I Stalked Him Back
I glance down at my gripped phone in my hand and look at the small dot, which is the camera.
Usually Jerry would be able to remotely turn this on. He has access to my speakers so he can hear everything going on around me.
I then glance up at the front of the car to the dash camera, which I also know Jerry could hack into and monitor.
I peek out the side window and look at the traffic cameras and building surveillance we pass, and the reason behind my uneasiness hits me so hard that I forget to breathe for several lung-burning moments.
Even though I considered this possibility last night, I’ve now had my suspicions all but confirmed. This is the first time in ages that I’m out in public on my own, and I don’t have Jerry for backup.
He’s always watching, always listening, and I know if I feel uncomfortable or need him he’s always just one call away.
If anyone tries to hurt or harass me, he’s already getting me help, while identifying the asshole and no doubt draining his back accounts and erasing his digital existence.
But right now I’m completely alone.
I feel like I’m on a tightrope and suddenly my safety net has been yanked away.
This is different to my solo stalking night walks. I’ve always known that if I truly needed Jerry, I could easily make him aware of my presence.
But now he’s gone, and the weight that settles over me from this revelation would likely bring me to my knees if I weren’t already seated.
Where has Jerry gone? Has he truly left me all alone?
And more terrifyingly, what if something is seriously wrong? What if he’s in danger?
Authors: Scott Mooney
Genre: Fairy Retelling
Publisher: Bleeding Ink Publishing
Publication Date: August 13th, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PRBlurb:
Briar Pryce has the power to change the emotions of others by handing
them a rose. It is a talent that has done surprisingly little for her,
besides landing her a dead-end enchantment delivery job and killing any
chance she had with her childhood-crush-turned-roommate. Worst of all,
her ability might be responsible for getting her best friend transformed
into a cat via a cursed muffin basket. Needless to say, Briar is nowhere
near happily-ever-after. But thatâs just life as a twentysomething in
the Poisoned Apple, New York Cityâs lost borough of fairy-tale wonder
and rent-controlled magic.
When Briar reluctantly agrees to help find a princessâs kidnapped
boyfriend in exchange for reversing the curse on her friend, she gets
the heroic quest she never really wanted. Unfortunately, the life of a
noble heroine is not all itâs cracked upÂÂ to be â the hours blow, and
Briar suspects that the Royal family employing her might be evil,
Republican, or both. To complete the suckage, a killer smoke magician is
stalking Briar as she searches both the Poisoned Apple and Manhattan for
the missing boy. As tensions between the Poisoned Apple royalty ignite
and civil war looms, Briar must figure out how to write her own happy
ending--or sheâll just be ending.
Scott Mooney is a writer, improviser, and director from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even before he could hold a pencil, he dictated stories to his parents. He currently lives in Chicago after time in New York, Los Angeles, England, and a dozen fantasy worlds of his own creation. His debut novel, Pricked, was written during his studies at Cornell University and Oxford University.
Author Links: Web: https://scottmooneywriter.com/
Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/4NQQMz
Victoria Flynn is a wife, mother, author, book enthusiast, scientist, and believer in cosmic balance and magic. She loves traveling and is an unapologetic foodie. When she's not writing, she can be found with her nose buried in a good book or outside enjoying the unpredictable Michigan weather.
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Also be sure to Sign-up for her Newsletter here!
The Minimalist Babe: Tidying-Up Your Whole Life
Why am I writing this?
I’m not one to preach. In fact, I find the act of trying to convince someone of a different lifestyle quite unnatural. Everyone has their own path in life and their own timing. I understand the principles of minimalism may not be for everyone. You may now be wondering why then have I taken the time to write this book? The thing is that I believe everyone is a minimalist at heart; we were simple at birth, after all.
I often hear others reminisce about the old days. How life was simple and vivid during childhood. Music was heavenly, the outdoors was our domain and ice cream was everything! There was an authentic nuance to life that now most of us only have access to through our memories; the bitter-sweet nostalgia.
This book is about reviving that childlike glee. It’s about happiness and what it really takes to be happy. It’s about realizing that less is more, and about letting go of your possessions and the depressions that come with it. It’s about doing away with the unessential so we can concentrate on the things that are truly important to us. Finally, it’s about living in the present and being ready to accept the wonderful things waiting to reach you.
