The Immortal Beside Me, Book II

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Chapter 8

It was the time of day when Lynch had finished his run, showered, and crawled into bed. Right now, he was in a bed in a stranger’s house with Jenna in his arms. Honestly, it couldn’t have been any better than this. The last time he felt this way, it was with the woman whose name he refused to utter. As he placed a gentle kiss atop Jenna’s head, he tried hard not to think of her. It was supremely difficult, because their lives had just crossed. It was as if he were living it again. This time, however, he hoped there weren’t any enemies lurking about. He was certain most of those who hated the Tackett family were long gone, dust in their graves.

Sometime today, he would have to make the journey back to LeVale. There wasn’t much he could do about the crimes in either Dubois or Calember counties. If they reached into Chiklis County, they would have a chance. He hoped it wouldn’t happen. Despite the area of the state his badge limited him to, he could do anything he wanted on his own. If he found the immortal, the problem would be solved. Of course, nothing was that easy. It wasn’t like he could approach the other guy, shake his hand, and then happily destroy him. There were no storybook endings. Something bad would come, whether they wanted it or not.

Jenna stirred against him, murmured his name, and kissed a spot on his upper chest. It tickled, but he remained still. He didn’t quite yet want to wake her. Although it was true he hated himself for what he did, and he would regret it for the rest of his eternity, if anyone could share his life or his heart, he wanted it to be Jenna. Perhaps if he had known her years before, she could have easily stolen his heart like the other. Storm. The name came to the surface so suddenly, he didn’t expect it. She was another piece of his history that might be best laid to rest with his other ghosts. If he did so, Jenna would most certainly stake claim to his heart for the rest of her eternity. When he thought of that, he smiled. Callie Norwood had the cure, she would help them both. He had no idea what he would do once free.

“Baby?” Jenna whispered against his chest.

“Mhm,” he answered lazily.

“I had a very nice dream,” she told him. “A woman I never met wished me the best with you. I think her name was Storm.” She leaned up slightly, noticing the way his eyes gleamed with a mix of sadness and fascination. “I’ve had the name in my head before, but never asked. Who was she? Was she real or a figment of my imagination?”

Lynch thought he would never have this discussion with her, as he surely didn’t expect to fall in love so deeply ever again. It was rare during one’s eternity. He thought of what Jenna said about Storm wishing her the best of luck. It was like her, it was something she would have said. “She was real, and her name was Storm.”

“What happened to her?”

He ran his hand through her soft hair. Vaguely, he wondered what she did to it to make it so soft, so comforting. He could hide in it all day. “She was a mortal woman, a daughter of a man with whom we did business. I tried courting her for weeks, but she didn’t seem interested. Eventually, her resolve began to weaken and we wound up falling in love. In those days, it wasn’t usual for a couple to make love until they married.”

She smiled as a soft blush came to his cheeks. Lynch Tackett was a passionate man who made love as if there were no tomorrow. Yet, he couldn’t speak of making love to the first woman he fell in love with. “You couldn’t wait,” she prodded gently.

He chuckled. “No, we couldn’t.” His eyes fell away from her gaze for a moment or so as the memories came flooding back. “During it, I bit her, as I did you. She didn’t care when I confessed and I was never happier. Our only issue was that she could never be with child. There would be no Tackett heirs. Neither of us seemed to mind that much. We were very much in love. Like a lot of families back then, the Tackett’s had enemies.” Sighing, he swallowed a huge lump that had formed in his throat. Telling the story was like reliving it. He felt the bitter sting of tears just behind his eyes. “One evening, an enemy of my father’s set fire to a storage building owned by the mercantile. My father, Storm, and her mother were burned alive. I barely made it out myself.” He didn’t mention anything about Lydia Coyfield, but noticed once more how much Jenna looked like her. Was it his father channeling through him or a simple coincidence? He also omitted the fact it was Storm’s supposed ‘father’ who set the blaze.

