Desired By the Wolf #4

Book Cover: Desired By the Wolf #4

Problems resolved. New problems arise. The final confrontation.

Lenore and company find common ground and acceptance, but their warm, fuzzy feeling of happiness is torn away when the Hunters come to bearing gifts of silver bullets and unending hatred. Nick believes he has the best solution, to do unto the Hunters as they would do unto them, but Lenore and Stan have their doubts. Everything comes to a head when the Hunters resort to low tactics to lure the werewolves into their sights, and the companions must think of a plan before Nick’s option becomes the only option.

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Nick remained in the hall while Lenore guided Stan into the living room and sat him on the couch to get a look at his bruised head and his cracked, bleeding knuckles. “For somebody who works with tools you certainly have wimpy hands,” she teased him.
He winced when she touched the bruise on his head. “I’m careful with my tools,” he countered.
“I wish you were more careful with yourself. Nick’s a little better at fighting than you,” she scolded him. She pulled back from him and sighed as she looked into his face. “You really didn’t have to go to all this trouble for me,” she whispered.
“What would you do if I told you a girl knocked me up?” he argued.
She snorted. “I’d say it’s about time you got a girlfriend.” She was glad when Stan smiled. “That’s the face I want to see. That whole bloodthirstiness and revenge killing look just doesn’t look good on us.”

