The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 10)

Chapter 10

“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.”

“Ask away.”

“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?

Sky: Doubtful.

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: Ok.

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.

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 9)

Chapter 9

Nate raised an eyebrow. “You will have to narrow that down a little bit.”

“Ok. What do you know about the Roxbury Falls alleged werewolf curse?”

“Not a lot. The stories go back over two hundred years. A young witch was murdered. A young Montana was blamed by the witches. The leaders of the town wouldn’t even put the Montana boy on trial, so the witches got justice the only way that they knew how. They cursed him and all his descendants. Supposedly, the eldest male in the family line is cursed to be a monster. They gave him a way out though. The curse would only affect him if he stayed in Roxbury Falls.”

Brad scowled and ran a hand through his hair. He took his glasses off, cleaned them, and put them back on. “With what you know about witches and werewolves, does that seem like a possibility?”

“Anything is possible if magic is real.” Nate said. “However, from everything I know, you have to be bitten by a werewolf to become one, even if you are cursed.”

Brad’s eyes grew wide, and Nate leaned in closer. “What is it? Has David been bitten? Was he attacked before the killings?”

“Could a werewolf take the form of an actual wolf or would it only look like a monster like I described before?”

“The books and movies and even the legends and myths all say different things. I guess it could, why?”

“David was bitten the night before Kim was killed. He said it was a big dog. Matt swore it was a wolf.”

Devon spoke up now, closing the book he was reading. “Are we seriously considering the possibility that my brother is dating a werewolf?”

Brad sighed. “I say that’s another conversation to table for later. We need to prove for sure what we’re dealing with before we jump to conclusions. If it is a werewolf, David is an obvious suspect. Now, Nate, if it is a werewolf, what do we do? Is there a cure? How would we kill it if we have to?”

“I don’t know anything about cures. I don’t know as much about witches and curses as I do about werewolves. As far as killing one, this is where every werewolf story agrees. Silver is the best way to kill a werewolf. Decapitation works, but silver bullets or silver tipped arrows are better, because you have the obvious advantage of killing from a distance. Also, wolfsbane will poison a werewolf and just the scent of it will keep them at bay.”

Devon chimed in. “All the Native American legends that I’ve been reading agree with what he just said about wolfsbane and silver. I googled some pics of what wolfsbane looks like and where we might find some. You know, just in case. I totally expect that the sheriff is right and it’s a seven-foot grizzly, but. hell, research is fun.” Devon laughed.

“What I saw wasn’t a bear. This is exactly why I came here and not directly to the sheriff, Dev. If I can’t convince you, I wouldn’t stand a chance with him. I need food and then I’m going to the park with my camera. I’ll text you tomorrow if I wanna come back to the library.”

“Do you need help taking all these books back before I go, Nate?” Devon asked.

“Nah., I got it. It’s a slow night and I’m here until we close at ten.” Nate said.

Devon got up from his seat. He took all the books he had been going through, put them into one stack, and turned to leave. He looked back and smirked. “You two boys behave after I leave.” Then he was gone, leaving Nathan and Brad alone in the research room.

“Are you taking off, too?” Nate asked Brad.

“Soon. I can help you put these books away first. We took a lot out.” He waved his hand at the table littered with books.

“I don’t mind. It was fun. I love talking about werewolves, and the possibilities that you brought up are equally frightening and exciting. “

“Just frightening if you ask me.” Brad chuckled then his face turned serious. “Did you really have a crush on me last year? I mean, I was a nerdy sophomore, and you were a popular senior. Why would you like me?”

Nate took a step closer to Brad with each word he said. “I did… err… I do have a crush on you.” Nate blushed. “You’re smart. You’re sweet. And you are incredibly gorgeous. Why wouldn’t I like you?” As Nate closed in, Brad took a shy step backward until his back was pressed up against the end of one of the bookshelves. Nate reached up with one hand and cupped it along the side of Brad’s neck. His eyes twinkled and he continued talking. “I wanted to ask you to Homecoming, but I found out that you had a boyfriend. Then, I heard you were single, and I was going to ask you to Prom, but I heard all kinds of crazy rumors and figured that you needed time. The breakup with Elias must have been… wait a minute.” Nate let go of Brad as he ran his fingers through his hair and started to pace. “The rumors were about your ex hanging out at the witch house, weren’t they? That house is connected to the witches that were supposed to have cursed your family. Do you think he’s involved in whatever is going on? Is he out to get your family?”

“Nice mood breaker, Nathan.” Brad laughed nervously. “I thought you were just about to kiss me.”

“Oh my, God. I was just about to kiss you! Did you want me to?” Nate sat back against one of the tables. “I’m an idiot and I’m easily distracted.”

“I did. I mean I do want you to kiss me. You missed your chance for tonight, though. It’s getting close to sunset. I was here longer than I expected to be already. I’ll grab some Burger King for dinner and bring it with me to the park. To answer your question, do I think Eli is out to get my family? No. He does know stuff about the curse that isn’t in these books. Matt is at Eli’s house right now. I think Elias truly wants to help us find out what is going on. Matt is handling that investigation, and I am here.”

“I’m glad you’re here and not with him.” Nate got a dreamy look in his eyes.

