Hi, folks. This is a chapter from MASTER OF DARKNESS I cut because flashbacks this long can be problematic. So I thought I'd share the full thing here to show you how my hero, Justice, became a werewolf.
It also shows why Miranda doesn't trust Alpha werewolves, and why both Justice and Miranda don't care much for the werewolf aristocracy called the Chosen. Enjoy!
It also shows why Miranda doesn't trust Alpha werewolves, and why both Justice and Miranda don't care much for the werewolf aristocracy called the Chosen. Enjoy!
Three years ago
Justice parked his unmarked navy blue Impala in the circular driveway, stomped the big Chevy’s emergency brake, and scooped up the radio handset. It felt cool and heavy in his hand as he triggered the transmit button with a punch of his thumb. “I-28, Greendale. I’m 10-8 at 425 Magnolia Avenue.” He released the button to let Greendale County Dispatch reply on the frequency.
“10-4, I-28,” the dispatcher said, her drawl as sweet and Southern as a pecan pie. “If you need backup, just holler. I can send somebody when the wreck on Oakland clears.”
An oil tanker had slammed head-on into a mini-van carrying two women and four kids under the age of six. The impact had spun the van into the path of a jeep driven by a seventeen-year-old boy. It had overturned, ejecting the teen. Two more cars had daisy-chained into the jeep, unable to stop in time.
And all of this had occurred right at the height of rush hour. Because really, when else would you get a total goat-fuck?
Every available patrol unit was tied up rescuing the injured, warding off rubberneckers, and dealing with the media who were already circling the carnage like vultures. Meanwhile firefighters sprayed the flaming tanker with foam and prayed it wouldn’t explode.
So when dispatch announced neighbors had reported screams coming from 425 Magnolia Avenue, Justice decided to swing by and take care of the call himself. Yeah, he’d been on his way home after spending the past sixteen hours working a homicide. Yeah, all he really wanted was a beer and a burger. But screams were screams, and the burger could wait.
Justice thumbed the handset. “Hopefully I won’t need help, Greendale, but you never know.”
“Yeah. Watch yourself, I-28. Be advised the neighbors say there’s a history of CDV.”
Oh, perfect. Justice hated Criminal Domestic Violence cases with a pure and holy passion.
Hell, the homicide he’d just worked had been the climax of five years of repeated domestic abuse. The vic had finally gotten sick of trips to the ER covered in bruises, so she’d taken their five-year-old daughter and fled to her mother’s.
Her husband had hunted her down and slit her throat with a box cutter while she tried to shield their child. Happy psychic scars, kid. Daddy loves you.
The killer had confessed to Justice while wearing an expression of self-righteous satisfaction. “Bitch had it coming.”
Too bad Sheriff Jones frowned on taking assholes out behind the department and shooting them in the head. Fucker had it coming might be true, but made for really bad press.
Christ, he wasn’t in the mood for another go-round with an abusive prick.
Justice got out of the car, flicking his gaze warily over the three-story brick Colonial surrounded by neat holly hedges. He couldn’t help comparing it to the blood-splattered double-wide where Amy Miller had died the night before. Funny how the same nasty shit happens at both ends of the money spectrum.
He headed up the flagstone walk, one hand riding the weapon on his hip. Hesitating a moment, Justice listened hard, scanning the house’s peaceful facade. No shouts, no masculine bellows, no feminine screams. Maybe this’ll turn out to be nothing.
God, he hoped so.
He climbed the brick steps and strode to the front door, a thick hunk of blond oak that probably cost what he made in six months. In the door’s center, a cut-glass oval depicted a stylized wolf head.
Justice would later learn the aristocrats of the Chosen always marked their front doors with the image of a wolf. But he hadn’t known about the Direkind then.
Just as he reached for the doorbell, a woman screamed. “Christian, no! I’m sorry, I can get the stain out, just give me the shirt and I’ll put baking…”
“You clumsy little cow, that was my favorite shirt!” A hand rang on flesh, and the woman yelped.
And there’s my probable cause. “Police!” He tried the knob. It didn’t turn.
