Wolf's Bane (Monstrous Hearts #2)

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Chapter Sixteen

Alice pulled the blanket closer around herself, trying to ignore how every movement stirred up the stench of ash. It clung to her hair and skin, stoked the pit of nausea in her stomach. Burned at her swollen eyes. Despite the stuffy heat of so many evacuees milling around in one room, she couldn’t stop shivering, vacant in thought as the TV bolted in the upper-right corner flickered grim news reported by grim faces.

They were all in a section of a community college hastily transformed into an evacuation center. They were all people who had lost everything in the fire, and showed it in their numb faces and ash-streaked hair. Many cried into their hands or wiped at reddened eyes. Despair etched foreheads and carved the corners of mouths. Panic scratched behind words. They were burned things, themselves, cringing at how the bright light of morning hadn’t chased away the horrors of the night.

And yet Alice only sat there and watched, her own tears long gone and her own worries evaporated. She felt utterly remote from everyone and everything. A few hours earlier, the part of her mind that still thought had even guided her into texting her parents, letting them know she was okay. She didn’t want them to see her, not on this day.

Dully, she blinked at the bowl of Halloween candy set out on what would have normally been the professor’s desk. The bowl was in the shape of a gap-toothed pumpkin, and the candy already looked picked through. The day of Samhain had come at last, and Magdalene would be in full power.

The name left her fingers curling against the woolen folds of the blanket, digging into the thick fabric like claws. She felt empty, a mere outline of a person, and yet something dark and bitter beat deep inside. She couldn’t name what it was, only sense that it was there, growing whenever she buried her face into her shoulder and breathed into the flannel shirt she still wore. Even after her night of hell, it still smelled like him.


The sound of her name shuddered awake some part of her mind, rousing it through the prickle of familiarity. She blinked, eyelids feeling like sandpaper, and turned to see who it was.

There stood Gretchen, looking far out of place in her sharp black-and-white maternity dress and precisely-pinned hair. She wore large, chic sunglasses that turned her face into something severe and remote, and the faint smell of lavender and honey drifted from her skin. Alice supposed she should have felt small and pitiable in comparison, with her bare feet still showing traces of mud and her hair left in snarls. Strangely, nothing flickered within that hollowness that filled her, and her words sounded only flat as she asked, “Why are you here?”

Gretchen removed her sunglasses, then, revealing eyes that looked strangely unsure. “When we talked at the dinner party, you mentioned living in Calico Creek. I recognized the name right away when the news mentioned it this morning.”

“So you must’ve heard that everything there was destroyed by the fire.”

The other girl nodded. “There’s already drone footage. It looks like what you scrape out of a fire-pit. No one’s looking for survivors. They’re just hoping they can find bones in all the ash.”

For a split second, Alice felt her mouth tremble, and quickly looked down to hide it. Her hands pulled at the blanket again, drawing the flannel shirt closer against her skin. If Colton had somehow escaped the flames, he would have already found her. She was sure of it.

When she said nothing, Gretchen’s voice grew awkward in the way of someone used to ignoring emotions now faced with the possibility of consoling them. “I’m sorry. It’s just that… I grew worried.”

“Why would you care?” The words fell out like dull pebbles, much too small and worn to be hurtful.

Gretchen’s fingers flexed against the cloth bag she carried over one shoulder. She almost seemed embarrassed. “Do you want go outside to talk? It’s stuffy in here.”

With a stiff nod, Alice rose with the blanket still wrapped around her. No one looked as they left the room. Outside, the sun looked blood-red from the haze of smoke, and the distant mutter of a helicopter could be heard—faint hints of what raged through acres of land while they walked over clipped lawns and past sedate oaks. The college had a small rose garden still lush and full despite the autumn weather, with wooden benches nestled among the established bushes for privacy. They sat on one, Gretchen still appearing uneasy. Alice didn’t make any attempt to smooth things over, instead watching the sun wink through the leaves that surrounded them.

“The man who was with you at the party…” said Gretchen, finally.

“Colton.” Alice felt her heart clench.

“He’s not here with you.”

Such an obvious comment, and yet it cut so deep, drawing tears into eyes that she thought had gone dry. As she fought to respond, fought to spit out even one word, it came to her that it wasn’t that she felt nothing. It was that she overwhelmingly felt so much that she couldn’t even grapple with it.

“He saved me,” she said at last, voice strangled and small.

