“What was that?”
“What was what, Ray?”
“That...thing. That noise thing. Kinda grunty-like.”
Ray watched as Fraser scratched his chin, about the only part of his skin exposed to the freezing air. “Perhaps it was the ice cracking. It can sound as if it’s groaning, as it begins to pull--”
“No, more like a growling, grunting, animal-thingy noise.” Ray shivered, pulling his parka closer.
“Well, Ray,” Fraser said in a reasonable voice, handing him a cup of cocoa, “I suppose it might be a bear, though it’s highly unlikely at this time of year. Most bears are safely ensconced in their dens by now.”
“Den, shmen, Fraser. Isn’t it too early for that? It’s only October.”
“Well, it’s November tomorrow.” Fraser looked up at the sky. “Actually, it will be November in about an hour, I would guess.”
“November.” Ray looked at the stars, wondering yet again how his friend could tell time just by looking at them, or by sniffing a snowdrift, or whatever magic he routinely used.
There it is again. Closer.
Ray jumped, the spilling cocoa melting the ice at his feet. “You heard that, right? I mean you couldn’t not hear it!”
“I’m afraid not, Ray.”
“You didn’t hear that low growling noise? You, Mr. Bat-Ears, didn’t hear that?”
“No, Ray, I’m sorry, I didn’t. Please relax.”
Ray jumped up, turning around swiftly, peering into the darkness. “I can’t believe you didn’t--”
“Shit!” Ray’s face was bloodless in the light of the full moon. “Christ! It sounds like it’s right here in the camp.”
“Calm down, calm yourself. Perhaps it’s Dief, or the other dogs--”
“No, Fraser! Dief is right here by my feet and it’s not coming from him. And the dogs are in the other direction. Jesus, Fraser, it was coming from right behind you, right near you, how come you didn’t hear it?” Ray shook, his arms wrapped around himself, but the coldness was in his bones now. His heart echoed in his ears, a relentless bass drum pounding with terror.
Fraser was on his feet now, mittened hands reaching to still Ray’s shaking body. “Ray. Ray. Ray!” Ray’s frightened eyes came up. “For heaven’s sake, Ray, it’s just your imagination. All the emptiness is wearing on you.”
Fraser’s eyes were kind, warm, concerned, and Ray began to feel a gentle relief course through him. “It’s not, Fraser,” he whispered, hating the whiny sound in his voice. “I swear I heard something. Something big. Something hungry.”
“Shhh. Come here.” Slowly, as if gentling a wild animal, Fraser drew him close, pulled him down onto the ground, and into the sleeping bags he had zipped together earlier. A warm lassitude began to creep through Ray’s body. Fraser meant warmth. Fraser meant safety. “Relax. I’m here, Ray. Don’t worry.”
“Good,” Fraser said, his eyes feasting on Ray’s face in a way Ray had never noticed before.
He shivered again, but this time with desire. Man oh man, this is my favorite fantasy, the recurring dream that woke him up stuck to the sheets at night. Fraser was pulling him close, now, burying his face in his neck, and Ray felt a tingle go through him. Okay, sure, I imagined it, the animal noise. The mind can play tricks on you, out here in the empty Northwest Areas. A hint of a smile played on his lips. “Thanks, Frase.”
“Y’r welcome.” Fraser’s lips were on his neck. Oh, yes.
“I really did think I heard something.”
“I know. And, in truth, there are strange things out here, Ray.”
Those lips were moving now, and so was Fraser’s tongue. The shiver was in Ray’s balls and he felt himself go hard. Oh, yeah, this is what I dream of, night after night.
“Just as long as it’s not big and hungry.”
“Oh, it’s not big,” Fraser growled, mouthing Ray’s Adam’s apple. “But it’s certainly hungry.”
Ray barely felt the first incisor enter his flesh. By the time he registered pain, Fraser had ripped out his throat...
“Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray. RAY!”
Hands. Hands holding him down, while Fraser’s teeth shredded his body--
“Jesus! Jesus H. Fucking Christ, holy shit!” Ray bolted upright, shoving Fraser’s greater weight off him.
“Ray! Are you all right?”
Ray blinked. The Mountie’s face was close and he rolled away, still terrified. His legs caught in something, some kind of fabric. Have to escape! Get away!
“Ray, for heaven’s sake, calm down! You were having a nightmare.”
A nightmare? Ray stopped moving, but continued to hyperventilate. “Jesus. God. Fraser.”
“That’s right.” A big warm hand was on his shoulder, stilling him.
“Jesus, Fraser. Whoa. Man. That was a doozy.”
Fraser’s face split into a rueful grin. “So I gathered."
"We were on some sort of camping trip, or expedition or something loony. Up there in the Northwest Areas. Sheesh. Like I would do that."
"Territories, Ray. Are you cold?”
Ray opened his eyes fully and looked around. Outside. Cold. But not the freezing ice of the Arctic, just a typically chilly autumn night in Chicago. And when he looked up, he couldn’t see stars, just darkness lightened by the haze of lights from the skyscrapers.
Oh, yeah. Right.
Ray shook his head, trying to dispel the cobwebs that remained. “Fraser, this is the last time I let you make me camp out in the park.”
“All right, Ray.”
“And I definitely will never listen to another ghost story from you.”
“All right, Ray.”
“And I especially am never spending Halloween with you again.”
“All right, Ray.”
Fraser smiled at him, a warmly seductive smile, and Ray thought, okay, maybe I will again, some time, if that smile means what I think it means.
“I think you should try lying down again,” Fraser said, and his voice was as warm as the smile. “Over here, near me.”
Oh, yeah, that definitely means what I think it means. Ray straightened out the sleeping bag and stretched out with a sigh. His eyes stayed open, watching Fraser, as the other man inched his own sleeping bag closer. Fraser’s eyes met his, warmed and darkened with a hint of desire.
Ray shivered. This is what I’ve been dreaming of, night after night.
“All right now, Ray?”
“Oh yeah. Snug as a bug in a rug, Fraser.”
“Good.” Fraser was nearly on top of him. Funny, that a guy who blushes at saying the word “sex” looks like he’s about to ravish me right here in a public park.
“Yes, Ray.” Fraser’s face was over his, and his hand was on Ray’s shoulder.
“If I was in danger, would you protect me?”
“I always try to, Ray. As you do for me.”
“No, I mean. . .okay, this sounds dopey, but, I mean, if there really were monsters and vampires and stuff...”
Fraser didn’t laugh, which made Ray love him more. “Of course, Ray. I wouldn’t let them get you.”
His face came closer, and Ray closed his eyes at the feel of Fraser’s lips on his neck. Yes. Finally.
“Thanks for not laughing. I mean, I know there aren’t really things like that. Oh, yeah, right there, Frase.”
Warm lips nibbled across his throat, toyed with his earlobe. A swipe of tongue drew gooseflesh. His erection throbbed.
“Oh, there are things out there, all right, Ray,” Fraser’s voice whispered huskily against his ear. “But I won’t let them get you.”
“Thanks,” Ray moaned.
“Because you’re mine.”
By the time Ray registered pain, Fraser had ripped out his throat...