“Me too,” Brad smiled and blushed. Brad scribbled something down on a sheet of his notebook paper. “Here’s my number. Text me. You owe me a kiss.”

“Ok. I’ll text you, and I look forward to paying my debt.” Nate said smiling broadly.

Brad couldn’t stop smiling as he ran out of the library.

———————————————————————–

Skylar and David avoided the deeper conversations that they knew were needed, and instead, engaged in small talk as they ate their dinner. “How’s the job at Sonny’s going? A job like that and you probably don’t need a gym membership.” Sky quipped.

“You’re right! My upper body is sore every night. I need to find myself a hot boyfriend who likes to give massages.” David winked.

Sky smirked. “That could be arranged. I’ll swing by the mall and pick up some massage oils. I hear they have flavored ones.”

“That does sound interesting!”

“I’ll stock up on other supplies, too. Just in case. Flavored massage oils could lead us just about anywhere.”

“This massage idea keeps sounding better and better.” David said, pushing his empty plate into the center of the table.

Sky finished off his french fries and pushed his plate next to David’s, He sighed and stared into his boyfriend’s bright blue eyes. “Spill it. Talking about our favorite movies and planning erotic massages is fun and what we should be doing on a date, but I know there are deeper and darker things on your mind. Talk to me, Boo.”

“I…” David stopped and looked around the diner, then started talking again but in a softer voice. “I woke up the same way this morning as I did yesterday. The clothes, the sheets, my body… everything the same. Well, not everything. I wasn’t taking a nap this time. I wasn’t even home. I blacked out right after you left me at the park yesterday. You left, then I noticed Brad and Kevin in the park, then I woke up this morning. Kevin was the last person I saw, and he wound up dead.”

“David, I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t think that you, in any form, could kill. Besides, you saw Brad with Kevin. Brad would have said something to the cops or to his mom if he saw a monster kill his best friend.”

“Ok. You’re probably right. But something happens to me, and it can’t be good with all that blood. I’m scared, Sky. Like really, really scared.”

“Come here.” Sky got up and walked around the table and pulled David into a hug. “Let’s go for a walk. It’s almost six-thirty already and the curfew is at eight.”

“Yeah. I find myself a boyfriend and the town imposes a curfew! Lucky me.” David laughed and the two boys walked out of Will’s Diner.

They walked through the park to the little bench by the lake. Sky leaned against the back of the bench and pulled David close. David leaned in and kissed Sky. “You have more faith in me than I have in myself. What did I ever do to deserve someone like you in my life, Mr. Taylor?”

“You are a good and kind person, David. Everything you’ve gone through, everything you’ve done for your brother, not many nineteen-year-olds would or even could have done that. Then that dick of an ex-boyfriend you had out in California ditched you when you needed support the most. Hell, you deserve someone even better than me.”

“There is no one better than you, Sky.” David said as his hands slid to Skylar’s hips and their mouths met in a passionate kiss.

————————————————————————

Brad was still smiling as he walked out of Burger King with his dinner. Thoughts of his almost kiss with Nathan Burke was drowning out the thoughts of his task at hand. He had fantasized about Nate, but he never dreamed that the older boy would ever be interested. Then Brad met Elias and he’d forgotten everyone else for a while. Thinking about Eli got Brad remembering what he was in the park to do. Was Elias involved? If werewolves were real, didn’t that mean that witches probably were, too? Brad took his phone out of his pocket and considered calling Matt. Could his cousin be in danger from Elias? Eli had been totally focused on Matt ever since Matt got to town. Brad assumed it was a crush, but now he wondered. Brad shook his head. No. There was no way that he could believe that Eli was evil, even if he was a witch. Brad muted his phone and slid it back into the pocket of his jeans.

Brad threw his, now empty, Burger King bag into the trash and settled into his hiding place. He considered setting up close to the lake, but he didn’t want to be too far into the park just in case he needed a quick escape. Brad didn’t want to be an entre on the werewolf menu. He decided on a clump of trees from which he could keep an eye on both main trails, the one that led to the lake, and the one that led into the wooded portion of the park where both Kim and Kevin died. He unpacked his camera from his backpack, and checked and double-checked all the settings and batteries. He also got out a notebook and pen to take notes on anyone or anything that he observed in the park. He took a sip from his water bottle and settled in for what could be a long night.

—————————————————————————-

Elias opened the door and stepped aside for Matt to enter the house. Matt was the first person, other than Eli, to enter “the witch house” in over sixteen years. He looked around. “It looks a lot nicer on the inside that’s for sure.”

Elias shrugged. “I spend a lot of time here. I’ve cleaned it up a bit. I didn’t touch the outside. I’d rather that people avoid it.”

“Is that why you didn’t repair the broken windows? Because the jerks would just throw more rocks through them? Wait a minute. How is it so warm in here? The windows are all smashed and it’s thirty degrees outside.”

Elias grinned. “Magic.”

Matt groaned. “No, I mean seriously. How can…”

Elias cut him off. “Come here.” Eli grabbed Matt’s hand and pulled him over to the closest window. Eli’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Put your hand out the window.”

Matt looked hesitant, but he did it. “Ok, but why…” His hand was barely outside and his eyes snapped open wide with shock and he pulled his hand back inside the house. He cautiously stuck his hand back outside again, and pulled it back in. “What is happening? How is this possible, Elias? There’s nothing here. This is so weird.” He kept sticking his hand back and forth through the broken window.