“But got caught in the fire.” Something flashed across the other girl’s face, something that cracked her flawless makeup and doll-like eyes.

Then she reached out and squeezed Alice’s hand. The movement was a little stiff, but her voice sounded sincere as she added, “I’m sorry. You start to think they’re invincible against anything because of what they can do. And then something happens and your heart feels like it’ll bleed out.”

The implication drew Alice’s gaze to the other girl. Gretchen stared back, the set of her jaw going stubborn. Her silence dared Alice to claim that she didn’t know what that meant.

Alice saw no reason to avoid the truth. “He told me nothing can kill him. That he…”

There was a brief silence as they both glanced around, furtive despite the privacy. The words sounded so alien in their own mouths, so ridiculous.

Then some of Gretchen’s old boldness came back, because she blew out a breath and said, “Shane explained it as him dying as a man and coming back as a wolf.”

Alice nodded and watched the wariness fade from the other girl’s eyes. “Colton said it in a similar way. And that he’s already died and can’t die again. But he has a heartbeat. He bleeds.”

“And he does get hurt,” finished Gretchen. Then she looked right at Alice. “Do you believe he’ll come back?”

It wasn’t her true question. That one hung in the air between them, as sharp and snagging as barbed wire. Will you wait for him?

The truth of the situation—that she might not be able to wait, that she might end up in hell, herself—was too much. It gaped at her like the sky, reduced her to something small and hopeless in the face of the infinite.

“I—I…” Her heart squeezed until it felt impossible to breathe.

Her stammering drew a nod from Gretchen. Then the other girl pulled the bag between them, offering the handles to Alice. “Here, I brought this for you. Go on, look inside.”

As Alice did, silent once more, the other girl added, “I figured the fire must have left you with nothing, so I brought some clothes and toiletries. A phone charger, too. After you get dressed, I’ll drive you to the nearest car rental place.”

“I’m sure that my parents…”

“Your parents must have already offered to scoop you up and take you away from your troubles. But you’re sitting here, instead.”

When Alice said nothing, the other girl’s eyes turned fierce. “Don’t go crawling back to them just because he’s gone. Don’t start acting like it was all just a silly dream, trying to get away. I’m twenty-five and had to make an excuse to my mom about why I was out shopping this morning. I have less control over myself now than when I was in high school just because I was scared to live without luxury. Don’t end up like me.”

After a final hesitation, Alice pulled the bag onto her lap. “Thank you.”

The words sounded too stiff and formal, but more, much more, passed between them as they shared a glance. Alice found herself adding, “You could do this for yourself, too. You still miss him, don’t you?”

“You already know the answer to that.” Then Gretchen looked away. “I decided on my life months ago. It doesn’t matter if it was the right choice or the wrong one. I made it and now there are people who depend on me.”

Her hand spread against the swell of her stomach, emphasizing the words. Snuffing the glimmer that Alice had caught in her eyes for the briefest of moments. Then she looked at Alice again, voice steady as she repeated, “Don’t be like me. Be brave and wait for him. What do they know about you? What do they really know?”

It was her family that Gretchen referred to, not anything else, and yet the words still hit true, piercing the numbness in Alice’s mind. Darby’s sneer flashed through her thoughts. So did Rob’s hands and camera. So did Magdalene’s smile.

What did they know about her? What did they expect? They had shot her lover and burned him to ash, and yet still they would only expect her to cower. Would she freeze like a rabbit until they caught her? Would she only shiver over what they had done?

“Nothing,” she said, slowly, Gretchen’s question still ringing through her head like a faint howl on a frozen night, distant but piercing. Something in her stirred, woke up. Something in her howled back.

She looked at Gretchen, then, feeling a snarl bubble against her next words. “They know nothing about me.”

For a moment, something just as feral glittered in the other girl’s eyes. Then she once again smoothed her face into the polished mask of a young socialite and put on her sunglasses while rising from her seat. “I printed out some hotel addresses and put them in the bag. I’m not due back until one o’clock, so if you want to rest somewhere before getting your rental car, we can take a look around.”

“It’s all right,” said Alice, feeling a small, savage smile touch her lips. “I’ve got the cabin, remember? And I’m going to use it.”

To hunt a beast is to court death itself. To hound one for too long without a killing bite? Sheer folly. There are some beasts that will turn and face the threat of teeth even as their blood steams in the air, their very exhaustion giving them a heedless power. They have the ferocity of a wild thing and the recklessness that comes with desperation. Sometimes, the hunter’s quarry proves to be the most dangerous of all, for it no longer fears anything.

