Clifford and Claire, Scene 6

  Hi, folks. I have a few more excerpts from my upcoming novel, Red Wolf Rising that I’ll be posting this time and next. I’m also posting this one a little early so I can pack up and head for a little weekend road trip to the mountains for some hiking and idea-gathering. I’ve decided I deserve it, even if no one else does!

   First, a quick reminder: Both my books are free in any electronic format you need at Smashwords through April 15th! Just use the coupon code to the right of the Smashwords link at the bottom of this post.

   Now, on to today’s post…

   I appreciate the little bit of feedback I’ve gotten from these excerpts, but the more the merrier. I take great store in what y’all say, so don’t be shy. I want this to be awesome by the time it hits publication, and y’all can help me out with suggestions.
   At this point in the story, Claire is 90% sure she wants to reveal to Clifford that she’s a werewolf, in the hopes that he will agree to allow himself to become one, too. She’s been waiting for the right opportunity, and she feels she may be running out of time…

She stopped, pointing to a side trail. “My apartment’s right up the hill. I just moved in. Come on. I’ll cook for you.”
Your apartment? Alarms went off in his head. “Uh, I don’t know if I…”
“Don’t worry. It’s just breakfast. I’m not going to jump your bones or anything.” She smiled.
“I didn’t mean to imply…” But he remembered saying the same thing to someone else one time.
“Just making sure,” she said. She turned and started up the hill. “Besides,” she called over her shoulder, “I’m way too old for you.”
Oh, boy, he thought. But he followed her anyway. The pathway led up a gradual incline and ended at the foot of a set of wooden stairs with a handrail that switched back and forth up a steep hill. At the top landing was a parking lot facing a row of recently constructed apartment buildings. They crossed the parking lot and ascended several flights of stairs to the third floor. Her door was the second on the right. She bent and pulled a key from her right sock.
“I haven’t finished unpacking,” she said, “so don’t judge.” She unlocked the door. He followed her inside. She pointed towards a small table with two chairs that sat in front of a sliding glass door which opened on a balcony overlooking the greenway beyond the parking lot. “Have a seat while I get started.” She disappeared into a small kitchen to the left.
He walked through a living room populated mainly with boxes. The little dinette was the only furniture in the room. He took a seat and spent a moment taking in the view. The window looked west, and the sky was just beginning to lighten as the sun tried to rise over the hill behind them.
“You can see some really pretty sunsets from that balcony,” she called from the kitchen.
“I bet,” he replied.
“It’s the main reason I chose this apartment,” she continued. A bell sounded, signaling the end of the heating cycle of a microwave. “Here,” she said, suddenly appearing with a cup of steaming liquid in her hand. She set it in front of him and handed him a spoon. There was a faint aroma of licorice. “Stir this for a minute, but don’t let it get cold. It’ll help the cramping. I’ll be right back.” She disappeared into another room.
Clifford began to slowly stir the liquid, releasing more of the aroma. He took a cautious sip. It was still too hot. He stirred some more. The centerpiece on the dinette table caught his eye, and he leaned close to examine it. It was a very detailed wood carving of a group of wolves. One stood watch as the others reclined serenely.
“You like that?” she asked, re-appearing from the back room. She’d removed her shoes and sweats and was now down to a t-shirt, jogging shorts, and bare feet. She had nice legs.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “I have kind of a thing for wolves.”
“Not surprising,” she said, disappearing into the kitchen again. “You’re a wolf, yourself.” He heard pots and pans rattling.
He thought a moment. It was a strange thing for her to say. “How do you mean?” he called.
“Everyone has a totem, an animal spirit to guide them,” she called. “Yours is the wolf.  I recognized it before. Mine is, too.”
“Are you an Indian… I mean, Native American, or something?”
“Yes, I am. And a shaman of sorts.”
“Really.” That was interesting. He wasn’t sure if he believed her, though.
“Yes, really. Have you tried your drink?”
“Oh, hang on. I will.” He raised the cup to his lips and took a sip. “What is it? I don’t recognize the taste.”
“A concoction of different herbs. I tried to sweeten it a little. Sometimes it’s too bitter, but it should help your leg not to be sore later.”
He took a longer sip. “It’s not bad. What exactly is a shaman?”
“Oh, a shaman is… a medicine woman… uh, spiritual healer…” She poked her head around the corner, frowning. “… tribal psychologist?”
“You have a tribe?”
“I did, for many years. Not so much any more.”
