Wereborn Series Book One
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2019 Grace Tydings
Cover Design by Oliviaprodesign. All stock purchased.
No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Other Work by Grace Tydings
Black Paw Series
Thank you to Mom, Aunt Libby, and Dr. Bob for all their help with this book. I am extremely lucky to have so many educators in my family who not only are willing to help me, but are extremely supportive of my writing.
“I need that White Russian this century!” exclaimed the bespectacled waiter passing in front of the bar at a breakneck speed. I didn’t even look up from the dry martini I was currently preparing to acknowledge Paul’s demand.
“Here you are, Mrs. Franklin,” I said, as I placed the chilled martini glass on a fresh cocktail napkin. I shook the metal shaker with one hand and poured the clear liquid into the glass containing a single blue cheese stuffed olive on a skewer.
“Thank you, my dear,” Mrs. Franklin cooed, as she placed her bejeweled hand around the glass and brought it to her crimson lips. “Perfect,” she declared, after taking a; long sip.
With my heavy-tipping customer satisfied, I walked to the other end of the bar towards the impatient waiter currently staring daggers at me. I grabbed the vodka and cream from the small cooler behind the bar with one hand and took the Kahlua off the shelf behind me with the other hand. Paul had already set the rocks glass with ice on the bar. I poured the liquids into the glass without saying a word to him. He grabbed the drink and took off towards his waiting table in the dining room.
“Someone’s in a mood tonight, I see,” Rebecca said, as she placed her cell phone next to the cash register behind the bar.
“If he wants to start tipping out the bartenders more, then maybe he’ll get his drinks made faster. Until then, my customers come before his,” I replied, as I wiped down the area of the bar that had just been vacated. “Speaking of which, Mrs. Franklin just got her first drink so you should be in for a decent evening.”
Rebecca was my evening replacement. I usually bartended nights, the money shifts, but Rebecca’s son had a birthday party that morning, so we switched shifts. It was close to 5:00 pm and the dinner crowd was just starting to come in. Rebecca was about to make more money tonight than she would have from working four lunches in a row.
“Thanks again for switching shifts,” she said, wholeheartedly.
“No sweat.” I grabbed my iPhone and purse from behind the cash register. I glanced at it, noticed two missed calls, and shoved it in my back pocket. “Wish the munchkin a happy birthday for me. Have a good night, Rebecca.”
I exited out of the door behind the bar that led to the large kitchen. I had been bartending at the Rappahannock Inn for the past four months. It’s a luxury resort located outside of Virginia Beach, on the Rappahannock River. The clientele was wealthy and older, the perfect combination to make good money from bartending.
The hall that led from behind the bar to the kitchen wound around the entrances to the dining rooms. The Inn was spacious and old, and although the modern renovations kept up the five-star rating among the guests, the back of the house was painfully outdated. On busy nights servers dodged each other like NASCAR drivers as they navigated the winding halls.
The time punch-clock was next to the cappuccino maker in the hall leading to the kitchen. I reached for the index card with my name on it when I felt someone move close behind me.
“Hey, sexy.” I froze at the sound of the familiar voice. I listened to see if the area around us was clear of staff before turning around.
“Hi, Carter,” I said, forcing a small smile.
“Getting off for the night?” he asked, leaning against the wall in the narrow hall. Carter was a blonde haired, blue eyed, twenty-something with a year-round tan. He drove a large pick-up truck with camo seat covers. Just your typical southern boy up for a good time. And just the type of guy I avoided.
Until last Wednesday night.
“Yeah, heading home now,” I said, punching my card and placing it back into the metal holder next to the machine.
“I’m working late tonight, but I can swing by later?” Carter asked, in a husky voice.
“I have an early morning tomorrow,” I lied, avoiding Carter’s sultry gaze. “Raincheck?”
“Maybe tomorrow night?” Carter reached his hand out to my waist, but I sidestepped out of his reach.
“I’ll call you,” I replied.
“Ouch.” He placed a fist over his chest. “Three words that cut like a knife to the heart.”
“Later, Carter.” I gave him a quick smile before I hurried towards the employee parking lot.
Carter worked as a porter at the Inn. With his good looks and southern accent, he did well tip-wise amongst the female customers. He also had a reputation in town for being quite the player. There were few girls at the Inn who he hadn’t “hit and quit”.
“And now my name is on that list,” I said to myself. I unlocked the door to my Subaru and threw my phone onto the passenger’s seat. I cringed thinking about Carter, as I started my car and pulled out of the parking lot.
Last Wednesday night, against my better judgment, I decided to go out with some coworkers to a local townie dive bar. Drinks were had, good music was blasting, and the next thing I know Carter and I were making out in the back seat of my Subaru in the parking lot. There was no denying he was a good-looking male specimen. But I knew better than to fool around with a co-worker. I’d worked enough places in my life to know the rules. Reputations in small towns were like lighter fluid; it just takes a single spark to set off a blaze of rumors. At forty-five years old, I knew better.
I know what you’re thinking. What was a forty-five-year-old doing making out with frat boys in parking lots? I should explain that I’m not your average forty-five-year-old woman. As a full-blooded Werewolf, I age twice as slow as humans. So even at almost fifty, I didn’t look a day over twenty-five.
I pulled into the parking lot of Spring Acres Apartments and got my usual spot under the old pine tree. I grabbed my stuff from the passenger’s seat, but before I exited the vehicle, I inhaled deeply. I could still smell Carter all over my car’s interior. I thought about leaving the window open a crack to air it out, but Spring Acres wasn’t really the safest spot in town. The last thing I needed was to have my car broken in to.
I walked through the front door of the building and passed the elevator to take the stairs. I scaled the three flights in seconds and inserted the key in the lock of my front door, turning it to enter my small apartment. I had a third floor, corner unit with a lovely view of the back of the local Walmart. I’d chosen Spring Acres because it was cheap and furnished. As someone who moved around a lot, these were two qualities I looked for in my living arrangements.
Once I had locked the door behind me, I tossed my purse on the coffee table. I moved to the small kitchenette and grabbed an unopened bottle of red wine from the countertop. The wine opener was already on the coffee table, so I grabbed a clean glass from next to the sink and walked to the couch, plopping down with a loud thud.
I didn’t have a TV in the apartment, but I had an old laptop and free WIFI (the only amenity Spring Acres offered). I started a YouTube search for “full-length movies 1980’s”. Top Gun was the first movie that popped up in the queue. I maximized the screen and turned the volume up.
I sat back on the couch, opened the wine bottle, and poured myself a heaping glass. I closed my eyes as I let the sweet liquid flow down my throat. I’d been looking forward to this moment all day.
When I opened my eyes, I glanced at the calendar I kept on the wall next to the bathroom. The full moon was on Wednesday. I could feel it was getting close. I would spend Wednesday morning driving up to the Shenandoah Mountains. I’d found an isolated spot a couple of months back and had been using it when I went through my involuntary monthly change to Wolf form.
There are two types of Werewolves: those who were bitten and those who were born. When a Werewolf in Wolf form bites a human, the human goes through a transformation. Only the strongest humans can survive. Those that don’t, die. Those that do, become Werewolves.
I was born Werewolf.
We’re known as Wereborn. A female Werewolf can become pregnant by a male Werewolf. But when the female is forced to transition to Wolf form during a full moon, she miscarries the baby.
The only women who can carry a Werewolf baby to full-term are Wolfen. Wolfen are the distant cousins of Werewolves. The most human-like of all the Supernaturals, Wolfen remain in human form at all times. The only transformation they undergo is in their eyes, which blaze bright gold when they experience extreme emotions. Like Werewolves, Wolfen, age twice as slow and are twice as strong as humans. Unlike Werewolves, Wolfen have been able to successfully live among humans in densely populated urban areas.
The problem with Wolfen women giving birth to Werewolf babies was the strenuous birth: no Wolfen woman was able to survive it.
Which means that to be a Wereborn meant your mother died in childbirth.
I took another long gulp of my wine as I thought about the mother I never knew. The woman who had brought me into this world but died without even a chance to hold me. It was a thought that I always tried to push away, but followed me around like a bad rash, popping up without warning.
My gaze moved to the vibrating iPhone peeking out from my purse. I saw the familiar name but ignored it and turned back to the old classic movie on my laptop. Maverick wasn’t my type; I was definitely an Iceman girl.
I poured the last of the bottle into my glass. The movie had barely begun, and I was almost through an entire bottle of wine. Luckily, I bought my vino by the case.
I wouldn’t be running out of it tonight.
The light poked in from the uneven Venetian blinds, searing my face with its unwelcome heat. I rolled over on the couch until my face was shaded from the light. My head was throbbing. I sat up and tried to force myself out of my groggy state. The vibrating phone on the coffee table caught my attention. I pushed aside an empty wine bottle that had fallen to its side and reached for the phone.
“Hey, Mallory,” I said, the taste of bile creeping up my esophagus. It looked like I would be in for one hell of a hangover this morning.
“Where have you been? I’ve been trying to call you since yesterday?” My sister’s voice was filled with concern.
“I was working late. I’m just getting up.” I looked at the clock on the wall. It was just past 10:00 am.
“Jesus, Georgia. You sound like shit,” Mallory said.
“Thanks, Mal. It’s nice to hear from you, too.”
My breath caught in my throat. I stared straight ahead at the wall in front of me, trying to absorb the words Mallory just uttered.
“When?” I asked, in a soft voice.
“Yesterday.” I cringed as I thought of all the calls from Mallory I had ignored.
“How?” I asked.
“She was hit by a car,” Mallory said. I could hear the grief in her voice. “It happened right in front of the shop. A car slid on a patch of ice and couldn’t stop.”
“I’m on my way,” I said.
“I…” There was a heavy pause on the other end of the phone before Mallory continued. “Drive safe.”
“Okay,” I said before hanging up the phone.
I let the weight of everything she said, and didn’t say, sink in for several minutes before heading to the bathroom. I knelt before the toilet and purged the contents of my stomach, roughly three bottles of red wine, then started the shower.
What would probably be a full day’s recovery for a human would last me another hour or two. Werewolves healed twice as fast as humans, even from hangovers.
I pulled back the shower curtain and stepped inside, fully clothed, letting the lukewarm water rush over my face and body. I sat down in the tub and place my head between my legs. The tears began to fall faster than the water from the showerhead.
The physical pain I was experiencing from the previous night’s poor decisions was nothing like the pain in my heart from learning that the woman who had raised me was dead.
All my worldly belongings fit into three duffle bags. I’d lost count of how many times I have moved, but it’s safe to say it’s been a lot.
Werewolves usually belonged to Packs. Those that didn’t were called Loners. I’d been traveling the country as a Loner ever since the day I turned eighteen.
