Content warning: Nudity and sexual innuendo
All the teens at APYR have to participate in how to run the Ranch and have different chores that changes every week – in the stable, in the kitchen or in the garden. Some of them also have part time jobs in town like Elspeth and Thomas. Jupiter hates outdoorsy work. Well, he hates work and getting dirty in general.
Taïga prefers working with the horses. It’s just a pity they aren’t allowed to ride just yet. A half hour twice a week isn’t enough for her, but the other kids don’t complain. They are learning the basics and whine about sore butts and smelly clothes. She tries to keep a straight face when she watches them hike around the corral, trying to stay in the saddle looking cool. She can’t wait until spring to have her own horse to cherish and ride.
Derek is OK with taking the two horses out to the paddocks and such, but get on their back and ride? No way! He’s got his bike for that; a powerful 998cc black Yamaha he’s spending much time fixing after Jupiter backed it over with the truck.
The stables offers a haven of peace and quiet as the others only come here when they absolutely have to. That’s why Taïga often volunteers to stable duty, being around the other inmates, especially moody Elspeth, is gruesome. And she loves the soothing smell of hay and horses, which reminds her of her old horse, Duke, at home…
Teddy is usually around and she considers him a little like a brother. He makes her laugh all the time, and does his best to make her feel less homesick. She wishes she could be just as at ease with his brother, but with Derek everything is different. She wants to be with him, but when he’s near all they do is bickering. It seems that he’s avoiding her as much as he can.
Elspeth is doing her best keeping away from the stables, usually trading her duties with kind Chase. Horses are smelly and dangerous and she’s not even allowed to have a quiet smoke near the barn. So what’s the point? She draws on her joint, keeping the smoke down until she feels a little dizzy. She hands it over to Derek.
‘Oh, c’mon, don’t be such a bore…’
He takes the joint. ‘You haven’t answered. You can’t just bail out.’
‘What if I don’t want to do stable duty? I hate horses and they hate me so I really don’t see what the problem is?’
‘I don’t care.’ Slowly he blows smoke through his nostrils, his eyes watering. ‘If you find someone to do it for you, go ahead and switch!’
‘I already have. Taïga said she’d be happy to change with me. She doesn’t mind getting dirty and smelly!’
Derek is saved from answering as the door opens on the subject of their discussion on her way to the stables.
Elspeth leans against Derek. ‘It’s time to get back inside and study. Are you coming Derek?’
‘Yeah…’ He says absentmindedly, pushing Elspeth’s hands off him. To her dismay, he stomps out the joint and hurries after Taïga. ‘Hey! Wait!’
Taïga stops but doesn’t turn around, waiting for a flip comment. But Derek scratches his head and tries a little awkwardly. ‘Err… I have to write an essay about John Keats and, well… Can you help me out? I don’t even know where to start.’
Taïga’s first impulsion is to tell him to study with Elspeth, but thinks better of it. He really seems earnest… and I love Keats… Why not? ‘OK. Are you supposed to analyze his poems too? Or just talk about the poet?’
‘I’m supposed to deepen the analysis of one of his poems.’
‘I’ve picked “Bright star”…’
Derek is supposed to go to university next year, on a football scholarship. But he has to keep his grades up through his senior year. Taïga discovers another Derek that afternoon. A serious Derek, who’s listening to her without being sarcastic. She likes his choice of poem, it’s one of her favorites as well, and she dives enthusiastically into the task. Derek fiddles with his pen, unable to turn his gaze away from her lively face.
‘… so that’s why I think Keats loves her unto death!’
Derek adds questioningly, ‘Her?’
‘Yes, Fanny Brawne!’
‘Maybe…’ he says, realizing he’s been watching the perfect curb of her mouth moving as she was talking, not listening to a word she’s been saying.
‘Maybe?’ She rolls her eyes, animatedly leaning towards him over the scattered papers on the table. ‘He died away from his love when he was only 25 in Rome, in tuberculosis. So romantic… Haven’t you listened at all?’
