Shae Wynters

Author of Sensual ~ Paranormal ~ Romance

An ARe Bestseller! (Thank you readers!)

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A Skinwalker's Legacy
Shae Wynters

Genre: Paranormal, Wolves, Skinwalkers, Action, Adventure 

Heat Level: 3 

Words: 85,000 

Publication Date: May 6th, 2014

Her gift of second sight has enabled her to successfully aid the Phoenix Police Department in a number of investigations. Why wasn’t she warned of her own future? Now she’s facing danger on all sides . . . not least of which is her growing desire for the man who has sworn to protect her.

Blurb: Lexia Torrance is a young woman with the gift of second sight. Her ability allows the local police department to solve crimes based on the gift of touch. Her latest case leads her to the body of a local man left with the killer's calling card: an emblem burned on the victim's chest in the shape of a sun. She then senses the man's attackers: five men searching for the necklace with the same emblem…and they’re also searching for her.

Skinwalker guard Galen Cortes is intent on keeping Lexia out of harm's way. Like Lexia, he is stuck between two worlds as he shares both Skinwalker and Sith faerie blood. Soon the time draws near for Lexia to learn her family history and claim the throne of Skinwalker Chieftess to keep the  Southwest Skinwalker community alive.

A prophecy within the Skinwalker tribe deems that only royals within the tribe families marry to continue ruling the community. As their training heats up, so does the star-crossed passion between the Chieftess and her guard. Soon Lexia must choose between saving a community and  sacrificing her heart, or risking it all for her own desires.

