Around dawn, the merry band of misfits arrived at the home of one Joris Hoff. No one was asleep when the car pulled into the winding driveway. It was no surprise to anyone, with all that was on everyone’s mind. Andy had taken the liberty of informing Joris about the details of their departure from LeVale. Despite the circumstances, Andy tiredly smiled up at his young nephew. He returned the smile and then went out to greet his uncle’s family.
Callie, Jenna, and Lynch all looked up to see a young man of approximately thirty years of age approaching them. They knew he was Andy’s nephew and expected some similarities. They just didn’t see as many as they thought. He was somewhat shorter than his uncle, had dark brown hair that was very long, and tied back into a ponytail. His eyes were as green as olives. He definitely had the Hoff cheekbones, which was the cornerstone of their physical heritage. He was handsome and solid, without one ounce of the aloofness Andy seemed to possess when greeting new people.
Joris first embraced his uncle in a massive bear hug. It had been a few years since he had last seen him. When he pulled away from Andy, he focused his eyes on the rest of the party. He knew of Lynch and what the Hoff family did for him, but this was the first time he had met him. He shook Lynch’s hand, greeted both women by placing a kiss on their cheeks. All of them were travel weary. He wasted no time ushering them inside while he managed what luggage they brought with them. That first evening, there wasn’t much catching up to do. As soon as they were all inside and had their rooms situated, they crashed, feeling completely safe. Only Andy remained awake, giving the necessary details to Joris before finally retiring himself.
It was finally daylight. Jenna didn’t know what the time was exactly, and really didn’t care. All she did know was that the sun was out. Small beams of light crept into the room where she and Lynch had settled. Joris didn’t have many guests to speak of, so the room was sparsely furnished with a bed, a night table, and a small chest of drawers. There was just one window with a set of blinds covering it. She missed her room with the French doors and balcony. None of it mattered. Lynch was safe. Everything else was completely unimportant.
Beside her, Lynch slept peacefully, on his side, which was his favorite position. In his slumber, it gave her time to appreciate him for what he was. She traced a line along his face with her index finger. Her touch was light. He was so tired, he probably didn’t feel anything anyway. She continued tracing lines along his skin lovingly, slowly, touching each scar. He hadn’t told her many stories of his life or battles, but becoming one with him, sharing his bloodline now, she knew each without him speaking. It was funny how her senses sharpened so well. She had noticed these scars before, but never knew what any of them meant. It was time to explore them, to explore him.
The first mark she touched was on his exposed cheek. To an average onlooker, the scar resembled a small line, where a cat scratched him perhaps. Jenna knew better. In the 1700s, Lynch was a foot soldier. Battling with an enemy on the field, his face was stabbed. The wound wasn’t deep, only severe enough to cause a lot of blood loss and this scar. The next was on his neck, it looked like a bunched up patch of flesh. It measured no more than three inches, mixing well with the wrinkles naturally on his neck. If one didn’t see it up close or know it was there, it would not have been noticeable at all. This, she knew, was how he came to be known as Lynch. In 1760, he had been wrongly accused of treason. He was hung by the neck and would have stayed there forever, if a band of Native Americans hadn’t found and cut him down. She read the name ‘Wakiza’ in his mind. She now understood that he had fathered Storm.
Her finger moved along his neck down to this chest. This scar was the most disfiguring. It was how the skin healed from a burn without treatment. Only one touch was enough to see how this happened. It flashed into her mind more violently than the first two. It happened during the fire that killed his father, Storm, and her mother. The burn was probably a third degree injury. After losing two people he loved more than his own life, he wished for death. She could sense that easily. He hoped the burn would kill him, which of course, it didn’t. She finally understood that the mother of the woman he had loved so much was Lydia Coyfield. Jenna realized she bore a resemblance. She also became aware that Lydia had more to do with the Tacketts than she first thought. She just didn’t know what it was, and probably never would. Lynch, himself, had no clue. His father was more silent than he could ever be.
There were many others along his body, on his arms, stomach, and legs. He had interestingly deep scars on his wrists, which matched some on both ankles. They weren’t as severe as the one on his chest, yet they were ugly reminders of another battle. When she touched one of them, she closed her eyes to see the memory, the way it happened. They were marks from shackles. He had been caught stealing livestock in 1835. Knowing Lynch as she did, he was feeding. A farmer found a dead animal, then saw Lynch amongst several head of cattle. The owner of the animals didn’t believe the man he found had killed the cow for food. He believed it was killed in the process of being stolen. When he caught Lynch with a bullet to his left calf, he went down. Unable to heal himself fast enough to get away, he was as good as captured.
The farmer was a cruel man. Instead of contacting the authorities like any normal person would, he took matters into his own hands. He shackled up Lynch in his barn, leaving him there without food or water in the high heat of summer. The shackles were unique to a farmer. They weren’t simply made of steel. They were crafted of fine nickel and silver. The man was something of a blacksmith as well. He was interested in shackles, chains, and other devices of torture. He always wanted to find someone to try it out. When he caught Lynch, he had a perfect target. Since the shackles contained a small amount of silver, Lynch’s strength was almost useless to him as he had been starved for days.
