Saturday, May 30, 2009

Embracing the Leopard by Michelle Houston

As the leopard reached the water’s edge, a shimmer of mist wrapped around it, and then in its place an adult male human stood, his dark skin glistening like finely polished ebony in the moonlight. Erik watched silently as a breeze ruffled the man’s dark locks, sending the shoulder length hair riding the air currents, while the male removed his clothing. Every time Erik watched another of his kind shift, it always amazed him that somehow, the process knew what molecules were the shifter and what was clothing, and everything went back together properly.

The water rippled around the other shifter as he stepped, nude, into the lake, and with a sudden explosion of motion he dived into the warm water, his form cutting a smooth line through the still waters.

Content for the moment, Erik admired the male’s form as he rapidly put distance between himself and the shore, then suddenly dove under the water, only to surface again almost twenty feet from where he had been. As the unknown male started back toward him and reached the shore, the air currents shifted slightly and he could see the instant his scent reached the other man’s nose.

He quickly grabbed his clothes and started pulling them on, while he scanned the area around him with a piercing gaze. Leisurely, Erik stood and worked his way down the slope of the hill he had rested upon. The closer he got the more agitated the other man’s motions were. Slowing his pace, he allowed him time to dress, timing his arrival at the water’s edge to the zipping of the man’s jeans.

“Nice night for a swim,” he drawled, a teasing note purposefully injected into his voice. He wanted to put the other man at ease for some reason.

“I’ll leave.” The other shifter held up his hands in front of his chest, palms facing outwards, fingers uncurled. He started to step sideways, moving to edge his way around and slip back into the night. Erik stalled his motions by stepped back himself, assuming a relaxed, non-threatening posture.

“I have no problem with you, my friend,” he responded, pitching his voice lower and drawing his words out in a soothing manner. “You respect this area, and me, and we will continue to not have any problems.” A hesitant jerky nod was his answer.

“I’m Erik, and you are?”

“Brandon. I didn’t know this was pack land.”

“Indeed, it isn’t. This land isn’t pack land, it’s privately owned.” Although they hadn’t yet determined a hierarchy between them, since the land they were on was Erik’s, his word was law.

“Ah.” Brandon’s stance relaxed. Trespassing on private land was one thing, pack land a totally different issue. The scent markers for pack land were generally more obvious, and the penalties harsher. Erik had purposefully not marked his land beyond the house area, wanting to encourage wildlife to visit. The scent of leopard would scare many of them off.

“Finish your swim if you wish. I don’t mind.”

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