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The animals had been restless all day. The chickens weren't scratching around in the dirt looking for seeds and bugs. They just sat in a tight huddle, shivering. The old Labrador retriever, Tucker, stormed back and forth in the yard. When he wasn't pacing, he was pawing at the door to be let in. Then, as soon as he was inside, he'd look out the window and whine to be let back outside. Since morning, Mike O'Toole had been plagued with an uneasy feeling that just wouldn't go away.
Could a storm be brewing? The dry desert heat had given way to a cool evening. A frigid wind whipped the tumbleweeds across the land and high into the air.
Mike chopped vegetables for soup, whistling Hotel California off-key to the radio when he heard something mewling.
Is that a dog's whimper? Tucker sat upright and alert, staring out the window. Mike glanced out into the yard but saw nothing. Then he heard it again. He turned down the radio and listened. It was a dog, he was sure of it.
He retrieved his shotgun from the gun rack and loaded it with ammunition he kept stored in the hall closet. He wasn't afraid of dogs. On the contrary, he loved them. But wild dogs were another story. Roaming the desert in marauding packs, wild dogs were fearless and fearsome. They'd been known to kill house pets and attack anyone who crossed their paths. A wounded wild dog, separated from its pack, could be vicious and unpredictable.
No, he'd shoot first and ask questions later.
In the half-light of the porch, he couldn't see a thing. He flicked the light switch on, and jumped when the bulb blew out with a snap. The wind whistled and moaned around the eves. Was that what he'dheard? No, there it was again.
It was sounding less and less like a wounded dog. He shivered as cold tendrils of fear crept down his spine. Why in the world was he so afraid? He was the one with the gun. Gun up, ready to shoot, he crept along the side of the house. There it was again. This time it sounded like it was over near the barn. Perhaps it was after the chickens. He held his breath as he listened. Although the chickens were now clucking with vigor, they weren't panicked like they would be if a coyote or dog had gotten into the pen. He was going to feel pretty stupid if there wasn't anything there. Perhaps it was just the wind howling through the eves. However, when he heard it again, the whimpering sounded louder and desperate.
He swung the gun around the corner first, then stuck his neck out to look. Still nothing. Wait, no, there was something lying against the house. He crab-stepped over and looked down.
What the hell? It wasn't the wounded dog he'd expected to see. It was a woman. Her breathing was coming in tiny gasps in between whimpers. He knelt and turned her over.
Well, he'd had one fact right. Dogs. The woman's clothing hung in tatters and she was covered in blood. She'd probably been savaged by dogs, very large dogs by the looks of it.
Damn. His cell phone was in the house, sitting on the kitchen counter.
"I'm going to leave you here for a minute so I can call an ambulance."
"No." The woman's voice was strong and vibrant, not at all like he expected for a woman in pain. "Please, no. I don't want a doctor. I just need some food and water, maybe a little sleep."
"Lady," Mike said, shaking his head. "You're all torn up. You need stitches and a rabies shot, at the very least."
"No. Please, you can take care of me. I'll be fine." The woman grabbed his arm and clung to him as if her very life depended on it. Mike was surprised at her strength. She must not be hurt as seriously as he first thought.
The sun was setting and the temperature was expected to plunge below freezing. He had to get her inside and fast. "Okay, I'll do what I can."
Leaning the shotgun against the side of the house, he bent to lift the woman. She weighed more than he'd expected for someone so small. He carried her into the house. Tucker greeted him at the door with a low growl.
"Tucker, quiet!" Mike commanded. Tucker backed away, baring his teeth. His dog never acted like this, even with strangers. Mike was puzzled but too busy to think about it.
Laying the woman on his bed, he pulled his scattered thoughts together and took stock of what he needed to do. First off, he'd have to clean her wounds and perhaps he could stitch up the worst of the tears in her flesh. But if she'd been attacked by a rabid dog...
Refusing to think about that possibility, he rummaged through cupboards and his medicine cabinet, gathering up gauze, iodine, rubbing alcohol, a needle and thread, and some leftover pain medication from when he'd hurt his knee. Then he gathered up his nerves for what he was about to do. All the while, he was calling himself an idiot. He should just call an ambulance.