“Oh Lynch,” she breathed, her words overwhelmingly filled with emotion. “What a horrible thing for you to have lived with all these years. Did you ever find the killer?”

He diverted his eyes, ashamed of what he was about to tell her. This story was one he shared with Callie. After Jenna, he never wanted to speak of it again. “I did, Jenna. He was the first human I ever killed without…the need…”

She placed a finger over his lips. “You don’t have to say it,” she told him. “He deserved it for what he did to your family.”

“Do you see why I resisted you for so long?”

His question was asked with what she could only describe as passionate desperation. “I understand now,” she said plainly. “I don’t see how you could do it, Lynch. I can’t imagine not loving you now, not ever. Unlike you, though, I don’t think I could ever love another after you.”

“Don’t say that, Jenna,” he said sternly. “The cure is within our reach. If anything happens to me, you must promise that you won’t close your heart like I did for so long.”

She shut her eyes and shook her head stubbornly. “I cannot guarantee that, Lynch. Whatever happens, I’m yours for the rest of my life and beyond.”

Knowing it was no use arguing with her, he kissed her gently on the forehead. “I need to get back home, connect with Callie, and make sure she stays safe. Avoid Clark and his wife at all costs and get back home no later than tomorrow afternoon.”

“Okay. Be careful.”

He kissed her fully on the lips, gently tracing his tongue along them. “Always. Vos, remember I love you.”

As soon as Hugh came home and did his morning chores, Callie emerged from her bedroom. She didn’t want him to see her, as she did her morning routine of hiding from chores. For God’s sake, it felt as if she were living at home with their parents. They, like Hugh, were chore crazy. She hated it then and hated it even more now. It made her feel like she was ten years old again.

What, exactly, was on the docket today? She hadn’t heard from Lynch in a day and had begun to worry. Inherently, she figured he found Jenna. That thought alone made her extremely jealous. There was nothing she could do about that. If Lynch didn’t want her, she couldn’t make him want her. The one thing she had that he wanted was the cure. For him, she would proudly hand it over.

After putting herself together for the day, she called Lynch’s cell. It went immediately to voice mail. She again felt a pang of jealousy as she thought of him and Jenna in bed together. She left a message and carelessly put her phone in the pocket of her jeans. She left a note to his ‘Hughness,’ grabbed his keys, and made her way to his car. Since she hadn’t been able to land a job yet, she intended to go back to the university. Her sense of Clark having found her went away. Speaking of it to Lynch made her feel safe. Honestly, what could happen to her at the library? It was filled with people. Nothing could happen to her there. Surely, Clark wasn’t so stupid.

Callie made it to the library without incident. Just as she was about to go inside, Lynch returned her call and told her to stay at the library amongst a lot of people. There was definitely something he needed to tell her, but it was too risky to meet alone. His words rattled her. Was she right all along? Was Clark closer than she assumed? It was enough to drive her out of her mind.

She went into the library, found an armload of reading material, and chose a table close to a number of students. For at least half an hour, she pretended to read. There was no way. She had lost her focus. It wasn’t that she sensed Clark in every corner (which she did), it was the fact that Lynch had sounded ultra-concerned. She checked her watch every five minutes; time passed so slowly when waiting for someone. Each time a man entered the main room, she thought he was Lynch. None resembled Clark thus far, and that was fine with her.

Callie was seconds close to calling Lynch again when he finally entered the room. Despite the crowd, she wanted to run up to him and wrap her legs around his waist. Relief was a wondrous emotion.

He sat across from her and amusedly stared at the books. Jenna could have been her sister. Shrugging away the amusement for now, he glanced around them, secure in the knowledge that Clark was not near them.

“I visited Jenna earlier,” he began.

It wasn’t something she wanted to hear, but it was expected news. For no reason at all, she thought he’s off the market. What the hell was she thinking? Now wasn’t a time to act like a woman. “I gathered that,” she admitted.

“There are two things we have to worry about, Callie,” he said. “The first is a strike against me. The other is one against us all.”

“What are you saying, Lynch?” She asked, confused. He wasn’t making any sense. “I don’t get it.”

