Vixenscratch

Short stories and serials by Alexandra Herakai

Tell You a Secret

Raven was still loading cans of soda and bottles of brightly-colored alcopop into her fridge when the doorbell rang. She cast a glance at the microwave oven’s time display and concluded that it must be her sister — Gail always arrived early, while the rest of her expected guests had long since accepted that Raven was never, ever ready on time. She stuck the last sixpack into the fridge, opened a bottle of alcoholic starflower fruit soda against the edge of the kitchen counter, and went to get the door, hips swaying in her tight black mid-thigh skirt.

True enough, it was her sister at the door, dressed in her usual almost prudish, old-fashioned manner, though with her wavy light brown hair hanging loose across her shoulders rather than tied back in some manner as was usually the case. The younger woman frowned slightly and pushed past her sister into the apartment. “You’re always late, Raven, even opening the door. And drinking already?”

“You’ve got a key,” the black-haired woman pointed out, returning to the kitchen. “It’s just a single bottle of mix. After the day I had, I need it.”

Gail just shook her head, continuing into the apartment’s cozy living room and getting to work on clearing the couch and coffee table in front of the television of the debris that had accumulated in the two weeks since their last get-together. While Raven would never let her home detoriate into a bachelor sty, she did have a bad habit of leaving clothes on the couch and papers, magazines and books on the table.

Seeing that her sister had the living room under control, Raven returned to the kitchen to finish the dishes she’d left in the morning, mostly so she’d have space on the counter for the dishes they’d dirty during the course of the evening. It was her turn to provide food, and while she’d originally intended to make the effort to cook, she’d made those plans without taking her habitual tardiness into account. As many times before, a nearby pizza place would have to act her savior.

“Sis?”

“Yeees?” came the brown-haired woman’s voice from the living room.

“Would you mind picking up pizza when people start showing up? I’m kind of cutting it close here, I don’t have time to cook. I’ll call ahead now and they should be about ready by then.”

“Why am I not surprised? Yes, I’ll run your errands for you.”

That problem solved, Raven returned to her dishes with a cordless phone against her shoulder. Placing her order took about as long as getting the remains of last night’s dinner off a glass casserole dish, but it was a reasonably large order and by the sounds of it the pizzeria was busy, so she didn’t mind.

They went about their respective clearing tasks until about a third of an hour after the designated time for their get-together, when the doorbell rang again. Raven hurriedly put the last plate on the drying rack, finished off her drink, and went for the door, knowing her sister would never be as rude as to open the door in someone else’s home. Not even Raven’s.

This time, there were two people standing outside the door: an average-looking human woman and her much more eye-catching yellow-furred raev fiancé. With a smile, Raven stepped aside and invited them into the apartment, casting a curious glance at the plastic bag dangling from the fox’s wrist.

“Em, Sunny! Welcome. So what’d you get?”

“You’ll see,” the raev purred in return, kicking his sandals off and looking through the doorway to the living room. “Hello, Gail. Early as usual?”

“You’re late,” the woman replied, picking up a stack of magazines and looking around for a place to put them which wasn’t on the coffee table.

“Not as late as Splotch and Becky.”

“I think Alej is dropping Becky off half past, on his way to work.” The magazines ended up on top of the stereo. “I’m off to pick up pizza, anything else you want while I’m out?”

The fox’s fiancée, Emlynn, stopped undoing her shoelaces and looked up at the slightly younger woman for a moment before re-tying them. “I’ll come with you.” She gave her boyfriend a hug, kissed his cheek and affectionately ruffled his fur. “You stay here and give Raven a hand getting everything set up, honey.”

Moments later, the two women were gone, leaving Raven and the young fox whom she’d babysat in his earlier years alone. She went to the kitchen to put on popcorn and pour chips into a bowl, and after giving his twin brother a quick call to confirm that the other raev was indeed showing up, Sunny followed her. Raven put the bowl of snacks into his hands and leaned into the fridge for some sourcream and dip mix.

“How’s things with you and Em? I take your mom’s watching the kid?”

“Yeah, it’s fine. Mom thinks we went to the cinema.”

“Come on, you’re not telling me you’re still going behind your mother’s back? I stopped doing that in high school.”

“I told her we were catching a movie with some friends. It’s not technically a lie. You know what she thinks of your stepfather. Dating a police officer doesn’t quite make up for his past failings.”

“It was your turn to sit out to babysit, wasn’t it?”

He laughed, returning empty-handed to the kitchen. “Yeah. But mom’s got it covered until the morning, so not only do I get the dubious honor of hanging out with you…” He ducked as she took a joking swing at him. “…I also get quality time with my fiancée.”

She had little trouble imagining what that quality time might entail, and only hoped they would at least wait until they’d left her apartment. It was just like him to make that kind of arrangements when he was the one who would otherwise miss out on a movie night, too. “Men!”

“What makes you say that?”

“Printer jammed again at work today.” She’d poured some sourcream into an empty jar and was stirring the flavoring into it as she spoke. “While I’m bent over trying to get all the torn paper out of the damned thing, Head of Marketing comes along like he owns the place and grabs my ass. Again. Fucking jerk.”

The fox leaned back against the counter next to her, speaking in a casual manner that only served to make his words that much more infuriating. “Hate to break it to you, Raven, but that’s the kind of respect you get when you dress like a slut.”

The woman stiffened, just a moment, her knuckles whitening as she clutched the fork she was using to stir the dip mix. Then she released it and turned to the younger man, her voice like honey as she stepped in front of him, blocking him in with one hand planted on the counter on each side of him, and leaned in to half-whisper in his ear.

“Tell you something, Iryan.” The second sign, after her tone of voice, that he was in trouble, was how she dropped his nickname in favor of his given name. Not even his mother used his given name anymore unless she was upset with him. “If I so walked into the office naked that wouldn’t entitle him to grab my ass. That’s reserved for people who actually show me some respect. And the people who bother doing that get a lot more.” She leaned in closer yet, her lips brushing against his ear, hot breath ruffling his fur. “I slept with your father, Iryan.”

She felt him stiffen, and smirked, mentally congratulating herself. Her first urge had been to yell at him about the casual insult, but it seemed like he’d remember this a lot longer. If she could just get the thought to worm itself far enough into his brain, he wouldn’t be able to just brush it off like he might an admonishment.

“Yes, that’s right. I had sex with your father, Iryan. Better yet, he was my first.”

“Don’t joke about that, Raven.” His voice was unsteady, his ears folding back.

“I’m not joking, Iryan. Sneaking out of dad’s house to see your father was the last thing I ever lied to dad about. It was so worth it, too.” She paused, just a moment, before she continued. “I’m sure you know all about what kind of recovery time a werecat gets, don’t you? What could possibly be a better introduction? We had some pretty good times, Saevrin and I.”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

“Mmmh, should’ve thought of that earlier, shouldn’t you? He’s not a half bad catch, you know. Very attentive, very… Responsive.” She ran a hand up along the fox’s side, scratched lightly under the collar of his shirt, and he started to close his eyes in response before he caught himself. “He likes that, too. Funny how alike you are, isn’t it? Quite often, I’d lie next to him, running my fingers through his fur. Just he and I, my head on his chest and his arms around me…” Her nails scratched across the fabric of his shirt, and she started to unbutton his shirt, one-handed. “…breathing slowly, feeling how nice it was to lie there together, being so close.”

Her hand slipped inside his shirt, fingers digging into his bright yellow fur, lightly scratching at the skin beneath. “I’d scratch him like so, and he’d arch into it… Just like you’re doing.” She continued running her hand over his chest, lifted her other hand from the counter to finish unbuttoning his shirt, then slid that palm around to rest on the small of his back, rubbing his spine. “Of course, all that is nothing compared to what came before it.”

“I don’t want to know,” the raev whimpered, swallowing hard as she found a sensitive spot. Oh, she was carefully avoiding any obviously indecent contact, knowing full well that he was engaged, but if there was one thing she’d learned from Saevrin it was that erogenous zones didn’t need to be obvious. Besides, she was about as interested in Iryan as she was in the old bum on the street corner a block from her workplace.

“I wasn’t as popular as you were at sixteen. But your father always treated me like an equal, took care to make sure I was enjoying it.” She continued caressing the younger male as she talked, felt his body respond to her touch and her words even as his brain tried to shut both out. “All the way from peeling my clothes off, layer by layer, and until we were happy with it. I learned a lot from him. I’d caress him, running my fingers through his fur, give him a good rubdown. Feel his muscles relax under my touch, maybe steal a grope or two while I was at it.” She kneaded at the fox’s back and shoulders as well as she could from the awkward angle, but kept her hands north of his waist. It was affecting him enough as things stood.

“I really enjoyed the feel of fur against my skin, you know, as well as his hands running over my body. And I can still remember how his breath felt against my skin, or his tongue as it brushed over my nipples. Sometimes all I could really do was press against him and try to remember to breathe, that’s how intense it was.”

“I kissed him, played with his tongue, while he squeezed me against him. I ground against him, just a little, while I caressed his ears.” She reached up, rubbed the tip of one of the fox’s ears between her fingers, and smiled as it made his tails start wagging. “Then slowly, I slid down his body, kissing and nipping at his neck and collarbones, while I listened to him breathe. A bit harder than normal, just like you’re doing right now.

“After a while I’d reach down and feel how hard he was while I kept kissing his neck, and then I would kneel in front of him. Slowly take him into my mouth while I rubbed the base of his tail.” She emphasized her point by doing just that, pressing the heel of her hand against his back just over the base of his tail. It was no big surprise when that made him groan out loud, though she pretended not to notice. “I would keep doing that as I sucked and licked his cock, feeling him get closer to climax. And when he came, I’d make sure to carefully taste him before I swallowed.

“Of course, part of the reason I could do that is cats’ recovery time. It didn’t take long after that to–” She cut herself off as the doorbell rang. “Sounds like we’ve got company.”

She stepped back, started to turn, then paused, looking the younger man straight in the eye, her expression completely sincere. “After I got done blowing him he’d usually kiss me, even if I’d not had time to finish swallowing properly. I really enjoyed doing your father, Iryan.”

And with that, she turned, practically skipping towards the door as though she had not a care in the world. If she did, Iryan sure didn’t need to know about it. Besides, he seemed to have a rather immediate problem of his own to deal with one way or the other before his fiancée returned.

She opened the door with a smile, which if anything widened as she saw who the new arrivals were.

“Hello, Poodle-Twat!” she greeted her stepfather’s boyfriend, leaning in and kissing both his cheeks.

“Hello, Carrion-Breath,” he replied, reaching up and ruffling her hair in a way few others would’ve gotten away with. “You take good care of my Becky now, hear me? I’ll pick her up in the morning after my shift.”

“Daddy!” his green-and-white-furred daughter whined, pinning her ears back. “I’m not five years old!”

Raven had to laugh at that, holding the door open wider for the girl. “I’ll make sure you get her back in one piece, don’t worry. Sunny’s in the kitchen, go say hello and help him move the drinks and snacks into the living room, short stuff.”

“Raven! Don’t you start, too!” The girl gave her an angry look, then walked past her and to the kitchen.

“I’ll pick you up around eight thirty,” Alej called after her, then took a step back, smiling at Raven. “I need to run, but you can call Roxeen at the club if there’s a problem.”

“No problem. You go keep the city safe, we can talk more when you come to pick Becky up.”

She’d barely closed the door behind him when Becky came up next to her, several packs of soda cans stacked precariously on top of each other in her arms. “Hey Raven? Sunny locked himself in the bathroom. What’re we doing for food, we need plates or something? I saw you did the dishes.”

So she’d managed to get to the fox after all? Good to know. “Em and Gail are picking up pizza, they should be back soon. Just the snack bowls should do. I was about to start the popcorn when you showed up.”

“Got held up on your way home again, huh? When are you going to make us turnovers like you said you would? Honestly, Raven, even daddy knows there’s no use getting here on time by now.”

“There was a line at the grocery. Get putting those by the table.”

“There’s always a line at the grocery. The weekend’s starting, you go there when everyone gets off work, what do you think?”

Raven rolled her eyes and laid a hand on the girl’s shoulder, steering her towards the coffee table in front of the television, then went out to the kitchen. There was a bit of slamming with pots and pans as she rummaged around in the cupboard that held most of her cookware, looking for the pot she usually used for popcorn, and then for its lid.

Once they were found, she put the pot on the stove, poured a bit of oil and a slightly larger amount of kernel corn than was probably wise into it, and lidded it. Sunny was nowhere to be found, so she presumed he’d be hiding out in the bathroom until the girls returned with the pizza. At least that’d save her from any more stupid comments on his part.

She was still waiting for the oil to heat up enough for the corn to start popping when the doorbell rang again. With a glance at the pot, she went to get the door, leaving the stove to its own devices. It wasn’t as though anything would have time to burn in the time it took her to let Gail and Em or Sunny’s brother in.

It did surprise her to see not only the two human women but also a five-foot-nine jaguar standing outside the door; her remark about how her sister had a key stuck in her throat. “Oh. I thought I only sent two of you to get pizza. Hi, Splotch.”

“Evening, Raven. I ran into them when I arrived, Em said you and Sunny had things covered upstairs so I went with them to the pizzeria,” the werecat explained as the three of them filed into the apartment, each carrying two pizza boxes. “Hello, Becky. Could you please make a bit of space on the table for us?”

The part-raev nodded, slinking past the new arrivals and pushing the bowls and cans on the table over towards one side until there was enough space on its surface to stack all six of the boxes there. With a satisfied sigh, Em straightened up and stretched.

“You’ll have to pay me back for that, Raven,” she remarked. “You never gave Gail any cash. Where’s my fox?”

“He should turn up now that you’re here to hide behind,” she replied. “I need to check on the popcorn. Splotch, mind coming with me to the kitchen?”

As she’d guessed, they met Sunny in the doorway, where the yellow raev gave his twin brother a muttered hello and avoided looking at Raven at all. She rolled her eyes at him and continued over to the stove, where the sound and smell of popping corn was starting to rise from the covered saucepan she’d prepared earlier. She took it by the handle and shook it a bit, then put it back down and turned to Splotch.

“Is there a reason you wanted to bring me along?”

“I haven’t seen you in a while.” She glanced past him to make sure the others — especially Becky — were busying themselves in the living room. “And I thought I’d let you in on a secret.”

“Oh?”

She lowered her voice, managed to get it laden with sensuality. “Splotch, I slept with your father.” It was much harder to gauge his reaction to the revelation than it had been to tell what Sunny thought of it. The cat in front of her was surprised, yes, but he wasn’t showing the obvious signs of repulsion that his brother had. She’d planned to leave it there but not being able to tell what he was thinking defeated the entire point of the exercise. “The very first person I ever slept with, in fact.”

“Raven…” It was barely a whimper, sounding like he might be just as amusing to tease as his brother had been.

“I’d slide my lips over his cock, slowly, while I rubbed the base of his tail. The sound of his breath as I went down on him was almost electric; I’d gladly suck and lick him until my jaws grew sore. And then, the taste of his cum…”

The jaguar’s ears flicked as he found his voice again, something in his body language she couldn’t quite specify giving her the hint that her talking had managed to arouse him at least a bit. “That alone doesn’t make you special, Raven.” That certainly threw her off-kilter, and she gave him a blank look, utterly lost. “How did you think I learned how to give head?”

