Samantha trailed her fingers over the blood-red rose lying on her
pillow, feeling the cool, delicate petals. Turning, she raised her head,
the curved shapes of her ears swiveling in the candle-lit darkness as she
tried to pick up hidden sounds. Her emerald green eyes peered into the
shadows, narrow and suspicious.
She'd locked up the house and then come upstairs for bed around 10 pm, right around the time she usually felt sleepiness stealing over her after a long day at work. The window had been open, sheer draperies fluttering in the cool breeze. She had closed it without thought, though she hadn't remembered opening it, and had then gone to the bed and pulled down the covers. There'd been no rose lying on her pillow.
She had left the room for only a moment or two, using the little bathroom down the hall and then shuffling back to the master bedroom in her bunny slippers and raggedy old blue nightshirt.
She was 23, in her prime, as her mother liked to insist to her weekly over the long distance lines. She should 'dress up' and 'be proud of her body'. What her mother didn't understand, or maybe understood all too well, was that Samantha felt embarrassed about her body, even alone in her own house.
Tiger stripes, dark black on a fall of snow-white fur, slipped drowsily over her succulent form -- a form many men would die for if they knew it existed. Her emerald green eyes were the only thing she couldn't hide behind frumpy blouses and baggy pants. Men often found them 'irresistible', as they put it, much to her embarrassment. Being a white tigress didn't help -- it made her stand out all the more.
Giving a soft, wispy little sigh at the sudden influx of memories, she left the rose walked over to the closet, drawing the doors open. There it lay, pristine in its clothier's plastic, hung on a satin hanger of its very own on the inside closet door. She reached up and trailed her fingers over the creamy white lace of the corset, tracing the flowered pattern that skirted the edge of the bodice. Gauzy stockings hung from the hanger in an unadorned, satin drawstring bag of their own. She was blushing faintly, though she didn't realize it, one paw lightly caressing over her breast.
It had arrived on her doorstep a few months ago, just in time for her birthday. The note with it had been anonymous, and had read, "For a rose in the dark..." That had been all. There had been no return address, no telltale shipping marks, no postage stamp. Nothing. The box it had arrived in had been immaculate.
She'd closed it up tight, deciding it must have been a prank played by her overly yiffy co-workers, and had sentenced it to the darkest depths of her bedroom closet. She'd never planned to look at the strangely enticing gift again, but it had haunted her thoughts.
A few weeks ago she had given in to the urge and rescued the prim, unmarked box from under a pile of winter sweaters. Her fingers had trembled as she'd carefully opened it and pulled the corset from its shroud tissue paper. She'd left it in its protective plastic cover, feeling this would mean that she was somehow making less of a commitment. She was only looking, after all...
She sighed again, giving the plastic wrapped corset a reverent little glance, then turned back to the bed. Shuffling in her bunny slippers, she actually made it a few steps before she saw the male black panther morph standing there, his hands clasped in front of him.
He stood there perfectly comfortable, somber, dark eyes unreadable. A black cape was settled around his muscular shoulders, flowing about his splendid body, partially obscuring the cream colored peasant's blouse and brown leather pants he was wearing beneath. His blue-black fur was so dark she couldn't tell where his cape ended and he began.