The man’s voice dropped into a vibrating growl. “And you’d better not even think about shifting.”
“Dad, don’t!” This voice was younger, lighter, probably late teens. “You’re not going to hurt her again. Not like last time. I won’t let you.”
“Police!” Justice roared through the door. He was seriously tempted to kick it in, but he figured all that pretty incised glass would shatter into knife-blade shards that would slice a certain cop into barbecue hash. So instead he thumped the door frame with the side of his fist. Bang, bang, BANG. “Open up! Now!”
“Shit, it’s the cops!” the teenager cried. “Dad, calm the fuck down! It was an accident. You can get the fucking shirt dry-cleaned, for God’s sake. Do you want to go to jail?”
Something growled, sounding like a cross between a Rottweiler and a grizzly bear.
Holy shit, what was that? “Sheriff’s office! Open up!” Justice shouted, ignoring the mental voice that told him to call for backup now. There isn’t any fucking backup. They’re all prying bodies out of mangled cars on Oakland Boulevard.
He’d be lucky to get Bell City’s single on-duty patrolman – and it would take the officer twenty minutes to make it here from the other end of the county, even going full out lights-and-sirens.
And while Justice waited, another wife could bleed to death at her husband’s hands. Fuck that.
The woman screamed, her voice high with agony.
“Open up or I’m breaking it down!” Justice jerked off his suit jacket. He’d wrap it around his arm and use his elbow to break the glass, then reach in and unlock the damned door.
“Oh, fuck! I’m coming!” The teen’s voice dropped to a hiss. “Dad, let her go!” A misty form hurried behind the glass, and the door jerked wide, revealing a gangling kid, maybe seventeen or eighteen.
“Hello, officer.” The boy gave Justice a wide, nervous smile as he ran a smoothing hand over his short blond hair. His bony, good-natured face might have been handsome, if not for the fear in his eyes. Eyes an odd shade of blue so pale, it made Justice think of arctic wolves.
“Where are your parents?” Justice demanded, shrugging back into his jacket -- and making sure the kid noticed both his badge and his gun.
“Uhhhhh…” The boy licked his lips. A stud flashed on the tip of his tongue. Tiny black rings pierced his lower lip and right eyebrow, and two round steel gauges stretched quarter-inch holes in his earlobes. He wore a ripped Green Day T-shirt, tight jeans on skinny legs, and black Converse All Star sneakers that made his big feet look even bigger. Wolf tracks, tattooed in blue, ringed the stringy biceps of his right arm, and he wore a studded dog collar in black leather. “My mother’s fine.”
“That’s not what I asked you. I asked you were she is. I heard a woman scream. She sounded hurt.” He took a step forward, crowding the boy without quite stepping over the threshold. Yet. “May I come in?”
The kid shot a panicky glance over his shoulder. “Uh, yeah. Sure. She’s fine, though.” He gave Justice an unconvincing smile. “You probably heard the television. Mom loves Law and Order.”
“Kid, I’ve been a cop for eight years. I know real screams when I hear them.” He shouldered past the teenager, who trailed him, radiating worry.
Justice scanned his surroundings, checking for signs of potential attackers, blood, guns…whatever the hell just growled...
The two-story foyer featured a curving oak staircase and a hardwood floor gleaming with so much polish, he could see his reflection in it. Watercolor landscapes hung on the white walls, depicting Victorian houses surrounded by mounds of azaleas and oaks dripping Spanish moss.
Somebody's working really, really hard at looking normal.
Justice shot a hard look at the kid. “You the kind of guy who’d let somebody hurt his mother?”
The boy flinched. “No, I…”
“Who the hell are you,” a male voice interrupted, “and what are you doing in my house?”
Justice pivoted, his hand going to his gun. He didn’t draw it – quite. “Who are you?”
“Christian Andrew Price.” The man tilted head so he could look down his nose at Justice -- quite a trick, considering he was three inches shorter. “I know you aren’t getting ready to draw a weapon on me in my own home.”
We’ll see, asshole. “Where’s your wife, sir?”