She blinked, taking a moment to figure out exactly what it was Splotch was telling her. Once she’d figured it out, the idea still seemed implausible enough that she had to ask. “He was… your first?”

The small noise he made sounded like it was somewhere between disgruntled and bitter. “That, and only, Raven. You’ve seen my fox form; it’s pink! The girls think I’m gay, the guys think I’m too gay, and those that don’t are the ones who don’t act like men themselves. Quite frankly, if I didn’t want a man, I’d try for an actual woman, thanks.”

“Spend any time around my dad and suddenly a pink fox won’t seem very gay anymore.” She didn’t mean to make light of his frustration, oh no, but she also wasn’t sure how blunt she could be, was putting out feelers.

“But if I understand right, your father’s known as gay because of what he did. Or does. I’ve yet to get far enough with a guy or a girl to have that sort of reputation.”

“You’ve not managed to convince anyone in this apartment that you’re not into girls yet,” she persisted, opting for a more general wording when she could’ve gone for the specific and pointed out that she, personally, didn’t believe the notion that he was exclusively gay for a moment.

“Okay. But Em stuck with my brother for some reason, Becky’s taken, and Gail’s… Well, Gail.” There was a definite bitter edge to his voice, and she found that she hurt for him. If there was one thing she believed, it was that his lack of success was not for lack of trying. She could only imagine how frustrating that might have been for him.

“You’d have better luck trying to set your mother up with my dad than trying to court Gail,” she agreed, chuckling. “Em probably stuck with your brother at least in part because he knocked her up. If you ask me, you’d have been a better catch by far.”

“Yeah, well… I listen to our dad enough that I wouldn’t have knocked her up in the first place.”

“See? You’re attractive and sensible; Sunny certainly only has one of the two, and judging by the fact that your mother’s babysitting tonight, it’s not the latter.”

“A bit too sensible, perhaps. Nobody seems to believe I’d be up for a nice senseless romp…”

The opening was too obvious to resist, too perfect. The hurt in her voice was obviously faked, yet sincere enough to dispel any illusion that she might be mocking him. “I’m nobody, now?”

He stood silent for a while; she almost fancied she could hear the cogs turning in his head. Then his ears folded back, the insides of them burning with a blush. “And you’d just called me sensible, too. How’s that for irony? There I was thinking I’d be, well… Too young.”

“Would I really have seduced Becky if I considered you too young?” She’d not told anyone of her little one-time adventure with her stepsister, but if she could trust anyone, Arvel was it. “Shame on me for assuming you had better alternatives.”

If she’d had any doubts that the werejaguar was blushing, they were dispelled now, as his ears reddened further. “I guess I really should’ve known better, anyway, considering Dad… Not that you’d have been some distant second place.”

“Goodness, I’m certainly not made of the kind of stuff to compete with Saevrin,” she laughed, recalling her friend’s father’s seeming endless energy, and motioned the half-raev closer.

“And if there’s one thing he taught me, it’s that there’s more than one right way to be.” He did follow her direction, and she reached out and stroked his cheek as soon as he was within reach. She’d missed the feel of fur under her fingers. “Only Dad can be Dad. But he can’t be you, either.”

“Damn good luck, that, as it’s quite enough with one of me.” A mischevious grin settled on her face. “Care to spend the night, then? I promised Becky the couch, but I doubt you’d want to sleep out in the living room anyway, would you?”

He shivered, and she knew what his answer would be then, before he’d worded it. “That… That sounds like a good idea, yeah… The way you said it, not me being in the living room…”

She didn’t bother asking for permission, or waiting for approval, then, simply pulled him against her and pressed her lips against his. That, he at least seemed reasonably aquainted with, for once he got over the initial surprise he was rather eagerly kissing her back, and she had no trouble telling that he was quite enjoying it, as well.

“Ravaethinne, Arvel! Are you coming? The pizza’s going cold and I want to watch the movie!”

She pulled back slightly, short of breath. That her sister had bothered calling out, and used both her and Splotch’s given names on top of that, could only mean one thing. “Sounds like Sunny rented another video game flick. Here, hold this.”

She pressed a bowl into his hands, fished the lid off the saucepan that had stopped popping during their conversation, turned off the stove, and dumped the contents of the pan into the bowl. It took her a few more moments to add a generous amount of salt, then she stepped back with a satisfied smile on her face. As her eyes drifted lower, however, something else crept into that smile. “Certainly can’t have you walk out there like that, tho. Let me help you adjust that.”

Again, she didn’t wait for a response, simply stepped back up to him, slid a hand between his belt and his stomach and the other arm around his shoulders, and adjusted the tent in his pants so that it would be both less visible and less uncomfortable. A thrill went down her spine as he groaned, and she squeezed his shoulder, then pulled her hand back as though nothing much had happened. “Much better.”

She herded him out of the kitchen, towards the couch, where the only free space was next to the open window. Well, that suited her fine. It had been a clear day and her windows had been facing the sun for most of it, so the apartment had been hot when she’d arrived home from the office, and the fan blowing across the couch to air the room out was starting to get some help from the evening breeze.

“So what’d you rent, Sunny?”

“‘Grasp of Night’ — it looked violent enough and I figured Gail’d like it.” The yellow raev’s answer was matter-of-fact in tone, and he kept his right arm wrapped around his fiancée’s waist as if to remind Raven that Em was indeed there. She pretended not to notice; she was done with him for now.

“You rented that once already,” Splotch pointed out, putting the bowl of popcorn on the table and taking a seat at the right-hand armrest, leaving Raven a spot between him and her younger sister. Becky had, as usual, taken up residence on the floor under the coffee table, resting on her stomach with her chin propped up in her hands. To keep the slices of pizza she’d already claimed off the floor, she’d ripped the lid off the pizza box that held the garlic bread and was using it as an improvised plate.

“I don’t mind seeing it again,” Gail said, giving the werejaguar a look that made very clear that she wouldn’t easily forgive him if he caused a change in those particular plans.

Sunny was already reaching for the remote to the DVD player when Raven sat down, shuffling closer to Splotch than to her sister. All five of them on the couch reached for a slice of pizza as the opening started to roll, and it kept them mostly quiet — save for the thumping of Becky’s tails against the bottom of the table as the movie’s male lead pulled off his shirt to don a suit of armor that looked like it might possibly stop a butter knife — through the first twenty minutes or so of the movie.

Raven licked the last of the pizza grease off her fingers as the man on the screen lifted a gun that hadn’t been there a scene ago. She slid her right hand down the front of Splotch’s pants right as the first walking corpse had its brains blown out, the noise from the television hiding the werejaguar’s surprised gasp. She looked briefly at him, smiled when she saw him looking back, and then settled down, leaning a bit against his side, absently fondling him without any real intent to get him off. Not while Sunny, Em and Gail were still there, or Becky was in the same room, at any rate.

The movie was bloody, and it had only taken her five minutes if that to realize that Splotch had been right, they had seen it before. So she didn’t really particularly care much about the plot, watching without registering half of what was happening and devoting the rest of her attention to teasing the young man next to her. Who cared, really, if she was a decade older than him? She didn’t mind if he didn’t.

It was a good thing he’d decided he’d had enough pizza before she had; the snack bowl on his lap did a decent job of masking what she was doing, though judging by the set of her sister’s jaw she hadn’t managed to fool Gail. Then again, Gail knew her better than anyone else in the room. Why would she not have seen through Raven?

She could feel Splotch tense up next to her, figured that he was working hard to rein himself in, and that suspicion seemed to be confirmed as he let out a low, but intense, moan the next time the movie hit a louder part. So she didn’t take much notice when he clutched at her arm.

Not until she realized that he was making quite a mess of her hand, anyway. She bit her lip and cast a quick glance at Becky — good, her younger stepsister was completely focused on the movie, far as she could tell with the coffee table blocking most of her view of the girl. Then she drew her hand out, catching and holding Splotch’s gaze.

“Oh, clumsy me, look at that mess; I got dip all over my hand.” What she didn’t say, but tried hard to communicate to Splotch, was that since he made the mess, he’d do well to take care of it.

“At least you didn’t get it all over my lap.” He took her hand by the wrist, lifted it to his lips, and cleaned her up with a firm strokes of his tongue. She shivered as the rough surface tickled her skin. Then, once he was apparently satisfied that her hand was free from traces of what she’d just done to him, he rose from the couch. “Be right back, I need to use the bathroom.”

“You’ll miss the best part!” Gail warned, shooing at him as he passed between her and the screen.

“I’ve seen it before,” he reminded her, and then he was gone.

As he passed, Becky lifted her head and sniffed in the air, and Raven froze for the few seconds it took for her stepsister to decide the scent she’d caught was nothing. She probably should have taken into account the fact that to get away from the couch Splotch would have to pass Becky — the one person in the room she’d wanted to keep her advances from. If Sunny, Em or Gail figured out what she was doing, she honestly didn’t care. But Becky? That was a whole different matter.

At least Splotch having left for the time being left her hand free. She scooped some chips into a snack bowl and placed it on her lap, opened a bottle of alcopop — her second for the night — and leaned back, absently watching the movie as she sipped her drink straight from the bottle. Even if Sunny had not rented it before, she would still have recognized the plot; she might not be nearly as obsessed as her sister or father, but she’d seen enough of the game the movie was based on through the two of them.

Hell, if he hadn’t been engaged and the idea of anyone getting in Gail’s pants hadn’t been quite so ridiculous, she would’ve suspected Sunny of trying to woo her sister by his choice of movie. It was certainly not the first time he rented something based on a video game, and he had to know that the only person, himself included, who really appreciated those movies was Gail. Far better movies had been made, and they hadn’t seen all of them yet.

Her younger sister glared daggers at Splotch as he returned; clearly passing in front of the television as the now sweaty and bloodstained hero beheaded another zombie had to be the height of deadly sins. Wisely, he chose not to say anything, simply squeezed in next to Raven and took a couple of chips out of the bowl on her lap. Trying not to smirk, she slid her hand along his thigh, just to find him seizing her wrist and giving her a stern look that said more clearly than words that he’d not accept a repeat of her earlier performance.

“Sorry,” she mouthed, pulling her hand back, not feeling the least sorry.

He released her, and she slid her hand between his back and the back of the couch instead. She doubted there was any risk of him making an unwanted mess if she just scratched his back and tail, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t get a reaction out of him. If the price to pay was that he might be that much more desperate once they found some privacy… She could deal with that, and it wouldn’t be that much of a hardship.

She leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder, as she played with his fur and scratched at the base of his tail, happy to ignore it when he started to shift and then squirm as discreetly as he could possibly manage. Oh, she was fully aware that Gail was casting venomous glares her way, but she chose not to let it bother her overmuch. After all, should she not be able to do what she wanted in her own home?

When the credits started to roll, Gail didn’t sit around waiting for them to end as she usually did, instead rising and starting to gather up trash from the table, piling it together and then taking it out to the kitchen without a word, her steps slightly jerky. Her silence wasn’t unusual in itself, but the stark contrast from her current behavior to her excitement about the movie was indication enough that she wasn’t amused. It didn’t seem like she’d be staying around to chat this week.

“What’s wrong?” asked Becky from her spot under the coffee table.

“Nothing,” came the wavy-haired brunette’s terse reply.

“Gail? Aren’t you going to watch the credits?”

“As Splotch said, we’ve seen it before.”

“Gail!”

“I just want to get home at a sane hour, Becky.”

Looking slightly embarrassed, Raven rose from her seat and joined her younger sister in moving trash and dirty dishes to the kitchen, piling them up on the counter she’d cleared before most of her guests arrived. Gail didn’t do anything to acknowledge her sister’s presence, just continued cleaning until the coffee table was cleared, then went for the door.

“I’ll see you in two weeks.”

After she’d spoken, it was a matter of moments before she had her shoes on and was walking through the door, and nobody could think of anything to say before it was firmly shut behind her.

“What was the matter with her?” Sunny asked, still looking towards the doorway she’d disappeared through.

“Gail’s being Gail,” Em said, and considering how little love Raven’s younger sister had for physical intimacy, that really ought to have explained it all.

“Wouldn’t being Gail entail staying and watching the credits?”

“There are times when I think Fawn might’ve been right about you,” was all the yellow fox’s fiancée would reply to that.

“Hey, Sunny,” Becky said, her head popping up from under the coffee table, cutting him off before he could ask just what Em meant by that. “Think you could get something else with that guy next time? He’s hot.”

“Sounds good to me,” Splotch agreed, glancing over at the DVD menu screen for the movie, male lead standing there holding the handgun that somehow had managed to explode most of the undead plaguing the fictional city of the movie. “There are worse things to look at.”

“He’s dreamy,” the teenager under the table chirped, crawling up onto the couch, spreading her tails over both the vacated seats and leaving no space for Raven. “Betcha he’s a good kisser.”

“Bet he gives good head, too,” the werejaguar purred, winking at the girl.

“That’s enough, kids,” Raven declared, coming back into the room with an armful of sheets. “No corrupting my kid sister.”

Becky stuck her tongue out at the older woman, and had the sheets thrown at her in return. Then Raven bent down, got the DVD out of the player, and turned both that and the television off. She returned the disc to its case, then stood, arms folded, looking at her guests.

“So… Anything you’d like to do now? I think Gail cleaned my deck of cards away, but I’m sure I could find it again…”

“Actually,” Em interrupted, smiling like the sun, “we should probably get going now, too.”

“We should?” Sunny asked, looking at his fiancée in puzzlement. “We don’t have to be at mum’s until noon tomorrow.”

“Yes, honey, we definitely should,” the human girl replied in a sugary voice, taking a moment to scratch the raev’s ear. “There’s a thing or two I’d like to get done around the house while it’s just the two of us.”

“Oh. Yes, we should get going.”

“Thank you for having us, Raven.” The woman’s farewell had a hint of an edge to it, directed at her fiance who was still avoiding looking at or talking directly to their host as he fiddled with his sandals. Either he didn’t catch it or he was still upset enough with Raven that even the mother of his child couldn’t convince him to be civil.

“See you guys!” Raven called after them as they walked through the door, then returned to the two remaining guests in the living room.

“Aren’t you going home with Em and Sunny like usual, Splotch?” Becky asked the werejaguar who was helping her stretch a sheet across the couch.

“Splotch is staying the night,” Raven cut in, coming up behind her younger stepsister and tickling her ribs, making the wyvern-raev hybrid squeal. “You don’t mind not getting me to yourself, do you, short stuff?”

Becky snorted, wriggling away from the woman’s fingers. “I’ve had enough of you growing up.”

“Good. Put yourself to bed, you want to be rested when your father comes to pick you up in the morning.”

The teenager rolled her eyes, tucked a corner of the sheet in around the couch cushion nearest her, and then zipped over to take the other end of the sheet from Splotch. “Yes, mother.”

When Becky turned her back, Raven caught her second guest’s attention and nodded toward the kitchen — and her bedroom beyond it — over the girl’s head, smiling in a way that definitely wasn’t entirely innocent. Well, her stepsister wasn’t stupid, so chances are she had already figured out what the pair of them were up to just from the fact that Splotch was spending the night, but that didn’t mean Raven wanted to be obvious about it. It was one thing that Gail, Sunny and Em knew, quite another to let her underage sister catch her at it. There was only so much potential trouble she could get into before the risk of things blowing up in her face grew greater than the rewards, and she was fairly sure she’d met her quota in regards to her stepsister a long time ago.

