War: Chapter 5

“Uh…”  Bridget took a step back, and her eyes widened when she noticed the younger woman’s eyes were glowing red.  “What?”  Khait took a step toward the young woman, and the big woman, Magda, immediately put up a hand.  Her eyes changed to gold, just like Joseph’s had when he shifted.  “Shit.”

The woman vanished.  Professor Kravitz stumbled backward, staring with his jaw hanging open.  The young woman, Laura, immediately put her hands on her hips.  “Bring her back, right now.”  She narrowed her glowing red eyes.

“You brought a werewolf to the office of one of my friends.”  Khait shook his head.  “You have five seconds…”  He growled.  “You’ve got a body?  You hypocritical little —”

“Khait…”  Abigail exhaled.  “You want to make some introductions?”

“Oh my god.”  Professor Kravitz started to straighten.

“It’s okay, professor.”  Bridget quickly rushed over to him.  “Relax, you’re safe.”

He was safe before.”  The girl, Laura, shook her head.  “He’s a friend of mine.”  She glared at Khait.  “And I’m not about to let you within ten miles of anyone I consider a friend.  You’ve got five seconds to explain what the fuck you are doing here or I’m going to make you bleed from every single one of your orifices.

Khait laughed.  “Oh, I dare you to try, you backstabbing bitch.”  He pointed at her.  “You betrayed me!”

You burned down Rome!”  Laura glared.

“Not even a quarter of it.”  Khait scoffed.

Do you know how many Christians got fed to lions over that stunt?”  She took a step forward.

“Nowhere near enough.”  Khait matched her move, glaring down at her.

“Uh —”  Bridget swallowed.

“Enough.”  Professor Kravitz drew himself up to his full height.  Bridget blinked.  Five years and this was the first time she’d ever heard him raise his voice.  The two arguing…  Oh god, her eyes were glowing too… demons also both shut up and turned to look at him.  “Laura is, in fact, a friend of mine and I owe her and her companion my life.”  He turned toward her, and she gulped a little.  “Bridget, what the hell is going on here?”



War: Chapter 4

Stephan stared, his jaw hanging slightly open.  Next to him, Ash and Michaels both had fairly incredulous expressions.  Ted had needed to actually sit down.  Daniel sat on the ground in front of Ted, eyes wide.

In the small clearing in front of Ted’s house, Matthias and Gabriel were sparring.  Both men had stripped to the waist, and at first glance it would have seemed the outcome was a given.  Matthias was several inches taller and considerably more muscular than Gabriel even before he took the form of an alpha werewolf.  Matthias also didn’t rely purely on size and strength.  He was a skilled fighter, having been trained by the military and educated in several forms of martial arts.  And he was fast.  Gabriel had a slender build, more like a swimmer or gymnast.  Strong and trim, but with lean muscles.  A lightweight.  Except it was Gabriel tossing Matthias around like a ragdoll.

He’d been a little worried at first, but the first time Gabriel had thrown Matthias into a tree Matthias had been laughing when he got up.  The big man seemed to be relishing the fact that he had a genuine challenge, and despite being locked into a seemingly brutal match the smile hadn’t left the alpha werewolf’s face.  Gabriel maintained his usual calm, but there was the occasional smile that made it clear he was also enjoying the match.

“Woof.”  Ash gave a small head shake as Matthias got a grip on Gabriel, only for Gabriel to use that grip as leverage to shift and wrap his legs around Matthias’s neck.  Matthias hit the ground and laid there for a moment before laughing and getting back up.

“He’s agile.”  Stephan nodded, then reached over and patted Ted’s shoulder.  “Naked yoga pays off.”  Ted made a noise that sounded vaguely affirmative and kept staring.

“Woof?”  Ash glanced up at Stephan.

“Well, yeah, I mean…”  Stephan shrugged.  “Gabriel’s a nice guy.  He’d teach you yoga if you asked.”

Ash grinned.  “Woof.”

Daniel shifted and slipped to slide down a couple steps before turning bright red.  “Danny?”  Stephan blinked at him.

“I, uh…”  Daniel managed to turn even redder.  “Mental image.”

“Oh god.”  Michaels immediately put his hands over his eyes and groaned as Ash started laughing.

“Oh god.”  Ted’s voice was slightly breathless.

Oh god.


