Madelyn

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-4-

In the safety of her home, Madelyn lit some logs in the fireplace, even though it wasn’t exactly cold out. The sight and sound of a fire had always soothed her and she had plenty of firewood so didn’t mind having an off-season fire every now and then. Once the fire was blazing, she curled up on the couch with a big mug of hot chocolate. She sat staring into the flames till well after she’d finished the chocolate, reflecting on the evenings happenings after having left the clearing.

She’d heard the howl at sunset, and knew it wasn’t a coincidence. The search of her parents’ study had led her almost nowhere. “Almost” being the keyword here.

There were books on dogs, wolves, and coyotes. None of those showed her much of anything useful, even the books on wolves. But, in a turn of what some might call luck, she found one of her parents’ notebooks in the study, almost hidden in the bottom of the desk drawer. It talked of larger than usual wolves. The notes said this wolf has no fear of humans, and is often aggressive toward them. It also mentioned that this particular type of wolf is a shape shifter. It went from human form to wolf, as well as forms in between which were unknown to any who researched this subject.

As she read this, the hair on the back of her neck rose. Not long after she began reading, she heard that long howl. The sound spoke to her. She didn’t know how or why, but she knew this wolf wanted something. What did he want? She didn’t know. That fact scared her, but, to her surprise, she again found herself mysteriously aroused when she heard the eerie sound of that lone wolf’s howl.

The more she thought about it, the more she realized she was never going to get anywhere by avoiding her parents’ room. She didn’t know if she was strong enough to face it alone, but what other choice did she have? She’d tried calling Brian again, but Margaret told her he wasn’t in the office…again. It was going to have to be her, alone. So, she decided that in the morning, her search of their room would begin.

The flames seemed to take on the forms of wolves. The fire wolves scampered through the coals, playing with one another. Her eyes drooped sleepily and before they closed, she thought she saw a familiar wolf there in the flames. In her dreamlike state, she thought she watched the flame form approach slowly, then transform from flame to a solid body. Her brain didn’t register it as being anything more than a dream, but it was more real than she realized. He was never composed of flames; the flame wolf is simply what he wanted her to see. As he approached, whispering soothing words, her eyelids closed and she drifted off to sleep.

He stood before her, slowly shifting from wolf to man, and took the sleeping form of his woman into his arms. He carried her through the house to her parents’ bedroom, laying her gently on their bed. Leaving the room for just a moment, he closed the window where he’d entered the house, and then returned to lay down beside her and pulled her close.

“You are mine and I am yours and soon you’ll know,” he whispered to her before falling to sleep beside her, an arm holding her firmly against him. “Until then, I’ll keep watch over you.”

***

Madelyn woke with a start. Her dreams had been filled with wolves, one in particular, who told her she was his. In her dreams, she slept in his arms and he held her tight before they made passionate love.

She sat up, looking around, surprised to find herself on her parents’ bed. She didn’t remember coming in here and lying down. It troubled her that this happened again. First, she fainted in the clearing and woke to find herself moved from the side of the creek to the edge of the wood. Now, she was certain she’d fallen asleep in the living room, on the couch in front of the fireplace, but she awoke in her parents’ bed instead. Shaking her head, she wondered if she was starting to sleepwalk, or if it really was something deeper than she understood.

Resolving to not worry too much on that right now, she looked around and saw it was much the same as she remembered it, only their smell was long gone. It saddened her that their smell no longer lingered here. Madelyn sat on their bed, reminiscing on stormy nights spent between them in that very bed, and watching them packing to leave for that last trip while she was perched on the corner of this bed. Mother had packed their clothing. Daddy packed their equipment.

She’d sat here chatting happily about how fun it’d be to go with them. They never had taken her with them, even though she’d begged them to many times. A tear slipped from one eye as she relived their rejection of her suggestion again. Sighing, she stood and went to the bathroom to splash cool water on her face. After regaining her composure, she started searching the room.

The closet still held much of their clothing. Daddy’s suits were still within the garment bags. Mother’s wedding dress, wrapped in blue tissue, sat in its’ box on a shelf. Her shoes lined up along the floor of her side of the large walk-in closet. Daddy’s were in the cabinet on his side of the closet. She mulled for a few minutes over the thought of packing some of this stuff away for the children she may have one day to see, and sending the rest away. Right now, though, she knew she could put that thought aside. She had more important things to do.

