I just wanted to say thank you so much for all of your encouragement - it really did mean a lot to me. Even though this is not a typical shape shifter story and there is not enough sex in it for most readers and for this sort of site, I do hope that you continue to enjoy the story.
He led her up the stairs and they turned left at the landing to climb the flight to a dimly lit corridor.
The corridor had several doors leading from it, but most of these were closed. In fact only two doors stood slightly ajar.
James stopped before the first open door. "This is the master bedroom - my room," he explained as he pushed the door further, so that she could glance inside.
It was a very square room, decorated in a striking coffee and cream colour, with a large super queen-sized bed dominating it.
"You must get lost in that!" she muttered under her breath, as he ushered her along before she could see any more.
James laughed. "It is big - but I do like my space, even when I might be sleeping."
It was the 'might' bit that brought the colour to her cheeks, it was so full of promise.
"Now this is the room that you are free to use whilst you are here."
It was another large square room, but this one was slightly smaller, and the colour scheme was a pleasant blue and cream. The bed was a double bed, and the quilt looked fluffy and thick, as was the blue carpet when she stepped into the room, and her feet disappeared into the deep pile.
"It's lovely," she whispered as she gazed around her.
It was a very tranquil room, making her feel soothed and restful - ideal for sleeping in.
She turned back to James. "It is a very nice room... but I think that I prefer yours."
They left her bag in his bedroom, and hand in hand they walked back down the stairs and across the hallway to one of the side doors.
"This leads directly to the kitchen, where we can get something to eat - if you are hungry?"
Iris nodded enthusiastically. "I gave my sandwiches to Aunt Trudy - so I am absolutely famished actually."
He laughed lightly. "Good, me too," he said as he pushed open the kitchen door.
As Iris stepped through the door, her nose twitched in response to the rich meaty aroma that seemed to sweep out to greet them, almost as if welcoming them into the room.
"Oh that is just heavenly!"
James served up some of Alice's stew, whilst Iris carved up some thick slices of bread and lavishly buttered it.
"Normally we would eat in the dining room, but since it's just us..." James said as he put the two steaming plates down onto the kitchen table.
He leaned past Iris to pull open a drawer, and she heard the clinking of metal as he grabbed some cutlery.
The stew was every bit as delicious as the aromas had promised, and the room was silent as the two of them tucked in with enthusiasm.
"Seconds?" James asked as Iris scraped the last bit off the plate.
"Hmmm, yes please."
She enjoyed the second helping as much as the first and used her last bit of bread to mop up the gravy left on her plate.
"That was absolutely wonderful!" she sighed as she pushed the plate away, and sat back.
"Yes, Alice is a marvellous cook - it was one of the reasons that I hired her."
"And I do hope that you make sure she knows that, and that you recompense her well?" she cocked a sever eye at him, as she lectured.
James grinned; it was as if she was his wife already - and not just his employee... but then Iris had never been 'just' his employee, not even on that very first day.
"I hope that I always make sure that my staff knows how much I value them... all of them."
Iris felt a rush of discomfort, was he referring to her as well?
"Come on, let's wash up and then we can settle in the living room and watch the sun setting."
"I would have thought that it would have set by now," Iris said in surprise, it had been almost dark when they had stood waving off Alice and Bill.
"It has pretty much; we just get a burn on the tops of the trees as it sinks out of sight... I have always been moved by the splendour of it."
"I can't wait to see it then," Iris murmured softly.
He grinned suddenly as though he did not like the seriousness of the mood. "But first the dishes!"
It did not take them long to wash, dry and then put away the plates and cutlery, and then taking her hand again, James led her through to the living room. It was yet another solidly square room, which due to its size had an open feel to it. The colour helped too, since they were pale green, and cream. Iris came to the conclusion that James must have a thing for the colour cream, since he seemed to use it to accompany every other colour in every room of his home.
She could not help but say this to him, and was rewarded by a slightly embarrassed laugh.
"I have always found white, too clinical, and beige is just plain bland... cream though, it just seems to ooze promise in my mind, a rich and tasty delight!"
Iris laughed as well, as she felt a little tremor run through her; it seemed that everything James said to her tonight held secret meanings... promises of more to come!