The way he escaped, was once again, at the hands of a kind person. The farmer had a wife who was terrified of him. She came to the barn one afternoon, saw the suffering man, and finally gave him food and water. Knowing her husband was gone for the day, she found the key to the shackles and released him. Weakened by the silver, Lynch was shaky on his feet, but wise enough to beg her to come along. Tempted, the wife refused, explaining to Lynch that she would tell her husband some great lie how his prisoner had escaped. He is not a very smart man, she explained. He will never question me. Lynch knew this was not true. He wanted to take the woman with him. It came to be that it did not matter. On the way back home, the farmer was killed, freeing his evil soul to hell as well as allowing his wife to have a halfway normal life.
It was bittersweet and amazing to examine the body of the man she loved, seeing the events unfolding in her head. It made her feel so much closer to him, so much more in love with him. As she watched him, touched his body, she hoped he wouldn’t wake right away. This was a moment she wanted to have with him, one that no other ever would after her. If there were women after her, she longed for none of them to know what she did, to feel what she felt.
Jenna moved closer against Lynch, burying her face in his neck. He responded by tightening his embrace on her body. She knew she was probably going to awaken him, but she couldn’t help it. Her lips caressed the skin on his neck. He smelled so good, even without aftershave or showering, his body gave off a special scent that she couldn’t put her finger on. It didn’t matter. Right at this moment, everything was all good. It didn’t matter what faced them. Perhaps her mind would change once it happened. Let it happen, just allow me to have my moment.
“What in the world are you doing?” Lynch half whispered, half growled.
She smiled against his neck. Uh oh. She was caught. “Just having a moment with the man I love,” she said. “Nothing big. Did I wake you?”
“No. I was so wrecked from when we got here, that I couldn’t seriously tell you what day or time it is,” he admitted. “I only remember Joris showing Callie where to hide our compounds and her cure.”
Jenna had not moved from her position. Despite that, she could sense something was out of place with Lynch. His body felt different, moved in another way, and seemed somewhat off center. She knew what it was. It was simply his story to tell.
“I need to tell you this now, Jenna,” he began, “I’m feeling a transformation coming on. I can control the urge after the first change since the compounds have worn off. However, it’s coming soon, possibly tonight. Yours will come on suddenly as well. I have an idea that may work for us both.”
At this, Jenna leaned up to make eye contact with him. “Sounds promising. What are you thinking?”
“As we discussed before, I think we need to try a quarter shot of the compound. It won’t stop the transformation, but should control the urges to feed.” He sighed heavily. “The urge is always going to be there, and I hate attacking helpless animals. At the same time, I don’t want to attack a human. I think that’s what we’re looking at here if we don’t try something small. I’d rather feed on a deer or even a damned squirrel before going after humans. You know that.”
He said the last three words silently, almost imploring her to believe him. It wasn’t necessary. She knew exactly what he was feeling, what his body was putting him through. Humans were easier targets, it was true. Killing them in this day and age only brought murder charges. The times had certainly changed.
“I do,” she whispered.
“When I first killed a human, it was nothing. I felt like hell, the flesh, blood, and bone tasted like nothing I can describe. Inherently, I knew killing humans was wrong. The quarter shot should keep the urge away. I thought about it while I slept.” He caressed her hair gently. “What about you? How did you sleep?”
She smiled even wider, knowing that he had probably read her while he slept, and realized she had gone over every inch of his body, his history. “All things considered, I slept pretty great. No bad dreams, nothing haunting me. Joris has a lovely home. I hope we can do some exploration before Clark finally hunts us down.”
“We’ll be ready for him,” he said, exuding the same confidence Andy had.
What was it about the men in her life that gave her hope even when she wasn’t ready to take it? She would never understand neither Andy Hoff nor Keagan Tackett. Most men she met weren’t mysteries. Everything about them was worn on their sleeves. These two were the exception. It was in their genes, this odd trait. It had to be. They were optimistic when there shouldn’t be an ounce of positive energy around. They thoroughly believed that good would prevail over evil. It was storybook, their thinking. Someday, someone would have to write of this, of these men from another time, another frame.
“I hope so,” she whispered distractedly. “I cheated, Lynch.”
His brow furrowed with confusion for a moment. “Who is he?” He asked with a smile. “I’ll kill him.”
“Not that kind of cheating,” she teased. “While you slept, I read your flesh, every bit I could touch. I saw your history, some of your stories, and learned of injuries you’d never think to tell me about. I know I shouldn’t have, Lynch, but I’m glad I did. It gave me so much more insight into you, into your life. My mother told me stories about you, because she knew I’d take over for her. She told me nothing like I learned, babe. You should have been journaling for years. Do you realize how many volumes you would have collected by now?”
