Seth's grown up and he's in love – with an 'outsider'. Now he just needs to tell her a few things about himself…Recipient of a Judge's Pick Award in the Team SOB Rain Scene Challenge!

Rated for hot-sweet tartness...

Standard disclaimer: All things Twilight are the sole property of the divine Stephenie Meyers. This fan fic is purely for entertainment (mainly mine!) with no other gain. No copyright infringement is intended.

The Color of Rain is set in the AU created in my fic "Moonshadow" which explains some departures from the Saga – in my mind they are not intrusive (!) and knowledge of the parent story is not required to enjoy this one…Anyway, you've all read "Moonshadow" already, right?

The Color of Rain

Strange.

Somehow, whenever I had imagined looking into a woman's eyes and finding myself completely and irrevocably in love, I'd always thought they'd be brown eyes, or black, the eyes of a woman of my people.

These eyes were gray, very direct, and set in a face that would probably be described as wholesome. There was a light dusting of golden freckles over the bridge of her nose.

She looked kind of like Jenna Fischer from "The Office", Jenna Fischer with a touch of Milla Jovovich, maybe. She blinked and the gray eyes crinkled at the corners as she smiled a little doubtfully at my entranced stare.

"Seth, have you met Lily Neal? She's the new Social Studies teacher for the middle grades." Emily's voice was blandly cordial, but her eyes were sharp and knowing, full of amused understanding. "Don't stare!" she mouthed fiercely where Lily couldn't see.

"Lily Neal," I repeated, "it sounds like…music."

The eyes looked away and a delicate flush made a new backdrop for the freckles as she murmured, "How gallant."

Emily plowed cheerfully on, "Lily just moved here from Texas, did I get that right? The school is lucky to have her. You know, Seth's a teacher too, of sorts."

I had to pull myself together and make some human-sounding noises to follow through on that introduction. "Er, 'of sorts' is right. I teach the old language two evenings a week to some of the kids, the ones whose parents force them to come. It's really more of a hobby than anything else."

Amazingly, she actually seemed to find this interesting and figuring out the students we had in common made the conversation flow pretty easily. I twitched in annoyance when Leah appeared at my elbow, claiming my attention.

"Time to play our part, brother-mine," she chimed sweetly. After a brief introduction, Leah gave a friendly nod to Lily and dragged me away, whispering, "She's cute!" once we were out of ear-shot.

"Hey, no poaching!" I warned playfully and got an exasperated eye roll and a snort for an answer. I was lucky to have a sister who was also a good friend, but before I could confide the startling rearrangement of my world, we had to compose ourselves for the real business of the evening.

We, meaning almost the entire Quileute tribe, were gathered at the Council Hall in La Push for the hand fasting party of my mom and her longtime boyfriend, Charlie Swan.

Mom had tried to side step this particular rite, maintaining that the idea of middle aged people 'getting engaged' – especially people who had known each other for ever and were marrying for the second time - was patently absurd. She was roundly shouted down.

There were many persuasive arguments to the contrary, largely concerning her position as a tribal elder, setting a good example by observing the traditions, honoring the memory of my late father blah, blah, blah.

Mainly, though, the Quileute Nation just likes an excuse to party.

Anyway, we all loved Charlie and wanted to make his inclusion into the tribe official. The formalities were dispensed with in almost indecent haste (honoring the traditions, ha!) and the festivities were then pursued with gusto.

As the evening progressed my eyes involuntarily searched the throng, hoping for glimpses of the woman who had caught my entire attention with just one look. She was easy to spot, her dark gold hair stood out amongst the brunet shades of the majority of the crowd.

And she was tall, maybe five foot ten or eleven. How nice. At six six, I towered over most people, especially women. It would be a real pleasure to kiss someone I didn't have to stoop to reach. Of course, it would be a pleasure to kiss Lily, regardless.

She looked active, too. Strong. The possibilities of that, added to her height, were-. I had to laugh at myself: I'd exchanged maybe a dozen sentences with her and already I was thinking about…. Damn! Was I making myself blush?

It wasn't like I hadn't had girl friends; I'm not exactly cut out for monk-etude. But not a one, in the weeks or months we had been together, ever gave me anything like the sensation I had when those frank, gray eyes met mine.

You'd think, given the general atmosphere of revelry, that it would be easy to approach her again for a follow up of our earlier chat. Not so. It seemed I was hardly the only guy to find light eyes and golden hair appealing.

Well, I wasn't going to prowl like some lovelorn tomcat on the outskirts of the small group of admirers clustered around her. I played it cool instead, lurking just outside the double doors to the parking area and accosting her as she left.

"So, not quite like the old time Potlatches our people used to have, but what did you think?" I said a little too heartily as she breezed by me. She halted abruptly and I suddenly worried that I had frightened her, coming at her out of nowhere like that.

She didn't seem frightened, though, as I regarded her closely. She looked… thoughtful.

"Um, my degree's in cultural anthropology so I'm always interested in stuff like that. Maybe…you could tell me about it sometime?"

She smiled in the friendliest way and I felt myself sway with the effort to keep from putting my arms around her and kissing her then and there.

By some massive miracle I pulled myself together enough to make a date to pick her up after school on Monday and go for a bite to eat while we talked about Indian things.

Just thirty-nine hours to wait.

………….

