This piece was performed by senior F. Sebastian Baker at our latest Creative Writing Forum. Sebastian is currently working on a supernatural romance novel and this piece is the first chapter of that larger story. Read introduction to “A Moonlit Rose” below!
A Moonlit Rose
F. Sebastian Baker
The door creaked open, spilling light into the room. Laika blinked the sleepiness from her sky-blue eyes and saw Adam’s bulky frame filling the doorway. “Rise and shine, pups,” he grunted at the thirteen wolves sleeping in a pile on one large mattress. “We have customer.”
Laika was one of the first to rise, easily untangling herself from her siblings. Being at the edge of the huddle wasn’t all bad. As she stood up, her limbs straightened out, her face grew rounder, her nails and teeth lost their sharpness, her tail retreated back up her spine and her gray-brown fur thinned into a fine dainty fuzz, until she looked for all the world like an ordinary human. She stretched her arms, yawned, and shuffled to the large bathroom she shared with her sisters. Each girl preened herself in front of the long mirror, testing her prettiest smiles and fiercest snarls, wanting to look her best for the person who might be her new master. Laika looked over at her many sisters.
“Who do you think it’ll be? Someone who needs a bodyguard?” Alexis asked, flexing her muscular arms.
“I hope it’s a family.” Melanie braided a blue ribbon in her silky black hair. “With hard-working parents and sweet little children for me to take care of.”
Jasna brushed her shining sharp teeth and smiled in the mirror. “I don’t care as long as they love books!”
Laika looked back to her own reflection and sighed. Most werewolves were well on their way through puberty by eight years old, but Laika still looked more like a girl than a young woman. She gave the pale, slightly chubby face in the mirror a half-hearted smile, trying to reassure herself that she wasn’t objectively ugly, just plain and messy when compared to her sisters. She knew there was no way to force order on her hair, a shaggy dirty-blonde mop that she had to keep short so it didn’t get horribly tangled, but in honor of the occasion she picked up a comb and gave it her best try. The comb promptly got stuck. She yelped.
Melanie walked behind her, took hold of the comb and gently pulled it through Laika’s hair, ignoring her whimpers. “Honestly, just let me do it for you. Now, when we meet the customer, keep still and at least try to be presentable. Don’t mess this up for the rest of us.”
“Aww, even lil’ Laika’s getting prettied up!” Alexis rubbed Laika’s head, instantly undoing Melanie’s hard work. “That’s the spirit sis, give it your best even if you know today won’t be your day.”
“It… It might be!” Laika tried to make her voice sound confident, but it came out with a squeak. She could feel a warm blush in her cheeks. “Someone will want me someday. Why not today?”
Melanie tried again to brush Laika’s hair. “Oh, baby, of course someone will, someday. Sooner or later there’s bound to be someone for you. Maybe a kindly old witch looking for a cute little lapdog to keep her company.”
“Come on Mel, don’t sugarcoat it.” Jasna scowled. “Laika’s old enough to know her odds of getting adopted aren’t good. She’ll probably stay here until she’s old enough to apply for emancipation.”
“I already know that…” Laika looked down at the ground. Melanie kept trying in vain to brush her hair. “But I can still try, right?”
Alexis chuckled. “Come on, emancipation isn’t the end of the world! Getting to run wild and free sounds great to me.”
Jasna put her hands on her hips. “So great you’d let Laika go home with someone in your place?”
“Now hold on, I never said that…”
“I can’t imagine emancipation would be good for poor little Laika though.” Melanie gave up on brushing Laika’s hair and turned to Jasna. “Without a master to care for her, our baby sister will never grow big and strong!”
“I’m not that weak…” Laika mumbled to herself, but none of them heard her.
Jasna shrugged. “I wish things were different. But Laika’s the runt of the litter, life was never going to be fair to her.”
“All of you shut up!” Laika stood up and darted from the room. She ran through the halls of the old farmhouse, her eyes shut tight to keep from crying, trusting her ears to guide her away from the sound of her sisters’ voices.
August storm rain pounded on the roof of the old-fashioned black car as it wound its way up the crooked country road, adding a thousand tiny drums to the classical music on the radio. Viktor Ardelean hummed along. Rosalyn Ardelean gazed into the night outside the passenger window, watching the forest pass by. Her blood-red eyes cut through the darkness, seeing the trees as clearly as if it was day. She glanced down at the rear-view mirror, wishing she could check if she looked alright, then turned her head to look at Viktor, trying to imagine what her father might look like as a young girl, and how she might compare. She knew she had his narrow face and straight raven-black hair, but her mother’s dark brown skin. She wondered if she had his nose like a raptor’s beak.
