This is the first short story I wrote (other than a high school homework assignment or two), written as a challenge issued by a group of people I’d met online to write a short paranormal romance during the month of February 2010. The person who threw the idea out there had said “write about whatever . . . vampires, werewolves, witches . . . wereponies”. I laughed, thinking wereponies sounded hilarious, and started out thinking I was going to write something subtly funny – a black comedy maybe, but a romance. That tone is in the first part, I think, and in a way, is in my whole concept of her. Scout. She is actually a werewolf, and only a werepony in the first scene, but to write her story I wanted to figure out how this character *becomes* a werepony, something which unexpectedly ended up directing the story arc. I wanted her to be odd and the only werepony, thinking that was part of her black comedy – and maybe it is. But as I wrote, I started taking her seriously. I didn’t know the answer to this when I started, but as the story unfolded I began to see the mistakes she would make, and as I did, came up with her “how”, her curse, her tragic misunderstanding.
Anyway, other than correcting a few typos it’s unchanged from when I wrote it a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it!
The last of my gin and tonic sat wetly on the bar. I had idly spent the last ten minutes soaking up its puddles with the stack of coasters left nearby, the rough cardboard fibers wanting to sip slowly though I force fed it the whole mess. Finishing off the last of my drink, I caught the bartender’s eye and gestured toward the stage. He nodded, agreeing to send the drink I had ordered to the backstage area. It was still early, but I was already growing restless.
Slipping off the barstool to get up, my hooves found the floor ungracefully and I gripped the barstool to catch my balance. The shiver of a neigh rose unbidden from my chest and I forced it down. Dropping my eyes I felt my cheek burn in embarrassment as a whisper of wind greeted my skin to tell me a few heads had turned in an attempt to reconcile the sounds I’d made with the appearance of my slight frame. Ignoring the inquiring stares burning into me, I slowly made my way toward the side door near the prominent stage, which was The Henry’s best feature, and stepped outside.
Instantly the cool air seeped into me. My jacket was inside, but the cold felt good on my skin. Soothing. My breath made tiny clouds in the air and I calmed myself by watching them float across the lit sphere of the street light, beautiful and tenuous before they evaporated into the night.
The alley behind The Henry served as a loading and unloading spot for that night’s band lineup, and a small group of guys were methodically unpacking guitar cases and spools of cable from the bed of a faded red pickup truck.
I knew the moon was still too low in the horizon to see it from behind the buildings that lined the alley, but its presence was everywhere, filling in the spaces which the lights of the city usually left dim. An unseen energy was building in me like a wave, matching the moon’s slow waxing. I smiled to myself and leaned back against the wall feeling my mane lightly brush against the rough texture of the concrete as I quietly took in the scene.
“Hey sweetie!” came a voice from beside me and I turned to see my oldest friend Jared grinning at me from under a pile of thick black hair pushed up high to play on top of his head. “I thought I’d find you out here” he said, still smiling but beginning to move around tensely, deliberately shivering his muscular shoulders to try and warm up.
I returned his smile easily as he finally decided on leaning against the wall next to me. “They moved you guys into second spot, just before the headliner” I told him.
“What do you mean ‘you guys’? Scout, you’re not backing out on me are you?”
“No – you’re not” he affirmed as if I’d agreed. Well, technically I had.
“We’re doing the song you wrote. You should sing it instead of me.”
“Guitar. One song. No spotlights.” I offered, repeating our previous agreement.
“Done” he said seriously before letting his grin slowly break across his face again.
As kids, we used to make up songs all the time. He was always the natural performer, though, dragging me along in his excitement to sing them for whoever would listen. I loved him for it, but I was done letting people talk me into things.
“Jared! Dude! Your keys…” called one of his band mates from the parking lot.
“I’m glad you’re back” he said shoving his shoulder into mine and pushing off from the wall.
“I am not back” I growled, mostly to myself, as Jared ran to the parking lot to fetch his car. It was our turn to unload.
Later that evening I strolled through the massive park that the city somehow contained. It was late but the solace here made me feel more awake and alive than I had felt in days. Griffith Park was my favorite part of Los Angeles, but it had been three years since I’d been here – or been anywhere in Los Angeles at all for that matter.
Scenting the air I knew I was alone, and I shrugged off my clothes and the rest of my human form. As the change came, I steeled myself, watching my hands appear to flee from me. Pain ripped through my elongating arms. Fingers began to fuse as my hands curled into fists and hardened into hooves. My jaw lurched forward right below my eyes while my canines were becoming long sharp fangs. My lips curled back angrily as skin rippled over the muscles that grew and stretched around my shoulders and hips. As I caught a glint of the red from my eyes in the smooth reflective surface of my hoof I reared back and flung my arms wildly in the air, and, as the momentary panic struck me like a shockwave pulsing outward from my center, smooth black fur exploded from my skin. Finally, when the weight of my upper body stopped fighting gravity, my hooves planted themselves solidly and I sprung into the air and took off at a gallop.
The pungent scent of eucalyptus trees and recent picnics filled my nostrils as I galloped past the planted areas of the park. Resisting the urge to sniff out the trails and markings various dogs had left behind; I headed towards the groves of native sycamore and oak that I knew lined the canyons and streams deeper into the park.