4:59 PM on Monday found me parked outside the La Push Reservation School leaning with elaborate casualness against my Blazer. My heart was hammering like it had on my very first date. One my mom had driven me on since I wasn't old enough for a license yet.

Luckily, a couple of my students distracted me by coming up to chat, so I didn't disgrace myself by jumping up and down and waving my arms when Lily finally stepped out the door. She looked around with a little anxious frown between her brows; her smile when she saw me was like the first sunny day after a week of rain.

The fear I'd had of lagging, uncomfortable conversation proved to be completely unfounded. Lily was easy to talk to and brimming with enthusiasm over finding herself in the Pacific Northwest.

I wanted to give her a personalized tour and as we drove around she sighed over the brilliant, varied greenness and the different qualities of gray that colored the sky and the rain. Things I knew, of course - they were part of me - but I had never really considered them. Funny how it takes an outsider to make you see such things about your own home.

"It's green for about fifteen minutes a year where I come from," she explained. "You have no idea how wonderful this is to me."

She was from an obscure little town on the Gulf coast, about which she only said that it was small, hot and boring, with mosquitoes the size of helicopters. La Push was about the farthest place from it that she could find and stay in the contiguous United States.

"Well, La Push isn't hot…" I said dubiously and observed that our village didn't sound much different than where she'd come from. I couldn't really think why she'd trade one for the other, but I was glad that she had.

She just gave me an entrancing smile, saying that change was good, and proceeded to interrogate me. My rather limited life seemed to interest her; if the way she nodded gently, absorbing my answers to her questions, was anything to go by.

At her prodding, I told her of my position of journeyman cabinetmaker at Uncle Jem's workshop, a business I would inherit in due course since his kids weren't interested in fine furniture. (One's in prison, the other's a lawyer, go figure). Jem is kin in some degree, though the title 'uncle' is a courtesy.

The gray eyes shone as I described the satisfaction I got from taking raw lumber through the steps of planing, shaping, sanding and joining, then perfecting the beautiful finish until it felt like silk under my fingers.

"You love it, don't you?" she asked softly, "you make it sound so…sensual."

There she went, impressing me again. Most girls find wood working boring.

We drove along the 101 till we reached Granny's Café. "Burgers okay?" I asked, rather belatedly, I realized. "They make 'em great here."

"Sounds perfect!" was the enthusiastic reply. We stowed our coats, settled into a booth and placed our order. As we waited for the food, we continued questioning each other.

Lily had attended the University of Texas at Corpus Christie, "Just down the road from home," she remarked sourly.

She was twenty-five to my twenty-two. I chuckled inwardly - I was getting involved with an Older Woman.

Involved? Where was this crap coming from? She was just a friendly person, making contacts in her new community.

The subject turned to entertainment; she liked movies, especially old ones. After much wrangling, we agreed that Young Frankenstein was the funniest movie ever made.

"What's your favorite line?" I asked.

"Anything with 'Frau Blucher', 'whinny, whinny'!" She chortled. "What's yours?"

"Uh, maybe, 'Werewolf?' 'There, wolf!'" A pity I couldn't explain – yet, I promised myself - just why that one appealed to me. We made ourselves laugh to the almost-choking stage, wailing out, "Puttin' on the Ri-i-itz!"

The mobility of Lily's face fascinated me – she smiled easily and she could do amazing things with her eyebrows. And I really loved her laugh, no giggles or girly simpering, but a hearty, happy-sounding "Ha ha ha!"

I suspected that I was rapidly becoming what you might call besotted.

To finish, we split a piece of apple pie ala mode, though she wondered aloud how I could manage another bite after the triple bacon cheeseburger (rare), double fries and order of loaded nachos I had put away. No need to alarm her by admitting that I was planning on a snack when I got home.

We lingered over our crumby plates and Lily asked me about the language class I taught. I explained my parents' position in the tribe and how they had made sure that Leah and I learned all they could teach us about the old ways.

"I was never that dedicated to it as a kid, it was something for old people, you know? Then Dad died when I was fifteen-" she gave a little "oh!" of sympathy "-and after the first shock wore off, I decided that the best thing I could do in his memory was to really pursue what had been so important to him. And somehow I ended up becoming the expert." I gave a lame one-shoulder shrug.

"Is there room in your class for a beginner?" She asked, a little diffidently but with an intriguing glint in her eye. "It is in my field and, um…" her voice trailed off. Absently, she twisted a strand of her pretty hair round and round her finger.

I remembered from a book I read on body language that this was a good sign.

"Your interest is…flattering. So…is it the anthropologist speaking?" I tried to sound casual and lightly flirtatious, but my heart gave a little thump. Anything I could do to establish myself with this woman was a priceless opportunity.

Her eyes held a sort of glow, humorous, challenging, hopeful and…hot?

"Ma-aybe," she murmured, a small smile playing on her lips, "or maybe it's the-"

"Can I get you anything else?"

How do waitresses always know the very worst time to come to the table?

The moment was lost in the bustle of discussing who would get the check (I won), paying and finding coats. Try as I might, I couldn't seem to make another opening and the drive to La Push was filled with commonplace small talk.

When we got back to the school and I parked alongside her Outback, (good, she'd need the four wheel drive around here) it seemed the courteous thing to walk her the four and a half feet that separated the vehicles. As she thanked me, she clasped my hand - not shook, clasped - gave me a wistful smile and was gone.

