Crying Wolf- Chapter 4: Of Wolf and Man

I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why, but I was feeling giddy. And it seemed like my lupine housemate had almost everything to do with it.

Instead of coming home right away, I stopped by the grocery store and got some spices and seasoning Talia had been asking for. As I’m doing so, a thought occurs to me. Instead of just getting ingredients so Talia can cook dinner tonight- why not just go ahead and prepare dinner for the two of us?

It would be a nice change of pace, since she’s been doing all the cooking for both of us- even if that was technically her job. That’s assuming I don’t fuck things up and produce charred, inedible garbage on my first attempt.

After perusing the meat aisle, I figured I should try something a little out of the ordinary and got a small prepackaged case of ground bison meat. This was followed up with some condiments, some of the spices Talia was asking about and adult beverages- including some alcoholic root beer on my way to the register.

The recurring thought running through my head for the rest of the afternoon was Wolves like bison meat, right?

Guess I was going to find out one way or another.

Another thought occurs to me as soon as I get home- I’m not exactly sure when Talia’s coming back from her new job. It wouldn’t make much sense to have her out there waving a sign after dark, but then again the days are getting longer.

While I have some time and I have the place to myself- plus I’m feeling a little generous- I feel as though Talia could use an addition to her wardrobe…who knows- maybe a little something that she could wear to work.

Once I fire up the outdated desktop that I sometimes sarcastically referred to as the Model T, I’m able to quickly navigate to the online store I was thinking of and was pleased to see the gift I had in mind for Talia was in stock and ready. After entering my credit card and shipping information, I shut the desktop down. It was going to take a few days for it to arrive, but I imagined she’d get a kick out of it once it did show up.

You’re not trying to buy her affections, are you…? a voice inside of me nagged. I mean, that really would be a shame after you just finished telling her that you’re NOT that kind of guy.

No- I……

I really had to think about that for a moment.

She’s really gotten her act together since she first showed up. This is my little way of encouraging her, that’s all.

If you say so…. the nagging voice replied skeptically. I mean, you already took her to that expensive salon and got her new clothes. To the casual observer, they’d think you’re showering that smart-ass little werewolf with gifts so she’ll stay with you.

My rebuttal was quick.

….and she just started a part time job to help contribute to my….our….expenses when she could’ve just as easily parked her fluffy butt on the couch all day and let me do all the work.

You didn’t seem to happy when those two guys were- nagging voice continued before I interrupted.

That’s it…..I gave you my reasons. If you still want to be skeptical, so be it. But that’s the end of this topic.

To clear my head- or rather suppress the little nagging voice of doubt in my head- I figured I should step outside.

Still pretty uncertain when exactly Talia would be coming home, I peruse the small side yard of the house. Laying on its side is a 40 gallon plastic wastebin- I used to use it to haul out recycling to the curb for pickup, but it was no longer needed once the waste removal company  started providing bins of their own. I give the insides a cursory look. Aside from some dried leaves, the inside isn’t too filthy. As I set it upright, I see the little wheeled dolly that I got a little while ago from a pile of discarded junk by the side of the road that someone left a ‘FREE’ sign next to.

Looking at the two seemingly unrelated items, I also realize that it’s been a couple of days since Talia and I were able to head to that abandoned baseball diamond for some batting practice. Tonight would be a pretty good night to try and get back into that particular routine, provided she doesn’t get back too late.

 

As it turns out, one of the big downsides of bison meat was that it was pretty lean and easy to singe if I set the burner on the cooktop too high. So after coating the pan with some vegetable oil and turning the flame way down, I got to work on prepping dinner for me and Talia.

One side was already looking a little too well done and with spatula in hand, I was attempting to flip it with about the same care and precision of a neurosurgeon at the operating table. Not only did I have to worry about the ease with which it could burn, but also little chunks of ground bison meat tearing off and sticking to the pan. After countless adjustments, it looks like I still had the burner up too high.

If it seemed like I was too worried or overthinking things, it’s because it had been awhile since I could honestly say I was expecting someone over. Even if my ‘guest’ was technically residing here already.

I let out an exasperated sigh, blowing an errant lock of dirty blond hair that was brushing up against my forehead. I was starting to second-guess my decision to have bison-burgers for dinner when I heard the door close.

“Joseph? Is that you?” I hear Talia call out from the hallway.

“No, it’s Joseph’s evil twin assuming his identity as part of an elaborate plot to steal the family inheritance!” I say loud enough for her to hear while not taking my attention off the task at hand.

“How nice of the his evil twin to make some burgers for us….” Talia says, now inside the kitchen. I still haven’t turned around.

“All part of my evil scheme to let your guard down.” I tell her as I’m finally satisfied with the burner’s temperature.

“Aha! But I’ve foiled your evil scheme already because I know that Joseph doesn’t do the cooking around here.” she says as I turn around.

Holy crap- even sweaty and fatigued, Talia still looks terrific. She’s still in her denim shorts and bikini top that I got her from the Cupid’s Quiver, wiping her brow with a little hand towel after taking a swig of water from a plastic bottle.

“Damn…..” I begin to say to her with what has to be the goofiest, shit-eating grin on my face. “Didn’t think my nefarious scheme would get found out so early. I mean- I even shaved off the goatee that all evil twins have.”

“Really?” She folds her arms.

“Yup- evil twin style guide.”

“Seriously- what’s going on?” Talia asks. It’s almost as if I’m in trouble with her now.

“Well- I decided to give you the night off and make dinner for the both of us.” I explain as I take in the sight of her

“How come?” she actually looks a little disappointed. “You’re not tired of my cooking already, are you?”

“What!? Oh….c’mon, Talia. That’s not it.”

