Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 1

A tentacle shot out of the dark water, wrapping around Viktor’s leg and yanking him off his feet.  Her hand grabbed for his, and she heard him scream as his wrist slipped through her fingers.  Behind him, the water was boiling and frothing as something writhed beneath the surface.  She lunged, trying again to grab her brother before he was dragged beneath the surface.  She screamed his name and then —

“Natalya.  Natalya.”  Someone was shaking her.  Her eyes snapped open.  A moment later, a light came on, and she closed them again against the sudden brightness.  “Natalya?”

She forced herself to take some deep breaths, then slowly sat up.  “I’m alright.”  She exhaled.  “I’m alright.”

Greg nodded, then gently rubbed her back.  “I’ll make some coffee.”  He rose and stepped around Adele.

Adele wheeled herself all the way into the room.  “Sorry, sugar.”  Adele came over and patted her hand.  “I heard you yelling but I couldn’t get into my chair and…”

“Why are you apologizing for…”  She glanced down at herself, then promptly grabbed the covers and yanked them up to hide her breasts.  “Shit.”

“It’s not the first time he’s seen you topless.”  Adele shrugged.  From the kitchen, a few banging sounds could be heard.

“Six years old and playing in the sprinklers doesn’t count.”  Natalya sighed.  She could tell her face was crimson.  “I’m going to buy some pajamas.”  She stuck her tongue out at Adele.  “Just not old lady ones like yours.”

“Hey…”  Adele pointed at her nightshirt.  “Don’t knock Minnie Mouse.”  She guided the wheelchair back, then turned it toward the door.  “I’m going to go rescue Greg from the coffee machine.”

“I’ll be there in a minute to start breakfast.”  Natalya sighed.  “After I commit seppuku from humiliation.”



Primitive: Chapter 9

The cot Lykos had set up for him was surprisingly comfortable.  Lykos had purchased a pad, and folded a couple blankets atop that.  Despite the fact that his hands had been shackled behind his back and his ankles secured together, he’d have passed a pleasant night if he hadn’t been dreading the events to come with the dawn.  Lykos had gone deeper into the cave before sunrise.  Christophe’s leash was fastened to the old track, meaning he couldn’t have followed even if his hands and legs had been freed.

He heard a sound and his stomach sank a little.  Lifting his head meant he could see the shine of Lykos’s eyes as the man returned.  Lykos had taken no light source with him into the dark.  He didn’t appear to need one, though he left a lantern in the cave that sheltered them for Christophe’s benefit.  He’d also left a flashlight next to the cot.

Lykos had brought with him what looked to be two pieces of metal railroad track.  He also brought several other pieces of metal back with him.  As Christophe watched, Lykos set to work.  The dwarf used his finger to slice one of the track pieces in half, moving through hardened steel as easily as a hot knife moved through butter.  Christophe half expected to see the metal glowing, but however Lykos worked the material didn’t seem to involve heat.  He swallowed.  “How do you do that?”

“How do you move your hand through water?”  Lykos glanced over his shoulder at him.

“Water is a liquid.  Not a solid.”  Christophe sat up.  “The basic state properties are different.  I couldn’t move my hand through ice.”

“Ah.  Science.”  Lykos nodded.  Then he shrugged.  “Don’t think this is science.”  He set one of the bars atop the longer one to make a cross-shape, then used his fingers to smooth the metal and join the pieces.  He then added small circles of metal to each of the ends of the arms of the…

Christophe’s eyes widened.  The arms of the cross.  Lykos was making a steel cross.  “Lykos —”

“It not yet dawn.”  Lykos glanced over his shoulder.  “You beg already?”

“You intend to kill me.”  Christophe shook his head.

“Kill?”  Lykos shook his head.  “No.  Young, healthy.  Can live days on cross.  Perhaps a week or more, if give you water.”

His body was started to shake a little.  He clenched his fists to try to make the shaking stop.  “I need a word.”