I cleared my senses with an exhale that fluttered my nostrils into a snort as I reached a rock outcropping that overlooked the moonlit canyons and the yellow city lights of Los Angeles. Perched upon that rock under a massive oak tree I scented the air.
Warm woody smells greeted me as the small leaves and acorns under my hooves crunched. The deep rumbling purr of a nearby bobcat suddenly stopped as I approached, and was replaced by a cautious growl as it tried to figure out what I was.
In this form I could sense so much more – the smells became like eyesight, telling me where everything was that had been hidden to me. And something else – I could sense other creatures, even the ones too far away to see or smell.
The sultry solo that the moon had been singing to me all night became a symphony as the presence of so much life sang to me, and with my hindquarters crouching into an awkward stance I raised my eyes to the moon, threw back my head and answered.
The moonlight shone on my fur brightly, making it appear tipped with white hairs. A soft flutter of wings drew my eyes up to see a single moth drifting over me, seeking the moon – deceived but entranced. The warmth of familiarity I felt here was unexpected, and it warred inside me. Getting a grip on myself, I shoved the bittersweet feeling aside – this place held too much memory. Tomorrow I would get the information I needed. Then I was out of here.
Three Years Earlier…
I lived for moments like this one. Guitar in hand I stood just off stage watching the house lights dim and various heads turn forward, waiting. Among the sounds of dying conversation I recognized the jubilant howls of some of the weres in my pack and I laughed. The surge of adrenaline I always felt just before going on stage made my hands a bit unsteady as I lingered, waiting for my cue.
“Break an artery out there!” said a voice drifting through my head. That would be Eva, one of my vampire friends.
It was unnerving sometimes how vamps could send thoughts like that, but I was used to it. Looking around I caught a glimpse of her sitting in a booth at the back, dark hair draped over her bare shoulders and her arms wrapped around her latest catch. Seeing me find her in the crowd she smiled at me, flaunting her fangs.
Jared started in on the drums, the deep rhythm vibrating in the air.
The small stage was swimming in amber and blue light as I walked out to the mike. Striking the first notes on my guitar the nervousness melted away from me and was replaced by a softly electric feeling. I howled into the mike and hopped up onto my amplifier, planting a foot on it as I played the opening riff.
A group of weres from my pack howled in response, jumping up and down and dancing to Jared’s rhythm. Their energy was infectious, and it slowly spread across the audience until most everyone not sitting down or working the bar was moving to our song.
As I played, my fingers moved quickly over the neck of my guitar. Werewolves didn’t tended to break records for height or anything, and I was average, coming in at 5’ 4”. Like many female weres I was lean and agile, physically powerful and yet wholly feminine. I tossed my wavy black hair out of my face and I prowled the stage. The glare of the footlights reflected in my dark brown eyes making them glitter like city lights bouncing across the ocean at night. Scattered cheers from the crowd reached my ears as I made my way to my microphone and sang.
Nine songs later we finished our set.
Exhausted, yet still buzzing with energy, I followed my band off stage making my way around various amps and guitar cases that waited in the cramped side stage. Entering the space, I looked up to find a pair of green eyes locked onto mine, following my progress. She was beautiful. Almost lazily, the depth of the green in her eyes drew me in, beconing, as if the answer to question I suddenly had was written in the patterns of her irises. An amused smile started to play on her mouth and I felt my steps slow as I passed by, turning my head to keep from breaking eye contact. Inviting scents of cinnamon, cloves, and honey drifted towards me, and I smiled. Something about her was so familiar. I think I was stopped now. Or was I walking towards her, I wasn’t sure.
At the sound of soft laughter I turned to see Jared standing beside me. “Scout, this is Sydney. And Syd,” he turned to wink at the girl with the deep green eyes “Stop bewitching my friend here so she can introduce herself”.
The green eyes that belonged to someone named Sydney continued to laugh pleasantly and, still holding my gaze, I felt the spell drop. Casually she rested a hand on my arm and leaned in towards my ear. The warmth from her skin seemed to pour over me the closer she came, and my breath caught in my chest. I watched a smile quirk across her lips. “Nice to meet you Scout, I’ve heard a lot about you from Jared”. And letting go of my arm she picked up an acoustic guitar and started tuning it.
“She’s a witch” I said, half asking Jared and half stating the obvious. I didn’t know many witches.
“I thought you might like her” Jared teased.
“Whatever.” I wasn’t sure if I was more embarrassed or interested. Embarrassed. Damn, I think I’d just acted like an idiot. I glanced over to where she sat, perched on a stool with her blonde hair tumbling forward around her face as she listened to her guitar. Strike that. Interested. “Come on,” I said, tucking my arm into Jared’s, “I’m wiped out. Let’s go sit with Eva and watch her set”.
“Russell will see you now”, called a feminine voice. “Right this way”, she gestured.
Getting up to follow, I shoved my phone into my pocket and entered my pack Alpha’s office.
“Nice to see you Scout” he said, shaking my hand.
“My pleasure”, I sat in the chair he gestured to.
