Jun 02

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In The Company Of Wolves


Dale embarks on a new relationship while dealing with Ari’s secrets.

Dale rolled over and nuzzled against the warm body sharing her bed. Natalie, whom she had met three weeks ago in a club. Who had returned her call, sat beside her at a movie, ate dinner with her. And now, the next logical step in their relationship had been taken. She kissed the back of Natalie’s neck, which woke her. “Mm. That’s a nice way to wake up.” Natalie rolled over and kissed Dale good morning. “I’m glad we waited, but I have no idea how I managed.”

Dale smiled. “It was worth the wait, I hope.”


Their legs met under the blankets and their kiss became more passionate. Dale remembered the night before; a nice dinner in her apartment followed by kissing on the couch. Neither of them had declared it was the night they would finally take the next step. It just seemed silly to wait any longer. They had undressed each other on the couch, taking care of the foreplay before Dale escorted Natalie to her bedroom.

She had managed to pull on a T-shirt before falling asleep, since she had a problem with sleeping nude. She started to take it off, but Natalie beat her to the punch. She worked her fingers under the hem and Dale lifted her arms to get the lightweight cotton off. Naked again, Dale straddled Natalie’s hip and pressed against her as she explored Natalie’s body with both hands. It had been way too long since she spent the night with a woman, and she’d been so good waiting, that now she could barely control herself. Natalie had enjoyed Dale’s eagerness the night before. She chuckled now and gently pushed Dale away from her. “Easy, tiger. We got all morning, right? Do you work Saturdays?”

Dale looked at the cell phone charging on the nightstand. “Sometimes. Yeah.” She bent down and kissed Natalie again. “I’m sorry. I’ve just been so good for so long, resisting you. Now that I have you in my bed, I’m kind of… a kid in a candy store.” Natalie chuckled and kissed Dale’s arm. “But we can slow down. If.” She kissed Natalie’s top lip. “You.” She kissed the corner of her mouth. “Want.” She slipped her tongue into Natalie’s mouth and quickly pulled back. “To.”

“You’re evil.”

“Mm. Yep.”

Dale put her hands on either side of Natalie’s head, brushing back her dark hair. She brushed her thumb over Natalie’s bottom lip. “It’s been a good three weeks.”

“For me, too.”

“I want–” Her phone started to ring. “No.” She dropped her head to Natalie’s shoulder and faked a sob.

Natalie comforted her by stroking her naked back as the phone continued to ring. She kissed the top of Dale’s head. “You could ignore it.”

“No, I can’t.” She sighed and reached for the phone, her stretch making her body move indecently against Natalie’s smooth skin. She knew who it would be even before she looked at the display screen. She flipped the phone open. “Hey, it’s me.”

“I need a ride.”

“At least say good morning to me, god damn it.”

Ari was obviously struck dumb by the anger in Dale’s voice. “Sorry. I’m sorry, Dale. I just–”

“No, I know. Don’t apologize. That was bitchy of me.” Dale sat up, perched on Natalie’s body and looking down at her with regret. “I’m sorry. Where are you?”

“Fourth and Collins. I can find a bus stop or–”

“No. Part of the job description. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Do you mind waiting just a, a few extra minutes?”

Ari said, “Take your time. I’ll chill out and you grab an extra fifteen minutes of sleep before you even get out of bed. Promise me, Dale.”

“Fifteen more minutes in bed.” She smiled down at Natalie, whose eyes sparkled at the possibilities. “You got it. Sorry I was short with you.”

“I deserved it. You’re not my cabbie. I’ll be fine.”

“Thanks, Ari. I’ll call when I’m on the way.” She hung up and dropped the phone onto her pillow. Natalie slid her hands up Dale’s thighs, around to her back, and pulled her down. “She gave me an extra fifteen minutes before I have to come in. So much for taking it slow.”

Natalie shook her head. “Slow is overrated on the first night. The first night is for getting fast out of the way.” They kissed and Dale ran her hand down between their bodies. Natalie whimpered as Dale touched her. Dale kissed Natalie’s neck as she used two fingers on her, rocking her hips gently against Natalie’s thigh.

Last night, there had been talk. “Just like that” and “don’t stop.” This time, the only sound was the quiet shuffle of the sheets and their increasingly rough breathing. She kissed her way across Natalie’s cheek, capturing her lips again as she came. She kept her fingers moving between Natalie’s legs until Natalie came as well. Dale collapsed on top of her, breathing hard as Natalie stroked her back.

“Best morning I’ve had in a while.”

Dale chuckled. “Ditto.”

“But now you have to go.”

Dale lifted her head. “Sorry about that. It’s my boss, she–”

“I understand. But can we go ahead and set up our next date?”

“How about tonight? My boss usually doesn’t need me two nights in a row.” She brushed her bottom lip over Natalie’s top lip. “We can take all the time you want.”

Natalie’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I’d really like that.”

They extricated their limbs from the twisted pretzel of the blanket and sheets. “I’m going to take a quick shower. You can borrow some of my clothes if it would feel too gross to put on your clothes from last night.”

“Will your clothes fit me?”

“I don’t know. You were the one taking my measurements all night.”

Natalie laughed. “I’ll see what I can find.”

Dale went into the bathroom, leaving the door open a crack just in case Natalie decided to join her, and showered. She toweled off, walked through a cloud of perfume, and dabbed some lotion behind her ears. Sometimes Ari retained a heightened sense of smell after a transformation, sometimes she didn’t. Dale decided to be better safe than sorry. She combed her hair back, deciding to let it dry naturally, and stepped out of the bathroom.

