Coven of the Wolf, Book 4
October, Bear Hollow, Tennessee
Cindy Long hurried down the dimly lit forest path. The full moon glowed eerily red overhead and barely provided enough light for her to distinguish the shadows from the trees.
According to her best friend, Tad Benton, the October full moon was named the Blood Moon because the Ancients made offerings to it as they hunted wild animals and slaughtered domestic ones in preparation for the long winter ahead. Tad knew all sorts of neat stuff. Listening to his stories of the Ancients was one of the reasons why she was out past her curfew. That, and because Tad was tall, lean, and extremely good-looking—not that she’d ever assume he’d want to date her, but a girl could always hope.
Glancing at the lighted dial on her watch, Cindy groaned. Her dad would ground her for a week—unless she could sneak in through her bedroom window. Heck, being grounded would be the least of her worries. More than likely, he’d tan her bottom if he ever found out that she’d been out with Tad and his friends. Her dad didn’t like the new “element” that had moved into town late last summer, after the rescue of Selena Jones by Sheriff Teague and the hunky Gor Petrov. Her dad thought all the members of the Drake, Ltd. organic farming commune were loonies and unfit companions for his seventeen-year-old daughter.
Cindy just thought they were cool. Especially Tad.
She reached the fork in the trail that would break away from the woods. As she stepped onto the path that led home, she caught the scent of something chemical—something hot—on the night breeze. It smelled smoky. Was someone cooking out? Didn’t the idiots realize there was a “no open burning” rule in effect? The forests were so dry that the slightest spark could start a forest fire. And why did the smoke smell so strange, more like a chemistry lab than a wienie roast? Was someone deliberately setting a fire?
No matter what was burning, it was dangerous. Cindy decided to investigate. If someone was breaking the law, she could tell her forest ranger dad, and maybe he would cut her some slack on her curfew violation.
Cindy left the well-trodden public pathway. Following her nose, she carefully picked her way through brittle undergrowth and fallen leaves. Ahead she could make out the warm yellow glow of a fire. Inhaling sharply, she could now identify some of the chemical odors—one was definitely ammonia. Another smell overlay it, but was less easily named. Was it something she’d smelled in the school lab? Another strong sniff and she had it! It smelled like the nail polish remover at Nancy’s Nails and Tips.
What would someone be doing in the forest in the middle of the night cooking chemicals? Not only was it dangerous—it was weird. Her curiosity totally engaged, she slid through the spindly new tree growth and rhododendron bushes, careful not to make any unnecessary sounds. Some primordial instinct told her not to be observed by whoever was out there.
Using a large oak as cover, she peered around the trunk.
The scene looked like something out of a Friday the 13th movie—or Hell itself. Four dark male shapes hovered around a large brick fire pit. Suspended over the orange-yellow flames was a large shiny pot. A pile of red and white boxes lay strewn around the men’s feet. The boxes were easily recognizable—Sudafed. Large glass bottles containing some sort of clear liquid sat off to the side, barely illuminated by the fire. She couldn’t make out the labels, but the smell of ammonia was almost overpowering now, so it was a safe bet that some of the containers held the powerful cleaning compound.
A nagging memory tickled the back of her brain. Ammonia. Sudafed. And that chemical that was in nail polish remover, acid, no, acetone. The men were making crystal meth! She’d read about the process in the newspapers back in August when a kid from school had died from an overdose of the street drug. The “poor man’s heroin,” the reporter had called it.
Fear and excitement combined to settle in the pit of her stomach like a lump of indigestible meat. She had to get to Sheriff Teague. This was way more trouble than her dad was capable of handling. These men were criminals, not careless campers.
Cindy turned to leave the way she’d come.
“What have we here?” a shadowy shape in front of her intoned.
Cindy’s scream was cut off when the cowl-robed speaker encircled her neck with his hands in a cruel grip, then pulled her to him. His cowl fell from his head, revealing his sharply cut features under the October full moon’s glow. His dark eyes gleamed with wicked excitement. His teeth shone brightly in the moonlight. His thin lips twisted into a cruel smile. He was evil personified.
God, she was so in trouble.
