Hunter's Moon (Chapter 13)

I was supposed to go into the bar and talk to the locals. I couldn't do it.

I couldn't sit on a stool and pretend I didn't want to take Damien up to my room and finish what we'd only just started.

What was wrong with me? I thought I'd been cured of my need to fuck the forbidden.

"Guess not," I muttered.

Of course, how could I be better when the very delusion that had sent me over the edge wasn't a delusion at all but the truth?

The only thing that made me feel sane was killing the things that had ruined my life. And Edward had shown me that, not a head doctor.

Maybe doing what I did best would help now. Maybe killing a few evil souls housed in wolf bodies could make me forget the taste of Damien's mouth and brush of his skin against mine. Maybe – but I doubted it.

I'd been around enough oddities to know that there was something not quite right about Damien. I needed to find out what that something was before I let him get any closer than he'd already gotten.

I glanced at the tavern, then headed for his cabin. The place was shrouded by trees, shaded from the moon. No one would see me creeping around back here, unless they knew where to look.

I tried the door. Locked. Well, that had never stopped me before.

I picked it in record time, even for me. Edward had taught me how, and I'd excelled at the lesson.

Once inside, I made sure the drapes were drawn before I turned on a lamp. The cabin was a replica of my apartment, only larger, with one room for everything but the bath.

The place was pin neat – the bed made, the kitchen pristine. Damien's clothes were still in his suitcase.

Because he planned to leave in a hurry? Or because he was Felix Unger in a hot, studly body?

I opened his suitcase. I'd been right. He owned nothing but black. I guess that cut down on any clothing confusion.

There were no papers, no books, no notes – in the room or in the suitcase.

"Stranger and stranger," I muttered.

Only people who were trying to hide something had nothing.

Too bad I didn't think to lift his wallet.

Another trick I was very, very good at. If I ever lost my job as a Jdger-Sucher I could make a pretty good living as a thief.

I slid my hand under the chairs, the couch, the bed. All the usual places to hide interesting, incriminating evidence. The only thing I found was a .45 taped behind the toilet tank.

Odd, but not too odd. People who lived out of their suitcases, their cars, often carried guns. Who knows what you might meet on the road? Living in the backwoods, working in taverns or worse, having a gun wasn't an issue. Not having one would be.

I left the revolver right where it was, shut off the light, put the curtains back where I'd found them. I glanced out the window and my heart slammed into my throat.

A white wolf stood between the cabin and the tavern.

I was running for the bathroom before I knew it. I fell to my knees, crawled a few inches, and yanked the gun from the back of the toilet. Tense, shaking, I waited for the sound of the window shattering. That it didn't only made me shake all the more.

I crept back into the front room, checking the gun as I went. One bullet. Damn. I'd have to make sure it counted.

Too bad I didn't carry silver bullets in my shoes. But even if I had time to get them from my bag, the bullets for my Glock wouldn't fit into a .45.

I'd just make do with what I had. A lead slug would slow him down, which would give me a chance to plunge my knife into his evil, murdering heart. I'd dreamed so often of having his blood on my hands; it was the only thing I lived for.

My breath rasped loudly in the dark, silent room. I inched to the window, looked out.

The yard was empty.

Dizziness passed over me in a sickening wave. I nearly fell to my knees.

"He was there," I assured myself. "He was."

I'd never seen the white wolf again after that night. Unless you counted my dreams.

I pinched myself. Yep, I was awake, in Damien's house, holding Damien's gun.

I opened the door just as a howl rose toward the half-moon. The howl was answered by another, then another. I followed the sound into the woods without a backward glance.

Ahead I saw the flash of a tail – white against the darker shade of the trees. Hatred welled within me, acrid at the back of my throat, a stinging tightness in my chest, a burning in my eyes.

I'd dreamed of killing him and now I had the chance.

