“I believe you, Eli. Even though I’m scared, you make me feel safe, like the fear is all around me, but can’t touch me.”
“Speaking of touching, I think I better let go of you, before I get ideas that you might not like.”
“No!” Matt got a panicky look in his eyes and leaned in closer to Elias. “Please. Don’t. I think the physical contact is the only thing holding me together right now. I need your touch, Elias.”
Elias stared deep into Matt’s blue eyes and saw a spark of desire that he hadn’t seen before. He leaned in until his lips were mere inches from Matt’s own. “Is this what you want?” He asked as he slid his hands down Matt’s sides with just his fingertips touching Matt. “Tell me to stop and I will.”
“No. Yes. No. Oh hell. No, don’t stop. Yes, it’s what I want.” Matt groaned.
“I won’t do anything that you don’t want me to do, Matt. You say stop, and I stop.” Eli nearly purred, his words vibrating against Matt’s lips. Elias gripped both sides of Matt’s shirt and pulled it free from his jeans. It was almost like an electric shock from his fingertips to his groin when he felt Matt’s bare skin for the first time. “Is that good, baby? Do you want me to keep going?” Eli whispered in Matt’s ear as he slid his fingertips across the smooth firm muscles of Matt’s stomach, stopping just above the button on his jeans. With a wide grin on his face, Elias slid the fingers of his right hand beneath the waistband of both Matt’s jeans and boxer briefs.
“Eliasss, ooohhhh, yesssss.” Matt moaned as his head rolled back and his eyes closed. Matt thrust his hips forward, driving Eli’s fingers ever deeper below the waistband of his pants. Matt felt Eli’s fingertips brush against a part of him that no one other than himself had touched since he outgrew diapers. His head sprang forward, and he opened his eyes. Matt brought both his arms up and placed his hands squarely on Eli’s chest. “Elias, I…”
Eli interrupted him, his expression instantly changing to one of concern. “Do you want me to stop? Have we gone too far?”
“I…” Matt’s face looked conflicted. “I don’t want you to stop, Eli, but I need you to stop. Do you understand? I need to figure this out.”
Eli pulled his hand out of Matt’s waistband and palmed the side of Matt’s neck. “I understand. Take all the time you need. I will never rush you to do anything that you don’t want to do. You do want… what we were doing, right?”
“I’ve never wanted anything more. I think that’s what scares me. I thought I was falling in love with Terrie, and now…”
“Baby, I don’t want to scare you. Anything we do, we do at your pace.”
“You don’t scare me, Elias. My feelings do. I’ve never wanted to do anything with a guy before, but now I feel like I might explode if you don’t touch me again.”
“All you have to do is ask.” Elias said and placed his hand on the side of Matt’s neck again and stroked his thumb along the jawline.
Matt took in a deep breath and let it out. “We have to stop. I need time to process what just happened and figure out what I want.”
Eli leaned in until their mouths were less than an inch apart. “Can I have just one little taste before you go back to her?”
Matt moaned Eli’s name and turned his head, baring his neck to Elias in an open invitation. Elias nipped at Matt’s ear and then ran his tongue down his neck. Eli sucked at the sensitive skin in the hollow of Matt’s neck where it meets the collarbone, leaving a mark. Then his lips were back at Matt’s ear, and he whispered in a husky voice. “You are mine, Matthew Montana, and I am yours. Decide what you need to decide but know that we are destined to be. I will never deny you anything. Ask for the moon, and I will deliver it to your door.”
With a dreamy look on his face, Matt said. “For now, all I ask is for time to sort things out.” Then he got a serious look on his face. “You didn’t cast a love spell on me, right?”
Elias blushed and looked down. “Not unless you cast one on me first. I’ve belonged to you since you asked me for help in my dream. Now that I’ve touched you, now that I’ve had the taste of you on my tongue, I will belong to you forever.”
“You literally make my knees weak with the things you say, Eli. I… I just need to figure out things with Terrie. I honestly don’t know what I will feel when I see her again.”
“That’s fair. This,” Eli motioned his hand in between them. “happened suddenly. It’s new to you. I get it. Let’s go back to the kitchen table.” Eli turned and set up the chair for Matt to sit in and returned to his own seat.
Matt’s lips twisted upwards in a smile. “You seem so far away now.”
“Hey! You were the one who said to stop.”
“Yes, stop what we were doing… what we were about to do. But you can still hold my hand.” Matt reached across the table and took Eli’s hand, entwining their fingers.
