The scent of sweat was stifling. Logan could practically taste the tang of salt on his tongue. The air was heavy. Hot. Humid. Misery seeped from every pore from those around him. As he breathed in again, he realized it was comin’ from him too.
The sun beat down, its rays at peak brilliance unobstructed by even a stray whisp of cloud, making every moment beneath its blazing light stretch out interminably. Even for someone like him, time felt as though it’d stopped. He stifled a growl as he counted down the minutes until this torture was over. The animal wanted out. The man did too. But he bore down, clenched his jaw and tried to focus on what was next. He’d be free soon enough.
Instead of paying attention to the tired ritual playing out in front of him, he focused instead on what he’d do as soon as he got out. He thought of the stream that ran through the forest behind the mansion. It was cool, even during the hottest summer day, its water fed by snow runoff from mountains to the north. He could see the running water so clearly in his mind’s eye, the animal focused on memories of the soothing sounds of the creek bubbling over rocks smoothed by time and motion.
He rolled his neck, and felt another droplet of sweat roll down from beneath his hair back underneath the already damp collar of his shirt.
Naked, he thought grimly. Soon as I’m free. The animal rumbled in agreement. The sweat-dampened clothes would have to go. They might even be beyond savin’. He gradually slowed his breathing as he waited for the torture to end. Pushing past the feelings of misery and responsibility to stay silent, until he was centered and quiet in his mind.
Minutes later, his body involuntarily jerked at a sudden outburst of noise. His eyes flew open, his mind sharp and alert as he scanned for the attack. Then he snorted and relaxed almost instantly back into his wooden folding chair as he realized it was nothing more than the sound of applause.
Graduation. Right. Not an attack. Just a buncha kids walkin’ across a stage. He let out a small grunt as Ororo elbowed him subtly in his side, a small smirk at the corner of her mouth, and he rose alongside her and the other remaining staff, clapping along with the rest of ‘em as the small class tossed their caps into the air.
The students who had a home to go to, had left the grounds two days ago when classes had ended and summer break officially began. And the number of kids who’d stayed behind for graduation was small. Just fifteen kids were walking this year, and their attending guests were proportionate.
The students, guests, and faculty all made quick work of leaving the grassy field where the graduation ceremony had taken place. All except Logan. He stayed behind, watching them leave, streaming back toward the mansion and the promise of air conditioning.
Instead of following them, he turned toward an ancient sugar maple tree that edged the woods along the grounds. The shade would help keep the worst of the sun from trying to roast him alive while he watched the last of the students and their guests leave. He wouldn’t relax until they’d cleared out. All the way out. That’s when his summer break would begin.
There were still the kids who stayed behind over the break; the mutants who couldn’t or wouldn’t be welcomed back to their homes. But they weren’t here at the moment. Kitty, Bobby, Piotr, and Kurt had taken them camping yesterday and they wouldn’t be back for three more days.
Slowly, excruciatingly, he watched the kids and their guests leave. Some alone. Some in pairs. Just a few groups greater than three people. The sun seemed to be stuck in the sky, its heated rays baking everything in sight. Logan noted the normally well-tended grounds even seemed to be wilting under the oppressive heat.
Finally, the last of the kids left. He saw ‘Ro wink at him as she shut the double wooden doors behind her. She’d known him long enough to know he’d reached his limit. And besides, she and the other staff were heading into town this afternoon for their own well-deserved celebration. Logan was always invited. But he always declined. ‘Ro, Remy, Jean, Scott, Hank, hell, even Charles was goin’ along. But not Logan. He’d celebrate in his own way.
Logan turned immediately on his booted heel and strode toward the woods behind the mansion. He exhaled in pleasure as he noted the slight drop in the temperature as the full leafy trees overhead blocked some of the sun’s light.
Kids were gone. Staff was at a minimum. He fuckin’ needed this. Between teachin’ and the increased missions, it’d been a tough year. Just him and nature now is what he needed. No labs. No foul-stenched teenagers who hadn’t yet learned to bathe properly or the proper application of deodorant. No. Just him smellin’ the trees and the mud and the grass. The promise of sun-heated rocks and cool water against skin. The sounds of the insects and birds and deer. Lettin’ the animal loose, lettin’ the man take a break.