Without giving her the intimate details, he said, “Jenna has become a lycan, through me. Not at her request or mine.”

Oh now, I get it. You fucked her. “I see,” she said slowly. She was tempted to tell him that the cure wasn’t designed to assist women. That, of course, was a lie. “What else is going on?”

“Jenna is staying in Dubois County, where the last murder occurred. She is staying with her friend, Cici.”

It suddenly dawned on her, and did so horridly. “Jesus Christ, Lynch. Clark has a sister named Cici. You’re not saying…”

She couldn’t finish. Instinctively, he reached across the table and took her hand. It was freezing and shaking within his. He made direct eye contact with her to help her calm down. “Yes, Callie, unfortunately that’s exactly what I’m saying. Clark has been staying very close.”

“Does he know who Jenna is?” Her eyes had begun to tear up. She did nothing to prevent them from falling out of her eyes. “Does he?” Before he could answer, she continued, “if he does, he will know you, and not long after that, he will find me.”

“Callie,” he whispered harshly, authoritatively, as if she were a suspect he was interrogating. “He has met Jenna, but she doesn’t suspect he knows where you are. Not yet.”

She yanked her hand out of his and covered her face. She was laughing and crying, a crazy mixture that drew stares from the people around them. Lynch looked up at them, giving a get the fuck out of here vibe. Just from the look of him, they willingly obliged.

Not yet, you say.” She uncovered her face and stared into his eyes. For the first time since meeting her, he saw hate, deep rooted ire. “Not yet. It won’t be long. And what the hell does Jenna know, Lynch?”

Angered at the slight, he barked, “More than you understand. She would do nothing to hurt you intentionally.”

“When is it going to penetrate your thick skull, Lynch? Clark senses immortals. If he has touched her, he will know about you. Since you’ve touched me, he will know where I am. It’s as simple as that.”

“Callie, you may know of Clark’s immortality, of the creature he is. You, however, know nothing about lycans other than what books and movies tell you. I will and can protect you. I will stop the injections and have the ability to change at will. There is no foolish waiting for a full moon.”

He made the statement using strong tones, determined gazes, and sheer force of will. Other than her brother, she had never heard such dedication in a man’s voice. He said he would protect her, and she believed him. There was something else on her mind, actually someone else.

“What about Jenna?” She asked quietly.

“You both will protect the cure.” He knew Callie had ideas about him, about them together. She knew there was no chance. She was jealous, but she would do whatever was necessary to keep Clark away, to destroy him if they were forced to do so. “Neither of you need blood on your hands.”

She gave him a sardonic, sideways smile. He was a sexist pig. It fell away after a moment. “Whatever you do,” she whispered. “Don’t let him bite you. If he does, your DNA will alter. I can’t say with any certainty that you will die. If I administer the cure when that happens, you will die.”

This was definitely information Jenna could not hear. If she did, she would probably take on Clark herself. “Understood. How easy would it be to trick Clark, give him the cure, and go from there?”

“Not easy at all, Lynch. I don’t know how we would catch him and keep him without bait,” she said.

“All right,” he said. “All of us need to be prepared. There is one more thing. Did you have any idea that Clark has recently gotten married? Jenna said she met both he and the wife, just not at the same time.”

Callie gave him a shocked, open mouthed stare for a minute. “There probably isn’t a Sophia. Not a real one. Clark is a shape shifter and when we were together, I met him as Sophia.”

Indeed they would need to prepare. There was one little thing none of them knew. Clark wasn’t one to make a direct attack. He had destructive plans involving them all. There were several visits he needed to make.

With Jenna away and Lynch mostly MIA at home, Andy had the place all to himself. He had some knowledge of home improvement, so while he had the time, he repaired what he could and left what he couldn’t to the professionals. After a full day of puttering around the property, he went to his favorite easy chair and began to nap uneasily. His hearing was perfect, even if his eyes weren’t, so when the basement window shattered, Andy immediately knew something wasn’t right.