The next morning I went for my usual run and just happened to pass by her little rental house at the time she'd mentioned she liked to run. By the end of the week it was sort of a given that we'd go together.

That autumn was filed in my mind as The Season of Lily. I saw everything in my familiar, fairly routine life through new eyes as I experienced it all with her. She made outstanding company, listening, asking thoughtful questions, considering the answers I gave.

She was as good as her word and, rather bashfully, joined my little class. The language was a bit of a struggle for us both, (I'd never had a student with no exposure to Quileute at all) but she worked hard. By her own admission the real draw was the stories and legends of the Old Times that I made part of the lessons.

I started practicing my delivery of the fireside tales, racking my memory for the things that impressed me most when I heard them. It was more important than ever to illustrate the spiritual connection my people had with our world and the vibrance of our history.

It wasn't lost on me that I was doing the ground work for the day when I told her about my true nature. I'd figure out how to handle Sam when the time came.

At work, I started setting aside some likely looking lumber with the idea of making her something, something special. Maybe she'd like a hope chest, lined with cedar. Or maybe I was just an idiot, reading too much into a friendship.

And yet…surely I wasn't mistaken at how pleased she always was to see me. At how, when with a group, her eyes would seek mine and hold the glance a beat longer than necessary. There had to be something there.

Maybe I was channeling old Star Trek re-runs, but there seemed to be a strange time warp effect in our relationship: I could barely remember a time when I hadn't known Lily. Then I would recall with a jolt that I'd met her less than a month before.

Morning runs, night class Tuesday and Thursday, a get-together or two after school for a beer with some of the teachers, every taste of her company just made me wish for more. I asked her to dinner, wanting to do something a little nicer than the burgers of our first date, if that even counted as a date. She said yes quickly, then blushed and grinned self-consciously.

The evening passed more rapidly than I would have believed possible, as we smiled at each other over the wineglasses and candles. The gold of her hair gleamed in the soft light and her deep green dress, the first I'd ever seen her in, brought out the creaminess of her skin. High heels made her even closer to my height.

Later, as we walked to her door I felt a charge of anticipation. I was determined not to make the mistake of rushing Lily; I couldn't expect her to be in the same place I was, not in such a short time. But a good night kiss was certainly permissible, practically required, on an occasion like tonight.

After a brief moment of hesitation as we stood on the porch, I leaned forward to brush a kiss on her cheek. Her head turned so that my mouth landed on hers instead. It started with the very gentlest of pressure, then I felt her hands on my neck and our lips parted simultaneously. My whole awareness was filled with the sensation of her soft, eager mouth and tongue.

A tiny whimper sounded in her throat and the awareness expanded to the satisfying feel of her in my arms. I pulled her closer so that we were pressed together full length and I heard a hum that I realized was coming from me. I had known it would be like this: kissing Lily was…all kinds of right, in every way.

Reluctantly, I loosened my embrace and tried to step back politely, but it seemed beyond my power to let her go yet, so I drew her to me once more. The fire building between us was exactly as I had hoped and imagined; now was not the time to follow through, but I couldn't bring myself to stop just yet.

After several long, delicious moments, she stiffened and leaned back to stare at me in consternation, "Seth! You're burning up!" she exclaimed. Anxiously, she felt my forehead and asked how I was feeling, much as she might to one of her students.

"Seriously, I'm great! Never better, thanks to you." I smiled and found her lips again. It wasn't just a line, either. Holding her against me, breathing in the scent of Lily blended with the light floral perfume she wore, made me feel more alive than anything else I could call to mind. Even more than the first, well, the second time, I phased.

"The temperature thing, it's a, uh, genetic anomaly. Several of us have it." I explained as smoothly as I could. I hoped it would pass.

"Hmmm," she murmured uncertainly, "I don't recall anything like that from any of my text books…I'll have to do some research."

To distract her from that line of thought - my only motive, of course – I moved close again, giving whisper-light touches of my lips around her luscious mouth before settling in for a leisurely exploration. An action that left us both staring at each other wide-eyed and panting slightly when we finally parted.

I waited courteously till she had gone inside and a light came on in the front room before I walked off: I hadn't wanted her to see me furtively adjusting my pants as I went.

…………

"The thing is, bro, there's really no good way to go about this. And the fact that she's, er, not one of us makes it that much harder." Sam said soberly.

I was trying to get some advice on how to approach Lily about my identity as a shape-shifting protector of my people. Sam knew all there was to know about wolf history; I hoped he might have some insights to offer. After all, it wasn't a revelation you could expect a woman to greet with cries of delight, although the tribal girls had generally embraced the idea pretty quickly. But as he pointed out, this particular circumstance hadn't come up very often.

The experience with Bella was nothing to go on since she had already known a large part of the story long before there even was a pack.

Embry's story wasn't exactly enlightening either: he had imprinted on a white girl, Beth, and very nearly blew it when he revealed his true nature. It was months before the poor girl stopped thinking he was some sort of psycho stalker. Things seemed to be moving along a little better for him lately, but it was still slow going.

It was heartening to have Sam's support in this matter: he had always been dead set against anyone but imprints knowing our secret. But the changes in the pack line-up had obviously made for other changes as well; Sam seemed to have mellowed over the years.

Just as likely, it was because I was the last unattached wolf. My brothers had always maintained that I would find my imprint some day; it was just a matter of time. I hadn't imprinted on Lily - something that had never really interested me anyway – but there was no doubt in my mind that she was The One. Since I knew it, so did all the other wolves.

