Primitive: Chapter 13

Christophe followed Lykos down the small hill to the stream.  There was a source of water in the caves, but it didn’t have fish.  Lykos kept the leash short, only a few feet, but there was an additional coil of chain in his hand.  His wrist and ankle cuffs, however, weren’t secured together, allowing in freedom of movement otherwise.  Lykos rarely bothered with those chains anymore, but he never removed the leash.  It was no longer even fastened to the collar by a lock.  Lykos had used his power to seal the links to create a ten-foot length of unbroken chain permanently attached to the collar, though longer lengths were often attached.

He sat on a rock, enjoying the sun as Lykos gave the stream one of his critical looks.  “Overhunting.  Fish too small.”  Lykos glared at the water, then sniffed it and wrinkled his nose.  “Fertilizer run off.  Shameful.”

“They’ve been trying to pass laws about the runoff problems, but the corn industry has a powerful lobby.”  Christophe lay back on the rock.  Lykos had secured the leash, giving him about a twenty-foot radius to move around in.  But with living half naked in a cool cave most of the time, the sun felt good and he saw no need to move from where he currently was.  Off in the distance he saw a helicopter heading west.

“Lobbyists.  Should all be drawn and quartered.”  Lykos shook his head as he waded into the river.

“Can’t really argue with that.”  He lifted himself up to rest a hand on his head.  Watching Lykos catch fish with his bare hands remained fascinating.  The man had attempted to teach him and Christophe had even managed it once, but Lykos made it look far easier than it actually was.  Within a few minutes, several fish were on the bank.

Cleaning the fish and game, however, remained his task.  He was getting better at it.  Lykos had caned his feet twice before he’d gotten the hang of properly butchering a deer.  He’d wondered at why the man had brought back so much before realizing that the leaves were falling.  Lykos was stocking up for winter.  “You like chickens?”

It took him a moment to realize Lykos had asked him a question.  “I like chicken.”

“Not chicken.  Chickens.”  Lykos gestured for him to grab the fish.  “I think I steal some.  Eggs.  Meat.  Build little coop.”  He shook his head.  “Cow too big.  Goats better.”

“You…”  He picked up the fish.  “You talk like you intend to stay in the caves forever.”

“Good place.  Secure.”  Lykos nodded.  He frowned when he looked at Christophe, and a couple expressions crossed his face.  “You don’t want to live in cave forever.”

I want you to let me go.  He didn’t say the words aloud.  “I kind of miss television sometimes.  And uh…”  He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Lonely.”  Lykos gave him a look that was surprisingly sympathetic.

“A little.”  He watched Lykos unfasten his leash from the tree for the trip back.

“Perhaps…”  Lykos hesitated before he started back toward the cave.  “We can go north.  Canada.  Find small town where no one will look for us.”

“That uh…”  Christophe nodded.  “Yeah.”

(more…)

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Primitive: Chapter 12

His fingers found the marks on the collar.  Lykos had added a rune, ensuring the collar did not merely mark Christophe as a possession, but Lykos’s possession.  He slid his fingers a bit further and found the seam, then took his hand away when he heard Lykos stir.  Lykos gave him a slight frown.  “You wake early.”

“I…”  He hesitated.  “I was thinking about my mother.  By now she probably knows I’m…”  He exhaled.

Then he felt Lykos’s hand on his shoulder.  “Can get phone, go where there is signal.  You call, tell her you are alive.”

He smiled.  “You’d let me?”

“I have no grudge against your mother.”  Lykos nodded.

(more…)

Primitive: Chapter 10

Guerin looked up at the man who’d entered Darin’s office.  He’d been expecting a scientist, not someone built like a linebacker.  Guerin nodded.  “Thank you for coming, Mr. Wōtan.”

“A pleasure.”  Mr. Wōtan accepted Guerin’s handshake.  “I was told there was a sighting.  Would it be possible to speak with the witnesses?”

“I’m afraid it would not.”  Darin stood, and also shook Mr. Wōtan’s hand.  “Given the delicacy of the matter, the situation had to be contained.”