They made it to the kitchen, out of sight through the doorway, while keeping up their casual facade. But once out of sight strong hands grabbed Raven, pressing her back against the cool, smooth surface of the refridgerator door. She bit back a moan as he nipped lightly at her neck, remembering at the last second that her stepsister’s ears were at least nearly as sensitive as his. Moments later a hard ridge pressed against her thigh, and she responded by reaching down, squeezing the werecat’s rear and pressing him even closer to her.

Spending two hours or so teasing him, even if she’d pushed him over the edge once without meaning to, had certainly managed to convince him that she was genuinely interested. And now, with his hands roaming her body, she was starting to realize just how much it had affected her as well.

One of her hands moved, fingers running up his spine through the soft black-on-gold-patterned fur until it reached his neck. There, she lifted it for the moment it took to seize his jaw and angle his muzzle up to meet her lips. There was no hint of alcohol on his breath — not until then did she quite realize that he hadn’t touched any of the stuff. For some reason the fact he didn’t drink had never struck her. No wonder she so often had a few bottles left over after their movie nights.

“You’ve drunk,” he murmured softly as their lips parted, his hands still caressing her but keeping to more innocent areas like her sides and her stomach for the moment. The feel of his breath against her skin, and the way his lips brushed against hers, made her shiver. “Are you certain you want to do this?”

She wanted to kiss him again, but reined in the impulse, affectionately ruffling the fur on his head instead. “Thought appreciated, but I’m not that drunk,” she chuckled. “Trust me when I say I needed that, and that you have nothing to do with it, Splotch.”

He winced. “Ravaethinne,” he started, doubtlessly trying to catch her attention by using her full name. Well, it worked, but not the way he’d probably intended; it was every bit as much music off his lips as it had been off his father’s, making her weak at the knees. “Could you please use my given name? That one doesn’t even make sense in this shape.”

She did kiss him then, cupping one hand behind his head to keep him there until she ran out of breath. “I happen to think your spots are rather charming, you know. But fair enough.”

It was a small wonder their clothes remained on and mostly done up until they made it to Raven’s bedroom. It was certainly no thanks to the way their hands roamed. With the door closed behind them, though, Splotch lost no time pulling her hands down to his fly, then started unbuttoning her blouse. She slid one hand down, feeling the werecat’s hard member straining against the fabric. No wonder he wanted his pants off.

He slid the blouse off her shoulders as she’d unbuckled his belt and started to undo his fly, and she just barely managed to bite back a giggle at his frustrated groan when he realized the corset she was wearing underneath wasn’t entirely for show.

“Not to criticize how you choose to dress, Raven, but… Did you have to pick something that hard to get you out of? I don’t even know where to start!”

She did giggle at that, leaning in to kiss one of his ears as she finished undoing the front of his pants and reached around to unhook the clasp over his tail as well. “I wasn’t expecting needing to get out of it in a hurry,” she murmured, lips brushing against fur, making his ear flick. She freed his tail, gently pushing his pants and underwear a few inches downward together. “Want me to do it for you?”

With a low rumble rising from his throat he spun her around, pressing her tightly against him, his arousal against her buttock and a hand on one of her breasts. “I’m sure I can manage with a bit of help.”

“In that case,” she replied, shifting against him, making him inhale sharply, “start by undoing the bow at my waist.”

She felt him fumble with the laces, probably not helped by the way she reached behind her, fondling him. With a happy sigh she tilted her head back, leaning back until she could rest her head on his shoulder, absently nuzzling at the side of his neck.

“You’re not… not making this any easier.”

She didn’t reply to that, just remained where she was, eyes closed and long purple-black hair spilling over his shoulder, as he managed to pull the ends of the corset-laces free and fumbled to untie them. Her fingers were still wrapped around his cock, but she kept them still for now. Just because he was being a good sport about it didn’t mean she wanted to draw this out enough to stay dressed for the rest of the night.

When he did manage to figure out how she’d tied the laces, she felt the slack like a sigh in the corset’s fabric, loosening ever-so-slightly around her waist. It was with a certain amount of satisfaction she noticed that he didn’t need to be told how to continue from there, nor to be careful with the lacing. The last thing she wanted was to have to spend the time replacing it in the morning.

As he got closer to finishing, he wrapped one arm around her, running his fingers over her breasts through the layers of fabric as well as keeping the corset from sliding out of place. She waited until she judged the laces were sufficiently loosened, then swiftly unclasped the front of the corset, stepping out of the wine-and-charcoal silk brocade like a milky-skinned butterfly emerging from its coccoon. She smiled and kissed him as she took the corset from his hands, then carefully hung it over the back of a chair.

When she turned back to him, he’d unbuttoned his own shirt, and she couldn’t resist reaching out and running her fingers through the creamy fur on his chest, fluffing it up from spot to spot. He pulled her closer, and she far from minded feeling his soft pelt against her bare skin as he felt around her waist searching for the clasp for her tiny skirt. She didn’t want him to take his hands off her, so she let his shirt hang off his shoulders and instead went to work on his pants. One hand still toying with his fur, though slowly working its way down from his chest and over his belly, she inched the waistband of his underwear down, and his pants along with them.

His fingers found the clasp and zipper on her hip, undoing them easily, to let the skirt drop to the floor around her feet. She stepped out of it, pushing him gently backwards and pressing closer against him. For a few minutes she remained there, stroking his back and sides as his hard flesh pressed against her thigh and his fingers ran across her pale skin, making her gasp and shiver. Their lips were pressed together as tightly as their differing anatomy allowed, his rough tongue brushing over hers with the urgency of a parched camel given water.

It wasn’t until they, as one, started moving in the direction of her bed that she remembered with some measure of embarrassment that she’d not bothered to make it before leaving for work in the morning. Not that it seemed to bother the werejaguar whose roaming hands were getting bolder and whose tail was swaying with excitement. They paused briefly as she bent to finally remove his pants, then tumbled together onto the bed with its untidy sheets.

They rolled once, then he came out on top with a low growl, ducking his head to nip lightly at her throat. She responded by clutching at his fur and wrapping her stocking-clad legs around his waist. He seemed eager enough to respond to her wordless urging, and a shudder went through her as he ground his hips against hers, only prevented from thrusting in and filling her by two or three thin layers of satin and lace — mostly lace. If her breath had gotten heavy with excitement, his was leaden.

With some disappointment she let him untangle her legs from his waist to slide down her body, fingers hooked into the sides of her panties. The way his hot, rough tongue and his cool, damp nose pressed against her skin on his way south certainly helped cushion the blow, though. He didn’t pause to taste her excitement for more than a few seconds, but that might just have been as well. Those seconds were more than enough to make her arch her back and roughly whisper his name.

Having pulled her underwear over her feet and tossed them in the general direction of the discarded skirt, he paused for a moment, then reached for the pathetic pile on the floor that his pants had landed in. “Just a second, I should have–”

“In the top drawer,” she cut in, extending an arm towards her nightstand, as he pulled his wallet from a pocket and from it, a plastic-wrapped package. Seeing it, she laughed, feeling a bit giddy. “You’re smarter than your brother.”

“Would you sleep with my brother?” he shot back, sitting down on the edge of the bed and letting her take the condom from him. Claws and thin latex made poor friends, after all.

“Goodness, no!” There might’ve been a bit more venom than she intended in her voice, but it was easily lost in the heat of the moment. Neither of them really wanted to think about his brother. Leaning against his side, she ripped the small square open and pulled out the circle of somewhat slippery latex it protected.

Raven could have had the condom on him in a matter of seconds, and could have been straddling his lap making good use of it just as quickly. Instead, she made a show of rolling it on carefully, spending at least as much time fondling him as she did making progress, making her partner bite his lip and try to buck into her hand.

She’d barely finished before she found herself knocked onto her back with the frustrated feline leaning over her, his chest heaving. He remained there for a few seconds, giving her time to shift her legs, still coated in black lace, outside his and smile a wordless confirmation. Then his rubber-coated length slid into her with a determination that made her lean her head back and gasp. If she’d wanted to get him worked up so that he would take her roughly, she’d certainly gotten her wish. His voice, when he spoke, was laced with a growl, each word punctuated by a slightly more powerful shove. “You… Damn… Tease.”

The pace he set wasn’t one either of them would be able to stay with for long, but that didn’t matter. Raven found his rhythm, tried to meet his thrusts, but this was definitely the werejaguar’s show, and he’d more than deserved it. He wasn’t nearly as bad as his inexperience might’ve lead her to expect, either; while there was no pretense of it being the tender lovemaking of a trashy romance novel, he did adjust to her reactions, pushing her toward climax as he sought his own.

Gasping under him, she pulled his muzzle down towards her shoulder, groaning out as he closed his jaws around it. His teeth scratched against her skin as he moved, not pressed quite hard enough in to break it, and she clutched at his fur. Then his hold on her shoulder grew slightly harder, canine teeth pressing in but still not drawing blood, as he leaned heavily over her and shuddered. The deep breaths he drew when he released his hold were unsteady, while she was still panting from the intensity of their coupling.

He reached down to hold the condom in place as he pulled out, and she found she had trouble straightening her fingers. Pale gold or cream and black hairs clung to her slightly sweat-sticky palms, a bit more than there would have been if it had solely been loose hairs sticking. Not that he seemed to have minded her pulling his fur.

“Where do I…?”

“Trashcan’s in the closet,” she replied, his presence again making her acutely aware of her domestic shortcomings for a few seconds. It wasn’t that the trashcan was supposed to go in the closet, it had just ended up there the last time she vaccuumed and since she used it so rarely she’d not gotten around to retrieving it. Well, he’d known her long enough to know she could be a slob, and it hadn’t sent him running for the hills so far. “I’ll get it.”

She had her experiences with his father in mind when she placed the can within easy reach from the bed, on the same side as the nightstand that held her small at-hand supply of condoms and lubricant. She had more, but they were tucked away in the chest of adult novelties stowed under the bed. He didn’t seem to take offense at her unspoken assumption that there would be more to come, simply threw the used rubber away and moved to join her on the bed. With a smile she held her hand up in a wordless request that he wait where he was and shuffled over to rise off the bed in front of him, laying her palms on his shoulders and gripping the open button-up shirt he was still wearing.

“You won’t need this,” she decided, pulling it down off his shoulders. He seemed to agree with that notion, at least enough to lift his arms out of it and allow her to throw it on his pants on the floor.

His hands came to rest on the small of her back, his nose gently touching her cheek before his lips brushed over hers. Gone was the previous urgency, which had been born of two hours and change of teasing. Then he kissed her chin, her jaw, her throat, fingertips sliding down until they reached the top edge of her tall stockings. “I don’t believe these will be entirely neccesary, either, will they?” he murmured against her collarbone, before kissing the pair of faint red marks where his fangs had pressed against her skin.

Two fingers of each hand hooked around the edge of her right stocking, pulling it down to her ankle. It only took a light touch to her calf to get her to lift her foot, letting him slide the garment off. As he reached up for the other stocking, he ran the cool pad of his nose up the inside of her bare leg, making her shiver. About two thirds of the way up her thigh his hot, rough tongue slipped out, drawing a gasp from her, her knees suddenly not so steady anymore. It seemed to take an eternity for him to move his muzzle the last few inches up her thigh to her carefully groomed mound.

She sighed softly, feeling his whiskers tickle her sweat-damp skin and his breath wash over her moist sex. Trembling with anticipation, she touched her fingertips to his head, stroking his fur unsteadily as he took hold of her other stocking. This one he took his time with, inching the lace down. It was maddening, this waiting, having him close enough to feel his every breath. Somehow this seemed to get her more worked up than what she might have been if he’d gone straight to taste her, but even when his claws scratching against her skin gave her goosebumps and the surge of need it called up in her made her whimper, she couldn’t quite bring herself to move.

His hands about halfway between knee and ankle, he drew a deep breath through his nose and let the air escape, slowly, between his lips. Only then did he press his muzzle in a bit and extend his tongue. As the rough surface passed over her sensitive skin her fingers curled against his scalp on their own accord. It didn’t take many moments until the sensations became too much for her, her knees growing weak. With a sharp intake of breath, almost sounding like a sob, she let herself half-fall backwards, catching herself with one hand and sitting on the edge of the bed.

Dazed, she watched the werejaguar lift her foot and pull the stocking off, and had to smile at him when he looked up at her, his face the image of good-natured innocense. She would have been willing to bet that had he been in fox-shape — not that such would be very likely, especially under the circumstances, given his attitude towards it — his tails would have been wagging to perfect that image.

He didn’t stay crouched on the floor for long, now that he’d pushed her over the edge. Rubbing one cheek along her leg and side as he moved, he settled onto the bed next to her, gently pulling her along with him until all of her was lying on the tangled sheets. She was quite happy to cuddle up to him, stroking his arms and sides as he wrapped his arms around her. He nuzzled her cheek, and she responded by kissing his nose lightly, reaching up to pet one of his rounded ears.

She shifted against him and wasn’t surprised to find he was once again was ready to perform as she felt his erection brush her hip. Luckily, he didn’t seem to mind the notion of taking it slowly for the time being. Oh, she could easily have been up for another round herself, but not much more, and her experience with his father suggested they’d both be better off trying to pace themselves. So she continued running her hands over his body, intently taking in his reactions as she touched this or that spot, while she enjoyed the feel of his slightly-rough,leathery pawpads caressing her.

Now, unlike the two hours they’d spent in front of the rented movie, she had no interest in teasing him. She concentrated on spots which, far as she was able to judge, felt good without being frustratingly erogenous. There was no use getting him so wound up again — she’d wanted to make sure he was too distracted to feel awkward, and with the way he’d all but jumped her, she could only congratulate herself on a job well done far as that was concerned. One round of rough sex was nice, but more than that in one evening might be pushing it.

Gradually, there was a shift in the way they touched, kisses lingering longer, hands finding more intimate spots. There was still little of the urgency that had marked their interactions earlier in the evening, but the tender contact had more purpose than when the werejaguar had first snuggled up next to Raven. When he nuzzled her throat, the bridge of his muzzle resting against the bottom of her jaw, and one of his hands came up to cup her breast, she slid her hand over his hip, inward, downward. He nosed at her in response when she curled her fingers around his arousal, letting out a low appreciative hum and brushing his thumb over her stiff nipple. She moaned softly and started to stroke him, the fingers of her free hand running through his fur.

He rocked gently against her hand, one hand at her buttock while the other gave her breast a light squeeze. It was enough to make her push into his palm, fingers wrapping just a little tighter around him. He pulled back, just enough to press his lips against hers and look into her eyes. She kissed back, stroking him with more purpose, and moaned softly into his mouth. When she managed to touch an especially sensitive spot his eyes turned to slits, a groan rising from his throat, and she felt the hand on her buttock shift down, fingertips brushing the back of her thigh. It started to move to the side, then he paused, looking at her with his ears cocked in a wordless question.

“Go ahead,” she breathed, shifting to better angle her wrist for stroking him off.

