Deklan cursed at the witch’s abrupt departure.
He still wasn’t done with her.
He sighed. At least he had her scent. If they were ever in the same neighbourhood again, if he caught the tiniest whiff of her, he’d have her.
He smiled to himself. Confronting her again would be worth the wait.
His wolf huffed in agreement.
Yep, meeting up with her was definitely something for them to look forward to.
He shifted shape. He wasn’t shy about nudity, but traipsing about the city in his all together would draw unwanted attention. A wolf in the city caught attention too, but was shrugged off, people telling themselves he was a dog. A fucking big ass dog.
His transformation always started with his canines lengthening, his ears extending. Then fur sprouted, tail appeared while bones and tissue reformed themselves, turning man into wolf.
It was a quick process, took seconds. But those seconds contained a buttload of pain.
After his first change as a boy of five, he’d had no desire to change again. But there’d been no denying his wolf.
Loping through familiar short cuts and side streets, all ghost-town quiet at this time of night, he made his way out of the city.
Nudity wasn’t the only reason he’d returned to wolf form - the four mile trip home would take half the time as a wolf than it would as human.
A few years ago he’d moved from the city to a house out in the country - a two-story with a wrap-around porch and lots of windows since his wolf handled being indoors better when he could see outside.
For a werewolf, windows were important, as was proximity to a wooded area and privacy.
As soon as he’d been able to afford it, he’d started the hunt for a place that included the trifecta, and he’d hit the jackpot. His nearest neighbour was four miles of thick forest away, so he could answer his wolf’s need to run any time, day or night, and did - sometimes alone, sometimes with his buddy, Blake.
He was just as much at home in the woods surrounding his property as he was in his house. He’d marked practically every tree, sniffed every rock, and beaten more than one path into the forest’s dirt floor.
Half an hour after he started home, he trotted up the four steps leading to his covered porch and shifted into human form at his back door. If he had had neighbours, and they were the nosy kind, they’d be getting an eyeful of his ass just then.
Entering six numbers into the keypad installed above the door handle, he let himself into his kitchen.
He’d had the keypad installed for those times he went demon hunting. It was highly likely he’d have to change into his wolf those nights and that meant carrying things - like keys, or a wallet - in his pockets was not recommended. It wasn’t like he could ask demons to wait while he dropped trou, changed into his wolf and then start fighting.
It’d be a lot easier on his wardrobe and finances if demons would be so accommodating, but being courteous wasn’t their forte.
The house was dark and he left it that way. With his night vision - courtesy of his wolf - he didn’t need to light things up to see. He cut a path between his kitchen and dining area - the former on his left, the latter on his right. Bypassing his living room on his left, he kept going, the floorboards creaking under his weight every few steps.
In his front entrance, he pulled a U-turn, grabbed a hold of the banister and started upstairs to the second floor. He made a right at the top, padded down the hallway and into his bedroom. B-lining it over to his oak dresser, which he’d handcrafted himself, he opened the second drawer, pulled out a pair of grey jogging pants, slipped those on, didn’t bother to tie them, and laid down in his king sized bed.
For an hour he lay there, willing himself to sleep, to no avail... and, of course, the longer he lay there, the more frustrated he became that sleep wasn’t coming.
It was all her fault. The witch with the hazel eyes, pouty lips and banging body. He didn’t want to, tried fucking hard not to, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
She’d made an indelible impression.
She’d disrupted his plans tonight, delayed his revenge... and tossed attitude his way, when he didn’t show her gratitude... yet he found himself attracted to her.
More fool him.
She was a fool too... the last thing she was gonna get from him was gratitude.
After months of searching for the demon that had killed his best friend, or someone tied to the demon, he’d finally hit pay dirt. He’d smelled his target on the lower level demons he’d been fighting in the alley.
He’d only needed one of them alive to interrogate - had been deciding which one was more likely to spill beans, and which one was expendable, when his two adversaries had become four.