After straightening up my small apartment and discarding the empty wine bottles in the trash chute in the hall, I grabbed my packed bags and descended the stairs of the apartment building.
I threw my bags in the trunk of my old Subaru and slipped into the driver’s seat. I pulled out of the Spring Acres parking lot, and the thought occurred to me that this would likely be the last time I would lay eyes on the place. It would soon become a memory, like the many other places I had left, never to return. Like all the other times, I didn’t feel any strong emotion over vacating my temporary lodgings.
My mantra has always been: “Forward. Never backward.”
But I wasn’t going forwards at the moment. Quite the contrary. I was going back to the place I avoided for the past twenty-seven years: Bayfield, Wisconsin.
My half-sister Mallory and I were raised by a woman in our father’s Pack named Frankie Malone. As Wereborn children without biological mothers, it was customary for the strongest woman in a Pack to step in and act as a mother figure.
Wereborn children were rare, especially after the Wolfen-Werewolf Treaty of 1865. The treaty came about after a long-fought war between Wolfen and Werewolves over, you guessed it: Wereborn children.
The desire to create biological children has long been a source of pride among male Werewolves. Since no Wolfen woman would willingly give up her life to produce a child, Werewolves resulted to kidnapping and rape.
Just thinking about it sent shivers down my spine.
After about twenty years of fighting, both sides came together in 1865 and signed a treaty that made the kidnapping of Wolfen women illegal. Furthermore, Werewolves could not enter Wolfen territory without being granted permission. Any violation of these rules resulted in punishment administered and enforced by Wolfen.
That being said, there was nothing in the Treaty that prevented Wolfen women from going into Werewolf territory. Now, given everything that’s happened, wouldn’t you think Wolfen women would stay as far away from Werewolves as possible? If only…
Wolfen women can only conceive when they come into season. This usually occurs somewhere in their twenties. For reasons I’ll never quite understand, some women want to experiment with Werewolves before they’ve come into season. If this is the case, and it can be proved that a Wolfen woman went willingly with a Werewolf man and became pregnant, the man would not be prosecuted. Suffice it to say, this does not happen often.
But it did happen to my mom.
I didn’t have a chance to learn much about my mom because my dad died when I was four years old. And by died, I mean he was executed.
While my mother had gone willingly with my father, my sister Mallory’s mom had not. Our dad had been so disappointed that his “lucky” shot at having a Wereborn child resulted in me, a girl, that he broke the law and took the life of an innocent woman. He kidnapped the woman, impregnated her, and kept her until she gave birth. After she died, he tried to keep Mallory’s birth a secret, but there was no way he could take care of a baby by himself. Dad brought the baby to Frankie who was already raising me on his behalf, and begged her to keep Mallory a secret. Frankie accepted the baby, but refused to hide his crime. The Pack arrested Dad and turned him over to the Wolfen, who hanged him. The family of Mallory’s mother was offered the chance to take her, but they declined. Frankie raised us both as if we were her own.
Frankie homeschooled us and prepared us both for when we would experience our first change to Wolf form, which happened when we hit puberty. Wereborn children were kept separate from the Pack until their first transition. At that time, a Wereborn is given the option to join the Pack. I joined when I was thirteen.
But something unusual happened when Mallory experienced her first transition. Her Wolf was shrouded in fear. Only Frankie and I were present for her first transition. Had any other Wolf been around they would have attacked Mallory’s Wolf. Like wolves in nature, Werewolves eliminate sick or weak members from their Pack. Both Frankie and I worked with Mallory’s Wolf to get her to toughen up, but it was no use. She was weak. There was no way Mallory’s Wolf could ever be around other Wolves, making her unable to join a Pack. While Pack’s lived in their human form, they fought together in Wolf form.
Frankie and I were the only ones who could transition with Mallory. Packs came together during full moons and ran together. There was no way Mallory’s Wolf would be able to join the Pack. Frankie and I decided to leave the Pack so Mallory wouldn’t be on her own. After we left the Pack, we moved to Bayfield, Wisconsin where Frankie opened up a bookstore. We lived in the apartment above it. The Pack lived thirty miles outside of town.
I loved my sister and Frankie but living with the constant reminders of what my dad had done, and how I came into existence was unbearable. I acted out as a teenager, making Frankie’s job as my guardian all that much harder. Leaving home seemed like it would be just as beneficial to Frankie as it was to me. The day I turned eighteen I left and never looked back.
The drive from Virginia to Wisconsin was more than I wanted to attempt to do in a single day. I decided to take a small detour and spend the night in an old cabin in Kentucky that used to belong to my dad. After he died, Frankie continued to take us there every January to escape the brutal northern Wisconsin winters. I had no clue if they still used the cabin, or if it still belonged to our family. Worst case scenario, I could always sleep in my car.
The sun had just set as I turned off at the exit leading to Cave Run Lake in northern Kentucky. I didn’t need a map to guide me through the low mountains. Dad’s cabin was a ways away from the lake, sitting alone up in Biddle Hollow, spitting distance from Scott Creek.
Cave Run Lake was usually deserted when we would come in the winter. It was late March now, and the weather was temperate. I spotted slightly more traffic than I had remembered being present.
The long driveway leading up to the cabin hadn’t looked like it had been used in a very long time. Tree branches had fallen, and bushes had become overgrown. I slowed the Subaru down to a crawl as I guided it through the neglected path.
The full moon was still two nights away, but the light in the night’s sky was bright. The almost full moon illuminated the old cabin as it came into my view. The dark structure looked a little rougher than I’d remembered, but it was still standing.
I pulled the Subaru up to the front of the cabin and turned the engine off. Before I got out of the car I sat still for a moment and looked around. If I had to guess I’d say neither Frankie nor Mallory had been here since I had left home. I opened the car door and took in a deep breath, listening for any signs of life.
I grabbed a flashlight from my glove compartment, my large duffle bag containing my overnight things, and headed up the uneven steps to the front door. There was a small crack on the top of the door frame that was hidden from plain sight. I reached up and removed the rusty key from its hiding spot and unlocked the door. As I walked across the threshold, I was greeted by the musty smell of a neglected cabin in the middle of the woods.
The cabin was built in the 1800s and consisted of a single room. There was no electricity, so I flicked on my flashlight to look around. An old wood stove sat in the corner making up the entirety of the kitchen. There were two couches in front of a stone fireplace. Against the far wall sat a set of bunk beds. There was no bathroom unless you counted a large, metal basin in the corner. A sheet was set up to offer up privacy to use the basin to take a bath. When nature called, we literally went into nature to answer. The outhouse behind the cabin was so disgusting to us when we were kids, Mallory and I just went into the woods to handle our business.
I sighed as I looked around the dirty, old room. I quickly regretted my decision to bypass the highway motels guaranteeing running water and an internet connection for my current attempt at nostalgia.
“Fuck this,” I said to no one. I was definitely going to sleep in the Subaru tonight. But first, I needed to unwind.
I looked through the cabinets next to the woodstove, pushing dusty jars out of my way. All the way in the back, behind a twenty-year-old can of Spam, was the jar I was looking for. I brushed the dust off of the half-full mason jar and looked at the clear liquid inside.
Dad’s famous moonshine.
There were a couple of other jars hidden around the cabin, but this was the first one Mallory and I discovered. We were going to save it for Mallory’s sixteenth birthday to try together, but I left home before we ever got the chance.
“No time like the present.” With my duffle bag still over my shoulder, I headed back outside. The fresh, night’s air filled my lungs with welcome relief from the musty interior I had just vacated. I threw my duffle bag back in my car, zipped up my jacket, and headed towards the creek near the cabin. The moon’s light was strong enough for me to turn off the flashlight, so I tossed it on the sandy bank of the creek. I rinsed off the mason jar in the creek and rubbed it dry on my jeans before I plopped down next to the flashlight on the bank. I unscrewed the top and took a small sniff. It smelled like lighter fluid.
“Cheers,” I said, as I held up the jar to the moon, my only drinking companion. The clear liquid burned as it went down my throat, making its way to my stomach. I was glad I stopped and ate a greasy burger when I crossed the West Virginia-Kentucky state line.
I leaned back on a log and stared up at the stars above me. The warmth of the moonshine felt like it was traveling through my veins, making my skin tingle. I giggled a little and took another swig of the moonshine. I didn’t consider myself a light drinker by any means, but this moonshine was no joke.
“Where are my manners? Would you like a sip?” I held up the jar to the moon above me. “No? Suit yourself.” I took another swig. “Not much of a talker, are you?” The moon did not reply. I adjusted my body, so I was lying flat on the sand. I kicked off my shoes and socks and rested my feet in the creek. “That’s fine by me. You can just sit up there and keep judging me.” I reached for another swig of moonshine, but the jar wasn’t in my hand anymore.
I looked over to my side, but my vision was beginning to blur. I focused my attention back on the silent moon. “You know, where do you get off deciding who is who and what is what?” I asked, pausing for an answer. When I didn’t get one, I continued with my train of thought. “Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, what we are is just plain wrong?”
“Would you like to elaborate on that thought, little one?” I squinted, trying to focus my gaze on a pair of green eyes looking down at me.
“I didn’t know the moon was blond,” I said, at the distinctly masculine face staring at me.
“I’m not the moon.” The voice was honeyed and deep. I closed my eyes, the sound bringing a smile to my face.
“Sure you’re not. Why don’t you pour yourself a drink?” I reached out towards the moonshine but couldn’t find it. A scowl formed on my face in confusion. “Where did I put it?”
“I’m not thirsty,” the voice replied. “I want to know what it is you want.”
I opened up my eyes and stared at the moon. His green eyes sparkled like emeralds. “I don’t want to be Wereborn,” I said, responding to his question.
“Okay.” The sparkle in his eyes began to fade.
“Wait!” I shouted.
“I don’t want to be human, either.”
The sun was shining brightly on me as I slowly opened my eyes. I could taste sand in my mouth and realized that I must have slept all night on the bank of the creek. I sat up and brushed off the sand that had coated one side of my face.
The empty jar of moonshine laid on its side next to my discarded shoes, socks, and jacket.
I can’t believe I drank the whole thing, I thought to myself. That must be why I had absolutely no memory of the night before.
I stood up slowly, testing my balance. Once it seemed like I was steady enough, I walked over to the creek and bent down, so my face was close to the water. I looked at my reflection and was surprised to see that I didn’t look half bad for having passed out in the sand. I scooped up the cold water in my hands and splashed my face a few times.
That’s when I realized that I was not hungover. I couldn’t believe that after a moonshine binge I had no sign of a headache or any other hangover symptom.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” I said to myself in astonishment. Maybe I was still drunk, and the hangover hadn’t hit yet? But I didn’t feel drunk.