Dressed in grey slacks a crisp white dress shirt that clung snugly to his broad chest, Russell walked past me and stood looking out his office window.
“How was your trip?” I asked, trying to sound at ease. Something was wrong. I could feel his tension knotting in my stomach like a fist, the whole pack had been feeling it on and off for weeks. Rumors had been running rampant, but the most common one was that the Dakota pack was preparing to make a move on our territory. The Dakota pack was larger and therefore stronger than the Los Angeles pack now that Grant, the Dakota Alpha, had defeated the Alphas in both New Mexico and Phoenix. Werewolves were on edge these days as the Elders debated whether these territorial attacks violated any of the codes we lived by.
“I’ve got a task for you, Scout” he said, “There is something I need”. Turning to me he corrected himself, “No, something our pack needs to help with a situation.”
“Sure. What can I do for you?”
Looking at me intently, Russell eased into his chair. “Are you familiar with the Indio coven?”
“I think so” I said, unsure.
“The Indio witches are the oldest coven in the country. They settled here almost a thousand years ago, well before the Salem witches came to New England, and well before the rest of the humans and vampires in Europe learned that America even existed.”
I looked at him, surprised. How could I not know this? “That’s almost as long as our pack has been here. Why have they never been mentioned at any of our den circles?”
“We mind our pack. They mind their coven.” He said, as if that explained everything.
I sat back, shocked.
“The Indio coven posses something powerful, something that can help us.” I let this information register as Russell stood up and began pacing the room. “We’ve grown weak over time. Werewolves, I mean. But when I was in the Dakotas I found the records I had been searching for. The Indio coven have the blood specimen of Lorr, the first werewolf. Legend says this blood could restore our power to its original strength.”
“Just tell me where it is and consider it done” I said, and standing I looked at him confidently. I was the best in our pack when it came to stealth, so this task was right up my alley.
“That’s what we need to know. The Indio witches have it, but exactly who and where in their domain they are keeping it is unknown.”
“Yes. Their power allows them to remain unnoticed when they are inside their domain. But as part of our treaty, their domain doesn’t cover Los Angeles itself. So when they enter pack territory, which they are always welcome to do, they lose the cloaking veil that the power of their domain provides them.”
“And when we enter their domain?”
Russell paused, meeting my eyes with a reassuring look.
“And when we enter their domain, which we are always welcome to do, we lose the pack bond.”
I sat back down. I had never been without the pack bond. The bond allowed me to sense the other pack members and to send and receive power from the Alpha. I couldn’t even imagine what it was going to be like not to be able to feel my pack.
Returning to his desk chair, he laid his hands on the table in front of him with his fingers perched in little triangles. “Jared tells me he has already introduced you to a potential contact from the coven.”
My mind, reeling from all that Russell was telling me, had been running a few clicks behind. I should have seen this coming, but I hadn’t. “Sydney?” I asked, and he nodded in confirmation. “If she is going to help us, then why do you need me?”
“She hasn’t agreed to help us, and she can’t know what you are looking for. She likes you, though. And we need information she has.”
I mulled that over, nodding my head in understanding. Of course she doesn’t know.
“The coven is holding a winter solstice festival this week. The pack always sends a representative to acknowledge their invitation and this year we’re sending you. I’ve arranged for you to stay nearby.”
The open road stretched out invitingly before me, and eagerly my red 1969 Mustang took up the invitation. I left L.A. about two hours ago and was enjoying the road trip and the soundtrack my iPod was shuffling out.
I knew the pack bond would be leaving me soon, but as I rounded the bend that crested the San Jacinto Mountains and descended into the valley below, it left me within the space of an exhaled breath. The connected and open feeling that usually occupied the crown of my head closed as if a thick invisible cap sat there. I felt shorter somehow. And suddenly alone.
I had been born a werewolf and had always sensed the pack bond, though I hadn’t shifted into my wolf form for the first time until I was nine, when the pack shaman sensed I was ready and called the ability to me in ceremony.
I drove for another twenty minutes before I pulled up to a cabin on the outskirts of town, loose gravel crunching under my tires from the long unpaved drive. The feeling of disconnection still loomed uneasily in my senses as I looked around at the place Russell had set up for me to stay.
“Well here we are” I said out loud to fill in the uncomfortable silence.
My temporary home was a small cabin tucked away at the base of two hills, a patchwork of brown dirt and green desert scrub. The snow capped mountain peaks which jutted up from the desert seemed close enough to walk to. Maybe I would try.
“No time like the present” I thought, and dropping my bag inside, I quickly shifted into my wolf form. This would be the best way to check out my new surroundings. Outside again, on paws as big as my human hands I bounded around the property picking up the various smells of people, witches, and wolves that had been here, making a mental catalog. The sun was just reaching its zenith in the sky, and I felt its warmth sinking into my black fur. The dirt here was dry and dusty, so when the earthy smell of soil and herbs reached my nose in the slight wind, it could only mean that water was nearby. That sounded like just the thing.
