This one is for DKoren, who prompted: Red Riding Hood/boxes
To Grandma’s House
“Hey there, pretty lady.” The voice was baritone, a low rumble designed to vibrate through a woman’s body and make her curl her toes with pleasure.
Red sighed, her concentration broken. So much for the invisibility cloak. She peered around the stack of boxes she carried.
Over six feet of gen-gineered masculinity stood on the cracked pavement, blocking her path. Amber eyes and pointed canines revealed in his leer screamed Wolf! Muscle shirt, showing off a ripped body and muscular hairy arms; artfully torn jeans; high-end sneakers.
And that grin. Meant to dazzle someone into losing their senses.
“Need help, gorgeous?” the wolf said.
A frisson of desire shot through her, followed by a flash of irritation. Red shifted and the boxes grew heavy. Pheromones, of course. Well, if you can’t fight ’em…
“All right, then.” Red deposited the boxes in the wolf’s arms. “I’ve been hauling Grandma’s junk from her storage unit to her house all morning, anyway.”
His eyes widened as he glanced at his load. He gave a whistle. “Wow. She has some nice stuff!”
The lacquered boxes were of a wood you couldn’t find anymore and inlaid with mother-of-peal. There were three of them in varying sizes: dark chocolate, cognac red, and honeyed gold. Red had spent hours as a child tracing the whorls of grain. She’d considered them her favorite of Grandma’s treasures—until she’d had to carry them for blocks in the high heels and tight skirt her job required.
“Oh, yeah,” Red said flippantly, draping the now-useless cloak over her arm and, incidentally, showing off her curvesand long legs. “She’s into antiques: Chinese vases, African masks, and all that.”
“Oh yeah?” said the wolf. As they walked side by side, Red glanced at him from under her lashes. Greed and lust?
She noted the minimalist watch he wore on his wrist, a slim band of steel-grey with a sliver of a dial. Live metal. Able to scan in a dozen different ways across fifty yards and through just about anything: concrete, earth, clothing. No wonder the cloak hadn’t worked.
“These are a collector’s dream.” The wolf carried the boxes with a gentle reverence that Grandma would approve of. “And you say she has more?”
Oh, I’ll just bet you know several collectors. But Red obliged him with descriptions of Grandma’s other treasures as she led him past abandoned storefronts, an expanse of graffiti-ed warehouse wall, and down a narrow alley filled with rubbish. Red squeezed past a rust-eaten refrigerator and a pile of mildewed shower curtains to the hidden opening at the back.
The wolf followed close behind, panting, his breath hot on the back of her neck. She smiled.
He blinked in surprise as they came into a quiet cul-de-sac. Three Queen Anne-style houses sat in vast, overgrown lots in a state of gentle decay. The road leading into the cul-de-sac was cut off by a screen of oaks, undergrowth, and vines. Grandma was in an anti-technology mood these days, which sounded romantic, but meant a lot of hauling and walking for Red.
Her heels clicked up the brick-paved path to the middle house. She climbed the wooden steps to the covered porch. The wolf sprang up them, but he was sweating profusely. The muscles in his arms twitched and his veins stood out along his skin.
Red was impressed, but she didn’t show it. She opened the screen door and applied the knocker vigorously.
“So… heavy…” panted the wolf, nearly bent double.
“Try putting them down,” suggested Red.
He tried, but couldn’t. He flung back his head in alarm, showing the whites of his eyes.
“Do you know why you can’t?” Red asked conversationally, hand on her hip. “The boxes are made of sympathetic wood.”
The wolf’s lips peeled back from his teeth, revealing too much gum. He hadn’t the breath to talk, but he understood all right. He knew collectors, after all.
“You’ve been walking along for half-an-hour, lusting and coveting and filling the boxes with your dark thoughts. Now they’re weighted down and you can’t let go.”
The door grated open, and Red turned to the woman who stood at the threshold. “Hello, Grandma. I brought someone.”
The wolf whimpered, hunching down. If it weren’t for the boxes, he’d be on his belly on the splintery boards.
Grandma’s eyes gleamed orange as a hunter’s moon. Silvery fur covered her face and body. When she smiled, she showed teeth as sharp as knife points. “Well, well,” she said, her voice deep as night, her breath warm as blood. “Come right in, then.”
Behind her, the house stretched dark and open as a maw. The wolf cast Red a beseeching look as he stumbled past Grandma, who followed him inside.
Red put a foot in the doorway, hesitated. With a shake of her head, she backed away, let the screen door bang shut.
I’ll be late for work, she told herself as she hurried down the steps. She clapped her hands over her ears and sped for the alley.
She almost made it before the screaming began.
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