New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 6)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 6: Puzzle Pieces

Carl Chambers stomped into the main room at the union hall, his lion mane flying around his head. “What the hell happened, Dani? Why are we lugging two duffel bags full of rocks when it should be money?”

“Beats me. I saw the tellers fill them with money. I saw it with my own eyes.” Danielle’s eyes nearly squinted shut, then opened wide. “There was something kinda weird. When we went outside, one of the guards aimed his gun at me, and I knocked him to the ground. I swung my tail to impale him with my stinger, but I struck the concrete sidewalk, and he was twenty feet away. Maybe he had powers?”

“No. If he had powers, we’d probably be dead or in jail. Someone had powers, but I doubt the guard would have stolen the money and let us go free.”

Rick Myers turned in his seat at the minibar. “Sounds like you two had almost as much fun as I did today.” He shook his head, his bull horns nearly touching the eight-foot-high ceiling. “What exactly happened? I left before you two decided what you were gonna do.”

Carl growled. “We robbed the Newville Community Credit Union, or we thought we did. We left the bank with two duffel bags full of cash, but when I opened one of the bags to start counting, it was full of rocks. The other bag is the same! I have no idea how it happened. With everything going on, my only guess is there are more powered people than just us.”

“You would be correct in that assumption, and the army is already involved,” Rick said.

“Oh, this keeps getting better and better.” Danielle snapped. “What happened with you?”

The union hall doors burst open, and Jordan Winters rushed in, ice dripping off his grey fur as he stalked across the wooden floor. Jordan looked at the unhappy faces of his three friends. “Collecting the meteor rocks isn’t going to be as easy as we thought.”

“We’re all figuring that out.” Carl snarled. “Me and Dani robbed the credit union and came back here to find we had two bags of rocks. Rick was just about to tell us about his day when you came in.” Carl looked over at Rick. “Continue your story.”

Rick sighed. “I caught the scent of the meteors right outside the antique shop. The shopkeepers saw me and tried to lock the door.” Rick shrugged. “I smashed through the door, and they ran out the back. They managed to get to their car and drive away.” He kind of chuckled. “I guess I’m fast now. They hadn’t gotten far, so I lowered my head and charged. I hit the car broadside. I must have been going thirty miles an hour. The car went airborne and flipped a few times.”

“Wow. That’s impressive.” Danielle said.

“Yeah, well, when I caught up to the car, I expected to finish the two dudes off and take the rocks, but another guy was standing in my way. I think he was reading my mind, and he could move objects without touching them. He pushed me aside like I was nothing, but I charged at him and knocked him down. I tried to finish him off, but every mailbox on the street started firing at me like missiles. I shrugged them off, but then the army showed up. I didn’t want to deal with them, so I ran back here. I’m sorry, Carl. I came back empty-handed.”

Jordan reached into his pants pocket and slammed his hand down onto the table. “I didn’t come back empty-handed, but I didn’t have a good time either. We need to go out in groups if we’re gonna hunt for these rocks. We know now that they’ve affected more than just us.” Jordan lifted his hand off the table, revealing a small pile of blue meteor rocks.

“Great job, Jordan!” Carl said. “What happened, though? And what’s with all the ice?”

Jordan shook his head, melting ice still dripping from his fur. “I followed the scent of the meteors to the high school baseball field. Half the infield is a huge crater. Something big hit there, and it must have been bigger than the meteor that hit us. That’s where I gathered these rocks.” He pointed at the pile of meteor rocks.

“You sound unsure of what caused the crater, Jordan. Wasn’t it still there?” Rick asked.

“No. Whatever crashed there was gone. Someone got to it before I did. It had to have been big. Maybe the army got it.” Jordan shrugged.

“What about the ice?” Carl asked.

“I was getting to that,” Jordan snapped. “After I picked up those rocks, I could smell that there were more. I followed the scent and spotted two teenage boys. I knew they had pieces of the meteor, so I charged at them. I figured I’d scare them into giving me whatever I asked for, but I was wrong. The younger one hid behind the car, but the older boy exhibited abilities. It looked like the powers surprised him as much as they surprised me, but he created enough of a problem for me that the two of them were able to run away. He could create ice out of thin air and shoot ice beams from his hands. He encased me in an ice cocoon, for crying out loud! I could have followed him, but I thought it best to check-in and take someone else with me next time.”

“Interesting,” Carl mumbled, drumming his paw-like hands on the tabletop. “One with psychic abilities, one with ice powers, and whatever it was that Dani and I faced. There are probably more if there’s three out there, plus the twelve of us.” He gestured at the room they were in. “We need to get out of here before the army or anyone else tracks us down. Let’s start packing everything up, the meteor first. I know of a couple abandoned warehouses where we can set up headquarters until we find something more permanent.” The other three nodded in agreement and started packing up the union hall.

Grace was still pacing in front of Justyce Labs and glancing at her phone when Caleb’s car finally pulled up. Grace wondered why Caleb brought a teenage boy with him, but, for now, she pushed that thought aside. “Caleb! Finally! I have a lot of questions I thought you might find interesting. There was no one else that I could think of that might have any answers.”

“Not even your army contacts?” Caleb smirked.

“Especially not them. Not with this. Is there somewhere we could talk?” Grace’s eyes wandered over to Obadiah and then back to Caleb.

Caleb saw the look and nodded. “I have to wait out here for a few deliveries, but I’ll unlock the door for Obadiah to wait in the lobby.” Caleb clapped a hand onto Obie’s shoulder. “Come with me, Obadiah. I have a comfortable couch and a tv in the lobby of my lab to keep you entertained while I talk to Grace.”

“Will this tv have the same show I was watching on the other one?”

“I’m not sure, but we can check and see.”

Obie looked at Grace, then continued walking with Caleb. “Do you think she knows Logan?”

“I’ll be sure to ask.” Caleb unlocked and opened the lab’s front door and ushered Obadiah inside. After setting Obie up on the couch with the tv remote, Caleb went outside to talk to Grace. “How can I help, Grace? What do you trust me with that you won’t trust the government?”

Grace arched an eyebrow. “I think you may already have an idea why I’m here. I saw that boy’s eyes. Who is he?”

“I’m not sure yet. He showed up at my sister’s house last night. He was injured and had amnesia.”

“And you didn’t take him to the hospital or call the police?”

Caleb smirked. “Didn’t you just say that we shouldn’t trust the government with whatever is going on?”

“Very true and very smart. Your sister lives over on the other side of the high school, doesn’t she?”

“Yes. Why do you ask that?”

“I took a walk down there while I was waiting for you. Have you seen the crater? Looks like something big hit there, but it’s gone now. The impact in the crater looked like the imprint of a body, not a rock.” Her gaze wandered toward the boy in the lobby.

“That’s interesting. I will check that out as soon as possible. Things are happening quickly, Grace. What prompted your visit?”

“Did you see the meteor shower last night and all the news clips today?”

“I didn’t witness the event, but I read about it. I’ve been busy in the lab and with my sister and Obadiah, so I haven’t kept up with the news. I do know that other strange things have been happening. Your call isn’t the only one I’ve gotten today.”

“Check your phone. I sent you a couple video links.”

Caleb’s eyes widened as he watched. Finally, he slid his phone back into his pocket. “I have heard about these beasts, but I hadn’t gotten the chance to watch the videos yet. This is amazing. Did you see this in person? Is that why you’re here? You’re not affected by this, are you, Grace?”

“I’m not surprised that you’re aware of this. No, I’m not personally affected, but I am involved. The meteor rocks that didn’t burn up in the atmosphere caused all the fires. I’ve seen one of the rocks, and it glows with the same blue light that shines in that boy’s eyes.”

“I’m not sure how he is involved, but I intend to find out. Do you still have the stone? Did you pick it up?”

“I did not touch it. That’s why I’m here. My friend Bryson has one. He fought one of those monsters that you saw in the video clips. He has superpowers.”

“Superpowers? What can he do? Can you bring him here? I have already started gathering some items that may be involved since I learned about the boy. I would love to talk to someone who has been affected and does not have amnesia. We need to figure this thing out, Grace. I’m glad you came to me instead of the authorities.”

“You were the first one I thought of. I knew you’d want to be involved if you weren’t already. I can get Bryson to come here with me. You can talk to him and get to see a piece of the meteor.”

“If he allows me to examine both him and the stone, that may be key to figuring out what is happening. Now you must excuse me, Grace. It looks like my other guests are arriving.”

Grace turned and saw two ambulances pulling into the parking lot. “Do all your guests arrive by ambulance, Caleb?”

“They were in the car accident caused by the minotaur. The same wreck that your friend Bryson was a part of. One of my associates at the hospital called me to tell me that both cases were highly unusual and glowing blue rocks were among the possessions of both men.”

“How did you get the hospital to release them to you? Never mind. I don’t want to know. What’s with the armored car pulling in behind the ambulances?”

Caleb grinned. “Another oddity. The credit union was robbed, possibly by people in animal costumes. Now, I’m thinking it may have been more of these mutants. A security guard friend called me to tell me that the surveillance footage showed something he couldn’t explain, so he sent it to me.”

“Looks like you’re going to be busy. Are you sure you want me to bring Bryson?”

“Absolutely. Obadiah has amnesia, and these other two men are in comas. Bryson could be the key to helping all of them.”

“I’ll let you get to work. I’ll text you after I talk to Bryson.”

“Wait. One other thing. Do you know anyone named Logan? He’d probably be a teenager.”

“No, but maybe Bryson does. Can I take a picture of Obadiah to show him? He might recognize the boy.”

“I took some photos for documentation. I’ll text you one.”

“Thank you. I’ll be in touch soon.” Grace’s phone beeped as she walked to her car. She opened the text, saved the picture, and immediately sent it to Bryson.

Grace: Bryson, do you recognize this boy? He is involved with the meteors. He may                                               also be connected to someone named Logan.

Bryson: He doesn’t look familiar. My new friend Harvey has a brother named Logan. It                           may not be the Logan you’re looking for, but I’ll send the pic to him and ask.

Grace: Thanks. I’m on my way to your house. Are you there?

Bryson: I’m at my friend Erik’s house. He’s also involved in this. I’ll be home soon.                                  I’ll meet you there.

Grace: Ok. See you soon.

Harvey and Ashton rounded the corner almost within sight of the Kastala house. Ash stopped and pointed across the street. “There’s Logan and Gavin right other there. I wonder where they’re off to.”

“They might be looking for me. Come on.” Harvey led Ashton across the street to meet up with his two brothers. “Yo! Where are you guys going? I was just heading home to check in and tell you about what just happened to us.”

Logan lightly punched Harvey’s shoulder. “We were looking for you, you jerk! Don’t you ever answer your texts?”

“Sorry! I was kinda busy. I’ll tell you all about it at home. Let’s get off the street. A lot is going on.” Harvey said.

“More than you know! Wait until you hear about Gavin!” Logan said. “And I have a story of my own to tell. A lot has happened in the last day and a half.”

“Well, it seems we all have stories to tell. Who wants to go first?” Gavin said once they were all settled in at home.

Logan pulled the glowing blue feather out of his pocket. “I think my story takes place before any of the others, so why don’t I start?”

“Woah! That feather is glowing blue, just like the meteor rocks. Where did you get that, Logan?” Harvey yelled.

Logan arched one eyebrow. “That’s what I’m about to tell you.” Logan retold his story about meeting Obadiah and what happened the day before when Obie revealed his true nature to him. “So, just before the angel police or whatever they call themselves showed up, Obie gave me this feather and told me it would connect us. Last night it started glowing. The feather led me to the baseball field, where I found a huge crater. Then Gavin showed up looking for me, and we noticed the blue meteor rocks. I agree that it’s not a coincidence. I think Obie came back for me, and he’s hurt. Maybe the meteors hurt him. I’m not sure about that, but it must be connected. The rocks hold power. Gavin is proof of that.” Logan grinned.

“Wait! Wait! Wait! Your new boyfriend is an angel from an alternate dimension and may have been part of the meteor storm that’s causing everything?!” Harvey’s eyes were wide, and his mouth was agape. “I thought you guys were gonna think Ash and I were crazy or lying, but now our story isn’t so weird!”

“Wait until you hear what Gav has to say.” Logan huffed out a laugh.

“Can we hurry this along? I have a date tonight.” Gavin smirked.

Ashton started laughing. “Seriously? All this is happening, and you’re sitting there planning a date?”

“Life goes on. If nothing else happens, yes, I’m going out.”

“Must be quite the girl.” Ash laughed.

“Becky Michaels.” Gav grinned.

“Oh, hell yeah. Continue planning your date. Rebekah is hot!” Ash said.

Harvey rolled his eyes and elbowed Ash in the ribs. “Don’t encourage him.”

“Ow! That hurt!” Ashton yelled.

Gavin shook his head. “Can I continue the story now?”

Ash was rubbing his ribs. “Please do.” Then he leaned against Harvey and looked up into his eyes. “You’re hot, too, by the way.”

Gavin laughed, watching his youngest brother blush and squirm. “Anyway, after I found Logan at the baseball field, we were attacked by some sort of half-man and half-ram mutant beast.” Gavin retold the story of his fight with Aries and of him and Logan narrowly escaping and running back home. “I guess I have superpowers. I don’t know if it’s permanent or will wear off, but at least for this afternoon, I could shoot ice out of my hands.”

“Wow! Can you still do it? What else can you do?” Harvey asked.

“I haven’t tried, and I’m not sure. I should experiment in case any more of those monsters come around.” Gav shrugged.

“Here.” Ash handed Gavin a glass of water. “Freeze the water.”

Gavin took a deep breath and concentrated on the water. The water froze, but Gavin caused the water to freeze so quickly that the expanding ice shattered the glass. “Oops. I still have powers, but I need to practice with them.”

“That’s cool… literally! Wait until you hear what happened to Ash and me at school and in the park.” Harvey and Ashton took turns with the narrative, filling Gavin and Logan in on what happened that afternoon. When Harvey finished the story, he noticed a text message from Bryson. He opened the text and saw a picture of a teen boy and a note from Bryson: “This boy is connected to the meteors and knows someone named Logan. Does your brother know him? His name is Obadiah.”

Harvey looked over at Logan. “Didn’t you say that your angel friend’s name was Obadiah?”

“Yes. Why?”

Harvey handed his phone to Logan. “Is this your friend?”

“Yes! Wait, isn’t Bryson the psychic dude in your story? Is Obie with him?”

“Yes, that’s the same guy, and I’m unsure. Let me text Bryson back while we finish up our discussions here.”

“Hurry! I need to find him. I think he’s in danger. I can feel it.” Logan gave Harvey his phone back.

Harvey sent a text to Bryson while the four boys discussed the utterly unbelievable stories they had just shared. The fact that three of them had superpowers and the fourth was dating an interdimensional angel had all their heads spinning.

“Be quiet!” Carl hissed at the other three members of the Zodiac Club. They were busy packing everything up in the union hall. “Someone is coming in the delivery entrance. Probably one of us, but be ready for anything.” Carl crept into the kitchen, his lion senses on high alert. Then he heard voices he recognized, and he stood up as Brent Irons strode in, followed by an obviously angry Lisa Jensen.

Brent nearly ran to stay out of Lisa’s way. “Be careful, Lisa. This place wasn’t built to accommodate horses.”

Lisa’s hooves echoed on the wooden floors as she walked into the main room. She threw the remains of her bow onto the table. The weapon was blackened, and the string was missing. She glared at Brent. “It wasn’t built to accommodate giant crabs either.” Then she looked at Carl. “We need to get out of this building, and we need a plan. There are more people than just us with super abilities.”

Carl motioned toward all the boxes. “We’re almost ready to move out. I’m waiting for everyone to get back. What happened to the two of you?”

“We were nearly incinerated. We were in the park picking up some of the meteor rocks and chasing away the picnickers, and suddenly there were a couple of dudes with powers. One guy had superspeed, and the other was throwing fireballs at us.”

“There was a third boy with powers. He was emitting electricity from his body. The boy didn’t seem to know how to control his power. We left when the fire guy started heating up. It looked like he might explode! If we want to take control of this town, we need to take these guys out before they get better control of their abilities.”

“We have the army to worry about now, too.” Jayden Stone said from the doorway.

Luke Adams walked past his boyfriend and set a handful of meteor rocks on the table. “We didn’t encounter any powered people, but the army seems to be everywhere.”

“Did they give you any trouble?” Rick asked.

Jayden shook his head. “No, but Luke can still blend in with the normal people. I hung back in the shadows while he gathered intel.”

“Did you hear anything useful, Luke?” Carl asked.

“Yeah. We need to lay low, hide and hope the army leaves. They’ve been collecting meteor pieces and taking exposed people into custody.”

“We’ll leave as soon as it gets dark,” Carl said.

“Where are we going?” Jayden asked.

“I know of a couple of abandoned warehouses down on Water Street that would be perfect,” Carl said.

“I know which ones you mean, and I agree. The location should be good, and the warehouses are huge and empty.” Luke said.

Eight heads turned as one when the front door opened. The five remaining members of the Zodiac Club walked in, and Carl spoke loudly.

“Gather around the table, everyone. We need to make some plans.”

Caleb Justyce checked and rechecked all the read-outs downloading onto his computer screen. He had been performing tests on his three new patients all afternoon. The two men from the car crash would need extensive surgeries. Caleb had some ideas about that. He needed to contact a couple surgeons that he knew would work off the radar. Brett was going to need multiple amputations. Caleb knew of one surgeon who worked extensively with bionic limb replacements.

The other patient, William, would be an even more challenging case. The man’s body sustained massive internal injuries and bleeding. Caleb tried a blood transfusion, but that wasn’t keeping up with the damage inside of William. Luckily, William’s only broken bones were a couple of ribs, but the other injuries were troubling.

Obadiah allowed Caleb to take two vials of his blood. Caleb studied the properties of the glowing blue blood and thought that it might be what William needed. Obie’s blood contained strong healing properties. The problem was that there was no way of knowing if William’s body would accept an alien blood transfusion. Caleb shrugged. Without the transfusion, William would die, so there was no harm in trying.

Caleb glanced at the sleeping form of Obadiah. The boy looked entirely human other than the glowing blue blood and the scars on his back that suggested he may have had wings. Obadiah was a living, breathing humanoid alien. Caleb knew there was life beyond planet Earth. He had evidence right downstairs in the sub-basement of this lab, but that was a bio-synthetic virus. Caleb was so wrapped up in figuring out what to do with Obie, William, and Brett that he hadn’t been downstairs all day. Before today, the project in the basement was his number one priority. Now it completely slipped his mind.

Coming Soon: Episode 7 – Date night Interrupted!!

New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 5)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 5 – A Firefly and a Pocket Watch

Oliver Mills was having a dreadful day. His girlfriend left him. Ollie’s landlord kept nagging him about late rent. Then his car wouldn’t start, and Oliver missed the bus. That caused him to walk to his job interview, and Ollie was already running a half-hour late. He wondered what else could go wrong today when Ollie heard the screaming. Great, someone was robbing the credit union. Ollie ran across the street to hide. He peered out from behind a bush in time to see two security guards flying backyards out of the credit union front windows. Ollie knew he should run in the opposite direction, but curiosity got the better of him.

Oliver heard more screams from within the bank, and then he saw something he couldn’t believe. A lady with a scorpion tail and a lion creature walked out of the credit union’s front doors carrying large duffel bags, presumably filled with money. Ollie stepped back to hide within the bushes, and his foot slipped on a metal object. Kneeling to look at whatever he almost tripped over, Ollie dug the item out of the dirt and brushed it off. It was an old pocket watch. Ollie doubted if it would even still work. Curious, he opened the front case and cleaned the glass face. The time looked right. Ollie checked his phone, and sure enough, the watch’s time was exact.

Oliver pulled the crown to check if he could still set the time if needed. The watch looked antique. Maybe it was worth something if it still worked perfectly. Ollie was about to push the crown back in when he noticed something else odd. Everything today was weird, but this was beyond all the rest. A butterfly hung in the air right in front of him, floating there, not moving. Oliver glanced around. He could move, but nothing else moved. He peered through the bushes. Even the monsters stood frozen in place. Ollie absentmindedly clicked the crown of the pocket watch back in place, and everything roared back to life.

Erik screamed and started beating at his body with his hands to try and extinguish the bright yellow flames. “What the hell? Why am I on fire, and why am I floating?”

Cancer sneered and stepped closer to Ash and Harvey. “While your fiery friend is beating himself up, I’ll take care of the two of you. I can sense the blue stones. Give them to me, or the consequences will be severe.”

Ashton pulled Harvey’s unconscious body away from the crab creature, then stood between his friend and the terrifying monster. “You’re not getting the stones, and you’re not getting to my friends without a fight!”

“Ash! Duck!” Erik yelled.

Ash looked behind him and saw Erik with his arms out and intense concentration on his face. Ash didn’t hesitate. He dove on top of Harvey to protect him from whatever was about to happen. Just as Ash dove, he felt a searing heat above him. Ashton saw a stream of yellow fire emitting from Erik’s hands and striking Cancer directly in the chest.

Cancer ripped his burned shirt off when the flames stopped and threw it on the ground. “That hurt, boy, but I’m still standing. What else you got?” Cancer said, taking a step toward Erik.

“Damn! Those flames were hot, but they were too light and airy. I wonder if I can adjust the heat levels?” Erik mumbled to himself. He kept an eye on the advancing crab creature and tried to take a step backward. Erik was still floating and had lost his sense of balance. Erik did a summersault in mid-air as he stepped back before regaining control. Once he was upright again, Erik threw another stream of fire at Cancer.

The crab slowed his advance. “That’s annoying, boy, but you’ll have to do better.”

Erik clenched his fists and closed his eyes in concentration. He pictured himself creating a massive ball of fire to throw at Cancer. Erik felt himself fall, and his feet hit the ground. Erik stumbled, but he stayed upright. When Erik opened his eyes, the flames covering his body had changed from a bright yellow to dark orange. Also, he was holding a giant ball of fire. Erik threw the fireball as hard as he could. It hit Cancer with a thud, knocking him off his feet and sending him twenty feet backward.

Erik glanced over at Ashton. “Get Harvey out of here and help the others down in the park. I got this.”

Harvey was awake but dizzy. Ash helped Harvey get groggily to his feet, and the two friends disappeared into the trees heading toward the park’s central section.

When Ash and Harvey cleared the tree line and looked down into the park, the centaur was still firing arrows at people as they tried to run away. Ashton put a hand on Harvey’s arm. “I’ll be right back. Let me go and help these people.”

“I can help. Just let me clear my head. I’m still a bit dizzy.”

“Sit down, Harvs. I’ll be right back.” Ashton said and was gone in the blink of an eye. Harvey looked around and then spotted Ash fifty yards away, knocking an arrow out of mid-air and helping a lady escape into the trees. Harvey couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His best friend was a bona fide superhero! He took out his cellphone and started taking pics and videos of the action.

Cancer got up and charged at Erik. Erik tried to form another fireball, but the crab was on top of him before he could get one ready. Before Cancer reached him, Erik tried to float but couldn’t get off the ground. Cancer struck Erik right in the midsection, and the two tumbled to the ground. Cancer knelt on Erik’s chest and raised his claw above his head, ready to strike. Erik raised both hands and shot a small fireball right into the crab’s face. Cancer rolled off Erik, and Erik leaped to his feet. He willed his flames to get hotter again. Erik’s whole body glowed with yellow fire, and he rose into the air. That was the key. The orange and red fire was heavier and better used for fireballs, and the yellow fire was hotter, lighter, and perfect for flight. Erik was starting to figure out his power. He wondered what else he could do. He’d have to experiment when he wasn’t fighting for his life!

Finally gaining a little control over his new power, Erik fired shots of the yellow fire at Cancer, making the crab yelp in pain and roar in anger. Erik knew he couldn’t defeat the monster this way, but he tried to lure the creature away from his friends and the innocent bystanders in the park. Erik led Cancer to the east, away from the high school and toward the docks.

Ashton was busy dodging arrows and carrying people out of harm’s way. His confidence grew with each person he saved. Unfortunately, with overconfidence comes complacency. Ash failed to notice Sagittarius leap on top of the boathouse to gain a broader range for her arrows. Ash set a small boy down inside the tree line and turned back toward the lake. Before he could move out of the way, Ash was struck in the left shoulder with an arrow. The force of the blow caused him to stumble, and then another arrow embedded itself into his right thigh. Ash fell, moaning in pain.