War: Chapter 3

Michaels sighed, then relented and let Matthias dial the phone.  Despite everything, he really hadn’t liked Laura going off with Magda.  It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them, it was just Laura was his crazy-ass hobo demon girl and well…  He didn’t trust them.  Matthias blinked.  “Laura, why are you answering Mom’s pho…”  Matthias listened for a moment, his eyes growing steadily wider.  “What the fuck do you mean she’s stoned?”  Matthias shook his head.  “Brownies with—”  He blinked.  “My father never stuck his dick in a musket.”

The beer nearly fell out of his hand as Michaels tried not to start laughing.  Matthias glared at him.  “Laura.  Laur—”  Matthias growled.  “I absolutely did not —”  He was starting to turn red and then raised his voice.  “The mission, Laura.  Shut about about —”  He listened for a minute.  “So he’s in.  Alri—”  He shook his head again.  “Breath a word of that and I will shave Michaels’ head.”

“Hey.”  Michaels narrowed his eyes.

“And tattoo a toilet bowl on his fore —”  Matthias made a groaning sound.  “Then I’ll wait until Gabriel is —”  He winced.  “Oh just…”  Matthias stabbed the end button on the call and tossed the phone on the table.  Then he raised his voice again.  “Erilon, make them —”

“Michaels, did you know when Matthias was little it was still traditional for young boys to wear dresses?”

“I did not.”  Michaels grinned.

Pink ones.

“Fucking demons.”  Matthias turned and strode out of the room.


War: Chapter 2

“So how was the luncheon?”  Michaels smirked at his partner.  Gabriel just narrowed his eyes.  The mayor’s wife patted his ass.  “I told you to spill coffee on the chief’s desk, but you didn’t listen.”

“I do not miss political functions.”  Stephan shook his head and looked up at Gabriel.

“You had to go to a lot of them?”  Michaels glanced at him.

“Only black guy on the force.”  Stephan shrugged.  “I got dragged along to all of them.”  He looked over his shoulder.  “Magda had to go to, until they hired…”  He frowned.  “What was her name?  Pretty blond girl with the…”  He gestured in front of his chest.

“Violet.”  Ash supplied the name.  Stephan smirked at him, and Ash rolled eyes.  “They were very noticeable.”

“Yeah she was…”  Stephan chuckled.  “Almost out of uniform a few times.  Good cop.  She’d bat her eyes, bend a little forward, and next thing anyone knew the suspect had babbled every bit of information they had.”

“I seem to recall a certain someone walking into a pole the time she wore a mini-dress for a sting.”  Magda grinned.  She caught Gabriel’s arm as he tried to go past into the house.  “Where are you going?”

“To change.”  Gabriel glanced down at her.

“Sorry partner.”  Michaels patted his arm.  “They took a vote when they learned you were in dress uniform.  You’re not allowed to do that.”  He looked over at where Matthias and Ted were coming up the stairs.  “Erilon voted on your behalves.”

“So, it was one to…”  Gabriel turned to count heads.

“Nah, it was unanimous.”  Michaels grinned.  “I like picking on you.”  He put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.  “Remember, our job is to serve and protect for the forces of justice and democracy.”  He turned back to the grill and started putting burgers onto plates for Matthias and Ted.

Gabriel started toward the door again, and Magda stepped into his path to block him.  Daniel and Laura came up the stairs, and Daniel started snickering.  Gabriel exhaled and looked up at the sky.  “She showed him the photo?”

“She showed him the photo,” Michaels confirmed.

“What photo?”  Matthias raised an eyebrow.

“Oh for…”  Gabriel took a deep breath, then he shrugged.

Michaels nearly dropped the plate he was holding when Gabriel simply started unbuttoning the jacket of the uniform.  “Uh, partner?”  He blinked.  “What are you doing?”

“Stripping.”  Gabriel continued unbuttoning the jacket.


“Is anyone…”  Gabriel looked around.  “Going to stop me?”

“Hell no.”  Matthias grinned, then put an elbow on Ted’s shoulder.  Ted was running a hand down the front of his face.


War: Chapter 1

He shuffled a few papers together in a pile on his desk and then set them aside before grabbing a different stack.  Rather than invest Mr. Ishi’s money directly into the center, he’d set up an investment fund.  From that, he funded several types of scholarships and grants.  Security deposits for kids getting their first apartments, emergency car repairs, clothes for seeking employment, and other needs.  It was rapidly becoming one of his favorite parts of the job.