It only took a few minutes to reach the creek. He strained his ears for signs of anyone or anything and exhaled sharply as he registered the fact that he was alone.
He stripped. Ripping the damp and confining clothes from his body, growling with impatience. The buttons on the dark blue button-down he’d set aside for nicer occasions went flying. The sweat-dampened wife beater was tossed aside. The belted jeans rucked low over his hips, then kicked away. He toed off the black boots and socks and stood there. Simply feeling. He reveled in the feeling of the sun against his bare skin as he stood at the water’s edge, feeling the animal rise and stretch inside him, an internal growl of approval as he recognized what was to come.
Logan waded waist deep into the cold water. He wouldn’t go too far, just enough to cool his body temperature, dip his head in. He stayed present as he felt the fast rush of cold water, clenching his jaw as it rushed over his naked skin, and leaned back to wet his hair. When he felt his sun-warmed bones start to cool, he strode out, muscled thighs working against the current. Then he spread himself out on the smooth flat rocks on the west side of the creek, letting each of the droplets evaporate, one by one, until he got too hot and dipped himself again.
The third time he stretched out on the rocks was when he finally surrendered. He closed his eyes, letting the the chain loose, he felt the barest moment of primal pleasure as the beast took over completely, and he was gone.
He sat up and his eyes opened and darted around quickly as he quickly took in his surroundings. Forest. Water. Earth. Air. Sun.
He rumbled contentedly, and relaxed back into the sun warmed rocks, letting his eyes close as he listened.
Water. Wind. Animals. Birds.
His predatory instincts relaxed as he felt them surpassed by the need to soak up the warmth and peace of the moment. There was no prey here. Not now.
Hours passed and he woke again, the sun lower in the sky, but still blazing with heat, and registered a faint unfamiliar scent drifting on the mild breeze. It wasn’t unpleasant. No. It was good. He liked it. Wanted more of it. It stoked something hot inside him. And despite the heat of the sun, he wanted to feed that flame even more. He opened his eyes feeling energized and fresh. Ready for a hunt.
He sniffed deeply, honing in on the warm, sweet fragrance. Female. Young. Healthy. Strong. He felt one lip curl up in pleasure as he took in more of it. Coming from the south near the man’s house. Hers was a welcome scent. The air near the house was stagnant, full of the sweat of others that remained in the air, despite the owners having departed hours ago.
He stalked silently through the woods, eyes and ears alert, wary of any others who might be pursuing the female. He knew from the information filtered through to him by the man, that the house should be abandoned by now. The light from the sun was casting shadows through the trees, the leaves filtering and flickering patterns over his skin, disguising him as he moved. Each step brought him closer to seeing her. His ears started to pick up the subtle hints of her movements. The sound of her feet walking along the crushed gravel driveway. The sound of her breath. A hand sliding along a strand of hair to tuck it behind her ear. Then. A hard knocking sound as she rapped against the wooden doors. He frowned. Who was she? What did she want? The man’s interest was piqued too, but the animal narrowed his eyes and exhaled sharply as he re-established control. Not. Yet.
He neared the clearing and stopped. Watching her movements. Enjoying this first sighting of her. She was standing in profile, looking around the grounds, a frown gracing her lips. He took in the long, toned legs, the cascade of chestnut hair laced with a shock of white that was tucked behind her ears. A warning. Something to signal her strength. The potential for danger. Then, a most unwelcome sound met his ears.
“Hello? Remy? Anybody home?”
What business did she have with him? She didn’t smell like him. He couldn’t help the deep growl that escaped his chest.
The sudden noise attracted her attention and she spun around from the front doors to hone in on the sound that’d involuntarily issued from him. Her eyes flickered around the driveway, coming to rest on his partially visible form by the woods.
“Holy. Hell,” she muttered.
He emerged slowly from the protection of the trees at his back.