Viktor’s eyes never left the road, but the corners of his mouth pulled up in a smile, showing one of his fangs. “Aren’t you excited?”
“A bit nervous.”
“You needn’t be. Adam Fleisher has been a friend of our family for centuries, and he crafts the finest werewolves you’ve ever seen.”
Rosalyn looked out the window again, counting trees and thoughts. One, she had always wanted a puppy. Two, it would be nice to have a friend close to her age, a real friend who she wouldn’t need to keep secrets from. Three, she knew her father was only getting her a werewolf so that he wouldn’t have to take care of her himself. Four, with her condition she couldn’t travel with him, nor could she live alone. Five, the wolf was an unknown variable, which always made her anxious. “How will I know which one to pick?”
“Knowing you, probably by counting.”
“People are hard to count.”
“Well, I never had a werewolf of my own, but Adam always said that the right one will just jump out at you.”
“But what if none of them like me?”
“Don’t worry so much, my little rose.” He slowed the car to a stop. “Here we are.”
Rosalyn stepped out of the car, unfolding her red umbrella. She looked ahead and saw an ancient farmhouse of brick and timber. The front door creaked open, and out stepped a massive, blocky man whose face and arms were crisscrossed with the stitched scars of a frankenstein. He walked quickly to Viktor and wrapped the much thinner vampire in a hug. “Ah, Viktor, is good to see you again.” His voice sounded faintly artificial and English clearly wasn’t his first language.
Compared to him, Viktor practically purred. “Adam, my old friend, the pleasure’s all mine. Of course, we’re not just here on pleasure.”
“Yes yes, I have good pups for you. Come in, out of rain.” He led them through the creaky door into a large living room with wooden beams under the ceiling, well lit by a crackling fireplace. Rosalyn closed her umbrella with a snap and hung it from a hook on the wall, and Viktor took off his long black trench coat and hung it from the next hook. Adam gasped in mock outrage. “Viktor, what you doing? Big dark coat over Hawaiian shirt? I tell you, no Ardelean should be allowed to dress themself!”
“I don’t think I’ll take fashion advice from someone who’s worn the same grimy overalls since before my daughter was reborn,” Viktor said with a smile that took the sting out of his words.
“Practical work clothes always in style. Same with little black dress, like Rosalyn.” Adam looked down at Rosalyn with a lopsided grin. “How old you now, anyway?”
“I’ll be eleven in October.”
“Good age to adopt. By the time you adult, you and her been together almost for decade, close as sisters.”
“Can you gar-an-tee that?” It sounded like the big word caught on something in her throat.
Viktor chuckled. “She’s afraid none of them will like her.”
Adam stepped towards the hallway. “Don’t worry. I always have right pup. They should be finished dressing now, I go get them-” He stopped and stared as a small blur ran past him into the room and nearly knocked Rosalyn over. Rosalyn took a step back to keep her balance and looked down at the person who had tackled her and was now holding her in their arms. Thoughts added up quickly in her head. One, it was a girl she’d never seen before. Two, she had jumped at Rosalyn out of nowhere. Three, she was naked. Four, while her hug was unexpected, it was soft and surprisingly comfortable. Five, she was clearly trying not to cry. With only a moment’s hesitation, Rosalyn put her arms around the strange girl.
Laika needed a hug, and not from a sister, so she’d ran blindly towards the sound of Adam’s voice and threw her arms around the first body she found. Maybe she should’ve looked where she was going, but she was too busy holding back tears to notice anything else. She took a deep breath to calm herself. Instead, her heart skipped a beat. Adam always smelled like an oncoming storm. Whoever she was holding smelled like a fresh rose. And they were much smaller, small enough that Laika’s arms wrapped all the way around them with room to spare. A pair of light hands rested gently on her back, and a breathy voice whispered “There, there, it’s okay.” Slowly, almost afraid of what she might see, Laika opened her eyes. She saw a girl who looked about her age and so must have been a few years older, with a shy smile that showed just a glimpse of a pair of fangs. Laika let go and took a step back, realized she was naked, and hurriedly changed partway back to a wolf, covering herself with brown-grey fur and making her ears, nose and teeth grow pointy, but she felt sure the vampire girl could see her blushing even through the fur on her cheeks.