My God- is she actually pouting because she doesn’t have to cook? I can’t believe how much cuter Talia is when she gets all pouty.

“I just wanted to congratulate you on your new job, that’s all.”

“Joseph…just because I got a day job waving a sign doesn’t mean I won’t be able to make dinner for us anymore.”

“I know, Talia….it’s just that-” I hesitate. I had to choose my words carefully if I didn’t want to sound too fawning or condescending towards her. “I’m proud of you showing some initiative. And I think initiative should be rewarded.”

She’s looking away from me now and her cheeks seem to be a little rosier than usual. I can’t tell if Talia’s blushing or the color is a lingering byproduct of being out in the sun all afternoon.

“Th-thank you.” she says quietly before sniffing the air. “What’s on the menu, anyway? I can see you’re making burgers, but I don’t smell any beef.”

“I’m using ground bison meat.”

“Really? I’ve never had that before….”

“Me neither- I guess this will be something new for the both of us.”

The more the bison-burgers cooked, the more they seemed to be at risk of falling apart, so I slid both of them out of the frying pan and put them each on a kaiser bun. Hope Talia likes hers medium rare.

I have some ketchup and spicy mustard out on the counter and as soon as I put the condiments on, I turn around to see that Talia has already wolfed down half of her burger (pardon the expression).

“How is it?” I ask , looking at my full plate and her nearly empty one.

“Mmm! Pretty good!” she said, licking the tips of the digits on her hand paws. Although the bison meat is relatively lean, there was still some grease that had apparently trickled out onto her claws that she was now cleaning off.

“You must’ve worked up an appetite on your first day.”

“Yeah….” the petite werewolf says as she roots around the fridge, pulling out a little prepackaged salad in a bag before joining me at the table. She made quick work of the other half of her burger before getting to work on her salad-in-a-bag.

While Talia nibbles at her salad, I make pretty quick work of my bison burger before the two of us excuse ourselves from the table and rinse our dishes off in the sink. As I’m drying the dishes off, I invite Talia out to the diamond to throw me some more BP for me. I wasn’t 100% sure that she’d want to go so soon after work, but she said she just needed to change before we headed out.

The wolf girl is dressed a little more conservatively as I pull the heavy duty barrel behind me with the dolly scavenged from a scrap heap. I managed to put the waste bucket onto the dolly, then load it down with my bat, a sleeve of balls and a glove. Not much in the way of ballast, but certainly enough to prevent it the bucket from rolling off on our way to and from the old little league diamond.

The large heavy plastic bucket serves another purpose. Laying the wheeled dolly down horizontally just behind where home plate is supposed to be, I can prop the barrel up where it’s leaning diagonally at almost a 45 degree angle while facing the pitcher’s mound. Not only does this mean we won’t have to scour along the backstop for pitches that I swing and miss at, but it gives Talia a rudimentary idea of where the strike zone is supposed to be.

After setting up and letting Talia knowing what was going on, she tossed me a few pitches that I made good contact with, but would’ve been easily fielded by any competent outfielder.

Still, she seems unusually quiet ever since dinner.

“Joseph?” she finally asks as she readies another pitch.

“Yeah.”

“You weren’t jealous when those two boys started talking to me earlier, were you?” she asks, letting out a little grunt as she releases the ball.

I swing and miss badly as the ball thumps around in the empty plastic bin. The wolf girl is actively trying to throw me strikes. Moreover, she’s playing dirty pool.

“Jealous? No….” I say- perhaps a little too quickly. “Something about them rubbed me the wrong way, I guess.”

“Why do you say that?” as she picks up another ball and goes into her delivery.

The little sphere with red stitches heads my way. Despite the prodigious Casey Jones-esque swing of the bat, I’m rewarded with a feeble little squibber trickling foul up the third base line.

“I dunno.” I sigh. “I guess they kind of reminded me of me when I was their age.”

“How so?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Insufferable horndog.”

Instead of picking up another ball from the sleeve out on the mound, Talia walks to where my foul ball rolled to a halt.

“You? Really?” She asks incredulously.

“Oh Jesus……to the core. I was terrible, Talia.” I chuckle. “Guess I can always blame the hormones or something at that age. But finally, someone asked how I’d like it if some guy was talking about my kid sister the same way I was talking about alot of girls my age. Kinda made me think and mellow out a little bit…”

“You have a kid sister?” Talia asked, seemingly astonished.

“Nah- it was a hypothetical question from someone I really respected at the time.” I chuckled.

“I see.” the wolf-girl seems like she’s in contemplation for a moment. “Can I tell you something, Joseph?”

Her demeanor seems pretty serious now.

“Those two boys? Honestly- their aura isn’t that different from the ones of the people who would throw garbage and stuff or yell at me when I was living on the street….I’m supposed to be nice to them for my new job, even if they don’t have a car to wash. They might have someone in their family or a classmate who does…”

“I….I understand.” I sometimes forget that Talia has such abilities like reading someone’s ‘aura’, although she really hasn’t fully explained their full extent to me, either.

“Oh….and Joseph?”

“Yeah?”

“Believe it or not, I can take care of myself. But thanks for worrying about me….” her lips are curling into a playful smirk. “….big brother.”

Another underhanded delivery from her and I whiff and miss badly. Talia’s pitch thumps around loudly in the empty plastic bin.

“Big brother?” I ask innocently.

“Don’t give me that…..” the wolf-girl playfully scolds me. “The second you drove off, those two boys were like “Whoa- looks like your brother is having a bad day“.

Upon hearing that, I find myself actively suppressing the urge to pump my fist and announce “Mission Accomplished“.

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

Another pitch. This time I connect solidly with it and watch in admiration as it soars high and deep down the right field line. It is high, but it also drifts just foul. So far, Talia is pitching a no-hitter.