Harvey saw the scene unfolding right in front of him, but he couldn’t do anything to stop it. Harvey yelled for Ash to turn around, but his friend was too far away and couldn’t hear him. Harvey stood up, slid his phone into his pocket, and ran as fast as possible across the park. Harvey reached Ashton’s side just as the other boy fell to the ground. Harvey looked up at the centaur, standing on top of the boathouse. “Leave my friend alone! What do you want? Why are you doing this?” Harvey barely noticed that his entire body felt tingly, and blue electric sparks ran back and forth between his fingertips.

“I’m here for the blue stones and will kill anyone who has them. I will also kill anyone who stands in my way. That means your friend must die, and you too, by the looks of things.” The centaur said as she notched another arrow into her bow.

“I won’t let you kill him,” Harvey said. As Harvey’s anger rose, the electrical sparks multiplied and arced in the air around him. Harvey looked at himself in wonder, not understanding what was happening. Harvey didn’t even notice as Sagittarius let loose the arrow and let it fly directly at his chest.

Ollie scowled. No. It couldn’t be. It’s not possible. No way. Ollie pulled the crown back out, and everything froze in place. He thought, “If giant scorpions and lion-minotaurs are real, why not magic pocket watches that stop time?” He looked at the watch, then back at the scene in front of the bank. Ollie spun the hands of the watch forward. Everything moved forward at the same pace at which he moved the hands of the pocket watch and stopped when he stopped moving the hands.

Ollie noticed that, forward in time, the scorpion lady drove her stinger into the chest of one of the security guards. He stepped out from his hiding spot and twisted the hands in reverse. Ollie watched as the tail pulled out of the guard’s body and the wound closed. Even the clothes knitted back together. Oliver Mills realized that he was now in complete control of time.

Ollie thought about the day he’d been having and decided to take fate into his own hands. Luck and fortune had spit in his face for years. It was time for that to change. Oliver left the crown, pulled out, and slipped it into his pocket. The first thing he did was pull the security guard out of the range of the scorpion’s tail. There, that was his good deed for the day. Now it was time for Ollie to take care of himself. He found a pick-up truck parked on the street. The driver was frozen in place just outside the truck. Ollie took the keys from the driver’s pocket and pulled the man onto the sidewalk. Then he went back to the front of the bank. Ollie took the duffel bags one at a time from the monsters, emptied them into the truck’s cab, and returned the bags full of rocks.

Ollie sat in the truck, took the watch out, and pushed the crown in. He started the truck and drove off. Oliver Mills was gone before the truck owner realized what had happened. He never looked back, or Ollie would have seen the scorpion strike the sidewalk full force with its stinger and yell in rage and pain.

Erik led Cancer around the park’s edge and then caught a whiff of ozone in the air. “That’s weird.” Erik thought. “There’s not a cloud in the sky, much less a thunderstorm.” He shot another fireball at the crab and floated higher into the sky to look around. Erik looked toward the lake and spotted the centaur on the boathouse. She had her bow raised. Erik looked to see what she was aiming at and saw his two friends. Ashton was on the ground, and Harvey was standing between Ash and the centaur. Erik saw that Harvey was the source of the ozone smell. Blue electric sparks danced around Harvey as he stood defensively in front of Ash. Erik noticed that Harvey was not making a move to get out of the way of the arrow, so he turned toward his friends and flew as fast as he could, shooting flames out in front of him the whole way there.

Harvey felt the heat before he saw the fire. He looked up to see a flaming arrow disintegrating on its way toward him. Then Erik was landing next to Harvey, covered in bright yellow fire. The centaur cursed and reached for a new arrow, but Erik let loose another stream of fire. Sagittarius reared up to escape the flames, causing her to lose her balance. She fell to the ground but quickly got to her feet. Sagittarius reached for her bow, but it was ablaze on the ground near the boathouse.

Cancer ran up, slightly out of breath, to stand next to Sagittarius. “You can’t beat us! The Zodiac Club will destroy you all!”

“Just watch me!” Erik said, his eyes glowing white. The yellow fire first turned bright white and then became tinged with blue. Erik floated even higher in the air as his flames got more intense and hotter. Cancer first covered his eyes, then gave up and jumped on Sagittarius’ back, and the two raced off into the distance.

Erik’s flames just kept getting brighter and hotter. Ash and Harvey had to back away from Erik. The intense heat drove them back, and they shielded their eyes from the bright light. Both boys yelled as loud as possible, letting Erik know the monsters were gone. He didn’t seem to hear them.

Ash looked at Harvey. “What will happen if he can’t stop heating up, Harvs?”

“I don’t know, Ash. I don’t know.”

A voice from behind them startled the boys. It was Bryson Indiana. “Harvey? Ashton? What is going on? Is… is that Erik Reilly?”

“Yeah,” Harvey said quickly. “He can’t hear us. We were under attack by monsters, but they are gone now. We’re trying to tell him that he can relax and cool down, but he won’t listen! Can you help us?”

“Let me try,” Bryson said. He knelt and closed his eyes. Bryson tried to focus on his newfound powers. He sent calming thoughts out toward Erik to connect with his friend.

Erik’s mind was awash in flames. He couldn’t find his way out. Erik frantically tried to regain control, but everything got hotter and hotter. Then a familiar voice called out to him. It was Bryson. Erik closed his eyes and let Bryson’s voice guide him out of the flames.

Logan slid his phone into his pocket and turned off the tv. He looked over and saw his brother grinning at his phone. “Who are you talking to, Gav? Has Harvey answered yet? Anything new from dad?”

“Nope. I haven’t heard from either of them. We should go look for Harvey right now. I have plans later tonight,”

“Plans?! Who are you texting? What are you planning?”

“I’m texting Becky. I told you I have a date tonight, don’t you remember?”

Logan’s jaw dropped, and it took him a moment to answer. “Yes, I remember you planned on going on a date, but that was before the town was attacked by monsters. It was before dad was called up to active duty. Your date was before our little brother went missing. Most importantly, it was before you turned into Ice Boy or whatever you wanna call yourself. How can you still go on a date as if nothing happened?”

“All the superheroes date, don’t they? Like Spiderman and Mary Jane? Or Lois and Clark?”

“At least you didn’t say Spiderman and Gwen Stacy. She was murdered by the Green Goblin. Most superhero significant others have short life spans.”

“Logan, I know a lot is going on, and yes, we need to find Harvs before I go, but I need this one normal thing on this crazy day. You can understand that, can’t you? Plus, Becky is the hottest girl in school. I don’t know why she said she’d go out with a dork like me, but I do not want to screw it up before our first date.”

Logan raised his eyebrows. “I’m not hitting on my big bro, but you’re a hottie, Gav. And you’re smart and interesting. I don’t understand why you don’t have all the girls and half the boys fighting over you. Especially now with those cool blue highlights you put in your hair. They totally match your eyes. Becky is the lucky one, not you.”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t dye my hair.” Gavin reached up to touch his hair as he walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror. Gavin walked back out and stood in front of Logan. “I don’t understand. It must be a side effect of the ice powers.” Gavin shrugged. “You’re right, though. It does look good. I hope it stays like that.”

“Can we go look for Harvey now? If we find him and he’s ok, I promise I won’t complain about you bailing on us and going out on a date.”

Gavin grinned. “Deal.” Gavin reached over and ruffled his younger brother’s hair. “Thank you for what you said. It means a lot. Now let’s go find our little brother.”

Erik was finally able to turn his flames off. He regained control of both his mind and body. The first things he saw when he looked around were the emerald green eyes of Bryson Indiana. “I thought I heard your voice, but from inside my head. What’s happening, Bry?” Erik started to wobble a little bit, and Bryson guided him to a park bench and sat down.

“I think it’s those rocks, Erik. I don’t know how or why yet, and I also need to figure out why they affect different people differently. I can read minds and pick up things with just a thought. You… I don’t know… you turn into fire?” He motioned toward Harvey and Ashton. “They both have powers, and there are the people who have been transformed into evil brutish monsters.”

“I don’t turn into fire. It’s like the fire is inside me. It’s always there waiting for me to call it forth. I’m learning to control it, but I’m not there yet.” Erik said.

“Maybe the people who turned into monsters were already evil. They were doing bad things, and it sounded like they had a master plan. I think there’s more of them.” Harvey said.

“There’s more to it than that.” Bryson looked thoughtful. “There are definitely more of them. I fought one earlier today that looked like an old Greek minotaur.”

“Wait… a bull, a crab, and a centaur. No wonder they called themselves The Zodiac Club. I sure hope there’s not twelve of them!” Ashton quipped.

“That is a horrifying thought, but one to keep in mind. I suggest we all keep in close contact while we’re figuring this out for our safety and to keep an eye on the monsters.”

Erik took a close look at Harvey. “You’re Gavin Kastala’s brother, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I’m the youngest. I’m Harvey.” Harvey extended his hand and then quickly pulled it back. “Is… is it safe to touch you?”

“I could ask you the same question, electric boy,” Erik smirked.

Harvey looked thoughtful. “Good point! Also, if we’re naming ourselves, I think Thunderbolt makes a more ominous name than the electric boy.” Harvey huffed out a laugh.

Ashton slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead. “Oh geez, what’s next? Spandex costumes?”

“Maybe in your fantasies,” Harvey smirked.

Ash blushed. “No comment.”

“If you two are done awkwardly flirting, can we all exchange cell phone numbers?” Bryson laughed.

After the four boys exchanged numbers, Harvey clapped Ash on the shoulder. “I have to get home and check in with my brothers. We should probably get off the streets anyway. I’m not ready for another fight! Do you need to go home, or do you wanna hang at my place?”

“I have no reason to go home. Let’s go.” Ash looked a little sad, but he gave Harvey a small smile.

“Hey, guys, before you go, do you know anyone else who may have come in contact with the meteor rocks? Harvey, what about your brothers?” Bryson asked.

“Logan left early this morning, but he didn’t say anything about the blue rocks. Gavin didn’t know anything about them because he looked confused when we saw a news report. Our dad is in the army. I’m pretty sure they know something because they activated his unit, and the only one at school that did anything weird was this guy.” Harvey pointed at Ashton and grinned.

“Yeah, the thing with the desk was bizarre, but now I know it was related to the whole superspeed thing I got going on.” Ashton shrugged. “To answer the question, no, I don’t know of any other freaks but us.”

“Ok, guys, stay in touch. Harvey, text me after you talk to your brothers.”

“I will. See ya later.” Harvey and Ash turned, jogged out of the park, and took the turn toward Harvey’s house.

As the other two boys ran off, Erik turned to Bryson. “All that power in the hands of teenage boys just trying to figure themselves out. I hope there aren’t many more rocks out there. This could be a global disaster.”

Bryson gave Erik a half-smile. “We’re not doing much better than them. You nearly went supernova! You’re right, though. Someone needs to take charge of this thing. We need to know who was affected, how many rocks are still unaccounted for, and why we all react differently to the meteors.”

“Harvey said the army is involved. Won’t they figure all that out?”

Bryson rolled his eyes. “Never trust the government, Erik. Even if they do figure it out, they’ll never tell us. If the government got their hands on anyone with powers, they’d be lab rats for life… or turned into military weapons. I’m gathering my own data, and I have a friend who is an investigative journalist who is also working on a few leads.”

“I trust you, Bryson. That’s why I followed your voice out of the fire.”

“You want me. I knew it.” Bryson smirked.

“Don’t ruin the moment, jerk face.” Erik blushed.

“Let’s go back to my place and wait for Grace’s call.”

“Quick stop to check on my dad, and maybe some burgers on the way? Flying really makes a guy hungry.”

Bryson shook his head and laughed. “I wouldn’t know, but I’m hungry myself. Let’s go.”

Ollie pulled into a car dealership and flagged down a salesman. The salesman showed him a few cars out on the lot, then Ollie asked to see the cars in the showroom. The salesman looked skeptical but agreed. Ollie spotted what he wanted almost immediately. “What about this one?” He asked.

“We can check out your loan options and credit reports at my desk. The price of that one is $78,592.00,” The salesman said.

“No loans or credit checks necessary. How much if I pay cash right now?” Ollie asked.

“No one pays that much in cash. What did you do? Rob a bank?” The salesman laughed.

“I did not rob a bank.” Ollie smiled. “But I do have the cash right here. An extra $10k if you stop asking so many questions.”

The salesman frowned. “I can’t take a bribe. Where did the cash come from? I’m calling my manager over.” He turned to walk away. Ollie sighed and pulled the watch out of his pocket. He pulled the crown and twisted time back just a few minutes. Then he pushed the crown back in.

“No one pays that much in cash. What’d you do? Rob a bank?” The salesman laughed.

“I did not rob a bank.” Ollie smiled. “But I do have the cash right here. An extra $25k if you stop asking so many questions.”

The salesman looked around, then bent closer to Oliver. “Let’s finish this conversation in my office.

Oliver Mills drove off the car lot in his brand-new cherry red Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R with white stripes and a black leather interior less than an hour later. Ollie’s difficult day was long forgotten; he pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Hey Siri, are there any luxury penthouse apartments for rent in Newville, Virginia?” He couldn’t stop smiling as he drove off into a brand-new destiny.

Coming Soon: Episode 6 – Puzzle Pieces

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 17)

Chapter 17

Terrie exhaled and began the spell. “Sanguis venande invocavite. Sanguinem autem ejus de venator defendat. Sanguis enim venator covina praesidio!”

Terrie felt a tingling sensation all over her body, which soon dissipated. She looked at Eli and nodded. Eli lifted the ceremonial dagger off the table, proceeded to slice open the palm of his right hand, and did the same to Matt’s left palm. Elias handed the knife to Terrie, and she cut open both of her palms. Terrie stood between the two boys, and they joined hands. All three chanted the words to the bonding spell in unison. A wave of energy spread outward from the circle. Terrie’s jaw dropped. “Wow. It’s not that I can read your minds, but I can feel both of you in the back of my head. It’s an image of what you are feeling. It’s so clear that I can tell which of you is which.” She looked at Matt. “Stop worrying about everything. We’re going to figure this out.”

Eli grinned. “That’s what I’ve been telling him.”

Matt rolled his eyes. “If it’s always going to be two against one, I may back out of this… whatever we call this relationship.”

“I believe the trendy name is throuple.” Nate quipped. “But I think you guys are beyond labels once you add in the supernatural connection.”

“I’ve never liked labels, even when I thought I was straight,” Matt said.

“Society always wants to label everything. You guys just ignore all the bull and keep being who you are. All three of you are very special to me.” Brad said.

Elias quirked an eyebrow. “You’ve changed, Bradley, in good ways. I approve of the more mature and wiser Bradley 2.0.”

Brad blushed. “I’d like to think that I was changing on my own, but all of this,” Brad motioned around them. “Was bound to change us all.”

Eli shrugged. “Point taken, but some people would have been changed for the worse. You have changed for the better. Nathan is a lucky guy.”

“So is Matt.” Brad grinned.

Eli smiled. “Ok, Terrie, what’s next?”

“We go to Lilly’s cabin,” Terrie said to Elias. “While Matt, Brad, and Nate finish preparing the curse breaker and wolf charm spells.”

Eli handed a spell book to Matt. “The two pages are marked. Gather and separate the ingredients. Don’t mix anything until I get back. I should be gone less than an hour if all goes well.”

Matt took the book and turned toward Brad and Nate. “Ok, boys, let’s get to work.”

Sky kicked at the gravel path as he walked next to David. “There was nothing out of the ordinary at either of those houses. Are we wasting our time checking out the third one?” Then, Sky’s nostrils flared as if on cue, and his eyes opened wide. “Do you smell that?” He nearly growled.

“I don’t smell… hey! Slow down! Hey!” David yelled as Sky was running and pulling David along behind him. David managed to pull Sky to a stop before he entered the backyard of the house they were approaching. When Sky turned to face David, David’s eyes went wide. “Skylar! You need to calm down. Talk to me. What do you smell? What are you feeling right now?”

“What am I feeling? I’m feeling angry and powerful. Can’t you smell that? I smell everything, but from that house, I smell wolf and blood and fear and death.”

“Babe, look at your hands.”

“What the hell? Why do I have claws?”

“You also have fangs. You need to calm down and get yourself under control. Elias said that you might be able to change at will even in daylight because you aren’t cursed. At will is the key. Right now, your emotions are in charge. Take control of your mind and body, Sky.”

Skylar knelt and bowed his head, then took deep, calming breaths. He watched in amazement as his claws retracted. Sky felt his teeth and found the fangs were gone. He looked up at his boyfriend. “That was intense. When we are somewhere safe, I will try and do that on purpose.”

“You should also try preventing the change tonight. If we can control when we change and remember what we do as wolves, we might be able to get a handle on this.”

“Good idea.” Sky nodded toward the cabin. “We know where he lives. What should we do? Should we try and take him down right now or proceed with Eli’s plan?”

“Let’s go back and consult with Elias. We don’t know what he’s capable of. I’m still cursed, so I can’t change in daylight. You don’t have control of what you can do. If he can do what you do but controls it, we may fight against a werewolf while we’re human. There are too many unknowns. Let Eli trap this guy with magic, and then we can decide how to deal with him from there.”

“Ok. Let’s go. Hopefully, Elias has the spells ready to break your curse and trap this guy. We still have tons to do today, and it is already afternoon.” With one last look at the cabin in the woods, the two boys turned and started walking quickly toward the Carrier house.

Elias and Terrie stopped inside the tree line and looked down the hillside at Lilly Monroe’s house. “Are you sure Lilly is with your dad at the police station?” Eli asked for the sixth time.

“Yes, Eli. I even texted my dad again just to check. She is there.”

Eli stepped into the open and raised his arms. “Quae latebat claustra reveletur. Nune ponite insidias quae volebat. Patere nos omnia pericula sine limite.”

The air between them and the house shimmered with light, and there was a strong sulfur smell. Then, the light and the odor vanished. Terrie looked quizzically at Elias. “Did it work? What exactly did you say?”

Elias shrugged. “I hope it worked. A loose English translation would be ‘Barriers which were hidden now be revealed. Traps that were set now be sprung. Let the path before us be clear of all dangers.’”

Terrie nodded. “I like the wording. I guess we proceed cautiously and find out if it worked.”

“I wish I could say there’s a way to know for sure, but if there is, I haven’t learned it. If I knew what she did, I could have a better plan, but we don’t know, so proceed with extreme caution.” Eli said as the two started walking toward the house.

They got to the front porch unharmed and without setting off any alarms, at least none they knew. Eli reached for the doorknob, but Terrie grabbed his wrist and stopped him. “I think it would be safer for me to go in alone.” She said. “You got me this far, but we already know that she had one barrier in place inside that only a hunter could pass through. Who knows what else she’s done?”

 “Isn’t that why you asked me to come? To help you get through the barriers?”

“Outside the house, yes. When I was with Lilly, she kept me close to her while we were outside and let me roam free once we entered the house. I suspect there may be anti-witch traps inside. I do, however, have one more task for you.”

Eli cocked his head to one side. “How else can I assist?”

Terrie pointed to the right of the door. “I can pick locks and walk past magic barriers, but I don’t think I can fool that. She used her thumbprint and a retina scan to unlock the house.”

“Neither can I,” Eli mumbled as he knelt in front of the keypad. “Did she also use the keypad?”

“Yes. Is there anything you can do?”

“I’m no hacker. I can get you inside the house using magic. Still, if she has cast anti-magic spells to secure her alarm system, I can’t guarantee you’ll get in unannounced.”

“Do it. Get me in the house. After I’m inside, go home. It’s already well past noon, so the boys should be back at your house. I can finish this on my own. You are needed there to cast your spells before moonrise.”

“I hate leaving you here, but you’re right.” Eli shook his head. “Matt will kill me when I get home without you, but he’ll understand.”

“Do your thing, magic man.” Terrie grinned.

Elias stood up. “Averte virtutem.” The keypad and the retina scanner shut down. “Aperi ianuam.” The front door swung open. “Enter at your own risk.” Elias huffed out a laugh.

“Get home. The boys need you more than I do.” Terrie said.

“As long as Matt doesn’t kill me.” Eli grinned, then turned, leaving Terrie alone as she stepped cautiously into the house.

Elias saw David and Skylar enter his house as he crossed the lawn toward the kitchen door. Eli walked into the house and was met by the pungent aroma of fresh-cut herbs. He smiled as Matt walked toward him, but then the other boy stopped in his tracks and scowled.

“Where’s Terrie?” Matt asked.

Eli sighed. “She’s still at Lilly’s house. There was no way I could get in, so she sent me back here to do the curse breaker spell and prepare the werewolf charms.”

“You promised that you’d keep her safe, Eli.” Matt frowned.

“I did everything I could, Matt. I got her past all the barriers and traps in the yard and disabled the door alarms. When the front door swung open, she insisted I come back here and do what needs to be done.”

“We’d sense if she was in danger, right?”

“I think we would. I’ve never done this before, Matt. I’m learning on the fly. We don’t have time for proper training. Everything is happening too fast.”

“I understand.” Matt wrapped his arms around Elias. “I think I have everything ready for you, babe.”

Elias looked deeply into Matt’s blue eyes. “I wouldn’t have left her if I thought she was in danger, Matt.”

Matt leaned in, and their lips met in a tender kiss. “I know.”

A voice from behind them startled the two boys. “Before you two start making out, can we uncurse my boyfriend? Uh, wait, is uncurse a word?”

Elias and Matt stepped apart, and Eli looked over at Skylar. “We weren’t making out, and yes, uncurse is a word. Also, yes, we can start the process of uncursing David. Let me gather everything, and you and David meet me in the dining room.”

Matt helped Eli carry all the herbs and potions, except for the wolfsbane, into the dining room. Matt spread all the items on the table, looked at Eli, and smirked. “Does David have to get naked like I did, or was that a special stipulation for me only?”

David’s eyes went wide. “Wait, what? Naked? What exactly is going to happen?”

“We will talk all that out before we begin the spell, and, no, you don’t have to be naked. The spell will be drastically different from the one I did on Matt. The curse is affecting you in a much different way than it was affecting your brother.” Eli said.

Sky leaned forward. “What about the charms and traps we have planned for the grey wolf? We are ninety-nine percent sure we know who he is and where he lives if that will help.”

I’ve picked out an area that I want to lure him to. It will definitely help to know where he lives, but we still don’t know if he transforms at his house. I can cast multiple charm spells near the home and in the areas where he has been most active. Once the spells are in place, I’ll explain what I need everyone to do. Hopefully, by the end of today, David will no longer be cursed, and the grey wolf will be in the sheriff’s custody.” Eli said.

“Will a regular jail hold a werewolf? Do we want the world to find out that werewolves exist? Wouldn’t that put all of us in danger?” Sky asked.

“I haven’t solved those problems yet. I’m not sure I can murder a living being despite this person’s actions as a werewolf. The sheriff knows everything. I hope he has his own ideas on handling the grey wolf.” Elias said.

David shrugged. “One step at a time. What do we need to do for the curse breaker spell?”

Eli took a deep breath. “Brad, take Nate and Devon into the kitchen. You guys cut the wolfsbane exactly like I showed you. Sky, you can stay here, but do not touch David while I do the spell, even if it looks like he’s in distress. I’m not sure what would happen. Ok?”

“Got it. I’ll be here if you need me, but I won’t interfere unless you give the go-ahead.” Sky said.

Elias nodded. “Matt, sit across from your brother. I’ve written the spell down. Repeat it with me. You might feel tired once we begin. That will be from me drawing power from you. We talked about that. I need your strength, Matt. I can’t do this without you.” Elias looked back at David. “As far as the spell itself, I’ve set up these bowls of herbs.” He lit three of the bowls on fire. “These will burn like incense.” Eli handed a coffee mug to David. “Drink this.”

David made a face. “I hope this doesn’t taste as bad as it smells!”

Elias chuckled and set a second mug on the table next to the first one. “This one smells even worse.”

“This better work.” David frowned.

