Escapade: Chapter 3

“Professor Kravitz?”  Laura raised an eyebrow.  The man behind the desk looked to be in his forties, with hair just starting to go gray.  His glasses were fashionable rather than spectacles, and he wore a simple t-shirt and jeans rather than what she expected from a history professor.

“Can I help you?”  He smiled, then looked from Adam to her.  “I’m fairly sure I would recall you if you were one of my students.”

“I’m here touring to decide if Berkeley is the school for me.”

“And you’ve an interest in archeology and history, then?”  His smile warmed. “How delightful, though I’ll warn you it’s not quite like Indiana Jones makes it out to be.”

“Oh god, I hope not.  Running from giant boulders 101 sounds like a really tough class.”  Laura grinned.  “But since my name actually is Lara Croft…”  Or so it said on her IDs.

Professor Kravitz laughed.  “Well then.  As I just had a meeting cancel, I’ve a few free minutes.”  He glanced at Adam.  “I didn’t catch your name.”

“I’m Adam Wu.”  Adam glanced at her, then looked back at Professor Kravitz.

“And you’re also interested in history?”

“She’s the prospective student.”  He jerked his head at her.  “I’m just…”

“He’s a hit man.”  Laura shrugged.  “Professional assassin.  It’s pretty boring, so he’s killing time hanging out with me.  So, your focus is European history?  Excalibur and shit?”  She waved at the artwork hanging on his office wall.  Help me out here?  Right.  Try this.  “I read your screed on all the things wrong with that King Arthur movie with Clive Owen that suggested he was a Roman officer.  I didn’t catch that the swords were held together by screws until I read that, and then it was like all I could see every time the camera focused on a weapon.”

“That might have been a forgivable error if they hadn’t also had trebuchets and stirrups.”  The professor nodded.

“Oh, and the whole landing north of the wall instead of, you know, sailing around it?  Though that’s just bad writing rather than an anachronism.”  Laura nodded.  She caught the rather bemused look Adam was giving her.  “But what I’d really like to ask you about is Merlin and Nimue.”

“I fear there is little historical basis for any of the Merlin myths, though I admit the folklore regarding the character is incredible.  Some of the earliest —”

“Specifically, the Landau expedition.”  Adam’s voice was quiet.  The professor’s head immediately came up, and he stared at Adam.  Adam shifted his position just slightly.  “You worked for Professor Landau’s son, didn’t you, Mr. Adler?”

“I was trying to be subtle.”  Laura glared at him.

“You told him I was a professional assassin.”  Adam glared back.

“I think you are mistaken.”  Professor Kravitz started shaking his head.

“No, he really is a hit man.”  Laura shrugged before turning her full gaze back to the professor.  “The Cabal knows where you are, Professor.  I’m not part of them.  I can help you.”

“I don’t have what you are after.”  His smile had vanished, replaced by no small amount of fear.  “The artifacts were destroyed.”

“We know.”  Laura nodded.  “But they want the files.”

“They burned —”

“You scanned them all.”  Adam clasped his hands behind his back.  “You’re an archaeologist and historian.  You wouldn’t have disposed of that data.”

“This is insanity.”  The professor swallowed.  “People were murdered because some cult believed…”  He shook his head again.  “It’s insanity.  You realize they actually think werewolves and vampires are real?”

“They are real.”  Laura shrugged.  “I got captured by vampires once and a couple good friends are werewolves.”  Maybe she’d leave out that she was regularly possessed by a succubus.  That sort of thing does seem ripe for misunderstanding.  She glanced at Adam.  “Hey, come to think of it, what even are you?”

“Can we…”  Adam sighed.

“That’s it.”  The professor glared.  “I’m calling —”

“Oh, don’t do that.  It would get awkward.”  Erilon’s form rose in the mirror on the back of his office door.  “And I think you’ll find things are both more and less insane than you previously believed.  Also, they weren’t joking about Adam being a hit man.  Please don’t give him a reason to hurt you or anyone else.”



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.


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.


Wren and Adam: Chapter 9

“Your pet is…”  Sima poured wine before offering Wren a glass.  “Fascinating.”  She took a sip of her own wine.  “I had thought such as he was…”  She shrugged.  “Impossible.”