His fingers slipping between her thighs made it infinitely more difficult to focus on pushing him towards the edge. Moaning herself, she let his reactions direct her performance, her fingers playing across that one area of his body that was covered in nothing but smooth skin. This time he wasn’t trying very hard to stay silent, and the sounds of him enjoying her ministrations made Raven shiver. With skill born of experience, she urged him further toward the edge, stroking him until she judged he was getting close to making a mess of her sheets.

Smiling at her partner she kissed his nose and then pulled back from him, gently untangling herself from his arms. Then she scooted a little ways down his body, hand remaining in place, twisted her hair back with her free hand, and leaned down to take his very ready erection into her mouth. She trusted his word that he’d only had one partner previously, and she trusted that partner’s word that the felianthropic curse both of them shared — though Splotch’s father would likely not appreciate it being referred to as a curse — rendered the risk of them catching or carrying anything virtually inexistant.

His palm brushed over the back of her hand, and she didn’t mind letting him take over holding her hair out of the way, instead using that hand to support herself. That gave her more freedom of movement for her right hand, letting her stroke what of his rigid flesh didn’t fit between her lips. Carefully keeping her teeth out of the way, Raven ran her tongue along the underside of his length, amber eyes sliding shut as she tasted his excitement. She could half hear, half guess at his tail twitching against the untidy covers, and voiced a soft, pleased ‘mmmh’ which in turn made him shiver and lift his hips just a fraction. For a moment she started to pull back, lips sliding across his saliva-slick flesh, giving her tongue more space to move, teasing across his tip, while her hand caressed the base of his shaft.

When she started to take more of him into her mouth again, her hand moved from his shaft to the sac covered in soft, almost downy, fur hanging beneath. That seemed to be just what he needed, as he groaned, his fingers curling in her hair. A tendril slipped free, hanging down along her cheek, but she ignored it. A few seconds later, the first spurt of sticky, somewhat bitter seed spilled into her mouth, which she gladly swallowed. His breath came as heavy moans as she drank the rest of his climax down, using her hands to milk him dry. With a final kiss to his spent member she looked up at him, smiling at the slightly dazed expression on his face.

“Didn’t fancy sleeping in that,” she offered by way of explanation, licking her lips. “Waking up with the sheets stuck to your skin is only funny once.” She ran her fingers through the fur on his stomach as she shifted up along his body. “Maybe not even once, in your case.”

“Mmh,” he agreed, slinging an arm around her and squeezing her to him. “I had to shift to clean up.”

“I’d say I’m sorry, but I’d be lying.” She kissed his forehead. “You looked cute, trying to hold back like that.”

“Cute, huh?” He nipped at her ear, and she gasped feeling his teeth against her skin. “Were you planning on keeping your hand there through the whole movie?”

“If you hadn’t stopped me, yes.” She ran her fingers up his side, pressing her black-polished nails in against his skin through the fur, making him shiver. “Would that have been a bad idea?”

“Depends. How badly did you want to make it past the kitchen?”

“Might not have been a good idea with Becky here,” she conceded, still working her fingers through his fur.

The conversation trailed off, Raven resting her head on Splotch’s chest, fingers buried in his fur, while he gently caressed her back. Both of them knew that this was unlikely to be the end of the night, but Raven found that unlike some of the men she’d had temporary liasons with in the last few years, she didn’t mind this kind of contact with her friend. While she wasn’t romantically interested in him, at least the tenderness didn’t feel like the cheap lie of someone who wasn’t really planning on calling her.

And she’d stopped picking up one-night-stands at clubs almost a year ago, anyway. It wasn’t worth the gamble.

Splotch’s nose pressed against her hair and he inhaled deeply, jolting her from her thoughts. She guessed that he was focusing on her scent, and she could assume that he had a better sense of smell than she did. Most of his senses were probably better than hers, as a matter of fact.

“Sp– Arvel?” she whispered, starting to run her fingers through his fur again. “What’s it like?”

“Is what like?” He sounded confused.

“Being, well…” She searched for a word, had to settle for something that wasn’t quite what she had in mind. “A cat.”

“That’s a good question. A damn sight better than being a pink fox, at least.”

“Should I take that as a ‘let me think about it’?”

“I suppose. There are things I’d rather think about right now.” He squeezed her, nuzzling her hair.

“At least it means you won’t get off and fall asleep on me,” she murmured, reaching up blindly to run the back of her hand over his cheek. When his hand once again passed over her back in a tender caress, she shifted into the touch. “I could get used to that.”

“That,” he rumbled, using two fingers under her chin to turn her head towards him, “has more to do with being a decent person.”

“In that case,” Raven replied, her tone almost joking, “I need to see more of those. You know anyone?”

“I might.” His whiskers tickled her face, making her wrinkle her nose. She had no thoughts of protesting as his hands slid lower on her back, rather enjoying the contact. “But it’s not very polite to brag.”

“Well, you can let him know I wouldn’t mind his company on occassion.” She pulled herself an inch or two up along his body, her lips close enough to his that she could clearly feel the rush of his breath on her face.

“In that case,” he asked, briefly pressing his lips against hers, with a sideward glance toward her nightstand, “is this such an occassion?”

She laughed, kissing him and ruffling the fur on his head. “Could be. Hold on, I’ll get you one.”

He let her rise on her elbows and start to lean over toward the nightstand before he cupped one of her breasts in his hand. Surprised, she flinched slightly before leaning into his touch. He was gentle, not like some of the men she’d slept with, and she moaned softly as he squeezed it. His other hand stayed low, lightly kneading her buttock. In the face of such distractions, she forgot her mission for a moment. Her feline lover’s hands kept her gasping as she paused, eyes half-lidded, halfway to her goal.

Then she shook her head like a wet dog, rolled onto her other side, and opened the nightstand drawer in one smooth motion. A cold nose pressed against the back of her neck and she gave an undignified squeak, jerking away in surprise. It took her a few moments of feeling along the bottom of the drawer before she found what she was looking for, then she fished the small foil package out, holding it between her index and middle fingers. She started to roll back over towards him, and found him leaning over her, a smile on his face, when she’d only made it halfway.

He leaned in closer, and she was quite happy to press her lips against his, then share his breath and taste his tongue. One of his hands came up to touch her cheek, palm gently curved against her flesh, urging her on even when it was barely touching her. Letting out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding she wrapped her arms around him, her free hand grabbing a handful of his lush fur, and squeezed him close. Both their hearts sped up as they twisted against each other, passionate though gentle, while her tongue explored his mouth and his tongue scratched against hers.

She felt him, hard enough it was easy to forget he’d come three times since arriving to her apartment and two of those times in fairly rapid succession, pressed against her thigh, and she hooked her leg over his to hold him even closer. He gasped, rocking slightly against her, and she moved with him, feeling a pleasant tingle building from the contact as he rubbed the side of his muzzle against her cheek. Her excitement came at least as much from the genuine affection he was showing her as from the sensation of his soft fur sliding against her skin and the sound of his heavy breathing. They both knew there was little emotion involved in this encounter, yet he was treating her better in many ways than some men who’d sworn they’d loved her.

Then again, they had only been speaking of her body and had been gone the next day, anyway. Splotch wasn’t going to be able to disappear without a word like that. Not that she thought he’d have treated her any worse had he been able to without fear of repercussions, either way.

She wasn’t sure quite how he managed to untangle himself, but he did, shifting not so much away from her as to her side, and his fingers wrapped around the hand that was still holding the condom she’d retrieved. Grinning, she pulled it away from him, opening it herself and resting the palm of her left hand on his chest in a silent request that he let her do the honors.

There was no way she was going to do something as dull as simply roll the condom on and lie back; it would break the mood just as thoroughly as teasing him the way she had earlier. What she ended up doing was something in-between the two, yet not, stroking the rubber onto his hard member with a touch that was nothing if not tender. He watched her, eyes half-lidded, and reached out to stroke her arm.

“I really should’ve learned dad’s trick,” he murmured, seemingly half to himself.

She looked at him, eyebrows raised. “What ‘trick’ of Saevrin’s? I think you’re doing quite well so far.” Having finished her task, she settled down next to him, reaching up to scratch one of his ears. It flicked against her fingers and she slid her fingers slightly lower, nails scratching through his fur. “You don’t need to be your father, Arvel.”

The werejaguar tilted his head into her hand, shifting back over her. “He has enough control of his shapeshifting to render himself temporarily sterile.”

That was something her current partner’s father had never given her any indication of. With how keen men usually were on the thought of foregoing the rubber — not that she’d ever do so with one of her one-night-stands — it didn’t seem quite credible to her. “He always used one with me, and your mother sure got pregnant.”

“They’d both had their drinks spiked at the time, too,” he pointed out, nuzzling her arm as she kept scratching at a point just below and behind his ear. “It’s not automatic — he does need to think of it. And he used rubbers with me. Wanted to make damn sure I got in the habit. Imagine he would have used them with you for the same reason.”

“Sounds an awful lot like him,” she admitted, smiling. “How would he manage that, anyway?”

“If he makes sure he blocks his own vas deferens, sperm won’t get where it needs to be. Said he does that with girls even when he’s gonna be covering up. Condoms don’t always work, after all, even when people use ’em right.”

She nodded, just barely remembering enough of her high school education to make sense of it. “Clever.”

He said nothing, nothing more needed to be said. She wasn’t quite sure what he was up to when he nudged her onto her side, but she complied. They still had very near all the time in the world, at least figuratively, and if whatever he was planning didn’t turn out to work there was ample time to try something else.

His fur against her skin along her back, though, and the arm he draped over her side after he’d guided his rubber-coated length up against her, dispelled any doubt she might’ve had whether he knew what he was doing. She sighed, pressed back against him, and reached back, laying her palm on his hip. He slid into her slowly, far unlike the way he had driven into her after they had stumbled into her room, and caressed her breasts and stomach with a feather-light touch that made her skin tingle.

He nuzzled the base of her neck as he continued to slowly push deeper into her, and she closed her eyes, leaning her head back and relishing in the flood of sensations. It wasn’t the first time someone treated her in a way even remotely deserving of the romanticized euphiasm of lovemaking, not even the first time since she had mostly gotten out of touch with his father, but it was certainly not the norm. Not with temporary lovers who for the most part were drunk and looking to get their rocks off.

The way they lay, he couldn’t have thrust hard into her had he wanted to, nor could she shove back onto him with any kind of force. As he continued to caress her, rocking slowly in and out of her, Raven found that she didn’t mind this in the least. Oh, some part of her wanted him to speed up, not so much because she was dissatisfied with the pace as because it was so right and ‘more’ seemed synonymous with ‘faster’. He wasn’t perfect — when she shifted unexpectedly in reaction to his fingertips teasing one of her nipples he actually slid out of her and had to reach down to guide his hard cock back into her now slippery-wet depths — but that didn’t detract from her experience. It simply made it more real. The fact that him pushing back in felt really, really good certainly didn’t hurt.

His breath was searing hot against her back, the arm draped over her side pressing her close to him. His whiskers barely touched her, yet she shivered when they brushed her skin, acutely aware of the slightest bit of contact. The hand that was still resting on his hip trembled, a drawn-out moan escaping her lips. The movement of his hips was more subtle now, but the way she rocked back against him more than made up for it, slowly numbing her mind as euphoria took over. It made her limbs heavy, her head light, and her throat tight as she moaned and panted in response to the werejaguar’s touch.

He let up a touch when her muscles clenched around him and she clutched the hand that was caressing her chest. Not so much that he stopped, but enough to give her a small respite, allowing her to catch her breath. His hand remained mostly still as long as she held onto it, their fingers interlaced. But his cock continued to stroke her insides, aided by the natural lubrication her body provided, which had increased manifold when she climaxed. Slowly but steadily, he drove her, guided her, towards a new high.

She was happy letting him, whimpering softly when he managed to touch a particularly sensitive spot. Maybe it was something to do with his felianthropy, maybe he was just unusually sensitive, but either way he didn’t fail to pick up on any of the spots that alone would probably eventually have driven her crazy. Together, well… It made her world temporarily shrink to their points of contact, pressing back against him in the hopes of getting just a fraction more of his length into her.

The third time he pushed her over the edge, the pleasure was so intense she found herself almost crying. Her shoulders shook, her voice a strangled cry, and her spasming muscles squeezed him tightly again and again. It was only a matter of moments after that, before he squeezed her tightly against his chest, pressing his muzzle against her back, and moaned against her skin.

For several long seconds they lay there, racing hearts starting to slow down, before he reached down with a trembling hand to hold the condom as he pulled out of her. She remained where she was for another few seconds, then rolled onto her back, breathing out, even more unsteady than he was. He leaned across her, threw the used rubber in the trash can, and lay down on his side next to her, brushing tendrils of purple-black hair out of her face with a smile.

“That was…” she mumbled, absently running her fingers over his arm and hand. “Didn’t you say you’d never done this before?”

“No,” he replied, moving another lock of hair, “I said I only slept with Da– Saevrin.”

“Only Saevrin? Not even him and someone else? How could you then–”

“Ravaethinne? Only him. He was… very thorough.”

Her eyes widened for a moment, then she chuckled, shaking her head slightly. “I should have guessed, I suppose. Didn’t know he could do that. I should probably… thank him.” She paused briefly, then smiled at him, squeezing his hand. “Thank you, Arvel. That was a very nice end to a bad day.”

He blushed, color showing through the thinner fur inside his ears, and gave her a somewhat awkward squeeze. “I enjoyed it. What’s bad about today?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it. Small things, really, shouldn’t have let them get to me.”

“If you say so.” He might not have sounded quite convinced, but she was content that he didn’t push the issue. Trying to convince herself that Sunny’s casually dropped comment hadn’t stung was hard enough without having to try to convince someone else as well.

She pushed those thoughts firmly out of mind, instead snuggling up to the werejaguar to enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling of utter relaxation that washed through her body, lazily lapping its way through her limbs all the way to her toes and fingertips like the waters of a sun-warm lake. For quite some time they lay there together, her idly stroking his fur and his fingers absently running through her long hair. Now and then she turned and tilted her head to look at him, her smile growing wider as she saw the pleased look on his face. Now and then he’d notice her looking at him, smile at her, and draw her into a gentle but insistient kiss, a kiss which she melted into like chocolate in the sun.

Much as she enjoyed the contact, though, it couldn’t halt the passage of time, and it was getting late. She was sated, had a warm body next to her, had a long day behind her, and caught herself getting a bit drowzy. “Nice as this is, I think I better get the lights before I pass out.” It was with surprise that she found her partner wouldn’t let her move, instead leaning over her, muzzle close enough that she felt his breath wash over her face.

“I’ll get those,” he purred, gesturing toward the light switch, the room going dark as the plastic clicked into the other position. Moments later, a pair of eerie blue lights floated in the darkness above him.

“You can turn those out, too.”

“I can see you better with them, though.” Two of his fingers traced her jawline, his oddly-illuminated face turning into a warm smile. “Could I ask you for a last go?” She hesitated, not feeling terribly much in the mood after the experience she’d had. “As payback for what you did to me on the couch?”