Rosalyn tried to calculate what to say to break the tension, but before she could speak something snagged in her throat and she started coughing, a loud hacking cough that made her whole body shake as an all too familiar pain tore up through her throat. Now she was the one grabbing Laika, stumbling forward and clutching the other girl’s shoulders to keep from falling over. She felt Laika’s arms wrap under her and hold her up, soft and warm, and then her father’s hand rubbing slowly up and down her back.
Laika looked over Rosalyn’s shoulder at Viktor, eyes wide with panic, instincts screaming at her to help but not knowing how. “What do I do!? What’s wrong with her!?”
There was fear in Viktor’s eyes too, but no trace of it reached his face or voice. “She’s okay, just try to hold her steady. Adam, get water please.” Adam stomped away and Viktor leaned down next to his daughter. “Rosalyn, focus on my voice. Breath in, ooh, breathe out, ahh, in, ooh, out, ahh…”
“Ooh, ahh, ooh, ahh…” Rosalyn’s coughing slowed to a stop and she tried to stand up, thinking for a moment that it was over. Then she vomited up a clump of bloody rose petals which splattered all over Laika’s chest. “Urgh… I’m sorry…”
“Are you okay!?”
“Rosalyn has Mandrake Syndrome.” Viktor reached into his trench coat where it hung on the wall, and pulled out a sponge and a bottle of some acidic-smelling liquid, offering both to Laika. “Here, put a drop of cleaner on the sponge and then blot off the blood. Don’t wipe or it will stain.”
Laika did as she was told. “Mandrake Syndrome?”
“I bring water and pups!” Adam announced, thumping back into the room with all Laika’s sisters pattering behind him, each fully human and wearing a simple maid’s uniform with a black dress and white apron. They crowded around Rosalyn, talking over each other in their hurry to introduce themselves.
“I promise, I’ll always keep you safe!”
“You can think of me like your big sister!”
“Do you like romance novels? I love them!”
“I always hoped my master would be a vampire!”
Rosalyn fought the urge to close her eyes and cover her ears. There were too many of them, too many people with too many variables to count, and her chest and neck were still sore from coughing. She was grateful when Adam pushed through the crowd with a glass in his hand. She took it and drank, and at that moment the cool water washing down her throat was the best thing in the whole world. Feeling a little stronger, she looked at the eager faces of the werewolves and forced a smile. “One at a time, please.” The girls scrambled to obey, arranging themselves into a line in front of her.
She felt her father’s hand on her back again, strong and comforting. He spoke to the werewolves. “Hello ladies, I’m Viktor Ardelean and this is my daughter Rosalyn. We’re looking for a single one of you to be her caretaker and companion.” He smiled down at Rosalyn. “Well my flower, do any of them jump out at you?”
“I don’t know… can I talk to them first?”
“An excellent idea!” One of the werewolves flashed a dazzling smile. “It’s like they say, never judge a book by its cover.” She stepped forwards and made a slight bow to Rosalyn, speaking in a hurry. “Hi, I’m Jasna. I’m nine years old, which means I’m about as mature as a fifteen-year-old human. I love reading, and I pride myself on being a quick learner, so I’m perfect if you want someone to read you bedtime stories or help you with your homework, and when you’re older I can do things like taxes and accounting or pretty much any cerebral job. Of course, in return I’ll need you to provide me with plenty of books! Plus a bit of free time to read them in. Does that sound fair? Oh, you probably want to know about my personality too! I’ve been called cynical, but I prefer to think of myself as realistic. You can count on me to tell the plain truth, even if it hurts. I’m sure you’ll come to understand I’m only brutally honest because I respect people enough to think they can handle it. But I’m not always negative! I love happy and whimsical things so long as they don’t cloud people’s judgement. I consider myself a nihilist in the way the Nietzsche originally intended it, I think life is meaningless on its own and we create meaning for it by doing whatever makes ourselves and others happy. So, miss Rosalyn, do you think you and I would make each other happy?”
It took Rosalyn a moment to realize Jasna had asked her a question, and she didn’t have time to calculate her answer. “No, yes, maybe? I mean, um… you seem nice, but can I talk to the others before choosing please?”
A scowl crossed Jasna’s face for just a second before her bright smile returned. “Yes of course, you should get all the information you can before making such a big decision. I respect that.” She stepped back into the line.