“My Adam is special.”  Wren smiled proudly before taking her own sip.  Even having gone through Renee’s journals, she still wasn’t sure how much of what he could do was him and how much was the talisman.  As long as the talisman was intact, she need not worry for his safety, at least.  A healing spell focused upon it would restore him to as good as new, even if one of the mercenaries had managed to shoot him.  Renee had used such talismans to create near-mindless, unstoppable killing machines utterly subservient to her will.

“I had a pet of my own until he was stolen from me.”  Sima gave a wistful sigh.  “As soon as I learn where he was taken, I intend to get him back.”  She smiled.  “He was such a sweet thing, a rare beauty.”

Giroux came in a moment later, and smiled at Wren.  “Matters are settling, ma chere.”  He took the glass of wine Sima offered.  “Tell me, what else do you know of the, er, project?”

“That what the girl is carrying is not something that can simply be recreated.”  Wren sat.  She had no real idea why, or if it was the girl that was special.

“Sadly true.  Which means it must be recovered at all costs.  I would prefer the children be recovered as well.  They are gifted, and such individuals are precious and rare.”  Giroux nodded to Sima.  “Madam Sima has some skill at convincing individuals to be…”  He smiled.  “Compliant.”

Sima laughed before raising her glass toward Wren.  “Pajari hired me to make you…”  She smirked.  “Compliant.”  She sipped her wine.  “Considering your nature, it would have been an interesting challenge.”

“Not really.”  Wren gave Sima an appraising look.  “You’d look lovely in a silver collar.”

“You…”  Sima laughed again.  “I like.”  She twitched a shoulder.  “I was also hired because I happen to be acquainted with the wolf accompanying the children.”

“We have identified him as a mercenary.  Earliest known identity was Matthias Ahlgren, and he uses the name Matthias often enough that it may actually be his.”  Giroux set a piece of paper on the low table.  It showed a sepia toned photograph of young men in military uniforms.  The largest of the men was circled.

Wren frowned.  The uniforms looked like something out of an old movie.  “When was this taken?”

“World War II.”  Sima smiled at the expression on Wren’s face.  “Matthias and I are fairly close in age.”

“You look good for a century.”  Wren nodded before turning to look at Giroux.  “He is why you needed the silver bullets?”

“You called him the most dangerous werewolf currently alive.”  Giroux took another sip of wine.  “I am not inclined to argue with that assessment.”

“Tell me about this chosen one.”


Wren and Adam : Chapter 8

Wren frowned when she realized the other half of the bed was empty.  She picked up the robe and drew it around her before heading into the next room.  The apartment they’d been given was high up, allowing them a wondrous view of Paris.  From the balcony, she could just make out the Eiffel Tower.

Adam was there.  He’d set up an easel and was making a picture come alive with delicate brush strokes.  Despite his chosen location, the painting wasn’t of the city below.  She swallowed at the image of James and Coraline on the canvas.  His siblings were posed on a porch, both wearing letterman jackets.  James had been wearing his when he’d died.  “Adam?”

“Wren.”  He kept working.

“Couldn’t sleep?”  She smiled as she joined him on the balcony.

“The sounds here are different.”  He shrugged as he added a bit more color to the flowers next to Coraline’s image.  “Smells.  Air tastes…”  He sighed.  “Different.”

“I know.”  She leaned out over the balcony and took a deep breath.  “I like it.  The little cafes and the colors.  Paris is…”  She smiled.  “Everything I dreamed.”  She glanced over her shoulder.  “We could go to the Louvre again tomorrow, have lunch by that pyramid thing.”  Their contact with the cabal, Edward Giroux, had given her a credit card and told her to just charge anything she wanted.  She’d only had to give a small demonstration of her powers.  She turned toward Adam.  “Or we could do Disneyland Paris.  We haven’t done that.”

“You have a meeting tomorrow.”

“Oh.”  She sighed.  And it wasn’t something they could put off.  “That’s right.  After?”

“I…”  He looked out to where the sun was starting to peek over the horizon.  “I wouldn’t mind seeing Notre Dame.”