“Word?”  Lykos blinked, then turned back to him.  “What word?”

“So, you know the begging is real and not just reflex.  Give me a word.  I won’t mean anything I say except that word.”  He dragged his eyes from the cross to meet Lykos’s.  “Please, master.”

The nod Lykos gave him was one of approval.  “Two words.  Give you pause to think.  Snow White.”

“Okay.”  He drew in on himself, and took several deep breaths before watching Lykos finish his work.


Primitive: Chapter 7

He pulled Christophe into the camper, then pushed him to the bed.  Christophe made a small whimpering sound as Lykos fixed the chains, leaving Christophe spread face down on the mattress.  Then he covered Christophe with a blanket.  Christophe went still at the gesture, and he noted a small trace of surprise on the young man’s face.  Lykos stared down at him for a moment, then laughed.  “You worried I would bed you.”

Christophe flinched.  “No.”

“Lie.”  Lykos shook his head.  “I punish you in morning for that.  You will not lie to you master.”  He petted Christophe’s hair.  “Are pretty man, but weak.  Soft.  Not worthy.”  He stood.  “Get sleep.”  He patted Christophe’s shoulder, then left the camper.

Outside, he crouched down and put his hand flat against the earth.  It hummed at his touch.  He’d searched before, last time he was this far west.  They were in the mountains now, the ones called the Rockies.  Slowly, then with growing intensity, he hunted among the vibrations of the ground.  There was no answering echo.  None of his kind had walked within a hundred miles of this location in the past decade.  The earth would have recalled their passage.  Lykos exhaled.

It had been that absence that had eventually driven him out of his caves.  The silence had grown deafening in his slumber, enough that he had sought out his cousins.  That had brought him in contact with humans.  At first the things they had made from metal had fascinated him.  They mixed and molded it with abandon, shaping it to their will.  There had been a few moments of hope that perhaps they had learned, after all.

From time to time he could smell dragons in their movements.  Governors remained, but no shepherds for a flock grown far too large.  None of the other elemental spirits had left marks of their passage above ground.  If any remained, they were hidden.  Hope had been dashed quickly.  There were far too many humans, and too many knew nothing.  He couldn’t share the truth even with those with whom he’d become friendly.  The first…  Lykos glanced back at the cabin.  The first he’d spoken to of his true nature had been his prisoner.  Christophe was young.  Perhaps when Lykos had avenged the wrong done, he would take Christophe back with him below.  A pet, at least, would be company of sorts.  The alternative was to seek out a dragon.

Lykos snorted.  Better to tie steel to his ankles and drop in on the merfolk than seek out a dragon.


Silverfish: Chapter 6

“You’re talking about full on war.”  Leon’s eyes widened as he stared at his grandfather.

“I fear it is not merely inevitable, Leon.”  He sighed.  “It has already begun.  Palindor warships engaged our vessels in the Kyer system several hours ago.”

“What?”  Leon blinked.  “Why?”

“From what we have learned thus far, a freighter had an engine failure and drifted across the border.  Whatever it was carrying…”  Vendral shook his head.  “Palindor apparently didn’t want our ships to get their hands on it.  When Alliance vessels moved in, Palindor warships crossed the border to drive them back and recover the ship.  They destroyed an Alliance vessel in the process.”

“Surely we can…”

“It was the Harmonium.”

“Oh.”  Leon let out his breath.  Captain Regin’s ship.  Captain Regin, whose father was one of the loudest voices on the council.  “Survivors?”

“Most of the crew, Captain included.”  Vendral’s eyes narrowed just a little.

Leon started shaking his head.  “You think it was intentional.  You think Regin moved in with the intent of getting the Palindor warships to fire upon him.”

“What I think at this point is…”  Vendral sighed.  “Irrelevant.  Palindor is claiming we invaded, and their own warships are massing.  With the council up in arms…”  For a few moments, the Prime Minister vanished and it was only his grandfather standing there.  “Regin is claiming Julian’s abduction was a sanctioned operation and that the only reason I am advocating for peace is that the Palindor government is —”

“You’re going to write Julian off.”  He stared at his grandfather.