Mr. Wōtan nodded.  “I see.”

“What can you tell us about this creature?”  Darin folded his arms.  “Is he an extraterrestrial?”

“Quite the opposite, really.”  Mr. Wōtan’s spoke with an accent that sounded Russian.  It put Guerin slightly on edge.  “I would require access to the samples you took to confirm, but if I am correct…”  He shrugged.  “Then you may be better off thinking of him as primordial rather than extraterrestrial.”

“You mean what?” Guerin blinked.  “He’s some kind of Neanderthal throwback?”

“That is one way to put it.”  Mr. Wōtan set his briefcase on the table.

“Mr. Wotan…”  Guerin narrowed his eyes.  “That thing has my son.”

“I am aware of the situation.”  Mr. Wōtan gave Guerin a sympathetic look.  “However, if he was going to kill the boy he would have done it already.  Mr. Darin says that the creature took the boy to bait you into a trap?”

“Christophe confirmed it when the thing let me talk to him.”  Guerin swallowed.  He could still hear Christophe’s bitten back cry of pain.  “This thing needs to be neutralized.”

“Contained.”  Mr. Wōtan’s voice was firm and calm.

“It’s —”

“Captain Guerin, I cannot stress this enough, and I have the backing of your superiors on the matter.”  Mr. Wōtan met his eyes.  “The creature is to be taken alive.”

“You have any idea how many people it’s already killed?”  Guerin glared at him.  “This thing, Li-cost or —”

“Lykos.”

“What?”  Guerin blinked.

“His name…”  Mr. Wōtan smiled.  “Is Lykos.”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 9

Gian’s eyes were wide, and he was grinning like a small child.  Sita pranced just a little, making Gian laugh gleefully.  The sight brought a smile to Ruarc’s face as he kept a firm grip on the lead rope.  Sita trotted in a circle around him.  He’d been shocked to learn Gian had not only never ridden a horse before, but had a fear of them.  Sita’s sweet nature had taken care of the latter problem, and letting Gian ride sidesaddle ensured he was comfortable trying the former.

Sita had learned quickly that Gian was an absolute pushover for treats and pats.  Whether it was just the chance at more exercise or her own nature, she appeared to be having just as much fun as Gian.  She even kicked up her heels a little to make him squeal.  Ruarc sighed when he noted the position of the sun.  “Time to head back.”  He clicked his tongue, and Sita came to him.

“She’s wonderful.”  Gian beamed as he slid off the saddle into Ruarc’s arms. Ruarc set him on the ground, and Gian immediately turned to Sita.  “You are.  You’re the most beautiful animal in the world.”  Sita nickered in response, and Gian laughed.  “She’s talking to me.”

“I’ve always suspected she understands most of what I say.”  He led his companions back into the castle.  In the stables, he showed Gian how to rub Sita down, then smiled to himself as Gian started plaiting her mane and promising her ribbons next time.  She tossed her head proudly when he finished.  “He’s going to spoil you.”  He patted the horse.

“Yes.”  Gian rubbed her neck.  “I will bring you apples and carrots and oats and —”

“Not too many, or you can make her sick.”  Ruarc shook his head.

“Just the right amount then.”  Gian leaned in toward Sita and whispered to the horse.  “And I won’t tell Ruarc about the occasional sugar stick if you don’t.”  Sita nickered in response.

Ruarc just rolled his eyes as he headed out of the stables.

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 4

He was quiet when they entered the castle.  She wasn’t certain how much was fascination and how much was nerves.  Out of the corner of her eye she watched him, noting that he was paying attention to the castle’s fortifications and defenses.  That was encouraging, considering one of his duties would be to defend her fortress should such a thing become necessary.  Ruarc caught her watching him, and gave her a small nod.  “What do you think, darling?”  She smiled as she took his arm.

“It is impressive.”  He looked up toward the heights.  “Considering the approach, I admit surprise you do not have ballistas.”