“Alright.”  She laughed before going over and kissing him.  “After the meeting, we’ll go wander around old buildings.”


The Woods: Chapter 4

He was no longer certain how many days he’d spent hanging from the tree.  At least a week, maybe more.  Time seemed to pass strangely where ever it was they were.  At seemingly random intervals he’d take his meals with Ileana and her strange companions.  He was becoming somewhat inured to their taunts.  The delicate winged woman had even expressed disappointment in the fact he no longer blushed just by sitting at the table.  The satyr, however, could still make him turn red, though at least half the time it was anger rather than embarrassment.  It would whisper to him when it put him back in the tree, of things it would like to do to him.  Ileana seemed to find it amusing, though she never let the creature go beyond words.

The few hours he was given to sleep were never quite enough.  He’d be woken, and set out to be displayed in her garden again.  Her silent trophy.  She never let him speak, save to make him beg for basic necessities.  And to make him ask the satyr to be put back in the tree.

They were plotting against his brothers.  Ileana viewed Nicolas as a threat, and rightly so.  Nicolas would have known what all these creatures were.  If anyone could get this blasted collar off, it was him.  There had to be some way to get a warning to him.  With warning, he could prepare, could…  Do something.  Thomas had nearly forgotten what it felt like not to hurt.

She was waiting for him outside the privy door.  Waiting to put him back in the tree.  Thomas took a deep breath.  The satyr had suggested a collar for Nicolas, and Ileana had laughed.  Said it was only fair that the beast have a pet prince of his own.  He couldn’t stomach the thought of his brother at that thing’s mercy.  If she would just listen…  He looked up, and met his reflection’s eyes.  Then he took another deep breath, and went to the door.


The Woods: Chapter 2

“How?”  Thomas stared at her.  She was…  and yet she couldn’t be.  Princess Ileana had thrown herself from her balcony into the river below.  He’d seen it with his own eyes.

Instead of answering, she lifted a thin bladed knife.  She moved toward his neck, and for a heartbeat he thought she was going to slice open his throat.  Instead, she cut the rope around his neck.

His head dropped forward, and he sucked in air.  His position still prevented him from drawing a full breath, but he was no longer limited to the painful, shallow gasps.  He wasn’t sure how long he hung there, limp, just breathing, before she caught his hair and viciously yanked his head up and back again.

Around her wrist was coiled a golden serpent.  It raised its head, flicking its tongue at him.  It hissed, revealing glistening fangs.  “You belong to me.”  Her voice was soft, with a curious echo to it.  “Body and soul.”

“Kill me and get it over with.”  He stared back at her.

Her smile was vicious.  “Oh no.”  She gave a small shake of her head.  “It won’t be that easy for you.”

The serpent reared its head back and struck, its fangs piercing the skin of his throat.  Fire seemed to flow through his veins as he felt it coil around his neck.  He screamed as darkness closed over him.


Daniel : Chapter 7

“What’d you do?”  Daniel watched as Rosa and Anna looked over the tarot cards.

It was some time before Matthias answered.  “Her father was a wolf.  Part of a pack I ran with for a time.  He, uh…”  Matthias took a deep breath.  “I killed him.”

“Oh.”  Daniel swallowed.  No wonder she’d met him at the door with a shotgun.

“He was an asshole.  A murderer among other things.  But I killed him because…”  Matthias shrugged.  “Because he wrecked my car.  Not for the bad shit he did, to her among others, but because he disrespected me and I was Alpha.”  He glanced at Daniel.  “I told you, I’m no angel.”

“A monster would be selling us to the cabal.”

“I thought about it,” Matthias said softly.

“You did?”  Daniel blinked.

“Think about it every time your sister starts singing.”  Matthias glanced at him.  “That kind of money buys a lot of ear plugs.”

Daniel laughed.


Daniel : Chapter 6

Matthias lowered the map to find Anna staring at him.  “What?”  He raised an eyebrow.

“There are so such things as angels.”  She shook her head at him.  “We need to find one.”

He folded the map, then set it down.  “I need to know what the ‘things’ were that you saw.”