‘Romantic to cough to death? Yuk,’ Elspeth comments, biting on her pen. ‘Moron…’
‘Oxymoron,’ Teddy adds looking at Taïga and they both burst out giggling.
‘I guess she meant that Rome is romantic,’ Chase says thoughtfully. ‘I’ve always dreamt of going to Italy…’
‘Yeah. See Rome and die,’ Teddy sputters and they all laugh.
Derek catches Taïga’s eyes and suddenly their laughter dies, giving place to something awkward. She looks away, busying herself with her notes. Derek clears his throat, looking at the doodles on his notebook. The others are joking around, not paying attention to them. Suddenly he looks up again, surprising her staring at him. His lips twitch and she can feel herself blush, but she can’t draw away her gaze from his.
‘I get the impression that he means that he prefers dying in pleasure over living in eternal harmony. That death is an alternative to love…’ he says, his voice low and a little hoarse.
Taïga swallows, drawn in by his intense stare. Clearing her throat, she nervously shuffles with the papers. ‘I guess that could be a pretty good conclusion…’
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake forever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.
‘Are you already done?’ Derek asks as Elspeth pushes back her chair, making as much noise as possible.
‘I don’t feel well. I’m off to bed.’
Taïga throws her a glance. Good riddance! But she looks a little pale. Or miserable. Or just her gloomy self… Hope it’s not contagious…
When the others watch TV or play pool or just hang out after dinner…
… Taïga usually sets up her things in Derek and Teddy’s empty room and paints. The first days she was alone with Teddy, but Derek has started to come back earlier and earlier, soon spending the evenings lying on the bed just watching her paint. They don’t talk much and Taïga often forgets he’s there, completely absorbed in creating.
Teddy is more talkative. ‘I like that. The colors are nice.’
‘You only say that because you can’t see what I’m painting!’
‘I guess I am… Why don’t you paint things? Real things?’
‘Because this is relaxing, and I need to relax. Don’t you think it has a soothing effect, just watching the colors blend and imagining whatever you want to see?’
Derek smiles to himself. It’s anything but soothing, watching Taïga paint. But the imagination part suits me fine. He’s mesmerized by her lower back and how he’d love to touch that smooth skin… Think about football. Think about anything but those sweatpants…
Taïga steps back and scrutinizes the canvas. ‘What do you think?’
Teddy tilts his head this way and that. ‘I think it’s… Nice?’
Derek puts his book down again. He’s been trying to read for the last hour without success. Listening in on Teddy and Taïga’s happy banter, watching her move is too distracting. But the football training starts in half an hour and he has to get moving, especially as he counted on jogging to school.
‘Do you want my opinion?’
‘No, thanks.’ Taïga rolls her eyes.
‘Well, you’ll get it anyway. It’s blurry and I hate the colors. What did they teach you in that fancy French school?’
‘Well, I have to leave because I have kitchen duty. Just try not to kill each other while I’m away, will you?’ Teddy backs out the door, closing it softly.
Taïga glares at Derek. It doesn’t make things better that he’s right – her painting is awful… But he doesn’t have to be so mean about it and put her down like that. ‘What’s wrong with you, Mr. Art Critic?’ She starts to put away her things, throwing them into her bag. ‘Do you remember when we were kids?’ She blurts out when he doesn’t answer.
Derek frowns but keeps silent. Taïga pushes on. It’s too late to stop now anyway, and she has to know. ‘That last day in Bigwood Falls…’
Derek studies his fingers. ‘At the hospital? The dust devil? Or when you made the leaves dance?’*
‘Yes, that’s it. I just wondered – are you still mad at me? Is that why you’re so despicable all the time?’
‘What?’ Derek is caught off guard.
‘You do remember what you said, don’t you?’
‘Yeah. How could I forget?’ Derek resumes the study of his right hand. ‘I broke my fingers, you know.’ He looks sheepishly at her. ‘I smashed my fist into a tree. Over and over again.’ He doesn’t tell her how scared he was when he saw his fingers heal in front of his eyes, and how the pain was the only thing that had stopped him from turning into a wolf. Fortunately he has since learned, more or less, how to master the turning.