I set off into the direction of the breeze and picked up on a recent trail of footprints leading in my direction. My sense of smell told me the trail was recent, but the scents of honey and spice were strangely faint. I guessed that the trail belonged to a witch – maybe their cloaking ability made them harder to track. The footprints I followed revealed a loop. Whoever this set of tracks belonged to had walked to my cabin and then walked back not long ago.
After about a mile I heard the sounds of soft music playing on a stereo. I paused. Crouching behind a rock I listened and scented the air. My nose told me an herb and vegetable garden was nearby, so the stereo must be coming from a house. I crept forward slowly and soundlessly, belly to the ground; curious to see who it was that had visited my cabin recently.
The house came into sight, smallish and homey looking nestled in its garden, with a stone footing that made its way up the first few feet of wall before giving way to a smooth adobe surface. I inhaled slowly, concentrating on trying to make out the source of the tracks I had been following from among the rich earthy scents.
I picked it out in the herb garden and moved closer. The scent was stronger now – and familiar. Sydney. She came into sight just as the recognition clicked in my brain. I hadn’t made a sound, but suddenly the scent of fear reached me in a wave. Spinning around, a ball of white light crackled and blossomed from the palm of her hand.
Seeing me, she crouched and flung her hand out, the incantations of a spell tumbling out from her lips. “Illumens!”
The light from her hand flared as my muscles froze mid-stride. Lamely, I fell onto my side as the white light probed my mind and flared in my chest. “Who is it?” The question flooded me, seeking. Instantly the answer resounded inside, though I had not yet thought of answering.
“Oh! Scout, I’m sorry!” I heard outside my head this time. “I didn’t realize it was you.”
Footfall stopped near my ears as Sydney’s blonde hair and green eyes crouched over me. Her hand hesitated over my side, smelling like sage from the garden and the ozone of a thunderstorm, and then continued moving toward me slowly, gently threading fingers into my fur and stroking my side. The pit of my stomach leapt into my heart at her touch, awakening a path though the center of me as I met her eyes.
“Did I hurt you?” she asked, concern and confusion etched on her face as she took in my wolf form and my sudden presence outside her house.
I shook my head. As the shock left me, embarrassment set in along with a concern of my own – I hadn’t been caught prowling in my wolf form since I was a cub. But that curiosity could wait. I had to explain myself now or she would never trust me.
As quickly as I could, I shifted back into my human form.
An initially shocked look from Sydney melted into an impressed gaze as she realized what I was doing. When the shift finished I lay on my back, propped up on my elbows, naked in the grass. Sydney still hovered over me. Her gaze seemed to leave an imprint on my skin as her eyes moved over my body and finally met my eyes.
“I was following some tracks that led to and from the place where I’m staying.” I blurted out. “They were recent and. . .I was just trying to find out who had been over there. I didn’t realize it was you until the moment you sensed me.” I finished.
“Didn’t you get the note I left you on the kitchen table?”
“Uh… no, I didn’t really look around inside.” I could tell a bewildered look was plastered on my face and I tried to look more relaxed.
A smile crossed her face. Finally she rolled back onto her butt and threw her head back infectiously warm laugher. “Well, I thought you’d call first but I guess you’re here either way. The cabin you’re staying in is mine. I went inside to get it ready for you and left a note inviting you to come over for dinner.”
“Oh”. Inwardly, I cursed myself for my impulsiveness. “Okay. I, uh…”
“Why don’t you come inside – I’m sure I’ve got something you can wear.”
“Maybe I should come back later.” I still felt like an intruder.
“Don’t be silly. Come keep me company while I cook.”
I scanned her face and found it reflected the welcome in her words. Two recent shifts and the adrenaline of shock had made my legs feel a bit weak. Another shift would drain my energy, and I certainly didn’t want to walk the mile back to my cabin naked.
“Alright,” I said getting up and following her inside.
The winter solstice festival was well underway when I arrived the following evening. Held at picnic grounds along the shore of the Salton Sea, a large crowd of witches mingled with a few elves, vamps, and humans, while sprites and faeries flitted overhead like tea lights dancing in the dusky sky.
Scanning the crowd I searched for another werewolf, but didn’t notice any. Strange.
I walked through the crowd trying to pick up bits of conversation that would help me pinpoint who the prominent witches in the coven were. They would be the most likely to lead me to the Blood of Lorr.
As I walked among the crowd, I couldn’t help looking for Sydney also. After the awkward beginning, the rest of the afternoon and evening had been surprisingly relaxed. Conversation was flowing comfortably between us. Sydney had an easygoing manner – laughing at my jokes, welcoming my interested questions about her life, and wanting to know more about me in return.
This was complicating everything, I thought. I was here to get information for my pack and I couldn’t get too distracted from my task. Not that I was having much luck picking out the elders of the coven. Everyone was in celebration mode and conversation was light and festive – leaving the matters of the coven for another time, I supposed.
A massive sculpture near the bonfire caught my eye. Curious, I looked at it closely. A figure stood holding a large bunch of herbs in one hand – probably indicating a witch, I thought – and a large femur bone in the other. The femur was held up high overhead. To throw it? Or was it a pose of victory?
“Hi Scout.” Sydney’s voice came from behind me.