Actually deciphering the applications, however…  Ted rubbed his eyes and winced.  Maybe he should have listened to Monica about having them be only online, but not all the kids had access to computers.  He’d set up a small computer lab there at the center, but perhaps he should consider expanding it.  Ted exhaled, then set the applications in a folder.  Magda and her crew would be arriving sometime today.  Perhaps he could convince Daniel and Ash to help.

There was a light rapping at the door.  “Come in.”  Ted looked up, expecting to see Margaret.  Then his face broke into a wide smile.  “Rebecca.  I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”  He stood up.

His ex-wife returned the smile.  “Plans changed at the last minute.  I hope you don’t mind me just dropping in.”  She shrugged, then looked around.  “Last time I saw this building it looked like setting it on fire would be doing it a favor.”

“We’ve put a lot of work in over the past couple years.”  He walked around the desk.  “Let me show you around.”

“Just show me to whatever room is emitting that heavenly smell.”  She nodded as they stepped into the hallway.

Ted laughed.  “Sister Margaret teaches a cooking class.  I believe this week is brownies.”  He gestured for her to follow him.  “And since she is a nun I suppose heavenly is accurate enough.”

Rebecca smiled warmly as he introduced her to the class.  He referred to her as an old friend rather than explaining to everyone that she was his ex-wife.  And it was true enough.  They’d been friends once, and after putting their disaster of a marriage behind them they’d managed to become friends again.  The kids let her taste the brownies, and she praised them all.

After the kids filed out, he turned toward her.  “So what does bring you to town?”

“I realized I’m still paying rent on that storage unit on Fifteenth.  Since I don’t recall what is in it, I thought I should check with you before heading over.”  Rebecca shrugged.

“I remember it being a lot of boxes that we never unpacked after we moved from Oregon, but beyond…”  He frowned, then waved a hand.  “That might be where all those linens are.”

“Oh, the ones we collected in Europe?”  She started nodding.  “I think you’re right.”  She gave him a hesitant look.  “Dibs?”

“All but the French ones?”  He raised an eyebrow.  Magda was going to be staying with them, after all.



Hunting: Chapter 22

Matthias carried the urn toward where the others were finishing up.  He glanced over at Ted.  “I appreciate this.”

Ted smiled.  “She was your friend.”  He looked over at where Ash was carrying the second urn.  “What do we know about —”

“He was Adam’s friend.”  Ash held the urn tightly.

“I meant birthday, things like that, Ash.  For the markers.”  Ted patted Ash’s shoulder.

“Patrick Delacroix.”  Stephan read off the screen of his tablet.  “Born July 7, 1971, in Graden, Texas.  Joined the Navy in 89.  Made it into the SEALS in 94.  Less than honorably discharged in 98.  No family.  Parents died in 91, younger brother died in 98.”

Michaels stepped away from where he and Gabriel had been digging.  “What was Rosa’s real name, anyway?”

“Emperatrix Consuela Rosenda-Orellana.”  Then they all turned to look at him, Matthias shrugged defensively.  “Don’t blame me.  I’m the one that started calling her Rosa.”

“Gonna need help spelling that.”  Laura looked up from where she was working on the markers.  “But I can draw a rose or something.”

He listened while Father Williams intoned a prayer, then poured the cremains into the first hole.  Ash did the same in the second hole.  Magda and Gabriel carried the trees up, and they solemnly planted them.  Matthias set the bricks down in a circle around Rosa’s tree, while Magda helped Ash do the same with Patrick’s.  Their mole, Adam, had asked that Patrick be treated with respect.  Since the man had rescued Ash, this seemed the least they could do.  The apple trees already had blossoms.  Daniel added some mulch around the bases.  Considering it was Rosa’s resting place, maybe he should…  He shook his head.

Anna giggled, and he turned to look at her.  She shrugged up at him.  “Wouldn’t that make the apples alcoholic?”

“Stop looking in my head.”  He shook his head at her fondly.

“Tequila wouldn’t damage the roots.  They aren’t set yet.”  When Matthias glanced at him, Father Williams shrugged.  “One doesn’t need to read minds to know what you were thinking.”

“Priests allowed margaritas?”  He raised an eyebrow.

“All things in moderation.”

“Except sex.”  Daniel grinned up at him.

“Except that, yes.”  Father Williams smiled.

