Talulla Rising Page 35

None of which was lost on Walker.

When I put the phone down there we were, looking at each other.

The gunshots and the chase had rushed us here, but now that we were here postponement – which is all it would ever have been – was pointless. We stood facing each other, ten feet apart. I wondered if I was still too close to childbirth for him. Or, less vaguely, still too fat. The post-partum weight had dropped at (how not?) freakish speed, but I was a way off my regular hundred and fifteen pounds. I’ve been a hundred and fifteen pounds since I turned eighteen, and the Curse had made no difference. (No difference to the human weight, that is. I’d only weighed myself transformed once, after my ninth kill: a widower in a high-ceilinged spidery house on the edge of the Parc National des Cèvennes, who for some reason had an archaic set of pharmacist’s scales in his kitchen. Blood-groggy and meat-slow, I’d clambered gorily on. The scale read 1 85 .5. That seemed impossible – until I realised it was in kilograms. I had to wait till I was human again to work it out. Four hundred and nine pounds. Hey, Lauren, it’s Lu. I know we haven’t seen each other in years, but I just thought you’d get a kick out of this...) I never bothered weighing myself when I was pregnant, but I must’ve been one-forty at least. Now I guessed I was around one-twenty-seven. Thirteen pounds shed in six days. A human record, if only I’d been human. I still had a cheeky little pot belly, and my breasts remained double their former size although 32B doesn’t double-up to much), but the rest of me was almost back to prepregnancy dimensions.

So here we were, Walker and I, looking at each other the way you look at each other when there you are, looking at each other. I knew the longer we waited the more I’d start to think that no matter how good it was it wouldn’t be good enough, so I crossed the room to stand in front of him, sufficiently close for our bodies’ heat to touch. Deep gravity brought his hands to my waist. Wulf was making silent fiesta in my skin, yes, but it was humanly good to be touched too, to be alone with someone at the secret feast that went all the way back to Adam and Eve. You looked at each other and felt just how old the contract was, the warm-faced commitment to the adventure, the stepping together out of the light into the rewarding darkness.

There were forces aswirl in him. Desire was one. Fear was another. The knowledge that if he did this he’d be leaving himself behind. The admission that leaving himself behind was what he had to keep doing. I was getting out anyway, he’d said of WOCOP. It was the pattern of his life all the way back to whatever it was that had first derailed him; he went into things for a while, let them give him a new skin, but always, sooner or later, shed it and moved on. Only the smile and the brightness were constant. That and the benign desirability, the infallible charm.

I kissed him. His mouth was Laphroaig-flavoured, but that was fine, that was grist to my mill. His hips pressed against mine, hands tightened on my waist. The heat between us blurred and a little net of electricity settled on my cunt.

Something still restrained him.

‘What?’ I asked, leaning back to get his face into focus.

He kept his hands on me. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked. ‘To do this?’

Anatomically, he meant. He was the sort of guy who’d know how long after having a baby a woman’s parts would be out of action. He’d know because he was the sort of guy who would’ve been in this situation before.

But not with a woman like me.

‘I heal fast,’ I said. ‘Very fast.’


‘Yes. Kiss me.’

It was hard not to hurry. If Zoë woke up or Cloquet ignored his instructions and knocked we knew we probably wouldn’t recover. I took down the spare comforter from the wardrobe and spread it on the floor. No chairs, no tables, no up against the wall, no bent over the escritoire or swinging from the ceiling light. Nothing that might increase our chances of fucking it up. This was the other reason it was tough not to hurry: I was in a hurry. The morning’s self-help excluded I hadn’t had sex in over three months. Now, with wulf back at full libidinal tilt, dalliance was the last thing on my mind. I only have sex with women I dislike, Jake had written. To avoid falling in love and killing the beloved. Yes. But this was all right because it wouldn’t be love.

Still standing, I unbuttoned his shirt and pushed it and the jacket off his shoulders. They fell to the floor with a sound that settled us deeper into not needing to say anything. His upper body was understatedly muscled – honest function rather than the confections of the gym – and flecked with little scars like ciphers. Our eyes met, risked lingering, but looked away before the smile that might have sounded a fatal note of mere friendliness. He tugged my blouse out from my jeans and began with the buttons. Got all four undone without time too loudly simmering. The bra, too, hallelujah.

In a great flash of awkward practicality I realised milk might come if he sucked my breasts – but again, he’d know that, and know that I knew. It would either happen or not, and if it did it wouldn’t bother him. He was a creature of easy physical promiscuity, Dionysian without fuss: once his desire was established everything of the body was sacred.

Guilt was available to me, of course, but my human was bigger than it and wulf simply didn’t give a shit. Superficial aesthetics said what I was doing – having sex while my child was in danger – was ugly, but the deeper being dismissed them. There were these necessary dark segues, unarguable with. Even dumb movies these days knew Eros found its way to the borders of grief, loss, longing, boredom, anger, shame – and was given entry. The real danger here wasn’t guilt but sadness. Not just mine (and not just for my son or my failed heart, but for my amputation from normality) but Walker’s too, for whatever long-ago damage he’d wrapped his mix of levity and glitter and sex around.

This was my human, by the way, busy, humanly, with him, Walker, the person. There was the forlorn flame at his centre, the lost boy around which the smiling hidden man had grown that my vestigial romantic was sniffing after, while a later self (with Lauren’s voice) said, No, leave it, it’s nothing to do with you and in any case it’ll ruin him sexually for you just like the little old guy behind the curtain ruins Oz for everyone the first time they see it. So I kissed him, dirtily, and felt through his mouth and his chest under my hands the last threads of his resistance sweetly snapping. He was going to do this, oh yes, surrender to the devious drug. The big taboo – another species – broke negligibly in the end, and let him into warmth, my warmth, me. I could feel his imagination making room for the atrocities, since there was no denying them, since they were there in my skin and in my mouth and in the sly heat of my cunt that he wanted now, oh yes, he wanted, no matter what, no matter what, no matter what.

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