In an attempt to go to bed at a decent hour, I am posting this now and then signing off. This snippet starts where last weeks left off. For those of you who are newcomers, my WIP snippets are linked to here: #1, #2, #3, #4,and #5.
Enjoy (it's another long one, but it sets up things coming up).
“Who’s Owen?” Caitlin asked when she knew I was awake. Her voice was soft and low in the quiet of my room, even the traffic sounds seemed far away, as we lay blanketed in the stillness.
I opened my eyes to stare into hers. We were lying on our sides, facing each other, and lying close enough that I could see her features as she stared back at me.
One small hand was clutching the blankets around her shoulders. The other reached out and started playing with my hair: twining strands of my hair around her finger and massaging my scalp. “You keep calling out his name in your sleep: last night, and the night before, and then again just now.”
“He was my best friend,” I said, looking down, lost in thought and the pain that thinking about him always made me feel. I felt as if we’d let him down, even though I’d had even less say in what happened to him than I’d had in what happened to me. That is, none whatsoever. “He was my first love, my first everything. We were children together, and we would huddle together hiding from the monsters in our lives. We discovered love together, and would have grown up together if the people he lived with hadn’t taken him from me.”
“You’re worried about him?” Her hand cupped my face, bringing my eyes back up to hers.
I’m not sure what I expected, whatever it was it wasn’t the respect, the concern, and the love I found, looking into her eyes. Seeing it though, I felt safe to answer.
“I am. I keep getting the feeling that he’s in trouble.” I shook my head, looking at her with the sorrow painful in my heart. “I don’t know why I’m feeling this way. It’s been years since I’ve seen him.”
“Do you think you’re just worrying, or do you think there might be cause for concern?” The way she asked, I knew she wasn’t doubting me but rather asking if I knew something but wasn’t aware that I knew it. If that makes sense.
“I know those he lived with didn’t care about him. And if they are anything like my mum’s parents, becoming an adult just increases the danger.”
“What about his family?”
“We were his family.” This came out in a snap, startling us both. Taking a deep breath, I tried again, “If they had truly cared for him, Cormac wouldn’t have had to keep bringing him to stay with us as often as he did, or for such long stretches. Or if they cared for him and knew they couldn’t take care of him, they would have let him stay with us for always. He always came to us with bruises on his skin and such pain and loneliness in his eyes.”
“Don’t worry.” Caitlin wrapped me in her arms, chasing away my sadness with her next words. “You and me, we’ll go look for your Owen for you.”
“I’d just be happy knowing that he is safe. It’s probably too much to ask that he is still single and waiting for me.”
“Babe, believe me. You…are completely worth waiting for. Besides, we’ll never know unless we look for him.”
“What about…” I couldn’t say it. I didn’t even have the words to express what I was trying to think.
But she seemed to know. “What? You mean, what about us?” She grinned at me, having entirely too much fun at my expense. Shaking her head, she sighed. “Babe, you are stuck with me. Do you think some boy is going chase me away? Don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out: how we fit in each other’s lives. But never forget this; we do fit in each other’s lives. I knew the moment that you had landed, I knew the moment you woke up that first morning, and I knew I would meet you that day where ever you’d decided to go on your walk, and I knew this before you’d even left your bedroom.”
“Well, if you’re sure.” I made sure I sounded as uncertain as I could, and laughed when she threw her arms around me and gave the top of my head a nougie. “You think we could, look for Owen? I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
“We might not know where to start, but I’ll wager that Uncle John and Laura are old hat at this sort of thing. And speaking of Uncle John and Laura, I think we should get up and take our bath if we’re going to be ready to go to mum’s when they come back.”
“Before we do that, though, I’d like to take a look…” I couldn’t say it; I couldn’t be the one to remind her of what she’d been through.
“My sores?” she asked, looking in my eyes and seeing my dilemma. “Front or back?”
Smiling at me in understanding, Caitlin lay down on her stomach, stretching as she did so, laughing richly as she caught me watching her.
Waiting until she had gotten comfortable, I brushed her hair off of her shoulders to look at the wound where the beta hound had tried to snap her spine. The bruises were an ugly mix of colors: purple, green, and yellow, in two splotches on either side of her spine, but on careful examination the skin was not broken. Thinking she might be nervous, I rubbed my hands up and down her arms and then over her shoulder blades, careful to avoid the wicked looking bruises.
“Don’t mind me if I start purring,” she chuckled lazily. “Just let me know if I start to drool. That’s kind of embarrassing.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell,” I assured her, before continuing. Rubbing my hands down her shoulder blades to her ribs I found more bruises, and realized that even in cat form she must have been underweight. I rubbed my hands down her sides and lower back, and only discovered some seriously ticklish spots that would need to be looked into more closely later on. Just below where her back stopped being her back and started being her bum, I found two more bruises, one on each side. Again the skin wasn’t broken, it looked like a rash of sorts, maybe road rash, but I’m not sure. Then I realized that the bruises on her ribs had the same texture.
“The alpha.” She answered the question I hadn’t even thought. “When he tried to mount, those are where he put his front paws. His pads felt like sandpaper.
“I’m sorry. I only wish I’d been faster.”
“Don’t be. You got them off me, if they’d gotten you it would have been much worse, and I wouldn’t have been able to help you the way that you helped me. Now, the front?” and she rolled over so slowly that I knew that she knew she didn’t have any clothes on and that she was letting me look as long as I wanted.
What I found myself staring at and could not look away from was the look in her eyes: there was knowledge in those golden green eyes, and longing, and a fierce, tender protectiveness. Protectiveness? For me? That would require more thought than I could give it at that moment. So I put it aside and continued my exploration of her wounds.
That look in her eyes kept drawing me back, however, and it was several minutes before I could bring myself to stop staring into those brilliant green eyes and search for more bruises and signs of trauma. Feeling nervous myself, I started with her arms, rubbing my hands up and down, looking at each finger and short but well groomed nail. Their were no bruises on her collarbones, and her breasts were, as I think I mentioned earlier, small and perfect, and her ribs were also too prominent for girl or cat, and it was on the lower ribs that I found another bruise.
This one had not broken the skin, or thankfully the ribs beneath it. The skin over her stomach was clear of bruises and felt as soft as silk, and I paused my search for bruises to nuzzle my face into that soft skin, and just feel thankful that she was here, and that they had been stopped before they could do their worst. I think she knew my thoughts for I felt her hand brushing my hair and stroking my scalp. Not to direct me, or suggest anything, just to let me know that she knew and was glad to be here too.
I found three more bruises: one on each hip bone, and oddly enough one last bruise on the top of her left foot where that dolt of an alpha had stepped on it. That left one last place that might have a wound on it, and I really did not want to see what kind of damage had been done to down there. I had more knowledge of what could be done to a girl than most. But when she bent her knees and opened her legs for me, I almost wept. There wasn’t a single mark or red spot anywhere.
Kneeling between her legs, I lay down with my face once more nuzzling the silky soft skin of her stomach and wept. Caitlin held me while I wept, stroking my hair and whispering sweet nothings I could barely hear and would never remember, held me until my tears stopped and my breathing slowed. When I looked up at her, she kissed my tears away before kissing my breath away.
I’m sure we would have done much more, but the grandfather clock chimed the hour and scared the two of us into the hiccups. The hiccups led to the giggles, and the giggles got us out of bed and into the bathroom. The bath we took was long and full of scented, oiled water, and almost made us not ready when Dr. John and Laura returned with the news that we would eat lunch at mum’s house.
2 days ago