Home » , , , , , , » Moonlight (By My Light, Book One) (Werewolf Shifter Romance) by Mac Flynn

Moonlight (By My Light, Book One) (Werewolf Shifter Romance) by Mac Flynn

Some nights are just like one another. The moon rises, sets, and another day begins. Then there are other nights where things are different. The moon rises, but the night never seems to end. Your world turns upside down and things are never the same. That’s what happened to me one ordinary night.
Moonlight (By My Light, Book One) (Werewolf Shifter Romance)
Moonlight (By My Light, Book One) (Werewolf Shifter Romance) by Mac Flynn
“And another day bites the dust,” Dakota quipped. The heels of our shoes clacked against the linoleum floor of the office building. By my side was my best friend Dakota, in front of us were the elevators that led to freedom, and behind us was another week of work in the trash. Our office was on the twentieth floor of the pit of hell. Who knew hell was aboveground? “And another rent due,” I added. Dakota cringed. “It went up again, didn’t it?” “It went up again.” She sighed and shook her head. “You’ve really gotta find another place to live. That ‘apartment’ is an overpriced dump.” “But at least the cockroaches are free,” I pointed out. She snorted. “You can always find the deal in any scam.” “I’m just that talented,” I teased. “So what are your plans for this weekend? Going out on the town?” she asked me. I shook my head. “I haven’t figured out anything yet.” She grabbed my arm and stopped us. “Come on, Gwen. You have to come out into the world some time, and don’t give me that excuse that you can’t do a thing with your hair. You don’t have to.” Dakota was right. I’d be lying if I tried to make an excuse about turning men into statues with my looks. I was pretty, if I ever did anything with my looks. You know the kind. Long, wild blond hair tied haphazardly behind their backs. A thin but not narrow face. Nice enough body, but getting on the plump side as I approached twenty-nine. My twenty-five year old friend was more than a little plump, but her bubbly personality made everyone forget everything about her except her raven-black hair and her infectious laugh. I shrugged and walked on towards the elevators. We were in the midst of the Great Daily Migration out of the office, and to stop for very long was to risk being trampled. “I guess I’m just too much of a loner.” “A lone wolf has to settle down some time,” my friend pointed out. I playfully punched her in the arm. “Maybe when she’s found the right mate.” “Someone say mate?” a voice spoke up. A man emerged from the depths of his cubicle and leaned against the entrance. He was a little over six feet tall with sandy blond hair that fell perfectly over his handsome face. His auburn eyes twinkled with mischief. Dakota steered us out of the wave of humanity and into the doorway of the cubicle. “Gwen here is looking for a mate,” she told him as her own mischievous eyes flickered between us. I had to admit I blushed whenever Lance looked at me. He was the only person who could disarm my cute-guy security system. “Know of anyone she can take on a date?” I glared at my friend. “Well, I’m available this weekend,” he offered. I stepped behind my friend and pushed her towards the elevator. “I’m sorry, I’ve got plans.” Dakota glanced over her shoulder and glared at me. “Are you nuts? He’s cute and into you! What kind of plans can be more exciting than snogging with him all weekend?” “I’d rather settle down on my couch for a long weekend of watching TV,” I told her. Dakota rolled her eyes. “Again? Why don’t you go out with me and some of the girls? It’ll be fun, and if you don’t want Mr. Perfect there then you might meet a new guy who can give you some old-fashioned love.” “The only new acquaintance I’m meeting is an unopened tub of ice cream,” I quipped. My friend scowled at me and looked me up and down. “You know I hate you, don’t you?” “No, why?” I asked her as we stepped into the elevator. “There’s nobody else I know who can scarf down as much food as you and still have your figure,” she explained. I shrugged. “It’s a gift.” “One day I’m going to curse you, and then you’ll be sorry,” she warned me. I laughed. “Curse me with what?” “With-well, with acne, and a chubby belly, and maybe a cute guy you can’t have but want badly enough to tackle him in an elevator and-” I clapped my hand over her mouth. We weren’t alone in the elevator, and the other people were staring. The place was standing room-only. Not that anyone was encouraged to sit down, but you get the idea. We were packed tighter than a can of clams, or a clown car on a weekend full of kids’ birthdays. Dakota got my hand off her mouth and glared at me. “I need to breathe through my face.” “But that shade of blue was very becoming,” I teased. “Ha-ha,” she retorted. The elevator doors opened to the busy, open lobby of our office building. We worked in one of the smaller financial companies in a large city inhabited by ten million miserable people, all crowded together trying to making a living by not dying. Crime was up, hope was down, and home was a precarious walk in-between them. “But seriously, are you coming or not?” she asked me as we stepped out. I sighed. “I guess I-” My eyes caught on something strange along the right-hand wall. The lobby had a few metal benches along the walls, and one of those was occupied by a threesome of women who were obviously triplets. The triplets were about twenty-five and sat close together so their hips touched. They wore matching gray business shirts, the kind with shoulder pads that could poke out an eye, and stiff skirts that ended just below the imagination. Their eyes were a strange gray hue, like the color of ash, and all three pairs of them stared straight at me. Sly, coy smiles graced their perfectly red lips. “Gwen? Gwenneth? Hello? Anybody home?” I started back when Dakota waved her hand in front of my face. She leaned forward and looked into my face. “Something wrong?” I blinked and looked at the bench, but it was empty. One sweep of the lobby told me they weren’t in sight. “Did you see those three women?” I asked her. She looked where I looked and frowned. “Which ones?” “The triplets. The women in gray,” I persisted. Dakota shook her head. “I didn’t see any triplets, but the lighting in here is pretty bad. They haven’t changed a bulb in years, and the sun’ll set in a few minutes.” She looked back to me, but I just kept staring at the empty bench. I was sure they’d been there, and then they weren’t. “You sure you’re okay?” I clutched my head in one hand and closed my eyes. “Maybe I’m coming down with something.” Her eyebrows crashed down. “Oh no, you’re not getting off with that old I’m-seeing-things-so-I-must-be-sick ploy.” “I did see them,” I insisted. “Uh-huh, and I’m the Easter Bunny,” she quipped. “Your ears are showing.” She stuck her tongue out at me. “That shows what you know. I left them in my other outfit. The one with the rabbit feet.” I dropped my hand and sighed. “But seriously, I don’t feel up to a weekend I can’t remember. Maybe next time.” By this time we’d stepped through the doors of the building and into the growing dusk of the busy streets. People in suits and casual wear walked to and fro in an endless stream of restlessness. A cool autumn breeze swept past us, reminding me that I had forgotten my coat. Even the hot concrete jungle of the city couldn’t completely block out the chill air and sweet scent of falling leaves. Dakota turned to me and pursed her lips. She set a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. “You promise to go next weekend?” she pleaded. I sighed, but nodded my head. “I promise.” Dakota smiled. “Good. Let’s get a taxi to your place. My treat.” I shook my head. “I think I need to clear my brain out a little.” Her eyes twinkled. “Aren’t you supposed to have one to be able to do that?” I playfully punched her on the arm, and she rubbed the bruised spot. “You’re not supposed to hurt your friends.” “With friends like you who needs enemies?” I quipped. “Well, with your crazy behavior you won’t have to worry about anybody but enemies,” she countered. “What crazy behavior? I just want to walk home,” I pointed out. “Through some of the darkest streets in the city,” she reminded me. “You know you live in Slum Alley.” “It’s better than Crime Alley,” I argued. “Oh, right, I forgot. You only get shot at once a week,” she retorted. “And I’ve had my quota filled for the week. I was shot at Tuesday, so I’m safe for today,” I quipped. Dakota shuddered. “Gwen, please let me call a taxi,” she pleaded. I patted her shoulder and with a small wave I turned away. “See you Monday.” “See you. . .I hope,” she added. If only that had meant to be. 2 I walked through the busy commercial streets and into one of the less fashionable residential districts. Those streets were places the city development