He had a point, and he’d performed more than well enough during the night to convince her it wouldn’t be too big of a hardship, really, even if she was no longer exactly burning with unbridled lust, passion and desire. “I can’t really argue with that logic.” Rising on her elbows, she kissed the pad of his nose and bit back a giggle at how it made his whiskers twitch. “Just go easy on me, okay? I don’t think I could take another round like that last one, nice as it was.” He reached across her and pulled the nightstand drawer open, reaching in. “And you may want to get that bottle of lube out.”

As he nuzzled her cheek, she could hear him rummage around the drawer for a moment before pulling his hand back. Something hit the bed next to her, then he pulled back, straddling her thigh, the blue glow from his mage-lights reflecting off the small foil package in his hands.

“You doing okay with that?”

“I promise, I’m not going to use my claws to get it on.” He ripped the package open, pulling out the circle of latex inside very, very carefully.

“Lube’ll make a mess of your fur.”

“I can live with that. Nothing a bit of water won’t fix.” He was quick and to the point, even taking care to make sure he didn’t accidentally puncture the thin layer of rubber with his claws he managed to get himself covered up faster than Raven had done it earlier that evening. Not that she’d had much interest in doing it quickly. She saw him pick up the bottle of lubricant she’d asked him to use, heard him pop the lid open, and watched his face as he smeared a thin coating of the stuff along his length. The mage-lights’ flickering made shadows dance across his features, exaggerating the small changes in his expression as he touched himself.

The bottle clicked shut and he tossed it back down on the bed. Then he leaned over her once again, running his rough tongue from the bottom of her ribcage, over one of her breasts, and up the side of her neck to her jaw. She arched up against him in response, surprising herself with the strength of her reaction, having thought she wasn’t up for anything more than lying back and being a good sport.

His leg slid over her thigh, and she parted her legs to leave him that bit of room. The smile on his muzzle was kind, even fond, as he once again slid slowly into her, hilting against her without much trouble thanks to the extra lubrication from her bottle. His lips met hers in a kiss as he thrust into her, and she sucked gently on his tongue as he set a steady pace.

Before long her legs were wrapped around his waist and she was moaning in time with his movements, head thrown back and fingers digging into his back. She hadn’t counted on being quite so sensitive. Torn between wanting more and jerking away from the strokes that just felt too good, she ground her hips back against his and whimpered when she felt his sharp carnivore teeth gently nibbling at her outstretched throat.

He didn’t last very long, though even so she was shivering violently from the sensory overload by the time he shoved in a bit harder and came with a groan, and still wasn’t quite intelligible when he’d pulled out and thrown away the condom. It was up to the werejaguar to gently pry her hands off his back and her legs from around his waist, while she lay under him with a blissed smile on her face. Not until he moved to get out of the bed did she seem to react at all to outside stimuli, seizing his wrist in a grip so weak it would embarrass a small child.

“I’m just going to wash up,” he assured her, kissing the back of her hand and pulling loose in the most sensitive manner he could manage. “I’ll only be a minute, then we’ll get ourselves some rest, okay?”

She lay there looking at him for several seconds before she managed to focus enough to nod, her mind still clouded by a sex-induced haze. He searched for a few moments, mage-lights floating along as he moved, then fished his underwear off the floor and pulled them on. The door whispered shut behind him as he left, his footfalls barely audible. With something between a sigh and a hum, Raven slowly, sleepily rolled onto her stomach, resting her cheek on her crossed arms on top of the pillow, her eyes sliding shut within moments.

When the werejaguar returned, she was dozing, not noticing until he slid into the bed next to her and draped a furless arm across her shoulders. Blinking in the magical blue twilight, she met his gaze.

“You changed,” she mumbled, stating the obvious.

“Easier to wash up that way. You really did a number on my back.”

“I’m sorry.” The apology was sincere, but with how drowzy she felt it probably didn’t sound that way.

“Don’t be.” He kissed her cheek, had to rise on his elbow to do so. “Two or three days and you’d never know it happened.”

“Everything about you is on fast forward, isn’t it?”

He shifted closer to her, gave her shoulder a squeeze. “Not quite. Good night, Raven.”

“Night,” she mumbled, as the magical lights her lover had summoned up faded and died.

Now that he was back in the room, next to her, she found she couldn’t relax, tired as she was. Minutes ticked by, just barely audible from the clock on the other side of the door to the kitchen over the sound of her and her bedmate’s brerathing. His was slow, deep, and regular; either he’d fallen asleep already or he was very close, far as Raven was any judge.

“Arvel?”

“Mmh?” She couldn’t see his face in the dark room, but she figured he was looking at her when she felt the arm resting on her back once again grow fur. He probably did have better night vision in jaguar shape.

“Did I wake you?”

“Don’t worry about it. Something bothering you?”

She nodded and swallowed hard. “Arvel, I… Do you think I’m a slut?”

Once again the blue lights appeared, floating in the air above them. The dead-serious look on his face made her heart sink, and she almost turned her face away. “That’s not a very fair thing to ask me after tonight, Ravaethinne.”

“So you do!” She turned her head, leaning her forehead against her arms, and tried to will away the tears that were welling up in her eyes and threatened to start a flood. It shouldn’t bother her so much if Splotch thought she was easy, in all likelihood most of the men she’d slept with in the last few years did. Nor should it bother her because he was a friend — she knew for a fact his twin and her sister held similar opinions.

“I didn’t say that.” He squeezed her shoulder again, gently pulling her towards him. For a few moments she resisted, then allowed herself to be coaxed into his arms, hiding her face against the soft white fur on his chest. “I don’t think you inviting me to stay the night makes you a slut. It’s not as though you are completely indiscriminate — you said yourself earlier that you wouldn’t sleep with my brother, didn’t you?”

“Yes…” she sniffed, taking comfort in his arms around her.

“So there you have it. It’s still not a very fair question to ask right after you sleep with me.” He kissed her forehead, right at the hairline. “Chin up. It’s not like you to worry about what other people think.”

“That depends on how they say it,” she grumbled, pressing her face against his chest and ignoring how his fur tickled her skin.

“Does this have anything to do with the bad day you mentioned?” She pretended not to hear his question, remaining where she was until he gave her a bit more prompting. “Raven?”

“Yeah, it kind of does.”

“What happened?”

“This one guy at work keeps grabbing my ass. Then Sunny came and said I have it coming for dressing like a slut. Like I said, little things that shouldn’t bother me.”

The werejaguar squeezed her. “Unfortunately, a lot of people will be jerks, and some would see it as an invitation that you’re not exactly conservative in your choice of dress.”

She stiffened. “So you agree with Sunny?”

“No, I still think my brother was out of line to say that. Just because it happening isn’t a great surprise doesn’t make the action any more right, and you have every right to be left alone if you want to be. You do deserve at least that much respect, Ravaethinne.”

She sighed, her breath playing through his coat. “Not even worth bringing it up with the company. Who’re they going to believe, the glorified secretary or the head of an important department? Last I tried to talk to my supervisor about it he laughed at me, and the chick in Employee Relations hates me.”

“Well, since you’ve told him you don’t appreciate it, sounds to me like it’s a sexual harassment suit wanting to happen. You could try giving Aljaan a call and asking him about it in the morning.”

“Umm… You see… I kind of didn’t say much of anything.”

He shook his head and sighed softly. “Well, if he tries it again, just… try to have a polite refusal ready. Don’t want to make it up on the spot, or it might not be so polite.”

“You’ve got that right. I’m bent over that damned copy machine trying to clear a paper jam, and he grabs my ass, the only thing I can think to do is break his fucking fingers. Maybe only threaten to, if I’m in a good mood. Better to do nothing at all, then.”

“Thinking it up in advance probably works better.”

“Probably,” she chuckled. “Assault doesn’t tend to go over well. Thanks for listening, Arvel.”

“You’re welcome. Feeling better now that you got that off your chest?”

She nodded, but stayed where she was. “Night. Turn those things down, will you?”

“Good night, Rae,” he whispered, his arms remaining around her as the mage-lights dimmed and died overhead. This time she found herself relaxing a lot more readily, drifting off to sleep with his scent thick in her nose.

The sound of someone banging on her bedroom door roused her from a very pleasant dream which slipped away like water through a sieve as soon as she became awake enough to try to recall it. The banging didn’t stop simply because she was awake, though, and as she was still rubbing sleep out of her eyes and getting out of bed it was joined by her younger stepsister’s voice. “Hey! Raven! Daddy called and said he was leaving the station. Didn’t you hear the phone?” The door cracked open, and Becky’s blunt cream-and-green-furred muzzle poked through, followed by the rest of her head. She looked at Raven for a few seconds, sniffed the air, and grinned.

“I was sleeping!” the human woman hissed, pulling the top sheet off the bed — and Splotch — to wrap it around herself. “Make yourself useful and fold your sheets or something, short stuff! Now out!”

Becky disappeared like she’d been told, closing the door about as silently as she’d previously knocked on it. The spotted feline man on Raven’s bed stirred, blinking in the dim light that found its way through the curtains covering the double doors to the French balcony overlooking the sidewalk below. She paused for a few moments in her efforts to secure the bedsheet snugly around her to watch him stretch to chase the last traces of sleep from his limbs.

“Becky says Alej’s on his way. You want to put something on while I start the coffee maker? And do you want some, by the way?”

“Coffee? Sure.”

“I’ll let you know when it’s done.” Dressed in only the sheet, Raven left the room and started rummaging around in the kitchen while her stepsister cleared off the couch in the living room. She shoved most of the dirty dishes from the previous night into the sink, ran water into the stained carafe and used it to fill the tank. A quick look at the filter still in the machine from the previous morning told her it would serve another brew, and she added some grounds from the old bisquit tin shoved into the corner of the counter behind the machine.

She flicked the switch and walked over to the fridge, opening it and leaning in to see if she could locate something that would serve for breakfast. Had it just been her and Becky she wouldn’t have bothered — Alej would feed his daughter on their way home or she’d get something once they got there, and the workers at the local grill house were accustomed to her showing up for an unhealthy brunch on the weekends. Her conscience didn’t allow her to expect Splotch to put up with that kind of breakfast, however.

A couple of eggs, a few slices of bacon, and two slices of toast found their way into a cast-iron frying pan on the stove, and were happily sizzling away while Raven retrieved a pair of only slightly chipped plates and three mugs from a cupboard above the kitchen counter. Freshly-brewed coffee was still dripping into the carafe when she picked it up and filled two of the mugs about three quarters of the way with the bitter liquid. From a shelf above the fridge she picked one of several bottles, all of them made from dark glass with a black screw-on cap. The scent of vanilla as she poured a generous glob of syrup into one of the cups didn’t quite manage to drown out the smell of frying breakfast.

“You not making anything for me?” Becky asked, poking her head into the kitchen.

“No, your dad can feed you when he’s picked you up.”

“But Raven…”

“Want coffee? No? Grab yourself some juice in the fridge and tell Arvel there’s some ready for him.”

“‘Arvel’, huh?” the raev-wyvern hybrid grinned as she passed her older sister.

“Shut it and tell him his coffee’s ready, short stuff. Unless you’d rather wait for Alej down on the street.”

The girl rolled her eyes and knocked on the bedroom door, much more carefully than she had earlier the same morning when waking Raven up. “Hey, Splotch!” She opened the door and continued with a series of sounds that would probably sooner be expected from a fox or possibly a dog than a human being, her ears and tails becoming much more animated as she spoke. Past the girl, Raven could see Splotch, looking somewhat bothered, his ears turning red and folding halfway back. He forced a smile onto his face and nodded when Becky finished off whatever she was saying with another sentence in Erigineean. “Oh, and Raven says your coffee’s ready.”

Her stepsister was looking way too smug for Raven’s comfort as the girl returned to the living room and turned on the television. She handed her half-raev guest his mug before lifting and taking a sip from her own. “What was that all about?”

“Well… Let’s just say we weren’t fooling anyone.” He took his mug in both hands, tilting it slightly and lapping at the dark liquid in it. It only took a few seconds before he sputtered, grimaced, and looked at Raven over the rim of the mug, however. “With all due respect, Raven… You really suck at making coffee.”

“My coffee’s fine,” she protested, taking a large mouthful from her own mug and then offering it to him.

He had a small sip, and laughed. “Yes, your coffee’s fine; I can’t really taste the coffee in it. You have any more of that syrup?”

“Top of the fridge, help yourself.”

She turned back to the stove as he went to mask the flavor of the mouth-curlingly bitter coffee she’d offered him, using a table knife to nudge the toast and bacon around in the pan. The food sizzled happily, and she’d just flipped the toast out of the pan onto the plates when the doorbell rang. With a playful swat to Splotch’s rump she passed him on her way out of the kitchen, heading through the living room to the front door.

Becky didn’t seem to be in any hurry to get to the door, sprawling in her usual spot under the coffee table watching some TV series that just barely seemed to stay this side of pornographic. Raven rolled her eyes and opened the door, letting the uniformed half-raev outside catch her in a tight hug.

“Morning, Poodle-Twat,” she greeted him, her voice muffled by the hold he had on her. “Can I have my ribcage back now?”

“Morning, Carrion-Breath.” He released her and held her at arm’s length. “New wardrobe, huh?”

“I didn’t get to sleep as early as Becky did,” she replied, carefully avoiding mentioning the exact reason why she hadn’t slept. It wasn’t so much that she thought Alej would take offense as that she wasn’t sure how keen Splotch was on him knowing. “She woke me, barely had time to put coffee on and start breakfast.”

“You don’t happen to have an extra cup of coffee?”

“I was counting on you wanting some.” She lead him to the kitchen, finding it oddly satisfying to see Becky hurry to change the channel when he got into a position to possibly see the television screen. “How was work?”

“Uneventful.” He shrugged. “I’m not complaining; if I have something to do it means someone’s in trouble, after all. This way I got plenty of time to catch up on paperwork, talk to Jeevi, and show Taver who’s better at cheating at cards.”

“You didn’t!” She laughed and reached out with one hand to support herself against the archway to the kitchen. “You’re supposed to be honest!”

“Have to be some perks to working overnight, aside from only getting to do dangerous work.” He paused, ears twitching. “You have company?”

“Arvel stayed the night.” With that she continued into the kitchen, noting with some relief that her guest had taken over tending the food still in the frying pan. “Hey, kitty, you remember Alej?”

The werejaguar started, ears folding back as he glanced down at himself, seeing rather more spotted fur than would have been appropriate in front of a stranger, much less a stranger currently wearing the uniform of a North Avelyon Police Department officer. “Umm… Yeah. You should’ve told me he was coming, Raven.”

“I did tell you to get dressed because he was coming to pick up Becky.”

“Before I had my coffee doesn’t count.” He looked at Alej, forcing his muzzle into a smile. “Excuse me, sir.”

The fox took his time responding, quite blatantly looking over the cat that was standing there in his underwear while Splotch appeared more and more embarrassed. Had he been human, or another plantigrade race, Raven got the impression he’d have leaned back on his heels — as it was he stood a lot lower on his toes than usual, low enough that the sickle-claws at his heels almost could have touched the floor. Then, the tip of his tongue touching his canines for just a moment, he spoke. “No need to trouble yourself for my sake, Arvel.”

“That’s… Quite alright. You’ve got the stove, Raven?”

