Lynch came awake slowly. His eyes felt like ancient window shades opening for the first time in decades. He was in his old bed, at the plantation house that he thought burned to the ground. He felt a body next to his. Was everything before he awoke a dream? If so, it would be nice to put the nightmare behind him. He glanced at the body next to him. Sure enough, it was Jenna. She was lying next to him with nothing on. Her body was atop the covers and she seemed to be staring up at the ceiling with a knowing smile. He rose up on one elbow, seeing for the first time, that someone had moved a baby crib into the room. When did this happen? Whose baby was lying in the bed?
“She’s ours, Lynch,” Jenna whispered, as if she was inside his mind. “Don’t you remember our daughter?”
“Our daughter?” He asked as if he had never heard the word before. “We have a daughter? When? Jenna, I don’t understand.”
“It’s okay, you will in time,” she said reassuringly. “You were in a coma after surgery, and I found out I was pregnant. Isn’t it wonderful? To have our own child?”
He gazed down at her smiling face. He placed the back of his hand on her cheek and caressed it gently with his knuckles. “How can we, Jenna? We’re both lycans. Two immortals cannot produce a child.”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” she said with a giggle.
There was something very odd about this reality. It was off center somehow, like a house with a bad foundation. Lynch turned away from Jenna and stood on shaky legs. Slowly, he walked over to the crib. From his vantage point, he couldn’t see the infant. He heard slight noises, snuffling, and the sound clothing makes when it touches other types of soft material. Basically, it was what babies did in their cribs. Right? He didn’t know. Moving around the end of the bed, he crept up to it and looked down. There was nothing inside other than a blanket and a small baby toy. What the hell was happening to him? He heard Jenna behind him singing softly toward a bed with nothing in it.
Lynch turned to face Jenna, who was still lying flat on her back. She sang an old Dutch love song, “Onze Liefde Alleen,” which translated to “Our Love Alone.” It was one of her childhood favorites. He had never heard her sing it like this, however. She whispered it, as if afraid someone else would hear what she was saying. He didn’t understand any of this. Had he gone mad?
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He spun around to see nothing before him. Only air.
“Mr. Tackett,” a male voice said calmly. “Can you hear me? Come on, sir, you must wake up.”
Fuck it. He was dreaming, just the wrong dream, of course. He woke up and peered into the eyes of the man annoying the hell out of him. He believed the kid was either a surgical tech or nurse. All he knew for certain was that he was getting damned tired of being shaken and screamed at. “I hear you,” he growled. “Stop touching me.”
“Good job, Mr. Tackett. Thank you for that,” the fellow said. “In a few minutes, I’m taking you to your room.”
“Whatever,” he groaned.
Lynch raised his head and looked around him. There was an open door several feet from the end of the bed. Standing there, looking quite dejected was Mick Belmont. Now it was coming to him. He had been shot by Clark Honsterott and was under arrest for the murders of two men. Belmont was upset, clearly, because he knew Keagan Tackett was a good man. He was no killer. Lynch knew this as well. Once upon a time, he had killed humans. He had not fed on a human in over a century. Now, he wouldn’t hurt a mouse. The charges were bullshit. Even a hardened cop like Belmont knew that.
He knew Belmont was suspicious of Christine Knight’s actions. This was not the woman either man knew. Knight was somewhat of a tomboy, tough, full of it at times, but she was a good cop. She wouldn’t fly off the handle even if she had witnessed the murder of her partner. It wasn’t part of her character. Belmont couldn’t see it; of course, he did not realize who the true monster was. It surely wasn’t Lynch. If the chief would speak to him, man to man, he could explain it. He couldn’t make it better, just tell truth and point them in the right direction. If the police could take down Clark, his family wouldn’t have to do it. He shook his head. The anesthesia was fucking with him. There was no way the police could handle an immortal.
Belmont walked up to the bed where Lynch was still trying to get hold of his bearings. “Lynch, as soon as they allow you to recover for a few hours, I’m taking you down to the jail.”
As well as he could, he focused his foggy eyes on Belmont’s face. He had known this man for several years. “You know I didn’t kill those people,” Lynch said solemnly. “And I know you know.”
“My friend, it doesn’t matter what I know, it matters where the evidence points. Right now, the finger is on you.”
“Come on,” Lynch said, his voice becoming clearer the more he spoke. “You know in your gut I would never kill anyone. Who do you think you’re talking to, Mick?”
Belmont found a chair, dragged it over to the bedside, and sat down. “There have been other murders around the area as well,” he said. “We’re looking at you for those.”
“That’s bullshit,” Lynch said indignantly. “I wouldn’t do that to a person. I wouldn’t and you know it.”
“It doesn’t matter, Lynch. We’re taking you in as soon as the hospital says you can be moved. The shoulder wound wasn’t serious. It will heal fine.”
Belmont was about to go, but Lynch grabbed his wrist before he could stand. “Before you leave, I have one question.” When Belmont didn’t interrupt him, he continued, “What did that bullet look like? Was it an average side arm bullet or something different than that?”
He saw a glimmer in Belmont’s eye, as if he had noticed a difference. It was gone as soon as it appeared. “There was nothing wrong with the bullet, Lynch. It was a standard, service revolver bullet. No big deal.”
“You’re lying, Mick,” he said. “I see it all over you.”
“We’ll talk more at the jail, Lynch. I promise.”
Lynch wanted to say more, to keep his friend here longer. It was no use. Belmont had had enough. He wanted to leave before he could get sick about a good cop gone bad. Lynch wanted to sit up in bed. When he made moves to do so, he noticed for the first time he had been cuffed to the metal railing of the bed. So it was true. Completely true. His boss thought he was a blood thirsty killer. Somewhere, Clark Honsterott loved this drama. He felt it with every fiber of his being.
He had one free hand left. He used it to peel away at the bandage covering his wound. To his delight, it had already healed. There was nothing left of the damage caused by the altered bullet. Lynch knew he couldn’t escape here. There were too many people around, too much heat. Once Belmont had him in the city jail, he would escape and get back to his family.