Our need for more: One of society’s most grave and (until now) ignored illnesses.
The Minimalist Babe is about saying goodbye to the extras in life from time to time, finding happiness in having less, and finding your inner badass through your newly acquired freedom. It is the culmination of all my research; a toolbox of sorts filled with tips, techniques, exercises, and prompts that have helped me be my most authentic self.
When I’m not writing, I spend my time nurturing relationships and learning new skills. I focus on being healthy and purposeful and it’s working like magic. I am in the happiest phase of my life and want the same for each one of you. This book is an attempt to manifest that vision. Let us cut out the bitter side of nostalgia and bite into the sweetness of life that is now
Hybrid: Adapt or Die
A man in a white lab coat turned to me with a smile. A tie-dye bandanna held back his long, graying hair. Doctor Helix was an older man somewhere in his 60s, but still had the hippie heart of a Dead Head. Wiry in build, he was a dead ringer for Bob Weir. Doctor Helix flashed me a peace sign as he rifled through a stack of vinyl records on a desk. Selecting one, he drew a joint from his lab coat and put Sugar Magnolia on the record player, adjusting the needle as he expertly lit the joint with one hand.
“It’s always best to remember the dead with a tribute song and a little smoke,” Doctor Helix explained. “Makes the job less of a job, you know.”
I smiled, uncertain if he was talking to me, or maybe to himself.
He pulled back the sheet and blew smoke into the dull-gray face of one of the dead aliens. “Here’s to you, buddy,” he whispered, his expression soft. “Had some good times, man. I’ll miss ya.”
I stared at the lifeless body in wonder as I observed this new and unknown species of alien. The skin shimmered with hints of blue against its smooth gray complexion. Its closed eyes were set deep within a triangular-shaped face that tapered to a sharp point. The alien’s spidery limbs hung motionless over the side of the metal table. I studied the delicate, elongated fingers that nearly touched the floor, its thumb almost as long as its index finger. I was surprised at how humanoid it appeared; they didn’t look too different from humans, just more exaggerated in comparison.
“He was a friend of yours, Doctor Helix?” I questioned, watching him.
“You young kids and your formal titles,” he scoffed. “Man, call me Doc Do Good. I might be old enough to be your grandpappy, but I ain’t no old fart.”
I liked him instantly.
“Yeah, kid, he was my friend. They all were.” He was silent for a few beats before shaking his head. “Shouldn’t have gone down this way. Good people, man, shouldn’t have happened.”
My eyebrows shot up to my hairline. “You called the aliens people.”
“Well, hell, man,” he answered with a shrug. “They weren’t aliens to me. They were the same as us—better even.” Doc pointed to one of the cabinets lining the far wall. “Lab coats are in there, kid.”
I opened the cabinet, selecting from the wide array of liquid-proof radiation aprons, accompanied by radiation attenuation gloves. The Doc turned with an encouraging nod, indicating for me to suit up. Selecting one, I pulled it over my uniform of black cargo pants and shirt.
“Grab one of those lead face shields as well, kid. The ones with the lamp attached.” He touched his head, noticing he was absent a mask. “And kid, grab one more for me,” he called. “Don’t want any splatter getting in my eyes.”
I selected another face shield and passed it to the doctor. I’ve always been intrigued by autopsies. It’s fascinating to see the world inside our skin; the mechanics to the amazing anatomy that keep the human body alive and functioning. But I’ve always found alien autopsies unnerving. Those autopsies set me on edge. Seeing a new system—an unknown and usually much more complex structure of a living creature not from this earth—both astonished and troubled me. Every time I look inside an alien I am overwhelmed by the vulnerability of humans, how simple and trivial our bodies are compared to an extraterrestrial.
Doc rolled a free-standing surgical light over the cadaver of Species X as he activated his own head lamp and pulled down the lead acrylic shield to protect his face. He took out a recorder to begin his dictation.
“It’s the fifth of November of the year 2025. Agent Van and I are going to perform a Species X autopsy on Phylax Number 571. Number 571 is roughly seven feet, weighing in at 140 pounds.” Doc looked over at me, a scalpel poised in his hands. “Ready, kid?”