Which didn't answer my question of how to tell her about myself, without making her think I was a nut case.

I probably should have paid more attention to Embry's situation.

…………

Lily openly sneered at what was served locally as Mexican food and became determined give a party with a Tex Mex theme. "It's the least I can do after everyone's been so nice to me."

Invitations were issued to the pack members and their mates as well as particular friends she had made among the teachers at the school. She made a special point of inviting my mom and Charlie. I got a peculiar, but extremely pleasant, tightening feeling in my chest whenever I thought of that.

My place was designated as the venue. I was living at our old house in La Push. While I was still in school, Mom and I had moved in with Charlie over in Forks, but after I graduated and started working I had come back. The place was way too big for me of course, but it felt right, somehow.

We were throwing a party. Wow. Well, technically, Lily was throwing the party and just using my house, but I liked the feeling it gave me, a feeling of, maybe, becoming a couple?

Saturday afternoon she showed up with an astonishing array of food: a huge pot of Pork Chile Verde to make tacos, pans of cheese enchiladas, homemade salsas, beans, a spiked fruit salad. Under her direction I got it carried in and arranged to her satisfaction. I wondered how she had made all of this in the dinky little kitchen at her cottage. She beamed with pleasure at the exclamations of the crowd.

Throughout the evening we would catch each other's eyes and smile. My awareness of her almost killed my appetite for her good food. Almost.

Lily cheerily shooed away the last of the guests with their friendly offers to help clean up and leaned back against the shut door. She pulled me by the hand to the kitchen and, giving a roguish grin, rummaged in a cupboard and produced a carefully concealed bottle of Patròn.

"See, there are rewards to being chef's helper," she said archly, dealing out limes, salt and shot glasses. I did a shot with her happily enough, but it wasn't like I really needed any incentive to be with her, or any additional intoxicants.

I was standing at the sink, scrubbing at an enchilada pan, when I noticed the sounds of Lily's cleaning activities had ceased. There wasn't much time to wonder what she was up to: her hands slipped around my waist from behind and I felt her lips on the back of my neck. Her soft, nibbling kisses traced a line up to the pulse point behind my ear; there she paused and I could hear her deep inhalation as she drew in my scent. That breath came out as a soft sigh and she draped the full length of her body against mine.

An expectant thrill streaked through me as I turned in her embrace to face her. A mischievous light sparkled in her eyes and her lower lip was caught lightly between her teeth as, one at a time, she took my hands and placed them on her sweetly curved ass.

Her face filled my vision, the expression changing from playful to vulnerable and full of need – the same need that electrified every part of me. We fell on each other's mouths with hard, hungry kisses. My hands roamed her ass and moved up her back, the feel of her firm muscles affirming every fantasy I'd had about her.

The sounds of soft, muffled exclamations filled the room and only increased our fervor. It was when she wove her hands in my hair and pulled my face into the curve of her neck that, somehow, I came to my senses. I just couldn't let things…go where they were obviously going without telling her the truth about myself. She had the right to know just what she was getting involved with.

Gently, I took her hands and enfolded them in mine, holding them against my chest. "Lily, before we go any farther, we need to talk."

The temptation was to take her into the living room and sit on the sofa, except I knew we wouldn't get any talking done there, so I pulled out a chair for her from the kitchen table.

I sat and, and – couldn't seem to get started. Mentally, I kicked myself for stupidly putting this conversation off till such a charged moment. Lily's delicate eyebrows rose inquiringly at my silence; I opened my mouth and heard myself say, as if from a distance, "There's this…condition I, well, several of us have and…"

Okay, so "condition" was totally, completely the wrong term to use: she immediately jumped to the conclusion that I had HIV. I was horrified to see the rapidly changing expressions on her mobile, transparent face – shock, pity, fear (thinking about those wonderful kisses, no doubt) and disappointment.

Hurriedly, I tried to change directions by launching into the story of Taha Aki and the wolves who turn into men. It was not a notable success. Actually, disaster might be the appropriate term.

My fumbling explanation was met with a look of blank puzzlement which morphed into a wooden stare that I couldn't - didn't want to - interpret. My eyes dropped to the table and focused on my tightly knotted hands as I blundered painfully on.

"Huh!" An indignant huff interrupted my floundering recital.

I looked up. Lily's face had gone very white except for mottled patches of red that burned high on her cheeks. Those lovely gray eyes glittered with a frosty glare of pure anger. Her arms were crossed defensively over her chest and her legs were tightly crossed, one foot tapping agitatedly.

I remembered from a book I read on body language that this was not a good sign.

"Well, that's got to be the most interesting brush off I've ever heard of," she said crisply, her mouth curling disdainfully. "You know, I really don't get you. You've been giving me all the signals ever since we met. Why did you do that? Running; taking me out; introducing me to your friends; if you really weren't interested, why didn't you just-." Her voice quivered here and she stopped.

"Lily –," I tried to break in, but it was like trying to hold back water from a burst dam as she plunged on.

"And then to feed me that line of –of crap! Seth, do you really think that some fairy story is going to make me be all okay with-with whatever you've been trying on me?" The words poured out of her in a torrent of rage and hurt, tears forming in her eyes.

She slapped her forehead dramatically, "Oh, I get it! Is it a bet or something with those buds of yours? I suppose they turn into wolves too?" she sneered.