“Something for you to discuss with my steward.  Let me give you the tour.”  She kept hold of his arm as she took him through the castle.  He was impressed by her armory, and commented on the efficiency of the stables.  And it was clear he didn’t miss the looks some of her staff were giving him.  Many seemed amused, but a few of the glances bordered on pity.  With her arm locked around his, she could feel his tension.  It brought a smile to her face.  “You may not leave the castle without my permission, but once granted you can ride and hunt in the woods.  The map is in my office.”

“Leave without…”  He blinked and turned to look at her.  “Without your permission?”

Vitalia raised an eyebrow.  “What about the instruction confuses you?”

“It’s purpose.”  Ruarc frowned.

“I purchased you for a reason, darling.  Allowing you to wander freely runs the risk of subverting that.  You’ll not be permitted to leave my lands unescorted at all.”

“I will want to visit my family.”  He shook his head.

“Arrangements can be made, provided you are otherwise a good boy.”  She patted his arm.  “Now, I believe you are unhappy with the current status of your family’s stipend.”

A small, slightly bitter laugh escaped him.  “You could say that.”

“I believe, unless your sister is not as capable as you described, that a sum of 300 gold a month would be sufficient to allow them to live among the nobility again, yes?”

It amused her to see just how wary his expression became.  “I take it you have…”  He gave a small shake of his head.  “Something in mind?”

“Oh, yes.”  She rubbed his arm.

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 21

“Why didn’t you stop his escape?”  Wren glared at Adam.

“That wasn’t the mission I was given.”  Adam shook his head.

She fought the urge to take control of his mind, to make him crawl toward her and beg forgiveness.  “Sima’s pissed.”

“She was already on the phone to Giroux, telling him her version of what happened.”  Adam shrugged.

Wren froze.  “What do you mean?”

“Sima hasn’t been paid yet, Wren.  Giroux finds out Sima diverted resources over a pet, he’s going to be annoyed.  She’s got to downplay it, or spread the blame or something.”  Adam sighed.  “She’s probably going to say it was my fault or something.  I just hope Giroux doesn’t decide that makes it your fault.

“She wouldn’t…”  Wren narrowed her eyes.

“I hope so.”  Adam shook his head.  “I really don’t want to end up her pet.  Especially now that she knows about the talisman.”

Her fingers clutched the ring around her neck.  That’s right.  Sima knew.  And Sima had expressed an interest in Adam and…  She frowned.  And Sima had blown the mission by not letting Adam go into the field.  Adam could have killed the alpha and…  Giroux had known Sima a long time.  Surely he’d know…  Except he didn’t know Wren herself.  “There has to be a way to salvage this.”

“He lost a lot of people, and stands to lose the rest if they don’t get moving soon.”

“You can still kill Matthias.”  She nodded.

“I could.”  Adam folded his arms.  “Be a waste of time though.”

“You should keep a civil tongue when addressing —”

“My mistress?”  He had the nerve to smirk at her.  “Or what, Wren?”

“You know ‘or what’.”  She clenched her fists.

“You could break me.”  He met her eyes.  “Turn me into your pet.  You see how well that game worked for Sima.  But ask yourself something, Wren…”  He straightened.  “What good to anyone is a broken weapon?”  He shook his head.  “You’re a witch.  You’ve got me.  Nobody can do what I can do.  Giroux isn’t an idiot, Wren.  If you can manage not to be one as well, you can still come out on top of this.”

For a moment she just stood there, staring at him.  “I could…”  His gaze didn’t waver.  “You’re still mine.  Don’t forget that.”

“I’m well aware.”  He shrugged.  “Suggest you get to the airport, and use your magic to get the retreat going.  Giroux is going to be annoyed if he loses anymore guys.”

“Fine.”  She jabbed a finger into his chest.  “But when I’m done, you, me, and Sima’s little truth ability are going to have a long talk.”

“Looking forward to it.”  He sat down as she headed for the door.  And to her irritation, he just turned on the TV like he hadn’t a care in the world.

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 20

Ash fought the urge to laugh.  He remained curled up on the bed, every inch the dog.  Even though he knew there was a good chance Sima and Wren would end up taking their frustrations out on him, he couldn’t help but be pleased as he listened to them rant.  They’d sent people after his friends.  His friends had won.  Sima wanted him to think her all-powerful, the flawless mistress.  She wasn’t.  Despite what she’d done to Adam, he defied her.  Adam smiled, played the pet, and the moment Sima looked away, Adam defied her.  For all her confidence, all that she was a witch wolf, Sima was only human.  Adam defied her.  And if Adam could, so could he.

(more…)

Truth and Shadows : Chapter 4

“For a couple months, things went smoothly for us.  We kept our relationship between us and…”  Viteri shifted a little.  “Ma’am, uh…”  He hesitated.

“Mr. Viteri?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s just you seem like a proper lady, so I’m not sure…”  He gave her an awkward look.  “Just there are places where the details are a little important so…”

“I’m a big girl, Mr. Viteri.”  She smiled a little.

“Right.  But if you get uncomfortable, then uh…”  He shrugged.  “Right.  Anyway.”  He took a deep breath.  “Tobias and I, we got to know each other in a lot of different ways, and we learned some things about ourselves too.”

(more…)

Emilio’s Puppy

Emilio took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down.  He looked down at the remains of his case, and cursed.  Weeks of work, dozens of drawings, destroyed.  Cooper and his crew had been waiting for him just outside the building.  All four of them.  Andrew, Rylan, Lance, and Warren.  Goddamn it.  He hadn’t even done anything this time.  He brushed tears out of his eyes, and started home.

It was already getting dark.  Emilio shivered.  He didn’t care double back to the bus stop.  Too great a chance one of them was there.  Assholes.  Worst part was he’d been friends with Rylan and Lance once.  That had been years before high school.  Two years of college hadn’t grown them up any.  He sighed.  It was only about an hour walk, even in the cold.  He’d be fine.

Forty-five minutes later, he was cutting through the alley behind his family’s place.  He froze when he heard Rylan’s voice.  “Nah, I’ve got it.  See you in a bit.”

Slowly, he crept forward.  Rylan was near Emilio’s grandmother’s car, jimmying the lock open.  She had a bad habit of leaving things inside, such as her medication.  Rylan was…  Rylan was robbing his grandmother.  Emilio shook his head, then picked up a piece of wood.

(more…)

Hunting: Chapter 13

Daniel looked around.  “Matthias?”

“Hmmm…?”  Matthias glanced over his shoulder.

“I’m leaving you for Ted’s kitchen.”

“What?”  Matthias blinked.

“You really can’t blame him.”  Magda chuckled as she looked around, then she turned toward Ted.  “You have a lovely home.”

“Thank you.”  Ted smiled.  “There are two guest bedrooms.  One has its own bathroom.  Anna may be more comfortable in that one, considering her condition.”

“Ted uh…”  Magda shrugged.  “Do you mind if I do use your kitchen?  I mean, the least I can do is make you all dinner.”

“Oh, not at all.  Please, make yourselves at home.”

“Yeah, uh…”  Michaels was looking out the back window.  “Dog boy kind of found your hot tub already and…”  He shrugged.  “Someone might want to ask him to put his clothes back on or something.”

“No, they don’t have to.”  Laura was also standing at the back window, her head tilted as she smiled dreamily.  Michaels gave her a look before putting his hand over her eyes.  She ducked away then stuck her tongue out at him.

“I’ll uh…”  Magda sighed.  “Just go take care of that.”

“There are towels in the cupboard there.”  Ted pointed.

“I can cook too…”  Daniel nodded.  “But Magda is much better at baking and at French cuisine which makes sense because she’s actually French even though she’s got like a Norse name and that’s because Matthias’s dad was an actual Viking and actually I’m not sure what Magda’s real name is but she’s been using Magda since he was born so I guess it’s her real name now and anyway I took a bunch of cooking classes in college so that I could —”

“Breath,” Gabriel said as he walked by.

“Yeah.”  Daniel took a deep breath, then smiled apologetically at Ted.  “Sorry.  I start talking when I’m nervous and I’m really nervous around you guys cause of everything and I just want you to know we won’t mess up your place at all and we can help out with anything you need and let us know what foods you like so we can cook and I cook anyway cause Anna’s down to only about six things she can eat without her stomach getting upset so I just try to make those —”

“Breath.”  Matthias patted his shoulder.

Ted tried not to smile as the young man inhaled deeply before launching into yet another rambling assurance.  “Daniel, son, please.”  Ted held up his hands.  “Sit down before you really do talk until you pass out.”  Then he shrugged.  “I do have a security system.  There are cameras on the front and back doors.  It’s not active at the moment, but I’m guessing at least one of you has the expertise to set it up.”

Matthias nodded.  “Where’s the control panel?”

“By the garage door.”  He watched the man walk away.  Matthias was massive even before taking into account the man could, according to Laura, turn into a ten-foot-tall werewolf.  He almost jumped when he felt Gabriel’s hand on his shoulder.

“You alright with this, Ted?”

“I issued the invitation, didn’t I?”  Ted smiled at him, and then mentally kicked himself.  “Though uh…”  He exhaled.  “Can I assume that werewolves have excellent hearing and other senses?”

“Yes.”  Matthias called from the other room.  “Werewolves do.”

“Oh.”  Well.  That was going to make some things very, very awkward.

Gabriel leaned forward, and whispered into his ear.  “You’ve still got my extra key, right?”

Ted smiled.

(more…)

Wren and Adam: Chapter 12

He knelt on the floor, his forehead against the carpet and his hands flat.  Wren’s magic held him fast in place despite his best efforts.  He could kill one of the most powerful beasts in the world, and he was completely helpless to his girlfriend’s whim.  Adam felt the urge to vomit as Sima and Wren casually began discussing the best way to punish him for his ‘misbehavior’.

Coraline.  Wren had suggested going after Coraline.  Wren told Sima about the biker, and Sima actually laughed.  The thought of his little sister anywhere near these people was unimaginable.  Coraline belonged on a stage.  She was a singer, not a…  Not a killer.  Not like him.

Fingers caught hold of his chin, and Sima raised his head to make him look at her.  He kept his face calm and composed.  Renee hadn’t broken him.  This bitch wouldn’t either.  He knew what werewolf blood tasted like.  He’d already killed something more powerful than Sima could ever hope to be.  Something flickered across her eyes.  And she knew it too.  “Do you know what my gift is, Adam?”

“You can tell when someone is lying.”  Adam nodded.

“Let’s play a game.  Tell me Adam, when it comes to ice cream, would you rather chocolate or vanilla?”  Sima raised an eyebrow.

“Vanilla.”  He tried not to roll his eyes.

“Would you rather boxers or briefs?”

This was stupid, but if he didn’t play along, Wren would make him.  “Boxers.”

(more…)

Gabriel: Chapter 5

Michaels watched the man limp out of the bullpen.  Rather than draw attention to himself by talking to himself, he picked up his cell phone.  “Alright, explain?”

To his surprise, her voice actually came over the phone rather than simply getting into his head.  “That guy was a witch.

“Like the one the other day?”  Not really a comforting thought.

No.  Alright, simple explanation.  There are two kinds of witches.  The full kind, which are what most think of.  Cast spells, brew potions, ride broomsticks.  Then there are those that are just gifted, like Laura is now or will be as soon as we can figure out her gift.

“And that guy?”

Just gifted, but surprisingly strong.  Some serious mojo there.

“You think that guy might be on Gabe’s level?”  Also not a comforting thought, though the fact that the guy needed a cane to walk raised a few more questions.

No, but tough enough that…”  She made a sighing sound.  “Alright, no good way to put this.  I’m going to need you to go out and get laid.”

“Seriously?”

You want me to keep witches out of your head, you’re going to need to get it on.  I kind of gave Gabriel a migraine this morning and considering there is a werewolf in town we  —

“We need him at 100%.”  He rubbed his forehead.  “Fine.”