Her scent spiked, flooding the air. Nervousness. Surprise. Uncertainty. But not fear. Her pulse quickened as she quickly took in his naked form, her eyes quickly darting back up to his eyes. Her mouth slightly dropping open as she struggled to find words. A warmth in her blood that told him she wasn’t immune to his form. He snarled, pleased with her reaction.
“Look...uh...guy? I was just lookin’ for Remy.”
She kept lookin’ him in the eye. Mistake. She was challenging him.
“He told me if I was ever in New York to look him up...so...that’s...oh my.” She ceased prattling as he growled again. He started moving closer to her, circling her. She held her hands up, slowly backing away from the steps, toward her car, still not averting her eyes. He moved swiftly, cutting off her means of escape. He didn’t want her to leave. He wanted to get closer. Wanted to give her a chance to back down.
“Uh...sir?” she squeaked.
He didn’t want her words. He wanted action. Either she stopped challenging him and fought him, or she ran. Both options were acceptable.
He took another step. And he saw the decision in her eyes a split second before she made her move.
“Come visit Remy in New York, chère. He show you a real good time.”
“Really?” She’d replied, not entirely uninterested in the offer.
He grinned confidently and motioned for another round from the bartender for each of them. “Remy have a good thing goin’ up there, petite. ‘Dere be a place for you. If you want it.”
Marie smiled, seriously thinking over the offer. She wasn’t sure what was next for her. Maybe joining up with Remy would be good for her. The last few years had been difficult. No. Shitty. They’d been shitty. Remy was nice enough. Maybe she’d give him, and this place he was talking about, a chance…
The bartender set down fresh drinks, a bourbon neat for Remy, and a whiskey sour for her.
Remy raised his glass to hers, winked, and slid a card across the smooth polished bartop. “Think about it, chère.”
Marie wanted to laugh as the words from a few months ago played out in her head. But she didn’t, as she was currently hurtling through the woods trying to outrun a naked man.
A goddamn beautiful naked man. And obviously some sort of feral. He hadn’t said a word. Just...growled. She shivered slightly, despite the heat of the day.
Who needs words when you look like that? A part of her brain suggested. She wasn’t sure which part of her brain it was and swiftly shut it down with her standard, Shut. Up.
She focused instead on running. Unfamiliar woods, vines, stones, leaves. Too much potential to trip her up, literally. She could hear him behind her. He was making no attempt to hide his pursuit.
Marie risked a glance back over her shoulder and gasped as she saw how close he was. He was gaining on her. Too fast.
She wasn’t sure why she’d decided to run. It wasn’t as if he could hurt her. It had been a gut instinct. Something deep inside her had taken over and screamed to run hard and fast away from this man. Not out of fear. No. She’d felt enough of that in the last few years to identify fear properly. This was something entirely different. She struggled to identify it. Self-preservation? She wasn’t sure. There’d been something in his eyes. Something wild…
Her breathing deepened as she continued to run, glad of her sensible choice of shoes given she’d spent most of the day in the car. She leapt over a downed tree, unable to help herself from grunting as she slipped on a muddy patch, momentarily losing her stride. Shit.
“Arg!” She cried out as she felt him close the distance between them, come up beside her, grab her torso, and take them both down to the mud. He turned in midair, so that he took the brunt of the fall, but quickly twisted them around so that she was pressed into the ground, his hands gripping her arms tightly, his hips straddling hers. She willed herself to not look down, as she panted, trying to catch her breath. Her jeans and loose white long-sleeved blouse were the only thing preventing her skin from dropping him. She just needed him to touch her. She’d turn on her skin, bam, then she’d be free.
Jesus, he’s strong, she thought as she struggled against him. She kept twisting, wriggling, kicking her legs to try and gain some leverage, but he didn’t budge. He just stared at her. Gold eyes swirling, nostrils flaring as he looked down at her. One lip was turned up in a snarl, and he emitted another one of those low growls. This time she felt the vibration run through him and she shuddered. Even in such an aggressive and compromising position, she didn’t feel scared. Not of him. Something inside her was waking, stretching, observing. Hungry.
She stopped moving then, acting on her instincts. She looked up at him, trying to figure out what she should do. She didn’t know why, but she just didn’t think he wanted to hurt her. He narrowed his eyes as she stared at him, and that’s when it fucking clicked. Feral. Oh, christ. She’d been challenging him.