“Right.”  Matthias chuckled.  “Well, Rosa was pretty clear on how she wanted her funeral to go, so, uh…”  He sighed, and gave Father Williams an apologetic look.  “Look, the naked lady pinata was absolutely her idea.”

“I believe you.”  He smiled.  “Though I shall take my leave before any sombreros or donkeys make their appearance.”


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 19

Michaels sat on the tailgate of the truck, his face empty.  Laura was in his lap, crying softly as he held her.  Magda swallowed past the lump that has risen in her own throat.  Even knowing the man as short a time as she had, she knew something precious had been lost.  Not for the first time, she regretted coming to this city.  “He told Gabriel it was good to see him again.”  She turned at the sound of Daniel’s voice.  He looked like a lost little boy as he leaned on the tree next to Matthias.  When he saw her looking, he shrugged.  “Ryuu.  He knew.  How could he know?”

“I once asked Ryuu how old he was.”  Magda exhaled.  “He said the Cenozoic era was boring, but things picked up during the Cretaceous period.  I was never entirely sure if he was kidding.”

“We…”  Michaels stood, and set Laura down.  “Assholes still have Ash.  Let’s go find him.  Get me a likeness or something of Sima and I’ll start on the desk clerks at the hotels.  Someone will have seen her.”

“Michaels…”  Magda started to put a hand on his arm.

He pulled away, and shook his head.  Then he squared his shoulders.  “Someone needs help, and I’m still a fucking cop.  Gabriel and I swore to serve and protect.  Now let’s go get the rest of these fucks.”

“Semper Fi.” Matthias straightened.  “Let’s go.”

“Gabriel would help.”  Laura nodded, drawing herself up to her full height.  “Ash is in trouble.  Let’s save him.”

Magda nodded, then met Michaels’ eyes.  “Thank you.”  She put an arm around Laura as the girl hugged her.  “Thank you both.”


Hunting: Chapter 18

Matthias snarled as he grabbed the smaller werewolf by the throat.  With his other hand, he grabbed the top of the beast’s snout and ripped, tearing the top half of the thing’s skull off.  He heard a shot, then turned to see the man taking aim at his back fall with a hole between his eyes.  A glance to the left showed Michaels reloading.  “I…”  Michaels shook his head before nodding to the corpse Matthias was still holding.  It was slowly changing back to human.  “Am going to have nightmares about that later.”

He tossed the corpse aside.  “Suck it up, buttercup.”

“Then again, my partner did kind of kick your ass, so…”  Michaels shrugged.

“He got lucky.”  Matthias tilted his head to first one side, then the other, then stared down at Michaels from full were form.  He felt a grudging respect for the fact that even after the previous events, Michaels didn’t flinch.

“He took out a vampire nest by himself.”

“Seriously?”  Matthias followed.

Michaels smirked.  “Well, I did shoot a few mooks.”

“Huh.”  Matthias glanced at where the sounds of fighting could be heard.  “Want to go shoot some more?”

“You’re buying after.”  Michaels started heading that way.


Hunting: Chapter 17

He woke up, then looked around before awareness flooding back in.  “Ash.”  He started trying to sit up, only to realize he was tangled in various medical things.

“It’s alright.”  A calm voice said and someone reached over to pat his arm.  “You’re in the hospital.  Magda said to make sure to tell you as soon as you woke up that everyone is alright and they are looking for Ash right now.”

Stephan nodded.  The woman sitting by his bed looked to be in her early fifties.  She was a light skinned black woman, with warm eyes and a pleasant smile.  He tilted his head.  “Are you Laura’s mother?”

“I’m Gabriel’s mother.”  She smiled.

“You’re…”  He blinked.

“He’s adopted.”  She shrugged.  “We thought it best if someone was on hand to reassure you as soon as you woke up…”  She lowered her voice conspiratorially.  “So we may have let them all believe you’re my nephew.”

“Right.”  He shifted on the hospital bed.  “So, Aunt…”

“Patricia Williams, but you may call me Patty.”

“Aunt Patty…”  He nodded.  “Fill me in.”

“Good news first.”  She leaned back.  “Anna and her baby are healthy.  I’m not sure what all is going on and as soon as things are settled I am going to box some people’s ears, but Gabriel said to tell you that he’s ‘playing guardian angel’ and that as soon as…”  She took a deep breath and shook her head disapprovingly.  “Your ass can get out of bed Matthias is probably going to need you.”