And it’s you or Laura and —

“I said fine.”  He managed to keep his voice low.  “How the hell does Gabe manage to talk to you without letting people on?”  It would have been nice to be able to ask her questions with the guy still here.  Letting him walk out might have been a mistake.

He has an internal monologue, you tend to think out loud.  It’s kind of like an introvert extrovert thing.

“Can you follow that guy?”

Uh…”  She was quiet for a moment.  “Well, actually, no.”

“You follow people all the time.  You even follow multiple people at a —”

I told you, the guy has some mojo.  And whatever it is, he’s a blank slate to me.  Only reason I could detect anything about him was I was already in your head when he showed and you were looking right at him.”

“If I’d known that, I’d have followed him out of here.”  Michaels exhaled.  “Fill Gabe in.”

Already done.”

(more…)

Gabriel : Part 3

“Batman has has entered the building.  Repeat, Batman has entered the building.”

“Didn’t he say for you not to call him that?”  Ted rubbed his forehead.

“Batman is now glaring at me in a threatening manner.”

“So, situation normal.”  Laura’s voice came over the radio.

There was a pause before Michaels spoke again.  “Batman wants to know why you are still on the radio after 10 PM on a school night.”

“Did Batman miss the part where I am a juvenile delinquent dropout?”

“She’s doing a self-study GED program.”  Ted smiled.

“Batman is pointing out —” There was a small thudding sound and Michaels yelped.  “That doesn’t change that there is a 10PM curfew on school nights.”

“Relax, I’m in Lloyd’s living room.”

“One, I’ve asked you not to call me that, and two, you broke into my fucking house again?”

“Kindly do not cuss in front of the minor.”  Ted tried not to snicker.

“Yeah, don’t fucking cuss in front of me.  I don’t need to hear that shit.”  Laura’s voice drawled.  “And I didn’t break in, I used your spare key.”

“Who told you where my spare key was?”

I did.

“Alright, one, why are you telling people where my spare key is, and two, how the fuck are you even transmitting over this channel?”

Language.”

“I am not getting a lecture in morals from a succubus.”

“The Batman thing is dumb.”  Laura sounded like she was eating something.

“You’re just mad we won’t let you Batgirl.”

“No.”  Laura didn’t even bother to disguise the fact she was lying.  “But Batman’s been done.  He needs something new.  How about…”  She swallowed.  “The Crimson Crusader?”

“If that man owns a single article of red clothing I will give you a hundred dollars.”

“You’re going to have to pay up.  The volunteer shirts from the park thing are red and he actually showed up to help like he promised.”  Ted laughed.

“Fuck.”

Ted asked you to watch your language.”

“Yeah, Ted asked you to watch your fucking language.”

“How come you aren’t yelling at her about her language?”

I find her usage precocious and adorable.”

“And we girls gotta stick together.”  Laura made a small slurping sound.  “You know, with her on the team, we should probably incorporate fire or demons or something into the name.  The Hellfire Avengers?”

“No.”  Ted started shaking his head.

“Batman wants to know if anyone other than him has actually done any real work on this case?”

“Right.”  Ted looked down at the folder on his desk.  “I’ve got the location the other missing person was last camping…”

(more…)

Truth and Shadows : Chapter 3

Viteri’s eyes were a little wet.  She debated offering him a tissue, but the guards had been very clear about making physical contact even if the man was firmly shackled.  The trial notes had included pictures of Tobias Grady’s beaten form.  The poor man had been barely recognizable as human.  “We didn’t hook up right then.”  Viteri swallowed.  “He was scared, and to be honest, so was I.  I wasn’t a virgin by any means, but this was the first time I really, you know…”  He shrugged.  “Wanted things to work.”  He smiled a little.  “And Tobias really didn’t have any idea what he was doing.  It’s not exactly something they cover in sex ed down in Bailey.”

“So, you took things slow.”  Diana nodded.

“At first, yeah.”  Viteri nodded.  “We kissed, then we went back to the lab…”

(more…)