He sat, watching the sun rise. Part of him wanted to turn, to go back to… And he had no idea if those thoughts were his. What parts of the past three months had been him and what had been her pushing. If his feelings regarding either of them were real or just a result of her will. Her control couldn’t have been complete. Yet he didn’t know if it was subtle or if she’d just actively prevented him from noticing her modifications. The idea that he’d lost control so completely was…
And yet he’d accepted it. Outside of the bed, he’d let Daniel take the lead. That part didn’t make sense either. Why would Anna have allowed that, if her claim that she couldn’t control her brother was accurate? Matthias sighed. He didn’t even know how far into his head she’d gone.
The sun was high when he saw his truck pull out of the rest area. A glance at his watch showed it was almost 2 PM. Matthias stood slowly, working the kinks out of his back. Part of him wanted to find a phone, to call them and… He had no idea how great Anna’s range was, or how to tell if that was his desire or something she’d put into his head.
Matthias shrugged. There was one person who might be able to tell him. He walked down to the highway and stuck out a thumb.
Rosa had food waiting when they walked in. Daniel had left the truck and camper some distance from the bar, locked up tight. Like Matthias usually did. He kept hoping to hear the burner phone ring or something. Rosa gave him a sympathetic smile when he sat down. “I made a couple calls. A contact of mine can get you fake IDs, set you up somewhere.”
“What’s it going to cost?” Daniel raised an eyebrow. He still had Matthias’s cash, but if Matthias had been right about the cost of decent IDs, that wasn’t going to be enough to cover both him and Anna.
“You and Anna have power. Let’s just say there are some people who are willing to make an investment.” Rosa shrugged. “You can cure cancer, kid. Figure out how to control your ability, and you can name your price.”
“That’s, uh…” He frowned. “I hadn’t thought about it like that.”
“You’ll want to keep it on the down low. Wrong people find out, you’ll end up in a government lab somewhere, getting your brain dissected.” She shook her head. “It’s happened to a few of our kind in the past.”
Matthias tossed back a shot, then glanced over his shoulder at the scene behind him. A small group of young men were harassing two women sitting together in a booth. With a sigh, he stood up, and walked over. “I think the ladies want to be left alone.”
“I’m just offering to show them what they’re missing.” The young leader of the group smirked. He clearly considered himself a tough guy.
There were several ways he could play this. Matthias shrugged, grabbed the guy by the front of the shirt, yanked him close, and planted a kiss on him before letting him go. The guy immediately started freaking out, spitting and wiping at his mouth as the girls started snickering. The guy’s two friends had complete deer in the headlights stairs.
“You fucking…” The man glared up at him.
“Just thought I’d show you what you’re missing.” Matthias smirked. “Unless you want to try a bit more, I suggest you get a move on.” And the jackass decided to take a swing. Matthias caught his fist in one hand and stopped it cold. “Or are you saying you like it rough?” He raised an eyebrow.
Several other people in the bar were starting to laugh. The would-be tough yanked his hand back, then the smarter of his friends began herding them out of the bar. The two women were outright laughing now. “Mister, that was great,” the blond said.
“Can we buy you a drink?” the dark-haired one raised an eyebrow.
“I uh…” Matthias hesitated a moment. Just a year ago, he’d have ignored the situation. Walked on by, assuming he’d even noticed. “Appreciate the thought, but I’ve got somewhere to be. You two have a safe evening.”
Daniel looked up when the door opened, then froze. Trent walked in, followed by a half dozen others. He turned to look at Rosa. Her face was apologetic. “I’m sorry.” She sighed. “They found my price.”
“You sold us out.” Anna glared at her. Tears appeared in her eyes.
Trent smiled. “You two have cost us a great deal.”
“I’m not going.” Anna shook her head. “You can’t have her.”
“Don’t be foolish, Anna.” Trent shook his head. “Come. I really don’t want to hurt either of you…” He drew his gun, and aimed it at Daniel. ‘But your brother is just as useful to me without kneecaps.”
He was on his way toward the bar when he caught a whiff of strawberries. Anna? Matthias frowned. He sniffed again, and caught another scent. It took him a moment to place it. A scent from the room where Daniel had been held by the cabal. They couldn’t have found the kids here unless… A low growl escaped him. Unless Rosa had gotten stupid.
Matthias turned around and started walking the other direction. None of them were his problem anymore.
Anna was crying again. Daniel held her to him tightly. He looked up when Trent offered him the phone. “Your mom wants to talk to you.”
He took the phone. “Mom.”
“Danny. Oh god, I’ve been so worried. Are you alright?”
“The only person we’re in danger from is your husband.”
“Danny, sweetheart. You don’t understand.” She sighed. “Look, when you get home, I’ll explain everything.”
“I already know, Mom. About the cabal and witches and everything.”
For a moment, his mother was silent. “Then you know what you and Anna could…” She exhaled. “Come home, Danny. Let me explain.”
“You sold them your own daughter.”
“It’s not…” His mother sighed. “Danny, please. It’s not what you think. You and Anna are so unbelievably special.”
Daniel took the phone away from his ear and stared at it for a moment. Then he stabbed the button with his thumb and tossed it to the floor. He looked up at Trent. “We won’t cooperate.”
“That will change.” Trent shrugged. He drew his gun and turned to aim it at Rosa. Her eyes widened.
Then there was a shower of broken glass from the skylight and ten feet of werewolf landed in their midst.
He caught the man’s gun hand and twisted. Bone snapped, tearing through the man’s forearm. Matthias flung the man into his compatriots, then closed. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Daniel grab his sister and dive for cover. Matthias raked his claws through a man reaching for a gun. The sting of a bullet, then he took the shooter’s head off.