“I’ve had good results so far.” Eli shrugged. “Are we ready to start?” They all nodded. “The closest English translation to this spell is as follows: Dark magic release. Werewolf is strong. Nature magic is cleansed. Let this cursed wolf be free. The wolf shall be free. The curse shall be broken. This I command.” Elias looked at Matt. “Let’s begin.”

Elias and Matt started chanting in unison. “Tenebris magicaeest abiit. Versepellem volebit. Mundandus magicae naturae. Et lupus maledictam esse liberum. Lupus ad liberum erit. Maledictionem conteratur. Lubeo fiet.”

Matt slumped forward, and David’s body went rigid and then convulsed. Elias took one of Matt’s hands and placed his other hand on David’s forehead. Eli repeated the spell. The bodies of both Montana boys shook, then a dark cloudy mist rose out of David’s body. The cloud grew and swirled around the room.

Elias pointed at the swirling cloud and shouted, “Dispello!” And then he collapsed onto the floor.

Sky leaped to his feet and rushed to Eli’s side. Sky frantically looked from Elias to David to Matt. All three boys were unconscious. “Devon! Brad! Nate! I need you in here!”

“What happened?” Brad asked.

“After Eli and Matt did the spell, a black mist rose out of David, and then they all collapsed.” Sky said. “One of you, get some cold, wet facecloths from the kitchen.” Sky pulled Elias to his feet and set him in one of the chairs. Devon brought the wet cloths and placed them gently on the three unconscious boys’ foreheads. In a few minutes, all three began to wake up.

“That was intense. Did it work?” Matt asked.

David leaned against Sky. “I felt weird for a while. When you guys were chanting, my body felt tingly. Then it felt like my insides were being ripped through the pores of my skin. Finally, I felt exhausted, and I passed out.”

Sky wrapped an arm around David’s waist. “A freaky black cloud rose out of your skin and eyes. I’m not surprised by how you describe the feeling, babe. I’d like to say that it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen, but we’re werewolves, so I don’t know. Par for the course, I guess?”

Elias still held his head in his hands but finally spoke. “I think it worked. We’ll know for sure after you change tonight, or rather after you change back in the morning and tell us if anything was different.”

“Can you tell anything from my aura?” David asked.

“Good idea. I should have thought of that.” Eli said. “Aurae apparuistis.” Eli stared intently at David, then at Sky, then back at David. “It does look different than it did before. Your aura is now yellow, silver, and blue. The black and grey that were clouding it are gone. I think the curse has been removed.”

Matt moved around the table and squeezed in next to Elias. “You’re doing awesome with all these spells, babe. What do we do next?”

“Next, we set the traps for the killer wolf,” Eli said as he stood up and walked toward the kitchen.

Terrie made her way to the basement of the hunter’s cabin without tripping any traps or setting off any alarms., at least as far as she knew. She decided it would be best to avoid the bookshelves where she encountered the barrier last time. Who knows if that would alert Lilly to her presence? Books weren’t what Terrie was looking for this time around. She passed by the cabinet with the wooden stakes and other anti-vampire weapons. Terrie bypassed the charms to protect against witches and warlocks. Finally, she found what she was looking for.

Terrie examined the glass case in front of her. There was no way for her to be sure if there were any magical alarms on it, but now that she was this close, there was no way she would leave without the silver sword. Terrie took the sword out of the case. She was surprised by how light it felt in her hand. She prayed that it would have enough weight for the task she planned for this sword. With her prize in hand, Terrie opened her backpack and started filling it with an assortment of necklaces, rings, and medallions from other tables and glass cases in the room. Terrie focused on the items she believed were most important to werewolves and witches. This may be her only chance to pillage the hunter’s cabin, so she wanted as much as she could carry.

Terrie heard a noise from the room above, footsteps. She went to the top of the staircase and listened until the footsteps faded. Whoever was there ascended the stairs to the second floor. Lilly must have come home. Terrie cursed herself for taking too long in the basement. She opened the basement door and stepped into the kitchen as quietly as possible. Terrie stealthily made her way to the front door.

Taking a chance that the alarm was off, Terrie exited the house and broke into a run. When Terrie reached the tree line, she heard shouting. Terrie turned and saw Lilly standing on the front porch. Terrie turned, ran off into the trees, and didn’t stop until she was back at Carrier House.

Matt stood on top of a small hill and surveyed the scene around him. Elias picked the best place to fight the grey wolf. Old Hickory Lane was the only road in sight. The road came up the hill’s south side, crossed the clearing, and disappeared into the trees to the north. The other significant feature was the bike path that crossed Old Hickory Lane from east to west. The bike path led into Roxbury Park, traveling east, and ran past the house that belonged to Christopher Parker, the grey werewolf.

After David and Sky identified the house, finding information on the homeowner didn’t take much research. Matt compiled all their research and composed a draft of an email that he would send to Sheriff Hanson just before moonrise. After he sent the email, Matt would text the sheriff to ensure the email was received and read. The sheriff would be informed of not just Parker’s information but also of the plans to capture the grey wolf. Hopefully, Sheriff Hanson would devise a plan to keep Christopher Parker, and his wolf locked up. The boys, so far, had not come up with any ideas.

Matt looked at Elias. “The charms have been placed, and I’ve memorized the spells that we might need. I have to say that I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life. We are intentionally trying to lure a murderous werewolf to us. We plan to trap it using spells that we haven’t even been able to test to see if they work correctly.”

Eli took both of Matt’s hands in his. “Those are all valid points. I’m scared, too. Everything that we’ve done so far has worked perfectly. I’m confident we can continue that streak.”

Devon shrugged. “Not to be the Devil’s Advocate, but one could say that because everything has worked perfectly so far, your luck is due to run out.”

“Elias isn’t relying on luck, Devon. Look at what he’s accomplished with Matt and David. Have faith, little brother. The grey wolf is going down.” Sky interjected.

“The moon will start to rise in less than an hour. I can already feel its power. Do you want me and Skylar to stay here or go to the warehouse, Eli? You might need us if you can’t contain Parker, but we still don’t know how much we will be able to control our wolves. We might be a help, or we might add to the chaos.” David said.

“I want you both here in case our spells fail. We need to take the chance that you will have at least as much control as Sky did last night.” Elias said.

“I agree with Eli. I remember everything from last night. It was a conscious decision to do what I did to calm you, David. I acted to keep you safe from hurting yourself against the cage. Plus, it was fun.” Sky grinned. “If you are cured, I think we’d be more useful here than locked in a cage.” Sky said.

Brad spoke next. “What about me, Nathan, and Devon? Don’t even try and tell us to leave. We’re all in this thing until the end.”

Eli smirked. “I knew you’d say that.” He looked at Nate and Devon. “Do you both agree with what Brad said? If either of you wants to leave, this is your last chance.”

“Count me in. I’m not leaving my brother or any of you guys.” Devon said.

“There’s no way I’m leaving. I’ve dreamt of being involved in something like this my entire life.” Nate said.

“It’s not a game or a horror novel, Nathan. If you stay, I have an important task for you.” Elias said.

“Sorry. I know it’s serious. I’m in. What do you need me to do?” Nate said.

Eli tossed his backpack to Brad. “Inside my backpack is all the wolfsbane that you guys cut up. Split it between you three. Once the wolf is here, spread the wolfsbane in a circle around the clearing, then light it on fire. Even if Parker breaks free from my spells, he won’t cross the line of burning wolfsbane.” Elias looked at David and Sky. “Stay near the center of the clearing once they light the fire. It shouldn’t harm you if you don’t inhale the smoke.”

“I understand. Hopefully, we have enough control to remember and stay away.” David said.

Sky grabbed David’s arm and leaned against his boyfriend. Sky’s voice was deeper, almost like a growl. “We’re going to find out soon. I feel the wolf stirring inside me. I’m trying to hold him back, but I’m not sure I can.”

David’s eyes were wide with wonder. “The other nights I changed, I blacked out from the pain. This is different. Sky is right. I feel the wolf inside like a separate being trying to break free from confinement. It… he…. I want to howl and run free under the full moon’s light!”

Eli’s eyes lit up, and he looked at Matt. “If these two are feeling the change, Parker must be, too. Get ready!”

Brad tore open the backpack and handed Ziplock bags to Devon and Nate. “Spread out, guys. As soon as we see this freak, get ready to work!”

Then, they heard a bone-chilling howl, and the grey werewolf stepped out of the trees and started walking up the hill.

New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 4)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 4: Frozen Fisticuffs

“Gav, I know we have to check in with dad, but promise me we will come back and look for Obie. I know he’s close. I can feel his presence with the feather.” Logan said as he reached for the car’s door handle.

“Ok, Logan, I promise. As long as dad doesn’t say that we can’t, I’ll bring you back here.” Gavin started to go around the car to get into the driver’s side. Before he could get in the car, Gavin heard a loud yell. He looked to the side just in time to see a large shape hurtling toward the vehicle. “Logan! Get down!” Gavin yelled.

Logan looked around, and his eyes widened in shock and fear. He dove toward his brother, barely getting out of the way in time before something big crashed into the car. The windows shattered, and the vehicle was knocked onto its side. Logan rolled over and looked to see what hit the car. He couldn’t believe his own eyes. What Logan saw stood on two legs like a man, but the similarities ended there. Where the creature’s massive leg muscles burst through its jeans, long dark grey fur showed through the rips. The same hair covered the creature’s bare upper torso. The beast’s upper body was humanoid and just over six feet tall. The broad shoulders and heavily muscled arms ended in large than hands. Logan could see the once human face was now distorted and covered in the same grey fur. The creature’s ears were pointed and closer to the top of its head than human ears. Still, the most shocking feature was the set of enormous, curved ram’s horns protruding from the sides of the monster’s head.

“What are you?” Logan asked, his voice shaking with fear.

The beast turned toward Logan and snarled. “I am Aries the Ram, and you will give me the blue stones, or I will crush the life from you and take them.”

Gavin leaped in front of his brother and faced Aries. “Stay away from my brother, you freak. You’ll have to come through me to get to him.” Gavin turned his head to look at Logan. “Get behind the car, Logan. Hurry!” Logan scrambled backward and crouched behind the overturned car. Gavin set his feet and faced his foe.

After Bryson left her apartment, Grace Santos scrolled through her contacts. She almost clicked on one of her top government sources but thought better of it. Grace didn’t think anyone in the government would give her a straight answer to this, even if they knew. Instead, Grace called a number that she had not called in years. She called an old college friend, Caleb Justyce. Grace didn’t hang out in the same circles as Caleb, but she knew that this problem was something that would pique his interest. The call went to voicemail, so Grace left a message and waited.

Bryson ran the three blocks from Grace’s apartment to Erik’s house and banged on the front door. Erik’s father answered. “Hi, Bryson. What brings you here?”

“Hi, Mr. Reilly. is Erik home?”

“No. The last I saw him, he was heading to see you. Didn’t he show up? That was quite a while ago.”

“Yeah, he was at my place earlier. I thought he’d be home by now. I’ll walk through the park and see if I can meet with him. He’s not answering my texts.”

“Is everything alright, Bryson? Is there anything I can do?”

“No, Mr. Reilly, there’s nothing to worry about. When you see him, just tell him to text me.”

“Ok. It was nice to see you again, Bryson.”

Bryson was a little alarmed that Erik wasn’t home yet. He should have had plenty of time to get here by now. Bryson turned and walked toward the park.

“You are either brave or foolish,” Aries sneered.

“I will not let you hurt my brother,” Gavin stated, fists raised in front of him.

“Gavin, come on! Let’s run!” Logan yelled from behind the overturned car.

“Too late for that, boy,” Aries said as he butted his horns against the car, pushing it further off the road.

“What do you want from us?” Gavin asked.

“The blue stones. Give them to me willingly, and I might let you live.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t have any blue stones,” Gavin said, slowly backing away from Aries.

Aries sniffed the air. “I can smell them. You can’t lie to me, boy. I’ve had enough talk. Prepare to die.” Aries lowered his head and charged.

Gavin dropped to his knees and raised his arms over his head in an effort to protect himself. Gavin gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and prepared for an impact that never came. Instead, Gavin heard what sounded like breaking glass, and a loud thump came from behind him. Gavin opened his eyes and looked warily around. Shards of ice were everywhere, and Aries was between Gavin and the car. Gavin couldn’t figure out what had happened, but he quickly sprung to his feet to place himself between Aries and Logan.

Aries’ eyes narrowed. “I knew I smelt the stones. You’ve been affected by them, so now you must die!” Aries charged at Gavin.

Gavin side-stepped the charge and swung his fist at Aries. Before his punch struck its target, Gavin felt an extreme coldness run through his body. A cocoon of ice formed around his fist just as the blow landed. The ram was nearly knocked off his feet and stumbled away from Gavin. Gavin looked down in awe at his ice-covered fist. He thought how cool it would be if his whole body were protected by the ice, and then it happened. Gavin was covered in icy armor from head to toe.

Aries watched as the ice formed around Gavin. Hoping to catch Gavin distracted, Aries lowered his head and charged. He hit Gavin full force in the mid-section with his horns. Gavin was thrown back and smashed against the car. He was unhurt, but the icy armor shattered into a million pieces. Gavin saw Aries closing in on him and tried to move away. Gavin was pinned against the car and couldn’t get away fast enough. He raised his arms in self-defense, wishing he had something to throw at Aries. Streams of ice shot out of Gavin’s fingers and struck Aries square in the chest, knocking him backward. Frost continued streaming from Gavin’s fingers until the ram’s legs were frozen solid.

Gavin leaped to his feet and rushed to the car’s other side. “Logan, come on! That probably won’t hold him for long. Let’s get out of here.”

Logan’s dark brown eyes were wide open and staring. “Gavin, you’re a superhero!” He ran over and hugged his brother.  

“Whatever! This might make me believe your story about angels a little more. We can talk at home. Let’s get out of here before he breaks free,” The two boys turned and ran down the road as fast as possible, leaving Aries howling with rage.

Grace sat behind her desk and thought about Bryson, trying to wrap her mind around what he told her and what she had witnessed with her own eyes. Bryson had picked up her coffee table using his mind. An hour ago, Grace would have laughed at the idea. Her focus was now on figuring out how it happened and how to proceed. There wasn’t just Bryson to consider. There was also the monster he fought. How many others were out there? She knew that Caleb was the best shot at finding answers. Grace glanced at her phone again. Still no return call from Caleb. After a while, Grace decided to go straight to Justyce Labs and talk to Caleb face to face. Caleb was the most intelligent person that Grace knew. He graduated from high school when he was fifteen and had a master’s degree in mechanical engineering by the time he was eighteen. When Grace started college, Caleb was twenty-eight and working towards his third master’s degree. Now, he was thirty-seven and had his own research lab. If anyone could figure out what was happening, that man would be Caleb Justyce. Grace left her apartment, avoided downtown, and drove as fast as possible to Justyce Labs.

Harvey and Ashton both leaped off of the bench. “Dude! I thought you were joking. Who is chasing you?” Harvey asked.

“Yeah, I thought you said monsters, not crazy bow-wielding maniacs?” Ashton quipped.

“I did say monsters, and I meant it. One is a half-woman and half-horse creature from mythology. That monster is the one with the bow. The other is a guy who looks like he has a shell and a mutant claw for a hand! They’re not chasing me, but we need to get out of here! They’re in the middle of the park, terrorizing everyone in sight!” Erik replied, pacing back and forth.

“A centaur and a crab man? Are you trying to prank us? Where are the cameras?” Harvey said.

“Harvey, duck!” Ash yelled!

Harvey looked up and saw another arrow heading straight for him. Harvey didn’t even have time to react. Then something barreled into him, and Harvey landed on the ground on his back. The breath was knocked right out of his lungs. Harvey coughed and blinked and tried to roll out from under whatever landed on him, then he saw that it was Ash. “Ash? How? You were way over there.”

“I… I’m not sure.”

“I was looking right at you and didn’t see you move. You were next to me one second, and then there was a blur and a gust of wind, and you were on top of your friend.” Erik said.

“A lot of weird stuff has been happening today,” Ash said, getting up off Harvey. “Maybe we should do like Erik said and get as far away from here as possible.”

Harvey leaped to his feet. “No! If they are hurting people, we need to try and help! I want to get a few pictures to send to my dad. These creatures may be the reason that his army unit was activated.”

“This is a stupid idea, but I’ll show you where they are. You’ll change your mind and agree with me as soon as you see them.” Erik said in frustration, but he led the other two boys through the trees and into the picnic area in the center of the park.

“I thought you were exaggerating, but that does look just like a centaur,” Harvey said.

“She’s firing arrows right at that family. Harvey’s right. We have to at least try and help.” Ashton said and took a step forward, and then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

“Ash? Where’d ya go? Erik, what happened?” Harvey said, looking all around.

“It’s the same as when he tackled you. A gust of wind and Ash was gone. Wait. Isn’t that him over by the pond?”

“It can’t be. That’s over a hundred yards away. How would he….”

Erik heard a thump and turned to see why Harvey had stopped talking. When he turned, Erik first saw the mutant crab monster, but then he saw Harvey lying face-first on the ground at the creature’s feet. Erik clenched his fists. “Get away from my friend, you freak!” To Erik’s surprise, the monster took a step back. Then Erik felt a gust of wind, and Ashton appeared.

“Harvs!” Ashton yelled and knelt by his best friend. Ash looked up at Erik, and his eyes grew wide. “Erik! You’re on fire… and you’re… floating!”

Erik looked down at himself, and his eyes widened in shock and fear. Ashton was right. His entire body was floating a foot off the ground and was engulfed in flames.

Gavin slammed the front door shut and locked it. He turned to his brother, “Logan, go to the family room. Stay away from the windows. We don’t know if that thing followed us. Hell. it might be able to track us!”

“That was scary, Gav, but you were awesome!” Logan said as he hurried into the family room.

“I… I’m not sure what I was or what happened.” He looked down at his hands, which were still covered with a light frost. Gavin wiped his hands on his jeans to try and dry them off. He sat on the couch and picked up the remote. “Let’s watch the news and see if there are any reports of other creatures like the one we saw.”

“Wow,” Logan said in awe as they watched short homemade video clips play on the television. “If we didn’t see what we saw, I’d think the footage of that minotaur was fake news!”

“Looks like the army is setting up checkpoints all over town. We should try and get in touch with dad and find out what’s up.”

“Ok. You text dad, and I’ll text Harvs. If the high school hasn’t closed yet, it will soon.”

Grace paced in front of the entrance to Justyce Labs, peering through the windows. She saw no movement, and Caleb had not answered any calls or texts. Grace didn’t want to drive back home yet. Grace went for a walk while waiting to hear from her friend. She was close to the high school, so she explored in that direction. Bryson told her that he saw fires near the high school last night. Maybe Grace could find a piece of this troublesome meteor.

Grace saw the only unusual thing at the high school was that it was deserted. The school must have let out early today. She wondered if that was related to all the strange events going on. It had to be. She kept walking past the school but stopped short when she reached the baseball field. There were scorched patches of grass all over the area and a sizable crater right where the pitcher’s mound should be. Grace opened the gate and walked in.

Grace didn’t see any of the blue stones near the scorched patches of grass. Grace made her way to the crater. She guessed someone else must have removed the meteor that caused the hole because she saw footprints everywhere. At least two different shoe treads and one set of barefoot tracks. Grace knelt down and examined the indentation at the center of the crater. That’s odd, she thought. It looks more like a body’s outline than a rock’s shape.

As Grace stood up, she didn’t notice the other shadow that merged with her own. Before reaching the top of the crater, Grace felt a cold chill run up and down her spine. She shivered and rubbed her arms. Grace stepped into the sunlight and never gave the weird feeling a second thought.

Logan wandered into the kitchen, looking for his brother. “Gav, Harvey still isn’t answering texts. I even tried calling, but it went to voicemail.”

Gavin gulped down the rest of his Mountain Dew and frowned. “I saw on the news that the high school closed and sent everyone home. He should be here by now.”

“Any news from dad?”

“Yes, but just vague stuff. ‘I won’t be home tonight. Don’t worry. Don’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary.’” Gavin shrugged. “He’s probably not saying anything specific in case anyone monitors his phone.”

“Should we be worried about Harvey?”

“We will look for him if he’s not home in another half hour. In the meantime, keep texting him. Hopefully, he’ll answer soon.”

“Got it.” Logan wandered back into the family room to watch the news for more updates about the strange events all over town. At the same time, he continued to text his younger brother.

Caleb didn’t even bother knocking when he got to Christine’s house. He was too excited to see this boy she told him about. Caleb rushed into the kitchen and found his sister sitting at the table drinking tea. “Where is he? You didn’t let him leave, did you?”

“No. Of course, the boy is still here. He just woke up. He doesn’t remember what happened to him. I turned the tv on in the living room and made him a couple of sandwiches. Take it slow, Caleb. That boy looks like he’s been through Hell.”

“What about the wounds on his back? You said his blood is blue and glowing?”

“Yes, and he’s healing remarkably fast. The cuts were open and raw last night. Now, they look like they’ve been healing for a week!”

“Amazing! Let me go talk to him.” Caleb said and rushed out of the room.

Caleb stopped just inside the doorway to the living room. His breath caught in his throat. At first glance, the view could have been mistaken for millions of similar scenes worldwide. A teenage boy was sprawled on the couch watching tv while practically inhaling sandwiches and potato chips. Then Caleb noticed the boy’s eyes. He had the brightest blue eyes that Caleb had ever seen, but that wasn’t what caught Caleb’s attention. The boy’s eyes weren’t exactly glowing, but they shone in the dim light. It reminded Caleb of how a cat’s eyes reflected low light allowing them to see in the dark. The boy turned his head and looked directly at Caleb. A momentary jolt of fear shot through Caleb, but when the boy smiled, Caleb knew that there was not one evil bone in that boy’s body. Caleb slowly moved further into the room. Not wanting to spook the boy, Caleb sat on the opposite end of the couch.

The trauma surgeon stormed up to the Emergency Room Nurse’s Station and slammed his fist on the counter. “What happened to my patient. The guy with the two crushed legs. I expected him in my operating room fifteen minutes ago. Now I find out that he isn’t even in the hospital anymore! Why wasn’t I updated! Where did he go?”

The nurse took a deep breath before answering the angry surgeon. “Please do not yell at me or any of the nurses, Dr. Jackson. I know that two men in lab coats came in with paperwork from hospital administration. It gave them permission to transfer your patient and another patient who came in at the same time.”

“Where did they take them? They were in no condition to be moved.” The doctor said wonderingly.

“I’ll check the records and see if I can find out.” The nurse replied. She hit some buttons on the computer, clicked away with the mouse for a few minutes, and then looked back at Dr. Jackson. “Looks like they were transferred to Justyce Labs. That’s weird, isn’t it, doctor?”

“Very, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Caleb Justyce donates more money to this hospital than all the other donors. I don’t know what he plans on doing with those two young men, but the hospital would never say no to him.” The doctor scowled and left the nurse’s station.

“Hello. My name is Caleb. My sister,” Caleb motioned toward the kitchen, “said you’ve been hurt. What is your name? Can you tell me what happened to you?”

“I…” The boy got a look of intense concentration on his face. “I think my name is Obadiah, but I am not sure. I can’t remember much of anything before last night.”

“That’s ok, Obadiah. Take it slow. How did you end up here at my sister’s house? Do you live nearby?”

“I woke up in the middle of a field. It was raining, and everything around me was burning. My back hurt. A lot. The only light that I saw led me here.”

“Can I see your back, Obadiah? I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Obadiah frowned but turned away from Caleb and gently lifted his shirt. Caleb’s eyes widened, and he nearly gasped. The wounds were still raw, but they looked like wounds that had been healing for days, not overnight. Glowing blue blood still oozed from several spots, but the lacerations mainly had scabbed over. Caleb sat back and looked intently at Obadiah.

“I know you don’t know me, and there’s no reason for you to trust me, but I would like you to come to stay with me at my laboratory. I’m a research scientist, and I think that I can help you. They wouldn’t know what to do if you went to a regular hospital. They’d probably ship you off to the army base, and no one would ever see you again.”

“No! I won’t be locked away by the soldiers!” Obie looked directly into Caleb’s eyes. “I think I can trust you. I will go to your lab.”

“Do you remember anything before waking up in the field, Obadiah?”

