Howliday Christmas Eve greetings, shapeshifter lovers.
I hope to have a New Year's Eve surprise for everyone soon.
Meanwhile, here's the fourth installment starring Drey, the wolf rancher, and Korinne, who has escaped to the Montana wilds after her ex-husband stole her most of her wealth.
Why All the Snow Animals in Talbot's Peak
Drey wanted to leap and bound like a young cub after a butterfly, and say he'd find a reindeer herd tomorrow. The wisdom of his years prevailed, though. Korinne needed time to adjust to him, to the idea that he was serious about bringing reindeer to his ranch.
"Why not?" he answered her question. "I'll do some research. Find out what's possible."
Korinne's eyes glimmered with a mustard seed's worth of hope, to his eye, before she averted her gaze. She placed her bowl on a small, rough-hewn table beside the rocker, then hugged herself. "I know where Jingle's relatives are. I kept track over the years. Once Dad became housebound... and I... well, he gave them to a wonderful family in Wisconsin. They raise Christmas trees, and are fairly isolated. Although, they do give sleigh rides in the town closest to them."
"Once this snowstorm eases off, and I get back to the ranch, I'll give them a holler." Watching from his peripheral vision, Drey saw her wan tiny smile. He deliberately eased his posture, and finished off the stew and cornbread.
"That would be like a Christmas miracle," she softly replied, picking up her bowl. "I have a question for you."
Drey set his bowl to the side, glad for the opportunity to gaze full-on at her face, beautiful despite the fine lines of stress. "I might have your answer," he drawled teasingly.
"You might." Her glance pinned him for a moment. "Why all the snow animals in Talbot's Peak? I mean when I was in town the other day, the yards were littered with all kinds of animals built out of snow... instead of snowmen. Especially wolves," she added.
"Seems like birds of feather flock together, meaning lots of us who care about animals, domestic and the wild ones, have moved to the area over the years." Studying her expression, Drey continued, "Lots of wolf sightings around here. The big cats, too."
"Can't say I've seen that many sightings of wild critters. Except for birds and the usual, like raccoons and rabbits." Korinne gave a little shake of her head, her long braid sinuous against her flannel-covered breast. "Of course, I stay close to the cabin. And usually have a fire going."
Drey debated with himself whether he should take the conversation farther on down the trail... about him being a wolf shifter and all. "'Round here we let nature take it's course, for the most part. We only hunt for food. Now if there's a rogue, a killer, then we ain't got no choice. Happens rarely, though."
Korinne eyed him, and her mouth tipped upward in a quick smile. "At least, there hasn't been a starving pack of wolves at my door... or coyotes," she offered, referencing their prior conversation. "I have seen a few coyotes, and their tracks."
Dang those Vance brothers. He had competition. Drey kept his grimace to himself.
Zip and Zap, as they were known, were coyote shifters. They'd wrangled a regular gig crooning old-timey and popular western tunes at the Pleasure Club in the recently added cowboy bar and dance club. The one sorta modeled after that John Travolta movie. What was what it... "Urban Cowboy"... damn their moth-eaten hides!
"Yep, lots of coyotes been movin' in lately. Seems as though there's enough room for them and the wolf packs." To lighten the mood, and find out more about Korinne, Drey asked, "What was your favorite snow animal?"
"Well, there was a reindeer obviously made by younger children. They'd put Christmas bulbs on the antlers." Her face took on a lovely shine, her gaze far away as she remembered. "I have to say I was impressed with the creativity. Especially the squirrel in front of the mayor's office." She paused. "I don't know about one favorite. The unicorn was beautiful. And one of the wolves looked so real, I looked twice just to make certain. Then, there were the werewolf ice sculptures. You know close to that dog bowl fountain."
"Yep," Drey poked at the roaring fire, then tossed in a couple of smaller logs. "That's become an annual tradition. Mid January we have a contest for the best shapeshifting ice sculptures. Used to be only werewolves."
"Not to offend anyone, but Talbot's Peak does have an eccentric population. Quite a change from my neck of the woods."
Drey watched Korinne stretch, but only minimally, given she was too aware of his presence. The wild urge to wrap his arms around her, his entire body around her, then carry her... he mentally bit that savage desire hard, stopping the fantasy.
"Eccentric is one way of puttin' it, Korinne. Some say a lot of high strangeness is goin' on. Ever been interested in the paranormal?"
"Who isn't these days?" Korinne quirked a brow. Rising, she moved to the window, and Drey couldn't take his wolf stare off her hips. "It seems as if the whole world has gone fast and furious, including the snow," she tossed over her shoulder.
"Montana has been gettin' dumped on pretty good this year. Wasn't expectin' this much, though." Drey spoke true. He'd figured now was the time to check on her. Then again, he silently howled a big ole thank you to fate.
"How about some hot chocolate?" she began, spinning on the heels of her faux-fur boots. Drey watched her expression transform -- her body still. "Wow... talk about high strangeness. I'm recalling this dream I had."
"Dream?" he asked, sensing it was more than just a regular dream.
"Explaining dreams is always difficult. And takes forever."
"Looks like we got lots of time." Drey lifted the fire poker, and made a show of tending the flames so they fed on the logs more efficiently.
He heard Korinne's soft slow steps as she returned to her rocking chair, and sat. "It began as a dream about Jingle. We were off on all sorts of wonderful but odd adventures. Then... there was this other reindeer who knew Jingle. She was paler in color, taller... as if she'd stepped out of a Christmas fantasy story."
"Like she belonged to a different realm?" Drey asked, his gaze now glued on Korinne's face. She didn't see him, given she was utterly immersed in visually seeing her dream again.
"You could say that. She came to me after I promised I wouldn't hurt her. I was petting her muzzle, admiring her... when suddenly she morphed into a woman. A beautiful woman, of course... she looked somewhat like an American Indian yet alien, too. Or like a character from a fantasy. Her skin was luminous, unlike human skin... her eyes were so similar to the reindeer's. Her coloring similar too."
Inside, Drey celebrated. Korinne's spiritual guides wanted her to know about shapeshifters. That much was real darn clear. "Anything happen after that?" he asked after some moments passed.
"Yes... but I don't remember that part. Just the good sensations." Korinne deflated before his eyes. She nestled deep into the back cushion of her rocker, sadness owning every line of her body.
"Make a good book," Drey spoke in the silence. "Have you ever written a story?"
She sighed, a sound that tore at his heart. "Used to. When I was at college, I wrote nonstop. It was a passion. Nothing ever came of it, though. As far as being published."
"Times have changed. You can publish whatever you want." Drey drew in a breath, and raced ahead. "Long ago, I worked in the movies, Korinne. Mostly as a stuntman. But I know a bit about scripts, and such."
She eyed him, her speculative gaze piercing him. "Stuntman, huh?"
"Yep. I'll put on a show for you... ridin' and ropin'... one of these days." Drey damn well hoped he'd putting on a show for her. In bed. Out of bed. Anywhere she wanted. Anything she wanted.
Have a Magickal Holiday Season...
Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance