Around one, Deklan woke up feeling more alive and functional thanks to a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
He got out of bed and took care of necessities - showering in the hottest water he could stand, shaving (even though he’d be scruffy again in a few hours) and throwing on some clothes - jeans and a T-shirt; his default outfit.
Downstairs in his kitchen, he cooked up some bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast, scarfed that down.
There. Full operational mode achieved.
He set his dishes by the sink, headed out the back door, and hung a right at the bottom of his porch steps. A wide limestone path led him to what had once been a detached garage. He’d turned it into a carpentry studio.
Repurposing the fair-sized space to suit his needs had been the first thing he’d done after purchasing the property. The two automatic garage doors had been removed and replaced with windows, and the walls had been given a couple of coats of paint.
Entering a six-digit keycode, he let himself into the studio, flicked on the lights, illuminating his projects. He had several on the go at the moment - a head board for a young couple, a dining table and chairs for an older couple, and bunk beds for a family with two sets of twin boys.
As a self-employed carpenter, he was doing well, had had steady work now for the last few years. It had taken a lot of time and effort, but he’d slowly built a bit of a name for himself, his craftsmanship garnering him respect and attention, and most importantly, steady work.
He pulled his cell out of his back pocket as he crossed the room, going over to the headboard waiting in the far right corner. He’d start off doing some more carving on that piece, then probably move on to the dining table.
After selecting a playlist on his phone, he plugged the device into the charging dock taking up space on a shelf on the far wall. Dierks Bentley’s voice came through a set of two small speakers.
That brought him up short.
He was a big Dierks fan, but he’d removed country songs from his playlists.
Tuk had turned him onto country. The guy had been a die hard country fan. Deklan couldn’t enjoy the genre right now. It bummed him out too much.
Guess he’d missed this song during his purge.
He grabbed up his phone and removed it, skipped to the next song. Adam Levine’s voice came through the speakers.
He set his phone back on the charging dock, turned and went over to the headboard, got to work.
His wolf gave a soft whine, feeling the loss of Tuk.
Yeah. I know, buddy.
He hurt too.
Tuk had been a big part of their lives. One of the best parts. Moving on without him was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do.
They’d known each other for almost twenty years, had met in Ms. Jenny’s home schooling group when he’d been eleven and Tuk had been twelve.
All werewolf kids were home schooled. Had to be. They didn’t have control of their bodies, their shifting. If they got too worked up, horsing around in the playground, or too tired by the end of the day, they could shift unintentionally and expose their species to humans.
And look at what humans were capable of doing to each other. What would they do to werewolves?
So - home schooling.
Deklan had been a runt as a kid, scrawny and short. He’d eventually shot up and filled out nicely, but thanks to hitting puberty and growth spurts late, he’d been much smaller than the others in his class for a while.
The bullying hadn’t started right away, but it had eventually started... and it had stopped the day Tuk joined their group.
Tuk’s family had just moved from another city and he’d been reassigned to Ms. Jenny for home schooling.
They’d all been outside, having recess, when Cade had started doing the usual, picking at him and picking at him. He’d ignored him until Cade had gotten physical, started shoving him. His emotions had got the better of him, he’d shifted unintentionally. A shit-eating grin had split across Cade’s face. He’d gotten what he wanted.
Cade had shifted - his brown wolf twice the size of Deklan’s black.
Tuk had stuck his nose in, and surprised the hell out of him. None of the other kids ever had. They’d always turned a blind eye. They hadn’t wanted to catch Cade’s attention and end up his new target, so they’d minded their own business, let Cade torment him.
But on his first day in a new group, Tuk had come over, faced off against Cade. His wolf had been the same size as Cade’s, if not a bit bigger.
Faced with two opponents, one of which was the same size as him, Cade had backed off.
Deklan smiled at the memory.
The asshat hadn’t bothered either of them after that.
From that day forward, he and Tuk had been fast friends. Brothers, really. They’d become practically inseparable. Either he was at Tuk’s, or Tuk was at his place. They’d made that awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood together, getting each other through embarrassing, awkward moments (which usually involved girls rejecting them) and celebrating each other’s victories (which usually involved girls liking them).
Deklan paused in his work on the headboard, a sad sigh escaping him.