Obie thought really hard. “I was falling. It felt like I fell forever. I think I was falling away from people who hurt me, but I was also falling toward someone. I think I was falling toward someone named Logan. I will go with you, Caleb, but only if you help me find Logan.”

Caleb nodded. “Of course, I will. Maybe Logan will know more about you and where you come from.”

“Thank you.” Obadiah stood up. “I am ready to go with you now.”

Caleb said goodbye to his sister and led Obie out to his car. Caleb glanced at his phone and saw about a dozen missed calls and texts from Grace Santos. After listening to and reading the messages, he pulled his car out onto the street and sped off toward Justyce Labs.

Carl Chambers pulled the black van into the Newville Community Credit Union’s rear parking lot. He parked far away from the other cars. Carl shook his head, his golden mane flying wildly around his face, and glanced into the rearview mirror at Danielle Gordon. Dani was sprawled out on the middle seat of the van. “That was interesting. Even everyday things like driving will take some getting used to with our new bodies.”

“Yeah. We’ll have to customize everything. I can’t even sit properly with this tail. Some of us won’t be able to move around in public without attracting attention.”

Carl looked thoughtful. “You’re right. Especially once we begin our plans, we will have to find a new headquarters. Somewhere secret. They would find us at the union hall. We’ll move the meteorite and anything else important tonight.”

“You ready for this, Carl? We’ve mugged people, robbed gas stations, and other small stuff, but this is big.” Dani pointed at the bank.

“I’ve been ready for this for years. Let our reign of terror begin.” Carl threw his head back and roared.

The lion and the scorpion walked through the credit union’s front doors, and everyone stopped and stared. One of the security guards sauntered over with a smirk on his face. “Y’all can’t come into a bank wearing those silly costumes. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Dani sneered at the guard. “Silly costumes? How dare you address the Zodiac Club in such a bold manner!” Dani’s tail swung around and hit the guard square in the chest, sending him flying backward out of the front window. He landed on the sidewalk in a shower of broken glass. The second guard barely had a chance to move before Carl grabbed him and threw him through the window to join his partner on the sidewalk.

Carl looked around the bank. He pointed at the customers with one big furry paw. “All of you get on the floor facedown, and you just might live to see another day.”

As the customers obeyed Carl, Dani walked up to the closest bank teller and set a pile of bags on the counter. “Hello. My name is Scorpia. My friend Leo and I represent the Zodiac Club, and we would like to make a withdrawal from your bank today. Fill up all these bags, and don’t try anything heroic. I don’t want to kill you, but I will.” Scorpia smashed her tail onto a nearby desk to emphasize her point, splintering it into kindling. The bank tellers quickly got to work filling the bags.

Coming Soon: Episode 5 – A Firefly and a Pocket Watch

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 16)

Chapter 16

Nancy Holliday stared down at the two boys asleep on her couch. She shook her head and smiled. They found a loophole, like all teenagers eventually will. She told them they couldn’t sleep in the same bedroom, so instead, they slept on the couch. At least they were both still dressed! Nancy used the remote to turn on the tv. The two boys jumped and nearly fell off the couch.

Brad ran a hand through his strawberry blonde locks and yawned as he reached for his glasses. “Did you have to turn that on so loud, mom?”

“If you were sleeping in your own bed, you wouldn’t have heard it.” Nancy arched one eyebrow.

Brad grinned but blushed at his mother’s words. “We did not break your rule.”

“I know you didn’t. I didn’t raise a dummy.”

“Wait! Shh! Shh! The sheriff is on tv!” Nate yelled.

Nancy and the two boys listened in horror as Sheriff Hanson reported the fourth death in the park. It was a teenager, another friend of Brad’s. His name was Justin Thomas. “I’ll make a quick breakfast before I go to the park and talk to the sheriff. I’m afraid to ask what you boys will be up to today.”

Brad looked up from his phone. “I can happily confirm that David and Skylar were not in the park last night, which adds to my certainty that David isn’t responsible for any of the deaths.”

“That’s good news, but we have to find the responsible person. You boys keep doing whatever you’re doing, and I will track the crime scenes like I do for any other murders. You track the wolf; I’ll track the man.”

“That’s brilliant, mom. Sheriff Hanson is doing the same thing. Maybe one of us will get lucky.” Just then, there was a knock on the door. “Who’s here this early?” Brad asked as he jumped up and raced to the door.

Brad walked back into the living room with Terrie Hanson. “Add one more for breakfast, mom,” Brad said.

Terrie grinned at Nate. “I was going to say that you got here even earlier than I did. But now I notice that the couch quilt is pulled down, you’re wearing the same clothes as yesterday, and you have an exceptional case of bed hair! You stayed the night.”

“By the time we got here last night, it was close to curfew. It only made sense to sleep here.” Nate shrugged.

“Anyway,” Brad laughed. “What brings you here this early, Terrie? I thought we were all meeting at the warehouse. Did something else happen?”

“You could say that.” Terrie nodded toward the kitchen. “How much does your mom know?”

Brad sighed. “As of last night, everything. She’s digging into the deaths, and she’s good at what she does. I thought it best to tell her, plus I hate lying to my mom.”

“I’m glad she knows,” Terrie said. “Let’s join her in the kitchen. I’ll tell all three of you my news.”

Nancy slid a plate of waffles and cut up strawberries to each of the three teenagers sitting around her table. “Ok, give it to me. What else do I need to know before I go to the park?”

Terrie took a deep breath and told the other three everything she discovered about Lilly Monroe, the witch hunters, and her mom. After she finished, she looked at Brad. “Lilly gave me a book about the history of witch hunters and how to become one. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Obviously, I couldn’t hunt Matt or any of our friends. Now that I know that I can use the same ritual to become a witch protector, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be just like my mother.”

Nate leaned forward. “What can we do to help? Can we assist with research?”

“For now, I don’t need anything. If I read anything in this book that needs further research, I’ll text you first, Nate.”

Nancy collected the empty breakfast dishes. “I’m heading to the park. Do you need me to relay anything to your dad, Terrie?’

“No. We talked before I came here. Thanks, Mrs. Holliday. I’ll clean up the kitchen while waiting for the boys to shower and change. Be safe out there.”

Brad grinned at Nate. “Should we shower together to save time?”

Nate laughed. “That would not save time. I’ll shower first. You let everyone know that we’ll be on our way soon. Maybe we can have a plan of action before we get there.”

“Good idea,” Brad said as he took his phone out of his pocket, and Nate ran up the stairs.

Sky yawned and stretched, trying to wake up. His whole body ached, but he thought that might be normal after his transformation last night. Sky’s memory was fuzzy, but he remembered the change’s intense pain. He started to turn over and felt himself press against the warmth of another body. Sky blinked his eyes open and found himself wrapped in David’s arms.

David woke up, and the first thing he saw was Skylar. He smiled. “Good morning, beautiful.”

“Good morning. Such a nice way to wake up.” Sky pulled David’s arms tighter around his body, and David kissed the side of Sky’s neck. Then they heard voices and the sound of someone clearing their throat.

“I’m glad you two are so comfy but don’t forget that you’re naked and still in the cage.” Matt laughed. “I’ve unlocked the gate and set your backpacks inside whenever you’re ready.” Matt tossed a couple of blankets to David. “Just cover yourselves. We’ve seen enough. Too much, actually!”

“Hell yeah! Way too much! Horny devils!” Devon laughed.

David caught the blankets and handed one to Sky. “Do you remember last night? I remember them putting you in the cage and then waking up with you in my arms.” David frowned.

“I remember images and emotions. But, more and more memories are coming back as I focus.” Sky said.

“What do you remember? Did we…?” David blushed.

“Yes!” Matt, Devon, and Elias yelled in unison.

“It was like nature documentary porn!” Devon groaned.

Sky blushed. “I remember now.”

“Elias has a video,” Matt said.

“What?! Why?!” David said, eyes wide.

“In case you two couldn’t remember. I thought you might want to see.” Eli shrugged.

David stroked the side of Sky’s face. “Ignore them, babe. What do you remember?”

“Let’s get out of this cage.” Sky said. He stood and wrapped the blanket around himself. Sky picked up his backpack on his way out of the cage and sat at the table where the other boys had played gin rummy all night long. He looked from face to face and then focused on David. “It was strange. I felt like me, only different. I was stronger, more primal, but I knew that I was still me. I was a wolf, but I was still Skylar.” He held tight to David’s hands. “When they first put me in the cage, your wolf was angry. All he wanted was to get out of the cage and hunt. I’m not sure how I knew, but I knew he was angry and hungry and wanted to get out of the cage and run free.”

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” David asked.

“No. Absolutely not. When I looked into the wolf’s eyes, I knew that I was looking into your eyes. Somehow, I could sense that the wolf was in charge, but you were in there fighting for control. Once I was sure it was you, I knew what I needed to do to calm you.”

“What did you do?” David asked.

“I submitted myself to you, both as a member of your pack and as your mate. Wolves mate for life, by the way. You’re stuck with me now.” Sky grinned and blushed at David.

“I wish I could remember!” David’s head spun toward Elias. “Why can he remember, but I can’t?”

“I have some theories that align exactly with how Sky describes things. My theory is that when you bit Sky, you passed the werewolf gene on to him, but not the curse. All the stories about werewolves in the witch’s journals have led me to believe that the wolf and the man maintain a symbiotic relationship. The curse is what put your wolf in control, David. It makes you more primal, more instinctual. That would explain the wolf’s focus on freedom and hunger.”

“Does that also explain why I can’t remember, but Skylar can?”

Eli shrugged. “It makes sense. The wolf is the dominant personality for you, so you can’t remember. For Sky, he is in control or, at the very least, a co-equal partnership. Therefore, Sky retains the memories.”

“We really need to cure me of this curse,” David grumbled.

“We need a three-pronged focus today. One group working on potions and spells for your cure, one group collecting the supplies I need for the werewolf trap, and the final group searching for the wolf in human form.” Elias said.

“Do you think there’s anything else different about me?” Sky asked.

“There are stories of wolves changing in daylight. Other stories about partial changes, and we know that the wolf that bit David changes completely into a wolf. The two of you changed into what resembled horror movie werewolves. We may not know what you are capable of until you do it, Sky.”

Skylar sighed. “I guess I hoped you had an instruction manual.” He laughed.

“Not at all, but I will help you as much as possible.” Elias looked from Sky to David and back. “I will not abandon either of you no matter what.”

The two boys each put a hand on one of Eli’s shoulders and said in unison. “Thank you, Elias, that means a lot.”

Devon leaned forward. “So, who does what for these three tasks?”

“We’ll decide that at my house. Brad, Nate, and Terrie are meeting us there. While David and Sky get dressed, we’ll pack up everything else, and then we’ll meet the others at my house.”

The two groups of friends arrived at Eli’s house at nearly the same time. They all went into the house and gathered in the living room, just like last night. Terrie sat on the ottoman right in front of Elias, and she took his hands in hers.

Terrie took a deep breath. “Elias, I am starting to think that we were all fated to find each other. We have deeper connections than we ever knew.”

“What do you mean? What else have you discovered?” Eli asked.

“Lilly was at my house yesterday. She took me to her home. Lilly’s intent was to convince me how dangerous the supernatural is. My intent was to gather information to help you guys. What we discovered surprised us both. Lilly has a secret sub-basement full of tools to fight all manner of creatures. Witch hunters, I guess, is a generic label. Hunters fight all of the supernatural. Prime example, there was a case full of wooden stakes. Vampires are real. Who knew?” Terrie shrugged.

“I wonder what else is out there,” Eli said, his eyes full of wonder.

“Well, there were also shelves full of books in the basement. When I approached one of the shelves, I felt a tingly sensation all over my body.”

“Are you ok? What was it?” Matt interjected.

“I’m fine. It was a spell designed to only let those with witch hunter blood approach the bookshelf.”

Eli’s eyebrows scrunched together in concentration. “Does that mean that you are descended from hunters?” The room went silent.

“It does, but there’s a catch. My mom had hunter blood. Her ancestors, going back generations, were all hunters. My mother became best friends with someone she later discovered was a witch. She knew that woman to be a good person. My mom cast a spell when she found out that the hunters were going after her friend. She bonded herself to the witch as the first witch protector in a thousand years. Elias, the witch that my mom bonded herself to was your mother, Marie Carrier. My dad told me that my mother didn’t die in a car accident, as I was told. She was killed by the hunters. She died trying to protect the same coven you and Matt are now rebuilding.”

“I’m not even sure what to say to that. I’ve read about protectors, but only in the oldest journals. My mother’s journal said nothing, though it ends rather abruptly, probably with her death. Her spirit has never mentioned it either, but all of our conversations have been about witchcraft and werewolves.” Eli said.

The air shimmered behind Elias, and Marie Carrier’s ghost appeared. The spirit stared at Terrie before it turned to Eli and spoke. “What she says is true. Her mother fought for the coven, and she died a hero. The coven and this house would have been destroyed seventeen years ago if not for Julia Hanson.” Marie’s eyes darted to Matt. “When I sensed that you loved another besides my son, I did not know it was the daughter of the most powerful witch protector in a thousand years. The hand of fate is upon you, Matthew Montana. You and you alone have drawn this band together. It may seem that events center on the wolves or my son. They do not. You are the thread that connects them all. Without you, it all falls apart. Stay strong, Matthew.”

“Well, that’s not too much pressure!” Matt huffed out a laugh as the ghost disappeared.

Hands reached out from seemingly everywhere, patting Matt on the back or knee. David reached over and ruffled his brother’s hair. “We all have your back, Matt. We will find the grey wolf and the hunter, and we will deal with them. We can do this!”

Elias took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. He kissed the back of Matt’s hand. “I was pulled into your orbit before we ever met, and I am not even a little bit sorry. David is right. We can do this. With you by my side, nothing is impossible.”

Everyone in the room gave similar statements of support to Matt. He leaned against Eli’s shoulder with tears dripping from his eyes. “I feel the same way about each of you,” He looked around at everyone, then focused on Elias. “What do we need to do first?”

Terrie held up the journal she had gotten from Lilly. “I have my own task.” She looked at Eli. “I may need your help with something, but first, I need more details from this journal.”

Elias nodded. “Understood. I will be right here. Matt and I will be researching spells and gathering ingredients. I need to refine the curse breaker spell, and I need a werewolf charm spell.” Elias looked around the room. “Brad and Nate, take the wolfsbane map. Find as much as you can, but make sure it is tightly sealed before bringing it back here. The scent alone could make our two wolves sick, and speaking of our werewolf friends,” Elias smiled at David and Sky. “You two get to hunt.”

Sky smirked. “Fitting, but we may need more instruction than that.”

“I’m referring to the wolf, for now. We’ll deal with the hunter if we must. I’ve marked a map with all known or suspected locations where the grey wolf has been. I’ve marked your aunt’s house, and all four kill sites in red. Brad, Nate, and Devon found a lot of reports of large animal sightings and unexplained livestock deaths. I used their research to mark all those on the map in blue. As you will see, they are surprisingly close together. It should give you guys a strong starting point.”

“We’ll do what we can except knock on doors and ask if any werewolves live there.” David laughed.

“We’ll do some sniffing around.” Sky smirked. “My senses are enhanced even in human form. I’m not sure exactly what we’re looking for, but maybe we’ll know it when we see it or smell it.”

David, Sky, Brad, and Nate all left the house and went about their tasks. Terrie settled in on the couch with the hunter’s journal, and Matt sat next to her with his own pile of books to research charm spells. Eli wandered into the kitchen to gather supplies for the curse breaker spell.

Sky and David sat in the file room of the Roxbury Falls town hall, looking at deed after deed. It wasn’t the search they expected, but after they had walked around the park for an hour without a clear plan, David called Aunt Nancy. He explained to her that they wanted to narrow down who might be the werewolf, but all they had to go on was a map of the kill sites. Nancy suggested that they check the homeowners in their search area, then narrow that down by who lived there the longest. Once they had fewer houses to check, they should start with the ones in the center of the search area and work their way out.

Now, three hours later, they had a list of eight names. Five were married couples with children. Three homeowners were single males, so they had three possible suspects or three wild goose chases. David sighed. “I don’t know how Aunt Nancy does this kind of stuff all the time. It’s mind-numbing! Plus, we don’t even know if one of these guys is our guy or if we’ve wasted the entire day!”

“It’s still early. Let’s swing by all three houses and see if anything sticks out as weird.” Sky shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt.”

“I was thinking the same thing. If we can get a name and address, it will help when Elias sets up the traps.”

“First step, 96 Mitchell Lane.” Sky said as they left the town hall.

Brad snapped the lid shut on the Tupperware container, and he looked over at Nate. “Do you think this is enough, or should we go to the last field on our map?”

Nate took out his phone and snapped a pic of the three containers of wolfsbane that they had collected so far and texted it to Elias. A reply came back in seconds. Nate looked up and grinned. “We’re done. Eli said he could kill five hundred werewolves with what we have. But if there were five hundred werewolves, Eli would leave town without stopping to make potions.”

Brad rolled his eyes and laughed. “That sounds like Eli. Let’s get this stuff back to the house. Maybe we’ll have time to finally eat unless he has anything else for us to do.”

“I like that plan.” Nate grinned.

Brad and Nate walked into the kitchen and set the containers of wolfsbane on the counter. Brad leaned against the counter next to Matt and nodded toward Elias and Terrie. “That sounds like an intense conversation.”

“Yep. I’m staying over here until those two decide what to do. I am not getting in the middle of Eli and Terrie.” Matt said as Nate joined them. The three boys stood back and listened to their friends talk.

“Come on, Elias! We have to at least try!” Terrie said.

“If you knew how many defensive spells she has set up or where they all are, I would be more inclined to say yes. If I miss just one, we could alert her to our presence, or worse, it could be dangerous to someone like me. Hunters would likely have anti-witch barriers in place.”

“There’s so much in that basement that we could use. I saw a sword made of pure silver.”

Eli sighed. “There is a spell that I found that could make other spells visible. I’m not saying yes, but if we go, you do not question my judgment if we encounter a spell that I can’t nullify. We stop and return here. Do you accept that as a condition?”

“If that’s the closest thing I’m going to get to a yes, then I accept. Can we go now? I can call my dad and make sure she’s still at the station.” Terrie said.

Matt interjected. “No. Hold on. If the two of you are rushing off into danger, I have my own condition.”

“You are NOT coming with us,” Elias said forcefully.

“I one hundred percent agree with Eli. There is no reason for you to put yourself in danger, Matt.” Terrie said.

“While I struggle to not be offended by that, can I say what I actually intended to say now? Is this what life with the two of you will be like? A life of unfinished sentences?” Matt smirked.

“You may continue, my love.” Elias and Terrie said in unison, then blushed at each other.

Matt looked at Terrie. “I don’t trust either of you to call for help. I want to know that you are safe. You said you found the spell you were looking for. Bond us. Become the protector of the Roxbury Falls coven just like your mom was. Do this before the two of you run off into danger. If I can sense you through the bond like I can Eli, I will feel better about letting you do this.”

Terrie looked at Elias. “Do you think the changed wording for the first spell will work?”

“Yes, and I have an idea for the second one. I’m prepared if you’re both sure this is what you want.”

“I’m ready,” Terrie said.

“What do I need to do?” Matt asked.

“For now, sit there and look pretty,” Elias smirked. “Then, when we start the second spell, it will be nearly identical to when we bonded.”

“Should me and Brad leave?” Nate asked.

“Not necessary. Just don’t touch any of us. I’m not sure what would happen.” Eli said.

“Got it. No touching.” Brad huffed out a laugh.

Terrie and Eli started setting up the circle where the spells would be performed. First, they set out the herbs and lit the incense for Terrie’s witch protector spell. Once they were ready, Terrie stepped inside the circle and inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the incense smoke.

New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 3)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 3: Monsters and Heroes

Gavin didn’t look convinced. “An angel? Are you serious? That’s impossible, Logan. Maybe he’s part of whatever is going on. Be careful, Logan. The army is involved. I think you should stay away from Obadiah until we talk to dad.”

“Come with me, please, Gav. Let me show you what I found.” Logan led his brother back to the field and down to the crater’s center. “Look at that. Doesn’t it look like the imprint of a body? And look at the size of this crater, and the footprints only lead out of the crater, not in.”

“It is all very odd. I guess that’s the theme of the day. But an angel, Logan? I just don’t know. It could mean just what I said. He could be a part of whatever is happening.”

“Gavin, there’s something else. The feather was glowing a bright blue earlier, the same blue as all these little meteor rocks! Explain that! Touch one, and maybe you’ll understand.” He picked up a blue rock and tossed it to his brother.

“What the hell? It feels weird. Like it’s pulsing or something.” Gavin was now staring at the glowing blue rock in the palm of his hand. “Grab a couple more rocks so we can show them to dad when he gets home.”

Logan stuffed a few more blue rocks into the pocket of his jeans. “Gavin, I think Obie is out here somewhere. I’m worried that he may be hurt. What do we do?”

“Let’s go home and see if dad is there. If dad isn’t home, we can drive around and see if you can find your friend. But, Logan, we don’t know where he is or even what he is. You must understand that we probably won’t find him.” Gavin said.

“When I hold the feather, I feel if he’s close, but I can’t get an exact location. I appreciate you trying to help. I really do.” Logan said.

“Let’s go home and see if dad is there,” Gavin said, and they walked back to his car.

Ashton Connors sat in math class, trying to calm his nerves. Ash couldn’t sit still. His mind was in overdrive, and he hadn’t even had his usual latte that morning. Ashton heard a cracking sound and looked down. The tile underneath Ashton’s foot splintered as if someone had hit it with a hammer. “Crap!” Ash thought to himself. “I hope Mr. Bailey doesn’t see that, or he’ll blame me!” In his nervousness, Ash started tapping his pencil faster. Ashton watched, spellbound, as his hand moved so quickly that all he saw was a blur. With another loud crack, the pencil drilled entirely through the desktop.

“Mr. Connors, what is going on back there?” Mr. Bailey asked as he turned from the blackboard and looked directly at Ashton.

“Nothing, sir. Everything is fine.” Ashton was so worked up between the broken tile and the pencil sticking out of the desk that his whole body started to shake. Ash could barely follow his own movements as the desk began to vibrate.

“Mr. Connors, whatever you are doing, please stop this instant!” You’re disrupting the class, and if I have to speak to you one more time, you’re going to the principal’s office.”

“Mr. Bailey, I…” Ashton started to say, but then… CRASH!

Ashton’s desk fell apart, and he landed amongst the pieces on the floor. The students closest to him leaped out of their seats and backed away.

“Ashton! What have you done? Are you okay?” Mr. Bailey rushed to Ashton’s side.

“I’m alright. I don’t know what happened.”

Mr. Bailey’s eyes took in the disassembled desk and the smashed tile, and the pencil impaled through the desktop. He shook his head. “I don’t understand why so many of you kids have to be so destructive. Come with me, Mr. Connors.”

Ash opened his mouth to try and defend himself but quickly closed it again. It was no use. He couldn’t even explain what happened to himself, never mind explaining it to an adult. Ashton sighed and followed Mr. Bailey out of the room.

As Bryson drove through town, he took a right turn onto Sunset Street, and without warning, a car fell from the sky and landed upside down in front of him. Bryson slammed on the brakes but still smashed into the other car’s side.

Shaken up but unhurt, Bryson got out of his car and rushed to see if anyone needed help. Bryson got to the other vehicle, looked in, and saw two unconscious men. The vehicle lay on its roof, and both doors were wedged shut. Bryson peered in through the smashed windshield to see if he could pull the victims free. The driver was pinned in place by the steering wheel. The passenger hung upside down from the seatbelt and moaned softly. Bryson called 9-1-1 and reported everything he saw. After he hung up, Bryson crawled into their car to see if he could do anything while waiting for the paramedics. Bryson began feeling pain all over his body, then heard a voice. He looked at both men, and they were both still unconscious, yet a voice clearly said, “Oh God, please help me. I can’t feel my legs. I hope Brett is okay.” And someone different crying, “Oh my God, what was that thing. It looked like a bull. I can’t believe it picked up the car like a toy. Why can’t I wake up? Where’s William? I can’t see anything!”

