We must have been the first people in the world to discover such pleasure.
If anyone had known this much bliss before us, I was certain no fields would ever have been plowed, no orchards planted, no monuments constructed or fortresses erected. If the great kings and queens of history had known this pleasure, they would surely have neglected their duty to civilization and culture in favor of the sheer ecstasy their bodies could create together.
For the first time in my life, I had no chores. Fenris owned no chickens with eggs to collect. There was no dairy cow lowing in her stall to be milked, no gardens to weed, no apples to slice and dry. I had no clothes to mend or wash. In fact, I had no clothes at all. My mother’s dress still lay, I assumed, shredded, stained, and abandoned on the forest floor, somewhere in the Ironwood. Fenris acted like he’d never worn clothing. I liked it that way, with no rough weave to hide his gorgeous body and where I could see the slightest trace of arousal stiffen and jerk his manhood, even when we were doing something innocuous.
And we were frequently interrupted while doing something innocuous.
I couldn’t even bend over to pick up a stick of firewood without a flush running down his entire body. This, in turn, led to me dropping the stick and pushing him to the duff of the forest floor, then riding him until I screamed so loudly we startled the birds from the trees.
We ate the bread of the Æsir, or Fenris would vanish for several hours and return with fresh meat, still dripping with blood, which we’d roast on sticks over a fire in the birch grove. We ate the meat still steaming hot and barely cooked through, laughing at our own impatience as our fingers ran with the juices. Sometimes we stretched out on the cool moss and fed each other as darkness pooled around the bases of the trees and the night birds began calling to one another from the waving canopy of the Ironwood.
Mostly, we made love. Morning, afternoon, and night.
Sometimes Fenris’s nightmares would awaken me in the middle of the night. He’d cry out as his body thrashed in the furs, and I would run my hands through his hair and along his chest until his pale eyes opened.
“I’m here,” I’d whisper until he rolled over and pressed me to the furs, his manhood teasing the space between my thighs.
Once, we had two days of cold rain–the kind of rain that signals the end of summer. Fenris lit a fire in the little stone hearth he’d built inside the cave, and we spent those two days coming together for hours, pushing our bodies as far as they would go, gasping and crying, our sweat and breath mingling with the smoke of our fire.
I could never get enough of him. Even once our bodies were exhausted, when I was so sore I couldn’t imagine taking him again and he was so drained his proud manhood lay soft and vulnerable against my side, I devoured him with my eyes, tracing every gentle curve and hard line on his body, staring into his pale eyes and running my fingers through his dark auburn hair until sleep finally claimed me, separating us at last.
I stretched lazily in the thick furs, flexing my arms and legs before I opened my eyes. A thin sliver of sunlight painted the roof of the cave, and birds sang outside. It was morning, then. I turned on my side, feeling for Fenris, and found that the furs were mine alone. He often rose before me, and I had no memory of him crying or thrashing in the darkness, so I doubted a nightmare had woken him.
Fenris never spoke of the terrors haunting him almost every night. I asked only once what chased him through his sleep, and he’d frowned at me.
“What do you mean?” he’d asked.
“Your nightmares,” I’d said, placing another stick on the fire between us. It was early morning, and he’d lit a blaze to ward off the autumnal chill in the cave. “You kick and toss like you’re running.”
Fenris had run a hand through his hair, tugging at it as a dark furrow formed between his eyes. “Doesn’t everyone?”
I let it go at that. I’d had my own nightmares since moving to the cave, dark dreams where I was trapped in the Ironwood beneath King Nøkkyn’s hard, black-clad body, screaming for a rescue that never came. If Fenris didn’t wish to speak of his nightmares, so be it. We all have our secret fears.
I shook off my memories and came to my feet, stretching and rocking forward on our bunched up furs. My fingertips brushed the rough stone of the cave’s soot-encrusted ceiling. I winced at a deep, familiar ache between my legs, then smiled as I remembered all the activities of last night that had left me so sore. A faint rustle of movement drifted in from the tall grass outside, and I smiled as I tried to imagine what Fenris was doing out there. A moment later, curiosity got the better of me. I slipped through the crack and out of the cave.
Fenris crouched next to the stream, splashing cold water over his face and torso. He turned and gave me a smile that lit the forest, as though he’d secretly expected me to vanish in the night and was overjoyed by the mere fact of my continued presence.
“Good morning, beautiful,” he said.
The thin, early morning sun caught the droplets of water scattered across the ridges of his abdomen, making them glimmer. My chest tightened; by the Realms, he was handsome!
“What are you doing up so early?” I asked.
His grin widened. “Red deer,” he said, sniffing the morning air. “An entire herd of them, on the move just north of here. I thought I’d go and bring back the finest and the fattest for the woman I love.”
My smile grew at that. Since the day he’d rescued me from King Nøkkyn, Fenris had used every opportunity to work the word love into our conversations.
“You’ll be fine, won’t you?” His smile vanished as his brow furrowed.
“You always ask that,” I chided. “You must think me a scared little girl.”