He thought of that, of journaling, of writing it all down. He didn’t think it was the best idea in the world. What if the wrong person came upon it? He had been given a journal once and remembered how much he hated that fucking book. He threw it in the fire. If he lived past this battle with Clark, perhaps he would write of it. It was on the tip of his tongue, so to speak, to think he would do it for future generations. There would be no future generations. Jenna was a lycanthrope like he, she would never bare a child. He couldn’t think of any other woman with whom he would have a child. Whoever followed along with him and Jenna would own anything he wrote down and decide what to do with it when the time came. Was the present world ready to know that immortals existed within the mix of humanity? Not even close.
“I knew a time would come when you would awaken before me, touch my scars, know my stories, the things I did. Some were done with shame, while others made me the man I am.” He thought of the shackle scars, the beautiful farmer’s wife who released him, yet refused to leave a man he knew would kill her when she returned home. As Jenna learned, the farmer died on the way home from his trip. It wasn’t fate that intervened. Lynch called upon a friend for a favor. “I had the farmer who shackled me murdered, Jenna. His death certainly wasn’t an accident. If he had come home and saw me gone, he would have killed her.”
Jenna took hold of his arm, lifted his wrist and kissed the scar. “I knew he did, just not how. I don’t think any less of you. He deserved to die for his cruelness. I know what he did to you. I have an inkling of an idea what he did to her. I cannot imagine what he did to others, especially if he had slaves.” She shuddered. “It gives me the creeps thinking about it. And what about the fact that he had silver? How did he get it back then?”
Lynch shook his head. “I have no idea. He probably stole it, like the young, pretty wife. She was a Cherokee woman, whispering to me the word waya as she released me. It means wolf. It was as if she knew somehow. I damned near carried her away against her will. She refused to move, even with the knowledge she would die once her husband returned. That’s why I did it. I couldn’t leave her with him and I owe my life to the Native Americans who released me from the noose. It was my way of paying them back for their deed. You see, Storm was half Native American, and they have spirit animals. One of the strongest is the wolf.”
“You don’t have to explain yourself,” she said. “You did the right thing.”
He laughed bitterly. “I’m a cop,” he said. “There is a protocol about taking the law into your own hands and everything.”
She smiled gently up at him. “I get it, Lynch. It’s just that back then, it was proper. That’s all I can say.”
“You know all my secrets,” he said softly. “I wish I had you with me all through my life. I still have issues changing you. Despite that, it’s something I truly wanted to do for years. The more I fell in love with you the temptation nearly grew out of control. You know I wanted you for a long time, Jenna. What you didn’t know was that I wanted to change you, to make you mine forever.”
“It’s what I wanted,” she said insistently.
“I know, Jenna. It wasn’t what I thought Iwanted for you. The times you were away, with friends, with other men, were torture for me. I was terrified that you would find someone else to love.”
“No,” she said with a smile. “Never. I hated every minute of it.”
He laughed. The sound seemed filled with rusty salt. It was jovial, warm, a sound she had grown to love. “I’m glad you hated it. Very much so.”
She playfully slapped his chest. “Bastard.”
Callie awoke alone in a large room with an ornate bed. This, she figured, probably should have gone to Lynch and Jenna. It was obviously the nicest room in the house. When she was aware of her surroundings, Callie sat cross legged in the middle of her bed. Both her cure and Jenna’s compound were secured in a safe buried by Joris. He had hidden it in a crawlspace under the basement floor. Andy told her his nephew was familiar with the type of immortal Clark was, so their precious cargo should remain undetectable by him. She tried to stress the fact that Clark was special. They reassured her. She wanted to believe them, but couldn’t quite do it just yet. She wanted to live her life without the fear of Clark looking over her shoulder at every turn.
She hadn’t taken off her watch when she went to bed. She never did in a strange place. Besides, she had this thing where she always had to know what time it was. When Callie glanced at her watch, it was close to eight in the morning. It was earlier than she normally liked to get up at home. She smiled to herself. Hugh was probably already up, doing his morning chores, and believing she was perfectly safe at the university. There was no cell service in this area. If there had been, she would have called her brother, even if Lynch told her not to call anyone. She laughed at him, letting him know that Clark didn’t rely on dings at a cell tower to find someone. He simply knew how to track people down. They might be safe here for a while. Sooner or later, Clark would find them.
Callie hated the fact that she had to sit here without trying to call her brother. Hugh wasn’t super protective, but he liked to know what was going on in her life. Ignoring her frustration for now, she got out of bed and put on a robe. She heard noise downstairs and supposed someone was down there doing something, hopefully cooking breakfast, because she was one hungry bitch.
When she entered the kitchen, she saw Joris at the stove, banging around pots and pans, surely cooking as she had hoped. Since he didn’t notice her, she didn’t say anything for a while. She stood back and watched him with an amused expression on her face. He certainly moved with less grace than Andy. Like his uncle, he was sweet and gracious. She found it odd that two men who weren’t together a lot still held such a tight bond.
