“I've got to get out of these clothes—fast.”
Startled out of my thoughts, I turned to my husband, unsure of what I'd just heard. “I—I'm sorry?”
“Sydney, please. Look.” He pointed upward, and then I saw what was causing his distress. The clouds, which had obscured the night sky up until now had dissolved, revealing an indigo expanse full of stars and a perfect full moon that was giving the streetlights a run for their money.
“That's not helpful, love, “ Walter groaned. Looking up at him, I could see clearly how agitated he was. The early Spring evening was chilly, but he was sweating. His eyes were full of panic, darting from side to side, and in one agitated motion he pulled off his silk tie, and sent it flying into the wind. I took a deep breath, and refrained, somehow from cursing again.
Even though I'd known of his condition before we were married and had accepted it without question, I was beginning to understand some of the occupational hazards that went along with being a werewolf's life mate. Apparently, it was time for another lesson.
There hadn't been much of a problem before this. During the first four months of our marriage, Walter had been living in his family home in Tennessee, a huge house that was surrounded by acres of forest preserve. When the full moon rose each month, Walter would shift, and while I missed his company at home and in bed that night, I knew when I awoke the next morning, he would be sleeping soundly beside me, safe.
Those same assurances didn't apply right now.
Not on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at nine o'clock on a Friday night. My mind racing, I blurted out, "How is this happening, didn't we look at the calendar before--" I stopped, seeing his expression, and feeling more than a little guilty about how accusatory I sounded.
"I know," he admitted, "one of us should have noticed, but we were too wrapped up in planning this trip we didn't make note of the time…"
"Of the month!" I finished for him. We both grinned at each in a way that would have been best described as sheepish, but there was no time to appreciate the irony.
Instead, I grasped at the only solution that seemed possible. We were on a busy sidewalk in NYC, and the streets were teaming with--
“Cabs!” I exclaimed. “We'll just call a cab and go back to the hotel, and--”
This time he squeezed my hand so hard, I winced. “There's not enough time!” His voice had already deepened, and that last word sounded more like a growl than an exact verbalization.
“So what do we do?”
“The only thing we can do.” He wrapped an arm around me and almost dragged me down the next few blocks until we stood in front of an entrance to Central Park.
“Seriously?” I asked him.
He nodded. “Do you trust me?”
I thought then, of our relationship, the things that had happened to us in the past year and a half, of the obstacles that had been overcome, and the love that we shared.
I turned to him and wrapped my arms around his neck. “Always," I whispered, kissing him briefly.
His smile, a little more toothy than usual, gleamed in the darkness.
Without another word, we entered the park, and headed for one of the walking paths. When we were in the middle, sufficiently surrounded by trees and bushes on either side, we stopped. He handed me his glasses and overcoat. “Hold these, please.”
“What about your suit ?”
“We're in New York, Sydney. We can replace them tomorrow. After all, you did want to do some shopping, didn't you?” He grinned, and then before I could respond, he bounded off the path and into the urban forest.
I stood there in the darkness, trying to control my trembling as sounds of rustling, groaning and growling emanated from the trees. Although I'd seen Walter shift many times, the process still frightened me, and I was tempted to help, despite how dangerous I knew it was.
A few minutes later the bushes along the side of the path moved, and my husband, in wolf form, emerged. Even though I'd seen him like this before, it still took my breath away. He was, to put it bluntly, a beautiful animal, with golden gray fur and dark blue eyes, slightly larger than an average husky or malamute. In short, he was a dog to be reckoned with, and I knew no muggers or rapists would approach as long as he was by my side.
He ambled over to me and nudged my hand with his nose, and together we proceeded down the path. It wasn't exactly the romantic stroll I'd hoped for, but honestly, it was strangely comfortable.
An hour later we were back at our hotel. I opened the door to our suite and Walter padded into the bathroom. There was some rustling and low groaning and then I heard the shower come on. Fifteen minutes passed, and Walter emerged, human again, wearing a plush navy blue bathrobe with the hotel crest on the pocket. His hair was wet, he was scruffy, and he looked exhausted.
I walked over and handed him his glasses which he put on immediately. “You need to rest now," I told him, taking his hand and leading him over to the bed. He sank down on it gratefully, and I lay down next to him, sighing as he pulled me into his arms.
“I'm sorry--” he began, but I put a finger to his lips.
“No need.” A thought hit me, and I giggled.
“Nothing, I was just imagining the look on some homeless man's face, when while searching for cans, he discovers a new Armani suit among all the bottles, and other debris.”
Walter chuckled. “I am, among other things, a humanitarian.” Then, he kissed me.