“Yeah, Doc, open him up.” I slid the shield over my face, ready for anything. I’d witnessed many autopsies, but this was my first experience with Species X.
With practiced fingers Doc sliced a smooth Y-incision into the alien’s chest, standard procedure during alien and human autopsy. A thick fluid oozed from the cadaver, and I coughed over the gagging stench, the taste of rotten anchovies coating my mouth. “Looks like thick cream,” I said as I rubbed the viscous substance between my gloved fingers.
Doc didn’t look up. “They don’t have blood like us, kid,” he explained as he worked. “I call it ‘lactrum.’ It has more nutrients than any mineral or vitamin we know of. Lactrum carries more genetic coding then all the species of our entire planet put together.” He paused to gaze down at the alien with what I imagined was wonder. “These guys could live forever, never aging, never falling sick with illness.”
Doc waved me closer. “Take a good look, kid. See how vulnerable our God made us compared to Species X.”
They’re a Match
For a limited time only, the kindle books will be a total of $3 for 3 books
The drive back to London from Edinburgh was a seven hour straight shot down the M6. We could have flown, paid someone to drive the Ferrari back. But making a road trip of it felt fun, and delightfully ordinary to me. The lowlands in winter were stunning—fog on the moor, and frost turning the grass into fields of spired icicles. Then the Lake District, with its rolling hills and water formations. Once you approached Manchester and farther inland, the scenery of course become industrial, but Zed loved it nonetheless. We drove the day, eating crisps and sweets and listening to music of every genre.
Until the quotidian bubble of obscurity and normality popped. We pulled up to a beautiful Georgian terraced home glowing in the light of a winter sunset. I’d only seen the façade in digital photos, and in person it looked even more classic and frightfully expensive. As I stared at our home out the window, I tried to hide my ethical war with its opulence.
Right after we stole away to Prestonpans and I’d told him about the baby, Zed asked if we could buy a place and make it ours. No strings, no pushing me to forever, but somewhere we could live as long as I wanted to live with him, where we could be a family. I preferred to blame my acceptance on hormones and gratitude that Zed hadn’t died from being attacked. But perhaps I was just growing up and moving past my fear of letting down my walls of independence. I hadn’t promised him forever, but he also hadn’t asked for it, either.
Which was a relief. Because while I knew everyone who looked at us was only waiting for the engagement announcement, I was still reeling from falling for Zed in the first place. From the insanity of our dynamic in Boston to the violence that plagued us when we reunited in London. Now I was five months along to a world class footballer, and moving into our exorbitant Georgian townhome, when all I’d planned for in life was to be a contented cat lady spinster who slept under the desk in her lab and vanquished diseases.
I stared up at the house, located in the posh historic London neighborhood of Bloomsbury. The place had to have cost him millions, the thought of which made my stomach sour with the kind of nausea that rivaled my morning sickness. I’d felt similarly the first time he showed me pictures of the place while we had been in Scotland.
“Nairne.” He sighed, head falling back on the pillows in my bed. “We need somewhere to live. You go to school there, I work there. That’s how much it costs.”
I swallowed the objections that clawed at my throat when he pulled up photos of the property’s interior in the throes of construction. It looked atrociously involved, and that meant atrociously expensive. “I know that, Zed, but aren’t there more reasonable neighborhoods we could live in?”
Massaging his brow, Zed turned to face me. “Why are you so uncomfortable with me spending the money I’ve earned?”
I stared at him, at a loss for words.
“Nairne, you deserve to live in a home that’s easy to move around in, that’s comfortable and safe, that’s close to your schooling and my work. Don’t you believe that?”
Zed smiled and, as always, it felt like the sun slipping out from behind a cloud, warming my soul. “Then let me give it to you, because I can. Because I want us to have a good life.” He leaned in, softly kissing the corners of my mouth, the tip of my nose, my cupid’s bow. “We deserve that.”
Zed watched me with a guarded expression as he let himself out of the Ferrari, and it broke me from my thoughts. Hands on my belly, I replayed what I’d been telling myself as I gave the situation a good, long think—this was about our child’s life, opportunities, and wellbeing. And if this home was a little expensive, it kept us safe and allowed us to be together as a family. Who was I to demean that? The baby did what felt like a summersault and I laughed to myself.
