Make Me Howl, page 25
But something happened. Grandma hadn’t spelled it out in the diary, but there was a gap of several days, then, June 3rd—Charlton has been called away. An emergency, he says. But I’m not sure. I know there’s no emergency that could force me away from him.
Several more days had been skipped. June 8th—I haven’t heard from Charlton except for one letter telling me he’d reached his destination. It’s been two weeks. I’m sure his family would let me know if he was ill or hurt. Am I so easily displaced from his mind? His heart?
June 15th—I got a letter today from Charlton. It’s cold, so impersonal. I know he’s busy, but…
There were a few entries about normal day to day life. June 27th—A letter from Charlton. He’ll be gone for at least six more months. Six! And he hasn’t mentioned a word about me coming to be with him even once. The rest of his life means more to him than I do. Even more than our love, which he hasn’t mentioned once in any letter he’s sent me.
I can’t go on this way
July 3rd—I’ve decided I’m going to write to him. Tell him exactly how I feel. Even the humiliation I’d experience if he told me he was mistaken, that he didn’t love me at all, would be better that the hell I’m living in now.
With the letter I’m sending him the gold coin he had set in a necklace for me. Surely when he sees it he’ll realize how upset I am. I’m lost. Frightened.
And finally, July 24th—He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t say it in the letter exactly, but it’s there, between the lines. “Your love, so much deeper. Could mine ever match it? I don’t…” But I won’t burden him with mine any longer.
I’ll end it now with the Tumuld Argamelino.
So she’d constructed a hedge to protect her heart, and described it in detail. She’d built a small fire during the dark of the moon. Sitting before it, she’d placed on it small bundles of lavender. With each addition, she’d named an attribute that had made her love him. At the end, she’d added the most precious thing he’d given her. A locket with his picture in it—his gift of the heart.
Could I live my life, loving a man who disapproved of not only who but what I was? A man whose entire goal for his life was to wipe out what I loved most about mine? No. And I wouldn’t spend it making love with someone who was so controlled he was a silent, uninvolved lover.
I knew what I had to do. But where would I get dried lavender?
Then I remembered Bella had packed a box of it for me. Was that the reason Grandma had grown the plant all those years? As a remembrance of the protection she’d built to block her love? Or the man who’d caused her to do it?
I found the box where Doc had left it when he brought me home, just inside the door, and carried it back to the fireplace.
Sitting cross-legged, I built a small fire then turned off the gas jets. The flames were clear and bright. Almost hypnotic.
I pulled off strips of tape and opened the box. After tossing the tissue aside, I took out the first bundle and gazed at it. The stems were brittle, the green had changed to gray, and I knew if I shook it very hard, the heads would scatter.
Did I want to do this? According to Grandma, a hedge once built couldn’t be torn down. My love would be obliterated. Forever.
I drew a breath, shaky and thick with tears. “I love Doc for his humor.” Steeling myself, I threw the plant into the fire where it burned brightly for a moment, the dusty fragrance filling the room. Would I ever smell that scent again without my heart aching, even a little?
“His compassion for animals as well as humans.” Another sweet-smelling packet went in.
“His smile and the light that sparkles in his eyes.”
I continued, naming everything I loved about Doc. Everything that made me hot for him. Everything about him that made me smile.
When I’d finished, all the lavender was gone. I picked up the discarded tissue and threw it in. Then took the poster from the frame, rolled it into a long tube and laid it on the fire. Tears burned my eyes and nose. My throat thickened until I could barely draw a breath, but I had to finish. “I destroy my heart. I burn my tender emotions. I incinerate all the love, the joy, the wonder, even though it reduces to ashes the heart in me. Kapoia bavatoo. Kapoia bavatoo. Kapoia bavatoo.” By the last words, I could barely whisper, but by then I couldn’t cry. All I could do was stare at the flames.
It took a moment for the poster’s old paper to catch. It smoked heavily, charred and caught fire with a whoof! I stared until the beautiful old poster was burned up. And I stayed there, watching until the entire fire died down and was nothing but a pile of cold ashes. With my heart now dead, I didn’t feel like getting up and doing anything. I didn’t care to unpack, put away Christmas gifts or even make a cup of tea.
For some reason, the construction of the wall around my heart made what I had facing me the next night just a bit easier. I now knew one thing—as of that night, there would be one less werewolf in the world.
But whether it would be a neophyte or Syzygian, I couldn’t be sure.
The next morning dawned clear. I still lay on the couch, still wide awake. Finally I turned on the TV. The weatherman sounded as if the storm out west would soon be clearing. That meant the roads would be passable before too long.
I just hoped that didn’t mean Bella would be home before moonrise. I didn’t want her to worry about me when I went out that night. And I didn’t want her here if anything happened.
She couldn’t help, and she’d only blame herself. I could almost hear her—If I hadn’t taken that job, she wouldn’t have been around when the phyter started his rampage. It’s all my fault.
Just imagining her whine made me want to smash something of hers. To be honest, I’d rather be dead than listen to her wailing about it.