“Yes, you go ahead and get some clothes on you. Shoo.” She couldn’t quite stop a grin from creeping onto her face as she watched him turn and walk into her bedroom, not taking her eyes off his ass until he shut the door behind him. A glance at her stepfather, whose swaying tail betrayed him even as he kept his face straight, told her she’d not been the only one watching. “You didn’t!”

“He’s a handsome guy, he’s got a nice ass, and if it wasn’t for Roxeen and the fact I’m old enough to be his father…”

“You should tell him that.” She walked over to the stove and picked up the spatula Splotch had managed to find somewhere, nudging a few slices of bacon around the frying pan. “A compliment or two wouldn’t be wasted on him.”

“Looking like that, he must be drowning in them. You’re a lucky girl.”

“You know, that’s what I thought, but the poor boy could really use some loving. A fucking waste is what it is.” She flipped the eggs over and poked them with one corner of the spatula as they sizzled.

“I take you had a more eventful night than I, then.”

“Dad’ll kill you if he hears you asked.” She chuckled and stretched, arching her back. An edge of the sheet slipped loose, but she took no notice of it. “But I’ll tell you one thing. Those girls, and guys, have no fucking clue what they’ve been missing. Sure beats the hell out of cruising clubs with Aunt ‘Retta.”

“Now… Aretta picked me up when she was clubbing.”

“What can I say? She’s luckier than I am, that’s for sure. Making an exception for last night, of course.”

“Definitely not seeing me bringing this conversation up with Roxeen. I get the impression he’d rather pretend you don’t have a sex life.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Raven muttered under her breath, lifting the pan off the stove and shoving a fried egg and some bacon onto each plate. The spatula went into the sink along with the frying pan, before she grabbed the last of the mugs she’d brought out and poured coffee into it. A few drops came through the filter while she was still holding the carafe, landing with a hiss as they vaporized on the heated surface. “Your coffee, Poodle-Twat.”

“Thanks. Been waiting all night for that.”

“Can’t you get coffee at work? I thought you had coffee machines?”

“Broken, and since day shift can easily go across the street to the coffee shop…” He lowered his muzzle into the mug, lapping at the dark liquid. The door to Raven’s bedroom creaked slightly when Splotch opened it, and the human woman had to smile at how her stepfather’s ears first perked then drooped.

“You shouldn’t have buttoned up your shirt,” she grinned at the werejaguar, picking up her coffee in one hand and both plates in the other as she spoke. “I think Alej liked stealing glances at you.” Her voice changed pitch into a conversation-volume version of a conspiratoric whisper. “He’d like to undress you with more than just his eyes.”

The youth was blushing, blushing badly, and his joke came out on the shaky and barely-audible side. “At least I don’t make it as hard as some people I know.”

“Come along, now, the two of you. I’m not a horse and so I would like to sit down to eat my breakfast. Arvel, be a darling and get us silverware from the strainer, will you?”

She strode into the living room and let the two males pass her, then almost dropped the food she was carrying when she saw Becky casually shift under the table and flip her tails onto the couch. They completely covered the cushion closest to the window, and Becky didn’t bat an eye as her father had to walk around the coffee table to sit down at the other end of the couch. As soon as he was seated, however, the teenager shifted back to her original position, feigning interest in a nature show about dragonbirds until the colorful birds’ screeching on screen drove Alej to ask her to turn the sound off and she opted for turning the television off entirely.

In the resulting silence, the sound of porcelain scraping against porcelain as Raven shifted her grip on the plates was clearly audible, and she almost flinched at how loud it seemed. Then she collected herself and walked over to the window, put the plates and her mug down on the table, and sat down in much the same spot as she’d occupied the previous night, happy to see Splotch had taken the hint and followed her. She accepted a mismatched set of knife and fork from him, shifted her plate onto her lap, and leaned against his side as she started to cut a corner from the toast.

“So how are you guys doing?” she asked, gesturing with her bread-adorned fork in Alej’s general direction. “Dad’s not been saying much.”

“You know him,” the fox sighed, absently fluffing the ruby-red fur on his neck. “If it involves his health he’d rather pretend like nothing’s the matter unless it’s bad enough to be crippling.”

“I should just tell granddad what the doctor said. Maybe then he’ll listen.” She shoved the bread into her mouth, followed by half a slice of bacon, then turned her head to address Splotch. “My dad’s the only one who’d think being under enough stress to suffer chest pains is nothing to worry about. You know he was anorexic in high school?”

“One of his faults mom’s mentioned,” the werecat sighed. “Though not nearly as often as some of his other flaws. I’d be surprised if Em and Sunny told her where they were going when they asked her to babysit.”

“He told her they were catching a movie with friends.” She turned back to her stepfather. “So how has he been doing?”

“Either someone at the club managed to scare him into dropping something that was causing him stress, or he talked Ace into doing something about the symptoms.” Alej took a drink from his mug. “Either way he seems to be doing better now.”

“He still mad at me?”

“You could probably come around… But bring Gail if you want to be on the safe side.” Alej leaned back in the couch, looking at the girl as he lapped at his coffee. “And you? What’ve you been doing?”

“Business as usual.” She shrugged, eating several mouthfuls of her food. “Thinking about getting a roommate.”

“Any particular reason?”

“Aunt ‘Retta has Grace. Honestly I’m not sure I feel safe going out with random guys without someone expecting me back who can call the police if I don’t come home.”

“See, I told Roxeen you were sensible.” The way he tilted his head and leaned over slightly suggested that the police officer was about to address Splotch even before he spoke. “What’re your arrangements like, Arvel?”

Raven cut in before the blushing werejaguar behind her could open his mouth. “You can borrow my bed if you’re that desperate, Poodle-Twat.”

Alej drew a deep breath, taking his time to answer. “While the notion is appealing, I don’t think your father would appreciate that, Miss Scavenger. Speaking of…” He drank down the last of the coffee. “Becky and I should get moving so I make it home with the car before he needs to take it to work. You kids have a good day.”

Raven leaned back as Alej pulled his daughter from under the coffee table, whispering in Splotch’s ear. “What he really means is he wants to make it home in time to get laid before dad needs to get going. You hold on for a minute while I walk them to the door.”

She reached back, stroking and fondling him through the fabric of his pants until she could start to feel him growing hard, then rose from her seat to follow her stepfather and -sister. The sheet she’d wrapped around herself when Becky had woken the two of them up had gotten caught under the werejaguar’s thigh when he sat down, and her movement was all that was needed to make it slide off her shapely body. It took her another two steps to realize she was naked, by which time Splotch was already possibly blushing worse than he had at any point previously since he arrived to her apartment.

Her stepfather seemed no less embarrassed, the stiffness with which he carried his tail and the way he’d suddenly become very interested in the cover of the clothing mail-order catalog at the top of a stack of magazines Gail had placed on the floor by the doorway the previous night more obvious cues than words could ever have been. With a smile and not much in the way of shyness for her own sake, Raven continued forward, ushering the raev and his daughter into the foyer to put on their sandals and start on their way home. It wasn’t as though Becky hadn’t seen her naked before, and the awkward manner in which her father’s boyfriend avoided looking straight at her was endearing.

Her amusement didn’t last long, though. Once over the initial shock Splotch had evidently picked up the sheet, because he appeared behind her and draped it over her shoulders. “You dropped this, Raven.”

“Oops,” she replied, her voice chipper. “Silly me.”

“See you in two weeks, Rae, Splotch!” Becky said, waving with one of her partially webbed hands as she unlocked the door and pushed down the handle. “C’mon, daddy! Car’s down at the street, right?”

“Yes, it is. I’ll be right with you in a moment.” Alej turned to Raven and Splotch with a somewhat awkward smile. “Well… I hope I’ll see you soon. Please do stop by, but… Try to be a bit better dressed, and try not to antagonize your father like that again.”

“I’ll try, but… No promises. I might stop by after work some time next week.”

“You do that. Nice to meet you, Arvel.”

“Likewise, sir,” the werejaguar replied, still standing behind Raven.

The pair remained where they were, in the doorway between the living room and foyer, until the door shut behind the uniformed man’s back. Slowly, Raven’s remaining guest slipped one of his arms around her waist, the other brushing her hair to the side to let him nuzzle at the nape of her neck. With a soft moan she leaned back onto him, trusting him to catch and support her weight.

“We should probably finish breakfast before anything else,” he murmured, and she shivered at the feeling of his hot breath on his skin.

“Mmmh.” She ran the fingers of one hand along his arm, felt his fingers flex against her through the sheet in response, but made no move to stand up any straighter.

“At least come back to the couch,” he coaxed, planting a row of kisses down the side of her neck to her shoulder. She sucked in a quick breath, reaching up half-reflexively to grab a handful of fur on the back of his neck. For a moment, he froze, and then, when she didn’t release her hold, grazed her pale skin with his fangs. She shivered, fingers going limp in his fur, her head leaning back against the side of his neck. His voice was slightly rough when he continued. “It will be much more comfortable.”

“Mmmhmm.” This time, she seized his arm for balance, the sheet slipping off her shoulders when he helped her up and it was no longer sandwiched between their bodies. Raven looked down at it for a few moments, then smiled, shrugged and stepped over it. Her apartment was warm enough and goodness knew she wouldn’t need to cover up for Splotch’s sake. He’d already gotten a good close look and a tour of what she had to offer, and she doubted he’d have forgotten this soon.

They settled in together on the couch, leaning together. She did pick her plate back up, mostly because he lifted his silverware, making it clear that he at least was planning on finishing his breakfast, but once she took a bite of her fried egg she had to admit the previous night’s pizza was running pretty thin. It didn’t stop her from carefully maneuvering his arm around her, but it did motivate her to actually finish what was on her plate. Once she’d set it and her silverware down to the coffee table, she cuddled up to his side while he finished his food, her hand finding its way under his shirt to rub his back while he ate.

He’d barely set his dishes down on the coffee table before she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him into a kiss, filled with a different kind of hunger than the one they’d just sated. He sucked on her tongue, ran the rough surface of his own tongue over it, and leaned her back against the back of the couch and straddling her thighs. As they kissed she frantically unbuttoned his shirt, then continued lower to unbuckle his belt and undo his fly.

One of his hands found her breast, squeezing it and rubbing one slightly-rough finger pad over the nipple. With a strangled cry she arched up against him, her hand plunging inside his pants to pull out his hard member.

He groaned as her fingers wrapped around him, his hips automatically shifting to thrust into her hand. She continued to kiss him as she stroked his length, keeping her touch light and moving her fingers slowly even as he tried to press into her hand. When his moans rose to a whimper, she had pity on him, taking her hand off and resting her palm on his chest.

“Sit back on the couch and close your eyes,” she whispered, pulling back a bit. She could feel his heartbeat against her palm, racing.

He remained where he was for a moment, blinked, and then reluctantly shifted his weight back, standing. She smiled at him, running a hand along his thigh, and stood along with him. The space between the couch and the coffee table wasn’t really meant for two adults, and forced her to wrap her arms around her partner for balance. Between the edges of his open shirt, soft fur pressed against her skin.

Slowly, they spun around, and he didn’t quite drop onto the couch, reaching back to support himself against the back of it in time to sweep his tail out of the way, and then easing down. She leaned down, one hand on each side of his shoulders, and brushed her lips against his eyelids in a gentle reminder that he’d been asked not to look.

One eye on the werejaguar, she reached behind one of the couch cushions, found the flattened cardboard box stashed behind it, and pulled out a small foil-wrapped package. Condom in hand, she kneeled in front of him, nudging his knees apart to give her space, and sucked in enough of his length that it bumped against the back of her throat and she had to pull back a mite and pause to suppress her gag reflex.

The wet sound of her mouth on his cock might not quite have been enough on its own, but along with the moans that rose from his throat it certainly was enough to drown out whatever noise there was when she tore the package open, even to his ears, and pulled out the rolled-up rubber. One of his hands came to rest on the back of her head, not demanding anything, and she let him keep it there, enjoying the feel of his fingers in her hair. But enjoyable as it was to listen to him as she sucked and licked him towards release, that wasn’t what she’d planned, and soon she had to shrug that hand off and pull back, almost changing her mind when she heard the disappointed tone in his voice.

Almost.

What she was about to do would make up for it, or so she hoped.

She rolled on the condom in one swift move and straddled his lap before he had time to quite take in what was happening. When she lowered herself onto him, taking him in to the hilt, he opened his eyes and met her gaze. Raven didn’t admonish him for it; she was done playing mysterious. Instead, she wrapped one arm about his shoulders, the hand of the other resting on the back of his head and guiding his muzzle down to her chest as she started to lift off of him.

It didn’t take long for her to find a rhythm that seemed to work for them both, and she rather enjoyed the way his hands gripped her hips, fingertips digging in as he slid into her, while his rough tongue rasped across the sensitive skin on her breasts. More than anything, though, the excitement rising in her until she was riding high on it came from the effect she had on him. Looking down at him as he lapped at her chest, feeling his fingers spasm, and hearing him gasp and moan as she rode him and he bucked up against her was all she needed.

After how thorough she had been in getting him so worked up, it was hardly a surprise that he didn’t last very long, and she leaned against him when he squeezed her close, feeling him shudder as he filled the thin rubber. Once he stilled, she reached down, somewhat awkwardly, to hold it in place as she climbed off him. He leaned his head back and panted while she pulled the condom off, his whiskers twitching when she leaned over and kissed his nose.

“Would you be a darling and help me lace up my corset before you leave?” she asked softly, piling their dirty dishes up in preparation for bringing them to the kitchen.

“Didn’t you say,” he replied slowly, “you were wearing it because you didn’t expect to need to get out of it in a hurry?”

“Were you planning on coming back tonight?” she shot back and smiled at him over her shoulder. “I could rent another movie… One Gail wouldn’t like.”

“I hadn’t planned on it. I’ve got to meet a couple of classmates to work on a group project, not sure how long that’ll take.”

“Then what’re you worried about? I didn’t say you had to leave now, did I?” She carried the dishes into the kitchen, not waiting to see if he followed. The used condom found its way into the trash can in the cupboard under the sink, and ran the water until it was hot before she plugged the sink and reached for the bottle of detergent perched precariously on the edge of the sink next to the faucet.

“Not that I mind the view,” came the werejaguar’s voice from the doorway, “but shouldn’t you put something on before doing the dishes?”

“Bit of water won’t kill me,” she chuckled, pouring detergent into the hot water. “In fact I was planning to hop in the shower once I’m done here. You want to go first while I clean up?”

She didn’t hear him cross the floor, but suddenly he was behind her, running a finger down her spine and making her shiver. “”Mind if I wait for you?”

She shook her head and chuckled. “Want more already? I thought I’d worn you out.”

“I can wait.” His hand slid up her back to her shoulder, while his other hand came to rest on her other shoulder, gently squeezing. “And if I recall correctly, you were the one who was worn out last night.”

“You did outlast me there, yes,” she admitted, scrubbing cheese from a plate. Her hands sank, lowering the plate and brush into the dish water, as he squeezed a bit tighter. “That feels nice. Continue and I’ll never get done here.”

He lifted his hands, only far enough that she could barely feel a shadow of his touch against her skin. “If you say so…”

“I didn’t say stop.”