It’s looking as though we’re down to our last ball when Talia readies the next pitch. I feel the bat vibrate a little and hear a rewarding ~crack!~ of northern white ash connecting with horsehide.

This is it. I can feel a triumphant grin beginning to form on my face as I’ve broken up the wolf-girl’s no-hit bid.

The grin disappears in an instant as I see the ball close in on Talia’s face. It all happens so fast- Talia defensively raises her paws, there’s a sickening ~smack!~ as the ball impacts with something soft and before I know it she’s splayed out facedown on the ground.

TALIA!?” I yell as I sprint out to the mound. Shit….I just wanted to get a little exercise and fresh air. I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen to her. My heart sinks as she lays motionless and unresponsive on the grass next to the mound.

“Talia- are you all right?” I ask.

In the blink of an eye, she springs up and is back on her feet dusting herself off with one paw. In the other paw is the baseball.

“That means you’re out, right?” she asks innocently as she holds up the ball.

I can feel my jaw drop. I go from worried about the wolf-girl’s well being to incredulity in the span of a split second.

“It does, doesn’t it?” she asks again.

I grit my teeth for a moment as she tosses the ball back to me. If I had my bat with me, I probably would’ve broken it over my knee in a fit of pique.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so rusty or because Talia’s getting better and better, but she hasn’t given up a single hit to me tonight.

And it’s beginning to get dark.

And there’s no lights at this old diamond.

“Congratulations.” I concede. “You just threw a no-hitter.”

“What do you mean?”

“You didn’t give up a hit to me. Not one.”

“Sure I did…..” Talia begins to say.

“Nope.” I begin to explain. “I made contact, all right. But those balls were either foul or could’ve been fielded on routine plays.”

“Really?” She asks- her ears perking up.

Shit- I shouldn’t have said anything. Now all of this is going to go straight to the wolf-girl’s head. However, instead of teasing or taunting me over my lackluster hitting, Talia remains quiet for a moment.

“Joseph?” she asks. “I-it wasn’t because I bit you, was it?”

Her facial expression is kind of hard to read because she’s not facing me after asking that, but I can detect hints of sorrow and shame in her eyes. Truth be told, I had largely forgotten about that until the bat would make contact with the ball- the little jolt up my arm would be felt that much more beneath the bandage placed over where she bit me.

“Nah…” A little white lie on my part. “It’s just I’ve been out of practice for awhile and you seem to be getting better.”

She flashed me a wan smile before she loped off into the outfield to gather some of the balls I had hit there. Her night vision was good enough that she probably could’ve continued tossing well into the night, but I’m only human and can’t hit what I can’t see. So we gathered up the balls, gloves and bat, tossed them into the barrel and wheeled the dolly and barrel back to the house.

I couldn’t help but notice that nobody had called the cops on us on our way back ever since Talia had come back from that mamono-only salon.

“All right- It’s not every wolf girl in the neighborhood that I would do this for….” I say to Talia after reaching into the fridge. I twist the top off the bottle of hard root beer and place it in her paw before pulling out my own bottle of beer from the fridge.

Instead of drinking it right away, Talia places the icy bottle against her forehead before letting out a content sounding “Ahhhhhhh…..”.

My beer is already open as I speak up.

“Tonight calls for a toast!” I say to the perplexed looking werewolf.

I raise my beer before she hesitantly follows my lead as our bottle gently clink together.

“To the working class.” I say before taking a pull from the bottle. “Which now includes me and you.”

The attractive wolf-girl grimaces a little shortly after taking a pull of the root beer flavored alcoholic beverage. After her first sip, she resumes using the chilled bottle as a forehead cooling apparatus.

“How come you’re in such a good mood today?” she asks.

“No reason….I guess I just am.”

She still looks perplexed.

“It’s summer, the days are warmer and longer and there’s still plenty of baseball to be played.” I continue. “Or just sit back and watch with a cold brew….”

“That’s quite a change from your mood last night.”

She has a point.

“OK….I tell you what….I’ll let you know what got me so worked up the other night.”

Talia looks at me as she sits down on one of chairs by the kitchen table while I get into one of the stools by the counter immediately in front of her. The petite wolf-girl has an eyebrow cocked.

“Yesterday at work where my truck was blocked by a picket line and when I told my bosses afterwards, they basically called me a liar.” I begin. “All in all, a shitty day, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you like that, and I’m sorry, Talia.”

There’s a pause before I continue, trying to choose my words carefully.

“And you were right….”

“About what?”

“Another woman here.” I sigh. I can’t believe I’m going to tell her this. “It was awhile ago. Her name was Adriana. She was a receptionist at this one dealership where I was getting one of the company’s trucks serviced at a few years back. One look at her and I was smitten- I thought she had the most beautiful smile, hair as black as midnight and these smoldering dark eyes.”

Talia is still looking at me.

“So…I notice she isn’t wearing a ring, and I start chatting with her about baseball while I’m waiting for the truck to be brought out of the service area. And it turns out she’s a big fan- and not like this “I like the Astros because I think their throwback uniforms are so pretty and colorful” shit- she’s  showing me these limited edition bobblehead dolls she has on her desk and telling me about her favorite players and even broadcasters from when she’s growing up. She really knows her shit. So a few days later, I invent some reason to go back to the dealership- and I work up the nerve to ask her out to a ballgame.”

“For whatever reason, she says “yes”… and I swear to God, I was floating. So we get pretty close and things seems to be going well until we decide to move in together. Now…my old job had me working long hauls where I’d be going across five or six states- and not the small ones, either. At first, she thought we were spending too much time apart with me on the road so much, but whenever I got back, Adriana didn’t seem like she was too happy to see me.”