Natalie was dressed in a plain white T-shirt and torn jeans. She was standing at the foot of the bed folding her clothes from the night before. Dale dressed in a sleeveless gray dress and a pair of leggings while Natalie used the bathroom.

Dale put on her glasses and linked her fingers with Natalie’s. “I’ll give you a lift home, if you’d like. It’s on the way to where I have to go.”

“You don’t know where I live.”

“Wherever it is, I’ll make sure it’s on my way.”

Natalie pulled Dale to her and they kissed. “This was the best date I’ve had in a really long time. Thank you.”

Dale stroked Natalie’s arms. “I’m just happy to have been a part of it. C’mon, we’re pushing the fifteen minute limit.”


They left the apartment, holding hands as they went downstairs. Dale followed Natalie’s directions to her building, and they kissed again before parting ways. “Tonight. I’ll call you with the details, but… around six?”

“Sure.” Dale smiled. “See you then.”

Natalie blew her a kiss and waved with her fingers as she walked to the front of her building. Dale waited to make sure she got inside okay before she drove off.



It really wasn’t a strange job. In a lot of ways, it was a normal office manager job. She did the books, she made appointments, and she made sure everything ran smoothly. Sure, it had its quirks, but what job didn’t?

She found the intersection Ari had given her and paused at the stop sign, leaning forward to look both ways down the street. Ari was sitting on the curb with her arms resting on her knees. Her hair was tangled, and she wore baggy cargo pants and an old mailman’s uniform blouse with the patches torn away. She stood up as Dale slowed down next to her, and she hurried around the back of the car to get into the passenger seat.

“I’m really sorry, Dale.”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind. Are you okay?”

Ari nodded.

“We didn’t have a case, did we?”

“No. I was antsy all night, so I decided I needed to take the wolf for a walk. It stayed out longer than I expected.” She pushed her hair out of her face as Dale started driving again. She suddenly looked at Dale, her nostrils flaring once. “Oh, my God, you were with someone. You were in bed with them when I… Jesus, Dale, why’d you even answer the phone?”

Dale blushed. “It’s all right.”

“No, it’s not. Damn it. I’m sorry.”

“You’ll make it up to me in my next paycheck. Where to? Home?”

“Yeah.” She slumped in her seat. “I’m really glad I gave you the extra fifteen minutes now. I hope you, uh–”

Dale grinned. “Used them well? Oh, yeah.”

Ari laughed. “Good for you. I didn’t even know you were seeing anybody.”

“We’ve been keeping it low-key. Last night was, uh… we decided to make it a little more official.”

Ari covered her face with both hands. “Speed up. I don’t deserve to jump out of the car when it’s moving this slowly.”

“Stop.” Dale reached over and rubbed Ari’s arm. “I’m not mad. We needed to come up for air anyway.”

Air held her hands up in surrender. “Okay. I’ll stop beating myself up, but I’m definitely going to stop taking you for granted. Getting rides in the dead of night is a privilege, not a right. You have the right to turn your phone off.”

“And leave you stranded out in the middle of town with no way home? I’d rather lose a little sleep. I’m dead serious here, Ari. If something happened to you, I’d never forgive myself.”

They rode in silence for a while. “So when do I get to meet her? Does she have a name?”

Dale grinned. “Her name is Natalie.”

Ari smiled. “Tell me everything over breakfast. My treat.” She patted the pockets of her pants and sheepishly added, “As soon as I get home and pick up my wallet.”

“You can reimburse me.”


Dale flexed her finger on the steering wheel and chuckled. “Awesome. My next paycheck is going to be thick.”

There was an all-day diner on the same block as Ari’s apartment, so Dale ordered breakfast for the both of them while Ari went upstairs to change. By the time she returned, dressed in slacks and a fresh blouse, their food was ready. Ari slipped into the booth across from Dale and smiled. “Okay. Spill, Ms. Frye. Why haven’t I heard about Natalie?”

“I wasn’t sure if it would lead anywhere. Dating doesn’t always lead to, you know, a relationship.”

“Three weeks seems pretty long to keep someone secret.”

Dale hunched her shoulders. “And I sort of wanted to decide how I felt about her before I opened her up to your scrutiny.”

Ari smiled. “I’m not that bad.”

“You stalked–”


“Stalked! You stalked Lisa for a week after you found out I was seeing her. You went through her trash.”

Ari sighed and ate a piece of bacon. “Fine. I’ll let you figure out whatever horrible secrets this Natalie chick has on your own. Happy?”

“Supremely happy.”

Ari made a gimme gesture. “But if I’m not going to learn anything myself, you have to spill. Tell me what you know about her.”

“Her name is Natalie Regan.”

“Irish. I approve so far.”

Dale smiled. “But she’s got very, very black hair. Pale skin and blue eyes.”

Ari whistled. “The truth comes out. You kept her secret because you were afraid I’d steal her.”

Dale held her thumb and forefinger a few centimeters apart and winked. “She’s, ah, a little older than us.”

“How much older?”

“Seven years.”

Ari shrugged. “I’ve dated women in their forties before. Late thirties isn’t so bad. What does she do?” She ate some of her eggs.


Ari raised an eyebrow. “That’s kind of hot.”

“Dentists are hot?”

“The smock, the little goggles they wear sometimes, she’s sticking her fingers in your mouth…”

Dale shuddered. “Must you sexualize everything? Now I’m going to be all awkward at my next check-up.”

“That’s not how you guys met, is it?”

“No, she’s not my dentist. She’s just a dentist. I met her at a club. One night after I dropped you off, I didn’t feel like going home and waiting for the phone to ring. So I went to listen to some music. They had a live band, and I kind of hung near the back of the room. Natalie was there, and we started talking. Next thing I knew, we were going out for breakfast the next morning.” She smiled as she remembered that first night. Natalie had looked so out of place and lonely that Dale had felt it was her duty to make conversation. “Interrupting this morning was fine. If you had interrupted that day…”

“I’m glad I didn’t.” Ari smiled and then furrowed her brow. “What did you tell her you do?”