~ Excerpt ~

Chapter One

Lexia Torrance didn’t know when the soft classical music streaming from her television disappeared into the silence of her mind. Her conscious thought transitioned into the hushed, wistful nature of her dream state. She was like a cinematographer, a distant observer watching herself sleeping.
Then she was somewhere else.
The shadows creeping around the rooms told her it was nighttime. A warm glow of red, yellow and orange flickered from around the corner. She floated toward the room and as she turned the corner, a tall figure loomed ahead.
The tall man wore a red flannel coat and blue jeans. His long, dark hair fell down his back. He was large, a mixture of both muscle and body fat beneath his bronze skin. He turned around with a gasp and his expression quickly turned to anger. A strong handsome face stared back at her. The prominent bone structure told her of his Navajo ancestry. Perhaps he was from the same local tribe as her grandmother. He wore a colorful beaded necklace that reminded her of a similar necklace her father had given her.
She couldn’t turn to see who he was looking at, but she felt them. Thick tension, bitter and black as ink filled the air like a dark shadow. The men's presence bore a familiarity she struggled to figure out. She watched the man before her stand to attention. His face, a shade of golden brown with strong cheekbones and a lined jaw was tense. His dark brown eyes focused ahead with a veil of hardness that was a visible defense.
“Where is it?” the man asked, gritting his teeth.
The man before her shook his head. “You have no right to be here. Leave now and I won’t tell the council what you came for or what you’re doing.”
“You know who you’re speaking to, Micah?”
“A deranged power hungry prince, that’s whom. I won’t help you on your sick quest for power. Not over the tribe or her.”
Laughter filled the air, making her shiver from the ominous edge. “You have some moxie. I see why they gave it to you. But now it’s time to give up the necklace before I really get pissed.”
The man folded his arms and stood tall. “No one but the next Chieftess is to have possession of it. I’ve seen the way you look at it at the ceremonies. Like a power hungry lion waiting to catch its prey. Something is wrong with you and I’ll see that the Chieftess knows about it before she makes a mistake.”
The man named Micah made an attempt to move but was stopped by two other men in dark suits.
“Now, now Micah. You can’t stop what is already in motion. Either you’re a part of it or you’re a victim. I’ve given you one chance for the former. Now here is your second. I want the trinket I came for and since you’re so enamored with being the good warrior, I want the girl as well. Where is she? I know she lives in town.”
“She isn’t ready yet. She needs training.”
“You know the fate of the one who stands between a Skinwalker and his mate?”
“You mean a predator and his prey.”
That eerie laughter pierced the air again. “Whichever you choose. The end result will still be the same.”
Micah’s gaze darted from each man. Lexia wished she could keep up the count of how many were in the room. Even more, she wished she could turn to see the man speaking. Something told her she had to know and remember.
“I suppose you know where she is then?”
The man’s face grew blank before he shook his head. “You won’t find her.”
The scene flashed and two men held Micah down on the ground. His shirt was open, baring his thick chest, while a smoking hand clutching an unseen item branded a mark on his heart. His screams echoed throughout her dreams. She had to wake up. Why couldn’t she wake up?
She moved back to get a look at the man’s torturer. But as he moved into her line of vision, a loud ringing filled her ears.
Lexia’s eyes shot open into the darkness of the bedroom. The wireless phone blared to life on the table next to her bed. She looked outside the window where the night still claimed the city of Phoenix. The clear sky gave a view of a half-moon amidst the tall trees aligning her backyard. It took her a moment to realize that whoever was calling this late wouldn’t give up until she answered.
She pushed herself off the bed with a sigh and yanked the phone off the cradle.
“Yeah? Torrance here,” she said. Her voice was still heavy with sleep, and her mind still hummed with the loud, ear-piercing scream. Heat flushed her face as if the man had burned right in front of her. It felt so real. But it wasn’t…was it?
“Sorry to wake you, kid,” the familiar voice of her boss, Rudy, echoed over the receiver. “I tried your office first but when you weren’t there, I figured you already crashed for the night. I would’ve let you sleep this one out but we’re going to need your expertise. Dead body here looks like a ritual killing by a cult or gang. I’m running some tests to see if it fits any initiation MO’s and we should have the results by morning. The vic’s place looks like a robbery but there aren’t any prints or signs that anyone was here besides the victim. No forced entry and only one room looks like a hurricane flew through it. Obviously they were looking for something and had an idea where it was.”
Lexia wiped her eyes. “You think they knew each other?”
“It’s possible but only speculation at this point.”
“Sounds like you guys ran tests already.” Lexia tried to focus on what little information she could deduce from Rudy’s description despite her mind replaying pieces of the dream.
“We did what we could but it would sure help if you could feel the place out for us. Tell us what they were looking for and when they hit. Things like that. I estimate it happened an hour ago so they couldn’t have gotten too far.”
“All right,” Lexia leaned over to look at the digital clock on her nightstand. The red numbers blurred but she blinked a few times to clear her vision. Twelve forty-five. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
She waited until Rudy finished giving her the vic’s address before she bid goodbye and hung up. Her mind was still on cloud nine as she tossed the covers off the bed and swung her feet onto the carpet.
The room had somehow grown warmer since she fell asleep as if a fire was burning
nearby. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in Allegretto played from the digital music channel on the television. The light from the set illuminated her entire bedroom, cascading everything in a flicker of light against the darkness.
What just happened?
That was the first time she dreamed something so real. Normally when she fell into one of those dream states so quickly, it was when she was getting a feeling at a crime scene.
Lexia pulled her hairband out and shook her silky strands free around her shoulders. As she combed her fingers through her hair, she tried to coax herself back to the present. This was no time to have her head in the clouds over some crazy dream. She needed all her senses working tonight if she was going to be of any help to Rudy and his team.
Clearing her mind, Lexia immediately replaced any traces of the dream with the preparation for her investigation. First, she had to find something comfortable to wear. She had a feeling this was going to be a long night.

