Abby and Susie have both accepted that the Garden is not as it seemed before, but Abby still has her doubts about which life to choose. Can she turn her back on what Scott offers, or will her lust for him overcome her hesitation to become a werewolf? What terrifying horrors and wondrous gifts await her on the other, more furry side? Her decision, and the lingering troubles around the Garden, come to a head in this, the final chapter in the Garden of the Wolf.
I had a strange, alluring dream. I dreamed I was on a vacation with my best friend and we discovered the resort owners and employees were all werewolves. I had several rendezvous with the owner, and we made delicious love beneath the starlit sky. We had a shaky plan to find the truth, but the worst-laid plans go awry worse than the best-laid ones, and everything crashed down around us, even a golf cart. It was a seduction-filled nightmare with some laugh-tracks thrown in for the kiddies.
Then I opened my eyes and remembered it was all true.
All the memories rushed back to me, and I gasped and sat up. I whipped my head to the left and right, and found I lay in an unfamiliar bed. A draft blew across me, and I looked down at myself and noticed one important detail. I was naked. I let out a small ‘eep’ and covered myself with one of the flimsy silk bed sheets.
Voices caught my attention. They came from the other side of the closed bedroom door.
I slunk off the bed and tiptoed to the door. I recognized the voices as those of Nelson and Scott, and I risked opening the door a crack to peek out. Before me was a rear view of Scott’s home, and the owner himself, with his friend, stood near the living room furniture. Scott paced the floor while Nelson stood to one side and watched him.
“I’ve looked into every legal means of extracting him from the land, but found nothing,” Nelson informed Scott. “There would also be the risk in retaliatory measures from Blackwood.”
Scott clasped his hands behind his back and frowned. He never broke his stride as he spoke. “And yet I’m still not convinced a full-out attack is necessary.”
“What other choice do we have?” Nelson countered.
Scott stopped and looked over his shoulder to his friend. “There is always the hope the others will change their minds and leave Blackwood.”
Nelson shook his head. “Those who remain have unwavering support for him. They won’t leave, even when forced.”
Scott chuckled. There wasn’t any mirth in the noise. “You forget that we, too, were once fervent followers of Blackwood. If we can change so can they.”
Nelson frowned. “We were younger and stupider back then,” he commented.
Scott walked up to him and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Nelson turned to him and Scott smiled. “I guess I’m still young and stupid because I still want to believe those who are with Blackwood will change their minds and come over here. I think all we need to do is show them what we’re doing here and how much better it is then that old mining town.”
Nelson shook his head. “I’m an accountant, Scott, not a sorcerer. I can’t move whole towns to show them the truth, even one as dead as that one.”
Scott sighed and let his hand slide off Nelson’s shoulder and drop to his side. “Wishful thinking on my part. Anyway, I shouldn’t keep you any longer. I’m sure your mate’s bound to wake up any time now and she’s quite the handful.”
Nelson chuckled. “As is yours, but I’ll see you later.”
“Later, old friend,” Scott returned.
Nelson left, and the moment the door shut behind him Scott turned towards the bedroom. “You can come out now,” he called to me.
I frowned and stepped out in my elegant sheet dress. “I suppose it’s a little stupid of me to ask, but how’d you know I was there?”
“Your smell moved from the bed, and the sheet around you is a little noisy,” he told me.
I clutched the sheet tighter around myself. “Not much gets past werewolf senses, does it?”
He sighed and seated himself in one of the chairs. “If only that were true, or last night wouldn’t have happened.”
“What exactly did happen last night?” I asked him.
His lips pursed together and he turned his head away from me. “Blackwood would not have been able to penetrate so far into our territory.”
“So that whole ‘war’ thing again?” I guessed.
He nodded. “Yes. Blackwood intends to fight our clans in a primitive method of asserting dominance.”
“You’re right, why doesn’t he show off his cars like a normal guy,” I quipped.
Scott turned to me with a smile. “You’re showing very little fear for what you went through last night.”
I shrugged and took a seat on the couch. “I’m alive. At least, I don’t feel bad.” I poked my ribs. “Like you said, not even a bruise.”
He sighed and slid down his chair. “Yes, last night we were fortunate, but Blackwood will only become more bold with each attempt to provoke us. I dare not imagine what he’ll try next.”
“Sounds like there’s no way for you to win, is there?” I mused.
He shook his head. “Not unless you can convince the werewolves under his command to come here and see for themselves the life they can make away from Blackwood.”
“What is this about a town?” I jerked my head towards the front door. “Nelson made it sound like it was some sort of a hell on earth.”