‘What?’ Taïga looks questioningly at him. ‘You never told me.’
‘Well, I was mad at you for scaring me so much I almost…’ He looks at the ceiling, and she can feel his discomfort. It only lasts a brief instant and he looks back at her seriously, searching her eyes for the truth. ‘I thought you were a witch, you know…’ He chuckles, glancing at her. Seeing her expression, the smirk vanishes from his face, ‘You are a witch, aren’t you?’
Taïga swallows. She’s afraid to talk.
His mouth forms a perfect “O” and he nods. ‘Badass.’ His lips twitch into a lopsided grin and she quickly looks away.
When she glances up again, she’s astonished at the sight of him balancing on his heels just a few inches away, looking down at her from his position at the edge of the bed like a predator ready to pounce. Taïga squirms a little under his gaze but she can’t tear her eyes away from his face.
‘It’s something you can’t undo. And I can’t be mad at you for that. It took some time for me to understand, but…’ He thinks of the Lycan curse, and swallows. ‘It’s difficult to believe you’re a witch, though…’ He smiles his brash trademark smile and continues. ‘Aren’t witches supposed to be ugly with warts on their noses?’ He scrutinizes her face. ‘Is that a black hair on your chin? But I guess that comes with age – you’ve still got a couple of years to…’
Taïga throws her sneaker at him, but laughing he jumps off the bed.
‘Hey! That’s not fair! Using stinking witch-warfare…’
He ducks out the door at the same time as poor Teddy walks back in. The second sneaker hits its target spot on with a thud and Teddy crumples to the floor, covering his bleeding nose with his hands…
The sound of retching wakes Taïga the next morning. Gosh! That’s gross!
Chase is helping Elspeth to throw up in a bucket. Taïga fetches her a glass of water and some mouthwash and for once Elspeth accepts their help without being mean in return.
‘Just stay in bed this morning, Elspeth. I’ll take care of the mucking out for you.’
‘I can help,‘ Chase offers. ‘I’ll finish cleaning up fast and I’ll be right there!’
But Taïga would rather be alone in the stables this morning. ‘Don’t worry, Chase. I know you’re supposed to fix breakfast too.’
‘I completely forgot! Are you sure you don’t need any help?’
‘Definitely.’ Taïga pulls on her clothes and hurries outside.
Taïga might love stable duty, but it would be so much better if she could spend more time with the horses. She brought her mom’s wand after all and spreading the hay can’t be that difficult. Tentatively she moves the wand around and it wakes to life, sputtering out a trail of glittering small stars. She takes a cocky stance, swirling the wand in a large horizontal eight.
This is easy! Almost a perfect sigma… What did Granny say about sigmas? They are portals or something. She whirls the wand around. Beautiful! Now let’s get the hay moving…
A movement over by Derek’s bike makes her stop. ‘Hey! Stop spying on me and come out or I swear I’ll change you into a toad!’
Laughing Derek stands up. ‘I was just trying to repair my bike, but it’s difficult with all that sparkling and fizzing going on!’
He saunters over with his hands in his back pockets trying to be cool even though it’s the very first time he sees someone using a wand. Taïga tries desperately to concentrate on what she’s doing, but she can feel her energy get out of focus.
‘Would you kiss me if I were a toad?’ he says all of a sudden, making her wand spew green inefficient flares around her.
‘Yuk! No!’ She shakes her wand, aiming it at a smaller hay bale.
‘Don’t you know that princesses are supposed to?’ he continues.
‘Frogs. Princesses kiss frogs.’
‘So, would you kiss me if I was a frog?’
‘Nope. Because I’m not a princess!’ She glances up at him, proud of her deadpan answer.
‘That’s a pity… Better not change me into a toad or a frog then.’ He winks.
Taïga does a double take. Is he flirting with her?
‘What are you doing by the way? Apart from the obvious.’
‘Apart from threatening to change handsome annoying strangers into slimy toads?’ she banters.