Elias felt happier in that moment than he had ever been in his entire life. Even happier than he ever had been with Brad. “Matt?”
“Yeah, Eli? What’s wrong? You look worried?”
“Well, you asked me if I cast a spell on you, and I didn’t, but.”
“I know you didn’t. I trust you completely.”
“Let me finish. It’s important.”
Matt squeezed Eli’s hand reassuringly. “Finish. I’ll be quiet.”
“I didn’t cast a spell on you, but I have to be completely honest with you. Magic may be causing our bond, or at least enhancing it.” Eli sighed and continued. “There’s something I’ve read about called coven magic. Witches who bond themselves together in a coven become stronger. That’s why I can only do small things, because my coven is just me. I think that, when we bonded in the dream, there were aftereffects in the waking world.”
“Are you saying that two people who weren’t attracted to each other would be attracted to each other if they joined the same coven?”
“No. It would make them feel closer to each other, but it can only heighten what’s already there and break down inhibitions. It wouldn’t create feelings from nothing.”
“Are we bonded in a coven?”
“No. We can’t. Not even if you wanted to, because of the dark magic surrounding you. What we did was similar. It should have only affected us in the dream. The real-world side effects should dissipate. I just wanted to give you a heads up.”
“I see what you’re doing. You’re trying to give me an out. I don’t want an out. You said yourself that our connection ramp up what’s already there, but it can’t create it. I felt myself growing closer to you. I formed a friendship with you even though both Brad and Terrie were against it. Hell, Brad was jealous and practically accused me of hitting on you. You know what the last thing Terrie said to me when I dropped her off this afternoon was? She told me to have fun on my date. Whatever it is that we have was building up on its own, so don’t you dare try and say it isn’t real.”
“Ok. Wow. I want it to be real. I will shut up and let you do whatever you need to do, and I’ll be waiting here for your answer.”
“One more thing. On your witchy to-do list, right underneath curing David, write in removing black magic from Matt. Number three on that list, put research coven rituals.”
Eli’s eyes grew wide. “You really want to?”
“Yes. No doubt. As soon as possible.”
Their kiss deepened and Sky felt himself pressed back against the park bench. He held onto David to keep from falling backward over the bench. Sky ran one hand up David’s strong back and tangled his fingers into his long blond curls. Sky nearly whined in frustration when he felt David’s mouth leave his, but the whine quickly turned to a moan as David trailed kisses and licks along his jawline and down his neck. He felt almost as much as he heard David emit a low growl right near his ear.
“Down boy, maybe we should move this somewhere…” Sky’s words were cut short as David moved in for another kiss. Sky could have sworn that his boyfriend’s eyes were literally glowing in the growing darkness. Then, as David’s lips met his, Sky yelped in pain and surprise. He pushed himself away from David and brought his hand up to his mouth. “Dammit, David. You bit me! You actually drew blood. What the hell?” Sky looked up from the blood on his hand, and his eyes met David’s. Sky took a step back and tried to wrap his head around what he was seeing. Everything they had talked about was real. The worst-case scenario that neither of them wanted to believe was real. David was a werewolf!
David felt the pain of the change coming, but he tried to ignore it and keep kiss Skylar. Then he felt the sweet warmth of the blood in his mouth, and it drove the wolf inside of him crazy. He heard the words that Sky said to him and he understood them, but when he tried to respond all that came out was another growl. He met Skylar’s eyes, and he tried to plead with him for help. All David saw in Sky’s eyes in return was fear. David gave in to the change, dropped to his knees, and howled.
For just a minute, Sky thought he saw something in David’s eyes. He felt that his boyfriend was trying to reach out to him, despite what was happening. Sky was too frightened to think too hard on it. He knew he had to get out of there. David’s whole body was changing. His fingers were claws, his teeth were fangs, hair was sprouting everywhere. When David dropped to his knees, looked up at the moon, and howled, Sky turned and ran as fast as he could.
Brad heard what sounded like a howl, and then he saw movement on the trail coming from the lake. He was nervous and a little scared, but he got his camera ready. Sky Taylor came running down the trail and ran right past where Brad hid. No werewolf, just Skylar. Sky glanced back a few times leading Brad to consider the possibility that he was being chased. Brad thought about yelling out to Sky, but the other boy was already long gone. Brad stayed right where he was. Had Sky been with David tonight? Could David be in danger? Was David the werewolf? If David was in danger, Sky would have surely called for help and not just left him, right? These questions and more flooded Brad’s mind. He thought about going down to the lake to investigate, but he decided that the best thing for him to do was to stay right here and be ready to take more photographs. He said a silent prayer for both Sky and David, then settled in to wait for whatever may happen next.
“You have to be sure about this, Matt. I don’t think it can be undone once we bond.”
“I am sure.” Matt shrugged. “And we can’t do it yet, anyway, so we will both have time to think about it. I’m just asking you to look up the spells or rituals or whatever it is that we would need.”
“True. I will start the research on it and gather together anything I might need for the ritual.”
Matt looked thoughtful. “You might need me to do it in order for you to be strong enough to break the curse.”
Elias chewed on his lower lip and ran a hand through his unruly brown curls. “You might be right. When I figure out how to remove the curse, will you be willing to let me try on you first?”
“Absolutely. I know you won’t do anything to hurt me, so if you say it’s safe to try, then I’m willing to let you try on me.”
“That’s settled then.” Elias stared off into space for a minute, lost in his own thoughts. “You said that your grandfather told you all the stories. Did he ever mention having a witch ancestor? The curse doesn’t explain the fact that you have magic of your own. Your magic could explain the nightmares and my own dream. I bet you are descended from a Roxbury Coven witch.”
“We wouldn’t be related, would we?” Matt looked shocked.
Elias laughed. “Nope. Or so far back that it wouldn’t matter anyway.”
“Oh good.” Matt let out a huge sigh. “That would be weird.”
Eli’s grin broadened. “If ghost mom ever shows back up, I’ll ask her. I’m sure she’d know.”
“What about David? Do you think he had magic, too?”
Eli’s brow furrowed. “I’ll cast the aura spell on him to be sure, but the dark magic probably corrupted any elemental magic that he had. Also, if… and for now I’ll still say if… if he’s a werewolf, the magic would be gone. From what I’ve read in the journals, you can’t be a werewolf and a witch, and you can’t cast both elemental and dark magic. The different magics won’t coexist in the same vessel.”
“But don’t I have both?”
“Yes, but they aren’t coexisting. They are at war. If you tried to cast an elemental spell, it would become corrupted with dark magic and you’d get a result that you weren’t expecting.”
“Thank you for sharing all this with me, Eli. If I hadn’t experienced it, I doubt that I’d believe one word you’re saying!”
Eli squeezed Matt’s hand. “I want to share it with you. I want to share everything with you. I do need to ask you a favor. It’s important. Please don’t take it the wrong way.”
“When you talk to Terrie,” Elias was still chewing on his bottom lip and he ran his hand through his hair again. “You can tell her… whatever. Tell her everything if you want, but just be careful. If you think she won’t believe you, or especially if you think she might think you’ve lost your mind, stop. Please don’t put yourself in danger.”
“Understood. I think… I hope to be able to share everything with her. I have deep feelings for both of you. I hope we can work something out that works for everyone. The last thing I want is to hurt either of you.”
“Come to me after you talk to her. I will listen and accept whatever it is you say. I promise you will never lose me no matter what.”
Matt lifted Eli’s hand to his mouth and kissed it. “I will come to you. I promise.” Matt glanced at his phone. “Oh wow. I can’t believe that we’ve been talking for almost three hours. It’s getting close to curfew, we’d better go. I guess this is goodnight since we live in opposite directions from here.”
Eli shook his head quickly. “No way. With what we know, I am not letting you walk home alone. No freakin’ way.”
“That’s sweet, but then how would you get home? You’d be twice as far from home if you left from my house instead of from here.”
“I’ll be fine. I just don’t want you…”
Matt cut him off. “If I can’t walk home alone, neither can you. Let me text Aunt Nancy and see if she can give you a ride.”
“No, wait. I’ll text Judy. I’ll tell her we’ve been at your house, and we lost track of time, and I don’t want to be caught out after curfew on the first night.”
“That works. We should be at my house before she gets there.”
After arrangements were made, Elias locked up his mother’s house and the two boys hurried down the street.
Juan Hernandez paced back and forth in his bedroom. Tears streamed from his eyes as he clutched a dozen roses, he bought for his new girlfriend, Kim Martinez. Her death hadn’t really sunk in yet. It just didn’t seem real. He still wanted to give her the flowers. Screw the curfew. He was going to leave the flowers on the spot where they say she died. What were the chances of that bear, or whatever it was, coming into town again? Tears still streaming down his face, Juan snuck out of his house and headed into the park.
“Hey, dad! We’re out of ice cream! Can we go to the store?” Johnny Hanson asked his father.
“No, Johnny. It’s almost eight. We’ll go get some tomorrow. Pick something else for dessert.” Ronnie Hanson told his son. Even as sheriff, he didn’t want to break his own curfew and cause problems for his deputies.
Johnny shook his head as he put on his sneakers. He wanted chocolate ice cream, not some other snack. He was the sheriff’s son. He was sure he wouldn’t get in any trouble for breaking curfew. Besides, the store was only a ten-minute walk through Lakeside Park. He’d be gone and back before his dad even noticed.
David tried to yell for Sky to run away, but all that came out was a howl. His mind fought for control of his body, and he looked around. Skylar was gone. He felt relief, but then all he felt was the pain of the transformation. David crawled away from the lake and into the deeper shadows hiding himself amongst the trees. Fear and excitement washed over him in alternating waves of emotion. Fear of the unknown. David still couldn’t remember what happened or what he may have done the previous two nights. Also, fear of what he may do on this night. Despite the fear, he also felt the excitement as power surged through his body and the primal instincts of the wolf began to take over.
As David’s body changed, his thoughts changed as well. AS hair sprouted out all over his body, he thought of the hunt. As his fingers lengthened into razor-sharp claws, he thought of devouring his prey. Finally, the pain was too great, and his human consciousness blacked out. His mouth and nose combined and grew into the snout and jaws of the wolf, fangs snapping and growling. His muscles expanded and ripped through his clothing. Remnants of his shirt still hung around his neck, and his jeans split at the seams up the sides of both legs. His massive paws ripped through his socks and sneakers, leaving the leather and cloth behind on the ground. Then the change was complete. The wolf sniffed the air and began to hunt.
Brad was beginning to think that everybody in town had lost their minds. Earlier, he had seen Sky running out of the park. He still had not seen any sign of anything, human or otherwise that may have been chasing him. Then, he saw Matt and Elias. He was surprised that Matt had spent so long at the witch house, but not nearly as surprised as he was when he noticed that the two boys were holding hands as they hurried through the park. Woah. He’d been right about the flirting after all. He just hoped that Terrie wouldn’t end up with a broken heart.
A short time later, Brad saw Juan Hernandez take off into the middle of the park carrying a handful of flowers, probably for Kim. That saddened Brad. Kim and Juan had just gotten together. Kim was such a nice girl. Brad thought something good finally happened for her, now she was dead. Brad lost sight of Juan when he turned a corner and went up another path towards where Kim had died. Brad thought about following him, but then he spotted a third person enter the park.
Brad cursed under his breath when he saw ten-year-old Johnny Hanson race into the park. What the devil was that boy doing out so close to curfew, and where was he headed in such a hurry? That would sure piss the sheriff off if he found out. Brad started to follow Johnny, hoping to catch up to the boy and escort him back home. Johnny was far ahead of him already. Johnny was about halfway through the park. It looked like he was heading straight for the convenience store. Then the boy stopped and looked around. Johnny left the path, heading into a wooded section of the park. Brad was worried now. What the hell was Johnny doing?
Matt still held onto Eli’s hand as they ran up the walkway to his front door. “We made it! They’re not here yet, and it’s still ten minutes before eight.”
Elias looked down at their joined hands and then back up at Matt. “This is starting to feel like a date again. I think I said that way back at my foster parent’s house when this night started.”
Matt let go of Eli’s hand, blushed, and then brushed a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. “It wasn’t a date, but it was more than a date. If that makes any sense?”
“It wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but yeah it makes sense to me. We had quite a night.” Elias grinned.
“Is that them?” Matt pointed at a car that was approaching and slowing down.
“Yeah. That’s Mark’s car. Goodnight, Matt. Despite everything that is happening, I enjoyed spending time with you. I hope you’ll want to keep hanging out even after all this stuff is behind us.”
“I think that you’re being optimistic about our ability to put all this crazy stuff behind us and live to tell the tale.”
Elias reached up and cupped one hand to the side of Matt’s face. “I will not let anything happen to you, Matthew Montana. I promise you that.”
Matt leaned into Eli’s touch. “I believe you. I’ll text you tomorrow. Goodnight, Elias.”
The two boys parted, Elias rushing down the steps to get into his foster father’s car, and Matt going through the front door of his aunt’s house as the clock ticked to seven fifty-seven.
