Disclaimer: these characters are the property and copywrite of the author. Sexual Content/Violence/Language: This is alternative fiction involving romantic/sexual relationship between adult women. It is intended for mature audiences (over 18). Blood and sex, sometimes simultaneously alert!

Thanks to Rae and Georgi, who beta’d and advised and are therefore equally culpable.

Lastly: You read you feed. That’s the deal.

FB good or bad to msprism@hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.

Li’l Red

Part 1:

"I looove to goooo awanderinggg…"

"Shut up"

"…aloooong the mooountain trackkkkk…"

"Shut up"

"…and as I gooooo.."

"Shut up"

"…I loooove tooo singggg with a….."

"I’m warning you I’ll thrash you with a stick if you don’t shut up."

"….knapsack on my backkkkkk….."

"Look…I’m picking up a stick now. It’s a big one!"


"This might be more of a poking stick that a thrashing one…"

"Vaderaaaaaaaaaaaaa……eek, oi, stop that…"

"Told ya it was a poking one." Leone smirked as she prodded her girlfriend’s curvaceous butt cheek with her bespoke pokin’ stick. She loved their teasing little games. Amy was an atrocious singer and had relished torturing her girlfriends aching ears for miles now with a series of camp songs in revenge for the ten mile hike Leone had dragged her on. Swatting ineffectually at Leone’s prodding Amy looked around the forest floor for a broken branch of her own,

"Wait til I get me a whupping stick we’ll see who’s singing then!"

As she spoke both hikers crested an incline and there in a soft, hazy blue Little Dip, a small fir lined valley in the heart of the Claw Ridge Mountains rolled out before them. They both stood silently soaking up a scene so beautiful and tranquil it seemed time had sat down and rested in this blessed little nook on God’s earth. From the barren mountain crests rimmed with cerulean sky steep verdant slopes tumbled to the valley floor and the silver ribbon of river that ran through it. It sparkled like an emerald in the belly of the majestic mountains. A secret oasis of peace and natural beauty.

Insects buzzed idly nearby. A warm breeze ruffled through the pine needles fluttering the petals of Blue-eyed Mary huddled in the forest shade.

The two women rested and drank in this little bit of wonder in reverential silence, until,

"Wow." Amy simply stated.

"It’s beautiful isn’t it?" Leone stood behind her resting her chin on top of her girlfriend’s shoulder.

"And your family own all this?" awe entered her voice.

"Well, just the valley up to the Ridge, then the National Park takes over."

"Looks like I got me a keeper!" Amy laughed playfully smacking Leone on the backside as she started out down the trail into the valley.

"You only love me for my pine cones." Leone grumbled adjusting her backpack as she began to follow.

"Hah," Amy smiled back green eyes sparkling, strawberry blonde hair lifting in the breeze, "I love your for your poking stick! Valderaha ha ha ha ha. Valdereeeeeeeeeeeeee…"

"Damn," Leone scanning the wiregrass, "I threw that thing away."

They arrived in the heart of the valley shortly after lunchtime. This was down to Amy’s meticulous planning of their hike, she liked to use mealtimes as the header and footer of any logistical exercise. If a task couldn’t be done within the boundaries of two set mealtimes then you were biting off more than you could chew and a rethink over a light snack was probably necessary. Leone was quite happy to blunder through anything with a strip of jerky as long as someone pointed her in the right direction. It was one of the many essential differences between the women that made their mutual friends frown at the strange but unmistakably strong bond between them.

Even to look at they were chalk and cheese, Amy Fortune was a 5’4in feisty little country girl. She had grown up far away in the corn-belt but had relocated to Portland Oregon and now taught kindergarten. A job she loved and which enhanced her natural assets of bossiness, playfulness and always knowing best.

Leone Garoul tall, dark and very intimidating in looks was actually incredibly easy going by nature. In fact she was so good natured and laid back she might as well have a hammock in her hip pocket. Life was a slow, meandering river to Leone. Everything moved along at a nice even pace, relaxed and peaceful. She was a veterinarian with both a city and country practise. City based was obviously for pets and domestic animals but in the country she dealt exclusively with horses and the local stud ranches.

They had actually met when the kindergarten acquired Cookie and Oreo as new classroom pets. Dr Leone Garoul had come in to show the children how to care for the Dutch rabbits and came away with a huge crush on the petite teacher. One it seemed she shared with every kid in the classroom. Except the kids couldn’t make a follow up call on the welfare of Cookie and Oreo and invite Miss Fortune out to dinner…hah! Suck it up rugrats!

It was this childish streak that actually sealed the deal between them. Amy took to the dynamics of their relationship like a fish to water, Leone was just taken. She totally adored her girlfriend, was so deeply in love with her as to be incredibly anxious about this long weekend break.

Effectively she had dragged Amy all the way down to her family’s holiday homestead here in this remote but beautiful valley so that the woman she privately saw as her intended could meet her kin. Of course she hadn’t told Amy any of this for fear she would turn and run, after all they’d been together for less than a year and she didn’t want to look too pushy. Plus she knew Amy to be very independent of her own family and she might not appreciate how much Leone pandered to hers. But it was important to Leone that Amy like the Garoul clan, as important as it was for them to love and respect her as deeply as Leone did.

A little further into the valley Amy turned to her companion,

"So, if you want me to top singing you better start talking. Tell me how your family got to own a whole valley."

"I already did."

"Yea, ages ago and it was the canned version. Tell me again Scheherazade and if I am pleased you shall live to see a new dawn. Come’on bard it up a little."

As there were still a few miles to go and it might waylay an incessant parade of trail songs sung badly off key Leone sighed and complied as usual.

"Well, the Garouls were a noble family from France, near the Mageride Mountains in Gevaudan. There were two brothers, twins. And they argued about who would inherit because the older one was sort of soft and the younger much more aggressive. The younger decided to kill his brother and take the lands and title. So they fought but the elder meeker one won and the younger one was sent into exile cos his brother was merciful and sent him to the New World and we got to own this valley. See?"

"That’s a rubbish story if I was the Shah of Arabia I’d be asleep by now and you’d be toast in the morning!"

"I told you I can’t do stories…"

"You need to sex it up…like they fought at midnight under a full moon in a field of snow. The Duchess…he was a Duke right?" she got an enthusiastic nod in affirmation, "…the Duchess watching from the castle ramparts hands clasped to her heart. Would her Sire survive this profanity from his younger more garrulous brother? Would her world and heart be torn asunder for she knew the cruelty of the younger would bind her forever to him as a courtesan."

"Oooo…" Leone’s eyes widened, "you’re good at this."

Amy smirked at the handsome profile. Leone was a truly terrible story teller, an awful joke teller and incredibly bad at lying. She would be the worst eye witness ever as she seemed to find it impossible to match action to description. But she loved listening to Amy’s stories about her day at school, the exploits of the rugrats, even what happened at the food store on the way home. She could listen to Amy’s voice forever it caressed and soothed places her hands couldn’t reach.

"Slowly they circled with the moonlight flashing off rapiers, taking each other’s measure, fixed upon each other’s quivering move. Shadows stretched ghostly across the frothing snow deadly dance churned like sea foam."

"Wow…" Leone could see it all like a little movie in her head. Family history suddenly felt much more exciting.

"And then the lunge, the flash of eye and blade, the sharp snap of steel on steel. Again and again they parry and twist. Until blood like fevered crimson melts design onto the crystal ice. And it is done. One holds the bloodied point to his sibling’s throat. But he cannot kill, he is too noble. His nature is to protect, his lands, his subjects, his family. He cannot destroy his brother and so he banishes him forever!" Amy flourished dramatically here.

"Yea…and then he comes to America and gets a valley. The End." Leone concluded.

Amy pouted,

"I was gonna tell you all about the penniless trek through France, living off the land, stealing from farms and hunting along the way for survival. Then the long sea journey where he had to work his passage. The disease and hardship among a mutinous and murdering crew. The bloody battering of the beleaguered and bereft on those floating cities of death. And finally he arrives in his promised land. Swathes of wild forests, a noble savage for a wife and a million opportunities to start afresh. He begins to build a new kingdom for his progeny, and so future Garoul generations move slowly west…" with a sigh and a flourish Amy indicated she was finally finished.

"Shit, you make up a hell of a story. Wonder if it was really like that?"

"Hey what happened to the French Garouls? Do you have a whole family connection in Europe?"

"Nah, they all disappeared in the 1700s. Plague or something…dunno."

"Ah, Death upon a blackened stallion riding on a seething cloud of rats…"

Her effigy on the Black Death was suddenly cut short by a loud growl. They both looked down at her tummy with amusement and surprised affection.

"Oh," Amy blinked, "are we there yet? I’m starving. It must be past lunchtime. I need to eat."

"Here, before you pass out." Leone offered her an energy lozenge and shook her head.

"Hey, Leone!" A call from up behind stopped them in their tracks. Turning as a big barrel of a man descended on them in a rush, the rod and reel box flapping at his side in time with his big feet.

"Claude." Leone cried delightedly and allowed herself to be swallowed in a massive bear hug, "You got here early?"

"Yea we did. Folks are still straggling in but we arrived last night. It’s good to see you, sunshine." With one more bone crunching squeeze the big man let Leone go and turned to look expectantly at Amy extending a huge hand.

"Is this your girl?" he asked.

Leone blushed to the roots of her hair much to Amy’s amusement,

"I better be." She smiled allowing her smaller hand to be absolutely engulfed, "I’m Amy. I’m glad to meet you Claude."

Her hand was so enthusiastically pumped she thought she’d have tendonitis for the rest of the week.

"Mmm, Amy this is my Uncle Claude, he and his wife Louise came all the way down from Jefferson Wisconsin for the weekend." Leone introduced them slightly belatedly.

"And I am so happy to meet you Amy. Maybe we’ll get a chance to talk later this evening at the barbeque. You can meet Louise and the rest of the family then."

"Barbeque tonight?" Leone tried to distract Claude from wrenching Amy’s arm off at the elbow. The man had no idea about his own strength.

"Yup," Claude disengaged and beamed at her, "Paulie got a deer so tonight’s a big party. Everyone should be in by then. It’ll be a hoot. I brought my fiddle and Maurice has his new accordion."

"Great. Good for Paulie I’ll bet he’s over the moon."

Claude began to makes moves to head off in the direction he had been going before spying his niece and her companion wandering along the trail.

"I gotta go. I’m meeting Pascal for some fishing. I think Marie left you some lunch in your cabin…" he had turned fully away now and was heading off back up the trail.

"Hey," Leone called after him, "what cabin’s mine?"

Without looking back he guffawed,

"Why the Honeymoon cabin, what else?" he boomed and lumbered off still chuckling.

Amy turned raised eyebrows to her girlfriend, "Honeymoon cabin?" Leone blushed hotly again.

"It’s only called that ‘cos it’s set so far back from the main group. Ignore him, he loves to tease."

"Don’t care if they call it the Love Shack, there’s lunch in it so let’s go!"

Another twenty minutes and they finally walked into the homestead clearing at the southern end of Little Dip. It was dominated by a huge BBQ and fire pit surrounded with a variety of picnic tables and benches. About half a dozen people of all ages wearing all colour of flannel roamed around obviously preparing for an excursion of some sort. Maps were being perused and backpacks attended to. It seemed like a small hiking party was preparing for an afternoon’s trek through the beautiful valley.

Leone hesitating beside her lover took a big breath and nodded to her,

"Okay, this is it. Are you ready to meet my Mom?"

Amy widened her eyes in mock horror then smiled,

"Yea. Com’on Hot Stuff, you’ve dragged me nearly ten miles through deepest darkest forests to meet these people. Don’t chicken out on me for the last two yards. Take me to your Matriarch."

She reached over and grabbed her suddenly hesitant girlfriend’s hand. Looking carefully she could see the gleam of excitement and the slight flush on Leone’s sweet features.

She’s so cute when she gets all flustered like this. I’m really gonna make this work. Her family will be eating out of my hand by the time this weekend’s over. I’ll make her so proud of me!

They shouldered their packs onto the ground. Amy looked up with fascination as an older version of Leone descended on them in several long strides.

"Leone." She cried delightedly, arms outstretched.

"Mom." Leone grabbed her in a big happy hug. Amy stood back a few feet anxiously wiping a sweaty palm on her jeans, preparing for a hearty handshake. Jeez, they’re the spit of each other and just as tall. Guess she gets everything from her Mom’s side. She watched as Leone’s black tresses mixed with the older woman’s flashes of silver. They were of similar height and muscular build, though Leone was broader in the shoulders and slightly leaner in the hips. But then Leone had never had kids, her figure lacked the softer curves motherhood could bring to a stern physique.

It had always been an issue with Amy that her girlfriend towered over her. Well, to be honest it had also given her a cosy feeling of protection too…and it was kinda nice those nights when they fooled around on the settee and Leone would swoop to bodily carry her up stairs and…

"…is my Mom." Leone beamed down at her, her mother smiling by her side taking in every little detail.

Amy startled out of her extremely unexpected and inappropriate thoughts to fumble for Mrs Garoul’s large warm hand. She looked up into the deepest blue eyes she had ever seen. Leone’s were a startling blue that changed hue with her mood, but never as deep as those smiling gently down at her now. These were almost Prussian blue, warm and friendly and very, very welcoming she was pleased to note. Little crinkles of laughter permanently creased the corners and coerced a responding and sincere smile from her.

"It’s a pleasure Mrs Garoul."

"Please call me Marie. I’m so pleased to finally meet you Amy. I’ve heard so much about you."

"You have?" she blinked with surprise as Leone’s colour heightened.

"Most definitely. I’m really pleased you could make it down for the holiday weekend. Come and meet some of the clan. You just caught us before we left for a short walk." The blue eyes crinkled even more.

The Garoul family was all one big basketball team as far as Amy was concerned. One after the other she shook friendly outstretched hands and smiled up...always up, into beaming blue eyed faces.

They got a clone factory out here in the woods or what? At least if I break her I know where to go for another model.

"…and this is Uncle Pascal, and Aunt Stella and Maurice. They’ve come down from Illinois…"

It went on for several minutes, each as affably generous to her as the next until she thought her arm was gonna fall off with all the hand wringing. All a total blur but she knew she’d get her chance to reacquaint later in the evening. At last the introductions began to peter out much to her relief.

"Hey Mom, are Jori and Anita here yet?" Leone hollered over.

Ah, this one I do know, Jori’s her brother. He married Anita last year. Amy grinned to herself. She’d seen photos of the wedding that had occurred a few weeks before her and Leone met. She was looking forward to meeting her brother.

"He’s in town with Kit collecting Anita from the station. They shouldn’t be long." Marie smiled back, a truly happy woman that all her family were gathered together in the one place for a weekend of fun and reunion. "Now I got a flask of coffee and a platter of sandwiches waiting for you at the cabin. The fridge is already stocked up but you can take my car into town if you need anything else."

Marie hovered around them constantly touching her daughter, her warm hand sometimes falling on Amy’s shoulder too as they moved around the dining area chatting and laughing. Everyone was in a happy relaxed holiday mood, and even though Amy felt curious eyes upon her all seemed benign and non intrusive. She felt herself slowly let go of a tension she didn’t know she had been carrying in her shoulders. Out of the blue those same relaxed muscles suddenly got a tender squeeze from Marie’s hands as she stood directly behind her.

"Will you two be okay if I chase on after these guys?"

"Sure Mom. Is it a herb hunt?"

Marie smiled, "Yes, well it is for me. I need to stock up. I make herbal remedies from the plants that grow here." Her eyes turned to Amy as she explained, "The forest is a full and free larder."

"The best type of shopping." Amy smiled back.

With another quick squeeze Marie moved away and casually threw her pack over a shoulder,

"I’ll see you in a few hours at the barbeque. Go have a rest and wash up. We’ll be eating about sevenish and I expect to hear all your news. And Amy," their eyes locked, "you are very welcome. It’s great to meet you at last." Smiling she trudged off after the rest of the group.

Alone in the clearing now Leone moved to pick up her own pack and also grabbed Amy’s.

"You never said you were taking me to the Land of the Giants," Amy teased. "Everyone’s tall and blue eyed. Do you all inter breed or what?"

"Hey, we got lots of short people married into the family. It’s just our superior dominant genes win out every time."

"Oh, so you’re a super race then? And who are you calling short people?"

Leone snorted at the familiar banter pattern she saw emerging as she strolled towards the trail that lead back to their allocated cabin.

"Munchkin." She murmured just loud enough to be heard.

"What’d you call me?" her target spluttered outraged.

"Leprechaun," Leone smirked as she led the way down a trail path between two cabins. Amy stomped after her,

"Oi, Lurch. Wait up I want a word with you!"

"Come on Gimli. Our cabin awaits us."

"I’m gonna kick your ass…"

"With those little legs?"

"Laugh now Big Bird but ya gotta lie down sometime and on a level playing field you’re the dug out…"

Their cabin was one set well back from the main communal clearing. A sturdy functional structure. One bedroom, a small kitchen, bathroom and lounge with an open fireplace for winter evenings. Lighting was by oil lamp Amy was excited to see, and the kitchen equipment and hot water ran off a propane tank set discreetly out the back. It was decorated with warm earthy tones and Klamath textiles.

"Mmm, cosy enough for ya." Leone asked dumping their bags in the bedroom as Amy had a quick rece.

"Oh yea, and romantic…" she came up behind her and wrapped her arms around the taller woman’s waist stroking her cheek against the broad back.

"Hey," Leone murmured delightedly, "looks like all that healthy air got to someone. Fancy a little nap?"

"Snack first, you outta know by now. Where’s the kitchen?"

The lunch Marie had prepared was delicious and most welcome. Replete from fresh coffee and thick juicy sandwiches Amy lay back in her porch chair hands contentedly resting on her little round belly.

"Mmmhmm. That was a good start to the weekend, especially after the hike you put me through to get here."

As if on cue she roared a wide yawn glancing over to where Leone stood by the railing drinking in the scents and sounds of the forest that snuggled up close to the cabin. Already Leone’s whole body had somehow relaxed and reformed itself into abstracted serenity. The harshness and constrictions of everyday living pouring out of her leaving only a deep seated contentedness and tranquillity. Amy rose and came to stand beside her. A small hand covered a larger one resting on the railing, her head dipping in to lean against a strong bicep,

"It’s so quiet and peaceful here." She pulled the arm she rested against around her, "I love you Leone." Nestling into her lover’s side.

She sighed at the warmth and security of the contact. Looking up into her own private sky rimmed with impossibly thick lashes she murmured,

"I think I just about sucked up enough of that healthy mountain air. What about that nap you promised me?"

"Mmm, a nap would be very beneficial right now." Wiggling her dark brows suggestively Leone gently twisted round and cupped the face glowing up at her. Their lips met in a soft full kiss as she breathed,

"I love you too. So, so much," before the kiss engulfed her and all thought span away.

They gently settled across the bed fingers nimbly working buttons and buckles, lowering zippers easing aside cloth with the skill of lovers who had undressed each other many times before. Bodies moved with fluidity, again the right buttons were touched with knowing fingers, skilful lips.

Leone’s long frame lay back on the bed. Amy on hands and knees straddled her, breasts dangling, nipples stroking brow and cheek, tracing the outline of full generous lips. A lazy tongue reached out to swipe and flick at a pink tip as it came too close on one of its torturous circuits. Leone’s large hands caressed her lover’s back and down her sides, cupping buttocks and trailing languidly across the soft belly. She playfully tickled crisp damp curls her nostrils quivering at the musk rising from such a soft touch.

Growling she spun them over and nestled between opened thighs nipping and licking Amy’s sensitive neck.

"Oh no it’s the woolif, the woolif…" Amy giggled at the deliberately ticklish kisses. Leone knew all her secret tickly places. Two big hands swamped her small breasts kneading and massaging. She immediately felt her temperature rise. Leone knew all her secret sexy places too. Hot lips trailed down from her throat and a raspberry nipple was hungrily pulled into an equally hot mouth.

Moaning Amy’s hands crept over her head and she arched up in to the mouth in an act of play surrender. This was where their love making moved up a gear, the ticklish playfulness gone now they were committed to another more lusty game. That long tongue lashed her sensitive tips, elongating and hardening them even more. Their reward was even more nipping and laving. Mons ground together in their own private rhythm, coal black curls scraping and scratching over damp rusted gold.

Leone slid a hand between the sweaty bodies and dipped into the golden heat. She knew these contours as intimately as she knew every coloured speck in Amy’s iris. Skilful fingers found the sturdy little nub of nerves and stroked carefully round it with just the right amount of pressure. It pouted under her touch, humming under fingertips slick and pulsing.

"Ooooo….baby…." small hands bit into her shoulders. They were in another gear now, another place. No more acting no more games, in this place body commanded mind as they moved together in trust and eager abandonment.

Feeling her lover’s rhythm hit its perfect pitch Leone stroked lower teasing open the folds, drawing out the slick moisture spreading it liberally all over her lover’s sex. Again and again her fingers drifted back stroking over the petaled flesh gently nudging, intimating what she wished to do.

"I want to fuck you." she mumbled into a softly undulating breast, her fingers applying sweet pressure, slowly pushing into the soft wet cavern, "I want to be inside."

Amy reached down and circled her wrist whispering,

"No baby, I don’t want penetration. My period’s coming soon and I’m a little bit tender." She softened her whispered words with feathery kisses along a strong jawline.

"Are you sore?"

"Little cramps is all. But Dr Garoul…they say an orgasm helps." She smiled suggestively her hands on the broad shoulders beginning to press her lover downwards.

"Aaah, I see," Leone’s smokey blue eyes twinkled as she slowly complied and slid down Amy’s belly. "You’re looking a spoonful of sugar…" she smirked at their old joke as she drew level with rusty curls

"Mmmm," drawled Amy, "helps the medicine go down…ouh..." she gasped in bliss as a hot, sweet tongue burrowed deep.

They actually did have a nap of sorts. One of those cosy post coital affairs drifted into through whispers and lazy smiles and loving little touches.

The change of light woke Leone up. Early evening was approaching and she felt rather than noticed a change in shadows coming through the open bedroom window.

Padding nude into the bathroom she smelled her fingers still suffused with Amy’s sex and smiling cleaned them with her tongue.

"We’re not meant to be at a family BBQ every night are we?" Amy frowned as they wandered down the pathway back to the central clearing. Music, laughter and the rich smell of barbeque filtered back through the trees.

"I mean I’m looking forward to it but I do want to cook for just the two of us sometimes," she hastily amended not wanting to offend. Leone smiled and squeezed her shoulder,

"This is for the first night. Also Paulie got a deer so we’re having a celebration cookout. It’s his first big kill."

"Paulie’s the teenager right?" Amy frowned back to her initial introductions remembering the lanky boy and his shy welcome. He had blushed furiously and with a sudden softening of her heart Amy had an insight of Leone as a tall, gangly and awkward teenager. She couldn’t imagine the shy young man with a rifle, sights settling on a deer’s neck and shoulder.