Bryson shook his head. What the hell just happened? Was he hearing their thoughts and feeling their pain? Bryson searched to see if he could find the names William or Brett, anywhere in the car, but then he felt different feelings. Bryson was now filled with white-hot rage and heard a roaring inside his head so loud it felt like his skull may bust in two. He fell to his knees and grabbed his head. Slowly Bryson turned toward the road and then wished that he hadn’t. Bryson found himself face to face with something that should not exist outside of the movies.

The creature was seven feet tall and looked to Bryson like a minotaur out of Greek mythology, but he could still see human features beneath the dark brown fur. It had a brown leather-like hide that completely covered its massive body. The creature’s head closely resembled a bull, except the muzzle wasn’t quite so prominent. The monster also had large, sharply pointed horns protruding from its head. Its arms and upper body would put the bulkiest bodybuilders to shame, and its tree trunk sized legs ended in hooves instead of feet. Bryson could not believe his eyes. He was almost too stunned and scared to react at all. Bryson tried to slowly back up but immediately hit up against the wreckage of the cars. Bryson nearly fainted from shock when the creature began to speak.

Harvey was startled out of his reverie when he noticed his friend Ashton Connors walk out of the school, closely followed by the vice-principal. They walked to the end of the parking lot, where Ash kept walking off school property, and the vice-principal turned and walked back into the school. Harvey was staring outside, lost in thought, even though he should have been paying attention to his calculus teacher. “What was that all about?” Harvey thought to himself, then he raised his hand.

The teacher acknowledged Harvey. “Yes, Mr. Kastala?”

“May I go to the restroom, please, Mr. Sawyer?”

“Can’t it wait until the end of class?”

“Not really, sir.”

“Okay. Fine. Go. Make it quick.”

Harvey grabbed the hall pass from Mr. Sawyer’s desk and ran out of class. He ran past the bathrooms and out the front door. When Harvey got to the street, he looked all around, trying to see if he could find Ashton. Bingo. Harvey spotted Ash across the street, just entering the park. Harvey dashed off to catch up to his friend.

“Stand aside or share their fate. The stones they possess must be mine.” The bull creature stared at Bryson with glowing red eyes and waited for him to move.

The thoughts that ran through Bryson’s head were, “Could this thing be talking about one of the blue meteor rocks? Can he possibly know that I have one too? Can I live with myself if I just let him do whatever he wants to these injured men? What do I do?” The words that came out of his mouth were, “Are you really a bull? I called the cops already. Should I call animal control instead?” 

The creature roared as it charged at Bryson. He reacted without thinking. Bryson ducked under the creature’s outstretched arms and extended his own arms out towards the bull, palms outward. He felt a power surge through him, and he saw the beast thrown through the air back towards the center of the street. The bull was even angrier now. “Who are you, little man? You must have a blue rock, too. Taurus the Bull shall grind your bones to dust and take it from you!”

“Taurus the Bull shouldn’t refer to himself in the third person. It’s pretentious, especially for a heifer like you.” Quipped Bryson.

The bull lowered its head and charged again. Bryson tried to do the same thing he did before, but it didn’t work. Pain exploded in his right side, and he was lifted off the ground and tossed thirty yards down the street. Bryson smashed into a row of mailboxes. He looked back towards Taurus and saw that the bull was trying to pull one of the men out of the car. Bryson was scared, but he knew he had to try and protect the men from Taurus. Bryson groaned and stood up. He thought about how he had thrown the creature using only his mind. Bryson needed to access that power again. He looked around at the mailboxes and posts, broken and scattered at his feet. Bryson closed his eyes and pictured picking up a mailbox with his mind. When Bryson opened his eyes, one of the mailboxes was floating in front of him. He concentrated, and the mailbox flew at an incredible speed and smacked Taurus right in the back.

Taurus snarled and turned to face Bryson, letting go of the man in the car. The bull strode forward, head lowered, and yelled. “I’ve had enough of you, little man. I’ll beat you into a pulp and then finish what I came to do.”

Bryson crouched behind the pile of mailboxes and started sending them out at Taurus. Taurus, caught off-guard by the sudden rain of metal, stopped, and covered his face with his arms. Seizing this as an opportunity, Bryson let his new weapons fall and sent his power out at Taurus, sending the creature flying about fifty yards backward through the air.

Sirens wailed in the distance, growing ever closer, drawing Bryson’s attention. Bryson saw two police cars blocking the end of the street. The police were not attempting to move any closer. Bryson waved at the cops, trying to get them to come to help the men in the car. He didn’t even care if they wanted to help him fight Taurus. Bryson knew the cops saw him, but they moved no closer. While he watched, an ambulance drove up. The police initially stopped the ambulance, but Bryson heard raised voices. Then the ambulance pulled onto the sidewalk and drove past the police roadblock. Help was on the way. Now all Bryson needed to do was distract the giant homicidal cow.

Bryson positioned himself in between the ambulance and Taurus. The bull was back on his feet and ready for a fight. Bryson could hear the creature’s jumbled thoughts. “You’re from the docks? Who were you before you became Mad Cow Man?” Bryson asked with a smile.

“Get out of my head!” The Taurus yelled. “I’m gonna shut your wise-ass mouth for good.” Taurus charged at Bryson. Still listening to the bull’s thoughts, Bryson easily dodged the charge. He kept taunting Taurus and leading him further away from the paramedics and the two men in the car. When the bull realized what Bryson was up to, it was too late. They were three blocks away when Taurus noticed the ambulance driving away in the other direction. He turned to head towards the accident scene when two army helicopters landed in the street.

Men poured out of both helicopters. Taurus started forward, then thought better of it and ran off, roaring in frustration. Bryson considered checking on the men in the car, but he caught random thoughts from the army guys. They planned on questioning him, so he decided to leave before they could grab him. Bryson darted down a side street and disappeared into the city.

Christine Justyce heard the boy stirring in the living room. She peered in to see if he needed anything, and Christine saw that he was already back to sleep. She picked up her phone and made a call. As soon as the other person picked up, Christine began to speak. “Caleb, it’s me. I need you to come over to my house right away.”

“What’s wrong, sis?”

“An injured boy showed up at my house last night. He’s hurt bad. Can you come over right now?”

“Why did you call me and not an ambulance or the police, Christine? What else is wrong?”

“He has two huge, very raw wounds down his back. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“I’ll ask again. Why call me? What is happening?”

“His blood is bright glowing blue. He showed up covered in mud right after that strange meteor shower. Caleb, I don’t think he’s human.”

“I’ll be right there.” Caleb Justyce hung up the phone and headed to his sister’s house.

Erik didn’t have a plan of action after leaving Bryson’s apartment. He decided that he wasn’t going to class. There was too much on his mind to focus on college. A pleasant stroll through the park might be just the thing Erik needed to clear his head. Erik started to hear noises when he was about halfway through the park. He slowed his pace and left the path. From behind a stand of bushes, Erik peered into the big picnic area situated right in the park’s center. What he saw, Erik could hardly believe. For lack of a better word, two monsters were terrorizing a family near the barbecue pit.

One of the creatures looked like a mythological centaur. The centaur was a female and had long chestnut brown hair that matched the color of her horse body. The second monster was something Erik had never seen before. It had the basic shape of a man, and Erik could see that it had human facial features, but the skin had a reddish hue, and things that the family threw at him bounced off as if the skin was a hardened shell. The creature’s left arm ended in a relatively normal-looking hand, but the right arm ended in what looked more like a giant claw. Erik wondered to himself if this could be his own fate. Were these monsters caused by the effects of the blue meteors? Would he turn into one, too? He’d have to find an alternate path to get home, but should he call 9-1-1 first? Could he do anything to help? Could paramedics or even the police help against monsters? Erik snapped a couple pictures with his phone, then turned and ran back towards the school as he called the police.

Two ambulances pulled into Newville General Hospital and dropped off their patients. There was a flurry of activity in the emergency room. Both William Fuller and Brett Greene were in critical condition when they arrived. William had numerous broken ribs and internal injuries. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and nose. Brett had cuts all over his face and upper body. He also had a broken left arm and crushing injuries to both legs. Both men had glowing blue rocks in the pockets of their jeans.

“Ashton! Wait up!” Harvey yelled as he closed ground on his best friend.

Ash heard someone yell his name and stopped. He turned around and saw his closest friend, Harvey Kastala, running to catch up to him. Ash took a seat on a park bench and waited for Harvey.

Slightly out of breath, Harvey sat down next to Ashton. “Hey, Ash.”

“Why are you here, Harvs? Shouldn’t you be in class right now?”

Harvey waved the hall pass in front of Ash. “I’m in the bathroom. Duh!”

Ash rolled his eyes. “Go back to school, Harvey. I’m fine.”

“What happened? I saw the vice-principal walk you off school property?”

“I’m not sure what happened. My desk fell apart, and the school blamed me. Destruction of school property. It’s been a weird day, Harvs.”

“I know. My dad’s unit is on high alert because of the meteors. They think there’s more to it than that.”

Ashton’s eyes grew wide. “Do you know what they think is going on? Are the meteors dangerous?”

“Ash, what are you not telling me? What happened at school?”

Ashton sighed. “You know me too well.”

“You’ve been my best friend since kindergarten. Now spill it!”

“Okay. Alright. Well, my strange day started before I got to school. I was passing by the antique store on Park Avenue. The store burned down in one of the fires last night. I stopped to check it out, and I noticed a bright blue rock in the antique store’s ashes. It was stunning, so I picked it up.” Ash pulled the rock out of his pocket and showed it to Harvey. “The damn thing started glowing and made my whole body feel weird. I don’t know why, but I kept it.”

Harvey started to reach for it, but Ash pulled it back. “No! Don’t touch it. At least not until I finish my story. Then you can decide for yourself.”

“It may be too late for that.” Harvey reached into his pocket and pulled out his own four small blue stones. “They’re a lot smaller than the one you have, but I felt the same energy pulses throughout my body that you described. So, please, I need to hear the rest of your story.”

Ash reached out, placed a hand on Harvey’s forearm, and stared deep into his bright blue eyes. “Oh, Harvs, what’s happening to us. I hope to God that you don’t experience what I did today.”

“Just tell me, Ash. What happened?” Harvey asked.

Ashton relayed his story. He told Harvey about the floor tile, the pencil, and the desk falling apart. Ash explained that none of it was intentional. His body vibrated so fast that Ash could barely follow his own movements, and he had no conscious control of it. “So, that’s my story. It can’t be a coincidence. It’s gotta be related to the stones, right?”

Harvey was about to respond when an older boy came running out of the park. Harvey thought he recognized him. Erik? Something like that. He thought the boy graduated with Gavin. “Dude, where’s the fire?” Harvey said as the boy ran over to where Harvey and Ashton sat.

“There’s not a fire, but there are two monsters in the park, and I think they’re chasing me! We need to get out of here!”

“Whatever drugs you’re taking, you need to quit,” Ash said as an arrow flew out of the trees and stuck in the bench right between him and Harvey.

Bryson was out of breath when he reached Grace’s apartment. He took a few minutes to gather himself and then went upstairs and knocked on the door. Bryson heard Grace yell out from inside the apartment, “Come in!” Bryson opened the door and went inside.

 “Bryson, what happened to you? Your clothes are all torn. Are you okay?” Grace asked.

“I need your help, Grace. Even more now than when I called you. Have you seen the news yet this morning?” Bryson was pacing as he talked. The events of the morning had him pretty freaked out.

“If you are talking about the meteors and the fires, I’ve seen all the footage. What’s that have to do with the fact that it looks like you just went ten rounds with King Kong?”

 “Turn on your TV. Maybe you can see it for yourself. You gotta see this, or you won’t believe it. I don’t believe it, and it happened to me.” Bryson waited while Grace turned on the TV.

“What is this, Bryson? This can’t be real. Is this a movie stunt? Wait… is that you?” Grace looked from the TV to Bryson and back again. “What is that thing?”

“It’s not a movie stunt. I just fought a freaking minotaur or something close to a minotaur anyway. It called itself Taurus the Bull, and he was hunting two other people, but I found myself right in the middle. Taurus was looking for these.” Bryson pulled the blue rocks out of his pocket.

“Are they pieces of the meteor?” Grace asked, reaching forward.

Erik closed his fist around the rocks. “Don’t touch them. Something happened to me when I picked them up. I’m different now, Grace. I could read their thoughts, the two injured guys in the car and Taurus. His thoughts were jumbled, but I know Taurus came from the docks, and there was a big explosion down there during the meteor shower. It must be all tied together. I think that the rocks turned Taurus into that monster and gave me powers.” Erik lifted Grace’s coffee table up with his mind, spun it around, and sat it down.

Grace was in complete shock. She could not believe or understand what she saw, even though it was happening right before her astonished eyes. Bryson had been right. If Grace hadn’t seen it for herself, she would have never believed it. Grace didn’t want to consider it even now. “This is a lot to take in, Bryson,” Grace said, running her fingers through her long dark hair. “What else can you do?”

“So far, I can read minds and move things with my mind. If I can do anything else, I haven’t discovered it yet.”

Grace looked closely at Bryson. “Your eyes have changed. They are a much brighter green than they were before. You’re not wearing colored contacts, are you?”

Bryson ran to Grace’s bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. He came back into the room and sat down again. “They are brighter. It has to be connected. My friend Erik Reilly found a meteor, and his hair changed color. Give me a minute to send him a text. I have to see if he’s experienced any other changes yet.” Bryson sent Erik a text, which was not immediately answered. “I need to go look for him. Will you help me find out what’s happening, Grace? The army showed up while I was fighting Taurus. I know you have high-level contacts in the government.”

“I’ll do what I can, Bryson. Go look for your friend. Keep me in the loop. Lay low. You were on that video clip. The army will probably come looking for you. You may want to stay somewhere other than your apartment.”

“That’s a great idea, Grace. I didn’t even consider that. I’ll find Erik and let you know if anything else happens.”

“Buy a new phone. Call me when you and your friend are both safe. I’ll contact my sources and wait for your call.”

“Thank you, Grace. I knew that I could count on you.” Bryson ran out of Grace’s apartment, toward Erik’s house, and down the street.

Coming Soon – Episode 4: Frozen Fisticuffs

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 15)

Chapter 15

Brad walked hand in hand with Nate up the front steps to his house. “Are you sure you want to meet my mom?” Brad shrugged. “We haven’t even had a real date yet.”

Nate huffed out a laugh. “We are not living in normal times. Dating protocols can go on hold while we battle the freaking supernatural!”

Brad grinned. “Agreed. Let me do the talking if she asks about Matt and David.”

“Yessir. Lying to your mom is your job.”

“We might not have to. My mom is the newspaper editor and works closely with the sheriff. I don’t know if they’ve talked today or if he’s told her anything.”

The two boys walked into the house. Nancy Holliday turned from making dinner as they walked in. “Bradley, you’re home. Have you seen your cousins? I’m almost done with dinner. Oh, hello.” She said, noticing Nathan standing next to Brad.

“Mom, this is Nate. Do you mind if he stays for dinner?”

“Of course, he can. I’ll set out an extra plate.”

“Not necessary. Neither David nor Matt will be home for dinner. I’m not sure when they will get home, but I will text them later. They were busy when I left them.”

Nancy quirked an eyebrow. “Boys, sit.” She pointed to the kitchen table and sat on one of the chairs. “I know there’s more going on than what is being reported by the sheriff.” She looked directly at her son. “And I know you’ve got yourself right in the middle of it. Talk to me, Brad.” She smiled. “You know I’m going to find out anyway.”

Nate nodded his head and looked at Brad. “I think we should tell her.”

Brad sighed. “You’re going to hate this, mom. Either you’ll think I’m lying to you, or you will believe me, and that might be worse.”

“Just tell me, Bradley. At this point, I think I need to know.”

“You’ve been to all the animal attack sites, right?”

“Yes. The sheriff even let me look at what was left of the bodies and read the coroner’s reports. I won’t go into details because I know you knew all three of the kids, but it was not a pleasant experience.”

“Did anything that you saw resemble any bear attack you’ve ever seen or heard of?”

“Honestly? No. What are you saying, son?”

Brad reached into his backpack and pulled out the two photographs. He slid the photos across the table. “These are the two photographs I took in the park last night. The sheriff got them back from his friend already.”

“And you want me to believe that this is a werewolf?”

“I want you to believe that that is David. The Montana family curse is real. My ex-boyfriend is a witch. Elias was drawn to the witch house last year because it is his family home. Eli is the last living descendant of the witches that cursed the Montana family.”

Nancy’s eyes were wide. “Are you saying that you think David is responsible for the three deaths?”

“Nope. Remember when David got bit by the big dog in the backyard, and Matt insisted it was a wolf and nobody believed him?”

Nancy quirked an eyebrow. “Second werewolf?”

Brad shrugged. “Technically, that one is the first werewolf.”

“So, this is why you boys have been suddenly living at the library?”

“I work there.” Nate quipped. “Brad will be spending more time there even after this is over?”

“I think we skipped over something in introductions. Are you dating my son?”

Nate blushed. “Yes… well, we haven’t officially gone out yet… but yes.”

“Are you still in school?”

“College and I am the junior librarian. I am pursuing a double major in Library Sciences and English Literature.”

“And how old are you?”

“Eighteen.” Nate huffed out a laugh. “All that may have made me sound older. I’m a very ambitious college freshman, and I fell into the library job. Mr. Harris needed help, and I was in the right place at the right time.”

Brad covered his face with his hands. “Mom! We haven’t even started dating yet. Don’t scare him off with the third degree!”

“You’re in high school. Nathan is in college. A mother worries.” She looked at Nate and then back at Brad. “I approve, but we might have to pry him out of the library and into the newsroom.”

“I considered journalism. No offense, but I’m more of a teacher than an investigator. The last few days’ research has been fun, but I’m more of a stay in the library guy than a go hunting for werewolves in the park guy.” Nate huffed out a laugh.

“Hey!” Brad yelled. “I resemble that remark!”

Nancy shook her head and winked at Nate. “I raised him to be too much like me. He needs someone like you to keep him grounded.” Then she looked at Brad. “Now tell me the rest. Where are my nephews.”

Brad took a drink of his ice water. “Settle in, and I’ll tell you everything I know. This might take a while.” Brad began his story.

———————————————————————————————————-

The five boys walked into the abandoned warehouse and looked around. Sky looked concerned. “Are you sure we won’t set off any alarms and get arrested for trespassing or anything?”

“Or maybe get accused of impersonating Marley’s Ghost?” Devon rattled the chains that he had wrapped around himself.

“We won’t be arrested,” Matt said. “If Terrie’s dad shows up, he already knows what’s going on.”

“Or that deputy shows up and burns us all as witches and monsters.” Elias scowled.

Matt shrugged. “Yeah, I guess Lilly Monroe is a new problem that we have to add to our long list of problems.”

“Where’s this cage, Matt? I can feel the moon.” David said softly.

“Come on, let’s get you back there,” Matt said, pointing toward the back of the warehouse. “Sky? How are you feeling?”

“Nothing yet, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.”

“You’ll know it if it happens. The first time was the most painful.” David said.

“That’s comforting, babe.” Sky laughed.

Just as David stepped inside the cage, he fell to his knees. “It’s starting. Lock me up, guys.”

Matt helped Devon unwrap himself, and they started weaving the chains through the chain-link fence. Then Skylar screamed. Matt, Devon, and Elias all turned towards Sky as he fell to the ground in obvious pain. Sky’s emerald eyes were now a bright yellow, and his teeth were lengthening into fangs. In a deep growly voice, Sky screamed, “Help me! Please!”

Devon’s eyes were wide with fear. “What do we do? We don’t have a second cage!”

Matt looked to Eli. “Any ideas? Can we put them together?’

“I’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this. We weren’t sure this would happen and had no time to prepare. We don’t have a choice but to put David and Sky together and hope for the best.” Elias shrugged. “We can watch them closely and try some calming spells if they get violent.”

Devon looked at Matt. “No matter what, they are our brothers. What do you think we should do?”

“Sky trusted that David wouldn’t hurt anyone, even in wolf form. I agree with Elias. If they retain any of their own thoughts, they will be fine. We must take the chance.”

“Agreed. Now we need to act fast to get Sky in the cage and not let David get back out.”

Sky was still predominantly human as Matt and Devon half carried and half dragged him to the cage door. As soon as they were there, Eli opened the gate. They successfully got Sky into the cage and then finished securely locking it up with the chains and padlocks.

“Who’s going to make the first coffee and snacks run? This is bound to be a long night.” Eli quirked one eyebrow.

Devon sighed. “I’ll go. What do you guys want?”

———————————————————————————————————-

Terrie got home and yelled out to her father. “Dad, I’m home! Do you need me to start dinner?”

“I’m in the den, sweety. Come in here before you get started.”

Johnny ran up to his big sister. “That mean deputy is in there. I don’t like her, Terrie. I heard her talking about you, Brad, and your other friends. Brad and Matt are both super nice. Brad saved my life! Don’t let her hurt them!”

Terrie ruffled her brother’s hair. “I’ll be careful, Johnny. Thanks for the heads up. I will always protect my friends., almost as fiercely as I protect you, little bro!”

Johnny grinned. “Love ya, big sis!”

“Love you, too,” Terrie said as she turned and walked into the den.

Terrie barely acknowledged the presence of Lilly Monroe as she walked over to her dad’s computer desk. “What’s up, dad?’

 “Lilly told me there’s been a lot of activity at the witch… at the old Carrier house. Do you know anything about that?”

Terrie shrugged. “Why, yes, I do. A bunch of us were there today. Eli’s foster parents have finally gotten all the legal issues straightened out. The house will officially belong to Elias upon his eighteenth birthday in a couple of months. We were helping him clean the old place up. Is there a problem with that?” As she asked the question, Terrie was staring right at Lilly.

“No. I…” The sheriff began, but Lilly cut him off.

“Yes, there is. You are getting involved in things you cannot control. The more you hang out with the Carrier boy and the Montana boys, the greater the danger you are in.” Lilly said.

“If you are this great supernatural hunter, why haven’t you done anything? How do you know that danger exists beyond a rogue bear?”

Lilly’s eyes narrowed. “We’ve spoken of this. You know that the supernatural exists, and you know it exists in this town. With your father’s permission, I can show you further proof if you come with me to my house.”

“Dad?”

“Go. Learn everything you can.” Ronnie said.

Lilly and Terrie left the house and walked to Lilly’s car.

———————————————————————————————————-

Before Devon left to go on his coffee and snack run, he stopped to watch the wolves. The two wolves were sniffing and circling each other, only stopping to rattle and shake the chain-link enclosure. Then the smaller wolf, the wolf with the greenish-yellow eyes – Skylar, lay prone and submitted to the blue-eyed wolf’s inspection.

Devon kept watching for a while, then his eyes went wide, and he turned to Matt. “Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”

Matt had an equally shocked expression on his face. “It’s like National geographic porn with a Stephen King twist. I don’t want to watch, but I can’t look away.”

“Eli! Are you recording them?! I don’t even want to watch this once. Why would you save it?” Devon asked.

Elias huffed out a laugh. “Not for me! For them. David has told us that he can’t remember his time as a wolf, except maybe a few flashes of memory. I thought this might be something they want to remember.” Eli shrugged.

“I don’t even know what to say to that. Or to that.” Matt pointed to the cage.

“It’s probably their first time together, too. Can life get any weirder for all of us?” Devon said.

Matt rolled his eyes and then laughed. “A couple weeks ago, I was living the straight life on the beaches of Southern California. Now, I’m a bisexual witch watching my brother and his boyfriend have werewolf sex. No. I don’t think life can get any weirder.”

“On the positive side, this may prove that they retain at least a portion of their true personalities as wolves. They are less restrained and more primal, but they are who they are. I believe Sky was right about David. He would not kill, even as a wolf.” Eli said.

“I hope you’re both right. Looking at those two, I’m inclined to believe it.” Matt said.

“Since we’re sure they’re not going to kill each other, I’ll head out on that coffee and snack run,” Devon said.

“Excellent idea. I’m starved.” Eli grinned.

———————————————————————————————————-

Terrie followed Lilly into her small cottage, situated on the edge of town. Lilly pulled open a door which led to a darkened stairway.” “Follow me,” Lilly said.

Terrie frowned. She was a little nervous, but her dad knew where she was and who she was with, so she followed. At the bottom of the stairs stood a steel door that looked like the door to a bank vault. “That doesn’t look like it belongs in this old cottage.”

