The afternoon was spent like the morning, although Jessie was getting better and better as she learned how to direct her powers and the energies around her. I was proud of her; a mate with her powers was a good thing, especially if her wolf never came forward completely. The Pack might not like the idea of a witch in their midst, but at least she wouldn’t be a helpless human in a fight. She finished the afternoon by forming three balls of ice, hovering them above the pond, then sending three fireballs into them to smash them to pieces. “Excellent progress, Jessie,” Miriam said as she clapped her hands.
Jessie sat back and smiled, clearly proud of herself. “It helped a lot when I stopped thinking about it.”
“Exactly. Magic is a lot like a golf swing; if your head is cluttered with all the things you need to do, something doesn’t work well. You have to practice until you can do it without thinking, your mind just wants it to happen and it does. Now, let’s meditate and regain your power.” I moved closer to them, laying down right behind her with a grunt. She patted my head, then placed her hands on her knees and focused. “Clear your head and feel the energy flowing around you, child. Let it flow into you, let it restore you.” I had picked up a lot about how her magic worked during the lessons, and one part was how she needed to draw on the natural energy around her or she would drain herself again. Nobody wanted her to be in that self-induced coma again.
As she continued to medidate, I felt the air around me start to change. Looking around I saw nothing and smelled nothing abnormal, until I looked at her hands and saw them start to glow with a pale blue light. The glow spread up her arms and around her body, and when she was completely covered with the glow, she started to rise up into the air. I whined, she didn’t respond, she was in a trance.
“Don’t touch her,” Miriam said as I moved to get up. I sat, watching her as she hovered a foot above the ground. I started feeling tingles on my legs and looked down to see the same blue glow around them. I rose up into the air, whining as I tried to escape but my legs found no purchase in the air. “Relax, don’t fight it,” Miriam told me. I couldn’t touch anything, it was the weirdest feeling because I was just there, weightless. I pulled my legs in and fought panic; my MATE was doing this, and she wasn’t hurting me. I was kept suspended for thirty seconds or so, then I was slowly lowered until my feet had purchase again. I sat quietly as the glow disappeared and waited for her to be done.
“JESSIE! MIRIAM!” Gwyneth’s voice cut across the clearing, and Jessie lost her focus. She dropped to the ground with a thud as the glow disappeared.
“Ow,” she said as she sat up. I moved behind her, sniffing her back before licking her neck. “I’m fine, Cuddles. I just need to concentrate through distractions like that.”
I turned around and saw Miriam coming with a man I didn’t know. “Brian, wake up. Gwyneth brought a guest I don’t know.”
“Ugh, who is it?”
“Human. Big guy.” The wind shifted and I got a smell of the others. “Two more trailing behind them. We’re out by the pond, I don’t like this.” I got up and stood protectively in front of Jessie as the men approached with Gwyneth. I could sense Miriam was upset, and I wasn’t happy either. It was foolhardy to bring people where they could see the woman we were protecting.
“What is this about, Gwyneth?” Miriam’s words were cold as she walked towards her cousin.
“I wanted to introduce you to our dinner guests. Miriam, this is Sean, he’s a friend of mine from St. Paul.”
“Something’s wrong.” I tried to push Jessie away but she didn’t move. The group was about twenty feet in front of us. I started to growl low in my throat. Then I heard a shot.
Sean was holding a pistol, and had put a round through Miriam’s head at point-blank range. Jessie screamed as the blood of her friend and teacher sprayed over us and she collapsed to the ground.
“Kill them,” Gwyneth said.
I lunged towards Sean as he turned his gun towards me and fired. I felt the impact of the bullets into my chest and shoulder as I jumped towards him. I was almost there when I was suddenly flying sideways, slamming hard into a tree. I heard my back break as I slammed into it.
All I could do was watch as I could barely lift my head. Gwyneth was holding her arms out, white sparks flying from her hands as she blocked the fireballs Jessie was launching at her.
Sean shifted his aim to her and squeezed the trigger three times. The first two she deflected, then she was hit by a fireball and screamed. The lapse in concentration was enough, and the next shot hit her chest. She fell backwards as I howled in pain and loss.
As soon as John woke me, I was running towards the door of the guest house. I saw the strange car in the driveway, and picked up the smell of the humans. Shifting, I left my ripped boxers behind as I ran for the trail leading to the pond. John said there were three men, one with Gwyneth and two behind.
”Something’s wrong,” John sent me. I was flying down the trail, and I could see the two men ahead of me. Dressed in dark suits, both were big men, and the way their arms stayed away from their chests, they were packing.