Doing nothing to stop my grinning, I turned around. “Hi.” I gestured behind me with my head “What is it?”
“It’s a sculpture for the festival. Do you want to come and meet my friends? We’re set up over by the bonfire”.
An hour later, I had been introduced to dozens of Sydney’s witch friends: a bearded guy named Tom, a round and friendly-faced Zelda, the handsome and outgoing Ben, a pretty and quiet one named Mary, and several others whose names I tried to remember, but I knew I’d have to ask about again.
It was fully dark outside now, and the bonfire was a huge column of fire – warming us and lighting up the whole picnic area.
Sydney came up behind me and nuzzled her mouth into my neck. “There you are”, she said, her lips grazing my skin lightly as a shiver of pleasure moved up and down my neck like teasing fingers. Her blanket wrapped arms folded around me, pulling me against her and encircling us in warmth. Something electric was happening with us and I felt it calling inside me like the full moon.
The bonfire ceremony started. Large bunches of sage were added to the fire. A witch with a large animal skin drum stood up and started a rhythm. Over the next few minutes, several people scattered throughout the crowd joined in, one at a time, slowly adding to the complexity of the rhythm with various drums. Finally, when the drummers reached a jubilant groove, two costumed witches began a dance-like story.
One of them was dressed in a cloak, the traditional dress of witches, and the other was covered in light brown fur, no doubt a werewolf. They danced out a struggle back and forth. Eventually the werewolf overpowered the witch, knocking him down; the wolf was poised over him ready to bite. Then suddenly the witch’s hand reached up into the air and blossomed with a white light. A femur bone appeared in his hand. The wolf character leapt back, and growled in surprise. Standing up, the witch circled the wolf, speaking an incantation. The wolf lunged, but seemed stopped by a force like an invisible wall. Finally, completing the circle the werewolf disappeared.
Cheers erupted from the crowd. Stunned, my mouth dropped open. Recovering, I shut it before I stood out. What the hell had I gotten myself into.
“Don’t worry, there’s a part two,” said Sydney in my ear.
From opposite sides of the fire the witch and the werewolf approached each other once again. The witch drew a line and held out the bone – the werewolf poured blood onto it. The witch handed a lock of hair to the werewolf, and taking it, the werewolf dropped the fur that was covering him. Bowing to each other, they danced again – this time a dance of celebration rather than struggle.
As the ceremony ended, I sat down. The smell of sage filled my nose and the scenes from the story had me feeling uneasy.
Sydney sat down beside me, putting her blanket over the two of us. Hesitantly she put her hand on my leg. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I just. . .haven’t seen that one before.”
“But you know the story, right?” She seemed surprised that I was surprised. How could Russell send me here without telling me more? Should I tell her that our pack was not passing down this story of compromise? Should I pass up the opportunity to find out more?
“I think I understand what I just saw”, I conceded, leaving a little bit of space for me to go either way on this.
Sydney put a hand to my cheek and turned my face to hers. My heart pounded as I felt her breath on my lips. Her eyes caught mine, and easily she read my confusion over what I had seen. “The pact between the witches and werewolves has brought a balance and a peace that has lasted a century. It is that balance we are celebrating tonight.”
As if on cue, the boom and sizzle of fireworks exploded in the distance above us. Neither of us looked up. Slowly I leaned forward, my lips touching hers softly. Something flipped around and curled up low in the very pit of me. Sydney’s hand slid to the back of my head weaving her fingers into my hair, gently pulling my face closer. I slid my hand along her leg toward her waist as I kissed her, pulling her body closer to mine when my hands encircled her waist. A minute later she stopped and rested her forehead against mine with a smile on her lips. My heart danced as I met her green eyes and saw their depths swimming with an emotion to match mine.
“How about I make you some tea at my place?” she asked, searching my eyes.
“Mmm, sounds irresistible.”
Ten minutes later we were at Sydney’s house. She opened the door and deposited her jacket and keys as I crossed the room to flick on a lamp that bathed the room in soft light. Turning around, her eyes met mine with a passionate look as she came toward me, reaching me from across the room in what seemed like two steps. Her lips sought mine as I pulled her to me, our arms and bodies entwining. Soft breasts pressed against mine firmly as her mouth opened to me with a low groan. Her tongue met mine, circling it slowly.
My heart was racing. Sydney kissed my neck as her breathing became thickly drawn and heavy. Hands moved down my back and under my shirt. Her fingertips touched the skin along my waist lightly as she brought her hands around to the front of my jeans and pulled me forward as she stepped back. Eyes holding mine she moved backwards slowly, still pulling me by my jeans. I stepped forward following her as I stripped off my jacket and black t-shirt. Her eyes raked over my breasts hungrily. Still walking towards her I took off my bra and dropped it on the floor.
When we reached her bed she let go of my jeans, unbuttoning and pulling them off. Looking at her, I slowly unraveled the scarf from around her neck and dropped it on the floor somewhere near my bra. My hands slid under her warm winter sweater, as my fingers brushed against skin soft as silk. I pulled the sweater over her head as she worked off her jeans. Spinning my back to the bed she playfully pushed me down. I landed gently, and with a smile born from the swell in my heart I looked up at her – she was absolutely gorgeous. She crawled onto the bed, straddling me. Sitting back, she caught my eye as she slowly removed her bra. My fingers moved lightly up her sides as I brought my hands up to cup and caress her soft full breasts.
