I have to know for sure. Does she accept me as her mate or not? Did she react too quickly because of whatever I did to upset her but didn’t really mean what she did? Is that what she is telling me now?
I have to know.
Her hand doesn’t leave the side of my face as I rise up on my knees and reach out to touch her face as well. I am a little surprised when she doesn’t pull away from me, and with trembling fingers, I place my other hand on the other side of her face. I lean forward slowly until the tip of my nose touches hers. Her eyes close, and I can feel the stiffness in her arms, her nervousness coming through in her posture and muscle tension, but she doesn’t move away.
Very, very slowly, I run the tip of my nose all the way up to her forehead and then back again. I can feel the warmth of her breath against my mouth as I stop and pull back a bit, looking into her clear blue eyes and hoping against all hope that this means she is going to accept me after all.
I’m not going to guess what she might be thinking—not anymore. I will not risk making another mistake and angering her. I want her; I know I do. It is far beyond not wanting to be alone anymore. I want her—only her.
I will do anything to make Beh mine.
I take a deep breath and let it out again. Beh smiles at me as she lets go of my face and places her hands over mine. She pulls me away from her and we slowly stand together with her hands holding mine. She looks out to the lake and sighs heavily.
I move closer and lean down so I can touch her nose with mine again. Beh’s eyes close as I do, and I can see the corners of her mouth turn up a little at the same time. I reach back up and place my hand on the side of her face before I run my nose up one side of hers and then down the other.
This time when my skin meets hers, her shoulders are more relaxed, and she does not seem as nervous. I lay my head on her shoulder, tilting my face toward her neck so I can run my nose along her throat, too. I inhale slowly, taking in the scent of her. It’s different than it was the previous day; the scent of fruit is muted now, nearly gone. As I turn toward her hairline, the fragrance is more noticeable but still much weaker than before.
I feel her hand on the back of my head but only for a moment before she takes a step back and brings her hands up to my wrist to break my hold on her. I watch intently as Beh takes my hand, turns me so I am facing the tree line away from the lake, and then makes more sounds. Her finger points toward the trees, but I don't see anything there when I look. I turn my head back toward her, but she takes my head in her hands and turns it back to the forest again.
She does this again before I realize she doesn't want me to look at her.
What does she think I will see?
She makes no sense at all.
I glance at her eyes and can see the frustration in them. It is the same look she gave me this morning when she needed to relieve herself, and she wouldn’t do it until I had turned my back to her. Does she not want me to see her body? Why not? Is there something wrong with it, and she is embarrassed?
I remember a girl in my tribe who was missing part of her arm. She had not been attacked by an animal but had just been born with part of it not there. There were tiny nubs that looked like they were supposed to be fingers, but they were right at the end of her elbow. She always kept it covered up so no one could see that it was different.
Did Beh also have some kind of deformity? Is that why she wears such strange clothing over her legs, to hide a flaw? Maybe she’s afraid I won’t want her if I know there is something wrong with her. The girl in my tribe was usually alone; no one wanted to be with someone who looked different. Maybe Beh has been shunned by her tribe because she has something wrong with her, and that’s why she is alone.
The skin around my neck feels hot as I consider that she might have been mistreated. I don’t care if there is something wrong with her! If her legs look strange, or there is something else wrong with her body, I don’t care! She’s my mate, and I’m going to take care of her. She won’t ever have to be alone again.
I reach my hand out and touch the top of her leg as I look up at her.
“Beh,” I say softly as my fingers creep up her leg. I wonder if whatever is wrong is something I can feel from the outside of her clothes.
Her hand comes down and grabs at mine, moving it away from her and holding it next to my side before she lets go and points toward the trees again. I want her to know that it doesn’t matter—whatever is wrong with her, it doesn’t matter to me, and I will still provide for her. I try to touch her again, but she takes my hand and moves it away, making more sounds and eventually covering my eyes with her hands for a moment. She looks like she is going to start crying again, so I give up for now, drop down, sit on one of the larger rocks nearby, and turn my back to the lake.