“Yeah.  Probably.”  He started to sit up, then gave a frustrated sigh.  “Don’t suppose they left any —”

She offered him a set of clothes.  “I’ll be right outside.”


Hunting: Chapter 16

The sounds coming from the next room were horrifying.  The worst of them was Mistress’s laughter.  Ash tried to crawl under the bed, but it was blocked off.  He whimpered, unable to put his hands over his ears with them secured behind his back.  Snarling and screaming and dying and wet and choking.

He was back.  Mistress’s collar was around his neck again.  She’d taken Magda’s collar off him and put her collar on him.  Leather tight enough to make it hard to swallow.  They’d brought him to Mistress.  They’d left Stephan on the docks and shot Matthias and they’d brought him to Mistress.  He could feel tears running down his cheeks.

She’d petted him and acted glad to see him, before reminding him to follow the rules.  He leaned forward to wipe the tears off on the bed.  Crying was against the rules.  Mistress would be…  Your name is Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  You are a cop, not a pet.  You are a person, not a dog.  Her name is Sima, not mistress.  You are not alone.  We will come for you.

He knew that voice.  Laura’s when her eyes turned red.  He took a deep breath, and nodded.


Wren and Adam : Chapter 16

Adam walked through the fair, occasionally stopping to play one of the games so as not to draw attention to himself.  Stasya was doing the same thing, while Patrick waited in the car playing mission control.  Patrick almost couldn’t help but look threatening, and the last thing they needed was some hysterical parent wondering what he was doing there by himself.

The blue haired girl finished dunking the younger cop, and walked away giggling.  He debated approaching her directly, maybe flirting and seeing if he could get her number.  Might help with the information gathering.  Or better yet, maybe she’d see through him and tip off the others.  Shit, the last thing he wanted to deal with right now is Wren deciding she needed to be jealous.  Fewer people got hurt, the better, and there was still a chance he could keep her and the old man out of things entirely.

Kidnapping a pregnant thirteen-year-old was risky in many ways.  Fortunately, it had been fairly simple to convince Wren they’d be better off just wait until the kid had been born and snatch it.  It wasn’t like they could actually keep him out of a room, and worst case scenario he could always shape shift into a stork or something.

That just left Stephan and Ash, both of whom Sima wanted.  The fact that Sima’s motives were clearly vengeful didn’t bode well for their intended fate.  He stopped at the center’s booth, smiling as he let Magda tell him about the center before dropping a hundred dollar bill into the donation case.  Sima didn’t care about Stephan beyond the fact killing him would hurt Magda, and she was too much of a coward to go after Magda herself.

He joined Stasya near the entrance to the church’s garden.  “Baby Bear.  Thoughts?”

“The guy Sima wants…”  He jerked his head up at the church.  “Is in there, but he isn’t alone.”

“Near as I can tell, he is never alone.  They are very protective of him.”  She nodded.  “Girl is never alone either.  The ex-cop might limp, but he carries two guns and probably can use them.”

“His cane is a weapon as well.  Tazer.  Strong one.”  Adam frowned.  “But he’s often one of the people looking after Ash.  Could take the two of them together.”

“Put gun to Ash, Stephan puts his gun down.”  Stasya frowned.  “Then what?  Tip off other werewolf and let her deal with Sima?”

“That’s not a bad plan.”  Adam nodded.  It was possible without Sima’s influence, Wren would…  He needed to stop thinking like that.  “She took out an alpha, and her son is an alpha.  We could sit back, make some popcorn, let nature take it’s course.”

“Would prevent her death from being traced to us.  We were obeying her orders.  Not our fault she was blinded by lust.”  Stasya smirked, then shrugged.  “Leaves baby matter.”

“That’s an issue.”  Adam exhaled.  “We’ve ruled out a lot of things William’s isn’t, but we still have no idea what he is.  And you ruled out a honey-pot idea.”

“Old man is very lucky man.”  Stasya nodded.  “I stopped by his booth.  Shook his hand.  You know he —”

“Nope.”  Adam shook his head.  “Still don’t want to hear details.”

“Williams is very flexible.”  Stasya smiled dreamily.

“You are such a pervert.”