“Trent didn’t rape me.”  Anna shook her head.  “He used a thingy like when they give you shots, cause I needed to be a virgin.  I didn’t get a look at the things.  It was like I couldn’t make my eyes see them all the way.”  She frowned.  “I think most people couldn’t see them at all.”

“Demons can ordinarily only be seen in mirrors.”  Matthias leaned back.  “Unless they found a witch they can ride.”

“They can make witches stronger.”  Anna shivered.  “That’s what’ll happen to Danny if they catch him.”  Anna shook her head.  “Cause he’d agree to save us.”

“He wants to protect you.”  Matthias nodded to her.

“They can’t hurt me until they have her.”  Anna touched her belly.  “So don’t let them catch you.”  She frowned.  “Did you know her name?”

“Who’s name?”  Matthias started to reach for the map again.

“The one you see sometimes when you look at me, before the blood and fire wash her away again.”

The map fell off the table.  “Stay out of my head.”  He glared at her.

“I don’t go looking.”  She glared back.  “It comes to me.  Blood and fire.  Birds.  The broken angel.”  She shivered.  “She’ll be safe if we find the broken angel.”


Anna pointed at her belly.  “We can’t let them get her.  They’ll make her bad.”

“I…”  He stared at her.  “What are you…?”

Daniel opened the trailer door and stepped in.  He set a small bag on the counter.  “Options were pretty limited.  I hope everyone’s okay with hot dogs.”  He sighed at the bag.  “And Lucky Charms.”  He shrugged.  “What kind of town doesn’t even have a grocery store?”


Daniel : Chapter 5

He felt the bullets hit him as he transformed into full were.  Matthias snarled, then raked his claws through the man that had attacked Daniel.  They caught on the guy’s ribcage, and he tore it free before lunging at the next.  His jaws closed on the man’s shoulder and he yanked his head back, taking a massive chunk of the man’s flesh with it.  A fourth man, who had been behind the car, ducked around the vehicles side before popping up and trying to shoot at him again.  He caught the third man’s face in one massive paw and crushed it.  Then he bent, grabbed the side of the car, and flipped the thing over on top of the shooter.

Matthias rolled his neck, letting the were form’s healing take care of the worst of the bullet wounds before shifting back to human.  “You alright, kid?”

“You’re a fucking werewolf.”  Daniel was staring at him.

“I did tell you they were real.”  He shrugged.  “Get in the truck.”


Daniel : Chapter 4

“You believe her.”  Daniel was staring at him.

“Kid, I have seen some shit in my years.”  If she had the gift, that was reason enough alone for a cabal to be hunting them.  And if she had the gift, it was possible Daniel did too.  Anna had the gift, and had been intentionally made pregnant as part of a ritual.  Cabals had wiped out entire towns for less than Anna was carrying in her womb.  The smart thing to do would be to drop both off at a bus station somewhere and get the hell out of Dodge.  Except he’d made a deal.  Both were staring at him, wide eyed.  Dammit, he’d come up here because he’d wanted out, and now…

“Matthias?”  Daniel swallowed.

“If it’s a cabal, they are going to find you.  It’s likely the only reason they haven’t is the amount of snow we’ve been getting.  Water purifies, wipes out tracks and traces.”  Matthias took a deep breath.  “But she’s right.  They are still hunting you.  And they will find you.”


“You and I have a contract, kid.”  Matthias shrugged.  “Which means I work for you.  You hired me to keep your sister safe.”  He met Daniel’s eyes.  “And that’s what I’m going to do.”

“You’re…”  Anna started to smile.

“So, I guess I better teach both of you how to use a gun.”


Daniel : Chapter 2

“You don’t even know his name, do you?”

Daniel looked over to see Anna standing in the bathroom door, toweling her hair dry.  The white t-shirt reached her knees, and left her looking impossibly young.  “He said we can stay.”

Anna sighed, then shook her head and hung the towel up on the back of the door.  “Who is he?”

“I don’t…”  He sighed.  “He caught me breaking in.  Gave me food and a hundred bucks.  He’s okay.”  Scary as fuck, but not the type to hurt kids.  “You should go to bed.  He said you can have the bed.”