I looked over at the water and a sense of déjà vu swept over me. It was like I was experiencing a memory of some kind, but I couldn’t actually remember anything. I must have had a weird dream last night. That was my only explanation.
I grabbed my discarded clothes from the sand and headed towards my car. I had no desire to go inside the cabin again.
My trip down memory lane had been a bust. I don’t know what I had expected from my visit to Dad’s old cabin, but it wasn’t getting blackout drunk without access to a working bathroom or a frozen pizza.
My stomach growled as I loaded myself into my car. I reached in the backseat and pulled out a bag of potato chips and a half-full bottle of pop. Breakfast of champions, I thought to myself, rolling my eyes.
I started the car and rolled down the windows. The air was cool and felt good against my skin.
I looked around the surrounding area one last time, experiencing another feeling of déjà vu. I couldn’t shake the weird sensation, so I rolled up my windows and drove off.
As the cabin grew smaller in my rearview mirror, the strange sensation grew weaker until it was finally gone altogether.
Call it sheer luck or a miracle, but I remained hangover-free for the remainder of my drive.
I hit a small snowstorm as I drove through Chicago, making the already terrible traffic that much worse. But once I crossed over into Wisconsin, the roads were clear.
Bayfield, Wisconsin is a small town that sits on the western edge of Lake Superior. It was a tourist hot spot in the summer months because of its proximity to the Apostle Islands, an island cluster whose crystal-clear water could be mistaken for an island in the Caribbean. The major difference being the water was close to freezing even in the middle of August.
The Pack leader of Wisconsin, along with his Pack, resided in the forest areas south of Bayfield. The freezing temperatures and desolate wilderness made areas like northern Wisconsin ideal for Werewolves.
Piles of snow hugged the curbs of the streets of downtown Bayfield. A fresh snowfall must have recently occurred. Residents had already shoveled the sidewalks. I was used to Bayfield being a ghost town until the summer tourists started to arrive, but it looked like the number of full-time residents increased quite a bit over the past couple of decades.
I pulled up right in front of The Bayfield Bookstore. On-street parking was the only option in the small downtown area and lucky for me I got a prime spot.
I stepped out of the car and was instantly greeted by a crisp, forty-degree breeze washing over my body like an unexpected cold shower. Damn, did I even have a winter coat packed? Before Virginia, I had been in a couple of towns further south and had gotten rid of my heavy winter gear.
I hit the lock button on my key fob, crossed my arms tight against my chest for warmth, and jogged inside the store.
The Bayfield Bookstore had been an old butcher’s shop before Frankie purchased it in the early eighties. After leaving the Pack, Frankie needed a way to earn income. An avid booklover, Frankie jumped at the idea of owning her own bookstore. With Frankie homeschooling us, the bookstore was a perfect schoolroom by day and a part-time job for us in the afternoon. Mallory continued to work at the bookstore after I left town.
When I walked through the front door, a small bell rang over my head. I instinctively grabbed it mid-ring to prevent the noise. I hated the sound of bells.
“Be right there!” I heard coming from behind a bookshelf. After a few seconds, Mallory appeared carrying a stack of books.
“Hey Mal,” I said, softly.
Oh, hi, Georgia. I didn’t expect you so soon.” She placed the books on the front counter before turning towards me.
My sister and I stood and stared at each other awkwardly, as if we didn’t know exactly how to greet one another.
It was like looking in a mirror. Mallory and I could have passed for twins, although she definitely looked younger.
Wereborn children take on most of their father’s genes. There were only a couple of pictures left of my dad, presumably tucked in a box somewhere stored away. Mallory and I looked just like him.
We both stood around five foot eight and had dark chestnut hair and brown eyes. Mallory wore her hair in a tight ponytail with straight bangs whereas mine was loose and untamed. Mallory was wearing a thick, cream-colored fleece sweater with black pants. I had on a dirty pair of jeans and a flannel shirt with potato chip stains on the right breast. In other words, my sister looked like a presentable woman, and I was a down-right hot mess.
Mallory was the first to break our awkward stand-off and walked towards me, embracing me in a gentle hug.
“It’s good to see you, Georgia,” she said, as I hugged her back.
“You look good,” I said, as we stepped back from one other. “The place looks really good, Mal.”
The bookstore had undergone some minor cosmetic changes over the years, but ultimately looked the same as I remembered. However, there looked to be less shelves, making the space look a little bigger.
“Thanks,” she said, with a smile.
“Actually, really good.” I couldn’t help but be relieved to hear that. I had been worried that a bookstore in a small town might have a rough time of it these days. “I’ve gotten into collecting and selling rare books. We do most of our sales online.”
“Wow. That’s awesome,” I replied. “So, I won’t find any Harry Potter here?”
“We still have best-sellers and classic fiction for the townies and tourist foot traffic,” she said, pointing to the shelves in the front of the store. “The rare books are lined on the back shelves. But super rare stuff I keep in the basement along with my collection of Supernatural books.”
“Supernatural?” I raised my eyebrows at her with interest.
“Yup.” She smiled proudly. “I’ve been collecting them for years. You wouldn’t believe the number of Supernatural books that have escaped into the general population. They are very rare, and I sell them through a network of other Supernatural collectors.”
“I bet they sell for a pretty penny,” I said.
“You have no idea,” Mallory answered. “Those sales have been able to keep this place afloat. We’ve even remodeled the upstairs apartment. Speaking of which, I have a bunch of paperwork for us to go through. Mostly Frankie’s will and some other estate stuff.”
“What’s there to go over?” I said, a little too quickly. “You should get everything, you’re the one who’s been here and taken care of it all.”
“There’s more to it than that, Georgia,” Mallory said, clearly annoyed at my nonchalant dismissal. “Frankie had specific wishes about how she wanted things split between us.”
“I wouldn’t say no to a couple of bucks if they were offered, but as far as all the property goes, that’s yours, Mal,” I declared.
“You’re just itching to leave already, is that it?” Mallory’s voice raised a few octaves. “You haven’t even been here for five minutes and you can’t get away fast enough!”
“I didn’t say that!” I screamed.
“You didn’t have to say it. I can see it in your eyes.” Mallory’s face was turning red, no doubt mirroring my own angry expression. I paused before speaking.
My face softened.
“I’m sorry Frankie died,” I said gently. Mallory’s eyes changed from anger to sadness. Her shoulders sunk, and she let out a sigh.
“Me too.” Before she finished speaking, I grabbed her in a tight hug. “I miss her so much, Georgia,” Mallory said through her tears.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” I said through my own tears.
“Well, you’re here now.” Mallory released me from our embrace and stepped back. She wiped her eyes with her sweater sleeve. I kept my gaze low, hiding the guilt that I felt. “I’m sorry about what I said.”
“Don’t be. You had every right to be mad. I’ve been a shitty sister.” Mallory didn’t respond. “You could argue that point just a little bit.”
Mallory let out a small laugh. I started to laugh as well.
“I mean, ‘shit’ is a strong word. You’ve been more of an absentee sister,” Mallory said, half-joking.
“Yeah, I haven’t been around much,” I said.
“Georgia, I haven’t seen you for close to twenty years.” I winced at Mallory’s words. “But it’s okay. Let’s just forget about it. About Frankie’s wishes-”
“Can we go over them tomorrow?” I asked, cutting Mallory off. “I don’t have the energy for paperwork tonight.”
“It’s not about the paperwork. It’s about her ashes.” I froze. I hadn’t even thought about Frankie’s remains. “She wanted a private ceremony, just you and me. She wanted us to scatter her ashes under the tree.”
I knew exactly which tree Mallory was talking about. Of course, that’s where Frankie wanted to be laid to rest.
“How about tomorrow?” I asked.
“Tomorrow sounds good,” Mallory replied.
“I’m going to stay out at the house tonight if you’re cool with that?” Even after Frankie purchased the bookstore, and we moved into the apartment upstairs, she kept the house we grew up in. It wasn’t actually a house, but really a double wide trailer. It was located in a secluded area, far enough from town but not too close to where the Pack lived. After we moved to Bayfield, we used the trailer during the full moons so we could change to our Wolf forms away from humans.
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow and we can go to the tree together?” Mallory asked.
“Sounds like a plan.” I smiled weakly at her.
Despite my long drive alone with my thoughts, I had not prepared myself for the reality of the situation. The only woman I’d ever thought of as a mother was dead, and tomorrow we would say our goodbyes. “See you tomorrow,” I said, as I walked towards the doorway.
“Bye, Georgia.” I could hear the pain in Mallory’s voice as I closed the door behind me.
I woke up the morning before the full moon to find Simon Le Bon staring at me. I blinked a couple of times before I recognized the familiar Duran Duran poster I plastered above my bed as a teenager. My twin bed sat on one side of the room, Mallory’s on the other side. I sat up in bed, pulling the blanket around my shoulders. The heat in the double wide was pretty shoddy, but it still worked.
After leaving Mallory’s the night before, I stopped at the gas station and picked up some junk food and a couple of crappy bottles of wine.
I dangled my legs over the side of the bed. My feet found the old pair of slippers I kept under the bed. The double wide ended up being a much more welcoming place after a long car ride than the Kentucky cabin had been. Our old TV was still hooked up to rabbit ears, and I was able to watch a little of the local news as I scarfed down some barely edible gas station hotdogs.
The hot water in the shower wouldn’t last long, if it was anything like I remembered from my youth. I decided to forgo washing my hair and just do a quick rinse. There was a new bottle of body wash and fresh towels in the bathroom. Frankie and Mallory must clean and restock the place for every full moon.
I exited the shower, wrapped the towel around me, and headed to Frankie’s bedroom. It was a small room, matching the size of the room I shared with Mallory.
Frankie was born in the mid 1920’s outside of Milwaukee. Her childhood happened during the great depression. Penniless and starving, her family, like so many, fell on hard times. Both her parents died young, leaving Frankie and several brothers to fend for themselves. Her oldest brother sold her to a pimp when she was just sixteen years old. Before the transaction was finalized, a Werewolf in Wolf form appeared from a nearby forest and killed her brother and the pimp. He also bit Frankie. She survived the bite, and the next day when the Werewolf transitioned to his human form, took Frankie in. She transformed into Wolf form during the next full moon and became a member of the Wisconsin Pack.
A framed picture laid on top of the dresser next to a small mirror facing the bedroom entrance. It was a black and white photo that had been taken of Frankie and the Werewolf who turned her. She was no more than seventeen in the photo, but she looked like a woman who had lived a long life. Her childhood, if you could even call it that, had hardened her. It was also probably the reason she was able to survive becoming a Werewolf after she was bitten. Only the strongest humans can survive it.
Frankie was tall with a very slender figure. While she mostly wore jeans and T-Shirts, she had a couple of nice dresses tucked away for special occasions. While I was a lot curvier than her, I thought there had to be something in her closet that could fit me.