“I told her the truth. I’m an office manager.”

“And she thinks that explains me calling you at all hours to come pick me up?”

Dale shrugged. “I just told her my boss was a bitch.”

Ari choked on her orange juice. She dabbed her lip with a napkin until she felt it was safe to speak. “No details?”

“I think we’ve reached the point where details are necessary. But I won’t tell her, you know… everything. That’s not my secret to tell. I’ll just reveal that I’m a badass private investigator’s assistant.”

“I think you mean you’re a private investigator’s badass assistant. But however you want to phrase it is fine with me.” She winked. “I do want to meet her.”

Dale nodded. “You will. I’m just… I can’t really explain it well. I wanted to keep my personal and professional lives separate while I was seeing how things would end up with her. Now that we’ve taken the big step, I feel more comfortable merging the two.”

“You wanted to make sure the relationship could stand on its own two feet. I totally get that. You’ve done your due diligence for the weekend. After breakfast, go on home and turn off your phone. I’ll survive for two days.”

“I have some errands I need to run for the agency, but I promise I’ll focus on being a happy romantic for more than half the weekend. Deal?”

Ari nodded.

“And tomorrow night, if Natalie is free, maybe the three of us can grab some dinner.”

“Four of us,” Ari corrected. “I’ll find someone to go with. There’s no way am I going to be the odd woman out.”

“Double date. Haven’t done one of those since high school.”

They finished their meal in silence and Ari took out her wallet. “I’ll let you know if I line someone up for dinner. You need my help with any of those errands you mentioned?”

“Nope. What did you do with the clothes you were wearing this morning?”

“Upstairs in my apartment.”

“Did you get them from the Nichols Street stash?” Ari nodded. “Okay.” She sipped the last of her orange juice. “Thanks for breakfast. I’ll see you tomorrow, I hope.”

Dale gave her a thumbs-up, and then waved as she slipped out of the booth. She put on her sunglasses as she stepped outside. She and Natalie had discovered they were compatible in bed as well as out – thank God – and the news had been broken to Ari. The two things she’d been dreading were out of the way, and now she could relax and focus on her work.



There was a heavy sack of dirty clothes in Dale’s apartment, and she took it downstairs to her building’s laundry room. She read the newspaper while the first load was in the washer, and then started a second load after shifting the first to the dryer. The clothes were a strange mixture, a grab-bag of Goodwill’s finest duds. A souvenir T-shirt from a 1988 concert, a red blouse with a missing pocket and ruffles on the front. There were jean shorts, cargo shorts, a pair of pants that were dyed a god-awful shade of tangerine, and more.

Dale had brought a large army surplus duffel bag downstairs with her. When the first load was done, she folded the ugly clothes and tucked them into plastic grocery bags before filling the duffel. The plastic would protect them from the weather and the majority of foraging animals. When all the clothes were ready, she would drive around town and hide them in various hiding places. She and Ari had picked out the stash locations together. They were usually easily accessed and out of sight, places Ari could easily reach while she was naked.

She smiled as she wondered how many office managers were tasked with keeping their boss clothed. Her smile faded as she thought of explaining that part of her job to Natalie. “Yes, I’ve seen Ari naked many times. How else would I give her a full-body rubdown?”

The massages were necessary. The various aches and pains of a transformation could leave Ari curled in the fetal position for hours at a time. A massage immediately afterward not only helped the immediate pain, but it seemed to lessen the pain for future transformations as well. Of course, Dale couldn’t simply explain all of that to Natalie without first explaining that Ariadne was canidae and had the ability to transform into a wolf. She meant what she’d said in the diner; that wasn’t her secret to share.

That was if Natalie even believed it. Dale had gotten the crash course in human-to-wolf transformations when she brought home an abused dog and wound up with a naked stranger in her bed. She wondered where she would be if she had decided to eat in that night, if she had decided to drive to McDonalds instead of walking, if she had just decided to let the dog run away rather than feeding her and taking her home. Everything that had led up to that moment, of Dale helping Ari out of a sticky situation, seemed so perfectly arranged that she couldn’t imagine a world where it hadn’t gone that way.

Where would she be right now if she’d just made herself a sandwich? Where would Ari have ended up?

It didn’t bear thinking about. She pushed the thought out of her mind and went back to her laundry. She had a list of the recent stashes Ari had used, which meant they would need to be refreshed before she had another emergency need for them.

The job of a werewolf’s assistant involved a lot more drudge work than she had anticipated.



Dale spent the afternoon in parks, vacant lots, parking lots of abandoned buildings, and a small wooded park. She found Ari’s stashes and refilled them with shirts, pants and underwear. When the last stash was refilled and her duffel bag was empty, Dale went home and made herself some lunch. All she could think about was the night before, slowly undressing Natalie on the couch before leading her down the short hallway to the bedroom. She resisted the urge to go stand in the bedroom door and stare at the wrinkled sheets and blanket.

Her lunch was light, anticipating dinner with Natalie, and she ate in front of the television. It had been a while since she was in an actual, honest-to-God relationship. The last had been Lisa, and that… well, that was just an all-out mess. Lisa had been jealous of the time Dale and Ari spent together. She’d more than once accused them of having an affair. The final breakup had come in the form of Lisa packing up and moving to Chicago, and coming back a few months later to drop the bomb that she had cancer.