I was too aghast to even try to find a way to explain; it probably wouldn't have helped, considering the way I had basically stuck my foot in my mouth and swallowed it whole.

"How could you? You really went to work on me and then-." She pushed the chair back so hard it fell over as she stood. Like a storm wind she hurtled through the living room, grabbed her purse and slammed out the door into the night. I ran after her, feeling my world crumbling around me.

Lily wrenched open her car door and bounced in. She fiercely waved me away, hissing to just leave her the fuck alone. I was afraid that I'd make her angrier, so I stopped and let her go. With a feeling of utter defeat I watched her fishtail down the drive, reckless in her need to get away from me.

No telling how long I stood there, before I slowly stumbled back into the house. Absently, I righted the chair Lily had vacated and sat down. My head rang with her words and I wished desperately that I could have the evening back. It was getting light outside before I finally dragged myself off to bed.

That day I carefully packed up her pans and dishes and took them over to her little cottage. I knew she was inside, but she wouldn't answer my knock. I set the things down on the step and retreated. I just didn't know what else to do.

She didn't answer her phone when I tried to call her later. Or the time after that. Or the time after that. She didn't come out to run, either.

I spent the whole day in stunned amazement. I would have preferred to stay that way, but after twenty four hours I realized that I had apparently moved on to moping; a state which rapidly progressed to downright pining.

Me, Seth Clearwater, always upbeat and happy-go-lucky and I just couldn't hold it together in the face of a woman's rejection.

The fact that it was rejection that I had earned through being an absolute bungling ass didn't help any. I writhed inwardly over Lily's accusation that I was meanly toying with her feelings, which was far worse than if she hadn't been interested. I couldn't even begin to think of how to set things right.

The best description for my feelings might be adrift. I'd been so sure that things between Lily and me would work out, now it seemed as if nothing in life was certain, if I couldn't have her.

I've always been part of a community; we all knew and loved each other and helped out, but for once I felt cut off and lonely. My brothers respectfully did not phase while I was patrolling. At least I liked to think it was to give me some privacy; if it happened that they didn't want to be in my head, I could hardly blame them – I sure didn't want to be there.

A couple of times in the night I would phase, even when not on duty, and go check out her house, carefully thinking of other things. I'm lousy at that – I've seldom had thoughts I felt a need to conceal –so the others knew anyway, but tactfully they didn't mention it.

It seemed I could feel anguish emanating from the board walls of the cottage, but I put it down to wishful thinking on my part.

After a couple of days in this state, Uncle Jem sternly told me to take some time off. He claimed that my heavy sighs were stirring up the sawdust and ruining the finish on some in-progress furniture pieces.

I found that I missed my dad as sharply as when we first lost him; maybe he'd have had some advice for me. If not, I could have used his company anyway.

Even Sam, who's usually pretty sympathetic about woman trouble (he points out that it seems to be part of his job description), got sort of fed up with me.

I was lurking listlessly in his tiny office at the council hall, where he and Jake were trying to have a meeting about something. He growled that if I was so determined to wallow in self-pity I might as well make myself useful and run patrol in Opal Sector.

That suited me: Opal is one of the larger, and by far the most rugged, of the patrol regions. I knew it, and the other sectors, Agate, Jade, Onyx and Coral by heart of course, but a good run up and down the rocky hills and through the forest sounded pretty good to me.

Patrols were largely symbolic these days; there hadn't been any action to speak of for ages. Any bloodsuckers who ventured near pretty quickly decided to venture elsewhere. But we kept it up, if less rigorously than in years past, because, well, because we're Protectors and that's what we do.

The weather was in sync with my mood as well; a massive winter storm was approaching from the Pacific. I'd organize my circuit to take me by the cliffs, where we went diving in the summer, so I could get a good look at the system as it came in.

………….

Sometimes it seems that life is simpler as a wolf. I could certainly sympathize with the Protectors of legend who took to the forest after some life shattering event, never to return. I played with the thought of becoming the source of a series of tall tales: The Demon Wolf of the Hoh Forest, spreading terror wherever-.

Naw. Who was I kidding? I'm not the terrorizing kind.

It was easier to distance myself from my troubles, though, and just be for a while.

The trees thinned where they came close to the cliffs and I drew a deep breath to pull in the smell of the ocean. I sensed a human ahead of me in the distance. Tourists! They liked the idea of storm watching, but mostly didn't have any idea how dangerous it could get up here. Like right now, with the storm of the century brewing and hurricane force winds likely.

I loped forward, rejoicing in the violence of weather. The figure before me on the cliff was barely visible through the mist and rain; a sudden gust of wind caused the spectator to stagger and brought with it a familiar scent: it was Lily!

Holy freaking hell! What was she doing? Didn't she know-? The thoughts formed in my mind and as quickly vanished as I raced through the pelting rain, the individual drops feeling like bullets as I sped into them. I didn't stop to think about my wolf form; my only concern was to see that Lily got away from the treacherous cliff.

Unbidden, a long howl of warning escaped from my mouth. She turned, her eyes widened and her face blanched in terror. Her hands were held out in front of her, as if to fend off the monster bearing down on her. With shaking legs she stumbled backwards, getting ever closer to the edge.

Gathering my haunches under me, I leapt toward her, instinctively phasing in mid-air. I tackled her and once my arms were around her, I rolled us both over and over till we were a safe distance from the precipice.