He walked back into his bedroom and stood stock still. When he'd left, the woman had been curled up in a ball moaning with pain. Now? Yet, as he took in the sight that greeted him, his heart began to hammer and he felt an uncomfortable tightening of his jeans. She was on her back, one arm tucked under her head, a smile and a come hither look in her eyes.
Chills danced down Mike's spine. Had Tucker had been right to be leery of bringing her into the house? But then he made eye contact with her and his fear faded away. Hell, she was just a tiny woman and almost naked. She was only wearing a pair of black lace panties so it was obvious she had no weapons. She didn't look like she was a threat.
Mike held up the items in his hands. "I'm just going to clean you off a bit and take a look at your wounds. You look like you're feeling better." Now, that was an understatement.
Mike perched on the side of the bed and tried to make idle conversation as he wet a pad of gauze with rubbing alcohol. The woman just stared at him, making gooseflesh crawl up his arms and back. He wished he hadn't left his gun leaning against the outside of the house.
Her neck and left shoulder looked as if they had sustained the most damage as they were thickly coated with blood. He dabbed at her shoulder. "Let me know if this hurts." To his surprise, the blood came off and left smooth white skin in its wake.
A sudden thought assailed him. Perhaps this woman isn't the injured one; perhaps the blood is from her victim. Just when he was about to ask her if it was her blood, she spoke.
"It is my blood." The woman's voice was a soft, seductive caress.
"I don't understand," Mike murmured, more to himself than to her. He swiped at a bloody spot on the woman's thigh. The blood came off, again revealing no injury. "With this much blood, you have to be cut somewhere."
"I was, but now I'm not."
"Why are you here?" Mike put down the gauze. His interest in the woman waned momentarily.
"You care for sick animals. I knew I'd be safe here."
"Safe from what?"
The woman didn't answer his question. Instead, she averted her eyes and looked out the window. "It's getting dark."
"Yeah, but it'll be bright as day out there once the moon rises."
"Well, since you say you aren't injured..." Mike put down the gauze. He wanted to look everywhere except at her nearly naked body and the luscious mounds of her breasts. His cock had been uncomfortably hard since he'd started cleaning her wounds and he was now starting to have crazy thoughts of how to get his hands on her breasts. Her nipples were large and soft, but as if she could feel his thoughts, the peaks tightened and he had an almost irresistible urge to take one in his mouth, to taste her while he--
Whoa, put the brakes on that thought. He didn't even know this woman's name. As much blood as she was wearing, she could be related to the Borgias.
He reigned in his imagination and tried to grin. "I'm new in town, but I assume you live around here. I can run you home. Maybe you should shower and clean up here so you don't scare your family."
Without meaning to, his eyes took in the rest of her form. She wore an unusual navel ring, some sort of stone amulet, and his gaze fell lower, down her flat stomach to the thatch of curly dark hair peeking through the sheer lace of her thong. Thinking about exploring her sweet secrets made Mike's cock twitch.
"Yes, I will shower here." The woman smiled up at him and Mike shivered, the look in her eye reminded him of a predator sizing up its prey.
A shower had seemed like such an innocent suggestion at the time, but now, thinking of her, naked and wet, took his breath away.
"I'm Michael O'Toole, by the way."
"The Postmistress?" Mike croaked. He had seen her name on the form he'd filled out to request mail service at his house. He'd noticed the name because of its unusual spelling. With her silver blond hair, grey eyes and toned body, he would have pegged her for an aerobics instructor or model. He could not envision someone this beautiful delivering mail or selling stamps behind a counter.
"The one and only," she replied with a smile and a wink.
Where is the injured, desperate woman from a few minutes ago? However, he no longer seemed to be able to think rationally, all he could think about was touching her, tasting her, fucking her.
"So, where is the shower?" She rolled onto her hands and knees and slowly crawled off the bed. Her hips swayed and her nipples trailed a path on the bedspread. He suppressed a moan, almost feeling the hardened peaks dragging across his chest. What had this woman done to him? She hadn't drugged him, but he felt like he was in a waking dream. Mike leaned against the wall, his eyes closed, while he envisioned himself kneeling behind her, his hands parting the soft round cheeks of her buttocks while he plunged--with a conscious effort he pulled his thoughts back to the present. He had to stop thinking like that!