The long glass doors leading out to what looked like a marble tiled patio, stood open, and the trees were clearly visible as the darkness fell. They were bright red on the tops as though they were on fire, giving the forest outside an eerie glow.
"Fabulous!" Iris breathed as she stood staring out in awe.
"You see, I told you it was something special," James purred into her ear, as he stood behind her.
His arm wrapped themselves around her waist and he pulled her back against him, so that he could nuzzle at her hair, and breathe in her scent.
Iris melted against him, and her eyelids fluttered down as she surrendered to him and the feelings that he constantly incited in her.
She felt his hands rub gently down her bare arms, and her skin burned in response.
"Ah, James!" She whispered as she shivered at his touch.
"So lovely," James murmured. "So... human!"
His hand came up to cup her breast, and Iris growled low in her throat.
James turned her around slowly, and stepped back a little so that he could look down into her beautiful green eyes.
They were half shielded by her lids, but he could see the speckles that were beginning to glow, and swirl around.
"That's it babe," he muttered. "Surrender to your inner wolf, go with it, show me how you do it... teach me how to surrender too!"
She muttered under her breath, but he could not catch what she said, as her head hung down briefly.
He could feel her skin as it thickened under his hand, and seemed to become, almost spongy.
There was a soft hazy glow around her, and her outline began to blur.
James stepped back, so that he could watch her as she slowly began to shift.
Her green eyes shone bright and the flecks in them began to burn as the appearance of awareness began to diminish.
Suddenly though, she shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, and the glow faded as she became a solid woman again.
She shook her head a couple of times, and then fixed her green eyes onto him.
"It is not about surrender," she murmured huskily. "It is about choosing to shift."
Iris stepped out of the clothes that she had travelled in, and worked in all day, with a sense of relief.
She would have enjoyed a shower, but decided that if she did shift, then washing now would be pointless. She wrapped the light robe around her, just as James strode in.
"That is a good idea," he said nodding in her direction, as he looked at the robe.
It did not do much to conceal her curves, and she was painfully aware of her sensitive nipples, which seemed to be peeping through the fabric, almost in a teasing way.
She knew that James could see too, because his eyes fixed there, and his jaw went slack for a moment.
She turned away slightly, so as to regain his attention - and divert his eyes.
"I... we have always find these robes the most comfortable and convenient garments to wear, at the time of a shift." she shrugged her shoulders, and smiled almost apologetically.
"I bet that they are," he nodded. He grinned suddenly. "And they are most becoming to you too!"
She could not help the blush that came to her cheeks, as the rush of pleasure and embarrassment battled within her for dominance.
"Thank you," was all that she could manage to stutter.
She perched on the edge of his sofa, feeling more than a little nervous now that the time had come for her to actually shift.
She had almost done it twice now, but then it had been allowing her being to relax into her emotions, rather than embracing her inner wolf.
On both of those occasions her plan had not been to fully shift into a wolf, since she had not been prepared for it then. But now that was exactly what she was aiming to do, and she was also hoping to talk James through it at the same time.
And the idea of meeting James as a wolf again, well that was also making her nervous, mostly because of the deep excitement which the mere thought incited in her.
She closed her eyes, and listened to the beating of her own heart, it was racing at the moment, but as she took several deep calming breaths, each one shallower and gentler than the one before; her heart began to slow as well, until it was its strong steady beat once more.
She gave a soft gentle sigh, and opened her eyes again.
James sat across from her, clothed in a deep blue, bath robe, which showed off his hairy legs, and muscular thighs.
Her heart kicked up, but she let out a breath and forced it to calm down again. The man was just too sexy for her right now, and she was not sure if the wolf would be any better.
"What is it?" he asked suddenly as he sat forward. "What's wrong?"
She sighed again and looked away awkwardly as a little colour came to her cheeks. "I'm just not sure if this is such a good idea... not right now anyway."
"I know what you are thinking," he said softly. "But we are bonded now, and we will be facing years of this together, sometimes when the pull of the moon will leave us with no choice... we could be angry with each other - have had an argument... what would our wolves do with that sort of hostility... what if you get pregnant?"