It unsettled her somehow and she found herself defensively flippant,

"What was his first little kill? Your family are big into the ‘beat it n eat it’ sports categories, aren’t they?"

"We like hunting and fishing, yeah. It’s just an activity that’s always run in the family." Leone shrugged unperturbed. ‘Beat it and eat it’?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, okay, but it’s better than…than flay and sauté…"

"Or shake n bake…?"

Giggling they carried on down the dirt trail to the gathering.

Not only did they enjoy killing things, it seemed the Garoul’s liked to party too. With one on the banjo, one on the fiddle and another with an accordion slung round his neck the music was raucous and very, very good. She winked back at Claude as he did a mean number on that fiddle of his and guessed the skinny guy beside him on the accordion was Maurice. She had still to meet him and the banjo player. In fact there were a good few more Garouls to meet as she noted the inflated numbers now most of them were gathered together for the evening festivities. She took the beer Leone offered and ambled over to a massive picnic table happy to slide under its protective wooden shell. Sipping her suds and soaking in all the laughter and activity around her Amy soon found her toes tapping and a general feeling of bonhomie filling her.

"I see your toes under that table…"

She looked up from her beer as Marie grabbed a seat on the bench across the table from her. Amy gave her a bright smile,

"Well the music is infectious. I can’t keep’em under control."

"Where’s Leone? I haven’t seen her this evening."

"What? You mean you lost her in this sea of tall, dark and handsomes? I think she went off to congratulate Paulie."

"Ah," Marie laughed delightedly, "so do we meet with your approval?"

"Well if I was a fortune teller this family would be my dream come true. But I thought I was the one up for approval?."

They giggled together,

"Ok," Marie suggested, "lets both be on our best behaviour. But seriously I’d love for you to get to know the family."

"So where are all the kids?" Amy asked, "You know, the little Garouls."

"Ah, kids. Leone tells me you’re a kindergarten teacher."
"Yea, we met over a Dutch rabbit…"

"I know. I heard every little detail right down to it pooing on teacher’s desk much to the delight of the class."

Amy chuckled, "Oh, they’re fascinated with anything to do with poo at that age. Except cleaning it out of rabbit hutches…I think I got conned there."

"I heard about that too. One day they decided to try rabbit chocolate raisins and you had more that just poo to clear up..."

Amy wagged a finger at her, "Hey they all could’ve died for all I knew. Coulda poisoned themselves. No more chances. I clean it myself and am never tempted…"

Marie laughed again her deep blue eyes twinkling so like her daughter’s Amy felt a rush of affection for the woman.

"Can I be introduced?" a cool voice came up behind Amy. She twisted in her seat to see the speaker and low and behold another six footer peered down at her. This time however the eyes were not welcoming, this blue was glacial utterly mistrustful and unfriendly. Amy was slightly shocked at first, it was so contrary to the cordiality she had come to expect from this family.

"Kit, this is Amy. She’s here with Leone. But you know that already. Amy, this is Kit, Leone’s younger sister." Marie affected the introduction smoothly enough but Amy thought she could hear an undercurrent in the older woman’s voice. A subtle warning to the…sister?

Sister? Leone has a sister? She’s never ever mentioned a sister. Her brother Jori yes, but never a little sister.

Quickly covering her surprise Amy held out a hand for the perfunctory shake. She decided to be as unenthusiastic about her new acquaintance as she seemed to be about her.

Humph! She obviously never mentioned her cos she’s a sullen brat! Way to go with the first impressions Kit.

"Hi Kit," was all she said, she got the vibe she didn’t need the fax! Her hand was squeezed tightly in a big grasp but not shaken, merely squeezed. It was hard to say if it was malicious or not as all the handshakes she’d had earlier had nearly dislocated her shoulder with pure friendliness. To be honest this decidedly cooler reception had its advantages for her shredded arm muscles despite her gut reaction of dislike towards the woman offering it.

"You’re a tiny wee thing ain’t ya."

"Nope, I’m the average height for an American woman. Whereas you…you’re a big streak a something ain’t ya…" she was actually a little surprised at her aggression, but what the hell this woman was pissing her off mightily.

"Just average huh? See ya around Amy," Kit turned sauntering away.

"It’ll be my treat." Amy muttered before realising Marie was watching the exchange impassively. She managed to look a little chagrined before Marie rescued her,

"They don’t get on. A sort of sibling rivalry thing they never quite grew out off. But there was no need for Kit’s attitude. She needs to save that for Leone to deal with not you."

Just then they both heard Kit’s call as she approached her sister over by the fire pit,

"Hey Leo, hear you brought carrot sticks…"

Amy’s face flamed and her green eyes glowed like a Harpy, She better be referring to the salad bar cos I Am A Strawberry Blonde!!

Marie blinked at the violent flush,

"You’re one of those small but extremely bad tempered people aren’t you?" she asked good humouredly, immediately diffusing Amy’s coiled anger.

"I’m a kindergarten teacher. I know how to look after myself!" she shot back with equal good humour.

"Good, cos you got two big babies out there to knock into shape," Marie lifted her beer bottle in a little salute. "It’s gonna be an interesting long weekend." Smiling both woman clicked bottles before taking a long draw.

It soon became apparent there was no salad bar, ergo she was carrot sticks! Well, no salad bar if you don’t count a platter of homemade bread and a bowl of tomatoes that no one seemed particularly interested in except Amy. Venison it seemed was aplenty.

Amy looked down at the plate Leone had brought her laden with charred flesh. She had been a lapsed vegetarian when they had first met. Lapsed in the sense she had decided her body needed the proteins in fish and the odd little bit of chicken. But for some reason it had been so hard around Leone and slowly but surely her diet was assimilated by red meat. She was never too sure how or why it had happened it just did. Not that she imbibed regularly, fish was still her first choice.

Now standing there looking at the big slab of Bambi on her plate she was certain she had slid all the way back down the evolutionary ladder into the primordial slime she had come from.

Since when did I start eating Disney products? She glanced balefully at the bowl of tomatoes, it’ll be Thumper next then the Little Mermaid in a kebab…

"Something wrong with the food?" She recognised the cool tone as Kit’s.

"Some potato salad would be nice. Maybe those carrot sticks you mentioned earlier."

The taller woman didn’t even look abashed,

"Potato salad?" she scowled ignoring the dig at her earlier rudeness.

"Yes, potato. It’s a starch foodstuff, like rice or corn," Amy sniped back, "If you tried some you might get that constipated look off your face!"

A few nearby snickers told her other ears had been prying. She swiftly retreated, she didn’t like Kit one bit and had the feeling the woman would not forgive or forget easily.

Like I give a rat’s arse. She started it! Best give it your best shot and run that’s what Grandma used to say, she decided looking around for Leone.

"Hey did I hear you asking for potato salad?"

She turned round to meet a questioning gaze on a level with her own. Blinking she realised she was face to face with a young Hispanic woman with beautiful dark eyes and shoulder length black hair. She was offering up a bowl of homemade potato salad,

"I just made some and it looks like you and I are the only ones wanting any," she smiled.

"Are you standing in a hole?"

The woman just burst out laughing and held out a hand,

"I was gonna ask you the same thing. Hi I’m Anita, Jori’s wife. I take it you’re here with Leone."

Shaking the hand warmly Amy smiled back,

"Yea, I’m Amy, Leone’s partner. It’s nice to meet someone who’s not gonna give me neck ache."

"Me too. Here have some," she spooned a generous helping onto Amy’s plate and they moved in unison to sit at one of the long picnic tables.

"Ignore Kit. She’s a bit of a hard nose but she doesn’t really mean any harm," Anita advised as they settled into their seats.

"Believe me I’m more than happy to ignore her. Hopefully it’s a two way street and then we’ll get on just fine."

"To be honest I think she’s been out here too and has lost some of the social graces."

"She lives in the valley?" Ah that explains it…a wild child raised by sarcastic chipmunks.

"Yea. Kit works in the National Park over the Ridge but I know she wants a transfer soon. Says she needs to get away for a while. Can’t blame her, I’d go mad stuck in the forest morning, noon and night. At least the other Rangers go home after their shifts to whatever town they come from. Kit lives here in the valley only even deeper in than this."

Amy cut into her steak and looked more than a little perturbed to find it quite bloody. Sighing she plucked at her bread instead, plopping a cherry tomato into her mouth. Anita looked over at her plate, she wasn’t faring any better herself,

"Under done? Same here. I told Jori to make sure mine was cooked thru but I don’t think he’s capable of understanding what that means," she too gave a heavy sigh.

"Do you want me to take them back and tell them to incinerate them some more?" Amy offered.

"To be honest I’m not that interested now. I’m off my food as it is these days. The last thing I needed to see is a plate full of road kill."

"I know, I’ve been having Bambi drama since I got my Gore to Go," again they giggled like co-conspirators.

"What are you two gigglers plotting?" Jori swung a long leg over the bench and settled in beside his wife wrapping an arm around her waist. He was the male equivalent of Leone and Kit, tall, dark though his eyes were a deeper smokier blue. And obviously utterly charming.

"A vegetable garden," Anita snuggled in closer. "God knows your diet needs one. Hun, this is Amy. She’s come down with Leone for the weekend."

Another massive paw enveloped Amy’s,

"Very nice to meet you Amy. I’ve heard a lot about you."

"Does this family have a bulletin board or something cos I need to read it? Everyone seems to know all about me but I know nothing about the Garouls. I didn’t even know Leone had a little sister."

Jori laughed goodnaturedly,

"Well they’re not too many of us and it’s easy to keep in touch on-line, so yea, we’re pretty much up on each others gossip."

With a little look if askance he reached over and began to eat Anita’s abandoned steak,

"You should be eating this protein as much as I should be bean munching," he muttered at her.

"One day you’re gonna burst, you know that don’t ya." Anita slowly shook her head as her husband devoured her leftover meat.

Resting her head on a hand Amy watched them interact. She felt very relaxed around this couple, glad to have another ‘outsider’ like Anita to chat to and maybe become friends with. She’d a feeling it would be fun to hang out with Anita.

"So help me catch up with the family headlines. You two were married just before I met Leone so there must be an anniversary coming up soon."

"Five weeks and two days time." Jori answered drawing a look of surprise from both women.

"Wow!" was all Amy could say as she watched him lean in and kiss Anita on the nose.

"Told ya I counted the days." He smiled into her dark shining eyes.

What a sweet guy. Amy mused, actually Leone’s sweet like that too. Aaah, they seem so much in love.

"So where did you guys meet?"

"Well we’re both botanists…" Jori tore his eyes away to look over at Amy.

"So we obviously met at a rodeo…" Anita broke in laughing, "We have mutual friends in Tucson and just hooked up when a crowd of us went to La Fiesta de los Vacqueros."

"So you don’t work together?"

"No, Jori lectures at UW and I’m in pharmaceuticals. You’d think a guy that interested in plants would eat some."

"I do. Look…" and he popped a tomato into his mouth looking very pleased with himself.

"Leone told me the Garouls were originally from France and migrated over in the early 1700s." Amy asked wondering if there were another slivers of information as Leone was so useless at telling her things.

"Yea, through the Hudson and travelled slowly west. Arrived here in the early 1800s. And what about you, you’re not local."

"Nah came here from Nebraska to study then gotta a teaching job and just stayed. I love being in a state with a coastline."

"Cornhusker!" Leone appeared at her shoulder and slid in to sit next to her cuddling up, "Tell the truth. You loved being in a state with an abundance of beaver!"

The other couple snorted with laughter while Amy glared at her,

"What did I ever see in you?" she asked as if mystified, "You’re a curse!"

"Hey, you’re not eating your steak?" Leone eyed the abandoned plate hungrily. Shaking her head in disbelief Amy pushed it over to her,

"Too blue for me. Here you can finish it you big piggy." She rolled eyes with Anita.

Leone’s appetite had always amazed her, the woman was an eating machine and to add insult to injury she never seemed to add an extra pound of weight to her trim, muscular figure.

"He’s the same," Anita nodded at Jori. "He’ll eat us out of house and home yet," she turned to her husband, "Okay big boy, I’m tired think I’m gonna call it a night."

She stifled a yawn but not before Amy caught it and yawned too. Jori stood up with Anita,

"I’ll turn in with you. G’night you two. See ya tomorrow." And with murmured goodbyes they both followed the track to their own cabin.

"They’re a nice couple. She’s very sweet. We had a little laugh at your family’s expense…it was nice…" Amy sighed and traced a finger over a knot on the tabletop. Leone smiled and just kept wolfing down her steak shoving the salad and bread aside.

"Hey eat yer greens," Amy admonished her.

"Scared I’ll get constipated too?"

"Ah, so you heard that. And what about this secret sister, how come I know nothing about her?"

Leone shrugged, "Well she was there in the wedding photos I showed you. It’s not like I’m hiding her, I just don’t mention her much. I don’t mention anybody much do I?"

"True. You are very reticent about your family, yet you all seem to get on well and keep in touch."

"Mmm," a nod of agreement as Leone pushed her plate away. "I brought you here to meet them face to face. Saves a lot of explaining."

"So if this is an annual get together where are all the kids? Or do your family eat them?" she looked down at the rapidly emptying plate, a pool of bloodied gravy the only evidence of the venison.

"Hardee har. You and kids, you’d think you’d like the break from the little monsters?" Leone licked her fingers after using the bread to mop up the gravy.

"This is not the only family get together, there are others but this is the main one in Little Dip. And it’s a family rule, no kids, teenagers only."

Finished now she turned to fully face Amy, covering a small pale hand with her bigger darker one she continued,

"The littl’uns to tend go feral when they get up here and this weekend is all about hunting so the rule is to keep’em away as it’s dangerous. In the summer all the little cousins have a fortnight camp up here and can run rampant safely with their parents in tow. Now that’s a real hoot of a get together."

"That sounds like fun. What a great idea. So Paulie’s actually the youngest here this weekend?"

"Yea, he’s fourteen and it’s his first real hunting trip. He’s so proud of that deer." Leone smiled happy for him, "Next year he’ll be joined by his sister Adele and their cousin Corinne cos the girls will be old enough. Before you know the place will be over-run with teenagers, just like the Mall back home."

"Okay. Well I suppose if your family owns a whole valley it’s silly not to use it for R&R for everybody. Even if it is for terrorising Mother Nature."

"Com’on. I can see you’re tired. Let’s call it a night."

They stood up and holding hands headed back up the trail to their cabin leaving behind the music and laughter.

Leone stood on the porch looking at the moon. In a few days it would be full. She listened to Amy bumbling around their bedroom now she had vacated the bathroom. Beyond that she could hear the sounds of the forest. The rustling if undergrowth as small nocturnal creatures scurried about their activities. And deeper in the movements of their hunters, of padded paw, the sweep of wings. Her ear caught the soft calls of night. Scent was stronger as well, the richness of the earth, sap and bark all sang out to her.

Behind her warm citrus and sandalwood, the soap Amy used wafted from within the cabin. And underlying that was Amy, her scent, her heat, her woman, her mate.

"Hey dopey, didn’t ya hear me calling? Bathroom’s free." Amy came out onto the porch. She wore a large Winter Hawks T her favourite to sleep in, "Jeez, it’s chilly out here…oof…"

Leone pulled her into her arms and buried her face in her soft neck.

"My," Amy put her arms on her shoulders attempting to push her back, "someone’s got a little red meat buzz going on. Or are ya gonna blame it all on the fresh mountain air again, mmm?"

Leone refused to answer too engrossed in cupping her large hands over the thin cotton panties.

"Hey, stop that." She tried to swat the hands away. The mouth at her throat licked and sucked up to her jawline. Her earlobe was nibbled as her ass was squeezed and massaged as she was forced up onto her tiptoes. She knew what was going to happen next. Leone would hoist her up onto her waist so Amy’s legs would wrap tightly around her as she was carried inside and then lowered onto the bed. It was one of their favourite moves but tonight she was just too tired. Plus they’d had an afternoon of good luvin, and her belly cramps were back. Her period would probably be here in the morning.

Again she pushed against the broad shoulders,

"No, honey. I’m not in the mood," she murmured though she did enjoy the tingly little kisses. A growl was her response as Leone lifted her up anyway, hands tight on her ass cheeks pulling her apart to straddle Leone’s hips. Suddenly her back was pushed against the rough cabin wall,

"Hey, I said no. What’s got into you?"

A hard kiss silenced her protests as her lips were ground apart and a thick tongue hungrily filled her mouth. It muffled her anger and she tore her mouth away attempting to push Leone back with all her strength. She didn’t move an inch. Her breath blazed across Amy’s cheeks hot and aroused. She pushed her groin harder against Amy’s opened centre.

"For Gods sake what are you doing? I told you I’m not interested." Amy snapped trying to wiggle her legs down to the plank flooring.

Fingers momentarily tightened on her thigh flesh pulling her legs further apart for an instant in a silent and sullen show of dominance before she was slowly released. She slid down the wall to her normal height as her feet found the floor, her eyes level with Leone’s panting chest. She didn’t move back and Amy had to slip out from the side of her. Even in her anger she found she couldn’t raise her head to meet what she knew to be angry eyes. It was so rare for Leone to be pushy like this and Amy felt uncomfortably unsure.

"You’re really pissing me off. I’m going to bed." And glowering at her presumed stupidly drunken lover’s breastbone, not her face, she stomped off indoors fuming.

Turning back to face the forest Leone lifted her head to a faint stirring of shadow in the tree line. She cocked an ear to listen to the faint intrusion. Scowling angrily she turned and headed into the woods in the opposite direction.

Part 2:

Birdsong awoke her. Not the muted warbling of city species but loud, raucous, and totally grating to her irked ears.

"Oh shut up!" she rolled over and reached for her watch on the bedside table, "Gimmie a break. It isn’t even daylight."

It was then she noticed she had the whole bed to herself. Did Leone come to bed last night? She couldn’t be sure. She’d went out like a light as soon as her head hit the pillow too tired and angry to give a stuff what time Leone had followed her in. Now she sprung up in alarm looking around the room feeling totally disorientated and worried.

Just as she flung back the bedding to get up she heard the front door latch click open. Footsteps padded quietly across the lounge to the bedroom and the door swung silently open. Leone stood there totally nude.

"Bloody Hell you nearly gave me a heart attack," she sat clutching the blankets to her chest. "Have you been outside naked?"

Leone crossed the room and slid in beside her causing a squawk of protest,

"Ack, you’re freezing! Get away!"

"Cuddle me."

"No way! Stop it, your fingers are like ice. Why is your hair wet?"

"Com’on let me snuggle up."

"Where the hell were you? Were you outside all this time? Where are your clothes? Keep your hands where I can see them!"

They snuggled down under the blankets nose to nose. Leone full of smiles and Amy with a furrowed brow.

"I got up early and went for a swim in the river. My clothes got damp so I hung them over the porch rail to dry," she kissed the tip of Amy’s nose.

"You went for a swim? But it’s still dark?"

"No it isn’t dufus. Dawn’s coming up, I could see really clearly."

"I didn’t hear you come to bed last night."

"Not surprised, you were snoring like a buzz saw."

"I was not!"

"Were so. All the trees were shivering with fright. Thought you were a lumberjack come to get’em."

"You are such a Fibber McGee…eek…keep those hands to yourself…"

She got a kiss on the nose, then one on the lips, and another. Smiling they wrapped their arms around each other, legs intertwined. Cuddling in close they soon drifted off into a delicious early morning doze. Last night’s tiff completely forgotten.

Leone was yodelling atrociously in the shower. She believed it was singing but Amy and seventy million Austrians couldn’t be wrong. Shaking her head ruefully at the hullabaloo she packed a picnic into a small backpack. Fruit, cold chicken, juice, bread and cheese. The Jarlsberg hard rind she’d brought along for herself, Leone never ate cheese or milk.

"The closest I’ve come to dairy is cow," she once pronounced proudly.

Smiling at the memory Amy noted it seemed all her family shared the same intolerance. The small fridge stocked up for their arrival carried no dairy whatsoever.

She was looking forward to a day of strolling, resting and picnicking. Leone was taking her to one of her favourite spots where she hoped to catch some fine fish for their supper later that night. Amy was more than thankful she didn’t think she could cope with another full on barbeque. What she really wanted was to cook for her lover in the intimate setting of their cabin.

As Leone padded about getting dressed Amy opened the bedroom windows fully, checking the screens were in place. Frowning she noticed deep gouge marks on the wood of the window sill. Four ragged parallel lines of unequal length…

"Ready, steady, go!" behind her Leone swiped up the small backpack and shouldered it, "Com’on idler, we’re getting a late enough start as it is."

"Hey, it was your aquatic yodelling held us back." She turned away to follow.

"That was Bluegrass I’ll have you know."

"That was painful. My ears are still bleeding…"

Passing through the porch Amy placed a palm on Leone’s clothes hanging over the rail form early morning. Despite the mid morning sunshine they were still damp.

"Leone these are still wet! Whatya do jump into the river wearing them?"

"It’s the shade. They’ll be dry when we get back. Now com’on."

Noon time and they had finally arrived at the small pool Leone liked to fish from. It had broad rocky banks of flat stone that carried on out into the river like massive stepping stones. They settled down to eat before relaxing into the afternoon.

"The river runs a little shallower here but just under those rocks are some deeper pools where the steelheads rest in the cooler water." Leone was pointing out the slabs that seemed to float mid stream. The sun had heated the stone under them to a pleasant temperature and the whole riverbank seemed hot and hazy and very languorous.

"And you just tickle their bellies and they land at your feet? That’s your secret?" Amy bit into an apple for dessert offering one over to Leone.

"Worked on you didn’t it?"

"Smartass. I was the one reeled you in. Not that it was hard…you resisted like flotsam."

"No, I’m pretty sure I tickled you into submission. Here let me remind you…"

"You dare and I’ll make you eat cheese."

"Ack! I’m gonna go and find us some supper woman. You get naked and wait here for your warrior’s return!"

Amy’s eyebrows rose sceptically as she snorted,

"Typical, butch in the wood, femme in the ‘hood."

"Hey, a holiday like this is meant to let you explore your pioneering spirit."

"Okay Pocahontas, go get me some fish," a thought occurred, "Mmm, there’s no bears around here are there? I mean the fish won’t attract them or anything?" she glanced about her nervously.

"Nope, no bears in the valley. Never has been. They don’t come over the Ridge. Look I’ll be right over there if you need me." She pointed to a big flat stone in the river as wide as a double bed.

They both undressed slapping sun lotion on each other, Amy to sunbathe, Leone to fool around on the water. A quick kiss and they went separate ways. She stood and watched the taller woman wade out to the central rock and lie down belly first on the sun heated stone. Her hair shone blue black in the shimmer off the river, her body long and bronzed. Amy squinted the across glaring water with a private look of adoration, always amazed that such a beautiful vibrant woman would pick her to be with.

Gazing raptly into the water beneath Leone gently slid in both arms until they were elbow deep, her beautiful profile etched with blissful concentration. Smiling Amy turned back to her own choice of afternoon activity. She’s such a big goofball, but she’s my big goofball!