“It is a rather gloomy old mining town several miles from here. Once it was prosperous and the clan made a great deal of money off the gold and silver, but the gold ran out and the price of silver is hardly worth the effort to mine it. Now it’s a shell of itself with dilapidated buildings and hardly enough food to eat,” he explained.
“Sounds like a fun spot. So they won’t leave there why?” I wondered.
“Home is home, even one as wretched as that,” he told me. He dropped his hand and shook his head. “Even if they wished to leave Blackwood wouldn’t allow it. Those who join us are like refugees escaping an island prison. Some come to us gravely wounded because they fought through their own friends to get here.”
I cringed and pulled my legs onto the couch and against myself. “I can see your problems. I don’t know how you’re going to get through them, but I can see them.”
He managed a small smile. “I’m glad you at least see things my way, though I wonder if I’m not as terrible as Blackwood in keeping you here as my prisoner.” He straightened and leaned towards me. His beautiful blue eyes swept over me, and I found my body blushed with heat at his attentions. “Do you still feel the same way as you did yesterday? Do you still wish to leave?”
I rummaged through my emotions to try to find an answer to his complicated question. I couldn’t deny the allure of the life he promised, but there was that whole ‘coming war’ problem that I bring myself to want to live through. That made up my mind. I opened my mouth to proclaim my intent when the door swung open and a tornado rushed inside.
The tornado was known to me as Susie, and she swept over to me and nearly knocked me off the couch when she wrapped me in a tight hug. “Good afternoon, sleepy head!” she yelled in my ear.
I cringed and squirmed from her hold. “I didn’t need that kind of wake-up-wait, afternoon?” I glanced at the windows. They showed a bright, sunny afternoon outside.
Susie plopped herself on the couch cushion beside me. “Yep. You must have had one hell of a night,” she mused as he winked at me.
I turned crimson, and Scott coughed into his hand. “If neither of you will mind, Dan and I have a resort to manage and other guests to please.”
Susie draped an arm over my shoulders and grinned at him. “We’ll be fine, don’t you worry about us.”
“It’s the other residents we worry for,” Dan spoke up.
Susie stuck her tongue out at him. “They’ll be just fine, now shoo! Shoo!” She waved her hand at them. The pair bowed their heads and left me alone with my energetic friend. I tried to slip out of her clutches and make my way to the bedroom, but she grabbed hold of my blanket and pulled me back onto the couch. “Oh no, you’re not getting away without giving me the juicy details. All of them,” she insisted.
I yanked my blanket from her hand and glared at her. “Even if I wanted to it’s none of your business,” I snapped.
She was unperturbed. Actually, I think her smile widened into a Cheshire grin. “That good, huh?”
I rolled my eyes and hopped off the couch. “Don’t you ever think of important things?” I scolded her as I stalked towards the bedroom.
Susie jumped up and followed behind me. “Being happy with our mate is pretty important,” she countered.
I spun around and nearly tripped over my own sheet. “They’re the guys who turned us into werewolves and kidnapped us, remember?”
She frowned and rubbed her chin. “Not that way, and we’re not quite werewolves yet. That happens after our first full moon tomorrow night.”
My eyes widened and I grabbed her shoulders so roughly that she jerked back. “You mean we don’t have to be their mates?”
Susie frowned and shook her head. “Well, no, but you’re going to stay now, right? I mean, you didn’t come back last night and you’re dressed in that blanket, so I kind of thought. . .”
I pursed my lips and turned my face away. My hands dropped to my sides. “I. . .I don’t know what I want or what I should do.”
Susie grinned and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “Just let ol’ Susie guide you and all your troubles will go away.”
I snorted. “You are one of my troubles.”
“Then I’ll know the troubles when I see them coming.” She gave my shoulders a shake that left my teeth chattering. “Besides, you know if you left you’d miss me, and Scott is pretty handsome.” She paused and rubbed her chin with her free hand. “Of course, he’s not as handsome as Dan, but not bad. And rich. They’re both that.”
I rolled my eyes and playfully pushed her away. “I’m not going to decide just like that. I’m not as crazy as you are,” I argued.
Susie’s grin took on a fiendish appearance when she drew back her lips to show off her teeth. She inched towards me with her hands splayed out in front of her like claws. “You know you want to join the crazy side. We have cookies.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scold her, so I opted to step backwards into the bedroom. “I can make my own cookies, and right now I’m going to dress myself, too.” Susie lunged for me, but I shut the door on her.
There was a definite thonk as she hit the door, and when she next spoke there was a decidedly nasal quality to her voice. “You’re evil.”
I grinned and turned away from the door. “I know, now wait a second while I dress.”