As soon as she walks out of my field of vision, I don’t like it, not at all.
Beh seems pleased at what I’ve done, but she is now behind me where I can’t see her. How am I supposed to protect her? What if something in the lake tries to hurt her? I listen intently to the sounds behind me, closing my eyes and concentrating hard. I can hear the sound of her feet on the rocks and then the slight splash of water.
My breathing increases with my nervousness for my mate’s safety. I’m glad I can hear the water moving, but not being able to see her makes me feel anxious. My mind keeps coming back to the night of the fire and how I hadn’t been close enough to see it start or to get anyone away from the area before it all went up in flames.
Finally, I can’t stand it anymore, and I glance over my shoulder quickly to make sure she is all right.
Beh stands in the lake with the water coming up to her knees. She is bent over and rinsing her arms in the cool water with her long hair lying in strands across her back. Some of it falls over her shoulders, and the tips touch the water.
I swallow hard, and I have no idea why she didn’t want me to see her before. There is nothing wrong with her, nothing at all. In fact, everything is right with her. Her legs are long, and I can clearly see the firmness of the muscles in her thighs. Above them her hips curve out sensually before her waist draws my eyes back in again. Her spine is straight, and she is absolutely, positively glorious.
When I first saw her, I thought I had never seen a more beautiful woman, and that was when she was wearing those weird clothes. Now that she is standing there with her back to me, leaning over...
I have to swallow again. I’m suddenly very hard and very much want to try to put a baby inside of my mate. It’s far more intense than the physical feeling I know I will have when I am inside of her. I want to see her stomach get round and know the child inside of her is one I put there. I want her to give birth to a baby that looks like her and me.
I don’t just want it. I need it.
As much as I need water and food and shelter, I need to be inside of her—I need to give her a baby. My hands shake with the very thought of it, and my legs coil under me, ready to stand and go to her, to take her right now.
Then she turns, and our eyes meet.
I know immediately that she is not happy.
Not in the least.
I turn away quickly, cover my face with my hands, and close my eyes tightly at the same time. I can hear her loud sounds behind me though she doesn’t sound as angry as she was before. I hear more splashing, more sounds from her mouth—including my name-sound—and the rustle of her strange clothing, but I do not turn around to look.
I will have to save my other thoughts and ideas for later when we are in our furs. For one reason, my erection completely disappeared when she looked at me like that; for another, I don’t think she would be very receptive right now anyway.
Beh is angry, and I don’t want her to be angry with me.
I hear the crunching sound of her feet on the rocks, followed by her hand on my shoulder.
I look up at her tentatively, and I’m glad to see her looking down at me without anger. There actually appears to be just the hint of a smile on her lips. I smile back—just a little—and slowly get to my feet. Beh shakes her head back and forth slowly as she makes more sounds.
I reach out with one hand, and she makes no move to stop me as I place it against her cheek. Her hair is wet now, and drops of cold water cascade down my arm. I move toward her, and her eyes drop to the ground as I gently brush my nose on her cheek. I don’t want to push my luck, though, since I did not do what she wanted, and I know she is still not happy with me, so I drop my hand and step back.
Beh sits by the edge of the water while I pick up the fur-covered fish, unwrap them, and attach them with sinew, tied to the leather straps that hold my water skins. I quickly rinse out my fur wrap in the lake. The weather is not too cold, and I don’t want to wear the fur again now that it is wet, so I tie it at my hip instead. With fish hanging on one hip and my fur on the other, I check the sky to see how late it is and go to Beh.
She is sitting on a rock with a small stick in her hand, slowly pulling snarls out of her hair. She’s looking out over the lake, and I’m not even sure she realizes I am ready to leave now. I start toward her with the intent of leading her back to the cave, but the motion of her fingers, the stick, and her hair captivate me.