Now she was planning to run the same minefield with Natalie. She would never be able to just sit her down and explain that Ari was a wolf. The options were going out to help her, or she could ignore the call. She could stay safe and warm in bed while letting Ari wander the streets of the city in a daze, aching at every joint, occasionally confused about where she was and what she’d been doing. She couldn’t do that.

But from Natalie’s point of view, it would look like Dale was constantly choosing Ari over her. She stared at the remnants of her lunch, which had suddenly grown unpalatable, and looked up at the movie she’d been ignoring on TV. She turned it off and put her bowl on the coffee table, stretching out on the couch with her head on the arm.

She didn’t mean to sleep, but she was exhausted from the night before. She estimated she’d only gotten two hours of sleep total, so her body took the position as an invitation to catch up. Her dreams were disjointed, filled with memories of her night with Natalie interspersed with random scenes of driving through a dark landscape. She saw herself in a dark field, searching for something (Ari) and not finding it.

The dream that woke her was a combination of the two themes. She revealed the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to Natalie. Natalie had laughed, and then began transforming in front of her. She turned into a hulking wolf who threw Dale to the ground. Dale screamed as the canidae Natalie pounded on her, and all she saw was flashing teeth and a wide, pink tongue as her–

Dale woke with a choked gasp, flailing to keep from falling off the couch. She got her breathing under control before she realized her phone was ringing. She took it from the pocket of her dress and read the display, smiling even as she flipped it open to answer. “Natalie. Hi.”

“Hi. Am I disturbing you at work?”

“No, I’m free for the rest of the weekend.”

“I know we made a date for six, but how about we push it up a little? Say about twenty minutes from now?”

Dale smiled. “I like how your mind works, Natalie Regan. Wanna come over here and hang out for a while before we go out to dinner? I have some DVDs. Board games. I’m sure I could entertain you somehow.” She worried the cuticle of her thumb with the nail of her forefinger, the panic of the dream fading in the wake of Natalie’s voice.

“Well, I’m not really in the mood for DVDs or board games.”

“What did you have in mind?”

Natalie’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I want to take you out of that dress I watched you put on this morning, lay you down, and make up the time we lost this morning by licking you from your toes to the tip of your nose.”

Goosebumps erupted on Dale’s arms and she shuddered. “But baby, I have the fiftieth anniversary edition of Clue.”

Natalie laughed. “I’ll make my guess right now. Ms. Frye, in the living room, with something rubber.”

“Twenty minutes, you said?”

“Less, if I get off the phone soon.”

Dale said, “Well, bye, see you,” and snapped the phone shut. She leaned back on the couch and smiled at the phone. She got up and went into the bathroom, reapplying her perfume and making sure her hair looked nice. She considered adding a bit of makeup, but it would just get smeared. She finished touching up as the doorbell rang.

She hurried to the front of the apartment, checked the peephole to make sure, and opened the door to let Natalie in. “Hi.”

“How could I miss you? I left you a few hours ago.” Natalie pressed Dale against the wall and kissed her. Dale kicked the door shut and, instead of dropping her foot to the floor, let it rest against the back of Natalie’s leg. At the back of her mind, she was vaguely aware that Natalie had exchanged her borrowed outfit for a black skirt and a purple blouse that was open at the collar. She gripped the collar with both hands and pulled Natalie into the living room with her.

“This is,” she kissed Natalie again, “our new official greeting.”

“Fine by me.”

They fell onto the couch, the site of four past dates and one heavy petting session that had predated their physical relationship. Dale ended up on the bottom, kissing her way down Natalie’s throat as Natalie eased her fingers under the hem of Dale’s dress. Dale undid the buttons on Natalie’s blouse as her dress was pushed up. They grappled on the couch for a while, neither one in much of a hurry to finish what they were doing. They were both enjoying the exploration too much to anticipate it ending.

Dale suddenly pulled away, the thought of having to stop making her realize what she had to do. “Hold that thought,” she said. She kept her lower body pressed against Natalie’s as she stretched for the end table next to the couch. She picked up her phone and flipped it open, biting her bottom lip as she scrolled through the menu and silenced it. That done, she put it face-down on the table and went back to what she was doing a moment ago.

“No interruptions.”

“I like your priorities, Dale.”

“You haven’t seen anything yet, Natalie.” She kissed her way to the open collar of Natalie’s blouse, pausing to thoroughly kiss her earlobe and throat before kneeling on the floor in front of the couch. She pushed Natalie’s legs apart, and Natalie lifted her skirt in anticipation of what was coming next. Dale kissed Natalie’s thighs and ran her tongue up, sucking her skin before moving her head slightly to the soft cotton underwear. She kissed her there, then Natalie lifted her legs so Dale could take the underwear off. Natalie gently rested her legs on Dale’s shoulders as Dale leaned down again, wetting her lips before she pressed them against Natalie’s sex in a tender, exploratory kiss.

The night before had been a frenzied encounter, an explosion of built-up tension from three weeks of being good and waiting. Now they could afford to go slow and truly enjoy what was happening. The lights in the apartment were turned low, the perfect atmosphere for a lazy weekend afternoon of exploration. Dale moaned as she slipped her tongue inside, kneading Natalie’s thighs as she sighed with pleasure at what Dale was doing to her.

Dale teased and toyed with the tip of her tongue, moaning to send the vibrations over her lips and up through Natalie’s entire body. Natalie lifted her hips off the couch and moaned loudly, grasping the shoulders of Dale’s dress as she thrust her hips forward in orgasm. She sagged against the back of the couch, slumped like a lazy teenager with her toes curled and her fingers relaxing to touch Dale’s neck. “Sorry.”

“It’s not your fault I’m such a great lover.”