‘So you think I’m handsome?’
Taïga doesn’t know what to answer. Yes! You’re drop dead gorgeous! Ravish me! ‘Err… You’re annoying and Elspeth probably has the flu so I took her turn to muck out the stables and I just thought it would be faster this way…’ Arrrgh. What am I doing? I sound like a machine gun. Mental face-palm.
‘Ouch!’ Derek dodges the green sparkling light coming his way. ‘Are you sure I won’t be part of the muck on the floor if I stay here?’
‘Just sit down over there, and I’ll try not to hurt you.’ She smiles shyly and he grins back.
A half hour later, Taïga is exhausted but the packs of hay remain intact.
Derek yawns. ‘C’mon, I’ll help you.’
‘You can’t handle a wand!’
‘Apparently so can’t you. I meant to spread the hay with a pitchfork, smartass!’
‘Don’t call me smartass!!!’
A sudden blast of green fire erupts from Taïga’s wand and while all the hay bales around her quietly scatter all over the floor, the magic shockwave throws Derek hard against the opposite wall.
He shakes his head, slowly sitting up. ‘What the hell was that?’
He scrambles over to Taïga’ s lifeless body. Frantically he brushes away the hay, checking her respiration and her heart beat. She seems unharmed and she’s breathing regularly, so he settles down, cradling her head in his lap, waiting for her to wake up. Tenderly he strokes back a strand of hair from her face, letting his thumb tentatively brush against her cheek. Her skin is so smooth…
Lightly his fingertips brushes over her eyes and then her mouth. The opportunity is too good to be ignored – she will never know about this. Bending over he gently kisses her full on the mouth. The contact of her cool lips sends a shiver through him and he fights the urge to deepen the kiss.
Her eyelids flutter and she opens her eyes, staring up at his flustered face. ‘Oh. My. God! What happened?’ Dizzily Taïga tries to sit up.
‘You finally found out how to scatter the hay – with less effort.’ He stares deadpan at her.
‘Less effort, huh?’
‘Yep. You kinda scattered me too. Right into the wall there.’
She gapes at him, then they both burst out laughing. He stands up and reaches out for her. She hesitates before grabbing his hand and he pulls her up effortlessly, but he doesn’t let go of her hand. Looking into her eyes, he turns it palm up, gently stroking it with his thumb. Taïga can hardly breathe as every square inch of her skin is covered with goose bumps.
Guiltily he lets go of her when Teddy and “Evil Bitch” Elspeth push open the door to the barn. Taïga blushes, Teddy smiles and Elspeth glares. Derek mumbles something incoherent and disappears outside…
‘Hey?’ Teddy stares after his brother. ‘We just wanted to know if you’d like to go out with us tonight. Johnny will take us to the Waterhole, they’ve got some nice pool tables…’
‘I don’t play pool,’ Taïga says, feeling stupid.
‘Of course she doesn’t, I guess it’s too lowlife for our resident Princess. So why are we asking her?’
‘Because we want her to come.’ Teddy shrugs.
As promised, Johnny has taken Derek, Teddy, Taïga and Elspeth to “The Waterhole Saloon”. Elspeth immediately joins Benni, from their school, and Kenji Midden. Taïga is a little disappointed that Derek spends so much time with local bad boy Zac Whipsnake and Mrs. Darnell. So when Teddy asks her to play some pool with him, she jumps on the opportunity.
‘Welcome to Cougar town!’ Teddy jokes, but Taïga doesn’t think he’s funny.
‘Why do you say that?’
He looks at Derek and Mrs. Darnell. ‘She’s BFF with Sophia Martingale who spends a lot of time and money on her “cubs”.’
‘Cubs?’ Realization dawns on Taïga. ‘But that’s disgusting!’ She grimaces and Teddy laughs at her.
‘They’re not underage.’
‘Did you say Martingale? Could that be a relative of Cruz’s?’
‘Yeah, it’s his mom. Better watch your tongue around him, the subject is sensitive.’
‘I’m not surprised. Poor guy…’ Taïga is pensive.