God damn, he missed Tuk.
Would the pain always be this bad? Would his grief ever ease?
He gave himself a mental headshake, focused on the task at hand, determinedly pushed his memories away. They didn’t go quietly, kept vying for his attention, but he studiously ignored them.
The afternoon gradually matured into evening as he kept his hands occupied, transformed wood into functional pieces. He only stopped to refuel once and by the time his stomach started asking for more a few hours later, he was happy with the progress he’d made on his pieces and quit for the day.
Making his own hours was a definite perk to being self-employed.
He set his studio to rights - put tools away, gave the floor a good sweep - collected his iPhone, turned out the lights, locked things up and headed into the house.
His stomach growled again, louder, more demanding.
In his kitchen, he grabbed the fixings for a turkey sandwich, slapped that together, grabbed a Heineken off the fridge door, popped the top and headed into the living room. He plopped himself onto his sofa, grabbed the remote off the coffee table, sat back with his plate in his lap and turned on the TV.
He had a few hours to kill before Lucy showed up, he’d find something to watch on Netflix.
He was in the middle of his third episode of some drama-comedy-mystery series, when he heard the faint sound of someone approaching from the woods behind his house.
Had to be Blake. It’d been a couple of days since they had gone running together.
Turning off his 42" flat screen, he got to his feet, grabbed his cell up off the coffee table, pressed the home button. The screen lit up, showing the time.
He had time to go for a run with Blake before Lucy showed up. She probably wouldn’t make an appearance until after one-ish.
He collected his plate off the coffee table, brought it into the kitchen, left it and his phone on the end of the island. Letting himself out of the house, he pulled his back door closed behind him, looked out into his yard.
Yep, it was Blake. His friend was halfway between the trees and the house. Between his teeth, he carried a blue backpack by its strap.
Deklan knew the backpack held clothes, maybe some snacks and water. The two of them usually hung out after their runs and, while werewolves weren’t shy about nudity, they didn’t hang out naked. That would be weird.
Blake came up the porch steps, his claws clicking on the wood, dropped his bag by the railing.
Deklan didn’t bother saying anything, just ditched his own clothes, leaving them on the closest adirondack chair, and shifted into his wolf. With Blake at his right side, he loped towards the tree line, leaving his house behind, his wolf’s eagerness to stretch his legs saturating his being.
“Race ya?” Blake proposed.
Now that they were both in wolf form, they could communicate telepathically. For some reason the telepathy didn’t work if one werewolf was in human form and the other was in wolf form. Or if both were in human form.
Deklan supposed so.
“You want to lose again?” he taunted like the good friend he was.
He snorted when Blake took off running.
He could afford to let him have a few seconds head start though. He’d still win.
Howls pierced the stillness of the night as the two of them raced through the woods.
Once Lucy was alone back stage, she teleported, disappearing from The Spot, a heartbeat later reappearing on Deklan’s front porch.
He may be expecting her, but it felt rude to just appear inside his house.
She knocked soundly on the front door, heard Deklan approaching a second later. The knob turned, the door opened, but it wasn’t Deklan that appeared. It was a different, but equally handsome man.
She smiled up at the hot stranger.
Size wise, he was just as big as Deklan, his muscles and girth filling out his T-shirt and jeans beautifully... did werewolves have a mandatory T-shirt and jeans uniform?
He had blue eyes, similar in shade to Deklan’s, and light brown hair.
“Hi -” she smiled, slipped her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
The word sounded more a question than a greeting.
“Hi, Lucy right?” handsome man said in what she would wager was the sexiest voice in all the land.
Move over Antonio Banderas.
“I’m Blake,” he introduced himself. “Friend of Dek’s. Come in.” he invited, gesturing her inside.
“Thanks.” she said, joining him in the front entrance.
Should she take off her boots?
“Dek told me you’d be coming.” Blake smiled at her. “He’s just in the washroom. He’ll be right down.” he informed her.
Deklan’s friend turned and headed down the hallway. Boots on, she trailed behind him... Blake had his on.
They bypassed the living room, entered the kitchen-dining room. Blake went over to the island, and she followed, stopped at the end of it, diagonal from him across the counter.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked.
“I’m fine, thanks.” she replied.
