Authors: Heather West
“Apples?” Tawny perked with interest.
Matt sauntered over to one of the trees and Tawny watched as he climbed expertly up into the branches, a little surprised at how enticing it was for her. She followed him and stood beneath him as he perched in the tree.
“Here’s a ripe one,” he called out, dropping a small red apple down into her hands. “And here’s another one.”
Tawny carefully studied the two little apples. “They’re tiny, aren’t they?” she noted.
“God,” Matt mused, “if I had a nickel for every time I heard that.”
Tawny looked up at the bulge in his pants with gleaming eyes. “I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard that before in your life.”
He went quiet, looking down fondly at her as he took a bite from an apple.
“Oh,” he started, his mouth still full of apple. He clambered down along the tree. “How could I forget? It’s the most important thing.”
He took Tawny’s hand again, leading her briskly up to the top of the hill. She came up behind him and leaned against a large rock, the sun warm on her back. The little creek gurgled past and Tawny gazed up along the far bank, her breath catching in her chest.
The entire hillside was covered in small orange flowers with dark spots, the bloom hanging down while the petals turned upward. Long stems protruded from the flowers, the tips covered in pollen.
“Those are tiger lilies,” Matt whispered as Tawny stared at the wall of color. “And down along the rocks on this side, ” Matt said, motioning to a sea of brilliant purple flowers, “are monkey flowers. Earlier in the spring we had the cherry trees covered in blossoms — it’s too bad you missed that.” He glanced eagerly at Tawny, then back to the hillside. “Now, I haven’t exactly brought you flowers,” he admitted, “I’ve more or less brought you to flowers. On the other hand, these will last for weeks.”
Tawny swallowed, tears swelling in her eyes. “It’s beautiful,” she breathed. “I love it. Thank you.”
Matt stepped up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. She felt his warm lips touching her ear.
“But…” Tawny hesitated, cuddling back into Matt as she stared at the short bushes of purple flowers. “Are they seriously called ‘monkey’ flowers, or are you just making that up? It sounds like a weird euphemism for something else.”
“Would I lie to you about something so important?” Matt teased.
Tawny shrugged and pushed herself from his arms with a giggle. “That would be a question for you, don’t you think?”
She ambled down along the hill toward the stream, stripping her clothes off as she went. As she reached the edge of a deep pool she looked back coyly over her shoulder to see Matt following a few yards back, his shirt off and untying his pants, with his gaze steadfast on her ass.
Tawny wiggled her hips flirtatiously and lowered herself into the icy waters. Her nipples went instantly stiff.
Once she got over the shock of the cold, Tawny dipped beneath the water and slithered to the other side of the pool. She burst out of the depths, grinning, and watched as Matt clambered, naked, into the ripples.
He started to make his way toward her, but Tawny put up her hand to stop him. “Not so fast, young man,” she ordered.
Matt hesitated, then ducked beneath the surface. Tawny could see his form in the clear water, and watched as he soaked in the cold for a moment before drifting back up. He shook his hair wildly and it fell in long, wet strands down to his shoulders.
“Okay,” Tawny grinned. “Now I want to see if your balls have shriveled up in this icy water. Get up on the bank and show me.”
Matt chuckled and swam over to where she sat while she huffed in objection. “I’ll show you plenty,” he muttered, pulling her close.
Tawny’s heart thudded with excitement as she laid one hand on his chest, gripping at his bulging muscle. With the other hand she groped under the water until she found his privates.
“Oh!” she gasped. “Well, this part isn’t shriveled, that’s for sure.” She gripped his staff and gave it a playful squeeze. She nuzzled closer into him, bending in to kiss at his chilled nipple.
Matt kissed along her face with heated tenderness. His hands roamed eagerly over her nude body, swooping up over her back and shoulders, then alighting lustfully on her breasts. She arched her back so he could touch her, struggling to keep her eyes open as the sensual craving overtook her.
Reaching both arms around Matt, Tawny pulled him in close and pressed her hungry lips to his mouth. He ran his hands slowly down over her shoulders, tickled the small of her back, and cupped her ass playfully.
Tawny pulled her face away, catching his eyes with her own. Her heart thudded as she felt his gaze dive into her soul. She shuddered, a fear swelling in her that he would see her pain, or that he would find the dark secrets she hid from even herself. Almost weightless in the water, she buoyed herself up and wrapped herself around his body, holding him firmly between her thighs, and lowered herself down over him.