I heard a shot, then a scream. I howled, causing the men to turn towards me instead of continuing towards Jessie. Both men drew pistols from under their coats; I darted off the trail into the trees, hoping to draw them away. I needed to get between them and Jessie.
I heard more shots, and the howl of pain from John. I didn’t have time, I turned towards the clearing, knowing I’d have to go through these guys to get to him. I felt a shot graze my back as I leaped at the closest man; he put his arm out, I grabbed it and pulled him to the ground with my momentum. Letting go, I ripped his throat out as the second man started shooting me.
I turned and jumped on him, ignoring the pain from the shots. I missed his throat, grabbing his face instead and biting hard. He screamed and fired a shot point blank into my chest. I let go, finding his neck, and with one shake I heard a snap and he went still.
I let him go and tried to stand. I was in bad shape, one of the shots had gone into my heart. “Fuck, I’m hit bad,” I said. “I killed them, but they got me too.”
“They killed Jessie,” he told me.
“I’m sorry, John.” I fell on my side, unable to stand as the blackness started to take over. “Tell my parents I love them.” I looked out over the woods and watched it fade to nothing.
I hurt. A lot.
The fireball had burned my stomach, and the shot had hit the center of my chest. I was lying on my side, bleeding into the grass as I fought to stay conscious.
I looked back to Gwyneth, she was kneeling over Miriam, a greenish glow in her hands. She looked at me and smiled, her eyes were glowing as she took in the power of her dead cousin. “Kill the dog,” she said to him as he watched her. She had her back to him, she wasn’t paying attention. She was too busy stealing the power of the cousin she had killed.
Instead of coming towards me, Sean turned and pointed his pistol at her before firing once. The shot hit the back of her head, blowing through her face as she dropped onto Miriam’s body. “Sorry, the dog isn’t worth ten million dollars, unlike you.”
Holy fuck. If there was any doubt as to what was going on, that settled it. Sean started walking towards Cuddles, who was lying by a tree about twenty yards away. He growled, but with his back legs not moving there was nothing he could do to get away. He snapped out at him, but Sean stopped too far away from him to reach.
It was then I felt the power moving into me.
It filled me, healed me as flowed from their dead bodies into mine. I felt my breathing start to ease, the burns no longer caused me pain. I felt alive, I felt strong, and I was pissed. I sat up and shot my hands forward, forming a fireball that shot towards Sean with deadly accuracy. He saw it coming, turning towards me with pistol in hand just before it slammed into his chest and drove him back. He screamed as his body caught fire, his chest burning from the inside as I sent a second fireball into him. He dropped his gun as I lifted him into the air and brought him to hover in front of me.
I watched the light go out of his eyes before I let his smoldering carcass drop to the ground.
I knew Miriam was dead, no one could survive that shot. I looked over to Cuddles, my poor dog was lying broken against a tree, struggling to raise his head. I could see the blood flowing from multiple wounds. Tears flowed as I rushed to him, he had tried to protect me and now was dying. I knelt at his side, my fingers stroking his neck. “I’m sorry,” I said.
His eyes bore into mine, and he started to shake. I watched in horror and amazement as his bones shifted, the fur receded, and a large naked man took his place. A man I’d seen before, in erotic dreams and nightmares.
It was John, the man who had defended me from that man in the bar.
“I’m… sorry,” he said as he tried to talk. He coughed, and blood came spraying out of his mouth. “Know that I love you. I’ve always loved you.” He started coughing again, he was pale and I could see the life draining out of him.
“NO!!” I placed my hands on his chest, my fingers spread as they started to glow. I wasn’t going to lose him, not again, not after all I had already lost. I closed my eyes and let my senses expand; I could sense the bullets lodged inside him, and I used my power to move them back out. He screamed as the flattened slugs pulled out of his body, but he couldn’t stop me with his back broken. When they were gone, I focused on healing the damage they had done. His bleeding stopped, his color improved. Finally, I moved him so he was laying flat and focused on his back. His legs started to twitch, and he screamed as nerves connected and his spine fused back together. When I could sense no other damage, I stopped.
He was breathing heavily, his powerful body clenching and relaxing as his nerves regenerated and left him whole. He was everything I remembered and more; broad chest, thick arms and thighs, a narrow waist and oh-my-GOD he was blessed down there. Still, he loved me? What WAS he to begin with?
He sat up while I was trying to get my mind straight. “What ARE you,” I asked him.