Another werewolf stepped forward, grabbing Rosalyn’s hand and shaking it firmly. “Name’s Alexis, I’ve got a lotta energy so I let it out by practicing martial arts! Goons from a rival family giving you trouble?” She punched the air with her free hand. “Pow! Not anymore! Keep me active and I’ll keep you safe, one hundred percent guaranteed. I can do other physical stuff too, like lifting and carrying and whatever. Hey, I bet I can even carry you!” She scooped Rosalyn up in her arms. “Woah, you’re so light, it’s like you’re nothing but skin and bones!”
Rosalyn yelped and clung to Alexis. “Put-me-down put-me-down!”
Alexis carefully set her back on the ground. “Sorry. Y’know, you feel kinda sickly and I like to play rough… on second thought, maybe you and I aren’t the best match.”
Rosalyn shuddered. “I’m pretty sure you’d snap me in half.”
“Well any of us could do that, but yeah.” She stepped back into line. “No hard feelings, right?”
The next werewolf wrapped Rosalyn in a too-tight hug. “Oh you poor dear, I’m sorry Alexis was so rough with you! I promise I’ll be extra gentle. My name is Melanie, but you can call me Mel or Big Sister if you want.” She patted Rosalyn’s head. “My my, your hair is so soft! Would you like me to style it for you? I think you’d look especially adorable in pigtails!” She pulled back a bit and gave Rosalyn an appraising look. “Yes, pigtails and a little red dress with lots of lace, you’d be an absolute doll!”
“I don’t want to be a doll…” Rosalyn muttered.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I sometimes get a bit carried away when I see something cute. But I have skills besides fashion, I promise! I’ve been told I have a lovely singing voice, and like any good maid, I can cook, clean and generally keep house for you.”
Jasna cleared her throat. “We can all do that!”
“Yes but I’m very good at it! Anyway miss Rosalyn, I really hope you’ll choose me, but whatever happens I want you to know that you’re very pretty and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise!”
One after another, the other werewolves stepped forward and introduced themselves to Rosalyn, telling her who they were and why she should adopt them. With each one, she counted up her thoughts about them in her head, and each time they added up to something that wasn’t quite right. This one was too pushy, that one too aloof, the other one just too loud. Soon there was only one left, the small girl from before, wearing a wolf’s fur instead of a maid’s uniform. She stepped forward with a shaky and clearly forced smile. “H-hi, I’m Laika… sorry for running into you…”
“You crashed into me, I threw up on you, I think that makes us even.”
Laika’s smile grew a bit stronger. “If you say so. What’s Mandrake Syndrome?”
“Oh, well…” All the other wolves had talked about themselves, so Rosalyn was surprised by the question and took a moment to put her answer into words. “It means a plant took root in me while I was buried, and by the time Dad dug me up it had grown too much for them to cut it out, so it just keeps growing by drawing water and nutrients from my body.” Seeing a look of panic cross Laika’s face, she hurried on. “It’s not that bad really, it’s not like it can kill me and it’s no big problem as long as I eat the right diet, it just gets… uncomfortable sometimes.”
“Does it happen often?”
“You mean throwing up petals? It’s usually not so messy, but it gets worse whenever I breathe quickly, like when I’m nervous. Thank you for holding me while I coughed.”
“Oh, you’re welcome! I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.”
“But you did help, a lot. I felt much safer with you supporting me.”
Laika tried to keep her face calm when she heard this, but her smile spread into a big goofy grin and her little nub of a tail wagged frantically. She had kept someone safe. Even though she was a runt, even though she wouldn’t get adopted, when it mattered she’d done what a guard dog was supposed to do.
Rosalyn cleared her throat. “Now it’s your turn. You were crying when you ran into me, so would you mind telling me what happened?”
“Oh, I…” Laika glanced at her sisters. Jasna had her eyes closed and was muttering something to herself, Melanie pulled at her braid the way she always did when she was worried, and Alexis stared at her as if sizing her up. “I always freak out when a customer comes. I know I won’t be adopted, but that just makes it worse…”
Rosalyn tilted her head a bit to the side. “Why won’t you be adopted?”
“Well, look at me, I’m…” Laika gestured to her body, looking down at the floor in shame. “… the runt of the litter.”
With a shy smile, Rosalyn reached out her hand. “Smaller and weaker ever since you were born? I think I know how you feel.”
For a horrible moment, there was nothing but awkward silence and Rosalyn thought she’d miscalculated, but to her great relief Laika took her hand. “Thanks. I’m glad this time I at least got to be helpful, even if my introduction went bad.”
“Well, you can still introduce yourself. Do you have any talents?”
“I like gardening, but I’m not very good at it. And I’m guessing you don’t like plants.”