* * * *

Lexia pushed past the crowd of police officers on the dimly lit porch and stepped into the bright living room. She made sure to keep her ID card handy after she flashed it to the cops at the front of the house. Onlookers and neighbors had already gathered outside. Despite the amount of robberies in the city, it was always a circus whenever a crime took place. Unfortunately, this was another that ended with a person losing their life.
Once the cops recognized her, she ducked under the yellow tape lining that stretched across the front yard and headed straight for the busy home. It was a nice one-story modern, Spanish-style house situated on the outskirts of Paradise Valley and Phoenix. Pretty nifty place not too far away from her own home. For that, she was thankful for the short drive on half a night’s sleep.
“Welcome to the party, Lex.” Detective Rudolpho “Rudy” Marra smiled widely as he spotted her. He ran a meaty hand over the smooth bare patch in the middle of his thinning gray head of hair. His smile was warm, accentuating a large round face, rosy cheeks and a dark neatly combed mustache. He often joked about his round frame, attributing it to his love of donuts, sweets and his wife’s Italian home cooking.
Lex had to give it to him there. His wife’s cooking was worth risking a heart attack. “What do we have here that couldn’t wait until morning?” she asked, gazing at her surroundings.
“Vic’s name is Micah Cozel. Forty-eight year old single male. American Indian descent. Lived a quiet life and kept mostly to himself.”
Lexia barely heard the rest of Rudy’s list after he mentioned the name. Yes, it was a long shot that it was the same Micah from her dream, no matter how close the description sounded, but a coincidence…she didn’t think so.
It took her a moment to realize Rudy was looking right at her.
“Ahh,” she cleared her throat. “Where’d he work?”
Rudy shrugged. “Volunteered at the local reservation and worked as an engineer.”
“Does it say which one?”
Rudy pulled out a notepad from his pocket and checked it before shaking his head. “Doesn’t mention which one but there’s a settlement outside of Avondale. Apparently, he goes there for volunteer work but nothing beyond that. Anyway, from what we could gather on short notice, he hadn’t been to work in the past day or so.”
Lexia exhaled. “Okay. I’ll do my best to see if I can dig up anything. Where’s the body?”
Rudy turned his head toward the back of the home. “Down the hall. Just follow the party. Everything is still as is. Just be careful to—”
“I know, I know. Watch where I step.”
He grinned, puffing out his already swollen cheeks. “Sorry to wake you so early, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this.”
Lexia’s stomach turned. Once again, her overactive mind imagined the worst before her eyes had a chance to confirm the situation. She nodded slowly and told herself to suck it up before heading in. “I’ll take a look.”
She stepped forward, ready to enter the bright spacious family room when a loud voice broke through the hall.
“Marra, what are you doing letting a civvie in here? This is a confidential investigation,” a deep voice boomed behind her.
Lexia looked over her shoulder and met the bright blue gaze of a middle-aged man with thin, dark hair with silver at his temples. His eyes narrowed as he surveyed her from head to toe before he continued his tirade.
“She doesn’t look like an officer so I think you better talk fast.”
“Easy, Jerry,” Rudy turned to her, rolling his eyes. “He’s new. I’ll explain to him and you go on in ahead.”
“She—what the…”
Jerry continued to stutter as Rudy eased him back into the hall.
Lexia shook her head. The same thing happened with the last partner Rudy had to bring up-to-date. Right about now she suspected he’d be explaining how she could sense things. She was often called out of her office to sniff things out, so to speak, and assist the local police on criminal investigations. She wasn’t psychic or anything but her intuition and keen senses helped the police figure out the how’s and why’s of cases.
Their voices disappeared the moment she saw the body and his placement in front of a fireplace. It couldn’t be. Right away, she recognized the dead man, Micah, lying amidst the rubble of books, furniture and debris. His long dark hair was splayed across the wood floor. With charred ashes in the fireplace behind him, she could tell it had been in use recently. She walked closer, careful not to step on any bit of the debris lining the floor.