Stretched out on the towel she quickly began to fall into a pleasant light doze. The harmless hum of bees and the bubbling of the river were complimented by the warmth of the sun easing her back muscles into total relaxation. Burying her face into the nook of her elbow she settled belly down for a little siesta, happy because Leone was happy.

My baby’s such a big kid. Doesn’t take much to make her smile. A little fishin, a little luvin, no cheese. With that thought her sleep deepened and she drifted away.

She wasn’t sure what woke her. Her eyes popped open and she felt chilled even though her body still sucked up warmth from the sun overhead. Lifting her head her hair swung red-gold catching the light as she scanned the tree line surrounding the bedrock riverside. Birdsong had stilled, an eerie quiet had descended. Was that what had awoken her? Silence?

It drifted into the left of her periphery vision, dark velvet slinking through the shadows swallowing the darkness. She squinted trying to focus on its fluidity a liquid whisper that melted from tree to tree. A penumbral watermark on the surrounding gloom. No sooner had she caught it than it dissolved away into nothingness. Rising to her knees she looked harder but all was now uniform darkness. Slowly tentative bird calls began to fill the quiet and the ominous pause in nature seemed to flutter then lurch hesitantly into the everyday life of the forest.

Unsettled she turned to the river to locate Leone, it was then she noticed the fish. A brace of cleaned trout lay several feet away. How long had she been asleep? And why hadn’t Leone wakened her when she’d finished fishing? She stood as if that would give her a better perspective on events and in doing so noticed the rapidly drying paw prints circling the fish. They were massive and clawed and raised every fine hair on her already goose bumped skin even as they dissipated before her eyes in the afternoon heat.

"Been fishing?"

She spun round simultaneously grabbing the towel from the ground to cover herself. Kit stood behind her with a cold smile.

As if all this wasn’t unsettling enough I got a peepster ogling me behind my back! Amy glowered at her completely disadvantaged, her distaste for this woman growing and growing.

Kit stood silently watching her sister’s girlfriend scrabble to cover her nakedness. But she had plenty of time to take in the pendulous sway of full breasts and russet curls nestling under a soft rounded belly as she bent to retrieve the towel. Saliva flooded her mouth making her swallow hard. Her stomach tightened as a primal power shifted bringing heaviness to her chest and belly. Her nostrils quivered even as her mouth twisted into a smirk.

"Leone caught them. Have you seen her? It’s just that something’s been at them and she told me there were no bears in the valley." Amy managed to bury her discomfort at the rude intrusion and voice her immediate concerns at the same time. She pointed over to the fish. Frowning Kit walked over with her but the prints had completely dried away. Shrugging at the lack of evidence,

"Nope, there’re definitely no bears in the valley."

"Now can you be sure? Those paw prints were massive."

"Cos I work for the Forestry. I’m a Ranger and I know for a fact there are no bears this side of the Ridge. Never has been in living memory or beyond. Musta been a possum." She smirked again.

"One big mother fucker of a possum," Amy scowled the words out before she could hold her tongue. Kit’s smirk tightened as she scored a point off Amy’s temper. She nodded towards the river,

"Leone’s swimming just round the bend where the waters deeper. If you wade out to the central rock you’ll see her."

Amy turned to look at the rock platform Leone had been fishing from earlier.

"Oh, okay but…" she turned back but found herself alone Kit has simply disappeared into the trees. Jeez, would it hurt to say ciao!

The hike back was downhill and quicker which was good as Leone declared herself starved half to death and couldn’t wait for her fish dinner. But no matter how much she proclaimed her love of Amy’s cooking the smaller woman would not be distracted from the fact there were now bears in the valley. Humongous bears. Sabre toothed bears left over from the Ice Age.

As they walked into the clearing Amy was telling her for the seventh time how big the invisible paw prints had been…

"…I’m telling ya it was this big…" she held her hands about a foot apart under the wary eye of her girlfriend.

"Fishing stories? The one that got away?" They both looked across at the laughing eyes of Marie, "Come over here you two and have a beer before you disappear again."

She was sitting at one of the wooden tables tying bundles of various plants and herbs into bushy bouquets.

Joining her at her bench Amy began to enthusiastically explain her afternoon adventure while Leone rolled her eyes.

"So," Marie interrupted, "have you ever seen a bear Amy. Ever?"

"Well, at the zoo…"

"There are many types and sizes of bear. The smaller ones would have been too timid to approach you even for the fish…which weren’t touched by the way. A bigger bear would have eaten you instead." She stated simply. Amy frowned at the simple logic.

"But the prints…."

"My guess is a heron of some sort. The larger ones have pretty big feet and with some splashing the imprints can look much larger. Plus it would make sense as whatever it was went after the fish and not you."

Again Amy frowned as she digested this watching Marie’s hands move deftly over another bunch of herbs.

"But the fish were left alone." She struggled against the older woman’s logic.

"Ah, how many were there to start with. I bet a few are missing, stolen away."

Amy bit her lip,

"Mmm, okay…" she muttered slowly, reluctant to give up her amazing bear theory.

"No Mom, I think Amy’s right." They both swung round in surprise to look at Leone’s serious face, "I’m certain it was a Giant Panda…oof!"

Amy slapped her on the belly,

"Stop teasing me! I was worried out there and you’re showing no sympathy." She turned back to Marie, "Are these being all bundled up for drying?"

Marie nodded,

"Some are wild some I cultivate myself in the sunnier parts of the forest. I love heading off to pick them the year after I’ve planted."

"And are they all medicinal or for cooking?"

"Medicinal for the most part. It’s also a sort of hobby that Jori has managed to extend into an actual career." She laughed, "All my children in one form or other embraced the outdoor life they grew up in. A botanist, a vet, a Forest Ranger. It amazes me how they have evolved. I love watching them live."

She blushed a little after that as if embarrassed for her little emotional outburst of pride and happiness in her children. On the inside Amy thrilled, as a teacher and protector of small children she totally empathised with Marie and her take on motherhood. Maybe one day she and Leone would discuss parenthood. She shook herself mentally, that’s a little premature isn’t it? You’ve only been together for several months and already you want to U Haul in a crib.

"Do you want a few trout for your dinner, Leone caught loads." She dragged her thoughts and the conversation to much more practical matters.

"I’d love some. And here," Marie pulled a paper envelope from her pocket handing it over to, "this’ll help with your period cramps."

"Oh," surprised Amy accepted the packet it was a sachet of loose herbal tea, "Thank you."

How did she know I’m having period cramps? Has Leone been spilling all my business? I better tell her there are limits as to what she can put up on that bulletin board!

Supper was wonderful. The trout steamed with greens turned out mouth-wateringly perfect and the chilled Semillon complimented it beautifully. They sat quietly on the porch holding hands, sipping their wine star gazing. So connected to the cosmos and to each other in that little bubble of sublime togetherness Amy could easily believe in reincarnation and life after life with the same soulmate. She giggled slightly at her fanciful dreaming as she stood to wander off to the bathroom. Passing by Leone she dropped a kiss on top of a glossy black head,

"I love you," she murmured.

A few moments later a smear of blood on tissue told her why her cramps had been such a bitch all day. Grumbling to herself about lousy timing and holiday weekends she fumbled through her wash bag for a tampon.

Moving back out on the porch her hand was grabbed and she was drawn down onto Leone’s lap and snuggled up tight. Snuggles turned to kisses along her sensitive neck to her shoulder. Big hands began to stroke her back and along her thighs. She sighed moving into it, her own hands threading through black silk, massaging broad shoulders and rounded biceps. Soft lips and tongue traced along the curve of an ear.

"Leone," she sighed into a pink ear, "I’ve just come on. But let me be good to you tonight hmmm?"

Leone stirred, she knew Amy did not like to be touched during her flow but was happy to love her if she needed it.

"Oh baby. Why didn’t you say sooner you little stone butch," she dug into the pockets of Amy’s shorts, "Where’s that tea my Mom gave you. I’ll make you a cup. Just sit here, okay?"

Fishing out the sachet she headed towards the kitchen leaving Amy on the porch swing,

"Hey, about that! How come your Mom knows about my menstrual cycle? Have you been blabbing Garoul?" she called back into the cabin.

Sounds of water running and tea making nearly drowned out Leone’s answer,

"No! Well, maybe…I can’t remember. I may have mentioned it…"

She came back with a teapot and a single mug.

"Aren’t you gonna have some?" Amy noticed the one cup.

"Nah, I hate it."

"Then why make me?"

"Cos it’s good for you and if I needed it I’d take it. Okay?" she poured a hot cupful, "Now shaddup and drink."

"Ack…it’s fuggy…"

"Drink, it’s good for you. It’ll help you relax."

Forty minutes later Amy sat beside Leone tingled cheeked and giggling. Her eyes were dilated and her head swung on her girlfriends shoulder as they looked up at the starry canopy.

"So what else do ya see…" she demanded.

Leone sighed, "Mmmm, lets see, I can see Virgo. Well I can see Spica so the rest is Virgo."

"Look, look…I can see an astronaut hahahahaha…"

"Com’on lets get you to bed Buzz Lightyear."

"Buzzie’ll do…"

"I bet it will. Com’on." She scooped up her high as a kite lover and carried her into the bedroom.

"You’re Mamma makes good tea…"

Sigh, "I’ll tell her."

"Skanky taste but nice mellow aftertone…"

After getting Amy undressed and tucked under the covers Leone was too wired to crawl in beside her. The moon was teasing peeking in and out of the clouds soon it would be full and heavy like a pregnant belly. She kicked off her shoes and stepped off the porch digging her toes into the cool earth as she strode off towards the woods.

There was heat beside her, all along the length of her body, and then it rolled and rested on top of her pushing deeper into the soft mattress. She welcomed the weight of the long naked body covering hers, it felt good.

Dreams are good. Too heavy headed and sluggish to even open her eyes she languidly reached out her arms to cradle a broad hard back. Happy to feel the sublime sensations from deep within her stupor. She felt lulled and relaxed, and horny…mmm yes horny.

"Hmmm," she murmured burying her face in a warm neck feeling silky strands of hair brush across her cheek, "Leone…" Her hands stroked the long lean back. A rumbling growl resonated against her throat making her skin tingle and with a dreamy smile she arched her back into the strong body covering her.

Her reward for this act of acquiescence was to have her breasts fiercely ravished. Suckled and chewed for seeming eons until they ached, her nipples throbbing with dull pain mixed pure gut churning lust. The ache ran like liquid fire right down to her groin. Still she pushed forward into the greedy mouth her low moans mingling with her lover’s hungry yet satisfied grunts. She took satisfaction that her fierce suitor was content with her offering. It warmed the blood in her heart as much as that in her lower belly and she pushed up into the eager mouth even more. All the time moaning and squirming trying to give up more.

Time floated by and then she felt her legs pulled even further apart. She was happy to be lying open and ready for more attention. The night air was cool on her breasts as the saliva and sweat dried, puckering her aureola, not lessening the ache in any way. And then that same hunger descended onto her sex, gorging and swilling, tearing into her. Her ass was lifted, legs pushed over broad shoulders and she was raised up her own shoulders pinning her to the bed.

Hands tore at sheets as she was thrashed over and over from anus to apex with a long, thick tongue. She felt her sex laid out like a platter to be feasted on, totally consumed. Nothing hidden, nothing sacred, all was for the taking, and it was with great vigour and appetite. Her clitoris roughly suckled, tender folds ground down, divided and plundered. Rich and moist suckling noises filled the air. Deep growls and grunts and her own pitiful mewling.

She cried out trying to strain for the sexual release that was masterfully kept just out of her reach. Twisting and levering her hips for that one saving touch that would give her what she craved. But she was kept artfully balanced on the orgasmic precipice much to her toe curling frustration.

Tired now she tried to buck and kick her way free but the punishing reaming only intensified enflaming her need. Panting with lust and growing sexual frustration she dragged open her eyes and grabbed at the dark head buried between her raised thighs, trying to convey her angst, her command. The room tilted alarmingly and then began to spin. She groaned from her arousal, confusion and a growing exhaustion…and then she came, without warning in a tidal wave that melted every bone in her body and blew off a dozen pyrotechnics in her skull.

Above her own shuddering cries she faintly heard a deep panting growl, her eyes fluttered open and briefly glimpsed blue shining down at her, and white, sharp white…and all around the coppery smell of blood. No sooner had she opened her eyes than they drooped shut again as darkness and collapse rose up and claimed her.


"I feel like shit," she mumbled in self-pity rolling on the bed to try and block out the morning sun from her tortured eyes. In fact everything felt tortured, except her nose, it was appreciating the smell of freshly brewed coffee and bacon coming from the kitchen. Her stomach growled like Pavlov’s alpha bitch. Lurching to her feet she stumbled to the bathroom.

"Shut up you fuckwits!" she bellowed at the cacophony of birdsong as she passed the window.

"Hello Goddess of the Morning," she heard Leone’s cheerful voice call jokingly from the kitchen. "Breakfast awaits after your ablutions oh majesty of the happy sunrise…"

"Go ta hell," she grumbled back and slouched into the shower cubicle sighing at the cascade of warm water. Gods I ache everywhere. I feel like I fell off a mountain and bounced all the way down.

Grabbing the soap she began to lather but stopped with a hissing squeak. She looked down at her body, truly looked…she was black and blue! Cuts and scrapes criss-crossed over her belly and thighs. Her tits were bruised, nipples swollen. Stumbling from the shower she headed back to the bed room and looked at herself in the full length mirror, twisting and turning eyes wide and aghast. Holy fuck…I’m a relief map of that mountain I fell off!

Vague floating memories of last night came back in fragments. Yes she’d definitely had sex. She groped between her legs, hardly any stain? Usually her first day was heavy. Look at my tits, poor wee darlings.

Now she concentrated on her body it hummed happily back at her on some sated primal level. It felt good, sore but good.

Fuck that! It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what it felt like in the aftermath. She’d been out of it, probably drunk with the wine and that concoction Marie had given her. And that was another issue! But first and foremost Leone knew she didn’t like sex on her period but still she took advantage!

"Leone! Leone!" A dark head appeared round the bedroom door.

"Hey, do you want maple syrup with the pancakes?" she asked with a big cheesy blue eyed grin that could melt ice caps quicker than global warming…but not today. No way today.

"Look at me. You’re one sneaky underhand bastard to do this!"

Leone looked shocked at the outburst. Amy thundered around the room dragging clothes over her still wet body,

"How dare you maul me when I’m out of it? You know I hate period sex...it’s...it’s icky! Can’t I even trust you to take care of me, is that it? You and your needs come first, huh?"

"What…" Leone barely opened her mouth before Amy flew past her out of the room roughly shouldering her against the door post.

"Leave me alone, do ya hear? I don’t want to see you for the rest of the day. I’m gonna give some serious thought to if I even want to spend the rest of the holiday with you," she glared up with full aggression into shocked blue eyes. "Quite frankly if you don’t get your fucking act together I’m heading home early. Got that? Now outta my way." And grabbing her bag flew out of the cabin like a whirlwind leaving a totally stunned Leone behind.

Twenty yards out from the cabin her temper was exhausted. Her hangover wasn’t, she fished out her sunglasses and scrabbled for a strip of aspirin and her bottled water. Puffing a sigh as she swallowed two tablets,

Now what? Christ but I’m beginning to hate this stupid valley. They should turn it into a reservoir…

"You look rough? Had a bad night?" Anita appeared alongside her. With a rueful smile she shrugged back,

"Something like that. Hung over from Marie’s tea…"

Anita groaned in sympathy, "She makes a killer cannabis tea. Sometimes I think she’s a little heavy handed. But the one she gave me for my upset stomach worked wonders. No cannabis, just weeds and whatnot."

"Huh, Marie makes cannabis tea? How sixties is that?" frowning, neither Marie nor Leone had mentioned the ganja content to her. Again she felt anger and disappointment. Leone’s behaviour was really souring this holiday break.

"Yea, she makes all sorts of herbal remedies, some are even legal. As a botanist I want all her recipes…for research only you understand." Anita smirked.

"Mmmm" Amy shot her a sly sideways glance, "Yea I can totally see you as a hippy chick…"

"Love and Peace babe. Hey, I’m heading into to town, fancy a drive in with me?"

"Only if you let me treat you to a coffee and a breakfast muffin." Maybe I can pick up a train timetable. I’ve a feeling my holiday’s about over.

"Oh," Anita looked in askance as they retreated down the long path towards the clearing where the vehicles were parked, "somebody not get any breakfast?" her eyebrows rose.

"No, somebody was too busy shouting at their bitch of a girlfriend to grab a slice of bacon before storming out."

"Hmm, muffin and coffee it is and you can tell me all about it…if you want of course…"

The walk down to the parking area was a good half mile away but it was a beautiful morning and the women enjoyed chattering and laughing as they strolled along.

"So, what are you going into town for? Groceries?" Amy asked, "Oooh a newspaper that would be nice. Find out what’s happening in the outside world. I sort of feel I’m trapped here in Little Dipstick. Did you hear about my bear tracks yesterday? "

"I heard it was panda?" Anita looked over slyly.

"Hardeehar, nobody takes me seriously. Marie tried to tell me it was some big bird splashing around after the fish but let me tell you it musta been wearing flippers…"

"Or from Sesame Street…"

They both giggled. Anita sobered first,

"If it wasn’t a bear could it have been a wolf?"

Amy froze for a second, for some reason she found that even scarier than a bear, then she shrugged it from her mind,

"Nah, never a wolf. Whatever it was walked upright."

"Look there’s Kit she must be just coming back from town."

Amy followed Anita’s gaze to see the tall frame of Kit heading towards them carrying a brown bag of groceries and a morning paper tucked under her arm.

"Morning," she drawled as she drew close.

"Morning Kit." Anita smiled warmly. Amy nodded coolly.

"Hey," Kit waved the newspaper at them, "heard the news? There’s been a Big Foot sighting right here in Little Dip! Imagine!"

Anita snorted with laughter while Amy burnt bright red right up to her hairline.

"You saw those paw prints!" she blustered.

"Actually all I saw was a few damp splodges drying out even as I looked at them. But being a trained tracker and forest ranger I didn’t understand what I was looking at. I shoulda run and got Goldilocks for a second opinion."

Amy held her hands up,

"Okay, okay, go ahead and mock but if you all end up mauled I’ll be the first to carve ‘I told you so’ on your gravestones. Laugh all you want but there’s something plodding around this valley on two nasty big feet. I saw those prints and my blood ran cold!"

Head held high she stomped off in a regal huff but the effect was lost when Anita and Kit continued to stand and chat.

"If you’d have given me a list I’d have got your messages for you."

"Nah, I wanted to go and mooch round the shops anyway Kit. Amy and I are gonna grab some brunch. Thanks for asking."

As they continued their journey to the car Kit called after them,

"Hey Goldilocks, don’t forget the porridge for them bears."

Anita laughed as Amy glowered muttering under her breath,

"And why not bears? This whole valley’s a freaking circus. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a poodle on a pony trot by."

She was astounded when Kit’s obviously very acute hearing picked up her mutter.

"With a tongue like that maybe you’re more a copperhead than a Goldilocks," she snapped back.

Inadvertently proving her point Amy shot a venomous look back before continuing to move away with an even faster pace. Best to get out of here before I really show her poison. First I’m a carrot now I’m a snake! I hate this bitchin’ place. Leone’s an idiot for bringing me here.

"You two sure do not gel." Anita mused as she caught up.

"Yup, she’s been crawling under my skin since I met her. And I’m easy to bait right now cos…well to be honest I’m having a really shitty time with Leone and I wanted this weekend to be so good."

They had reached the 4x4 Jori and Anita favoured and climbed in. Quickly reversing Anita had them on the dirt track out of the valley in no time. Their conversation continued as she drove,

"Because you were meeting her family for the first time? Don’t you like them?"

"Of course I like them? Well bar Kit who’s been rude to me since the minute we met for some reason. I think it’s more to do with her and Leone not getting on than me but if that’s the case I wish the two of them would grow up and get out of my face!"

Anita looked over,

"Is Leone annoying you too? You said you had a fight this morning?"

"Yea, she’s been more or less a jerk since we got here." Amy looked out the window and shrugged, "I mean…" she swung round to Anita, "Can I level with you here? Seeing as how you asked and all?"

Anita looked back surprised,

"Sure, hit me with it. I offered to listen didn’t I? And I promise it’s between you and me okay, it won’t leave this car."

Amy smiled in appreciation,

"Well…it’s just Leone’s sex drive seems to have gone off the Richter scale since we got here…"

Anita laughed,

"Oh Amy. It must be a family trait Jori is exactly the same. Maybe the fresh mountain air affects them like that. For me it’s a good thing cos we’ve been having ‘pee on the stick’ sex for a few months now…"

"’Pee on the stick’ sex?" Amy’s eyebrows rose.

Anita laughed again,

"We’re trying for a baby...you know, pee on the stick…pregnancy test! And it suits me no end that Jori’s found a new gear since coming out here.

We’ve been having monster sex, it’s been great!"

"Wow!" Amy wasn’t sure how to respond. Monster sex? That’s sounding familiar. Wonder if Leone’s libido is working the same way as Jori’s? She sighed heavily,

"Maybe it’s just me then. I’ve been out of sorts this weekend." She mumbled not at all sure of anything anymore. Yes she’d been sharper and bitchier than usual since arriving but she’d put that down to her period.

Anita looked across sympathetically,

"Hey, they are a pack of weirdoes, there’s no denying that. How many mother-in-laws you know would ply you with cannabis? She takes it for her arthritis you know. It’s not just a kick." Anita rushed to qualify.

"Shit I’m not complaining about someone using grass, but Leone shoulda told…mother –in –law?" Amy caught up with Anita’s comments, "She’s not my in-law anything, me and Leone aren’t like that."

Anita slid a guilty sideways glance over to her passenger,

"Oh? Sorry, I thought you were. Isn’t that what this weekends all about? For them all to meet you and welcome you into the fold?"

Amy snorted,

"I don’t think so. It’s just a break and her family happen to own a whole freakin valley so why not come down here? It is nice to meet her family and I really want them to like me don’t get me wrong, but don’t be holding your breath for a white wedding either."

"Damn, I’d picked out matching shoes and handbag too. You’re so selfish Fortune!"

"Forget it Garoul. No fancy hat no can do!"

The visit to town was jus the break they both seemed to need. Anita ran to the pharmacy for another packet of pee sticks while Amy surreptitiously snagged a train timetable from the Tourist Information Centre. She felt it gave her options but a sad nagging feeling accompanied the action. Oh well, she could psychoanalyse it all later.

After grabbing a sack full of groceries each, she ruefully noted her resolve to head home early the next day had already started to fragment. Well so much for the next train out of Loopyville, she mused as she packed away milk, cheese and chocolate before on impulse picking up a six pack of Leone’s favourite beer. The coffee shop did not disappoint for lunch either and by mid afternoon they were on their way back to Little Dip. Listening to the local radio Amy hummed along feeling a lot more relaxed and upbeat. We need to talk. Maybe it’s me? I can get really moody during my period. But Leone crossed a line too and we need to sort that out.