"Ah! Gunh! Uff!" Wordless exclamations sounded forth as she struggled to catch the breath my actions, not to mention my appearance, had knocked out of her.

Still holding her, with the length of our bodies pressed together, our eyes met; our faces were so close I could feel her breath as she choked out, "Seth! That was – it was…you! It's all…true! I-I didn't know you'd be so-." Her lids fluttered down and her head fell back against the ground. She wasn't unconscious; she just…checked out for a minute.

An icy wave of rain brought her back and she struggled against me, sputtering out, "Can you get off me, please." Her tone was not especially cordial, but all things considered, I thought she was taking the situation quite well. I released her and scrambled to my feet to stand over her, ready to offer a hand as she got up.

Her gaze started at my feet and traveled slowly up my legs, paused for a long second, then flashed up to fix firmly on my face.

I could almost feel her effort to not move her eyes for a second look. I smirked inwardly; I'm not the sort who checks out other guys 'nads, but I have been given to understand that I'm rather…striking, in certain ways.

"Y-you're naked," she stammered, somewhat obviously.

"My clothes don't just pop in and out of existence when I change, you know!" My tone was the only dry thing about me as a gust of wind dashed another blast of rain against us. Lily winced at the chilly spray, but I had reason to be grateful for the rivulets of cold water running down my body.

I turned partially away, bending to retrieve the track shorts tied to my ankle. As I moved to put them on I knew she was staring, I could sense her studying me, her eyes sliding along my back and over my ass. My own eyes flicked to hers, she saw me looking and blushed, then resolutely turned her head in the other direction. Her chin jerked up defiantly.

Nice to know I'd made an impression.

I didn't want to jump to conclusions about any outcomes, but I felt a certain confidence return and flow through me. I could make this woman mine, after all. Go carefully, Seth, I told myself.

Proprieties satisfied, I helped her to her feet. Lily was drenched and shivering, she needed to get home, quick.

"Where're you parked?" I asked.

She just shook her head. Of course, no car: she'd been out walking. Her house was over two miles as the crow flies, by road even farther.

"Hang on," I ordered and scooped her up in my arms, ignoring her faint protests. I took off through the woods.

As a man I didn't have the same speed as I did in wolf form, but I was fast enough to make Lily squeak in alarm and duck her head into my chest. I couldn't help showing off a little, making sure the ride was smooth while dodging branches and other obstacles as we went. Hard to tell if she was impressed, but she did relax in my arms after a few moments

All too soon, for me, that is, I squelched up to her cottage and halted. I was reluctant to let her go, who knew when I'd see her again? She cleared her throat meaningfully; I dipped and set her feet on the ground. She turned and marched up the three steps to the little porch. With her hand on the doorknob, she paused, and then looked back at me.

"You better come in and get warm," she muttered, not meeting my eyes. Without replying, I followed her into the tiny front hall. I was plenty warm, of course, but I wasn't going to pass up what might be my last chance with her.

"Stay there," she ordered curtly as she kicked off her shoes into a mushy heap beside the door. In sock feet she disappeared into the tiny bathroom and reappeared holding towels. These were passed to me at arm's length while she ostentatiously averted her face.

"Drop those shorts and dry off. I'll fix something hot to drink after I change." Before our fight of the other night I would have tried out my lounge lizard impression of Billy Joel's "Don't Go Changing" to get a laugh from her. For now I just followed instructions in silence.

From there I went into the living room. It was freezing in here; there were only ashes in the little wood stove. I shoveled it out and soon got a small blaze going. No easy feat while dressed only in a towel sarong, but I managed.

"That was quick," I heard her voice from behind me, "I still haven't got the knack of fire building, it wasn't a skill I needed much in Rockport. Thank you."

Lily handed me a steaming mug and motioned for me to sit in the rocker across from the sofa. She sat hunched over, still racked with shivers periodically, and looked at the flames through the little glass door of the stove. Her hair was still damp, the marks of the comb plain where she had raked it back from her face. She was wearing baggy leggings topped by an over-sized, paint-stained thermal shirt and absurdly large fleece slippers on her feet.

She looked beautiful.

I took a long drink of the honey-sweetened tea and peeked at her from the corner of my eye. She was looking at me, too; our eyes slid away guiltily.

The silence thickened.

I forced myself to speak, "Lily, please believe me, I wasn't trying to make fun of you or-or tell you I don't want you, because I really, really do, you know." She still wouldn't look at me and my voice dried up.

"So…wolves who turn into men, huh?" her tone had a distant quality to it.

"It's kind of a lot to accept, I know. I -," she cut me off with a gesture.

"Let me finish," she said quietly. "I'm…ashamed of myself, Seth. All my life I've wanted, wished, hoped that…well, magic was real; that some people knew more about certain things and had access to power that the rest of us didn't. That's a big reason I went into anthropology.

"Then I find it – and I just push it away. I-I acted narrow-minded!" The last words came out as a gasping squeak.

Well, at least she wasn't mad anymore; but the confidence I had felt earlier started to leak away again. It seemed I was just a research specimen; it must have been the tequila kissing me that night before, well, before.

She went on, "I felt so bad about how I acted the other night, I've been afraid to face you. I'm sorry I accused you of trying to make a fool of me, you've never been anything but super nice and friendly to me, so I don't have any reason to think that you'd try to make fun of me." She gulped and was silent for a moment.