“Would you like to help or would you rather stand there and stare at me?” Joris asked amusedly.
Callie jumped. She didn’t know he saw her standing in the shadows. She couldn’t believe someone had asked herto help with cooking. Didn’t he realize she couldn’t cook? “I’d love to,” she said. “However, I’m not a much of a cook.”
He waved his hand toward her. “Nonsense. You can do something, can’t you? Boil water? Scramble an egg?”
She smiled. “I pity the person who winds up eating what I cook, but if you need help, I suppose I can do it.”
“Thank you,” he told her. “I’m not accustomed to cooking for so many people. Uncle Andy went out to town for supplies.”
Joris put her to work scrambling eggs while he worked on frying bacon and sausage. His house was a classic gothic looking Tudor-style thing, something she would expect of a fictional character. His appliances were new, though, so it made everything in the home seem more modern. “Joris, what is it that you do?”
“Like my uncle, I come from old money. I do independent investing to keep the funds alive. I travel a lot as a result. Andy caught me during a dry spell.” He deftly flipped the bacon and sausage. “And you? What do you do?”
“I’m in between,” she told him. “I was supposed to start school before this mess began.”
“As soon as it’s over, you’ll get back to it. From what Andy said, you’re into science and chemistry like Jenna?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“I have a lab down in my basement as well. If you get curious, you can go down and have a look. I don’t think it is anything like Andy had, but it should do if either you or Jenna needs it.”
Callie stirred the eggs and watched them cook until they seemed ready to scoop into a platter. “Thanks, I just might do that. Looks like you have a huge place here. A person could get lost.”
Joris picked up the cooked bacon and eggs with a set of tongs. He set the meat on paper towels to drain. “Whenever you like, I can give you a tour.”
She gave him a sideways glance. He was a cute guy, no doubt. “Sure. It definitely sounds like fun.”
Mick Belmont sat at his desk with paperwork before him. One bit of that was the local newspaper. It wasn’t huge, more like five pages. Despite that, the front page had news of a fire here in LeVale. The home in question was that of Keagan Tackett. From what he understood, there was a body found inside, burned beyond recognition. They had sent the body to the county morgue to find out the identity. There was no sign of Hugh Norwood around, either. He called his home, his cell, and even went by his apartment. Nothing. He called Lynch’s cell as well, getting nothing but a voice mail.
What in the hell was going on in his department? He couldn’t get hold of his two best men. There was too much going on without his men out in the field working. Before they could solve the murder, they needed to investigate it. How could they investigate it without their men? He wished he could retire tomorrow.
Lynch had fallen back to sleep along with Jenna after their conversation earlier. Suddenly, without warning, he woke and sat up almost out of breath. He glanced at Jenna. She didn’t seem to notice. He slid out of bed without her moving, and grabbed his clothing from yesterday. After slowly getting himself together, he went to the small window in the room and began to stare out of it. The day looked fine. Downstairs, he could smell the good aromas of eggs, bacon, sausage, and coffee.
For a moment, he ignored it. There was something wrong. There was something very wrong. It had everything to do with Clark as well. He sensed two modes of destruction. The first thought, harsher than them all, was that Hugh was dead. Clark had fed on him first. The second was that Clark had dragged him into the mansion and set it on fire. He was upset about the mansion, but felt worse when he thought about Hugh. He was a good man, one too good to fall the way he did.
It angered him, making his eyes glow silver. He was tempted to transform, burst out of this house, and hunt Clark down. It was time he saw some of the pain he doled out to his victims. The son of a bitch had killed so many when it wasn’t necessary to attack humans to feed. He did it for sport, and that sickened Lynch even more. Standing against the window, he clenched and unclenched his fists. He fought the change with everything in him. It was not the time. They came here to gather their strength, renew themselves, and decide how to deal with Clark Honsterott.
He sighed heavily, feeling his eyes go back to their natural color, as the solid wall of Jenna’s body pressed against his back. She calmed him more than anything known to man or science. He realized she had always had that effect on him. He said nothing as her face buried itself in the middle of his back. Her lips traced gentle lines along his flesh, up the back of his neck, and to his hairline. He once again felt his eyes changing back to silver.
If he had been able to see Jenna, he would have seen that her eyes were changing as well. He noticed her nipping bites were getting stronger, her fingernails leaving scratches rather than faint trails. This happened during lovemaking at times, Lynch had experienced it more than once. Jenna, of course, would be experiencing it for the first time, depending on how far they actually progressed in their lovemaking.
He pushed his body back, allowing her to move so he could face her. Oh yes. Her eyes were definitely changing, and she noticed his were as well. They smiled at each other knowingly and shared a deep kiss. She was still undressed, so when he cupped her buttocks in his hands, he left small scratches on the surface of her skin. She hissed, but it didn’t sound like a pained cry. He released her when he felt her slightly move back.
