Offering

"Go to bed," she told him, in her most commanding and powerful voice. Going for authority. Demanding it. "Now."

"Or what?" he growled, and instantly Virginia knew he'd called her bluff. She didn't fight him. She knew he'd win. Leaner. Stronger. Meaner at the moment, and possessed by the moonlight in a way Virginia didn't understand.

Truthfully, she didn't even try. Wrapped in herself from top to bottom, believing lies she'd told herself since she was seven years old, there was no room in Virginia's heart or mind for understanding or affinity for a conflicted half-wolf. He was too passionate, too wild for her. She liked her life vanilla and controlled. She didn't like being afraid, and what she most feared was all that he suggested—that she bound, throw off her chains and brave the fire.

I can't, she told herself. I shouldn't.

I won't.

The song of her life, while his music soared with the moon, and played over and over, beckoning to her soul. Tempting her….

"Will you scream?" he asked, when he knew he had her cornered. "That's what most people do when they see a wolf. They scream. And scream, and scream—"

She stood up to him, just barely. If she hadn't believed the things he was saying, they wouldn't have pierced her, wouldn't have hurt. But she held fast to fear and to her own icy pride, showing him nothing, while he showed her everything. All….

"Ahhhhh, I mu-- I must fight what I am! I can't even remember what I've done. You better tie me up. That way I can't escape."

"What do you mean, tie you up—"

"Tie me up! Stop me escaping! What part don't you understand?"

She went toward him on instinct. His. She took the rope from his fingers. Wolf's back hit the beam and he jerked his arms around, offering his wrists, giving her free rein. She wrapped the rope around them, tugged it over his scratched and bleeding hands.

"Tighter," he bit out, his breath coming hard. Hot. "Tighter." His voice, dark and broken, sank into her veins, making her blood burn. "Tighter. If I struggle I can get free. Tighter." She came around him with the rope, pulling hard as she could. Wolf exhaled, exhausted, resigned to his madness. He drew in her scent, then let it out in a long, harsh sigh. He hung his head, gazing at her from under hooded eyes. "What's the worst thing you've ever done?"

She stared at him, certain her eyes were wide and shock-filled, electric blue with fear. Nothing, she thought. I haven't done a worst thing. I haven't lived…until now. But she didn't say a word.

"Tighter," he breathed. The sound of his voice gave her pause. She looked up at him. Their gazes locked. He leaned forward, into her, as if to impress on her the full weight of his words. "Or I'll eat you up."

Virginia pulled. The rope cut off his breath. He made a dark sound, half-moan, half-growl. She stepped back, wanting to be away from him, wanting to run.

His gaze held her still. I'll eat you up, he'd told her. "I want to," he said.

She shook her head. No. He didn't know what he was saying, but she didn't dare tell him so again. Maybe he did know. Maybe she was the fool who didn't, too terrified or too naïve to believe that Wolf would ever-- "No," she said. "You wouldn't."

"I will."

She swallowed hard. Took a step back. His hazel eyes watched her, gleaming yellow. "Wolf—" she said. And then what? I'm gonna go now, because there's a shepherdess contest, I have a dress to make, you're scaring the hell out of me and I'm too pig-headed to admit it…. "Wolf," she said, her voice softer this time. "What do you-- What else can I do?"

He stared at her. Hazel eyes, flecks of yellow, consuming her where she stood. His face contorted as though her question gutted him. He opened his mouth, showing razor sharp teeth. "Run," he said.

Fear shot through Virginia like live lightning, survival instinct at its most base. But she didn't run. She held her ground, whether out of pride or friendship or something deeper, she couldn't say. She knew the man in front of her, no matter that he was barely recognizable—tangled hair, fierce eyes, threatening countenance and the teeth to see whatever he chose to do through. Heat poured from him, she could feel it where she stood. Sweat trickled at his temples, stained his tunic shirt, glistened on his chest.

"I want to help," she said.

"Take off your shirt."

"What!"

"Take it off!" he roared. "Creamy, dreamy girl with creamy, dreamy skin. No baking pan needed. No herbs required."

Virginia stood as still as she could, mulling choices where there shouldn't have been any. Tempt him like he was daring her to, she thought, or run like he'd said. Fast and furious without looking back, faraway until she couldn't feel him anymore, on her skin, in her blood, in the night and all around.

Wolf waited, panting for breath.

Virginia removed her sweatshirt.