The female cop crouching over him peered up at her with a thin, neatly manicured, raised eyebrow.
“It’s okay,” Lexia said, holding her hands up. “I’m Lexia Torrance, special assistant to Detective Rudy Marra. I’m just taking a survey of things to see if anything pops up that can give you guys a start.”
“Well, have fun,” the cop responded, rising to her feet with a sigh. She snapped her latex gloves off. “Looks as if his body burned from the inside out. His skin is almost completely scorched. There’s a strange intricate design on his chest there. Never seen anything like it before. I suspect it’s something to do with the occult. Maybe an underground cult in town doing some kind of weird initiation for its members.” She shrugged. “In any event, we probably won’t find anything conclusive until the M.E. can take a look at him. See if you can find anything to give us a lead, huh?”
Before Lex could answer, the woman turned toward the hallway. “All right gentlemen, let’s give the psychic some room to do her work.”
Lexia suppressed a cringe. She forced a smile toward the female cop who patted her on the shoulder before taking her leave. She was not a psychic. She couldn’t see the future, only the past and the scenes came in waves of emotion. If anything, she would be an empath but even that couldn’t describe the intuition she had come to rely on. That and the heavy burden of extensive emotion that came with her ability. If she didn’t keep it under wraps the physical results would be disastrous.
She pushed that alternative thought out of her mind and leaned down. Sure enough, he was the man from her dream. Looking up, she deduced this was the place she’d dreamed about. Did she dream it the very moment it happened? It couldn’t be. Her ability only worked when she touched the scene. Never before had it happened just like that. Things were getting weirder than usual.
Lexia moved closer to the body and kneeled beside him. His bronze skin, indeed charred, revealing the bones and muscles and dried blood beneath. She took a few breaths to calm down and focus as she opened her senses to receive anything left behind from his encounter with the perps. What was once a strong spirit with a name, an identity and a life, was now an empty void with only memories left of what happened in the late hours. She held her open palm out over his chest and closed her eyes, allowing the past few hours to wash over her.
Nighttime. Four broad-shouldered men in dark suits stood in the room around Micah, their faces still drenched in shadow. A fifth man reached into the fireplace, his hand hovering over the blazing fire.
“Where is she?”
“Be careful what you wish for. If she learns of your true nature, you will not have a prayer in ruling the tribe.”
“The Torrance girl is in this city. You didn’t think we were that stupid not to find her, did you?”
The Torrance girl? Lexia felt the images slipping away as fear sluiced through her veins. There had to be at least a dozen Torrances in the neighborhood. They couldn’t be after her, could they?
“Focus, Lex,” she softly whispered to herself. “There are more important things at hand right now.” Closing her eyes, she tried to push her cognitive mind aside and let her emotions release her powers. All she saw was black emptiness…until it appeared again.
The man balled his fist at his side and puffed out his chest. “You won’t find her! She’ll be kept safe, I promise you that.”
Lexia shuddered as the scenery quickly changed in her mind.
The four men held the victim down as he screamed and writhed to free his body from their grasp.
“Where is the necklace?” one of them demanded.
The man smiled then spat in his questioner’s face. The fifth man balled his fists and launched a series of hard blows across Micah’s face.
“Answer the nice guy, Micah.”
Micah spit blood into his abuser’s face. “You’d have to kill me first.”
“That can be arranged.” Another kick in the gut stole Micah’s breath. The unseen man punched him across the face again. Again. And again.
“Come on, Micah. Where’s this heroism getting you?”
Micah fell over in the men’s grasps, his tired weight ready to give into gravity.
“Tell ‘em where she is and where you’re hiding the necklace.”
Micah smiled, a row of white tainted with spots of deep, thick red blood. “You’ll never know. My honor and loyalty is to my Skinwalker Chieftess only. Nothing will break me. Soon she’ll know the truth and then finish you for breaking the code.”