Wanting to rip him out of his shirt, Jenna chose to unbutton it and take it off normally. She went down easily to one knee to work on the snap and zipper of his jeans. As soon as she completed her task, she noticed he was hard and eager for her. She smiled up at him, her eyes silvery, and her body changing ever so slightly. He closed his eyes tightly, sighing, as she freed him from his briefs. Within seconds, her mouth was on him, almost wildly moving up and down the length of him, her tongue teasing the tip. Dear God, she could keep this up! He wanted her to stop, needed her to continue.
Just as he was on the verge of exploding, she suddenly stopped, leaving him throbbing and unfulfilled. At this, he was almost disappointed, but was certain she wasn’t a tease and definitely intended to take him all the way with her. She pulled down his jeans and briefs at the same time.
“Why bother getting dressed at all, my love,” she whispered, her voice more harsh and grating than before.
He’d heard it. It was definitely the change. It made the voice sound as if one was speaking through a voice distorter. “Pretty dumb move on my part,” he said. His voice was still normal. He knew how to hold off, Jenna was still learning.
They kissed again, seemingly devouring each other. Kicking his clothing aside, Lynch turned, directing Jenna’s body against the window. His hands moved restlessly over her body. She stretched and moved against his hands, trying to meet each touch as it came. She was getting very good at anticipating his moves. That was another advantage of being a lycan. Lovemaking became so much more interesting and deep.
Breaking the kiss, Jenna balanced her weight against the window and the wall as Lynch’s lips moved lower, from her neck to her breasts. When his lips encircled one nipple, she thrust her body forward, giving him more. She opened her mouth to cry out. She didn’t notice that her canine teeth were growing slowly. He moved to her other nipple within moments, his teeth grazing the tender flesh. His body slid even lower, as he came down to one knee as Jenna did before him. His mouth placed wet kisses along her abdomen, his tongue dipping briefly into her navel.
“Hold on, baby,” he whispered up to her, clearly noticing that her canine teeth had grown significantly. He smiled at this, hoping she remembered this as long as they lived.
Panting now, she said, “I am.”
He lifted her suddenly, throwing one leg over his shoulder. The instant his wet tongue entered her, she bit her lip, instantly tasting the blood on her tongue. She was changing. Dear God. She was changing in the midst of making love. Had she ever dreamed this would happen? But nothing mattered except Lynch and the delicious things he was doing with his tongue. She managed to dig her hand into his hair and squeezed as he made loop after loop inside her, flicking, licking, and driving her out of her mind.
Before mind numbing release, he pulled away. She was not terribly disappointed because she knew the best was yet to come. The fine hair was growing in on her now. He smiled at her again and kissed her deeply, tasting her blood. When he broke the kiss, his head was very close to her ear.
“Turn around,” he commanded lightly.
She did as he instructed. Her legs were slightly parted as she awaited his entrance. She dug her nails into the wall before her as she waited. “Lynch,” she begged. “Oh please.”
Hearing her plea, unable to wait any longer, he entered her slowly, deeply. Grasping each side of her hips, he moved within her as leisurely as possible, wanting her to feel each stroke, each thrust. One hand slid away from her hip and slipped down between her legs. As his fingers stroked her gently, Jenna’s body raised upward, her head almost resting on his shoulder. He felt that soon, very soon, he wouldn’t be able to keep up a slow pace. Very close to full change now, she couldn’t vocalize as a human. The sounds coming out of her were low whines and panting sighs. Her change was swiftly bringing about Lynch’s. His human form loved her as best as he could. His lycan form pounded his body against hers. Both man/lycan wanted one thing: release.
It came to both of them in a gigantic, shocking rush. At each of their prospective releases, both were in their full lycan form. It would be like this when they took the quarter shot which would give them an ounce of human control and connection inside them. They weren’t ready to hunt or run wild in the woods. Although they could not vocalize, they brought their heads gently together, their muzzles touching, their bodies still attached. They remained in this position until their human forms returned.
Just after they dressed and before they went downstairs to eat breakfast (Joris had called down a hearty BREAKFAST minutes ago), Lynch took hold of Jenna’s arm. For a moment, they shared a look.
“Our house,” she whispered. “Clark burned it down?”
“Yes,” he said sadly. “And that’s not all. Hugh was inside when he did it.”
“Callie has to know,” Jenna said, telling him something he was already clearly aware of.
“How do I tell her he is dead, Jenna?” Lynch asked the question with such loss in his voice. He had told dozens of families about deaths. This time, it was different. Jenna noticed it immediately. “If the PD is involved, you bet your ass they’re going to call their parents.”
“Callie is going to do everything in her power to get back for this.” Jenna sighed. “If she leaves, she is as good as dead.”
“I know. I hope Andy and Joris can help us with her, to keep her here. Out there, she is a moving target and once he touches her, he will know our location.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Goddamn it all,” he growled angrily. “What are we going to do about this son of a bitch?”
She took his hand and squeezed it hard. “We’ll get him, baby. We’ll get him before he kills another human.”