Natalie laughed. “You are. You are.” She dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward to kiss Dale’s lips. “I meant what I said on the phone. Get this dress off.”

Dale guided Natalie’s arms back, and Natalie found the zipper herself. She tugged it down and the dress sagged around Dale’s body.

“But what about dinner?” Dale asked as she climbed onto the couch and pushed Natalie down onto the cushion.

“I’m not that hungry yet.”

Dale grinned and tugged the dress off her shoulders. “Then let’s work up an appetite.”



“What is Dale short for?”

Dale was almost asleep, tucked against Natalie’s side under the blankets. They had foraged in the kitchen for dinner, choosing sandwiches and milk which were eaten at the table in front of the apartment’s picture window. They had played footsie under the table, both of them a little giddy about being casually naked with another woman. Natalie admitted it had been a long time since she was so comfortable with another woman, and thanked Dale for making it easy.

After dinner they had walked hand in hand to the bedroom again, something Dale was looking forward to getting used to. She had also been looking forward to sleeping with her almost as much as she’d anticipated sex. She had missed curling against another warm body and simply holding someone while they slept. Dale shook her head and kissed Natalie’s shoulder.


Natalie was stroking Dale’s back, and Dale’s eyes drifted shut as her body relaxed. The sweat had dried on her skin, and had long ago given up on going to shower. “So your parents named you Dale?”


“Family name? Fans of the chipmunk?”

Dale smiled, her eyes still closed. “I loved that chipmunk.”

“Come on. I’ve never met a woman named Dale before. I love it. There has to be a story. What’s your middle name?”


Natalie made a satisfied noise in her throat. “Dale Elizabeth Frye. I guess your parents did know what they were doing.”

“Thank you.” She lifted her head and touched Natalie’s face. “My mother was an English teacher. She had a book in her class called The Dale Reader, which was a really old book that taught kids to read. I guess it stuck in her head. I didn’t like it when I was in high school.”

“Did you go by Elizabeth?”

Dale curled a strand of her red hair around one finger. “Copper.”

Natalie laughed and shifted her weight. Her body moved against Dale’s. “Nice. Maybe I’ll start calling you that. Copper.”

“Uh-uh. Not unless I get a nickname for you. What did the girls call you in high school?”


Dale grinned and kissed Natalie’s chest. “Smart aleck. What’s your middle name?”


“A boy name,” Dale said. “We’re meant to be.”

“Actually my mother’s maiden name. But yeah. Spencer and Dale. People would think we’re a gay couple.”

Dale straddled Natalie’s waist and sat up, the blankets wrapped around her waist as she braced her hands on Natalie’s stomach. Natalie broke eye contact, running her eyes down Dale’s body with real hunger in her eyes. Dale remembered her dream from earlier and forced herself not to tremble. She covered Natalie’s hands with her own, their fingers linked. “Can I ask you something silly? But you have to answer honestly.”

“Sure, Dale.”

She took a breath. “Do you believe in… ghosts?”


“Yeah, all that stuff. Monsters, vampires… werewolves.”

Natalie smiled. “That’s what you want me to answer honestly?”

“It’s not like I’ll break up with you based on your answer. I’m just curious.”

Natalie sat up and pulled Dale to her. She kissed between her breasts, up to her neck, and finally cupped the back of her head as they kissed. After a moment, they pulled away from each other, both breathless. “If I say no and call it silly, I’ll offend you if you’re expecting a yes. And if I say yes, then you may think I’m a nutcase. So either way, I’m risking a landmine. You know that, right?”

“It’s not important. Forget I–”

“No. I don’t. I think that if those things really existed in the world, we would have heard about it. We would have some kind of evidence that’s not provided by rednecks and drunks. Sasquatch and aliens. I think there are a lot of animals in nature that scientists have yet to identify, but I think monsters are the work of overactive imaginations.” She looked at Dale and tried to determine her reaction to the answer. There was genuine fear in her eyes that she’d said the wrong thing. “Did I just throw a monkey wrench between us?”

Dale shook her head. “No, you didn’t. I was just making sure you weren’t a goblin in disguise.”

“Nope. Hundred percent human. You?”

“Depends on how much sleep I get.”

Natalie pulled Dale down on top of her. “Well, then let’s get your beauty sleep underway, shall we?”

Dale settled against Natalie, their bodies fitting together comfortably. Natalie stroked her hair and Dale closed her eyes. She thought the act of sleeping with someone was just as intimate, maybe even more intimate, than actually having sex with them. She kissed the curve of Natalie’s breast as she drifted off.

The last thing she heard was Natalie whisper, “I’ll protect you from any monsters who show up.”



Someone was kissing her lips. Dale brought her hand up to the back of the kisser’s head, waking with a moan before she opened her eyes. Natalie smiled, her dark hair tangled and falling into her face. “Snow White. I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Dale smiled. “Morning.”

“Morning. Do you have church, brunch…?”

“No. I’m free all day.”

Natalie kissed her again. “Excellent. I’m going to hop in the shower if that’s okay.”

“Go ahead.” She sat up and watched as Natalie extricated herself from bed and walked on the balls of her feet to the bathroom. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled as she pushed the door closed, leaving it open a crack. When Dale heard the water start, she climbed out of bed and hurried into the living room. She was fine with putting off responsibility, but she wouldn’t be able to relax until she knew Ari was safe.

One missed call, and one voicemail. The call was from Ari’s cell phone, which was a good sign. She rarely took her phone with her when she was the wolf, and there had been times when she stashed it with her clothes and then just forgot where she’d left it. The fact she was calling from her own number and not some random all-night diner or convenience store was a good sign. Dale called her voicemail.