The drive to the cabin passed in strange fits of time. Alice was really only aware of trees, miles of black road stretching before her, and the lingering smell of smoke in her hair. Strangely, even though she now willingly drove toward what would become Magdalene’s cage, she no longer felt trapped at all. She was well aware of how it all looked—her home burned down and her lover gone with it, the need to keep distance from her family to avoid putting them in danger again… Yes, she very much appeared like an animal caught in a snare. It was certainly how others would see her.

They were wrong. They didn’t understand that the things she quietly endured when brought against herself would never go unpunished when committed against someone she loved. She wasn’t about to let that go. Something in her had burned away in the fire—that fidgeting, self-conscious fear of what others would want from her, friend or foe—and now her heart felt like a smoldering lump cradled by brittle ribs, as if the slightest touch would be enough to shatter that protective case of bone.

And yet, she didn’t feel like she was about to collapse. No, her rage held her steady. This was much different than losing the pelt. Some things could be endured when set upon her own skin, but the same cruelty sent upon another’s head? Unbearable. She would not submit quietly. She would not cower in the ashes of her lover. So they wanted her? Well, then. They were about to have her.

Her knuckles looked white against the steering wheel as she entered Perry. Memories fluttered at her mind like blind moths while she drove through the small mountain town, but she shook them away, urging the rental car ever faster down roads that still felt familiar.

The final stretch of trees that sheltered the cabin from the road looked just the same, and for one wrenching moment, Alice allowed herself the idea that what she expected to find wouldn’t be there at all. That she would steer the car down the strip of gravel road and find the cabin empty and waiting. That she would park and look at the fixed porch step and the woodpile newer than the rest, and that then the shadows among the trees would shift with life, turn into black fur and piercing eyes.

The wheels spat up the looser pebbles and earth as she turned, craning her neck as the first flashes of weathered wood and stone chimney appeared between the shaggy trunks and branches of massive redwoods.

Then she hissed out a breath, feeling her heart wither up again at the sight of two cars in the driveway. Both belonged to Darby and Rob. If she had to guess, Rob had probably followed Darby in a panic.

She parked in the shadow of the trees, keeping the car hidden, and got out without any attempt to keep quiet. Voices cut through the chilly air, indistinct yet sharp. She followed their anger, soon spying Rob and Darby on the cabin’s porch. Leaves crunched beneath her feet as she approached, unseen for all that she walked openly toward them.

“Are you fucking crazy?” shouted Rob, flecks of spit shooting from his mouth. His eyes looked wild behind their thick glasses, and his hair stuck out at odd angles as if he’d grabbed at it more than once.

The dark circles beneath Darby’s eyes had grown as purple as bruises compared to the bloodless color of her skin, and the only sign of life in her face was the hateful snarl of her mouth as she hissed back, “You think anyone who cares about anything besides themselves is crazy. She was murdered, Rob. She needs to be—”

“And what the hell did you do last night, huh? Where did you even get that gun?”

“It was a sniper rifle.”

“I don’t fucking care! Last year, you marched against the fucking things.”

“He was a monster, Rob. He could turn into a wolf.”

When Rob just shook his head at her, she added, “If the fire hadn’t been right there, I would have taken a piece just to stop you from freaking out. An ear or something. Whatever form they die in, the body shifts back into its other one. She told me so.”

“Jesus Christ.” Rob ran his hand through his hair, again. “You’re insane.”

“He had to go, Rob. He murdered Magdalene on that bitch’s orders.”

“The bitch who owns this property and can have our asses hauled off to jail.”

At that moment, Alice reached the first step of the porch. The seething heat that filled every inch of her didn’t show up in her voice, and only the lingering grit of ash filled her words as she said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

Rob jerked like he’d been shot, eyes going wide behind his glasses. Darby’s round face fell slack with shock. Both instinctively stepped back as Alice continued up the steps and joined them on the porch.

Alice glanced around, taking in the state of the cabin while Rob tried to stammer an explanation. Darby remained silent, her mouth closing into a tight line as Alice looked between them at the doorway. The door was open, revealing an unlit hearth and unlit candles placed in a large circle on the dusty wooden floor. There was also a paper bag set off to the side, bulging in a way that suggested it held a lot of things.