I opened the small door to the tiny closet and peered inside. Most of Frankie’s clothes were probably at the apartment but knowing how she was incapable of throwing things away, I figured there were some older, classic dress-up clothes still here.
And there were. Frankie’s closet looked a bit like a rack in a costume shop. There were dresses, neatly wrapped in garment bags, dating back to the 1940’s.
I browsed through the rack until I spotted a familiar black dress. I’d only seen Frankie wear it once and that was to my father’s funeral. Except it wasn’t exactly a funeral. He had been hanged for his crimes and buried in an unmarked grave. To help give me closure, Frankie staged a small, make-shift funeral ceremony with the Pack. I don’t remember much about that day other than a few people spoke about Dad. But I do remember how elegant Frankie looked in her black dress.
I pulled it out of the garment bag and looked it over on the hanger. The polyester dress was made in the early 1970’s. It was A-framed and came to about knee length, with wide, bell-like sleeves. I slipped it on and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like an entirely different person.
Suddenly, the weight of the dress felt like the weight of the world was crashing down around me. I burst into tears. I cried the type of tears that pained your stomach and made it hard to catch your breath. I fell onto Frankie’s bed and curled up into a ball. Regret and sadness consumed me as I begged silently for one last chance to see her. One last chance to say goodbye.
I stayed on Frankie’s bed long after my tears had stopped. When my face dried and the cool air of the room started to chill my skin, I got up and finished getting dressed.
I didn’t expect us to be outside for too long, but it was cold enough that I needed to dress appropriately. I dug through the dresser in my room and found an old pair of thick, black tights. They were a little musty smelling, but they would work. The only shoes I’d brought with me were sneakers and sandals. I opened up the closet to my bedroom and instantly smiled when I spotted an old pair of black Doc Marten boots. I put them on and tied the laces that went up to my knees. I turned to face myself in the full-length mirror against the wall and couldn’t help but laugh at my appearance. It was very Goth.
“Hello?” I heard Mallory say as she walked into the double wide.
“Hey,” I replied, as I walked out of the bedroom. Mallory’s eyes were wide as she stared at my ensemble.
“Like I’m a bottle of black nail polish away from a Marilyn Manson concert?” I asked.
“Kind of?” she replied, still not sure what to think of my get-up. Mallory was wearing black pants and a black pea coat with knit hat. That reminded me that I still needed a coat.
“Do you have an extra coat I could borrow?” I asked Mallory.
“I’m sure there’s something around here,” she said, walking to the back of the house. “Here you go.”
I reached for the baby blue garment Mallory handed me. It was a puffy, down coat with light pink stars around the collar. This monstrosity had definitely originated in the 80’s.
“How the hell did this not get tossed in the garbage years ago?” I asked, in astonishment.
“Excuse me, I happened to love that coat,” Mallory said, defensively.
“Right along with your Care Bear collection?” I teased.
“I’m sorry some of us like a little color. Anyways, do you want it or not. Doesn’t make a difference to me,” she retorted.
“Yes, I’ll take it,” I grumbled. I put it on and watched Mallory snicker before we headed out the door.
I headed towards the passenger side of Mallory’s gray Camry. Waiting in the seat was a wooden box.
“I hope you don’t mind carrying it in your lap. I didn’t want it to get jostled around on the drive,” Mallory said, as she climbed into the driver’s side.
I picked up the box gently and got into the car, placing it softly on my lap as I closed the door.
“This is not how I pictured today going,” I said, thinking about how I was carrying bodily remains on my lap while wearing an assortment of ancient clothes. “Who’s watching the store?” I asked.
“I closed it for the day. It’s a Tuesday in March. I don’t think flocks of book buyers are going to be knocking on the window.”
The tree we were headed to wasn’t very far away. It sat on the edge of the Pack’s territory. While we had left the Pack, we still had to follow Pack laws. That was the rule for all Werewolves. Even if they didn’t belong to a Pack, they still had to follow the rules of the State’s Pack.
“I called ahead to say we were coming out here for a little bit. They understood.” Frankie had been a member of the Pack for most of her life. I didn’t think there would be any issue with us spreading her remains on their territory. I probably wouldn’t have called, but I was glad Mallory had thought to do so. The last thing I needed today was a hostile run-in with my former Pack.
The car slowed to a stop at a dead end. We got out and walked over a small hill to the sound of water hitting rocks in the distance. The tree Frankie had requested to have her ashes spread under sat atop a large hill, overlooking a river that ran along the Pack’s territory. She took us to this spot a lot as children. Since there were no other children in the Pack, we mostly played by ourselves.
I knelt down at the base of the tree and put my hand on the familiar engraving that still remained. F + L was carved into the side of the tree with a heart around the letters. This was the tree Frankie was married beneath, many years ago.
I stood up and turned to see Mallory watching me.
“Should we say something?” Mallory asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve never done this before,” I replied.
“We could sing.”
“Sing? Sing what?” I asked.
“What was her favorite song?” Mallory asked.
“I got it.” I wasn’t sure if it was her favorite, but it was definitely my favorite to listen to her sing. I started to sing, and Mallory instantly perked up. Frankie used to sing Islands in the Stream and do both the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers parts herself. Mallory and I loved it.
Mallory soon chimed in as Dolly and we stood under Frankie’s tree and sang our hearts out. When we finished, I wiped away my tears and smiled. Mallory took my hand and held out the box. We both held it and I opened the lid. A gentle breeze came up behind us and we emptied the contents and watched them sail through the air, disappearing into the open space.
It wasn’t conventional, but I couldn’t have pictured a better send off for Frankie.
Suddenly a foreign smell in the air made me turn around. My eyes narrowed, as I spotted a familiar face trying to hide himself in the distance among a group of trees.
Mallory followed my gaze, and I could sense her agitation. I handed her the empty box and walked straight to the man, the anger in me beginning to rise.
“Georgia, don’t!” I ignored Mallory’s pleas. How dare this man show his face here.
“What are you doing here?” I asked the old man looking at me.
“Just came to say goodbye,” Luther Holston replied. He looked much older than I remembered, probably around 75 in human years. He still looked strong, but time was taking a toll on him.
“You couldn’t just let us have our moment. You had to come and ruin everything,” I shouted at him.
“I made her, Georgia. We were family.” Luther had been the Werewolf that turned Frankie. They eventually were married, right underneath the same tree we had just vacated. I could feel Mallory standing behind me, trying to hide out of direct view of Luther.
“Yeah, some family. You destroyed her!” I shouted at him.
“I’m sorry. I never stopped being sorry,” he responded, a tear rolling down his cheek.
“It’s not enough!” Before he could respond, I turned and took Mallory’s hand, leading her back to the car.
“I’m sorry,” I heard him say one last time before we reached the car. I grabbed the keys from Mallory and got in the driver’s seat. Mallory was visibly upset and wouldn’t be able to drive nearly as fast as I needed to.
I took one last look in the rearview mirror before driving off, but he was gone. Luther, the love of Frankie’s life, broke her heart into a million pieces when after years of marriage, he brought home a baby.
That baby was his Wereborn son.
It was after dark by the time we reached the bookstore. Mallory wanted us to have dinner together and go over some of Frankie’s paperwork in the apartment. I reluctantly agreed.
“I need to spend a minute in the shop before heading upstairs. I have to call and check on a delivery I’m expecting tomorrow,” Mallory said, as we got out of the parked car in front of the store.
“You can’t look it up online?” I asked.
“It’s a special delivery. The sender only deals with the phone, no email,” she replied. As if her tone wasn’t enough of a clue, she also gave a big wink as she unlocked the door to the bookstore. Not that there were any humans within ear shot but if there were, they were more likely to think Mallory was getting a drug delivery instead of rare Supernatural books.
“I’ll just be a minute,” she said, as she walked behind the front counter.
“Take your time,” I said, picking up a hardcover book on the “Bestsellers” table near the front door.
After reading the first couple of pages I heard the small bell above the front door jingle.
“We’re closed,” I said, before I looked up. When I did, my breath caught in my throat.
“I’m sorry. We saw that the light was on and there were people here,” said a large man, with the most strikingly chiseled face I’d ever seen. The stranger looked to be in his thirties and towered over me. He had to be well over six feet tall. His dark brown hair was wavy and cut stylishly short, but not too short. It definitely looked like hair you could run your hands through it. He was wearing jeans and polished brown shoes. His weathered brown leather jacket gave him a casual, but tailored look. My first thought was that the jacket wasn’t warm enough for this kind of weather, but I quickly realized it didn’t matter. This man was not human.
And neither was his companion.
The companion was shorter and leaner in build. He had hair so light blond, it was almost white. He was also as pale as a ghost. If they were on a football team, the brunette would be the Linebacker and the blond would be the Quarterback.
I couldn’t smell them, which meant one thing: they were immortal.
“We were in here checking for a message,” I said to the men. I looked back at Mallory behind the counter who was standing like a deer in headlights. “Is there something we can help you with? I take it you’re not in the market for a copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary?” The blond chuckled at my joke, but the reference seemed lost on his large friend.
“No, we’re actually looking for another book. My name is Henry Conrad and this is Phillip Deniaud. We’re on assignment with the Higher Authority.”
All species of Supernaturals had their own governing bodies. For Werewolves, it was the National Pack Authority. But all Supernatural governing bodies answered to one united group, The Higher Authority. Kind of like the United Nations, the High Authority was comprised of high-ranking officials from all the different types of Supernaturals. Henry and Phillip must be important people if they were given an assignment from the Higher Authority.
“Hi,” I replied. “I’m Georgia, and that’s my sister, Mallory.”
Although I couldn’t quite tell what type of Supernatural they were, there was no doubt Henry and Phillip would be able to tell that we were Werewolves. Immortal Supernaturals have far more advanced senses than us mortals.
“How can we help you gentlemen?” I asked.
“We’re looking for a book. Our sources led us to believe it’s here,” Henry said.
I looked back at Mallory, and she remained motionless. “What’s the name of the book?” I asked, turning back to face Henry.
“Et Super Terra Deorsum,” Phillip said.
“Latin?” I asked.
“Yes. Translated into The Earth Below and Above,” Henry replied.
“What an odd title.” I turned to face Mallory. “Do we have it, Mal?”
“Hold on,” she said softly. Mallory dug in a drawer and pulled out a piece of paper. “It’ll be in tomorrow’s shipment.”
“Perfect. I hope that means it will be available for purchase tomorrow?” Henry asked Mallory. When she didn’t respond I rolled my eyes at her and turned to him.
“Yes, it’s for sale. I expect the Higher Authority is prepared to pay top dollar for this particular book?” Henry arched an eyebrow at me while his perfect cupids bow lips turned into a small smile.