Parking up in almost exactly the same spot they gathered their bags and set off down the trail laughing and solidifying the new friendship that seemed to have sprung up so easily between them. Looking up Amy noticed the overcast sky,

"Hey is there rain forecast for today?"

Anita looked up too, the air had gotten slightly cooler but it was welcomed,

"Dunno," she shrugged, "Com’on lets try and beat it back home."

After about twenty minutes Anita started to look around,

"Are we on the right path?"

Amy looked around her in askance,

"I’ve no idea. I thought there was only one trail down to the cars?"

"Nah, there’s a whole load of hunting trails leading off from the car park. I think we’re on one of them cos I’m not seeing anything familiar."

"Oh. Let’s turn around and go back the way we came. Guess we’ll not beat the rain now."

It was a sensible plan until they came to a fork on the pathway,

"Oh bollox! Typical. Any ideas?" Anita huffed.

"Mmm, something about always turning right and you end up where you started?"

"Like the car park? I don’t think you’ve got that quite right. You weren’t a Girl Scout were you?" dark eyes looked very sceptical.

"Nope, just hung out around them."

Anita looked at her in askance. Amy shrugged and added,

"So I was into uniforms even then. Let’s go to the right seeing as how it’s a fifty- fifty coin toss."

It was the wrong choice. That became apparent after another twenty minutes and the surrounding trees became denser and the light a lot gloomier.

"Oooh, I don’t like this. It’s creepy here." Anita looked around her suppressing a shiver, "Has it got colder? I’m shaking like a leaf."

"Well that rain front is moving in over the Ridge and we’re in the shade big time. But wherever we are it would scare the bejeezus outta ya anyway."

"Yea, this is really not nice. Okay I’ve made up my mind, I don’t like it. Take me home."

"No, you take me home first."

Their bantering kept their spirits up, that and the bar of chocolate Amy had broken open.

"You’re the one who said go right…what was that?" Anita suddenly looked over her left shoulder very ill at ease.

"Huh? What?" Amy found herself almost whispering.

"I thought I heard something."


"How the hell do I know!"

"Well let’s stand still and listen." They did and heard nothing particularly alarming. In fact they heard nothing at all.

"Shit, I hate it when the birds stop singing. Never thought I’d say that but there you go." Amy muttered. Even as she spoke she felt the hackles on her neck rise as they had that afternoon down by the river. Please God don’t let it be that bear again…

"Amy," Anita’s voice grew rather small as her eyes grew large.

"What?" Amy subconsciously copied her. Please don’t let her see a bear coming up behind me, please Lord.

"Look at the trees," she whispered.

Slowly Amy turned her head as if it was in a neck brace and might snap at any sudden movement. At first she didn’t see it because in reality she was expecting a Grizzly but there was nothing.

Relaxing slightly, "What about them?"

Maybe this was a botanist thing Anita was freaking her out about.

"Look. Look at the bark," Anita whispered hoarsely.

And then Amy saw it, all around them nearly every tree was lacerated and torn with huge long vicious clawing. On some the bark hung in shreds the gouges going deep into the living wood underneath.

Amy just swallowed at the sheer sinister malice of it all. It was destructive and malignant and the air around her seemed to reduce down to a sickly almost un-breathable syrup of pure terror.

"It’s very high up." Anita managed to croak out, "Whatever did this was very tall."

"Like a moose?" Amy squeaked back. Anita shook her head,

"No, those are claw marks."


"Maybe you’re right about bears."

"I don’t want to be right any more. Let’s just go."

"What way?"

"I don’t care lets just go."

Their feet of their own volition started to move slowly back the way they’d come. Amy still felt that claustrophobic tightness in her chest that screamed at her that danger was close by. Not wanting to alarm Anita who seemed blissfully unaware she picked up their pace slightly. Again she swore she saw that slinking smoothness blur through the trees this time to the right of them. Her breath hitched,

"Let’s just get back as fast as we can huh? Without outright running until I say so, okay?" she kept a wary eye on where she thought she’d seen the flicker of movement.

"What? You’re freakin me out here Amy."

"No, it’s nothing I’m just a bit of a cowardy custard that’s all." Thank God this stretch is downhill and we can move on at a trot.

No sooner had she had her first positive thought since leaving the car park than she blinked twice in horror at on another dark unfocussed shadow shimmered to the left. Oh shit, I think there’s two of them…whatever they are.

Her heart was pounding like a drum. Sweat broke on her brow and also ran in rivulets down her spine. If they can smell fear I must be like Cajun BBQ by now, oh shit, shit. Stay calm we must be near the car park. We’ll get there soon.

Anita finally asked after several minutes of quick paced but not quite panicked tramping,

"Where the hell are we going?"

"Dunno." Amy noted her companion still seemed unaware they were being literally shadowed. And outflanked, let’s not forget outflanked!

"You’re a teacher don’t you teach the kids about geography and moss in on the north side of a tree and stuff?"

"Look I teach kindergarten. My mind is so frozen at the moment all I can think of is The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round. You’re a botanist, you’re meant to be at home with nature and forest and flowers and fuck knows what else! You do something!"

Anita looked at her in consternation,

"Me!" she squeaked glancing around she suddenly pointed, "Oh look, its Trillium Ovatum…"

"Huh?" Amy scanned the forest floor hopelessly trying to see what Anita was pointing at then spotted a small white flower.

"…maybe it can grow feet and run for help?" Anita continued.

"You are such a bitch. I thought you really had a plan!" No sooner had she said the words than the tightness left her skin and it felt as if a weight had been gently eased off her tense shoulders.

"Hey!" a voice hailed them.

"Jori!" Anita broke into a run. Jori stood on the trail about several metres ahead so deep in shadow they hadn’t seen him until he moved forward. He wrapped his arms around his wife.

"Where were you? I saw the car was back but no you?"

"We took a wrong turn got lost. Here." She dumped her grocery sack in his arms, "Come and see this!" turning back the way they’d come.

"See what?" he asked following.

"Do we have to go back?" Amy was anxious. Now they had been more or less rescued she just wanted to get the fuck outta this part of the valley.

"Yes! Wait ‘til you see this Jori. Amy was right there is a bear in the forest. The trees back here are mangled!" she dragged him along by his shirt sleeve, suddenly a dynamo now he was close.

"It was a moose, let’s go home." Amy whined.

"No way it was a moose and you know it. Com’on Fortune or we’ll leave you standing there like a jar of honey."

Amy’s eyes widened and she quickly followed to catch up. All along the route she glanced from side to side trying to pierce the impenetrable depths but no strange movement or sensation visited her. By the time they’d reached the section with the shredded tree trunks Amy had begun to wonder if she was being over imaginative. Until she stood again and looked at the wanton damage surrounding her. Her blood ran cold. This was such an unnatural crazed thing to her inexperienced eyes.

Jori stood silent for a moment looking slightly taken aback.

"See, see." Anita waved an expressive arm around her, "it looks like a bear, a big bear had been sharpening his claws. Right?"

Jori didn’t respond at first, he stood tense and still as if imperceptivity picking up a vibration. His chin lifted everso slightly and his nostrils seemed to flare. Watching these tiny details that even his talkative wife missed with morbid fascination Amy found herself reminded of her Pa’s old hunting dog picking up a scent. Again the moment and the fleeting thought accompanying it flew by and she shook herself out of her stupidity. I’m far too fanciful today, must be the comedown from Marie’s delightful tea!

Their new escort took them straight back to the cabins unerringly without even having to go via the car park at all.

"So, what did you think Jori?" Amy drew up along side him as they strolled along one of his arms wrapped casually around Anita’s shoulders the other cradling their groceries.

"Dunno," he shrugged, "I’m gonna go back with Kit, she’ll have a good idea what’s going on."

"It’s just that I think I saw something similar on the windowsill at our cabin. Not as many as back there obviously cos the damn shack would fall down if something went at it like that! But one sort of swipe with four long scratches…" she made a sort of claw like swoop with her hand. Jori frowned darkly at this but Anita seemed very interested.

"We’ll come over and have a look," she said adamantly, "Won’t we Jori." It was a statement and he wisely nodded his agreement.

"We pass close to your cabin on our way in Amy. In fact we’re almost there now."

Soon they were approaching the isolated cabin from the front. Amy bounced up the porch steps and opened the unlocked door,

"Leone I’m back and guess…"

The cabin was empty Leone had obviously headed off for a day to herself as well.

"Can I use your bathroom?" Anita followed her in looking around her.

"Sure, it’s off the bedroom."

"This layout is just like ours…" she ambled on towards the bedroom and the ensuite. Jori came in directly behind her and set his bag on the small kitchen table.

"Fancy a coffee?" Amy asked clicking on the kettle, she desperately needed a caffeine hit after that nasty little adventure.

"Yea, I’d love some," he admitted.

"Guys?" Anita’s voice called through from the bedroom, "Come here a minute will ya."

They both followed through to find her standing frozen in the middle of the bedroom staring at the bed.

"Is that Lesbian bed death?" she raised a finger pointing at the quilt. They both looked and flinched simultaneously at the coiled and bloody snake carcass lying in the centre of Amy and Leone’s bed.

"Shit!" Amy exclaimed.

Jori strode over and distastefully lifted the headless serpent taking it outside. Wordlessly the two women followed him and stood at the bottom of the porch steps watching him fling the offending thing far into the tree line. Wiping his hands on his pants he came back his face grim.

"Please don’t tell me that was a copperhead?" Amy blurted a sudden horrible thought surfaced through all the drama and confusion of the day. Anita stiffened and locked eyes with Amy not wishing to say anything but remembering Kits name call from earlier that morning.

"Nah!" Jori looked at her in surprise, "We don’t get them here. It was a bull snake."

"How the hell did it end up headless on my bed?" Amy relaxed everso slightly now that the association with Kit could be scrubbed. Jori and Anita looked at each other and then looked at her, both shrugged silently and almost sorrowfully at not having a plausible answer.

"Could it have been thrown through the window?" Amy tried again. She really needed these people to come up with an answer that would pull her back form the chasm of panic she was about to throw herself into at any moment.

"Let’s look," Jori moved towards the back of the cabin, Amy and Anita in tow. They turned a corner and stood transfixed.

"Oh," was all Amy could manage in a flat everyday voice, "seems these cabins are sturdier than they look."

The back of the cabin was cross hatched and slashed in a similar set of gouges and rips as they’d seen in the forest. Only these were far more localised around the window. Amy had seen just the one mark on the sill from the inside but the entire window area was clawed and scarred.

The ground underneath trampled and flattened was baked too dry to hold prints of any discernable nature bar one. A portion of a print, but not of a paw of any creature Amy’s limited knowledge could come up with. Definitely comparable to a large bear in size, but the fully extended claw marks that could barely be made out in the dust and gravel seemed more that of a wild cat?

"What the fuck is it?" Amy asked in awe. Anita stood beside her totally flummoxed too.

"Dunno but it looks really big. Some of those marks are easily eight foot off the ground." She turned to her husband, "Jori you gotta get Kit and your cousins to check this out. It’s not a joke any more. This is one motherfucker you’ll have to hunt down. I mean it’s coming right up to the cabins for freaks sake!" her voice had risen considerably towards the end of her sentence.

Jori spread out his hands in a placatory gesture,

"And we will. Believe me hun, we will. Now com’on you two, let’s go over to our cabin and I’ll go get Kit and Maurice. Pascal’s still around this afternoon so we’ll sort something out. Okay?"

Wrapping reassuring arms around both women’s shoulders he carefully led them away from the cabin towards his own.

Not long after Jori left them Marie appeared at Anita’s open cabin door rapping softly before entering. She had a concerned frown on her face as she joined the two women at the kitchen table.

"Hey, Marie, do you want a coffee?" Anita offered standing to fix one before she even had an answer.

"Thanks yes," Marie noted the nervous energy bouncing of her daughter in law, "So there may be a bear after all?"

"Jori thinks so. He’s away to find Kit," Anita answered.

"I just bumped into Jori. He said there were tracks around Leone’s cabin. Well I suppose it is one of the furthest away," Marie looked quite fretful.

"It was the only one visited. Claude checked all the others." Anita placed a steaming mug before her mother in law.

Putting a reassuring hand on her forearm Amy soothed,

"It’s okay. No harm was done and we don’t know how old the marks are. Maybe it only came round when the cabin was empty and the fact it’s now occupied sent it scooting?" she tried to sound upbeat but her unsettling pseudo sightings in the forest the last two days did not reconcile in her mind. What she really wanted was Leone back from wherever she was so they could sit down and discuss this without Amy feeling like she was losing her mind.

Her wish was soon answered. Leone appeared by late afternoon with news from over the Ridge.

"Hey you guys. I’ve just left Jori and Kit over at the Park. He says to tell you that there’s been a hunt on for a wounded bear. Some illegal hunters set hounds on a black bear. It escaped but was badly mauled and probably out of its mind. It’s been rampaging well out of its territory but was finally tracked down and shot earlier today," she shrugged away the upsetting story. "Anyway Kit wants to know if it would set your mind at rest if you drove over to see for yourselves?"

"What?" Anita squawked, "I’m not going all the way over there to look at a tortured animal. Hound hunting! I’ve never heard of anything so barbaric."

Amy shuddered along with Anita while Marie looked across to her daughter,

"So that’s what it was, a poor creature demented with pain?"

Leone nodded, "Sucks don’t it."

It wasn’t until they’d thoughtfully trudged more than halfway to their cabin that Amy suddenly remembered the snake. How the hell could I forget about the snake? Just shows how all over the place I am today…

"Mmm, do you know any reason we might have had a dead snake thrown onto our bed?" she turned to Leone. A frown covered the other’s face,

"Huh? A snake?"

"A dead snake…headless in fact. Lying on top of our bed. Can you think of how it might have gotten there, apart from voodoo…" she tried to lighten the ridiculousness of her statement. Leone stopped walking and turned to look fully at her,

"A headless snake was left on our bed?"

Amy shuffled uncomfortably,

"Yea, Anita found it. We’d just got back from town. Jori threw it away for me. It was just lying on top of our bed. I’ve no idea how it got there. We wondered if it had been thrown through the window. That’s how we saw the claw marks…" she sighed, she was sick of the holiday now. Sick of the whole mess. "Leone let’s just go home."

Leone started at her words,

"Hey, hey let’s not be too hasty. I know it’s been scary but the bear is gone." She reached out and pulled Amy into her arms burying her nose in the sweet smelling red gold hair. Citrus and sandalwood infused her senses bringing comfort and familiarity, and under that barely detectable the musky menstrual copper. It seemed to seep out of every pore. Her embrace tightened fractionally as a delighted tremor ran through her.

"What about the snake? What’s that all about? And there’s other things out there too. I don’t believe it’s just the bear." Amy’s arms wrapped round Leone’s waist hugging tight for reassurance.

"What do you mean ‘just the bear’?" Leone’s frown deepened her voice gruff and muffled in Amy’s hair.

"I’ve seen things, well sort of seen things. Shadows in the trees. And it’s not just me, the birds stop when they’re around and the air grows cold. I swear I’ve seen them, I’m not mad or anything."

"When did this happen?"

"Well, first when I saw the paw prints round the fish. I didn’t mention it ‘cos I thought I was just being stupid. But earlier today when Anita and I got lost in the woods. I saw two of them trailing us just after we found the claw marks on the trees." She let it come in one big embarrassed rush just wanting to share it in all its preposterous detail with someone she trusted.

Leone turned them both to begin their walk again, her arms around Amy’s shoulder, Amy’s arm resting on her waist.

"Be absolutely honest Amy, you know nothing about the woods and have been seriously spooked by what could under different circumstances have been a threat. I mean tell me what you actually saw, not how you felt."

"Well, mmm, I saw nothing just shadows sort of moving between the trees following me. I felt watched…"
"Ah, no feelings, just facts. So you saw shadows deep in the forest."

Amy sighed feeling silly, "It was more the feelings Leone. It was incredibly unsettling."

Leone drew her in tighter and dropped a kiss on her head,

"What if we did more things to get you actually involved with the valley asides from just sunbathing? Hmm, would you like to learn about the flora and fauna? I could teach you to fly fish? I know you’re probably not interested in rifles or actual hunting…"

"No way! Not hunting."

"Well…even climbing a tree my little chipmunk. Anything to make you more at home. To make you feel more involved with it as an organic, living community." She gave another little squeeze, "Please give it a try before we go home?" she gave her best bottom lipped baby pout.

Amy melted a little but not enough,

"I’ll think about it. But I still want to now how that snake got into our cabin."

"I’ll check on it when we get back. Could be something else brought it in for lunch and was scared away. Like a raccoon."

"No shit Sherlock. You sound just like your mother telling me about that big bird." Amy’s sarcasm caused Leone to glance over quickly.

"All I can do is take a look." She defended herself.

"Raccoon" Leone announced carrying the laundry basket from the bathroom into the lounge. From over the kitchen counter Amy could see the bed linen flowing over the edges.

"I stripped down the bed," Leone offered as explanation, "I’ll drop this into the Laundromat tomorrow. I want to head into town anyway."

"Raccoons?" Amy turned back to the stove where she was throwing together a light supper of leftover fish and rice with peas.

"Yea, they can get into the roof rafters and stuff. They can be a real pest I’ll get Kit to have a look at it after we leave."

"Why Kit?"

Leone looked up from stashing the laundry basket near the door for collection in the morning.

"She manages the valley when it’s not in use." She explained, "It’s preferable for us all to take turns but life doesn’t always work out that way. Jori is busy, me too. Mom comes and stays regularly now she’s retired. But I suppose it’s fallen onto Kit cos she works locally. When we were all at college Claude and Louise lived here but when little Corinne came along they moved back to Wisconsin to raise their new family."

"Wow, I never thought that the valley had to be managed?"

"Yea and it’s mostly fallen to Kit."

"Wonder if that’s why she wants a transfer." Amy mused.

"She does? Who told you that? Have you been talking to her?"

Amy looked over in askance of the sharp tone,

"No. Anita told me."

Leone simply nodded seemingly happy with the answer.

"You don’t get on with your sister do you?" Amy ventured.

Leone shrugged,

"We never were close. I get on better with Jori. We share the same sense of humour. Kit and I were always too competitive and never really grew out of it. When’s supper?" she clumsily changed the subject and Amy accepted she didn’t really want to talk about her sister.

"How come I always have to fix what you wreck?" Amy complained as she scrambled over the bed tucking a clean sheet in at the far corner.

"Hey, I did the dishes." Leone protested appearing at the bedroom door, her chore completed. She leaned against the post watching the smaller woman throw another sheet over the bed before crawling across to repeat the tucking in process. Coming up behind her she wrapped both arms around Amy’s waist and leaned over to nuzzle the back of her neck.

"I wouldn’t spend too much time tidying this bed as I intend to unmake it with you in a minute," she murmured in to the soft hair before nipping her on the nape.

Amy tensed for a split second before wiggling against her in an effort to free herself. This only encouraged Leone to tighten her hold taking the squirming as excitement. She began to move her hips sinuously across the firm little ass cheeks under her with a little moan. Angry now Amy brought her elbow round to prod the taller woman in the ribs as she snapped,

"Get off me. For fuck’s sake didn’t you get enough last night when I was off my head thanks to your mother’s herbal ketamine!"

Leone slackened her grip and Amy spun away to face her,

"Stop pawing me! I told you I’m not interested. And as for last night, that was really low, I’m covered with bruises and scratches. Can’t you just keep it in your pants for a night?"

Leone recoiled, her face flushed and her eyes sparked angrily,

"You know damn fine you were not deliberately drugged. Stop being such a sanctimonious bitch. You get drunk and high anytime you want back home and fuck like a banshee. I’d say you got exactly what you wanted last night!"

The last words were flung over her shoulder as she stormed out of the cabin nearly taking the sturdy door off its hinges.

Stomping around the room in an equally bad mood Amy finally got herself into the freshly made bed. Thumping the pillow until it felt just right she lay down and fumed. That’s it! Tomorrow I’m definitely on the next train outta here. This whole holiday sucks and Leone is turning into a mauling whore hound!

The small noise that woke her up threw her immediately into a minor palpitation attack. It didn’t matter that a bear had been shot something was moving through the cabin! Maybe there was more than one bear, a whole army of bears? She sat bolt upright, eyes adjusting to the gloom even as she reached for a penlite torch she kept at the bedside. The sudden flash of concentrated light poured directly towards the open bedroom door picked out the contours of Leone standing there.

"Oh holy Jesus!" Amy gasped, "You scared the shit outta me. What the hell are you doing standing there?" and then she noticed the shining dark stain on Leone’s shirt and neck. She scrambled out of the bed,

"You’re hurt! Oh God Leone what happened…that’s blood!"

Leone flinched past her into the bathroom closing the door firmly behind her,

"I’m not hurt. I’m okay."

Amy rattled the handle, "Let me in, that’s blood all over you. Let me in Leone…Right now!" she demanded her anger keeping apace with her fright and concern.

"I’m okay I told you. Claude’s truck hit a deer. It was a fucking mess. Let me get showered first. I’ll come to bed in a moment."

"Leone…" she rattled the door handle again but it remained resolutely locked.

"Amy, go back to bed. I told you I’d be there in a minute," came the curt answer.

The gush of water told her the shower was running and her words of frustration would be drowned out anyway. Disgusted with her inability to be with her obviously upset lover Amy moved through to the kitchen lighting the paraffin lamps throughout the cabin and turning on the stove to make some tea.

She padded back into the bedroom surprised to find Leone already in bed lying on her side facing away from her.

"Do you want some tea?" Amy asked almost in a whisper.

"No, I’m okay." Leone murmured then rolled onto her belly looking over to her partner, the smooth skin on her back shone like satin in the mellow lamplight. "I’m sorry I scared you. I didn’t want you to see the mess I was in. I shoulda washed at the creek or something but I didn’t think."

"What, in the creek! No way. What happened? You said you hit a deer? What were you doing driving Claude’s truck?" Amy moved to sit on the edge of the bed shivering slightly in the large T shirt she slept in.

"Claude was with me. We were heading into town for a brew when this deer ran in front of us. We brought it back. It’ll do for another barbeque. Here, climb in, you’re shivering." She drew back the covers. Amy scanned the warm nakedness underneath, there were no marks. Leone hadn’t been hurt. The blood must have been all the deer’s.

"Gimmie a mo, gotta pee," she moved towards the bathroom first. The lamp had been extinguished so she used her small penlite torch to move around. She paused over the sodden clothes lying in a heap in the shower basin, bloody water pooled around them slowly draining away. There were dried specks of blood and soap suds further up the tiles where Leone had lathered her hair to remove the gore. Sighing she left the clothes as they were, they could be rinsed and sent off with the soiled bed linen in the morning. What will the Laundromat think of all this blood and guts to wash away? Maybe it’s common enough in a hunting town?