“I knew you’d come here to do the seance,” said Alice, her voice still flat. “I’m surprised the medium hasn’t shown up. It’s only two hours until dusk.”

“We don’t need her,” said Darby, eyes burning. “I know what to do.”

When Rob’s gaze jumped from her to Alice, she scoffed and added, “God, Rob, where are your balls? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Her loverboy’s dead and she’s not going to do anything.”

Something twisted deep inside her, snarling, but Alice kept her expression blank. “Darby’s right. I’m not here to stop the seance. I want to be a part of it.”

“What?” Rob looked utterly baffled.

“I want to do the seance. You have my full permission to use the cabin.”

When Darby’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, Alice brushed past her, heading inside. “Come on. We need to be ready by the time it’s dark. How do you want to set things up?”

“What’s your game?” said Darby, as they drifted in after her.

The smell of dust hung heavy in the air, and for one moment Alice thought she smelled singed fur. It made her voice come out as a throb. “It’s time to say hello to ghosts.”

Then she turned at looked at Darby, at this girl so caught in Magdalene’s web that she was in love with being blind. “It’s your ultimate goal, anyway, isn’t it? Not just to see Magdalene, but to avenge her. You wanted me to be here.”

“I didn’t think you’d come willingly,” muttered Darby. “I thought I’d have to pull you out of hiding like a rat.”

This time, Alice couldn’t hold back a small smile. “Right now, there’s nothing I want more than to be here.”

Her very calmness seemed to infuriate the other girl. “You think he’s coming back to rescue you just in time? He’s dead.”

“Darby, shut the fuck up about that,” hissed Rob.

“It doesn’t matter. Who’s she going to tell? Who’s going to believe her? We’re totally safe.”

“There’s no ‘we’ to this. I didn’t do any of this shit.”

Alice shrugged off her coat and dropped it onto the nearest chair before glancing at him. “Hoping to stay a bystander, Rob? You can’t. You’re in this far too deep to back out, now.”

As the two looked at her, suspicion and uncertainty etched into their faces, she walked over to the ring of candles and added, “I’ve got nowhere to run and nothing left to run to. So let’s get this over with.”

Darby lit the candles before anything else, and soon greasy wax dripped to the floor. The sky turned grim outside as the other girl studied from some kind of book while drawing sigils in white chalk inside the circle of light. Rob fidgeted with the pack of pills in his hand, their rattling an intrusion in the thick silence.

Alice watched him like a cat. “What are the entheogens for? Most seances just need you to concentrate.”

“There’s no medium to guide us,” he said, the words terse.

When his gaze slid to the side rather than meet hers, Alice realized the true state of things. “You really are here to help Darby. You don’t believe in any of this, but you know she shot someone and you don’t want a medium or anyone else to find out. You don’t want complications.”

When Rob just winced, Alice resisted the urge to spit at him. How had she ever felt cowed by this man? He couldn’t even look her in the eye.

“We need to light a fire,” announced Darby.

“Do it yourself,” replied Alice, not even glancing her way. “You’re so good at starting them.”

In the brief silence that followed, she added, “Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out? A fire just happens to start near my home and just happens to drive us to the bridge where you were waiting in the perfect spot. You didn’t even hide your hair.”

There was a small groan from Rob, but it was Darby who answered, eyes as flat and heavy as stones. “It doesn’t matter if she knows. She’s about to get hers.”

Strange how those words didn’t even send a chill through her. Instead, as she settled on the edge of the candlelight, watching in silence as Rob clumsily piled wood on the grate and Darby shook a packet of herbs over it all, she found her lips curling into a hard smile. She hardly even felt like herself.

Yes, she trembled, but not from fear; that had had been burned away in the fire. It was disgust that sent her muscles twitching she watched the other two mark her grandmother’s cabin with their silly little ritual. What did they know? They fumbled in the darkness, cringed away from the shadows. They clung to order, to method, peering into the book as if the words inside could control the forces even now stirring with the first of the stars. Why had she ever feared them?

Her jaw ached with the answer. Because she had believed their threats could trap her. And now they still thought the same, here in a cabin where a withered old witch had once lured in victims and eaten every piece of them. Where empty wolf pelts had still twitched with life and nightmare creatures had emerged from the shadows. And now they thought they could pull such wildness to them and tie it to their wills?