“You agree then?” I asked.
Zed had come around to my side to open the passenger door, and ducked his head in. “Sorry, I missed that.”
“I was just thinking aloud, and the baby did some acrobatics. I took it to mean he or she agrees.”
Zed frowned and focused on my lips. “Agrees on what? That their dad is a vile cog in the capitalist machine making London even more prohibitively expensive and elite?”
I sighed and scratched my nails against his scruff. “No. I’ve come around to the idea.”
Zed smiled. Then he swept me up and carried me to the door, reminiscent of the bride and groom at the threshold. The door was a shiny black lacquer with fresh brass fixtures. White brick, new, dark-paned windows twinkling like cheery stars against the evening sky. It looked like a home. Our home.
“Mika!” her sister called up. Claire’s voice echoed in the empty mansion. “Are you ready to go? We’ve got to get you settled today!”
There was so much to take care of…it felt like they’d just barely gotten everything turned in after winter solstice and yule.
Starting in the spring semester…Mika wasn’t looking forward to it.
Instead of responding she grabbed her things and dragged them down the stairs.
Claire grabbed the trunk from her when Mika hit the main floor. Her sister tried to smile. “Don’t worry. You’re going to love the university. It’s like high school, but a thousand times better.”
Mika gritted her teeth together and still didn’t say anything.
She’d hated high school and everything about it. If Selene was a prodigy, then Mika was the most mediocre, average witch to ever attend their high school. She was the same age as Selene and lightyears behind her in magical skill.
It didn’t really matter though in the long run. She’d just barely passed the entrance exams to the University of Morgana. At least she hadn’t completely tarnished her family’s name.
Mika had gotten a perfect score on the theory of magic. It was so unprecedented they’d tested her again with a proctor watching every move she made.
The test had been completely different, and she’d still aced it.
But the practical? Ugh, she didn’t want to think about that. Actual magic had always been meh for her. Lighting a candle took concentration on her part. A three-year-old could do it with barely a thought.
“The door to the university is in the coven building,” Claire explained as they made their way through the foyer. “I’ll go with you, but you’ll have to cross on your own. Someone needs to look after Grandma until she decides to rejoin the land of the living.”
“She’s still alive,” Mika murmured. “That’s more than we can say for our parents and brother.”
“That’s not fair,” Claire snapped, letting the driver open the front door for them. “Dad and Jacob are still alive. They’re just stripped of their powers and shunned.”
Mika popped open her umbrella and glared up at the never-ending rain. Where she was going would be colder, but at least it wouldn’t be raining. “Dad and Jacob are dead to me after what they did to us and Mom. Let’s not pretend we’d ever have them over for dinner.”
Her sister didn’t say anything to that, and Mika didn’t expect her to.
It wasn’t fair on Claire, but she was still so angry. Mika lived that moment over and over and had been all fall and winter. Then sitting at her mother’s side for months and simply watching her waste away…
No matter how much she loved her mother, Mom hadn’t loved them enough to fight and live and…just be around. She’d given up on everything even though Mika had been right there every, single, day.
Claire followed after her to the fancy black car without an umbrella, letting the rain mess with her perfect hair. She let the driver take Mika’s trunk from her and stood there in the rain. Mika knew in that moment she should say sorry, but she was just so angry and bitter and devastated. It would only rip her apart even more to apologize for saying what she felt.
Once everything was loaded up, Claire kissed Mika on the cheek gently and stepped back. “On second thought I should stay with Grandma. Who knows what an empty mansion will do to her. I wish you the best of luck, baby sis. Write home and all that.”
Mika held her sister’s gaze and it was like looking in a broken mirror. They both had the same nearly white-blonde hair that was their family signature, ice blue eyes, and skin so smooth and creamy people often stopped them and asked them what their secret was. Their next question was if they were twins.
Claire was only an inch taller than her, but she had the better tits.
“If you need anything or…” Mika trailed off. She almost couldn’t say it out loud. “If anything else happens, call me. My phone is always on.”
Her sister nodded and Mika got in the car. Claire didn’t slam her door closed, but it was forceful just the same. Mika flinched and regretted those words she couldn’t take back, even if she wanted to.