Talia is still listening.

“So I went ahead and got a job with another outfit. I took a pay cut so I could be closer and come home to see Adriana each night. I thought that would be enough to…..to make things right with her. I even……” I can’t believe I’m going to tell Talia this. I didn’t even confide this next detail to my drinking buddies. Probably because they would’ve called me an idiot or retard- and rightfully so, given how things turned out.

“I even went out and spent about two months salary on an engagement ring for her, but the night I pick up the ring and come home, she’s waiting for me….”

Talia nods quietly to indicate I still have her attention.

“Before I can say anything, she tells me ‘we need to talk’…..” I sigh. “But this ‘talk’ we had is pretty one-sided. She’s just going through these cliché expressions about how we’ve ‘grown apart’,  she ‘needs her space’ and how we should see other people.”

“And…it occurs to me- Adriana must have been seeing someone else for awhile now.  That has to be why she seemed so disappointed once I took the other job that let me stay closer to home. So…I tell her that if she doesn’t want to be with me anymore, then she needs to pack her things and get out…..”

“Joseph- I’m sorry….” Talia begins to say.

I hold up my finger. “Ohhh….there’s more. As she’s getting her things, I figure I’ll go out for a drive to clear my head- even though I drive seven or eight hours a day at work. And…I’m just pissed at everyone and everything. I’m pissed at Adriana for breaking it off with me, I’m pissed at this new guy she must’ve been seeing behind my back all this time, but most of all, I’m pissed at myself for being stupid enough to think I could win over Adriana with an expensive ring and a sincere declaration of my love. So…without even thinking, I just grab the ring and throw it out the fucking window as I’m driving down Jefferson Boulevard in the middle of the night.”

“Wow…you must’ve been really upset.”

“Never looked back” I said, taking a pull from my beer. “So…I come home a little later and Adriana’s gone- almost like she’s had her stuff packed up and ready to go before we even were supposed to have that conversation. And……I dunno. Have you ever been to the last minor-league ballgame of the year between two teams that had no shot at making the playoffs? Everybody is going through the motions. The announcer is pretending the game matters, the players are pretending they still have a shot at getting called up to the bigs, the fans are pretending they’re happy to be there and all the ushers are just wishing everyone would go the fuck away.” I explain to Talia.

“And that’s been kind of how it’s been for me ever since Adriana left. Just….going through the motions, wondering what’s next, Y’know?” I shrug. “So…I’ve been coming home alone to an empty house ever since that night.”

“But you’re not alone….” Talia spoke up as she gently reached out and clasped her claws on my knee.

Damn it, did this girl ever know all the right things to say.

“I….I guess not.” I say hesitantly as I stare into her eyes. “But you know what they say about nice guys finishing last, right?”

“Oh Jospeh….” Talia said sweetly, not even breaking eye contact. “I always thought that just meant nice guys don’t have a problem with premature ejaculation.”

I almost spat out the beer from my mouth as I found myself laughing. It was all I could do to swallow. Talia wore her little trademark smirk and was incerdibly amused by my marginally successful attempts to NOT shoot beer out of my nose.

“Oh lordy….” I wheezed between coughs. “Damn it, Talia….can’t you see I’m trying to drink beer, You fucking smart-ass wolf?”

“Doing a piss-poor job, I should point out.” she continues.

“Talia?”

“Hmm?”

“I…I’m sorry I went off on you like that the other night.” Feeling a little bolder than usual, I gently brush the back of my hand along the scars on her cheek. “I imagine you’ve been through much worse than I have, but that doesn’t seem to keep you down.”

God help me, if the petite werewolf makes another pass at me- no matter how awkward or ill advised- I’d be powerless to resist.

“Joesph?” she asks as she gently clasps my hand. Her ears are pert and at attention.

“Yeah?”

She says nothing, but guides my hand to the top of her head as I stand up. Talia gets out of her chair as well. Even a week later, her hair is so soft, lustrous and silky- props to that Alp stylist plus whatever shampoo Talia’s been using since that appointment at the mamono salon.

She doesn’t want me to scratch her ears or pat her head. I can feel a gash under that amazingly soft hair of hers. Talia doesn’t wince or anything.

“Wh-what happened?” I ask.

“A few weeks before you and I even met, I was with my sign by a different off-ramp.” She sighed, seemingly wistful at first. “And…I….I remember it well ‘coz this nice older couple gave me a little cup of coffee and some day old doughnuts and a slip of paper with some bible verses on it earlier the same day.”

She says nothing as my hand is involuntary tracing an outline around the gash on her head.

“But anyway….right around sunset, I’m getting ready to leave and find an underpass to spend the night, and I hear a car pull up behind me. I didn’t get a good look at who it was, but someone in the car calls out to me, and the next thing I know I feel something hit me in the head as I turn around.”

I’m looking at her squarely in the eyes as she’s telling me this. I could tell if was difficult for her.

“I don’t know how long I was out for but when I came to, there was some of my blood on the pavement and a brick next to where I was laying….”

“Talia…” I try comforting her

“Who the fuck drives around with a brick in their car so they can throw it at somebody?” she laughs, only it’s a joyless, bitter sound.

“I’m sorry, Talia…..”

Shit….this must’ve been why the Alp stylist was so worried about her, since she got to see Talia’s fresh scar from what she described up close.

“So Joseph? Don’t go around thinking I could stay mad at you for very long because of something you did or said…..” the werewolf said as she slipped her arms around me and gently hugged me.”…Because I’ve seen your aura and I know you’d never hurt me like that.” she said confidently, her hand-paw absently brushing through her hair near the scar she just showed before returning to the small of my back.