“I’m sure a price that is agreeable to the proprietors of this establishment can be negotiated. May we come back tomorrow around this time to discuss the payment?” Henry asked.
“Sorry, tomorrow is no bueno.” I replied. Henry looked at me with a puzzled expression. “It’s a full moon.”
“Of course,” he said. “Sorry, it slipped my mind.”
“But we’re free if you come first thing tomorrow morning,” I countered.
“Our appointment will need to be after dark,” Phillip replied.
So, blondie was a Vampire. That was one mystery solved.
“Then, Thursday evening it is,” I said. “Is that okay with you, Mal?” Mallory simply shook her head to give an affirmative response.
“Thursday, then,” Henry said, as he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket. “Here’s my card. If anything should come up before then, please give me a call.”
I took the card from his hand and felt a tingle as our skin grazed one another in the exchange. I thought I saw him flinch slightly out of the corner of my eye, but I was probably seeing things. I looked up and sure enough Henry had an odd expression on his face. He smiled quickly as if realizing his face made a noticeable reaction. Something about the skin of our hands coming into contact seemed to freak him out.
“Goodnight,” he said, turning to walk out of the door.
“Thank you, ladies,” Phillip said, looking at Mallory, before following Henry out to the street.
I looked down at the business card Henry had handed me. It read:
Canadian Mage Representative
Mr. Linebacker was a Mage.
“Georgia! Wait for me!”
“Watch how fast I can go!”
The rabbit ears on the TV set in the double wide were not picking much up today. So, I thought it would be a good idea to go through boxes of old home movies I found in the utility closet. A box and a half of tissues later, I was deep into my documented childhood memories.
Frankie brought home a camcorder when they came out in 1985 and did not waste time in filming everything she thought would be interesting. It turned out she thought everything we did was interesting. Since waking up that morning, I had made it through to about 1990, when I was just starting out my moody mid-teenager phase. The timing of Frankie’s death, and the impending full moon that was just hours away, was too much for my emotions to bear. My eyes were practically swollen shut from the all-day sob fest I had put myself through.
The current video I was watching was of me and Mallory racing up a hill near Frankie’s tree. Frankie tried to narrate the video as if she were an announcer at a racetrack. I won by a landslide leaving Mallory pouting. Frankie was giving her encouraging words when I heard a knock at the door. I pressed stop right when Mallory walked through the front door.
“Rough night?” she asked, as she looked around the disheveled living room littered with used tissues and VHS tapes. I looked up at her with my puffy eyes and nodded. “Yeah, me too.”
“I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea,” I said to her, as I began cleaning up the mess.
“It was a good idea. You needed this,” she said softly, looking through some of the tapes.
“I needed to cry until I passed out? I don’t think there’s enough Gatorade in the county to rehydrate me right now.”
“You needed to grieve and to process the events. This just brought everything to the surface. I know you’d rather sweep your emotions under the rug but it’s not healthy.”
She was right.
“What time is it?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“Just after 5:00. It should be full dark soon,” she replied. “I’ve got the book for tomorrow.”
“For your immortal clientele?” I asked, with a small smile. While my day had been consumed with a tear-stained trip down memory lane, my night had me thinking a lot about the mysterious book patrons, specifically the Mage.
“I wonder what they want with this book. It’s entirely in Latin,” Mallory said. She pulled the book from her purse and opened it up. “Have you met either a Mage or Vampire before?”
“Vampire, yes. Mage, no,” I replied. “I’ve met a couple Vampires here and there. They’re pretty common. But Mages? There aren’t many, and they definitely don’t run in the same social circle as me.”
Mages were at the top of the Supernatural food chain. They were similar to Vampires but instead of sucking your blood, they absorbed your energy. Like Vampires, Mages were immortal and strong. Unlike Vampires, Mages weren’t affected by sunlight. But there were very few Mages in existence. Maybe a little over a hundred, if I had to guess. There were also no women Mages. Not one.
“But you’ve met a male Vampire before?” Mallory asked. Male Vampires were not allowed to live as permanent residents in the United States. The American division of the Vampire High Council was completely matriarchal. Throughout history, as women had virtually no rights, Supernatural women suffered in the same ways as their human counterparts. But with the same strength as male Vampires, female Vampires decided enough was enough. In the 1800’s, the women Vampires of America decided to strike against the male Vampires, killing many. Those men that survived, fled the United States. The women Vampires declared the United States their territory and outlawed the permanent residency or creation of any male Vampire within the U.S. borders. The Vampire High Council had tried for years to overturn this law, but America had become the most powerful grouping of Vampires in the world. Women Vampires from other countries took up residence in the United States.
“I met one in Mexico,” I replied. “Male Vampires are allowed to travel through the US if they have diplomatic credentials. Which makes me think our friend, Phillip, must be pretty important. Especially if he is working with a Mage.”
“He didn’t seem quite like I’d expected,” Mallory said softly.
“And what were you expecting? Dracula?” I joked.
“I don’t know… Just forget it,” she said. “The really weird thing is, the book’s not that old. I’d guess it was written in the 1800’s or so. Of course, Supernaturals don’t use human publishers so there’s no dates that can say for certain,” Mallory said.
“Well, whatever it says or whenever it was written, there’s magic oozing off of it,” I said, as I touched the book’s cover. “Someone wanted this thing protected.”
“Magic?” she asked curiously. Mallory’s deficiencies in her Wolf form seemed to have carried over into her human form. Werewolves in human form have heightened senses, including being able to pick up on Supernatural magic. But Mallory didn’t inherit any of these gifts.
“Yeah, and lots of it,” I said. “Let’s put that out of the way. I don’t want any bad mojo when we get back tonight. I’ve had a rough day. This change tonight will do me some good, and I don’t need my Wolf getting tangled up in any magic junk coming from that book.” I took the book from her and walked it to the closet in Frankie’s bedroom. I even propped a chair against the closet door, just for good measure.
“You about ready?” Mallory said, taking off her socks and shoes.
“I’m coming,” I said. “You’re in a hurry tonight.”
“I’m starting to get the itch to change. What? You’re not?” Mallory had shed off her sweater and jeans and was working on getting her bra off.
Weird, I thought. Usually I was the first to get the itch. Maybe my body was jetlagged or something from the time change. I threw my clothes onto the floor of the double wide and followed Mallory outside. I closed the front door but didn’t let the latch click shut all the way. We always left the door ajar during a full moon in the event that our wolves somehow got separated. This way Mallory’s wolf could get inside the house if she needed to hide. Frankie and I had very tough wolves. They wouldn’t hide from anything. They would fight to the death.
The cold March air gave my naked flesh goosebumps. Mallory was already several feet in front of me, and I trotted to catch up. I looked up at the sky and dark clouds moved aside, putting the full glow of the moon on my face. I looked over at Mallory who was beginning to change to her Wolf form. I closed my eyes and held my face up to the moon, waiting for my own transformation to take place. I breathed in deeply, inhaling the fresh, cold air. I exhaled slowly.
After waiting several seconds, I opened my eyes. I looked down at my bare feet and held up my hands in front of my face. I hadn’t changed yet.
To my left, Mallory’s Wolf stood staring at me, wagging her tail. Her Wolf was smaller than mine. She could have easily passed for a dog. Her Wolf was white with dark gray tips on her ears, eyes and tail.
“Hey girl, good to see you. I’ll just be another minute.” I looked back at the moon. What the hell was going on? Mallory’s Wolf barked at me with impatience. “Go get a head start if you want. I’ll be right behind you.”
She let out a low bark and trotted out to the woods.
Maybe my Wolf was shy. I hadn’t changed in front of anyone for over twenty years.
“Ok, you’ve got the place to yourself. Let’s get this show on the road,” I said to myself. I held out my arms and closed my eyes.
Until I heard Mallory’s Wolf yelp in the distance.
“Mallory!” I shouted and ran full speed towards the sounds of distress. I raced through the thick brush of the woods, feeling pain in my bare feet as they hit the frozen, rough floor of the forest.
I heard a strange growl, one that definitely did not belong to Mallory. Mallory’s yelps turned into a long howl. Every sense in my body was working on overdrive as I rushed to find her.
I spotted her white fur, covered in blood, lying on her side in a small clearing. I dropped to her side.
“Mallory!” I shouted. She had a large gash around her neck causing the blood to coat her white fur. Her eyes looked at me and her tail gave a small wag, acknowledging me. I grabbed her in my arms and headed straight for the double wide. My nose picked up on traces of a strange Wolf, but it had fled. I didn’t have time to go looking after it. I needed to get help for my sister.
“Stay with me, Mal,” I said. Her Wolf gave a small whine in reply. “I’m not going to lose you, too.”
Before I could even see the house, I smelled the smoke. Flames shot up into the night’s sky as I got closer.
Our house was on fire.
I raced to my Subaru and opened the door to the backseat. I placed Mallory gently on the seats and hopped into the driver’s side. Mallory let out a small whine, but I tried to reassure her.
“You’re going to be okay. I’m right here,” I said, as I place a hand behind my seat to stroke her fur. Thankful that I had a bad habit of leaving my car keys in the car, I started the engine and sped off down the road.
I continued to stroke Mallory as I drove. My hand touched a heap of fabric next to Mallory. I pulled it up to the front seat and shook it out. It was a large T-Shirt. I took a whiff of it and instantly realized it was Carter’s. He must have left it when we had our drunk, make-out session in the back seat.
I threw the T-Shirt over my head, balancing the steering wheel as I drove like a bat out of hell. There was only one place I could take Mallory to get help, and that was somewhere I really didn’t feel like being naked.
I needed the Packmaster to save my sister.
It was a full moon, and I was driving an injured Wolf deep into Werewolf territory. What could possibly go wrong?
Mallory let out another whine, as I pulled onto the long driveway leading up to the Packmaster’s house.
“I know Mal, just stay calm. It’s going to be alright,” I tried to reassure her, as well as myself. In fact, I was terrified. I didn’t know if this was going to work but it was my only option.
I pulled the Subaru up in front of the large, stone house that was home to the Wisconsin Packmaster and many of his Packmates. I darted out of the car, scooped up Mallory in my arms, and rushed her to the front door of the house. Everyone would be in the woods, still in Wolf form, but the sound of the car down the driveway would have alerted some of the Wolves to an intruder approaching.
I left the front door to the house open, hoping to expedite their arrival. I placed Mallory, whose heartbeat was considerably weaker, in the middle of the living room floor. I knelt behind her, placed my hands on my knees, lowered my eyes to the floor, and waited.
Not more than a minute had passed before I felt the presence of the Packmaster in the doorway.
His Wolf was gigantic, far and away the largest Wolf I’d ever laid eyes on. He approached us slowly, teeth bared and growling low. I kept my eyes lowered to show submission. I heard his nose sniff in the scents of the scene when he stopped walking.