Although Lynch wasn’t so sure about that, he kept his hand in hers, and the two of them went downstairs to eat breakfast with Callie, Andy, and Joris. They hid their feelings well, but Joris and Andy sensed something was out of place. They ate their meal in near silence, Callie every once and a while asking Joris about the house and property. He answered each question without giving anyone a hint that he believed something was wrong. This felt like something between the four of them. He didn’t quite understand how the air in the room had changed.
Breakfast was out of the way in an hour or so. Callie then asked Joris to give her a tour of the property. They both stood so he could oblige and were on their way toward the back door until Lynch cleared his throat. It wasn’t a regular action. It was one that clearly meant ‘get your asses back to the table.’ Joris and Callie obeyed the command without a word. They sat down at the kitchen table and Callie focused her eyes on Lynch’s face. Actually, both he and Jenna looked like shit. It was hard to believe that just an hour ago, they were making love as if there were no tomorrow. Right now, they sat together, trying to approach the subject of Callie’s deceased brother.
“What’s going on?” Callie asked when no one else spoke. “Did you hear about something from home? Are the police after us?”
Lynch cleared his throat again, this time it was for the distinct purpose of passing along horrid news. Jenna’s hand clasped his hard, conveying support in amounts his mind could not calculate. “I’m sure they will be sooner than I thought. They may be able to trace our steps for a few miles before we changed cars to get to Joris’ house.”
Feeling the first premonition in many weeks, she knew something was terribly wrong. Laughing now, almost to the point of hysteria, she said, “So? Why are you so upset, Lynch?” She looked to Andy. “Why is your face so white, Andy?” She then settled her eyes on Jenna. “And you? Why are you holding onto Lynch’s hand so tightly it seems as if you’re going to snap it off at any minute? What the hell has happened?”
Lynch broke loose from Jenna’s grasp and reached across the table to hold onto Callie’s. “Clark came to the mansion to look for us. Obviously for some reason, Hugh came as well. Perhaps, he came to arrest me. Perhaps he came just to talk. I had a clear picture in my head, Callie. There is no way around this. Clark fed on your brother, threw him into the house, and burned it to the ground.”
He spoke as gently as he could, but the words sounded harsh, ugly, and nonsensical to her mind. He was telling her that Hugh was dead, victimized by Clark. She thought of their parents, both over sixty now. If they heard Hugh was dead and she was missing, they might succumb to shock. No way. This could not be happening to her. No no no no no no no no no! It couldn’t be. She tried hard to pull her hand out of Lynch’s; he was holding on too tightly. Fighting him now, she used her free hand to push his off hers. Lynch didn’t fight with her, he simply let her go.
“I have to go back,” she suddenly announced. “I have to be there when my parents come to…to…claim his body.” She covered her hands with her face. “Oh Jesus Christ,” she screamed into her hands. “Why Hugh?” She sobbed. “Why would he kill Hugh?”
“Callie, he probably hadn’t targeted your brother, he was…” How could Lynch say the next words on his mind gently without sounding like a dick? “He was convenient, Callie. Nothing more.”
She uncovered her face and glared at him. “Convenient? He was convenient? The son of a bitch was after me. He couldn’t have me, so he goes after the closest person to me. Hughie. Oh dear God,” she moaned. “Hughie? Why my brother?” Calming herself with great strength, she stood up. “I’m going back to LeVale to meet my parents. If Clark wants me so badly, I’m giving myself to him. I’ll leave most of the cure here with you and I’ll give the rest to Clark so he can destroy it.”
Joris took Callie’s hand and gently eased her back into her seat. “That will solve only part of the problem. Do you want Clark hurting other humans? Hurting you more? This is something you should not do.”
“We’re acting like a bunch of cowards,” Callie spat. “We’re letting Clark do what he wants while we hide out, eating a fine breakfast, and while two of our party do nothing more than have wild sex all night. What are we doing? What good are we here? How are we going to get at Clark hidden away in the woods? Fuck you all. Fuck you. Hughie was my brother and I’m not about to hide from that psychopath another day.”
She made moves to stand again. This time Andy took hold of her arm and kept her in place. “Oh yes you are,” he said, his voice meaning business in no uncertain terms. “Clark will be lured here to his death. Later on today, my nephew will give you a tour of the secret chambers of his house. Once Clark locates us, he’ll be able to locate the chambers. It is the best way to kill him, Callie. If you go back, you will jeopardize our plan, the way we will stop Clark forever.”
Andy had never used any type of force with her, not since she first met him. It surprised her to hear such passion in his voice. “What about my parents?” She asked. “Can I at least contact my parents?”
“No,” Lynch said, also startled by Andy’s sudden outburst. “If the police are looking for us, they’re going to follow any ping or other form of communication. I’m sure that when Hugh’s body is identified, where he died, and how he died, I’m probably going to be at the top of the suspect list. Clark stole items from me, items with my DNA on them. He planted them on one of his victims, to frame me. I saw the evidence. What is worse, so did Hugh.”