She was gently rubbing her paws up and down my back, which was sending warm little shivers up my spine. Her embrace was so comfortable and enticing, and just when I was thinking I could stay like that forever, she suddenly pulls away and lets out an excited little gasp that trailed off into an adorable canine whimper. One hand-paw is curled up into a fist as she smacks it into the paw-pad of her other hand-paw.

“Joseph!” she says excitedly, as though she just thought of something.

“Yeah?”

“Where exactly did you throw the ring out?”

“Oh jeez….I….I don’t remember. Somewhere off of west Jefferson. West of the 143 interchange but before Glendale, I think.”

“What direction were you heading?”

“E-eastbound, I guess. Talia, what are you-?”

“How long ago was this?” she asks

“Had to be at least four months ago…”

“So…just after the rainy season?”

“I…I think so. Yeah- why?”

“Just curious, that’s all.” she says nonchalantly before stifling a little yawn.

“Well- it’s getting late, and both you and I have to get up for work tomorrow.” she said as she stretched, showing off her slim and lithe frame.

She was up to something no doubt, but I couldn’t figure out what right away. I’m not sure if most mamono are this hard to decipher or if it’s just Talia. Then again, she was also right about it being late.

“Can you wake me up on your way out?” she asks as she heads towards her room. “I don’t want to oversleep tomorrow.”

“Tell you what…” I call out to her as she walks away. “I’ll take a shower tonight before going to bed and you can pretty much have the bathroom to yourself in the morning.”

“Sounds good!” Talia says drowsily. “Good night…”

I make haste to the bathroom and immediately start up the shower before undressing. Making sure that the coast is clear, It’s pretty obvious that I’m still aroused from her embrace and gently caressing my back in such a gentle manner.

You shouldn’t be doing this… that nagging voice in my head announces as I step into the shower and feel the warm water coursing over me. Already, I was leaning against the tiled stall with one arm propping me up while the other began enthusiastically roaming around my member now standing fully at attention.

Grabbing a washcloth, I lather up and figure I should at least wash up while I’m so keen to have my hand roam around down there. Of course, the washing pretty quickly turns into grabbing and stroking.

Honestly, I can’t help myself.

Those ears. Those eyes. That tail. That perky little backside of hers. The little shimmy she did in short shorts and a bikini top while waving the Wooten’s sign. Even that hokey jingle she was singing with a considerable degree of gusto. All of it was making me rigid.

And between her hearing and enhanced sense of smell, the shower was the only place I could grant myself some release without her knowing. Even that that was kind of iffy.

Having abandoned the task of washing myself for the time being, I stifle a quiet groan as I finally climax, propping myself up against the tiled wall as the running water immediately sent my seed swirling down the drain. Hopefully, the water coming out of the showerhead was enough to mask the sounds of whatever noise I might have been making.

The rest of the shower was uneventful- if relaxing. However, in the back of my mind I was a little worried that Talia might’ve been able to figure out what I was up to and tease me to no end while I was trying in vain to tell her that everyone does it.

However, that scenario didn’t come to fruition. There was no sign of her when I wrapped things up- she had probably gone to sleep already. Still feeling a little guilty, I trudged off to bed and eventually drifted off to sleep myself.

The following morning, I got up early and rapped on Talia’s door on the way out, sticking my head in to let her know she requested the early wakeup call and that the bathroom was all hers this morning. She probably didn’t have to be at Wooten’s too early, but she did request the wakeup call so she could grab a bite to eat before she left. I also figured it was just good manners to stick in my head and say ‘goodbye’. I received a semi coherent “Bye” as the wolf-girl stirred under her sheets a little.

At work, the rumor going around was that the labor dispute at the warehouses normally dropped our trailers off at was pretty close to being resolved. There wasn’t a whole lot for us to do, so the management decided it would be a good time to send a few of our trucks who needed some minor recall work done to the dealership and inventory the safety gear (road flares, reflective vest, hard hat, first aid kit and emergency triangles) in the can of the remaining trucks- kinda boring, but we managed to stretch out close to a full day’s work from that particular task.

I got home at a reasonable season, but still a little later than Talia’s return home after her first day at Wooten’s.

However, despite her earlier reassurances that she’d be back in ample time to prepare dinner, I come home to an empty house.

Maybe she had to stay late for whatever reason- going over payroll or something.

A thought occurs to me, no matter how hard I try and stifle it.

She’s….gone?

No- that can’t be. She didn’t just up and leave out of the blue. Her stuff is still here. But there’s no trace of her. Come to think of it, she’s been kind of skittish and on edge lately. I’m not sure what’s going on with her. No harm in asking the next time I see her, but even if something is wrong, I think she’d be too proud to say anything to me.

Maybe I came on too strong the other night? That seems odd though, considering her earlier and rather blunt request for me to smear flaxseed oil all over her chest. Plus she ‘’did’’ break in and threaten to rape me before we had even formally introduced ourselves.

After a few moments, I notice there’s  a blinking light on the land-line phone. I don’t get too many calls on the landline, but I still kept it around just in case there was some sort of interruption with cell phone service- or use the landline to call my cellphone and find it whenever I had misplaced it.

I hit ‘Play’.

One new message” the detached robotic voice intones.

“Yeah….hey, Talia….” a somewhat gruff voice sounds off. He pronounced it TAIL-ia instead of TALL-ia, although I wasn’t sure if that was deliberate. “This is Greg over at Wooten’s. Look- I don’t mind that you took the afternoon off, but you need to give us more of a heads up when you want to take time off. We managed to get Joanna to cover your shift. Anyway….see you tomorrow.”

She ditched work? Shit….looks like my pride that particular accomplishment was somewhat misplaced. But if she wasn’t at work and she wasn’t at home, where the hell could she be?