Turning off her little light she returned to find Leone already fast asleep. Securing the cabin doors and dousing all the lamps she too eventually slid in beside her. But it took many more hours frowning up at the shadows on the ceiling before Amy could drift off to sleep.

Part 4:

In the early hours when the room was washed in muted greys she opened her eyes as Leone’s arm snaked under her waist to hook round her belly. She had rolled onto her stomach as she usually did in deep sleep and now found Leone’s head pillowed on her buttocks.

How’d she get to sleeping down there? Amy thought groggily trying to raise her head and twist round. The grip on her waist tightened pinning her in place. She lay totally still her entire body goose-fleshed as she felt hot breath caress her bottom and heard the deep inhalations of Leone sniffing over the intimate curve of her flesh. This is different…this is very, very different. I’m not sure I like this…Leone’s low growl reverberated again her left cheek as if to confirm her concerns.

Again she gingerly tried to move but found herself trapped by the other’s strength and weight.

"Leone?" she murmured quietly and then expelled a sharp gasp as her ass cheeks were roughly snuffled into and then nipped,

"Ow, Leone…" she tried to jerk away.

Several sharper nips immediately covered both her cheeks and a deeper growl warned her to keep still. All uncertainty at Leone’s intentions was unceremoniously stripped away as her crease was pulled apart and a thick tongue run up its entire length. Contented grunts accompanied this action. Amy’s head kicked up and she gave an involuntary whimper, this had never happened before, they didn’t do this, she didn’t like ass play! The tongue laved her again and again. She tried to clinch but a full handed slap on her right buttock shocked her momentarily and immediately the tongue pushed deep into the groove this time concentrating solely on her anus worrying it and rimming it firmly. Her skin leapt with prickling heat, and as alarmed as her mind was her body seemed eager to embrace the new sensations washing over it.

Wriggling under the attention only managed to increase the grip on her waist and the ferocity of the investigating tongue. Amy’s face burned as slurping grunts and lip smacking that echoed round the bedroom. Her own breathing had quickened too through alarm and the heat that rushed through her in waves. Her heart thumped in her chest. Leone’s free hand wormed between her thighs and unerringly found her clitoris which much to Amy’s dismay was plump and erect betraying her moral indignation for this new sexual high.

"Leone," she managed to whine before the practised fingers began to thrum, "ooooo…oooo..." She was being cleverly played by a knowing lover. Her clitoris was circled and rubbed with increasing pressure as her ass was tongued and rudely speared. Her thighs splayed involuntarily giving more of herself to the questing fingers pushing her cheeks slightly higher. She was panting now. Orgasm took mere seconds to arrive but wrung her out for spine tingling minutes. All inhibition lost in her release she mewled like a horny tabby her hips milking the last sweetness from the fingers kneading her clit her backside pushing up against the demanding tongue still flickering over and around and in her ass.

Finally as she lay stunned and gasping Leone moved to straddle her pushing her face down onto the mattress. Large hands squeezed both buttocks together firmly into a high swell as the taller woman ground her own aching need into the pert raised bottom. She too came quickly after just a few short strokes grunting softly,


The smug word drooled from her throat pitched somewhere between a groan and growl. A thickening of shadow skirted the wall causing Amy to spin a glance to the window certain the movement had come from there. The space was empty there was nothing bar the windblown sway of the trees beyond. Nevertheless the fleeting shadow was enough to unnerve her. There were too many might have beens lurking in this valley.

Sated Leone fell away onto her side and much to Amy’s dismay was asleep as if she had never even been awake. Sighing she lowered her troubled head back to her pillow.

Sleep fucking, that’s what it is, a whole new category for somnambulism. We have so got to talk about this. Her sex drive is either out of control or I have totally lost mine somewhere out there in the woods. And God knows what’s out there with it!

It was mid morning when she awoke again. Exhaustion of heart, body and soul had allowed her to sleep through the dawn chorus. She awoke alone. After last night’s episode Leone had obviously decided to disappear rather than talk over their growing problems. The way she had been behaving over the past few days it came as no surprise.

Sighing she wandered into the bathroom to find the soiled clothing still lying in the shower stall. A faint rush of anger filled her: she was always clearing up after Leone. They didn’t even live together, well not yet, and every time she came over to Leone’s house she seemed to spend the first twenty minutes just straightening things out and putting on a wash. Even on holiday she was pushed into the same freakin’ role, caretaker, mother, maid and now it seemed whore.

Her bad mood instantly dispelled as she reached over to lift the offending articles, they came away in a stream of bloodied water. Her heart stilled as she remembered vividly Leone framed in the doorway her body glistening with the thick pungent slick of another creature’s blood.

Amy’s stomach contracted and she heaved dryly for a milli-second glad she hadn’t already eaten breakfast. Slopping and wringing the clothing out as best she could she wrapped them in a thick bath towel added them to join the other soiled linen in the hamper by the door. She noted Leone had managed to walk straight past that too on her way out.

Taking the laundry to town was her freakin idea! Amy felt her anger rise again but pushed it back down. It might be nice to have an excuse to escape Little Dip for a few hours. If Leone couldn’t be bothered to leave a note saying where she’d gone then Amy could arrange time to herself too. Maybe Anita would like to join her? They could have lunch while waiting for the service wash. She desperately needed sane company today. Brightening a little she dragged the hamper out to the porch for collection later before heading over to Jori and Anita’s cabin.

Jori and Anita were directly across the entire site from the cabin allocated to Leone. However this morning Amy didn’t feel like strolling through the main drag meeting and greeting all the straggling Garouls as they prepared for their hikes and hunts and fishing expeditions. Instead she took the circuitous route around the back of many of the more central cabins.

Halfway there she rounded a corner and came to an immediate shocked halt. Before her on an A frame an adult deer hung by its hind legs. Its body cavity was already peeled open and emptied. The carcass was headless and the stump of a neck was totally mangled as if the head had been literally ripped off. A few paces away in a fly infested bucket she could see what she assumed to be entrails. Once again the lack of breakfast seemed like a lucky break.

"Hi, Amy." The soft voice came from behind her. Spinning she saw Paulie approach with an impressively wicked knife dangling from his hand.

"Hi Paulie. Is this the deer Claude and Leone hit with the truck?"

The lanky teenager blinked before burning up beet red,

"Yea. They dressed it last night but left the rest for me to practise skinning. It’s too warm to let it hang. Do you want to watch?"

He moved forward to the carcass and with great concentration drew the blade around the tied hooves before slitting inside each leg down to the pelvis. Slowly he began to peel back the hide scrubbing stubborn patches with the blade then changing to a balled fist once he had the skin pulling away fluidly.

"Gotta make sure the hide doesn’t touch the meat." He explained to what he assumed was a raptly interested audience, "No one wants a hairy steak at the barbeque tonight…" he grinned amiably.

His casual words broke the spell that had Amy glued to the ground,

"Yea, that would be yuck," She responded in a flat monotone. Then she had a thought,

"Paulie whys the head missing and the throat so mashed up? Is that where the truck hit it?"

Again the youth hesitated,

"Suppose so. The head is in Claude’s freezer. He has a friend who’s a taxidermist he wants to mount it for Leone’s birthday. Don’t tell her in case it’s a surprise." He added hastily.

"Nope. These lips are sealed. Hey thanks for the demo but I gotta get on. I’ll see you tonight."

"Okay, I’ll save you a nice loin steak," again he blushed furiously and Amy realised he had a sweet little crush on her. Smiling and a little boosted at the thought she resumed her original agenda and continued over to Anita’s.

If the head is intact enough for mounting the only damage to that deer was its neck and throat. How the hell did they manage to hit an adult deer on only the neck only with a Toyota? Nothing adds up here. It’s like the rules of mathematical formula don’t apply to this valley at all. Her small smile was now replaced with a small frown.

Finally she appeared before Jori and Anita’s cabin and knew immediately it was vacated. All traces of their holiday equipment were absent from the front porch. A quick glance through the windows proved every room was clean and empty awaiting the next arrivals. Her heart dropped as disappointment raced through her followed very quickly by a little pang of hurt. They’d gone and not even stopped over to say goodbye. And why so suddenly? She and Anita and even Jori had been walking and talking all day yesterday and their departure hadn’t been mentioned once? Another thing that didn’t add up.

Crestfallen and feeling lonely she returned to her own cabin. Maybe she could borrow Marie’s car and get her laundry into town by herself? Even this plan was misplaced when she arrived onto her own porch to find the laundry basket was gone. Wondering if Leone had returned and carted it back indoors she entered the cabin, no basket, no Leone. Heading for the stove she decided the time had come to risk breakfast after all. There was not much by the way of blood, gore and headless animals she had not seen so far this morning and assuming that was her fill of blood n guts for the day she decided she was way overdue for a cup of coffee and a muffin.

Moving round the kitchen as she made her coffee she opened the pedal bin to dump the old filter. Staring down into its contents she hesitated, her train timetable lay shredded at the bottom of the bin. Frowning she knew she had kept it in her backpack. Dumping the filter on top of the ripped up remains of her escape route she moved over and fumbled through the pocket she had stashed the timetable in. It was empty.

A little friendly rap on the door sill pulled her attention over to Marie who hovered in the doorway.

"Hi," she smiled. Amy still stood with her hand in her backpack side pocket now glad of the distraction she answered,

"Hey Marie, I’ve just made coffee. Want a cup?"

Marie moved further into the lounge,

"No thanks, I’m good. I called over earlier but you were out. I wanted to tell you the news about Jori and Anita…"

"Is something wrong," Amy moved towards her suddenly concerned, "I called over this morning but they were gone. Is everything okay?"

Marie’s warm smile broadened,

"Everything’s absolutely fine. Anita found out she was pregnant and Jori decided to get her home. She was off her food and very tired. He says they’ll come back in the summer when she’s in her second trimester and bit stronger."

Amy’s face was awash with a delighted smile,

"Oh I’m so happy for them. Anita said they were trying. We went into town yesterday for her to buy some pee sticks… pregnancy kits" she explained noting Marie raised eyebrows.

Marie laughed,

"You two certainly got on well. Anita said she was sorry they were leaving in such a hurry. She called over but Leone said you were asleep."

"Oh." Amy felt disappointed in Leone again. It upset her she hadn’t had the chance to congratulate Anita personally never mind say goodbye. Then for Leone to disappear for the day without even leaving a note about any of this. That hurt too. In fact this whole day is one giant pisser.

Marie seemed to watch the emotions flood across the younger woman’s face and placed a conciliatory hand on her forearm,

"Have you any plans for today?"

"Well I was gonna go into town and do some laundry. Except I can’t find the hamper."

"Ah, the one sitting outside? Claude took it for a service wash. He and Leone were heading into the truck shop to get his fender hammered out after last night’s little adventure. He took several loads as most everyone had a towel and bed linen drop to make anyway. I told him to pick up your hamper too. Was that alright?"

"Yea sure, I suppose. I was gonna see if Anita wanted to come into town with me but I guess that’s not gonna happen now."

"Tell you what. I’m heading off on my own for a short hike to gather some more plants. Do you want to come along? I have some really lovely walks down by the river?"

Amy mulled this over for a few moments. Anita was gone, Leone was no doubt off having a massive huff with her over her lack of libido, and the laundry was being seen to. Basically it was eleven forty seven in the morning and her day had dried up already.

"Okay. Guess that would be a nice thing to do. I’ll just get ready. Will I meet you at the clearing in ten?"

"Make it twenty and I’ll pack us a light lunch," Marie squeezed her shoulder affectionately before leaving. Well at least I managed to make someone happy, Amy smiled to herself.

They’d been moving into the southern sector of the valley for almost an hour. Marie happily answering Amy’s questions about her family and the beautiful valley they owned.

"The money was made from fur trapping for the North West Company in the 1800s. By then we were a small clan but powerful and rich enough. We laid claim to this valley and never let it go. This is where the Garouls have lived and hunted ever since."

"Wow. It was lucky the Garoul who landed in New Colonies from France could establish his family so quickly."

Marie gave her a strange look,

"The Garoul who came over from France was Yvette Garoul, a woman."

"What? But Leone told me they were twin brothers who duelled and the loser had to leave the homeland as a penniless emigrant."

"Yes," Marie nodded enthusiastically, "twins, but brother and sister. The brother married but the sister had an affair with his new bride. There was a big fight and the loser fled, penniless as you said."

"Shit, Leone really is rubbish at telling stories."

Marie laughed, "Leone isn’t interested in anything that isn’t going on under her own nose. But it’s a fantastic story if you really delve into it. Yvette had to pass as a man to get passage across the Atlantic. Then she basically continued like that working as a trapper."

"So where did you lot come into it if she was passing as a man. How did she continue the line?"

"Oh eventually when she was established enough she took a young brave, or two as bed mates and began the American Garoul line. Her story is really amazing. Oh look, here’s one we want." She bent down and began to trowel around the root ball of a pungent plant with long glossy leaves.

"What is it?" Amy squatted down beside her.

"Wild garlic. Good for the blood and the joints." Uprooting the plant she placed it in a plastic bag and packed into her backpack.

Coming into a glade with a fallen tree the older woman suggested they sit and have a sandwich and lemonade for lunch.

"You know your tea nearly flattened me the other night." Amy stated, "But this lemonade is excellent. Is it homemade?"

"Yes, another homespun recipe. Look I’m sorry about the tea. I meant to mention that. Anita said it gave you a stinker of a headache the next day. I suppose I’m so used to handing out teas and remedies to all my family I never thought to warn you to sip it slow and frequently."

"Leone should have told me. She made a pot of the blasted stuff and watched me down it all."

Marie shook her head laughing,

"I’m so sorry Amy. I make it strong to dull the ache in my bones. I guess you didn’t need it anywhere near that strong for your cramps. How are you feeling by the way?"

"Good. To be honest this is one of my easier months. Usually I get killer cramps and become a sort of mad woman but this time it was okay. Pity you can’t market that stuff without getting arrested."

Giggling they packed up and prepared to head off again.

"Here," Marie fished out three flash cards, "I use these when the others come along to help. And also to teach the youngsters when they come up here in the summer." Handing the plastic coated cards over to Amy she pointed out the plant picture on each.

"See, this is what it looks like and the back tells you what it’s used for."

Amy squinted at the first card,

"These are a great idea. So we’re looking for Butchers Broom and it’s for…" she flipped the card over, "Blood circulation? Cool."

"Yup," Marie smiled, "and Devils Claw and Wolfbane, all for aching joints. Think you can recognise them from the photos?"

"Sure," Amy confirmed.

"Good, well I suggest we split up. I’ll go up here as there’s a little patch of Shepherds Purse I want to thon out. If you go down that way you’ll see all these near the brook. Can you get me one of each please? I’ll meet you back here in half an hour okay?"

"Okay." Amy was quite happy to go on her errand it was nice to have a chore to do on what might have become a dull day.

Heading off in the direction Marie indicated she immersed herself in identifying her selected plants among the myriad that grew at the foot of the tall firs or hid beneath brush and wiregrass patches. She found the brook and easily crossed it to the slope on the opposite side where the trees grew denser. Following on she eventually found all she needed and was pleased to have a nice specimen of each in her backpack.

"Amy!" She looked up as she heard her name called. It was Marie’s voice echoing through the dense woodland she found herself in.

"I’m here," she responded realising she must be late for their rendezvous. Turning she made to head back but drew up uncertain. She wiped her forehead and the pungent aroma of the last herb she’s culled hit her hard.

Yuck! What was that last one? Oh yea the Wolfbane. God it stank. In fact it made her sort of nauseous and almost immediately her sinuses started to ache. Shit, don’t tell me it promotes migraines. I can do without that now.

But already the familiar pain was triggering behind her eyes.

"Amy!" Marie called again but Amy had trouble pinpointing the location of the shout between the pain in her head and the sound distribution through the trees.

"Okay. Coming." She called back deciding to retrace what was probably her steps. If she could remember them correctly.

"Amy!" Shit, this time the voice sounded further away. She paused and then turned a half circle and tried to follow Marie’s calls.

"Wait for me Marie! You’re moving away." She was stumbling now, had the undergrowth got denser or was she just feeling more ill and falling over herself?

"Amy where are you?" Marie’s voice was very distant now. Shit I’ve totally stuffed this up. I have no idea what way to turn.

Then she broke through the denser foliage and heard the river trickle nearby. Turning to the sound she navigated a huge clump of trees and impassable brush to emerge near the riverbank almost opposite another cabin. This was not like any of the group cabins at the Garoul clearing. It was built differently, larger, stouter with outbuildings. Well it’s better than nothing. Maybe I can get directions back to the clearing. Wonder who lives here?

Approaching the river bank she skittered across a sort of causeway of large rocks and shale that took her almost to the cabin porch.

"Hey copperhead. What brings you way out here?"

She jumped and swung round to see Kit approach from one of the outbuildings axe in hand. Her green eyes widened saucer like with surprise,

"Kit! You live here?"

"My, what big eyes you got." She smirked down at her even as she swung the axe casually to the left of Amy’s frozen figure embedding it in a splitting post propped by the porch step. The harsh splinter of wood caused the smaller woman to jump.

"All the better to see you far enough," the words were out of her mouth before she could think.

"Look," she raised her hands and continued, "Pax, okay? I’ve gone and got separated from Marie in the woods. First off can you gimmie some water to swallow these aspirin cos my head’s killing me. Second can you point me in the direction of ‘Fort Garoul’ before Marie freaks and sends out a search party?"

Kit seemed to consider this for a moment then reached for a two-way radio from the porch shelf.

"I’ll do better than that. I’ll employ modern technology and then no-one will come looking for you."


Kit pointed down the track,

"Head down there. Take the second trail on your left for about a mile and a half, then the first on your right. You’ll be home in less than two hours if you leave now. Go now before it gets dark." She practically snapped the directions.

"Thank you," Amy struggled to stay polite. What was it with this woman? Kit was a perpetual tight ass around her. Jeez would it hurt to be mannerly?

"Can I grab some water before I go?" holding up her nearly empty canteen. She still needed to pop some pills to lift this fugue that seemed to be enveloping her making her woozy and slightly bilious.

Kit seemed to hesitate for a second uncomfortable with allowing Amy entrance to her home. Then she shrugged,

"Sure, come on in." Her eyes narrowed as she watched the smaller woman mount the porch steps and push open her door. Slowly she followed.

The interior of Kit’s cabin was very different from all the others Amy had seen. It was obviously built for comfortable year round living not just as a holiday home. It appeared much larger with a separate kitchen, and held all the private ornamentation and accoutrements that showed it had been Kit’s home for some time. One of the outbuildings even housed a small generator which gave the added luxury of an extra power source. All in all it was a cosy well looked after living space.

"Kitchen’s through there," Kit nonchalantly pointed then turned away. Amy dumped her pack at her feet and extracting the water bottle went on through. It was a nice sized working kitchen. Worn but well kept pine countertops and units, some with solid wood doors, others with glass edged the room. The sink looked out over the tree line and as she stood and ran faucet water into her flask she laughed at the antics of a squirrel in a nearby tree. With no warning a wave of dizziness swept over her and she clutched the sink rim with both hands before it passed. Blowing out an over heated breath she cupped the cool water in her hands and swamped her face and neck with the welcome chill.

Curious on hearing the mellow laughter Kit had moved to lean quietly on the kitchen door guessing the local wildlife was the source of amusement for her impromptu and most unwelcome guest. She was very displeased at Marie for abandoning the girl so close to her cabin. It was really quite clumsy of her mother. As she watched she saw the girl suddenly stumble into the sink and momentarily hang on for dear life before splashing herself with water. She’d had an episode of some sort. Kit straightened and with concern moved towards her just as Amy turned to face her.

"Oh, I need to get some headache tablets from my pack." She tried to swerve past Kit.

"What have you got?" she asked refusing to move out of the way.

"Mmm, just some aspirin but they’ll do."

"I got stronger pain killers than that. And some of Mom’s tea…"

"Jesus no!" Amy shuffled more than a little embarrassed at the outburst, "I mean no thank you. I had some of that the other night for cramps and it just about blew my head off."

Kit gave her an inscrutable look,

"I see. Did it relax you?"

"A little too much. Aspirin is just fine. Excuse me."

Still Kit didn’t move,

"The painkillers are store bought. I don’t go to Mom for all my ills. These are much better than aspirin. Come here." She led Amy across the kitchen and reached for a small bottle of pills. "On the rare occasion I can get killer heads, these are good." She handed the bottle over for Amy to examine.

"Yea, I use these at home. I’m stupid not to have packed some. Can I take a couple?"

"Take the bottle. I can get more in town. Are you starting a migraine?"

"I thought so but it’s not that bad. To be honest I’m blaming the herbs your mother sent me out to pick. I’m having a bad reaction to one of them but it seems to be passing over quite quickly."

Fumbling as usual with the child proof lid she finally snapped off the cap with such zeal half the tablets scattered all over the kitchen floor.

"Shit, I’m sorry," she began to kneel to scoop them up but Kit was there before her dismissing her with a gesture,

"Go and take two I can collect these."

Amy stood again swallowing the pills with a long swig from her flask turning off the faucet. Taking another drink while she had the flask to her lips her gaze ran round the kitchen noting the casual but expert craftsmanship that went into the woodwork. Her eyes fell on the reflection on one of the glass doors. Kit was behind her on one knee gathering the errant pills into the palm of her hand. Amy watched the dark head slowly turn and lean in towards her, nostrils flared and quivering as Kit ran a scent trail inches from the back of her bare legs to pause at the apex. As her head rose her chest inflated with the odour she was sucking deep into her body. Her eyes narrowed glinting cold silver, her lips opened and curled into a cruel feral grimace.

It took less than a second for her to find the source of the blood call. Finding it she quietly salivated, her face inches away slowly inhaling the earthy musk of the woman’s sex scent and womb blood at the crotch of the khaki shorts. The legs before her suddenly tensed and a rash of goose-flesh covered them. She could hear the hitch in Amy’s breath. Somehow she knew Kit had picked her scent up, some how she knew the power of it over her.

Kit lurched to her feet, pills spilling from her hand down onto the floor again.

"Go," she snarled thickly, "go now. Go home. Go back to Leone. Get out!"

Amy staggered backwards at each harsh word having no intention of arguing with the vicious silver gleam in those eyes.

Grabbing her backpack she whirled out the door and trotted down the trail Kit had indicated previously. What’s with her? One minute she’s offering headache tablets the next she’s snarling. This whole family’s mad. This valley’s mad. It’s the inbreeding. It has to be…

But she was very rattled and upset, her nerves would not calm and her legs worked double time to distance herself from the cabin nestled at the river’s edge. Why was she sniffing at me? Was it the plant she smelled? Maybe she had a reaction to it too? Doesn’t matter, she really scared me. I don’t like Kit, she’s too weird.