Clark managed to walk right out of the morgue without anyone knowing. How would they? He came in as a chick with a hole in her head. He did, however, have to steal a suit of clothing from an intern. He might have gotten arrested if he walked out in the nude. It might be fun to be arrested. He could share a cell with Lynch Tackett and they could settle their scores right then and there. Yet, getting Callie back was more important than his tiff with Lynch. He was completely uninterested in Tackett and his crew. They were simply in the way. They had taken on Callie as if she were a charity project. They would pay for that. All of them. Especially Joris.
He was never one to use his feet as a mode of transportation unless he was totally desperate. There were some cars parked in the lot and he hoped that someone left his or her keys somewhere inside. He tried several of them before he found one that was blessedly unlocked. If he could find the keys, that would be wonderful. He had learned how to hot wire cars when he was a kid, but it was always nicer if he didn’t have to ruin one. He was a snob when it came to cars, so the inside had to be pristine, with no ugly wires hanging down.
When he opened the door and slid inside, he first thought he found a dud. He looked at every hiding place known to man. No keys. Just when he was ready to start yanking wires, he forgot one place where he had not looked. Up above, on the visor, there appeared to be keys. This was the first place most people looked. He didn’t, because he was tired and just wanted to get Callie back. That’s all he wanted. When he pulled the visor down, the keys tumbled to his lap. Clark laughed like a child. This was the best. It would take some time to get back to Joris’ fortress, but he would enjoy the ride. Perhaps there would be people out and about, people on which he could feed.
Joris stayed in the house to watch for further movement from outside. He was monitoring his security system closely. The last of the police had left hours ago. There had been no word on Lynch yet. He wasn’t as worried about Lynch as he was Jenna and Callie. When Clark came, he would know. He would throw as much hate to Clark as he could. Right now, the other man was obsessed with Callie. Since he knew that Joris had made love to her, Clark was even more on fire. He would produce as much hate as he could to lead the man into the chamber to his death.
Down below, both women were sitting on the floor with their backs to the wall. Callie’s legs stretched before her, while Jenna’s were crushed against her body. She hugged them like she would hold Lynch when she saw him again. She laid her cheek on her knees and waited. She saw Andy standing before a tall table. He had a laptop down in the depths with them. She didn’t know what he could possibly be looking at on the computer. Was he trying to hack into the hospital’s mainframe to get information? Suddenly, Jenna was alert as hell.
She brought her body up to her feet and stood beside Andy. He had a program open and was typing like a maniac. She couldn’t figure out what the hell he was doing. Then again, she knew nothing about computers, so she supposed it made perfect sense. “Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”
Andy stopped typing long enough to look at her. “You’re exactly right. They have incredible firewalls at that place,” he said lightly, purposely trying to make Jenna smile.
It worked. She gave him a feeble one. It was a smile all the same. “Good for you. I’m so worried about him.”
While Andy and Jenna stood together, Callie was having her own special type of pity party. “This is all my fault,” she said suddenly, her voice dead, flat, without a simple tone. “If I had stayed in New York, let Clark have me, I would have been fine. No one here would have to sacrifice their lives, Lynch wouldn’t be in jail. None of this.”
Jenna left Andy to his hacking. Turning toward Callie, she fixed a stony gaze on the younger woman. “Keep that attitude, Callie, and someone will die.”
“I’ve already lost Hughie, so I don’t have much left, Jenna,” she said shortly.
“You still have your parents, Joris, and us. I think that’s a lot,” Jenna said calmly. “Wallowing in your pity doesn’t help us. Get your head right and be ready. Do you understand?”
Callie wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I do, Jenna. I’m sorry. I just wish everything was different.”
“We all do,” Andy said from behind his laptop. “Some things just cannot be.” A sharp dong noise interrupted his reverie. “Jenna, I think I found something.”
She raced over to the computer and gawked at the screen. A nurse had left computerized notes about the surgery, Lynch’s condition, and room number. According to what she saw, Lynch was fine. The bullet had gone clean through the meat of his shoulder without breaking any bones. Tears began to stream down her eyes. Andy put his arm around her and gave her an awkward sideways hug.
“I want to go to him,” Jenna whispered. “I know I can’t, but it’s killing me.”
“I know, Vos,” Andy said gently. “Soon. You will see him soon.”
Lynch sat in the interrogation room across from Mick Belmont. Usually, suspects were cuffed to the steal chain hooked to the table. However, Belmont decided to allow Lynch to sit here without bonds. That action alone said a lot about his chief. It said he felt the charges were bullshit as well. Clearing his name would not be easy, especially if they intended to kill the primary suspect.
“I realize you have alibis when some of the homicides were committed,” Belmont said. “Others, you don’t, specifically that of Hugh Norwood and Dirk Havens. I know your friend said you were at his house at the time. He’s not a reliable witness, Lynch. He lied about your presence, he harbored a fugitive. How can I believe his alibi for you?”
They had foregone putting him into an orange jumpsuit, so he was still adorned in hospital gear. Some forgiving soul had brought him a pair of sweats, so he didn’t look completely ridiculous. “I didn’t touch either of them. I loved Hugh like a brother, Mick. You know that. I told you who to look for. His name is Clark Honsterott. He is probably on his way to Joris Hoff’s house right now looking for Callie Norwood.”
Belmont had never heard the name spoken from Hugh. Since Lynch insisted that Honsterott was the person responsible for the murders, he had done some digging and made calls to NYPD. Apparently, this fellow had quite a record of battery charges from way back. He was a very unstable kid. His only living family was a sister. He believed Lynch when he said the man was looking for Callie Norwood. He read the faxed report from NYPD, which mentioned her name numerous times. The last was when she came to LeVale. It was an assault report. She had dropped the charges just before leaving town. Hugh had introduced him to her. She was the oddest abuse victim he had ever met. It didn’t add up, just like this.