Elias shrugged. “I already told you. It’s magic. Like you said, if I fixed the windows, they would have broken them again. I wanted to spend time here, so I had to find lowkey ways of fixing things without making the repairs obvious to people that would want to destroy things again.”

“It’s amazing! How do you do it? Can you do other stuff?”

Elias concentrated and waved a hand towards the window. Matt felt a gust of cold air and he shivered. “Woah! Did you make that wind?”

“No. I released the spell protecting the window.” Elias raised his right hand, palm facing the window, took in a deep breath and released it. Matt saw a momentary flash of light in the window and then the cold and the wind were gone.

“You just sealed up the window again, didn’t you?” Matt asked with a touch of awe in his voice. “Can I see the rest of the house now?”

“Yes, I put the spell back in place. I’ll show you around, but I spend most of my time in this room, the kitchen, and one of the bedrooms. I sit in here and read the spell books and the journals. They sometimes describe small statuettes or totems or crystals that have magical properties. I’ve found a few in the house and brought them to this room. Maybe someday, if I find others with magic, I’ll rebuild the coven and fix up more of the house. For now, with just me, there’s no need.”

Matt glanced at the time on his phone. “It’s getting late anyway. We can save the rest of the house for my next visit.”

“Next visit? You… you want to come back?”

Matt grinned and blushed. “Of course. We are friends, right?”

“I wasn’t sure if all of this, or what I still have to tell you would scare you away.” Elias got a serious look on his face and motioned toward the window. “Now that you are more open to believing in magic, we need to talk. Do you want to sit down?” The two boys walked over to the kitchen table and sat on opposite sides, facing each other.

“What do you want to talk about first? I have lots of questions, but it sounded like you had something specific in mind.”

“I do. I’m trying to decide on how to bring it up without upsetting you. It involves you specifically, not the curse or your brother. It’s about you.”

Matt arched an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

Elias folded his hands in front of him on the table and sighed. Let me start with a question. When did you start having your nightmares?”

“I started having the nightmares right after the accident, but the wolf didn’t appear in them until it was a done deal that we were moving here, why?”

“To be clear, the wolf entered your nightmare while you were still in California? Right after David finalized the plans for the move?”

“It was the same night that we officially sold the house and bought the plane tickets. Like a week before we moved. What are you thinking, Eli? Is this bad?”

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but what it means is that the curse touched you before it touched your brother.”

“Why would it do that?”

“Maybe as a warning to stay away, and you didn’t listen.”

“I tried to convince David not to come, but he wouldn’t listen. Good things have happened for both of us here. We just have to stop the bad from happening.”

“It might be too late for that, but that’s why we are here right now.” Elias blushed. “There’s something else while we’re on the subject of dreams. I think I had a dream about you. Before I ever saw you. Before I knew who you were. Before I knew you were coming here.”

“What kind of dream? Was it a nightmare like mine?”

“No. It seemed like I was watching you from a distance. Well, I didn’t know it was you. I was watching some dark-haired cutie on a beach. I thought it was gonna be a different kind of dream.” Both boys blushed beet red. “Anyway, in my dream I watch you siting on a beach watching the sun set into the ocean. That was the first thing I noticed, because I’ve never been to the west coast before.”

“What night did you have the dream?”

“Last Friday.”

“That was the night before we flew out. I remember that night. I did go to my favorite beach to watch one last sunset.”

“That makes it even stranger. I’ve never had visions or prophetic dreams before. In the dream, you were wearing tan board shorts and a blue tank top that perfectly matches your eyes. You had a skateboard with you, and it was on your left side. While you sat there, you wrote a name in the sand. I couldn’t see it clearly, but my best guess on the name is “Charlotte.” After the sun finished setting, you got up and walked past a food stand that had a red and white awning. Then it felt like you looked directly at me and said, “Help me. Please.” That’s when I woke up.”

When Elias finished telling about his dream, Matt could barely speak. He sat there for a minute, his eyes wide with wonder and wet with tears. “That wasn’t just a dream, Elias. That was exactly what I was wearing and what I did my last night in California. The name in the sand was Charlotte. She was my little sister. That was our favorite beach. I wanted to say goodbye to her one last time.” Matt reached up and wiped the tears from his eyes. “I never called out for help. That part was only in your dream. Maybe that was why you had it. So, you’d know to help me.”

“I’m so sorry, Matt. I didn’t intentionally intrude on such a private moment. I’ve never had a dream like that before. That’s why I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you that first day in the cafeteria. I knew that you were the boy from my dream, and there you were sitting in the school cafeteria next to my ex.”

“Is that why you’ve been so intent on helping me? The more you explain to me, the less I understand. Your family cursed mine. Shouldn’t we be like mortal enemies or something?”

Elias huffed out a laugh. “I’m helping you because you’re a super-hot skater boy.” He winked and stuck out his tongue. “No. Seriously, I’ve seen hate. I’ve lived with hate my entire life. You and David have done nothing wrong to me or anyone else. I reject the hate of my ancestors, and I choose kindness and love. Starting with this curse, I want to undo as much of the damage that witches have done over the years. Ghost mom is pissed, but I don’t care. She won’t even appear when I try to summon her now.” Elias shrugged.