“What happened?” He was learning something about her. It wasn’t at all what he’d imagined.
“Time, mostly. This generation, it’s much different from… mine.”
“I heard that.” He’d raised his fist and sang with Pete Townsend at concerts when he was young, “… I hope I die before I get old…” Now, he was that generation the kids didn’t want to become. “Mmmm. I smell bacon.”
“Yes, you do, and you’re going to like it. It’s venison. Cured it myself. I brought some of my cache when I went home to pack some things a few weeks ago.”
“Home? Where’s that?”
“Not far. Near a little town called Troy, the other side of Albemarle.”
“I know it. I hike in the Uwharries all the time.”
“I have a cabin right smack dab in the middle of the Uwharrie National Forest.”
“That’s cool. How long have you been there?”
“A looong time.” She emerged from the kitchen carrying some utensils and condiments.
“Sounds nice. So, what are you doing in Charlotte?”
She began to set places for them both. She leaned across him to place two Mason jars – it looked like they were filled with different jams - between the two settings. He could feel the heat from her body and smell the aroma of her skin, a combination of sweat and bacon, not at all unpleasant. “Cooking you breakfast,” she said, fixing him with a smile.
She was very close, and she seemed to linger, until he cleared his throat and looked for something else to focus his attention. His eyes settled on the centerpiece again. “Ahem. I really do like that carving.”
She straightened, turning on her heel. “I might have something for you, then.” She strode back to the kitchen. I might have myself for you, if I’m not careful, she thought. She’d been telling herself there was a higher purpose behind her obsession with this man, but there was no denying the physical attraction. It might say more about his own restraint than hers that they weren’t naked on the floor right now.
She pulled a pitcher of previously-mixed pancake batter from the refrigerator and turned the burner on under a pan. Then, she turned and scanned a line of figurines along the counter behind her sink. She reached for one, pausing only a second before grabbing it up and returning to the living room. She set it down on the table next to Clifford. “Here, you can have this.” She walked back to the kitchen.
She stood before the stove, listening intently for indications of his reaction from the next room. She heard a whispered, “Wow.” There was a note of acceptance in his tone, and she exhaled in relief. She dropped a dab of butter in the pan, spread it around with a spatula, and poured three neat piles of batter which quickly spread into perfect round cakes. She called to him, “You like your eggs over medium, right?”
“Uh huh,” he replied, absent-mindedly. She could tell he was concentrating on the carving, probably running his fingers over it and maybe noticing some of the intricacies and… unique features. I hope I’m not moving too fast, here, she thought.
“This is… interesting,” he said.
She tensed, waiting for him to elaborate. There was only silence. Bubbles appeared in the pancake batter, and she flipped them over, smiling in satisfaction at the even, golden-brown color of the undersides.
“Was this hand-carved?” he called. “The detail is almost too intricate to be, but…” He wandered into the kitchen, holding it to the light. “Yeah, I can almost see… it looks like it had to be done with a fairly large knife.”
She scooped the pancakes from the pan onto a plate next to the stove and picked up the pitcher of batter. “It was,” she smiled.
“Did you do it?”
“No, but I did the centerpiece in there. The one you have was given to me by a friend.” She poured three more cakes into the pan. “It’s pretty old, and the natural color of the wood has faded. It was almost snow white when I first got it. Hey, could you hand me that pan?” She pointed.
He turned in the direction she indicated and saw a row of iron skillets hanging along the wall next to the stove. “Which one?”
“That one. No, the smaller one to the left. Yeah, that one.”
He pulled it off its hook and handed it to her. She placed it on another burner and turned the heat under it. She plopped a glob of butter in its center. She flipped the pancakes over, stepped over to the refrigerator, opened it, and extracted several eggs, which she set beside the pitcher of pancake batter.
Clifford inhaled deeply. “Smells good,” he said.
       She turned and smiled. “Glad you came?”

   Okay, that was kind of mundane, intended to set the stage for what’s to come. What do you think?
   And, feel free to click on one of the links below to order one of the first two books!

   Coming up in a few days…
       … more Clifford and Claire

Until then... Happy Reading!
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

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The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
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