“Lynch, I believe you’re telling the truth, but I have a few questions plaguing me. Why did you run when your house burned? Why was Hugh there?”
“Chief, we left before Hugh came to my house. He was possibly going to ask the same questions about the other murders on your mind. I simply didn’t know he was coming.” Lynch sighed heavily, wishing for a drink more than ever before. “We were trying to protect Callie from her boyfriend, taking her somewhere she could be safe. Joris Hoff has a tremendous house that is hard to find. That’s why we left. I didn’t set my house on fire. I didn’t kill Hugh, Dirk, or any of the other victims. The man you need to seek is Clark Honsterott.” He tapped the table with his index finger. “He is the person who should be sitting here.”
Belmont scratched his head while shaking it at the same time. “How can one man be so dangerous? He’s a pipsqueak, Lynch.”
He laughed sardonically. “So are a lot of serial killers, Chief. He is deadly, Mick, like a weapon.”
“Nothing adds up, Lynch. Nothing. I have no choice. I’m keeping you here until we can figure this out.”
It was what Lynch wanted. He could escape that way. “If you think it’s best, I won’t fight you,” he said. “Just please send someone out that way. Call their office, tell them to watch out for this guy. He will hurt the people I’m trying to protect, the ones I love.”
“I’ll see what we can do,” Belmont said absently.
Lynch was led into a small holding cell that had a standard cot and a combination toilet/sink. Quietly, he walked over to the cot and sat down, almost bumping his head on the one above him. He crossed his hands before him in thought. What he was actually doing was watching, waiting. As soon as he was relatively alone, he would escape from this cell. He would deal with the consequences later. Right now, the only thing that mattered was getting back to his family.
After fifteen minutes, Lynch felt confident enough to make his exit. Clenching his teeth against the roar about to leave his mouth, he grasped the edges of the cot and held on until his knuckles turned white. The transformation was coming on. He felt it now, loving and hating it at the same time. He fought back another roar as he heard the clothes ripping away from his body.
With his clothing lying in tatters on the cot, he balled his body into the fetal position while his muscles, bones, and skin stretched and pulled. He lifted his head to stifle another roar as the veins bulged in his neck. When the hair began to grow heavily on his body, looking as if it had been drawn there suddenly, he shoved his face into the thin mattress. For him, this part of the metamorphosis was always the most painful. Lynch’s mouth fell open as his canine teeth began to lengthen, his saliva staining the thin mattress. His claws grew long before his eyes, hurting much less. They were to be the power houses tonight.
Lynch stretched his legs out as they elongated and formed super strengthened muscles. It hurt like fuck until the final moment they were grown. Fully lycan now, Lynch could no longer fight the roar coming out of his mouth. It shook the small cell and those around him. He heard voices shouting about it, wondering what the hell it was. Thinking like a lycan, not like the practical man that was Lynch Tackett, he grabbed the bars of the cell and began pushing outward, then back, then out again. It didn’t take long for the bars to give way. When they did, Lynch was free.
He heard the humans coming now. He didn’t want to hurt them. He ran toward a window located behind a sergeant’s desk, crashing through it just as Belmont and two other officers made it into the room. They saw what had been done to the cell, the tattered remnants of Lynch’s clothing, and could not explain what had just happened. They all heard the roar. They all understood what it sounded like, yet none of them wanted to believe. It took several minutes for them to pull themselves together and chase after Lynch Tackett, a man who apparently destroyed a jail cell, escaping out a window without leaving a drop of blood behind.
Keeping away from humans, Lynch tore off into the woods. He would make it to Joris’ house without anyone seeing him. He heard the far away ‘whoop’ of police cruisers. Ignoring it, he ran as fast as he could. They would not find him until he wanted to be found. Clark Honsterott was almost at the Hoff house.
Lynch was right about that. Clark pulled off the stolen car to the side of the road. He knew Joris had an elaborate security system, so he would be forced to use his ability to shift. He ducked low beside the car, his body blending in with the color of it. As he slid past the car, his color changed to match the territory surrounding the Hoff property. He didn’t realize Joris knew his every move. He didn’t need a security system to do it, either.
As soon as Joris knew Clark was on the property, he took off for the chambers. When he burst into the main room, everyone looked at him, knowing it was time. Callie ran to the case which contained the cure and held on tightly. Andy shut off the laptop and stowed it into a cubby hole in the wall beside him. He stood alert. Jenna had taken half a shot today, so she could feel her canines growing, saw the world differently with her lycan eyes, and waited. It was time for the bastard to die.
Jenna suddenly realized Lynch was coming. “Lynch escaped jail,” she whispered. “He’s on the way.”
Clark picked his way around the property. It was well lit, yet, no alarms had gone off. It stuck him quite odd. He didn’t really care whether or not they knew he was coming. He suspected Hoff had a shelter under the house. If that was the case, wouldn’t there be a way inside from outside the house? Why have a chamber without an exit door to the world?
He knew he was getting close, because he could smell them. Whatever he smelled, he could see. The lycan female was partially transformed. Callie held onto a case for dear life. He knew her cure was inside it. It would be destroyed. Oh yes it would. The man, the one who defiled his woman, stood next to her. His death would be painful, his blood drank, his flesh torn. The other stood near a cubby hole in the wall. Why did his vision seem weaker? His eyes were perfect when he began to ‘see,’ but now they were growing hazy, almost hurting. He thought about killing the power to the home. He didn’t, as a man like Joris would have a generator. It would completely defeat the purpose.
Clark moved along the outside walls, not finding a fucking thing. Frustrated now, he decided to break into the stupid house. If he couldn’t find a way outside, he would find it inside. He issued a shriek of frustration that sent chills down the spines of those in the chamber. He ran toward the front of the house. There was a door open that led into what appeared to be a mud room. The other door was closed, but that was fine. Clark had no trouble bursting through it. As he thought numerous times, what good were super human powers if one didn’t use them?