Living with a detective should have taught him to dial 911, but he didn’t. Instead, he made his way downstairs, baseball bat in hand, to investigate the noise. Their lab had to be protected at all costs. When he finally entered the basement, he noticed the smashed window right away. There was no one here. He frowned, completely out of sorts. What made the noise? The light was bright enough to see just about anything. Then he saw what could have made the noise. It was a squirrel, torn, bloody, and dying. There was a shard of glass in its stomach. Why would anyone throw an animal through a window?

“I would,” a man’s voice said.

Andy turned around just in time to see the true face of evil. Before he had the opportunity to speak, Clark backhanded Andy, knocking him unconscious. He was tempted to kill him, but refrained. Instead, he touched Andy’s forehead. When he woke, he wouldn’t remember being struck by another man. Clark replaced it with a cruel trick played on him by a vile child.

Clark looked around the laboratory. It wasn’t fancy, just built well enough for a few experiments or mixing compounds to keep a lycan in check. He didn’t want to destroy the lab no matter how much he would have enjoyed doing so. Glancing back at Andy, he slowly climbed upstairs to find a few pieces of evidence, stray threads, anything connected to Lynch Tackett and Jenna Vos. His next chore would be stalking new prey items here in good old Chiklis County. As he worked, he smiled. Yum yum.

Lynch and Callie drove their own cars to the diner. Lynch needed sleep, but right now, all he had on his mind was food. Callie only agreed to accompany him because she needed something else to do, keeping her mind off Clark. They sat a table and looked at two menus. Both seemed uninterested. Callie had her mind on Clark, Lynch’s was on Jenna.

After their drinks arrived, Callie drank her iced tea in an attempt to soothe her dried throat. The server should have just left the pitcher at the table. “Tell me something, Lynch,” Callie began, “if you weren’t so into Jenna, would I have had a chance?”

Lynch nearly choked on his own iced tea. What in the world caused her mind to drift toward that particular topic? “Callie, you’re a beautiful young woman, but as you know, we are so many worlds apart.”

Daintily, she wiped the excess tea off her lips. Laughing, she said, “In other words, no. What is wrong with me, Lynch? All these guys I’ve had were disasters. What is happening to me now seems like a cruel joke, as if my stupid cousin Woody was filming it for fun.”

“Callie, nothing is wrong with you. It’s youth. When you get older, you’ll get it,” he told her assuredly.

“When this is over, I’m going out West, starting over fresh.”

He smiled gently her way. “I think that’s a good idea, Callie. You’ll fit there.”

She drank off the rest of her iced tea in two large gulps. When she set down the glass, she asked, “And you?”

He shrugged. “I belong here.”

She lifted her brow. “With Jenna?”

“No one else,” he said with a firm nod.

“Lucky lady.”

Their conversation was light, nonsensical. They had no idea Clark was just outside their radar. He had what he needed. It was time to begin phase two.

Cici returned from her short business trip and invited Jenna out to dinner. She accepted, not knowing that Clark was along for the ride. Where the fuck was his wife? Knowing what he did was uncomfortable for Jenna. She kept her mind locked away, as she now had the ability. What she didn’t know was that Clark had the same ability. Unlike Jenna, he couldn’t resist keeping a smirk on his lips for most of the night. When Cici teased him about it, he mentioned he was thinking about a girl. When he spoke those words, Jenna nearly choked on her food. The meal was awkward and she was ready to get the hell out of this county.

Thankfully, Clark didn’t appear any the wiser. He simply ate his food, laughed at the right places, and pretended nothing was out of the ordinary. However, Jenna wasn’t stupid. She knew of him, he knew of her. It was as simple as that. She knew that if she spent another night at Cici’s guest house, Clark would pay her a visit, one that she certainly didn’t want. Jenna never in her life felt as if she needed a man to protect her. Yet, she longed for Lynch to be at her side tonight. Evil literally oozed from Clark’s pores.