She looked at him sharply as an image of their potential life together ran through her mind... oh if only!
"Pregnancy has always been a difficult time for our kind, but the wolf can be made to slumber for the duration... it is just the first time it is awake after the birth - that has been the problem."
"But if you can control your wolf now and keep a control over it, so that whenever it does appear, then maybe you can stop it from... consuming you?"
She shivered and rubbed her hands down her arms absently. "Laurie and I have never let ourselves go to that extent, we have always shied away from 'embracing our inner souls'." she smiled as she quoted her father's often reference to their alter egos.
James came and knelt down in front of her. "Let yourself go for once, Iris; show me how to embrace my inner soul - let us run free together for a while."
She reached out and cupped his face, so that she could lock her eyes on to his.
She leaned closer, allowing her breath to fan his face, and saw how his pupils dilated and his nostrils flared.
She knew that at that moment, he was seeing her, he was feeling her and smelling her, he was locked on and so in tune with her in this moment, that he would pick up on and move with any adjustment she made.
She allowed her thoughts to slow, her heart beat to slow, her emotions slowed...
Her fingers seemed to thicken on his face, and his hand began to sweat in response.
Her eyes glazed over, and his vision blurred in response.
Her hair seemed to flare back as though a gust of wind had swept through, and his own hair fluttered and thickened in response.
The change happened slowly, as a languid sensation rushed through him.
A sense of peace fell across the room, as one moment two humans sat facing each other, and the next - two wolves sat there instead.
The large powerful black wolf stood up and shook himself allowing his fur to fan out making him look even bigger.
He moved towards the patio doors but stopped on the threshold and looked back to the red still sitting on her haunches and watching him with wary eyes.
"Come, we will run through the land, we will race the moon to its height and race it back before it descends again!"
They ghosted through the forest slipping from shadow to shadow and then racing across open grass lands together.
They flew by the forest wildlife, disturbing some, but moving so fast the others merely watched with unblinking gazes.
The animals of this forest were used to the large black wolf; they knew that he occasionally roamed these woods, before vanishing again for weeks.
They knew that though he moved through here, he never did feed here.
The smaller red wolf was new to the forest though, but the female seemed to be with the large black, her scent and his scent were intermingled and the animals all saw that they were bonded.
They ran free and wild and unhindered, and when they returned to the house, the moon was slowly dropping and the first burn of the sunrise was becoming visible.
The two wolves trotted across the patio, and even as they stepped into the room, the wolf fur was thinning and they were rearing up onto two legs again.
Iris shivered as she swept up her robe, and pulled it tight around her waist.
She looked pale and tired, and James knew he looked the same, as he shivered too.
He walked across the room and she heard the clink of glass, and a moment later he sank down beside her on the sofa, and handed her a glass.
She cupped her hands around its cold surface and sipped the amber fluid gratefully.
"Thank you," she finally whispered hoarsely.
James smiled tiredly as he sipped his own drink.
They sat in silence for a little while, sitting side by side and sipping slowly at the warming alcohol, but then James turned to look at her. "That was something simply amazing!" he told her gruffly.
They spent the day sleeping and the next night they ran through the forests again, and Iris knew that she would never again fear the change.
As long as James was with her, then she would always relish the opportunity to run wild with her mate; as this time together deepened their bond, and solidified their relationship.
They were waved off by his house hold staff who returned about an hour before they planned to head back to London, and Sarah went straight to the kitchen to cook them a hot meal before they could leave.
"You both look wasted," she said almost accusingly to James.
The food that she produced less than half an hour later however was so delicious that any reprimands could be forgiven, as the two of them tucked in greedily to the hot food.
Their journey back into the city was quiet and uneventful at that time on a Sunday night, and just after eleven thirty, Iris entered her apartment after sharing a lingering kiss with James, before he went back to his own place.
"I'll see you in the morning - bright and early," he smiled down at her, and Iris nodded.
"I can hardly wait!" she whispered.
She entered her apartment and the first thing she did was to take her mobile phone out of her bag. She frowned at she looked at it, the thing was dead. She had not bothered charging it before they left for the weekend and at some point the battery must have drained.
She gave a little shrug, and walked through to her bed room, and attached the charger.
