While I set out containers of food, Sophia goes off somewhere in her mind. I wonder what she sees. Full-fledged memories, or glimpses of her childhood here? Not that horrific night. That much I can tell by her expression.
I’ve only set foot on this property one other time — the night the Softs were massacred. I pour myself a large portion of wine as well and allow buried memories to surface.
Barely a teenager at thirteen, my parents allowed me to travel from Sweden to visit my Colorado relatives on my own. That horrible night, all able-bodied adult wolves were in Glenwood Springs, responding to intelligence from the Granite pack that hunters would converge there. I wanted to go, too. But, no. I was relegated to help a babysitter look after an eight-year-old Carine.
The hunters did indeed show up in Glenwood. However, another group swiftly descended on Aspen — on the Softs, specifically.
Was it a coincidence? I never believed that. It had to have been a concerted plan to lure wolves away from Aspen and leave the eminent family unprotected.
I look over at Sophia. Her wine glass is almost empty.
“More?” I hold the bottle up, ready to pour.
She shakes her head no.
“You’re wondering why I brought you here.” My candor brings her gaze to mine.
Curiosity and apprehension are among the emotions that flit across her expression. Distrust emerges and stays.
Eyes narrowed, she looks away from me. “That’s just one question I have.”
“This is where you must be to connect to the old crone and to your legacy.” I let the rest hang. She’s smart. She’ll connect the dots she already has in her sights and the rest as they appear before her.
“You knew about my connection to this place when we looked at that property.” She points across the water.
I nod and smile. “In addition to being incredibly sexy, you’re a very perceptive witch.”
“Just because you saw a few books on my bookshelf doesn’t mean anything.”
“I know what you are, Sophia.”
She shakes her head and rolls her eyes. Gently, I cup her beautiful face with both of my hands to look into those gorgeous eyes. There’s a vulnerability in their depths.
“You are a witch.”
Licking her lips, she simply stares at me.
“Trust me, my beauty. You want answers about yourself? The old crone is an excellent place to start. You just need to tune in to her. This is the best place on Earth to do that.”
Contemplating my words, a spark of curiosity burns away most of the vulnerability. As I suspected, she’s ravenous for knowledge. So desperate for it that it’s palpable and overrides the rest of her emotions.
“Come.” I stand, hold out a hand to help her up. “Let me show you something.”
“I’ve been over this property dozens of times. There’s nothing new that you can show me.”
An owl hoots as the full moon continues its rise over the eastern ridge of the mountain. The strong scent of the columbine combined with Sophia’s natural scent is exceedingly provocative. It’s hard to resist, but resist I must. Right now, I must focus on connecting her to her power.
“Humor me,” I say softly. “It’s very important –– to you. Please, Sophia.”
Her hesitation has weakened considerably. Finally, with a resigned sigh, she succumbs to her need to know. Clasping my hand, she rises gracefully to her feet.
“We might need your worship tools,” I say.
She lifts her tote.
Leaving the lanterns with the blanket, I grab my backpack. Hand in hand, we walk just a few yards to a circle laid out in stones and surrounded by the white trunks of aspen trees.
“I’ve been here. It’s a sacred circle,” she says.
I nod. “Very good. You are correct. It is a witches’ circle – an old, venerable one.” I lead her over the stones.
When her feet touch the ground in the circle, a soft breeze waifs up from below. I’m astonished. Her power is already engaged with the energy here.
“Aside from knowing it was even here, how do you know how old it is?” She asks me.
“Good questions. The answers to which you will know soon.”
She squints her eyes at me.
“Let’s just take it step by step. I don’t want to overwhelm you.”
Her eyes narrow further.
I sigh in frustration, wishing I had time to go slower with her.
“Alright. Will you be satisfied with a short explanation and have the details filled in at a later time?” I smile, needing to keep it light.
She shrugs and nods.
“Was that a yes or no? If a no, then I’ll tell you nothing.” I smirk. Despite the gravity of the moment, I enjoy teasing her.
Frustrated herself, she rolls her eyes at me. “Yes.”
I laugh. “Has Carine shared the wolf creation lore with you?”
Dry now, Sophia’s gorgeous hair flutters around her as she shakes her head no.
“While lycanthropy is mentioned by the ancient Greeks, it was in reference to people who had some wolf traits — exceptionally strong, exceedingly hairy, ravenous appetites and the like. It isn’t until much later, during the fifteenth century that you’ll find written accounts of shapeshifting humans to wolves and wolves to humans.”
With a shadow of amusement, she raises an eyebrow. “This is the short version of how you knew this circle existed?”
“Yes, baby,” I chuckle. “Here’s the punch line. The ancient ones, the witches, needed protection from the hunters during the inquisition so they created us — werewolves from a race of lycanthropic men and women. In the generations since, a few Lycans have mated outside their species and a few of their children either lost the power to shift or went rogue. The core group, the purebreds, called sovereign wolves, remain loyal.”
Watching her process that bit of information, I pause for a moment.
“My ancestors were created by your ancestors. I’m pure and I’m your protector, Sophia.”
Her expressive eyes hide nothing. She doesn’t believe me. “Then where the hell have you been all my life?” She jokes.
I chuckle. “You haven’t needed me until now.”
She licks her lips. “Does that explain why we’re so attracted to one another?”
“No, älskling. That’s something else entirely.” The rising moon has cleared the mountain.
“Face directly east,” I say.
She turns slightly. “Is this right?”
“Well, lets see.” I take a compass from the backpack, stand behind her, wrapping one arm around her waist. With the compass in my other hand, I reach out in front of her so we can both see the reading.
“Perfect.” I smile. “As I said, a very perceptive witch.”
This close, her scent is irresistible. I slip the compass in my pocket and pull her softness back to my chest. I kiss the nape of her neck, justifying it with her need to relax. “Mmmmm. I get so distracted by you.”
She leans back further, bares more of her throat for my lips.
“The witch teases me, again.” I chuckle, but give her what she wants – a trail of kisses from her ear to her shoulder. My fangs drop. Lightly and careful not to break skin, I bite the tender spot where shoulder and throat meet, licking the nibble away.
Soon. We will mate soon.
Her nipples tighten under her bodice. I growl and slide my right hand up to cup her left breast, slowly and softly my thumb strokes the sensitive peak. She moans for me. I nuzzle her ear.
“Sweet Sophia. I must step away.” I release her, walk around to look into her smoldering eyes. “It’s only our second date and here you are seducing me, again.”
She’s all indignant. “Me seducing you? I’m not the one kissing necks.” A tiny smile lifts one corner of her mouth.
My effort to relax her seems to have worked, never mind my uncomfortable hard-on.
“Says the one who lured me into her bathroom when she was gloriously naked and dripping wet.”
And I’m not talking about the shower water.
“That wasn’t on purpose.” She blushes.
“No? Still I’m faulting you for having such an intoxicating scent.” I lean in to inhale. “I can smell your arousal, you know.”
Her breath catches, eyes dilate even more with desire.
“Mmmm. I’m like a hapless bee lured by a succulent flower.” I close my eyes, inhale again. “I can’t wait to taste your nectar.”