Just before Jenna sat down for her awkward dinner, Lynch finally made it home so he could get a few hours of sleep before hitting work again. What he found both confused and worried him. Andy was staggering around the house, rubbing the back of his head. When he asked, Andy couldn’t remember much of anything.

“What I think happened,” Andy began foggily, “is that some idiot kid ran onto the property, killed a squirrel, and threw it through the basement window.”

Lynch had never heard of such an incident before. They had lived here for years and were never victims of vandals. He knew it wasn’t impossible, it simply felt wrong. “Did you see the kid?”

Andy shook his head. “No, I stepped on the poor animal and fell. I must have banged the back of my head pretty hard. I have a huge goose egg back there.”

He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. As soon as he sorted Andy out, he was going to dig further into this vandalism issue. “Let’s get you to the ER. You might have gotten a concussion.”

Andy shrugged his shoulders. “Nonsense. I feel fine.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Lynch said stubbornly. “You’re still going to the ER whether you like it or not.”

As Andy and Lynch waited in the ER to see a doctor, Jenna finally broke away from the awkward dinner date with Clark and Cici. As Jenna packed, Cici sat in the room with her, chatting away, and telling her how she wished Jenna could meet her husband and daughter. Jenna heard little of what her friend said. She wanted to get on the road and back to LeVale. She was nervous, fearing that Clark might follow her home, mess with her car. Of course, he would do nothing of the sort. He had other plans that didn’t involve either Jenna or Lynch, not directly anyway.

Jenna arrived home to a completely darkened house. Out here, at this hour, it was always creepy. She had a small flashlight on her keychain and she used it so she could see enough to unlock the door. When she entered the living room, the first thing she did was turn on a light. There. Much better. She walked further into the room and approached the phone, glancing down at the answering system. The small red light flashed lazily. She hit it immediately. It was from Lynch telling her that he had to take Andy to the ER. The son of a bitch. He could have called her cell.

Impatiently, she stabbed his number. After three rings, he answered. “What the hell is going on, Lynch?” She demanded. “You leave a message here at home telling me Andy is at the ER. What happened to calling my cell? Have you forgotten the number?”

Taking in her tongue lashing patiently, Lynch said, “I figured you would be on the road. I’m not calling your cell with news about Andy while you’re driving. He’s okay. He said someone vandalized the basement window and he fell, hitting his head.”

It made about as much sense to her as it did to Lynch. “What?” She croaked.

“Andy’s fine, Jenna. No concussion. We’ll be home in about an hour. Don’t go into the basement,” he instructed. “Not until we get home. We need to have a talk about it.”

Relieved, she sighed. “Sorry I ripped into you, Lynch. Hurry home.”

As promised, Lynch and Andy were back home within the hour. He took them both down into the basement. Lynch noticed that Andy had already replaced the glass. Both Jenna and Andy watched as Lynch took a super bright flashlight and searched the area. No one, unless completely stupid, would leave fingerprints. From experience, Lynch knew kids were stupid when it came to vandalizing property. There would be all kinds of lovely evidence to collect and send the brat straight to juvie for a good stretch of time. He knew well it wasn’t a stupid kid who committed a mischievous act. It was an intelligent man, one who could twist the facts to fit the crime. What had the bastard done to Andy to screw up his memory?

“You think it’s Clark and Sophia, don’t you?” Jenna asked, clasping her hands tightly before her.

Andy looked from Jenna to Lynch. The names Clark and Sophia struck a familiar cord. “Why am I the only one here in the dark?”

Lynch eyed his old friend, smiled briefly at his sardonic tone. “Clark is Callie Norwood’s former lover. In between the time she left him, he has allegedly married a woman named Sophia. However, Callie said Sophia is just Clark shifting. We’ve discovered that he is an immortal. I think we have spoken of this before.” He could see by the expression on his face that he had no idea what the hell Lynch was talking about. He placed his hand on Andy’s shoulder supportively. “I think Clark was the one behind the broken window, Andy. I think he did something to you that made you forget everything you’ve heard about him. He’s more concerned with finding Callie, but he also wants to get at both Jenna and me.”