I wasn’t too worried about her- at least right away. Just the other day she made it a point to know that she was capable of taking care of herself.

Also, dinner was weighing pretty heavily on my mind. As good as Talia’s cooking was, I guess it was time to order another pie from Pazzuri’s if she wasn’t back by sunset.

Sure enough, twilight came and went with no sign of the petite wolf-girl. Once again, I ordered a pie and sure enough the same delivery guy showed up. Geez- for a guy who supposedly had a live-in personal chef, I was seeing an awful lot of the pizza guy.

I chomped away at the pie while downing a beer and watching baseball highlights on TV- pretty light schedule. A lot of games in alot of cities had been delayed or postponed due to a massive storm system barreling in through the Midwest and stretching out to the northeast- remnants of a tropical storm or something.

All in all, the whole night was starting to remind me of the bad old days after Adriana left me. It wasn’t really ‘bad’, though- just….empty.

My heart got a little heavier with each passing hour. Shit- maybe Talia did run off. I’d be loathe to admit it in front of the werewolf, but that would rip my heart in two.

It’s almost 11:00 at night and I find myself unconsciously pacing around the kitchen with just a few cool slices of pizza still in the box to keep me company. Might was well get ready for bed….and then what, though?

What am i going to do if she’s not there in the morning? Jeez- this not knowing what happened to her is driving me crazy to the point where I think I’m hearing noises.

No….it wasn’t my imagination. There was a scratching at the door.

If it was who I thought it was, she would’ve just let herself in at some point. No point in trying to lock her out. Apparently after all this time, I hadn’t taken any of Talia’s home security tips to heart. Better to let her in now than have her break in while I’m asleep before waking me up in the middle of the night and delivering another smug and self-satisfied lecture on my lax home security practices.

I hesitate by the door.

“Joseph, c’mooooonnnnn……..let me in….” I can hear Talia pout from the other side.

I turn the doorknob and swing the door open.

There she is- jean shorts and a different bikini top. She looks a little dirtier than usual and I can see that she’s coated in a fine sheen of sweat.

“Thank you…” she says meekly as she brushes past me to get inside.

“Jesus, Talia….what the hell are you doing out at this hour? What if something happened to you?” I chide the werewolf. However, I stopped short of I was worried sick about you, even though I was pretty worried.

There’s no smart-ass rejoinder from her. No interruption. No snide comment. Not even a wagging tail. She’s remarkably quiet and her tail is limp and motionless.

“Something wrong?” I ask impatiently after several moments of expectant silence.

Damn it….those eyes. She’s looking at me like she did something wrong, but still doesn’t say anything. Finally, she moves- hesitantly pulling her paws out from her pocket. It looked like she was grabbing for something but thought better of it..

“I….I’m sorry- I didn’t mean to make you wait up for me.” she says unconvincingly. I can see that she has nothing in her hand now.

“Come on Talia- is everything okay?” I ask, hoping that my voice was able to convey enough concern while still letting her know that I wasn’t buying it.

“It’s fine- I just lost track of time.”

“What were you doing out for so long?” I’m starting to feel like an overprotective parent now.

“I just….” her tail seemed to droop a little further. “I did some window shopping and I guess I didn’t realize how late it’s getting. I would’ve tried calling you, but….you know….no phone.”

I remain unconvinced. Did she meet another guy and was off seeing him but didn’t want to say anything to me about it? That would suck, but I already spurned her advances once.

Still- no matter how hard I would press, I imagine that I would only get some evasive non-answers from her for now. Like it or not, I figured I should let it slide for tonight.

“Well, if you’re hungry there’s a couple of slices of pizza left.” I point to the Pazzuri’s pizza box on the table.

“O-o….OK” she mumbles tentatively, pulling a cold slice out and nibbling at it.

Something’s not quite right, but I halfheartedly bid her good night as I shuffle off to bed. I’ve kind of resigned myself to the fact that she’ll tell me about whatever’s bothering her when she’s good and ready and there’s no point in forcing the issue.

With the labor dispute fully resolved now, that meant I was back to working full days at work. Even with her new job at Wooten’s, Talia still got home in plenty of time to start making dinner for both of us. That one night where she was gone seemed to be an anomaly.

Soon enough we had settled into the same afternoon and early evening routine as before- come home, have dinner and go out for a walk and some batting practice at the old little league field if the weather permitted.

Shortly before the weekend rolled around, I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to take Talia to our first ballgame- a minor league affair between the Evansfield Ospreys and the Kingstown Komets. As it so happened, the Komets were still away on a road trip when I stopped by during my lunch break at work- the ballpark’s big, empty lot now served as impromptu parking for tractor trailers. And sure enough, one of the ticket windows was open, so I got a pair of tickets for the Sunday game on the left field side.

It had been awhile since I went to a ballgame- I cringe as I realize my date at the time was Adriana herself. When we went out to the old little league diamond, Talia was getting a better idea of things like fair and foul balls, the strike zone and the difference between a wild pitch or passed ball- but she hadn’t seen an actual game being played with the regulation number of players for herself.

When I returned home at my normal time, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw. things got off to a promising start when I saw that a parcel had arrived, no doubt containing my gift for Talia. A quick look at the Pennsylvania return address confirmed that.

However, things would get alot more interesting as soon as I set foot through the door. Sure enough, there was music from my old tablet playing in the kitchen. I had to say, I was quite fond of playing this very informal version of “Name That Tune“, and a few xylophone-ish synthesizer riffs later, I had the song pegged as Love My Way by the Psychedelic Furs. And I could hear Talia distractedly howling along to it as I made my way to the kitchen.

