Mooning Over a Monster

Chapter Six

After our hot and heavy picnic, I hurried the too-enticing bear off my property. Mahon took my retreat good-naturedly, only asking for my phone number before he left, which I gave. 

I haven’t seen him in five days.

And I miss him.

I could have convinced myself the bear lost interest after messing his jeans with me, but even though I haven’t seen him doesn’t mean I haven’t heard from him.

Mahon texts me. A lot. Like whole paragraphs of the things he’s doing or funny incidents that have happened to him at the café or around town. 
Reading them has me feeling like I’m living the day with him, and I find myself snatching up my phone whenever I take a break from work to get another dose.

After the first five or so that I didn’t respond to, Mahon even did the gentlemanly thing.

Mahon: Hey ya. I know I’m texting a lot. Am I bothering you? I’ll stop now unless you say otherwise.

I only held out five minutes before responding.

Satine: You can keep texting.

Mahon: Great! Here’s a picture of the squirrel that stole my potato chips. Cute as hell, but don’t trust him!

Maybe I should’ve applied that advice to the man, too, but less than a week has gone by, and I can’t stand going to bed another night without seeing his face.

So, I invite the bear back over.

This time though, I’m going to make sure I have control of the situation. That I’m the one throwing him off-balance. 

I stare at the innocent white square in my palm. The object both excites and terrifies me. And when I hear the distant thrum of Mahon’s scooter engine approaching my house, I peel off the back of the adhesive and stick the patch on my wrist.

Sharp pain splits through my body, as if a hornet stung my wrist and decided to have a go at a few more spots. My weight alters, my sight loses an edge of clarity, and gravity dials up a handful of notches.

After I take a series of deep breaths, the pain fades to a manageable level. To get used to the change, I go through a few quick yoga poses, my feet feeling sticky against the hardwood floor.

Sweat glands, I remind myself. Those little fuckers are everywhere.

When I’ve gotten as comfortable as I can hope for, I peer out the window next to my door, spying like I used to whenever Mahon came to my house. And like all those times, he’s currently chuckling at my latest monster display.

The Wolf Man and The Creature from the Black Lagoon are in the middle of a game of badminton. I kitted them out with sweatbands and rackets on their respective sides of the net, and I even flew up to a high branch to suspend the shuttlecock from a strand of fishing wire, so it appears to be in play.

Not as shocking as my last creation, but I figure Mahon and I heated up my property plenty without needing more fictional monster bed play.

While the shifter is distracted, I carefully slip out my front door and move to stand on the top step of my porch, arms akimbo, every inch of me on display, except for the small bits covered by my shorts and sports bra. Finally, he finishes taking in the sporting event and faces my house. Hazel eyes land on me, and he stumbles. We stare at each other across the distance, him no doubt admiring my new, supple form while I moon over every ruggedly handsome inch of him.

Somehow, Mahon became even hotter in the last few days, and I’m not sure how he managed it. Maybe he got a witch’s help, like I did.

Unfreezing, Mahon raises his nose in the air, nostrils flaring, before refocusing a curious look on me. “Satine?”

I smile, my face feeling softer than wet clay without my scales. A panicked thought has me pressing my fingers into my cheeks, worried I’m so soft that all my parts might start slipping off. But no, they’re still in place. Even the protruding nose in the middle of my face. I keep catching glimpses of the fleshy add-on in the corner of my eye. How do people focus with the constant distraction?

“Is that you?” Mahon steps toward me, hesitant puzzlement in the tilt of his head.

“You guessed it.” I perform a three-sixty turn, so he can admire every inch of my transformation.

“I’m confused.” He stops at the foot of the porch steps, staring up at me. “I thought you didn’t have a human form.”

“I don’t.” Raising my arm, I display the patch stuck to my wrist, successfully stifling a wince from the pain caused by the movement. “Bought a few of these off a transformation witch. I thought they might be helpful if I needed to be among humans. But I don’t use them much.”

“Is your skin supposed to be red like that?” He tilts his chin, brows dipping. 
Following his gaze, I realize the pale flesh around the patch has flared an irritated color.

“Well, a human’s skin shouldn’t be. But yeah. The witch warned this was a side effect. One of the reasons I don’t use them often.” The other is that they cost a fat stack of cash.