Using the same weird, shriek filled voice, he yelled, “WHERE ARE YOU, CALLIE?”
It shook the house, rattled the door to the chamber. That was not good for those down in the depths. If the door shook, he would find it much easier. Callie, Jenna, Andy, and Joris stood strong. He shrieked again. And again, the house shook, the doors rattled. When they heard the noise settle, they knew Clark was upon them. It was just a matter of time before he burst through the door.
During Clark’s assault on the Hoff house, Lynch ran, moving closer to the house. He was close enough to know Clark was about to find the hidden door to the chambers. He prayed that his family was ready to deal with him.
Those fuckers, Clark thought. They thought they could hide from him down in some modern dungeon. Stupid humans. Why would they feel safe buried under a house? This door was heavier, so it took longer to figure out the logistics of removing it. Finally, he went with violence. It was the only way. He ripped the door off its heavy hinges, only experiencing a slight tug under his shoulder. He flung the door behind him, managing to ruin two rooms in the process. Pieces of wood flew everywhere.
The first thing that hit him was the lights. They seared his eyes like a hot pan. He shrieked again. The full force of it hit the people inside, knocking them down. Callie dropped her case. After recovering a moment, she scrambled to pick it up. Shielding his eyes with one arm, he stepped into the room anyway. He shambled along the walls, finding his way along the best he could. He came upon another door. This one wasn’t as strong as the first. With his free arm, he shoved his elbow against the door. It gave way easily. Inside, he knew they were lurking. Taking his free arm away from his burned eyes, he pointed a clawed finger at Andy and Joris.
“Poof,” he growled, then flicked his finger, sending the two men flying backward, knocking them down and out. They weren’t dead yet, but they would be.
Callie screamed out Joris’ name and forgot about her case. She ran toward him, leaving Jenna to dive for the case before Clark figured out how to get it. Jenna advanced on Clark. He couldn’t see, his eyes were flaming, but he knew she was advancing. Standing her ground, she waited. Suddenly, without warning, Clark moved quickly toward Jenna. Expecting it, she ran toward him without flinching. She saw something in his hand. Silver.
Callie checked on her lover, then ran back to help Jenna. She saw that Jenna and Clark were circling each other, like predators about to fight over their turf. Clark had silver in his hand. At any moment, he was going to hit her with it and Jenna would be a useless foe.
“Turn off the lights, Callie,” Clark demanded. “I have enough silver to kill this lycan bitch.”
“Don’t believe him, Callie,” Jenna countered. “He’s bluffing.”
“I’m not, you doggie cunt,” he said crudely. “Turn off the lights, babe,” he said. “Turn them off or I will finish her.”
Before Callie could move, Jenna rushed Clark, knocking him down with the weight of her body. She dug her claws into his face, raking them along his neck. Clark screeched at her, mostly to throw her off, but it didn’t work. It was hard fighting her with the lights the way they were. Joris Hoff was smart when it came to lighting the place. He never would have anticipated it. Perhaps he would make Callie kill him. He used his free hand and struck out with the silver. He missed the first three times. On his fourth, the silver struck her thigh. He rammed it inside over and over, using it like a knife he cut upward, enjoying the sound of her screams.
Callie couldn’t take this. She couldn’t allow Clark to hurt Jenna. She turned off the lights. Another set came alive, but these were normal florescent tubes. “Leave her alone, Clark,” Callie said calmly. “I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go wherever you want. Just leave.”
Jenna’s thigh was torn up. The silver was inside the wound, burning it. She took hold of the shard, gritted her teeth, and yanked it out. The precious metal burned her hand. It was enough to end her ability to change. She didn’t care if she died as long as Lynch lived. That was the most important thing right now.
“I have more silver,” Clark announced. “I will use it if I must. Bring me your case, Callie.”
“Callie, don’t do it. Don’t listen to him,” Jenna demanded, panting heavily.
He turned to look at her. “Shut up, bitch.”
Obediently, Callie brought the case to Clark. He opened it and saw there were four syringes left. Wonderful. He took two of them, smashed them under his feet. He held one out to Callie. “Inject the bitch. Cure her.”
“Why Clark? Why?” She pleaded pitifully.
He shot out an arm and grabbed her neck. He yanked Callie closer to him. Her eyes were bugging out as she couldn’t breathe. Without a thought, he buried his face in her neck, biting her, injecting her with the venom that would bring her fully back to him.
“Callie! NO!” Jenna screamed.
It was too late. Callie crumpled to the floor as the venom worked in her body, fusing with her DNA, and changing her into a monster who would become Clark Honsterott’s mate. Since Callie was disabled for the moment, Clark took the syringe and slowly moved toward Jenna. She tried fruitlessly to move her body, desperately trying to get away. It was no use. The wound on her leg made escape impossible.
Smiling sweetly down at her, he took control of her with one hand. Injured, she couldn’t do anything. He jammed the needle into her good leg and rammed the plunger home. Jenna screamed a long string of curses his way, curses that made him feel good. The cure worked fast. Within moments, he sensed no strain of lycan DNA left inside her.
“Do you know why I need a human female, Jenna?” Clark asked a sweet smile still on his face.
Jenna knew. “You will not touch me,” she spat.
“I’m already touching you,” he said. “I’m going to fuck, impregnate, enslave, and take your baby away from you. We can make this very easy or very horrible. Your choice, Jenna.”
He reached down to the waistband of her slacks, his hooked fingers making contact with the flesh of her lower abdomen. Jenna began to buck underneath him. He then punctured her wrist with one of his claws, which stopped her immediately. Crudely, he sniffed her body, stopping short at her thighs. Suddenly, he stood. Without a care as to how much it would hurt, he kicked her wounded thigh. She whimpered, but still managed to curse him.
“Good goddamn,” he hissed.
