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Red in Tooth and Claw

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It is an old game, and she knows it well.

Her long, red hair streaks behind her like flickering wildfire as she runs, padding barefoot through the detritus of the forest floor. She picks out her path between the trees effortlessly. Her sharp, green eyes glisten in the last dying rays of sunset.

Her only garment is the blood red cloak that billows around her, worn thin with use. At night it is her blanket when she sleeps beneath the verdant canopy, shot through with ancient stars. In the morning it protects her from the silver dew of the forest. In the afternoon it dries her when she bathes in the streams and rivers.

It is all that remains of her past life; it is all she needs now. The rest of her clothing had turned to ash in her grandmother’s fireplace alongside her old life. It was the only thing he had ever asked of her. That was many years ago now, at their first meeting.

Her nakedness is no concern to her as she runs. Her body is lean and wild, her limbs lithe. Her small breasts are not the hindrance they had been when she first came to the woods. They had shrunk over time as the fat and comfort of the city had fallen off of her, leaving only muscle and bone and sinew behind.

She comes to a halt in a small clearing and falls to all fours, her head turning to catch the wind, palms spread wide on the damp earth. She can hear it in the silence of the forest birds; she can feel it in the soft vibrations of the ground; she can smell it in the damp wind.

He is coming. He has found her again.

Her lip curls into a half smile. As suddenly as she stopped she is gone again. Her footsteps are quick and light, almost noiseless on the forest carpet, but she knows he can hear them. To his ears they are like the thrashing of a wounded deer, heavy and unmistakable.

She comes to a stream and vaults it in one bound without hesitation. Once she would have waded through it or gone lightly from rock to rock. She knows better now than to try that feint. While it might mask her scent from him, the inevitable splashing of water would be loud as the crash of a falling tree in the silent wood. Besides, the stones are slick with moss, making the path treacherous. One wrong step could end her run.

There is a howl behind her, clear and stark in the night air. Her pace quickens. With the dexterity of long practice she leaps up onto the side of a thick oak tree and scrambles up to the lower branches. She tests her weight on a thick bough and leaps off of it, landing solidly on a similar branch of a different tree. She scurries along it and around the trunk and leaps again. For several minutes she bounds from tree to tree before sliding down once again to the ground.

Her palms are raw from grasping the rough treebark. She pauses for a moment to catch her breath, huddled beneath the giant oak, knees cradled in her arms and curled up small to avoid notice.

Her eyes strain against the liquid darkness beneath of the evening forest canopy. The darkness holds many terrors, but she does not fear them. She is one of them now.

After only a few moments she pushes herself to her feet. Her right foot pushes off against the ground, but her left foot never lands.

With a snarl, a gigantic form crashes into her, knocking the air from her lungs. They tumble together onto the grass and leaves, rolling down a shallow embankment and coming to rest near the foot of an ancient willow. She feels weight on her arms and legs, claws lightly scraping her flesh, fur brushing against her belly. She opens her eyes and stares up at the face of the thing that has caught her. A beast towering over her; a black shadow against the forest, all fierce eyes and wicked teeth glinting in the moonlight.

Her big, bad, wolf.

“Clever little monkey…” he growls through sharp teeth, “Swinging from tree to tree. You mask your trail, but slow yourself down. That will not save you.”

Her eyes sparkle as her breath returns. She smiles.

“One day I might evade you,” she says teasingly, “One night you’ll find you’ve taught me too well.”

The enormous wolf leans down and runs his wet nose along her neck, breathing deeply of her scent. He trails across her collarbone and down to her breast. The weight of his paws lifts from her arms

“Never. I would hunt you through glade and town; through mountain and meadow. I would track you across ocean and desert. I will always find you. Until the moon burns and the stars fall and the darkness devours all of creation.”

She lifts her hand and caresses his muzzle, her fingers playing through the thick fur. She stares into the fiery blackness of his eyes. His tongue finds her nipple; It laps at the sensitive flesh and she exhales.

“You swear it?” She breathes.

“I do.”

His teeth nip gently at her breast and her back arches. She feels him pressing against her insistently. From his throat a low growl emanates .

“You’ve caught your prey,” she says, “Now claim it.”

With a growl like thunder his jaws part and then closed around her throat. She gasps, but not in pain. His teeth are sharp against her tender flesh, but they do not draw blood. Not yet. He is careful with his prey. She can feel the tension in his muscles, the heat of his breath on her skin. Her nostrils flair and fill with the overwhelming scent of him, dark and deep, like the forest itself.

Her legs wrap around his canine waist, pushing her body tight against his. His cock lies flat and hard against the thick patch of crimson hair that frames her sex.

Beneath her hands, his body begins changing. Limbs contract. Fur retreats into flesh. Muscles and bones reshape themselves. She wonders, not for the first time, if the change hurts him; the rearrangement of his organs and tissues, the shifting of sinew and flesh. If it does, he shows no sign of it.

He enters her with a single stroke, still half wolf and half man. She feels his cock pierce her and shudders, her body receptive to his intrusion. With trembling hands she clasps his face, watching him become the other half of himself. He releases her throat and his black eyes stare back at her. The same eyes in a different animal.

He is still large, all muscle and power; his body dwarfs her slender frame. His midnight black hair falls long and loose over both of them. The thrusts himself into her again, pushing her violently into the cold ground. She gasps as she is filled with him. These are the moments she lives for, when the two of them are one, when she can feel the beating of his heart inside her.

His hands go to her hips and she is lifted from the ground, her legs still wrapped around him. Growling wildly he slams her against the gnarled trunk of the willow tree. She can feel the rough bark scratching blood from her back through the threadbare cloak. Red stains on red fabric. Her nails dig into the hard muscles of his arm and she draws blood for herself.

Now it is her turn to growl, the rumble building deep in her stomach and growing sharper as it moves upward. Her claws dig deeper into him and she flings her hair wildly. His thrusts are a heartbeat, rhythmic and strong.

She feels herself pulled forward and a moment later she is deposited on the dirt on all fours. Instantly he is on her, in her, once more, his strong hands holding her down as he claims her from behind in submission to primal lust.

Blinding fire washes over her, spreading warmth from her belly out through her limbs as she climaxes. He is not far behind, rutting furiously into her. She feels his seed pulsing within her as his howl rends the air. He holds himself inside of her. A few more thrusts and then both of them collapse into the soft humus.

Her breath comes in quick gasps. Her limbs tremble. She is more than spent. His arms encircle her, draw her close to his warmth. She holds his massive hand in her own. His nose presses into the hollow of her neck, inhaling her scent.

Sometime before dawn she awakens and they mate again, claws grasping, teeth flashing. He is never gentle with her. She would never want him to be. There is terror and rage and destruction in him, just as there is love and warmth and loyalty. She accepts both equally: The man and the wolf.

When the daylight comes he will be gone. The day is her time, not his. The light holds its own terrors that the darkness will never know, hunters and woodsmen and others who trespass on her forest. But they are terrors of the world of men, and she will deal with them.

He will return, when night falls, and she will be waiting.

And the game will begin anew.