He hadn’t been too upset with the addition, had just changed into his wolf for quicker dispatching. He hadn’t anticipated it would take him long to reduce the quartet down to a trio, then a duo and ultimately a single.
But he hadn’t anticipated her.
He shook his head.
She’d come in and taken everybody out. Fucking Rambo.
He sighed, opened his eyes, stared up through the darkness at the blank ceiling above him.
His wolf let out a soft whine at the turn his thoughts were taking.
He frowned, tried to derail his train of thought, failed.
It would soon be a year since Tuk’s death, and the pain of losing him had not eased. He still suffered flashbacks and nightmares of the night he’d lost his best friend. The nightmares happened less often these days, but they still happened. And they packed a punch.
If it hadn’t been for his buddy, Blake, he’d probably still be numbing himself with Jack Daniel’s. He’d suffered quite a few hangovers those first few weeks after burying his best friend. Blake had found him passed out on his couch a couple of times, had started coming over more often, got him out running more, drinking less.
Deklan ran a hand through his hair, let his arm drop back to the mattress at his side. If he didn’t want to fall back on bad habits and end up hung over tomorrow, he needed to distract himself.
He tried to turn his thoughts away from the pain of losing Tuk, tried to focus on the future, on killing Malek. Didn’t do so well.
But he couldn’t help hoping, maybe killing that bastard would ease his grief, put an end to his pain. If he avenged his friend, maybe he’d deserve some peace? It was a theory. One he was clinging to.
But, even if he didn’t find peace, even if he ended up spending the rest of his life tortured by the fact that he’d failed to save his friend, he was still going to have Malek in fucking pieces at his feet.
The demon was going to pay for killing his best friend... laughing over his lifeless body.
Anger bubbled up inside him at the memory, the sound of Malek’s laugh grating on his nerves.
The night Tuk was killed had been the one time he had completely lost his shit. His wolf had taken full control, ripping apart demon after demon. Despite hulking out, he probably would have been killed like Tuk if the cavalry hadn’t finally showed up. Members of their pack had come to help having heard his and Tuk’s howls of distress. They’d been too late to save Tuk...
... but they’d helped him spread carnage.
By the time he was done, blood had dripped from his teeth, coated his fur, thick and sticky.
Only one had escaped his wrath.
The higher level demon had retreated that night, abandoned his minions to die for him.
Deklan had been hunting him ever since. Tonight he’d caught his first real break in months. And she had taken that away. But was he angry at the witch for her interference? Well - yes, but not as angry as he fucking should be. He was too busy wondering about her, lusting after her.
His lips pinched into a firm line, his back teeth clenched.
His interest in her would be ignored. Starved to death. She may ring all his bells, with her smart mouth, her bulletproof confidence and her smoking body, but she wouldn’t be more than eye candy to him. All he cared about was killing the demon that had killed Tuk. Until he did that, nothing else mattered.
The witch might be distracting... but ending Malek was priority number one and would remain so until the deed was done.
Period. End of story.
He turned over on his side, shut his eyes.
With his head back on straight, having reaffirmed what was important - and who was not - he finally got to sleep.
Lucy got up at the regular time of whenever the hell her eyes opened.
If she hadn’t been a die-hard night-owl since puberty struck, the career she’d pursued and the hobby she’d chosen would have made her one.
Three nights a week, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, she sang at local bars and clubs. Gigging had been paying her bills for a couple of years now - which was lucky for her because she loved it and, well... she had no other lucrative talents.
On the four nights she wasn’t entertaining crowds with her - ahem - spectacular voice, she was busy making the world a safer place, one demon slaying at a time. Not that the world knew, or would ever know. Killing demons wasn’t exactly a tweetable career.
So - with her nights busy, Lucy’s days were for sleeping and chilling.
Crusty eyed, she reached over to her bedside table, checked the time on her iPhone.
Jinx was no longer warming her back, the black feline probably sunning himself somewhere in the apartment near one of the few small windows.
Throwing off the blanket she’d pulled over herself sometime in the night, she got herself vertical, legs hanging over the side of her bed. She yawned, stretched, oriented herself to what day it was with another look at her phone.