By then, Callie had come around. His Callie. His immortal lover. Like an angel, she unfolded her crumpled body and brought herself to her feet. Ahead of her, she saw Clark. Smiling, she glided toward him, ever so gracefully, and stood next to him. “What’s the problem with her?”
“The bitch is already pregnant,” he said disgusted. “It won’t ruin our plans.”
Jenna heard the word, couldn’t believe it. How? She had become a lycan the first time Lynch made love to her. Wait a minute. She was still a human that night, when he made her pregnant. His fangs did not penetrate her flesh until moments later.
Jenna covered her ears. She couldn’t believe what happened. If Lynch did not make it in time, everyone would die with Callie as Clark’s accomplice. Dear God. She could do nothing. She was human, wounded, and…pregnant.
It was in that moment when Callie glanced at Jenna from the periphery of her eye. The look said more than Callie ever could in her present state. If Jenna had her lycanthrope power, she would have heard the words: Clark will not hurt you, I promise. She didn’t know if Callie’s look was an offer of a promise once Clark enslaved her or if she was still somewhat her old self reassuring her of the outcome. Whatever it was, Jenna didn’t care. All she wanted was Lynch.
Within moments of the thought, Lynch burst into the room in his full lycan glory. Callie, enchanted by Clark, didn’t react. Clark smiled. The lycan bore his eyes into the other immortals. Then, as if in a magic trick, Clark’s body shimmered, rolled; resembling bad TV reception. When the ‘Clark’ veneer was gone, the real monster came to be. She was a delicate, pristine looking woman with very fair skin, dark brown hair that flowed to her waist. She was dressed like the Colonial aristocrats. Her dress came from another time, one centuries ago. The sight of her brought Lynch back to himself, naked, and vulnerable. Suddenly, he understood more than he wanted.
Standing before them was Sophia Apton-Utting. Lynch recognized her from old family paintings. When Lynch asked his father what happened to her, he always retorted sharply, “she died.” He never asked about her again. Stunned, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
She ran her hands over her hair, down her body, and clasped them before her. “At last I have dominated Clark Honsterott. How was I to know that when I sought him out as prey, he had his own immortal gift? He had sex with another like him. When he became a shape shifter, he killed her. Poor Jenna. Cici’s brother was utterly sick, cruel, and a killer. In this domain, I am dominate. Callie was his project. Mine has been the same for three hundred years.” For a brief moment, she held her arms open wide. “Won’t you give your Aunt Sophia a hug?”
Lynch looked down at his injured lover before settling his eyes on his aunt. “My father told me you were dead.”
She threw back her head and laughed. “I was dead, but only Nikolas knew what truly became of me. Storm’s mother was a witch. She cast a spell to raise me. You see, your lying scum of a father tore out my heart after I gave birth to a dead girl child. Lydia, you see, was family of sorts. She felt so guilty betraying your father that she cast the spell to help normalize me. I was never normal and didn’t want it. When I emerged, I began plotting my revenge. I intend to kill every person associated with the Tackett family.”
He once again looked at Jenna. She was panting heavily in her pain. Her eyes sought assistance, but he had no way of knowing when Sophia would shift into her lycan form. He was ready for the fight.
He had yet to say anything and she didn’t like that. Callie stood beside her, like a drone. For all the time she was Clark and had been having an affair with Callie, the girl had no idea who she really was. “It’s a shame, Keagan. I wish your father hadn’t lied. I took care of you before he and Lydia became lovers. She looked down at Jenna, who was so like Lydia. “The apple does not fall far from the tree, does it?”
“Lynch,” Jenna hissed. “Leave!”
He wasn’t about to do that. He sensed Sophia about to change, to shift into her full lycan glory. She was older, stronger, and filled with hatred. He had no way of defeating her, unless he tried his father’s trick. That meant making contact with her.
Sophia finished shifting and rolled her neck lithely. It felt miraculous. How long had that idiot Clark dominated her? No man dominated her. No man. She stood before them all, silencing them. Her fur was dark brown like her hair. Her eyes were red, mostly due to the other immortal inside her. She gave everyone a toothy, wide snarl. With the exception of Jenna, they would all die. She needed Jenna’s baby.
She advanced on Tackett with one arm extended, razor sharp claws at the ready. She swiped them over Lynch’s chest. He screamed, as did Jenna. The others in the room huddled together, secretly trying to find a way to kill her.
Lynch didn’t strike back. Instead, he stood his ground and waited for Sophia to get at arm’s length so he could take her out as his father did. “Sophia, you cannot win. The odds are not in your favor.”
She roared, the sound filling the room with chilling blood lust. Her red eyes fixed on his. He heard the thought broadcasted loudly. “That is what you think.”
He watched as she struck out with her arm, intending to do to him what Nikolas Tackett had done to her three hundred years ago. With little thought, he willed his human arm to become heavy with fur and deadly with claws. He grabbed Sophia by the thick fur on her chest and plunged his hand into the cavity. His hand emerged with a beating heart lying in his hand. Sophia’s eyes grew large. How had he tricked her again? When he smashed her heart to pieces, her body fell to the floor. They watched as she died, changing back to the woman she once was in the eighteenth century. She was not beautiful, simply plain and pious. The instant her mate died, Callie stood nearby, blinking stupidly at the mess around her. Clark’s poison was still inside her, giving her the immortality she had never wanted. “Farewell again, Aunt Sophia,” he growled.
He checked Jenna’s wounds, determined they weren’t fatal, and collapsed. After gathering herself, Callie helped Jenna approach Lynch. Once she was near him, Jenna wrapped her arms around him, holding him close, listening to him taking deep breaths, calming down, and releasing the part of him that had been the wolf. After he was her Lynch again, Jenna asked Callie to get a blanket for him. She did, also covering Lynch from the waist down. When that task was complete, Callie left them alone to tend to Joris.
“Your leg,” he said, panting. “What did she do to your leg?”
“Silver shard. Ripped it up, from the looks of it,” she said. “She took one of Callie’s syringes and gave me the cure,” she explained. “She destroyed two of them.”