“Who are you again?”
Justice tapped the gold badge on his belt. “Lieutenant William Justice, Greendale Sheriff’s Office.”
Price smiled thinly. “Oh, yes. I donated to the sheriff’s campaign.”
“So did I.” He took a single menacing step closer. “Where’s your wife, Mr. Price? She screamed.”
Price curled a contemptuous lip. “Carol screams quite frequently.” He was a pale aristocrat of a man – blond, thin, and elegant in chinos and a sky-blue silk shirt open to reveal a wisp of chest hair. “She’s a bit high-strung.”
“Funny how people get high-strung when other people hit them.” Justice smiled, letting the curve of his mouth imply how much he’d enjoy making Price “high strung.” “If I don’t see your wife by the count of three,” he added in a conversational tone, “I’m going to assume something’s happened to her. In which case I’m going to handcuff your ass, throw you in my patrol car, and go looking for her myself. One…”
“My wife is none of your damned business!”
“This badge says otherwise. Two. Thr…”
“Carol, get out here, you clumsy cow!”
The woman who stepped around the corner was delicately pretty – if you ignored the set of five vicious cuts that raked the side of her face. The top slice ran from her temple to the corner of one green eye, while three others slashed her cheek right to her nose and the corner of her mouth. The bottom cut laid the length of her jaw open all the way to her chin. Blood streamed from the wounds to mat her shoulder-length chestnut hair, soaking her pink knit shirt. Her neat white pants were splattered with crimson flecks.
Shit, Justice thought in horror, that’s going to scar like a bitch. What the hell did he attack her with – a box cutter?
She smiled at Justice through the gore. One side of her lip sagged oddly, as if the cuts had damaged nerves. “Hello, Lieutenant. I’m afraid you’ve caught us at a bad time.” There was a curious light in her eyes, an odd blend of triumph and revenge. Something that said I’m going to show him for what he is.
“Mom!” The boy stared at her in shocked horror. “Why in the hell didn’t you shift first?”
“Dammit, Carol!” Price spat, taking a threatening step forward. “I’m going to…”
“That’s enough, sir!” Grabbing the man by one wrist, Justice swept behind him, jerking his arm back and around to pin it painfully high against one shoulder blade. Teeth bared, Justice used the leverage to slam Price face-first into the wall. The watercolors shook with the impact, their elegant silver frames rattling.
The blond yelped. “That hurts! Let go, you…”
“No.” Maintaining the arm bar with practiced skill, Justice used his free hand to pull his handcuffs from the leather case on his belt. “I’m charging you with Criminal Domestic Violence, High and Aggravated. Which means you’re going to jail, and your wife is going to the emergency room. If you’re lucky, a plastic surgeon will be able to save her face.”
“Don’t be absurd -- she’s fine!” Price snapped, and rammed back against Justice’s grip with impossible strength, breaking the hold and sending him stumbling in surprise. Whipping around, Price glared at his wife with his lips peeled off his teeth. “All she has to do is shape-shift, and she’ll heal – at least until I slice her open again for bringing a human into Chosen business!”
Oh, great, the bastard’s psychotic, Justice thought, and drew his gun again. Swinging the weapon up into a two-handed Weaver stance, he aimed it right between Price’s eyes. “You’re not doing a damn thing except going to jail. Turn around and brace your hands against the wall, feet apart.”
The blond rocked back in offended astonishment. “I’ll do no such thing! You have no authority to…”
“I’ve got a badge and a gun, asshole. That gives me all the authority I need.” Justice took three steps forward until the nine-mil almost touched Price’s thick blond eyebrows. “Lean both hands on that wall and brace your feet apart. I will not tell you again.”
“This is really not necessary.” From the corner of one eye, Justice saw the woman wring her hands in distress. “This isn’t what I had in mind. I don’t want you to arrest him – just make him leave me alone!”
“Lady, the only way to make an abuser leave you alone is to leave his ass and make sure he doesn’t know where you’re going,” Justice snapped. “Which is what I strongly advise you to do. Get your kid to pack your shit while you’re in the hospital and the creep is in jail. Then hop a flight to anywhere else, and don’t come back. Have your lawyer serve the divorce papers, and stay the fuck away from this lunatic.”