Thursdays she performed at Elixir, one of the most popular nightclubs in the city. The place was always packed, the vibe electric. Fun times.
She stood, shuffled out of her room and into the bathroom for a quick shower. Less than ten minutes later and she was back in her room, wrapped in a towel, smelling like her citrus body wash. She headed over to her dresser, opened up her panty drawer, pulled out her last clean pair.
That made today laundry day.
She could magically clean her wardrobe, but using magic for personal reasons was frowned upon in witch society.
The concern was that using magic for personal use could lead to using magic for more and more selfish reasons, eventually leading a witch to - dun, dun, dun - the dark side.
Lucy thought that concern was utter rot, and didn’t fully adhere to the witching society’s pressures.
Sorry, not sorry.
When it came to cleaning weapons or clothes after a fight, she used her powers - and felt no guilt about doing so. But, when it came to everyday chores, she did them the manual, boring way. Most of the time.
She dropped her towel, slipped on her panties.
Besides getting laundry done, she had to tidy up her apartment and go grocery shopping. Last night, before she’d hit the streets, she’d opened the fridge to grab the last bit of her Chinese takeout from the other day and smelled that it had reached it’s expiration date. Which reminded her, she needed to take the garbage out too.
She picked up the bra she’d worn yesterday off the floor, strapped in the ladies, went over to her closet, pulled black leggings and a forest green sweatshirt off hangers and threw them on.
Time to get shit done.
Thursday evening rolled around and with it, a wardrobe change. A girl couldn’t go on stage in sweats.
Tonight’s gig outfit? Black leather pants and a dark blue bustier.
Eyes on her reflection in the bathroom mirror, Lucy gave herself a smoky eye and red lips and pulled her long brown hair, which she’d taken the time to straighten, back into a high ponytail. The updo exposed the star tattoos that trailed around the sides and back of her neck.
She’d gotten those stars at nineteen, but they hadn’t been her first time getting inked. Her first tattoo had been the mandala design decorating her skin below the curves of her breasts.
Makeup done, hair up, she left the bathroom, went back to her bedroom for her boots, didn’t see them anywhere. Where were they?
Oh, right. She’d set them by her apartment door, where they were supposed to go, when she’d been tidying up earlier.
She retrieved her iPhone off its charging dock on her bedside table, tucked it snug against her bum in the back pocket of her pants and made her way through her small apartment. In her entranceway, she slipped on her boots before letting herself out of her place and locking things up.
An extra, magical lock was part of her security system. A woman living alone could never be too careful. Especially if said woman dallied with demons.
A quick elevator ride down eight floors and she exited her building, headed south down Clark St. She could have poofed herself to her gig, but she didn’t mind the walk. The route she took to Elixir took her a few blocks down Clark St., right onto 5th Ave. and, after another few blocks, left onto Langley. Elixir’s sign shone bright pink up ahead on the left.
She crossed the street and walked along one side of the bar. Since the brick exterior of the building was black, the windows tinted darker than dark, she couldn’t see into Elixir and anyone inside couldn’t see her - as designed.
The bar had more than one exit but only one door designated as an entrance and that was the one she approached now on Langley. Mick, one of Elixir’s bouncers, a six and a half foot body builder, greeted her when she walked up, held the door open for her with a meaty hand.
The guy was a behemoth, could throw down when he needed to, ejecting assholes out of Elixir with aplomb. But with her, he was a sweetheart. She thanked him, returning his smile and entered Elixir.
The place was lit up brighter than it would be in less than half an hour when customers started being admitted. Her eyes travelled the familiar surroundings. Employees were setting up on the stage to her right and at each of the four bars staggered through the sprawling, one floor club. She headed over to the largest bar - the one on the dance-floor.
If you came to Elixir, you came to dance. Once the night was in full swing, the largest bar in the joint accommodated a sea of gyrating people getting their buzz on.
One of the bartenders, Justin, raised a hand in greeting when he spotted her.