“That was quite an impassioned speech. I believe you one hundred percent. Ghost mom should be proud of you, I sure am.” Matt smiled.

Elias chewed on his lower lip and looked like he was lost in thought before he finally looked directly into Matt’s eyes. “Feel free to say no, but I want to try something. I’ve read a lot about dreams and nightmares and dream magic ever since I saw that you were real. I think if we can form a mental connection, that I can share your nightmare with you. Maybe I can see something in it that you haven’t, because of your emotional connection to the events. Can we try?”

Matt scowled and thought for a minute. “I have a couple of questions first if that’s ok.”

“Anything, Matt. I want to be an open book to you. Ask your questions.”

“I hope that’s true. I do believe it is. You explained about your dream and that’s how you recognized me in the cafeteria, but how did you know exactly who I was, that I was a Montana, and how did you know that I had an older brother?”

“In the cafeteria, I only recognized you. I asked around about the new guy who was hanging out with Brad Holliday, and I found out that you were his cousin from California. The people I asked only knew that your name was Matt, not your last name. I put that together later, in the diner, when you walked past me, and I felt the dark slippery touch of the curse magic.” Elias shuddered at the memory. “Dark magic has a different feel to it than elemental magic.”

“Am I cursed, too? Will I become a wolf?”

“When I sensed the curse, I cast a spell to look at your aura.”

“You can do that? Will you look at David’s aura?”

“Matt. Please. Let me answer one question at a time.”

“Ok. Ok. I’m sorry. Continue.”

“Where was I? oh yeah. I cast the spell and looked at your aura. Matt, you are surrounded by the inky darkness of the curse, but it can not touch you. That is how I knew you must have an older brother. If you were the eldest, the darkness would have been inside you. That’s not all that I saw, though. You also have a bright glow emanating from the core of your being. It is a warm and comforting light. For now, it is being held inside of you by the dark curse magic. I think that if I can remove the curse, you may have access to that magic. Matt, I think that you are like me, a witch!”

“You think that I have magic? That I might be a with like you? Could the dark magic take over and still turn me into a werewolf?”

“I don’t think that the curse can touch you while your brother still lives. The curse is only designed to infect the eldest. As far as your other question, I think that you must have a witch ancestor. We have to remove the curse before you can even try to access that power. If the elemental magic touches the dark magic, it will become tainted and affect any spell that you were trying to cast.”

“Wow. I’m a little overwhelmed right now but thank you for answering all my questions. I think I’m ready for you to try the dream magic now. Oh wait, if you try to connect to my nightmare, you won’t be tainted by the dark magic, will you?”

“I’ve taken that into consideration. I am confident that I can bond with you and avoid the dark magic.”

Matt shrugged. “Let’s do this.”

Elias took a deep breath and laid his hands face up in the middle of the table. His cheeks tinged with blush. “Put your hands in mine, Matt.” Matt didn’t hesitate. He laid his hands on top of Eli’s and closed his eyes as Eli’s hands closed around his. Then Matt felt the world tumble on its axis, and he was in the car as it rolled over the embankment.

Matt found himself standing on top of the hill, staring down as an all too familiar scene played out below him. He started to scream out his sister’s name, and, for the first time ever, he felt a comforting hand on his arm and a soft voice in his ear. He looked and saw Elias standing next to him. “Eli? You’re here. We did it. Can you… can you help my family, Eli? Please.” Tears were streaming down Matt’s face as he looked pleadingly at Elias.

“Matt, I can’t. I’m so sorry. This has already happened. I can’t alter your past through a dream. We have to let your nightmare play out. I’m here to see if I can see anything about the wolf that you may have missed.”

“I had to ask.” Matt sobbed and leaned into Eli. Elias stood behind Matt and wrapped his arms tight around him for support. It felt good. It felt right. He rested his chin on Matt’s shoulder and whispered into his ear.

“Tell me if you see anything that you’ve never noticed before.”

Wrapped in the arms of Elias, Matt felt safe for the first time in six months. “I will. Thank you, Eli. This isn’t so scary with you here.” Matt let out a contented sigh. “Here comes the wolf.” Matt wanted to close his eyes against the scene that he’d already lived over and over again in his nightmare, but as with every other time, he could not. He watched as the wolf bit his brother and then opened its jaws wide and ate David whole. He started to scream, but he heard Eli’s soothing voice in his ear.

“Shh. It’s ok, Matt. I’m still right here. You’re safe. This isn’t real.”

“Elias? I’ve always screamed and woke up right then, but there’s something else happening. There’s more to my dream than I ever saw before.”

“Keep watching, Matt. This is what I hoped for. Something new.”

“Wait. Look. The wolf that bit David both in the backyard and here in the nightmare, the one standing right there with the bloody jaws, it’s silver and grey, right?”

“Yes. What do you see, Matt? What’s there that has you so worked up?”

“I was always too scared to notice before, plus I woke up, but look behind the grey werewolf. There’s another werewolf lying on the ground. The other wolf’s fur is a light brown, you could possibly even call it blond. I think my brother is a werewolf, Elias, but he isn’t the only one! There are two!”