Matt grunted in pleasure as he slipped within her, accepting her, loving her in spite of the darkness inside of her. She was embarrassed to have Matt watch her tearing up, but still held his gaze steadfast as she moved herself back and forth on him. As his ecstasy rose, Matt closed his eyes, leaving Tawny to watch his pleasured face as she gave herself quietly to him. She longed to pin him to the ground, his stripped body nestled in the tall grass, and ravish him until the fire that burned in the pit of her stomach was quenched.
She daydreamed, even with him already clenched in her arms, of strapping him to the bed or to a tree. The thoughts of having him helpless for her sexual assault seemed to her desperately depraved, and yet it drove her arousal to new heights. As the thought of him chained to a stoned wall, naked and vulnerable as she whipped him, forced its way into her thoughts, she shuddered in horror at her own degeneracy.
Tawny gripped him forcefully, relishing his brute strength. She rocked her body a little faster, keeping her pace loving but eager. She felt him harden within her, his breath growing hotter, his passionate grip around her tightening. The thoughts of him wriggling and crying out from her lashes enflamed her desires. But as she considered her own stripped, exposed body at his mercy, it drove her into a fiery, woozy climax, the wicked thrills fulfilling her needs even if they left her feeling a bit ill.
He groaned with need and Tawny thrust several times fast and hard to satisfy his unspoken demand, her clit still throbbing with delicious sensitivity. He grunted in relief as he lost himself entirely within her, his muscles shivering, moaning in gratified fervor.
As she held him quietly, his body lost amid enthralling satisfaction, the idea of having him tied and writhing as she tormented him with her ruthless sexual needs again passed uninvited through her mind, filling her with an uneasy giddiness. She winced, alarmed that she felt such a powerful enticement for something so disturbing, and yet the curiosity brewed, undaunted, deep within her.
She pulled away from Matt, finding her own footing as he slid out. She looked down at the icy water, sensing its brutality and embarrassed by her own dark needs.
“Maybe we should get me back into town tomorrow,” she suggested. Her voice was tight. “After all, we’re not planning to visit your mother anyway, right?”
Matt gave her a startled stare, but she refused to meet his eyes. She briefly glanced up into his face, looking sharply away each time until his gaze drifted into the distance. She kept her head low, but looked up to watch his face falling in despair.
“Of course,” he said. “Your ankle seems to be okay now, and the killer bear is not what he once was.”
Tawny scrunched her nose inquisitively, her eyes wet. “What do you mean he’s not what he once was?”
Matt grimaced, but sighed resignedly. “I just mean he’s not likely to hunt you now. We can set out first thing in the morning. By early afternoon you can have a lunch that isn’t wild meat and nuts.”
Tawny tried to offer him an apologetic smile, but he wouldn’t look at her. “I liked the nuts and meat,” she assured him. “This whole thing has been a wild, crazy adventure for me, Matt. God, I wouldn’t trade these memories for the world.”
The woods fell quiet. Matt turned away, climbing reluctantly from the water. “But I’ll probably never see you again. You really don’t know me all that well, right? Or is it more that you finally have gotten to know me and don’t like it?”
“Matt, please,” Tawny begged as she watched him get dressed again. “Look, it’s true that I don’t know you very well — we’ve practically just met. But that’s not the problem. In fact, I almost feel like we’ve known each other forever.”
Matt sat himself grimly on the grass, his eyes searching the tree tops. “What is it, then?”
“I’m discovering that I don’t really know myself — that’s what’s wrong. I’m finding out some things about me and I don’t know if I can deal with them. It’s just... I don’t know that I like who I am when I’m with you. I’m sorry.”
Matt grumbled, picking up little sticks from the grass and tossing them absently to one side.
“Hey, we didn’t plan on me moving in or anything anyway, did we?” Tawny persisted. “Wasn’t this the plan all along — you help me get back on me feet and then we go back into town when it’s safe?”
“Yes, it was,” Matt grunted. “Damn it all, I know that’s the only way we can do this. I never really thought you were going to stay here, Tawny. It’s just...”
Her heart seemed to stop beating as she watched the words freeze on his tongue. “It’s just what?” she managed to insist, her voice cracking with every word. “What is it?”
Tawny suddenly found herself longing for nothing else except to hear Matt tell her what he was thinking that very instant. Her world bent and twisted, tying itself to that one moment in time that he would say what she desperately needed to hear.
“Nothing,” he grumbled, pushing himself to his feet.
A quiet pain tore at Tawny’s soul. She stared at him in despair, her heart crumbling slowly, solemnly, into small pieces. She watched him gather her clothes for her from where she had dropped them minutes earlier with giggling excitement. She clambered awkwardly from the stream, dressing as Matt turned the other way.