She stared. “I can’t divorce Christian! The Chosen don’t do that.”
Great, she was as crazy as Price. This is why I hate domestics. “Then I give it a month before I’ll be working your murder.” He glared into Price’s furious eyes. They actually seemed to glow with sparks of insanity. “It won’t exactly be a whodunit.”
Carol lifted her chin. “Christian won’t hurt me.”
Justice kept his gun aimed directly at Price’s skull. “Check the mirror, sweetheart. He already has.”
“Carol, you stupid slut, look what you’ve gotten us into!” Price exploded. “You’ve exposed us, you fool! When this human makes his report and the media gets involved…”
Green eyes narrowed. “He won’t be making a report. I’ll fix this, Christian. You’ll see.”
And then, just like that, she became a monster.
Light sparked around her as if she’d detonated hidden fireworks, and her body began to contort, twisting, growing, as her skin went dark in a rolling wave.
Sheer reflex made Justice jerk his weapon toward her. In the instant it took to switch his aim from Price to the woman, she’d grown from barely five-six to well over seven feet tall. Her delicate female features contorted, swelling, shifting, into a wolf’s long tapered muzzle and pointed ears, and her manicured hands grew huge, tipped with gleaming curved claws that had to be three inches long. She balanced on powerful lupine legs, clawed toes curling against the hardwood floor. Her fur was the same rich chestnut as her hair, short and fine over most of her body, thickening into a long mane that surrounded her head and formed a ruff over her round breasts.
He wondered numbly where her clothes had gone.
“You…what did you…?” Justice heard himself stammer. He felt as if someone had hit him hard, right in the side of the head, disconnecting his dazed thoughts like a derailed toy train. “How did you do that?”
“I’m sorry about this,” the monster told him gently in a deep, rumbling voice. “But you really shouldn’t have tried to arrest him. The Chosen don’t go to jail.”
She lunged at him. He fired, but she kept coming with impossible speed, ducking around the gun in his extended arms, opening her jaws…
Her teeth engulfed both his forearms, and she bit down. At the same time, one huge clawed hand wrenched the gun out of his hands as if she were taking a rattle away from a toddler.
Justice screamed as knife-blade fangs sliced into his skin. Blue sparks flashed around her jaws.
Hallucinating. He had to be hallucinating. What the fuck did they drug me with? Gas? I didn’t drink anything…
Fire shot up his arms in blazing agony. Yelling, he jerked away just as her jaws released his wrists. She caught his elbow, steadying him with solicitous care. Straightening, she towered over him, her gaze oddly regretful. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I really am.”
“Carol!” Price screamed. “What the fuck?”
“Mom! You don’t bite cops!” The kid grabbed Justice with surprisingly strong hands and pulled him away from his mother, supporting all two hundred pounds of dazed detective as if he weighed nothing at all. Glaring fearlessly up into her furry wolf face, the boy snapped, “Have you lost your mind?”
"Apparently." Price’s eyes narrowed. “You’re going to pay for this, bitch.”
Justice watched numbly as sparks raced over the little prick and turned him into a monster even bigger than his wife. In seconds, he was covered in shaggy gold fur, his body muscular as a boxer’s. He flexed clawed hands and snarled like something out of a horror movie.
“I’m sorry!” Carol yelped, recoiling in fear. “I had to!”
“You’re not as sorry as you’re going to be, you stupid bitch!” Price lunged at his wife, who yipped and fled, bounding off into the house. Justice’s gun tumbled from her hand to hit the floor and skid across the slick wood. Neither werewolf stopped to grab it.
Thank God it didn’t go off, Justice thought numbly.
Price raced after his wife, bellowing threats in a voice as deep as God’s.
“Well,” the kid sighed as he lowered Justice to the floor until he could lean back against the wall. “This is a completely fucked situation. Why in the hell did she bite you? That was crazy.”