“Hey Luce.” he smiled warmly.
“Hey Justin, how’s it going?” she replied, returning his smile, hitching her derriere up on a barstool.
“It’s going.” Justin replied, filling up a container of toothpicks.
Every night before Elixir opened, staff organized, cleaned and restocked their work stations. They did it before opening rather than after closing because nobody wanted to stick around and do that stuff after close. They either wanted to go to the after party at someone’s house or go home and sleep. Their boss, Jack, was cool enough to let them do things this way.
“How’s it going with you?” Justin asked, setting the container of toothpicks down and pausing in his prep work, turning his brown eyes on her.
His hands rested on the bar top between them, her gaze took the journey up his corded forearms, losing sight of muscle and sinew when she reached his rolled up sleeves.
He was wearing a white turtleneck sweater and black dress slacks. Lucy didn’t know why, but turtlenecks on this guy turned her on.
When she had first met Justin, everything about him had turned her on. His dark hair, his solid build, his charismatic smile, his kind eyes and his sense of humour. But she’d never made a move on him. For two reasons.
The first reason?
They were coworkers. If they hooked up and things turned sour? Awkward. She had a good thing going here. She wasn’t going to ruin that with drama.
The second reason?
She was a witch. Getting involved with someone that wasn’t part of the magical world was asking for trouble. She’d tell him what she was and inform him all the creatures he believed were fantasy were real. He’d be shocked and horrified and want nothing to do with her.
... he’d think the magic stuff was cool, they’d make a go of it, maybe be lucky enough to fall in love and, one day, tragedy would strike and he’d be demon-kill.
Maybe she was too pessimistic...but she didn’t think so. She’d rather be safe than sorry, be smart, and keep things platonic.
She rested her forearms on the bar top, leaned forward and addressed Justin’s question of how things were going.
“Oh, you know, same old, same old.” she said.
Killed a handful of demons last night, pissed off a werewolf, you know...same old, same old.
“Can I get a water?” she asked.
While Justin got a glass, filled it to the top with water - he knew she didn’t want ice - she glanced around. The place always looked different when the lights were up. The context was wrong. It was like seeing someone you recognized but not knowing where you knew them from.
“Check one, two...check one, two.”
At the familiar voice coming over the speakers, her gaze shifted over to the stage. Ethan, the drummer of Elixir’s house band, adjusted the height of the mic standing front and centre on the stage, then went over and did a test on the other microphones. After he finished with the mic check and disappeared back stage, she returned her gaze to Justin, a hand going to the glass he’d set before her.
She lifted her drink to her lips, took a sip.
The last few minutes before the bar’s opening hour of ten passed quickly, her and Justin making small talk while she sipped at her water and he restocked his supplies. At ten, the music, which up until then had been playing quietly in the background, went up in volume and the lights dimmed.
Now the place had the proper context.
Patrons started trickling into the venue, headed straight for the bars. Justin got busy taking orders and mixing drinks. She stayed where she was, content to people watch - and quietly judge those in skanky or tacky outfits - as the place quickly filled up. Alcohol and horniness had clearly been in the driver’s seat with some wardrobe choices.
A few minutes before she was due on stage, she made a quick trip to the ladies room. After relieving herself, a check in the mirror reassured her she was looking good - no lipstick on her front teeth, no hair frizzies. Her cleavage just needed a little readjusting. Bending forward, she shimmied the ladies until they were plumped up nicely.
There. Prepped and ready.
She let herself out of the bathroom, the door swinging closed behind her as she headed back out to the floor. On her way back to the bar, she saw Jack step up on stage.
She rerouted, weaving through the crowd, sliding between gaps in bodies, moved over to the stairs at the side of the stage and waited for her introduction. Jack gave his usual ramble; he thanked everyone for coming, asked if they were having a good time, received a roar of affirmatives, then moved on to introducing the band and her.
“Please welcome to the stage,” he smiled into the microphone, adjusting his glasses. “A favourite here at Elixir, Lucy Carmichael.”
She smiled as the place erupted with cheers.