I let out a sigh as I looked up, and the Wolf, eyes staying focused on me, transformed to human form.
Colt Holston stood for a moment, staring down at me, his expression unreadable.
“She needs your help,” I spoke, trying to get him to focus. Only a very powerful Wolf could have the power to change to human form after a full moon transformation. All other Wolves would remain in Wolf form until the night was over. Or if their Packmaster forced their change.
At the sound of my voice Colt jumped into action. He knelt beside Mallory, placing his hands around her wounds. She looked at him and whined. I was only mildly distracted by his nudity. I’d seen him naked plenty of times before, long before he was Packmaster. He was older now and much, much stronger.
“What happened?” he asked, keeping his eyes focused on Mallory.
“She was attacked while we were changing. It was a Werewolf I didn’t recognize. His head shot up and looked at me. “You were attacked? What did he look like?” Colts eyes were wild with fury. Before I could answer the sound of Wolves growling at the front door stole my focus. “Back. Now,” Colt commanded in his deep, Alpha tone. The Wolves obeyed and backed up outside of the door, but kept their eyes on the scene.
“I didn’t see him. He was gone when I got to her. I could only smell him,” I replied. I stroked Mallory’s head gently with my hand. “Someone set our house on fire.”
“And you changed back to Wolf form?” he asked in astonishment.
“Yes,” I lied. “Please, do something, Colt,” I begged.
“I need to get her to change to human form. Back up,” he ordered.
I stood up and backed up towards the wall, keeping my gaze on Colt and Mallory. Colt placed his hand on her heart and leaned in close to her ear. Mallory transitioned to human form, the gash at her neck appeared smaller. Her naked fleshed was coated in dried blood.
“Georgia, get a towel from the bathroom,” Colt ordered. I raced to retrieve a towel and handed it to Colt. He pressed it to Mallory’s neck. Her eyes were closed.
“Why isn’t she responding? She was awake a minute ago?” I asked, the panic starting to build.
“The transformation probably wiped out her energy. Hold this on her neck,” Colt commanded. I placed my hand on the compress and Colt stood up.
“Where are you going?” I shouted.
“We need Dakota,” he said, and walked towards the large crowd of Wolves that had congregated outside. I kept my focus on keeping the towel on Mallory’s throat.
“What happened?” I looked up at the familiar face, surrounded by wild, blonde hair. Dakota had been trained as a nurse before she became a Werewolf. I hadn’t known her for very long before I left home.
“Werewolf attack back at our house,” I responded, trying to keep my gaze on her face and not her naked body, which I noticed, like Colts, had only improved with age. If I wasn’t so consumed by Mallory’s condition, I might actually feel insecure among this crowd.
“She’s going to need stitches. But I think if we can get her through the night, she’ll be fine,” Dakota said, as she lifted Mallory in her arms.
“What do you mean if you can get her through the night?” I said with panic in my voice. I followed Dakota as she carried Mallory into a spare bedroom.
“Normal Werewolf powers should heal a wound like this on their own. But with Mallory’s… condition…”
“You don’t know if her powers are strong enough,” I replied, trying to mask the worry in my voice.
“Georgia.” I turned around to face Colt in the doorway. Thankfully, he had put on a pair of jeans. But I found myself just as distracted by his muscular torso that I had to force myself to keep my eyes above his neck. “Come with me.”
I turned to look at Mallory as Dakota was placing blankets around her lower half, preparing to clean and stitch the wounds on her neck.
“Go. I’ll call for you if anything changes,” she said, without taking her eyes off of Mallory.
I followed Colt down the hall back to the living room.
“Georgia Matthews. You always did know how to make an entrance,” said the shirtless man standing with his arms crossed in the living room.
“Hi, Luke,” I said softly. Luke Holston stared at me a little less severely than his younger brother was. In fact, Luke looked downright happy to see me. Colt, not so much.
“Luke’s going to take you out to the Pack. They’re all accounted for, if you can smell the Wolf that attacked Mallory, I need to know,” Colt commanded. I nodded and followed Luke out of the front door.
“How’s Mallory?” Luke asked me once I was next to him.
“Dakota says it’s a wait and see situation,” I replied.
“Damn, I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, rubbing his hand over his trim cut hair. “I can’t believe it’s one of ours but if it is, trust me, it won’t stand.”
As I walked out of the front door of the massive house, I surveyed the large Pack of Werewolves waiting outside. Some were sitting, some were laying down, and some more menacing Wolves were pacing like animals in a Zoo cage. Without a shred of fear, I walked among them, Luke at my side.
I smelled each of the almost 30 Wolves present and not one was the Wolf that attacked Mallory. I recognized most of them, but there were quite a few new Wolves in the Pack. I had the scent of Mallory’s attacker etched in my brain and he wasn’t here.
“Nope, they’re all clear,” I said.
“Dismissed,” Colt shouted from the porch. The Wolves scattered in all directions. But some decided to stay and keep an eye on the activity going on at the Packmaster’s house.
Dakota appeared in the doorway with a towel in her hands. She had put on what looked like nurses’ scrubs.
“Good news. The healing is taking place after the stitches went in, and it looks like she should make a full recovery,” Dakota said.
“Thank you,” I said, breathing deeply and placing my hands on my knees. “Dakota, I’m so grateful-” I stopped speaking when I looked up to find Dakota had vanished back inside the house. Colt looked at me with a serious expression until our eyes locked, making him turn away. The awkwardness filled the air like a smoke bomb.
“Do you need a place to stay?” Luke asked, breaking the silence. “I still have my old hunting cabin by Perch Lake.” Luke obviously knew me staying the night under the same roof as Colt and the others was not going to happen.
“No, thanks. I’m going to stay at the apartment,” I replied, heading toward the car.
“Georgia.” I stopped in my tracks without looking behind me at the sound of Colt calling my name. He approached me, but I still didn’t turn around. I could feel the heat radiating off of his body and heard him take in a deep breath, no doubt taking in my scent. “I’ll take some of my men to check out the scene at your house at first light. I don’t want you going back there alone.”
“Okay,” was all I said. I turned to face him, but he was already gone. Luke walked over to me, a look of empathy on his face. I stood looking at him, feeling the tears beginning to form in my eyes. The mix of emotions from the night’s chaos had finally caught up to me.
Luke walked over and wrapped his arms around me, giving me a great, big hug. I’d missed the comfort that he’d provided when I was younger. The man was a true friend. A true friend I had run out on. But like the others, Luke hadn’t held a grudge. Or, if he did, he put that aside for the moment to comfort me at one of my absolute lowest points.
I cried into Luke’s chest for several minutes. He never pulled away. He simply let me get it all out. Finally, I released him and stepped back, wiping my face on the inside of Carter’s T-Shirt.
“Thanks,” I sniffled.
“Anytime. You know that,” he said gently. “I’m sorry about Frankie. I was going to stop by, but I wanted to give you a little time. I never imagined something like this would happen.”
“You and me both,” I chuckled. “This was not at all how I pictured my grand reunion with the Pack going.”
“Did you plan to have one?” I stared guiltily at Luke. He knew me too well. I hadn’t planned on seeing any Packmembers if I could have at all avoided it.
“Luke,” I started to say.
“Don’t,” he said, holding up his hand. “You don’t have to explain it to me. I actually understand, and I don’t blame you.” I smiled at him in response.
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’m in need of a very large glass or three of wine. Pants would also be welcomed.” Luke followed me around to the driver’s side of the car.
“Maybe we can get a drink later, after everything has calmed down a bit,” he said, leaning his hand on the roof of my car, as I slid behind the wheel and got the car started. I blasted the heat on my near frozen feet.
“You know I can’t say no to alcohol,” I said, with a small grin. “Probably best to keep the invite list to a minimum.”
“Just give them time to process things. You showing up here during the full moon was definitely high on the unexpected list,” Luke pointed out.
“Even if I had written weeks ago and sent an itinerary of my visit, I don’t think Dakota Emerson would have scheduled me in for a girl’s spa day.”
“Holston,” Luke said.
“Dakota Holston.” I stared at Luke blankly, not registering his words. “Dakota and Colt are married now.”
I couldn’t contain the look of shock on my face.
“Sorry, Georgia, I thought you knew,” he said, uncomfortably.
“It’s cool,” I said, trying to play off my reaction. “No, that’s great. I’m glad to hear that. Good news.” I sounded like a rabid chipmunk. My response could not have been more awkward. “Listen, I’ve got to be going. But it was good to see you, and I look forward to catching up when we’re all wearing clothes and my sister is conscious.” I buckled my seatbelt, and Luke stepped back from my car. I gave him a small wave and drove off.
My head was overloaded as I drove back to Bayfield. To recap on the events of the night: I was unable to change into my Wolf during a full moon, a strange Werewolf attacked and almost killed my sister, our childhood home along with a million memories was burned to the ground, and I was forced to seek the help of several people who did not seem thrilled to see me.
Oh yeah, and my ex-boyfriend, the current Wisconsin Packmaster, was married to a woman who always hated me.
There wasn’t enough alcohol in all of Wisconsin to calm my frayed nerves after this night.
It was afternoon by the time I woke up. After hitting up my emergency stash of Jack Daniels I had in the trunk of my car, it was well after sunrise before I finally passed out.
I was currently soaking in the old claw-foot bathtub in the apartment. Despite the half bottle of Jack I had consumed the night before, I didn’t feel too bad. In fact, my body felt surprisingly good. My mind was another story. I lowered my body under the soapy water until my head was completely submerged.
A vibrating sound next to the tub brought me back to the surface. My cell phone was perched on the edge of the bathroom sink. I got out of the tub, wrapped a towel around my body, and looked at the text message I’d received.
It was from Carter. He wanted to get together tonight.
I sighed and sat on the closed toilet seat trying to come up with my response. I had no obligation towards Carter, but he was a nice kid and I hated the idea of ghosting people. So, I composed the following text:
Me: I had a family emergency and had to go
home. Won’t be coming back to Virginia.
I didn’t wait for a response before I turned my phone off and walked into the living room to plug it in the charger. It wasn’t my first Dear John message to a human. But I always made a point of never letting things get too far into relationship territory before cutting off ties. It kept me from feeling too guilty when I inevitably broke things off.
But something about the text nagged at me. I told Carter I wasn’t coming back to Virginia, which wasn’t a lie. But the subtext was that I was going to stay home. That’s when I realized that I would have to stay. I couldn’t leave Mallory alone, unprotected. There’s the possibility that she’d want to move with me, but I doubted it. The bookstore looked like it was doing really well. Plus, we were now property owners, thanks to Frankie’s will. I’d never owned anything in my life except for the clothes on my back and whatever beat-up, old car I’d bought from a used dealer.