“I don’t know if I want to tell you that I did fine without you and make you think you’re disposable, or act like an invalid so you’ll feel necessary. So I’m going to split the difference. I decided to stay in last night, spend a night in my own bed and wake up when the sun rose like a normal person. I don’t like it much. It’s very much overrated.” Dale smiled. “Hopefully I’ll see you tonight. My plan for today is to find a date. Wish me luck. Call me later. Bye, Dale.”

Dale closed her phone and softly said, “Luck.” She put the phone back down and started some coffee brewing. She didn’t much care for coffee herself, but she kept some in the house in case of overnight guests. It had been a long time since she’d been forced to endure the smell, and she smiled as it filled the kitchen. She tucked her hair behind her ears and went back into the bedroom as Natalie finished in the shower. They crossed paths in front of the sink, kissing hello again. Natalie let her fingers trail over Dale’s stomach. “You can borrow some of my clothes again. It’s sexy seeing you wear them.”

“Okay. Did you start breakfast?”

“I just started the coffee for you.”

“Thank you. I’ll whip something up. I saw some eggs and bacon in your fridge when we were scrounging last night.” She kissed Dale’s cheek. “See you in a bit.”

Dale stepped into the shower and picked up the soap. The thought that it had just been used on Natalie’s body made her smile. It had been a long time since she felt like this with someone. The last time had been Lisa, but that was so long ago and so dulled by the bad memories that it felt brand-new to her. She lathered up and moved forward so that the spray ran over her head and down her back, flattening her hair and turning it more rust-colored than its usual scarlet.

She washed her face and thought about Natalie’s dismissal of anything supernatural in the world. She couldn’t blame her for denying it; before seeing Ari transform, she would have mocked the idea that there were real werewolves in the world, too. She trembled when she remembered the first time she’d seen Ari change. She tried her best to not witness the actual shift, if she could help it. The transformation was excruciating. Ari tried to hide it when Dale was with her, but it was still obvious how much she hurt. It was like watching her best friend get beaten with lead pipes and baseball bats while a car crusher squeezed her body into a new shape. Dale had suffered nightmares of Ari being stuck in a perpetual transformation, stuck in constant pain, and had woken from them in tears.

The price of knowing the truth was steep. She knew she never looked at dogs the same way ever again. The ones who barked from behind fences, the strays running loose in the streets, even the dogs being led on leashes. Whenever one looked her way and seemed to make eye contact, she wondered if they knew. If they could sense that she was “in on it.”

Dale got out of the shower and went into her room. She dressed in a blue-and-white striped sweater and jeans, padding barefoot into the front of the apartment where the smell of cooking bacon dominated. Dale walked around the counter and pressed against Natalie from behind. She’d chosen a lilac-colored T-shirt that was just a little too small for her, the faded material stretched enticingly over all of her curves. The jeans hung low on her hips, requiring a belt to make up the half-inch or so difference in their sizes. Dale used the gap to her advantage and slid her hands under the waistband, fingers flat as she kissed Natalie’s neck.

“Hm. You seem to have not borrowed any of my panties.”

“You’re quite astute, m’dear.” She twisted and kissed Dale.

“Did I tell you my boss wants to have dinner with us tonight? A double date, if she can find someone.”

Natalie said, “That should be fun. What was her name, again?”

“Ariadne Willow.”

Natalie laughed. “Wonderful name. I love it.”

“It’s a strong name.”

They separated so Dale could get the plates and Natalie served up breakfast for them both. They sat at the counter, side by side, and Dale poured Natalie a cup of freshly-brewed coffee and a glass of orange juice for herself. Natalie crossed her legs with her left hand between her right knee and left thigh, carefully chewing her bacon before she said what was on her mind.

“You had a bit of weird pillow talk last night.”

“Oh?” Dale furrowed her brow. “I didn’t think I got too kinky.”

“No, the actual, um…” She chuckled. “I meant the thing about whether or not I believed in ghosts. Where did that come from? You seemed so serious about it.”

Dale considered carefully before answering. “Will you think any less of me if I say I believed in that stuff? I mean, I don’t wear a tinfoil hat, and when I see lights in the sky my first thought is airplane. But I think that we don’t know everything that nature is hiding from us. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can know about this planet. You think that’s crazy?”

“I think it’s probably wise. A lot of great ideas were probably conspiracy theories in their day. Flat-earth, dinosaurs, evolution. Well, evolution is pretty fiery still, but you get my point. I don’t think you’re crazy. I think you’re open-minded.”

Dale smiled. “Thanks.”

“Is it really that big a deal? I mean, you don’t mind if I don’t believe–”

“No. It’s just something I had to get out of the way.”

Natalie shrugged. “If believing in ghosts is the biggest skeleton in your closet, then we should do just fine.”

“What about you? Skeletons? Since we’re talking about it, we might as well go whole hog. Everybody has something they’re hiding. What’s yours?”

Natalie thought for a moment and then smiled. “Okay, here’s a pretty big one. I lost my virginity in a threesome.”

Dale’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

“We were the three Musketeers. I was dating Jonathan but I couldn’t ever really cut out Sara. So we went everywhere together. She came on dates with us. I was brought up in a family that made it clear I wasn’t ‘that way.'” She made air-quotes with her fingers. One weekend, we went camping for my birthday. Jon decided we should go all the way and, spur of the moment, I suggested Sara join us. It was kind of like a taste test. Which do you like better, Sample A or Sample B? I loved Jon, but… Sara blew the top of my head off.”

“Wow. So what did you do?”

“I kept seeing them both. Jonathan eventually got sick of being the new third wheel, so he broke up with us. Sara and I kept it secret until graduation.”

Dale whistled. “Wow. I’m glad you figured it out early.” She nudged Natalie’s foot with her own. “I have another secret I could share. Since yours was so big.”