She made a low sound in her throat and tore her eyes away from his, trying to focus on anything other than his face, and turned her head just slightly to stare at the deep green canopy above her head. She felt him relax slightly and he leaned closer, breathing her in. She felt the warmth of his breath against the bare skin of her neck, and shuddered as he flicked out a warm tongue to taste her.
A lightning bolt of heat ran through her, and she bit back a moan and reigned in the sudden urge to thrust her hips back against his, and invite him closer.
Another growl, of pleasure this time, and he relaxed, but didn’t release his grip on her arms. He moved in again and this time Marie couldn’t help the moan that issued from her throat as she felt the distinct impression of sharp canines against her throat, biting, testing her, tasting her, tonguing against the throb of her pulsebeat.
Pleasure and a hint of pain tore through her, aliting her entire body with heat. She couldn’t help it. She wanted more. She tilted her neck further to the side, allowing him full access, and instinctually rocked her hips, urging him on. She was rewarded with an answering thrust, gasping as she felt the hardness between her legs. He snarled and loosened the bite at her throat, then licked a line over her collar bone, up her throat, to behind her ear. Another moan left her throat, sounding more guttural than the last, and she felt him move one hand up from her arm to cradle her head while lips, teeth, and tongue tasted her. She moved her hand up to feel his skin. Muscle. God. So much muscle. Warmth. Strong.
She moved her legs up so she could press harder against him, a small whine escaping her lips, not satisfied with the lack of friction. Something had opened up inside her, and she just wanted.
He sensed her frustration and complied, moving both hands to grip her bottom and adjust so them so he was cradled directly at the junction of her legs. Then he moved. She moaned. He growled.
Marie felt him undo her jeans and shove them down past her knees as he continued his oral assault against her skin. She kicked off her shoes and pressed one hand against the back of his head urging him on. Yes. One warm rough hand gripped her ass and cupped her, bringing her closer to him so that she could shimmy all the way out of her jeans. She moved her hips against him in answer, eager for more.
She felt him tear the buttons at her shirt, as he tried to get closer, and suddenly, as she watched him lick a hard line down the flat planes of her stomach, she suddenly saw what was happening.
What the hell are you doing? Wake UP! WAKE UP, STUPID! Her mind screamed.
She’d run away from a naked stranger less than five minutes ago, and was now literally rolling around with him on the forest floor, about to what? Have sex with him?
He must’ve sensed the change in her, but it was too late. She’d come out of her lust-soaked haze. And as he looked up at her, hand still gripping her ass, she turned on her skin.
He froze, mouth gaping open with the shock, the pain of it.
She gasped as he flooded inside her, inundating her. Raw. Primal. Instincts. She felt the confined energy of the animal, the complexity of a man behind it. The urge to seek her out after he’d caught her scent, to dominate her, to have her, to rub his scent into her skin. Saw the chase from his eyes, felt the excitement as she ran, the anticipation as he caught her and finally tasted her, unleashing even more of an instinct to rut. He wanted her, and he never let himself want anything. She felt the beginnings of something more aware, not more sentient, just more, start to run through her blood as she held on. Lust and want and need was overwhelming her. She felt herself start to drown in the sensations, sounds, scents of the moment. The forest was alive, so alive and she wanted to see it all. Strength ripped through her and then his scent. Ohhh... Male. Alive. Virile. Strong. She wanted more. So much more. She was losing her grip on what was her and what was him. She wanted them to mix their scents together. Feel him all over her, inside her. She wanted to mark him. Wanted him to do the same. Wanted to show him that she wasn’t an easy chase. She wasn’t prey. Not for him.
Something small inside of her was screaming as she ripped her hand from him and willed her skin to stop drinking him in. Her mind was swirling. Lost. She felt him collapse against her, and he was so heavy. She shoved him off quickly and easily though, flexing her muscles with the borrowed strength.
She could hear his heart beating. Slow. Steady. Not dead. But still, she couldn’t stop herself from getting closer to assure herself he was alright. She kneeled beside him, ran her hands along his bare skin. Keened as she leaned close and inhaled. He was breathing. He was alive.