I returned to the bathroom and removed my towel from my body to dry my hair. I caught a glance in the full-length mirror that was fixed to the back of the bathroom door. I had to do a double take. I took the towel and wiped the steam off of the mirror and examined my naked body. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I never had many complaints about my body, but the only exercise I did was bartending. Furthermore, my diet consisted of booze and junk food, so I was never accidentally mistaken for a lingerie model. But what I saw in the mirror completely shocked me.
My body appeared toned, and my skin extra smooth. I turned around and my ass looked like I had been doing squats in my sleep. My hips were still full, and my ample breasts hung firm and were downright perky. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but if it meant having a killer body from doing nothing, and being immune from hangovers, I wasn’t going to complain.
I placed my towel on a hook in the bathroom and walked, no, strutted, into the living room. I hadn’t felt this much confidence while sober in a long time. Laying on the couch were two of the three duffle bags I had left. One having been left in the double wide the night before. I was acting on the assumption that everything that had been in the house was totally gone. Luckily, I was a messy packer and my things were haphazardly thrown in my duffle bags. Therefore, I was able to scrounge up underwear, socks, and other necessities.
I threw on a pair of my favorite jeans and noticed they hung a little looser than usual. I smiled at the physical proof of my body’s recent change. The landline phone in the kitchen suddenly rang, jerking me back to reality. I dashed to pick it up on the second ring.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Hey, it’s Luke. Mallory’s doing well.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Dakota wants to keep her one more day but she’s good. Dakota says she’ll be up and walking around this evening.”
“You don’t know how relieved I am to hear that,” I replied.
“You can come see her if you want,” Luke said.
“Can you just tell her to call me later?” I asked. If she was going to live another day, there was no need for me to go back into the lion’s den if I could avoid it.
“Yeah, I’ll let her know,” he said. “I can give her a ride in the morning if you’d like. It’ll save you the trip out here.”
“I would greatly appreciate that,” I admitted. “Did you all go out to the house?”
“Yeah.” His tone was not promising. “There’s nothing left out there. I’m sorry, Georgia.”
“Shit,” I replied. “Maybe I could go out there later and look for anything that might have survived?”
“Colt’s got it closed off for investigation. He’s got a team trying to track down the unknown Wolf. And there’s still the matter of how the fire started,” Luke said.
“But you’ll let me know when I can go back out?” I asked.
“Of course. I’ll take you out there myself when Colt gives the all clear. And then maybe we could grab that drink?”
“Sure,” I said, trying to force a non-depressed tone in my voice.
“I’ll see you in the morning, Georgia.”
“Thanks again, Luke,” I said, before hanging up the phone back in its cradle on the wall.
I was relieved Luke was acting as the official go-between for me and the Pack. Luke had always been the most easy-going of the Holston brothers.
Yes, that’s right, brothers.
Werewolves who are made by the same person are treated as siblings. But Colt wasn’t made, he was born.
Colt Holston was the Wereborn son of Luther Holston, the man who broke Frankie’s heart. Colt was ten years older than me, but when I turned sixteen, Colt looked, and acted, eighteen. We were drawn to each other like moths to a flame. Everyone assumed it was because we were Wereborn, and there was some type of natural connection. I don’t know, maybe they were right. But at sixteen, I couldn’t think straight around that man. I was so head-over-heels in love with him. I first transitioned at the age of fifteen so I was considered “of age” by Pack law and could date anyone I wanted. But I wasn’t considered an adult until the age of eighteen and had to live with my maker, or in this case, my guardian, Frankie. Which is why I waited until the night before my eighteenth birthday to leave Colt, Frankie, and Mallory, with only a note left on the kitchen counter.
I gazed at the kitchen counter in the apartment, remembering the feeling of my hand shaking as I left the sealed envelope on the clean surface. I shook my head, trying to forget the image.
“Always forward, never backward,” I repeated my mantra aloud.
Thinking of going forwards, what the hell was I going to do about not changing during a full moon? I decided I needed to perform an experiment to see what on earth was going on with my body.
I reached next to the kitchen sink and grabbed a long knife from its wooden holder. I placed the knife in my right hand and, holding my left hand, palm up over the sink, I sliced a deep line across the center of the palm. The pain made me hiss but I stood still, watching the blood drip into the sink. The wound appeared normal as I waited for something to happen. Suddenly, I heard a knock downstairs on the front door of the bookstore.
Henry and Phillip.
I had completely forgotten the Mage and Vampire were coming back to get that magic, Latin book.
“Shit,” I said, looking around the kitchen, blood still trickling down my hand. I pulled a dish towel from the handle of the oven and wrapped it around my hand, and rushed downstairs. The apartment and the bookstore were connected by a back staircase. I turned the lights on in the store, as I traveled towards the front door.
Henry and Phillip were standing under the awning, waiting patiently.
“What happened to your hand?” Henry said, walking close to me as I opened the door to the bookstore. Phillip stayed a respectful distance away.
“Nothing. I just cut it while I was attempting to cook,” I lied. “I’m terrible in the kitchen. But enough about my hand, I’m sorry to say I have some bad news for you. The book is gone.”
“Gone? You mean someone stole it?” Henry asked.
“No, it was in a fire. My house burned down last night.” I gave them both a brief rundown of events, sparing mention of my failing to change to Wolf form and any personal detail about the Pack.
“And your sister is doing better?” Phillip asked.
“Yes, she seemed to make a full recovery. She’s coming home tomorrow.”
“And you’re sure the book burned?” Henry asked.
“I’m not sure of anything. I haven’t been out there yet,” I replied.
“Would you mind if we take a look?” he asked.
“You can’t,” I said. Henry furrowed his brow at me. “We can’t. Colt- I mean the Packmaster, has launched an investigation. I was told I had to stay away. You can deal directly with him if you have some sort of super over-riding clearance from the powers that be.” I watched as Henry and Phillip exchanged a glance at the mention of Colt.
“Would you mind giving us the purchase slip for the book? We’d like to know who sold it to you?” Henry asked.
“You’ll have to wait until Mallory gets back. I haven’t worked here for over two decades and I have no idea how Mallory has organized her filing system,” I said.
“Is there any way we can talk to her now?” Henry asked. He remained calm in his demeanor, but I could sense he was growing impatient.
“Please, don’t bother your sister. We can come back tomorrow,” Phillip interrupted, giving Henry a scolding look. “That is, only if she feels up to it.”
“She should be fine tomorrow. You can come by in the afternoon,” I replied.
Phillip smiled politely at me. He was a very good-looking man. Pale, as is usual for a Vampire, but not sickly. His blond hair was cut short, framing his face and making his bright, blue eyes pop.
Henry, in comparison, was tan with dark brown hair that appeared to be so perfectly disheveled, it was almost styled. His massive build and heavy jawline made him look serious. I wondered what he’d look like if he laughed.
“Where are you guys staying,” I asked, curiously. The thought occurred to me that a Vampire probably couldn’t stay in a hotel room, what with needing to be out of the dark during the day. I wondered if they slept in coffins, like the movies. That would be a hassle to travel around with. And what if a cleaning lady ignored the Do Not Disturb sign on the front door?
“We rented an Airbnb outside of town,” Henry responded, walking towards the front door.
“Ah,” I replied, following behind him towards the entrance of the bookstore. “Makes sense.”
Henry held the door open for Phillip, who exited onto the street. Before leaving, Henry turned around and reached for my wrist belonging to my bandaged hand. Startled by the unexpected gesture, I flinched as his hand made contact with my skin.
I looked into his eyes, as a warm sensation crept through my wrist. The look in Henry’s eyes changed into something else. Surprise, maybe? He looked as shocked as I did. I pulled my hand away from his grip, which was firm, but gentle.
“Are you sure you’re well?” he asked softly.
“Yes,” I responded weakly. His pupils dilated and his breathing grew heavier. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but silently turned towards the door instead.
“Until tomorrow,” he said, without looking back. The door to the store closed behind him and I rushed to lock it.
I knew Mages transferred energy, but I had never experienced it. Surely, they must have to ask permission before doing so, right? You don’t see Vampires biting other Supernaturals and sucking their blood willy-nilly. I would have thought the same rules applied to Mages.
But Mages were at the very top of the Supernatural pyramid, so maybe they didn’t follow everyday rules. And if just touching someone caused an energy transference to a Mage, how regulated could they possibly be?
I looked down and touched my wrist where Henry’s hand had been. The warmth of his touch still lingered there. I unwrapped the dishtowel from my hand and gasped at the sight.
My wound had healed completely.
I woke up feeling sunshine on my face. After Henry and Phillip left the bookstore yesterday, I stopped by the liquor store to rectify the situations of Mallory’s deficient liquor cabinet. After consuming a frozen pizza and decent cabernet, I ended up going to sleep pretty early.
The clock on Frankie’s bedside table read 8:00 am when I decided to put my feet on the floor. I didn’t know what time Luke was going to bring Mallory home, but I probably had some tidying up to do.
I wandered out to the kitchen, stretching my arms up towards the ceiling. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and reached towards the cupboard which housed the coffee canister. I grabbed the container only to realize it was completely empty.
“Well, shit,” I said to myself. Unable to function without my morning Joe, I threw on some clothes and headed down the stairs to find a coffee shop. When I walked through the bookstore towards the front door, something made me stop dead in my tracks.
Someone had been here.
I sniffed the air, but couldn’t quite nail down a particular scent. My senses could feel the presence of someone. I walked slowly to the front door. It was still locked. I moved to the back door of the store, towards the rear entrance that leads to the alley. It was unlocked.
No one was on the first floor, but I couldn’t be sure about the basement. I walked by the door leading to the basement steps and listened for movement. Nothing. I couldn’t smell anything either, but every fiber of my being told me that someone had been here during the night. And that someone had used magic to mask their scent, because it was not registering with me.
Henry had been very antsy to know more about the book they were after. What if he snuck in and poked around? If he had, he wouldn’t have needed to mask his scent from me because it would be undetectable. Immortals don’t produce scents like mortal Supernaturals. If magic was needed to mask a scent, then the person must be mortal. That eliminated my new Mage and Vampire friends.
Not wanting to call Colt, I dialed the number on the business card I placed by the front register.
“Sorry to call so early, did I wake you?” I asked.
“Mages don’t sleep,” Henry responded. “Regardless of that fact, half past eight is not what I’d call particularly early. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine. Well, not completely. I think, no, I know, someone was in the bookstore last night. But I can’t smell what or who. I think they used magic to mask their scent,” I explained. “I didn’t know if you had some Mage technique that was more advanced in scent detection.”
“I’ll be right there.” Before I could respond, Henry had hung up the phone.
After waiting for about fifteen minutes, I walked towards the front of the store to unlock the door for Henry.