A half mile into her homeward journey her skin began to chill and prickle. Simultaneously all the muted noise in the surrounding forest ceased. Immediately recognising the dread feeling that settled in her stomach she began to cast her eyes anxiously about. Shit. Not now, I do not need this head-fuck right now. The bear was shot, okay. It’s dead. So what the fuck is that I’m seeing out of the corner of my eye?

The stealthy shadowing had begun again. She could feel it if not quite catch it. Flitting from tree to tree in deadly tranquillity, the only sound the whisper of fir in the breeze. It was there, she knew it, could sense it stalking her. Only one this time, off to her right. Keep your breathing regular and your feet flapping. Don’t let whatever it is know you know it’s there. Maybe it’ll fall back when you get on the next trail. It should be coming up soon.

The first indication she was nearly at the trail branch off were voices coming along the other track towards her. The bend in the pathway prevented her from seeing who was heading her way but she recognised Marie’s voice immediately. Thank god she’s still looking for me. Who’s she got with her? Relief added extra inches to her stride as she practically ran towards her rescue party.

"…if Kit is to stay here she needs this and it’s in all our interests she stays here. Answer me do you want to take your turn?"

"No." the taciturn answer came from Leone.

Marie and Leone have come to find me. Sweet Jesus thank you I swear I’ll go to church the minute I get home. She sprinted down the trail towards the two all the while aware that the presence haunting her had begun to melt away.

"Hey! Guys, I’m here!" she called as she ran.

"I didn’t think so. You can offer this. We all have to make sacrifi…" Marie was silenced as Amy’s call and then Amy herself came crashing breathlessly round the bend, almost bowling her and Leone over.

"Hey. I gotcha," Leone held her, her upper arm steadying her, "You okay? You looked spooked?"

Gasping for air Amy swept a quick glance over the forest, birdsong had returned and she felt not even a lingering of the claustrophobic presence that had suffocated her earlier. The quick scan wasn’t missed by the other two women but neither commented.

"Yea. Thank God I found you I felt that…thing again. Like I told you before. I don’t think it’s a bear at all. There’s something else out there."

"Well there’s lots of things out there Amy. It is a wilderness. You shouldn’t be out here alone I was silly to leave you even for a few moments." Marie tried to comfort her as she too scanned the surrounding area.

"I’m sorry I got lost Marie. It was my fault. I kept calling but you just got further and further away. And then I got a thumping headache from one of the plants…I touched my face and felt really ill…"

"The Wolfbane? You had a reaction? I’m so sorry Amy I should have warned you that one can be a bit tricky." Marie stroked Amy’s cheek with concern, "I found Leone. She was out looking for us so we teamed up to find you."

"Come on, let’s get you back." Leone took her pack and slung it over her own shoulder offering her hand.

"I’m going to head on down to visit Kit as we’re so near." Marie turned in the opposite direction, "I’ll catch you later. Amy be sure to rest. Take a hot shower and wash the plant residue off. Okay?"

"Will do Marie. Thanks for the plant hunt it was fun until it…wasn’t"

Parting ways Leone and Amy continued on the track back to camp.

"So you had an adventure?" Leone asked cautiously. Relaxed now Amy ambled happily alongside her.

"The whole day’s been really odd. Why didn’t you tell me you were going into town? I could have gone with you and done our laundry."

Leone shrugged,

"You were having such a good sleep and Claude came round early. I didn’t think I’d be away too long."

Amy looked sideways at her, "I was up before you left for town the laundry was still there. Marie said Claude collected it after I’d left the cabin to find Anita." She’d caught Leone out in a blatant lie.

"I don’t know about that," came the smooth rejoinder, "I was collecting laundry form the other side of camp. Jori and Anita have gone."

"I know. I was happy for their news. Why didn’t you wake me when Anita called over to say goodbye? I’d have loved to see her before they left?" Her hurt was obvious and Leone shifted uncomfortably. She had no answer so they strolled on in silence.

"I saw the deer you killed last night." Amy finally broke the sullen silence. What was happening between them? They were going downhill again and she’d been so happy and relieved to see Leone with Marie not that long ago.

Leone snapped her head round to look at Amy, askance.

"Paulie was skinning it," Amy explained.

"Oh, yea," Leone nodded unwilling to add more to the conversation. She pointed to a very overgrown path on the left, "Shortcut. It’ll bring us out near our cabin. Saves going through the main clearing."

They deviated accordingly and walked on again in silence until Amy determined she was going to pursue her line of questioning,

"It was kinda weird that its neck could be so mangled but the head stay intact. You must have hit it at one hell of an angle."

Leone frowned and shrugged obviously disinterested. Turning to Amy she asked her own question her voice coming out a little harsher than both of them expected,

"How come you got lost?"

Amy blinked at the sudden change in their admittedly one sided conversation,

"Marie sent me off with some flash cards and we were to meet up later but I couldn’t find her. I could hear her calling me but she never heard me. Every time I moved towards her voice she seemed to be moving in the opposite direction. Sort of silly of me, but it didn’t take long before I was completely disorientated." Recapping it made her feel even more stupid. How can you get lost when the other person is standing there calling for you?

Leone just nodded,

"So you been out there all this time?"

"Mmm, no. Funnily enough I stumbled across your sister’s cabin. Imagine a valley this size and I find Kit’s place." She tried to make light of a very unsettling experience.

"Oh, was she there?" Leone asked quietly.

"Hey look! It’s our cabin. What a great shortcut…" Amy gushed glad of the distraction, "I can’t wait to get that shower…" and picked up her pace for the last few yards.

Right up until she stepped into the shower stall and felt the blessed hot water snaking down her body Amy had managed to prattle on in a constant stream of banalities. Hopefully burying for good any lingering questions Leone had about her discomfiting visit to Kits.

"Let me do that." The sponge was taken from her fingers as Leone appeared naked behind her.

"Careful of the wolfbane stuff, it gives a stinker headache." She surrendered up to the soft strokes of the soapy hands massaging her shoulders and back.

"Did you and Mom have a picnic?"

"Mmm, yes. It was nice. We found a lovely little glade and had sandwiches and homemade lemonade. That feels good…" she angled her head so her neck could be sponged. After rinsing Leone dropped a trail of soft kisses all along it from ear to shoulder. Reaching round she lifted the shampoo bottle,

"Here, let me wash your hair."

"Mmmm, that’s gorgeous," Amy groaned leaning back onto Leone’s breasts as firm hands lathered up a crown of fragrant shampoo. Wow, it’s turned around all by itself. This is so what we’re really all about. Togetherness and intimacy and just...being sweet to each other. I missed this so much…

"Yea," Leone continued to massage the red gold under her fingers, "smells so much better than Kit all over you." The grip in her hair tightened. Amy’s eyes flew open,


"You stink of her. It’s oozing out of every pore. Did she make you fuck her? Is that why you were running?"

Shocked Amy squirmed round and stepped back under the heated flow to try and look up at Leone’s eyes. They burnt right through her and suddenly Amy felt very much out of her depth. She didn’t know this person glaring down at her. She felt suddenly bullied and very, very frightened. Swallowing down her fear she bellied up to the preposterous comments from her obviously deluded partner. The water cascaded soap suds into her eyes causing her to blink and splutter making her objections sound weak rather than believably angry.

"What the hell are you talking about? I was running because Kit scared the hell out of me and I thought I was being followed again by that…Thing that everyone tries to tell me is just a heron or a raccoon or…or fuck knows what!" she pushed the damp hair out of her eyes. Knowing she was blustering and angry with herself for it she tried to step past Leone out of the shower,

"How could you even think like that? You’ve had nothing but sex on the brain since we came here. I don’t like you like this Leone. I want to go home. I had a timetable for the train but I see you ripped it up…"

Leone twisted off the water and followed her into the bedroom.

"What timetable? Were you planning on leaving me?" she suddenly raged.

"And why the fuck not? You’ve been a freakin bitch since we got here. Disappearing all night. You don’t even spend time with me through the day any more. All you want from me is a grope or a quick fuck and you have the audacity to accuse me of sleeping with your sister who I despise with a passion! I hate it here and I’m going home tomorrow if I have to crawl all the way to the train station!"

"Fine, disappear you frigid bitch. Kindergarten is the perfect place for you. Prissy little fuck…’I don’t like this, I don’t like that, don’t touch me there’…" Leone mimicked cruelly. "Go, you’ll not be missed! Oh no wait…Kit will miss you. Won’t she, won’t she!"

They were dragging their clothes on over still wet bodies as they snapped and raged at each other until fully dressed Leone stormed out the door. Deflated Amy sagged onto the edge of the bed blinded with the tears that had started to flow halfway through Leone’s tirade. I don’t know her anymore. I don’t know who that person is or where my Leone’s gone. It’s like evil Stepford someone’s stolen my girlfriend and left a madwoman in her place. I want Leone back… She curled up on the bedspread and shook with sobs.

The light began to fade as she straightened herself up. She had been crying for only ten minutes but it was enough. Amy didn’t cry often and this afternoon’s events were emotionally cataclysmic for her. Drying her eyes and swallowing her self-pity she now allowed her anger room to vent. Fucking cow talking to me like that! I know exactly where she’s gone. She’s gone to confront Kit. What an idiot. Well two can play at that game. I’m gonna confront the both of them. This nonsense is gonna be sorted tonight once and for all!

Dragging on her boots and grabbing her torch she bounded down the porch steps reversing the trail she had taken that afternoon with Leone. If she hurried she might catch up with her after all she was only about ten minutes ahead of her. She looked up as the clouds parted and a silvery glow flooded the forest path thankful there was a full moon to light her way.

Part 6:

Half an hour later and Amy still hadn’t caught up with Leone and had to admit this was the stupidest idea she had ever had. The stupidest, scariest and…stupidest again. She had hoped if she hurried she might catch a glimpse of Leone on one of the straighter parts of track but the woman seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Unless she could move at the speed of light or most probably had not gone to Kit’s at all. That meant Amy was now out in the middle of the forest in the dead of night heading towards the cabin of the one family member who disliked and frightened her the most. Kudos! Amy, kudos! What ya gonna do when you get there? Knock on her door and run away?

It became painfully apparent several minutes later that Leone couldn’t have taken this path. Hesitating and flustered she decided to cut her losses and turn back when she felt the uncomfortable tingle cover her skin announcing the appearance of her shadow stalker. The smallest hairs all over her body rose to attention and the prehistoric fight or flight sympathetic nerve response flooded her system along with an overdose of adrenalin. Being a small animal with strong self preservation instincts Amy Fortune decided to flee.

Fleeing doesn’t work if it becomes herding. Even through her terrified plunge through the forest foliage part of Amy’s consciousness noted she was being subtly directed rather than allowed to run full tilt in crazed circles. Her ghost shadow would hover on her periphery just enough to alert her to veer away in an orchestrated zigzag deeper into the heart of the woodland. Her heart and lungs screamed, which was more than her choked voice could do. Legs muscles danced and pirouetted over the rugged terrain till they quivered with exhaustion. The mystery was how they didn’t give out completely and send her face first into the brush, but adrenaline and fear fuelled them to pump on until all hope was gone.

Amy was one of those people blessed with an unending supply of hope. She finally realised she was being treated like a sheep and herded towards a destination she did not want to arrive at. Decision made she rapidly U- turned and ran head down as fast as her exhausted legs would take her in the opposite direction. If this thing wanted to corral her it would have to come out in the open with a lasso. Her unexpected change in game plan seemed to work in her favour for the sense of presence grew less as she blundered on through the undergrowth, thrashing through branches that cut and scratched her face and arms. And then the angry blood curdling howling started.

It reverberated all around her, bouncing off tree trunks, humming along the matted earth, swallowing her bones as they liquidised inside her with terror. She tipped forward down a steep incline, moving too fast with feet far too tired. She pitched forward and tumbled into a deep, steep elongated ditch. Crashing to a tangled halt she lay groaning up at the canopy of Douglas fir. She ached all over, her heart thumped so hard she was sure it would explode at any moment. Cautiously she moved stretching each crumpled limb…nothing was broken, but bruised and battered beyond all recognition was another matter entirely. The forest was silent again save for the wind’s gentle whispering. Lifting her head she heard nothing, sensed nothing. Had she out run it? Had her sudden fall confused it? Was it gone or was it up there waiting?

Carefully she turned and began to crawl to the top of the dip she had fallen into. Have to keep moving. Need to get back to the cabin. Any cabin, even Kit’s cabin. Just get out of the woods…

As she dragged herself slowly upwards she clawed at roots and rocks and sturdy shoots, anything for a handhold. Most held, a few gave way but not enough to send her sliding back down. Tired and desperate she reached out for another likely handhold only for it to pull clean away out of the earth bank. Her other hand was already holding a root and she had a decent toehold so the sudden surrender of her new leverage didn’t endanger her. Sighing and close to tears she wiped her dirty face with her free forearm. About to discard the useless ripped out handhold it momentarily glinted in the moonlight. She looked closer at the curved root covered with the dry clay of the bank. Under the muck she saw a metallic mineral gleam. Shaking it slightly she removed loose debris from the stubby little root stem. Her eyes slowly widened with horror. Cupped in the hollow of her hand lay half a human jaw bone. Human beyond doubt by the recognisable remnants of mandibular teeth, and also by the gold filling glinting in the second molar.

Horror numbed her mind momentarily then with a great shuddering shake she threw the damned thing away back down into the ditch and renewed her scrambling to get out of the hellhole she was in. Surfacing moments later she lurched forward unseeing, still in deepening shock.

I’ve just found human remains. What to do, what to do? Get out f here. Find the cabin…

The sound of running water brought her back into her immediate surroundings and predicament. The river was nearby! Limping and stumbling she followed the source until she crashed through the brush onto the stony riverbank. She hurled herself into the water submerging completely as if to wash the past hour of her life clean away. Rising, the water in this part thigh deep she began to wade using the river itself as a highway to somewhere, anywhere. It ran through the valley so it would take her to some place safe quicker than running blindly through the forest ever could. The river would be her trail.

For perhaps another hour she trekked either through the river or alongside of it. It had shallows and deep turbulent stretches but always she clung to it like a lifeline, her one thread of hope. Eventually she came to another shallow section with large smooth rocks spanning the width of the water. She recognised it as the place Leone had taken her fishing that first day. Splashing up onto the bank she felt confident she knew the trail home from this place. She climbed across the river bank and up the earthen path to the main trail and began to run in an uneven wobble all the way down the incline she knew would take her back to her cabin.

The cabin was in darkness just as she had left it. Her prayers that Leone would be there waiting for her were not answered. Bolting the door tightly and securing all the windows closed despite the warm night air she concluded when Leone did decide to come home she would have to come knocking. Still numbed and shocked she dragged off her muddied sodden clothes abandoning them where they dropped as she trailed through the lounge. When she reached the bedroom she flung herself face down on the quilt and fell into a deep exhausted and mercifully dreamless sleep.

The stifling air inside the cabin awoke her into almost sauna conditions. She was drenched with sweat breathing heavily. Staggering she opened the bedroom window allowing cooling breeze and bright light to pour into the room. Still no Leone.

Standing as a cool stream of shower water flowed across over heated flesh she thought through the previous evening’s events. There was something otherworldly out there. It may or may not be responsible for the human remains she’d found. On saying that last night it seemed to have been herding her away from its killing ground? It? There was definitely more than one.

Aside from that Leone had disappeared every night since their arrival in the valley. She had become over sexed and aggressive…and now uncontrollably jealous of her sister?

Amy frowned. She couldn’t add it up, none of it came together. Unless she herself was losing her mind…that would work!

Later she lifted her small backpack. All she packed were her waterproofs, keys and wallet. Scribbling a note for Leone she left it on the kitchen counter and wandered down to the car park hoping to catch someone on the way into town. Luckily there were a few bodies hovering round the vehicles.

"Hey?" she called as she approached, Pascal, Paulie’s father looked up and smiled, "Pascal can I beg a lift into town if you’re going?"

His weathered face creased up in a welcome smile,

"Sure Amy, I’m dropping Eva off at the train station. Hop in."

Crossing to his truck she passed Claude’s Toyota giving it a cursory glance. Her pace faltered a little, neither of the front fenders looked like they’d been recently hammered out. They weren’t dented. They were merely caked in mud much as the first time she’d ever seen the truck. It was obvious the truck had not hit a deer and been repaired. This truck had impacted with nothing. Another lie? But why? Determined not to give her thoughts away she climbed into the back seat giving Pascal and his wife Eva a big hearty grin,

"Thanks, I just wanted to collect a few groceries. Maybe get that beer Leone likes…"

Eva was getting the train Amy had wanted to catch so she decided to loiter in town until the next one. Her instincts told her not to let any of this strange clan know she intended to leave. It was frustrating as the longer she left it the bigger the chance of Leone finding her note and following her into town. So on the trip in she had warbled inanities to Pascal and Eva about her wonderful holiday in Little Dip and how proud they must be of Paulie. That part at least was true she did like the shy teenager a lot.

Loitering in town was not that easy, every corner of every sidewalk seemed to house a shopping, talking or simply out walking Garoul. She decided to slip into the cool shade of the Library. Truth was something gnawed at her bones and she couldn’t let it go no matter how much she wished she could. There were only two terminals, both unused. After seeking permission she logged on and went to the County paper website. She started a generic search…Hunters…Missing…bingo.

Two years ago Isaac Johns and Timothy Spiralli were reported missing. A further search on the names brought petty information on the two. Divorced red necked ne’er do wells with previous convictions for poaching, assault and drink driving. Johns had a history of domestics while Spiralli had once served four years for forcible rape. It seemed they had not been missed for sometime before their absence had been reported. Even then it was by a circuitous route, a friend who leant them his truck to take their hounds out came to look for it back annoyed at its absence he reported it stolen. The truck was eventually found burnt out on industrial waste ground in Seattle. Spiralli, Johns and their dogs had never been found.

Amy logged off. Was that her jaw bone mystery? Did she want to report it? Demand a dental check on something she had already tossed away God knows where deep in the forest. She would never find that ditch again, she knew that. More importantly did she even care?

Lost in thought her eyes stared at the blank monitor screen, she registered the movement even as the hand fell onto her shoulder.

"Shit Marie, you nearly gave me a heart attack!"

The other woman laughed,

"What are you doing here? There’s an internet café with decent coffee if you wanted to catch up on your mail?"

Amy stood, noting the massive tome on Botanical Illustration Marie had propped on her hip,

"I didn’t know there was an internet café, but the library’s just as good." She snuck a look at the wall clock over the main door if she didn’t go soon she’d miss the next train.

Hooking her backpack onto her shoulder she trawled around for something to say before she made her excuses and headed for the door.

"I see you get good use out of the library," nodding at the heavy book

Marie set it down on the nearest reading table,

"Actually my research is done. I see you’ve finished too, let me give you a lift back."

Startled Amy shuffled from foot to foot,

"Mmm, well I had a few other errands and I see the towns full of Garouls. You go on I’ll get a lift easily enough."

For some reason she didn’t want to tell Marie she was intending on jumping on the next train out. She didn’t want to hurt the woman’s feelings. Let Leone deal with breaking the news to her family, Amy had enough upset and emotional confusion out of this holiday break to last a lifetime.

Mare reached for her elbow and gently but firmly guided her out to the main steps of the library,

"Actually I’m glad I found you. I’m guessing you don’t know Leone got hurt last night and had to sleep over at Kits?"

Amy jerked her arm free and turned to face Marie her face full of concern,

"Leone’s hurt? What happened?"

"I’m not sure. She may have fallen. Let me take you back, she’s resting at Kits."

Part 7:

"This is not the usual way."

"No, there are several tracks into the valley that can take vehicles. This one leads down to Kit’s."

Amy sat silently looking out at the passing greenery as they descended into the valley: she couldn’t believe she was returning here after all her big plans of this morning.

"I...um…," Marie hesitated as she took an awkward curve in the road, "I saw you were reading the County Chronicle online."

"Yea." Amy decided not to add anything to this conversation topic. She wasn’t sure to approach it herself.

Marie cast her a sideways look,

"I saw the story you pulled up."

Amy didn’t respond. Marie reached out a hand and covered Amy’s where it rested on her knee,

"I can see you’re still upset. In fact you have been ever since the bear incident. I thought that was the problem but maybe it’s something more? Is everything okay between you and Leone?"

Amy cleared her throat unsure how to proceed,

"Leone and I are having a few problems but we’re working on them." She answered quietly, "We had a row last night and she stormed off. I went out after her and got lost."

She decided not to mention her ghostly companion again, at least not to Marie. Nice as she was the woman had done nothing but ply her with wacky tea then tell her she was seeing things whether they be herons or hallucinations. Right now Amy was sick, sore and tired of the entire valley and simply wanted to return to civilisation. The news that Leone was hurt only served to heighten her stress levels beyond her tolerance.

"And?" Marie sensed there was more to be said, "Has this anything to do with Leone getting hurt?"

Amy shifted, she really did not know the answer.

"I didn’t find her. Like I said I got lost…but I did find something. I fell over, down a slope in fact…and found some human remains at the bottom."

Marie looked at her sharply,


Amy held her gaze,

"I found a human jaw bone…and before you tell me it was an animal’s it wasn’t. Unless bears get gold fillings. Look I don’t know what’s out there and I don’t know what happened to Leone but I’m gonna get her and take her home today. Just so you know that’s what happening…I’m taking her home with me…today." She said it flatly and sternly so the older woman could not fail to understand. She’d had enough and Amy was taking her girlfriend home.

"Can you take me to where you found this…jaw bone?" Marie frowned ignoring the last part of Amy’s statement.

She shook her head in answer,

"No. I haven’t a hope in hell. I was lost, running round in the dark. Quite frankly if it was one of the guys I was reading about then it’s no great loss. A hunting trip gone wrong or something…"

"A poaching trip more like. Those men are cruel. They should stay out of our valley…"

"Is that why their truck was found burnt out in Seattle? Is there big money in poaching?"

Marie just shrugged,

"I’d imagine so. I’m glad you’re happy to let it go. Wild animals would have carried away any evidence by now. And we don’t need the upheaval of police and trackers all over the place. Or the publicity, it would be too hard on Kit. She’s the one who lives here year round. The rest of us come and go but Kit has to be the reliable one….She works so hard for us." Marie seemed to be almost thinking out loud as having a conversation with Amy.

Tyres crunched on gravel as they moved deeper into the forest until Marie pulled over in what looked like the middle of nowhere. Turning to Amy she indicated a small dirt path to the left,

"Follow that. It takes you right down to Kit’s place."

"Aren’t you going to come too?" At the very least Amy wanted Marie there to give her and Leone a lift back to their cabin so they could pack. Assuming Leone was fit for the quick departure Amy had in mind. Her anxiety about Leone’s state of health had her out of the truck before she received Marie’s answer.

"I’m just going up the track a little to a turning space. I’ll be back in no time." With that she sped off in a cloud of dust and grit.

Amy made off down the dirt track surprised at how quickly she emerged at the riverbank beside Kit’s cabin. All seemed quiet as she mounted the porch steps. The front door stood ajar; with a few raps on the door sill she pushed it open further hearing no response,

"Hello, Kit? Leone?" she moved further in. It was cool and silent and obviously empty. Her frustration rose. Damn, I’ve missed them? I hope Leone’s okay.