The walk back to the cabin was sullen and silent. Tawny didn’t dare talk; she could only watch the grief ripping him apart. She cursed at herself, at the vile perversions that haunted her and drove icy wedges between her and Matt. She covered her mouth to stifle a sob, realizing that in less than 24 hours it would all be done.
“I’ll get us something to eat,” Matt sighed as Tawny stepped up onto the porch. “I’ll try to get us something more appetizing than wild boar. Dinner should be something special tonight.”
“Matt?” Tawny called to him. He stopped, hesitating with his back to her. “Can I come with you?”
He grimaced, pain piercing through him. He shook his head with sullen resolve. “No,” he said simply. “No, you can’t. You never will.”
“Can’t we just stop and talk about this?” Tawny pleaded. “Maybe I was too hasty. I’m just really confused, Matt. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here.”
Matt turned to her, his face glum but serene. “But you are right,” he said, managing only a hint of a reassuring smile. “That’s the thing, Tawny. You’re right and I know that. We’re too different.”
“But — are we really?” Tawny objected. “Are we really all that different that we can’t at least talk about the possibilities?”
“Yes,” Matt insisted sternly. He turned and plodded toward the trees. “Tomorrow we take you back to where you belong.”
“That’s it!” Kyle spat. He covered his mouth with his hand, trying to force himself to keep quiet. Thomas knelt next to him in the dark soil, peering between the brush. “That’s the cabin.”
Kyle could see Tawny standing on the porch, leaning over the rail, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed bitterly.
“Oh my God, what has that animal done to her?” Kyle moaned.
“She’s alive, isn’t she?” Thomas rested a calming hand on Kyle’s shoulder. But his heart thudded painfully in his chest as the fear shredded him inside.
“I don’t see the beast,” Kyle said. “He’s not around.”
“He might be out hunting,” Gary suggested.
Kyle heard one of the men pull out a handgun and rack the slide to put a round in the chamber. The sound of it sent a chill down his spine.
“Maybe we should go get her now,” Kyle urged. “If the beast’s not here, isn’t this the best time to save her?”
Thomas patted Kyle calmly. “Stay cool, Kyle. He could come back at any time. We want to be the ones with the element of surprise here.”
“But if he’s out hunting he could be gone for hours,” Kyle insisted. “Damn it, Thomas, she’s right there! We’d be gone before he knew what was going on!”
Thomas shook his head. “That’s the last thing we want right now, trust me. We know what we’re doing here.”
Kyle grumbled and shifted his weight until he was almost comfortable perched on the damp ground. The sun was drifting lower, the terror of nightfall setting in. The walk home would be in the dark.
He looked up to watch Tawny. Her shoulders were shaking with a hopeless grief, and Kyle felt his heart melting as he watched her. He longed to run to her, to let her know everything would be alright.
“There he is,” one of the men whispered, pointing to a trail across the clearing. “The damn thing is carrying a deer!”
“How did he find a deer, boys?” Thomas asked gruffly. “Haven’t you men been hunting those things out of these woods?”
“We obviously haven’t gotten them all,” Edward spoke up. “Or this one wandered in from somewhere else.”
Kyle grabbed a hold on Thomas’s sleeve. “You’ve been killing off the deer?” he gasped.
Thomas laughed. “And the elk, and any other large game we can find. We eat what we can and store as much as we have room for. We don’t want to waste anything unnecessarily, but lately we’ve had to dump most of the kills into the quarry. We’ve been trying to starve this monster out of hiding.”
“Isn’t that illegal?” Kyle exclaimed.
Thomas nodded solemnly. “We do what needs to be done, Kyle. We’re the only ones who can. Keep in mind that it’s us that are about to save that girl up there; don’t ever forget that. Understand?” His voice was tight with warning. Kyle only nodded, deciding to keep quiet.
Thomas slid the baseball bats from his shoulder and passed them quietly around. “Okay boys,” he rumbled, motioning with one hand, “it’s now or never. Don’t kill it if you don’t have to.”
Kyle followed behind, staying close to Gary, as the others raced forward. He watched Tawny’s face as they approached, a sudden terror filling her eyes as they closed in.
With a painful remorse Matt looked longingly up to Tawny as she stood on the porch. Her eyes were quietly sad, but then raised and widened in fear as she stared out at the forest behind him. It was then that he heard the first scuffing of hurried footsteps and the shallow breathing of desperate men.
Matt turned and tried to duck the first attack — a baseball bat swung at his face — but he took the brunt of it with his arm and cried out in pain. The men surrounded him quickly, punching and kicking brutally as Tawny screamed in horror. Matt dropped the deer and crumpled to the ground as he took the blunt pounding, too startled to react any other way. He felt his sore body swelling with bruised flesh, but the sound of Tawny’s screams roused an anger that crushed any fear. Against the beating, he pushed himself to his feet and began to retaliate.