She searched the cabinets of the closet, finding only more clothing, some jewelry, and Mother’s perfume bottle collection. Daddy’s baseball cards remained in their boxes on the top shelf of his side.

Under the bed, however, she found several binders. One in particular was labeled “Werewolves of Northern California” and this one she took with her as she left the room.

As she settled with a cup of fresh coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, she thumbed through the pages of the binder. It contained clippings from newspapers detailing eyewitness accounts of the local wolves from the past century. It also contained stories the local Native Americans told of the wolves of these mountains. All mentioned larger than usual wolves, howls that spoke to them, and disappearances of humans that led people to believe the werewolves in the stories might be true, and that those humans were victims of the werewolves.

Putting down the binder, she retrieved the phone and dialed Brian’s phone number.

“Hemming Law,” a pleasant female voice answered on the other end.

“Hi. Cindy?” Madelyn said, slightly disappointed that it wasn’t Margaret, but knew it was Margaret’s day off. “Is Brian there?”

“Um, no, Mr. Hemming is not here,” the voice on the other end said hesitantly. “He has, um, gone to Northern California to visit friends for the week.”

“Oh. Well, do you know where he went?” she asked the woman.

“No, he only said he was heading North, and that he’d be gone at least a week. May I take a message and have him call you when he returns?”

“Yes, please. Please tell him Madelyn Randell called to speak with him. It’s about my property here and some questions I have about what my parents knew about the history of it.” She hoped she hadn’t said too much, but didn’t want to be too cryptic to Brian.

“Of course, Miss Randell - I’ll be certain he gets the message the minute he steps into the office.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, and Miss Randell, Mr. Hemming asked that if you called, I was to tell you he has three prospective buyers of your house in San Francisco. One is a couple who like the house, but are asking a $50,000 price reduction, so they may carpet the entire house. The second is a student, like you were, and she is asking to waive inspections so she can move in as soon as possible.”

“Ok...and the third?”

“The third has an offer of $30,000 less than the asking price on the table. He has no demands, but the offer will expire the day Mr. Hemming returns to the office.” The secretary paused. “Mr. Hemming was going to accept the third offer without consulting you, Miss Randell.”

“That’s fine. I trust Brian’s judgment.” Madelyn was sure she left the poor woman flabbergasted, but that’s ok. “Thank you...goodbye,” she said before hanging up the phone.

Brian was in Northern California?

‘I wondered why he would come here and not say anything to me about taking a trip all this way,’ she thought to herself. Then a thought occurred to her – what if he’s one of them? What if he’s a werewolf, too? Could that be how he came to know her parents? They were sniffing up the wrong tree, so to speak, and he was to keep an eye on how close they came to the right one?

Shaking her head, she let out a soft sigh and took her bowl to the sink to clean up her mess and went to get dressed for another run. There was no sense in holing herself up, when she had always known she was safe here. Perhaps they were why she was safe. She didn’t know, but if they were going to harm her, she figured they’d be able to get inside the house to harm her, no matter what she did to keep them from gaining entry.

She pulled her tank top over her head as she came down the stairs, and stopped in the kitchen to grab a sport bottle then filled it with ice and water.

On the way out, she pulled the door closed, then took off down the path she knew so well. About halfway to her destination, she felt another presence, and she stopped running to stare into the woods around her.

“Come out and show yourself” she said loudly.

She watched the shadows closely, looking at each one as turned around.

“Look, I don’t have all day, and I know you’re there. I can hear you.”

She looked around and listened before she began walking toward the house again.

***

‘She can hear me?’ Connor thought she must be trying to trick him into showing himself, which he wouldn’t do.

He watched as she started walking. Her path took her past his current hiding place, but there wasn’t any way for him to move, so he crouched down and remained perfectly still.

In the distance, he heard a wolf howl. Carefully, quietly, he lifted his head and sniffed the wind. It was someone from his pack. He hadn’t paid very close attention to the voice so he wasn’t exactly sure who it was, but when he heard the howl again, he could tell they were coming closer.

He watched as Madelyn stopped and stiffened when she heard the howl. The second set her walking much faster, then jogging. Connor carefully emerged from his hiding place and trailed her. She was running by now and her fear was growing. He could smell it all over her. He knew if he could smell it, the other wolf could, too. He had to get her to safety then drive the other wolf away from his mate.

Sending up a howl of his own, one of warning, he started out behind Madelyn, staying just out of her sight.


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