department forgot, or at least for the last seventy years. The ten-floor brick apartment buildings were so run-down even the rats wouldn’t live in them. They were up-to-code only on paper. Bribing the inspectors was what kept the slumlords in business. The streetlights flickered on, if they lit up at all, as the setting sun finally finished its work for the day and went below the horizon to rest. The multitude of homeless gathered around burning barrels to warm their hands and swap news of the best shelters for grub. Others hunkered down on stoops with their grocery carts close beside them mumbling words no one else could understand. I in my fancy work clothes stuck out like a sore thumb, but I didn’t mind. My apartment was only a twenty-minute walk from work, and the rent was cheap. Part of it was paid by my cockroach roommates. They were usually easy to deal with. The bugs would greet my coming in with a scurry of their feet into their dark holes, then wait for me to shut off the lights for bed to come out again. I paused on a street corner to wait for traffic and caught a glistening of glass in the distance. The skyline of the city was dominated by a single capital I-shaped building of glass and steel that rose two hundred floors above the ground. That was the Indigo Towers. It housed the headquarters of Indigo Industries, a multinational conglomeration of business words. Atop its steel frame was a stone castle and gardens, the extravagant residence of one of the richest men in the world, William A. Fox. It was rumored he had his hand in everything. Legal, illegal. Nothing was too dirty for him. My office had some lucrative contracts with one of his dozens of firms. Standing on that dingy street corner among blaring car horns and shouting people, I wondered if it was quiet up there at the top. Maybe he was sitting there right then reading some boring paper and earning a million dollars an hour off his stock ventures. It must have been good to be the king of a small financial kingdom. And did I mention he was the most eligible bachelor in the world? Men envied him, women adored him, and my best friend was one of the drooling masses who fawned over his pictures. Dakota’s hobby was to collect any magazine that had his face on the cover and lock it away in her Drawer of Dreams. Seriously, that’s what she called her filing cabinet full of memorabilia, all featuring the handsome Mr. Fox. Catchy name, I had to admit, but someone that available who wasn’t married by thirty was definitely hiding something. Maybe he was gay, or maybe he was secretly married and kept his private life a secret. I’d once made that last suggestion to Dakota, and she’d nearly killed me for dashing her dreams. The traffic subsided and I walked across the street to the next block. The sound of shouting and screams from behind me broke me from my reverie. I turned and yelped as something big and furry sped past me. The beastly behemoth shoved against me and sent me tumbling into a mess of trash cans. Lids clattered in every direction and a box of used clothes fell onto my head. Through the thin cloth I glimpsed the large dog, or whatever it was, race down the street. A few seconds later two men sped by in hot pursuit of the drive-by canine. My eyes widened when I recognized one of them as Mr. William Fox himself. If it wasn’t him then the guy should’ve been out posing as him, not as some animal control officer. The guy with the Fox look-alike was a man of about thirty-five with black, thick-framed glasses and a stylish blue business suit that looked horribly out of place among all the bums and my now-dirty attire. I couldn’t ask them who they really were because they were gone as soon as I saw them. I tossed the box and clothes off my head, and stumbled to my feet. I brushed off what I could of the garbage and looked down the street. Prey and predators were gone. The homeless and others like myself who were trying to get home went back to what they were doing. I shook my head and proceeded down the street towards my apartment. There was half a block more and I needed to take a right into an alley. Then I’d be home free. My mind, however, went back to the run-in with the over-sized pound puppy and his pursuers. I was sure that was Fox himself. I’d seen him in the flesh. “Dakota is going to be so jealous of me. . .” I murmured as I pulled out my phone. This was some juicy gossip that I couldn’t keep to myself. I turned right into the alley. Fifty yards straight ahead across a wide block was my street. I even had a slim view of the stoop of my apartment building, but my attention was on my phone. The illuminated buttons on my cell phone pierced the darkness as I pressed the shortcut key for Dakota’s number. If I hadn’t been paying so much attention to my phone I might have noticed the two shadows that rushed down the alley towards me. I heard a splash as something hit a puddle and looked up just as I pressed the Call button. The giant dog from before leapt at me and opened his big mouth. I raised my arm to protect my face and his sharp jaws clamped down on me. I let out a scream as his fangs broke through my frail flesh and sank deep into my arm. My cell phone flew somewhere into the dark edges of the alley. The dog dragged me to the ground and rung my arm in its teeth, raising the pain from terrible to excruciating. The second shadow, who I barely recognized as Fox, was ten yards behind the dog and closing. He raised his arm and I heard a soft whoosh of air. The dog released me and jumped to the side. Something flew past it and over me, and bounced across the ground until it slid into a pile of garbage. The dog turned to Fox, bared its teeth in a hideous growl, and jumped over me. I turned my head and watched it race out of the alley and across the road into the next alley. In a few seconds it disappeared. The only evidence it was ever there were my memories and the horrible bite mark on my arm. It burned like someone had lit my flesh on fire. I grabbed the upper part of my arm and wished I could rip it off. Footsteps walked up to me, and I tilted my head back to see the Fox look-alike. The man had dark brown hair and cold blue eyes that looked down on me with an interest I didn’t like. He knelt by my side and lifted my wounded arm. I let out a yelp and tried to pull it from him, but he kept a tight hold on it. “Are you all right?” the man asked me. I grimaced and shook my head. “Does it look like I’m all right?” I growled. That got a smile from him. I heard footsteps and the spectacled man came from the direction I’d entered the alley. “I’m sorry, sir, but the beast appears to have gotten away,” the man told the one beside me. “Did you want me to call for air surveillance of the area?” “There’s no need. I believe we’ve found what we were searching for,” he replied. The spectacled man looked down on me and raised an eyebrow. “A new one, sir?” The look-alike pulled out a small, white medical device that looked like a handgun. A fat, round barrel stuck out of the top rear end and three spikes stuck out of the front. I’d seen enough movies to recognize a tranquilizer gun. “She will have to do. And who knows? This may turn out to be more educational for us.” He pressed the needles against my arm and I felt the sharp points prick me. I jerked back, but he held tight. My vision began to blur. “What are. . .what are you. . .” That was all I could get out before the world went black. 3 The next thing I knew was waking up with a hangover like I’d spent the weekend with Dakota. I sat up in bed and rubbed my head. “What did I let her talk me into-” Then I realized it wasn’t my bed. Hell, it wasn’t even Dakota’s bed. My eyes widened as I tried to take in the full view of the strange environment around me. I was in a cell that was twenty-feet by fifteen. The rear, side walls, and even the floor were made of single sheets of thick-looking, cold gray metal like steel. The front of the cell was made of a thick glass. I sat on a cot that was attached to the wall and suspended two feet off the floor. On the opposite wall was a sink and toilet. The only source of light came from beyond the glass. I stood and caught the wall. My head swirled like I’d drank one dozen too many vodka shots without chasers. I glanced down at my inured arm and saw that it had a tight, white bandage around the wound. I tried flexing the muscles, but only once. They burned like I’d stuck a lighter under my skin. I shook my head, clutched my arm, and stumbled over to the glass. I placed one palm against the transparent surface and looked beyond the glass at a long, wide hall that ran to my left and right. The light was from overhead florescent bulbs that stretched down the hall in either direction. The floor was the same metal, and on the opposite side of the hall were more cells like mine. I could see three other cells, but there wasn’t movement