“Tawny!” Kyle yelled.
But Gary hushed him. “Not yet,” he hissed.
One of the men charged back toward the woods, blood pouring from his face. Matt tossed another to the ground and he fell limp for a minute before emitting moans of pain. Edward cried out as Matt cracked his arm, and yet another of the men fell unconscious as Matt thudded him in the head.
“Holy God, he’s strong!” Kyle gasped.
Gary nodded. “We need to wait until he’s been broken down, then we can get Tawny. It’s not safe until then. The last thing we want is that monster catching up to us on our way back in the dark. We need to know he has no reason to follow us.”
Kyle swallowed his terror and took a step away.
Tawny couldn’t hear the fray anymore over her own desperate screams. The army had come from nowhere, charging at Matt with ruthless hatred, and now blood muddied the ground.
In desperate panic she grabbed a rock and ran at the attackers, but when one of the gruff men punched her in the gut she toppled hapless to the ground, forced to watch as the men brutalized Matt. Each thud of a fist on his body made her stomach sick. “Stop!” she screamed. “You’re killing him! Stop it!”
Tawny remembered where the rifle leaned against the wall inside the cabin and managed to stumble to her feet. She turned to run inside, but stopped as she heard Matt wailing out in agony. The sound of his tortured cry made every part of her freeze in numbing madness. The world collapsed in around her as she stood dumbfounded and helpless.
She turned to see the men pinning Matt to the ground, several beating him in the stomach, and one burning Matt’s hand with a cigarette lighter while three men held his arm still. “Oh Jesus!” Tawny fell to her knees, horrified by the relentless brutality. “Jesus Christ!”
Matt writhed in agony, unable to break free. Then his body convulsed and began to swell up. Tawny watched as his arms and legs enlarged, tearing through his buckskin clothes — and then grew hair.
Stunned into speechlessness, she watched as the men screeched a retreat and scattered a distance away from what had, just a moment ago, been Matt. A ferocious, haunting roar echoed out against the distant hills, and died off as the bear lurched up onto its hind legs. It swatted threateningly, then dropped to all fours, glowering at its attackers with fierce, black eyes.
Everything fell silent. Tawny could still hear a low roar in her ears — trauma from the yells and screams. She looked around at the men, a scraggly bunch with crude weapons and unkempt beards. Many were nursing wounds, while several still lay unconscious on the ground. Then she stared in confused dismay at the bear. He looked back at her, his expression falling, his hopes crumbling.
“Now,” Gary whispered into Kyle’s ear. “Move slowly, but put your arm around the girl and lead her back down along the trail.”
“By myself?” Kyle whimpered quietly.
“Yes, now!” Gary insisted.
“What if the monster kills me?”
“It’s okay,” Gary mumbled. “We have a plan B.”
“One where I don’t survive?” Kyle gasped.
“It’s the one where you fail, yes. Now move!” Gary snapped.
Matt groaned, the sound becoming a low, guttural growl, seeing Tawny’s shocked face looking back at him. He shifted back to human, standing naked, tears forming in his pleading eyes. He watched Tawny’s tender face, her disappointment and her dread. She shivered and stepped away from him.
“It’s okay,” Kyle whispered to her, his eyes fixed on Matt. He laid an arm hesitantly around her shoulders. “We need to go. Your parents are looking for you.”
Tawny let Kyle lead her off, but she couldn’t stop looking at Matt as he stood alone in the mud and stared back at her, until he vanished behind the brush and trees along the trail.
Thomas pulled the bottles of whiskey from his pack, tossing the lids to the ground and stuffing newspaper into the necks. He lit the paper on fire and threw the bottles against the cabin wall. They shattered into flaming shards that engulfed the dry logs. Matt stood motionless and watched in silence. Two large men grabbed the limp deer and hurried into the woods with it, a trickle of blood from its neck leaving a crimson trail behind.
Except for grunts of pain, the men were quiet as they marched back toward the town. As the night settled in Tawny began to shake violently. “I’m cold,” she murmured, keeping her head low and her gaze on the ground. Kyle took his coat off and wrapped it around her. It didn’t seem to help.
A long wailing roar reverberated through the forests, the sound of its tormented loneliness seeping into the world around it. Tawny stopped and turned around, her eyes searching the darkened skies behind them. There was an orange glow to the low-hanging clouds that were gathering overhead — a reflection of the flames from the cabin.
“There’s nothing back there for you,” Gary told her. “There’s nothing back there you want to be a part of. The important thing is that you’re safe now.”