Hunting: Chapter 15

Daniel tried not to be nervous as the door opened.  Meeting a dragon was so far down the list of things he’d thought he’d ever get to do.  And that was the list he’d made after he’d started dating a werewolf.  The man on the other side of the door was…

Actually kind of a disappointment.  He looked like an ordinary man.  Maybe 5’3”, about Ted’s age, and some flavor of oriental.  He thought Japanese.  The name had sounded Japanese.  Actually, he looked a little like George Takei, so Japanese was most likely.  And he was rambling in his own head.  He tried to focus.

The dragon, Ryuu, actually greeted Magda with a kiss on the cheek.  And ignored Matthias entirely as he stepped back to let them all enter.  Magda took off her shoes as soon as she entered, and the others all immediately followed suit.  “Welcome, welcome.”  Ryuu gave a small bow.  “Let me start by assuring you, I have absolutely no interest in harming any of you lovely people.”  He closed the door behind them.  “Or Matthias.”

“Forgive me if I’m slightly relieved, Ryuu.  It’s been rather eventful lately.”  Magda offered him the wine Ted had picked out, and Ryuu made some appropriate noises of gratitude as he accepted it.

“Truly.”  Ryuu nodded.  “You know for all the fussing the Western division has been doing lately I expected something better than that tired old anti-christ thing.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Two thousand years.  You’d think they’d get a new gimmick.”  He gestured toward archway that led to what looked like a dining room.  “But business can wait until after we’ve eaten.”  He crouched a little to look Anna in the eye.  “Milady, I won’t be offended if your condition prevents you from partaking.  I arranged a fruit tray just in case, with extra bananas.”

She smiled.  “I like bananas.”

“You are a woman of excellent taste.”  He nodded to her before standing again and walking into the dining room.

“He’s being friendly…”  Michaels gave Magda a concerned look.

“He says he’s not here to hurt us…”  Magda smiled reassuringly.  “Then he’s not here to hurt us.  Right now we’re probably safer than we’ve been in the past year.”


Hunting: Chapter 14

“You know, I actually thought this task was going to take all day.”  Ted looked around the room.  With Gabriel having to work, he’d planned on renting some hand carts or perhaps even a pallet jack to get the truck unloaded.

“We keep Matthias around for a reason.”  Daniel grinned at him.  “God, Ted, this place is awesome.  I wish my hometown had something like this.”  He ran a hand down the machine in front of him.  “Why pinball?”

“Once, a long time ago, I was a child.”  Ted chuckled.  “Used to love it.  When I saw these up on an auction website I couldn’t resist.”  He pointed.  “The game consoles have been in here a while, and get used so much I have to replace the controllers every couple months.  I thought perhaps they might enjoy these as well.”

“Alright.”  Matthias slid out from under one of the machines.  “That’s the last one.  Everything should be working.”  He stood.  “I remember when these things were everywhere.”  He tilted his head.  “Kind of craving a malt now.”

“Oh, almost forgot.”  He headed over to the storage closet.  “I know Anna wants to go to the fair, but in her condition that much walking might not be wise.”  It took him a moment to pull the item he was looking for free, then he pushed it toward Daniel.  “This might help.”

“She might object to being pushed in a wheel —”  Daniel cut off as Ted offered him the bright pink bike horn with attached streamers.  “Yep, that’ll work.”

“Hey, Ted…”  Matthias shrugged.  “How much does it cost you to run this joint?”

Ted shrugged.  “Less than you might think.  Erilon, through methods I really prefer not to think about, has managed to keep the licensing fees pretty minimal and we do get donations.  Plus most of the labor is volunteer.”

“Generous as you’ve been to us…”  Matthias shrugged.  “Like to make a donation.”

“That’s not necessary.”  Ted smiled.  “Given your situation, it would be best to conserve your resources.”

“Money ain’t one of our problems.  The whole uh…”  Matthias rubbed the back of his neck.  “Being one of the good guys thing is sort of new to me.  Might be one of the reasons I’m not great at it.”  He shrugged.  “Lot of people out there willing to pay a guy like me a hell of a lot of money to get shit done.”

“You…”  Ted exhaled.  “You’re telling me you used to be an assassin.”

“Among other things.”  Matthias nodded.

“Not really sure what to say to that.”  Ted exhaled.  “Well, Matthias…”  He shrugged.  “There will be a lot of charities at the fair, some of which do better work and are much more desperate for funds than I am.  If you are looking to buy some forgiveness, that would be a good place to start.”


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.