in any of them. The cell opposite me didn’t appear to have anything different in it from mine except a large wooden rectangular box. I couldn’t see a door knob or release latch, even on the cells and walls opposite me. I pounded against the glass. The stuff didn’t even quiver. “Hello? Is anyone there?” I yelled. I heard a heavy metal door open and shut, and footsteps walked down the hall. The look-alike came into view and stopped in front of the glass. He bowed his head. “Good evening. I’m not sure if you know who I am, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is William Fox.” He gestured to my cell. “I brought you here after your little-well, we will call it mishap in the alley.” I glared at him. “What the hell am I doing here? Let me out!” He shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.” “And why not?” I growled. “You see, you’ve become what’s commonly called a supernatural creature, or, more precisely, a werewolf,” he explained. I leaned back and looked him over. He didn’t look particularly insane, but his calm, even voice gave me the shivers. I shook my head. “Listen, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but it’s wrong. My name’s Gwenneth-” “Gwenneth Rogers, age twenty-eight. You live at 112 North Second Avenue. Would you like me to recite your social security number?” he asked me. I frowned. “No, what I want you to do is get me the hell out of here.” He shook his head. “Like I said before, I can’t do that. You’re now a danger to the-” I slammed my fist into the glass. That vibrated it. “I’m not a werewolf, now let me out or the police are going to come and-” “The police have come and gone,” he revealed. I started back. “W-what?” “They asked me about my being seen with a large dog. I merely told them I was doing the city a favor by ridding it of a dangerous dog, and they left. A small donation to the officer’s fund will patch up the rest,” he told me. My fist opened and my hand slid down the glass. There went my last hope of outside help. Now I had to convince the psycho in front of me to let me out. “I can see I haven’t convinced you of your new changes,” he mused. I narrowed my eyes at him. “The only thing you’ve convinced me of is you’re nuts.” “I see. That will make two nights from now all the more difficult for you,” he commented. I frowned. “What happens in two nights?” “In approximately two nights the moon will be full and you will experience your first transformation into a werewolf,” he revealed. I turned away from him and threw up my good arm. “I’m not a werewolf! I was just bit by some stupid dog!” “Really? Your have been unconscious for exactly twenty-four, and yet your arm is almost completely healed,” he told me. I turned to him and gestured to my bandaged arm. “Does it look healed to you?” A small, crooked grin slipped onto his lips. “Prove it to me. Unwrap your arm.” “And then you’ll let me go?” I questioned him. He bowed his head. “If you prove me wrong, then I will let you go.” I stepped back and clawed at the bandage. My fingers caught on the lip of one end and I furiously unwound the white cloth. In a few seconds the last of the bandage fell to the floor at my feet. I held up my arm and my mouth dropped open. My wound was almost completely healed. There were only a few angry red marks where the teeth had sunk into my flesh. I looked past my raised arm at Fox’s smiling face. “Now do you believe me?” he asked me. I cradled my wounded arm in my other hand and shook my head. “I. . .this isn’t right. I’m sure it bit me.” “You’re not wrong. The wolf did bite you, but werewolves have incredible healing powers, or so some legends say. I’m glad for your sake that bit of myth was true,” he commented. I ran a hand through my frazzled hair. I was still in the filthy clothes from my time in the trash heap and on the ground of the alley. “I can see this is very upsetting for you. There’s a fresh change of clothes at the foot of your bed. I’m afraid we can’t shut the hall lights off, but you’ll get used to it.” Fox turned and walked away from me. “Wait!” I yelled. He paused and half-turned to me. “What are you going to do to me?” “For now, nothing. Your transformation will be finished in two nights, and then we’ll go from there. Goodnight.” With that he turned and walked out of my sight. “Fox! Fox!” I yelled. I heard a metal door open and shut, and then there was silence. “Let me out!” I banged against the glass. “Let! Me! Out!” There was no sound. The door didn’t open. He didn’t come back and let me out. A sob broke from my throat. Tears poured down my cheeks as I slid down the glass and onto the cold floor. I curled myself into a ball and balled my eyes out for I don’t know how long. Maybe ten minutes, maybe an hour. What I do know is that I got the sense of being watched. I lifted my head and glanced over my shoulder. My pulse quickened. A man stood at the glass in the cell opposite me. He was as pale as chalk and wore a dark business suit with a red tie. His eyes were a strange autumn color mixed with an impossibly red hue. I thought maybe he wore contacts. He stood at six feet and looked about thirty. His black hair was cut short and a few loose hairs hung dashingly over his forehead. The pale man pressed one of his fingers against his pasty lips. I noticed he had unbelievably long fingernails. He reached down and used one of those fingernails to cut a long, deep gash across his own arm. The man tipped his arm down and bright red blood flowed from one end. He dipped his fingers into the blood and pressed the mess against the glass in front of him. I barely registered that his wound healed because he wiggled his fingers a few inches away from the glass. I scuttled back when the blood began to form words. Hello there. The moment the words formed they congealed back into a blob of blood. I shook my head. “Not possible. So not possible.” The man shook his head and pressed his bloodied finger against his lips. He waved his hand in front of the glass and the blood shifted again. New words formed, and I noticed they trailed down the glass just in front of his body. Don’t speak. They can hear our every word. I was shaking even worse than before. This was all so insane. First I was kidnapped by a crazy rich guy who thought I was a werewolf, and then a pale guy with the power over blood and a wooden box behind him wanted to strike up a conversation. I swallowed some of my fear and edged towards the glass front of my cell. Brave girl, he complimented me. I shook my head. I was scared out of my mind, but that meant I didn’t have much else to lose from talking, or reading, a guy’s blood words. We can help each other, you and I, the guy wrote. How? I mouthed. He shook his head and wrote out a few words. Write what you want to say and erase it. They can see your lips, but the surface of the glass reflects the camera views and is more difficult to catch. I looked around for something to write on. The only things I thought I could use were my finger and the toilet water. I hurried over to the toilet. It was clean, but the thought of dipping my fingers into the bowl wasn’t tempting. I looked down at my fingers. They were pink with cold, and I blew on them. That gave me an idea. I hurried back to the glass and blew on it. My warm breath stuck to the surface. I used my finger as my pencil. Hi, I wrote to him. Then I realized it was backwards for him, so I stuck in an ‘i’ at the front of the ‘h’ before my breath vanished from the glass. He grinned and waved his hand to spell out more words. Hello again. I took a deep breath and blew a large cloud over the glass. Who are you? A prisoner such as yourself, but we haven’t time for full introductions, he wrote. They may come back any moment, and we must plan our escape. How can I help? Tomorrow night you may be able to escape from your cell, he wrote. Why tomorrow? I asked him. Your strength will be close to its zenith, but your weaknesses will not have fully manifested themselves. I blinked at him and wrote out my comment. Huh? He pursed his lips and wiggled his fingers. The closer the approach of your first full moon, the greater your physical strength, but since you have not yet changed into a full werewolf the wolf’s bane will have less effect on you. I threw my arms up. Another wacko who believed I was a werewolf. Then again, I was writing to someone who could twist his blood into words. Am I really a werewolf? I asked him. If Fox believes you are, then you must be, he replied. I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. Oh god, did I need a drink. One of Dakota’s goon juice drinks would’ve been great about then. I took a deep breath and blew again. But how do I get out? I wondered. The glass front delves four inches beneath the floor. You must wedge your fingers into the small slot in the floor between the glass and floor and pull the glass door up, he instructed me. I