Blonde hair spilled over her shoulders and touched the side of my face as she leaned forward to close the distance between us. With the tip of her finger and tongue she traced the edges of my lips. Gently I caught her tongue and pulled it into a deep kiss. With a low moan she moved a thigh firmly between mine as our bodies found a deliciously slow rhythm that was matched by our mouths and tongues.
She brought her lips to my ear. “Scout”, she whispered. Kissing and licking my neck and my breasts, her voice cascaded through my body. Grabbing her waist and holding her against my hips I flipped us over. Sydney’s hands were at the sides of my face again, holding the dark strands of my hair aside, lost in my eyes and pulling my lips to hers.
As we made love, the passion that had coiled in the pit of me unwound and soared between us. And eventually, in the wee hours of morning sleep claimed us.
Stirring from sleep the next morning I awoke to find Sydney sleeping with her head on my shoulder, her face nestled against my neck. My arm was curled around her, and her leg was wrapped over my middle. The sheets wound around our sleeping forms haphazardly, but a thick down blanket kept us nice and warm.
Not moving, I laid in her arms, enjoying the happiness I was feeling. My insides sang and resonated – parts of my soul that I had never physically noticed before felt awakened, touched. If it were night I would run outside and sing about it to the moon, I thought, smiling. But it wasn’t, and so instead I tried to memorize the feel of her body against mine, the exact shape of her beautiful face, the length of her eyelashes, and the color of her full lips. Thinking about one of the stories she told me – about the time she accidentally spelled her eyebrows off – I smiled into her hair.
The phone rang from inside my pants pocket across the room. It was Russell’s ring tone.
Sydney woke up, smiling lazily at me. She curled her legs and arms around me tighter.
My phone rang again. Damn.
“Is that your phone?” she asked, hazy.
“Unfortunately.” I slipped out of bed. It was cold. I threw my clothes on quickly while my phone rang three more times. “Good morning.” I said, finally answering my phone.
“Hi Scout.” Russell’s deep voice was quiet on the other end of the phone. “Things are heating up over here. I’m hoping you have an update for me.”
Glancing at Sydney, I gestured to her that I’d be right back. She stuck out her lip in a pout and then yawned stretching her arms into the warm space I had left behind.
Tearing myself away, I stepped outside and strolled a few feet from the house until I figured I wouldn’t be overheard. I told Russell about the reenactment of the treaty between witches and werewolves at the bonfire. I guessed he had not personally been to the solstice festival before. He knew most of the details about the ceremony, except he hadn’t heard the description of the moment when the werewolf pours blood on the bone the witch held out.
“That makes sense” he said excitedly. “The healing magic of the werewolf bone could keep the blood active.”
“Do you mean maybe the blood is being kept inside a werewolf bone?” I whispered.
Russell wondered out loud where that bone might be kept when a possibility struck me. “The sculpture,” I wondered aloud.
“Where?” Russell asked, his voice suddenly serious.
“Last night it was by the bonfire – but I don’t know if it is still there.”
“Find it,” he ordered. “I’m sending a team down to help in case things get sticky.” The clicking noise told me Russell had hung up.
I stood still for a moment. I hadn’t even had the chance to ask about the treaty. I was unsure, if the chance had come, whether I would have found the nerve to question my Alpha. This plan was unfolding – and it was out of my control. The smell of coffee drifted to me from Sydney’s house and I went back inside wondering what would happen if the witches no longer had the bone; and how Sydney would react if she knew what had brought me here.
I rolled down the windows of my Mustang and let the cool afternoon air hit my face as I headed back to the festival grounds. I had to think.
Sydney said that the treaty had brought balance and peace for the last century. Judging by the ceremony at the festival, exchanging the gifts of blood and hair was a big part of that pact.
On the other hand Russell said he needed the blood to protect our pack. Not only that, but he was my Alpha. Could I disobey his direct order? Question his wisdom?
For now I needed to find out if the sculpture was still at the picnic grounds. If it wasn’t, it would buy me some time to find another solution.
My iPod shuffled to a song by Florence and the Machine, “The Dog Days Are Over”, and I nervously drummed the rhythm on my steering wheel as I drove.
Happiness hit her like a train on a track. Coming towards her – stuck – but still no turning back…
Slowly passing the picnic grounds to check out the scene I found that I had no such luck. Standing like a sentry over the burnt out pile of bonfire ashes was the sculpture. A dozen witches were cleaning up the grounds, picking up trash and loading tables and chairs into pickup trucks.
I pulled into the next parking lot, turned off the ignition and got out of the car – pausing with my hand on the door as I shut it. I took a deep breath. Pushing off I started in the direction of the picnic grounds only to turn my path and pace a circle around my car. Eventually I sat on the trunk and stared out at the Salton Sea, my options seeming as barren as the landscape.
Not long later, the sound of another car approaching snapped me out of my deliberation.