Matt’s eyes snapped open, and he stood up quick. The force of his backward momentum pulled his hands out of Eli’s grasp. The kitchen chair matt was sitting in was knocked over and Matt lost his balance. His arms pinwheeled as he tried to regain his footing. Just as Matt crashed into the wall, Elias was there. Eli held Matt up by his armpits supporting him against the wall. Elias exerted enough force to allow Matt to regain his balance.

Matt leaned into Eli. “He’s a werewolf, Eli. My brother is a werewolf. I’ve lost so much. I can’t lose him, too!” Matt sobbed.

“You won’t lose him, Matt. I’ll fix this. If it’s the last thing I ever do, I will fix this. I promise you won’t lose your brother.”

“I’m so scared, Eli. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.”

Eli’s arms tightened around Matt, holding him even closer. Elias whispered into Matt’s ear so close that he could feel Eli’s hot breath against his skin. Each word sent soothing vibrations throughout Matt’s entire body. “Don’t be afraid, Matt. I will make everything right. I will fix this. You’re safe now. You’ll always be safe with me.”

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 7)

Chapter 7

Kevin looked confused. “What could they be hiding from us? Why would they hide anything? What do you think happened, Brad?”

“I’m not sure yet, Kevin. What I don’t understand is that if there is a murderer loose, then why wouldn’t they warn us? If there isn’t, then what are they hiding? Why hide the facts from the town?” Brad paced back and forth while he talked. He was talking more to himself than to Kevin. He always did that when he was trying to figure something out.

“Hey, did you hear that?” Kevin asked, staring into the trees, “I think I heard something, but it’s too dark. I can’t see what it was.”

Brad barely listened to Kevin. “Dark? Oh, wow, I didn’t even notice it was dark already. No, I didn’t hear anything, but let’s get out of here. There’s nothing to see except broken tree limbs and mangled bushes, and I’m getting hungry.” Brad and Kevin turned back up the trail and started out of the park.

Before the boys took even two steps up the trail, they heard a snarling noise from behind them. They turned around and saw a large figure jump out of the trees and onto the trail. They froze in their tracks in disbelief. The creature standing before them was like something out of a horror movie. It looked like a wolf, except for the fact that it was standing on two feet like a man and towered over both boys by at least a foot. As Brad grabbed Kevin’s arm and started to slowly back up, he noticed that the creature appeared to be wearing the tattered remains of human clothing. Brad’s mind raced. A million thoughts were going through his head as he tried to figure out exactly what was going on. This just wasn’t possible. He took another step backward, and the wolf followed. The wolf watched their every move and matched them step for step.

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” Kevin stuttered, breaking out of the trance he had been in. “We have to get out of here, Brad.” Kevin pulled away from Brad and turned to run. Brad saw the wolf start to leap forward and tried to pull Kevin off the trail and into the woods. Before he could, the wolf landed squarely on Kevin’s back pulling him out of Brad’s grasp. Brad lost his footing and fell backward into the bushes. He sat up slowly and looked back towards Kevin. The first thing he saw was the blood dripping from the wolf’s mouth. Kevin was no longer moving or even making any sounds. As Brad watched, the wolf bent its head down and took another bite out of the back of Kevin’s neck. Brad knew that the sound of the ripping flesh would be a sound that he would never forget. He turned and ran out of the park while the wolf was busy devouring his best friend.

——————————————

By the time Brad got home, he was deciding whether or not to tell anyone what he had seen. No one would believe him, except maybe for Matt. The question was, would it only serve to upset Matt even more. Should Brad gather actual evidence first or tell his cousin that werewolves were real and not just in his dreams? He decided he had to gather proof first. That thing had to pay for killing Kevin, and he had to stop it before it could kill again. Brad had no idea how he was going to get proof, or how he was going to prevent something like what he had just seen without getting himself killed in the process. All he knew was that he had to do it. Brad went into the house and started to form a plan.

————————————————————-

Matt was sitting on the couch, watching Netflix with Terrie and Aunt Nancy, when Brad walked into the house. Hearing his cousin fixing himself a late dinner in the kitchen, Matt got up to go talk to him.

Brad heard someone coming into the kitchen. He looked up from what he was doing and saw Matt. “Hey, Matt. What’s up? Is Terrie here?”

“Yeah. She is in the family room with Aunt Nancy. Where did you disappear to after school? Me, Justin, and Devon looked all over for you. We went to the batting cages to get some extra practice in before tomorrow’s big game against Castle Rock. We thought you’d want to come along, too.”

Brad looked away from his cousin. “I had some other things to do.” Matt was about to question Brad further about what he had been doing that afternoon when Terrie rushed into the room, talking on her cell phone. She didn’t say much on the phone, but the longer she listened, the more upset she became. She ran to Matt as soon as she hung up the phone.

Matt put his arms around her. “What’s wrong? Who was that?”

“It was Juan. Kim is dead! It was her body that the jogger found in the park this morning. Juan went over to her house this afternoon to see why she wasn’t at school today, and her parents told him. They said that a large animal, probably a bear, attacked her. That doesn’t make any sense. How could a bear get all the way through town and into the park without anyone seeing it? That has never happened before that I know of. Not in this town. I have never heard of anyone seeing a bear anywhere near town, never mind right inside Lakeside Park. How could this have happened?” Terrie sobbed onto Matt’s shoulder. “I need to go over to Juan’s house to make sure he’s okay. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No. Go ahead. Juan needs someone like you right now. Kim was your best friend. I’ll call you later to see how you are.” Matt walked a little way down the street with Terrie.