The last six months had exacerbated everything she’d been hiding for the last three years and now…
It felt like everything she’d shoved down and ignored was all frothing to the surface, ready to boil over and she couldn’t pretend anymore.
Mika didn’t know how to pretend to be happy, or how to be…normal.
What was normal in the witch world anyway?
Kenzie was a void witch after spending most of her life a pariah – an abomination.
And up until she’d announced it to the coven no one had even known void witches existed or what a void was exactly – a witch who didn’t have powers, but could take them. Something the universe had created for balance no doubt. Mika didn’t know the details of a void’s skills, but knowing someone could take her magic…
Things were changing. She just had to get through this and onto the other side.
It would get better. It had to.
“Take me to the coven building, please,” she asked the driver, words barely above a whisper. Speaking out loud always seemed so harsh in the sudden quiet that had befallen her family the moment her mother had fainted in that fateful meeting.
As soon as Mika got settled on campus she would call her sister and apologize. But right now she was still pissed and the only thing that would come of her calling her sister was an argument. Claire didn’t deserve that – not with everything she had to deal with now.
Claire was going to be the next Marshall matriarch, and thank the Fates.
Mika didn’t want it.
She didn’t deserve it.
Beasts of the Frozen Sun
Something made me stop.
There, sitting atop my father’s black warhorse, was a Westlander unlike any other. Long ashen hair trailed behind him. He was bare chested, as if he didn’t fear the threat of blades on his skin, and he radiated a sleek, savage sort of beauty.
His gaze locked on me.
The Savage prodded his mount. Leaning to one side, he brought his axe crashing down into the Sons of Stone who ran at him, wielding his weapon like an extension of himself. My clan’s warriors fell. Blood splashed in waves across his skin.
His eyes never left mine. My limbs were heavy as boulders, stiff as plaster.
A voice called my name. Rhys rushed toward me, sword in hand. His eyes darted from me to the Savage, trying to reach me first.
The horse was coming. My legs wouldn’t move.
The Savage veered at the last second, passing between Rhys and me, so close his calf brushed my arm, and I shivered. He circled his horse back in our direction, and Rhys grabbed me, yanking me forward. The warhorse’s hooves pounded, nearly on top of us. We only made it a few steps before Rhys stumbled and choked, eyes widening. His hand slipped from my arm. His sword fell into the grass.
A battle-axe was buried between his shoulders.
My scream was the raw, wrenching keen of an animal. I caught Rhys as he collapsed, lowering him to the ground. I looked around wildly, calling for Father and Garreth.
The Savage leaped off his horse.
“Stay away!” I let go of Rhys and picked up his sword.
With a swift kick, the Savage knocked the weapon from my grip. I drew the dagger, and he slapped it away too. He pulled me to him, smelling my hair, running his fingers through it. I hammered my fists against him, but it did nothing. This close, I saw every detail of his face, his body. I absorbed them through a haze of shock.
Older than Garreth, younger than Father. Tall, muscled, with thick hair hanging down his back in braided ropes of silvery-white. Eyes a shade of greenish-gold, like a cat’s. Black ink crawling across one entire side of his body: up his stomach, chest, and neck, then back down the length of his arm to his fingertips, coiling along one jaw and cheek, to his forehead, disappearing into his scalp. Knotted patterns, with intricately etched claws and tails and reptilian heads interwoven between the twisted links.
If the other Westlanders were frost giants, he was a leviathan; if they were beasts, he was their king.
I struggled feebly, my palms smacking his chest. Anguish had torn my mind wide open, left my abilities untethered; my consciousness plunged into the depths of his soul. Except what I dove into was nothing. Colorless, shapeless, void of sensation. The space was starkly, infinitely empty. A barren abyss.
The Savage had no soul.
I pulled my hands free, snapping back into my body as the Savage grasped my chin. “What you see, soul-reader?” The words sounded cumbersome to his mouth. He took hold of my wrist, bending it to expose the scar of flame Reyker had marked me with, laughing like my scar was a joke meant to offend him. “He is here.”