“I can understand why he might be interested in destroying you, Lynch. Why Jenna?”

“He turned me, Andy,” she whispered. “I went away to complete my transformation. I stayed with my friend Cici. The ironic thing about it all is that Clark is Cici’s brother. He has been around all along.”

Although Andy’s memory was strongly affected, he was capable of connecting the dots well enough. “So, the murders are on Clark?”

“You’ve got it,” Lynch said. “Apparently, he attacked you today, but left nothing behind of himself. The two of you should be okay here tonight, but I should get into work.”

After Lynch left, Andy and Jenna went back up to the living room. Jenna sat Andy down on the couch and brought him hot tea. She sat with him and they both tried to pay attention to the TV, but it was no use.

“The only way Lynch can destroy this immortal is by forgoing the injections,” Andy said suddenly.

Up until he spoke, Jenna pretended to watch a stupid infomercial. She focused her eyes on him. “I know,” she admitted. “If it comes to it, I’m helping him.”

He laughed bitterly and shook his head. “He would die first before he allowed you to do that. You realize that, don’t you?”

“I know Lynch can be something of a chauvinist,” she said. “I’m in with him. It may take more than one to defeat him.”

“What about Callie?”

“We’ll have to hide her, tuck her away. I don’t know where. Lynch probably has dozens of places to take her. I’m scared, Andy,” she whispered. “Absolutely terrified.”

“Good prevails over evil,” Andy said simply.

Jenna didn’t know if she believed that at all. It was simple, it was a good idea to live by, but would it work in this situation? Would it?

Clark was aware the moment Lynch left home to take Andy to the ER. He watched without being seen. He was fairly good at that, better than any lycan that was for sure. He made quick work of selecting a prey item. Normally, he remained choosy. He watched them for days, weeks sometimes, learning their routines, matching them step per step. Tonight, he didn’t have time for that. He found a remote space where joggers frequented. For a few minutes, he watched them, to see how many went through the trails at any given time. After a while, a pattern was struck. There was only one woman who made a pass by the bench where he sat at least three times. If she made a fourth, he would grab her.

She did. He grabbed her and covered her mouth before she knew what hit her. She was a strong woman, a fighter, so her struggles were annoying him greatly. He hated the fighters. Most of the time, he didn’t grab people who were fighters. He was desperate tonight, however. He needed a prey item. He needed someone to die so that the evidence could be laid at the feet of one Lynch Tackett. Unlike his others, he wasn’t killing primarily to feed. Oh, he would certainly feed upon her, but this would be his first murder.

Speed was on his side and he used it. He dragged her further and further into the woods. When they were surrounded by complete pitch blackness, he stuck a claw into the bend of her elbow. He injected her with enough poison to force all movement to cease. Gently, he laid her down. He then crouched down before her. His poison was close to anesthesia, so she couldn’t move. It wouldn’t stop her from feeling everything.

Her eyes were the only part of her body that could move. She was looking all around her, looking at him, begging him with her eyes. He knew she was trying to remember everything around her, as if she would actually survive this. He touched her hair, caressing it lovingly. He knew she wanted to shrink away, but she couldn’t move.

“It’s okay, Rebecca,” he said gently. He smiled when her eyes widened. How do you know my name? He could hear the question she asked in her head very clearly. “It doesn’t matter how I know your name, my lovely little girl. Soon, you will not feel a thing. Soon, you will gaze into the face of your own eternity.”

With the words barely cold on his lips, he lowered his head and sank his teeth into her neck, his taste buds relishing the blood hitting it. He drank and drank, stopping short of killing her. Her body was almost completely drained of her life’s blood. Her face was pale, her pulse extremely weak.

“You fed me well, Rebecca,” he told her. “You will also help me more than you’ll ever know.”

Savagely, he sank his teeth into her neck once more, chewing now, draining her totally without a thought as to what he was putting her through. Chew her, chew like a lycan. Oh, the outcome would be beautiful. He would make certain of it. Without a doubt. Without a reasonable doubt, he thought and laughed at the absurdity of it.

