Chapter 64: Burned
As soon as the reporters left, Olivia took my hand and pulled me into the backseat. “Ella, it’s time. I want you to bite me, I want my animal part back.” I had expected this, I had seen the longing in her eyes the first time I shifted in front of her. She was fascinated by my panther form, running her fingers through the fur and scratching my ears as she examined me. “I know, I just didn’t want to change while THEY were there.”
“True… I didn’t say why I was a panther, that I had lost my wolf, and the last thing we need is for them to watch a change from beginning to end. I take it Mark has agreed as well?”
“Yes, he’s excited. Any hesitation he had was taken away when we saw your mating was even stronger with your cat. It’s all going well, right?”
I nodded. “Perfect, in fact. I feel complete again. It is a little weird, I’m getting new abilities and instincts that I have to mesh with my human ones, plus I have the memories of my wolf. She’s been very interested in those, it helps her to learn why I am how I am.” I praised my cat in my mind, she purred and went back to grooming herself. “Are you sure? We don’t even know if a wolf and a panther can have children.”
She and Mark looked at each other. “We know, but we already have two and we can adopt more if we want. I really want this, it is important for me to be able to defend my children.” I could see her logic, as a human I couldn’t protect them like I could now.
“In private or with your mate?”
“With,” they said together as the men reached the Jeep. “Could we do it now?” Mark took Olivia in his arms, smelling her neck. “I don’t want her to be missing this any longer.”
“All right then.” I got out and pulled off my sundress and swimsuit, then shifted into my panther form. She pulled her dress up, exposing her long thigh. I looked at her, she nodded and looked away, so I bit her just below her butt at the thickest part of her leg.
“FUCK!” She jumped away as soon as my teeth had let go. “That hurt!” I licked the blood from her leg, pushing more of the saliva into the wound, and it quickly stopped bleeding.
I shifted back, grabbing my suit. “Yeah, but it was only once. You need to relax, Mark can help you with that, or your body could treat it as a forced change.” I pulled the dress over and grabbed a towel, laying it in the passenger seat for her in case she bled. “Come on, we should get you back.” We all climbed in and Mark started driving the dirt road back.
“Did you have trouble grounding your cat when you shifted, Ella?”
“No, Mark, it was pretty easy. I wasn’t scared, I was happy to have her show up. I embraced her, showed her my memories; I showed her Craig’s love, our babies, my wolf. By the time I was done sharing, she was happy as well. It went really smooth.”
“Just in case, though, we should leave the two of you alone,” I said. “If you don’t mind, we’ll watch your girls for you tonight, and you should take one of the cabins. It’s probably best if you’re a little isolated in case things don’t go as well.”
“Wait, that’s all I had to do to get my man alone in a cabin for a night?” Olivia giggled. “We haven’t had a night where I could be a screamer for a long time!’
“LA LA LA LAAAA, I can’t hear you, too much information!” I covered my ears in the back seat as they laughed.
“Hey, at least I learned the lesson better than you. After our girls, I’ve been wrapping that rascal.” I was turning red again. “Someone needs to be able to have sex without getting pregnant.”
“By LUNA, will I ever live that down?”
The other three looked at me and all shook their heads NO.
I didn’t care, I got two beautiful boys and another baby on the way. I absolutely loved being a Mom, when this one was born I’d be trying for another on my next heat. Ker had explained how heats work for cats; they happen yearly, in the spring, unless you were still lactating. A cat’s heat was even more intense than a wolf one, and involved some planning. The scent would attract males, so the female would select a male and take him to a remote location for three days of constant sex. Male panthers had short fuses, but recovered in minutes; essentially, you were filled with a constant supply of baby batter. Wolves didn’t do it as often, but with the knot they could hold the seed in for a long period.
We got back home and spread the news that Olivia was taking the change, and they would be in the cabin on the west side beach. Everyone would stay well clear tonight. They packed an overnight bag and some food and walked off, their daughters waving goodbye as they played with our boys in our living room.