It was foolish to run into a strange forest alone, with a gun I wasn't accustomed to – a gun that held one useless bullet. Even more foolish to think I would ever catch a wolf on foot. But I followed him anyway. I could do nothing else.

The .45 was heavy. My shoes slid in the mud. My shirt became wet with sweat, as did my hair, my face.

I ran until I couldn't run anymore and then I ran farther. I'd lost sight of the white tail long ago. It didn't matter.

At last I stumbled, fell, lay with my hot cheek against the cool earth.

I don't know how long I stayed there, mind numb, heart racing. Eventually I got ahold of myself enough to admit I might have imagined the white wolf.

"Why would he be here?" I asked aloud. "Why now?"

Those were very good questions. Almost as good as the one I asked myself every day of my life.

"Am I losing it again?"

Hard to tell. Talking to myself wasn't helping. Besides, if I was losing my mind, I'd hardly be the first to know.

I flipped over. A huge black wolf crouched, ready to spring from the bushes near my feet. I couldn't see his eyes, couldn't discern any white. It was probably just a wolf, but when he lunged, I shot him anyway.

And was nearly blinded by the flash that blazed from the wound in his chest.

He howled, twisted, burned. I skittered back so he didn't fall on top of me. By the time I crawled over to him, he was dead, his eyes a wolf's, not human. Except he wasn't a wolf. Flames did not come out of a wolf.

I stared at the gun in my hand. Flames didn't erupt from a lead bullet, either.

Werewolf plus silver equals fire. Period.

The new question of the day: Why did Damien Fitzgerald have a gun with a silver bullet?

I couldn't wait to find out. Unfortunately, I had a wolf to burn. I'd learned my lesson. Couldn't just leave my kill lying around for any old Weendigo to eat.

I made a bonfire. Without accelerant, the process would take some time, so I stared into the flames and wondered what in hell was going on in Crow Valley.

Keeping my eyes on the trees, I strained my ears for a hint of sound. Not that there'd be any. The black wolf had snuck up on me without my hearing him. But where was the white wolf? Had he ever been here at all? And if so, was he the white wolf?

All the questions could drive a sane woman nuts. What did that say for me?

Later, when I stumbled back into the clearing that surrounded the bar, the place was hopping. I glanced down. No blood, a bit of dirt and soot. I'd take my chances that the patrons were too drunk and the bar too dark for anyone to notice.

Since it probably wasn't the best idea to walk inside with a weapon, I stowed the revolver behind a garbage bin. I'd fetch Damien, bring him out here, then question him until I knew who or what he was.

There'd been enough pussyfooting around.

I yanked open the door and stomped inside. The same people who'd been there the first night stared back. Once again I found no sign of Damien. I strode to the bar and leaned over.

"What the hell do you want?" Cowboy snarled.

I jumped back so fast I nearly fell over a stool. Cowboy appeared on the other side, his chin just clearing the bar. He must be standing on a box.

"Where's Damien?" I managed.

"How should I know?"

"He isn't working?"

"Does it look like he's working to you, honey?"

Honey. Boy, I loved it when guys called me that.

"Where would he be if he wasn't here?"

"I'm not his social secretary. He asked me to work; then he took off."

Hell. He'd walked into the bar; then I'd broken into his house. Had he come back outside and seen me?

If so, why hadn't he confronted me? Just another question of many.

"Thanks," I muttered, but Cowboy ignored me. I slipped outside and went to retrieve the gun.

It was gone.

I whipped around, eyes darting to the trees, the parking lot, Damien's cabin. Everything was still, silent, deserted. Nevertheless, I felt watched. Exposed. I could feel a huge bull's-eye on my forehead. My shoulders twitched. There was one on my back, too.

I sprinted for my car, jumped in, and tore out of the lot. As I bounced down Good Road far too fast, I remembered what Damien had said when I asked him what he'd done.

Nothing I won't do again.

I'd had no idea what he meant, but now I wondered.

Had he been killing werewolves with that gun?