Alone again, Brad thought about the situation he found himself in. He wasn’t sure what he could do against a creature like a werewolf. Although he didn’t think anyone, except Matt, would take him seriously if he told them precisely what he had seen, Brad knew that he had to stop this creature before it killed again. He needed time to think. Brad left the kitchen and went upstairs to his room before Matt could come back inside.

————————————————–

Skylar slammed his phone down in frustration. Why wasn’t David answering his calls or texts? With everything going on, Sky was worried. He hoped that David was ok and hadn’t had another blackout. Sky considered going over to David’s house to check on him, but it was late. He decided to go to bed and try texting David again first thing in the morning.

———————————————————————–

When it was time for Matt to go to bed, he wondered why David wasn’t home. He tried texting his brother a couple time but got no response. At first, he was worried, but then a slow smile crept across his face. David must be busy with Skylar. Matt put thoughts of his brother out of his mind and went to bed.

————————————————————————–

The next morning Brad turned on the television and saw that they found Kevin’s body. The police released a statement saying that they believed a rogue man-eating bear was in the area and coming into the park at night to hunt. They imposed an eight o’clock curfew on the town until they could capture or kill the bear. Brad didn’t know if it was an actual werewolf or not that had killed Kevin, but the police were wrong. He knew it was not a bear. Brad wanted to go to the police and tell them what he had seen, but he needed hard evidence first. Without evidence, they would laugh at him or call him crazy. Brad loaded up his backpack with some notebooks, pencils, his camera, and a few snacks. Right after school, his first stop would be the library and then the park.

Matt wandered down to the kitchen and was surprised to find Brad not only dressed but completely ready for school and watching the news. “Wow. What time did you get up? I think your mom is gone early again, too.”

“She is. There was another attack in the park.” Brad turned to face his cousin, tears streaming down his face.

“Brad, what’s wrong? Who was it this time?”

“It was Kevin. Kevin is dead.”

Matt rushed over and wrapped his arms around his cousin. “I’m so sorry, Brad. I know he was your best friend. This is so horrible. What has it said on the news?”

Brad relayed to Matt what the police spokesperson said. Probable bear attacks. Eight o’clock curfew until further notice. Stay out of the park.

“Let me finish getting ready for school. We can talk more on the way if you want.” Matt rushed off and then returned fifteen minutes later, and the two boys left the house.

Brad and Matt barely got to the walkway leading to Terrie’s house before she rushed out of the house and ran up to Brad. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, and she hugged Brad tight and sobbed onto his shoulder. “Why is this happening? First Kim and now Kevin!”

“It sucks. It makes no sense. Hopefully, your dad can figure out a solution quickly.” Brad said.

Terrie walked over to Matt and clutched his hand. The three friends walked the rest of the way to school in relative silence.

———————————————–

Matt groaned as he thought about going to chemistry class and seeing Elias. His first Friday in a new town and a new school and he couldn’t even be excited for the weekend. Two new friends were dead, and they also happened to be the best friends of his cousin and his girlfriend, a girlfriend that he should be taking out on a date on a Friday night. He shouldn’t be grieving over deaths and worrying about what weird thing that Elias would say next! What would he say today? Does Elias know what is happening in town? Just before Matt reached class, he heard a shout from around the corner. Curious, he went to see what the commotion was. Matt turned the corner and saw Elias on the floor and three boys standing over him. Elias’s nose was bleeding, and his left eye was already swelling shut.

“Hey, guys. What’s going on? Three against one doesn’t really look fair.”

One of the boys turned and glared at Matt. “Aren’t you Matt Montana? Your family was messed up in all that witch business back in the day. Maybe we should beat some answers out of you, too. Two kids are dead now, and it didn’t start until he started going into the witch house and then you showed up in town!”

Matt dropped his backpack and got ready to defend himself. Before the situation could escalate further, the chemistry teacher walked around the corner.

“What’s going on here?” Mr. Clark looked down at Elias. “Mr. Carrier, what happened to you?”

“I fell. Hard.”

“Are you sure that’s the story you want to stick with, Carrier?”

“Yeah. I fell.”

Mr. Clark turned to the three bullies. “You three get to class. Now! If I see you in the halls after the warning bell again, I’ll give you all detentions.” He looked down at Eli again. “Do you need to go to the nurse?”

Eli looked at the three older kids who were still lurking in the hallway behind the teacher. “Yeah. I should go to the nurse, Mr. Clark. Can Matt help me, so I don’t fall again on the way there?”

“Yes. Both of you are excused from class to go to the nurse. Stop by my office before you go home to get the homework assignment.”

“Thanks. We’ll see you after school.” Matt helped Eli to his feet, and they walked towards the nurse’s office.

“Why did you ask for me to go with you?” Matt asked as they turned the corner, leaving the teacher and the three bullies behind.

“To get you out of there. They might leave you alone if you’re not anywhere near me, but then again, they might not.”

“Which brings me to my next question, why didn’t you tell Mr. Clark what happened?”