Mahon steps closer, bringing his summer scent and heavy presence with him. I gasp when he settles his palms on my shoulders, his hands rough against my abnormally soft skin. Carefully, he drags his touch down my arms, as if examining the changes.

“Do you like looking like this?” When the question comes, the words hold none of his regular boisterous enthusiasm. 

The muted reaction has my thoughts stumbling over one another.

“I—” I stare down at the delicate, pale hands, so different from my normal pebbled flesh. “The world likes me like this.”

You’ll like me like this, I can’t help adding silently.

“But this is hurting you. You’re in pain.” Mahon’s massive palm cradles my wrist, where the skin around the paper has darkened in anger at the offending object.

“Not bad.” 

The witch compared the initial discomfort to a sunburn. Having never had a sunburn before, I had to take her word for it, but now, I wonder why humans don’t constantly coat their entire bodies in SPF 150. 

“She said the pain would get worse after an hour.” Skin bubbling. Acid in my veins. All that fun stuff.

“Please, Satine. I don’t understand.” A growl rumbles from his chest. “Do you need to go somewhere in town? Interact with humans?”

“No,” I admit. “Not today.”

“Then, why? Why do this?”

Mahon’s eyes haven’t left my wrist, all his focus on that tiny patch of discomfort. He’s not admiring my smooth skin or my soft curves. He’s not commenting on my silky, long burgundy hair. He hasn’t gazed into my eyes with their green irises and normal pupils.

All he cares about is the pain.

My pain.

And that itself is a balm.

“Do you care?”

Mahon dips his head to blow on my wrist, as if he could soothe the flushed skin like one would cool off a too-hot slice of pizza.

“Care about what?” He mutters the words in a distracted manner. “Can we put ice on this?”

“Do you care what I look like?” I ask, ignoring his second question.
That finally has him glancing up to meet my searching stare. “I only care that I get to see you.”

My insides, the most human part of me, fracture and reform at his simple statement.

Over the years, I’ve found small ways to love myself on my own. But I’ve never admitted how fragile those discoveries were. That I fear the rest of the world could pulverize my hard-won self-assurance.

And here is this man. And he is everything good I never let myself hope existed in the world.

“I shouldn’t have put the patch on,” I say. “I have them for emergencies. If someone I don’t know comes to my house or if I need to go somewhere that humans will see me.” Shoring up my courage, I stand taller. “I thought you might like to see me like this.”

Mahon’s brows dip low. “But I can’t see you. All I see is the witch’s glamour.”
His grip might appear to be about my wrist, but I’m certain the shifter has found a way to plunge past my rib cage and cradle my heart.

“You’re right. I want to take it off.”

“Do you need help?” There’s a trembling in his big hand, as if he’s holding himself back from tearing the magic off himself.

“No. But there are some more side effects when I remove it. We should go inside.” Stepping away from his comforting presence, I push the front door open and try not to think too much about what’s coming next. “There’s food in my fridge and cabinets. Help yourself. I’m going to need fifteen, maybe twenty, minutes.”

“What are the rest of the side effects?” 

Of course the pushy bear would ask that, following me toward the bathroom rather than staying in the kitchen, like I directed.

“Some indigestion. Nothing to worry about.”

“You’re a bad liar,” he announces. “Now, I’m more worried. Unless you tell me you’re gonna shit your drawers, I’m not leaving you alone when you take that thing off.”

Whirling fast, I slap his chest. “I’m not going to shit my pants!” 

By all the gods, this man knows how to ruin a romantic gesture. 

I shake out my hand, the delicate human skin covering my bones smarting after the impact.

Mahon grins down at me, even as worry continues to cloud his eyes. “Noted. I won’t dive for the wet wipes. But I won’t abandon my Satine. Not when you’re hurting. Not ever.”

My heart throbs hard, and I long to not be distracted by the growing burn of my wrist. Having reached the bathroom, I lean back against the sink and meet his understanding stare.

“Fine. But I warned you.”

Bracing myself for the effects, I tear the spell from my skin. With a snap in the air, like a thunderclap, my true form reclaims me. For one breath, I feel right again, every part of me as it should be.

Then, I dive for the toilet and puke my guts up.