looked at my hands and then at the floor at my feet. I could see what he meant by the eighth-of-an-inch gap between the glass and the floor. I wrinkled my nose. A strange odor wafted from the gap. You’re joking, right? I asked him. He shook his head and his fingers moved madly over the blood. This was becoming so normal as to be surreal. With your strength you can widen the gap between the glass and floor, and grab the bottom lip of the glass. You need only lift it high enough to squeeze under and go to the panel down the hall to your right. The controls to open the doors are there. Destroy the controls and you will free us all. That sounded way too easy. And if I fail? Then you will never get another chance to escape, he wrote to me. I ran a hand through my hair and shook my head. This was just too much. I was now supposed to be the savior to a whole hall full of-hell, I didn’t even know who else was trapped in there. I hadn’t seen anyone but the pasty guy in front of me. What is this place for? I asked him. A holding cell for those captured by Fox, he told me. We are all at the mercy of his experiments. They are too numerous to list, but know that he won’t have any mercy on you. He won’t see you as a fellow human being, but as a monster, and he will treat you as a monster. I slid onto the floor and leaned my back against the cool metal wall. My life was gone if I didn’t take this one chance of escape. I took a deep breath and wrote on the glass. I’ll do it. 4 We had a plan, but I had to be sure I could pull it off. I lifted one hand and looked it over. There wasn’t anything there to tell me I was some sort of superhuman wolf thing. I saw movement out of the corner of my eyes. The pale guy was writing again. Try crushing your bed, he suggested. I looked over at the elevated cot. The body was made of the same material as the wall in which it projected out. I got up and walked over. There was just a slim mattress, a couple of blankets, and the clean clothes Fox mentioned. They were completely white like prison garb. I grabbed the mattress and blankets, and threw them to the floor. That left the sheet of metal. I grabbed the long bar on the side with both hands and pulled. Nothing happened. I looked over to Pale Guy. There was a strange smirk on his face. Pull your hands away, he wrote to me. I shrugged and tried to pull my hands away, but they were stuck. “What the hell. . ” I murmured. My fingers were wedged into the metal. My strength hadn’t bent the metal, but the bar now had indents in the shape of my fingers. I put one foot on the bar and pushed backwards. My fingers popped out of their little placements. I stumbled back and raised my hands. They weren’t so normal anymore. My fingers were thicker than before, and the fingernails were longer and sharper. I dropped to my knees and stared at them with my mouth agape. “Wow. . .” I murmured. Try again, the guy suggested. I slid over to the bed and grabbed the bar. My hands fit perfectly into their molds. I stood and braced my legs before I tried to lift the bench. The metal creaked and groaned, and after a few seconds I felt the bed give a little. It tilted up just a half a degree. I gasped and stumbled back. From across the hall came the muffled clapping of the Pale Guy. I turned to him and grinned. He smiled and gave a nod. It looked like I had a chance at this after all. After that effort I was tired, and now without a flat bed. I lay down on the mattress and closed my eyes. I don’t know how long I was out, but the next thing I heard was the loud clang of the metal door and footsteps. I sat up on my mattress and watched Fox’s stoic henchman come into view. He had a tray of food in his hands. “Breakfast,” he explained. He pressed his hand against the wall and a small rectangle at the bottom of the glass front opened. The guy slid the tray into my cell and closed it. I glared at him and the tray, and turned away. “I’m not hungry.” “Mr. Fox would rather you eat,” the man insisted. I sneered at him. “Do I care what he wants?” His eyes flickered to the pile of discarded clothes. “Does the attire not fit you?” I kicked the pile of clothes with my foot. “Not my style.” “I will endeavor to inform Mr. Fox of that fact,” the man replied. He walked away, and in a moment the main entrance door opened and shut. I glanced at the tray of meat, and then to the cell opposite me. Pale Guy was nowhere in sight. There was just his box. I walked over to the glass and pressed my nose against the cold surface to get a better look at his cell. No sign of him. He must have been in that box, but I couldn’t figure out why. These cells were claustrophobic enough for me. I plopped myself down against the left wall and turned to my left. The tray sat on the ground with a tempting appetizer of rare steak and mashed potatoes. My mouth salivated at the red blood that pooled beneath the mooing cut of meat. Just a little bite, one little swallow wouldn’t mean I was giving my soul to the devil. Besides, I had to keep up my strength. Yeah, that was it, my strength. Ten minutes later and I had one plate sans meat and potatoes. The potatoes didn’t sit well with me, but the steak was delicious. I licked my lips, leaned back against the wall, and closed my eyes. The cool metal chilled me, but I felt too warm, anyway. There was also a feeling of tension inside me, like I was waiting for something, something like a- “Full moon,” I whispered. My eyes shot open and I shuddered. I hadn’t meant to think about that. That was the last thing I wanted to remember. I ran a hand through my hair and gave a shuddered sigh. My mind wandered to that night, whenever night was in this place of endless lights. That lackey of Fox’s said that was breakfast. That meant I’d been missing for quite a few hours. “I should’ve made that date with Dakota. . .” I mumbled. Hell, I should’ve taken that taxi. I had a long, long day to think about my mistakes. Fox’s creep with the monosyllable voice came around two more times for meals. After the dinner hour I glanced at Pale Guy’s cell. He still hadn’t made an appearance. I wondered how he could breath in that box. It was while staring at his box that I saw something strange emanate from between the lid and body. It was a thick white fog. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, but I crept up to the glass and watched the fog cascade onto the floor and over to the front of his cell. The fog gathered itself in one spot and shot up to materialize into the form of my newfound, and terrifying, acquaintance, Pale Guy. He smiled at me, and for the first time I realized his canine teeth were unbelievably long. I scooted away from my glass. “What the hell are you?” I asked him. He cut himself and once more used his blood as an etch-a-sketch. Another creature captured against his will, but we don’t have time. Fox may visit us at any moment for an ‘inspection’ of his creatures. “But-” There isn’t time, he persisted. It must be done now or never. Will you hesitate and doom yourself to a life inside that cell? That didn’t give me much time to wonder what I’d gotten myself into, but it did give me enough time to imagine another day in that cell. I took a deep breath and nodded. This was it, my big chance at saving the day. I knelt on the floor in front of the glass and tested the crack with my fingers. The smell from last night was still there, and stronger than before. I wrinkled my nose, but didn’t let it stop me from shoving my fingernails into the crack. I was stronger than last night, I could tell that by the indents my nails made in the metal. I wedged my fingers in behind my nails and wiggled them down the tight spot. After six inches I felt the base of the glass door and inched my fingers beneath the entrance. When I had a loose grip I tucked my legs under me with my feet on the floor like last night’s demonstration of my strength. And I pulled. At first there was nothing, but slowly, achingly slowly, the glass door began to rise. Perspiration ran down my face. My legs screamed for a break, but I kept pulling upward. Pale Guy watched anxiously from his glass door. He was close enough he could have fogged on the glass, but there was no sign of his breath. I had the door six inches above the floor when a shrill whistle drilled into my brain. I nearly lost my grip, and the door slipped down two inches. “Hurry!” Pale Guy yelled. “The alarm has sounded!” I grunted and pulled harder. The door slid up two inches. Four more inches. I lowered my knees to the ground and slid my legs under the door. Then came my waist. One false move, one slip of the fingers, and I would have been cut in two. I wiggled my upper body under the glass and held it up above my head like it was a bar. I took a deep breath and pushed off from the bottom of the glass. It slammed back into place, but I was on the other side of the door. And in trouble. The hallway