* * * *
Every night since Debby had left him in Southern Illinois, Boris visited and, like an incubus, made mad, passionate love to her. Never mind the fact her sensual tormentor was physically hundreds of miles away in Chicago and she was in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Never mind that she’d told him repeatedly she didn’t want him. Never mind that she’d reluctantly resorted to every defensive dark magick trick in the book, and some she’d made up, to forestall his nightly assault on her mind and body. He still visited and with only slight variations in technique, made carnal love to her on the highest levels of the astral plane.
Tonight he was late. Stupid fool that she was, she called him on it, as if she really cared. And she didn’t! Of course she didn’t.
“You’re late. Hot date?” Debby said.
“You missed me, bébé?”
“No. In fact, I was relieved.”
Boris snorted. “Liar. I’m growing on you, admit it, little hell cat.”
Boris’s astral body reached for her. Debby slapped his hand away and stepped back. Putting what she hoped was a look of disdain on her face, she drawled, “Growing on me? Yeah, like an icky, smelly fungus.”
“Debby, my beloved one, you love me, but are just too stubborn to admit it.”
“I don’t love you, Bo. Get away from me…” She backpedaled and came up against a stone wall that hadn’t been there two seconds earlier. That was the thing about dreams and the astral plane—real world physics went all to hell.
Trapped, she growled, “Get over yourself and leave me the hell alone. I’m sure there are lots of women in Chicago you can torment on a nightly basis. Some of us need our sleep, because we have a job to do.”
“Actions speak louder than words, bébé. So let’s see just how much you hate my love-making, eh?”
Within the space of a millisecond, Boris’s astral body swept Debby’s dream self into a garden on the astral plane, high above the psychic-vamps and unaware dreamers trolling the lower levels. Her clothes whisked away by his thoughts, Debby was open to his sensual assault, once again helpless to fight him off.
Each night it was the same. It was as if her astral body wouldn’t listen to her higher brain, the part of herself that knew Boris and all that he represented was bad for her. Instead some primitive part of her psyche drove her dreams, allowing her to become a helpless victim to Boris’s lovemaking.
Lately, in the pale gray of early morning after a night of indescribable, passionate sex, there were times she second-guessed herself. Maybe she was fighting Boris and herself far too hard. Maybe she could live with him, make a family, and perform magick. Then the bright dawn of reason arrived with the morning sun and she convinced herself yet again that turning her back on him and his magical world was the best thing she could do for herself—and for the world. Never again could she allow herself to lose control of the cursed powers she possessed. Yes, she’d helped rescue Selena, Gor, and Boris from the dark magician Darius, but the use of her powers, grown greater with age, both attracted and repelled her. Call her a coward, but she couldn’t face the horrifying darkness within her.
So she’d run home to her safe little world.
The Coven followed her—and Boris wooed her nightly.
“Little one, you are not paying attention. I am nibbling your neck and stroking your pussy lips, but you are miles away. I am distraught.”
Boris inserted a finger, then two, into her vaginal opening, stroking and spreading her wetness over her puffy labia. Every few seconds, he’d flick her needy clit as if to announce he was there and wasn’t leaving until he got the reaction he desired. Horny, sensual bastard.
“Distraught? That’ll be the day. If you must know, I was thinking of England.”
Boris laughed. His lips moved from her hyper-sensitive neck to her turgid nipples. He licked, then bit first one and then the other until they were rosy and wet. All the while he increased the stroking of her sex. Already her body tightened as her arousal heightened. The tension was so great she had to remind herself to breathe, just as she fought not to react, not to allow him to control her body.
It was a useless battle. He’d proven in the past he could arouse her no matter how hard she tried not to respond. Each night she vowed to lie still like a stone statue, and each night she ended up moaning, groaning and shouting his name to the alternate reality sky. The only thing she’d been successful at was denying him the words he wished to hear—and even those had come pretty damn close to the surface. But somehow she’d managed not to give him the words of love he wanted so badly. She couldn’t love him. She wouldn’t allow it. It was too dangerous.
A long talented finger stroked her G-spot. Debby moaned. The man knew how to push her buttons. If the sex was this good out-of-body, she figured she’d never survive the real thing.
“Oh, you will not only survive, but beg for more, bébé. Let me fly to you this night. Let’s take our love into the light of the real world.”
“It’s this or nothing, Bo.”