A shiny new truck pulled up and parked in the corner of the lot directly looking at the picnic grounds down the way. Two big shouldered men got out of the car. One of them took a few steps toward the scene of last night’s festival, while the other glanced around. He saw me, but his eyes passed over me quickly.
“Grant – it’s over here! Man, it’s bigger than I remembered it being,” said a male voice.
The guy who had been referred to as Grant walked over next to the other man, seeing where he was pointing. “Yes, that’s it.”
Were they talking about the statue? I scented the air trying to determine if they werewolves, but they were too far away. My hearing was excellent in my human form, but a lot of the increased sense of smell I had as a wolf came from the shape of my muzzle. If they were werewolves, they probably couldn’t smell me either for the same reason – that, or Sydney’s scent mingling on my skin threw them.
“I think it’ll fit in the back of my truck, but we’re gonna need more tie-downs since it’s taller than I thought it would be.”
Anger flared in Grant’s eyes as he stared down his companion. “We don’t have a lot of time. Russell thinks the statue might be the key. He just ordered some of his men down here after it. We’ve got twenty minutes at the most to make sure the coming fight happens in our territory. Otherwise it happens here. Understand?”
My adrenaline spiked. This was Grant as in ‘Grant the Dakota Alpha’. They didn’t seem to know that Russell had already sent me down here. How they knew anything at all was something I’d have to deal with later.
“We passed a little hardware store just a few minutes ago.”
“Let’s get moving then,” said Grant, closing the tailgate to the truck and giving me another quick look.
Shit, I thought as the truck sped off. The last thing I could do was let the Dakota pack get their hands on Lorr’s Blood. He was right – Russell would be forced to try to recover it from their territory, and a fight there would give them a huge advantage. People I loved would die.
Why they wanted to take the whole sculpture was beyond me. It seemed that whoever informed them about our plans had mentioned the statue but not the bone.
An idea hit me. Maybe if I took the bone and then let Grant’s people take the rest of the statue I could buy some time and figure out what to do. It seemed like my only good option.
I ran along the shore of the lake until I reached the bonfire area, trying to look like a jogger to the witches on clean up duty. Stopping, I looked around trying to seem like I didn’t know about last night’s festival and was merely curious. How was I going to get the bone? Maybe I could climb the statue when no one was looking?
I looked around at the dozen or so witches all doing their tasks – moving around, facing various directions. It didn’t seem likely that no one would look this way for long enough to climb up there.
The sculpture was a coppery color, made mostly of cut and welded sheet metal and sections of carved wood that made up the witch’s clothes. The bone seemed like it was resting in the witch’s clasped hand. Hopefully they were worried about harming it and didn’t bolt it on. Looking at the statue I remembered the first time I saw it – how I thought the witch was posed like he was about to throw the bone.
That gave me an idea – maybe I could throw something to hit it out of his hand. Someone might notice me, but it was a lot less likely than getting caught climbing it.
A stack of unburned firewood and kindling sat near the bonfire and I rummaged though it to find a few chunks of wood that were heavy enough to knock it, but not too heavy to aim my throw. Picking one up, I took aim and hit the witch right on the forehead. A loud ‘clunk’ reverberated and threatened to give me away. Quickly I ducked down like I was tying my shoe or looking at the bonfire ashes. This was insane.
A moment later I looked up and around. No one seemed to be paying attention to me, but unfortunately Grant’s truck was pulling into the lot only about hundred yards away.
I stood up threw another chunk of wood – harder this time so it would go as high as I was aiming.
Success! Hitting the hand square on the side, the bone was shoved out and fell to the ground.
Trying to not to attract attention, I jogged over to it and picked it up in a swoop and started jogging back to the water’s edge to make my way back to the car.
“Stop!” yelled someone behind me.
Startled, I spun around to see four witches approaching me slowly with white light cracking in their palms.
“Did you really think we would leave something so important completely unguarded, my young one?” mocked one of the witches surrounding me, a woman with long brown hair and blue eyes.
I turned to run, but green light in her palm flared and turned into a solid whip that flew at me, lashing at my feet and making me fall down. A hollow thud sounded in my head as my face hit the silty dirt and some of the grit got in my mouth.
Panicking I scrambled backwards pushing with my legs, and rolling over into a crouch I shifted into my wolf.
In a heartbeat Grant and the other werewolf were in the air behind the witches – already in their wolf form and pouncing. Their large paws swiped purposefully, tearing wide gashes and knocking down at least two of the witches. The wolves landed with their eyes on me.
Without hesitation I grabbed the bone between my teeth and took off, running as fast as I could. The fur along my back stood on end as I felt the crackle of power from the spells the witches unleashed. The dirt before my feet seemed to bubble as dozens of scorpions came out of the ground with tails curled forward ready to strike at my paws. I focused on making my strides the right length to avoid landing on any of them as I sprinted on. Growls, shrieks, and shouted incantations resounded at my back. As I gained a little distance I could hear that one of the weres had broken free and was following me.
