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Agony of Being Me *Teen*YA*Romance

Wheel Wolf Chapter One Excerpt

Wheel Wolf copyright January Valentine

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Wheel Wolf: Beautiful Beast. A dark paranormal love story.

I think we all have to fight the werewolf within us somehow.
                                                   —William Kempe

My werewolf ... my second skin ...

When the moon is on the rise,
I go naked into night.
I am never dressed to kill.
          —January Valentine


Whoever said "think of life as you do the weather" needs to revise his quote. Sure, both are unpredictable. Indecisive. The weatherman isn't always on target, but at least he can tell you to stuff a poncho into your backpack, 'cos there's a sixty percent chance the sky's gonna rock with one of the meanest storms of the season. Who's around to warn you not to stop at the lake on your way home from your girlfriend's house? Avoid dusty back roads because you never know what you'll run into.

The moon is full and crimson, as though a beating heart at the core is pumping blood through its craters.

It's a warm spring night. Breezy. Smells like fallen leaves and pine. Early blossoms. All kinds of good karma surrounding me, reminding me of her.

Jenny is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Since I'm standing on her front porch, I don't need to be reminded. Gazed at by a pair of dreamy violet eyes. Grinned at by lips still rosy from mine, is melting me, gluing me to the two planks my boots have been planted on for the past fifteen minutes. The aroma of the dinner cooked by her mother lingers. Pot roast and potatoes. Almost like my mom used to make ...  

I slide my fingers around her waist, up her back, bringing her sleek black hair over one velvet shoulder, wrap a satin skein around my hand, pull her into me. "Mmm." I nuzzle her throat, growl softly against her peach-scented skin. "You taste so good."

She giggles. "You want to taste something good? Try this."

She's hanging on my shoulder, draping herself around my side. One of her smooth legs is climbing mine. Her body is so toned, I feel the tension of her calf muscle beneath my jeans. That's not all I feel.

"Come on. Open up." She's taunting me with a home baked donut, gliding it back and forth inches from my nose.

Now she's on tiptoes, and the sound of her laughter washes every thought from my mind. Every thought other than how to dodge the plump, doughy thing that's being shoved at my mouth, because I've already made a pig of myself.

Arms wrapped around her, I'm trying to shove her off, pulling my head back and straining away. I'm laughing. "I can't, babe. I won't be able to button my uniform. Rule number one: spotless and wrinkle free, professionally dressed at all times. I'll be written up for insubordination before I even start my new job."

Starting with my deltoid, the fingers of her free hand squeeze their way down my arm. She shakes her head, making the cutest clicking sound with her tongue. "Never happen. You're solid muscle, Jack Bailey." Her eyes fill with a passion that elevates mine. Which doesn't take much. A glimpse, even a thought is enough to do it. "The fittest ranger that will ever roam these forests. Devoting himself to our wildlife." She's lifting a brow, warning, "And that better be all, because you know how some women around here have the tendency to jump hot guys in sexy uniforms."

"You mean like you did to me in ninth grade before I had a chance to make it to the locker room?" I shoot her a snarky grin, waiting for her reaction.

I'll never forget how she looked at me that September day. Kind of how she's looking at me now. Eyes sparkling, like there's a secret longing to spring off her tongue, and I'm the one she wants to share it with.

She punches the same arm she just complimented. Her shoulders shudder with an unrestrained bout of laughter, and her silken hair ruffles as her head dips and lifts. She squeezes her cheeks into adorable twin dimples, then tries to act flippant. "What can I say? You looked so cute in your gym shorts. I've got a thing for hairy guys." She runs her fingers through my hair, tugging on a handful. "And no cutting this. Ever. Not even if your superiors want you to, 'cos they'll have to deal with my wrath." She pushes a thick lock behind my ear, then a delicate finger brushes aside a few long strands that all but conceal my stare.

"You've got a thing for defenseless animals, you mean." I drop a kiss on her forehead. I can't believe she's mine, and feel clingy for making her confirm it every damn time I fall into one of these pathetic moods. "Tell me you'll always be here." My lips dig into the notch at the base of her neck, while I block the memory of how I lost my parents. Almost a year ago. Naturally would have been bad enough ... or to an accident. But a robbery homicide while on vacation?

The throbbing veins in my head beat with my heart as I swallow the pain. Robbed and thrown overboard tied to an anchor isn't a picture easily erased. Neither is the fact that I should have been there to protect them. I fight off a wave of nausea, then gaze into Jenny's eyes again, because she's the only thing that keeps me alive. Grounded. 
"Oh Jack." Her lips sink onto mine, slowly sliding across my cheek as she whispers, "As soon as I'm finished with school, I'll be there with you." Her breath is sweet. She takes my face in her hands. Rubs her nose against mine. "I know how lonely, how awful it is staying in that house alone. So empty, but full of memories. We'll make our own soon, baby."
"We have already, Jenny. From the first day I set eyes on you." I tap my forehead. "Everything's stored right in here. Forever."