The sound of a toilet flushing, followed by water running came from upstairs. A moment later ‘Dek’ joined them in the kitchen, coming over and leaning against the counter across from Blake.
He looked over at her, did a little double take.
“Hey, Lucy.” he smiled, brow furrowed slightly.
What? Did she have something on her face?
“Hey.” she replied.
Blake pushed off the counter, drawing her gaze over to him.
“I know you two have stuff to do,” he said. “so I’m gonna take off.”
“Don’t leave on my account.” she said.
Had she interrupted them? Deklan hadn’t texted her that plans had changed, so she’d assumed he’d still wanted her to come over after her gig and scry.
She could come another night.
“I was heading out anyway. Just came over for a run with Dek.” Blake replied with a head tilt at Deklan.
And they hadn’t had time for their run?
“I can wait, if you guys need to go wolf it up.” she offered, looking back and forth between the two men.
“We already ‘wolfed’ it up.” Blake grinned at her words. “We’re all set.” he said.
He moved passed her, headed to the back door. “It was nice to meet you Lucy.” he smiled.
“You too.” she replied, returning his smile.
Blake turned his gaze on Deklan. “See you later, Dek.”
“See ya, man.” Deklan replied.
She watched Blake leave, her gaze following him through the window in the top half of the door after he pulled it shut. She wouldn’t have kept watching, but...
... the guy proceeded to strip naked right there on the porch.
A slow smile spread across her face. Werewolves were great. So uninhibited. Not a shy bone in their delectable bodies.
As he undressed, he tucked his clothes into a backpack and then, once in nothing but his birthday suit, shifted into his wolf.
He was beautiful - large and smoky grey.
With significantly pointier teeth, he picked up his backpack and headed down the porch steps and away from the house.
She turned her gaze on Deklan.
“Your friend has a nice ass.” she told him, grinning at him before turning her gaze back out the window, watching Blake head off towards the tree line.
“Does he?” Deklan huffed with amusement.
He rounded the far end of the island, walked over to the sink, looking out the window above it just in time to see his friend’s tail disappearing into the woods.
“Yours is nicer.” she told him, giving him a saucy wink when he threw a dry look her way.
He came over to her, stopping and leaning against the counter where Blake had been moments before.
“Ass woman, are we?” he asked, one dark eyebrow rising.
“Among other... parts.” she replied with a waggle of eyebrows.
Deklan chuckled, his eyes dancing with amusement.
Guy had a nice laugh.
“You werewolves don’t have much modesty do ya?” she asked.
If they all had bodies like Deklan’s or Blake’s, why would they?
“None, really.” he agreed readily, shaking his head. “You shift, you lose your clothes.” he shrugged.
“Must be a bitch on the bank account.” she commented.
He probably spent more on clothes than those spoiled princesses in Hollywood.
“I can afford it.” he replied with another shrug.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“Self-employed.” Deklan replied. “I’m a carpenter.”
Really? Business must be very good. The guy went through Levi’s like they were dirt cheap.
“You heal quickly.” Deklan commented, changing the subject and shifting his gaze to her temple.
She did heal quicker than a ‘normal human’, but how did he know that?
Oh! Right. She’d forgotten she’d done a glamour.
“No.” she replied, raising a hand and passing it in front of her temple. “I glamoured myself before going to my gig.” she explained as she undid it. “No questions that way.”
“Ah.” Deklan nodded. “Handy.” he said.
He checked out the small butterfly bandages she’d applied after her shower, nodded like he approved of her work.
The cut at her temple had been easy to tend to. Her back had been a trick for a contortionist.
He shifted his eyes off her temple, met her gaze once more.
“I was surprised to find you gone this morning.” he murmured.
Should she have woken him up? She’d debated doing that, but decided against it.
“Yeah. I woke up, couldn’t get back to sleep.” she explained. “I didn’t see the point in waking you up.” she said. “I left you that note with your shirt.”
“You’ve been feeling okay?” he asked, looking at her intently.
Physically? Yes. Emotionally and mentally? She’d been better. A demon had almost bested her. She felt a little off-centre. And a lot pissed.
But, he didn’t need to know all that.
“Just a little tired.” she told him. “Not sure how long I’ll last tonight.”