“Lay him down,” the unseen man said through gritted teeth. The shuffle of bodies moving echoed against the walls. Micah’s body slammed down with a grunt before he struggled to escape their grasp.
The man in the suit cocked his head to the side and shrugged, curling his lips into a smile. “This is such a shame, Micah. You know the only thing I hate more than a person who sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong, is an insubordinate who believes he’s higher than his station allows. May your passing take with you pain and suffering into life after death because your Skinwalker Chieftess cannot help you now.” He raised his hand then slammed it on Micah’s chest, causing him to shake violently as smoke rose from his burning body.
Lexia opened her eyes and looked down. The scene happened exactly as in her dream only this time she had seen it all. Still she couldn’t see the other four men amidst the dark shadows. It was as if the darkness surrounded them, purposefully blocking her view.
Her heart raced, pumping wildly at the images echoed in her memory. Were they looking for her?
If not, what did all that mean? And why were they after this man? What was this Skinwalker Chieftess? A shapeshifter legend?
Lexia looked up around the bedroom, feeling another presence in the air. Something called to her, wanted her here, seemed intent on making her stay put. A cool wind caressed her arms, raising the hairs on her skin.
She peered down again at the man’s face. His half-buttoned shirt revealed a scar on his chest. This had to be the emblem the man was clutching in his hand. She couldn’t see it but something told her it was the very same.
Lexia looked over her shoulder, thankful to see the female police officer nearby. “Hey, do you have any spare gloves?”
“Thanks.” Lexia flashed the woman a smile as she took the gloves offered to her and slipped them on. She waited until the room was empty before continuing. Who was this man and why did he feel so familiar to her?
She gently pulled back the plaid shirt to bare his chest fully. It was just as the cop told her. Among the dark, thin patch of hair was a clear indentation of the necklace burned on him like a brand. She nearly froze as she made out the mark—flames emitting from a round face with eyes in the shape of howling wolves. The image from her dream! But how? What was the connection here?
With a sigh, she stood, feeling like her senses had overloaded. Her mind raced to find questions. Another flash invaded her mind. The necklace, a beautiful gold embroidered rope tied to the sun-like mark. Deep in the midst of the wolves were eyes made of red jewels. Was that what they were after?
Then she felt it.
The necklace is still here.
Perhaps that was why this was the only room in shambles. They must have known. Lexia slowly surveyed the room, feeling the invisible energy guide her. A white bookcase sat on the opposite end lined with various old hardbacks thrown about. The unknown behind those walls drew her near. Raising her hand, she willed the books to move. She narrowed her eyes and imagined them falling off the shelf to the floor to reveal what she needed to see.
But nothing happened.
Lexia chuckled. Looking around, she hoped no one saw her failing mishap. Who did she think she was? Some kind of telekinetic warrior? She had the ability to see things, but the idea of moving things with her will sounded absurd even to her.
She turned at the sound of oncoming footsteps in the hall.
Rudy poked his head through the door as she gingerly stepped toward the hall.
“Definite signs of foul play on his body,” she said, placing her hands on her hips. “He was attacked, beaten and branded like an animal.”
“Did you see the perps?”
“Unfortunately, no. Too many shadows hid their profiles. I just noticed they were all dressed in suits.”
“How many?”
“I counted five.”
Rudy cursed softly. “Any sign of what caused the mark?”
Lexia shook her head. “Not a clue. I did notice—”
A loud thump caught her attention. They exchanged glances and from the widening of Rudy’s eyes, she could tell he’d heard it too. She carefully turned around and headed back in the room.
There in one of the corners, books lay on the ground. The empty space they left made way for a large opening within the wall. Lexia immediately spotted the shiny gold sun talisman attached to a long braided chain. The same design branded on the dead man’s chest.