She knew that it would take a few minutes before it would have sufficient power, to come back on, and so she used the time to go into the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea.
She was waiting for the kettle to finish boiling and munching on a biscuit when she heard her phone beep at her in the bedroom.
A moment later it beeped again and then again and then again.
She frowned as she walked back into the bedroom, someone was anxious to talk to her?
She picked up her phone and it lit up almost immediately and began ringing.
"Hi Laurie?" she said as her sister's name and number flashed up.
"Oh Iris!" Laurie cried out. "At last - I have been trying for hours to get a hold of you!"
"Laurie? What is it? What's wrong?" Iris felt the first bolt of unease, as she heard her sister sobbing.
"Oh Iris... its dad... he's collapsed!"
It took Iris less than half an hour to get from her apartment to the London hospital where Laurie had told her their father had been taken.
She rushed down the corridor to the intensive care, and spotted her sister almost immediately.
"Iris!" Laurie flew into her arms and sobbed her heart out, as Iris buried her own emotions and tried instead to comfort her sister.
"How is he?" she asked once Laurie seemed to have cried most of her distress out of her system, and was showing signs of calming a little.
"The doctor said he would come out and talk to me as soon as he could, but that was over an hour ago!"
"Oh love," Iris was distressed for the situation, for her father and for her sister as well. "Have you been here all by yourself for all this time?"
"Where is Aunt Trudy, surely she is coming to the hospital?"
"She travelled to Venice on Saturday morning, she is even as we speak on a flight back, but it took a while for her to arrange it..."
"Oh love!" Iris said again as she rubbed her sisters arm, in an attempt to comfort her and show her that she was not on her own any longer.
"I'm so glad that you got here, Iris!" Laurie whispered tearfully.
They sat in silence for a while, but then the doctor came striding down the corridor, looking very solemn indeed, and the sisters clutched at each other's hands, as they stood up to greet him.
"Dr Phillips, this is my sister, Iris," Laurie introduced the two of them anxiously.
"Miss Beaumont," he nodded politely and then sighed gently. "I am sure that your sister has told you... your father, he is very ill..."
"What exactly is wrong with him doctor?" Iris cut in worriedly.
"Your father has a virus," he said abruptly. He hesitated as he looked quickly around him, and then guided the two of them back to their seats.
He sat next to Iris, and leaned forwards a little bit. "Your father has a virus," he said again in a low voice, "and it is something unique to our race, and hard to treat as well."
"But he only saw the doctor recently!" Iris objected angrily. "The doctor said that he was in general good health... aside from a raised blood pressure - how could he have missed something like that?"
"It was difficult to diagnose, even when he collapsed and we knew that he was ill, we still had a job tracking it down." the doctor commiserated, and tried to explain. "When he visited his doctor, he would I suspect have seemed healthy enough - right up until his collapse; he would have seemed healthy - at the very worst, a little fatigued perhaps. The raised blood pressure could have been the start though," he went on thoughtfully. "It could have been his body's initial reaction to the infection - it's attempt at maybe burning it off?"
Laurie gave a strangled sob, and all Iris wanted to do was to sit and cry. "You are doing everything that you can though, aren't you, Dr Phillips?"
He smiled stiffly. "Of course, Miss Beaumont, and even though this is serious and very dangerous for our kind... I have to say that the mere fact that he has survived this long is strongly in his favour."
Iris was sure that he meant this to be reassuring, but all she could think was, 'he might have died... he could be dead already - and I might not have been here for him... or Laurie!'
"This virus it is poisoning his blood, we are trying to purge it as best as we can, but really what we need is a total blood transfusion... and maybe more than one - if we are to completely wipe it out," he looked at the two young women as though trying to assess their strength. "Are you the only blood relatives?"
"We have an aunt... my father's sister," Iris said softly. "And she is on her way here even as we speak."
"Three females then," he sighed suddenly. "Very well, you will have to be enough!"
He stood up and looked down at them seriously. "I need you both to give blood, we will put you on a slow drain for an hour each in turn, and then when your aunt gets here she can add to it too. Are you both willing?"