Jack clapped along with everyone else, stepped back from the mic as she came forward.
“How’s everybody doing tonight?” she asked, smiling at the audience as Jack exited stage left behind her.
The crowd cheered again.
“This first song is a new one. I hope y’all like it.” she said.
She looked out over the sea of faces, feeling right at home and bared a piece of her soul through some ordinary every day words put to a good beat.
Sure, she was a witch, but the power of music was a magic all its own.
Deklan kept close, but not too close, to the pair of demons he was tailing.
He didn’t smell Malek on these two, but he hadn’t come across any other demons tonight. Maybe these guys would lead him to some pals of theirs and maybe those pals would be friends of Malek.
The chances of that? Not high.
But he didn’t have any better options at the moment.
The two were oblivious to him. They kept a quick, steady pace, obviously heading to a particular destination. A few moments ago, they’d taken the time to glamour themselves so they appeared human. Instead of bright red or dark blue skin, they both presented as Caucasian. No horns protruded from their heads, no claws from their fingers, no fangs from their mouths. Dressed all in black as they were, they fit right in with the night time crowd.
They couldn’t hide that sour smell all demons seemed to share though.
Deklan watched from a block or so back as his targets joined a line to enter a bar. The lit sign above the door read, Elixir.
Weird. That was a human bar. A popular one. Why would demons be frequenting a human bar?
Deklan waited until a few people had joined the line behind the demons, then joined the line himself.
The duo never showed signs they’d become aware a werewolf was nearby as the line slowly, but steadily, shuffled along.
If they’d picked up on his presence, they wouldn’t have been able to resist getting him alone and getting physical.
Demons and werewolves did not mix well.
But tonight, their radar seemed to be attuned to someone or something else.
A few minutes, and they were being let in by the bouncer. Ten or fifteen people later and it was Deklan’s turn at the front of the line. The big, burly bouncer nodded at him and let him through, not needing to see ID since he was obviously over 21. With a polite nod in return, he approached the entrance and...
...stopped mid motion, his arm extended, hand reaching for the door handle.
He took a deeper breath, sniffing the air.
Well, well, well.
A grin spread across his face.
The witch was here.
He hadn’t expected to cross paths with her again so soon.
He forgot all about the demons he’d followed here. He’d been willing to waste time on the slim chance that the pair would lead him to anyone with connections to Malek when he’d had nothing else better to do.
He had something else better to do. Someone better to follow.
He grasped the door handle and pulled, letting himself in to Elixir, and was immediately bombarded by a pungent bouquet made up of various perfumes, colognes, body odour, alcohol and sweat.
Shit. That cacophony of smells upped his appreciation for fresh air and the simple, clean scent of pine.
As he moved through the crowd of humans, absorbing their bumps and jostles, he slowly swivelled his head left and right, sniffing for her.
Where was she?
Here bitch - ahem - witch.
Her scent seemed to be coming from the bar in the middle of the dance-floor.
His lip curled with distaste.
Great. Between him and that bar, the crowd was even thicker.
He sighed, started forward.
Mentally snarling at those that knocked into him, he made his way through the horde. At the bar, he claimed a stool, just beating another guy to it, and browsed faces, looking for hers. He’d only been looking for a couple of minutes when he got a stronger hit of her scent. She must have just re-entered the bar proper.
Inhaling deeply, his nostrils flaring, he pinpointed her location. Her scent was coming from... his right. Turning his attention in that direction, he sought out the witch and found her standing by the edge of the stage. She was smiling, her attention on the hipster up on stage introducing the night’s entertainment, then she was getting up on the stage, taking the mic, greeting the crowd.
“This first song is a new one. I hope y’all like it.” she said.
The band started playing and the witch, who had been conveniently introduced as Lucy Carmichael, started singing.
Now that she was up on stage, his view of her unobstructed, he got a good look at her and her outfit. Tight, black leather pants hugged her long legs. A dark blue bustier showed off her slim waist and generous breasts. Her lips were a bold, glossy red, her eyes heavily shaded.