I woke up in the morning to my face being tickled. My cat was amused but not threatened, that is why she didn’t wake me up. I opened my eyes to a huge set of teeth being yawned over me, as slobber dropped onto my cheek. Sitting up quickly, I took in the huge panther that had crawled up on the bed with me as Mark looked on with amusement from the door.
She was magnificent; good sized, corded muscles under tight skin and shiny fur. She was a lot lighter than my black panther, more of a Q456+89- coloration, lighter even than Al was. I had done some reading, apparently for panthers the dark black color was uncommon; even a black panther like me was more likely to have light spotted offspring than dark. I ran my fingers through her fur as she purred in pleasure. “You’re beautiful, Olivia!”
“I think so too,” Mark said. “She changed a few hours ago, it went really smooth. We went for a run in our animal forms and marked each other again so we could have the mind link.”
“You got the pack link too, didn’t you?”
“Of course! Man, I can’t believe how much I missed it.” She licked my face as I tried to get away, but she used a big paw to push me down. I shifted underneath her, my paws reaching up and batting her face gently. She jumped off the bed and I followed her outside, eager for some cat time with my friend. We came home with a pair of small pigs, as we had learned quickly to hunt together.
A few days later, the commercials advertising the exclusive interview with a werewolf Pack were all over the network. I could have guessed that a rookie local reporter would be pushed aside, and I was right. She was still in the teaser clips, but it was being run as a national story on Dateline NBC. Of course, one of the network anchors from the show was edited in, as if he was asking the questions instead of her.
The whole Pack gathered in the hotel lobby for the show, which was up on the projection screen. All the couches and chairs were full, and blankets had been brought in so the young ones could gather under the screen. Everyone went silent when the show went on, and we watched, fascinated, until the hour was done.
They had done a good job, I thought. It was a pretty unbiased look at our lives, and not too much opinion was thrown in. They just showed how we lived, worked and played. The interviews were pretty good too, especially with the young orphans. If anything was going to get through to these humans, these little ones would.
After the show was over, we watched the news out of Denver followed by Nightline, which did a follow up along with a number of guests providing opinion. As we went to sleep that night, we didn’t know which way it would go. We went to bed, figuring the next day would be a better indicator anyway.
We were watching the morning news shows when a delivery barge came from the mainland, bringing more construction supplies. As the men unloaded, the master of the vessel pulled me aside. Handing me a piece of paper, he said, “Men are handing these out in town. Cartel men. I didn’t say anything, but someone will. Be careful.”
“Thank you, Enrique. Have a good trip back.” He walked back onto his tug and waved as they pulled back from the dock. I opened the paper, and when I saw what it was, I shoved it in my pocket. I started to sway, my knees got weak, spots formed in my eyes, and I can’t remember what happened next.
I woke up in bed, Craig was holding my hand as my boys snuggled close to my sides. “Ella?” Craig put his hand on my forehead, moving my hair out of my face. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, it was just a bit of a shock.” I sent over the link for Mabel to come get the boys, then for Mark and Olivia and Al and Mabel to come over. When they were here, I pulled out the paper and handed it to Craig. “My Spanish is rusty, but I think I got the gist.”
He went pale. “Wanted, Ella Grey, also known as Black Ker. Reward, 100 Million Pesos. Dead, Alive or Information Leading to Capture. Anyone hiding her will face the wrath of the Soccoro Cartel.” He did a quick mental calculation. “Shit, that’s over five million dollars American.” He passed the paper around, and everyone was looking panicked.
“This picture, Ella… where was it taken?” Al was trying to pick out the trees in the background.
It was a good shot, clearly showing my face and features. “In Quantico. Just before we left for Mexico.”
He pinched his nose. “They burned us, Ella. Someone back there wants you dead.”
“Why? I just did the one job!”
He thought for a minute. “Ker wanted out, Ella, and she had friends other than me. What better way to fake your death than to get someone else pretend to be you for a job, then have them killed?”