* * * *

Two hours later Lexia found herself staring at the wall. Her mind was on a continuous cycle, replaying the events of the night while trying to make sense of them.
The killers obviously knew her from somewhere. Although she was sure she wasn’t the only Torrance in the state, she was the one who saw the crime when it happened. There had to be a connection and a reason why the necklace called out to her.
Lexia sighed. Skinwalker. Shapeshifters. Could she really be connected to such creatures? She did have an affliction that occurred when her emotions got out of hand but it couldn’t be so dramatic that she’d turn into an animal.
She turned to peer out at the milky moon glowing brightly in the velvet sky. It was full tonight and she didn’t feel like howling nor did she feel particularly hairy. If only, there was someone to talk to about these things. She sure couldn’t tell Rudy unless she was ready for a new jacket and a special room at the loony bin. He already accepted her ability to see and feel situations. Telekinesis would add a cherry on the already big bowl of crazy. She thought back to the dream and how it fit into the crime scene.
Images of the murder and the charred man’s body flashed through her thoughts. The smell of burnt flesh filled her mind and nostrils. Her stomach lurched, threatening a repeat of tonight’s dinner.
She yanked back the covers and leaned over the side, gripping the sheets and comforter between her damp palms. The clock on her nightstand read ten minutes to three a.m. She couldn’t even grab a couple hours of shut-eye before the sun rose, signaling her right back to work. Stretching her back, she noticed her newly straightened hair grew damp and was already frizzing against her sweaty scalp.
Great, just what she needed when she had bigger things to worry about.
After leaving the crime scene, she returned straight home in hopes of reclaiming what little of the late night, or early morning. Bad idea. She couldn’t get the images out of her head and was sure they would follow into her dreams. Part of her was afraid to sleep for fear of what would come into her subconscious. She wrapped her arms around her body, feeling the emptiness of the room.
In times like this she really needed to hear her grandmother’s voice. She wanted to listen to the soft rhythmic chants of the ancient lullaby handed down through each generation in their family. The feeling revived her. Part of the memory of her Navajo background merged into her family’s African-American side. She loved the big weekend dinners that brought her kin together and often felt at home with so much love. It was the last and most unforgettable memory of her parents, aunts and uncles before her grandmother had taken Lexia into her care.
Still, Lexia often wondered about her father’s sister. Sometimes she would hear her parents whispering about the woman as they spoke about Lexia’s birthright when she came of age. They didn’t know if she could handle it once she got older. Lexia didn’t quite know what it was but to this day it still bothered her. Instead of the questions that still cornered her mind, she replaced them with the happy memories of her parents doting over her and the vacation trips they often took together.
After their deaths, she withdrew inside herself, but found comfort in the Navajo history her grandmother shared with her. She felt blessed to have known such a rich, cultural history from all sides of her family. Even now, she could feel the spirit of her ancestors pulsing through the blood rushing within her veins.
Slowly her heartbeat fell into its natural rhythm, but she still couldn’t shake the looming sense of dread.
There was only one thing that would keep her feelings in check. Lexia eased off the bed and crossed the room to the connecting bathroom. Designed in an old country style of light blues and French door accents, it felt like home. Comforting. Something she never regained after her parent’s death. The cold porcelain tile jolted her body to life and she quickly jumped on the soft, fluffy floor mat in front of the basin.
Lexia looked up at her reflection. Long silky black hair cascaded over her shoulders, framing a heart-shaped face. Her smooth brown complexion glowed under the dim bathroom lights. Short visuals of the dream shot through her mind, jerking her fully awake. Her blood began to boil, signaling her heightened blood pressure. It was now or never.
Swallowing deep, she immediately threw her head back and popped the pills in her mouth. She quickly filled the glass on the sink with water and swallowed it down with a gulp. She couldn’t shake the feeling that the danger wasn’t gone. A shot of pain nearly sent her to the floor. No, not again.
She let out a cry. Her body jolted forward over the basin as her chest rose and fell with short, dry heaves.
Get it together, Lex, she coaxed herself. Calm down.
Images of her past flashed in her mind. A nightmare she couldn’t shake from her memory.
She was ten years old playing in the trees on the lawn behind her house when the first of this feeling hit. A searing pain she couldn’t block out of her mind. Her small hands elongated into large, calloused paws with extended sharp talons. Her muscles contracted and she felt an energy she couldn’t explain. The only other person to see the change was her grandmother and ever since then she did anything in her power to keep her from changing. She even took the pills her grandmother gave to her to hold the transformation at bay. Lexia always felt she didn’t belong anywhere. Coupled with the sense of always being watched, she was more than happy to stop the outcast feelings so she could live a relatively normal life.
