Happy Halloween! Welcome to Juniper's House. Last Halloween I promised my blog hop winner she'd be a character in a story. So here's Cathy MacDonald in...
WEREWOLVES DO IT WILD
“I won’t be a stupid ghost! I won’t, I won’t!”
Cathy MacDonald gave up with one final eye roll of frustration. Of course her obstinate son Dylan would turn down the easiest costume, the one she’d already made in the five minutes between work and Trick or Treating.
“Fine, then. Pick something else. But make it quick. Kids are already hitting the streets.”
Dylan uncurled himself from his facedown sprawl on his bed. “I’ll be a…” His glance zeroed in on his favorite stuffed animal, the one he’d slept with every night since the age of two. “Panther. A black one.”
“I do believe they’re all black, except for that goofy pink one,” Cathy murmured, mentally calculating the time it would take to stuff a black stocking with newspaper to make a tail. At least he hadn’t chosen something really complicated, like Picachu or Angry Birds Rio. “Get your black jeans and black sweater. Whiskers, ears…piece of cake.”
She wanted to say, “Good choice,” but was afraid that might make him change his mind. He’d been so difficult lately, not her normal sweet-natured boy at all.
“Thanks, Mom.” He smiled, a brief flash of his old self.
Minutes later, completed tail in hand, she hurried into the kitchen. Dylan, all in black, had the refrigerator open and was glugging milk straight from the carton. “Dylan! You know better than that!”
Dylan raised his head quickly, giving her a shock. The pupils of his normally green eyes were so dilated they looked black.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you, honey.”
“That’s okay.” He put the carton back in the fridge. “Sorry, Mom.” But he didn’t look sorry. He looked annoyed.
“Turn around, I’ll pin this to your butt. Then I’ll draw you some whiskers with my eye pencil.”
“I don’t need whiskers. I’m not five.”
“Eight year old panthers don’t have whiskers?”
“Okay, whatever. But what are you going to be, Mom?”
She drew whiskers on herself. “A panther’s mom, of course.”
They joined the kids and parents roaming the neighborhood amid gusts of wind and swirling autumn leaves. At the first house, the woman who answered the door smiled down at Dylan.
“What are you, young man?”
Dylan made his hands into claws and roared. Cathy stepped back and put a hand to her throat. She’d never heard a sound quite like that come out of her son’s mouth.
“He’s a panther,” she said, when she could. “And I’m a panther’s mom.”
“I see.” Shakily, the woman tossed him a granola bar. Dylan caught it in the wink of an eye, gave it a scornful glance, and turned away.
“Thank you.” He snarled over his shoulder.
As the evening went on, and the streetlights made spooky shadows from the motley parade of costumes, Cathy became more and more shocked by her son’s behavior. He snatched the offered treats and buried them in his plastic pumpkin. He shoved other Trick or Treaters out of the way with a harsh hiss. He ignored her completely, pacing ahead of her or off to the side.
By the time they reached Mr. Gideon’s house, she was nearly in tears. Ben Gideon was Dylan’s third grade teacher and, truth to tell, Cathy had a secret crush on him, the first since Dylan's father had left them. Dark, virile, magnetic – his sex appeal wasted on a bunch of eight-year olds. He was thoughtful too; the only teacher she’d been able to approach with her concerns about Dylan, and the only one able to control him.
But why had he chosen to dress as a werewolf? She shuddered as his deep, dark eyes smiled at her from behind glued-on fur. He wore a Medieval-looking leather gherkin over bulging muscles and lots of fake black chest hair. At least, she assumed it was fake. If not, he sure was…manly. She had to admit he wore it well, with a sort of Hugh Jackman flair.
“Happy Halloween,” he growled. “Having a beastly night?”
“Yes,” Cathy said, nearly bursting into tears, until she realized he was referring to Dylan’s costume. “I…I think he’s taking his costume a little too literally.”
Ben Gideon’s sharp gaze focused on Dylan, now standing a few feet behind Cathy. Standing? More like skulking.
“Dylan,” said Gideon sharply. “Can you hear me?”
“Of course he can hear you. Whether he chooses to listen, that’s another issue.”
But Gideon ignored her. He brushed past her. Her nose prickled at the unexpected, gamey scent of wild thing. He loomed over Dylan, who crouched on the ground.
On all fours.
“Dylan. Get up,” she pleaded, mortified.
Dylan’s whole body quivered. In the light of the open door, his shadow blackened the concrete driveway. Wow. Distracted for a moment, she congratulated herself on her handiwork. Her son’s shadow looked exactly like a cat, the way the tail swished back and forth, the way his hindquarters twitched, as if he was getting ready to pounce…
And then he was leaping through the air toward Mr. Gideon’s throat, claws extended, mouth open on a long yowl.
Claws? She hadn’t given him claws. Everything went black and she crumpled to the ground.
When she woke up, she was inside Ben Gideon’s house, on his couch, and his worried dark eyes were staring into hers. “Are you all right?”
“That depends.” If everything was a weird dream, then sure. Otherwise…She glanced around the room. In the corner, a young, sleek, black panther lapped milk from a bowl. “No. No. No.”
“I’m afraid so, Cathy.”
“What? Afraid so what?” Someone needed to spell this out, because…what the fuck?
“I’ve been noticing the signs but didn’t know how to tell you. Dylan’s a…well, you can see for yourself.”
“No, I can’t.” She squeezed her eyes shut to make it true.
“I know this is hard. And strange. But you’ll get used to it. Your son’s a shifter. A were-cat. There are worse things to be, Cathy. He’ll have amazing powers, when he learns to control them. I can vouch for that."
She inched her eyes open and let his dark glance steady her. God, he was sexy. But what a time to notice that.
“And you know this because…what, you’re a werewolf?” She laughed to take the edge off the absurdity of it, all the while knowing the truth.
“You know what they say,” he said, with a devastating hint of a smile. “Werewolves do it wild.”
She stared at him. The panther finished his milk, sat on his hind legs and licked his chops. With one paw, he swiped a drop of milk off his whiskers. Dylan had never been that tidy. Then he trotted over to the couch, jumped up and curled in the nook between Cathy’s hip and the couch cushion. Contented purrs filled the air.
“My sweet boy,” whispered Cathy, touching him gently on his glossy head. The purrs doubled in volume. She smiled. The boy Dylan rarely let her cuddle him anymore.
“Now that he’s shifted for the first time, his behavior will improve, I promise. If you let me, I’ll help you both through this phase. Teach you what you need to know.”
He lifted her chin in his lightly furred hand. Intense heat radiated off his body, along with a dizzying, primal sexuality.
“It would be my honor and pleasure,” he added in a husky whisper. "I can't get you out of my mind." The promise in his eyes brought all her latent lust for this man boiling to the surface. She leaned in and their lips met. Wildfire cruised through her veins.
Whatever Ben Gideon was, she wanted him. Whatever Dylan was, she’d take care of him. She was a panther's mom, after all. Why not a werewolf's mate?
"Do werewolves really do it wild?"
"Only one way to find out."
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Have a Beastly Halloween!