Nice and friendly, huh? All my hopes were circling the drain, but fast.

"The worst part is that I was afraid I'd blown it with you by being such a bitch about it all." Her voice quavered pathetically.

Hope surged again. She was afraid? Afraid she'd blown it with me?

I couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Lily, it was entirely my fault, I should have picked a better time to bring it up, before things got so…heated. You must have thought I was crazy."

A little smile twitched on her lips, "We-ell, I was trying to decide between running away, back to Texas, and just taking you, crazy and all, when Emily came to see me."

"Emily," I said flatly. In all my flailing around for counsel, I hadn't even considered enlisting Emily's aid. How stupid can you get?

"She told me…some things. And that almost no one outside the pack and their mates knows, which certainly makes sense, and that it's a special honor to be included.

"Then she mentioned that she liked to walk up on the cliffs to help clear her mind. That's how I ended up there today. I probably wouldn't have gone if I'd known how the weather would be-."

A laugh erupted in spite of me and I broke in, "Sam sent me to patrol that same area. I think we've been set up!" I sobered up quickly, and explained hastily, "Everybody's kind of in everyone else's business here, sorry."

She smiled softly and said, "I'm from a small town, too, you know. I'm used to it. I think it's kind of nice, really. Your friends care."

Another shiver racked her. "I can't seem to get warm," she murmured, pulling up her knees and wrapping her arms around her legs.

I could help with that. I hitched up the towel and went to sit beside her on the sofa. Tentatively I put an arm around her shoulders.

"The heat, it must be part of…the, um, wolf thing. You'll have to tell me about it sometime."

I murmured a promise to do that as I pressed a kiss into her hair.

Lily curled up against me and slid her long, lovely legs across mine. I shifted slightly, trying to adjust for the fact that I was getting aroused. How crass that would be: we just make up from a huge misunderstanding and I start poking her leg with a big old boner.

She seemed determined to make me give myself away as she snuggled in closer. Oh crap, she was practically on top - oh. Her arms slid around my neck and she crushed her lips against mine avidly; deliberately, she pushed her thigh against my now throbbing dick.

Our previous kisses and touches had been wonderful and promising, but nothing like this. Lily was the only girl I'd ever told my secret to, the only one I'd ever wanted to tell. The sense of freedom was exhilarating, a turn on in its own right. Add in the fact that I was with Lily

My other arm wrapped around her and I pulled her to me tightly. Hastily I loosened my grip: I always have to remind myself that I'm much stronger than most people.

The answer was a muffled chuckle and the words, "You don't have to be so careful with me, I won't break." Within seconds we were devouring each other's mouths with bruising force.

One hand stole under her loose shirt, she wore nothing underneath. She moved and stretched a bit, as if seeking more contact. I cupped her breast, it filled my hand perfectly, and I rubbed my thumb over her stiffening nipple. Impulsively, I ducked my head and mouthed her through the soft fabric. She made a little sound in the depth of her throat and the wolf inside me rumbled his satisfaction.

"Lily, sweetheart," I whispered, "we can make each other feel a whole lot better if we go into the bedroom." Her answer was to slide off my lap and stand, holding out her hand. I got up, still clutching the towel. Her fingers met mine and uncurled them from the terry cloth.

"You won't be needing that," she assured me with a meaningful smile. I let the towel drop to the floor. Or almost, any way: it got hung up for a moment as if it was hanging from a hook on the wall. We both snorted with laughter and then she practically dragged me to her room.

Once there a thought struck me, "I, uh, didn't bring any, um…"

"I have some," she said smugly, taking a box of condoms from the nightstand drawer. Waving it playfully, she said, "It's got your name on it." She took one out, then gave me an impish grin, and took out several more.

Silence again, but the quality was entirely different than before. We stood a mere hair's breadth apart; I could feel the zing of attraction between our bodies, as potent as if we actually touched.

"You've got me at kind of a disadvantage," I said softly and pulled up on her shirt. Obediently, her arms lifted for me to draw the shirt over her head. I had no notion of where it landed. She was as beautiful as I'd known she'd be: her enjoyment of physical activity showed in the firm planes of her muscles, fit yet feminine in every way.

My thumbs slipped into the waistband of her leggings as I drifted my lips along the silky skin of her throat. Slowly I eased the pants down, down as I trailed kisses over her chest and drew a line with my tongue between her breasts. Lily's breathing sped up and her fingers plaited themselves into my hair, clutching me to her as I lavished her with lingering open-mouthed kisses.

I sank to my knees and pulled her leggings all the way to her ankles. She still had on the silly-looking slippers. Something that might have seemed comical at another time struck me now as being very touching: she was so unselfconscious, so open to me. It made even fuzzy slippers seem erotic.

Leaning in, I nibbled at the sensitive skin below her navel as I worked my way down; I could tell by the shiver she made that her anticipation was building at the same rate as mine. I looked up, her lips were parted and her face was a picture of rapt wonder as she gazed down at me. Making a hard point with my tongue, I drove it into her slit; she gave a jerk and the sweetest little moan. I did it again, same reaction.

Nudging her legs apart for better access, I kept up the flicking of my tongue, till at last she whimpered, "I can't stand up any more!" and sank to the bed. With a growl I buried my mouth in her mound; the sound of her sighing, "O-o-o-oh-h," swirled in my head as I savored the taste and scent of her.

