at me and yet I could hear him plain as day as if he were saying it directly into my ear. I watched as he moved off, past the line where the school grounds ended and the forest began. After a few more steps, to where he nearly disappeared amongst the brush and trees, I felt that pull on the center of my chest, telling me that I needed to do as he asked. Only it wasn’t a request. I knew if he said anything to me now, I’d do it, without question or pause. Without realizing it, I was already in pursuit, crossing the distance from the bleachers to the tree line within seconds. I was practically chasing him at a flat out run.
The forest was a tricky place, especially in these here parts. Tales of hairy dark beasts that the Injins had legends about still were told and given weight by those that lived here and had reason to believe in them. Tall tales of wolves who walked like men, hunted and called out in the fullness of the moon. There was even times when I swore I heard them. But that was just tall tales, right? Yeah, chasin’ Riley into these woods, I suddenly wasn’t so sure.
I could hear him giggle like a young boy on a wild chase through the forest. At times I could hear him nearby and at others - when I’d only taken a few more strides, he seemed so far off I couldn’t sort out exactly where he was. So I’d stop, a light panting to my breath. I was hardly winded from the exertion. I was what Mama had said about her love of Daddy, she had said was it was euphoric. I knew what that meant now.
Arms slinked around my waist and his breath was hot upon my neck, leaving soft pecks and a small swipe of his tongue leaving a trail of fire along the skin there.
He purred, deep and gravel like in his throat. Sexy. Very, very sexy.
“Mmmm, you taste better than I’d imagined.”
I tried to turn around to face him. He wasn’t having it. His arms tightened around my chest as he burrowed into my neck. I became so overheated from what he was doing to me. I felt the enormity of him pressing into my backside. The thrust of his hips against me, small grunts from his mouth as he did so punctuating against my neck, making it even harder to concentrate enough to say anything. His hands slipped under my shirt and yanked it clear off my head - flinging it into a nearby bush. His fingers went straight to my nips, twisting them, fingering them hard and rough. The swelling in my pants was automatic.
A whiff of something on the air caught my attention. Familiar, strong. Deeply strong. Reminding me of…
Before I could finish that thought, a stab, sharp and piercing was at my neck. A bite. Riley Raintree was biting me along that part of my neck that stretched out to my shoulder. He undid the top button of my jeans shucked my pants down while his bite intensified. I tried to cry out but only whimpered. It hurt; it seared like a hot white poker, yet somehow I endured it. That heat from the grip of his teeth upon my flesh only succeeded in making me want him more. A second or two later and I realized he had undone his own pants; his cock was pressing for entry on my backside. The tip of his cock was very slick; I could feel him dripping along the back of my leg from it. He growled deeply. He curled his hands up along my torso to end up gripping my shoulders and with one very long thrust he burrowed his way into me.
My mind exploded in a burst of color and intensity that I nearly collapsed under the weight of it all. I had nothing to compare it to, no way to rationalize what was happening to me. He was rending me in two. I was being shredded raw and yet, I still held my ground. Then, like a flash of lightning with his next thrust into me - it came to me.
Riley and I was having sex.
I keened, loudly - a howl from somewhere deep within reverberated and made the trees rattle. My throat burned with that howl. I was on fire. I heard some wildlife scurry away from us. A few thrusts and I realized that this was more than Riley fucking me. The bite, the way he was holding me, was nothin’ short of sheer possession. With each snap of his hips - his cock pressing inside of me in a place I didn’t know I had, he was tellin’ me I was his. He leaned me forward so my shoulder came into contact with a nearby tree while he continued to ravage me. I didn’t know it could be like this. It burned, and though it hurt, I found I had enormous pleasure from how he continued to claim me. No matter how much it hurt, I couldn’t think of asking him to stop. I wanted to be his. I wanted Riley Raintree to own every part of me. His mouth, his teeth never relented their hold on me as we fucked. My back was covered in the spittle from the grip he had on me with his mouth. The grunting became frenzied as I could feel him build. The smell of copper lingered around us. Blood, bone, and musk. We weren’t just fucking. He was rutting and giving me all his worth. I gripped the tree, panting with wanting him to bind himself to me. I knew if he finished himself within me I was marked. I would forever be Riley Raintree’s bitch. A very deep snarl broke from his lips against my skin - bringing a new round of pleasure in me. A few hard thrusts later, his hands on my hips, holding so tight that I knew I’d have bruises, we both finally found release.
