#52weeks52stories – Week 1
Prompt: “fangs in the moonlight”
Word count – 3556
This can’t be happening. This isn’t real.
Joyce Camp crouched on the ground shivering, despite the humid July night.
Sam is playing some sort of trick on me. A prank. He’ll laugh any minute and yell, “Gotcha!”
“Joyce? Please… get up.”
She didn’t move, frozen in place. Frozen by a fear she’d never known.
And she had known fear.
A young Joyce lived with fear when first, her father, Carl, and later, her stepfather, Marcus, took sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain on her shapely body for the smallest infraction. Her mother, Pearl, would stand by in silence… or leave the room, trapped in a fear of her own.
Joyce had navigated a different route home from high school each day to avoid the spiteful gang of girls, jealous of her clear, mocha skin and honor student status.
After marrying her college sweetheart, Joyce stared fear in the face when her husband began abusing her after losing his job. Joyce was convinced she’d die the night he attacked her while she was five months pregnant with their second son.
However, Joyce faced her fears and rebelled. She fought back and reclaimed her dignity and vowed never to be afraid again.
But this was different. Joyce was terrified and couldn’t defend herself when she didn’t know who… or what was standing before her.
She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t respond, her throat dry and swollen. And what would be the point, anyway? Her heart raced, beating so loud, Sam sounded distant and far away. He wouldn’t be able to hear her.
“Baby, please… look at me.”
Her pulse calmed. The joke was over. Sam’s had his fun.
Steeling herself, Joyce raised her head, anxious to see the soft brown eyes she’d fallen in love with.
Instead, all she saw was fangs in the moonlight.
Falling backward, Joyce threw her arms out behind her just in time to catch herself.
“Sam? What the hell is happening?”
He reached down to help Joyce up, but she crab-walked away from him.
Allowing his arms to fall to his side, Sam Donovan hung his head. When he looked up again, the anguish in his golden eyes caught Joyce off-guard.
“This is who I am, Joyce. What I am.”
Joyce propped herself up, unfazed by the fact she was sitting on the sidewalk.
“Just what is that, Sam? What is this? What are you?” She didn’t miss him flinch at her words. “Wait. Sam? Are you sick? Is this some sort of rare disease? I’ve read -”
He cut her off.
“I’m a wolf shifter, Joyce.”
“A lycanthrope, actually-”
“Stop it Sam! This isn’t funny!”
Emboldened by anger, Joyce scrambled to stand, but when Sam extended his hand to help her, one glance of the shiny, ebony fur covering his hand and arm caused her to pull back again.
He knelt in front of her, close enough for Joyce to see the amber flecks in his glowing eyes. Her stomach roiled, threatening to give up the Italian meal they’d shared less than an hour before.
“I know this is hard, sweetheart, but you must know… somewhere inside that I’d never hurt you.”
And she did know.
Since the day Samuel Donovan walked into the IT department of Commerce Bank, Joyce knew he was different from other men.
Not only did his broad, six-foot-three frame tower over all his coworkers, his demeanor set him apart.
Women from every department in the bank logged terminal service requests hoping Sam answered the call. When he did, he’d politely decline their invitations to lunches, dinners, and gym sessions. The more brazen women would openly proposition Sam and he’d decline. Every time.
Some speculated Sam was gay.
But Joyce knew he wasn’t.
It was the way he looked at her. Never leering or lustful or undressing her with his eyes. But thoughtful… considerate, with care and concern… and yearning.
Yet, he never asked her out.
And she wouldn’t ask him out.
Joyce’s past relationships with men on any level proved to her being alone was better. There were no demands made of her, no attitudes to contend with, no fragile egos to stroke.
The only men allowed in her life was the two she gave birth to—twenty-five-old Tate and twenty-three-year-old Christopher.
But Sam Donovan still intrigued her.
When the combination of a pulled back muscle and a flash rain storm kept Joyce from leaving the building for lunch, she resigned herself to reading and munching on crackers.
A large white bag placed on the table in front of her startled Joyce. She followed the hand holding the top of the bag and found herself locked in a gaze with Sam.
“Skipping meals isn’t healthy.”
He took the seat next to her and emptied the bag of its contents.
Still in mild shock at Sam’s generous gesture, Joyce Camp fell back in her chair, mouth hanging open when he placed her favorite roast beef and turkey grinder in front of her.
“H-How did you know?”