The wood smoked sullenly, not wanting to light in full, and Rob poked at it with equally sullen movements while Darby reached into the bag, again. She withdrew from it a copy of Magdalene’s The Chrysalis, holding it with all the reverence of a holy relic. When she set it in the middle of the circle, her fingers brushed over the cover in something like a lover’s caress. Then she set a hunting knife beside it, an ugly, worn thing with a blade that still winked along its sharp edge.

“Rob, that’s good enough. Get the pills out.”

They both stared at her as if expecting her to resist taking the drug. Instead, she held out her palm, unflinching as Rob dropped it there, and took it without hesitation. Once more she felt a writhing, cackling strangeness ripple throughout her body even as she calmly sipped from a cup of water to help the pill go down.

“Check her mouth,” said Darby. “I don’t even want to touch her.”

Alice blinked at Rob, absorbing the reluctance in his face. Something struggled in her throat as his hand caught her jaw—a scream? A growl? Something that she fought down to say, “Don’t worry. I won’t bite.”

It didn’t ease the fear in his face. Not that she wanted it to. Indeed, even as his thumb pressed at her tongue to see if she’d hidden the pill, she fought with the sudden urge to snap until the bone between her teeth cracked. When he pulled away with a mutter that she’d swallowed it, her jaws locked shut.

Afterward, they all held hands inside the circle of light, the candles guttering in their pools of wax as wind moaned through cracks in the cabin. Rob’s hand felt sweaty against Alice’s, but Darby’s clung as tightly and desperately as a harpy’s. The fire crackled, popping out sparks that never quite reached them.

“We call upon the dead on this night when they can roam free,” began Darby, her eyes already dilated from the entheogen. Then she swore under her breath. “Jesus, Rob, this shit is strong.”

“You fucking asked for it.” His pupils had also grown large.

Darby just shook her head and tried again. “We call upon the dead who cannot rest easy in their graves. The… Ones who cry out for justice… And…”

Alice watched the other girl start to sweat, and felt how her grip loosened. Rob also looked horrible, face turning pale and eyes growing unfocused. And yet she herself felt untouched, a simple observer of things. The usual fuzziness and fear that had always clung to her thoughts in previous psychonaut experiences now held no power over her. Even the thick, sluggish embrace of the drug couldn’t claim her. She cast off the first hints of haziness like an animal shaking water from its fur.

Clear-eyed, she watched Rob and Darby wilt. The firelight flickered over their slumped, unmoving forms, highlighting Rob’s vacant gaze and Darby’s slack mouth. Alice blinked at them both before reaching out to pick up The Chrysalis.

“That’s not how you draw her in,” she murmured, rising to step out of the circle of candles. “She’s always used to being praised. It’s her spite that you have to stir up.”

Then she walked over to the fireplace and flung the book right into the heart of the flames, hearing an echo of her scream from when Magdalene had done the same to the pelt. Now, though, her voice remained soft and calm as she said, “I’m here. Where are you?”

There came a crackle from the flames that might have been a ghost of a laugh. And then… Nothing. Alice remained patient, letting the darkness of night seep into the cabin. Letting the candles gutter and spit their hot wax. Some part of her sensed Darby and Rob wouldn’t wake up until sunrise, that their roles in this little play of Magdalene’s had been fulfilled and now she had no more use for them. Judging from the hunting knife, Alice’s part was far from over. Strange how the thought made her want to laugh. How satisfied Magdalene must feel in these dark hours. How smug. How sure of herself.

Alice bit at her lip, testing the feel of her teeth, and then changed position, settling more comfortably on the floor. Whatever happened, she wouldn’t go quietly.

Eventually, she found herself staring at the flames instead of through the windows. Their dance was hypnotic, silent except for the occasional crackle, and their warmth lulled her. Drowsiness stole over her, pulling her ever closer to a dreamless darkness. Just as she reached the edge of it, instinct warned her to pinch herself hard. The sharp pain snapped her back awake, snapped her back to the firelit room. Then she blinked, realizing dirt gritted between her fingers from the action. Swirls of dried mud covered her arms.

She was as naked and dirty as when she had used to shake the pelt off after a night spent in the forest. Black earth crusted her fingernails. The iron taste of blood rested heavy on her tongue. And across from where she crouched beside the fireplace, stone slabs warm beneath her bare feet, sat Magdalene. Her eyes seemed to catch all the brightness of the flames, leaving the rest of her a column of dark that merged with the shadows.