“You’re going to write Julian off and go to war to protect your position.”

And the Prime Minister was back, eyes cold and hard.  “Captain Vendral.  War has already begun.  I expect you to do your sworn duty.”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”  Leon glared back at him.  “I will do my sworn duty.”


Silverfish: Chapter 3

The captain gave him a shove into the room.  At first glance, it looked like standard crew quarters.  A second glance revealed that restraints had been added to the bed.  Julian swallowed.

“Your door only locks on the outside.”  He heard the captain’s voice, and couldn’t bring himself to turn around and face her.  “So, you won’t be leaving, and anybody who wants to come in for a visit can.”

“Will they at least knock first?”  He caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror, and tore his eyes away from it.

“Probably not.”  She pointed.  “Refresher unit is there.  Entertainment unit is there, but I shut it off.  Maybe you can think up some way to earn that privilege.”  He could almost hear her smirk.  “You get one channel on the comm, and that’s to the medical bay, case someone plays a little too rough.”  She folded her arms.  “Resist or fight, and well…”  She chuckled.  “You got a taste of that already.”  She left, closing the door behind her.  He heard the sound of the lock engaging.

She hadn’t said, but he was sure the quarters were bugged.  If he threw himself down on the cot and wept, someone would get a good laugh out of it.  He looked around the chamber again, and then sank into the chair next to the small desk unit.  He went through the drawers and found them all empty.  Not so much as a writing pen.  The cabinets and wardrobe showed the same.  He sighed, and caught another glimpse of his reflection in the mirror.  He made himself meet his eyes, but couldn’t hold the gaze for more than a few moments.

He was about to sit back down when he heard the lock click.  The door opened, and the woman who’d been the one to drag him out of his quarters on the liner entered.  She looked him over, and then pointed.  “Get on the bed.”

Part of him wanted to attack.  To fight, to run.  Another part of him told himself not to be stupid.  By now, his grandfather knew he’d been captured.  Negotiation and ransom weren’t options, but that didn’t prevent bounty hunters and the like from being hired.  Rescue would come.  Fighting or fleeing would just increase his likelihood of being killed beforehand.

Instead, he laid down, and let her secure his wrists and ankles to the bunk.  “I had a family, back on Eden.  Until your people came along.  Haven’t seen them in five years.” He winced when she grabbed hold of his nipple and squeezed.  “Nice house.”  He bit back the cry of pain when she twisted her hand.  “Even had a dog.”  Then she went to the small satchel she’d set on the desk when she’d entered, and pulled out a syringe containing a small amount of a yellow substance.  “Doc said being compliant doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be able, but this should take care of that issue.”

A hiss escaped him as she jammed the needle into the muscle of his thigh and pushed the plunger.  She tossed it aside, and then straddled him.  To his horror, he felt his body start to react to the drug.  She bent her head, kissing him, biting his lower lip hard enough to hurt.  Her hand went to his groin, and caught hold of his shaft.  He could feel his skin burning as he responded to her touch, and she laughed before leaning down to speak into his ear.  “The best part is knowing you’re hating every minute of this.”


Silverfish: Chapter 2

He awoke in the infirmary.  Memories jolted back into him and he tried to sit up, only to discover he’d been secured to the examination table.  His wrists and ankles were restrained, and there were straps over his thighs, torso, and shoulders.

“Welcome back.”  Julian turned his head to see the captain staring at him.  Her face was amused.  “I was starting to think you were going to sleep all day.”

“Go to hell.”  He yanked at the restraints.

She chuckled and patted his shoulder.  Then she touched a button on the console.  He screamed as pain shot through him like wildfire.  She lifted her hand a few seconds later, leaving him gasping for breath.  “That was rude.”  She glanced at the button.  “The doctor assures me that I can jolt you for up to thirty seconds at a time without risk of burning out your nervous system.  And repeat every five minutes.  He did however, recommend that I use a mouth restraint if I go that route.  Says otherwise you might clench your teeth so hard they shatter.”

Julian stared up at her.  “What do you want?”

“Slightly better.”  She leaned on the side of the exam table and looked him over.  “Soon as the doc gives us the okay, we’ll take you back up to the rec room and well…”  She chuckled. “Wreck you again.”

His fists clenched, and he pulled at the restraints again.  She hit the button, sending another surge of pain through him.  And held it, counting aloud.  She released the button when she got to twenty-five.  He gasped, and felt his muscles still twitching even after the sensation had passed.  “I’m guessing you didn’t enjoy that.”  She patted his chest.  “So, let me spell it out for you.  When you’re not up in the rec room entertaining the crew, you can be here, with a nice little bit of code programmed to give you a ten to twenty second taste of that every few minutes.”  She caught his chin, and turned his face towards hers.  “Or you can be compliant.”  She straightened.

“Hell or damnation.”  Julian swallowed.  He had no chance at fighting his way out of this, even if he hadn’t been restrained.  The only hope would be to simply survive long enough for some chance to come.

“Pretty much.”  She reached down to the bedside table, and picked up a mouth restraint.  He started struggling as she reached for his head, and then someone else’s hands were there, holding him in place as she secured the restraint.  She patted him as the doctor released him.  “I’m going to give you a few hours to think it over.”

Pain shot through him again as she flipped a toggle, and then she and the doctor left the room, shutting off the lights and leaving him in agony and darkness.


Primitive: Chapter 3

His head was pounding, and his throat hurt.  Christophe started to reach up to rub at his eyes, but something had hold of his arm.  He tried again, and realized his arms were secured together.  Memories came flooding back, and he began yanking at the restraints.  They failed to budge.  Slowly, he sat up.  He was alone, in what looked like a garage.  It was illuminated by what light came in through a boarded-up window.  And he was alone.

He started to shift position, and there was a tinkering sound.  He looked down to see a length of chain encircled his ankle, secured with a padlock.  The other end was secured around a support pillar.  “Great.”  His boots had been removed, and he saw no sign of them.  He tried to scrap the chain off with his other foot.  Christophe began looking around, trying to see if there was anything he could use to free his wrists from the zip ties.

Some fumbling got him to a nail sticking out of the floor.  He began sawing his wrists over it, wincing when he caught skin.  “Come on.  Come on.”  It took what seemed like ages, but finally a tug succeeded in separating the restraints.  Immediately he leaned forward and began trying to get off the chain.  There was no slack in the chain.

Christophe was trying to pick the lock with a bit of wire he’d found when he heard footsteps.  He quickly hid the wire in his clothes as his captor entered the building.  “Good.  Awake.”  The larger man shrugged.  “Thirsty?”  The man held out a bottle of water, then tilted his head.  “Wrist is bleeding.”  He tossed the water down next to Christophe, then grabbed a small box and tossed that to him as well.

A glance proved it was a first aid kit.  Christophe exhaled, then grabbed the water bottle and opened it.  “What do you want with me?”  He took a long drink.

“Bait.”  The man shrugged.  Somewhere, he’d found clothes.  Christophe frowned when he realized that the man was wearing his boots.  “Your father…”  The man waved a hand, then went back to looking through the bag he’d brought with him.  “Is an asshole.”

“He is not.”  Christophe glared.  Then he blinked.  “You took me as bait for my father.”

The man nodded.  “And to punish your father.”

That part didn’t sound good.  Christophe exhaled.  “I was kind to you.  I—”

“You live.  In one piece.”  The man smiled.  “I am kind to you.  See?  Brought bandages.  Tend your wound, or I will.”  He tilted his head.  “What is wrong with your name?”