She sat beside him, lost in the swirl of his instincts as she waited for him to come back to her. She could scent her own arousal on the air and she could feel her body pulsing, aching for more. She didn’t care that she didn’t know him. She wanted him.
It didn’t take long, the sun had only moved slightly lower in the sky, when she saw his chest begin to rise and fall more rapidly, heard his heartbeat increase slightly as he woke up. His eyes flew open, and she glared as she noted they’d changed. They were different now. Less wild.
She moved back from him as he bolted up, and moved away from her, a singing metal sound renting the air and she saw claws emerge from between his knuckles.
She couldn’t help the snarl that escaped her lips as he looked at her.
“What in the fuck?!”
Logan first became aware that the animal had royally fucked up when he caught the most enticing, delectable scent nearby. It was a woman. And whoever she was, she was highly aroused. And close by. And angry. But there shouldn’t be anybody nearby. It was the only reason he’d let the animal loose. Who the fuck was she? Where the fuck were they? How the fuck had they gotten here?
His eyes snapped open as he became fully aware of just how fucked up a situation he was in. His claws came out, drops of blood mixing with the mud beneath his feet. He was fuckin’ naked. Okay. He remembered that much. In the woods. Sure. Yeah. There was a half-naked woman across from him, snarling back at him.
He couldn’t help it. He had no idea what the fuck else to say.
“What in the fuck?!” he roared as he struggled to figure out what had happened. His entire body felt like he’d been run over by a fuckin’ freight train. Had she done that to him? If so, what had she done?
He felt a swell of memory being offered to him by the animal and he swore again as he sheathed the claws. Fuckin’ christ. What a goddamn mess.
Logan started toward her and she growed again and he shoved down hard on the instinct to answer her.
“Hey. Hey.” He repeated quietly, holding his hands up as she started to stalk him. “Get a grip, uh,” he hesitated as he realized he didn’t know her name, “lady. Come on. Come back to me.” He suppressed a shudder as he scented the air. She was still aroused, still pissed. It was a heady, toxic combination, and he struggled to focus on righting his wrong against her, struggled to ignore the animal’s instincts to charge her and take her and mark her.
Her nostrils flared as she watched him, and he knew she could scent the change in his chemistry as he battled for control. He was at a loss for what to do. But then she took the decision out of his hands as she moved toward him. She was no longer stalking him. She was comin’ for him.
“Fuck,” he muttered.
Her movements were languid, sultry, animalistic. Jesus fuck, no wonder the animal went for her. Was she like him? Feral underneath it all? He frowned as she moved closer and Logan realized he was gonna have to shut this down. Quick. Whatever’d happened, she wasn’t in her right mind, and he knew it was his fault.
He made the decision and moved, faster than she could react. She hadn’t been expectin’ him to move so fast. Surprise and irritation flickered across her face as he charged her and threw her over his shoulder before quickly throwing her down into a particularly muddy puddle. He gripped her forearms and pressed her down hard, legs tangling with hers as he shook her lightly, tryin’ to shock her outta this state.
“Hey!” he yelled at her while she continued to snarl. Fuck, he wanted nothin’ more than to give into the instinct to bite her, have her settle in beneath him, to taste her...fuck! Focus!
“Listen to me,” he said in a calmer voice acting on his instincts for what to say, “you gotta find you again. Stop lettin’ the animal control you. You control it. Think of your name. Of who you are. What’s yer name, kid? Where’d ya go to school? Where’re ya from?”
Slowly, minute by minute, she started to struggle less. He saw her start to frown as her body calmed itself. Then finally, Logan saw her blink rapidly, and felt her breath change. Her pupils contracted, and became more brown than black. He eased his grip as he saw the bloom of consciousness inside her eyes. Saw her expression start to widen with shock and awareness of their situation as she looked down at his body against hers.
Hell, he thought disparagingly as he eased off her quickly, shoulda grabbed some clothes.
“Shit,” she whispered. “Shit,” she repeated, louder this time. “Shit, shit shit! Motherfucking shit balls!”