The Savage thrust one of his hands into my hair, holding my head still, and the other tightened around my waist, crushing me against him. He pulled a delicate knife from his belt, pushing my hair back and sliding the stiletto behind my ear. The blade bit into my flesh in short, deep cuts. He was carving me. Marking me, just as Reyker had, only this felt far more violent. I whimpered as blood dripped down my neck. “Mine,” he said.
A threat and a promise.
Bane of Tenebris
Tala’s chest hurt from running. Unfamiliar screams filled her ears, shifting into angry snarls and growls. Something rammed her hard enough to knock her down, but she quickly recovered and continued to run. Black shapes surrounded her, lashing out with their claws, leaving painful bites across her skin.
Exhausted, Tala collapsed. As she lay on the ground, her vision blurred and faded from the dark images to one of an angelic-faced man with dirty blonde hair.
Tala opened her eyes, free from the fractured memories, finding she no longer lay on the ground in the woods. Groaning, she tried to push herself onto her elbows to take in her surroundings and her condition.
She looked down to find herself naked, half covered in thick blankets, and her wounds cleaned and wrapped.
Lifting her eyes to the rest of the room, she saw a round, black wood burning stove in the corner. In its maw an orange fire glowed.
When the door opened, Tala jerked her attention towards the noise of the creaking hinges. The same man she thought she only dreamed of walked in carrying a plate of food and extra bandages.
Polished, sculpted muscles lay scarcely hidden beneath the white undershirt he wore. The faded, dark blue jeans sat low on his hips. The features of his face remained soft, yet Tala could see they were worn by time.
She felt her cheeks heat the longer she stared. The only imperfections were the jagged scars covering the copper skin of his arms.
“Oh, you’re awake. I’m glad. I began to wonder if you would wake at all,” the strange man said as he set the plate on the table next to the bedside and grabbed the bandages.
Tala backed away so quickly she underestimated the distance and fell over the bed’s edge, landing to the floor with a THUD!
The man clenched one eye closed, hissing through his teeth. “I’m sorry. That looked rather unpleasant.”
The man strode around the other side of the bed and took a knee in front of her. His gentle eyes met hers. In a tender voice, he said. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Alexander Kain. May I ask your name?”
Kain held out his hand to help her up.
“Tala. My name is Tala,” Tala replied, taking Kain’s hand. “Where am I and how did I get here?
“You’re in my home. I found you injured in the woods not far from here. You’ve been unconscious for almost a week now,” Kain said. He took the food from the bedside table and setting it down in front of her. He followed with his own question, “Do you know how you came to be in the woods?”
Tala rubbed her head, groaning. The images from the dream returned to her, causing her to tremble. “I…I remember running. There were black shapes. I don’t remember anything before that.”
Kain helped Tala sit back down on the bed. “These black shapes. Do you recall something strange about them?”
“They moved fast. I remember the stings of pain each time they got close.”
Kain sat down next to her on the bed. “It’s okay. It may take time for your memories to return. I’m not sure how long you were out there. Try to get some food and rest. I will come back later to check on your injuries.”
“Wait. Where am I? What city?”
“Big Timber. About a mile outside of it to be specific,” Kain replied.
“Big Timber?” Tala’s eyes widened. “I was trying to get here.”
“Get some rest and eat. We can talk more later.” Kain departed the room without saying another word.
Kain leaned against the wooden railing of his covered porch, his eyes focused on the line of trees around the perimeter of his cabin. In the shadows, he made out glowing eyes staring from beyond the gloom. Snarls could be heard above the silence.
The lights of a black Mustang could be seen driving up the gravel road towards the cabin.
He soon recognized it, grinning. “Well, well, well. It seems I’m suddenly very popular.”
Kain waited for the car to stop and the engine turned off before descending the wooden stairs.
Gabriel stepped out of the driver’s side, running a hand through shoulder length, curly dark hair. “It’s good to see you, old friend.” He commented in a thick European voice, embracing Kain.
“You as well. What brings you so far out of your pack’s territory?” Kain asked, his eyes never leaving the trees.
Gabriel followed Kain’s line of sight. “You see them as well?”
“Yes. As of yet, they have not ventured any closer. I cannot be sure of how long that will last. Come, we can talk inside.” Kain motioned Gabriel towards the front door.