“Cure,” he uttered. “You’re human again?” He asked wonderingly.
She nodded and wiped the tears out of her eyes. “There’s more.”
“Tell me,” he commanded gently. “What else?”
“After she turned Callie, she said that Clark would rape me so I could have a child. That’s why she wanted to cure me.”
He groaned painfully. Why the hell couldn’t he have gotten here sooner? Off in the distance, he heard approaching sirens. He ignored them to focus on his woman. “No, babe,” he said with clenched teeth. “He didn’t, did he?”
She smiled. “No, thank God, he didn’t. Clark couldn’t do it, Lynch, primarily because he said I was already pregnant.”
Lynch gave her a bizarre look. “That’s impossible. I never made love to you when you were human. Two lycans cannot reproduce.”
“Lynch, the first time we made love, I was still human. If I am pregnant, we conceived that very night. Touch me and you will know.”
Carefully, he placed his hand on her lower abdomen. He felt a rush he had never known. Only a heroin addict would understand how he felt at that moment. Yes. There was a little life in there. How had the child survived when she became immortal? “You are,” he whispered.
Happy tears cut streaks down the grime on her pretty face. “Lynch, we’re going to be parents,” she said with a smile.
Callie returned to let them know Andy and Joris’ status. She also wanted to alert them to the sound of approaching police cruisers. However, they were having an intense moment. She didn’t want to disturb them. “I’m sorry. Andy and Joris are going to be fine.” Slowly, she approached the couple huddled on the floor. She had two cases with her. One was the case that held the cure. The other was a medical kit Joris directed her toward. They could deal with the authorities later. “Jenna, I need to help you with your leg. But first, I want to give the last serum to Lynch.”
“No,” he said sternly, forcefully.
Jenna looked at him, reading something in his eyes that she didn’t like. “What do you mean?”
“Give yourself the serum, Callie. You’re young, you deserve a normal life. You deserve it simply for what Clark Honsterott and my aunt did to you. Neither you nor Jenna should live the life of an immortal. It’s not right.”
“Lynch, what are you talking about?” Jenna asked.
“It’s not right, Jenna. I won’t take the cure, not when another needs it more than I do.” He looked at Callie. “I know Jenna’s leg needs attention, I know the cops are coming, but could you give us another minute?”
She nodded. “Of course I can.”
“Have Joris give you the serum, Callie,” he said. “I mean it.”
“Lynch, what the hell is going on here?” She demanded. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m not going to allow anyone else to live like me. I shouldn’t have changed you in the first place. I want you to leave, Jenna. I want you to have a life of your own. You have a baby to think about. That should be your focus. Go away, find another home, another man, and be happy.”
It was rare to see him like this. He was crying steadily, his tears plopping down to his chest. “We have a life together, Lynch. We have a baby to think about. This is our child. With you, I am happy.”
“If you conceived as a human, the child will be human,” he said gently. “No child should live with me. No one is ever safe around me.”
“I can’t do this without you,” she said simply. “What if you’re wrong? What if our child is born a lycan?”
“You’ve proven you can do anything. I don’t want to turn you away. I don’t want to turn our child away. It’s simply not safe. There is little to no chance the baby will have one drop of lycan blood. You have been shackled to me long enough.” Embarrassed, he wiped the tears away. It didn’t matter, they were replaced by more. “Go, Jenna. Tonight. I’m sure Joris will arrange everything.”
“Lynch, don’t do this,” she said pleadingly. “Please don’t do this. I don’t want to have our baby without you.”
He cupped her face in his hands. “You will. You will be the best mother. You will love our child enough so that you won’t even remember your life with me. As time goes on, I’ll be nothing more than a passing thought. Be happy, my love. Promise me.”
“I can’t, Lynch,” she cried. “I can’t!”
He kissed her ever so gently. “I know you can,” he whispered against her lips. “I know because you are the strongest woman I have ever known. Take our baby away from this craziness.”
“What will I tell our child about you?” She asked in tears. “What should I say?”
The police were finally here. He heard them bursting into the house, shouting, demanding that everyone come out with their hands in the air. He didn’t know how to answer Jenna’s question. Despite this, she deserved an answer.
“You say nothing.” He laughed sardonically. “Lycanthropes don’t exist anyway. Right?”
EPILOGUE: ONE COLD DAY
Joris Hoff entered the apartment building straight off the street. Today, it was brutally cold, the wind howling around the building, nearly gale force. It was almost too cold for him in this country. However, it was where his ancestors first put down their roots. He supposed his children would be raised here someday. On days like this, he might have preferred Hawaii.
He pushed his thoughts aside as he climbed into the elevator. Having moved to Holland fifteen months ago, he was finally learning his way around, brushing up on the language, and figuring out how to get to his apartment on the 53rd floor. It was warm inside, so he shed the stifling scarf, his goofy winter hat, and the thick gloves he wore to keep his hands from freezing. At least it was sunny, or he would have had to carry a cumbersome umbrella.
The elevator ride seemed to have taken an hour. When the car stopped and the doors opened, he was glad to be home. It had been a long day at the university. He had more ahead of him. Considering that he had abandoned his estate and the USA, teaching was not so bad. The apartment was quite smaller than his old home, but roomy enough. It had windows everywhere, granting him a wonderful view. He bought it with cold, hard cash. Thank God for offshore bank accounts. Thank God for many things, like his young wife, Callie.
Every day when he came home, she met him at the door with a hug and a kiss. She changed her hairstyle when they first came here, dying it a neutral shade of blonde. It was longer now, past her shoulders. They married right after leaving everything behind. She was pregnant with their first child. Today marked her fourth month.
After greeting his wife, Joris moved further into the room, noticing that Andy was glued to his laptop, as usual. Their apartment had six bedrooms and one was used as a laboratory. While Joris taught at the university, Andy and Callie continued their work, exploring compounds, enzymes, and were dedicated to recreating the cure. On that dark night so long ago, Joris gave Callie the cure meant for Lynch. He did it without hesitation. He was certain Andy and his wife would one day have the serum in their hands. Until then, they would keep fighting the wolf inside Lynch.