The sooner she started scrying the better. Stepping back from the counter, she did a one-eighty, started toward the dining room table. That’s where she’d scry.
Deklan came with her.
“We can do this another night.” he told her. “- if you’re not feeling up to it tonight.”
“Oh, no, I’m fine really.” she assured him. “Just a little tired.”
She reached into the front inside pocket of her jacket, pulled out a map of the world, unfolded it, spread it out over the table. Reaching into another jacket pocket, she pulled out her pendulum. She shrugged out of her jacket, draped it over the back of a chair that she then pulled out from the table and introduced to her ass. Deklan pulled out a chair across from her.
She pulled her hair back in a low ponytail, secured it with the elastic that had been around her wrist, grasped the end of her pendulum’s chain and raised her right hand until the crystal dangled over the continent of North America. As it started spinning above the map, she glanced across the table at Deklan.
She assumed he knew Malek needed to be topside for her to be able to locate him, but maybe she should confirm.
“So - ” she said.
Deklan shifted his blue eyes from the pendulum to her.
" - you know Malek needs to be in this plane for me to be able to locate him, right?” she asked. “If he’s underground, in the demon plane, I’m not going to get a hit.”
Okay. Good. He was aware their chances of finding Malek sooner were just as good as their chances of finding him later. They just had to be patient. The demon would travel to their plane eventually. There was too much murder and mayhem to be had here for a demon to stay away too long.
She hovered over an area for a few minutes before moving on, hovering over the next area. The two of them were silent, watching her crystal whirl round and round. After half an hour, boredom set in... at least for her.
She lifted her gaze to Deklan.
With nothing else to do while they waited... might as well make small talk.
Besides, she was curious about him.
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked.
“Sure.” he replied, shrugging a shoulder.
“Does it hurt? When you change?” she asked.
She assumed it did. It must. His bones changed, his organs rearranged.
“It doesn’t tickle.” he quipped. “But it only lasts a few seconds.” he added.
She nodded. He may downplay it because his shift only took seconds, but she bet those seconds were excruciating.
She returned her gaze to her pendulum, her mind chewing on the possible idiosyncrasies of werewolves.
Besides painful transformations, were there other drawbacks to being a werewolf? Did he ever wish he was a regular, old human?
“Do you ever wish... you weren’t a werewolf?” she asked, shifting her gaze back to him. “That you were... normal?”
Her own past made her wish, sometimes, that she wasn’t a witch but just a normal girl, with a normal family.
Pain squeezed her heart.
Wishes didn’t bring back the dead though.
Deklan seemed surprised by the question.
“No, not really, I guess.” he replied. “Maybe... sometimes.” he hedged. “But what if’s and wishing for things to be different than they are kinda seem like a waste of time to me.” he shrugged. “There’s pros and cons to everything, right? I’m happy as I am.”
She shifted her gaze from him back to her crystal.
He had a healthy attitude, and he was right - what if’s and wishes that couldn’t come true, were a waste of time.
But... sometimes, she couldn’t help herself.
“What about you?” Deklan asked and her gaze swung back to him, met his across the map.
“Do you wish you were normal?” he asked, curiosity in his voice, in the lift of his brow as he posed her own question back at her.
Doh. She should have expected he would ask - turnabout was fair play - but she hadn’t. She’d just been wondering about him. She hadn’t anticipated a tit-for-tat exchange.
She kinda wanted to dodge the question, take the easy way and lie, tell him, ‘No - she didn’t wish she was normal’.
She returned her gaze to her crystal, shifted her arm over a little, hovered over a different area.
She answered honestly.
“Sometimes.” she replied.
“Really?” Deklan asked, obviously surprised.
She looked to him, back to her pendulum.
“Sometimes.” she echoed.
“I can’t see you, of all people, wanting to be normal.” he said.
“What do you mean - ‘me, of all people’?” she asked, lifting her gaze, frowning over at him.
“Normal is... boring. Normal is... ordinary.” he said. “You’re neither.”
He tilted his head, regarded her thoughtfully, his eyes silvering.
“I find it hard to believe you’d be happy with ‘normal’ for very long.” he said.
She probably wouldn’t be, but...
She looked back at her pendulum.