“Lynch, you don’t understand,” she said in tears. “When they find out I’m not at the university, they’re going to be heartbroken. They’re going to believe they have lost two children instead of one. Hughie was their favorite, but they love me too. I can’t see putting them through this.”
During Callie’s speech, Joris stood and went over to the stove. Lynch could see that he was brewing some type of tea, perhaps to calm Callie down. “Once Clark is out of the picture,” Lynch began, “you can certainly go back to them, let them know you’re all right. I’m sorry we have to do it this way. It’s best for us all. We do not want anything to happen to you.”
Callie believed Lynch with all her heart. A stubborn streak lived within her, however. She didn’t know if she could wait until Clark was dead before she contacted her parents. “Okay,” she said with a sigh. “I’ll do what you ask.”
Joris handed her a cup. “Drink this tea, Callie. It will make you feel so much better.”
She didn’t believe anything had the power to do that. Even so, she took the cup he offered and drank from it. It tasted like herbal tea. She didn’t care for it, but drank it anyway. Within half an hour, she was asleep. Without being asked, Joris carried Callie up to her bed. Her young, tragic self appealed to him.
Once Joris joined them at the breakfast table, Lynch asked, “What’s this secret chamber Andy mentioned? No one told me anything about that.”
“It was originally designed during the Civil War, it was a way to tunnel slaves to freedom,” Joris explained. “When I acquired the house, I retooled the chambers. No one knows they’re here. If we can somehow lure Clark into the depths, we can surely get rid of him.”
“Protect the women,” Andy suddenly announced, eyeing Jenna curiously.
“Other than the obvious, Andy, what does that mean?” Jenna asked.
“He has probably raped Callie numerous times,” Joris said. “He may try to rape you, especially if he has the desire to procreate with one of you.”
“What?” Lynch interjected. “Immortals cannot procreate.”
“His kind can,” Joris said. “Lycanthrope DNA is quite different than his makeup. I cannot explain it, but he does have the ability to impregnate any female he chooses.”
“And the son of a bitch is hunting for a mate,” Jenna suddenly realized. “I’m sure he is looking for Callie in more ways than one. Does she know this?”
“Probably not,” Andy said. “It’s something else we need to discuss with her. If a woman carries a baby produced by Clark, she will die at childbirth. Mates are simply vessels of the male’s seed. There is no pairing off with his kind. That’s probably the only reason he was with Callie for so long. He wanted to make her pregnant.”
None of this made sense, especially to Jenna. Perhaps it was hearing that Hugh was dead. Perhaps it was hearing her home had been burned to the ground. Whatever it was, it didn’t make sense. “I don’t see that as a reason Clark was hanging around with Callie at all. Why would a soulless individual such as he want to reproduce? He surely wouldn’t care for the child, would he?”
Jenna’s question was valid, one asked by a human so recently turned. Lynch knew the both of them were basically soulless individuals. If he thought about it long enough, he probably would want to procreate with her. “I remind you that we’re in the same boat as he, Jenna,” Lynch began. She started to say something, but Lynch held up his hand. “Wait.” He cleared his throat. “He wouldn’t care for the child. He would obviously choose a nanny for that. Possibly you.”
She looked at him as if he had lost his mind. “Have you forgotten that I, as well as you, am a lycanthrope? A sworn enemy?”
“No, Jenna, I haven’t forgotten anything. A female lycan would be perfect for the job. For a very long time in our history, we were slaves.”
She sighed. She remembered that history, even if she hadn’t lived it. She knew Lynch had lived it almost every day of his life. The thought of serving as a nurse maid for Clark made her shiver. “That’s something I’d rather die than do.”
Lynch reached across the table and took her hand. “I know, babe. I’d rather die than have it happen.”
“Unless Callie gives away our location, I think we’re relatively safe from Clark. We must keep our eyes on her for the duration,” Joris said. “You can leave her to me.”
Both Andy and Lynch smiled his way. He was beginning to have a soft spot in his heart for the young woman. “Your hands are very capable,” Andy said.
Although the detectives working the murder of Hugh Norwood were a couple ranks down from him, they were all the captain had. Dirk Havens and Christine Knight were poking along the ruins of the fire along with the fire investigation team. It was definitely arson, because they easily found a gas can and noted that the burn patterns matched those typical of arson. What they had to wrap their minds around was whether or not they thought Lynch Tackett actually had anything to do with it. All fingers pointed his way, especially noting the fact that he ran. However, why would he have killed his partner?
When Christine noticed that one of the fire investigators were poking around an area below ground. She moved the same way, carefully poking through the ruins. She was sent out primarily by the captain because at one point, she had been with the fire department before joining the police academy. Unlike her partner, she knew how to move through the hot ruins of a smoldering fire. She had the right gear and the right attitude.