What happened after the police arrived was still a mystery to them all. Not following protocol, Mick Belmont separated from the rest of the officers. He found the chamber room first. He saw Lynch Tackett naked from the waist up with a bloody arm and what appeared to be some type of human tissue. He saw a dead woman wearing Colonial garb. Belmont was wise, intelligent, and convinced that fairy tales were utter bullshit. He couldn’t explain what happened to the jail’s holding cell or how Tackett arrived here so quickly without a stitch of clothing on him. No one spoke a word. If Mick Belmont couldn’t explain something, it simply didn’t exist. It might have sounded completely unlike him, perhaps dumb as well. Whatever it was, he turned around, walked out, and closed the door behind him. They were left undiscovered by the others.
After Joris, Callie, and Andy tearfully saw Jenna on her way, they returned to pack. It was no longer safe for Lynch to remain in the US. It was time for him to ‘retire,’ move to another part of the world, and begin a new career. If it weren’t for Mick Belmont, they would not be here today.
Lynch found a job with a government agency. It wasn’t law enforcement, exactly, but close. He was due back in an hour. Joris was anxious to see him. There was something he needed to discuss with him before the day was finished. Hating the waiting game more than any man alive, Joris decided to spend time on the couch, snuggling with his wife. Just as he had gotten quite comfortable, the doorbell rang. He looked at his watch. Damn it. Couldn’t be. It was too early.
Pushing aside his slight irritation, Joris left the comfort of his wife’s arms and went to the front door. They didn’t trust anyone yet, even after this long, so each of them always checked the peephole. When he saw their guest, he smiled. He opened the door and gazed at the beautiful face of one Jenna Vos. Nestled snugly in a portable bassinet was her six month old infant.
“You are early, my dear,” Joris said amusedly.
She shrugged. “Foreign country and all, but they still allowed me to zoom through security.”
Both Callie and Andy cocked their heads to the side, listening to the voices. The effect was completely comic. Their visitor was Jenna? How did she know where they were? Did Lynch find her? Tell her? Bring her back where she belonged?
“What’s going on?” Callie asked as she and Andy went to the door.
Jenna’s eyes grew large when she saw the slight bulge at Callie’s middle. She knew Joris and she married, but she didn’t know they were having a child. “I’m happy to see you, too,” she said sarcastically. “Can I come in? This carrier weighs a ton!”
Ushering her inside, they spent a good amount of time crowing about the baby. Callie showed Jenna where to leave the infant to sleep and brought her back to the living room. They sat down and began the process of reacquainting themselves. Fifteen months apart soon felt like no more than fifteen seconds. Unbeknownst to Andy and Callie, Joris had always known where Jenna and the baby were. He kept the information hidden away from Lynch, who thought of them constantly. However, when Jenna left, Lynch fell apart. Jenna was no better. The only thing that kept her centered was the baby.
Once Jenna knew where the family settled, she immediately wanted to move back, try to persuade Lynch to change his mind. Joris reasoned with her, told her the truth about Lynch’s emotional status. For weeks, he went on drinking binges, and wound up sleeping on the street. There was nothing any of them could do that didn’t involve bringing Jenna back home. If any of them mentioned her name, Lynch went further into oblivion. The booze made keeping him from transforming almost impossible. Rumors began to float about town of a ‘wolf man’ stalking unsuspecting citizens. It was tabloid information, of course, but damaging all the same. If Lynch were discovered in lycan form, he would become a student’s science project.
Lynch woke from a binge one evening. He sat on the edge of a canal, seriously contemplating jumping in the water to see how long it would take for him to die. A passing thought of Jenna, of their baby, stopped him. He didn’t know where they were, what his child looked like, if he had a son or daughter. He didn’t know if either of them had survived the birth. He never asked any questions as he was certain no one had the answers. He suspected Joris knew more than he let on. Still, he didn’t ask. It hurt too much. Thinking about the dark days, when he lost Storm, literally sobered him. He stood, backed away from the canal, and went home. From that day forward, he was back to his old self. When Joris was sure of this, sure of Lynch’s emotional state, he sent for Jenna. It was time for him to meet his child. And it was about to happen…
Lynch left work a few minutes late. He didn’t mind, it gave him time to catch up on other projects that needed his attention. His office building wasn’t far from home. On most days, he walked to and from work. Today wasn’t a walk friendly day, but he did it anyway. Wrapping up from head to toe, he left the warmth of his office and hit the cold street.
The wind was horrendous, which made him smile. It wasn’t a happy one. It usually came when he had a passing thought, a ‘Jenna moment.’ On days when a sad smile touched his lips, he could hear her voice declaring, ‘I told you so, babe.’ She loved saying that any time she was right, which was almost always. He missed her more than he could describe in mere words. Nothing was the same without her. He sent her away with good intentions only to realize he was wrong. I told you so, babe. Thinking of the baby made it worse, made him want to visit that canal again. He hadn’t, he wouldn’t. Another thought entered his mind. Why postpone his death? It was what he wanted, wasn’t it? All these years? Hadn’t he begged for it many times? What made everything different was the fact that out there somewhere was a child…his child.
Perhaps he would have a long talk with Joris. If Joris knew where they were, Lynch would contact her, if only to ensure they were both okay. Was she married? Was she happy? Would she come home with their infant? Shivering in his heavy winter clothing, he pushed his body forward, staring down at the sidewalk. There were others milling about, but he paid them no attention. His mind was not with him today. It was with Jenna and their baby. His mind, heart, body, and soul would belong to no other.
Up ahead, Lynch saw the apartment building. He was utterly ecstatic to see it. It was just too damned cold out here. The wind was literally killing him, making his tired ass even more tired. He entered the building, went to the elevator, and climbed inside. He had no clue what awaited him.