The man whose arm he’d broken was fleeing. Matthias took a step to follow, and then another werewolf came through the door. It was followed by two others. All three were smaller, but there were still three. The one in the lead growled, then charged.
Daniel peered out from behind the stage where he’d taken cover. The larger werewolf was locked into combat with the other three, but at a serious disadvantage. No sooner did he close with one than the other two went for his back. Daniel glanced at Anna. “Stay here, keep your head down.” She nodded up at him with terrified eyes.
As soon as the werewolves went for Matthias’s back again, Daniel flung a chair. He couldn’t throw it hard enough to do any real damage, but he did tangle the creature up for a moment. Just a couple heartbeats, but it was enough. Matthias turned, slamming the werewolf he was currently grappling with into the one charging at his back. Then he tore his head back, taking half the other werewolf’s throat with him.
The werewolf he’d thrown the chair at turned toward him. It started to leap, and Matthias caught it in midair, taking it to the ground. The second werewolf leaped on Matthias’s back, burying its teeth in his shoulder. Daniel began looking around frantically. Where did Rosa keep her shotgun?
He snarled as he felt teeth pierce his shoulder, and threw himself backward to land on the wolf on his back. The teeth left, and he rolled back to his feet. The claws of the second wolf raked against his chest, and he brought his own claws to bear as she came in for a second attack. He opened gashes along her arm, then moved to dodge a blow from her companion. The second male werewolf leaped at him, and he ducked under to come up and tear open the stomach of the female. She staggered backward, and he stepped forward to tear open her throat.
The male werewolf hit him again, knocking him off his feet.
Daniel searched in vain for a weapon. He saw the last surviving enemy werewolf take Matthias off his feet, and it was clear Matthias was hurt badly. The big man’s wounds slowed him, while the smaller wolf was still all but uninjured. And it knew it. It got back to its feet, circling Matthias as he rose. It feinted, but instead of falling for it Matthias moved in the other direction. He caught the werewolf’s arm and yanked it closer. Its claws raked great gashes in Matthias’s body as Matthias’s teeth closed around it’s throat.
It thrashed, ripping and tearing at Matthias as it struggled. There was a sickening crunching sound, and the werewolf went limp in Matthias’s jaws. Both wolves fell. Matthias released the body, and it fell away. Slowly, Matthias’s form shrank down, becoming human once more.
Matthias tried to get back to his feet, and succeeded only in getting to his knees. He crouched, panting. He heard a sound, and looked up to see the man whose arm he’d broken pointing a gun at him. “I must admit.” Trent glanced at the slowly changing bodies of the three dead wolves. “I’m a little impressed.” His eyes narrowed. “How many bullets will it take to put you down?” He smirked. “Guess we’ll find out, won’t w—” His eyes widened, and he made a small sound as his skin started to take on a waxy grayish sheen.
“No.” Daniel’s voice was fierce. “We won’t.” His hand was on Trent’s shoulder.
Trent collapsed into a boneless heap.
He rushed to where Matthias was kneeling, bleeding heavily from the wounds he’d taken in the fight. This time he felt the energy leaving his hands as Matthias’s wounds began to heal. “You came back.” His voice was soft.
“I’m kinda stupid that way.” Matthias looked up at him, and smiled. “We had a deal, boss.”
“Yeah.” Daniel smiled back. He saw Matthias frown as he started to rise, and turned. Rosa was standing up from behind the bar. Daniel gave her a furious look. “You sold us out.”
Rosa looked away from him. “That true?” Matthias’s voice was quiet.
She sighed. “Yes.”
Matthias nodded, then turned to Daniel. “Boss?”
“Let’s just go.” Daniel walked over and pulled Anna to her feet. “She’s not your problem anymore.”
“Disappear, Rose.” Matthias nodded. “You don’t want them…” He showed a hint of fang. “Or me to come looking.”
The three of them walked out of the bar, leaving wreckage behind.
“I’m sorry.” Anna’s voice was small.
Matthias took a deep breath. “Never again.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “You understand me?”
She sniffled, then nodded.
He sighed. “Get some sleep.” He waited until she’d crawled into her alcove, then turned toward Daniel. “You alright?”
“What?” Daniel looked up at him.
“You killed a man. Are you alright?”
“I, uh…” Daniel swallowed. “Not really, no.” He shook his head. “But he was going to kill you and…” He shivered a little. “And I couldn’t let him do that.”
“Hey…” He touched Daniel’s shoulder, then grunted when Daniel all but threw himself into Matthias’s arms. He put his arms around Daniel as Daniel started to cry.
“You came back.” Daniel smiled at Matthias. He hesitated a moment, then swallowed. “Why?”
“Because…” Matthias sighed, and leaned against the side of the camper. Then he took a deep breath. “Because you were right.”
“I was?” He blinked.
“It all crashed down, and…” Matthias shook his head. “And I’m not really sure the last time I actually had something…” He looked up at Daniel. “To fight for.”
“I, uh…” Daniel reached out, and took Matthias’s hand. Then he went up on his tiptoes and kissed Matthias. He felt Matthias’s arms go around him as the bigger man returned the kiss. “No better friend, no worse enemy.” He smiled. “True of marines…” He leaned into Matthias’s shoulder. “And wolves.”
“Where to now, boss?” Matthias returned the smile.
“We hole up, then we find this broken angel of Anna’s and…” Daniel shrugged. “Maybe figure a few things out on the way.”