We both howled, a sound unlike any I’d made before. Guttural, fiercely masculine and primal. Ancient, and very, very dark. The air became still. The forest was quiet. Even the nearby stream seemed to slow its pace a spell.
A second or so after, he relented upon my neck, the blood trailing down my chest and back I was sure. He still hadn’t extracted himself from me. I felt his forehead on my back.
“Am I yours?” I didn’t know why I needed to have him say it, but I did. He needed to say it. He needed to complete whatever it was that we’d just done.
He pulled out and slowly turned me around so I could face him, pressing my back into the tree. His mouth was bloody, covered with my blood, and yet somehow I knew that, too, was all right. It didn’t make no kind of sense. Everything was cattywampus. Tilted. Off-kilter. Yet the truth of it remained. Riley and I were connected somehow, weren’t we? He leaned in so his forehead could touch my own, his breath softly billowing against my face.
“No, Hank,” he whispered so softly, I could feel the pain in them. “No.”
Those simple words sucker punched me worse than any beating I’d ever gotten. I thought I knew of pain. When he said that, I realized how wrong I was about it all. My heart sank; I felt myself inwardly recoil. I started to pull away to bend down and pick up my pants, ashamed for what I thought this was, for what I’d allowed him to do to me. As I pulled them up and began to redress he grabbed my wrist.
I tried to shake his hand off of me but he was so strong - like a metal vice kinda strong. I couldn’t help the tears that were falling from my face. I was so ashamed. I wanted nothing more than to run. Run and run and never come back. Never find peace again. I was so deeply hurt by him, by what we’d done and what I’d allowed myself to think it meant.
“Hank! Listen to me. Hank!” His voice darkened, deepened and vibrated through me. The birds nearby took off at the loudness of his voice. Then everything went deadly silent.
I stopped, looking down at my feet, though my eyes darted to his exposed cock - I marveled for a moment of how much there was of him, even in that spent state, and how it had all recently fit so well inside of me. He hadn’t even bothered to dress himself yet, his pants still pooled around his ankles. It was a bleary vision to behold through the stream of tears that found no end.
His hands came to my face, forcing me to look up into his eyes. His deep, dark eyes. Eyes I could’ve lost myself in forever and not care that I’d be missed.
“You’ve got it all wrong.”
I nodded, trying once more to pull away. He held me firm.
“Hank! Listen. Please, baby. I need you to hear me.”
The plea in his voice hurt me even more. That he felt pain, pain that I’d caused, cut me deeply. Then like a tumbler in a lock, something inside of me clicked.
Baby? Now that sure as hell got my attention some.
“What I said to you was true. You are not mine. I wish on everything I hold dear and true to me that it was that way. But tain’t that way at t’all. This here’s the important part, are you listenin’ to me?”
I waited, trying to figure out if I should give him the benefit of the doubt I was feelin’ or not. I finally nodded just once. That seemed to satisfy, so he continued.
“I wish I could claim you to be mine. But it don’t work that way. Though it makes me happy to think that you want it like that. Over the moon happy, Hank. You have no idea how happy that makes me to hear you say that about me, about us. But,” he ran his right hand very softly down the side of my face, a lover’s caress I’d like to think. “It’s me who now belongs to you. That’s why I said no.”
“But- uh, what we just done…”
He nodded, the most beautiful smile I’d ever witness played across his face.
“Yeah, I can see how you’d think that it was me in control there,” he smirked. “But t’wren’t like that. I wish ta God t’was, but t’ain’t how it works. I am yours. I will be nothing but yours. The guys may think that I am their leader, but really they’ll see that we all will belong to you now. I will be exclusive to you for life. I was hopin’ it’d be like that. And I think you want me to be like that. Don’tcha?”
I leaned down and he let go of me, not sure what I was gonna do next. I reached for his pants and brought them up and fastened them for him.
“Riley Raintree, are you fixin’ ta ask me to marry you?” I said with a quirk to my brow.
He pushed me up against the tree and we kissed for the longest time, smiles breaking out over our lips as we did so. I let my hands move over his hard muscled body as his did over mine, until a soft cough broke the spell.