“Normal might be boring,” she agreed quietly after a moment. “...but it’s also pretty safe. If my family hadn’t been witches? If we’d been normal?” she frowned. “I’d still have a family.”
She felt Deklan’s eyes on her, studying her, kept her eyes on her pendulum, avoiding his gaze.
“What happened to your family?” he murmured after a beat.
She didn’t reply right away.
The horror of that night, years ago, rose from the shadows of her consciousness like the monster it was.
Across the table, Deklan waited patiently.
It had been a long time since she’d talked about her loss. She didn’t really want to now, but she found the words coming out of her mouth.
“My mom was a witch.” she began. “She raised me and my sister, Hannah, by herself.”
“My dad was never in the picture.” she added as an aside. “I don’t know why. My mom never said.”
And she and Hannah hadn’t asked. Now, as an adult, she assumed her dad either hadn’t been able to handle her mom being a witch, or he’d died - maybe been killed. It was weird to think he might be out in the world somewhere, living his life. If he was still kicking around, did he know Allison and Hannah were gone? Did he care?
If he was still alive, he’d never reached out to her... so she preferred to think of him as dead. It hurt less than believing he didn’t care about her.
“When we were old enough, she taught us a little magic.” she shared. “Just basic stuff. She would have taught us more, but...”
She paused, falling backwards in time.
“I was nine.” she continued. “My sister ten. We were brushing our teeth before bed, when we heard a crash downstairs.”
Lucy remembered looking to her sister, seeing the alarm she was feeling on Hannah’s face. They’d gone to the top of the stairs... Hannah had called down to their mom... another crash had sounded... they’d both froze when they heard their mom yell.
Lucy had looked to Hannah again, panicked, had become even more upset when her sister had started down the stairs.
But she’d followed.
“We heard growling coming from the kitchen...” horrible, throaty growling. “... we peeked around the corner into the room. The kitchen table was broken in half. Our mom was on top of it, a Zolark on top of her.”
Lucy had eventually learned that that was the name of the demon species that had killed her mom and sister.
They were hideous creatures. Their eyes were black, their skin grey. Their bodies were hunched and twisted. Horns protruded from their foreheads, curving back over their skulls. Hands and feet ended with 6" claws.
The claws of this Zolark had been painted red with her mom’s blood.
“Our mom saw us... yelled at us to run.” Lucy continued. “The Zolark came at us and Hannah and I screamed, and ran. We were almost to the front door when Hannah yelled at me to run...”
Terrified, she’d pushed herself faster at her sister’s yell, her feet barely touching the ground... she’d been sure they weren’t going to get away.
But they had.
Well... one of them had.
“I never looked behind me...” Lucy continued. She’d just run full out. “... I just assumed Hannah was right with me...” She’d covered a lot of ground, run for what had felt like miles before she’d had to stop, not able to go any further. Her heart had gone from pumping out of her chest to plummeting down to her stomach when she’d realized Hannah was nowhere around.
She hadn’t known what to do. She’d been terrified and alone.
“I didn’t know what else to do... so I started back home, hoping I’d find Hannah - I told myself, maybe she’d run out of steam before me. Maybe she’d stopped a block back. Maybe I hadn’t heard her calling to me to stop.”
... Hannah hadn’t been a block back.
She hadn’t been anywhere. Lucy had got all the way back to her neighbourhood, and not seen any sign of her sister. Their house had been closed up. Dark.
“All night I watched, hiding under a neighbour’s parked car, hoping Hannah would return like I had.”
She never had.
In the morning... the sunshine surreal after such a dark night... she’d approached the house.
“On the front step, I found a scrap of material with stars on it - a piece of Hannah’s pj’s that she’d been wearing the night before.”
She’d almost thrown up.
“The Zolark must have snatched my sister on her way out the door.”
Sitting at Deklan’s table, Lucy blinked several times, coming back to the present. She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat as she’d relayed her story.
She didn’t take her eyes off the pendulum spinning, didn’t speak for a moment.
Pain and guilt slashed at her.
“Some sister I am, right?” she murmured eventually, shaking her head at herself.
Not to mention, daughter. She’d just left her mom to that demon.
“No, Lucy,” Deklan said in a soft voice.
She shifted her gaze, met his.