Sam had already taken a large bite of his own sandwich and finished chewing before answering.
“We use the same deli… and I pay attention.”
Had any other of her male coworkers taken liberties and bought Joyce lunch, she would have been uncomfortable. Her inner alerts would have gone off at a deafening level.
But with Sam Donovan, it was different. It just felt… right.
They ate their lunch in companionable silence that day. Joyce’s only other vivid memory was how blood rare Sam’s roast beef sandwich had been.
The thought brought her back to the present and the ‘man’ kneeling before her.
Joyce gasped. The body hair and fangs were gone. The brown eyes that reminded her of smooth velvet regarded Joyce with concern.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be okay again.”
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry. I wish there were another way. I practiced telling you for months, but decided the best way was to show you.”
“Sam? Months? What are you talking about?”
He sat on the ground next to her.
“Our working together and meeting? It’s not coincidental.”
“Let me finish.” He wrapped his arms around his knees, staring out over the park. “That technology seminar you attended in Denver a couple of years ago? I was there too. I picked up your scent seconds after entering the convention center.”
Joyce frowned, her brow knitted. “Scent?”
“Of my mate.”
Joyce shook her head in disbelief. She opened her mouth to speak but she couldn’t form the words. Sam continued.
“Lycans can date and marry anyone they chose. Some don’t though, preferring to wait for their fated mate—the one person they’re destined to spend eternity with.”
“But, how do you kn- ”
“It’s part of our makeup. Scent is our most powerful sense. We live our lives… make decisions based on the scent of our surroundings and people. When we scent our mate, it’s overpowering. An insatiable hunger. An unquenchable thirst. Lust and desire that never ends. A love we’ll sacrifice our lives for.”
Clutching her hands to her chest, Joyce was in awe. “I’m your mate?”
“Yes. And though it took some doing… calling in a few favors, I had no choice but to follow you here.”
“You came to Camden… just for me?
A faint smile was his only response.
“But why didn’t you say anything in the beginning?”
“I don’t think introducing myself as a wolf shifter and your fated mate would have gone over well.” Sam laughed at her smirk, but it didn’t last long as he sobered.
“Remember what I said about my senses? I could tell you were alone… and lonely. But I also sensed doubt, mistrust… and anger. As much as I wanted to be with you, Joyce, I couldn’t push. You needed time to get to know me,”
Resting her chin in the palm of her hand, Joyce looked away.
“This is crazy, Sam. I can’t pretend I’m not freaked out by this… or that I can even believe it. I’m fighting to keep my dinner down, and should be running from you as fast as I can in the other direction.” She turned back to him. “But you’re telling me the truth. It’s written all over your face… and in your eyes.”
Joyce scrubbed her hands down her face and through her hair. “What am I supposed to do with this information? Being your mate… destined, fated and all that?”
If she weren’t sitting so close to Sam, she wouldn’t have heard his response, his voiced low and pained.
“Can you accept me, Joyce? Can you live with what I am?”
The weight of his words slammed into her chest and she hung her head.
A better question was, “Could she live without Sam?”
Could she go back to a life of mistrust and doubt, never having anyone to lean on and share her life?
Things changed the day Sam bought her lunch. They established a solid friendship, taking breaks together at work. In the evenings, Joyce and Sam would take in a movie, sporting event, or visit one of the local museums.
Joyce Camp was captivated. No man had ever treated her with so much care and kindness. Not one had any interest in what she wanted. They only sought to take from her and control her.
She was thrilled when her boys hit it off with Sam during a visit home. Tate and Chris were happy for their mom and approved of Sam.
But after her boys left, Joyce lay in bed one night wondering exactly what she had with Sam.
If she thought about him, Sam appeared. If she needed something, he appeared. Sam seemed to know Joyce’s needs before she did.
And yet, he’d never kissed her. Except for holding her hand a few times when they were in crowds, Sam never touched Joyce.
The gay rumors resurfaced in her mind. Determined to take the direct approach with Sam and find out what was going on with them, Joyce never got the chance.
The couple attended an outdoor jazz concert one warm spring evening. Returning from the ladies’ room, Joyce was just a few steps away from where Sam waited for her on their blanket when a man blocked her path. It was obvious he’d had too much to drink by his wobbly stance… and the lewd suggestions he made. The drunk reached out to touch her and before Joyce could blink, he was gone. Joyce found herself wrapped in Sam’s arms as he ushered her to their spot. She looked over her shoulder to find the drunk man sprawled on the ground several yards away.