Lexia peered up at her reflection again, feeling the heavy sensation subside within her. Her breathing soon slowed down to normal. It would be a while before she could get to bed after that distraction. Sunlight would be rising in a few hours and she debated whether to stay up for the rest of the morning or call in for a day off to spend the rest of it in bed.
With a deep exhale to clear her thoughts, she flipped off the bathroom light and headed back into her bedroom to check the time. Two sharp red glows caught her eye on the opposite end of the room where her work desk sat against the wall.
The jewels on the necklace. Was it glowing before?
It called out to her in that moment just like it had earlier when she found it in the dead man’s living room. It took a lot of coaxing for her to convince Rudy to let her leave with it instead of logging it in for evidence. She told him she needed it to help further identify the perps. The explanation was partly true, considering it may help her if she could learn more about it.
She picked it up and watched the glistening gold metal catch the light of the silver moon outside her window. The ruby jewels appeared like eyes watching her from the comfort of her warm palm. Then she noticed the indentation on the face around the eyes and mouth. It looked slightly rough with grooves like the craters on the moon. Maybe it wasn’t the sun at all? Maybe it was a mixture of both.
Looking at it gave her reassurance for safety. Why did she feel so attached to it although she had never seen it before tonight?
The small jewels brightened into dazzling red shades as a shadow danced cross her window. Lexia’s gaze shot up. She followed the movement near the corner of her eye as her senses shot to full alert.
She reached over to the top drawer of her desk where her spare 9 mm rested—the same one Rudy had given her for protection. If anyone connected to tonight’s murder followed her, they would be plenty sorry after catching a few hot bullets between the shoulder blades. She dropped the necklace in the pocket of her pajama pants then checked the chamber to confirm the ammunition. All full. Good.
She’d never had any problems with intruders in the area. The neighborhood was relatively safe, according to the feedback she’d received before moving in. But if there was anything she learned in her line of work, it was that no one was ever wholly safe.
Shadows crept across the darkened living room windows as she stepped into the hallway. Her heartbeat was so loud she hoped it wouldn’t give her away.
Darkness immediately surrounded her, but it wasn’t the dimness of ordinary shadows.
The dark presence joined a larger group that covered every inch of the front yard. She gripped the gun between sweaty palms. A shadowy figure with broad shoulders stepped in front of the living room window. Blood chilling howls broke through the air as he raised his arm.
Lexia’s eyes widened at the sight of the large gun in his hands. The glass living room window panel exploded from the spray of bullets as she dived to the ground. She hit the wooden floor with a loud thud and curled up until the firing eventually came to a halt.
The man dove through the shattered open window and tumbled onto the ground into a kneeling position. Right away, he raised his large gun in her direction.
Lexia jumped to her feet and scrambled behind her favorite rocking chair recliner. She couldn’t quite make out his face but his massive intimidating impression was all too familiar to her senses.
“Come on, Lexia,” his deep voice was oddly calm yet somewhat enticing. “We just want to talk to you.”
She pressed her back against the rocking chair, propping her elbows up on her bended knees while still gripping the gun in her hand.
“That’s a pretty difficult way to talk with your bullets instead of your mouth,” she called over her shoulder. “I would’ve gladly opened the door to save the destruction of my house.”
“Somehow I doubt that.”
That’s it. Keep him talking. At least until you think of some way to get out of here.
He laughed, the low rumbling reverberated across the room. “The whole house is surrounded, Lexia. Don’t think you can escape.”
She gritted her teeth. The gun handle slowly slipped against her damp palms and she squeezed her grip to hold it tight.
“If it’s one thing I can’t stand,” she said, moving to her side, “it’s someone telling me what I can and can’t do.”
Lexia jumped away from the chair, pointing her gun with one hand while her free hand opened toward the figure. A stream of fire emitted from her fingers, setting the large man ablaze. He screamed, loud and preternatural like a tortured creature in binds. His flaming body fell against the back wall with a loud crash. Lexia made sure to cushion her fall before the cold wood collided against her body.
A shot of pain spiked through her arm and to her side, but the adrenaline pumping through her bloodstream knocked it to the back of her mind.
“What the—” How did I do that?
Her heart raced as her mind scrambled to think of a way out.
Back door.
Lexia jumped to her feet and sprinted toward the back. She nearly ripped the door off its hinges and tore across the soft, green lawn lining her pool. She was close. So close to being free.
She jumped on the sturdy iron gate connected to the brick wall and swung her legs over. As she hit the ground, a thick rough hand grabbed her and hauled her to her feet. She turned to face a large wolf-like face with a wide mouth full of dripping saliva, sharp hungry teeth and a rough tongue lashing toward her.
Lexia’s eyes widened at the creature before her. Who—wait, what—were these beings?
She raised her gun, firing off a few rounds into the thick hide. In seconds, the bullets hit and then disappeared into the massive, coat of hair. The wolfman’s eyes glowed yellow. His mouth curled in what seemed like a smile. He lifted his hand and she saw it—a huge dark paw with claws ready to tear into her.