“There was nothing you could have done.” he told her, shaking his head. “You’re just lucky you got away.” he murmured.
She frowned, turned her gaze back to her pendulum.
That may be true, but she still felt guilty.
“If I’d realized the demon had grabbed Hannah,” she said. “I could have helped her.”
Maybe she could have saved her.
“How?” Deklan asked.
She looked back over at him.
He rested his forearms on the table, leaned towards her.
“You said your mom had only taught you minimal magic at that point.” he said. “Right?”
“If you’d tried to help her, or your sister, the demon would have killed you too.” he insisted. “You couldn’t have survived a confrontation with a Zolark.” he paused. “You’re looking back through the eyes of someone who has learned and practiced magic and fighting skills for years.” he continued. “Grown up you? - may have had a chance against that demon. Nine year old you...?” he shook his head.
She knew he was right, but... she couldn’t help feeling that she could have done something. She could have tried.
Her thoughts must have shown in her expression, because Deklan nodded - like he knew what she was thinking.
“It’s hard not to beat yourself up, isn’t it?” he asked, a weariness in his voice now.
“There must have been something you could have done, right?” he asked.
He sighed, his gaze shifting down to the table in front of him.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dissected the night Tuk was killed.” he finally said.
He sat back, crossed his arms over his chest.
“I should have been able to save him. I was right there.” he murmured, shaking his head, frustration in his voice. “It was my fault we were even fighting Malek. It was my idea to go after him.” he confessed.
Lucy stopped scrying, lowered her arm, closed her fingers around her crystal.
“Why did you go after Malek?” she asked, brow furrowing.
Deklan looked over at her. His eyes were cloudy with pain.
“Several werewolves had been killed.” he told her. “Malek’s scent was on every wolf.”
Deklan’s jaw clenched. He uncrossed his arms, dropped his forearms back on the table.
“Tuk and I were downtown one night. We scented Malek.” he said.
He paused again and she waited patiently.
“I thought we could take him ourselves. We tracked him, got him cornered. Alone.” he gave another shake of his head.
“Or we thought we did.” he said, voice grim. “Others showed up.”
“We howled for backup from our pack... but... by the time they showed up - ” he shook his head again. “Tuk was dead.”
Feeling for him, and the friend he’d lost, she set her crystal on the table, reached across, covered one of his hands with hers, offering comfort.
“I’m so sorry, Deklan.” she murmured.
Deklan looked up from their hands, his blue eyes heavy with pain and sadness. His other hand covered hers, sandwiched her hand between both of his.
“Thanks.” he murmured.
“Sorry about your mom and sister.” he said after a beat.
She nodded again.
“Thanks.” she echoed.
Silence fell in their shared moment of commiseration, the two of them thinking of the loved ones they’d lost.
Eventually, she started scrying again. She didn’t want to. She wanted to go home. When she’d got to Deklan’s she’d been tired. Now? After revisiting that night? She was drained.
After scrying for a bit, she checked the time over on the stove clock.
It was after four. She’d only scryed for a couple of hours, but she was done for the night. She just wanted to go home and curl up in bed.
She lowered her crystal, looked over at Deklan.
“You mind if we quit for the night?”
He nodded. He looked as done in as she was.
“Sure.” he said.
They both got up. She collected her jacket off the back of her chair, shrugged it on, tucked her pendulum back in her pocket. Deklan folded her map, handed it to her. She tucked it back into the inside pocket of her jacket.
“I have a gig at After Hours tomorrow.” she informed him, pulling her ponytail out from under her jacket.
“I’ll come over after that?” she asked.
He nodded, slipped his hands into the back pockets of his jeans.
“Okay.” he replied.
“Alright.” she nodded. “I’ll see you later.”
“Alright.” he echoed.
She teleported home, appeared in her bedroom. Jinx meowed in greeting when he saw her, jumped off her bed, came over to her.
She bent and picked him up, gave him a scratch between the ears as she walked over to her bed. She set him back down by her pillow where he had been sleeping, then changed into pj’s and joined him. He immediately laid down at her back.
His snuggles weren’t just a welcome, familiar comfort tonight, they were needed.
They both settled in and she shut her eyes. Eventually sleep found her... and she spent the next few hours running from monsters in her dreams...
... her past her nightmare.