When his work was done, he stood up and peered down at the now deceased Rebecca. After tasting her blood, he learned her life history within moments. She was married at a very young age, had three children, and her husband was cheating on her with her sister. Perhaps death was far better than finding out the truth about her life. It was a total lie. How sad. He bid her a fond farewell, began to drag her away, and went in search of his next prey item. As soon as he was finished, LeVale would be history. It was back to New York…his kind of town.

After Lynch went to work and Andy to bed, Jenna stayed up for a few hours. She didn’t feel well. Deep inside of herself, she felt something was out of place. What in the hell did Clark want inside the house? What did he do? Take pictures of the lab? Was he planning on going to Lynch’s chief and exposing his secret? What about the lab would say he was a lycan? The best he could do was attempt to say Lynch was into drugs. Everyone knew that wasn’t true. What else was he after? Why didn’t he destroy anything? Why didn’t he take the compounds that would prevent the transformation? None of it made sense and she absolutely hated it.

Just as Jenna was about to give up and go to bed, someone knocked on the door. The hairs on the back of her neck stood out. After a moment, she settled down. Clark wouldn’t knock on the damned door. He would burst it in. You are such an idiot, Jenna. She went to the door, ready to attack if necessary, and opened it slowly. Standing before her was Callie Norwood, looking about twelve years old. There was a small suitcase in her hand.

“Lynch called my cell and told me I should come here,” she said shamefacedly.

Sighing, she stepped aside to allow her entrance. Once she was inside, Jenna closed the door and turned toward her. “Has Clark contacted you?”

Callie set down her suitcase and shook her head. “Not lately. Well, I mean not since I last spoke to Lynch.”

Jenna nodded. “That’s good to hear. I suppose I can set you up in my room.”

Yeah, since you’re sleeping with Lynch now. Good for me. “Great. Thanks for having me.”

Jenna picked up on Callie’s catty thought, but shook it off. One of her own came up without much fuss. Damned right. I hope we have sex a thousand times while you’re staying here. “Does your brother know you’ll be bunking with us for a while?”

“I left a message with Hughie,” she explained. “I told him I was going to stay at the dorms in the university for a couple of days to see how I like living there. He won’t suspect anything, because he knew I didn’t plan on living with him forever.”

“Good cover story. I don’t think we know what we’re going to do about Clark for now. I’m sure that once Lynch comes home, we’ll have a bull session and go from there.” Jenna went over to Callie’s suitcase and picked it up. “I was just heading upstairs to go to bed myself. Follow me up?”

Callie nodded. “Of course. Thank you again.”

Although Clark had killed one woman tonight, he had hidden her body well enough so no one would find her for a day or two. He needed the time to plan his next move. Since there was yet to be a murder victim found, Lynch came home on time early the next morning. He was tired, drawn, and didn’t mind that his paycheck would be short a few hours next week. It didn’t matter. His job wasn’t about the paycheck all the time anyway. Like Hugh always said, it’s the job!

He unlocked the front door and plodded inside. Jenna was asleep on the couch. He half expected her to be in his bed, snuggled against his pillow. That was the image in his mind, the one he wanted to see. Having her on the couch was good, too. Having her any way was fine, excellent actually. He closed the door as softly as possible, but Jenna awoke. Her lycan senses were sharpening. Soon enough, she would know the instant he was heading home and wouldn’t have to fall asleep on the couch waiting for him. Lynch came over to the couch and joined her.

“Callie’s here,” she announced.

He nodded. “Good. Hugh talked about it a little tonight, her suddenly deciding to overnight it at the dorms. He was surprised, but I think he buys it.”

“That’s close to what Callie said,” Jenna told him. “I set her up in my room.” When he smiled, she held up her hands. “I’m not implying anything, Mr. Werewolf Hairy Man Commitment Phobe,” she said jokingly. “It was the only other room even close enough to house a guest.” His smile fell away almost the instant she finished speaking. “I know, babe. Bad joke. I’m sorry.”