“What is…”  Christophe pulled the first aid kit over and opened it.  “What do you mean what is wrong with my name?”

“Is missing letters.  Your parents not love you enough to give you a whole name?”

“Missing…”  Christophe glared.  “It’s French.”

“Thought Americans didn’t like French.  Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”  The man took a bottle of water for himself.  “Though that does explain your father.”

“You’re a dick.”  He took ointment out of the kit and began putting it on the scratches the nail had made.

“Been called worse.”  He opened the water and drank it.

“So, what do I call you?”  Christophe grabbed a bandage.  “Dick?”  He glared.  “Asshole?”

“Brave now.”  The man smiled.  “Master.”

“What?”  Christophe blinked.

“I am Lykos.”  The man set the half-empty bottle down.  “You will call me Master.”

“I won’t do anything of the —” Christophe cut himself off when the man produced a long bladed knife.  He swallowed.


DragonLord: Chapter 18

He managed to escape Teunis unwed, only to run into Drika.  “Rutger let slip you’re going after the dragon.”

“Rutger…”  Rien looked over his shoulder.

“She was going to find out anyway…”  Rutger winced.

“I want in.”  She folded her arms.

“I am taking only a small team —”

“I know.  I want on it.”

“Drika…”  He started shaking his head.

“You promised, if you ever fought an actual dragon, you’d take me with you.”

“You’re going to hold me to a promise I made when I was fourteen and you were naked?”  He stared at her.

“Yes.”  She narrowed her eyes.


DragonLord: Chapter 17

“So if your father is a baron now, what exactly does that make you?”  Rien tilted his head.

“Trapped in a foreign land with a group of mad people.”  Bast shrugged.

“True.”  Rien looked down at the practice sword.  Lammert had tried to steal Bast.  Not only did that piss him off, he couldn’t figure out the man’s motive.  It wasn’t as though Lammert needed the gold of Bast’s ransom, and since Lammert wasn’t going to be king he had no reason to care about relations with Solsthriem.  Unless…  “I think Lammert may be allied with Phillip.”

“Such coups have occurred before.  Though I fail to see what Lammert stands to gain by such an alliance.”  Bast began demonstrating another sword form, then paused.  “Unless…”

“Unless he used Phillip to eliminate Jurgen.”  Rien growled.  “Which would imply Phillip knew exactly who I was when I joined his mercenaries.”  He shook his head.  “Lammert said if it wasn’t for you, Phillip could have used that to turn Solsthriem against the Wilderfolk.”

“Allow Lammert to eliminate you by having you handed over to Solsthriem.  Phillip gets to be the king that defeated the River Dragon’s attack on Solsthriem, Lammert gets to be the king that stopped the resulting war.”  Bast went back to demonstrating the form.

“Except neither of them planned on you and your father.”  Rien chuckled, then nodded.  “Which might be why Lammert wants you out of here.  You thwarted him, then kept his assassins from killing me.”  He started the form.  “Pretty sure you’d have met with some kind of accident on the way back to Solsthriem.  Some nice neat event that couldn’t possibly be tied to him.”  He adjusted his grip on the blade.  “But probably would have tied to me.”

Bast gestured for him to raise the blade a little.  “The truth does somewhat favor his version of events.”

“I haven’t killed you.”  Rien shook his head.

“You’ve abducted me, tortured me, raped me, enslaved me, and made me wear this ridiculous —”

“But I haven’t killed you.”  Rien glared.

“You let your little minxes tie me up and hang me from the ceiling.”

“Oh come on, you enjoyed that too.”  Rien waggled his eyebrows.  “Twice.”

“Debased chump.”


The Woods: Chapter 6

He vomited again, and started to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.  Someone offered him a towel.  He took it, then blinked when he saw the satyr.  His fists clenched.  “What do you want?”

“If you loved her…”  The satyr frowned.  “Why not tell her?  Have her go to her father and convince him?”