Fenris wrapped his arms around my waist. “I think you are the bravest woman I’ve ever met,” he said, his breath warm along my neck, “and the most beautiful.”
I giggled. My body responded to his, flooding with heat, my soreness forgotten in the sudden rush of arousal.
Fenris pulled away, and his back straightened as he sniffed the air again. “They’re on the move. Hold that thought.”
He took a few steps backward, until the heels of his bare feet sank into the dark mud of the little stream that tumbled past our cave, and he grinned at me as his body began to shimmer with golden light. I brought my hand to my mouth. A shiver raced up my spine. This was hardly the first time I’d seen his transformation, but it wasn’t exactly the sort of thing you got used to.
The golden light grew and grew until his entire body was obscured, until the entire dancing stream was hidden from view, until the delicate sparks of light touched the very tops of the birch trees. Only then did the light fade and disperse, revealing an enormous black shape, like a nightmare brought to life.
The Fenris-wolf turned to me and pulled his lips back in a grin, revealing bone-white teeth longer than my forearm.
“Oh, be careful!” I cried. I couldn’t see him in that form without remembering the flash of Nøkkyn’s blade and the seep of dark blood into darker fur.
He gave a low sort of bark, like a laugh, but when he spoke his voice was solemn and serious. “I promise, Sol.”
Then he was gone, crossing the stream with a single step and vanishing into the darkness of the early morning forest. The delicate birch trees trembled in his wake, and a few of the now-golden leaves drifted to the grass below. My chest ached, as it always did when he left, but I shook my head and tried to put it out of my mind.
I had a project, after all.
I pulled one of the two remaining loaves of bread from its bag on the wall and took a few, deliberate bites for breakfast before splashing my face and arms in the stream. The water was colder this morning; its surface was thick with fallen leaves. Winter was approaching. I shivered. Our cave got cold at night, even with the fire, and I had no doubt snow would soon pile in this birch grove like flour filling a bowl.
Enough. I tried to put such thoughts out of my mind as I walked up the river to a slow eddy filled with cattails whose thick, brown stalks were going to seed. Yesterday, I’d cut several dozen cattail leaves and spread them across the great, spreading roots of a fallen log that lay half submerged in the water. I ran my fingers over one of the broad leaves, pleased to find it was still pliant. Then I bent to check the small, sheltered space beneath the tree.
My first attempt at weaving a cattail mat lay patiently beneath that tree, neatly folded and protected from the rain. It was still too small for me, let alone both of us, but I was absurdly pleased with the tight weave. It would add warmth and comfort, this sleeping mat, and I liked to imagine Fenris’s face when I finally finished it and brought it to him as a gift.
I gathered my dried cattail leaves and pulled the mat into the sunshine, sitting down to work. My fingers flew over the thick leaves, pulling the dried strands together as I hummed softly to myself. Something dark passed in front of the sun, and my hands faltered. Accompanied by the heavy rustle of large wings, an enormous raven landed on the fallen tree. I flinched, although I knew better than to fear a mere bird. I’d never seen a raven this large, but then again, I’d never lived this far under the shade of the Ironwood.
The bird tilted his head to one side, fixing me with his shiny, black eyes, and my throat went dry. For the first time since I came to Fenris’s cave, I wished I had something to wear. The great bird fluffed his feathers and opened his long, dark beak. I had the strangest feeling he was about to speak.
A voice called from somewhere deep in the forest and the moment passed. The bird took flight with a noisy caw, its dark wings sending fallen leaves swirling along the ground as it climbed into the sky. I shook myself, quickly gathering the few remaining cattail leaves and folding the mat to hide it again. Fenris was back sooner than I’d expected. I smiled in anticipation. Perhaps he just couldn’t stay away.
I followed the stream back to the cave, the latent flicker of my arousal growing with every step as I pictured the smooth lines of Fenris’s body, the curve of his neck meeting his shoulder, the spread of his chest beneath my fingertips.
The sound of whistling reached me, and I paused. Odd. I’d never heard Fenris whistle before. He must not be wearing the wolf’s shape, then. I glanced at the little stream and grinned. I could surprise him.
From the sound of his cheerful whistle, Fenris was almost in sight. I walked to the water and dipped my toes in. A twig snapped in the forest, and I lowered myself into the stream, instantly shivering; the stream was almost cold enough to take my breath away. My hair swirled in the water as I pressed my body against the bank, crawling downstream a pace or two until I reached a spot where a great mass of roots nearly hid the bank from view. I hunched down motionless beneath the tangle of roots, imagining Fenris’s face when I burst from the river, my nipples taut, my skin glistening and wet.
I waited until the sound of his footfalls was almost on top of me. Then I pressed my toes into the sandy stream bed and leapt from the water.
“Surprise!” I cried.
The man in front of me gasped and stumbled backward. He was not Fenris.
The Monster’s Wife, the second book in The Fenris Series, comes out February 26th!
Like what you’ve read? Join my newsletter and I’ll send you a free copy of Tam Lin, my sexy modern take on the Scottish folktale.