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At that moment Nick entered the room with a tall glass of opaque liquid. “I thought Stan might need this,” he explained. Stan looked at the glass and his eyes narrowed.
Even Lenore frowned at the offer. “It’s not-”
“Blood? No, just whiskey,” Nick told them.
“Then he’ll definitely want it,” she agreed. She took the glass, shoved it into his unwilling hand, and stood. “Now drink all the doctor’s medicine and I’ll be right back.” She turned Nick around and shoved him across the hall and into the dining room. Lenore pushed him into one of the chairs and looked him over. “No bruising, I’m guessing?” she inquired.
Nick smiled. “There was, but it’s gone,” he assured her. He looked over her concerned face with teasing eyes. “Your family seems very eager to kill me,” he commented.
“Just think of it as our special welcome to the neighborhood,” she quipped. She finished looking over him, stepped back, and crossed her arms over her chest. “We werewolves heal really well, don’t we?”
“Very well, or my scar would have killed me,” he replied. He looked her over and mischievously smiled. “But what about you?”
“What about me?” she asked him.
“No wounds or bruises to inspect?”
“Um, I wasn’t part of your fight-ah!” Nick grabbed her and pulled her into his lap. She squirmed and squealed as he tickled and touched her.
“Let go of me!” she demanded.
“Can’t you two get a room?” a voice hoarsely told them. They froze and whipped their heads to the doorway where stood Stan. He held his empty glass in his hand and a small smile on his lips.
“This is my home,” Nick reminded him.
“And that’s my sister in your lap,” Stan countered.
Lenore jumped up and brushed herself off. Nick arose to stand beside her. “Not anymore, and he was just-well, just inspecting me for any damage.”
“I’m sure,” Stan quipped. He turned to Nick and his smile slipped. “You said nothing would change for her day-to-day life? What about beyond that? What about children? A future?”
“Children are possible, and a future is likely,” Nick assured him.
“And there’s no trouble being a werewolf?” Stan wondered.
Nick raised an eyebrow. “There can be complications,” he admitted.
“What sort of complications?” Stan persisted.
“There are certain people who treat us like a disease. That makes them rather unfriendly toward us,” Nick replied.
“And do you have someone like that following you now?” Stan asked him.
Lenore glanced between Stan and Nick. “Um, I get the feeling you two know something that you’re not telling me,” she commented.
“I would also like to know where this line of questioning is going,” Nick agreed.
Stan pursed his lips and his eyes flickered over to Lenore. “I heard your store’s security system was hacked into.”
“Yeah, so?” she countered.
“I also heard they hacked into the system a week ago, just after Nick here came into town,” Stan added.
“What does that prove?” she argued.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that somebody’s hacking into all the security cameras in town just when Nick comes here,” Stan pointed out.
Nick looked agitated and his eyes narrowed as he thought over Stan’s information. “All the cameras in town were hacked?” he asked Stan.
“All the ones from one company, but that company protects most of the town,” Stan replied.
“Did the company cut off the hack, or did it cease on its own?” Nick wondered.
“On its own,” Stan told him.
“What night did they last have control?” Nick asked him.
“Last night.”
Nick’s eyes widened, and they flickered over to Lenore. She blinked and furrowed her brow. “What? I didn’t have anything to do with it,” she defended herself.
“You felt the effects of the change at your store?” Nick asked her.
She nodded. “Yeah, why?”
“Where?”
She frowned. “In the parking lot, and then in the backroom. Why?”
Stan’s eyes widened. “You think whoever hacked the cameras saw her and got what they wanted?” he guessed, addressing Nick.
“Yes, I do,” Nick agreed.
Lenore held up her hands and glared at the pair. “Could you two let me in on this conversation because I’m pretty sure you’re talking about me,” she demanded.
Nick sighed and gestured to the chairs around the dining table. “We may want to be seated,” he suggested. Lenore plopped herself down in a chair and Stan took another. Nick himself paced the floor between them. “I haven’t always been able to control the beast within me. Occasionally I have made-well, we shall call them mistakes.”
“Did you kill anyone?” Stan questioned.
A bitter smile slipped onto Nick’s face. “Yes, but not to feed. On occasion I have been careless in my prowling and have been caught rummaging around in trash cans.”
Lenore’s face fell. “Is this something I’m going to be doing?” she wondered.
Nick chuckled. “I’m afraid so, but to explain myself further, I have made it known in past towns that werewolves do exist and that one resided wherever I traveled. That caught the attention of several individuals who believe they would perform a public service if they killed me,” he told them.
“Werewolf hunters?” Stan guessed.
Nick’s smile slipped off his face and he nodded. “Yes. Various ones have tracked me down over the last fifty years and tried to kill me. In order to defend myself I have had to kill them.”
“I bet their buddies didn’t like you doing that,” Stan quipped.
Nick snorted. “No, I’m afraid they didn’t. I have dealt with enough of them that I hear I’m quite a legend among the hunters. The one who got away.” He bitterly laughed at the title. “Some of them see it as a game, a sport. They hunt down werewolves and place a notch on their guns when they kill their prey.”
“So you what? Think these are the guys who hacked into the security systems and watched the town?” Lenore wondered.
“As Stan said, it is not a coincidence. I came here to escape a pair of such avid hunters, but it seems they followed my scent,” Nick replied. He paused and looked over Lenore. “And I’m afraid they may have found something more than they expected.”
Lenore glanced down at herself and, seeing nothing, looked to Nick. “What? Me?” she squeaked.
“You, and the first evidences of your change,” he explained. “Knowing I would need to buy meat they would have been watching the store most carefully. They probably hoped to figure out a pattern to my visits and hope to catch me unawares in the parking lot or some dark alley around the store. Unfortunately, they found you before they established that pattern.”
Lenore’s eyes widened. “B-but I’m not their target! I haven’t done anything to anybody!” she protested.
Nick shook his head. “That means nothing to them. They see only that you are a werewolf, and because of that you must be killed.”
Stan jumped to his feet and glared at Nick. “This is the future you said she’d have? Being hunted down like an animal?” he protested.
“It isn’t constant, and this pair of hunters is a rare breed. Many hunters aren’t equipped to chase me across the country, never mind hack into a security system,” Nick told him.
“So how to you usually get rid of these guys? Eat them?” Stan asked him.
The corners of Nick’s lips twitched upward. “Actually, yes.” Stan and Lenore paused and blinked at him. “It leaves very little evidence and removes them from my trail,” Nick defended himself.
Lenore snorted. “So do we-um, do humans really taste like chicken?” she wondered.
Stan frowned at her. “That’s not something I want to hear you ask,” he scolded her.
She sheepishly smiled and shrugged. “I just want to be prepared for the taste in case I bite somebody,” she countered.
“Humans have a flavor similar to lean pork,” Nick admitted.
Lenore looked Stan up and down, and he stepped back. “One bite and I’ll make myself an only child,” he warned her.
“Ah, but one bite and you’ll be a werewolf. Right?” Her question was addressed to Nick.
A shadow slipped into Nick’s eyes and he frowned. “That is a fate you should not inflict on another against his will.” Both Stand and Lenore scowled at him, and she crossed her arms over her chest. “Unless it is for a noble cause,” he added.
“Uh-huh. Well, now that we’ve got that bit of hypocrisy out of the way, what do we do about these Hunters?” she wondered.
“I will deal with them,” Nick promised.
“No, I will,” Stan spoke up. He strode past Lenore and snatched his empty shotgun from the entrance to the living room. “If they’re after my sister then I want to make sure myself that they don’t get her.”
“But you do not know their habits like I do,” Nick protested.
“No, but I do know the town better than you. If they’re staying at one of the motels or hotels, I know who to talk to to find out for sure,” Stan pointed out. He moved toward the door, paused, and turned back to the pair. “This might take a while. Can Lenore stay here?” The question was directed at Nick.
Nick smiled and bowed his head. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Stan frowned. “Don’t get too familiar with her,” he warned Nick.
“Too late,” Lenore mumbled. Stan’s face drooped and he tightened his grip on the gun.
“In the werewolf sense we are married,” Nick spoke up.
“Not until I see a ring, so don’t get anymore ideas,” Stan objected. He strode out of the house on his mission to find the Hunters.

COLLAPSE

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