Thomas wiped his face.  “I suggested that to my father.  He…”  Thomas sat, leaning his back against the smooth stone column.  “I don’t know.  He was so convincing then, but…”  He looked up at the satyr.  “Why do you care?”

“I could say that the stupidity of humans never ceases to amaze me…”  The satyr shook its head.  “But this is one of those fascinating occasions where nobility and stupidity are all but indistinguishable from each other.  As much as I mock the latter, I do have considerable respect for the former.”  It tilted its head.  “You did something stupid, because your father told you to do it and you were taught all your life that he must be obeyed.  And now you are here, because you are willing to sacrifice yourself to save your family.”

“You’re mocking me.”  He glared.

“If I was mocking you, I would be bringing up just how terrible you are at sucking cock.”  The satyr rolled its eyes.  “If I had known interceding would make her that mad at me I’d have let her strangle you.”

His eyes widened as he stared up at the satyr.  And then, to his own surprise, he started to laugh.  “I hate you.”

“Pity.”  The satyr shrugged.  “I think I rather like you.”  It offered Thomas a hand, and Thomas let it pull him back to his feet.  “I would not protect you from her, even if I could.”  It met Thomas’s eyes.  “But I will ensure she keeps her word.”


Ash : Chapter 9

He still hadn’t spoken.  Magda sighed.  She thought back to what Stephan had said.  He’d been right about the collar.  Maybe he was right about other things.  She stood.  “Ash, come.”

Ash followed her into the bedroom, then climbed up on the bed.  He curled up at the foot of it, as he did every night.  She switched off the overhead light, leaving the one on her nightstand glowing.  Then she laid down.  “Ash, come here.”  She patted the bed next to her.


Ash : Chapter 8

Magda stopped the car, and stared up at the small house.  For the first time in decades, she was grateful she hadn’t been able to bring herself to sell the place.  Twice a year she came up, checked on things, sealed it back up tightly.  She’d missed the last check.  She sighed, then looked over at the young man watching her from the back seat.

He hadn’t spoken since they’d found him.  He’d respond to his name with curious looks or a barking sound, but trying to coax actual words out of him had just resulted in him whimpering and cowering like a beaten dog.  She’d managed to get him to wear a pair of sweat pants, though they were too short for him.  Trying to take the collar off had just made him whimper and cringe.  What the hell had those bitches done to him?

“Ash.”  He looked up at her.  “Ash.”  She gestured to house.  “We’re here.”  He made an inquisitive whining noise.  Magda opened the door and got out.  She’d only gone a couple steps before she heard Ash bark at her.  She frowned, then sighed before going back and opening the door for him.  She wasn’t sure if she felt more frustrated or sick at the fact that he started crawling after her instead of walking.  Stephan had a point.  They’d have taken Ash to the psych ward.  And with his father dead…  She wondered if he even knew.

It took her a couple tries to get the generator started.  Ash followed her though the house as she looked around, crawling after her as she checked each room.  Everything was dusty, but usable.  Better than she’d expected from a place she hadn’t set foot inside in almost year.  She turned the well on, then waited until the water ran clear.  Ash stared quizzically at the glass she offered him, and reluctantly she poured the water into a bowl and set it down.  He drank it before following her into the living room.

When she sat down on the couch, he hesitated before crawling up next to her.  To her surprise, he curled himself into a ball and laid down with his head in her lap.  When she just stared at him, he whined softly, and she could feel him start trembling.  Slowly, she brushed her fingers through his hair.  “It’s alright, Ash.”  She felt him start relaxing.  “You’re safe here.  I won’t let anyone hurt you.”


Ash: Chapter 7

She looked over the rifle Stephan had set on the table, then raised an eyebrow.  “So, when you said elephant gun…”

“I meant my grandfather literally hunted elephants with it.  And rhino, water buffalo, etcetera.”  He shrugged.  “Classic mighty whitey.”  He poked the box of ammo.  “No silver slugs though.”