Damn her, she looked good.
Pressure bloomed in his canines and fingernails. He frowned, his brow furrowing. That didn’t usually happen unless he was shifting shape.
Guess his wolf was a fan of Lucy in that outfit too.
Ignoring his body’s reaction, Deklan kept himself focused. His plans included waiting until Lucy headed home then following her, confronting her, and bitching at her about last night. His plans did not include anything that would fall under a sexual heading.
His wolf huffed.
He didn’t like their plans?
That was too bad. He hadn’t had a problem with it until a moment ago.
Lucy finished her opening song, an original that sounded like a hit in the making, and went immediately into her second. He hated to admit it, but she had that ‘it’ factor. She’d reeled the audience in - she’d reeled him in - despite his annoyance with her.
She hadn’t seen him yet, but her eyes were travelling the crowd. She looked his way and his back straightened without any instruction from him. She didn’t notice him though, her darkly accentuated eyes moving away. Disappointment lit up inside him.
That made him frown.
Why did he want her to see him? That was foolish. Stupid, even. If she saw him, she’d disappear on him the first chance she got. Then he’d have to stake out Elixir until the next night she performed at the bar - assuming she would perform there again.
Not impressed with himself, he pulled his eyes off Lucy. He knew where she was. She was gonna be up there for a while. He didn’t have to watch her every second.
He ordered a drink, a rum and coke, once he caught the bartender’s eye. He wasn’t surprised to discover with his first sip, that the bartender had gone light with the rum. Overpriced, watered down drinks were common in human bars.
He sipped at his drink, until only ice cubes remained, then waited for the bartender to make his way over to his corner of the bar again and ordered a regular coke. He drank that coke even slower than the first.
As he waited for Lucy to wrap up her set, several beautiful women hit on him, as did a couple of handsome men. He politely turned them all down.
Finally, Lucy announced the next song was her last. For her closer, she did a cover of Sia’s Cheap Thrills. She killed it. After saying her thank you’s she stepped back from the mic, the crowd’s cheers following her off stage. Deklan tracked her as she headed his way.
She was quite the local hit.
He smirked. Obviously these people didn’t know her personally.
Before she got too close and spotted him, he slipped off his stool and retreated to one of the booths lining the back wall. From there he watched as Lucy enjoyed herself - drinking, laughing, dancing. A small smile touched his lips, the wait becoming less of a chore when the dancing started.
Lucy had some sexy moves and an even sexier body. The bustier she wore pushed her breasts up and together. With her every bump and sway, the overflow jiggled nicely.
Watching her dance, he felt pressure once more in his canines and fingernails, this time joined by a stirring in his groin.
He tore his gaze off her. He didn’t care if she was sexier than any woman he’d ever been with. He didn’t care if she was his type - she was not for him. His dick would not change his mind. He just needed a moment before he continued his surveillance. Once his pants weren’t so damn tight, he’d resume.
Willing his dick to chill, he idly scanned his gaze across the nightclub.
Everywhere, humans were having a good time, dancing to music now being pumped out of speakers. Some there with friends, others there obviously looking to hook up.
His gaze coasted over to the booths along the wall on his right... two faces caught his attention - the demons he’d followed in to Elixir and dismissed once he’d scented the witch.
They were still here and they were watching someone intently.
Who were they staring at?
Brow furrowed, eyes narrowed, Deklan followed their line of sight. His gaze landed on... Lucy. The demons were interested in Lucy? They’d come to Elixir for her? Guess he wasn’t the only one she’d pissed off recently. Why was that not a surprise?
Knowing the demons were after Lucy, put a kink in his plans. No matter how much she’d annoyed him or fucked up his plans, he didn’t wish her serious harm. And demons only dished out one kind of harm - fatal.
The little shit-heads.
His wolf growled his displeasure.
I’m with you, buddy.
Concerned, he split his attention between Lucy and her secret admirers.
When she finally left Elixir, around two o’clock, he discreetly tagged along behind the demons that followed her out.