Olivia closed her eyes, calling up her animal sensitivity ability, while shoving down her own panic. After years of psychically working with animals, she knew they sensed panic and fear. Her breathing needed regulating.
Olivia relaxed as best she could and opened her mind. She sensed the wolf; masculine. He came across with an urgent need to protect, more like helping her feel safe. Another howl, with a deep and sinister timbre, shattered her concentration. A stab of electricity zipped through her, pumping adrenaline and tightening every muscle. This howl came from farther inside the forest than the first one. She sensed aggression in the wolves within the forest, ready for battle. Her heart drummed against her ribs in anticipation of an answering call, and she couldn’t stop the tremors running rampant in her belly.
Instead she saw the lights go out through her closed eyelids. She opened her eyes and saw nothing but blackness.
Nine o’clock on a September evening, what did she expect? Damn power company! Hopefully Lacey sat in the Jacuzzi and wouldn’t come running out.
She lay listening for any sound. Her own breath, the loudest panting she’d ever heard, came in at a close second to her heart banging against the walls of her chest. Slowly, she sat up. The back of her head throbbed, her spine hurt, and the front of her body ached, especially her breasts. She bent her legs to stand and in that same moment a jet of hot mist coated her face.
Olivia froze, tamping down the run-for-your-life urge. Her mind reached toward the beast beside her, searching his energy markers, his emotions, urges. She read him as curious, stimulated. Maybe a misread of…sexually stimulated? She sat back on her haunches, figuring if she stretched at least four feet of her five-foot ten frame, maybe she’d appear larger. His breath assailed her from above, she remained squatted.
Damn, this thing is huge!
He sniffed the top of her head, down by her ear, licked the length of her neck and up the side of her face. Another howl close by, echoing near the tree-line, got the wolf’s attention. He raised his head from her and shoved her body back with his own. She went down on her butt, folding her legs sideways. Fur from his backside pressed into the front of her, including her face. Olivia turned her head away and took a breath. A shiver began in her belly and inched through her arms, legs, and up her neck. She sensed his urgency, he must move and his need…again, to keep her safe and again something else, another misread?
He moved back, his head next to hers. A growl vibrated, harsh and deep, beside her ear. Olivia jumped when he yipped instead of howled. He circled her, stopping behind her. A sudden scratch of claws and pebbles from rain washout near the barn pelted her. Air swirled around her as the wolf leaped over her head in the direction of the woods.
Olivia’s breath whooshed out like a balloon being released. Tears welled and trickled down her face. The wolf’s size was about as abnormal as it got. She’d never heard of any wolf being that large. She’d done plenty of research on the species, brushing up for the wolf pup she rehabilitated and released back into the wild years ago when Ray and she first opened the refuge, before they owned the preserve property.
Olivia pushed herself up onto wobbly legs, her stomach lurched, and before she could blink, vomit spewed. She retched hard, falling onto her hands and knees, weak and crying, something she hadn’t done since Ray’s funeral. As if on cue, all the lights popped on, illuminating her shadow against the barn wall.
Oh, that’s lovely. Damn power company.
A howl, and then another and another, echoed from different locations in the forest. Her forest, her wildlife preserve, not a place for a beast like her visitor, and most definitely not a place for the aggressive lot in the forest. She swiped her face with the bottom of her shirt and looked toward the woods.
About thirty yards away in the mowed meadow, her wolf circled with another, close-in-size, milky-eyed wolf with a deformed face, both spot-lighted in the yard light. They flashed razor sharp teeth and glowing eyes, with the exception of the one’s coated eye. Their vicious growls and snapping jaws filled the air. Olivia found her tranq gun on the ground and grabbed it. By the time she turned for a shot, she saw the tail end of both wolves leaping into the woods, her wolf chasing the other.
Olivia leaned against the barn, adjusting her position in accordance with her pain. She thought of the curious readings she sensed from her wolf, not sure of their meaning. She never questioned first impressions from readings anymore. Years of experiences proved first intuitive readings rang as authentic truth in almost every case.
She closed her eyes and pictured her wolf looking at her for the first time, the way his head snapped in her direction and how their gazes met and connected. She touched her neck, sliding fingertips up her cheek where his tongue touched her skin.
Her breath caught, heart raced, and her eyes opened wide. She laughed out loud, maybe in relief, maybe in a small fit of hysteria, or maybe because she consider that wolf as “her” wolf. Her “stimulation” readings from him threw her off, knowing it wasn’t a possibility.