I have never seen anyone use a stick in such a way, and I instantly touch my own thick and matted hair. I recall women in my tribe using their fingers to sometimes pull out knots, but never a stick.
Beh lifts her hand to the top of her head, and she inserts the stick between two strands. She pulls down slowly, pausing a few times as the little branch gets stuck. I stare at her, mesmerized by the movement of her arms, fingers, and the flowing strands of her hair. She repeats the act over and over again, and the rhythm is strangely soothing.
Strange—like everything about her.
She turns her head turns toward me, and I see a smile on her lips as they open, and more sounds come out. I take the last few steps that will bring me to her side and crouch down next to her, watching her movements closely. By the time her hair has dried, it is smooth and tangle free again. I reach up and touch the ends slowly and then brush my fingers through them, watching her face to make sure she doesn’t mind me touching her.
“Ehd?” Beh tilts her head toward one shoulder and makes more sounds. She reaches out and touches the side of my head. She gestures with her fingers and then puts her hand on my arm, pulling me toward her and turning me slightly.
Then she places the stick between strands of my hair and moves it down.
I jump up and grab at my head.
Beh covers her mouth with her hand, but I can see humor in her eyes. I glare at her, and she bites down on her lip as she drops her hand. She motions me back toward her, but I take a step away. More noises come from her mouth, and I still don’t like them.
Beh sighs and then she takes the end of her hair and holds it out. I watch as she runs her hand down it, and I can almost feel my own fingers start to strain toward the strands, wanting to touch them myself. She holds her hair out again and beckons me.
I hesitate only a moment.
She keeps motioning, and I slowly move back to her side. Once I’m close enough, I reach out and touch her hair, reveling in it. I let her move me back down to a sitting position where I can reach her hair and she can reach mine. She goes slowly, and now that I am a little more prepared for the feeling, it doesn’t really hurt that much—just a tugging sensation and the occasional, sharper pull.
When that happens, I yelp again, and Beh uses her hand to rub the spot. The action makes it feel better, but I also like that my mate is touching me. The whole time she is running the stick through my tangles, she lets me stroke her hair.
After Beh uses the stick to untangle my hair, she takes me back to the water’s edge and coaxes me to tilt my head toward the cold water. She rinses my hair and then she combs through it again. Once she is done, she sets the stick down on the rock, looks me over, and smiles. I can’t help but smile back at her—just the look on her face warms me more than the sun.
When she is done with my hair, she looks all around my face for a few moments. She rises up to her knees and cups my face in her hands. My heart beats a little faster as I feel the warmth of her body close to mine, but I am soon confused as she takes her thumb and pushes against the corner of my mouth.
I slowly open my mouth for her, and she looks inside. This I understand—she is checking to see how many teeth I have. At least with this, I am most impressive. I’m young and still have all of my teeth. Her eyes narrow a bit, and her nose wrinkles as she looks me over, and I feel a little nervous as she continues to examine me.
Her eyes settle on mine for a moment, and then she reaches down and takes from my hip the fur I washed earlier. She turns it around so the smoother leather part is showing and then wraps it around one of her fingers like she had done with her own clothing earlier.
Then she reaches in my mouth and rubs the edge of my front tooth.
I lean back to break the contact, confused, but Beh is insistent and eventually has her fingers in my mouth again, rubbing each of my teeth with the edge of the leather. When she finishes, she hands me one of the water skins, so I take a drink.
I run my tongue around in my mouth, and my teeth feel quite strange. They seem smoother than they were before. As I consider the difference, Beh wets another corner of my wrap from the water skin and uses it to rub at my forehead and cheek a little. She dips the edge in the water and rubs a little more—this time at my chin, neck, and jaw. I try to sit still as she cleans me off, and I can’t help but remember again how my mother would do the same at the stream near our forest home, starting first with my father and then the children from oldest to youngest.
I never liked it, and I still don’t, but I let her do it.