His eyes glowed as she shrugged out of the small blue jacket. He stared at her neck, at her chest. And then he smiled. "Yum," he said.

Virginia raised her chin, trembling. Afraid. But not of him. For him. "What do I--"

His eyes glinted. "Closer."

There was no mistaking his meaning. She nodded. Without a word she stepped forward, allowing him the advantage of quick striking distance, if he so chose, confined by rope or not. She was smaller than him and had never felt it more than now, her body mortal, exposed. Vulnerable. Whatever Wolf decided in the next instant, Virginia was fairly certain he wouldn't be guided by any of the suggestions in his self-help books.

"More," he ground out. "More…."

In her stark white tank top Virginia moved in, into the heat of him, close to his chest. Her breasts brushed the sweat-stained cloth of his blood-red shirt, her belly the rope that restrained him. He bucked toward her. She could feel him strain, hard and full against her. She could feel his warm breath on her face, in her hair.

Slowly, compelled by something she couldn't name but well understood, Virginia tilted her head back, her chin fully raised. Baring her neck to him, an alabaster column of smooth skin, and taut tendons.

Wolf made a choking sound. "Don't--"

She ignored him. Easy kill, she thought. Easiest he's ever had. And if he would do it, if it was in him, Virginia figured now was the time to know. She didn't want to die. She had a home to return to and a long life ahead, one she hoped to do something magnificent with. But in a world where Wolf would kill what he loved, and what couldn't help loving him in return, maybe she was better off dead.

"Virginia…." Part whine, part warning, his voice echoed through her. Deep, where she could feel her want and fear of him contracting, pulling into each other the way she wanted to pull into him. But she stood unmoving, staring at his dark head as he bent toward her, teeth bared. He stopped scant inches from her neck.

The tension in him solidified, every muscle in his body charged against the rope and with his nature, striving to follow through. To eat. To consume.

But he resisted. In his mind, in his heart. He fought her, though the thought of consuming her consumed him. Creamy. White. Virgin. Virginia. Tempting him like he'd never been tempted in his life. My God, he could feel his body magnetizing toward her, feel his incisors tear and the phantom taste of blood on his lips. Metallic. Warm. "No--" he moaned. "No, no…."

Wolf. Mate. Wolf. Mate. "Get away--" he snarled, like nothing human.

She moved closer. Mercy mission or suicide, Wolf didn't know. Virginia reached for him, her gentle hands cupping his feverish face. She kept her neck arched in offering, ready for the taking. His taking.

Slowly, she brought his hungry mouth down to her skin. He whimpered, knowing any minute he'd break through the ropes and rip out her throat.

His mouth watered.

"Yours," she said to him, her husky tone striking an elemental chord.

Wolf swallowed. The territorial animal inside him understood her offering. And took. With a growl he lunged, sinking his teeth into the flesh of her neck. She gasped, made a sound of pain or pleasure, he couldn't tell which, and didn't care. Her hands gripped his face, holding him as he bit, once, twice, three times, drawing blood.

He made sounds against her neck. Guttural sounds as he nursed the wound with his tongue. "Mine," he uttered, his lips lingering wet and warm on her pulse. Virginia shuddered against him. He inhaled deeply, sweet, fragrant, hot Virginia. Soothing. Promising. Binding herself for life to him though they'd barely touched.

Wolf's blood hummed, dark music with the moon. His pulse lengthened and gradually, like a slow, potent drug through his body, the taste of her filled him. The tension in him eased.

He was still hungry, but no longer wild. He would eat, but on his own terms. He would mate with Virginia. He'd marked her. And doing so had sated him.

For now.

Her hands dropped away from his face. She took a step back, her heavy breaths in concert with his. They would finish this soon. Before the next cycle was complete. Before the next phase of the full moon. She read the truth of that in his hazel-gold eyes, and felt the proof of it on her skin.

Virginia drew a deep breath. Wolf watched her throat move, her neck muscles pull and stretch. He saw his mark, red and purple on her skin. He would have thought himself an animal, called himself an animal had she not let her fingers linger there, and softly closed her eyes.

Beautiful Virginia. Searing. Sensual. His light. His mate.

His savior.

Wolf let out his breath, his vision of her blurring into a warm amber haze. He was spent. Exhausted. He collapsed against the post, held upright by the ropes and nothing else.

"Virginia," he rasped, then sank into a fitful sleep.

When he opened his eyes again, she was gone.