"You came back."

Startled she spun round to find Kit lounging in the doorway.

"Where’s Leone? Marie said she’s been hurt?"

Kit shrugged and entered closing the door behind her with her boot heel,

"She headed off this morning. Went back to her cabin."

"Is she hurt? What’s wrong with her?" Amy moved towards the door, her concern for her girlfriend over-riding her caution around Kit.

"Nothing’s wrong with her. She hurt her ankle but it was fine this morning. She’s okay, even walked all the way home on it."

Kit leaned back against the closed door having no intentions of letting Amy use it. Gazing down at the smaller woman a strange predatory look flitted across her eyes,

"So tell me why you’re really here?" she drawled.

Amy frowned she wasn’t sure how to manage this situation. Kit was deliberately blocking the door and it was freaking her out. She wished Marie would hurry up and arrive. Better still she wished Leone was here not at their cabin reading her note thinking she was long gone.

"Your mother brought me here to collect Leone. She’s just parking the truck she’ll be here any minute."

Amy wondered if she should just reach past Kit and grab the door handle. Be assertive, be assertive…

She reached out and immediately had her wrist gripped by a large hand.

"Oh no she won’t. Marie won’t be coming anytime soon. She was merely making a delivery." The grip tightened further. Amy tried to twist her arm free but it seemed like a joke to Kit,

"Stop it, you’re hurting me!"

Amy tried again to shake herself free but Kit just smiled coldly giving her a little freeway before cruelly squeezing until they came to a standstill.

"You’re still bleeding aren’t you." it was a statement and froze Amy into stillness more that the painful grip on her wrist had done, "I can smell you. You’re sweet, like wet soil and cut grass mixed."

Her words came out thick and throaty as she pulled Amy to her, one hand buried in her hair the other holding her by the waist. There was a roaring in Amy’s ears, her throat felt like glass paper and that sickly feeling of dread crept over her skin like an oil slick suffocating every pore. Her nose was buried in Kit’s chest as if the other woman wanted her to pick up her scent too. It was woody, laden with cypress and the spicy tang of whatever Kit washed her body with. A deep layered powerful odour that pulsed out strength and nature. A scent that belonged to the forest.

"But it’s not free. You’re not flowing." Kit continued matter of factly, "It’s contained. If I were to lay you down and look I know you’d be wearing a tampon. A little soaked and bloody tampon holding all your essence in one tiny little cotton plug. All red and hot and sticky…just like you Li’l Red." She chuckled as she bent down and ran a broad tongue across the sweat on Amy’s forehead. Sucking in a shocked gasp the young woman jerked at the touch but Kit held her tight.

"Mmm, salt. You taste good Amy. I knew you would." She sighed almost happily. Then she pulled the red gold hair harshly Amy cried as her neck arched back. Her eyes locked with Kit’s ice blue gaze,

"I’ve seen you with her. She fucks you up against walls. You spread yourself for her. Nice and wide. You’re a good girlfriend Amy. I wish I’d one like you." The silver gaze seared into her the heat in it matching her words, a cold, cold burn. Amy froze like a hypnotised rabbit unable to speak or even blink. Kit continued,

"I’ve seen her pump your ass. You looked so beautiful lying there under her. Do you like that it like that? Do you like her smeared all over your rump?"

It actually seemed to be a genuine question for she waited for Amy’s response. She’s a lunatic. I’m trapped with a lunatic and I’m going to be raped and killed…by a lunatic…Amy blinked and realised she was meant to supply an answer, she only had a wail.

"I want my Leone." She felt the tears slide down her cheeks even as her mouth formulated the words sobbing like a lost child in a mall. Kit frowned, wrong answer.

"You don’t even know who Leone is. You’ve got me now. Leone has to share. Share her girl or share the valley. That’s her choice. It’s her turn to stand guard. Jori cheated now Leone’s cheating. None of them want to do their share and you know why Amy?"

She was moving now, pulling her back into the room, manoeuvring her towards the table. The hand entwined in Amy’s hair tightened painfully, the other began to pull her cotton blouse loose from her shorts.

"Do you know why Amy?" a tug on her hair demanded a response, tear streaked Amy could only shake her head,

"No," she whispered.

"Because this fucking valley drives us mad. One year, that’s what we’re meant to do. One freakin year! I’ve been here for six and I want to burn it to the ground."

"Please Kit, please. Don’t hurt me." The table was hitting the back of Amy’s hips she had nowhere else to go. She knew she was about to be bent backwards onto it and then there would be no way out. "Please. Let me go. Please Kit."

"No," Kit slowly shook her head, "no. We all make sacrifices Amy. I stay here and suffer and Leone gives you up so she can live elsewhere. Jori’s okay he can breed and escape to rear his pups. But Leone and I chose not to breed so our time to stay is now."

"What are you talking about? What are you fucking talking about?"

But Kit had finished talking.

Amy’s back hit the table top with a resounding thump spilling and scattering the condiments set permanently at one end. Kit had tugged Amy’s shirt tails out of her waistband and now bathed her exposed midriff with long broad tongue strokes, panting and snuffling. Sucking up salty sweat with loud lapping.

"Mmmm, so salty…" she growled with satisfaction to herself her unfocussed silver gaze rode up the supine body to lock remorselessly with terrorized green.

Salt…salt…Amy’s head buzzed with fear and out of it a growing need to act to save herself. Salt was beside her head, spilt all over the table from the toppled salt shaker. Pinching a generous palm full she flung in straight into the feral gaze below.

Kit’s hissing flinch pulled her off Amy just enough for the smaller woman to slip out from under her and run for the door. She pounded out onto the porch at top speed only to ricochet off the solid chest of Claude coming up the steps. He took in her terrified tear stained face and rumpled clothes in one glance, his face grim,

"Go back to your cabin Amy. Go on run, now…"

Before he’d finished his sentence both he and Amy were bowled over onto their backs as a huge ball of fur and fury streaked out of the door spilling them like skittles.

Grit skidded under her palms and dust flew up in blinding clouds as she rolled under the rushing impact. Looking across she saw Claude was equally as sprawled and shocked as her except that as she was looking at him he was focussed on the tree line just beyond the brook. Amy turned to follow his gaze blinking in confusion at the huge beast that had raged out of Kit’s cabin only seconds before. It stood on the edge of the forest rising to its full eight foot stature, hulking and snarling. The rough black fur covering sleek musculature moulding the formidable lines of a consummate predator. Tight flat ears, rows of feral teeth flashing with angry saliva that hung from the curled quivering lower lip. Its beastly torso and limbs were strong and human like, the hands and feet though cruelly clawed.

It’s some sort of Anubis, Amy’s mind scrambled for reason and logic even as it threatened to tailspin out of control and crash her sanity into the dirt, its half man half hyena half hell…

And then its silver eyes locked with hers as an angry frustrated growl emanated from a furred throat and she knew beyond all doubt what it was. It’s Kit. She’s a werewolf… holy fuck…This would have been her choice moment to pass out and get eaten while mercifully unconscious.

Unfortunately this hope was belayed as a deeper throatier growl to her right penetrated her shock making every hair on her body stand to frozen attention. Slowly she turned her head as Claude reared up snarling, swiftly stripping himself naked. Even as his hands moved over his clothing she could see the stretch of tendon and bunching of corded muscles in his arms and matted chest and shoulders. Already a bear of a man Amy watched in fascination as the blur of black fur sprouted and fuzzed over his coarse skin. His snarling increased to painful yowling as his jaw cracked and elongated. Bloodied slavering hung in thick strings from his muzzle as it engorged with a rank of razor sharp canines and incisors. The agony of this teething shone angrily out of deep piercing blue eyes his only connection to humanity.

This would be another good time to faint. Faint Amy faint, God damn you! But she didn’t. Instead she curled up into a foetal ball in the dirt, torn, whimpering but always conscious and watched as Kit swung round and disappeared into the thick of the woods in that hazy all too familiar blur. They had always been there Amy realised recognising the shadowy movement finally for what it was. They had always been following her every move, stalking, watching. Through the trees, through her window. How many, when, who? She watched Claude, bigger, blockier and just as deadly spring across the brook and splash into the forest after Kit. Once in the undergrowth he too took on the flickering, sinuous motion she now knew to be wolven.

Staggering to her feet she ploughed into the water and in a shuffling parody of last night began to traverse the riverbed to her only haven, her cabin and Leone. Her pack was with Marie, money, keys, identification, everything out of reach. And Marie? How many knew of this? Did all the Garouls act to keep Kit here, to hide her monstrosity? Amy’s mind was a mass of broken distorted thoughts and emotions as she lumbered through the water. Slipping, limping, tripping she dragged herself upwards and continued flailing through shallows and depths too tired and half mad to care what was out there now, how far away it might be and what would happen to her if it found her.

Claude, Claude seemed to be protecting her, didn’t he? Claude had lived here once, in the valley. Had it done that to him too? Is that what it did to them and why it always had to stay in the Garoul family, because it was cursed? Or were they cursed? Oh my God what if they’re all werewolves?

She thought back as best she could finding that rationalisation helped keep her mind off her own stark terror and her aching body limping onward to sanctuary. Paulie’s first kill. The deer Leone said she’d hit with the truck but had its throat ripped out. They all came here to hunt…to hunt…The valley was theirs and private…to hunt in. The Garouls were werewolves, generation after generation. Migrated from France to start afresh in the New Colonies at a time when Europe was changing. All of them even Leone. Her Leone…her Leone…her Leone…Exhausted Amy sat down on a large stone by the riverbed and started to cry.

Part 8:
That was where Paulie found her an hour later. Hunching down beside her he gently reached out and touched an arm wrapped tightly around her head. She was completely curved in on herself like a delicate shell and it hurt him to hear her dry aching sobs.
“Amy, Amy,” he spoke gently shaking her arm carefully, “come with me. I’ll get you home. Come on, you can’t sit here. Lets get you home.”
His hand slid down her arm to hold of take hers as he coaxed her to rise to her feet. She followed him like a child. Wiping her smeared and salty face with her free hand.

He took her through all the shortcuts he knew, keeping a vigilant watch out for any of the others but no one seemed near and that relaxed him a little.
“Are you one Paulie?” the sniffled question caught him unawares. Still holding his hand she drew alongside him now and he was pleased she seemed more composed. He was sorry he didn’t even have a tissue to offer her for comfort.
“Are you a wolf, like Kit and Claude?” she continued.
He hesitated, “You saw them?” he saw little point in acting stupid, not at this stage. Damage had obviously been done.
“Kit attacked me and I think Claude was trying to protect me. They, they…changed and ran into the woods. Will they fight?”
Paulie shook his head, “No, they’ll just run until they’re tired. Maybe hunt a little. We don’t hurt each other we’re all the same pack.”
“And you’re one. A werewolf.” It was a statement not a question.
“Yea, only recently. It starts in puberty, that’s when you get to come out here and learn to hunt and change and…generally what it’s all about I suppose. It’s safe here.”
Amy nodded.
“Why did Kit attack me if it’s safe? Did I do something wrong?”
The teenager shifted uncomfortably and let go of her hand moving slightly ahead,
“Mmm, I’m not sure why. Nobody really told me anything. But…” he bit his lip and blushed.
“But?” Amy persisted.
“Well, Kit’s been here too long. If you run with the change too long or too often it can sort of psyche you out. It’s one of the first things you learn. The struggle is to control your humanity not your animal side. The wolfskin is more natural more in harmony than the human side. It’s harder to be human. Kit’s isolated here and finding it harder and harder.”
Amy frowned and thought on this. All the movies she’d seen had it the other way around. The full moon had always been the struggle for Lon Chainey not the twenty eight days in between. Paulie continued his ears now scorching bright red,
“And…it’s you. Kit wants to be with you. It’s your smell.”
Amy looked at him alarmed, he glanced away but carried on determined to explain no matter how embarrassed he felt,
“It’s because you’re on your…Lady’s Time. We pick up scents real easy and I think it sort of flipped her over. She wants a mate and her and Leone are the same, they want female mates. So I think they’re having a kinda stand off over you. Leone’s out looking for you right now. We all are. We know something’s gone wrong.”

Amy blushed now but appreciated the importance of his words and the fact that he was mature enough to want to tell her. Maybe he had to be this mature to carry his family’s secret at so young an age, maybe his connection with life’s natural processes of sex, menstruation and even death ran deeper than for normal teenage kids?

They turned down an incline and Amy could see the back of her cabin.
“Go down there and lock yourself in. Okay. Don’t open the door for anyone until Leone gets back. She knows you’re on your way.”
“How do you know that?”
“She’s been stalking us for the last mile. I don’t think she’s ready to show herself to you. Probably doesn’t know you know…if you see what I mean.”
Amy nodded and reached over to squeeze his forearm,
“Paulie? Thank you for saving me.”
He bloomed bright red again and scuffled his boots in the dirt path,
“I...I didn’t save y…”
“Yes you did. I’d fallen into a kind of shocked stupor and you got me back onto my feet. And more importantly you answered my questions and gave my mind a little rest. Thank you Paulie.”
He smiled warmly at her sincerity, when the time came for him to choose a life mate he hoped he found someone as brave and honest as this tiny woman. Pointing down the trail the short distance to her cabin,
“Go on, head on down. I’ll watch you from here until you get indoors, okay?”
With a last smile she practically ran the last several hundred yards waving back to him one last time as she turned onto her front porch.

Barring the door immediately behind her she let out a long sigh of relief and utter sadness. It was all such a mess. She knew more than she ever needed or wanted to know about this strange preternatural family. Her mind was imploding with all this twilight zone information. And Leone? Where did all this leave them now? She had been brought here to meet the family. Why? To reveal the truth about the Garouls? Was it the first step in some sort of bizarre induction or acceptance?

A quiet click from the bedroom froze her. So intent on locking herself in it had never crossed her befuddled mind to ensure she actually was alone. The single click was followed by a series. Her eyes swung to the bedroom door as it slowly swung inwards. A statuesque wolf form stood in the doorway, a black coat streaked with silver, eyes the deepest Prussian blue shining coldly upon her. Long jagged claws tapped slowly and deliberately on the door sill expressing deep discontent, click, click, click.
“Marie.” Amy breathed.

The great beast moved slowly into the room, circling her away from the door. Amy stumbled backwards hips banging into furniture, reaching out blindly for a steadying handhold. Marie’s voice finally emerged as a rumbling throaty rasp,
“Yes Amy. It’s Marie. You understand by now that all the Garouls can change form into wolven.”
It wasn’t a question but Amy nodded silently anyway. The cold threat emanating from this woman overshadowed any menace she had felt earlier in Kit’s cabin. The eyes boring into hers were dark and deadly and totally merciless.
“You’ve disappointed me so much Amy. I had such high hopes. You seemed so perfect, smart, capable, committed even. Yes, committed to my daughter. And I admired you for that. But then when she started to show her true self you backed away and punished her. Night after night I found her out hunting, unhappy…frustrated.”

She had come to place herself between Amy and the door. Transfixed by the tomb chilled cadence of the words Amy allowed herself to be manipulated like helpless prey further into the cabin away from any possible retreat.
“You let your narrow-minded little principals and your silly insignificant moralities dictate to my child, and you wounded her. All you had to do was be a good little wife. Just make her happy here in the valley where could at last be herself. Finally show herself to you. But no, you made it obvious you could never cope and didn’t even wish to try. So she twisted and contorted and shrank herself up to make you happy.”
“I would never do that to Leone…”
“But you did. Your inhibitions and closed mind shut her off from you. You’re not the one for her Amy.”
“No…I love her. You don’t understand…” Amy choked on her own fear and shock triggered by the primal musk that oozed off the creature prowling before her. Each step echoed a precise click as claws scratched across hardwood flooring.
“Oh I understand. I had to drug you to give up your precious blood scent to her. I found the timetable and knew you were going to sneak away and abandon her! And as for your sad little note this morning, so full of self victimisation. I followed you to the library to bring you back.”
Amy swallowed hard remembering her research into the missing hunters and how Marie was the only one who knew what she had discovered. The wet maw opened in a lupine grin,
“At last you’ve connected the dots. The poachers were trespassing and that is simply not allowed. They were hunted down. It’s the nature of things.”
“I don’t care about them. I care about Leone and you brought me back ‘cos she was hurt. Where is she?” Amy demanded, she had to know, it didn’t matter if her stubbornness escalated an already bizarre and dangerous situation.
“She had a cut. It’s already healed.”
“Why did you take me to Kit’s, you knew Leone wasn’t there. You abandoned me out there.”
“Why not, Kit wanted you too. Kit wants a mate full stop. After you rejected Leone why shouldn’t you be passed to Kit? For God’s sake girl would it be so hard for you to just lie with her? My daughters aren’t monsters, they wouldn’t hurt you.”
“I am not going to sleep with my girlfriend’s sister…that’s...that’s incest of some sort! You’re all insane! I love Leone. Kit can go get her own girl. Try the classifieds for God’s sake there’s enough freaks out there to find her someone!”

The sudden pounding on the door behind them made Amy jump.
“Amy, open this fucking door now before I rip it off its hinges!” Leone’s voice was furious: it was obvious she imagined herself locked out.
“I’m in here with Marie.” Amy’s voice cracked as she called back.
There was an audible pause then,
“Open the door now.”
Amy gratefully moved towards it until a twitch from Marie froze her in her tracks. She still stood between the young woman and the cabin door and refused to give over any control. Holding her gaze Marie set a huge clawed hand upon the lock and fumbled with it. Slowly she withdrew and turned to Amy ruefully holding up a demonic claw inches from her face,
“Maybe you should try. These are useless with fiddly jobs.” There was almost the trace of humour in her words.

The surrealism of the moment was not lost on Amy. Flinching away from the razor sharp flesh-ripping hooks she quickly unlatched the door and flew like a whirlwind into Leone’s arms.
“Leone,” she squeaked and sniffled simultaneously.
“Hush, hush,” Leone gathered her into a tender embrace and walked them back into the cabin taking in her mother’s lupine form. Her eyes flashed angrily,
“You had to show her? You knew I wanted to be the one.”
“I already knew,” Amy picked up on the meaning, “Kit attacked me and Claude changed to protect me. They both disappeared into the woods. Paulie found me and brought me back here. He answered some questions.” She drew back now so she could look up into Leone’s concerned blue gaze.
“Kit attacked you!”
“Well, she tried to force herself on me. If we humans have laws about that then I’m sure wolves have too! I’m yours Leone, unless we agree differently. I’m not available for anyone else.” She glared defiantly at Marie, her ire rising at the gall of the woman to use her like a commodity for her daughters.

Safer now her lover had returned she began to compose herself and focus her mind on her recent unsettling experiences,
“But you know what really mattered despite the horror you all put me through? Even when I thought I was losing my mind do you know the one thing I couldn’t let go off? It was you. I didn’t know what had happened to you. Marie told me you were injured and I went back to Kit’s scary cabin to find you but you weren’t there. I didn’t know where you’d gone. I didn’t know how hurt you really were. I didn’t know what she might have done to you.”
“You were leaving her! I saw the note!” Marie thundered.
“I was going home in a huff! I was not leaving her! I love her. I want her in my life. Why can’t you just leave us alone?” her voice rose in anger. If these were to be her final moments on earth Amy wanted to tell certain people a thing or two!

“And you,” she swung her wrath onto Leone pulling back out of her arms, “You left me. Every night you left me. You were the one who wouldn’t talk, you just wanted to hump or fight!”
Her eyes blazed at the both of them,
“You’re all a pack of shits.”

Both Leone and Marie blinked in unison. Leone shuffled with embarrassment and Marie after a momentary hesitation straightened and moved silently to the bedroom closing the door.
Sighing dejectedly Amy slumped at the dining table. Awkwardly Leone joined her. Together they sat in silence listening to the muted grunts coming from the bedroom.
“The change back is just as painful,” Leone offered as an explanation. Amy just nodded. The bedroom door creaked open and Marie emerged in fully dressed human form. She said nothing, just passed straight on through leaving them alone.
My breakdown is overdue. Amy thought bleakly not even lifting her head to witness the older woman’s exit.
“Do you still want to leave?” Leone ventured cautiously.
“Hell yea.”
“I…I need to be here to talk about it. I can’t…tell you things outside of the valley. Could you stay just one more day? Please? I want to explain and then if you want to leave me you can.”
“What time is it?”
“Dunno, late. Too late to head home. Please stay tonight Amy. Let’s talk about it. I don’t want to lose you. I love you and I swear I’ll always keep you safe.”
“But you didn’t keep me safe Leone. I’ve been drugged, abused and practically pimped by your own mother. You have molested me and abandoned me in a situation you knew could become dangerous. You knew Kit was unstable. You all knew! Leone she terrified me. I thought she was going to…” tears spilled down her face, Shit, when am I ever going to stop crying? “And worst of all you never even tried to explain what was going on for you. What you were going through. You locked me out then blamed me for it.”
“I love you…” despair edged into Leone’s voice as if she knew what was coming.
“I love you too. But I don’t trust you.”

Part 9:
Because they were exhausted and it was late they ended up in bed, lying side by side literally laid to rest. Hands centimetres apart but not touching, the Grand Canyon may as well have sprung up between them.
Leone lay glaring at the ceiling, rigid with anxiety, frozen in her uncertainty. Amy’s body was just as still though her mind was a mass of coiled serpents, seething and writhing, one thought curling in upon the other.

Her hand drifted over and covered Leone’s as if hoping to gain understanding through osmosis,
“Tell me about the poachers.”
Turning her hand to grip tighter Leone sent a sideways glance towards the her bed partner,
“Who told you about that? Did Kit…”
“I got lost and found the bones.”
This was greeted with silence as the enormity of it washed over Leone.
“Shit.” She rolled over and curved a long arm around Amy’s waist: her face following the sweep of her lover’s profile. “That must have been terrifying. I’m so, so sorry Amy.”
“What happened? Did you hunt them down and kill them? Do you do that here?”
“No, no! It was nearly the other way round. They kept trespassing, coming back over and over ‘cos the hounds picked up our scent. One day they got too close to Kit in wolf form and tracked her back to the cabin. First time she was able to kill the dogs they set on her but they came back with more. She’d never have been safe. I had to come down and give her over fifty stitches on her shoulders and flank. Dogs are a truly vicious way to hunt.”
Amy flinched at the thought as Leone continued,
“They didn’t know what they were hunting just that there was something big out there. Probably hoped it was a big cat or Grizzly they could get dollars for. Claude and Pascal took them out and dumped the truck. It’s strange, our scent keeps bears and cougars away but attracts wolves and dogs.”