“Actually, I love watching things grow, just so long as they’re not inside my lungs. I wish I could start a garden, but it hurts if I bend over for too long and Dad is too busy to help me.”
“Maybe we…” Laika gulped. “Nevermind. I shouldn’t get my hopes up.”
Laika took a deep breath. “Maybe we could plant that garden together!” She immediately clapped her paws over her mouth. She couldn’t believe she’d said that out loud. It sounded so ridiculously hopeful. Blushing bright red, she shuffled back to her place in line.
“Maybe…” Rosalyn’s voice trailed off and she looked up at her father, then at Adam, then at the hopeful faces of all the werewolves. “So now I just… choose one of you? To come home with us and live with me… forever?”
“You have to sign contract promising to treat her fair, but basically yes, just choose,” Adam said.
Rosalyn felt her cheeks flush as all eyes in the room focused on her, her calculations only adding to the pressure. One, adopting a werewolf was a lifelong commitment. Two, whichever one she chose, she’d be trusting with her life too. Three, you really couldn’t know someone from one quick conversation. Four, she didn’t have time to get to know them all better. Five, choosing one would mean leaving all the others behind. Six, other undead would adopt them instead. Seven, one of them had jumped out at her. Eight, what if they weren’t as good a match as she thought? Nine- No, she decided, seven was the last significant figure. She slowly reached out her hand. “Will you come home with me?”
Laika looked left, right and behind her, then slowly turned back to face Rosalyn, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. She pointed to herself. “M-m-me? You’re… choosing me?”
“I won’t force you if-”
Laika threw her arms around Rosalyn before she could finish her sentence. She hugged the vampire tight as the tears she’d been holding back finally spilled out, but now they were tears of joy.
Rosalyn softly patted Laika’s back. “Is that a yes?”
“Yes! Yes yes yes!”
Everything after that passed like a dream, in fact Laika pinched herself several times to make sure it wasn’t one. She got dressed in her uniform, packed up what few belongings she had -clothes, toothbrush, favorite chew toy, Pocket Guide to Garden Herbs– and signed her name on the contract she knew by heart. All her sisters surrounded her in a big group hug.
“Write us letters!”
“Hey, Laika.” As the others gradually dispersed, Jasna stayed close, making a nervous expression Laika had never seen before. “Listen, I just want to say I… well… I’m sorry. For earlier.”
Laika didn’t know what to say, so she just hugged her sister and hoped she’d understand. Jasna hugged her back.
Rosalyn held her umbrella over Laika as they walked to the car, Viktor and Adam behind them. Adam reached down and patted Laika’s head. “You be good now, take care of new master, yes?”
On the ride home, Rosalyn sat in the back with Laika, watching the other girl sway side to side in her seat and hum along with her father and the radio. She had the biggest smile Rosalyn had ever seen, and Rosalyn found she couldn’t watch her without smiling too. A million questions swirled around in her head, but none urgent enough to be worth breaking the moment. She and Laika would have the rest of their lives to get to know each other, and for an undead and a hybrid that was a very long time.
Even though Rosalyn knew the drive took hours, it seemed like only a few seconds later when Viktor slowed the car to a stop at the end of a city street, in front of a small, mostly unassuming house the color of dark chocolate, with a stubby tower on the north corner. Rosalyn got out of the car, running through the rain rather than unfolding her umbrella for such a short distance. Laika ran right behind her. When they reached the small porch, Laika shook herself from side to side, sending water in every direction and making Rosalyn squeak and hold up her arm to ward off the flying droplets. “Hey, Laika!”
“Sorry…” Laika smiled sheepishly.
“You girls all right?” Viktor called from the car, where he was carefully maneuvering a large brown suitcase out of the trunk.
“It’s fine Dad, Laika just splashed me.”
“Your house is beautiful Mr. Ardelean!”
“Thank you Laika.” Viktor finally got the suitcase safely out, then reached into the trunk for something else. “Listen, I have a bit more unpacking to do. Rosalyn, why don’t you show Laika around a bit before bed?”
“Alright Dad.” Rosalyn took a key from her pocket and unlocked the door, which creaked as she opened it. “Come, on, follow me.” She led Laika through the house, going from room to room in a clockwise spiral through the hallway, the kitchen, the living and dining rooms rolled into one, up a flight of stairs, past the bathroom and two bedrooms, then up stairs again into the attic, before ending outside the tower. “That’s Dad’s study, we’re not supposed to go in there.” She made a sweeping gesture with her arm. “And, well, that’s the whole house. I hope you weren’t expecting a fancy mansion, our family’s not as rich as we once were and ever since Mom… left, Dad spends all his money on museum stuff.”