‘What is it?’
‘I really shouldn’t judge. You know, I found some old French magazines Granny had stashed away…’ Teddy looks inquiringly at her. ‘Anyway, my mom was on the front page. With a prince that was about ten years younger…’
Taïga and Teddy continue gossiping as they set up the rack. Teddy breaks…
Derek bets ten bucks on his brother and takes up position to watch the game. It’s soon Taïga’s turn. She bends over, adjusting her shot. A loud crack and she sinks the first ball. Derek whistles softly, watching her circle the table, looking at the balls for the next shot. She stops right in front of him leaning over slightly and he admires her slender figure and those never-ending legs. She’s dangerously pretty.
Zack takes a swig of beer, ‘I wouldn’t mind a piece of that. She’s not all boyfriended up, is she?’
Derek just throws him a quick glance, ‘She’s off limits, bro. And only fifteen.’
There’s soon a little crowd gathering around the pool table. Taïga aims, lining up the shot and the ball rolls into the pocket, leaving the cue ball in position for another shot.
‘Yay!’ Taïga beams.
‘She’s damn good. If she continues like this I’ll lose my money,’ Derek mutters in admiration.
‘Hey, I thought she didn’t know how to play?’ Elspeth hates it when Taïga gets all the attention. Especially from Derek.
‘She said that she didn’t play – not that she couldn’t,’ Teddy answers.
‘Well, she plays now, so that makes her a liar anyway.’
‘A pretty little liar,’ Elspeth’s minion, Benni Hennessey, ventures, giggling at her own pun.
‘Duh.’ Elspeth looks at her, ‘Could you get me a glass of water? I’m not feeling well.’
Hailey scurries off, doing her moody friend’s bidding.
‘Shht, Elspeth. My money’s on Teddy, don’t disturb him.’
‘But I don’t feel well. Can’t you take me home?’
‘We’ll leave as soon as they’re finished.’
Teddy hits the ball too hard and his shot jumps the 8-ball off the table! Taïga looks triumphantly at Teddy, who scratches his head.
‘I guess I won.’
‘Yeah. I guess you did. But next time I’ll beat you.’
‘Don’t be too sure, Ted…’
‘Hey, you’re good. Where did you learn to play like that?’
Taïga beams up at Kenji. ‘A good friend, Jayler Moroni.’
Zac breaks in, ‘Jayler Moroni? Of the Falls Harbor Moroni’s?’
Taïga squints at him. ‘Yes. Why? Do you know him?’
‘Everybody knows who the Godfather is. South America has Escobar and we have Don Moroni.’ He slaps Derek’s back. ‘You’ve got yourself a good one here, bud. Better watch your back!’
Derek doesn’t budge. He crosses his arms and watches Benni leave a seething Elspeth and sashay over to Taïga, suddenly eager to make friends. ‘Can you show me how to play?’
‘Sure.’ Taïga is a little surprised, but follows Benni to a free pool table.
‘So that’s the people she hung with,’ Teddy says in awe. ‘I’m not surprised she got in trouble.’
‘Yeah, I wonder what else she’s been up to…’ Derek says thoughtfully.
‘Hey, Derek. Come over here,’ Mrs. Darnell looks up at him from the couch. With a last glance at Taïga, he ambles over to the seductive blond woman, and slouches on the couch next to her.
Saturday – at last! Taïga jumps out of bed. It’s so much easier to get up when you’re not supposed to go to school. For once she feels happy and she wants to share her good mood. ‘I could help you with that,’ she says to Chase who’s studying her blemish covered face in the mirror.
‘You know, the zits.’
‘So you mean she needs help?’ Elspeth peeks out from under her blanket. ‘Is that it? Is it that awful?’
‘No, that’s not what I meant, I just wanted to help.’
‘You’re so full of it! Just leave Chase alone, little Miss Sunshine!’
Chase smiles apologetically at Taïga. ‘I don’t know what you could do anyway… We’ve been to the doctor’s and I’ve got lots of different stuff to use… None that works though… But thanks anyway.’