"Yes of course," they both said eagerly as they stood up too. "Whatever we can do to help, we will do it!" Iris added.
"You have to understand, that it will be draining for the two of you; we will need a lot of your blood if we are to succeed in purging his system completely."
"We are stronger than we might look, doctor; we can handle this between us," Iris told him firmly.
"Well, one at a time for an hour each, lie down whilst your doing it, and then don't try to walk about until you have eaten and drunk something."
"Yes, doctor Phillips," they said in unison at his tone of authority.
He smiled at them almost in a fatherly way. "I'll go and talk to the nurses, and get them to set things up in your father's room; it will probably take a little while, so take this time to have something hot to eat, and a pot of sweet tea or coffee... it will strengthen your blood and make it richer, for your father, which can only be good."
"Yes, doctor Phillips," they said again automatically.
He chuckled softly as he pointed towards the end of the corridor. "There is a small canteen right at the end, it's open twenty four hours a day, and the food is good."
It was hard work, stomaching the casserole that they both ordered. It was very tasty and piping hot, but worries for their father tended to dampen down their appetites.
"If we are to help him, then we must keep up our strength," Iris tried to encourage her sister, even though she herself was struggling to eat as well.
"I know, and I am trying, it just that..."
"You're worried for him, and you have spent the evening feeling alone and stressed, but I am here now, Laurie, and I am not going anywhere - I promise!"
Laurie smiled across at her, and they finished their meal in silence, as they both swallowed down every last difficult mouthful.
They were just finishing a second cup of a coffee, when a nurse came into the restaurant.
"Miss Beaumont?" she asked calmly.
"Yes," they both nodded.
"We are ready to begin the blood transfusions now, if you would like to come with me; who wants to start first?"
They were walking down the corridor, and Iris spoke before her sister could. "I will," she said firmly.
When they entered the room, Iris got to see her father for the first time, and she was shocked at the change in him. He looked pale and drawn, and almost tiny in the bed. Nothing of the strong vigorous man remained it seemed.
"Oh daddy!" she heard Laurie whisper, and Iris felt the tears filling her own eyes.
"He looks worse than he is," the nurse hurried to reassure them. "He is so pale because we have just started to drain his blood, but as soon as one of you starts to pump your blood into him, then he will start to look better almost immediately.
Iris shrugged out of her jacket, to reveal a short sleeved blouse underneath. "I am ready," she said quietly.
The nurse guided her to the bed which was alongside her fathers.
"If you lie down there for me, then I can hook you up."
Whilst Iris made herself comfortable on the bed, Laurie took the chair next to their father's bed on the other side, and she gently rested her hand on his.
"He's so cold," she whispered across to Iris, and Iris saw her sister's eyes filling with tears again, and then spill over to trickle down her cheek.
"He'll warm up once we purge his system, and get some good healthy blood pumping in his veins again," the nurse said cheerfully.
Iris winced when she felt the prick of the needle into her own vein but she did not say anything.
The nurse patted her hand, and then attached the tube, which ran to a bag, and then into another tube which was attached to her father's arm.
The nurse pressed something on the centre piece, and the blood rushed from Iris's vein into the tube and then straight to her father.
She felt a wave of dizziness, and was thankful that she was lying down, as a sense of weariness washed over her.
The nurse took her pulse, and then she took her father's pulse, and made some notes onto a chart.
Then she smiled at Iris, and then across at Laurie.
"I'll come back to check on you in about half an hour, but don't hesitate to press the buzzer next to the bed, if you have any worries at all."
"Thank you, Nurse... Peters," Iris said peering at her badge.
"Please call me Helen... after all we have to take care of our own - don't we?"
Iris blinked at her for a moment, and then it dawned on her what the nurse was saying.
"So you are a shifter too?" Laurie whispered from the other side of her father's bed.
Helen laughed softly. "You two must be very young, and inexperienced not to be able to instantly recognise one of your own, when you meet one."
"We have not met so very many of our kind," Laurie said before Iris could speak.
"No?" Helen looked at the two women thoughtfully for a moment. "You are a small pack then?"
"Not even a pack really," Iris admitted reluctantly. "Just family."
"But you have a brother? An uncle, or maybe a male cousin?"