ran left and right. At the right was the black control panel and a door on the left wall beside it. To my left at the opposite end of the hall was the heavy metal door. It opened and in stepped Fox and his assistant. Fox had the familiar white gun in his hand. “The panel!” Pale Guy screamed. Fox stretched out his hand to me. “Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing!” I scrambled to my feet and rushed down the hall. I covered the twenty yards in a few seconds and slammed my clasped fists into the panel. Electricity shot out from the myriad of buttons and screens. The lights overhead flickered and dimmed. I turned and watched the other glass doors slide up. Pale Guy stepped out and smiled at me. “Excellent work,” he congratulated me. “Now if you will excuse me, some revenge is in order.” He changed into mist and disappeared into some infinitesimal cracks in the metal floor. “He’s after the larger cells. Hurry!” Fox yelled at his bespectacled henchman. The man bowed his head and hurried back the way they’d come. I took a step back and my back hit the broken control board. Fox took a few steps closer with the gun pointed at me. “It seems I underestimated your strength,” he surmised. My eyes flickered to the door and I pressed my lips together. Only one chance. “Get used to underestimating me,” I shot back. I dove for the door. The tranquilizer dart sailed past my head and pinged off the wall. He didn’t get a second shot before I slammed my shoulder into the exit and stumbled into a stairwell. There was up, or there was down. I didn’t like the idea of possibly going below ground, so I chose the up route. I didn’t stop running until I ran out of stairs four floors higher. The stairwell ended at another door, and I burst out of that one and onto another plain of existence, or so it looked. I found myself on a grassy plain covered in trees. There was even a small pond twenty yards from the exit. The stars twinkled beautifully above me and far off I could see the near-full moon in the dark night sky. The sounds of the city were far away, but had a strange echoing to its noises. I heard a clatter of footsteps behind me and took off to the right. A small strip of metal surrounded the edge of the grass and beyond that was darkness. Ten feet from the edge I realized what the darkness meant and slid to a stop with my toes hanging over the strip. I teetered on the edge of the Indigo Towers two hundred floors above the city. 5 I waved my arms and pushed myself away from certain death. My heart beat hard against my chest as I stumbled backward onto the grass. I heard a noise behind me and spun around to find Fox ten feet away from me. Something sharp hit my arm, and I looked down to see it was a tranquilizer. I pulled it out and expected to fall unconscious, but all I felt was a little faint-headed. His finger tightened on the trigger for another shot. The ground beneath us rumbled. Fox’s henchman rushed out of the door and over to the boss. “I’m afraid I couldn’t stop him, sir. He’s released-” The earth shook again, more violently than the first. A column of rainbow-colored light burst through the steel ground between us. The column lit up the sky and its heat seared the grass. I was knocked back and over the side of the building, but my hand caught the edge. I hung in space for a few seconds before my other hand grabbed the edge and I pulled myself onto the top of the building. More columns erupted from the ground, dozens of them. They cracked the green surface and ignited the trees into balls of fire. The beams of light created a circle between me and the pond some fifty yards away, and the center of the circle burned bright red with heat. In a moment the steel and grass melted away, and a storm of wind burst from the hole. The tornado spun in dizzying circles three hundred yards into the sky. The first creature to emerge from the circle above the tornado was a brightly-plumed bird. It followed the tornado to the peaks of its height and let out a screech that echoed over the entire city. Among the terrible howling of the wind I noticed there were dark shapes in the tornado, dozens of them. They swirled in its depths and followed the bird into the sky. The bird let loose another cry and the tornado broke apart into dozens of smaller tornadoes. Each mini tornado had one of those dark shapes. They scattered across the sky and landed in the far reaches of the city. The bird itself screeched again and flew off into the distance. The wind was gone. The bird was gone. Everything was calm. I chanced to stand, but the roof trembled one last time. A large shadow flew from the dark hole left by the tornado. It spread its leathery wings wide and let loose a loud roar and shook the air. Its lizard eyes blinked twice, once for each eyelid, its armored green scales shimmered in the starlit sky, and its tail whipped about in anger. My mouth dropped open as I realized it was a dragon I saw, and it was pissed. It flew over me and let out another deafening roar. “We must get to the cannon,” I heard Fox tell his assistant. The pair stood near the crumpled remains of the door. His voice caught the dragon’s attention. It flew in a tight circle to my right and over the pond. The dragon opened its mouth and I beheld the pits of a fiery hell. A stream of flames burst from its powerful jaws and spread across the pond and few remaining trees. The water evaporated and created a thick mist over the rooftop. The fog hid its prey from it, but I saw Fox and his assistant’s dark shapes move towards the thin bridge that made up the center of the ‘I.’ The fog only drifted so far, and the moment they stepped foot on the bridge was the moment they cleared the fog’s boundaries and revealed themselves. They took off across the grass. The dragon made another pass and spotted them. It roared and opened its mouth. A ribbon of flame blasted toward the pair, but the dragon didn’t have very good aim. The flames melted the steel five yards from where they sprinted across the lawn. Part of the bridge buckled beneath them and the assistant disappeared into the depths of the mess of heated steel. Fox leapt forward and tried to grab the other man’s hand, but missed by a hair. “Aldus!” Fox cried out. Aldus grabbed one of the twisted bits of metal and hung above the bubbling, dragon-heated pond water. He looked up and nodded. “I’m fine, sir, but you must get to the cannon.” Fox nodded and rushed across the bridge. A screech caught my attention, and I noticed the dragon coming back for another try at barbecued bad guy. This time it wasn’t going to miss. I now had a choice: to stand here and watch the fireworks, or to join them and risk my neck for a shot at stopping the dragon from turning me and the city into a blazing mess. I didn’t have any false hopes that it would just kill the bad guys and fly off quietly into the night. This thing was out to burn, and after it was done with Fox it would go after the city. Maybe even Dakota’s apartment. “Damn it. . .” I muttered as I raced after Fox. I was faster than Fox, but not faster than the dragon. It flew over me and spewed another stream of fire. Fox dove for the opposite side of the bridge, but the dragon’s fire hit near the center. The steel melted and the rooftop caved into the lower floor like quicksand. Fox tried to catch hold of the edge of the bridge, but he missed and slid towards the deep hole in the rooftop. He slipped into the depths of the melted, twisted steel. I dove for him and slid a few yards across the singed grass to the edge of the mess. My hand caught his, and he looked up at me with that strange half grin on his lips. “I didn’t know you cared,” he called to me. “That’s what’s different between us. I do care,” I countered as I hefted him back onto the bridge. He looked up at the dark form of the dragon as it swung around for another try. “Further moral conversations for later. We need to get to the other side.” The other thick part of the ‘I’ held a beautiful castle that I would have admired more if I hadn’t been running for my life. Fox led us over to a fire hydrant that sat twenty feet from both the junction of the bridge and the end of the building. He pressed his hand on the top of the hydrant and the floor behind the water container opened to reveal a platform. On the platform was a large turret gun with a thin, long barrel, and behind that was a padded chair to sit in while the gunner aimed and fired the massive gun. He jumped onto the platform beside the gun and turned to me. “In order to defeat the dragon we need to extinguish the dragon’s fire.” He set his hand on the barrel and nodded at the shadowy creature that swooped around for another pass. “This water cannon can fire five hundred gallons a minute, but the water must be shot into its mouth. That’s the only weak spot. One of us will have to attract its attention while the other one