“But,” he murmured, laying his hands back on her and letting them slide down to and around her waist until his arms were wrapped around her, “you did say you were going to finish up here before showering, and I would like to join you.” A gentle squeeze, and she leaned back against him for a moment in response. “It doesn’t have to mean sex if you’ve had enough. You’ve been great to me already, Raven.”

“Will you wash my hair for me?” she asked, mostly joking.

He answered with a light kiss to the base of her neck and a question of his own. “Will you wash mine?”

“Get your hands back on my shoulders while I finish this and I will.” She scrubbed harder, finally getting the last traces of cheese off the porcelain, rinsed the plate off and set it down in the strainer. While doing the dishes was far from her favorite chore, having an attractive young man giving her a backrub while she worked at it made it less frustrating, and whatever time she lost due to him distracting her seemed to be made up for by how she didn’t get fed up with it nearly as fast.

What still seemed like very near an eternity later, she placed the last piece of silverware in the strainer and pulled the plug in the sink, leaning back into the werejaguar’s arms.

“All done?”

“All yours now, tiger,” she confirmed, reaching up to ruffle the fur on his head and making him chuckle. “Let’s hit the shower before we get stuck in here.”

Even so they lingered in the kitchen, embracing and kissing tenderly. An outsider might have mistaken them for a couple, taken the gentleness of their touches for fairy-tale love rather than the very real mutual respect and non-romantic affection they felt. She could feel his arousal through the fabric of his pants, pressing against her naked thigh as he held her close, and she felt a tingle run through her body when he responded to the squeeze she gave his rear with a groan and pressed against her.

Their progress through the apartment was slow, starting out mostly following the kitchen walls with one or the other of them bumping into a wall or a cupboard every so often. In the doorway to the short hallway beyond Raven paused for a moment, then reached across it and opened the door to her bedroom. The werejaguar pulled back a few inches, looking uncertainly at her.

“Just a quick detour,” she murmured, kissing his nose. “I don’t usually have people join me in the shower.” She slipped out of his embrace, slunk through the open door, and returned only seconds later, without even trying to hide the small flat package she’d retrieved. With no clothing to hide them in, why bother? “I’d hate to miss out because I don’t keep any of these in the bathroom.”

“But you keep them in your couch?” He didn’t look convinced, and she laughed at him.

“Today wouldn’t be the first time I did someone on the couch, but try to get some of the guys I’ve brought home into a shower… And that’s if they’re around when I wake up.” She rolled her eyes, held her arm out to invite him to come closer. When he did, she draped it over his shoulders and leaned in to kiss his cheek. “At least I have enough sense to realize not all guys are like that. Just the ones I used to pick up.”

“You stopped going out? I thought you liked clubbing.”

“Oh, I do. But like I told Alej, it doesn’t seem worth the risk to pick up one-night-stands that way any longer, and hitting the clubs would be, well… Like walking into a candy shop when you’re on a diet.”

“You’d rather avoid the temptation?”

“Something like that, yeah.” She leaned into him a bit more, until he took the hint and wrapped his arms around her, one resting on her shoulder blade and the other just above her buttock. Her arm remaining draped across his shoulders, she leaned in and buried her nose in the fur on the side of his neck, drawing a deep breath, while her other hand undid his belt. “I’ve got all the temptation I need right here.”

“That’s nice,” came his throaty reply, as he spun her around and gently but firmly pressed her against the wall. Moments later, his lips pressed against hers, and she eagerly parted her lips to let his tongue pass. She sucked on it, and felt him tense up just before he bucked forward, grinding the tent in his pants against her leg.

They parted, panting, and their eyes met. For a few moments they stood there, chests heaving, Raven’s breath ruffling her partner’s whiskers. A smile crept onto the woman’s face, and she glanced down the hallway for a moment. The door to the bathroom was cracked open, showing little more than a sliver of darkness. She looked back to him, and then, in unspoken agreement, they moved those last few steps as one, slipping into the dark room. Raven, having entered first, turned and reached past Splotch, pulling the door shut behind them and eliminating what little light there was in the room. Moments later, her fingers slid over the light switch, bathing the white tile in harsh light.

“Well, then,” she almost purred, running a finger along his jaw and down his throat to the collar of his shirt, “let’s get you out of these, shall we?” Not waiting for an answer she hooked her finger inside his collar, pulling him into a kiss even as she used her free hand to lift his hands to her body, his fingertips brushing her collar bones. Then she brought that hand up to start on the top button of his shirt.

It could easily be argued that Raven was less of a help than a hindrance as she worked to get him out of his clothes. Her lips stayed pressed against his as she unbuttoned his shirt, his hands caressing her chest and occassionally making her gasp into his mouth.

The shirt remained hanging from the crook of his elbows as her hands moved lower to unbutton his fly. He pressed back against her hands as she did so, and she couldn’t resist reaching in to give him a good feel, continuing to work on his pants one-handed as he bucked into her touch.

Before she could reach back to undo the clasp over his tail he Changed, fur pulling back into his skin and tail into his spine, his lips changing shape and texture against hers as his muzzle melted away. She pulled back for a moment, grinning.

“That felt… interesting.”

He smiled back at her, eyes looking slightly glazed. No wonder, with her hand still fondling the hard flesh hidden inside his pants and underwear. “No use taking the time to undo that clasp if I’ll be in this shape to shower anyway, is there?”

She reached out behind her and placed the packaged condom on the edge of the sink, then curled her fingers around the waistband of his pants. A shiver ran through her as she leaned in against him and he squeezed her breasts in response, backing up to keep his balance until his back was against the door. Raven followed him inch by inch, teasing his pants down past his hips as she leaned in and gave the side of his neck a light nibble. He moaned, a shiver running through him as one of his hands clenched on her shoulder for support.

With a deep, unsteady breath, Raven pushed the werecat’s pants further down, until she could leave it to gravity to finish the job. He moaned louder when she started to suck on his throat, the fingers of one of her hands tangling in his long hair, black like his father’s, tilting his head back. Her thigh slipped between his, the palm of her free hand pressing against the small of his back and encouraging him to rub against her. When she straightened up, she left a dark mark behind on his skin, which she brushed her fingertips across with a soft giggle.

“There. Barely recognized you without the spots.”

“So that’s what you were up to?” he rumbled, his eyes half-lidded as he looked at her.

“That, and as I said…” She kissed him, briefly, lips brushing lips, but not more. “I’m a sucker for temptation, and I’ve found one hell of a candy store. The way you keep distracting me I don’t know if I’ll make it into the shower.”

“Sorry for blowing your diet.” He ran one hand down her side and squeezed her buttock, not seeming particularly sorry at all. With the thrill that his touch sent through her, she couldn’t say she was, either.

“I should think that I’ll survive.” She closed her eyes for a few moments, took several deep breaths. “Get your ass in the shower, handsome.” Even with him stepping out of the pants pooled at his feet and dropping his shirt on top of them as soon as she’d spoken, she was quick enough — or impatient enough — to start to move ahead of him and pull him along by his wrist.

He chuckled, letting himself be dragged into the shower stall that took up the back wall of the roomy bathroom. Once the sliding door was closed behind them, Raven pulled him close, kissing him, while fumbling behind her to turn the water on. It was hard to tell which one of them yelped the loudest as frigid water cascaded down over them, leaving both of them shivering at the far end of the stall, mostly out of the spray.

Their eyes met, and Raven started to laugh, reaching out to steady herself against the wall with one hand. For a few moments her guest just stared at her, then he joined her. When the water started to heat up, they were still laughing, though starting to calm down a bit.

“I guess you got your cold shower.”

That sent Raven into a new fit of laughter, her forehead bumping into Splotch’s chest as she doubled over. “I should’ve… turned that on… before we… got in, shouldn’t I?”

He gently straightened her up and kissed her forehead. “You probably should have, yeah.”

“Well,” she said slowly, sticking her leg into the spray from the showerhead to test the temperature, “we’ve got warm water now. Let’s get you wet and I’ll get you lathered up like I promised.”

“I wasn’t really going to hold you to that…”

“Oh, nonsense. Come here.” The push she gave him on its own wasn’t even enough to make him shift to keep his balance, more directing the young man, but he obediently stepped into the now-warm stream of water, tilting his face up into the spray.

Only then did she remember what he’d said about her scratching him the previous night, or indeed realize that he’d not had his back turned to her in human shape since. Thin red crescent-marks dotted his back, and far as she could judge they’d at some point bled or been very close to it. The longer scratch lines were less marked, little more than an odd deviation in skin color, almost healed already, but she still felt a sting of guilt.

She brushed her fingers over one set of four nail-marks, biting her lip. Maybe the breath she let out, the one she hadn’t known she’d been holding, shuddered a little.

“Ravaethinne?” He twisted to look at her over his shoulder, one eyebrow arched. “What’s wrong?”

“Arvel, I…” The urge to hold him close was overwhelming, yet for several long seconds she found herself unable to move. He touched the wrist of her still-lifted hand, and the contact was enough to break the spell. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him tightly against her chest, her lips close to his ear as she kept repeating her apology. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, I… Oh, God, I’m so sorry! I–”

“Sssh.” He patted her back and turned his head enough to press his lips to hers. She felt herself tense up, cut off mid-sentence, but relaxed when he didn’t pressure her any further. There was no demand for her to let his tongue past her lips, just that gentle, chaste kiss. They remained that way as water pelted down on them both, soaking their hair and slowly leeching the tension out of her. Not until she relaxed her hold on him did the werejaguar break the kiss, giving her a light peck on the cheek before he spoke. “I told you last night, it’s nothing to worry about. It’ll heal.”

“I’m really so sorry!”

“No need to apologize. It didn’t hurt, in fact I rather liked it at the time. As for the marks, a few days and you’d never know it happened.” He lifted his hand to caress her cheek, and she tilted her head into the touch. “It’s one of those things that happen, okay?”

She nodded, hesitantly, and unwrapped her arms from around him. With a faint smile she reached up and ran her fingers through his hair, lifting it to help the water soak through. “I guess.” She wasn’t quite convinced, but the way he closed his eyes and smiled while she played with his hair was at least enough to prove beyond doubt to her that at least he was enjoying that. It made her feel slightly better about having scratched him up that badly the previous night.

Eventually the pretense that she was just making sure his hair was sufficiently wet did wear thin, especially with the knowledge that while she’d get quite a bit of hot water out of the shower yet, it could run out. It was with a certain amount of apprehension that she finally asked him to turn around and pass her a bottle of shampoo from the wire basket suspended from the shower knob. They both took a step back, far enough that the water from the faucet wouldn’t immediately rinse the lather out, and she squirted some of the viscous, faintly citrus-scented liquid from the plastic bottle he’d handed her.

“You’re lucky I’m not Gail or Becky,” she remarked as she snapped the lid on the bottle shut. “Here, hold this.”

He took it from her. “Aside from my doubt either of them would’ve done any of this for me, how so?”

“I’d hope you weren’t thinking about my sisters like that! If I’d been Gail, you’d be smelling like a rose garden about now,” she replied, amusement evident in her voice, as she massaged the semi-transparent pale yellow soap into his hair and started working up a fluffy lather. “And whatever Becky uses for her fur smells like bubblegum.”

“Probably wouldn’t help convince people I’m not gay,” he chuckled, leaning his head back.

“Not really, no.” She massaged his scalp, carefully making sure she wasn’t missing any of his hair. “Speaking of… I could probably dye your fur for you if you’d like. I don’t imagine it’d be much different to dying hair… Just a lot more of it.”

“Mother wouldn’t like it, but it’s a tempting thought.”

“Honestly, what doesn’t upset your mom? One condition, though.”

“Mmh?”

“I won’t dye it black or anything like that. I like your spots.”

“I guess navy blue is out, too, for the same reason?”

“Sorry, but them’s the breaks. Those spots of yours are way too cute to cover up. Let me know what you decide when you have some time and I’ll take you to pick out some dye. Aunt ‘Retta introduced me to a place.”

He nodded, but didn’t say anything more as Raven’s fingers worked through his hair. She continued for a while yet, working out the last traces of her guilt with the near-meditative activity. At long last, she placed her palm square in the middle of his back and nudged him forward until he stood with his face turned up against the spray of warm water, watery white suds running down his body as it washed the shampoo from his hair. She ran her fingers through it, lifting it and watching the water rushing across the tiled floor toward the drain, only pulling her hands back when it was completely clear.

She reached down, then, taking the shampoo bottle from the werejaguar and leaning forward to return it to its spot, her other arm wrapped around his waist for balance and pressing her breasts against his back. He reached back over his shoulder and absently traced the edge of her ear with his fingertips. She shivered and nuzzled his neck, remaining where she was until he turned around and kissed her, holding her close.

“I’ll put conditioner in it when we’re closer to done, or it’ll all wash out,” she mumbled when they broke the kiss. He simply smiled at her in response and picked the shampoo bottle back up, running the fingers of his free hand through her wet hair.

She stood with her eyes closed as he started washing her hair, relishing in the firm but gentle pressure against her scalp and the warm caress of water flowing down her body. Soon she was no longer really consciously thinking about his presence, much less worrying about his scratched skin. Instead she focused on the sensation of being so pampered.

The sound of a song she should’ve recognized from the radio, echoing slightly tinny through the room, jolted her out of her dreamlike relaxed state.

“That’s mine,” her partner said, rinsing his hands off and stepping past her. “I should take that, might be one of my classmates.”

“Of course,” Raven mumbled in reply, turning her back to the showerhead to start rinsing out her hair.

She could see him, distorted through the water-covered glass sliding doors, bend down and go through the pockets of his pants, pulling out his cell phone. The sound of the rushing water didn’t quite manage to drown his voice out.

“Hello? Good morning, Sunny. Sorry about missing the cab last night…” Raven couldn’t help but giggle at that. Apologetic as he might sound, she doubted the werejaguar was all that sorry for missing out on sharing a cab with his brother. For a few moments, Splotch stood silent, then he spoke, sounding somewhat reserved. “I think we’re both quite awake, thank you.”

It was possible Sunny had merely apologized for waking them, but Raven doubted it, and the way the side of the conversation she could hear continued it kept sounding less likely.

“I have a clue, yes. It’s really none of your business, but if you have to know, yes, Em was right. Why did you think Gail left in a huff? Even Becky caught on about that, Sunny.”

She leaned out of the shower, caught Splotch’s attention. “He asking about what went on after he left last night or something?”

He mouthed a simple ‘tell you later’, then turned his attention back to the phone. “Yes? Your point being?” He wasn’t quite sounding agitated, but it was clear that he thought his brother was talking nonsense. “Yes, and she’s hot. I’m not dating her. Was that all?”

When he spoke again his voice was more level, possibly disappointed. “I’ll try to be there.” That changed when he went on, a chilly edge creeping in. “I have some clue. I can’t say I blame her. Now, if you excuse me, you pulled me out of the shower. I’ll see you tonight.”

When he rejoined Raven, the look on his face suggested that had he not been in human shape at the moment, his ears would have been flat back against his head. He looked at her, sighed, and shook his head, obviously trying to let go of his frustration.

“What’d he say?”

“Wanted me to tell him that his fiancée was wrong about what you pulled last night during the movie.”

“How so? What’d Em think?”

“That you gave me a handjob.”

“Wait, what? I thought he knew that!”