“Daniel…”  Anna crossed her arms and bit her lower lip.

“I told him about Trent.  He can protect us.”  Daniel gave her a reassuring smile.  “Look at him, he could break Trent in half.”

“He’s scary.”  Anna nodded.  She took a couple deep breaths and started up the stairs.  “Daniel?”

“What’s wrong?”  He raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know.”  She shook her head.  “Something is strange about him.”  She frowned.  “He’s scarier than what’s hunting us, so what’s hunting him?”  She shook her head again continuing up the stairs.

He watched her vanish into the bedroom.  That was actually a good question.  The guy carried a gun, checked the windows, had zero difficulty getting him into a sleeper hold, and…  Daniel stood.  What had he gotten them into?  Still, they were better off today than they had been yesterday, and it had been a couple months since he could say that.  He started another kettle of hot water.

The exterior door opened, and the big guy entered carrying their bags.  Daniel immediately ran over to take one from him.  He set it down behind the couch, then grabbed the dry towel and offered it to the guy.  The guy gave him a blank look.  Daniel shifted awkwardly.  “You’re wet.  And cold.”

Another blank stare, then the guy took the towel.  He started drying his hair as Daniel went back into the kitchen.  “Do you want cocoa, mister?  I noticed some tea or…”

“I’m fine.”

“You sure?  Cause I can make —”

“I’m fine.”

“Okay, then, I’m…”  Daniel hesitated.  “I’m gonna get in the shower.”

“More towels in there.”  The guy pointed at a cupboard near the bathroom.

“Thanks, uh…”  He swallowed.  “What should I call you?”

“What?”  The guy turned toward him.

“I mean, I can’t just keep calling you mister…”  He shook his head.  “I mean, unless that’s what you’re into and then hey, yeah, whatever you want but do you have a name or —”

“Stop talking.”  The guy sighed.  “Matthias.”

“Matthias?”  Daniel shifted from foot to foot.

“Just Matthias.”  He pointed.  “Shower.”

“Right.”  He grabbed a towel and went into the room.

After a couple weeks of trying to wash in the sink, the stream of hot water felt amazing.  There wasn’t much in the way of product, just a bar of soap.  He made fairly liberal use of it, then reluctantly left the shower.  He blinked.  The only clean pair of sweatpants he had was sitting on the counter.  He hadn’t even heard Matthias open the door.  Daniel dried off, then yanked the pants up over his hips before stepping out of the room.


Daniel : Chapter 1

Matthias set the wad of newspaper beneath the two logs on the fire, and lit struck a match.  He stayed crouched long enough to be sure the wood was going to light, then rose.  The cabin was secure enough that he hadn’t bothered to relight it earlier.  He’d have to turn on the propane tank and generator in the morning though, if he wanted hot water.  He shrugged, then sat down, letting the gun rest on his knee as he waited for the would-be thief to wake up.

It didn’t take long.  Maybe a minute.  The kid came awake with a jerk, and immediately began yanking at the handcuffs securing him to the column.  “Knock it off.”

The guy’s eyes widened when he saw Matthias, and he swallowed.  The expression on the dumbass’s face was almost comical.  “Who the fuck are you?”

“Kid…”  Matthias rubbed his forehead with his free hand.  “If I’d broken into a cabin only to get put in a sleeper hold by a guy twice my size that I never saw coming, then woke up handcuffed to a post with a gun pointed at my face, I’d like to think I’m smart enough to be a bit more polite.”  He leaned forward.  “So, the question is, who the fuck…”  He narrowed his eyes.  “Are you?”

“I didn’t know anyone was here.”  The kid started shaking his head frantically.  His blue eyes looked frantic.

“Sure, you didn’t.  Who are you?”

“Look, you can just let me go, and you’ll never see me again, I swear.”

“Let’s try this one last time.”  Matthias stood, setting his sights at right between the thief’s eyes.  “Who the fuck are you?”

He swallowed.  “Daniel.”

“And you were breaking in because…?”  Matthias raised an eyebrow.

“Needed supplies and…”  The kid swallowed again.