“Because it would only make it worse. With two kids dead, things are probably going to heat up in this town. Warn the rest of your family. They’ll come for me first, but you all should be wary, too. Everything that goes wrong in this town, they blame the witches and the werewolf curse. Your family is tied up in all of that. You need to be careful.”

“Did you feel something again last night? Like you said that you did the night before? Do you really think the deaths are related to the curse, Eli?”

Eli sighed. “I can’t say for sure that the deaths relate to the curse, but I suspect they do. I feel the magic surrounding the curse getting stronger, and you are still having nightmares, right?”

Matt sighed. “Yeah, but I haven’t seen anything in real life to lead me to believe that anything from my dreams is coming true.” He stopped for a second. “Well, except for David getting bitten by what I know was a wolf.”

“It might be a coincidence, but it might not be. Come with me to my mom’s old house tonight. I want to show you some stuff.”

Matt rolled his eyes. “Come on, man. It’s Friday night. I want to take Terrie out on a date, not go to the witch house with you!”

“Do you want to find out about the curse and about your nightmares? My mom’s house is a lot more than just a haunted house.”

“Ok. Ok. After dark, though. Oh shit, what about the curfew?”

“It’s dark by five-thirty. Meet me at my foster parent’s house at five. I’ll text you the address. I’ll do my best to get you home before curfew.” He winked.

Matt left Elias at the door to the nurse’s office and hurried on to his next class.

——————————————————-

Brad saw Matt walk into the cafeteria side by side with Elias, and he frowned. He was about to say something, but as the two boys approached, he noticed Eli’s black eye and Matt’s concerned look. Brad couldn’t help but sigh when Eli sat down at the lunch table right next to Matt. Matt raised a finger before Brad could speak.

“I know this isn’t ideal, but it is necessary.” Matt looked at Terrie for support.

Terrie reached over and held Matt’s hand. “What happened, babe?”

Matt turned to Elias. “It’s more your story to tell if you want.”

Eli’s emerald eyes narrowed, and he brushed the perpetually stray lock of curly brown hair back into place. He pointed at Brad. “He can probably figure it out anyway. It was Derrick and his goon squad. They’ve been mostly leaving me alone, but now, with everything that has been happening, of course they use it as an excuse to come after me again. I should show them just how much of a witch I really am.”

Matt placed a hand gently on Eli’s arm. “If you tried to fight back, it probably would have been worse. There wasn’t much you could have done. There were three of them. Hopefully, Mr. Clark will handle it. It’s Friday. Maybe things will calm down before Monday.”

Brad’s eyes darted from Matt’s hand on Eli’s arm to Terrie to Eli and back to Matt. “Elias, do you want me to talk to Derrick? Maybe if he knew other people were watching, he’d back off on his own.”

“Brad, I…” Elias stopped mid-sentence, his brow furrowed, and he got a sad look in his eyes. “No, Brad. Don’t bother. If you wanted to help me, you would have done it last year.” Elias’ gaze shifted to Matt. “Don’t forget about tonight. It’s important.”

“I’ll be there. Five o’clock. Maybe a little sooner.” Matt said.

Eli got up from the table. “I’m not hungry. I’m gonna go to class. I’ll see you tonight, Matt.”

“Do you want me to walk with you to class? Just in case?”

“No. I’ll be careful. I need to think. Enjoy your lunch.” Elias turned and left the cafeteria.

Brad looked at his cousin, one eyebrow raised. “You two seem chummy all of a sudden. You’re going over his house tonight?”

Matt chuckled nervously. “I’m meeting him at his house. We’re actually going to the old Carrier house.”

Terrie inhaled sharply. “You’re going to the witch house? Tonight? With everything that’s happened?”

Matt sighed, looking from his cousin to his girlfriend. “Come on, guys. If anyone should understand, it’s the two of you. I’m going because of everything that’s happening. I need answers.”

Brad sneered. “I need answers, too, but I’m going to the library, not a haunted house.”

“Elias knows stuff. I don’t know how he knows, but he does. He knew about my nightmares, and he knew that something happened when David got bit. I’m going with him tonight, and I don’t care if you approve or not.”

“I’m just worried about you, Matt. If you start hanging out with Eli, and if people see you going into the witch house with him, it might be you with the black eye next.”

“Derrick and his pals already threatened me, Brad. Elias got beat up because he’s connected to our family history. Maybe instead of abandoning him, maybe we should all stick together and watch each other’s backs.”

“Wow. That’s a low blow. I told you already that I regretted breaking up with him. He won’t let me back in, but I guess he’s got you now. Good luck with that, Matt.”

“Brad, come on. Be reasonable. I know you said you regret abandoning him. He may not be ready to be friends with you again, but he’s willing to hang out with all of us as a group/ Take that as a first step. Maybe you guys can talk. I don’t know. All I know is that he might have information that I need to help my brother. So, yes, I’m going with him to that house tonight. I also know that we all need to watch out for each other here at school. We’re all safer if we’re together.”

“He’s not hanging out with us, Matt. He’s hanging out with you.”

“Wait… what? Are you jealous? I… I’m with Terrie. I’m straight.”

“I know what I saw, Matt. I gotta go.” Brad got up and stalked away from the table and left the cafeteria.

Matt looked over at Terrie. “I… I don’t even know what to say to that.”