manages the gun.” I grabbed his shoulder and shoved him into the chair. “You’re no knight in shining armor, but you’ll have to do.” “You realize you may be killed,” he pointed out. I shrugged. “Maybe, but we’d definitely be killed if I sat there because I don’t know how to use your machine, anyway.” He grinned and grabbed the controls to the gun. “Perhaps I have grossly underestimated you.” “Compliment me when this is all over,” I replied as I darted away. I ran over to the bridge and waved my arms above my head. “Over here, ya big ugly lizard!” I yelled. The dragon roared and moved onto a collision course with me and my big mouth. I turned tail and raced back to the gun. The dragon swooped low and aimed good. I could feel the heat of its breath on the back of my neck. “Duck!” Fox yelled at me. I dove to the ground and covered my head. A sprinkling of water rained down on me as Fox fired off the gun. I looked over my shoulder and watched the water hit its mark in the center of the dragon’s mouth. The creature roared and took a hard turn to the right. It crashed head-first into the grass and plowed its way to the far end of the building. It stopped short of the corner and its body went limp. I stood and pumped a fist into the air. “Yes! Take that you-” Something hit me. I looked down at my left side and saw it was another tranquilizer. This time there wasn’t just a wooziness. My legs buckled beneath me and I fell onto my knees. I looked up and watched Fox as he came up to me with the white gun in his hand. The barrel was pointed at me. I narrowed my eyes at him. “You. . .you bastard,” I growled. I swung a fist at him, but he backed away. I fell face-first onto the singed grass, but raised my head to glare at him. “I. . .I helped you. . .” “What you did was create a storm that the inhabitants of this city can’t begin to fathom,” he argued. “I’m afraid I can’t let any more of my experiments run free.” I tried to sit up, but my arms collapsed beneath me. “Then. . .then let me make up for it,” I gasped. He raised an eyebrow. “I’m listening.” I looked up. “Let me. . .help you get them back,” I suggested. “Like I did with the dragon.” “I will consider your offer, but for the present you can’t be trusted.” He pulled the trigger and the tranquilizer embedded itself into my arm. My head hit the grass and it was lights out for me. 6 Another splitting headache later and I found myself among the conscious again. I opened my eyes, and the world was a fuzzy vision of colors and shapes. My head pounded at its ill treatment. I tried to sit up, but my arms buckled and I fell back on a soft, cushioned surface. My hands felt the thin strands of blankets beneath me, and a little bounce told me there was a mattress beneath that. I listed my head to one side and saw I was in a medieval sort of room. The walls, ceiling and floor were made of smoothed stone. Twenty feet to my left a thick, ornate wooden table stood beside an equally thick wooden door. A large, gray metal lock was wrapped around the handle. Twenty feet to my right and against the wall was a dresser and vanity with a large mirror. It reflected a blurry me as I lay on a high four-poster bed raised on a six-inch high stone platform. On the wall behind the bed were two tall, wide windows with thick sills. A noise in front of me caught my attention. I dragged myself to the side of the bed and looked at the foot post to see a fifty-inch TV thirty feet in front of me. The scrolling bar at the bottom and the woman with the microphone in hand told me I was watching the news. The reporter stood in front of a tall gray-stone castle which was swarmed by other reporters. Wind whipped at her clothing and perfectly-manicured hair, and the light told me it was morning. “I’m standing in front of William Fox’s castle atop Indigo Industries headquarters where a nearly-tragic scene unfolded last night.” The view changed to a camera on a helicopter. The helicopter flew around the rooftop of the building, or what remained of the rooftop. The top six floors were scarred ruins of their former selves, and there was a skid mark on the grounds in front of Fox’s castle where the dragon had made its crash landing. The woman’s voice-over narrated the scene. “Some time last night a main gas line exploded, sending massive columns of fire into the sky that was seen for miles. Mr. Fox’s personal secretary, Aldus Emery, had this to say.” It panned to the large front entrance and steps of the castle where Emery, the bespectacled man of last night, stood in front of a few dozen reporters and flashing cameras. He sported a bandage around his head and hand. “It’s a regrettable accident, but Mr. Fox has every intention of rebuilding the Tower,” Emery told the reporters. “What exactly was on those floors?” a reporter asked him. “Research and development,” Emery replied. “Now if you will excuse me.” He walked down the steps with the reporters mugging his every step. The TV went black. “It seems you can’t believe everything you hear on the news,” a voice commented. I whipped my head to the door and found Fox standing there with the control. “It was fortunate for us the dragon could be carried away via a transport plane before any police helicopters made their appearance.” He set it on the ornate table and walked over to me. I scurried away from him, and it was then I realized there was something different about me, something wrong. I touched my hand to my throat and my fingers came into contact with cold metal. Fox reached the bed and smiled down at me. “Do you like it? It was made to your measurements.” I clawed at the metal. “What the hell is it?” “An insurance policy.” Fox held up one of his hands and showed off a shining gray cuff link. He pressed his other hand against the cuff link and I saw it was a button. That was the least of my worries as a jolt of electricity raced through my body. My muscles tensed and loosened, and tensed again as the current flowed through me. I fell back writhing in pain as my body spasmed and twitched. The source of the electricity was the collar around my neck. Fox released the cuff link, and the pain stopped. I gasped for air and clenched the sheets beneath me. “Amazing what humans can do with electricity, isn’t it?” Fox commented. “The collar is connected wirelessly to my cuff link. If I feel you’ve become a danger to me then one simple press of a button will solve the problem. The most amazing part of this invention is the way the current travels through the collar. It first passes through a silver conduit that, for werewolves, heightens the pain of the electricity.” This man was insane. I had to get to those reporters. They would help me because I’d be one hell of a story. I rolled over and dropped onto the hard stone floor at Fox’s feet. He stepped back as I made my pathetic attempt to the window. The sill stood three feet off the ground. I leaned my shoulder against the cold stone wall and pushed myself to a seated position. I reached my hand up, but my fingers only brushed against the tip of the sill. My arm dropped to my side. My energy was sapped and I gasped for air against the echoing pains of the collar. “I admire your perseverance, but the reporters left several hours ago. The report you viewed was taped,” he informed me. A few hours. So close to hope and yet so far. I shut my eyes to try to block out this terrible nightmare. The clack of footsteps against the stones made me open my eyes and I saw that Fox stood at the now-open door. “Aldus will bring you some food soon. We wouldn’t want you to be completely exhausted for tonight,” he told me. The door shut behind him with a loud click. Tonight. My eyes widened. Tonight was the night of the full moon. I had to get out of here. I couldn’t let him turn me into a guinea pig. I reached again for the sill and my fingers caught the lip. I grimaced and tried to pull myself to my feet, but my strength failed me. My legs buckled and I fell back onto the cold floor. Warm tears streamed down my cheeks. I was so tired I couldn’t utter a sob. My one chance, my last chance at escape, and I’d thrown it all away to save a son-of-a-bitch. No, that wasn’t quite true. I’d done it to save Dakota and Lance, and everybody else in the city who would’ve become fried foods if that dragon had been allowed to run amok over the city. I leaned back my head and sighed. “You’re a big, softy, Gwen. . .” I murmured. I was so tired that I didn’t even care that I fell asleep there on the floor. 