Justice’s hands burned furiously, but he gritted his teeth and fumbled for his belt. Somehow he forced his fingers to close around his cell phone and pull it from its plastic clip. He lifted it clumsily to his mouth and thumbed the SEND button. “Call dispatch,” he rasped.
Obeying the verbal command, the phone started dialing 911.
The kid’s long fingers closed over the phone and hit the END button. “You don’t want to do that, sir.”
Something was wrong with the tendons in Justice’s hand; he couldn’t make his stiff fingers overcome the kid’s grip. The boy tugged the phone away from him with no effort at all and slid it into his back pocket.
“Hospital,” Justice protested, fighting to find the words and get them out of his mouth. “Gotta go to the hospital.” No way in hell could he drive. “Losing…I’m losing too much blood.”
“Look, dude, you’ll be okay.” The boy hesitated, frowning. “Probably. But the last thing you need is an ambulance crew. You’ll end up shifting in front of them, and then we’ll all be fucked.”
Shivering in waves, Justice blinked at him. He felt so damned cold. Shock, something whispered from the back of his brain. I'm going into shock. “What the…hell are you talking about?”
Glass shattered somewhere upstairs. Price bellowed a curse. More glass broke.
“Fuck.” The boy sighed. “Sounds like Mom just went out a window. Dad’ll chase her through the woods for the next hour or so, and then they’ll have sex.” His tone was utterly matter-of-fact. “Swear to God, they do this once a month. First time they’ve ever involved a cop, though. This totally blows.”
“Did your father drug me...with something?” Panting, Justice gave the boy the best cop stare he could manage, considering that he was barely conscious. “Some kind of...gas?”
“Look, you’re not hallucinating.” The kid stared back at him, his gaze utterly level and completely serious. “My parents really did turn into werewolves, and my mother really did bite you. And you really are going to turn into a werewolf.” He paused and sighed. “Well, probably. That, or you’ll die.”
“Call 911." He started shivering in waves. The pain was so bad he could barely form words. "Whatever... they used to... drug us...Need treatment.”
“My name is Pete, not ‘kid,’” the kid said with enormous dignity. “And nobody drugged either of us. I’m a werewolf, and if the humans find out about us, they’ll hunt us down like dogs. You want to be responsible for all the people they’re going to kill – including the folks who aren’t really werewolves at all?”
Shit. He means it. Crazy!
But what if he's right?
“The...moon's not...full.” God, his arms hurt. Felt like he'd dipped his wrists in battery acid.
“The moon thing is bullshit,” Pete said patiently. “So’s the bit about silver and wolfs-bane and all the rest of that superstitious crap. And no, I didn’t get cursed by a gypsy. I was born like this.” He folded his arms and propped them on his raised knees, settling more comfortably against the wall. “We don’t run around killing and eating people either. All of that is pure Hollywood horror movie made-up bullshit.”
Justice licked his dry lips and studied the boy sitting next to him. He felt numb everywhere he wasn’t burning. “Werewolves exist?”
“Yep. So do vampires and witches. Merlin made us all.”
“Merlin?” Must have misheard. “Wizard? King Arthur...knights?”
Justice let his head fall back against the wall. “Full of shit.”
“No, really. He created the vampires to protect mankind, and he created us to keep an eye on the vampires. That’s why he gave us the magic bite, so we could recruit people like you.”
“Magic bite.” Justice clenched his teeth and rubbed his calf with one wounded hand. A muscle there had drawn into a knot the size of a tennis ball. It hurt like a motherfucker. “Horse...shit.”
Pete snorted. “Tell me that when you’re seven feet tall and furry. The spell’s already changing you. It’s only a matter of time.”
A wave of fire shot up his arms, so sudden and vicious Justice threw his head back, rapping it hard against the wall. He gritted his teeth and banged his head again, deliberately this time, and then again. He’d half-hoped the raps would reboot his brain, but no such luck. “Fuck me!”