Her eyes hold mine. She presses a kiss onto her index finger and with it, crosses my lips. "Forever ..."

When I sigh, my lids fall into a long blink. Even after six years, nothing has changed. We're still new. Exciting. I want to sweep her off the porch, throw her over a shoulder, hop onto my bike, take off for parts unknown. Just Jenny and me. Me and Jenny. Forever.
My eyes scroll her face, stalling on her plush lips. I pluck the full bottom, but my gaze is fixed on the cupid's bow that drives me nuts. I trace the perfect outline of my kissable favorites, then run my fingertip up her soft cheek. Across an arched brow. "Yeah. You've got a way with strays." I smooth her hair back, nibble on her earlobe. Slide my palms up and down her back. Hungry. She makes me so hungry. I'll never get enough of this girl. As long as I live ... she'll be all I ever need.

The interior lights are glaring, so is her father as he peers out the picture window, attempting to zero in on us through dusk. I shoot him a lopsided grin, a respectful nod, then swing my head away, chuckling, because he should have seen us an hour ago, upstairs in her room. Her bedspread might never be the same.

"Baby, I better go." I slide the tip of my middle finger over the massacred donut before she tries to hide it behind her back. 

When she grins up at me, I smear the white powdery sugar down the slope of her nose, planting my fingerprint onto the sculpted tip. "There. You're stamped and ready for delivery. Number One Bailey Way. Express mail ..."  

I'm slipping into my black leather jacket that I retrieve from the porch swing, because I'm about to throw a leg over my Kawasaki and head home. I don't want to, but it's Sunday, and Jenny has to get up early for work. During this semester of college, she's interning at a veterinary clinic, and six a.m. rolls around fast.

I'm thinking about her warm bed, the one I didn't want to vacate. No, I'd never slip under the covers with her. I wouldn't feel right doing anything with her parents sitting downstairs. But that's never stopped us from panting our way through some heavy make-out sessions, like animals. There's something about Jenny and me. We're both drawn to animals. Animals keep popping up in our conversations. My thoughts. Maybe because I feel like one when I'm around her. Which is tough, because ...

Jenny is a virgin, and vows to remain one until she walks down the aisle. Or through a field of wildflowers in a flowing dress, because that's Jenny. All outdoors. Another thing I love about her. I have to give her credit. She's got a lot of willpower. Me, on the other hand. Well, let's just say, this wouldn't be the first night I've had to leave her house bundling my jacket in front of me, while fighting the urge to turn caveman, dragging her with me by the hair.

Before I have a chance to work the zipper of my jacket, Jenny's hand parts the leather, circles my abs, then her fingers drill into my ribs until my eyes water from laughing. She tugs on the bulky cross, supported by the braided chain she's just wrapped around my neck.

"What is this, some kind of weapon?" I chuckle, holding the cross out before me to examine it. The silver edges are so finely chiseled, they're almost serrated. "It doesn't look like any cross I've ever seen."

"Wear it and like it." She pokes my chest. "It has history."

As the story goes, her grandma somehow gained possession of the relic from the Northern Crusades. Through hundreds of years, scores of hands, and fanciful folklore, it mysteriously made its way into her family, and onto my chest.

It feels like a twenty pound saw blade is hanging around my neck, but what can I say. It's from Jenny ... and her grandma. Possibly some king or warrior. Who knows.

"I'm not about to argue with royalty." I flutter my brows.

She's giggling, shoving the donut at me again. "One little bite, or I'm not stopping," she threatens, her fingertips digging harder into my gut.

I belt out a laugh. "You're relentless. Sadistic ..."

"I made them for your sweet tooth." She pouts, then tears the donut apart, shoving the largest half at me. When she bites down, a squirt of jelly dots her chin. She's like a little kid. Only sometimes.

I smile and shake my head, but don't sink my teeth into my piece. Instead, I dip my tongue into the center, then lick my lips. "Hey, this is pretty good. How'd you stuff all this goo into such a little hole?"

She lets out a burst of laughter, then pops the last bite into her mouth. I watch the movement of her throat as she swallows, then giggles. "Leave it to you to analyze the innards of a donut." The way she sucks the jelly off her fingers makes me hungrier ... but not for food.

"I'd rather analyze yours," slips through my lips, followed by my tongue that swipes the glob of jelly from her chin on its way to the hollow behind her ear, which is even sweeter. I work my way down her neck, into her cleavage, stopping when the porch light flashes.

"I'll call you later," I whisper, then my lips settle onto hers for a final taste of jelly ... and Jenny.

"Drive slow." She always warns, even though she knows damn well I'm responsible. Her face is lifted, her pouty lips pursed. She pushes up for a parting kiss, then steps back and aims the cutest wave at me. "Take care of you ... for me," she sings out. There's something in her smile that grips my heart. Longing? I sense she wants me to stay. God, how I want to stay.

"Take care of you, for me," I call back and wink as I turn the key and press the starter button. With the beast ignited, I strap on my helmet, and with a twist of my wrist I'm leaving her behind. 

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