As she grew closer to the area were the firefighter disappeared, she saw him moving around in an area that was probably once the basement. She shouted down to him to let him know she was going to repel down. Patiently, he waited for her to repel down until she was on her feet. Down here, in this area, it sustained the most damage. The smell of smoke was still heavy, so there was no way they would be able to remain here for long. While the other guy poked around in one area, she was drawn to another. She took a tire tool she had brought down with her and moved the lump around a few millimeters. From her vantage point on her feet, it looked like the remains of a microscope. She knelt down to get a better look. It was a microscope. Other items stuck her attention as well. It was shattered beakers.
Despite her equipment, despite it all, the environment was too heavy. She had to get out of here. She climbed back out of the basement and as soon as she got her feet down on steady ground, she shed the heavy mask and other equipment. It was then that her partner noticed her.
“What did you see?” He asked as he was approaching her.
Christine gave him a slightly dirty look as he came toward her. He didn’t have the balls to climb into the house to look around. He waited on someone else to do the work for him. “Looks like Tackett had a lab down in his basement. I saw a microscope and some crushed beakers.”
He made a face. “That’s weird. What were they doing down there? Cooking meth?”
She rolled her eyes. He was so stupid. If they had been cooking, there would have been a huge explosion. Who was this guy anyway? Belmont’s nephew? “They weren’t cooking anything, but they were surely doing something they weren’t supposed to.”
The captain sat behind his desk gazing unsteadily at the parents of Hugh and Callie Norwood. Hugh was definitely deceased, but he couldn’t say the same about Callie. He didn’t know where she was. As for how Hugh died, he didn’t quite know that, either.
As he gazed at Patrick and Judy Norwood, he noticed one thing. Hugh looked exactly like his dad. The resemblance was uncanny. It was hard looking at the other man. He had no explanation as to why their son died or how their daughter had disappeared without a trace. Callie was supposed to be at the university, but a quick check verified she wasn’t there.
“I’m so sorry about Hugh,” Belmont began slowly. “He was one hell of a cop and was expected to take over for me when I retire.”
Patrick Norwood’s resolve was solid. He didn’t move. However, Judy Norwood brought a piece of tissue up to her eyes and daubed them dry. He hated moments like this, hated facing parents who were so different in resolve.
“I understand our daughter is missing,” Patrick said. “We haven’t heard from her and if she wasn’t in any harm, she would have contacted us as soon as we heard about Hughie.”
“I understand that, Mr. Norwood,” Belmont said. “The last we heard, she was in the company of Jenna Vos.”
Judy Norwood looked up at the mention of a woman’s name. “Who is she?”
“I believe she is the live in lover of Hugh’s partner, Keagan Tackett,” he said.
Patrick and Judy knew Lynch well. They weren’t as acquainted with his house mates, but they knew he lived with two other people. “Do you think Lynch had anything to do with our boy’s death and our daughter’s disappearance?”
“I can’t deny or confirm that,” Belmont said. “Callie may be in the company of these folks willingly. I understand they were very well acquainted with each other.” Belmont didn’t tell them they suspected that Hugh was responsible for stealing evidence, either. There were many things going on that these people didn’t quite need to know yet. “Hugh and Lynch were very close. I highly doubt that Lynch lured him in to the house and burned it down without someone seeing something. I know the house is way out of town, but Lynch had many neighbors.”
“I don’t think you’re doing enough,” Patrick Norwood said, finally airing what had been on his mind since he and his wife arrived in town. “I think Callie should have already been found. I think Lynch should already have been found. There aren’t many places they can go.”
Norwood’s words testified to the fact about how much he knew about police work, which wasn’t much. Belmont wasn’t impressed with his accusation. Lynch Tackett was a good man. There was no way he would kill his partner or his little sister. “I hear what you’re saying,” Belmont said. “Please, go check into a hotel and we’ll surely keep you updated.”
“Yes,” Judy Norwood said. “Cover your ass.”
As soon as the two of them left the office, Belmont covered his face with his hands and sighed. He couldn’t wait until he had enough time to go out and get a bourbon. He didn’t have time to pause. Christine Knight bounced into his office, dirty, and smelling of smoke.
“Did you find anything interesting?” Belmont asked tiredly.
“Somewhat,” she said. “They had a lab in their basement. I found broken beakers and a damaged microscope.”
He scratched the top of his balding head. “A lab? They obviously weren’t cooking drugs down there,” he surmised. “Any idea what they were doing?”
She shook her head. “No idea, Boss. However, there was also plenty of what looked like syringes and so forth. If they weren’t cooking drugs, they were definitely cooking something.”
The mystery went up an octave. Belmont didn’t see any relief in sight, or a chance to escape and get his bourbon. “Thanks, Knight. Whatever we do, we need to find Callie Norwood and Lynch Tackett.”
“Do you think they’re involved?” Knight asked.
He looked up at her. “My honest opinion?” She shrugged and lifted her eyebrows. “My gut tells me no. Will I have to arrest somebody? It’s a good chance.”