Taïga refuses to let go of her good mood. ‘Well. I’m off having a shower! See you at breakfast! Or not…’ Adding to herself, Preferably not!
Jackpot! Lil Bling has been staking out the girl’s bathroom, and can’t believe his luck when Taïga walks in and throws her towel on a hanger. She quickly gets out of her pajamas and turns on the water, jumping back and squealing as the first ice-cold water hits her.
Wow… She really is prettyful… Lil Bling can’t take his eyes off Taïga’s lithe body. It’s only when she turns off the water and starts toweling that he remembers that he’s got VJ’s phone. Swearing to himself he fumbles with the settings with sweating fingers. Shit. He should have done this when he got here instead of playing Candy Crush.
Taïga has already pulled on her panties when Lil Bling drops the phone on the floor. What was that? Lil is too slow when ducking down and Taïga lets out a blood curdling scream.
Derek was on his way up to have breakfast when Taïga screamed. With his heart in his throat, he runs back and barges into the shower, making Taïga scream again. He immediately analyzes the situation seeing an excited Lil in his underwear. He pulls his T-shirt off in his stride, throwing it at Taïga, who does her best to cover her bare breasts with her hands.
‘Here, put this on…’
Lil doesn’t stand a chance. Derek charges like a raging bull, pushing the terrified teenager up against the wall.
‘I told you to leave her alone!’
‘Don’t you “dude” me!’
Elspeth and Chase have also heard the ruckus and are just behind Derek.
‘What happened? OhmyGod!’ Elspeth takes in the action, whistling softly, but Chase squeezes past her, picking up Derek’s t-shirt from the wet floor.
She hands it to Taïga, putting an arm around her shoulders. ‘Here. Cover yourself.’
Steering the shivering girl out from the showers, she lances at Elspeth, ‘Let’s get out of here before we all get in trouble.’
Derek is out of control, beating Lil Bling to a pulp.
Taïga fills them in on what happened. ‘… and when I turned around he was trying to duck down, and I just screamed.’
‘Yeah… I’m so ashamed…’
Chase shakes her head. ‘It’s not your fault, poor thing.’
Elspeth mumbles vehemently, ‘I hope Derek smashes his face in.’
‘Yeah. That creep’s had it coming for weeks now,’ Chase adds.
Taïga doesn’t say anything, she just stands there shivering in the wet team shirt that smells wonderfully of Derek…
‘Did he touch you? Or film?’ Chase is worried but Taïga shakes her head.
Elspeth lights up. ‘I’ll wait for Derek and we’ll check. Don’t worry.’
‘You should get dressed first.’ Chase puts an arm around Taïga’s shoulders and escorts her back to their room.
‘Get up! I’m not finished with you yet,’ Derek hisses, breathing heavily.
Crying, Lil Bling backs further away into the corner, huddling into a ball in an attempt to protect himself from Derek’s vicious blows.
Derek spits on the floor next to him. ‘You’re disgusting,’ he snorts contemptuously, turning on his heels.
He stops just before slamming the heavy door shut behind him, throwing over his shoulder, ‘Just keep away from her.’
Then he leaves, still breathing heavily. His knuckles are bleeding but he’s too angry to feel the pain.
He leans on one of the sinks and lets the water slowly wash the blood away, waiting for his heartbeat to calm down and for Chuck or Johnny to show up. But they don’t, and Lil is too afraid of what will happen to him if Chuck and Johnny find out so he keeps his mouth shut…
Derek doesn’t turn around when Taïga comes into the laundry room later that afternoon. ‘Just put your laundry over there, Taïga,’ he says, pointing to the overflowing laundry basket and pulling out his earphones.
‘How did you know it was me?’
‘But… I haven’t put on perfume since this morning.’ She pulls on the turtle neck and sniffs, suddenly scared that she reeks of sweat.