As I rounded the corner, my jaw dropped as I got a good look at Talia. As the wolf-girl was singing, she was hovering over the cooktop almost carefully eyeing something in the frying pan while wearing a white apron.

And nothing else.

Swallow all your tears, my love
And put on your new face….
You can never win or lose
If you don’t run the race…..

Yeah yeah…..
Yeah yeaaaahhhhh…

Oh Awoooooooo…..

Awhooooooooo….

She was so into it that she looked as though she was serenading whatever ingredients she was cooking up in the frying pan. Her ears twitched and she finally noticed me.

“Oh hey…” she said sheepishly. “Welcome home.”

“Hey, Talia” I ask. “What’s going on?”

“Well….since I wasn’t around to cook dinner the other night, I thought I’d make it up to you.”

Even though she had been living under the same roof as me for a little while now, I never thought this moment would come. Or if it did come, it wouldn’t be as perfect as this as I watch the petite and almost-naked werewolf moving around the kitchen on the other side of the counter from me.

Dear Penthouse Forum- I never thought it could happen to a guy like me…..

Taking the virginity of a pretty young exhibitionist werewolf who had been living on the streets a few short weeks ago….. I ponder as I begin mentally composing a letter.

“I think you’re going to like what I’m cooking up.” Talia said matter-of-factly.

“Oh?” As far as seduction went, this was much more enticing than a plaintive plea to smear flaxseed oil all over her chest. Naked apron and roleplaying as a sweet newlywed housewife? I’m on board with that….

“Yeah….I’ve been working on something a little special.”

Perhaps the hottest thing about this whole act of hers is how coy and nonchalant she sounds through it all.

“Tell me more…” I say calmly but confidently.

Sweet Jesus- Adriana never did anything like this for me. Wait- scratch that: NOBODY did anything like this for me. Ever.

“Well….” she starts off. She turns around and I can see her bushy, copper-frosted tail. Beneath that, a pair of denim shorts are hugging her pert little backside and her bikini top is-

Wait….what the hell?

She’s NOT naked under that apron after all.

Damn it. She just threw the apron on over her work clothes and I didn’t notice that until she was facing away from me.

“I figured since you had to order pizza again because I wasn’t around, I ought to make it up to you by making something extra special!” she grins before checking on something in the oven.

“Such as?” I ask, trying to conceal my disappointment at the sudden lack of naked apron werewolf housemate.

“Macaroni carbonara with parmesan and asiago!”

That actually did sound pretty good- but not as good as Talia roleplaying as the cute housewife doing the naked apron thing for hubby. She seems to notice me staring at her for the first time since I’ve returned home.

“Oh this thing?” Talia asks, tugging at her apron’s shoulder strings. “I found it hanging up in the pantry. I just didn’t want to get bacon grease splattered all over my new clothes….”

I almost forgot I had an apron- I think it saw service once or twice when I had some of my drinking buddies over for a barbecue a while ago.

“Probably don’t want it on your skin, either. Makes sense…..” I sigh dejectedly before I remember something. “Hey! Speaking of new clothes….”

I hold out the parcel before she turns down the burner on the cooktop and takes it from me, opening it up with her claws.

She pulls out a dark grey baseball jersey with a cartoon wolf wearing a bandana and eyepatch on it- an away jersey for the Erie Sea Wolves. Talia holds it up and looks at both sides.

“This is for me?” she asks.

“Yeah- my way of congratulating you on the new job. Who knows? Maybe you can bring it to work….”

“I like it! I might have to wait for it to get a little cooler before I could wear it at Wooten’s.”

“Hey…while we’re on the subject of work, you don’t have to do anything for Wooten’s on Sunday, do you?” I ask

“No- I think they close early on Sundays.”

“Good!” I say as I pull the little envelope with the baseball tickets in them out of my shirt pocket. “I got us these”

She reads the tickets.

“You’re taking me to a baseball game?” she asks, her eyes brighten a little.

“Yup!”

“Are you going to explain to me how exactly the game is played?”

“I figure there’s no better way to show you than taking you out to the old ballpark myself. Helps when there’s actually nine guys on the field.”

“You mean you and I have been playing a game meant for nine people?”

“More than that, actually- but yea. Well, more like practicing some-” I stop mid-sentence as I get a good look at the werewolf for the first time since her apron is off. Her skin is alot more pink than usual- especially around the shoulders.

“Talia? What happened?” I ask as I nod towards her.

She didn’t take long to figure out what I was referring to as she looked at each shoulder.

“I guess I got a little bit of sun on me.” she says casually.

I suddenly remember something from Talia’s first night here and excuse myself for a moment, heading to the bathroom. Sure enough, in the first aid kit that I had dug out was a small bottle of aloe that hadn’t seen the light of day for awhile.

For a change, that was exactly what I was looking for.

Talia had her apron off and was holding up her jersey against her torso when I came back.

“Turn around for a sec.” I told her.

She looked a little apprehensive, but did as I asked in a rather unexpected manner as she leaned forward with both elbows on the counter. Not only was she presenting her sunburnt back in that position, but her perky little derriere and brushy tail were sticking out, too.

Talia lets out a surprised little squeal as I apply to cool aloe to her warm flesh, starting with the shoulders, As I worked my way down her back, I could swear she’s shuddering slightly and stifling a little whimper.

Looking at her tail up close, I can see little bits of dried grass stuck in the fur. I know she’s showered since her unexplained absence, but I remember what that Alp stylist had said earlier about how it’s actually pretty tricky for wolves to maintain and groom their own tails.

It seems like she’s still trembling a little and at least trying to maintain her composure. Is she in pain? Or is it something else?

I’m wondering if it was anything like the sensation of her gently running her paw pads and claws up and down my back for her.