7 “Miss Rogers? I have your dinner,” a voice spoke to me from the void. My eyes fluttered open. I was disappointed to find myself in the same stone room as before, and again on the bed. A shadow stood to my left. It was Emery. He had a tray in his hands, and on the tray was a pile of medium-rare meat. The scent of blood wafted to my nostrils and I inhale deeply the sweet smell. “Mr. Fox thought you would be hungry,” Emery explained. I struggled to sit up. My arms wouldn’t bend and hold my weight. Emery set the tray at the end of the long bed and grasped one of my arms. “Don’t touch me!” I snapped. Emery pulled me so I lay against the mess of pillows at my back, stepped back, and took the tray back in hand. The actions were one swift motion and with such little effort that I wondered at his strength. He was as thin as a pencil, but picked me up like I weighed nothing. “I hate to rush you through your meal but it is nearly sunset and the moon will be full,” he told me as he set the tray in my lap. His reminding me of the day made me lose my appetite, and I pushed the tray away. “You must eat something, Miss Rogers,” Emery insisted. I whipped my head to Emery and glared at him. “It’s hard to chew food when you’re watching me,” I snapped back. He bowed. “Then I will wait outside the door. Please call me when you are finished.” I was surprised when he kept his word and left the room. I glanced at the window to my left and saw the light outside was fading fast. The sun would be gone within a half hour. I sighed and looked down at the meat in my lap. Blood pooled at the bottom of the rimmed plate. My tongue flicked out and whetted my lips. I grabbed the fork and knife, and dug into the meat. I was only halfway through the pile when the door opened. Emery stepped inside and opened the door wide. I glared at him. “I’m not-” Fox followed Emery into the room. “Don’t take too long,” Fox told Emery. “Yes, sir,” Emery replied. He bowed and left the room, closing the door behind him. I set the tray aside and swung my legs over the side of the bed. Some of my strength returned, and all of my anger. “What the hell do you want?” I snapped at him. Fox walked the room between the foot of the bed and the TV. “I know you think of me as an enemy, but I would rather you think of me as a father. Seeing as this is an important night for you I’ve chosen to be here for you.” “If you’re my dad than this is child abuse,” I quipped. He cracked that half-smile of his and walked to the foot post closest to the door and me. “Please try to understand that I’ve tried to make things as easy for you as possible.” “You kidnapped me and shoved me into a cell!” I reminded him. “I couldn’t very well let you lose on the streets, could I?” he countered. I jumped to my feet and gestured to the window. “Why’d you even have to be there? Why couldn’t you have chased that stupid werewolf down some other dirty alley?” He shook his head. “Fate, I’m afraid, can be very cruel.” I balled my hands into fists at my side and snarled at him. Behind me the sun made one last gasp of life as its weak rays drifted through the glass panes. Fox moved to stand between the door and me. “I’m not without a heart. I have been considering the offer you made me last night.” He turned to face me. “However, you neglected to mention what would be your reward.” “You know what it is,” I snapped. I tugged on the collar. “I want to be free. I want my old life back.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Then I’m afraid I can’t agree to such a deal. You have no control over yourself.” “I can control-” I froze. Something else caught my attention, and I turned to face the window. The sun was gone and in its place was the gleaming light of the full moon. It rose above the city skylight and sparkled in the black sky. My eyes widened as I beheld its beauty, and something inside me shifted. I stumbled over to the sill and grasped it in my hands. “Miss Rogers?” I heard Fox call to me, but I didn’t reply. I couldn’t. All my attention was on that big, shining celestial ball. My breathing quickened to short gasps. I gripped the sill as I felt my muscles tense and shifted. My ragged, filthy clothes stretched and the seams tore as my body morphed into something else, something new. Something with a lot sharper teeth. I hunched over the window sill and clenched my fangs as I felt my feet tear through my shoes. My long, pointed toes were covered in hair and my feet bent up at a severe angle just before the arch. My fingers stretched and ended in claws. The stone between my fingers crumbled and fell to the floor at my clawed feet. My pants burst at the seams and fell off in dirty rags with my shirt. A short, furry tail broke from my tail bone and stretched out behind me. I tore away what remained of my bra and stood before the window covered in a thick, shimmering coat of brown fur. I looked up at the moon in front of me and let loose a long, triumphant howl. My transformation was complete. My muscles rippled with energy. My hands flexed with power. “Amazing,” I heard Fox comment behind me. I spun around and snarled at him. He raised his cuffed hand and smiled at me. “Control yourself, or I’ll be forced to use this.” I lunged at him. He pressed the button and the electric shock swept over my body. What he didn’t count on was my momentum. My speed was too fast for the pain to stop me. I grabbed his shoulders and pushed him to the floor. His head hit the hard rock, knocking him unconscious. His finger slipped off the cuff link button and the agonizing pain stopped. I may have been a monster, but I wasn’t stupid. I bit the cuff link from his shirt and tossed it away. It clattered towards the door. I leaned towards Fox’s face and curled back my lips in a long, deep growl. My drool dripped onto his cheek and slid down to the floor. He was prey, and I the predator, and this predator was about to reward herself with a very rich meal. “I suggest you step away from him,” came a voice. I whipped my head up and snarled at Emery. He stood by the door with a bundle of clothes cradled in one arm, and his other hand clenched in a tight fist. I growled and lunged at him. His fisted thumb pressed the cuff link hidden in his palm. I was too far away from him for my momentum to help me this time. I tilted my head back and howled in pain as the electricity focused by silver ravaged my body. My feet stumbled a few more steps towards Emery before my legs buckled. I fell face-first to the floor and lay spread out over the cold, hard stones. As the electricity crackled through me I felt my body shrink. The room grew colder as I lost my fur. In a few moments I was my weak, exhausted human self, sans clothing except for the collar. Emery released the button and strode past me to Fox. I didn’t have the strength to tilt my head back and follow him with my eyes. “Are you all right, sir?” I heard Emery ask. “Yes, but our ‘guest’ appears in need of some attention,” Fox replied. I heard movement and in a moment a thin sheet was flung over my body. Fox walked around and stood in front of me as he reattached his cuff link. “It seems you were correct in your earlier statement to me,” he mused. “You never cease to play a higher hand than what I expect. That’s why I’m going to offer you a chance to make yourself useful to me.” He knelt in front of me and looked me in the eyes. “You can assist me in retrieving my collection and have some limited freedom, or you can remain in this room until your cell is rebuilt.” He held his hand out to me. “What do you say? Do we have a deal?” I closed my eyes against the tears of frustration that arose in them. Even in the best-case scenario I would be nothing more than a lapdog for this heartless man. Fox stood. “I see. Aldus will bring you your meals-” “I’ll do it,” I whispered. I opened my eyes and saw his triumphant smirk. My lips curled back in a sharpened-teeth snarl. “But don’t expect me to like it.” “That will be fine. We’ll begin your training tomorrow night. For now, relax. You’ve had a rough night.” He turned and walked from the room. I managed to raise myself to a seated position and wrap the blanket around my shoulders. My hands still retained some wolf hair on their backs, and my fingernails were razor-sharp. Tears streamed down my cheeks and the cold chilled me to the bone. I shivered and curled into myself. Emery walked up and knelt in front of me. He set down the clothes on the floor between us. “I hope these will fit,” he commented. I turned my face away from him. He stood and left the room, locking the door behind him. And that’s how I got a new job, and a new life. A note from Mac Thanks for downloading my book! Your support means a lot to me, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to entertain you with my stories. If you’d like to continue reading the series, or wonder what else I might have up my writer’s sleeve, feel free to check out my website, or contact me at mac@macflynn.com. Want to get an email when the next book is released? Sign up here for the Wolf Den, the online newsletter with a bite! Continue the adventure Now that you’ve finished the book, feel free to check out my website for the rest of the exciting series. Here’s also a little sneak-peek at the next book: * * * Starlight: Innocence is as fleeting as a