“I did some home improvements when I moved in,” Lilly said as she stood in front of an electronic scanner to the right of the door. She put her thumb on the pad and waited for the beep, then she entered a series of numbers into the keypad. Finally, the door opened. Lilly led Terrie into a room that was bright and shiny. Everything was either stainless steel or painted white.

“Ouch. I didn’t know I’d need sunglasses.” Terrie scoffed. Then the items in the room caught her attention. There were swords and knives and guns and weapons of almost every variety. There was also a ceiling-to-floor bookshelf that covered three walls. Most of the books looked ancient. “Wow,” Terrie said in awe.

“Feel free to look around and ask questions. This is one of our oldest collections of books and weapons. Roxbury Falls has been a beacon for the supernatural for thousands of years. We thought we had finally eradicated the witches nearly twenty years ago, then magic was again detected here.”

“You are talking about Elias Carrier. You thought you had eradicated the witches by murdering his mother, but you didn’t know about Eli.”

“It was not me, personally, but yes, the rest of that is accurate.”

Terrie’s eyes narrowed. “Are you planning Eli’s murder right now?”

“If he continues to use magic, he will be dealt with most harshly.”

“What if he is using magic to help people? Magic isn’t inherently evil. People are. Would you kill him if he was helping people?”

“Magic and magical creatures are unnatural and cannot be allowed to exist.”

“So, you lied. Even if Elias doesn’t use magic, you still want him dead because he is magical.” Terrie said as she turned away from Lilly. “Wooden stakes? Are vampires real?” Terrie asked as she stared into a glass case full of stakes, holy water, and other vampire fighting gear.

“Most of the legends have a factual origin. Vampires haven’t been sighted outside of Eastern Europe in over a hundred years.”

Terrie nodded and moved on. She walked toward the bookshelves. As she got closer, she felt as if she had walked through a curtain of spiderwebs, but nothing was there. Terrie turned and saw Lilly staring at her with a shocked expression.

“What do you know about your mother?” Lilly asked.

“Not much. Why do you ask?”

“You just passed through a spelled barrier that only those with Hunter blood can pass through. That explains why you have been drawn to the witch and the Montana boys. Hunters are drawn to the supernatural, so we can destroy it.”

“I don’t know if I am what you say I am, but no one will destroy my friends. I will stop you myself.”

“You will change your mind as the bodies pile up in your town.”

Terrie’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve shown me your toys. You’ve spun your tales. I already believed that there was more going on in Roxbury Falls than most people think. Can I go home now?”

Lilly handed Terrie a book. “Take this. Read it. It explains the importance of your heritage as a witch hunter. It also explains why you can never trust a supernatural creature, and they are creatures. Even the witches who walk around looking human. Elias Carrier is not a cute teen boy to watch movies with. He is an emissary of Satan who must be burned out of existence.”

Terrie took the book. “I’ll read your book, but I’ll also hook you up with a good therapist and some anger management classes.”

Lilly led Terrie out of the basement and back to the car. “You will be back, and when you come back, you will be begging for my help to eradicate the evil that has infected your town.”

As Terrie listened to Lilly rattle on, she tried to remember as much about the setup of the house and security systems as she could. Terrie thought that she and her friends might need some of Lilly’s weapons to kill the rogue werewolf. With one last look around the property, Terrie slid into the passenger seat of Lilly’s car.

———————————————————————————————————-

Brad slid his phone back into his pocket and sighed. “Do you want the good news, the bad news, or the weird news first?” He asked Nate.

Nate reached over and grabbed another handful of popcorn before answering. “May as well start with weird.” He huffed out a laugh.

“Werewolves have sex. Well, at least our two do. LGBTQ+ werewolf sex. I’d like to see that in a pride parade.” Brad grinned.

Nate’s eyes went wide. “Glad I wasn’t taking a drink! I may have squirted Mountain Dew out of my nose. That is wild!” Nate’s brow furrowed. “I guess that means that the bad news is that Sky is a wolf for sure, and the good news is that they didn’t kill each other, am I right?”

“Yep! That’s the news update for now. Did you pick out another movie yet?”

“How about ‘Julie and the Phantoms’ instead of a movie? I’m sure this won’t be our only Netflix night.” Nate waggled his eyebrows.

“I sure hope we have more! That show has hot boys and great music. Can’t go wrong with that combo! Excellent choice!”

“Oh, aren’t I a hot enough boy for you?” Nate gave a pouty look.

Brad rolled his eyes. “Of course, you are, but more is better, right?” He laughed.

Nate smiled. “You’re funny. I think I like you a little bit.”

Brad started the show and snuggled up against Nate. “I’ve thought of a loophole in my mom’s rule. She said that she better not find both of us in the same bedroom in the morning, but I really don’t want to be alone tonight.” He looked up at Nate.

Nate leaned down and gave Brad a kiss that was little more than a quick peck on the lips. “What’s your loophole?”

Brad smirked. “We watch tv until we fall asleep right here, just like this.” He snuggled in closer to Nate.

“I approve of this plan. It’s evil, yet sweet and innocent.” Nate chuckled and let his hand slide down from Brad’s shoulder to his waist. Nate leaned his head against Brad, and the two boys settled in to watch tv.

———————————————————————————————————-

Devon got back from the snack run and stopped in his tracks when he saw Matt and Eli. “Dude! Should I wear a bell or something? First, I had to see Sky and David getting busy, now the two of you.”

Elias rolled his eyes. “We were not having sex. We were barely kissing. I wouldn’t even call it making out.”

“You’re just jealous.” Matt laughed. “We need to find you a girlfriend. Sky said the same thing.”

“Not really looking right now, bro. I talk to a few girls, but I’m just so busy with school, lacrosse and baseball, and the newspaper that I don’t have time to date. It’ll happen when the time is right.” Devon shrugged.

“The important thing right now,” Eli smirked, “is did you get my Mountain Dew and white cheddar Cheetos?”

“Your wish is my command.” Devon grinned and handed one of the grocery bags to Elias. “Where are we setting up for the night?”

Eli took the bags and pointed. “We set up a table and the sleeping bag over there. Only one sleeping at a time, I think. Two can stay awake easier than one.”

“Agreed. How’re our boys doing?” Devon nodded toward the cage.

Matt grinned and blushed. “It seems they wore themselves out. They’re asleep. They look kind of adorable for werewolves. They’re asleep and cuddling.”

“It’s comforting that humans aren’t the only ones that fall asleep after sex.” Devon laughed.

“I know, right?! And cuddling! I sure hope that witches are into cuddling, too!” Matt smirked at Elias.

“Oh, absolutely! I can one hundred percent confirm that they are.” Eli laughed.

Devon rolled his eyes. “Get a room!”

“We have a whole house, but no, we’re here with you instead,” Eli said.

“Blame my brother. No! Blame his brother.” Devon pointed at Matt.

Matt rolled his eyes and pulled out a deck of cards. “We’re in for a long night. What card games do you guys know how to play?”

The three boys settled in at the table with cards and snacks while always keeping one eye on the werewolf cage.

———————————————————————————————————-

Terrie got home and rushed right into the den to talk to her father. She found him still working at his computer. “Dad, we need to talk. It’s important.”

“What is it, honey? What did you find out at Lilly’s?”

“More than I wanted to, but all of it was important. The first thing is that Lilly’s house has a secret basement full of books and weapons. All of it is about tracking and killing supernatural beasts. Lilly said that Roxbury Falls has always been a beacon to the supernatural.”

“The town, this whole area, has always had unexplained deaths and weird things happening. Knowing what we know now, Lilly might be right.”

Terrie looked directly into her father’s eyes. “How much did you know about all of this before the last couple of days?”

“What do you mean? What else did she tell you?”

“What I mean is, did you know that the supernatural was real? Did you know that there was a werewolf in Roxbury Falls as soon as Kim was killed?”

Ronnie sighed. “I suspected after Kim, and I was pretty sure after Kevin. That’s why I put the curfew in place so quickly. I didn’t know it was a werewolf, not for sure. I’ve never dealt with anything like this, Terrie. I thought all this supernatural stuff was behind us years ago.”

Tears started to form in the corners of Terrie’s eyes. “You thought it was over after mom died, isn’t that what you mean? My mother was a witch hunter, wasn’t she? What really happened to her, dad? Did witches kill her?”

“No. Just the opposite. Witch hunters killed your mother while she was trying to save the life of her best friend, Marie Carrier.”

“Wow. Oh my God. That’s insane. So, mom wasn’t a witch hunter? Lilly told me that I have witch hunter blood.”

“You do. Your mom’s ancestors were all witch hunters, but she chose another path. Your mother was the first witch protector in hundreds of years. She wanted to make peace with the covens, and she had done just that. Marie and Julia were inseparable. Your mom went nuts when the witches started dying. She tried everything to save them, but there were just too many hunters. The hunters wouldn’t listen to anything your mom had to say about peace. They believe that all supernatural beings should be killed no matter what.”

“Did you know what Lilly was when you hired her?”

“Not until you told me about Elias. I know Lilly was fascinated with that house, but I had no reason to believe that hunters would come back to this town until you told me that Elias was a witch.”

“All of my friends involved in this are in danger now, aren’t they?”

“If they have ties to the supernatural, then yes. I’ll try my best to handle this as sheriff. If it’s only Lilly, we might be able to manage this. We do need to confirm who or what is killing kids, though, Terrie. I’m sure you want that just as much as I do.”

“I do, but I’m thinking that even if we deliver the guilty wolf to Lilly, she will still go after Elias and the others.”

“If she is anything like the hunters who were here seventeen years ago, you are right. I’ll try to get her to leave town, Terrie. Please don’t do anything stupid. I can’t lose you like I lost your mother.”

“I promise not to do anything stupid, but I will defend my friends. I won’t sit back and let anyone hurt Matt or Elias or any of the others.”

“I would expect nothing less. You are exactly like your mother. Just be safe, Terrie. That’s all I ask.”

Terrie grinned. “Saying that I am like mom is the best compliment you could ever give me. I’ll try my best to be as safe as possible, dad. I won’t back down, though.”

“I meant what I said. I am proud. You are a strong and independent woman. Your mother would be proud, too. You and your friends just try to lay low while I get Lilly out of town.”

“Thank you for being honest with me, dad. I’ll keep you in the loop. This new information about witch protectors might be what we need to get Lilly off our backs. Just know that it’s much too late for us to do nothing, and we’re not going to hide or run.”

“Understood. Good night, Terrie. I’m heading off to bed. I love you.”

“I love you, too, dad. Good night.”


Running Toward Love (Chapter 6)

Chapter 6

Leo walked into the cafeteria and looked around. He saw that Reese wasn’t at the table where the track team and cheerleaders usually sat. Leo breathed a sigh of relief and turned to go, heading in the opposite direction. Maybe he could find a quiet table to eat quickly and escape unseen. He knew he had to have a conversation with Reese, but he wasn’t ready.

Leo hadn’t taken two steps before hearing Reese’s voice behind him. “Did I do something wrong, Leo?”

Leo spun around. “What?! No! Of course not. Why would you think that?”

“You’ve been avoiding me all day. First on the bus,” Reese shrugged. “I thought you might have been busy, but then there were a few more times in the hallway that I waved to you, and you nearly ran the other way.” Reese looked sad.

Leo sighed. “You did nothing wrong, Reese. Come with me, and I’ll explain.” Leo led Reese out of the cafeteria and into an empty classroom. “Sit. Please.”

Reese looked worried, but he sat. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”

Leo huffed out a nervous laugh. “I never said that nothing was wrong. I said you didn’t do anything wrong. Me? I’m a hot mess right now.”

“I know we’re still getting to know each other, but you can tell me anything, Leo. What’s wrong?”

“I hope you still feel that way after hearing what I have to tell you.”

Reese arched an eyebrow. “I guess I won’t know until I hear it.”

“I had sex with Charlie last night. Well, oral sex, but, yes, I had sex with him.”

Reese looked down and blushed. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because when I woke up this morning, I didn’t wake up thinking about him. I woke up thinking about you. I’m not sure what’s happening between us, but I hope I didn’t screw it up. I don’t even know if you’re interested in me like that. Maybe I’m telling you all this, and you don’t even care.” Leo huffed out a laugh.

Reese’s eyes were wide, and his mouth was hanging open. “Wow. I’m in shock right now.” Reese ran both his hands through his hair and took a deep breath. “I’ve been crushing on you hard ever since the first night I met you on the beach.” Leo started to say something, but Reese put a finger up. “Please let me get this all out.” Leo nodded, and Reese continued. “When you told me that you were dating a tourist, I assumed, which is never a good idea, that you were a typical player who was only looking for short-term satisfaction. I asked around about you at school, and what I heard didn’t mesh with you being a player, so I was a little confused. I still hadn’t decided if I should pursue my crush, and then you passed out in the cafeteria. The more I learned about your history with that Jasper dude, the more I believed you were a good and kind person, not a player.” Reese grinned. “And the story of how you met Charlie, I can see why you fell for him. It must have been like a scene out of a movie.” Then Reese’s expression grew serious again. “If Matt ever tries anything like that again, I’ll pummel him worse than Charlie did.”

“Can I talk now?” Leo grinned.

Reese shrugged. “I guess.” Then he smirked.

“You’re right. I did fall for Charlie that day on the beach. I had been lonely and depressed for so long, and then he saved me. It didn’t hurt that he’s so cute. My head told me I was stupid, but I followed my heart and pursued things with him. Then you showed up. I immediately felt drawn to you. Even if Charlie wasn’t a tourist, I’d still choose you, Reese. The way you were able to calm my anxiety attack, the way you stood up for me to Jazz, the connection I felt on the beach yesterday, your beautiful brown eyes, all of it. If I haven’t screwed it up and made you hate me, I’d like to ask you out on a date.”

A million thoughts and feelings were buzzing through Reese. He tried to calm his mind and heart to clearly express himself to the boy he was falling madly in love with. “I felt the connection on the beach yesterday, too. I trusted you completely, or I would never have gone into the water with you. When Charlie showed up, I didn’t want you to go. I should have tried to stop you, but I didn’t. I should have told you that I wanted you to be going on a date with me, but I didn’t. Whatever happened last night, we weren’t together. You were on a date with a gorgeous guy. Whatever happened, happened.” Reese stood and pulled Leo to his feet. Reese took both of Leo’s hands in his own and stared deep into his eyes. “But,” Reese raised his eyebrows and smirked. “Now that you’ve asked me out, you’ll get a completely different reaction from me if anything else happens.”

“So, is that a yes then? Do you wanna go out with me?”

“Yes, but don’t you already have a date tonight?” Reese arched an eyebrow.

Leo sighed. “Yeah, and I need to talk to him and explain everything. I don’t want to leave him hanging. I want to be as honest with him as I was with you.”

“I understand. Keep your date with Charlie tonight but tell him everything and no funny business!” Reese grinned.

“Yessir! What about our afterschool swimming lesson? Are we still on for that?”

“Absolutely. I need to tell you the rest of my conditions for your date tonight and the conditions for dating me.” Reese smirked.

“I’m sure I’ll agree to everything you say,” Leo said as he leaned toward Reese to kiss him.

Reese covered Leo’s mouth with his hand. “No way. Not until you’ve broken up with Charlie.” Leo tried to speak, but Reese still had his hand pressed up against Leo’s mouth. Reese grinned and removed his hand. The boys heard the school bell ring signaling the end of lunch.

Leo sighed. “I’ll break up with him tonight, and we can go on a date tomorrow. Maybe then you’ll kiss me.”

“Maybe. We’ll see. It’ll have to be a proper date, though.” Reese winked. “Right now, we have to get to class. I’ll see you on the beach after school.” The two boys bumped fists, walked out into the hallway, and went to their next class.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo fist-bumped Reese as he walked toward the back of the school bus, then leaned down and put his lips right next to the other boy’s ear. “I’ll see you in about twenty minutes. Be ready to get wet.” Reese blushed as he watched Leo stroll down the aisle to sit next to Brandon.

Brandon smirked. “You look happier than you were this morning. Did you get laid during lunch?”

Leo rolled his eyes. “You’re such a pig.”

“It’s a legitimate question!” Bran laughed. “Well, what happened? I saw the two of you sneak off, and you were gone the whole lunch period.”

Kameron sat down in the seat in front of Brandon and Leo. “So? Did you talk to him then? Tell us!”

“If you two will shut up, maybe I can tell you!”

“Ok! Ok!” Brandon and Kam said in unison.

“We had the talk that I told you both that we needed to have.” Leo shrugged. “Reese was ok with what happened. He said he expected it, but Reese also said that he has a crush on me and regretted not trying to stop me from going on a date with Charlie.”

“I knew it! That’s awesome!” Kam said.

So, what happens now? Are you dating Reese?” Bran asked.

“Let me finish,” Leo said. “Anyway, Reese and I agreed that I need to keep my date with Charlie tonight, but only talk to him and tell him that I want to be with Reese. Reese told me that, though what I did last night was fine with him, I can forget about dating him if I do anything with Charlie tonight.”

“That’s fair. I agree one hundred percent.” Brandon said.

“Is Reese your boyfriend now?” Kam asked.

Leo sighed. “Not officially. After I break it off with Charlie, we will revisit that conversation, but I am meeting Reese on the beach for his swimming lesson.”

“So, two dates, two nights in a row. What a player.” Kam smirked.

“I’m not even that bad.” Bran chimed in.

“You both know better than that!” Leo blushed.

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Come on, bro. This is our stop.” Kam said, and the two brothers got off the bus. Leo hurried into the house to get ready for the swimming lesson and pack a change of clothes in his backpack for his date with Charlie.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo jumped the fence, his bare feet landing softly in the sand on the other side. He scanned the beach and spotted Reese sitting in the same spot he was yesterday. Reese wore only a pair of navy-blue swimming trunks. His pale skin glistened with sweat in the afternoon heat. Leo could tell that Reese was nervous because he was sitting with his knees pulled up against his chest. Leo walked over and sat next to him. “You look ready to go in the water, but you don’t exactly look like you’re excited to get out there.”

Reese nodded his head but wrapped his arms tighter around his knees. “I’m not excited, but I wanna do this. I have to do this. With you, I know I can do it.” He looked at Leo and smiled.

“Then let’s get started.” Leo got up. He stood right in front of Reese, and he slowly pulled his t-shirt up and over his head before tossing it onto the sand. Leo smirked, extended his hands to Reese, and pulled the other boy to his feet.

Reese blushed and arched an eyebrow at Leo. “You did that on purpose.”

Leo pretended to be shocked. “Whatever do you mean?”

Reese huffed out a laugh. “The way you pulled your shirt off like a stripper. You have the body for it. You’d make a lot of money.” Reese winked.

Leo grinned. “Flattery will get you everywhere. Now let’s get you wet.”

“In the ocean, or….” Reese waggled his eyebrows.

“Wow. Now you are making me blush. Let’s start with the ocean and see where that leads us.” Leo led Reese down to the water’s edge and stopped. “Are you ready?”

Reese took a deep breath and stepped into the water. He kept a tight grip on Leo’s hand, allowing himself to be led deeper and deeper into the ocean. Reese stopped when the water was chest high. “I think this is far enough for today, Leo. It’s… it’s further than yesterday.”

Leo smiled. “You’re doing awesome. Do you wanna try floating?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I can.”

“I’ll be right here. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Ok. What do I do?”

“Let go of my hand so that I can get behind you. Then lean back. As soon as you feel my arms supporting your back, lift your legs straight out.”

Reese did what Leo was telling him. “I don’t think it’s working. You’re holding me up, but I don’t think I’m floating.”

Leo leaned down with his lips nearly touching Reese’s ear. “Close your eyes and relax. Listen to my voice and let your mind drift. Imagine yourself weightless and floating in space naked.” Leo lowered his arms, and Reese continued floating on top of the water. “You’re doing it, babe. You’re floating through space. Too bad you’re not naked.”

Reese’s eyes popped open. “I’m really doing it?!” He lifted his head, and he lost his concentration. Reese’s body started to sink, and he began to flail his arms and legs.

Leo reached out and wrapped his arms around Reese. “Hey. Hey. We’re still right where we were. Push your feet down and stand up. It’s ok. I got you. I’m right here.”

Reese stood up, but he leaned heavily against Leo. “Can we go back now?”

“Sure. You did great, Reese. You floated.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Reese grinned. “Maybe I’ll do even better tomorrow.”

“Of course, you will. You got this.” Leo led Reese back onto the beach and to where he left his backpack. “It’s nearly time for Charlie to be meeting me here. I need to run to the changing room, dry off, and get dressed. I guess I’ll see you at the bus stop in the morning?”

Reese sighed. “I hate that I’m standing here letting you get ready to go out with another guy, but I know you have to.” Reese’s eyes narrowed. “Make sure you do everything just like we talked about, Leo. I trust you. Don’t screw it up.”

“I won’t screw it up. I’ll tell Charlie everything. I’ll end it with him tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Leo put his hand out to fist bump, but Reese pulled him in for a hug. Reese put his lips right next to Leo’s ear. “Behave yourself tonight.” Then he turned and ran off into the parking lot. Leo rolled his eyes and walked toward the beach changing room.

————————————————————————————————————

When Leo returned to the beach, he saw Charlie waiting for him. Charlie stood near the water’s edge, staring out over the ocean. Leo walked up next to him and bumped Charlie’s shoulder with his own. “Hey, cutie, you come here often?”

Charlie smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “I got here early, but I saw you were busy, so I stayed back and waited.”

“Charlie, I…”

“Before you say anything else, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Ok. Go ahead. I’m listening.”

“My dad called my mum. I hoped we’d stay longer, but we’re flying home tomorrow morning.” Charlie turned so he was staring straight into Leo’s eyes. “My biggest wish is that you don’t regret what happened with us no matter what happens between you and Reese. Last night was the best night of my life. I hope you don’t remember it as a mistake. You’ll always be special to me, Leo.” Charlie had tears forming at the corners of his eyes.

Leo reached out and took both of Charlie’s hands. “Maybe it might seem like it to some people since I’m dating a tourist,” Leo blushed and smirked. “But I don’t do things like last night on a whim. Last night was awesome, and I will never forget you, Charlie. I honestly don’t know what’s happening between Reese and me, but whatever it is, It’s only possible because of you.”

“What do you mean?” Charlie looked confused.

“I’ve been in a dark place since the breakup with Jazz. The beating I took from Matt very well could have sent me into an even darker spiral, but then there you were. My guardian angel. That’s what I called you. You saved me from Matt, but you also saved me from myself. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be in a place to accept love from anyone, not from you, not from Reese, not even from myself.”

Charlie pulled Leo in for a hug. “That makes me happier than you can ever know. I’m glad I was there on the beach that day.” Charlie released the hug. “I won’t try to kiss you. I don’t want to mess up whatever you got going on with Reese. He adores you, Leo. I won’t ask if you two have talked about that, but I saw it in his eyes yesterday.”

Leo blushed. “Yep. There will be no kissing tonight. As I said, I don’t know what Reese and I have, but he wouldn’t even let me ask him out until I talked to you. I do like him, and I know he likes me. I’m just gonna take it one day at a time.”

Charlie grinned. “I like that he’s making you wait. It proves that he likes you and wants to do things right. I’m happy for you, Leo.”

“Thanks, Charlie. I’m glad you’re being so cool about this.” Leo shrugged. “Are you ready to head to the aquarium now?”

Charlie arched an eyebrow. “Are we still going on our date?”

Leo pulled two tickets out of his pocket and grinned. “I have two tickets to the aquarium, and I also have dinner reservations at the Pebble Cove Steak Loft. It’s not a date anymore, but I’d like to take my friend from Australia out to have a good time on his last night in the USA.”

Charlie smiled. “That sounds fun. Let’s go.”

————————————————————————————————————

Leo and Charlie walked out of the aquarium, both boys laughing. “That was fun,” Charlie said. “I’m happy we went even though it wasn’t a date.”

Leo winked. “Friends can hang out, too.”

“You know it’s not as simple as that.”

Leo blushed. “I know. I wanted you to have a fun last day of your vacation. You deserve it. You’re a great guy, Charlie.”

“You are, too. Now, who’s ready for steak?” Charlie said, licking his lips.