Derek is leaning against the washing machine, watching her. He raises an eyebrow. ‘I guess your things are soaked in perfume then. Could you give me a hand? I don’t know if I can mix all this…’
Taïga glances at the heap of dirty clothes. ‘There’s definitely a risk everything will turn pink… Don’t you like it? My perfume?’
Derek glances at his feet a brief instant, before raising his impossibly blue eyes, looking up at her. ‘Like it?’ God. I love it…
Then he smiles one of his rare smiles and his face lights up. Taïga stares at his white teeth as if she discovered them for the first time, recording every detail. His left front tooth is slightly asymmetrical, but that’s only adding charm to his attractive smile. She can feel herself blush, so she looks away, busying herself with the laundry.
‘Yeah. I guess I like it. I don’t recognize the fragrance, but I can tell you what’s in it.’
‘Every single ingredient?’
‘Every single ingredient.’ He answers cockily.
She comes closer. ‘Let’s play a game. If you win I’ll take over your laundry service – if you lose… You’ll take mine. Deal?’
‘OK. Now close your eyes and concentrate on my perfume.’ Taïga makes the most of the fact that his eyes are closed. Finally she can study his face and she takes in every detail; the long dark lashes, the eternal frown between his eyebrows, the straight nose… his mouth with the peaked Cupid ’s bow and slightly plumper lower lip which makes her want to kiss it. She wonders what it would feel like, sucking on it, biting it… She swallows, willing such thoughts away, but her eyes stray.
Derek sniffs the air. ‘Let me guess… It’s smells powdery and sweet… there’s vanilla and flowers…’
He swallows as he can sense her approaching. His nostrils analyzes the fragrance of her perfume mingling with the intoxicating cocktail of emotions wafting from her skin, conjuring up the vision of her half-naked in the showers this morning. Think about baseball! Or football! Anything but her body or you’ll make a fool of yourself…
‘Bergamot… Err… Iris, jasmine.’ He inhales deeply. ‘… and roses and…’ He expires slowly. She smells heavenly… good God. ‘… something I don’t recognize.’ He says curtly, shaking his head as if to clear it. ‘Oh, it’s probably something French.’
Taïga smiles to herself, she has no clue what’s in her perfume, but she enjoys the game and the effect she has on him makes her bold. Leaning forward, she whispers in his ear, ‘Shalimar… And you lost, by the way…’
The light sensation of her breasts against his chest, her hair brushing against his cheek and her whispering breath tickling his ear, triggers something deep inside him he can’t control.
‘Don’t,’ he gasps grabbing her wrists and holding her at a distance.
She gazes up at him with green eyes like dark forest lakes, brimming with desire, and bites her moist lip. With a low growl, he nestles his right hand in her hair and tilts her head backwards. Violently he takes possession of her lips but she kisses him back as fiercely. This moment is what she has waited for, what her existence is all about. Her whole body seems to be on fire and she can’t get enough of his lips. Her hands finds his neck, his hair and moaning she pulls him harder against her.
They stagger backwards until the cool, tiled wall prevents them from falling. Derek stares down at her, gasping for breath, his ice-blue eyes dark with passion. But seeing her tear filled eyes looking up at him through wisps of dark hair makes him come to his senses.
Abruptly he releases her, swearing, ‘Fuck!’ He smashes his fist violently into the wall. ‘Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!’
His breathing is jerky and he stares wildly at a gasping Taïga.
‘Don’t play with me, little girl,’ he pants. And he’s out of the laundry room, the door crashing shut behind him.
Taïga slumps trembling to the floor. She closes her eyes and rests her burning cheek against the cool wall tiles, trying to regulate her short and cramped breathing. Salty tears start rolling down her cheeks and she touches her bruised lips in wonder.
Why did he stop? Did she do something wrong? The turmoil of her feelings throws her from the bliss of his touch to the confusing feeling of reject and back again, taking her on a rollercoaster of feelings.
I hate him! Her palm slams into the hard floor, again and again, in rhythm with her thoughts. Why. Did. He. Stop. Kissing. Me? I hate him!