He looked freshly showered and smelled of a woodsy cologne that exuded refined masculinity. It definitely beat Ax body spray which had just started to dissipate from the back seat of my car after Carter and I had rendezvoused. Something like the smell of cologne or laundry detergent was not the same as the Supernatural smell that defined beings like Werewolves. The Supernatural scent of a Wolf was as identifiable as any physical trait. It was like an I.D.
Henry walked into the store without saying a word, stopping in the center of the room and closing his eyes. He breathed deep a few times before opening his eyes and scanning the store.
“I need to check the basement,” he said. I pointed towards the back of the room to the staircase. I followed him down the stairs, flipping on the light switch.
It was the first time I’d been in the basement since coming back. Mallory had organized it into a clean, open workspace with a large worktable in the center of the room. Shelves and filing cabinets were lined against the walls. It was an impressive set-up.
“Someone was here. But you’re right, they used magic to cover their scent,” Henry reported.
“And you can’t break the magic?” I asked.
“Not this magic. This was purchased at a high price. This was not the work of some small-time cat burglar, but someone with a lot of means at their disposal,” Henry walked around the room as he spoke, examining the shelves along the wall.
“Mind if I ask you an unrelated question?” I asked.
“Not at all,” Henry said, still looking through the shelves.
“If I’m being rude, please just say so. I’ve never met a Mage before and I was just wondering…” Was I about to cross the line somehow? Henry had now turned his full attention towards me. “How do you pull someone’s energy? Is it like how a Vampire would suck someone’s blood?”
“No, it’s very different,” Henry said with a gentle smile. I sighed, relieved to know from his reaction that I hadn’t offended him. “It’s done through skin-to-skin contact. It doesn’t matter what part of the body is used, but traditionally Mages pull energy with their hands.”
Henry held his hands up and a small misting of blue light emerged in his palms. I was mesmerized by the pretty display. When the small light show stopped, I found myself staring harder at his bare hands. They were strong and rough. I pictured what they would feel like on my bare flesh.
“Did you have another question?” Henry asked, jerking me out of my daydream.
“Nope, thanks for clearing that up,” I said, in a far too chipper tone. I needed to change the topic. “Do you think whoever broke in the store was looking for the book you wanted to buy from us?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “Although we were acting on a hunch about the book. We weren’t sure it would be useful to our investigation. But I think it’s safe to say now that it is connected.”
“I could feel the heavy magic on your book. Mallory said it was odd that it was in Latin when it was published in the 1800’s.” That seemed to pique Henry’s interest.
“That is very interesting indeed,” Henry replied. “It’s a shame we don’t have it now.”
A sickening thought occurred to me. I eyed Henry suspiciously and he looked back at me with a confused expression.
“Did you want to say something?” he asked.
“It’s just that the night you and your Vamp friend show up to my store looking for a magical book is the same night my house was burned down and my sister was attacked,” I pointed out. “It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence.”
“I think you’re correct. This doesn’t seem to be a coincidence at all,” he responded calmly.
“Then I think it’s time for you to tell me about the details of your investigation,” I demanded.
Before we could argue the point further, the bell on the front door jingled upstairs. I was closest to the stairs, so I dashed up first, Henry closely behind me.
Mallory stood near the register, looking through the mail that had arrived. But she wasn’t alone. Colt stood in the doorway, staring first at me, then at Henry. Luke was by his side.
“Mal!” I said, and rushed to hug her. I stepped back and looked her over. She smiled at me, looking tired but alive. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine. Tired, but fine,” she said. She looked at the staring contest currently taking place between Henry and Colt, and I could tell she was too tired for any of the impending drama that might occur. “I’m going to go upstairs and take a bath and a nap. I’ll let you… entertain our guests.”
As Mallory made her exit, I began to pick up on the strong testosterone vibes floating in the air.
“Are you going to introduce us, Georgia,” Colt said, without a smile, eyes still locked with Henry’s.
“Colt, this is Henry Conrad, Canadian Mage Representative. Henry, this is Luke Holston and Colt Holston, the Wi-”
“I know who Mr. Holston is,” Henry said, before I could finish.
“May I ask what brings you to our small town?” Henry asked, his voice cold as ice.
“Miss Mathews had a book I was interested in purchasing. However, it seems it has met an untimely demise in a recent fire,” Henry responded.
“Speaking of which, any news on the
fire-” Colt held his hand up before I could continue. If one more man interrupted me I was going to explode.
“Georgia, we should discuss that matter in private,” Colt demanded.
“Actually, Mr. Holston, I would like to request a briefing on the investigation of the fire at Miss Mathews’ home,” Henry said coolly. Colt flicked an angry glance my way before responding.
“Mr. Conrad, I would be happy to cooperate with a representative of the Mage Confederacy, just as soon as approval is granted by my superiors in the Pack Authority.”
I rolled my eyes at the red tape bureaucracy unfolding before me. Staying out of Supernatural politics had been easy for me since I chose to live among humans. Having to listen to their political squabbles was nothing compared to Supernaturals.
“While you all get that straightened up, I’d appreciate it if someone would tell me what the hell happened to my house!” All eyes were on me as I screamed at the men in the room.
“I’ll wait to hear from you, Mr. Holston,” Henry said, moving towards the door. Colt and Luke stepped aside so he could pass. Before leaving, he turned to me, “Don’t hesitate to call if I can be of further assistance.”
I couldn’t help but watch Henry as he made his exit. He moved like a panther stalking its prey. I had to admit, it was downright… sexy.
I looked over at Colt and Luke. Luke had an amused look on his face, but Colt had the opposite expression.
“You didn’t mention your new friend the other night,” Colt said in a huff. He sounded like a petulant child who had been denied ice cream after dinner.
“There wasn’t anything to mention,” I said, placing a hand on my hip. Who did he think he was? “Now, what did you find out about my house?”
“It was arson,” Luke responded, not giving Colt the chance to act out again. “We smelled tracks of three unknown Werewolves. The Pack is on the lookout.”
“It was probably Loners, and I’m sure they’ve moved on by now,” Colt added.
“And what makes you so sure they’ve moved on?” I asked. Colt looked directly at me, slowly moving so he was directly in front of me. He looked down at me.
“Because no one is crazy enough to cause trouble in my territory,” his tone was low and steady. His power radiated through his body and I could feel it all around me. So much so, that I stepped back a couple of feet to put more distance between us.
“You can go back, if you want,” Luke said, breaking the tension in the room. “There doesn’t seem to be anything left, but if you and Mallory want check it out, you can.”
I stepped out from under Colt’s heavy gaze.
“Thanks Luke,” I said. I moved towards the register and Luke followed, picking up a book on the New Release table. “If you all don’t mind, I’m going to go up and check on Mallory.”
Without speaking, Colt left the bookstore. Luke stood for a minute, waiting until Colt was out of hearing distance before he placed the book back on the table.
“He means well,” Luke said.
“Still has the same temper,” I pointed out. Colt had been a ball of bravado when he was younger. I was slightly surprised to find that it hadn’t died down much with age.
“He has a lot of responsibilities as Packmaster. And he has a lot of people he needs to keep in line,” Luke explained. “But I have to say, I haven’t seen his hackles up this much in years. But you always did know how to push his buttons.”
Luke looked at me with a half-smile. I rolled my eyes at him.
“Trust me, if I could erase the events of the last week I would in a heartbeat,” I said, tears welling up in my eyes.
“I know,” Luke said, putting a firm hand on my shoulder. “I know you’re hurting. It’s just, you left a lot of other people hurting when you left, even if it was decades ago. You have to remember that.”
I sighed, knowing he was right. I felt tired, as I looked out the front window, staring at the blue pick-up truck waiting on the street. I could only see the back of Colt’s head, but I could still feel the power that radiated from his body when he stood in front of me. His eyes couldn’t hide the hurt and anger that were directed towards me. I owed him a chance to talk, I knew that. But what would we even say to each other?
“You smell different.” My head jerked towards Luke, who was about to open the door to leave.
“What?” I asked, confused. I angled my head slightly, trying to get a whiff of my arm pits. I bathed the night before so how funky could I be?
“You. Your Wolf. Your… scent. It’s different,” Luke said, clearly confused himself. “And I think that’s making Colt even more agitated.”
As long as I’d been alive, I’d never heard of anyone’s scent changing.
I didn’t respond to Luke, as I watched him exit the store. I stayed still, looking at the door that closed behind him.
Fear began to creep into my gut as I thought about my change in scent having something to do with not being able to change into my Wolf form during the full moon.
What the hell was happening to me?
Mallory looked practically good as new when she awoke from her nap later that afternoon.
“Feeling better?” I asked.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied. She walked towards the cupboards in the kitchen and opened them. She removed a tea bag from a metal tin and put a kettle of water on the stove. “Everything okay with you?” she asked, eyeing me curiously.
“It has been a very eventful forty-eight hours.” I filled in Mallory with everything that had happened since her attack. The only part I left out was my not being able to change. That, I was still keeping a guarded secret until I could make more sense of it.
“I’ll have to look on my office computer downstairs for the information about the seller of the Latin book. I can’t remember off the top of my head,” Mallory said, as she sipped on her tea. “Will Henry and Phillip be coming back tonight?”
“I told Henry I’d call him when you were feeling up to looking into all this,” I replied.
“I’m good. I can go downstairs and take a look through my files,” she said, putting her empty mug in the kitchen sink. “I’m fascinated by the book being in Latin. I might do a little more research on its origins.”
“I’m sure our lovely representatives from the Higher Authority know plenty they’re not telling us. I think it’s time they start sharing if they want more help from us,” I pointed out.
“If I find something good, maybe we can use it to barter with.” Mallory looked downright giddy at the prospect of a high-profiled mystery on her hands.
“I’ll leave you to it, Nancy Drew. Meanwhile, I need to get some food. This house is empty. I’m going to walk down to that new place on the corner, you want anything?” I asked.
“I’d love a Caesar salad,” Mallory replied.
“Chili cheese fries it is.” Mallory rolled her eyes, but let out a small chuckle.
“Whatever looks good on the menu,” she consented.
I grabbed my purse and headed out the door.
The sun was just beginning to set as I headed down North Broad Street, which was home to The Bayfield Bookstore. As I rounded the corner on to Rittenhouse Avenue, I avoided a near head-on collision by only inches.
“Hey, watch it,” I shouted. I turned to face the person who almost ran right into me, when the look on my face turned from anger to surprise. “Perry!”
“Hey, Georgia. Sorry, I didn’t mean to run into you,” he said.
Perry Holston was the youngest Holston brother. He was made Werewolf about ten years after Luke. The transition was particularly hard on him and he wasn’t expected to survive it. Somehow, he did. His Wolf, however, was a little weaker than the others. This made him quiet in his human form. I always fe