"No," Iris shook her head. "There are just us two, and daddy, and our aunt Trudy."
"Oh," Helen seemed puzzled. "It's just that I took a call earlier, from a man asking about your father's condition... he said that he was family."
"What did you tell this man?"
"Just that; although your father was seriously ill, he was holding his own, and at least stable."
Helen shrugged her shoulders, and smiled uncertainly for a moment, she opened her mouth to say something but suddenly another nurse came rushing in.
"Mr Heller in room nine has just gone into arrest - you are needed on the resuscitation team!" she gasped.
Helen turned and rushed from the room taking the other nurse with her, and leaving the sisters alone with their unconscious father for a moment.
"I wonder who might have called," Laurie mused softly.
Iris shrugged as a wave of fatigue washed over her. "Probably just a friend or neighbour?"
Iris was feeling distinctly lightheaded, as she walked wearily down the deserted corridor.
She knew that she should be sitting down and waiting for someone to bring her a hot drink, but she was very thirsty and more than a little bit hungry.
The canteen was still open despite the lateness of the hour - or rather the earliness and she knew that they would have hot food on the go at all times.
It was empty apart for one solitary diner, but the lady who handed her a plate of egg and bacon, smiled at her warmly. "You just eat that up, love, and it will make you feel so much better - I promise."
As Iris sat down, the other diner a nurse stood up and after flashing her, a quick polite smile, as their eyes met; she hurried out - probably to return to her ward and her shift - or maybe she had just finished her shift and after eating a good meal would be heading for her bed.
Iris ate the food - the cooked breakfast, and felt her energy lifting. Despite the hour, she took out her mobile phone, and typed out a quick text to James. She knew that he would be in his bed and sleeping now, but she wanted him to know before he left for work, that she would not make it into the office tomorrow - and why.
She was sitting sipping slowly at a hot cup of sweet tea, when a man walked in, and came and sat down across from her.
Iris blinked as recognition hit her.
"Bill... Mr Frawnings!" she exclaimed as she sat back in her chair.
Bill Frawnings - her father's closest neighbour and a fellow shifter, sat down across from her and smiled slowly.
"It is good to see you child, I came as soon as I could."
"That was very good of you, how long have you been here?"
"I arrived in London, late last night, I booked into a hotel up the road, but I could not sleep in a strange bed, and so I thought that I would come to the hospital and maybe I would see someone who could tell me something."
Iris felt uneasy at his display of excessive concern - true her father and this man were friendly but it was a guarded friendship - on both sides.
"Thank you for your concern Bill, but it was not necessary surely for you to come all this way... I promise that I will let you know how my father is - as soon as we know something."
"So you don't know what's wrong with him yet?" he sat forward and rested his arms on the table, as his face came closer to Iris's.
Iris sat back and picked up her cup again so that she could hide behind it.
"No," she said softly. She took a sip of her tea, and then sighed. "They think that it is some sort of a virus, something that is poisoning his blood, they are trying to purge it even as we speak."
Bill sat back and his face looked shocked. "A virus you say? Is it contagious?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Me, and Laurie have been in close contact with my father, and neither of us have succumbed to it."
He peered at her dubiously. "You do look awfully pale though - are you sure that you are well?"
She nodded. "We have not had much rest, have spent all our time with our dad, we have been very worried..." she shrugged again, leaving him to draw his own conclusions.
"Yes, I can imagine." he continued to study her thoughtfully for a moment, and Iris felt increasingly uncomfortable under his scrutiny.
She drained her cup and went to stand up. "Well, it was kind of you to come, Bill, but I really should..."
"Wait a moment longer please, Iris... I think we should talk a moment."
"Oh? What about?"
He hesitated again and then he sat forward again.
"With your father so ill; you and your sister are vulnerable," he stated firmly. "If word was to get out that you were unguarded by a healthy male relative... well you understand my concern?" he looked at her questioningly, and so Iris nodded, she had a sense of dread suddenly, she could not help but feel like those concerns that he had just voiced were more like veiled threats. "You will need males to protect you and yours, Iris, strong males... I think that you should pledge yourself to one of my boys," he said bluntly.
Feb 6, 2018 in romance