When they got inside, Tala sat in the living room in front of the fire with a cup of water in her hands, wrapped in a borrowed blanket. She jumped when Kain came in with Gabriel.
Gabriel whistled at seeing how pretty the young woman was. “Who’s this?”
Kain shook his head, sighing and reaching the heel of his hand to the side of his head, eyes turned towards the ceiling. “Honestly, Gabriel, must you really?”
Gabriel shrugged, holding his hands up as he approached Tala. “I won’t hurt you. My name is Gabriel Locke. I’m Kain’s friend.” Gabriel held out his hand. Tala waited for a nod from Kain before she reached to shake it. “There, see? What’s your name?”
Tala told him.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Gabriel kissed her hand before addressing Kain. “Kain, I wish I came here to catch up, but I’m afraid that isn’t the case.”
“I imagined it wouldn’t be. You rarely come to make a social call. What is it?” Kain sat down in the recliner while Gabriel chose to sit on the floor.
“Ramona contacted me,” Gabriel said. A low rumble in the back of his throat. “Stoker survived the battle at the Stones and slithered to the Cardozas in Great Falls. He’s informed Anthony of the events that happened here. So far, it doesn’t appear to Ramona that Anthony even cares.”
Kain listened to Gabriel go into the details about how Anthony Cardoza, the Don of Great Falls, began to search for an item of unknown origin. His escapades caused horrendous damages to the lycan packs surrounding the city.
During the conversation, Kain’s eyes never left Tala. Her actions indicated signs of familiarity with the situation.
“What is the damage so far, Gabriel?” Kain asked.
Tears began to fall down Tala’s face. Out of the blue, she commented on how the Don began slaughtering the pack, recalling instances of smells of smoke and copper. Black shapes ripped and tore flesh from bone amidst crumbling cinders of houses lycans used to live in peace.
Gabriel pushed his legs underneath himself to stand. “That about sums it up. Ramona says Desdemona is trying to reign Anthony in, but her efforts are going unheard. Whatever he’s looking for, he wants it enough to commit genocide.”
Kain shoved himself up from his chair so strongly, the force sent the legs skidding across the wood floors. “We will not let this go unchallenged. Gabriel, give me two days and I will return to the battlefield. For now, considering our unwanted guests, you should stay for the night. Return to your pack in the morning. They will need you.”
Gabriel nodded, retiring to one of the guest rooms Kain often let him use when he visited.
After Gabriel left the room, Tala watched Kain walk into the kitchen. Curious, she got up to follow him and peeked around the doorframe to find Kain staring out of the window above the sink.
“You don’t have to hide. Come in,” he said in the same tender voice he used in the room upstairs.
Tala walked into the kitchen, sitting in the chair closest to Kain. She stared at his arms, taking in every jagged scar tarnishing his skin. She wanted to ask where he got them but held herself back.
“You said your last name is Kain? I’m not sure where, but I’ve heard it before.”
Kain pulled up a chair and sat in front of her, his elbows resting on his thighs. “Have you? It’s an unusual name around here.”
“Yes. I heard stories about someone named Kain from the elders of my pack. They called him Penta-something,” she closed her eyes trying to remember.
When their eyes met, Tala could see how sad he looked. “I think so. Did you know him?”
Kain closed his eyes. A remorseful sigh blew through his nose as he rose from the chair. “It does not matter. Be ready. In two days, I take you to Big Timber.”
The following morning, Gabriel left after having coffee and talking with Kain over breakfast. He hadn’t been gone long before a rustling and clanging from outside made Kain focus on the window overlooking the shed he usually prepared his catches in.
“They have finally come closer.”
“They?” Tala asked. She glanced around, her brows lowered in fear, scooting closer to Kain.
As he headed to the front door, Kain spoke of the black shapes Tala mentioned, labeling them as werewolves and being sure they followed the commands of someone. He put on his jacket and went outside to confront the monsters tearing his supply shed apart.
Kain stayed close to the side of the cabin and snuck around the perimeter until his shed came into view.
Werewolves ripped and tore at the wooden walls of the shed, tearing meat from drying racks and fighting over meat they took from the overturned freezer.
A slight rustle in the tree line behind him brought Kain’s attention to the new visitor. The large wolf form identified him as a lycan, not a werewolf.