He swung and knocked the gun out of her hand in one swift movement. Then he reached out and grabbed her, slamming her body against his.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the other three closing in around her.
“Leave her be, Gordon!” one of them yelled. “I want her safe! I told you all that I didn’t want my bride or her house damaged. Bring her here.”
“With pleasure, my Prince,” Gordon said.
Lexia struggled to breathe as Gordon’s arm gripped tighter around her waist, nearly cutting off her circulation. Gordon. At least she knew one out of the four names.
The stench of wet fur, sweat and dirt claimed her nostrils, igniting her gag reflex. She struggled to breathe as she forced her mind to think of a way out of this situation. Maybe lightning would strike twice and she could put this sucker on fire like the other one. She tried to move her arms but the more she struggled the tighter he grasped. If only she could get her arms and hands free.
“I said bring her here!” the other yelled to Gordon.
“Chill, Damien. I was just admiring the gift to make sure she was intact before you receive her.”
Gift? Receive? She didn’t like the whole ownership thing these creatures had going on. It didn’t endear her to human men and it sure wouldn’t with these…whatever they were.
Damien. Two out of four names.
Damien moved closer toward them. His yellow eyes were the only part of him she could see amidst the shadow that cloaked him. He focused his gaze past her onto Gordon, her captor, who towered inches above her. “As long as we hold on to the future I am securing for all of us, I will be in control. Now get the car. It’s time to finally seal this union.”
Gordon hauled her toward the front lawn, taking the trail along the side of the house.
“Lexia, dear. I heard screaming.”
Lexia felt Gordon freeze behind her at the sound of the older female voice around the corner. She took the chance to side step him, ram her elbow right into his side and swirl around. As she bent down, she reached for her weapon. In one swift move, she flipped off the safety and launched forward, grabbing Gordon’s neck in a tight arm lock.
“Move and he’ll be fertilizing my lawn with his carcass,” she said to Damien through gritted teeth. She looked at each of the remaining men as she held the thick neck in her grip. The cold metal moved and she noticed her hands shifting into elongated beast-like fingers with thick talons as she tried to hold on. At the same time, the necklace in her pants pocket grew warmer each moment and she had to shift her body to move it between her skin and the thin material.
No…What else could screw up tonight?
“Lexia…Oh my.” Mrs. Papolous, her next-door neighbor stood under the streetlight in a pink terry bathrobe, matching bunny slippers and her white hair pulled up in curlers.
Why she was the only one to come out and investigate the racket, Lexia wasn’t sure. But this neighborhood wasn’t exactly as warm and friendly as Mr. Rogers’.
“Do you want me to call the cops, dear?”
“It’s all right, Mrs. Papolous, I’ve got it under control.”
“Go back inside, old lady. This doesn’t concern you.”
A dark shadow moved in a blur. It seemed to morph in moments and instead of Damien, a tall human male standing over the older woman, a large wolfman stood in its place. “Go back into your house. We’ll be done here in no time.”
The older woman opened her mouth to speak but Damien opened his maw, putting on a display of fully lined and sharpened teeth. Lexia aimed the gun at him as her arm tightened.
“Now that’s no way to treat a neighbor.” She aimed for Damien’s leg and fired off two shots, knocking him to the ground.
He fell to the ground with a loud howl into the night, clutching his leg.
“You have two seconds to get out of here or I’ll start targeting vital spots. One.” She felt a wind behind her then Damien screamed.
“No! She is to remain unharmed,” he said.
Lexia had a feeling one of the others was gunning for a sneak attack. Gordon still struggled in her grasp and the slow vibration of his body made her wonder if he was planning on making a move on her when she least expected it. She immediately pressed her gun against his temple. “Try it.” No harm being prepared.
Police alarms echoed in the distance.
“We’ll take our leave,” Damien said. The remaining men moved to help him up and led him toward the other side of the road.
Lexia slowly released Gordon but kept her gun poised on all of them.
“Don’t think this is over, my princess. You can’t fight the inevitable.”
“Keep talking, wolfboy, or you’ll be immobile from both legs.”
Damien moved into the light as he walked by. It was then she realized he had returned to human form. She couldn’t quite see his whole face but she could see the smile he flashed her and the gleam in his eye. The sight sent chills throughout her body as he continued to watch her even as he limped down the street to a waiting vehicle.
“She’s got fire, I’ll tell you that,” one of the men mumbled.
“That she does.”
Lexia waited until they climbed in the car and drove off. By then the police sirens were closer and would be around the corner any minute. She turned back to Mrs. Papolous, who stood with her mouth still agape and her eyes widened on the scene.
“Mrs. Papolous?” Lexia quickly placed the safety back on her gun and lowered it. The old woman looked numb even when she placed her hand over her heart. Lexia wondered what she would tell the poor lady. How could she explain what she saw when they both witnessed creatures that looked like they leapt straight out of a horror movie?
As Lexia placed her hand on the woman’s shoulder, she slowly turned to face her.
Not a moment passed before Mrs. Papolous’ body fell limp and she fainted right into Lexia’s arms. The police rounded the corner and, finally, her neighbors peeked out of their houses to see what the commotion was.

Just when this night couldn’t get any better.