“I know, man.” The boy’s pale gaze was sympathetic. “I went through my first Shift a few months ago. Figured I’d die.” His pale eyes darkened with an ugly memory. “One of my friends did. He burned right up in a blaze of blue light. One minute he was there, the next he was ashes on the ground. We’d been friends since fucking kindergarten, and he just died. He was only sixteen, dammit. He wanted to be a lawyer, wanted to be able to defend us when we finally come out of the kennel to the humans. Instead he died, and I’m alone.” His voice turned bitter. “Except for parents who keep trying to kill each other.”
Justice sucked in a breath through his teeth, fighting another wave of pain. “Did.." For a moment he couldn't remember what he was saying, then found the thought again. "Call...cops?”
“And tell them what? ‘A spell ate my best friend? And oh, by the way, I’m a werewolf.’” He shook his head. “Dude, I don’t think so.”
“Teachers? Classmates?" Someone should have noticed.
“His folks have money. They’re Chosen – werewolf aristocracy, just like my parents. They told everybody they sent David off to boarding school in fucking Sweden, and then they just never mention him again. People forget.” The ring shifted in the boy’s eyebrow as he ground his teeth. “Everybody but me. I can’t forget. And I’ve tried.” He glanced at Justice. “Fuck, I hope I don’t have to watch you die like that. What the hell was Mom thinking?”
“Didn't want him...jail.” The blood dripping from his wrists was turning into a pool between his feet. He felt dizzy, his thoughts dull, plodding.
“Yeah, I get that. I’m talking about when Dad clawed her to begin with. All she had to do was turn into a wolf, then turn human again. The cuts on her face would have healed. She could have come out and talked to you, and you’d have never known anything happened. Instead, she freaking showed you what he did. On purpose. She had to know you’d arrest him.”
“Vics...always batshit.” Justice closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, trying to rest. The pain had abated, at least for the moment, but he knew it would be back. And the blood loss still sucked. “Wave your.. magic badge...make bad man stop." Then they realized you were going to arrest him, and when he got out of jail, he'd be really pissed. Next thing you knew, the vic was slamming a frying pan upside your head. But the idea was too complicated to get out of his mouth, and he gave up.
The boy blinked at him. “So this is like, typical behavior?”
Pete grimaced. “That sucks.”
Pete went pale. “You meant that? About him killing my Mom?”
“I’ll get her to leave.” The boy squared his thin shoulders. “I can convince her.”
“Careful ...may pick...father over...you.”
If anything, the boy went paler. “She loves me. She wouldn’t do that.”
“No.” A flat denial, delivered with all the stubborn conviction in the boy’s soul. “She’s not like that.”
Justice nodded, studying him, taking in the blend of guilt and grief that haunted those pale eyes. “Maybe ... right.”
Pete rested his chin on his knees and hugged them tight in his skinny arms. “Man, you’re cynical.”
“I'm a cop.” Justice sucked in a breath as pain stormed up his nerves in a wave so searing, it was all he could do not to scream.
This was more than just the pain of a set of puncture wounds. The kid was right. Something was happening to him. He knew it in his gut, which was why he hadn’t already tried to wrestle his cell away from Pete and call 911.
He really didn’t want to turn into a werewolf in front of an ambulance crew. Or maybe he’d just go up in flames instead. Either way, it wouldn’t be good.
Better to sit here with the kid and do whatever he was going to do. Die or go furry.
Jesus, what a choice.
“Change with me.” Pete said the words suddenly, his tone hard and fierce.
“What?” Justice looked up.
Pete caught him under his upper arm and rose, lifting him effortlessly to his feet. “It’s time for us to Shift. When it’s your first time, it’s easier if another werewolf shifts with you. His magic pulls you along, helps you transform.”
Justice braced his feet and fought not to fall on his face. “What if...burn?”
“Then you’ll die.” The kid’s gaze held steadily on his. “But dude, you don’t have a choice. Your body is going to do this one way or another. Change or die.”
And then Peter Price began to transform, energy burning around him. It seemed his power reached out to Justice’s, caught him, surged into a blue raging blaze…
And Justice Changed.
Look for Master of Darkness on August 7, 2012. Thank you SO much for dropping by to read this story, and I hope you enjoyed it.