“You can’t stop me from visiting your dreams…”
“I’m working on it—don’t count me out. My blocking is becoming stronger. You can’t reach me any longer during the day. Admit it.”
“As you say, I’m working on it, little cat. Don’t count me out. I am a persistent man when there is something I want.”
“You’re a horny, overbearing, ruthless, obstinate Scorpio shifter is what you are.”
“And you are my temperamental, slightly out of touch with reality Pisces match. It’s that Taurus rising that makes you so damn stubborn, but we Scorpions are a tenacious bunch.”
“My mother told you my birth sign!”
“Your mother knows excellent son-in-law material when she sees it.”
“Forget that, she just wants grandchildren.”
“And for you to use your Goddess-given abilities.”
Debby groaned. Boris was correct. Her mother had been acting strangely ever since she’d met Boris. Lately, she’d taken up knitting baby things—in blue. No pink. No yellow. Just blue. And she made duplicates of everything.
She was scared. Her mother had foreseen something and wasn’t telling her only daughter. Debby’s precognitive abilities were useless when it came to her own future, and Boris’s future was shrouded in a mysterious dark mist she couldn’t penetrate—or was afraid to.
Debby was also afraid Boris knew exactly what it was that her mother hid. It was a damn conspiracy.
“Your mother is an uncommonly intelligent woman—you should listen to her for a change.”
And he did—on her inner thigh, then worked his way with nibbling little kisses to her labia, now supersensitive from his finger’s ministrations.
“Come for me, Debby. Give me your moans, your sweet cries of passion. Tell me you’re mine.”
Boris took her clit between his lips and sucked—hard.
Debby fell into a deep pool of whirling sensation as wave after wave of orgiastic pleasure surged across her body. As waves turned to ripples, Boris placed his engorged cock at her opening and surged inside, beginning the rhythm that would take her to the top once more. Groaning, she lay back and allowed him to sweep her to the stars again. She couldn’t fight him. It felt too good. And, after all, it was just out-of-body sex—not the real thing. She could always get her REM sleep later.
As Boris came into her, he shouted, “Je t'aime, bébé.”
Debby gritted her teeth against the love words ready to come out of her mouth and instead groaned in the back of her throat as she reached her peak soon after his.
“Give me the words, little cat.” Boris’s etheric self breathed his plea against the damp hair above her ear. “You know we are meant to be life partners. It is preordained. We can work together on your magical control. Work on containing your shadow-self. I would never let you hurt anyone or yourself. Trust me. Love me.”
Debby heard the truth in Boris’s words. The pleading. The proud Scorpio male allowing himself to beg called to the Piscean need to please a lover. She wanted to give him the words, wanted to please him, to be what he wanted. But the Taurean aspect of her nature, the cautious stubborn side that had allowed her to deny her magick, deny her strong shadow-self, forced the words to stick in her throat.
Instead, she said, “Bo, I’m tired—please…”
Whatever she would’ve said next was cut off by the sound of her beeper. She was very much afraid that the sound of the beep had saved her from weeping and begging Boris to leave her alone.
Fully awake now, she sat up in bed. She sensed the dampness between her legs, felt the lingering soreness of strenuous sex. Reaching for the beeper, she wondered how OBE sex could feel so real. She’d have to research that. Maybe Selena would know. Now that the shaman had helped her mother become stronger and forced her mother’s cancer into remission, Debby didn’t fear the woman so much.
The beeper readout had the Sheriff’s Office dispatch phone number. Duty called—and tired as she was, she was grateful for the interruption. She’d been too damn close to giving Boris what he wanted tonight. One or two more orgasms and she’d have been vowing love, devotion, and the willingness to have his pups. She was so not ready for any of that.
As she dialed the night-shift dispatcher, a shiver of atavistic fear crawled down her spine. Something told her she wasn’t ready for whatever called her out of her bed, either.
* * * *
“You can’t ignore this any longer, Debby.”
Debby tuned out Gor Petrov’s statement and concentrated instead on the brutally tortured body of a young girl who wouldn’t see her graduation day next June. Cindy Long had been a classmate of Deputy Bud Traskus’s deceased nephew Donnie. Three Bear Hollow teenagers had died in the last two months because of crystal meth and its growing influence in the area. Cindy brought the number to four dead teens, cut down in their prime by the scourge.