“I’m always ready for steak and fries.” Leo laughed as they walked across the street toward the restaurant. “What was your favorite part of the aquarium?”

“The penguins. Definitely the penguins. I loved that we were there at feeding time. It was so cool! What about you? What’s your favorite part of the aquarium?”

“The penguins are cute, and the manta ray is super cool, but I love the two-story tropical fish tank in the main room. I could stare at that for hours. I go there a lot. It’s like my Zen spot. I look at all the brightly colored fish and zone out. I have a fish tank in my bedroom. It’s so relaxing.”

“One of my uncles took me scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. You would love that! Someday you can be a tourist in my town. You can even bring Reese if you want.” Charlie grinned.

“Australia is bucket list material for sure.” Leo looked around. “Here comes the waiter with our food. Perfect timing!”

————————————————————————————————————

After they finished eating, Leo started scanning the dessert menu. “Are you up for dessert? I might just get a fudge brownie.”

“I couldn’t eat another bite, but I will get two slices of the double chocolate mousse cake to-go. It’ll be a nice treat for my mom and me after we’ve finished packing tonight.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet of you! So, let’s grab these desserts to-go and then get out of here.”

“Yeah, and I should head home. I do have to pack.” Charlie shrugged.

“Ok. My turn to walk you home then.” Leo said as they walked out the door and headed toward the lighthouse.

They got to the driveway leading to the lighthouse cabin, and Charlie stopped and turned toward Leo. “This is far enough. Thank you, Leo. Thank you for an unforgettable three and a half days. I’ll never forget you.”

Leo pulled Charlie into a hug. “I’ll never forget you either. Remember that you promised to be my tour guide when I visit Australia.”

Charlie grinned. “I can’t wait! Take care of yourself, Leo, and take care of that boy of yours. Make sure he learns to swim before you two visit the land down under. We have lots of impressive beaches!”

“I will do that. Have a safe flight.” With one last hug, a bump of their fists, and tears in their eyes, the boys said their final goodbyes. Leo headed back onto the beach, and Charlie went into the lighthouse cabin to pack for his flight home.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo walked along the beach, heading home. He was happy with the way things went with Charlie. Leo wouldn’t change one minute of his time with the Aussie. He knew that Charlie wasn’t staying long, but it was fun while it lasted. The relationship helped Leo on the road to getting past Jazz. He was finally happy again. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Leo became aware of movement. He couldn’t see far in the growing darkness, but Leo realized he was in the exact area of the beach where Matt ambushed him a few days ago. Leo quickened his pace, but he heard a familiar voice call out. “Leo! Wait up!” It was Reese. Leo grinned from ear to ear and turned to wait for Reese to catch up.

“It looked like you sped up. I hope I didn’t scare you yelling like that out of the dark.” Reese said once he caught up to Leo.

Leo shrugged. “Maybe just a little. This spot is where I had the encounter with Matt.”

“Oh, Leo, I’m sorry. I… I should have waited until tomorrow morning to talk to you anyway.” Reese said with downcast eyes.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. What were you doing out here so late anyway? Stalking me?” Leo smirked.

“No! Well, mostly no,” Reese said sheepishly. “Me and my little brother were out walking our dogs, and I saw you and Charlie heading toward the lighthouse. After Ryan and the dogs went home, I decided to wait for you to come back.” He shrugged. “I was curious how things went when you talked to him.”

Leo’s eyes knitted together in concentration. “I didn’t know you had a brother or had dogs. We’re just at the beginning of the ‘getting to know you’ stage, aren’t we?”

Reese nodded. “For sure. I have met your brother, and I know he runs cross country with you, but you’re right. We have a lot to learn about each other. I’m looking forward to it.” Reese smiled shyly.

“I am, too. To answer your earlier question, my date went as well as expected. As it turns out, Charlie is flying back to Australia tomorrow morning. If I hadn’t broken up with him, he was leaving anyway.”

“Did you tell him about us?”

“Yes. Charlie understood. He said that he thought something was between us when he saw the looks we were giving each other on the beach yesterday. I’m not sure what he meant by that.” Leo blushed.

Reese rolled his eyes. “I’m not sure about you, but I know I was giving you some looks.” Reese grinned. “I wanted to ask you out yesterday, but then he was there, and you were gone before I could get the courage. You’re all mine now, though.” Reese winked.

Leo cocked his head to the side. “I like the sound of that.” He smirked.

“You better.” Reese’s grin broadened. “I have to say that I trust that you’d never cheat on me or anyone, but I’m not disappointed that he will be ten thousand miles away after tomorrow.”

“After what happened with Jazz, I wouldn’t cheat ever. You wouldn’t have to worry even if he lived next door.”

“I believe you. I’m sorry I even said that.”

“It’s ok. I understand. I would feel the same way if I were in your place.”

Reese glanced at his phone. “It’s getting late. I should get back home. I’ll see you at the bus stop in the morning. Goodnight, Leo.” The boys bumped fists and went their separate ways.

————————————————————————————————————

Leo slumped onto the couch next to his sister. “What’re you watching, Alli?”

“Nancy Drew. It’s rather weird, but I like it. You would, too.”

Leo shrugged. “I’ll check it out. You know my tv tastes. I’m sure I’ll like it.”

Dad interrupted. “You’ve been going out right after school every night this week. Have you been keeping up with your homework? You need to keep your grades up if you’re playing school sports.”

“Yes, dad, I’m keeping up with my homework, and we haven’t had any tests or quizzes yet. We’ve only been back three days.”

His father arched an eyebrow. “I’m just checking, Leo. That’s my job. I’m proud of you for getting your brother involved.”

“Cross country and track was Kam’s idea. I got him into running, but he wanted to join the team. I will always support my brother.” He smiled over at Allison. “And my sister, too.”

Alli giggled. “You better.”

Leo’s dad heaved a heavy sigh. “You remind me a lot of my brother.”

“You don’t mention Uncle kai very often. I’m proud to be like him.”

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes with both of you. I was bitter with kai for leaving me in that house alone with your grandmother. Eventually, her way of thinking became mine without him as a buffer. That’s no excuse for how I’ve treated you the last few months, though, son. I can only say that I will try to do better. You know I love you, right?”

Leo had tears in his eyes. “Yeah, dad, I know. I love you, too.” He got up from the couch. “I need a snack. Alli, do you need anything?”

Allison got up as well. “I’ll help you pick something out.”

Running Toward Love (Chapter 5)

Chapter 5

“You know what? I tried, Leo. I tried. I’m out of here.” Jazz turned and left the athletic field.

“Smart choice!” Reese yelled after him and then turned to face Leo.

Leo nearly collapsed into Reese’s arms and sobbed uncontrollably onto the taller boy’s shoulder. Reese hesitated at first but wrapped his arms around Leo and held him close. Finally, Leo regained control of his emotions and stepped back. Reese begrudgingly released Leo from the hug.

Leo wiped his eyes and looked at Reese. “I’m sorry. I tried to show up and watch you practice, but then….” He trailed off.

“I saw you heading this way. Then I saw that other dude, and the conversation looked pretty tense. Practice was almost over anyway, so Becca didn’t even care that I took off.”

“Did you hear any of that?”

“I heard enough to know that you were right not to forgive him. He’s toxic, Leo. Especially after what happened at lunch and now what happened here, you’re right to stay as far away from him as possible.”

Leo sighed. “Thank you again. You saved me twice today. Are we still on for later?”

“Of course. Just let me grab my backpack out of the locker room, and I’ll walk you home.” Reese blushed, and they crossed the street and went into the locker room.

“You don’t have to do that. I’ll meet you on the beach in like half an hour.” Leo said as they grabbed their backpacks and walked back to the street.

“It’s no problem, Leo. I go right past your house to get to mine. Come on.” Reese extended his hand to Leo without even realizing what he was doing. Leo took it, and their fingers entwined. Hand in hand, the two boys walked off school property and headed home.

———————————————————————————————————-

Leo was nearly bouncing through the house as he rushed to get ready to go out. The only thing was that Leo wasn’t sure if he was more excited to meet up with Reese on the beach or for his date with Charlie later that evening. Combine that with the emotional confrontation with Jazz, and Leo was a big bundle of dizzying emotions. After a quick shower, Leo hurriedly dressed in tan board shorts and a sky-blue tank top. He was slipping into a pair of sneakers when his brother walked into the room.

“Hey, bro. What took you so long to get home? Gettin’ busy with the cheerleader behind the bleachers?” Kam waggled his eyebrows.

Leo rolled his eyes. “No. It’s not like that.” Leo sighed. “I had another confrontation with Jazz.”

“What?!” Kam nearly yelled. “Are you ok? Was it physical?”

“Calm down, Kameron. I’m fine. No, it wasn’t physical. He was looking for forgiveness like that’s ever gonna happen. It was verbal, but it did get a little heated. Then, for the second time today, Reese was there and scared Jazz away.” Leo grinned.

“I’m starting to like this guy. Why don’t you cancel on that tourist and make your hang-out time with Reese into an actual date?”

Leo sighed. “Why don’t you worry about your own love life or lack thereof, and I’ll worry about mine. I like Charlie. I know he’s a tourist, but I like him.”

“I’m just tryin’ to look out for you, big bro. You headin’ out now?”

“I’d already be out the door if you hadn’t stopped me.” Leo winked.

“Fine. Fine. Go. Just remember what I said. You should be dating Reese.”

Leo rolled his eyes and nearly ran out the door.

———————————————————————————————————-

Leo hopped the fence and stepped out onto the sand. He stopped and looked around and immediately spotted Reese off to his left. Reese was sitting cross-legged on the grass between the parking lot and the beach. As soon as Reese spotted Leo walking toward him, he got up, stretched, and sat on a park bench. Leo sat down and smiled. “Fancy meeting you here. Do you come here often?”

“To be honest, I wouldn’t be here except this adorable, charming guy asked me to meet him here.” Reese shook his head and laughed. Leo’s heart skipped a beat as he watched the light brown curls fall perfectly back into place around a face that was even more handsome when Reese smiled. Reese noticed the intense look that Leo was giving him, and he blushed.

“Aw, come on. This is a beautiful spot to stare out at the ocean and think. I come here a lot, and this is the beach where my brother and I run almost every morning.”

“This will not be my place of Zen. I won’t be here at all unless I am here with you. I’m not a fan of the water.”

“Don’t you swim? You’re from D.C., right? Even if you don’t go to the beach, what about pools? I love the water. I swim almost as much as I run.”

Reese frowned. “This isn’t usually my ‘get to know me’ conversation starter, but I almost drowned when I was six years old. I haven’t been in the water since. I sometimes even have a little anxiety in the shower. I guess that’s why I knew how to help you calm down earlier. I’ve been there.”

Leo reached out and put a comforting hand on Reese’s shoulder. “Maybe we have a lot more in common than either of us realize.”

Reese looked questioningly at Leo, but he remained quiet.

Leo shrugged. “It’s a story for another day.” Then Leo smiled, his eyes twinkling. “Do you trust me, Reese?”

Reese cocked his head to the side. “I barely know you, but, yes, I think I do trust you.” Then he raised one eyebrow. “Why do you ask?”

Leo stood and turned to face Reese. “Take off your shoes and socks.” His eyes raked up and down Reese’s body. “And your shirt.”

Reese smirked. “Can I keep my shorts and undies on?”

Leo huffed out a laugh as he took his shoes and socks off. “What kind of undies are we talking about?”

Reese let out a loud laugh. “Boxer briefs if you must know.”

Leo stripped off his shirt and piled it on top of his shoes. “In that case, it should be safe to take off your shorts if you want.”

“I think I’ll keep them on… for now. What are we doing?”

“Going into the water.”

“What?! I just told you….”

Leo reached out and took Reese’s hand. “I will be right there the whole time. I will not let go. We don’t have to go in too far. And just like you told me this morning, you will always be safe with me around.”

Reese blushed. “You heard that?”

“I heard everything. I couldn’t answer at the time, but I heard everything.”

Reese sighed. “Ok. I’ll go.” He turned to look directly into Leo’s eyes. “Promise me that you won’t let go.”

Leo held tighter to Reese’s hand. “I promise that I will not let go.” Hand in hand, the two boys walked toward the water’s edge.

Reese felt the cold, wet sand squishing between his toes and felt the waves splashing against his legs. He looked down and saw that he was up to his knees in the ocean. He looked nervously over at Leo, his eyes pleading. “Can we go back now?”

Leo smiled. “Yeah. You went in further than I thought you would. Maybe next time, you’ll go even further!”

Reese’s eyes widened. “Next time?! I’m not sure about that!” He turned and started to walk out of the ocean, but his foot slipped, and he fell, dragging Leo down on top of him. Both boys tumbled and rolled around in the wet sand and shallow water. Reese let out a rather high-pitched scream, and Leo scrambled to his feet and pulled the other boy beyond the reach of the splashing waves.

Leo plopped back down on the sand and looked over at Reese. “Are you ok? I should have had a tighter hold on you. The wet sand can be slippery, especially if you’re not used to it.”

“Not your fault. I’m not usually that klutzy. I’m just glad that I didn’t hurt my ankle. That would have screwed up my chances at the cheer squad!”

“Maybe we better test out your ankle.” Leo got up and extended a hand to help Reese to his feet. He pulled Reese up and slipped an arm around the other boy’s waist to support him while he tested his ankle. With an arm still wrapped around the waist of the wet and shirtless Reese, Leo turned his head and found himself staring into Charlie’s dark brown eyes.

“Oh! Hey! Hi! Oh my, God, what time is it?” Leo sputtered.

Charlie’s face was expressionless. “Nearly six. I am a little early. Am I interrupting? Do you want to cancel our,” He glanced from Reese back to Leo. “date… or whatever it is. Should I leave?”

“No!” Leo nearly yelled. “I’m so sorry. You’re not so much early as I am late. This isn’t,” He motioned at Reese and himself. “what it looks like it is. Reese is a friend. I’m going to be teaching him how to swim. Today was the first lesson, and time got away from me. Please don’t leave.”

Reese raised his eyebrows. “Swimming lessons? You’d do that for me?”

Leo grinned. “Of course. I’ll see you back here tomorrow. Do you have cheer practice? I can be here at three instead of four tomorrow. No practice for me.”

“Three works for me, too. I’ll see you at school tomorrow anyway.” Reese turned his gaze onto Charlie. “It was nice to meet you. Have fun tonight.” Then Reese walked off the beach, through the parking lot, and out of sight.

Leo focused his attention entirely on Charlie. “I am sorry about that. Let me throw my shirt and shoes on, and we can start our date.”

“Do you need to get changed or anything?”

“I hadn’t planned on getting my hair wet, but it’ll dry in no time.” Leo waved at the cloudless sunny sky.

“Where are we off to then? Another carnival?” Charlie waggled his eyebrows.

Leo blushed. “I thought we could walk around the Village. It’s a bunch of shops and restaurants and decorations but set up to look like a colonial village. Then, later, maybe a moonlit walk along the beach. We’ll see what happens from there.” Leo was still blushing as he gave Charlie a shy smile.

“I am on board with that plan.” Charlie grinned and sat next to Leo while Leo put his shoes, socks, and shirt back on. Then they left the beach and walked toward Pebble Beach Village.

———————————————————————————————————-

Leo and Charlie walked through the Village eating ice cream cones. “This is cool. It’s like an outdoor mall but themed to colonial America.” Charlie said.

“I’ve been here so often that I barely notice that anymore, but I suppose it’s cool if you’re an Aussie tourist,” Leo smirked.

Charlie grinned. “Exactly! I’m sure that I’d feel the same way showing you some of the places back home in Australia.”

Leo finished his ice cream cone, threw his napkin away, and took Charlie’s hand. He arched one eyebrow. “Are you ready for that moonlit stroll on the beach?”

“Absolutely.” Charlie grinned.

They got to the beach, and Leo asked. “Which way do you want to go? I can show you cool places and secluded areas in either direction.”

“Can we head to the lighthouse first so that I can get rid of these shopping bags?”

“Good idea. Let’s go.”

———————————————————————————————————-

After Charlie dropped his bags off at the lighthouse, the two boys walked back up the beach toward Leo’s house. Leo took Charlie’s hand and pulled him toward a hidden trail halfway there. The steep path wound its way through a small grove of trees and ended at a cliff overlooking the ocean.

“Oh wow, this is beautiful, Leo. Is this where you bring all the boys?” Charlie winked.

Leo rolled his eyes and grinned. “There’s only ever been one other boy, and we did come up here, so, technically, the answer to your question is yes.”

“How can someone as beautiful as you not have dozens of guys fighting to be your boyfriend?”

“I’m picky.” Leo shrugged.

“What about…”

Leo leaned in and kissed Charlie. Charlie was still trying to talk, so Leo cupped the back of his neck and pulled him in closer. Leo traced the edges of Charlie’s lips with his tongue and then dove in, their tongues battling for dominance. Leo broke the kiss only long enough to pull Charlie’s shirt over his head.

Charlie still hesitated. “Are you sure you wanna do this? What about that guy….”

Leo pulled his shirt off and tossed it on the ground. “I am sure that I want to do this. I am single, and I like you, Charlie. I like you a lot. I know you won’t be here for long, and I accept that. I don’t know what will happen after you leave. Will we try to make it work? Will things between Reese and me change? I don’t know.” Leo shrugged. “But right now, I want to rock your world if you want me to.” Leo winked and started unbuttoning his jeans.

“That’s good enough for me,” Charlie said with a grin as he stripped out of the rest of his clothes.

———————————————————————————————————-

Leo and Charlie sat naked, wrapped in each other’s arms, looking out at the ocean. Leo blushed and looked over at Charlie. “Are you disappointed that we didn’t do…. that?”

“What?! Disappointed?! No way! What we did was beyond amazing. I know that you know that that was the first time I ever even went that far, right? I told you that behind the carnival.”

Leo smiled. “Eighteen and never had a blowjob. I’m honored to be your first. You did awesome for a first-timer, by the way. You’ll make some Aussie boy incredibly happy someday.” Leo huffed out a laugh.

Charlie blushed and grinned. “I hope I made you happy today.”

“Oh, you did. You definitely did. I haven’t been with anyone other than myself in months. I really enjoyed that, especially since it was you.” Leo sighed. “Why can’t you just move here permanently!”

Charlie leaned in and kissed Leo softly. “I can’t. I told you all that. I have obligations back home.”

Leo snaked his fingers through Charlie’s hair and kissed him back. The kiss continued until both boys had to break apart, breathless.

Charlie’s face was flushed, and he was breathing heavily. “If you keep kissing me like that, I might need to go for round two.”

Leo smirked. “Oh, I fully intended for a round two.” He placed a hand flat against Charlie’s smooth, firm chest and pushed him down onto the grass.

———————————————————————————————————-

The two boys walked off the trail and onto the beach, still buttoning buttons and tucking in shirts. They took a turn and headed toward Leo’s house. “Gonna be cutting it close to curfew, but I should make it. Tonight was a lot of fun, Charlie.” Leo grinned.

“A night that I will never forget,” Charlie said with a dreamy smile plastered on his face.

“Are you free tomorrow night? I don’t want to intrude on any plans you have with your mom.”

“I’ll work something out and text you the details.” Charlie motioned toward the fence bordering the beach. “I believe this is your stop, sir.” He grinned.

Leo walked up to the fence, then turned and leaned against it. He grabbed the front of Charlie’s shirt and pulled him in close. Leo looked up into the taller boy’s eyes. “What were we thinking? What have we done to ourselves?”

“Do you regret it?”

“No, I don’t regret it. I’d do it again, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get hurt.”

“I know. Let’s just keep taking this one day at a time. Tonight was amazing. You are beyond amazing.”

“So are you.” Leo kissed Charlie then pulled back. “All I’m trying to say is that I hope we don’t get our hearts broken by this. You’re leaving any day now, and you’re not moving a couple of towns away. You are going ten thousand miles away to the other side of the world. You’re going back home, and you have no intention of coming back anytime soon.”

“We both knew that going into this. Maybe this was a mistake, but I regret nothing. The entire purpose of this trip to America was to experience new things. To see and do things that I’ve never seen or done. I thought New York and Boston would be the highlights of my American adventure. I expected Pebble Cove to be just a blip on the map. Tall ships and sea museums sounded fun, but they didn’t sound life-altering. Then I met a boy on the beach who turned my time here into the best couple of days of my life.” Charlie leaned down for a kiss. “And we still have tomorrow to add to that. For now, let’s not think past tomorrow, ok?”

“I can do that. Nothing exists past tomorrow, but I have to get in the house in less than five minutes for us to get to tomorrow. Stupid curfew!” Leo laughed.

Charlie cupped the back of Leo’s neck and kissed him. He sucked on Leo’s bottom lip and gently bit it, then he pulled back and grinned. “Every bit of you tastes sweet enough to eat.”

Leo grinned. “Right back at ya, babe.” Then he turned, jumped the fence, and sprinted toward his house.

———————————————————————————————————-

The sun barely peeked over the horizon as Kam turned his head to look at his brother. “Late nights are becoming a habit for you, big bro. I was awake before you again.”

“We got out here at the usual time, didn’t we?” Leo chuckled as they ran toward the lighthouse.

“Barely.” Kam laughed. “How was your date? And your pre-date date?”

“Don’t start with me, Kameron. Ugh! Six months… six months! I was miserably single and heartbroken. There were days when I even briefly… briefly I said… considered going back to Jazz. Now I find someone, yes he is a tourist, but still… I find someone I like, and then the perfect boy shows up in town!”

“Perfect boy? It kind of sounds like you’ve made your decision. I will agree that the tourist is a hottie, but so is Reese. And Reese lives here. No-brainer in my book.”

“Should we talk about the fact that that is the third time you’ve called a guy hot in the last couple of days? Do you have any news of your own to share, little brother?”

“I’m fourteen. I’m allowed to be curious, right?” Kam laughed. “But, lately, I’ve been admiring both guys and girls. Don’t even ask which I like better. I don’t even know. Both, I guess.” Kam shrugged as they continued running up the beach. “Back to you, bro. What’re you going to do with your two boys? I really can’t picture you juggling them both. You’re not the type.”

“You don’t even know how right you are. There’s no way I could ever juggle two relationships. I don’t even want to try. I took things to another level with Charlie last night, but now all I can think about is Reese. I have to figure out what I want before Charlie goes home, and I ruin my chances with Reese, and I end up alone again.”

“Wait. Hold up. Did you have sex with the tourist last night?”

“You know his name is Charlie, Kam. You can stop saying tourist, and yes, I guess? Oral sex, to be exact. Twice.”

Kam shook his head. “I think that was a mistake, but since you and Reese aren’t a thing yet, you didn’t cheat. I know you must like Charlie a lot to do that, but get your head out of your ass, bro. He’s flying halfway around the world in another day or two, and you’ll never see him again. A long-distance relationship from here to Boston wouldn’t work, never mind one from here to Australia.”

“You’re right. I just need to make sure that I’m not settling for Reese. I need to make sure that I’m choosing him because it’s him that I want.”

“Let me throw your own words back at you. You referred to Reese as ‘the perfect boy,’ and you can’t get him out of your head even though you just had sex with someone else. I think, subconsciously, you’ve already made your choice. You have to be completely honest with both of them before all three of you get hurt. Tell Reese what happened with Charlie and tell Charlie how you feel about Reese and see what happens.”

“That’s a pretty mature analysis. Are you sure that you’re not the older brother?”

“Haha! I’m sure. I’ve never even had a boyfriend or a girlfriend or any serious romantic relationship, for that matter, but I do watch a lot of tv.” Kam shrugged and laughed.

“I still have to get Brandon caught up on all my drama. I’m sure he’ll have some opinions to share, too.”

“Oh, I’m sure his advice will be way more colorful than mine,” Kam said as the two boys jumped the fence and crossed the street. As they ran into the house to get ready for school, Kam yelled out. “I’ll jump in the shower first. You fix breakfast for us.” Then he ran up the stairs.

———————————————————————————————————-

Leo saw Reese waiting at the bus stop. With all the last day and a half’s events bouncing around inside of his head, he needed time before he faced Reese. So, he slowed down and hung back and waited until the other boy was on the bus before he got on. Reese waved to Leo. “Wanna sit here?” Reese motioned toward the empty seat next to him.