“Spill it, baby.”

“I told you that I was an office manager, but that’s not… entirely true. I do take care of an office, and pay bills and manage appointments. That’s all true. But Ari is a private investigator.”

Natalie’s eyes widened. “And you’re doing an undercover investigation of me, and you’re spilling the beans now because you’re conflicted by your very real feelings for me?”

“You read a lot of detective novels, don’t you?”

“And I watch cop shows.”

Dale chuckled. “No, you’re not a client. I just thought it would help explain some of my odd hours. Ari counts on me to be her backup sometimes when she has to run surveillance or something.”

“Hence the late night phone calls. I guess that makes sense.” She looked down at her plate and tried to make her next question as casual as possible. “So is it dangerous?”

“Not like movies and TV would make you think. A lot of time it’s just sitting in the car getting bored. Going through a memory card for incriminating pictures. That sort of thing. Ari doesn’t even carry a gun. But sometimes people get pissed off at us, so there’s a threat of violence.”

“Give me an example, so I won’t just imagine the worst thing.”

Dale thought for a moment. “Once we were hired to follow a guy who was faking workman’s comp. Ari, uh, got a stray dog to chase him down the street. The guy not only ran, he used his cane as a bat to try to keep the dog away from him. I got the pictures, and he spotted me. I locked the doors and rolled up the windows, but he banged on the glass for a good ten minutes before Ari showed up and kicked his ass for me. It was kind of scary.”

“Where was she?”

Dale realized she’d left a gap in the story. “Hm?”

“Where was Ari? If she’s the private investigator, shouldn’t she have been taking the pictures?”

Well, sure, but she was the dog. Well, the wolf, to be exact. After she proved he wasn’t injured, she had to find a private place to transform back into a human and get dressed again. Dale shook her head. “The dog. She had to take care of the dog so it wouldn’t go crazy. I’m really more of Ari’s assistant than her secretary. We’re equals. Besides, if the asshole had gotten into the car before Ari showed up, I had Mace.”

“I’m still going to worry about you.” She leaned forward on her stool and kissed Dale. Dale cupped Natalie’s face and their tongues touched. Dale whimpered helplessly. “We have to go back to the real world tomorrow. Work and obligations…”

“And that is exactly why we have to make this weekend count.” She pushed their plates away and pulled Dale to her. Dale put her arms around Natalie and let herself be guided to the floor, not even finding the self-control to make it to the couch.



They left the apartment for lunch, and Natalie offered to show Dale her apartment. They ate at a sandwich shop where they could sit and watch the traffic go by, and then Natalie took Dale upstairs. The apartment was spartan, but what little furniture there was looked expensive and beautiful. It felt like a more personal version of a waiting room, and Dale resisted the urge to make a joke about it. Natalie dropped her keys on the counter. “I’m going to change. Oh, and I’ll get the clothes I borrowed from you yesterday, too. Make yourself comfortable.”

Dale went into the living room and sat on the couch. She picked up a magazine off the couch and smiled when she saw it was the most recent issue. “Guess it’s not true what they say about dentists. Maybe that’s just at the real waiting room…”

“Ms. Frye?”

Dale looked up. Natalie was standing in the hallway that led to the bedroom. She’d changed into scrubs, baggy blue pants and a matching shirt. The collar of the shirt dipped into a low V, exposing the upper part of her chest. Dale saw her as if for the first time; the smooth hair at the crown of her head that eventually exploded into full-bodied waves that framed her neck. The waved were currently tamed in a ponytail. Her eyes were small, but vividly blue behind her glasses. When she parted her thin, pink lips to smile, she had the tip of her tongue caught between her upper teeth and her bottom lip, shifting her weight playfully from one bare foot to the other as she withstood Dale’s scrutiny.

“Dr. Regan will see you now.”

Dale stood up and followed Natalie down the hall. Natalie turned as she walked. “I hope you weren’t waiting long, Ms. Frye.”



Natalie led Dale into the bedroom. She held the door and let Dale precede her into the room. Dale glanced at the bed and saw one of the nightstand drawers had been pulled out and was sitting on the foot of the bed like a present waiting to be opened. Natalie stepped up behind her and brushed her fingertips up and down Dale’s arms. “I have another secret, Dale.” Her mouth was right next to Dale’s ear so that her words, as quiet as they were, still came through loud and clear.

Dale swallowed. “Oh?”

“I like toys.”


Natalie slipped her arm around Dale’s waist and pulled her back, their hips pressing together. “Why don’t you go pick out one of my toys and I’ll show you how I play with it.”

Dale closed her eyes as Natalie kissed her neck and then let her go. She walked to the bed and looked into the drawer, licking her lips as she considered the options. She finally picked up a harness and turned to face Natalie. “How about we try this one?” Her voice was softer than she intended, her chin lowered to give Natalie dominance in the moment.

Natalie gently took it from her. “That is one of my favorites, Dale. Take off your pants for me, sweetheart. Lay facedown on the bed.”

Dale did as she was instructed. She toed off her shoes and stepped out of the jeans. She had to move the drawer aside, and Natalie moved it to the floor as Dale stretched out on top of the covers. The shadow on the wall betrayed Natalie’s movements as she stepped into the harness, tightened it on her hip, and then climbed onto the bed. She nudged Dale’s feet apart and stretched out on top of her. Dale’s toes curled in her socks as Natalie tugged down the collar of her sweater to kiss her neck and shoulders.

One hand cupped Dale between the legs and began to rub, and Dale’s fingers tightened in the blankets. She lifted her hips to meet Natalie’s fingers, digging her knees into the mattress. Natalie’s other hand squeezed Dale’s shoulder and she began whispering in her ear. “You’re so wet already. Is this okay?”

