Mooning Over a Monster

Chapter Three

The sky spreads in a black mass above my perch, a void illuminated only by stars. Some call this the night of the new moon.

Among mythics, we call it the dark moon.

This is a night of shadows. Without light, we can easily hide yet also be free in that secrecy. 

I stand easily on a thick branch, gazing over the treetops that spread for miles. Folk Haven sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, among the Chattahoochee National Forest. The wilderness pushes in on all sides. I love it, and tonight, I’m going to explore as much as I can from above.

I’m not the only one venturing out. Selkies have pulled on their magical pelts to swim in animal form, diving deep under the surface of Lake Galen. Sirens have freed their wings and play games in the air above their cove of the lake. Many other mythics let loose in the darkness.

But I’ll spend the night on my own, as I’ve always done.

Sometimes, I pretend the bats are my companions. Their little squeaking voices fill the cool night air, and I watch their fluttering bodies glide back and forth. Once I take to the sky, they’ll find somewhere else to hunt, scared my size makes me their predator. I don’t blame them. I’m used to being feared.

Just as I ready myself to launch into the air, a loud rustling sounds beneath my tree. Glancing down, I spy a large mass lumbering among the trunks.

A bear.

Folk Haven has had the occasional black bear stray into town limits. But this creature is massive, and if my night vision isn’t failing me, he’s a reddish color. As the scent of freshly cut grass drifts up to me, I know exactly who has wandered into my territory this dark moon night.

When Mahon made his promise to see me again soon, I was left without a timeline. Of course, his delivery was yesterday, so I shouldn’t have continued to glance out my window and at my phone every hour. The bear shifter doesn’t even have my number.

And one day? How needy am I?

Apparently, very because I immediately swoop down from my perch to land a short distance in front of him.

Shit. Until I’m on the ground, I don’t realize the result of my impulsive move.

This night, I left my baggy sweats at home. Despite expecting to be alone, I maintained a sense of modesty by pulling on a tight set of black bike shorts along with a matching sports bra. The straps of the top are all Velcro because that’s the only thing I’m able to manage with my wings.

Wings that are now on full display. If Mahon has night vision anywhere near as good as mine, he’ll see my extra limbs along with the scales that cover me from toe to hip, climbing up my back and then spilling over my shoulders and down my arms.

A living, breathing lizard person. Exactly what one could expect from mashing together a human and a dragon. Not that I’m ashamed of my appearance. It’s the way that others react that cuts. 

Why can’t they see the beauty of me?

Already in front of Mahon, I have no other choice than to stand tall and give him the best view possible.

The bear plops back on his gargantuan ass, beady black eyes tracing over my form as his wet nose sniffs the air. 

Shifters are an interesting breed. In their other forms, they appear almost like the real animal. But something is always different. My bet is, no true bear has a ginger coat. Unless we’re talking about red pandas. If Mahon could transform into one of those cuddly creatures, I’d have to kidnap him and keep him forever just because the adorableness factor would be too much to handle.

The man is pretty cute too.

Bear Mahon heaves to his feet and trundles forward. When the furry creature is almost in my personal space, he reaches out a paw the size of a Frisbee. 

And he pushes me.

The gesture doesn’t feel aggressive, and even though I stumble back a few steps, the push wasn’t hard. Not compared to what an animal his size could manage if he wanted to attack me. Mahon lets out a huff that sounds a lot like a laugh. Then, with surprising agility for such a chunky body, he pivots around and sprints into the dark woods.

Did he just … start a game of tag?

“Oh, it’s on,” I mutter, a grin stealing over my face. 

With a powerful flap, I thrust myself into the air, leveling out over the treetops. I don’t even need to search between the cluster of branches to try and locate him. The pines quiver wherever his heavy body runs, and I follow the shaking. When I’m above his location, I pick up speed and then dive down to land right in his path.

The bear lets out a surprised bark, tumbling as he tries to stop and recalibrate his too-fast momentum. While he struggles, I lunge forward and slap his meaty shoulder.

“You’re it!” Then, I wing myself to a branch at least fifty feet above him.

Bear Mahon lets out a series of protesting grumbles and whines as he stares up at me. Then, the massive beast digs his claws into the trunk and starts to climb.

Teasing him, I allow the guy to get halfway to my perch before I glide over his head, landing in a crouch on the forest floor. Then, I tuck my wings in close to my back and sprint into the woods, keeping to the ground to allow him an actual chance at catching me.

Because I find I want to be caught.

The ground shakes, and I hear the crashing sound of his big bear body charging through the woods after me. My underutilized legs pump as hard as they can, but I know he’ll reach me soon enough.

A laugh bursts breathlessly from my chest when I hear his panting and sense his looming presence, and then I squeal in surprise at the cold press of his wet nose against my lower back. Whirling around, I tumble to the side as he charges past and disappears into the shadows.

“I’ll get your furry ass!” I shout after him and receive a roar in response.

We go back and forth like that for so long that I lose track of time. All I know is, my legs burn, my wings tire, and I’ve never had more fun in my life.

Eventually, the two of us collapse side by side at the top of a cliff. Lake Galen rests below us, down the sheer rock face. The high vantage point emphasizes the freedom I’ve felt this night. As if the world grew vast as we tore through the woods.

As I lie on my back, cushioned by my wings, sucking in deep breaths to calm my racing heart, I notice a shift in the color of the sky above us. A lightening that lets everyone know that dawn is approaching.

Time for me to return to the safety of my home, no matter how much I’d like to linger here, on this cold rock, beside a panting bear. But when I stand and glance to my left, the bear is gone. A man lies in his place.

A naked man.

“Mahon!” I yelp and then cover my eyes with my webbed fingers. And yet, somehow, I’m still left with a sliver of a gap between the digits. Enough to watch as his muscular body tenses when he moves to stand. 

Gods, he has that vibrant red hair everywhere. Arms, legs, chest. There’s an especially dense cluster at the apex of his thighs … 

Before I can take in the newly revealed part of him between his legs, Mahon steps in close to me, warm, grassy scent embracing me, even as he keeps his touch to himself.

“Thanks for a fun night, Satine.” He rumbles the words through a playful smirk. “Can I get a proper good-bye?”

I drop my hands, so I can meet his eyes. “What’s a proper—”

Mahon cuts me off with a kiss. His mouth teases against mine so quick, there and gone, that I lose the chance to memorize the sensation.

Next thing I know, he’s sprinting the few steps to the cliff’s edge, the globes of his ass bouncing with each powerful step. Mahon launches himself into the empty air, briefly flying before he plummets into gravity’s embrace. I reach the edge in time to watch his perfect dive, and a moment later, a bear bursts from the water’s surface.

“That was extremely rude!” Even as I try to chastise the wild man, I laugh through my scolding. 

A mishmash of bear noises is my only response as he reclines on his back, floating away toward what I assume is his home.

Spurred on by the rising sun, I leap into the air and glide in the opposite direction, wondering exactly when I’ll see that troublemaking bear again.