“Hey. Good morning. Sorry. Brandon is already saving me a seat in the back.” Leo said as he gave Reese a small smile and kept walking. He reached the back of the bus and sat next to Brandon, who looked at him suspiciously.

“That looked awkward,” Brandon said with one eyebrow raised.

Leo rolled his eyes. “It was. I have so much to tell you!”

“Who are you, and what have you done with my boring bestie?” Bran laughed. “You need to start talking, mister. You’ve had Jazz drama and encounters with not one but two boys. The texts have all been cryptically vague. Spill the tea and spill it now!”

“Ok! Chill!” Leo huffed out a laugh. “I told you about meeting Charlie on Sunday and how he saved me from Matt. Then I also told you that I was going out with him Monday night after school. That was the story I intended to tell you yesterday before all that drama in the cafeteria. Anyway, Monday night, I took Charlie to the carnival.” Leo continued to tell his story to Brandon. He told him about the carnival. He told him about after the carnival. He told him about everything that had happened the last two days. He finished just as the bus pulled into the school parking lot.

“Wow! You did that with the tourist? And now you can’t stop thinking about him?” As Brandon said ‘him,’ he pointed ahead of them at Reese.

“Pretty much, yeah. I mean, I don’t regret what I did. I like Charlie, but I think I could build something special with Reese. I have to tell them both today. I hope Reese understands.”

“He should. You guys did hang out, but he knew you were going on a date with Charlie. You didn’t do anything wrong, Leo.” Bran thought for a minute. “Let me be clear, though. Yesterday you didn’t do anything wrong. If you’re sure now that it’s Reese that you want to be with, you need to tell them both today. I know you well enough to know that you’d hate yourself if you did anything to hurt them. On the other hand, I might try to talk them both into a three-way before the Aussie goes home!” Brandon snickered.

Leo rolled his eyes. “Of course, you would.” Then he laughed. “You told me exactly what I needed to hear, Bran. I already feel nervous preparing to tell Reese about last night. That’s enough to tell me that it’s him that I want to be with. It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t care about him.”

“Exactly. The bell is about to ring. Let’s go before we’re late for class. Good luck today, bestie.” Brandon said, and they hurried into the school building.

———————————————————————————————————-

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 14)

Chapter 14

When Terrie got to the library, Brad, Nate, Devon, David, and Sky were all sitting on the front steps waiting. “I’m sorry it took so long. Are you guys leaving? What’s our plan?”

Brad stood up. “Nate had to lock up. The library just closed. Why don’t we move this strategy session to Will’s Diner? I’m hungry.”

Terrie rolled her eyes. “You are always hungry, Bradley. I pity anyone who tries to date you!”

Nate broke out laughing. “Is it too late to change my mind? Maybe an abort mission button?”

Terrie’s eyes widened. “Wait… what? Are you guys dating? Since when? Why didn’t I know?”

“Chill, bestie. We haven’t gone out on a date yet. We talked while I was here last night, and, well, once we’re not all in mortal danger, we’re going to go out.” Brad said.

Nate walked up behind Brad. He slipped his arms around Brad’s waist, and he rested his chin on Brad’s shoulder. “Don’t listen to him. It’s official. We’re dating. This gorgeous stud muffin is all mine.” He kissed the side of Brad’s neck.

Brad blushed and melted back into Nate’s embrace. “Ok. What he said. We’re a couple.”

“Cutest couple ever!” Terrie squealed.

“Now we need to find a girl willing to date my toad of a little brother, but they will have to ignore his grotesque appearance and lack of social skills.” Sky laughed.

“Whatever, bro, whatever,” Devon said with a grin.

“Terrie, did Matt say when he would be joining us? He’s not answering texts.” David looked worried.

Terrie’s expression clouded. “He might be with Elias for a couple of hours. They are… it’s a long story. Let’s get to the diner, and I’ll explain what I know over lunch. Matt asked me to fill you guys in on what I know, so we could have time to discuss everything while we waited for him and Eli to do… whatever it is that they think they can accomplish.”

David scowled. “I don’t think I like the sound of that. Let’s get going, so you can explain further.”

————————————————————————————————————

Matt stood in the corner of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, waiting for Eli to fill the tub. Elias dumped most of the herbs into the steaming hot water and stirred it around. He glanced over at Matt and raised one eyebrow. “You know you’re going to have to drop that towel eventually, right?”

Matt blushed. “I… sorry… I know, and I know we’ve been messing around a bit. And I know we both want to mess around a bit more. When it comes right down to being naked, I guess I’m a little nervous. I’ve taken showers in school and at the beach, but I’ve never actually been naked with someone…. one on one.”

“Wow. No one? I guess I assumed that you’d been with girls before, even if you’d never been with a guy.”

“Nope. No girls, no guys. Nothing but kissing for me so far. The furthest I’ve ever been with anyone was when you slipped your hand down the front of my pants last night.” Matt blushed.

“I hope that didn’t freak you out. If I’d known… we can take things as slow or as fast as you want, Matt. I am perfectly fine with letting you control the pace of whatever we do or don’t do.”

“It’s not like I’m saving myself or anything. I just haven’t found the right person, at least not until now, and now I’ve found two.”

Eli smirked. “Can we continue that conversation later? Right now, I need you naked and in this tub. This isn’t sexual, Matt. I won’t do anything inappropriate. When that happens, you’ll know, and it will only happen with your consent and full participation.” Eli winked.

Matt dropped the towel and stepped into the tub. He sat down and slid under the water up to his neck. Matt looked nervously at Elias. “What now?”

“Now we see if I’m any good at being a witch.” Eli huffed out a laugh. “Let’s begin.” Elias stood over Matt and started reciting the spell. Eli was speaking in Latin and sprinkling more herbs into the tub. The water began to bubble and swirl.

Matt’s eyes were wide as he watched the water swirl around his body. “Is this what’s supposed to happen?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like this before, but we know that if something happened, it would probably mean we were doing it right.” Elias said. Then, Matt’s body went rigid, and he cried out. Eli held onto Matt’s shoulders. “I got you, Matt, I got you.” Eli saw the pain on Matt’s face, but he also noticed an inky blackness starting to cloud the formerly crystal-clear water in the tub. Eli looked into Matt’s eyes. “Do you trust me?”

Matt couldn’t speak, but he nodded. Yes, he trusted Elias. He trusted him with his life.

Eli placed one hand on top of Matt’s head, and with his other hand, he grabbed another handful of the cut herbs from the nearly empty pouch on his belt. “Take a deep breath and hold it, Matt.” Matt complied, and Elias pushed his head under the water. Eli sprinkled more herbs into the water and recited the spell a third time. There was a brilliant flash of light, and then the darkness was gone. The water was crystal clear again. Elias released Matt. Matt’s head broke the surface of the water, and he took a breath.

Elias wrapped his arms around Matt’s chest. “Are you ok, Matt? Talk to me! Please!”

Matt leaned back against Elias and looked up at him. “I’m ok. That was intense, and for a short time, it was painful, but I think whatever happened is over.”

Elias looked thoughtful. “After that flash of light, the water cleared. I’ll make some herbal tea while you dry off and get dressed. Then I’ll cast the aura spell, and we’ll see if we were successful.”

Matt had taken a quick shower to rinse all the herbs off his body before he dried off and got dressed. He was now sitting across the kitchen table from a grinning Eli. “What? Did you do it? What did you see? Why are you grinning like a crazy person?”

“I am grinning mostly because of what I don’t see. I can’t see the darkness of the curse. Your aura is beautiful, Matt! So vibrant and full of colors. Before it was… I don’t know, diminished. The first time I saw your aura, it was shrouded in darkness. Now it’s the most colorful aura I have ever seen. You will do great things in your life. Being a witch is just the first step in a long line of amazing things you will do.”

Matt nearly jumped for joy. “Complete success? Can we try the other one now? This is awesome!”

“I want to bond with you, but we need to test you first. If dark magic still taints you, the bond would infect me, and that would ruin our chance at, well, everything, including cleansing David.”

“Ok. What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to cast a spell while I can still see your aura. If you use magic, I’d see the darkness infect your aura. A simple fire spell should be easiest for you to perform.”

Matt looked excited. “I’m ready. What do I do?”

Elias smirked. “How good are you at learning languages?”

Matt rolled his eyes. “Will there be homework?” He huffed out a laugh. “I’m in my third year of Spanish. Straight A’s. I mean, it’s not easy, but I can read, write, and speak quite a bit now.”

“Spells are spoken in Latin. I’m not sure if anyone has tried to create any in other languages, but for now, we’ll stick with established spells.”

“That makes sense. People probably created spells thousands of years ago. It would be so cool to make new ones, though!”

“One step at a time.” Eli smiled. “Ok. Extend one hand out in front of you, palm side up. Cup your hand like you are holding something.”

Matt followed the instructions and looked expectantly at Elias. “Done. Now what?”

“I’m going to have you create fire, then increase the size, and finally make it disappear. Are you ready?”

“Ready.”

“First say ‘ignis flammae.’”

Matt repeated the phrase, and a tiny spark ignited in the air over his hand. “Wow! I did it!” He was grinning ear to ear.

“Now say ‘invalesco’ and if the fire grows successfully, say ‘recedo,’ and it should go out.”

Matt followed the instructions, and both spells worked perfectly. “That was awesome! Did… did you see what you needed to see? Am I cleansed of the curse?”

“Yes, you are free of the curse, and you are free to join with me in forming a coven if you still want to.”

Matt stepped in closer to Elias. “Of course, I want to join with you in every possible way. Magical, physical, emotional, everything.” He lightly kissed Eli’s lips. “If what we were doing wasn’t so vitally important, I’d join with you right here and now.”

“Well, that’s the plan.” Eli grinned. “But, magically, not sexually.” He laughed, then turned and retrieved an extended length of red ribbon and an elaborately carved dagger from the table.

Matt cocked his head. “Do I want to know what we need to do with those?”

Eli smirked. “Nothing kinky… yet. I need to make small cuts on the palms of our right hands. Just enough to draw blood. Then we will clasp hands, and I will wrap the ribbon around our hands, wrists, and forearms to symbolically join us together, then we repeat the spell.” Eli pointed to the book on the table. He had the book propped open, and a passage highlighted.

Matt read the passage then looked at Elias. “What is the translation?”

“It says ‘Join together in spirit. Join together in magic. Our bond is unbreakable. Stronger together than apart. Our coven grows.’”

“Cool. I like it. Let’s do this.” Matt extended his right hand out toward Eli.

Elias took Matt’s hand. He made the incisions on their hands, and they clasped hands. Then Eli joined them together with the ribbon. “It’s time.”

Both boys repeated the spell. “Simul iungere spiritu. Simul iungere magica. Nostris foedere indissolubili sociavit. Sine solito fortiores. Coven crescat nostrae.”

Matt felt his whole body start to tingle, starting with his right hand and waves of energy flowing all through him. Then he felt his hand go ice cold, and he felt another hand on top of his and Eli’s. He saw his confusion mirrored in Eli’s eyes, but just at that moment, the figure of a woman materialized with her right hand joined with theirs forming a circle of three.

Eli’s jaw dropped, and then his eyes narrowed. “Mother, I have been trying to summon you for days. What made you decide to show up now?”

“You didn’t think you could cast such powerful magic without notice, did you?” Marie Carrier said. She glanced at Matt. “I sense the Montana bloodline. How dare you enter this sacred place.” She turned her ghostly gaze onto her son. “How dare you bond one such as he to our coven!”

“If you had appeared to me any of the six times I summoned you, I would have spoken to you about this. I needed your help, but now I have found my answers. You abandoned me as a baby, and you ignored me even now when you’re a spirit. As the last living member of this coven, I decided to remove the Montana curse as a first step toward undoing the evil that our ancestors caused this town. Besides, Matthew is my soulmate. You will accept him as part of my coven, or I will banish you from this house and my life.”

“You have grown stronger in your magic and your attitude. That is why I did not show up at your every whim. I can not be with you. Therefore you needed to learn to figure things out on your own.”

Elias glared at his mother. “With Matt by my side, I will never be alone again.”

Matt felt Marie’s hand grow warmer as she focused her gaze upon him. “You love my son.” Her eyes narrowed. “But you love another as well.”

“I do. I love both very deeply. I’m trying to figure out what that means.”

Marie’s lips curled up in a smile. “Coven witches have had polyamorous relationships for centuries. Make sure everyone plays by the same rules, and no one gets hurt. I sense only goodness in you, Matthew Montana. I approve of my son’s decisions.”

“I don’t need your approval!” Elias snarled as he unwrapped the red ribbon. “I cleansed and bonded with Matt, and we are going to remove the curse from David whether you approve or not.”

“You are still my son, and this is still my coven, Elias. You have my approval, if not my help, but watch your tone.”

“This is my coven. We did not bond with a ghost.” Elias said.

“Nothing is ever as it first appears. The two of you have the power to cleanse the elder Montana boy but beware. Darker forces are gathering beyond what you now know. Be careful, my son. Danger is everywhere.” With that, Marie Carrier disappeared.

“I didn’t expect to meet your mom today. That was interesting.” Matt said.

“I tried to summon her to ask her questions about all this, but she only shows up when she feels like it. I guess I can’t expect someone who dumped me off as a baby to be reliable even in death.”

“She did say that we are strong enough to cure David. That’s encouraging.” Matt looked at the time on his phone. “We should meet up with everyone and decide what to do next. Are you ready?”

Elias couldn’t help but smile. “After what we just did… with you as my coven mate… and whatever else we are or become… I am ready for anything.”

“Whatever else I am to anyone else, I am yours forever, Elias. If we add anyone else to our coven or our lives in any way, I never want to lose you. You know that, right?” Matt held both of Eli’s hands and stared deep into his eyes.

Eli leaned in, and their lips met in a brief kiss. “Yes, I know. I am yours forever, and I know that you are mine. I love you.”

Matt blushed. “I love you, too. Now let’s go find our friends.”

————————————————————————————————————

When the six friends reached Will’s Diner, they pushed two tables together, and then they placed their order. Terrie waited for everyone to settle in, and then she pulled two photographs out of her purse. She slid them across the table to Brad. “Dad got these back already. His friend thought dad was pranking him.”

Brad smiled. “I knew I took good photos! I mean, now we know more than we did last night, and these aren’t the important puzzle pieces that I thought they might be, but it’s still nice to see the hard evidence right here in my hands.” Brad looked over at David and slid him the photos. “That’s you, cuz.”

David’s hands were shaking as he picked up the pictures. He leaned against Sky. “So, this is what you saw last night. I don’t even know what to say other than I hope Matt and Elias can fix me.”

“You do not need fixing, babe. We’ll figure this out. You had the opportunity to attack me and Brad and Terrie’s little brother. You chose to run away instead. Even as a wolf, you made the right choice.” Sky said.

Brad nodded in agreement. “David, you were scary as hell. You roared and growled, and you were right there in front of both me and Johnny. You didn’t touch either of us. I agree one hundred percent with Skylar. The night before, the wolf that attacked Kevin, that wolf never hesitated. That wolf went straight for the kill.”

The conversation drifted from story to story, with everyone getting caught up on everything that had been happening. David ran his fingers through his shaggy blonde hair and let out a low whistle. “This is almost overwhelming, especially since my little brother and I are the two central figures in all of this. I guess the next step is to decide how best to lock me up without attracting attention while we figure out how to stop the change from happening, right?”

“We also need to make a plan to capture or kill the other wolf. That wolf is a killer. That wolf killed my best friend.” Brad said.

“And my best friend,” Terrie added. “There is one more important thing I need to share. My dad’s deputy, Lilly Monroe, revealed to us that she is part of a secret organization of witch hunters.”

Terrie was startled when a voice from behind her spoke. “Did you just say witch hunters? Where? Here in town? Who is it?” She turned and saw Matt and Elias standing behind her.

Matt blushed. “Sorry. We were just about to say hi when we heard you say witch hunters.”

Terrie pointed to the two empty chairs. “We saved your seats. Sit down, and I’ll tell you what I know. I just got everyone else caught up on the other stuff you told me.”

“We have more to share as well, but let’s hear about these witch hunters first. I’ve read a lot about them in the journals of past coven members.” Elias said.

“The who is Lilly Monroe. She’s my dad’s newest deputy. The timing didn’t mean anything to him back then, but as it turns out, she moved to town right after you started visiting the witch house, Elias.”

Eli’s brow furrowed. “They must have a way of sensing magic use. What Matt and I did today, well, we will have to be careful moving forward, but there are things we still have to do that will require powerful magic.”

“Did you… were you successful today?” Terrie asked.

“Yes. Success times two.” Elias couldn’t help but grin.

David leaned forward. “What did you two do?”

Matt grinned. “He removed the curse from me, and we formed a coven. I’m a witch! Now we can concentrate all our efforts on you. The curse’s power over you will be harder to remove. He wouldn’t have had the power to remove it by himself, but a coven combines the powers of the joined witches. Now we should be able to do it.”

“Can we try today? Now? Before the moon rises? I bit Sky. I’m not sure if anyone caught you two up on everything that’s happened yet. Is he cursed now? Will he turn into a werewolf tonight?”

“We need to move this to my house,” Elias said. “I have to consult some books. If we can’t cure you before nightfall, we may have to contain you and possibly Skylar.”

“Ok. Let’s go. We need to hurry.” David said, and the group of eight friends left the diner and headed for witch house.

————————————————————————————————————

Elias paced back and forth between the kitchen and the living room of what most people still called the witch house. Eli was beginning to think of it as home, and he never had so many people at his house before. Hell, the only one besides himself that had been in here in the last twenty years was Matt. Brad had refused to come, and that had played into the breakup. Eli’s mind raced as he paced. Everyone was looking at him for answers, even Brad. Now that they accepted that he was a witch, now that they believed in the supernatural, they were all looking at him to save the day. Elias felt his anxiety ratcheting up, and he paced even faster.

Matt leaned against the wall and watched Elias pace. He could tell that Eli was trying to work things out in his head, but Matt could feel the anxiety growing inside Elias. Ever since they bonded, Matt felt an empathic link to Eli. He couldn’t read the other boy’s thoughts, but he sensed Elias’s emotions. Right now, Matt could tell Eli was spiraling toward an anxiety attack. Matt knew he had to do something and do it now.

Eli’s eyes were darting from face to face while he decided what to say to the seven, wait, six? Where was Matt? Then Eli felt the strong arms wrap around him, and he heard Matt’s soft voice in his ear. “Stop pacing. Take a breath. You can do this. Hell, you can do anything. I believe in you. We all do.” Then Matt kissed the side of Eli’s neck.

Elias melted back into Matt’s embrace. “Thank you.” He smiled and stood up straight. Eli took a step forward and looked right at Skylar. “Aurae apparaistis!” Eli stood back and cocked his head, studying the aura. He looked several times from David to Sky and back again with a furrowed brow.

“What? What do you see?” David and Sky asked almost in unison.

Elias sighed. “There are overlaps and similarities in colors and patterns, but it’s difficult to compare because,” He said, looking at David. “a darkness shrouds your aura that is not apparent on Sky’s.”

“Does that mean I’m not going to be a werewolf?” Sky asked.

“Not necessarily. It only means you are not cursed.” Eli turned to the bookshelves and began taking books off the shelf and setting them on the table while he talked. “While I researched how to remove the curse, I learned a lot about werewolves. Lycanthropy is a blood-borne disease that fundamentally changes your DNA. It’s not a curse, and a parent can pass it to a child, similar to any other DNA marker.”

“What does all that mean for me? Can you cure me? Is there another way to tell if Sky is a wolf?” David asked.

Elias sat down across from David and Sky. “I have more research that I need to do. Comparing your aura,” He said to David. “To both Sky’s and Matt’s, I think I will have to use a different spell than I used on Matt. The darkness hovered around Matt, but it did not touch him. The dark magic entwines throughout your aura. It will take greater power and a more intense spell to extract the darkness of the curse from you. It will not happen before moonrise tonight, for that I am sorry.”

“Speaking of Matt,” David glanced at his brother before focusing back on Elias. “You’re sure that he’s free from the curse, and you and he are… what exactly?”

Elias gripped Matt’s hand, their fingers entwining. “Yes, he is free of the curse. We tested it to be sure. Matt was born a witch. I believe you were, too, David, but the werewolf bite forever corrupted your magic. The dark magic of the curse blocked Matt’s magic. When we removed that, he became his true self, a witch. As for him and me….” Eli looked at Matt, and Matt smiled.

Matt interrupted Eli. “As for what Eli and I are… mostly we’re still figuring that out, but the part that directly affects you guys is that we’ve bonded our magic and formed a coven.”

“What exactly does that mean? What benefit or advantage does that give you as opposed to just working together?” Nate asked.

“As a coven, our magic is bonded. Coven witches can draw on each other’s power. We are stronger together than each of us separately. I do not think that I alone could remove the curse from David, but I think that Matt and I can do it together.”

Devon spoke up. “So, you don’t know if my brother is a wolf, just that he isn’t cursed, is that correct?”

“Yes, that is correct. I’ve read that lycanthropy is transmitted through a bite or a scratch, but I don’t know if it’s a one hundred percent transmission rate. I’d lean toward caution and have Sky with us when we lock up David.”

“There’s no way that I won’t be there, wolf or not.” Sky said.

Now Brad joined the conversation, but before he spoke, he walked over and knelt in front of Elias. Brad’s eyes glistened with tears. “Eli, I can’t express how deeply sorry I am that I abandoned you last year. The way I treated you, I don’t even know why you decided to help my family. I wouldn’t even defend you from Derrick and his goons, and here you are doing all of this. I acted like an idiot when Matt started hanging out with you. I regret that, too. I hope both of you can forgive me, and we can start fresh moving forward.”

“There’s nothing to forgive as far as I’m concerned. We’re good, cuz.” Matt said.

Elias reached out and took Brad’s face in both of his hands. He used his thumbs to wipe away the tears. “Bradley, I do not regret loving you, and I hope you don’t regret loving me. You were my first love, my first heartbreak, and many other firsts. You will forever hold a special place in my heart. A month ago, I may not have been able to say this, but now I can say and mean that I forgive you.” Eli let go of Brad’s face. “With the intense looks we’re getting from Nate and Matt, I’d say we’ve both moved on. Clean slate, Brad, no looking back. We were friends before we were lovers, and maybe we can be again.”

“I’d like that,” Brad said. “But now we have a much more important topic to discuss.”

Elias nodded. “You mean the late hour, and out one… maybe two werewolf friends, right?”

“Yeah. Any thoughts?”

Matt leaned forward. “I found an abandoned warehouse that has a chain link fenced off section where their shipping and receiving department must have been. We should head there soon and clear out the boxes and maybe buy a padlock on our way there.”

“What about this other wolf?” Terrie asked. “The one that we think is the one who is murdering our friends. How do we stop him? Or capture him? I know helping Matt and David, and now Sky has been our priority, but this monster has murdered three of our friends. Isn’t stopping him just as important?”

“Of course, it is. I’ve been so focused on learning the healing magic that I….” Elias trailed off.

Brad spoke up. “We got you, Eli. Nate, Devon, and I did a ton of reading on werewolves. After my close encounter, I focused my research on killing the monsters. I was scared that I was possibly researching how to kill my cousin, but after Kevin’s murder, I was going to take the thing out no matter what.”

David huffed out a laugh. “That’s understandable, Brad. Did you find anything good?”

“Pure silver, wolfsbane, and beheading,” Brad smirked. “I printed up a map of the area showing where wolfsbane is growing.” Brad looked outside. “It’s starting to get dark. Collecting wolfsbane needs to be the top priority tomorrow, and getting David and Sky to that warehouse needs to be the top priority right now.”

Elias looked thoughtful. “While you collect wolfsbane, I’ll research charm spells. Maybe we can lure the beast into a trap.”

“That’s brilliant,” Brad said.

“So, who’s going to the warehouse?” Matt asked.

“I am for sure,” Devon said. The group talked and decided that Brad, Nate, and Terrie would go home. David and Sky had to go to the warehouse, and Matt and Devon wouldn’t leave their brothers. Elias also went to the warehouse. For him, it was a combination of supporting Matt, and also, he thought he might be able to fortify the cage with magic. The sun was beginning to get low in the sky, so the eight friends left Eli’s house and went their separate ways.