Dale nodded rapidly. Lisa had hated toys, so it had been a few years since Dale had even considered this sort of play. She moved her legs farther apart as invitation, and Natalie pressed the tip of her dildo against her. Dale moaned and pressed her face into the pillow as Natalie sank into her. “Slow…”

“We can do slow, baby.” She kissed Dale’s neck again. Natalie put her hands on Dale’s hips and dug her fingers in the curve where Dale’s leg and waist changed direction. She kept them there for a moment before she reached down and touched Dale between the legs. Dale whimpered and arched her back.

She came far too soon, pressing both palms against the headboard as she thrust back against Natalie’s toy. Natalie held her after her orgasm, kissing her shoulders until Dale moved off of her lap and rolled over. Natalie fell onto the spot Dale had just vacated, her hips slightly lifted to accommodate her cock. They were both panting, and Dale smiled when she looked over and saw Natalie staring at her.

“So. Toys and a little bit of role play.” She licked her lips. “I can get behind that.”

“Good to know. I was itching to show you my toy box all weekend.”

Dale pushed herself up on her elbows. She felt odd being naked from the waist down, but not as odd as she would have expected. She craned her neck to see the drawer. “Oh, yeah? What else have you got in there, Dr. Regan?”

Natalie grinned and crawled over Dale to play a little show and tell.



“Reservations for four, under Willow.”

The maître d’ ran his pen down the list and he smiled when he saw the listing. “Right this way, ladies.” He took some menus from the stand, gestured for them to follow him through the restaurant, and moved off at a rapid clip. Dale slipped her arm around Natalie’s elbow and they followed the slender man through the maze of tables. Dale had borrowed one of Natalie’s dresses, and she felt like a celebrity walking the red carpet. Other diners looked up as they passed, and she resisted the urge to cup a hand over her face as she sat down.

Their dresses complimented each other, with Dale in red and Natalie in blue. Dale’s dress brought out her hair and Natalie’s made her eyes pop. Dale felt fancier than she had in years and kept touching her hair to make sure it hadn’t gotten messed up. Natalie rubbed her thigh under the table, and Dale squeezed her hand before she picked up her menu.

It wasn’t long before the maître d’ returned with Ari and a woman Dale had never seen before. Ari looked masculine in a black shirt and matching trousers, and she’d made an attempt at dressing up with a white and red tie. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, and Dale heard Natalie suck in a breath through her teeth. She leaned toward Dale and whispered, “That is your boss?”


“I’m glad I already told you I’m into threesomes.”

Dale slapped Natalie’s hand under the table and hoped the color of her dress would hide her blush. They stood as Ari and her date arrived at the table. The newcomer was shorter than Ari, with dirty-blonde hair tied back in a braid. She wore a blazer over a dark blue shirt, no tie, and trousers. Ari smiled at Natalie.

“Hi. Ariadne Willow.”

“Natalie Regan.”

“Natalie, Dale. This is Bryn Decker.”

Bryn smiled. “Nice to meet you both.”

Their waiter arrived and took drink orders. Ari kept her eyes on Natalie for a long moment as she opened her menu, then looked at Dale and smiled. Dale blushed, grateful to have Ari’s blessing. She hadn’t realized how much it meant to her until that moment. Her anxiety alleviated, Dale picked up her menu and thought about what she was hungry for.




Dale turned and smiled at Ari. “Hey.”

She was standing by the front door with her hands clasped in front of her, and Ari stopped beside her. “You looked lonely out here, so I thought I would keep you company. Where’s Natalie?”

“Getting the car. Bryn?”

Ari gestured toward the designated smokers’ area near the side of the building. “Getting a cigarette break.”

“The smell doesn’t bug you?”

Ari shrugged. “I’ve learned to ignore certain smells.”

Dale blushed. “Sorry. We scrubbed and scrubbed in the shower, but–”

“It’s okay.” Ari chuckled and nudged Dale with her elbow. “I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks for understanding this weekend. Tomorrow we’re going to be back to the grind, so we might not have all the time we’d want. Kind of like a honeymoon. If dating people can have a honeymoon.”

Ari nodded. “Absolutely they can. If you need to start taking off at five, let me know. I’m a very easygoing boss.”

“Thank you. And thank you for…” She didn’t know what to say next. She and Ari had danced around each other for pretty much their entire relationship. They would kiss, and then nothing would come of it. Dale could give Ari a full-body massage without blushing. They had even masturbated together, which still made Dale blush just thinking about it. But they had never taken the step to make it official. “Thanks.”

Ari seemed to understand the subtext and nodded. “You gave me a change to ask out Bryn. She’s a cop. And a cat.”

Dale’s eyes widened. “Felidae? You’re dating a felidae?”

“I’m trying to be less of a cat racist.”

“Let me know how that works out.”

“Will do.” She nodded at a car idling nearby. “Is that your dentist?”

Natalie flashed her headlights when she saw Dale looking. “Yep. I shouldn’t keep her waiting.” She spontaneously embraced Ari. “See you tomorrow, Ariadne.”

“Bright and early, or I’ll dock your pay.”

Dale laughed and walked away from her. When she got into the car, she saw that Ari had gone inside the restaurant to wait for Bryn to finish her smoke break. Natalie found her hand, squeezed it, and then brought it to her lips. She kissed the knuckles before rubbing away the moisture with her thumb. “Ready?”

“Yeah. Let’s go.”

Natalie pulled out of the parking lot and turned north, toward her apartment instead of Dale’s. Dale didn’t mind.

Natalie’s apartment had a whole drawer of toys she still had to explore.


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