“I should have gone with you.” He seemed to be admonishing himself more so than speaking to her.
Sam got Joyce settled on the blanket and handed her a glass of wine. “Are you okay?”
All she could do was smile and respond, “Yes, I am. Thank you, Sam.” He still had an arm wrapped around Joyce, and as he returned his attention to the stage, Joyce leaned into him. His fresh, clean scent mixed with his all-too-warm body heat made Joyce dizzy. She snuggled deeper into Sam’s side, resting her head on his chest.
Joyce felt the vibration rumble up from deep inside Sam before she heard the growl. Sam tightened his arm around Joyce and she thought she heard him say the word, “Mine” but when she looked up at him, Sam returned her glance with a smile and continued with the concert.
Did she imagine that? Sam didn’t growl, did he?
Her thoughts were pushed aside when the first chords of her favorite song were played. Sam jumped to his feet, pulling her up with him and they began to dance, as did most of the surrounding people.
Sam spun her in circles, dipped her, and danced around her, and Joyce loved every second.
The introverted woman won her personal freedom years before. Standing up to her abusive husband and divorcing him was Joyce’s declaration she was no longer a target or a victim. She raised Tate and Chris, continued her education, and advanced in her career.
But Joyce never felt free… until that evening in the park. He defended and protected her. Danced with her. She was his focus.
Yet, hours later, when Sam took her home, he stayed long enough to help her wash and put away the dishes from the picnic basket, gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze and said goodnight.
Joyce was speechless and could only watch him leave.
She knew he cared about her… wanted to be her. But why did he always end up walking away?
After a restless night, Joyce Camp resigned herself to the fact she couldn’t make Sam want her, and she’d never throw herself at him.
That thought lasted two days.
The next night, the couple had dinner on Joyce’s patio. She watched Sam wolf down the porterhouse steak that had barely been on the grill long enough to get warm. The man loved his rare meat.
Joyce stood to take some of their dishes inside when Sam stopped her and motioned for her to sit down. Instead, he stood and stacked their dishes onto the serving tray.
“I’m not helpless, Sam Donovan.”
“Oh, I know that for a fact, Joyce Camp. But you did most of the work preparing dinner. I don’t mind clearing the table.”
She folded her arms on the table and leaned forward.
“You’re always there for me, Sam.”
He set the tray down and bowed low, one hand across his waist. “That is my purpose, madam. You need something, I provide it.”
His words flipped the on switch in Joyce’s brain.
She leaped from her chair, cupped his face with both hands and pulled him into a searing kiss.
If Sam Donovan was surprised, he got over it, wrapping his muscled arms around Joyce, pulling her tight against him.
She moaned when she felt his hardening length. Sam took the opportunity to sweep his tongue into her mouth.
Joyce wrapped her arms around his neck and held on. It was just a kiss, but this fevered passion was new to her. Sam ignited a blaze inside Joyce and she wanted to burn.
She moaned again as Sam slowed the kiss. With their lips still touching, he opened his eyes and caressed her cheek. “Mine.”
Joyce had heard him correctly in the park!
“I-I thought you didn’t want me.”
“I’ve always wanted you.”
She frowned. “But why -”
“It had to be in your time… on your terms.”
Had he not been holding her close, Joyce knew she’d collapse, so overwhelmed by his simple statement of fact. The remaining weights around her heart fell away, and she took his mouth again in another blistering kiss.
Without breaking the kiss, Sam scooped her up and carried her inside all the way to her bedroom.
Sleep wasn’t an option that night as Sam took Joyce to heights of pleasure she’d only read about in books. He teased her with his fingers and tongue and showed her what it meant to be possessed by passion.
Joyce didn’t know how much more she could take, but when at last Sam entered her, his movements were slow and deliberate, giving her body time to adjust to his size as he sunk into her heat.
Impatience and need wracked her body and Joyce arched her back pulling Sam deeper. The sensation sent her over the edge but not before a familiar growl followed by a deafening roar filled the room when Sam found his own release. Her heart raced as he wrapped his arms tighter around her. Not able to hang on to consciousness, Joyce slipped into blissful darkness knowing her life would never be the same.
The irony of her life wasn’t lost on Joyce. She had a full life. She had things she’d been too afraid to hope for.