The fire hungrily ate at something, something that whimpered and twitched. Magdalene’s eyes never left her, not even when she lit a cigarette, but Alice’s gaze jumped to the seething heart of the flames long enough to see blackened skin and withering tufts of fur.

Alice felt tears stream down her cheeks, but she had now lived with the grief for months, and showed nothing else in her expression while settling down to face Magdalene. “Why did you do it?”

“Weren’t you listening, before? You would have left me.” Magdalene looked just as she had the last time Alice had seen her alive. Whole, unwounded, with dried streaks of tears colored from her eyeliner running down her face.

As Alice looked down at her hands, she added, “You know what I feel. It’s the same raw agony that fills you during every dream about your mother.”

“Am I dreaming now?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you killed Colton. It was Darby’s gun but your will.”

At that, Magdalene scoffed and put the cigarette in her mouth. Then she pulled up her right sleeve. There, on the meat of her arm between her wiry wrist and sharp elbow, was an ugly, ripping set of wounds aligned in a bite mark. Savage teeth had done that.

As Alice stared, Magdalene said, “I’d say I had just cause. You could at least apologize on his behalf.”

“It’d be a lie. He wouldn’t be sorry, and neither am I.”

“You always turned into a bitch at the worst times.”

Alice sucked in a breath, biting back her words like so many times before. But what was left to hide? Her heart had been laid bare. “I loved you. Did you ever know that? Did you ever see how willingly I gave up whatever you asked for?”

“Of course.” Magdalene’s velvet voice turned gentle, and her fingers brushed the side of Alice’s face in a feather-light caress.

“You took too much,” said Alice, the words low and shaking. “I want it all back.”

Magdalene tilted her head to one side, those lush lips curving into a smile. “But I want you back.”

As if it were all that simple. As if it were all that mattered. Alice stared at her old lover, at this woman that she’d once believed she could never understand, and now suddenly understood her all too well. “But what does that matter? I don’t want to be with you. I won’t be with you.”

The smile faded from Magdalene’s face, and when Alice knocked her fingers away, she didn’t resist. The shock in her eyes was an exhilarating sight, and Alice heard her voice rise strong and jagged. “You’ve fooled me, tricked me, scared me, seduced me. You’ve tried taking everything away from me just so I’d have nothing else to turn to. But I don’t need you. Not at all.”

As panic flickered in Magdalene’s eyes, now pitch dark, the other woman said, “You’ll always need me. No one will ever understand you like I do.”

“No,” breathed Alice, still caught in a strange sort of delight. “You don’t have to be anything more than old scars.”

Then her giddiness flared into something hotter, something that begged to be unleashed, and when Magdalene’s fingers snarled in her hair, Alice twisted and bit, catching her unwounded arm.

There was no taste of blood in her mouth. Instead, ash ran over her tongue as she bit again, growling as the other woman pinned her down. The sparks in Magdalene’s eyes swelled as they fought, both desperate. Alice snarled up at her, dimly aware of how it sounded like a beast’s voice, not a girl’s. The last time they had fought like this, Magdalene had held her still with her iron strength and frantic need.

But this time, Alice didn’t thrash. This time, she attacked.

When Magdalene grabbed at her wrists, she snapped at her face. When hands wrapped around her throat, she lashed out with her fingernails. Rage lit her bones incandescent. They twisted and shook just like the pelt had in the fire. When something popped in her throat, she at first thought it was from Magdalene throttling her. Then her next breath came out as a growl. Her teeth suddenly felt too large in her mouth.

Magdalene’s eyes widened, fear replacing their dark desperation as she tried holding Alice down. But Alice was writhing, an agonized shriek wrenching from her throat. It slid into a howl as her body gave one convulsive lurch. Then the world changed, her view sliding and tilting as everything exploded into scent and sound. The pressure in her body grew solid, sure, and now she smelled Magdalene—a dry, thick scent like dust. Like smoke.

Wolf-Alice shook her fur and snarled at her former lover, at the wraith that had promised to never stop tormenting her. Magdalene shrank back but she was too fast, lunging forward with ready teeth. She bit for everything she had lost, everything that Magdalene still wished to take. Rage bubbled over in her snarls, overwhelming the shrieking and flailing hands that couldn’t pierce her fur. When the first taste of blood reached her throat, she only bit harder, determined to rip and tear until nothing remained.

And around her, the shadows flickered, swelling a little with each fresh scream.

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