“Supplies are in the kitchen.  You were after something else.”  He shifted to aim at the kid’s kneecap.  “Who sent you?”

“Nobody sent me.”  The kid drew his knees up to his chest.  “I needed money.  I was looking for that or something I could sell to…”  The kid cringed.  “Please don’t kill me.  I was just trying to get enough for gas and maybe a motel and oh god.”  He was shaking now.  “Please don’t kill me.  I swear I didn’t know anyone was here.”

For the love of…  The guy looked like he was about to start crying.  “And of all the places to rob…”  He shook his head.  “You came here?”

“It was far away, nobody would see me and…”  The kid’s voice caught a little.  “I’ve never robbed anyone before and…”  He shook his head.  “It would take the cops a while to get here and not a lot of people use the cabins in the winter and I didn’t think anyone was here and…”  He shook his head.  “Please, I won’t tell anyone about this, I swear.”

Matthias started laughing.  “All the places to break into, you pick mine.  That’s…”  He shook his head, and holstered the gun.  He could smell the waves of terror coming off the guy.  “You poor stupid fuck.”  He started pacing.  Even if he did feel like killing some hapless teenager, disposing of a body in subzero temperatures with three feet of snow on the ground didn’t appeal to him.  And another storm was on its way.  Kid would have no choice to stay in town, and if he talked to the wrong person…  If they knew enough to be in town he was already screwed.  He walked behind the column and started digging the keys out of his pocket.  The kid tensed, then relaxed again when Matthias started removing the cuffs.

“I won’t say anything, mister.  I swear.”

“Good.”  Matthias leaned in close.  “Saves me the trouble of pressing charges.”  The kid flinched.  “Get up.”

The guy stood up, swayed a little, and promptly passed out onto his floor.  Matthias sighed.


Wren and Adam: Chapter 7

Wren glanced at where Adam sat in the corner of the room.  He was human for now.  Renee had been very clear about what would happen if he shifted without permission.  Not that it mattered.  With a single spell, Renee could teleport Adam back into the vicinity of the talisman.  He wasn’t going anywhere, and it was clear he knew it.

The talisman was more powerful than she’d initially realized.  It had apparently jumped up Adam’s own magical ability.  Whatever gift he’d had initially had been replaced as he’d adapted to the shape-changing.  Renee had dangled the talisman between her fingers as she’d discussed its power.  Then, almost casually, she’d held it over a flame.

Adam’s scream had been so intense he’d damaged his throat.  For nearly two days, he’d been all but unable to speak even after she’d healed him.  He was bound to the glimmering stone.  Unless it was kept by a witch, it’s magic would begin to decay.  Within a few days, it would be rendered inert.  And Adam would die.  Adam himself couldn’t touch the thing without blacking out, and the tiniest trickle of magic through it was enough that he could not disobey a direct order against the one holding it.  He was trapped.

Renee had made such talismans before.  Adam was the first to have not been rendered a drooling wreck by the process.  Wren was certain it was his own gift, the magic that had allowed him to adapt to animal forms, that made the difference more than her own assistance during the process.

She looked down at the talisman in her hand, then back up at Adam.  He stared up at her, his face devoid of expression.  “Focus, girl.”  Renee’s voice came from behind her.

Her will concentrated behind the talisman.  She closed her eyes, and felt Adam’s presence.  Despite his empty expression, she could feel the emotions beneath the surface.  Anger and despair were waring with each other.  Hatred for Renee and…  She swallowed when she realized that while she could sense his love for her, there was hatred now as well.  And fear.  Adam was scared of her.  You don’t have to be afraid.

A moment of confusion in his mind, and then a response. I wish I could believe that.

“Shift him.”  Renee ordered.

In her mind, she formed the picture of a dog.  No, not a dog.  She shifted the picture to that of a wolf.  Then she exerted her will.  Connected to Adam’s mind, she could feel pain course through him, though it was slightly disconnected.  The sensation of it was a heady rush that sent a shiver through her.  When she opened her eyes again, a gray wolf sat where he’d been a moment before.  “Done.”

“Good girl.”  Renee smiled.  “Now turn him back.”