Whites overtook Kain’s eyes at the realization of the familiar black fur. No, it cannot be.
The lycan grinned, his fangs dripping with saliva over dark gums. Triangular ears stiffened towards the sky, deep orange eyes the color of a burning sunset thinned with satisfaction. Something about him seemed distorted; defiled as though he were bathed in Barghast’s shadow. In a flash of fur and shadows, the lycan vanished into the trees.
A moment in his past flashed in his mind. The howling of a lycan in pain, the taste of blood, an angry promise of vengeance. Rage filled gales of wind and rain whipped, stinging with the icy knives of winter. Those eyes. I remember those eyes.
Tala jumped as Kain burst through the door, slamming it shut. He ran up the stairs only to return with what appeared to be a camper’s bag. He ordered Tala to be prepared to go, his words laced with urgency.
“What’s going on?”
“There’s no time. We need to go.” Kain rustled through a drawer, grabbing the keys to his car. Handing Tala some clothes to borrow, Kain told her to wait for him to call to her.
Tala wanted to argue but resigned to getting dressed and waiting until she heard Kain call to her from outside before following him.
Kain stood next to the open driver’s side door, focusing his eyes on the surrounding area. He waved his hand, beckoning her towards the car.
Tala ran down the stairs, brushing her hair away from her face to keep it from hindering her sight.
She got into the car as the first werewolf jumped towards her, snarling. Tala raised her arms to her face, prepared to be struck with its claws. When no attack came, she opened her eyes to see Kain restraining the flailing monster, his strong arms around its ribs.
Kain growled as he tightened his forearm around the thrashing monster’s neck. A sickening snap made the monster fall limp, its tongue lulling out of its mouth.
Kain threw the body aside before he got into the driver’s side of the car, closing and locking the door. His breath heaved.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done that,” He smirked. Shifting the car into reverse, Kain slammed his foot on the accelerator making the tires shriek in protest.
When they reached the main road, Tala saw the werewolves running alongside the car in the trees. “What do they want?”
Kain didn’t answer. The arrival of the lycan made him second guess his original theory as to why the werewolves stalked his cabin.
A werewolf slammed its body against the driver’s side door of the car, jarring it.
In response, Kain used the body of the vehicle and the guardrails of the highway to pin the werewolf between them. It whimpered and howled in pain as its flesh was severed from its side, in a storm of sparks and grinding metal.
Another werewolf took a flying leap into the windshield from the middle of the road, claws outstretched, fangs bared. The impact cracked the glass. It grasped at the hood with its claws, sending sparks where steel met bone.
“Hang on!” Kain said, slamming on the brakes, sending the creature flying down the pavement.
There were too many of them to outmaneuver, especially when Kain couldn’t change and had Tala to contend with. He began to wonder if he could get either of them out of this encounter alive.
A howl above the wind made the werewolves freeze.
“What is that?” Tala asked.
Kain smirked, stopping the car. Just beyond the tree line, he saw Gabriel skidding down the side of the hill.
Lune followed behind him while an obsidian wolf, Kain recognized as Jillian sprinted ahead of them. Scott and Nathaniel followed close on her flanks.
The werewolves remained still. Another howl, like the shriek of a banshee, forced them to retreat into the woods.
Kain got out of the car to greet his friends.
Gabriel walked to the head of the pack, shaking his head side to side, snuffing.
“It’s good to see you. How did you know?” Kain asked.
Gabriel turned his head. Kain followed his gaze to see a pure white wolf with black markings on his paws, chest, ear tips and tail walking towards them.
Kain grinned, offering a slight bow of his head. Damien broke into a canter until he reached Kain, whimpering. He lowered his ears, nuzzling his friend’s stomach.
Tala got out of the car, her eyes locked on the white wolf Kain petted. “Lycans.”
Kain rose up to look at her.
“My mother is a lycan. She’s the one who told me to come here,” Tala replied, remembering the voice of her mother begging her to run.
Damien looked at Kain, tilting his head, whimpering.
“I will tell you more when we get to your house.” Kain turned on his heel to walk back to his car.
Author: Apryl Baker
Genre: NA Horror/Paranormal
Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Design
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: August 6th, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
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