Debby kicked at an empty box of Sudafed left next to the body and cast angry eyes at the remains of a fire. The stink of ammonia and acetone lingered in the air. The girl had obviously stumbled across a meth lab and was killed to ensure her silence. Debby and her deputies had worked many eighteen-hour-days since the first death in late August, but had made no headway in tracking down the culprits. The townspeople blamed progress and eyed newcomers and passers-through with more and more suspicion.
But the three who stood over Cindy’s torn body knew the real cause—Darius, a practitioner of dark chaos magick, who’d assisted Laird Benjamin in the kidnapping of Selena Jones. Darius was a member of a splinter group of dark witches who’d followed the late Warrick Bettencourt. This same band of badass witches had taken over Benjamin’s Chicago underworld empire and now targeted all Coven holdings, in particular the newest one in Bear Hollow.
So far, the dark ones had attacked through their mere-mortal allies—the meth cookers and dealers. It was their warped invitation for the Coven to come out and defend the people under its protection. Unfortunately, the dark ones had covered their tracks all too well. No one had a clue as to where their local headquarters was. The area surrounding Bear Hollow was rife with caves and hollows in which to hide.
“Call Drake, Gor. Tell him to send more security personnel to the farming commune,” she requested, but not without a boatload of regrets.
Debby heard Bud’s sharp intake of breath and his lowly muttered “about time.” Her deputy had urged her to solicit the Coven’s aid immediately after his nephew’s death, but she’d put him off, not wanting to admit she needed a bunch of witches and their magick to help her do her job.
Three more teens had died because of her pride. Because of her fear of magick. More guilt for her to bear.
Lately, she’d suspected crystal meth was merely the tip of the iceberg. The note pinned to Cindy’s skin verified it: “Coven cowards, come out and face us if you dare. More innocents will die until you do.” It was more than past time to take the help the Coven could provide. Darius and his followers were without morals and had the ability to cause a lot more harm—and death—in the future. The Coven security personnel would be needed. Plus, it was really their battle. After all, if they hadn’t come to Bear Hollow, the evil wouldn’t have followed.
Of course, more of a Coven presence meant Boris would come to Bear Hollow. She would just have to pray he’d be too busy chasing Darius and his dark followers to chase her too.
Together Boris and Gor were super-investigators and might have what it took to track Darius to his lair. Truth was she and her deputies couldn’t handle Darius and his minions on their own—not without using her magical ability. And she had no intention of ever using that again.
“Make sure the note the bastards left on her body is marked ‘For Sheriff’s Eyes Only,’” she instructed Bud. “I sure as hell don’t want the general public to know the assholes are killing kids with crystal meth to draw a group of witches out to fight. We don’t need a modern-day Salem on top of this mess. There are already enough rumors circulating about the nature of the commune as it is.”
The rumors had worried her. She suspected Darius had started those, too. He wanted chaos. Locals versus commune witches. Witches versus his dark army.
Debby turned and stomped away. She had to call Cindy’s parents and inform them their only child had been found, dead and mutilated. There were days she really hated this job. And there had been far too many of them in the recent months.
Bud turned to look at Gor.
“She’s taking this too personally,” Bud said. “We warned the kids, but they think they’re immortal at this age.”
Gor observed the strain on Bud’s face, heard it in the man’s voice. For the first two weeks after Donnie’s death, Bud had shut down, and then he’d pulled on some inner reserves and taken on the mantle of an avenger.
Gor knew that the deputy had his heart and mind in the right place, but would be of little real help in the battle ahead. Dark witches like Darius were not an easy enemy to overcome. Even with reinforcements from the Coven and his own twin, Gor wasn’t sure they could defeat the dark brand of chaos magick Darius wielded. They didn’t know enough about it, and because of its very nature, the magick morphed continuously. Only a few witches like Rhea, the wife of Coven leader Drake Morgan, and Debby, seemed to be able to defend against it.
Rhea was pregnant with a second child and Drake wouldn’t allow her to leave Chicago. Their only hope to get ahead of Darius and his ilk was Debby—and she refused to use her great power because of an incident in her past. Gor only hoped his brother could break through Debby’s strong aversions to magick in time to save them all.