Amy continued to concentrate on the ceiling as her body soaked up the familiar warmth beside her, muscles relaxing imperceptibly. How bizarre…I actually understand and accept the logic behind it! Does this place change your perceptions or am I beginning to accept the culture and customs of this family…this way of existing?
Leone continued, wanting Amy to understand something that may be beyond her level of sanity and acceptance. But she needed Amy to at least hear the group rationale and behavioural code of her family,
“It was protection. Self defence. Call it anything you want to make it taste better. But it was necessary. We’ve always done it and we always will. We’re hunter and hunted a hybrid of man and wolf. This valley is one of the few sanctuaries left and it must be preserved at all costs for our children.”
As an afterthought she added,
“I can’t believe in a valley this size you stumbled onto the remains. Animals would have scattered them by now.”
“Kit was hounding me through the woods. I think she was actually trying to herd me away from that area but I ran in the opposite direction. I don’t think she wanted me to find them.” She offered up a nonchalant shrug at the irony.

Shocked silence greeted her words as Leone digested this. She understood so little of what Amy had gone through and it didn’t bode well. Deep in her heart Leone was already steeled for rejection, for Amy’s aching departure. She was surprised at the next question,
“Is Anita okay? Tell me the truth.”
“Yes, she’s doing great. Jori called earlier to say her morning sickness was over and she’s looking absolutely beautiful. He sounded really giddy.”
Amy found herself grinning despite herself,
“Did they leave because she was pregnant and…” she was unsure how to phrase what she wanted to know. Leone sensed her question,
“It’s the valley. He had to get Anita and the baby away. Look at Kit she’s stressed out on the verge of a breakdown because of this place. We need to monitor ourselves as well as our home. Amy, it’s like diabetes or angina or something…you gotta look after yourself take the prescribed meds so to speak. Do the right things to stay healthy. Be responsible for yourself or it gets out of control and damages you. Anita was far too hormonal for this place, and the foetus had to be protected too.”
“Does Anita know about…you all?”
“No. That’s Jori’s business. He’ll decide. I brought you here because I wanted you to know. But I couldn’t manage it without frightening you or freaking you out. I knew that from the very first night.” She sounded ashamed of herself. Ashamed that her own fear of rejection had essentially imperilled the one person who meant so much to her. Ashamed she’d been unable to reveal her true self to someone she believed to be her life mate.

Their bodies had subtly drawn closer and now they lay touching, Leone’s longer length wrapping around the smaller woman.
“You talk about protection a lot Leone. Protecting the valley, protecting Kit from poachers, Anita and her baby even yourselves from being swallowed up by this…thing that you all are. But no one protected me. I ran around this valley like a bloodied red rag for you and your sister to fight over. You should have protected me but instead I was scared, scared of Kit, scared of losing you. You were changing right before my eyes but in ways I never could’ve imagined. Considering I’ve been stalked every step of the way I’ve never felt so alone.”

Leone pulled her closer, her own suffering palpable in her breathing, in the tension in her arms and shoulders as she attempted to cradle Amy into the nook of her shoulder,
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Your blood came and I could feel myself getting rougher and angrier with you. I needed you so much; your scent was driving me mad with frustration. I wanted to mate with you constantly and I was afraid I’d hurt you. So I pulled away, and it didn’t matter, you still got hurt no matter what I did.”
“Did you ask Marie to drug me?”
“I knew the tea was to relax you. To let me take you. I think she did the same for Kit when you were ill at her cabin and blamed the wolfbane. I hated her for meddling. I hated Kit for even looking at you.”
“Kit told me to go.”
“Yea, I think she was trying to desperately fight her urge to mate too. Marie helped neither of us really. She just managed to set us against each other again. We’ve always sparked off each other.”
“It’s an Alpha bitch thing,” Leone gave a rueful smile, “Marie is the Alpha female and I suppose Kit and I are just engineered to be rivals for the position at some point. This valley is a matriarchy; it’s the nature of our pack.”
“What will happen to Kit if she stays?”
“She can’t stay, it’s making her ill. We’ll get her out. I’ll do my share. God knows it’s long overdue and I owe it to her. We all owe her time out. Life on the outside just runs away with itself and suddenly years have passed.”

Her grip on Amy tightened the closer she came to her confession,
“Jori got married. I met you and immediately began trying to wiggle out of doing my turn. I didn’t want to leave you behind and this weekend was a wasted and lame excuse to try and show you what I really was and what our…my commitments would be for the future. When we first crested the rim of the valley I felt so excited like I was offering you the world. Ten hours later I felt like I was hiding a crack habit from you. I didn’t know how to do it. I mean do I say ‘Look here’s my congenital defect, hope it doesn’t give you a rash.’ And all the while you were freaking out about rare steak!”
Her hand fell onto the blonde head and gently played with the hair, spilling it through her fingers,
“I love you so much but here it translated into wanting to touch you all the time. Your odour, the rustle of your clothes, the sun on your skin and hair. I didn’t abandon you Amy. I tracked you everywhere. I could sense you from one end of the valley to the next. But I didn’t do it to freak you out or anything. I was making sure Kit stayed away. From the first she was attracted to you too and because we were obviously having problems she become bolder. I’m surprised you picked up on my presence, you must be sensitive to me too.” Leone mused.

Listening to all this Amy snuggled her nose into Leone’s clavicle and was breathing in the warm fragrance of her skin. She too had her favourite scents. Her mind was overloaded with strange incalculable supernatural information and beginning to shut down for the night. In response her body was awakening, stress levels tapering off into patterns of arousal, fear galvanising into lusty need. Some latent anger mixed with the pleasant sensation of inhaling the familiarity of Leone’s skin let her nip the sensitive collar bone. Leone jerked slightly more in surprise than discomfort. Licking the red mark Amy did it again, only harder. She brought her hand down to Leone’s hip where the taller woman’s legs spooned around her and dug her nails into a firm buttock. Leone jerked again, this time expelling a small hiss. Amy sucked on her shoulder marking her. Her fingers relaxed and smoothed the cool cheek with its rows of tiny red crescents only to spasm again as her nails grabbed a handful of delicious rump and bit in deep. A sharp grunt from Leone turned into an audible gasp.

Breaking away she pushed the taller woman back onto the bed pulling the T shirt she slept in over her head. Nude she raised herself to straddle Leone’s hips. Leone leaned back with the cool pressure of Amy’s palms on her shoulders, her irises expanding faster than the universe and equally as dark. She reached out but was slapped away,
“No,” Amy admonished, “take off your top.” She watched appreciatively as Leone obediently bared her breasts and lay back naked with a wary eye.

Kneeling upright Amy reached between her legs and a second later deftly extracted a sodden tampon by its cotton string. Leone immediately stiffened under her, gaze widening. Never breaking contact with those amazing eyes Amy grasped the bloodied plug and brought it towards Leone’s face, the delicate nostrils quivered and a hot flush spread across her cheeks, a fine sweat erupted on her brow.
“Is this what it’s all about? My menstrual blood? My smell? Does this do it for you?”
Leone’s chest heaved,
“Amy,” she pleaded squirming under the thighs cradling her, stress levels mounting rapidly. Amy swallowed rapidly feeling the power of her own taboo flood through her as she finally released it. Claiming that power for herself transferring it into the love she gifted onto her partner it became raw sexual energy. It became liberating.

Without another word Amy flung the tampon away across the room. Reaching again between her legs, knuckles grazing Leone’s belly she parted her folds massaging her fingertips into the wet musk. Raising three glistening bloody fingers she displayed them for Leone before deliberately smearing them across the fluttering belly under her.

Leone’s sharp gasp cut the air. Feeling this new sexual power for the first time Amy reached down between her legs again to reload her fingers. This time painting breasts and anointing nipples with circles and swirls and strange runes. The dark woman whimpered, her skin flinching as if each touch burnt. Leaning over her Amy rubbed her own breasts into Leone’s smaller ones smearing the bloody artwork over them both. She sucked her neck deliberately marking her again. Raising her fingers to trace the outline of Leone’s lips she enjoyed the whimpering moans such a simple gesture evoked. A pink tipped tongue sneaked out to stroke her finger tips. She permitted one after the other to be drawn into the hot mouth and bathed clean. Her flesh pebbled with pleasure.

Leone’s eyes burned a darker blue and her moans turned to muted growls deep in her throat. Her large hands convulsively stroked the planes of Amy’s back right down to her buttocks which were firmly grasped and massaged. Blood now mixing freely with the juices of her sexual arousal Amy spread her thighs open further and lowered her core onto Leone’s belly. Grinding and undulating she allowed the stained moisture to wash over the tanned skin, her sex and womb odours rose to lie heavily in the air around them.
Leone was in no state to answer, she just moaned.
“Leone, I want you so much…”

Leone arched up into the slow undulations her breathing hoarse and ragged matching the increasingly distorted rhythm of Amy’s own. With a guttural grunt Leone jerkily threw her hands up to cup Amy’s tits, roughly grazing the nipples with the balls of her thumbs. Immediately the tender tissue became swollen under her touch, raspberry buds hardening and growing under her firm stroke.
“Ooo baby,” Amy pushed into the cradling palms, “Yesss, like that…”
Amy flattened her centre harder onto Leone’s stomach her rubbing more focussed as she struggled to graze her clitoris across the wet heated flesh.

“I’m not going to hurt you Amy. I’ll be careful like before. But I need to taste you now if I’m gonna control this.” Leone rasped, her eyes had taken on a feverish lustre and Amy could pick up on the subtle changes in her musculature. Leone’s whole body seemed coiled and tight. Energy thrummed out of her.

“Get on your hands and knees for me.” The rumbling rasp came again. Amy complied immediately completely turned on by the raw power she could feel pulsing from her lover.
“Put you head right down and raise your ass.” Leone came up behind her prostrating herself.
A soft cry poured from Amy’s throat as a tongue traced her contours from clitoris back to the end of her ass crease. Again and again she was lapped across every fold. Mewling she tried to present herself even higher while trying to widen and allow more access.
Loud lapping noises filled the room accompanying her soft cries. Then a long tongue burrowed deep inside her with such delicious suddenness she screamed. The tongue continued to drill into her and she moaned in pleasure rocking onto it.

Leone shifted and covered her, her longer frame gracefully stretching over the smaller woman’s form. She pulled her head up level and inserted a thigh high against Amy’s sex. One arm steadied them purchasing balance on the mattress, the other hand caressing Amy’s breasts from one to the other in a random pattern of stokes and squeezes. Her nipples were tugged and pinched as her ass uncontrollably squirmed and pushed back onto the hard hips behind.

“Please Leone,” she gasped, “please…make me come.”
Her clitoris was close to exploding as she slid up and down the presented thigh aching for the friction that would push her over into release.
Keeping up the pressure she bounced her leg in order to hit Amy’s clitoris at the apex of each slide. Feeling the thrusts tighten she gently withdrew and turned Amy onto her back. Crawling up the length of the smaller woman she lowered her head for a long relaxed kiss. Amy gasped as she tasted her unabridged essence on Leone’s lips and tongue. Even her inner cheeks and breath hung heavy with her own coppery scent. She’s really feasted on me. I’m all over her, all through her.

“I want more. I can’t get enough…”
Leone trailed wet sloppy kisses all down her breasts and belly and buried herself deep in Amy’s little blonde pelt. Groaning with delicious frustration Amy pulled back her knees and opened herself as wide as she could to entertain her passionate lover. She was rewarded when Leone began to eat her with obvious relish and renewed ferocity until she thought she would levitate off the bed. Her nerve-endings sang with hyper sensitivity, her body was clothed in sweat, hair plastered to her head, heart pounding, throat parched with her cries of surrender and encouragement.
Sated Leone finally suckled on her swollen clitoris while flicking it with the tip of her tongue. Amy dug her fingers into black matted tresses and pressed her tighter as she thrashed and howled her way to a sweat soaked climax.

Spent, the smaller woman collapsed tired and content, stroking the face smiling at her across the pillow,
“Gimmie a moment and I promise to turn you inside out,” she mumbled fighting to keep her eyes opened.
“Oh will you now?” Leone laughed gently running her fingers through unruly blonde locks.
“Fersure. I’m a love machine. Just gimmie a minute to juice up the ole batteries,” this was accompanied by a huge yawn. “God we stink.”
Leone chuckled,
“Go to sleep darling. I’m a very contented woman tonight. Just close your…” she noticed she was actually talking to herself. Amy was already asleep, exhausted by the rigours of the day and lulled with the intense afterburn of her orgasm.
“I love you Amy Fortune,” she whispered dropping a soft kiss onto her brow. “Please stay.”

Some time in the dead of the night Amy snorted herself awake. Lying blinking disconcertedly at the shadowy ceiling she slowly came back into the real world. The first thing of note was the wonderful lassitude still running like molten caramel through her body. Sign of a night of good, sweet loving. A small smile curved her lips. She turned her head and looked at Leone’s face relaxed in sleep beside her. Reaching out she cupped the smooth sweep of cheek tenderly. Leone nuzzled into the touch before eyelids fluttered open and dreamy blue blinked lovingly at her.
“Mmm…auh…” she licked dry lips, “You okay?” she mumbled turning to kiss gently the palm holding her.
“Yes, I’m fine.” She whispered back. This is the first time since we got here I’ve woken up with you beside me. “We spent the night together…”
“Hmm,” Leone frowned still groggy.
“Let me get you some juice. I’ll be right back.”

Pulling on her T shirt she slapped towards the kitchen in bare feet hesitating when she found the front door lying open. Did Leone lock that? No, Marie left and we went to bed. It must have blown open.
Wandering over she casually checked the front porch before locking up. She froze, the door was lacerated with deep angry gouges and the porch furniture lay snapped flung far and wide across dirt clearing before the cabin itself. This has to be Kit. She’s come back and caught us making love and smashed the place up. Even as she thought it a deep growl rolled out of the nearby tree line making her hair rise. Looking across her eyes widened even as the tall wolven form moved into clear view. Shit, sometimes this valley is so B horror movie…I don’t think I’ll ever get used to them as wolves.
“Leone…” she squeaked back into the cabin as she slowly tried to back up. “Leone…your sister’s here…”
Another fully furred tempest flew by her shoulder catapulting itself out into the yard. Stretching to its full height it roared its challenge full volume at its twin lurking at the forest edge.

      Great! Now I get protected! Amy was aghast watching the huge shaggy beasts begin to circle each other hunched and snarling. This latent posturing was not what any of them needed. One of the great creatures flung its head back and unleashed an enraged howl. The other immediately followed suit and the clearing rang with mismatched harmony. Shit, they’ll have the whole clan up here bearing arms. Well, let Marie sort it out, they’re her daughters after all!

The larger, broader of the two suddenly launched itself slamming into her rival with such force they both rolled and twisted like living furies back into the woods. Guttural roars and slavering growls rang in Amy’s ears. The snapping of sharp canines accompanied the snap and splinter of branches and undergrowth as they twisted and blundered through it in a crazed angry dance.

They are going to hurt each other! I’ve got to split this up now!
Suddenly realising these involuntary thoughts expressed her heart’s commitment to stay with her lover no matter the…congenital defects Amy sighed partially in acceptance partially in exasperation as she still didn’t understand any of it. Feelings aside she grabbed the first thing to hand, a broken chair leg and launched herself into the woods with no more thought than if it were a playground fight her temper redder than any colour this forest had ever seen. She’d had more than enough of the Garouls and their ancient freakin’ cursed heritage.

      She found them in a curled snarling ball and apart from making an awful lot of scary noise doing nothing more physical than pulling each other’s hair, it seemed the sibling rivalry ran immaturely on many levels.
“Stop this nonsense now…” Amy laid into them both with her chair leg showing unexpected relish. The machismo snaps and snarls turned into surprised yelps.

      The howling had promoted a flurry of activity in the central cabin group with the remaining Garouls scrabbling towards Leone’s place troubled at what they might find there. Concerned that Kit may have pushed too far. What they did find was a small incredibly agitated woman swinging a broken piece of furniture. Her hair was tatted with leaves and twigs, legs scratched and shredded raw from the brush she had waded through. The T shirt was filthy and torn hanging from a shoulder. She looked totally bedraggled and mad and wasn’t that the truth. Beneath her squirming on the ground, contorted and flailing the sisters were struggling to untangle themselves from each other and stand up.

      Paulie’s eyes bulged and Claude and Louise stood uncertainly beside him. Pascal and Marie brought up the rear with the last of the few mystified stragglers.
“Amy? What are you doing?” Marie was positively aghast, completely at a loss as to what could have spurred this situation.
“Something you should have done twenty years ago. Knocking some sense into them!”
“Maybe so but you’ve got to stop beating them now. I think it’s actually Leone who’s getting the worst of it.” Marie approached slowly holding her hand out for the chair leg moving as slow and deliberately as a hostage negotiator.
“What the hell. You all look the same to me.” Panting and sweating and feeling as good as if she’s just run a mile Amy dropped her weapon at her feet. “God that felt good. I think I needed that!”
“Mmm, well, you certainly seemed to be working some issues out,” Marie was still concerned as to what these issues might be. She could smell sex and Leone all over the girl, but what did that mean in the context of what she had just witnessed?
“I have Marie. And I have arrived at a decision. I love Leone more than anything in the world. More than her furry genetics, more than this tomb of a valley, more than her weird and quite frankly icky penchant for kinky sex. But so help me God if the Garouls cannot respect and honour that love then I will lift up my stick and go through you all like a dose of salts. Get it!”
Marie raised her eyebrows, her glance taking in the furred, muzzled, silver eyed eight foot frames of hulking muscles of both her daughters sprawled at the feet of a five foot four red haired blazing mad little kindergarten teacher. They were pinned there by the presence of their own Alpha who had caught them both in gross misbehaviour but also and more telling in the scorching spotlight of a little lady they had pissed off once too often.
“Seems you’re settling in just fine,” Marie observed dryly, “But I look after everybody in this clan and everything in this valley on some level. Not just anybody gets invited here Amy. You’re Leone’s chosen life mate; and it seems she is yours. Because of the burden we carry we all stuck with each other. You will always be welcome. You’re already family.”

Amy just glared at her, she accepted the truth of the words because she needed to in order to keep Leone by her side. but she didn’t have to make it any easier on anyone for the way she’d been recently treated.
“And as for you!” she swung her laser gaze on Kit, the slightly smaller specimen at her feet who visibly flinched, “You need to get out more. What are you gonna do? Sit and rot in this valley hoping that a beautiful parachutist gets blown off course?!”
Leone smirked quietly at Kit’s discomfort but was caught out,
“And don’t get me started on you again!” Amy blazed at Leone too gesticulating so wildly small bits of foliage trickled off her.
Leone’s blue eyes widened and her head ducked in a telltale of who held the real power between them. Amy ploughed on remorselessly,
“In our household I’m the Alpha and you are just the plain old bitch! Get it!”
“Ouch,” winced Marie on behalf of her slapped down daughters, “with a bite like that you’re more than welcome dear.”


WolfieG On-Line Bulletin Board

2006:06:08:21.13:34 - Kit2002 – Finally settled into the new apartment. So nice to get off campus. New flatmate is called Jennifer, we get on well. I like her a lot. Loving New Mexico, the desert, the air, the colours, even the sky is more beautiful. (see jpegs. The redhead in the third one is Jen, we visited a cacti garden.).
Way to go Paulie, my cheque is in the post.
Jori, Anita, Amelie is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. I’ll be over soon to visit.
Promise to post more often now Jen and I got cable. x
2006:06:06:10.43:17 – PaulG01 – Four As, two with Distinction and Three Bs. Thanks for the Crossbow guys! (suckers!)
2006:05:27:22.29:54 – AlphaMarie - Hi. Just back this afternoon from another weekend with Leo and Amy. Got the swing up and we even constructed a sort of woodland assault course for the little Munsters! Advice to parents: bring extra clothes you don’t mind dumping afterwards; we’ve created a manmade mud bath. LOL. Such irresponsibility, you’d never believe Amy and I are ex school teachers. So looking forward to the Garoul Summer Camp this year!
Heading down to Jori and Anita’s next Tuesday. Can’t wait to see our newest cub. The photos are beautiful.
Pascal called to remind me Paulie gets his exam results next week so all those who bribed him to study hard better get ready to pay up. He’s a bright boy that one!!
Love to all until next time. M.
2006:05:11:18.03:47 – Amycable1 – Jori she’s a little angel. Absolutely gorgeous. We’re coming down to visit in July, Pascal and Paulie will cover for us for. Can’t wait to hold her. All’s well here, Leone is helping out two days a week with the veterinary practice in town. I go in with her and study at the library. My online course is going very well and I’m ahead of schedule. Marie is visiting this weekend and we’re going to hang a few tyre swings across the river for the kids this summer! Got a letter from Kit, she’s meeting up with another student to try and get a place off campus. Other than that she seems to love it. Says she promises to post this month for sure.
2006:05:10:14.33:12 - JoGaro – Latest pics attached of Amelie Anita Garoul yawning sleeping blinking (looks very much like sleeping) and burping. She takes after her old man in that department. LOL. She’s looking forward to meeting all her aunts and uncles and cousins in the flesh, so book your tickets to come see us soon. Catch you guys later. Jori.

Smiling to herself Amy read Kit’s last post. There were unspoken volumes in there about this new flat mate Jen. She wondered if that was how she had been first introduced to the Garoul clan. As a name casually dropped into a post here and there as Leone kept her family up to date with her life. She supposed if she was really bothered she could go back nearly two years and look.

Glancing at the clock she shook herself and headed into the kitchen of what used to be Kit’s cabin but now was home to herself and Leone for nearly nine months now. Checking the pot of venison Jalfrezi she began to measure out the rice and turned on the oven to heat the nan bread. Leone wouldn’t be too long now. She’d gone up to the North ridge with the buzz saw to clear a fallen fir.

Tomorrow Amy would go back with her to help stack the truck with all their winter wood but today she had to finish off her coursework. She did most of it online except for a few residential weekends throughout the school year. It was a challenging and stimulating and she was enjoying it immensely. Proud that she had done something useful and proactive with the year out she and Leone had taken. They had followed through on Leone’s commitment to the Garouls and the valley. Next year Dion and his wife Sharon were due to take over as the new Valley Rota fell into place.

The mysteries of Little Dip valley were still unfolding for this younger generation. Leone had found that as part of a loving couple the stresses and natural gravitation on her wolven side were less intense. Their sex life was incredible. Emotionally they were very stable and more in love than ever. It was as if they had truly mated for life on a profound level. Their commitment was unwavering no matter what life threw at them. In her more reflective moments Amy felt the pull had begun in earnest that weekend over a year ago when she had been prepared to fight for her mate. It seemed posturing like a lunatic with a chair leg before the Alpha female was a pretty cool thing to do. Who knew?

Looking out the window as the truck pulled up Amy wiped her hands on a towel and headed on out to greet her partner. Smiling she watched the long dark frame uncoil from behind the wheel as long denimed legs hit the ground. Eyes of the brightest blue flashed her the most loving of smiles and she felt her heart soar even as her loins quietly growled. It seemed Little Dip had a startling effect on all libidos, not just the wolven Garouls. Luckily she’d put the rice on simmer and the stove on low she had her own ideas for a little appetiser before dinner.

The End

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