Magda nodded.  “Can you shoot it with a busted arm?”

“It’s more my shoulder going to be an issue, but yes.”  He nodded.  “I can get off a couple shots, at least, though I might need some stitches replaced afterward.”  Stephan looked up at her.  “Did you get what you need?”

“I did.”  Magda looked away before looking back at him.  No matter how this ended, her life here was over.  She’d already hidden away the things she couldn’t bear to lose.  “You know if you come with me, then even if this works…”

“I know.”  He smiled.  “You’re my partner, Mags.  I’ve got your back.”  He looked down at the gun.  “And you have saved my life twice recently, so I kind of owe you.”

“There are two of them.  Lisa will be stronger and faster.”  She took a deep breath.  “She’ll also be focused on me.  Any idea what the other one looks like?”

“Name was foreign.  Sima, I think Lisa said.  When I asked who Sima was, Lisa said she was her roommate.”  Stephan frowned.  “That’s all I have.”

“She’ll be holding Ash.  So…”


“He’s just a kid, Stephan.”  She shook her head.  “A pup.”

“I know.”  He took a deep breath.  “Just hoping I’m still a decent shot with this thing.”

“Alright.  Let’s go set our trap.”


Ash: Chapter 6

Magda gave a frustrated growl and banged her hand on the steering wheel.  She’d left the paperwork on her desk at him.  Dammit, and Stephan’s girl was bringing him dinner.  She really didn’t want to interrupt her partner’s date.  He’d accepted the restrictions she’d put on him readily enough.  He’d accepted all of it readily enough.  It was nice, having a person she could rely on.  She spun the wheel and started heading to her house.  Maybe she could sneak in and grab it without him even noticing.


Ash: Chapter 5

“They found Sarah.”  Magda sat down heavily next to the hospital bed.

“Not among the living, from the look on your face.”  Stephan gave a small shake of his head.  “You should have gone after her instead of carrying me back to —”

“Yours was the life I could save.”  Her voice was quiet.

“I know.  I’m not being fair, I…”  He banged his head back on the pillow.  “She shot you with my gun, and Sarah died.  I should have trusted you and just let you go do your thing.”

“You did trust me to do my thing, Stephan.  I should have been honest with you sooner.”  She swallowed.  “I knew I’d be putting you in danger by taking you with me.”

Silence fell.  Stephan took a deep breath.  “Talk to me, Mags.”

“I’m not sure how much you will believe.”  She looked away.

“I know what I saw.”  He shrugged.  “And they’ve got me on some really good drugs at the moment, so…”

“Ash was alive and at that location.  I went to his house, took a couple of this things so I’d have his scent.  He was in that vehicle with Sarah and the…”  Magda growled.  “Bitches.”

“They didn’t find him?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.

“No.  I lost the trail at the campground.  They stole another car.  He was with them then.”

“Any chance he’s…”  Stephan frowned.  “Not sure what I’m asking here…”

“He’s not a werewolf.”  She put a hand on his arm.  “Neither are you.  The stories get that part wrong.  It’s not a contagious thing.”

“That…”  Stephan slowly nodded.  “Is one hell of a relief to know.”  He frowned.  “Then why hold onto him this long?”

“Good question.  I don’t like any of the possible answers.”  She leaned back.  “Vincent bought your story.  Thinks we were going to get the ranger and just happened upon the car.”

“And got attacked by someone’s pet bear?”  Stephan shook his head.  “That’s a terrible story.  I was in shock when I came up with that story.”

“The teeth marks in your arm kind of backed it up.”  Magda shrugged.

The silence returned.  Stephan exhaled.  “You’re a werewolf.”


“Magda.”  He looked up at her.  “You’re a werewolf.”

“Yes.”  She nodded.  “Figured that out when I turned sixteen.”  She considered for a moment, and then met his eyes.  “In 1644.”

“Yeah.”  Stephan took a deep breath.  “I’m gonna need more drugs.”