Derek is once again at the mercy of the Lycan curse and he has tog get away before it’s too late. He almost shifted in front of her. He’d never lost control like that before – not since she scared the wits out of him controlling the leaves so many years ago…
In a panic, Derek runs over the frozen fields heading for the reassuring shelter of the forest. His vision grows sharper for each pace, he can hear the smaller animals scurrying away for shelter as he advances, his already fast pace growing into a lose loop as he shifts in his stride.
Taïga doesn’t feel like painting that evening. She wants to show Derek she’s not a kid anymore, and turns her drawers upside down in search for something grown up to wear. And sexy.
Yes! Sexy would do just fine, thank you. She hesitates when her hand touches something cold and soft at the bottom of her drawer. It’s the short leather waistcoat Linn gave her for IDC’s first concert but she didn’t have the guts to wear. Tonight she will, though. She settles for her usual cut-off jeans shorts and over-the-knee socks to create her rock star look, and leaves before she has the time to change her mind. She draws her breath before entering the large living room. Darn it, as Granny would say.
‘What are you waiting for? OhmyGod, what are you wearing? We’re watching an old Cary Grant film, not going clubbing.’ Elspeth’s cold voice behind her makes her regret her choice of outfit, but it’s too late now. She steps into the room in Elspeth’s wake.
She feels self-conscious entering the living room, but is relieved when she can’t see Lil Bling. VJ and Teddy whistles, and Jupiter catcalls, boosting her self-confidence a little.
Elspeth snorts, hurrying to the couch where an exhausted Derek lies, his legs propped on Teddy’s knees.
‘Come and sit here!’ Teddy gestures to the floor at his feet, next to Jupiter. ‘The film is about to start.’
Graciously she sits down, right in front of Derek, who doesn’t even open his eyes to acknowledge her. She knows he’s looking at her, though, her prickling skin doesn’t lie. His hand brushes against her bare shoulder by mistake, making her shiver with pleasure. She can hear him draw his breath behind her and she closes her eyes, leaning in towards his touch, but to her disappointment he removes his hand.
The film is utterly boring, and Teddy and Jupiter soon gives up trying to feign interest. They leave to play table tennis in the basement.
Before long she can hear Derek’s breathing become regular as he falls asleep on the couch behind her. She stays in the living room until the end of the film, watching it with the others mostly because there’s nothing else to do… and because of Derek.
‘C’mon, wake up, Der… They have all left… There’s only the two of us…’ Taïga whispers suggestively and he can feel the warmth of her breath against his lips. But when he avidly turns his head towards her, ready for her kiss, she withdraws and lies down beside him.
Oh my God… This can’t be real. He straddles her, pinning her wrists to the couch, taking command. Her chest is heaving and she moans softly when he lets his tongue trail from her cleavage and upwards.
‘I’m happy you’re not wearing a polo neck sweater, as usual,’ he mumbles, languidly kissing the milky skin of her bare breast.
She gasps, wantonly heaving her chest up towards him, her body begging for his touch, ‘Don’t talk…’
He nibbles and licks and sucks his way up her neck. Listening to her moaning response makes him shiver with pleasure, encouraging him to continue. He can feel her wriggle and squirm under him, urging him on… His own excitement is rapidly building up a pressure the like he’s never felt before. There’s no turning back now. Groaning he presses his throbbing hard-on against her hips, being rewarded by a gasp and her body’s instinctive response. Her hips rub against him, and when she wraps her legs over his back he’s suddenly prisoner of her desire. Did she really whisper “yes”? The hell with everything. He will take her here and now, on the couch…
‘Taïga…’ he moans as his lips finally finds hers and…
‘Hey! Wake up!’ Teddy shakes Derek’s shoulder, grinning. ‘Sounded like you had a really nice dream, bro.’
Sleepily Derek looks around the empty living room. He can still smell her perfume, taste her on his lips, feel her eager body beneath him…
He fixes his steely gaze on his grinning brother. ‘Go to hell!’
Derek takes a long shower, not turning the cold water off before it has turned his body and his mind numb enough for him to be able to find sleep again.
Part II – End of Chapter 04