As I’m finishing up applying the aloe, I’m feeling a little more mischievous than usual. Throwing caution to the wind, I deliver a single, open-handed smack to Talia’s ass.

“Ah! Joseph! What are you…?” Talia yelps indignantly as she’s now standing bolt upright. The petite werewolf has turned around and is now using both hands to rub where my hand had impacted.

“That was for missing dinner the other night….” I say matter-of-factly with a twisted smile.

“Hey….You can’t just….” she starts to say, her voice a little heavier than usual before trailing off.

Talia’s looking at me with such intensity in those blue-green eyes as she’s absently rubbing her ass. I notice her breathing is more shallow- not quite panting. Her face is starting to turn red. She’s either really upset or……..aroused? Although I still don’t know much about mamono, I know by reputation that there can be alot of overlap between ‘angry’ and ‘aroused’.

The wolf-girl takes two steps closer and I’m still no closer to reading what’s on her mind. I’m convinced that the second she closes the distance, she’s either going to punch me or pin me to the floor and straddle me.

An unusually loud and shrill beeping interrupts the two of us. It’s the timer on the oven. Talia glances at the oven and rapidly turns her attention back to me before looking at the oven again- almost as though she’s shaking some cobwebs loose from her head.

Before I can get either raped or sucker-punched by the smaller werewolf, she excuses herself and heads back to the kitchen counter to grab a potholder. Almost as soon as she opens the oven’s door, a divine scent begins to waft through the kitchen.

The dish she’s working on is begging for closer inspection by yours truly- maybe even a little sample. However, as my hand reaches out, a wooden spoon darts in from out of nowhere and raps my knuckles.

“Don’t…” Talia says. “It’s not ready yet.”

“But it smells great.” I almost pout, disappointed that I didn’t get a little preview.

Talia fires up one of the other burners on the cooktop and slides something from a cutting board into another frying pan with the wooden spoon before adding some oil and stirring it. Within moments, the kitchen is filled with the pungent aroma of garlic. Taking the bacon from another frying pan, she diligently goes to work chopping the bacon into tiny bits while checking on the garlic. When she’s satisfied, she turned the burner underneath the garlic off before adding the garlic, bacon and some shredded parmesan cheese to the top of the pasta she had been keeping warm in the oven.

The finished product was nothing short of a work of art. I was used to Talia making pretty good dishes out of regular and mundane ingredients. This was something else altogether. A closer look shows that the pan of macaroni already had diced chicken breast and roasted bell pepper added, the ones towards the top a little blackened around the edges.

Using a potholder in each paw, Talia set the bowl down onto the already set table and began dishing out portions between the two of us as she wordlessly beckoned me to join her. I dug in and it was even better than I had expected. Dabbing at the corner of my lips with a napkin, I spoke up.

“Talia- where did you learn to cook like this?” I marveled.

“I just watched a few instructional videos on your tablet.” she said modestly. “I didn’t exactly follow the recipes to the letter. This….” she pointed to the hearty, rich macaroni carbonara “….actually was supposed to be used with fettuccine. I improvised a little.”

“Have you thought about doing this professionally? Like maybe going to culinary school or something?” I ask. Only after my inquiry did I realize that might’ve sounded like I was subtly attempting to show Talia the door.

“Well, not really. I mean it wasn’t too long ago that I had no idea where my next meal was going to come from. Do you like it that much?” she said before taking another bite.

I nod. Words are kind of inadequate to describe how much I’m enjoying this dish and the two of us have another helping or two, finishing the meal in relative silence.

As Talia excuses herself from the table to clear the dishes and tidy up the kitchen, I disappear to the bathroom for a moment and come back with something of hers.

The only real downside of a feast like this was that we didn’t get to eat until pretty late because preparing it was pretty labor-intensive with all the ingredients involved.

The wolf-girl used alot of pots and pans, cutting boards and dishes in preparation of this dish, but she’s more than halfway done cleaning them by the time I get back to the kitchen.

“Turn around for a sec…” I tell her.

“Joseph, so help me if you try spanking me again like those human schoolgirls in all those perverted videos on your tablet….” she starts.

“Trust me.”

To my surprise, she assumes a similar position as before and is looking at me warily over her shoulder. I walk up behind her with the item I retrieved from the bathroom and gently grab her tail.

And I proceed to brush it.

“What are you doing?” she asks. Her tone is more curiosity than annoyance.

“I’m sorry I’m not much help around the kitchen.” I tell her. “But maybe this is one of those little things I can help you out with if you want.”

She doesn’t say anything right away. Instead, the only sound in the kitchen at the moment is the brush going through her silky tail. Anyone who got a closer look could tell it had been taken good care of not too long ago, but little bits of grass and tiny twigs were already starting to appear.

Talia is still making little noises as I continue brushing.

“Joseph?” she asks apprehensively, making me think I’ve done something wrong. Neither one of us says anything for a moment, but I can hear Talia sigh happily as I continue brushing. “This feels nice- thank you.”

I smile back at the wolf girl.

“You’ve been spoiling me tonight, so I just thought I’d return the favor.”

Her ears twitch and she turns her head to face forward once again. Part of me considers tempting fate by checking to see how sensitive she is those replica runes the Alp shaved into the fur along her arms and legs. However, I uncharacteristically decide to leave well enough alone that night.

I finish up with the brush and tell her that I’m turning in early for the night. She somewhat shyly thanks me and excuses herself so that she can clean up the last of the dishes.

The longer she’s been staying here, the more we seem to fight, play, tease and bicker like an actual married couple.

But part of me was wondering if Talia saw it that way as well. I gave it a few moments thought before drifting away to sleep that night.

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