Splotch shrugged and sighed. “So did I, but it seems we were wrong. He also had an invitation to mother’s for dinner and wanted me to know how you behaved when you two were alone last night.”

“That,” she said, tersely, “he deserved every bit of.”

“I believe you. Doesn’t change the fact that the only reason I won’t hear about it until my ears fall off tonight is that he’d have to tell Em what he said to provoke you.”

“That wouldn’t go over well. Guess that invitation means you’re definitely not coming over tonight?”

“Afraid not. I would like to do this again, though.”

She smiled, pulling him into a tight embrace, letting her hands wander across his back. “I’d like that.”

He kissed her collar bone, let his lips trace a line across her skin up the side of her throat to her ear. When he licked her earlobe she held him tighter, suddenly feeling unsteady, and he eased her back to lean against the wall. The cold tile made her tense up for a few moments until she grew used to it, then she seized a handful of his hair to pull him in close. One of his hands hit the tile above her shoulder, muscles playing under his skin as he used that arm to support himself as he kissed her.

She sucked his lip into her mouth, nibbling gently at it and drawing a soft moan from him. Their concerns about his brother were forgotten for the moment, replaced by the touch of eager hands and lips on hot skin. She could feel him shift as he found his balance, taking his hand from the wall and moving it, too, onto her wet skin. His fingers played her like an instrument, fondling her breasts and then, when he broke their kiss and ducked his head to place his mouth over one of her stiff nipples, caressing her hips and stomach. Her fingernails slid across the skin on his back as she reflexively tried to cling to him, making him groan in response.

He was still definitely there, his fingers brushing teasingly over her neatly-trimmed mound until she was panting like a dog with need, when the sliding door opened, making her jerk her head up and open her eyes in surprise. Slowly, the half-raev’s lips lifted off her skin, leaving a mark on the curve of her breast much like the one she’d left on his neck earlier.

“It’s just me,” he murmured, wiggling the fingers of his outstretched hand a bit for emphasis. She had to smile as moments later, the foil package she’d left on the sink turned up in his hand, and the door slid shut again with a flick of his wrist. “Wouldn’t want to leave you and miss…” The hand that had been teasing her slid lower, his fingers spreading her to the cool air a moment before they caressed her sensitive spot and made her cry out. “…This.”

He was blocking most of the spray from the showerhead, but water ran off the tendrils of his hair that hung over his shoulders, hitting her stomach and forming small streams across her sensitive skin. Eyes half-lidded, she whimpered as his fingers went back to teasingly brushing along the edges of her labia, longing to feel him inside her again. “Arvel.”

“Yes, Ravaethinne?” He’d obviously caught on to the effect it had on her when he, like his father before him, used her given name in that manner. Most people only managed to annoy her when they did so, but there were exceptions.

“Fuck. Me. Now.”

“If you insist.” She shivered in anticipation as he leaned closer to her, arched up against him when he kissed her throat, blunt teeth scraping across her skin. His hand left her to tear the small package open and roll the rubber he pulled from it onto his hard member, and she took a firm hold of his shoulders in anticipation of what was to come. For a moment he paused, studying her heaving chest, and then he guided his length into her.

She was very grateful she’d had the bathroom floor redone with non-slip tile when she moved in as he started to fill her, pushing inward in one slow stroke, continuing to push until he was hilted inside her. It was enough to make her knees unsteady, not that she was worried that her partner would let her fall. Even so she clung to him, her breaths coming in short gasps as he started to thrust into her, steam from the water making the air heavy and wrapping her brain in clouds. Her gasps turned into groans which turned into cries as he built up speed, and the sound of his breathing, the feel of the water falling on both of them like heavy, warm rain, and his hands gripping her waist all served to heighten her excitement.

It was just added bonus that the sound of the shower helped muffle the noise they made.

When Splotch thrust hard into her and shuddered, she was already weak-kneed enough that he was helping her stay upright. When he pulled out to take off and dispose of the condom, she slid down against the wall, coming to sit on the hard floor, chin resting on her knees and arms wrapped around her doubled-up legs. The trash can, next to the sink, was only a step or two from the shower stall, close enough that the werejaguar did little more than step out through the sliding door and turn before noticing her on the floor.

“Raven? Something wrong?” He was kneeling next to her, brushing hair from her forehead in a vain attempt to get a sense of her body temperature. She just shook her head in reply to the question, not trusting her voice, and lifted one hand towards him. It trembled until her fingertips touched his cheek, the contact steadying her. He smiled and kissed her forehead, then the tip of her nose, giving her a somewhat awkward hug. “Need to catch your breath for a moment?” She nodded, it was close enough to the truth.

A minute, maybe two, passed with him kneeling next to her on the floor, before she felt steady enough to attempt to stand back up. As soon as she started to move he was on his feet, offering her his hands, and it was easier than she’d have thought to get back upright when he helped her. Oh, her knees still felt somewhat jello-like, but it was no worse than what a few drinks and a night of dancing usually did to her.

“Thanks. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

She gave him an only slightly shaky smile. “I guess now I know why I don’t normally do these things on my feet.”

“Are you going to be okay now?” At her nod, he reached for the wire basket on the wall with its colorful plastic bottles. “You got any soap somewhere here?”

“Blue bottle.” She reached over and turned the water down to a drizzle. “If you hand me the conditioner I’ll put some in, let it work while you soap up.”

“You’re going to spoil me.”

“Suits me fine,” she smiled, brushing hair out of his face and tucking it behind his ear. “Keep you coming back.”

“I’d come back anyway.” He passed a tube from the basket to her and she stepped behind him, pulling his hair back before flipping its cap back, squeezing a generous amount of conditioner into her hand.

She held the tube between her teeth as she started working the slick substance into his black hair. For a few moments he stood still, simply enjoying her attention, then he picked the blue bottle she’d directed him to from the wire basket. She probably spent more time than strictly neccesary running her fingers through his hair under the pretense of making sure the conditioner was evenly distributed, as an excuse to watch him lather up the soap and rub it over his body. When she had to finally rinse her hands off and start on her own hair, she kept her eyes on him, smiling appreciatively to herself when she thought he didn’t notice.

She continued watching him as discreetly as she could possibly manage, working conditioner into her hair, until she’d seen his hands run over practically every inch of his body and he turned to hand her the soap. With a slightly flustered smile she leaned past him and rinsed her hands off, then took the tube of conditioner from between her teeth and returned it to its spot. It was far from her to complain when he popped the lid of the soap open again and started running lather-slick hands over her back. She sighed in contentment, subconsciously shifting into the touch, and remained leaning in the same way until he slipped his hands off her with a playful pat to the back of her thigh. Hiding her disappointment that he’d stopped, she accepted the soap from him and stepped aside, away from the showerhead, to let him rinse off while she soaped up.

If watching the water rush down over his body made her stomach tingle a bit, she didn’t show any outward sign of it. She forced herself to concentrate on what she was doing, trying to keep the watching to stolen glances rather than blatant staring. Of course, rinsing soap off would take longer than rubbing it on, so her lack of focus alone wasn’t responsible when he was done well before she was.

“Need a hand?”

“If you’re offering…” She smiled at him, rubbing her hands suggestively over her breasts. “I’m almost done, but I can’t reach the small of my back so well.”

When she bent down to soap up her legs, and his hands ran over her lower back and ass, an ember of lust came to life in the pit of her stomach. For a short moment it was tempting to throw common sense and caution to the wind, then reality caught up with her and she bit back a half-pleased, half-frustrated groan. She’d seen the consequences reasoning along the lines of ‘just this once’ in Sunny and Em’s lives, and there was no reason to experience them first-hand. Now she’d definitely been given a reason to keep condoms in the bathroom as well.

He gave her a squeeze, and her breath caught for a moment. “Someone’s enjoying this.”

“Can you really blame me?” With suds clinging here and there to her legs down to the ankles, Raven straightened up. “It’s not every day I have a pretty fucking handsome guy groping my ass while I shower.”

“Flatterer.” He nudged her along into the spray from the showerhead, not that she was resisting. Eyes closed, she felt water run through her hair and down her body, taking with it soap suds, excess conditioner and whatever invisible dirt she’d been washing off in the first place. On some level she was hoping that he was watching, but it wasn’t long before she dismissed that thought as silly.

Once she’d rinsed off they didn’t linger, and when she pulled towels out of a cupboard in the corner for the two of them, Raven couldn’t resist throwing Splotch’s at him like an oversized, unwieldy, fluffy terrycloth snowball which unwrapped itself as it flew the short distance through the air. He laughed when he snatched it out of the air and used it to wipe water off his face before he set to drying his hair. She laughed with him, wrapped one towel about her hair, and pulled out another to dry her body.

“You can have another towel if you want one, you know,” she pointed out, gesturing to the half-open cupboard door and the neat stack of towels behind it. “Company New Year’s gifts.”

“Didn’t think you’d been with them that long.”

“Long enough.” She sighed. “I should probably have talked my so-called real father into paying for room and board so I could get a better education.”

“Have, well… Incidents like you told me about last night been going on all that time?”

“More or less.” A shrug. “Not always that blatant, but it’s been very clear some people would rather see me as the pair of tits that gets coffee than a coworker for a very long time.”

Once Splotch was dry, Raven wrapped her second towel around her body and stood leaning against the doorframe as she watched him pull his clothes on, though when he got as far as picking his shirt off the floor she snatched it from him with a grin.

“Much as I’d like to, I don’t have forever, Raven. Especially if I have to run off to Mother’s later I can’t afford to be late to meet my classmates.”

“You can have it after you help me with my corset.” She held the garment behind her back with one hand, reaching out to run her fingertips across his chest with the other, making him shiver. “Not like you need it until you’re leaving anyway.”

“Are you trying to convince me to stay?” He caressed the back of her hand, then took it into his, lifted it to his lips and kissed her fingers lightly.

“Maybe. I was going to drop by Gail’s before I head down to the shelter to walk the dogs, but I doubt she wants to see me right now.”

“Afraid I can’t do that. I really do need to get this group project done.”

She sighed, opened the door and let the cooler, dryer air from the rest of the apartment wash over her, giving her goosebumps for a moment before she adjusted. “I know. It’s just… Been a long time. For some reason I want to have people around me now.”

“You could head to the shelter early. I doubt they’d mind some extra help.”

“I… Suppose I could do that.” She spoke slowly, considered the suggestion even as she answered him. Going to the local animal shelter to help out by walking the dogs had been part of her weekend routine since she’d moved into this apartment, occassionally mixed up by helping with adoption drives at nearby pet stores, but doing more than that hadn’t occurred to her. But Splotch was right, an extra pair of hands was more likely than not to be very welcome there.

They both mostly kept their hands to themselves as they moved to her bedroom, a hint of a frown crossing her guest’s features as Raven picked up the corset she’d worn the previous night from where she’d hung it across the back of a chair. “What?”

“Seems like an awful lot of hassle for something you don’t need.” He smiled. “You’re not bad looking without it. And what do you do when I’m not around to help you?”

“I lace it on my own,” she replied, simply, lifting the garment and securing the row of tiny clasps along the front of it. With the laces loose, it would have dropped off her if she hadn’t been holding on to it. “A bit of help makes it easier. Come here.”

One reason she’d preferred Splotch over his twin, even back when she was their babysitter and had no reason to think of him as anything more than — at most — a past lover’s son, was that he actually listened to instructions. Oh, there had been occassions when he’d ignored them, but he’d listened and he’d knowingly chosen to ignore them. With Sunny, it had sometimes been a gamble whether he was acting up because he’d not listened in the first place or because he’d decided whatever he’d been told wasn’t worth listening to.

Now, he listened attentively when she told him how to pull the corset lacing tight without damaging the lacing or the garment, starting at the top and pulling the laces tight enough that the corset lay loosely against her skin down to her waist, then doing the same thing from the bottom up. Then she held the pair of lace loops that were left at her waist as he tightened the corset further until the edges of the reinforced fabric touched along her spine. The familiar feel of the snug garment holding her waist in and lifting her breasts was comforting to Raven, like the embrace of a trusted friend, dispelling some of the vague melancholy she felt at the thought of being left alone in her apartment again. Given that she’d so rarely fit in while growing up, loneliness wasn’t something that usually bothered her, so she was grateful of that burden being mostly lifted off her shoulders.

It was quite enough confusion that she was no longer completely sure how she felt about her friend.

Or, what that mattered, whether she really felt it for him, or for the father he so resembled.

He and Sunny and Saevrin’s side of their family could probably tell the two apart in jaguar shape as well, but she sure couldn’t, and unlike Sunny, Splotch had inherited his father’s dark hair and, at least in human and jaguar shape, green eyes. It had been too long since she’d seen him in fox shape for her to remember clearly if his eyes kept that color not at all matching that of his fur then.

She returned his shirt with some reluctance, while trying to tell herself she wasn’t trying to draw things out to get him to stay just a little longer. It did help a bit that he didn’t rush to throw it on, nor did he try to hurry her along in putting on her own clothing. The short-sleeved black blouse she picked showed a lot more cleavage than what she’d worn the previous night, but she elected to wear a pair of worn, faded, once-black jeans with it instead of the skirt she’d worn the previous night. Function before fashion was a good rule of thumb when she was heading down to the shelter, and she could always get changed after.

But even though he didn’t try to hurry her along, she couldn’t really in good conscience drag her feet to keep him around, either. A pair of white tube socks which few people would probably have guessed belonged to her went on her feet, and then she walked her guest out to the small vestibule where he’d left his shoes when he’d arrived the previous night.

“Thanks for the great company,” she managed, leaning back against the wall as he put on his sandals.

“Thank you. I’d really not expected all this, Raven.”

She smiled, and her smile widened as he turned his head slightly, the hickey she’d given him earlier in the morning showing above his collar. “Could I give you a piece of advice?”

“Sure.”

“You said people tend to think you’re gay, or too gay.”

“Yes?”

“I’d stay in that shape while working with your friends, if I were you.” She saw the brief look of confusion on his face as he straightened up, and reached up to touch her own neck. He mirrored the movement almost absently, and then understanding dawned on him. “Trust me on that one.”

“I should probably make sure I stay out of this shape at Mother’s, later, though. For much the same reason.”

That made her chuckle. “You’re probably right about that. I have a feeling your mom wouldn’t approve.”

He rolled his eyes. “If I always stuck to doing things that Mother would approve of… Anyway, I better get going.”

When he opened his arms for her she couldn’t resist, hugging him tightly and kissing him one last time. Time seemed to pass incredibly slowly while their lips were locked together, yet when they parted she wished they’d had more of it.

“Good luck.”

“I’ll call you,” he promised, pausing in the open door for a moment.

“They never do,” she laughed, as certain as she needed to be that he wouldn’t take offense at the ridiculous comparison.

“I’ll just have to come by and surprise you, then.”

The door shut behind him, the lock clicked, and Raven was alone in her apartment. For a few moments she listened to the deafening silence, then she decided she’d had enough of that and went to turn on the radio louder than her neighbors probably liked before settling down on the couch with one of the bottles of alcopop left over from the previous night.

In an hour or two, she’d head out to the shelter, after stopping by some restaurant for lunch on the way, but it was too early for lunch yet. Until then, half-sleeping on the couch while blasting music would be a good way as any to spend the weekend.



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