“It’s gettin’ late. The boys need to hunt and Hank’s mama is gonna be worryin’,” he said softly as he approached us handing me my rucksack.
I eyed my shoulder, bloodied to all hell and gone. It was Tanner who approached me then, his manner all soft and caring. He leaned forward, I sorta pulled back and he stopped, unsure of himself. I’d never thought I’d see the like of these boys ever being worried about what I thought.
Riley came up behind me. “He wants to care for you, Hank. It’s how it’s gonna be now. We belong to you, now. Ya see?”
Tanner moved closer, his nostrils flaring a bit as he did so, taking my scent in. His eyes darted to my wounded shoulder. He motioned to it with his chin, nearly whimpering in soft, warm tones, like a pup to its mama. I just stood still as a mouse while he came closer. I felt his hands move around me to hold onto the expanse of my back; he leaned in and I didn’t quite know what to think. I eyed Riley who just nodded once that everything was okay. Tanner sniffed along my shoulder and then placed his tongue upon the wound that Riley left there and began to lap at it, licking it clean, murmuring softly as he did so. It made me a little weak to have these boys that I’d secretly feared and admired being so close to me, tending to me like they was doing.
My shoulder tingled quite a bit as Tanner continued to clean it with his tongue. A few seconds later and he began to pull back, his face so close to my own, a small stain of blood upon his full bottom lip, his hazel eyes wide, the pupils dilated, drinking me in. I inhaled him; I didn’t know why, but it seemed the right thing to do. He began to release me and I sensed there was something he was disappointed in how whatever had happened went. My hands went to either side of his face, my eyes searching his own. Then I felt myself lean forward, as if my body knew what to do with him and I kissed him. I felt him blossom inside. I could feel everything he did - tenfold. The kiss went on for a few more seconds before I began to pull away. I watched his face as he backed up and let me stand on my own. His smile so sheepish and warm. Gratitude. That’s what I got from him.
Riley leaned forward.
“Now he’s getting it,” he said to Tanner.
Tanner chuckled and nodded.
“You was right about that, Ry. It’s gonna be magical all right.”
Tanner stroked the side of my face and sighed.
They got me dressed and off on my bike toward home, watching me as I took my leave of them. I can’t say it one way or the other but I swear it felt like they was with me all the way home. It was silly, cause I never did see them, though their scent was still strong as if they was right under my nose and all.
By the time I came up to the store I was having a hard time believing any of it had happened at all. I apologized to Mama bout being so late, made up some excuse of why it was so. Don’t know whether she believed me or not.
There was a certain look from Cory that made me think that my little tale hadn’t slipped past her. The focus in her eyes, never going so far as to touch the gentleness of her face, was something that I committed to memory - wondering if I should ask her about it later or not.
When I got upstairs I pulled off my shirt and looked at that part of my skin where I knew Riley had marked me. Sure enough, there was two incisions that had completely scarred over, as if they were years old and not freshly made. But they were there nonetheless. I found myself beaming and walking like I had a cloud underneath me for the rest of the night. Mama thought that my little choo-choo had gone completely around the bend.
Freshly scrubbed up though inwardly still aching a bit from Riley's absence, Cory just watched me while she helped prepare supper for us, her sidelong glances making me flush furiously to the point where I nearly asked her why she was looking that way at me. Once or twice I just about did, she’d stop cutting or stirring or whatever she was doing and stare at me — nearly goading me to speak my mind and say something about it.
I chickened out every danged time. She’d just turn and shake her head a bit with a little sigh like she was disappointed that I didn’t trust what we had to say what was on my mind.
I knew I should.
It’s what we were to each other since I was a boy.
I’d say things to Cory that I’d never tell another soul. I’d fucked Riley. How the hell was I gonna say something like that to her? How was I gonna tell her I was in love with a boy? Jus t’weren’t right, thassall. That’s why I can’t do it, even if sometimes she’d look at me with what I could only guess was hope that I’d break, that I’d tell her how scared and happy and every other wild feeling I was having about me and him.
But I didn’t.
And I think she knew.
Yeah, she knew.
I still didn’t.
©2014 SA Collins and Akwekon Media