My bizarre thought pattern was so strange I couldn’t help but laugh, which lightened my inner turmoil enough to snuggle down for a quick nap.
I slept away the entire morning, then got up and dressed in black sweats for the night. Just as I was about to leave to get something for a late lunch, there was a knock on my door. Slowly I opened it and gazed at the man standing there.
Just to be sure my ritual had worked, I tested my heart as he stepped close for a quick hug.
Inside me was as cold and dead as the remains of last night’s fire—with the same potential for resurrection.
Doc had a look of permanent worry clouding his face. “Have you eaten?”
“No. And I could eat a horse.” I kept the tone in my voice light.
He lost the worried look and smiled. “Not at my zoo, you don’t. But I’ll see if I can find something for you on the way.”
“Steak will do.” We went back to Pete’s and I ate the best steak of my life, which I realized was possibly my last meal. It was so rare the juices ran red, clear and delicious.
“Have you heard from your folks?” Doc asked as we waited for the check.
“No. But the phone service is usually slower coming back than electricity out there.”
He looked as if he’d expected as much. “Bad cell service?”
“I guess people out there don’t use cell phones. Or else they use a different company than we do.” I was quiet as the waitress brought the check and Doc tossed down his credit card. “But I saw on TV that the weather should clear up out there in a day or two.”
“Then they should be home in three.”
If we were lucky, that would be after the waning moon. “Did you check on Tony today?”
He nodded, a smile easing some of the worry lines. “Yeah. With your blood, I was able to make a serum that worked. I injected him before I came to get you. I think he’ll be okay.”
Relief spread through me, giving me a small measure of success. At least in my life, I’d been of some help.
As we left the restaurant, the sun hung low in the sky, the colors around us changing to pastel. My heart thumped as I realized how late i
The worry creasing his face hardened until he looked grim. I was just glad he wasn’t psychic and seeing something in my future that he didn’t want to tell me about.
Tension grew inside me as the sun sank lower in the sky. My spine became a steel rod, keeping me from relaxing as we drove.
This was it—my night of reckoning. Would I be strong enough to stop this neophyte?
I knew from the last time he was stronger than me. He could outrun me, too, so my only hope was to outsmart him.
And if worse came to worst, I’d have to make sure he died, too.
Too bad Bella didn’t have the Syzygia Gene. Together we could have confused the heck out of him with our twin speak telepathy. I wanted to smile, share my thoughts with Doc, but my mouth refused to curve. My voice wouldn’t rise in my throat.
I was scared to death, but I couldn’t let him know. If he realized how much I knew I couldn’t do, he’d never let me go.
So we didn’t talk all the way to the zoo. From the parking lot to the clinic, into the sanctuary of his laboratory, we didn’t say a word.
Rather than go alone into the night, I took off my clothes and, with Doc looking on, I sat down on my heels and gathered all the anger roiling through me in my chest.
If it weren’t for this neophyte, I wouldn’t be putting my life on the line. I’d be going about my life as normally as possible for a werewolf.
I thought about the future I most likely wouldn’t live to enjoy. How Bella would have to go on without me.
I thought of the kind of woman Doc would find. Of building the barrier around my heart—never again experiencing love—and anger exploded.
I morphed in record time. My bones elongated and reconfigured so quickly, I ached with the change. The bristles bursting through my skin were like a fire, spontaneously combusting all over me.
The surprise on Doc’s face was almost worth the pain I experienced that evening.
Turning out the lights, he opened a door off the back of the clinic and I padded into the night.
On silent feet, I rushed away from the compound and found a place in the brush where I could hide. As soon as I was secure, I sniffed the air.
I could smell the neophyte, his ire, even at this distance. His anger was greater than mine, greater than even the explosion of fury I’d experienced when I thought of Doc and my now stone heart.
What was wrong with the phyter? I’d never known an animal—especially a werewolf—to carry that kind of anger. By the time a full moon has risen and a new werewolf has gone through morphing into the wild life, most carry little residual wrath or memory of what was before. The experience taking them outside their bodies and usually, minds, so confuses them they can’t remember to be angry.
The rage in this one had to have started within the man. I couldn’t begin to fathom what might have happened to make him that way.
And it didn’t matter, really. I couldn’t resolve his rage. Nobody could realign someone else’s passion. All I could do was stop him, and that would be next to impossible. As with all new werewolves, he grew stronger with each full moon he experienced.
If I failed tonight, he’d be stronger tomorrow night. Even if he got me, I had to find a way to take him out, too.
Otherwise, there was no telling the number of lives he’d destroy.
I stayed low, skirting the brush as I followed his scent. We moved away from the compound. Away from human contact. As I trailed him, we left the zoo property altogether. I followed him to Lost Canyon, where Doc and Bella had taken me in the tiger striped truck all those months ago.
It was some of the roughest country in the area, silvered by the light of the full moon.
I stopped near the edge of a bush at the top of a small rise. After sitting on my haunches, I scrutinized the area with my eyes as well as my nose.
I turned my head. There! His scent was strongest to my right. But even as I rose to all fours, his odor came to me more heavily from behind.