Trying to walk normally despite the hard-on pressed against his zipper, he hoped she didn't notice his erection. He opened the bathroom door with a flourish. "Let me get--"
She slid her arms around his neck, pulled him close, then kissed him. Her lips grazed over his, softly at first, then, she sucked his bottom one into her mouth. She ran her tongue around his lips, letting it slide deeper and deeper into his mouth until he wrapped his arms around her. She might have been a stranger, but he couldn't say no to the invitation her body was sending him.
Mike stared into her eyes as if hypnotized. He barely noticed she was undressing him with frenzied movements until the chill air hit his skin causing gooseflesh to dance up his arms and back. This can't be happening, shouldn't be happening. Her mouth trailed wet kisses down his torso, stopping to suck his nipples erect. Her hands held his arms tight against his sides and she continued her exploration past his stomach to the length of his penis. Her warm wet mouth enveloped him and her tongue explored his shaft. He knew he was oh-so-close to release with his balls pulled up tight against him. A few more wet pulls from her mouth and he would be there.
Jazmin abruptly stood up, her body trembling against him. She let go of his hands and tangled her fingers in his hair. His disappointment faded when her tongue plunged into his mouth and his cock pressed into the heat of her belly.
He slid his hands up to touch her breasts, brushing his fingers over her nipples and wanting to tease the tight buds with his fingers, mouth, and teeth, but she impatiently pushed his hands away. "No, I need you. Now," she moaned.
She turned in his arms and wiggled her ass against his throbbing cock before kneeling in front of him. She threw a sizzling look over her shoulder and Mike was convinced she'd read his mind. He fell to his knees behind her. He stroked her soft rounded bottom, and as he squeezed and parted her ass cheeks he could feel taut muscles beneath the skin. Finally, he trailed his hand lower to spread her folds. He delved his fingers into her hot wetness, spreading her fluids and savoring the anticipation of what was to come.
"Now," she growled.
He didn't have to be told twice. He drove into her. Wet and ready, her pussy gripped him tighter than he'd expected. As he moved in and out, she struggled against him, trying to keep from slipping across the slick bathroom floor. He grabbed her hips and held her tightly against him while he pounded her with frenzied urgency. She slid forward a few inches and braced herself against the shower stall. The rattle of the glass door sounded like it was about to shake off its track. He reached forward and cradled her breasts in his hands. He tugged on her nipples and she bucked against him, mewling and panting. Her back arched up into him, causing him to let go of her breasts, but he'd gotten what he needed. Her new position allowed her to take him deeper inside her and he spread her thighs so he could watch himself, slick and wet, sliding in and out of her. With a cry, he held her against him while she fought his restraint. Waves of pleasure washed over him.
As his orgasm ebbed and he became aware of his surroundings, he noticed something odd. Her skin didn't feel smooth anymore. It felt rough, like it was covered with hair. With a growing sense of horror, he opened his eyes.
The bathroom was bathed in moonlight from the one high window above the shower stall. Everything looked normal, gleaming porcelain and stainless steel. Everything, except for the woman. Her skin, if it was indeed skin, had turned to silver gray. And her head was the wrong shape. She no longer looked quite ... human.
Repulsed, Mike tried to disengage. Backing desperately, he felt like he was stuck in a vise. What is happening? Then, with a Herculean effort, he pulled free of her and fell over backward. He hoped his penis was still intact, but damn it, he was too afraid to look. Jazmin looked over her shoulder at him, her tongue lolled out of her mouth and he couldn't tear his gaze away from her long white fangs.
Gasping, he tried to breath. His chest, oh God, his chest hurt. He felt like he was dying. Maybe he was dying. Maybe he was having a heart attack. Maybe he was dead already, the chemicals in his brain causing neurons to misfire and dreams to seem real. For he knew, without a doubt, that women didn't turn into wolves. It had to be a hallucination. But, hallucination or not, he continued to back away.
With a low growl, the Jazmin-wolf turned to face him. Before she could attack, Mike slid out into the hall and slammed the bathroom door shut behind him. Shit. The lock was on the inside. Could a wolf turn the knob to open the door?
Pulling the door closed with all his weight, he struggled to stay calm and think. He braced himself against the door frame as his feet slipped and he was pulled forward. The door was opening. There had to be a way to get to his gun before the wolf got to him.
At the sound of a low growl behind him, he turned in terror and his instincts took over. He let go of the knob and dodged around the dark shadow in the hall like a quarterback going for the goal and then he ran as if his life depended on it.