After a few long moments – some of the best of my life - Lily raised my face with her hands. "Seth", she gasped, "there're so many things I want to do with you, but…I-I can't wait. Come here." She pulled me up to hover over her; one arm went around my neck and she kissed me ravenously.

I could feel the fingers of her other hand walking themselves up and down my inner thighs, almost - but not quite – making contact with my now burning erection. Every touch of a fingertip was like a tiny electric shock and I twitched against her with each one. With a muffled exclamation she wrenched her lips from mine and indicated the condoms on the night stand with a little sideways nod of her head.

What a woman.

I swallowed hard and for once I was glad of the desensitizing quality of the latex as I rocked my aching hard-on into her. I'm told I have remarkable stamina - part of being a wolf, I guess - but I'd never wanted a woman as urgently as I did Lily. I drew out every heart-scalding second until at last I was completely gloved in her soft, sweet warmth.

I gave an experimental thrust. And another. "How do I make this good for you?"

"Take me…hard," she rasped in my ear, "I-I like that. I want to feel…all of you, deep inside me."

I'd have done anything she asked, even if it hadn't been what I wanted myself, what every molecule of my body was screaming for. Even more thrilling, she already trusted me enough to tell me exactly what she wanted.

Her fingers dug into my ass, encouraging me on. Our bodies surged together, building a savage rhythm that forced grunts and huffs from our mouths, the volume escalating as our momentum grew. Her nipples felt as hard as thimbles against my chest as our bodies churned together with increasing frenzy.

The fierce clasp of her arms and legs around me tightened as her body arched into mine. For one moment she grew very still, then I could feel her rhythmic contractions around me, keeping time with her sobbing gasps.

Her breath was still ragged as she unlocked her legs from around my back and clamped them to my hips. She gave a side-to-side rocking motion and pushed her palm against my shoulder. "Roll over," she murmured in a husky voice. I held her tightly and did as commanded.

The movement and shift of weight, the incredible sensation of her body bearing down on mine made me cry out. Lily's gray eyes glittered with triumph at my response. What a magnificent sight she was: hair wild, eyes glowing feverishly, chest heaving, lips red and swollen from our ferocious kisses.

Those strong runner's legs propelled her vigorously up and down my length. Her breasts bobbed enticingly and I reached up to fondle them, rolling her raspberry pink nipples between my thumbs and fingers. A little corner of my mind admired the contrast of my russet-colored hands against her white skin as I reveled in the satiny feel of her.

"Show me," I whispered hoarsely and she knew just what I meant. The fingers of one hand slipped between her cleft and her eyes closed involuntarily. My grip slid down her flanks to her hips, holding her still as my cock jack-hammered into her. Through slitted eyes I watched her face change, from a look of intense concentration to the astonished grimace of joy. With a high-pitched moan she fell forward to rest her head on my chest and she wailed out, "Oh, oh, Seth!"

Hearing her call my name as she lost herself in her pleasure completely did me in. All the fire that had been building in me gathered and rose and crested; my being was lost in a white-hot pulsing of ecstasy that lasted a moment and an eternity.

We lay in a pile of tangled limbs as our breathing finally eased. With simultaneous groans we separated, reluctantly. After I took care of the condom, we settled back down; Lily had her head on my shoulder and one leg thrown across my body.

Between searingly sweet kisses she murmured, "Seth, from what little I know about it…wolves mate for life. And, um, Emily mentioned something about - she called it 'imprinting'? Did you, I mean, is that -?"

Of course. I had been sort of waiting for that question. "No, I didn't imprint. I just…no. Disappointed?"

"Huh uh," she said with a smile in her voice, "no disrespect intended, but that sounds a little, um, creepy?"

"Well, it's certainly different, from what I've been through. In the minds of my brothers, it's a wolf thing." I added hastily. "I…never really wanted that, imprinting. I wanted to do it the old fashioned way, to have a-a choice. Find the right girl, let the relationship grow…you know."

I laughed a little sheepishly. I was more than a bit worried about the revelations I was making, but I had to get it out there, so she'd know. "But the joke's on me, I guess. That night at Mom and Charlie's party, I saw you…and it turned out I didn't have a choice after all."

She rose on one elbow to look me in the face, her expression was unfathomable. "You mean like…love at first sight?"

I nodded and shrugged apologetically.

She threw back her head and laughed, that happy "Ha, ha, ha!" that I always liked so much. I wasn't entirely sure how to take her reaction.

The gray eyes that I loved, the eyes with all the colors of the rain in them, looked joyfully into mine as she exclaimed, "What a relief! I thought it was just me!"

…………

Author notes:

HUGE thanks to leelator – talented author of the wickedly funny fic 'How to Seduce a Werewolf'- for previewing, commenting, making suggestions and adding a jillion commas.

Thanks also to mrs_n who gently told me of a location discrepancy in 'Moonshadow' and then kindly gave me the name of a suitable establishment for Seth and Lily's first date.

And, as always, HUGS to my deputy Muse, SassenachWench, a woman of astounding patience & generosity!

My apologies to the Quileute Nation for the liberties I have taken with their traditions.

*Embry's disastrous imprinting on Beth is a sub-plot to mellyfrisco6's darling fic, 'Dealing with the kangaroo'. Check it out.

*Anyone who would like to know more of Emily's sage and witty advice to pack mates should read LJ Summer's excellent 'Wolf Girls 101'