I passed the lot where my car was parked and aimed for the surrounding hills. I concentrated all my energy into making my strides as long and powerful as I could, but the massive wolf behind me was gaining ground. All at once an explosion of sound vibrated my fur as a silver wolf entered the corner of my vision, coming down at me from above with his fangs bared. His jaw landed on my throat just as a bolt of angry red light hit him square in the back with a sizzle. Yelping, his jaw released my throat as suddenly as it had landed. The smell of burnt hair and singed flesh touched my nose as I pushed forward without breaking my stride. A couple of miles later I knew I had left the witch and the silver were behind me.
Hours later the sun was setting. The rattlesnakes left their perches on the mountain’s warm rocks and so did I. I hid the bone in a pile of rocks far above the city of Indio and memorized the geographic features of the spot. It was pitch black by the time I neared the parking lot where I had left my car – the smell of blood in the soil told me I was close. This was a disaster that I had yet to figure out how to fix. I had been caught. People had been hurt.
Finally my Mustang came into view: a solitary figure in a pool of artificial light. Exhausted I reached the edge of the parking lot and spent several long moments confirming that I was alone. Using the last of my energy I shifted back into my human form so that I could drive my car.
Stepping into the light I walked to my car, two feet away when something moving on the car’s hood stopped me in my tracks. Sydney’s arm was making a slow sweeping motion as if pulling a veil back from her head – and suddenly there she was, sitting on the hood of my car. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked at me, eyes welling up with tears.
“Sydney, I …”
She cut me off, “Don’t bother, Scout. How could you do this? I can’t believe I …,” she stopped, her voice choking up, tears streaming down her beautiful cheeks. She took a deep breath.
“Wait, Sydney – listen it wasn’t me!” I pleaded. I could explain this.
I took a step towards her and opened my mouth, but she was quicker. Suddenly off of the hood of my car she stood up and wiped the tears from her cheeks angrily.
She came toward me, her words coming out a mix of laughter and barely contained tears “Oh, right. It wasn’t you,” she spat sarcastically. “My mother – now in the hospital recovering from her wounds – described the wolf she saw, who did this.” Her voice barely wavered now although a tear still escaped her to roll down her cheek. “I was just outside her hospital room, so I overheard her description clearly.” Laughing and angry laugh now, she continued. “I thought there had to be some mistake. I went looking for you. Actually worried about you! And finally I came here. Sure enough – here is you car,” she waved her arm at it angrily, “and Here. You. Are.” She finished, taking the final step towards me and pointing her finger at my chest in emphasis with her words.
I took a step back. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Her mother had been hurt in the attack. If she had been one of the witches the wolves had taken down at the start of the fight, she probably hadn’t even seen the other weres. But someone had. I could explain this – I had to – I couldn’t lose what I had found with Sydney.
“I didn’t attack anyone. It wasn’t even my pack.”
She cut me off, yelling now “They saw you taking The Offering of Peace! The protection charm we placed on it identified you!”
“Sydney, please listen – I had to take it to protect it!”
“Where is it then? Haven’t you already given it to your Alpha?”
“No.” Tears of my own were welling in my eyes now.
“Don’t you dare cry! Don’t you dare keep lying to me!”
Her green eyes glittered in the street light and I searched them hoping to find a spark of doubt, a chance that she would believe me. Cold anger glared back at me, and my heart shattered at the distance in them.
“Sydney, no – you’ve got it wrong…” I reached out for her shoulder but she stopped me with one hand on my chest.
“Answer me one question then.”
I paused, afraid of what was coming.
Her eyes seemed to harden into stone as she continued. “When I was looking for you, I ran into some of the witches investigating the case. Seems they captured some weres from your pack as they entered our domain. One of them says you came down here looking for The Offering. He said they sent you to me knowing I would like you. Knowing I would introduce you to my people. Scout, tell me that isn’t true!”
I hesitated. It was true, even though it wasn’t my perspective, my intention. This sounded so ugly, but … the question was all wrong. My mind was racing, trying to find a way to word it differently.
“Tell me that isn’t true!” she repeated sounding scared this time, a horrified look on her face.
“No. That’s not what happened…,” I started.
Before I could say anything else a spell was on her lips. “Illumens!” she shouted.
The white crackling light of her spell hit my chest as I felt the spell penetrate my thoughts. A question burned in my mind: Is this true?
And once again, before I could even begin to shape my thoughts, the answer resounded in me. Yes.
“Scout, no!” Sydney doubled over at the middle as if I had hit her in the gut. “I can’t believe what you took from us…what you took from me.” Sobbing now, she looked up at me and raged. “Get out of here!”
My heart broke for her. For me. I did this. I failed. Worst of all, she would never forgive me.
She stood up straight, a cold fury burning in her shining eyes as silent waves of energy pulsed from her palm. “May the soles of your feet be cursed to never touch the earth! May your pack know what it is to break the balance of peace! And may everyone who sets their eyes on you know that you are a beast!” her shout giving way to sobs as she spoke the incantations of her spell.
When the last word was spoken, a pain blazed though the core of me. My legs crumpled as my feet felt crushed. Panicked, I looked at Sydney crying on the asphalt next to my car. Blackness seeped into the edges of my vision, and falling backwards I passed out.