perfect Spring day, but unlike the seasons it doesn’t come around once a year. Once it’s gone, you never get it back. Ever. I had a lot of non-innocent thoughts as I sat on my bed and pulled at the collar of my shirt. I wore the outfit given to me by my jailers. It was a dark ensemble of a black blouse, black dress pants, shoes, socks, and a gray tie. The collar of the shirt was a little high to hide the metal collar I wore. The clothes annoyed me, the tie completely baffled me. I had no idea how to manage a tie, but I had plenty of ideas of whose throat I wanted to wrap it around. The day-old full moon still hung high in the sky, but for me its allure was gone. I only felt tired and defeated. My muscles still ached from the electric shock therapy administered by both William Fox and Aldus Emery the night before. I hadn’t seen either of them all day because I’d slept through most of it. That was after I’d dragged myself to the bed wearing only a sheet. Now here I sat on the bed pulling at these strange clothes and with my stomach complaining of being empty. There was also the problem of my hands and eyes. I looked down at my hands and frowned. They were almost as furry as that of an ape, but with the hardened nails of a wolf. I had to scratch myself carefully or I would end up giving myself a nice gash. The problem with my eyes was less disturbing, but still troublesome. I glanced to my right at the vanity and its mirror. My yellow eyes stared back at me. They weren’t a brilliant yellow, but golden-hued. The change was enough that people would stop me on the street for a picture and to ask where I got the contacts. I whipped my head to the left as the door opened. Emery stepped inside. He had a tray with a plate of rare meat tucked in one arm. Fox’s assistant only partially closed the door behind him and walked over to me. “Good evening,” he greeted me as he walked over to the bed. I glared back, but he didn’t seem to notice. He set the tray on the bed in front of me. “Mr. Fox assumed you would like something to eat before tonight’s training exercises.” I arched an eyebrow. “What training?” He glanced at my hands. “The training that will assist you in controlling your new self.” I tucked them underneath me. “And if I say no?” Emery pushed his glasses against his face and looked me in the eyes. “Then Mr. Fox will be forced to assume you no longer wish to abide by your agreement and you will remain in this room.” I snorted. “‘Agreement?’ If I’m not a prisoner then I’m a lapdog for his orders.” “Nevertheless, you agreed to assist in regathering the collection, and Mr. Fox expects even his lapdogs to abide by their agreements,” Emery insisted. I frowned and glanced down at the meal. None of the meat was cooked. I reached for a steak, but the sight of the wolf hair and nails made me retract my hand. Emery held out one of his hands palm-up towards me. “May I?” I blinked at him. “May you what?” “You seem to have a problem with your hand,” he pointed out. Something boiled over inside me. Maybe it was the stupid bit of pity I saw in his eyes, or maybe it was that my hands itched like crazy. Either way, I snapped. “A problem? A PROBLEM?” I shoved my hands in his direction and showed off their fur and sharp nails. “This is more than a problem!” “Perhaps this may be to our advantage,” a voice spoke up. Emery and I looked to the door. Fox leaned against the doorway, and in his hands was a pair of black-colored pieces of cloth. “You may no longer have identifying fingerprints.” “But I’ve got very identifying hands for anyone passing by me on the street,” I bit back. “Not with these.” He shook the clothes, and I realized they were thin, smooth leather gloves. “I noticed your unease on the cameras.” I frowned and glanced around the room. I saw nothing but stone and wooden furniture. “What cameras?” He smiled and walked over to me where he held out the gloves. “Just a necessary precaution, but try them on.” I folded my arms across my chest and tucked my hands into my armpits. “So now I have to wear gloves? What next, a tutu?” His eyes danced with mischief. “As pleasing as you would be in such an outfit, it would clash with the color scheme I’ve chosen for you.” I rolled my eyes and snatched the gloves from his hand. I pulled them onto my hands. The fingers fit perfectly over my long nails and the leather prevented me from cutting myself. I flexed my hands and the leather stretched with them. “You seem to be having trouble with your tie, as well,” Fox commented. I glared at him out of the corner of my eyes. “Now you’re going to play dress-up with me?” “No. Emery will help you with your tie, as well as various other chores related to your training,” Fox replied. I sniffed. “What’s this whole training thing for? I helped you get the dragon, didn’t I?” “We were fortunate then. We might not be so lucky the next time,” Fox argued. “That’s why you’ll be going through training and strength testing.” He looked to his assistant. “See that she eats and then take her to the gymnasium. I need to make a few calls and will join you later.” Emery bowed to Fox. “As you wish, Mr. Fox.” Fox left, and I eyed Emery with suspicion. “You don’t have to babysit me. I’m not going to waltz out the front door.” “That’s fortunate. If you were to do so without first receiving Mr. Fox’s permission the collar you wear would electrocute you,” he informed me. He looked at the tie in my lap. “Would you like some assistance with that?” I glared at him and tossed the tie at him. “You can tie this stupid thing. I don’t know how.” “As you wish,” he agreed. While he tied, I chomped. Like I said before, I was famished, and being stuck as a werewolf worsened the appetite. I skeletonized a few steak bones, and by the time I satiated my appetite Emery had long ago finished tying the tie knot. The tie now had a loop through which I could stick my head and tighten the knot. He held the tie out to me, and I took it and cinched it around my neck. “Why do I have to wear this stupid thing, anyway? Another dragon’s just going to singe it off,” I pointed out. “There was only one dragon in Mr. Fox’s collection,” he informed me. I raised an eyebrow. “What exactly was in his collection? Besides one dragon and one unwilling werewolf?” “Many of the creatures originated in mythology. Mr. Fox hunted through many old pieces of literature to find them,” he replied. “Yeah, but what are they?” I persisted. He pressed his glasses against his nose. I took that as a sign of annoyance. “You saw, of course, the bird that destroyed the rooftop?” I gave a nod. “The one with the colors. What about it?” “That was a phoenix.” I snorted. “Phoenix don’t exist.” “Neither do werewolves,” he pointed out. I frowned, but said nothing. He took the tray of half-eaten meat. “If you are finished with your meal then we can proceed to the gymnasium.” He turned away, but I held out my gloved hand. “Wait.” He looked back at him, and I nodded at the plate. “Why no potatoes? Why just meat?” “The changes to your system make you better suited to eating meat rather than tuberous vegetables,” he explained. “So I can’t eat potato chips anymore?” I asked him. “That is uncertain. We would need to try a small dose to see the effects,” he replied. He turned away to face the door. “Now if you will come with me.” I slid off the bed onto my unsteady legs. My body hadn’t processed the meat yet, and after that electric shock therapy they still weren’t sure they wanted to support me. I stumbled after Emery who led me outside my room and into a hallway. The decor was still medieval, with stone walls and floors, and wooden doors, but the lights on the walls were electric. “Why does Fox live in a castle?” I asked my guide as he led me down the passage. “Mr. Fox is fond of Arthurian legends. The blueprints of this castle are based off the original design of King Arthur’s Camelot,” Emery told me. “This guy really likes his fairy tales. . .” I mumbled. “I can assure you Mr. Fox is well-versed in the realities of such stories, as well as their more fantastical elements,” Emery argued. The halls were too many to keep track of and I soon found myself lost in the sea of gray and brown. Emery led us down to the ground level and to the rear of the castle. We arrived at a pair of large wooden doors. Emery opened them and revealed a small gymnasium. To the near left was a large area filled with all sorts of weight-lifting equipment. On the right was a wall of doors with windows, and through them I saw a padded room like a dojo. At the rear of the area was a small track and an Olympic-sized pool. “Wow. . .” I murmured as we walked inside. Emery set the tray on a nearby table and turned to me. “Mr. Fox believes a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Now if you will follow me we will begin the tests.” I cringed. “I can’t wait. . .”


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