She shoved up from the mud and looked down at her half-naked body, gasping as she tried to cover herself with her hands. Logan slowly averted his eyes and reached out behind him to grab her muddied jeans, handing them to her silently. She let out a huff of air as she ripped them from his hand, looking around her, as if trying to figure out exactly where she was.
“Listen,” he said, still avoiding looking directly at her, hearing her swear once more under her breath as she stepped back into her jeans. “You give me a minute, I’ll grab my clothes, then take you back. That ok?”
He heard her tying the ends of her ruined shirt together, so he looked back at her. Her arms were crossed, but she took a deep breath and nodded at him.
“Great,” he rumbled, “Just gimme a minute.”
Logan hurried back toward the direction of the stream, moving without his usual grace through the woods, cursing the animal, swearing that he’d never again let him loose. A low growl of discontent in his mind followed by a bombardment of memory as his teeth bit down gently against her skin, tasting the pulsebeat against his lips, feeling drunk on the scent of her. “Jesus fuck,” he growled and he felt the animal snarl in amusement, knowing that it wouldn’t be the last time he tasted her, or the last time the animal was released.
He found his clothes, still strewn around the rock where he’d laid out so many hours ago, warmed in the late afternoon sun. The button-down was ruined, so he stepped into his jeans and boots, pulled over the wifebeater, as he hurried back to the clearing where he’d left her, spare shirt dangling from one hand. She could have it too if she wanted to cover up even more. He’d fucked up, and he wanted to make it right.
Hell yes. Make her smell even more like ya than she already does. He jerked the chains hard and focused on trying to calm the fuck down.
Logan let out a sigh of relief as he caught sight of her again, convinced that she might’ve taken off. He was glad she’d waited. Maybe he hadn’t fucked up beyond reproach.
“Hey,” he said as he neared her. She had her arms crossed in front of her, and he was glad he’d brought his shirt. He slowly raised his arm to offer her his ruined button-down, the peace offering stretched between them. He noted her purse her lips as she considered taking it, then she quickly ripped it from his hands and looked down at the shirt, observing it, and frowning.
“You generally do this much button ripping in one day?” she asked a bit saltily.
“Uh,” he cleared his throat, realizing what he’d done to her shirt as well as his own. “Not generally, no.”
He saw her hesitate before putting it on, but sighing as she pushed her arms into it backwards so that the front of his shirt was on her back. She rolled up the sleeves several times since it was so big on her, and he swore he saw her inhale deeply before closing her eyes for a moment.
Fuck, he thought harshly. She looks good in it.
She’d look even better out of it.
Shut up, he snarled.
“Well,” Logan muttered, running one hand through his mussed hair, trying to ignore the animal’s train of thought. He cleared his throat before speaking again. “Guess we oughta introduce ourselves.”
She frowned at him, crossed her arms across her body and scoffed. “Guess so.”
Logan clenched his jaw as he waited for her to volunteer the information. He shook his head and spoke, his voice low and gruff. “Look, kid. I know what happened back there was fucked up. But,” he hesitated. He didn’t want to scare her off. Wanted to somehow try and explain it to her. Apologize in some way. And christ knew he had a million fuckin’ questions for her. “Do ya wanna go back to the mansion? We can...talk ‘bout it. Get cleaned up. Have a drink.”
She appraised him, eyes moving over his face before she answered slowly. “How many drinks?”
Logan exhaled sharply in amusement. “As many as ya want, kid.”
“That sounds good,” she said nodding at him to lead the way.
He motioned his head toward the south end of the clearing and started striding through the mud, over the downed tree. He heard her following a few feet behind and grinned. Glad that as badly as he’d fucked up, she was still willing to trust him. At least a little.
“Name’s Logan,” he tossed at her over his shoulder after a few moments of quiet trekking back toward the mansion. He waited for her answer, his body tense, hoping she’d reciprocate.
“Marie,” she answered after a moment. “Nice to meet ya, Logan.”
He heard the smile in her voice and he let out a quick chuff of laughter as he relaxed a little. “Pleasure’s all mine, Marie.”