Nancy Holliday stretched and pushed away from her laptop. She suddenly realized how quiet the house was which was unusual with three teenage boys living there. She walked out of her office and started down the hallway just as the front door swung open. She glanced at her phone. Seven fifty-seven. Someone was cutting it close. She turned the corner and nearly ran into a grinning Matt. “It looks like someone had a good night. Cut it a bit close, didn’t you? I’m surprised the sheriff didn’t boot you out sooner.”
“Sheriff? Oh! No, I wasn’t out with Terrie. I was just out with a friend.”
“The grin on your face, I thought for sure you were out with your girl.”
Matt blushed and couldn’t stop his lips from curving up into a wide smile. “Nope. Just out with a friend. A guy friend, not even a girl at all.” His eyes sparkled.
Nancy looked at him quizzically. “If you say so. Just make sure no hearts get broken, including your own.”
Matt raised his hands defensively and smiled. “I’m behaving myself, Aunt Nancy. One hundred percent.”
Nancy shook her head and smiled at her nephew. “I have no reason not to believe you. Now, have you seen your brother or your cousin? The house seems awfully quiet for them to be home.”
Matt’s smile vanished in an instant. “Have you looked upstairs?”
“I just stepped out of my office when you came in the door. I’ll look down here, and you check upstairs. They might be home, it’s just quiet.”
Matt and Nancy searched the house, and when they both came up empty, they met in the living room. “Do you have any idea what their plans were tonight, Matt?” Nancy asked.
Matt sighed. “I left Brad at the library right after school, but he should have been done there hours ago. David is another story. He was intent on going out on a date with Sky tonight. Curfew or no curfew. He should have been responsible enough to either come home by now or text one of us, so we wouldn’t worry, though. I’ll try texting both of them right now and see where they are.”
“I’ll call the library and see if anyone is still there and ask what time Bradley left.”
Matt sat down on the couch and started sending out texts. He sent messages to David and Brad and, also, to Skylar in hopes that one or more of them would answer right away.
Nancy hung up the phone and looked over at Matt. “I talked to that nice boy, Nathan Burke, who works at the library. He remembered seeing Brad. He said Brad left the library at six-thirty. Where is he, Matt?”
“I don’t know. No one is answering the texts. I also sent one to Sky.”
“I’m worried. It’s not like either of them to not call if they’re going to be late. Especially with everything that’s going on.”
“Wait. I just got a text from Skylar.”
Sky: Sorry, Matt. He’s not with me.
Matt: Is he headed home?
Matt: What time did he leave?
Sky: I left him around 7.
Matt: Is something wrong, Sky? Why don’t you think he’s coming home?
Sky: Matt, it’s complicated. You’ll have to talk to him. I can’t say anything.
Matt: Is he ok, Sky?
Sky: It’s complicated, Matt. I… you’ll have to talk to him.
Matt slid his phone into his pocket. “David isn’t with Skylar. He’s not sure when he’ll be home.”
Nancy arched an eyebrow. “There’s more to it than that, Matthew. I can see it on your face.”
“That’s all I can say, Aunt Nancy. I can say with one hundred percent honesty that I do not know where either David or Brad are. I don’t know who else to call. It looks like we’re going to have to wait and hope they both come home soon.”
“You know more than you’re telling me, Matt. You have the same look in your eyes that your mother would get when she had a secret that she wouldn’t share with me. I’ll be in my office. If either of them or Skylar text you, come tell me immediately.” Nancy got up and left the room.
Matt leaned back and clicked on the tv. He mindlessly scrolled through the channels while he waited for a text message that he hoped would come soon.
Johnny was sprinting through the park when he saw something that stopped him dead in his tracks. Something big and hairy crossed the path about fifty yards ahead of him. Was it the bear they talked about on the news? The thing he saw ran on its two hind legs. Johnny didn’t think that bears did that. Weird. What in the world was it? He heard rustling and growling in the bushes off to his right and a bit ahead of him. He didn’t want to go past there or stay here out in the open, so he darted off the path to his left to hide in the bushes and wait.
Johnny crouched in the bushes for what seemed like forever. He knew the creature was out there… somewhere. Sweating profusely and paralyzed with fear, he tried to calm his tensed nerves. He knew he could not stay hidden forever, but the creature was out there lurking in the dark. He heard a rustle in the leaves behind him, very close by. He spun his head around and found himself face to face with a nightmare. Little Johnny Hanson was face to face with a werewolf. Fear gripped his body, and he could not move. The beast snarled and moved in closer.