(By “bad” angel I mean a guy who quit a pretty outstanding gig…as an angel, and by “sweet” wolf, I mean her name is literally “Sweetie.”
Mark tossed the meat to the front of the hole. After a moment, she poked her nose out and sniffed it. With a fast snap of her powerful jaw, she snatched it up and scooted back into the shadows before he could grab her.
“For fuck’s sake.” He shook his head. He still had angel reflexes and should have been better than this. He was smarter than this, and yet he was letting an animal get the better of him. She was winning because he refused to treat her like what she’d become.
“All right, pup,” he muttered. “You want to act like a wild dog, I’ll play along.”
The yellow-green of Sweetie’s eyes shone like beacons inside her shadowy niche. She’d stopped growling. Whether it was the meat or the sound of his voice, he didn’t know, but she seemed less agitated. He wasn’t, though. Each blink of hers marked off a few seconds of tense silence that eroded his shrinking reserve of patience.
He wanted to take her home now, and the kind gentleness of his angel days wasn’t going to serve him well. She’d always told him he was too sweet for his own good. Well, he’d lost some of that sweetness right around the time his best friend decided to disappear into the fucking woods. He felt it was half his fault for not telling her sooner that he wanted her.
He clicked his tongue at her and snapped his fingers. “Come here, girl.”
She blinked again, unmoving.
“You want me to throw kibble at you? Maybe a dead rabbit?”
She lifted her head and made a little woof sound.
“Are you kidding me?” If Sweetie-the-woman really was front and center in the brain she shared with the animal, she would have been gagging about now. She didn’t even like gamey meat. Mark needed to find a way to put her back into the driver’s seat in her head.
He clicked his tongue and kept his stare on the wolf. If the wolf was hungry, maybe the woman was, too.
There was one last piece of jerky in his pocket. He extended it to her, and this time didn’t let go. “Aren’t you hungry? You’re so skinny. Are you’re confused. You can’t remember what’s okay to hunt. You don’t want to hurt anything you’re not supposed to, right?”
“Come with me. I’ll get you something good to eat. No rabbit, but maybe a steak.”
That pulled an emphatic bark from the wolf’s throat. She eased forward and grabbed the end of the jerky between her side teeth. She tried to tug it away from him, but he held on.
“Okay, then. Steak. Maybe you’ll let me cook it a little. I’m getting better at it.” He chuckled and slowly extended his hand to touch her paw.
When she didn’t flinch, he stroked her foreleg softly and whispered encouraging words.
She inched out, nose-first, and he grabbed her around the flanks before she could pull away.
She nipped at him, letting the jerky fall, and setting her razor-sharp teeth into the wool of his coat. Her legs flailed wildly, but he held her tight and pressed his face against the fur of her neck. “It’s all right to fall apart,” he said to the woman in the wolf. “You did it, and now I’m going to put you back together. Take what you need from me.”
The wolf wouldn’t know what that meant, but the woman inside would. That woman had been depriving herself of the soothing energy she’d needed for too long, and he wasn’t even sure she’d take it from him. “Fixing” a wolf wasn’t a temporary thing. Wolves mated for life. If she accepted him, they’d be psychically and intimately tethered for the rest of their lives, and given Mark’s still-intact immortality, that’d be a very long time. He was fine with that—their needs and wants being all wrapped up in each other’s. Knowing everything about each other. Propping each other up. He’d fallen for the hope of that—of having her for a wife. It’d be a different kind of heaven than what he’d known.
He rubbed what he could reach of her matted fur and whispered, “You don’t have to understand me. Just let Sweetie out. Let me feed her and get her warm.”
She squirmed ineffectually, but the wolf’s sense of self-preservation won out. The fur-covered, shivering pile of bones in his arms shifted.
Brown pelt gave way to dirty, tan skin. The yellow in her green eyes withdrew rendering them more human and more familiar. Her dark hair fell over her face in tangled clumps that she blew away in a surprised huff as he set her bare feet onto the snowy ground.
“There you are.” He yanked off his coat and wrapped it around her shivering shoulders before picking her up. He cradled her and followed his tracks out of the woods, though he didn’t really need them. He’d followed her so much during the past six months he had nearly every inch of the forest memorized. Mark could still teleport, but holding her felt so good and he wouldn’t give up the hike for anything.
“A-angel?” came her hoarse voice against his chest.
He leapt over a fallen tree, being careful to land softly so as not to jostle the already-nervous Sweetie.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“What are you doing?”
“I should ask you the same thing. You didn’t have to do this.”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“We always have choices.”