She had Sam.
Now she had to choose between a life with or without him, and both choices frightened Joyce.
Could she go back to being alone, not trusting anyone enough to allow them into her life? Or could she move forward with Sam, accepting him for who he is?
Joyce was pulled from her thoughts when Sam called her name. She met his gaze unable to speak.
Sam rose to his knees and kissed Joyce’s forehead. “Baby, it’s okay. I know it’s a lot to throw at you at one time.”
“Then why, Sam? Why show me what-… who you are? Why tonight? Why here?” The anger in her voice surprised them both.
“I thought about waiting until I took you home, baby, but I knew you’d be overwhelmed, and I didn’t want you to feel trapped behind locked doors. I didn’t want you to be afraid of me.” He glanced around, taking in the park. “I love the outdoors, and we’ve shared so much here, I hoped you’d feel safe.”
Joyce thought she’d choke as she swallowed her shame. But Sam continued before she could attempt to speak.
“And why tonight?” He averted his eyes, chuckling, but the laugh was breathy and devoid of humor. “The fated mate’s prophecy has a downside. If a Lycan is rejected by his mate, he dies of a broken heart… sooner than later. I’m growing weaker, so I know my time is near. That’s why I didn’t complete the shift. It takes a lot of energy to shift back.”
“Complete the shift? What does that mean?”
“Wolf shifter, Joyce. The keyword is wolf. I go from two legs to four.”
She threw her hands out at her sides.
“How am I supposed to process all this? What am I supposed to do, Sam? Help me!”
“Just make a decision, sweetheart. Yes or no.”
“What?” Joyce rose to her knees. “What, Sam? If I say no, you die!” She grabbed both of his hands. “Do you think I’d let that happen? Of course, I accept you. I accept you, Sam! I won’t let you die! Do you hear me, Sam? I won’t let you die!”
“Ssh, ssh, ssh, calm down, sweetie. I wish it were that simple.” Sam cupped her face. “But you can’t accept me to save my life. You have to want to share my life. And, there’s… a ritual.”
Her blood ran cold at his words. Joyce had managed to push visions of fur and fangs in the moonlight to the back of her mind. Now it was all rushing back.
“A… ritual? What kind of ritual, Sam?”
“Well, while we’re making love -”
“I like the sound of this so far.”
“… I have to bite you… here.” Sam touched a spot on his neck near the carotid artery.
Joyce Camp fell back, stunned. She touched the spot on her neck, incredulous. “Bite me?”
“It seals the bond, linking us together for eternity. We’d never be more aware of anything than each other.”
Joyce scooted backward, then crawled and stumbled until she was standing. Rubbing her temples, she paced in a small area a few feet away from Sam.
Wolf shifter. Fated mates. Ritual. Neck biting. Rejection meant death.
Her head throbbed as she tried to piece it all together while wishing it were all a dream and she’d wake up any moment cuddled next to the man she loved.
Joyce stopped pacing. The corners of her mouth twitched, and she did not try to hold back the smile.
She loved him.
Joyce had never said the words, intent on keeping the promise she made to herself years ago. Loving someone gave them power over you and Joyce would never again be controlled.
She glanced over at Sam, still seated on the ground, waiting, not pushing or demanding. All she had to do was say no, and he’d walk away to die alone. Sam gave her the power over them… over him.
A sudden thought popped into Joyce’s mind. Power was a funny thing. If you didn’t use it wisely, what good was it?
Her mind was still in turmoil, looking for an exit, but Joyce’s heart made the decision and it calmed her soul. She approached Sam, hand clasped in front of her.
“I don’t understand the things you’ve told me tonight, Sam… still afraid to believe it’s all true. But I trust you, and you said this fated mate prophecy is for eternity, so you don’t get to walk away. I do want to save your life, but I also want to share your life… because I love you.”
The golden glow returned to his eyes. He stood, unhurried, never taking his eyes from hers.
“What did you say?”
Joyce gestured between them. “I want this… us. I want you.”
Sam gripped her waist, pulling her close. “No, go back to the part about loving me. I knew it.”
She smirked. “Don’t gloat, Donovan. It’s not cute.”
His grin took her breath away. Eternity wouldn’t be long enough with this man.
He raised her chin to kiss her, but Joyce pulled back, frowning.
“What’s wrong, Joyce?”
“Do you really have to bite me?”
Sam threw his head back roaring with laughter.