dresser, a tall bookshelf, a closed closet door, and the very bright moonlight streaming in from the window.
I scented the air, but I couldn’t detect anything foreign. Besides, what kind of idiot would intrude on a werewolf’s territory? Billy Bob wouldn’t allow it.
“You’ve suffered much, little wolf,” a familiar voice said. My friendly neighborhood imaginary buddy … except he was more like an actual presence than a pesky voice in my head.
“I’m losing my mind,” I muttered.
“I would not choose someone feeble-minded,” said an offended male voice.
Not in my head.
In the room.
Movement near the door startled me. I crouched low, my hands up, ready to attack. “Who are you?” A gravelly rumble built in my chest. No way I’d be taken again. Not this time. Not ever again.
“I am known by many names, sister. Pia’isa , kweo kachina , and mai-coh to name a few.”
“Well, your new name will be mud if Doctor Smith, the owner of this house, finds you. He’ll rip you a new asshole.”
He wasn’t a town resident, which meant he had to be one of the men who’d come in for the Jubilee. His face was shadowed. Even with my coyote-vision, I couldn’t make out his features. I tried to hone in on other appearance landmarks. He was well over six and a half feet tall. His shoulders were as wide if not wider than Billy Bob’s. His language was stiff and stilted as if every word cost him something. Finally, and most oddly, it felt as if his breath stirred the air around me. But the weirdest thing of all was the sense of calm that overrode my stirring panic.
“What do you want?”
“Ah.” The dark figure shook his head. “There is no need to fear me. I mean you no harm, little wolf.” I felt another wave of calm. “You know me. We often speak, sister.”
The voice in my head sometimes called me sister, and the awareness jolted me. At some point when my imaginary pal first started talking to me, I’d convinced myself it had been Judah, my older brother, the one who’d been killed.
“I’m a coyote,” I said. Because that’s soooo important. “A therian, not a lycan.”
“You are wolf, child. That above all else.”
The denial died on my lips. Recently I’d found out that my grandmother had been half-lycanthrope, but as a werecoyote, I’d grown up despising werewolves. My brothers and I had been taught that lycanthropes were dangerous and unpredictable. A rogue pack had killed both my grandparents before I was born, which only strengthened my family’s views about the species. So, I had no intention of claiming the heritage, let alone giving it precedence over my coyote blood.
I’d backed up to the window, my fingers on the frame. I had no doubt the huge, hulking figure between me and the door could take my head off. My claws bit into my flesh as my fingers began to shift. I needed to hold it together. Keep the element of surprise to myself.
“You don’t need to run from me, sister. I am not your enemy.”
“A friend doesn’t sneak into your bedroom,” I said.
“I do not sneak,” he said. Again, his tone reflected offense.
Noise in the hallway had him turning his head away from me. I used the opportunity to throw myself backward through the window. I cried out when the broken glass bit into my back as I landed on the grassy lawn, but I didn’t wait for the weird dude to chase me. I didn’t know what scared me more, that he claimed ownership of my imaginary friend or that I wasn’t nearly as frightened as I should’ve been.
Who cares? Run, you moron.
I shucked my nightgown and my underwear, finding freedom as my body mid-run began to change. My bones moved and reformed, fur sprouted down out of my skin with a whispering tingle that the full shift to animal form always brought on. It was pleasure, not pain, and it was why my family always warned against changing when it wasn’t necessary. During the first night of the full moon, the shift came without being
Patrick Dennis & Dorothy Erskine