“I like small houses.” Laika yawned, resting her head on Rosalyn’s shoulder. “Sorry, I’m not used to being up this late… early… whenever.”
Rosalyn yawned too, wondering for a moment why yawning was so infectious. She glanced at the clock on the wall. 3:42. “Early. Thank goodness it’s Sat… Sunday. If this was a school night I’d be in big trouble.”
“You go to school with humans?”
“That was Mom’s idea. She said it would help me understand them better.”
“Am I gonna have to go to school too?”
“I don’t think so.” Another yawn. “Adam already taught you, right?”
“Y-” Yawn. “Yeah…”
Viktor came up the stairs, carrying the big brown suitcase under one arm and Laika’s smaller bag under the other. “Sounds like it’s bedtime for you two.”
Rosalyn nodded. “Do we have sleeping tea?”
“None ready. Sorry my flower, you’ll have to just take the pills. Laika, here’s your toothbrush.”
“Fine…” Rosalyn went down to the bathroom, Laika following behind her, opened the medicine cabinet and shook three small pills from a bottle into her hand. She popped one in her mouth, swallowed, and scrunched her face up in disgust.
“Is it bad?” Laika asked.
“Bitter.” Rosalyn took the second pill and grimaced again. “But they keep me from waking up with a mouthful of flowers.” She looked at the third pill. “I like to dissolve them in herbal tea, but that takes too long if it’s late.”
“Hmm… Rosalyn!” Laika beamed confidently at her. She’d always worried that she couldn’t be much use as a servant, but this was something she knew she could do. “It’s my job to take care of you now, right? So starting tomorrow, I’ll make tea for you every night, so you’ll always have some to take your medicine with!”
Rosalyn took the third pill, wincing as she did so but smiling the whole time. “That would be wonderful. Thank you, Laika.”
The two girls brushed their teeth, changed into pajamas, then Rosalyn called up the stairs to the attic. “Hey Dad, where’s Laika going to sleep?”
“I knew I forgot something,” Viktor sighed, coming halfway down the stairs. “Apologies, Laika. Will you settle for the couch until we find something more permanent?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, that’ll be fine.” Laika made herself smile. They’d taken her into their home and that was more than enough. A bed would’ve made her really feel like she belonged, but being disappointed with the couch would just be ungrateful.
Rosalyn looked closely at Laika, calculating. “If you’d rather, you can share my bed.”
“I can!?” Laika nearly hugged Rosalyn before she reminded herself that she was grateful for the couch. “I mean, if it’s okay with you.”
“Well, it’ll be more comfortable… plus you’ll be right there if I need you.”
Viktor shrugged. “Make whatever sleeping arrangements you like, and tell me tomorrow if we need to buy another bed. Goodnight, my flower.” He kissed Rosalyn’s forehead, then returned to the attic.
Rosalyn leaned in and whispered in Laika’s ear. “You really don’t want to sleep on the couch, do you?”
“Not really, no…”
“Then it’s settled.”
One cold November night, two weeks after her eighteenth birthday, Rosalyn lies awake in bed. Most nights, being wrapped in Laika’s strong gentle arms, snuggling into the soft fur on her chest, and feeling the steady rise and fall of her breathing is enough to lull Rosalyn to sleep. But tonight calculations keep her awake. One, she and Laika had shared a bed for as long as they’d known each other. Two, it was originally her idea. Three, it made Laika so happy. Four, it saved them the trouble of getting another bed and finding a place to put it. Five, it’s natural for wolves to sleep huddled together. Six, it’s hardly surprising for Rosalyn to be close with her caretaker. Seven, Laika is better than any blanket or space heater. Eight, Rosalyn can’t be the only undead to use her hybrid as a bed-warmer. Nine, it means if she needs help Laika is right there. Ten, Rosalyn breathes more easily with someone else’s rhythm to follow.
She counts all the factors in her head, over and over again. Something still doesn’t add up. Why now, after being what she considered normal for eight years, does sleeping with Laika suddenly make her feel so strange inside?
Laika shifts under the covers and opens her eyes. “Hey, you okay?”
“I… think so… yes.” Rosalyn rolls over, turning her back on Laika. They both can see in the dark, so Rosalyn knows Laika could see her blushing. “Go back to sleep.”