Was the wind changing or he was he circling? Stalking. Getting ready for the attack.
Unsure, I looked for a secure area. Someplace where I could put my back to something solid so he could just come at me from one side. But even as I considered a boulder that was not far off, I realized what a foolish idea it was. The last thing I wanted was to be trapped against a solid wall with him tearing out my throat. I’d have no place to escape.
Escape. That’s what I needed. A small space—a recess—where I could escape and he couldn’t follow. Then maybe I could get a lucky bite in and get away, before…
If I could only find that jumble of rocks.
But I had to take him with me. Lifting my face to the moon, I howled at the top of my lungs. Come and get me. Come and get me.
I trotted to the bottom of the rise. Now I had to find that rock. I flashed my tail as if I owned that section of the woods then, hearing a not too distant snarl, had to fight to keep from tucking it as I scampered around a tree.
I ran as hard as I could, looking for the boulders. They had to be here, somewhere. But as good as my wolf-sight is by the light of the full moon, it wasn’t good enough to find what I sought.
He gained. I could tell by his fetid stench, which grew stronger by the minute.
Just as my tongue was ready to hang out of my mouth in exhaustion, I found the road. It couldn’t be far.
Desperate, I dashed around a rock the size of a small army tank, and there it was. The pile of building block boulders I’d used to sooth my headache the day after the Halloween party. I almost panicked when I didn’t immediately spot my crevice, but on a second look, I found it.
Running full out, I slid to a stop next to it.
Either because I’d run so hard and so far or because I was scared out of my mind, my heart wouldn’t slow enough for me to catch my breath. I couldn’t let him see my exhaustion though. Or fear.
Curling my lip, I raised the hair on my scruff and growled as I waited for him. Tonight was the night, I thought as I embraced every bit of anger within me. I will stop him, one way or another. I can’t let him escape.
Then he was there. Not in front of me, as I expected, but to the side—standing on one of the boulders, ready to attack me from above.
Before I could whirl to face him, he leaped and, hitting my shoulder, knocked me rolling. I scrambled to get back on my feet, but he was on me. Like a natural born killer, he went for my throat.
I fought for my life.
Using everything I had, I struggled to get out from beneath him. But his weight was too great. Almost immediately, his fangs were on my throat.
No! I couldn’t lose already.
I snarled, loud and threatening, hoping my confidence would surprise him enough I could break his hold. Kicking both my hind feet, I caught him in a part of his underside that was particularly vulnerable.
His yelp almost made me laugh, but there wasn’t time. I rolled to regain my footing.
I hurt everywhere, and was bleeding from several places. I could feel the warm rivulets streaming through my fur, but I couldn’t stop. As soon as I was up, I went after him. He met me and we went at it like that old movie with the yellow dog and the mad wolf, except this time there were two wolves. And we were both mad.
Using all my skill, I got the upper hand for just a moment. But his weight and muscle were too much. Unless I could get a lucky bite in, I was toast.
He pressed me against the boulders, holding me there as he attacked so I couldn’t maneuver away from him. Couldn’t escape.
He wanted me dead.
Which was only fair, because that’s what I wanted for him. Now the rock was his ally, stopping me when I tried to turn, a weapon to knock me into unconsciousness if I pulled back too hard. I was trapped.
I couldn’t even turn my head to find my hole so I could make a dash for it—if I had the chance.
My strength ebbed, flowing from me alon
My entire body failing, I was ready to end it.
I wished I’d seen my family one more time.
Then, just as I was trapped, vulnerable, on my back, just as he fitted his fangs to my throat for what I knew was the last time, a flash of white.
Something hit him from the side, sent him rolling with a painful yelp.
The wolf from my vision in Colorado was there, protecting me. In my wounded state, I wondered if he were my guardian angel—er, wolf.
With an effort I struggled to my feet, then stumbled to put my shoulder next to his as together we faced the neophyte.
Get in that hole.
Sudden confusion made me dizzy. I stopped. Shook my head. My guardian wolf had a terribly familiar voice. Doc?
I couldn’t get my mind around it. Was this werewolf Doc? The man who hated werewolves so much, he wanted to wipe their very gene off the face of the earth?
I gaped at him, fury overwhelming me. I’d murdered my own heart to find out just hours later that he was actually a werewolf?
I wanted to go for his throat.
But I wisely decided to wait until later to do it.
Go! he shouted. Now!
The phyter sprang, fresh as if he hadn’t fought with me at all. Doc managed to shove me with his shoulder even as he rose on his hind legs to meet him.
I scampered to the crevice, which I was surprised to find was right behind me.
The fight was almost too horrible to watch, but I couldn’t tear my gaze away. Although the wolves were about the same size and weight, the phyter had the advantage of his rage. Again and again the neophyte attacked, twisting, turning, biting, tearing.
Again and again, Doc fought him back. They battled in front of me, their mouths wide, each trying to get a hold on the other’s throat.
Blood scent filled the air.
Doc glanced my way, making sure I was safe in my hole. But that was all the opening the neophyte needed. He slammed into Doc, biting hard as he tried to maneuver him onto his back.