Terrie leaned over and gave Matt a kiss. “It’s been a rough couple of days, Matt. For all of us. I’m sure Brad didn’t mean everything he said. I’ll go talk to him.” She got up and left to go find Brad.

Matt now found himself sitting alone in the cafeteria. He looked around at mostly unfamiliar faces, not knowing which ones might be friends with Derrick, or which ones might be allies. He decided it was smartest to leave and head toward his next class. Matt dumped his mostly uneaten lunch into the trash and left the cafeteria.

————————————————————

Matt waited out in front of the school like he did almost every day. Usually he was waiting for Terrie, Brad, and Kevin. Today there would be no Kevin, and Matt knew that was at the heart of the drama that happened earlier. Everyone’s nerves were on edge because of the deaths of Kevin and Kim. Kevin had been Brad’s best friend, of course he’d be super sensitive about everything today. Matt kicked the dirt and wondered if his cousin would show up to walk home, or if he’d avoid Matt altogether. Matt knew that making friends with Elias may cause some tension, but he looked at it as unavoidable. Matt needed to know what Eli knew about the curse. That meant that Matt had to go to the witch house, no matter what. Brad would just have to accept that.

Matt looked up and nearly held his breath as he saw both Terrie and Brad walking toward him. Terrie held back and let Brad approach Matt alone. Brad kind of smirked and blushed. “Hey, cuz.”

“Hey. I wasn’t sure if you’d show up out here.”

“I was out of line. I started to realize that as soon as I walked away, but Terrie caught up to me and made sure to tell me how much of an idiot I was.”

“Nothing about this situation is ideal, Brad. I mean this doesn’t even feel like real life anymore. I do have to go to his house, though. We both know that. We have to know what is real and what is legend. He knows stuff that I’ve never told anyone, and we have to know if any of this is connected to Kim and Kevin. You agree with me, don’t you?”

“Yes. There’s more to what’s going on than what the police are telling us.” Brad glanced back at Terrie. “Your dad isn’t telling the town everything he knows.”

Terrie caught up to Brad and Matt. “He hasn’t told me anything different than his official statement, but, yes, I know my dad well enough to know that he’s hiding something.”

The three friends had been walking along the edge of the park, and they were now standing in front of the town library. “This is my stop.” Brad said, pointing at the library. “I do agree with you, Matt. We have to find out what’s happening to our friends, and the adults aren’t telling us. You go do things your way, and I’ll do things my way, research. I believe in facts, not legends and ghost stories. I am sorry that I got heated in the cafeteria. Hell, even if there was more between you and Elias than just the research, it’s not my business. Me and Eli have been over for a long time. He’s made that fact abundantly clear. Terrie might have an issue with it, but it’s none of my business, and I shouldn’t have accused you anyway. Can you accept my apology, cuz?”

Matt smiled, relieved. “Dude, there’s nothing to apologize for. With everything that’s going on, there’s bound to be tense moments for everyone. And there’s nothing going on with me and Elias.” matt rolled his eyes dramatically.

“That’s good to hear.” Terrie said with a smile.

“Ok. Cool. We’re good then?” Brad asked.

Matt pulled his cousin in for a hug. “We’re better than good. Dude, you’re practically my brother.”

Brad grinned and ran up the steps and into the library. Matt and Terrie clasped hands and continued walking toward Terrie’s house.

About halfway there, Terrie looked over at Matt. “I trust you. You know that, right? You can tell me anything.”

Matt pulled Terrie to a stop and turned to face her. “We’re a couple, aren’t we? Like officially a couple, not just hanging out?”

“Yes. Definitely. As long as that’s what you want.”

“It is what I want. I would never cheat on you, Terrie. Not with a girl or with a guy. I could never do that to anyone. If there’s ever a time that there’s somebody else, I’d talk to you first, but I don’t see that happening. I like you a lot, Terrie.”

“I like you a lot, too, Matt.” Terrie wrapped her arms around Matt’s neck and pressed her lips to his. His hands slid to her waist as he returned the kiss. When they finally had to part in order to breath, Terrie looked up into Matt’s sky-blue eyes, her lips swollen from the kiss and her eyes glazed over with desire. “I think I believe everything you just said, Mr. Montana. Now please finish walking me home. I have homework, and you have a date with Elias.”

“A date.” Matt scoffed. “Fat chance.” He reached out and took Terrie’s hand in his and walked her home.

Matt walked Terrie up to her front door and stopped. “When I get home from Eli’s, I’ll text you. It’s freaking Friday night. I want to take you out on a real date tonight, but with the thing with Eli and the stupid curfew, I don’t know if I’ll even be able to see you at all. It’s not like the daughter of the sheriff could sneak out.” He smirked.

“I am not sneaking out. My dad would totally freak if he caught me. We can FaceTime when you get home. Hopefully, whatever is happening is sorted out soon. For now, we can plan a Saturday afternoon date.”

Matt pulled Terrie close and stared down into her eyes. “That sounds like an amazing plan. I wish I could just stay here with you forever. I’d be the happiest guy on Earth.”

“You’re such a sweet talker, Matthew Montana.” She grinned up at him. “Go. get this over with. Find out what he knows. I’ll be waiting for your text.” She kissed him one more time, and then she turned and went into her house.