“I’m a werewolf.”
I didn’t know what to say. My eyes had watched him turn from huge wolf to human, but my mind couldn’t accept what she had seen yet. “Werewolves exist?”
“Humans are far from alone in this world,” he said softly. “Werewolves have always been here, hidden among you.” He reached back, removing the collar that said “Cuddles” and handing it to me. I put it in my pocket, not knowing what else to do.
I sat back, covering my mouth with my hand. “Are you all right,” he said, his deep voice sending tingles down my spine.
“I’m fine,” I said as I gathered my wits about me. “Better than fine. I gained both Miriam’s and Gwenyth’s powers, that allowed me to heal myself.”
He pushed himself to his feet. “We have to find Brian,” he said as he helped me up. He was unconcerned with his nudity, and I was trying hard not to look at him, since he was starting to get, um… hard. I followed him, checking out his broad shoulders and muscled backside as he walked to the trail heading towards the house. It was only a few steps into the trees when we found the two men, obviously dead, a huge black and grey wolf dead in between them. “Oh Luna, I’m sorry my friend.” John checked his pulse, it was gone. “Can you help him?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I tried, but the blue glow wouldn’t come. Healing I could do, resurrection I couldn’t. John put his hand on my arm to stop me after nothing happened. “He died for me,” I said as I started to cry. John pulled me into his arms, holding me as all the emotions broke. I cried as I sorted through everything I had learned; I had been betrayed, set up to be killed, and was being protected by werewolves. “Why?”
“We’ll have to talk later, the shots may bring police,” he said. “Can you do something about the bodies? They will only bring questions, questions I don’t want asked.”
“I think so.” I looked down at the dog, I mean, Brian. “What about Brian?”
“We’ll take him and leave him where his family can find him. He deserves to be buried with them.” I nodded and looked at the two men. John took their guns and went through their pockets, taking cash from their wallets, extra magazines for the pistols and a key to a car. The phones he crushed and tossed in the pond. When he was done, I lifted their bodies with my powers, moving them until they hovered above the pond. I created two fireballs, made them large, then sent them into their bodies. They burned in place, ashes dropping onto the pond until there was nothing left. When I was done, John was had gone through Sean’s pockets as well. He was holding a large wad of cash. He stepped back and I lifted him as well as the two witches. I finally turned, tears still running down my face.
John had gathered up the shell casings and tossed them into the pond along with one of the guns. He handed me a key. “Larry has our vehicle, so we need to take theirs. Back it up to the guest house and open the back. Go into your room in the main house and pack all your stuff, meet me back here. We don’t know how long we have before police arrive, so don’t delay.”
“Okay.” At this point, I knew only that John would protect me, so I listened. I could ask questions later. I ran back to the house, throwing all my clothes and things from the bathroom into my suitcase, and grabbed my purse. I walked out, just as one of the acolytes came into the hall.
“Leaving so soon?”
“Death in the family,” I said. “Tell the Head Priestess I’ll be back in a week.”
“Of course. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” I pushed out the door and carried my bag to the back seat of the car, a black Lexus SUV. John came out dressed in clothes that didn't quite fit him, carrying two bags and placing them in the back seat as well. I didn’t want to look in the way back, I knew what was there, but I did anyway. I could see the lump under the blanket. I got in and buckled up, and he pulled away from the Coven House as quickly as he could without arousing suspicions. “Where are we going?”
He thought about it for a while. “They will expect us to go towards the cities, and we need to for a while. I have to make a quick stop in town.” We pulled into a gas station that was also full of fishing and hunting supplies. He purchased a HUGE cooler and six bags of ice, along with a bag of World’s Best Donuts and some drinks. We were parked away from traffic, so he was able to transfer Brian’s body to the cooler and cover him in ice.
“What will we do with him?”
“I’ll call his family and let them know where he is, they can come get him.” He drove slowly out of town, then we got on Highway 61 south. He took a side road, then parked by a road sign for a resort. “Can you help me?”
I got out and we went to the back. We pulled the big cooler out, setting it in the ditch before John broke off some tree branches to cover it up. He pulled out Brian’s phone, taking a photo of the road sign and texting it to Larry’s phone. He typed in a message, “Come pick him up, 1887 Pioneer Road, Grand Marais. I’m sorry, he was a fighter to the end.” He tossed the phone down with the cooler and walked back, taking my hand as we climbed back up to the car.
I looked at our hands together, something felt so natural and right about that. Maybe he could tell me why.