When Lynch tried the door, he found it unlocked. Relieved that he didn’t have to dig out his key, he went inside, not finding anything out of the ordinary. Callie and Joris were sitting together, watching TV. Andy had his spindly body folded up into an armchair. His laptop was balanced precariously on his knees. He hung up his ten pounds of winter clothing. Hungry as hell, he started for the kitchen. A sound stopped him. He had to be hallucinating. He heard the faint strains of Jenna’s voice, singing Onze Liefde Alleen. He turned and looked at Callie first, then glanced at Joris, before finally settling his eyes on Andy. They were in their own zones. Was this what losing one’s mind felt like? Was it finally happening? He heard her voice again. It was coming from his bedroom. Completely unsure what to do, he stupidly stayed rooted to the same spot by the kitchen door. Had Joris recorded her to surprise him?
“I can’t stand this,” Callie whispered to her husband. “Lynch, just go.”
Her words broke his spell. Lynch made his way from the living room, down the hall, and turned right. His bedroom door was closed. Her voice was louder than before, yet so achingly quiet. He reached out, grasped the knob, and opened the door. He let out a breath he had held since he heard her voice. Sitting on the foot of his bed was the proverbial woman who got away. Immediately, he noticed that she cut her hair. The back of it was short, barely touching her neck. The sides were dramatically longer, swinging almost past her chin. Although he missed her long hair, she was insanely beautiful, insanely real.
Jenna’s eyes saw changes in Lynch. His hair was shorter now, dyed black. He had grown a closely cropped beard that almost changed his looks completely. However, his eyes never changed. He was Lynch. She didn’t know how she felt at that moment. She wanted to throw herself in his arms, make mad love to him. At the same time, she was tempted to yell at him for turning her away.
While Jenna had difficulty pinpointing what she wanted to say, Lynch was conflicted at how he felt. The instant he opened his mouth, a noise drew his attention away from her. It was a small noise. He would call it a snuffling sound, one made by babies when they were sleeping. His eyes identified a small carry crib behind Jenna. Moving slowly, he inched toward the crib. Once he leaned over it, he was almost afraid to look, afraid it would be empty. It wasn’t. Inside lay a child…his child.
Jenna stood and went to the other side of the bed. Facing Lynch, she saw his eyes filling with tears. She swore she wouldn’t cry. She did, she couldn’t help it. “Would you like to meet your daughter?”
He swallowed a huge lump. “Daughter?”
“Yes,” she said. “Daughter. I named her Gretchen Constance Tackett.” She fused both his and her mothers’ names. “She has your eyes, Lynch.”
He hadn’t held many infants in his life, and today wasn’t the time to mess it up. He lifted her out of the crib without waking her. “Jesus,” he whispered. “She’s beautiful, Jenna.”
“That she is,” she said with a smile. “There’s another part of you she has.”
“Yeah?” He asked wonderingly. “What is it?”
“Your mark, Lynch.”
He didn’t believe her at first. Then he saw it. “It can’t be possible,” he managed to say. “No way.”
“Obviously, Lynch, you were wrong.” When she said those five words, he looked up at her. She was smiling at him, crying as well. “What are you thinking?”
It was a loaded question. His thoughts were everywhere, nowhere, right here inside his bedroom. Looking down at little Gretchen Constance, he said, “I think I’m in love.” He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead before placing her back into the crib. When this was accomplished, he sat on the side of the bed. “What do we do?”
She sat on the other side. Reaching for his hand, she said, “I think you know.”
He took hers in his; never believing this moment would ever happen. “Jenna-”
She squeezed his hand, cutting off his words. “I can’t ever fathom losing her, Lynch. I can’t see myself losing you again. You and I will make up for lost time by making love to each other. Whatever happens…happens.”
He gazed into her beautiful eyes, eyes that read his soul without an ounce of lycan blood. “What are we waiting for?”
Callie gladly agreed to take care of the baby while her parents ‘caught up.’ Together, they spoke of things unsaid for more than a year, connecting again, falling in love again. Naturally, they consummated their new found love. At the moment of his climax, a silver tint came to Lynch’s eyes. His canine teeth elongated just slightly. The first time it happened, he didn’t remember it. This time, he relished it. He realized he would never be alone. He craved this woman. He craved being with her. His teeth penetrated the delicate flesh of her shoulder. She hissed when she felt the tender bite. It didn’t hurt, and she reassured him. It stung, like a flu shot. Her hold on him grew tighter, her body shuddered against his. Whatever happened…happened.
Much later, the two of them lay on the bed, facing each other, propped up on their elbows. Little Gretchen Constance slept between them. Lynch touched her tiny arm with his huge finger, marveling at the silky softness of her skin. His father had guided him, and Lynch would now guide his child through life as a lycan.
He looked up at Jenna. She had been watching him closely, noticing how enamored he was of his daughter. “Would you consider moving here? Marrying me?”
She smiled lovingly at him, leaned forward, and kissed him deeply. When she ended the kiss, she said, “I thought you would never ask.”
Lynch watched as Jenna turned and grabbed a small box from the end table. She placed it on the bed between her and Constance. Jenna opened it and plucked out an engagement ring. With a pang, he saw that it was his mother’s ring. He kept it hidden in a safe at the old house. When it burned a year ago, he thought the ring was lost. How had she managed to save this? Like a queen waiting for someone to kiss her ring, she presented her hand to him. With the other, she gave him the ring.
“Go ahead,” she said softly. “Put it on my finger.”
With absolutely no hesitation, he did so. He looked down at the baby before settling his eyes on Jenna’s face. Two immortals were beside him. He would never have to roam the world alone again.
*The Dutch song, Onze Liefde Alleen, does not actually exist. It is only a figment of the author’s imagination. It was translated in the Dutch language. My source was E.J. South. Also, all Cherokee translations are also authentic. My source was S.M. Rutherford and A. Lee.
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