Lynch placed his hand on the side of her face. “It’s not that. With this going on, anything light helps,” he said honestly. “We’ve got a big problem that I’m not close to solving without the need for tossing out the injections.”

“What about Callie’s cure? Why can’t we somehow trap him, inject him, and go on?”

“That has been mentioned,” he began, “he is probably too smart for that. He knows Callie has the cure, so I’m sure he’s looking out for that. Starting today, Jenna, only half an injection for me, until I’m weaned down to none.” When she opened her mouth to protest, he shook his head. “No, Jenna. This is the only way. I want you to continue.”

She placed her hand over his and took it away from her face. Instead of releasing it, she held it in her own. “Lynch, I want to help.”

Expecting a war, he swallowed hard, and began to man up. “Absolutely not. I won’t take the chance of your getting hurt.”

“This male female shit doesn’t matter anymore. I’m like you now, with the same power, the same capability,” she said firmly. “You are not doing this without me.”

“Jenna, you’ve never done anything with your power, your capabilities,” he said. He laughed quite bitterly. “The only thing you have done is killed a deer. You’ve never battled other immortals or even another human. It has nothing to do with your gender.”

She pulled her hand out of his before clamping both of hers on her knees. Completely pissed off now, she slowly said, “That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. I know the era when you were born, I know how you grew up. When I was old enough to take over for my mother, you treated me like a woman from your time. You always have. You masked it with gratitude and chivalry, but I’m not stupid. If I were Andy, you would demand a team. Whether you like it or not, I’m on your team, Keagan Tackett.”

“So am I,” Callie said as she made her way downstairs. “Neither of you know Clark like me. You’re both in the dark.”

With Andy in bed, he was outnumbered. He didn’t like the idea at all. What could he do? Trick them? If he did that, he would lose Jenna forever. It was best to have her in his sight than not have her at all. “Fine. However, we need a game plan. A good one.”

Leaving the women behind, Lynch tromped upstairs to grab a few hours of sleep. Callie came downstairs, fully expecting Jenna to go up after him, which she did. Callie went to the couch, plopped down, and buried her face into her hands. For the first time in her life, she wished a person dead. Well, an immortal anyway. Clark wasn’t close to human, hadn’t been in a long time.

Jenna entered the bedroom just in time to see Lynch ripping himself out of his shirt. He had forgotten to unbutton the cuffs, so he was struggling mightily to get it off without ruining it. She didn’t want to laugh at him as angry as he was, but she couldn’t help it. He turned, his shirt still hanging from his wrists, and watched her giggle at him for a good fifteen or twenty seconds.

“I’m sorry, Lynch. I really don’t mean to laugh at you. I know you’re angry. If you could see yourself…”

He sighed heavily and patiently unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt. He was then able to get it off his body. “If I followed along with my forefathers,” he began, “I’d bend you over my knee and whip your ass.”

She noticed that he said the words without a laugh or a smile, yet, she could sense he wasn’t serious, only exasperated. Having battled two women today, she couldn’t blame him. “If I were that kind of girl, I might enjoy it.”

“Too bad,” he murmured lightly.

Jenna had remembered to close the door behind her without locking it. She didn’t think Callie would intrude. In case she did, she turned and engaged the lock on the door. She approached him and ran her hand over his naked chest, dropping it lazily down to the zipper of his pants. Her fingers tripped lightly over him, and she smiled when he uttered a low groan.

“I’m in to other things,” she whispered against his lips. “You might like those as well.”

He licked his lips, thankful for Jenna, thankful for the momentary distraction from their upcoming job at hand. He kissed her very lightly, his lips barely making contact with hers. “Would you like to show me?”

“From the feel of this,” she said, as her hand caressed him, “I’d think so.”

“Woman,” he growled, “when I’m finished with you, you won’t walk for a week.”

She smiled up at him. “Promises promises.”

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