Though the city is far behind them, Tasha and her lover still have trouble nipping at their heals. The gang isn’t about to let them get away without a fight, and the predators find themselves the prey as they take a beat up truck down the country roads in search of safety. Their plans are cut short when they’re confronted by one of their old enemies who has more than just old stories to swap when bullets fly.
Can the pair of lovers make it out of the gunfire unscathed? Will the gang ever leave them alone? Will their teeth rattle apart before the clanky truck gets them out of trouble?
I woke up with a warm blanket on me and a soft mattress beneath me. Sun shot through my eyelids and into my eyeballs, forcing me to wake up from the strangest dream I’d ever experienced. It was both a terrifying nightmare and a wonderful dream filled with werewolves and assassination attempts. I had half a mind to turn it into a book, and the other half was too tired to give a damn what the first half wanted to do. My eyes creaked open like two rusted gates and I licked my lips as I sleepily glanced around the barn.
Wait, barn? Barn wasn’t my room. Something shifted beneath me and I whipped my head around to find myself staring into Greg’s content face. He was still asleep, and we were both still naked. I blushed and scrambled off of him, as careful not to wake him as a horny bull through a fine-china store. He grunted and cracked open his eyes as I grabbed the blanket and as much straw as I could gather to cover myself.
Greg rolled over onto his side toward me and grinned. “Good morning,” he greeted me. He was very comfortable considering he wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing.
“Put something on!” I ordered him. It was distracting seeing all of him lying there with all the important parts faced toward me.
Greg raised a playful eyebrow. “You didn’t have much problem with lack of clothes last night.”
“T-that’s because you made me like it!” I shot back. “You and your blood you put inside me!”
“I suppose it is a little chilly,” he agreed. He sat up and glanced around the barn. “Nice morning, though, and they haven’t found us yet.”
The color drained from my face. “They? Yet?”
“The Green Bandanna gang. If Sphinx survived she’s going to want to return the favor with our faces,” he pointed out. “Maybe even do some experiments.”
Suddenly the day didn’t look bright and cheerful, and I looked nervously around the stalls. “But isn’t this place safe? How’d they find us?”
“I probably left a good blood trail. If Sphinx is as smart as I think she is she’ll use dogs to find us.” Images flitted through my mind of dogs tearing me apart, and I shuddered. He noticed my shivering and scooted over to wrap his arms around me. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
I snorted. “You mean like everything else that’s happened to me?”
“Well, I won’t let anything serious happen to you,” he corrected himself.
“You mean like getting shot at?”
“I won’t let anything serious happen to you after this moment.”
Even through my nearly mind-numbing fear I managed a snort. “You’d be a great politician.”
“Because you keep changing your story.”
“I like to keep my promises.”
“Just stick to me not getting killed and I think I’ll be happy. Unless, of course, you fail, and then I won’t be happy.”
“Neither will I,” he agreed. Our optimistic conversation was interrupted when my stomach growled and his joined the chorus. “If you’re up for a walk I know a good deli down the road.”
“They serve meat?” I asked him. I was starving for some nice, juicy bacon.
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t ask what’s in it. The roadkill around there has a habit of walking in through the back door of the kitchen,” he replied. I cringed, and he gave me a playful shake. “It’s not that bad. At least it all tastes like chicken.”
“To tell you the truth that actually sounded pretty good,” I admitted.
“No, the roadkill.”
“Your hunger for meat that bad?”
“Oh, no reason.”
“Spit it out.”
“Well, it’s just another sign of your wolfing.”
“Is wolfing the technical term for becoming a dog person?” In the most literal sense.
“It’s just one I made up to make me laugh off the rough times.”
“Villagers with pitchforks?”
“Yep, and torches. I’ve had my fur singed more times than I care to remember.”
“You ever thought about staying away from places that have a heavy supply of both?” I suggested.
Greg shrugged and let me go to scoot over to the plastic-wrapped clothes. “When I was younger that wasn’t so easy.”
I looked over him and laughed. “Younger? You don’t look any older than me, and I’ll have you know I’m not that old.”
Greg sighed and tossed me one of the sets. “To tell you the truth I’m a little older than I look.” I caught the bag and frowned.
“How much older?”
“You ever hear of the American Revolution?”
“I’m not that old.” He got a face full of straw for that joke, and sputtered out his next words. “But I’m not that young, either. I do remember the Civil War pretty well, and everything after that.”
I was in the middle of putting on some pants when he said those last words, and my mouth dropped open. “All those bullets knock your brain loose?” I suggested.
Greg shook his head. “Nope. I’m at least one hundred and seventy years old.”
“Do I look serious?”
“I can’t tell through the ridiculous age you just gave me.”
“Just think of me as Wolferine. I don’t age like other people, or much at all.”
“Or you’ve been hit in the head by too many pitchforks,” I persisted.
Greg smirked and nodded at the box. “My whole life’s in that box. You’ll find a couple of mementos from most every decade I’ve lived, but I’m especially fond of a baseball card in there. It’s signed by Babe Ruth himself.”
I looked him over for any sign that he was fooling me, but instead he had a sad and reminiscent look on his face. “You stopped aging when you got wolfed?”
“Yeah. I worked at a logger’s camp in the northwest, the old one up in Wisconsin. The natives tried to warn us about something wrong on top of that mountain, but we didn’t listen. When it attacked I was the only one to get out of there alive.”
“How’d you manage that?”
“My only weapon was the cutlery from the chow wagon, and I found out it didn’t like silver things. It took a nice chunk out of me before I stabbed it in the heart.” He half turned to show me his back. There was a large scar edged by teeth marks. “That killed it, but not before it cursed me.”
“You sure it wasn’t one taste of you?” I teased.
He smirked. “I have to admit I didn’t bathe much in those days, but some of those guys it-well, it killed were worse than me.”
“So then you were a werewolf?”
He shook his head. “Not for a few weeks, though looking back I can see the signs. I took what supplies I could and stumbled to the nearest fort. Took me a while, and I think the only reason I survived was because nothing else in the woods wanted to get near me. When I got back to what passed as civilization the change was coming on, and I had my first taste of pitchfork and musket.”
I cringed. “They ran you out?”
Greg’s voice grew quiet and he nodded. “Yeah, but I’m glad they did. I didn’t know how to control myself and would’ve killed everyone in the fort if they hadn’t shot me.” He ran his hand through his messy hair and shook his head. “I don’t really remember much of that night, but when I woke up I knew what I was. Instinct, I guess. Anyway, I stayed away from people until I learned to control myself.”
“How. . .how long did that take?” I was worried about myself.
“A few months, but I didn’t have anybody to teach me. You’ll be different,” he promised me.
I wrapped my arms around myself and shuddered. “But what if I’m not? What if I try to kill people, too?”
“That’s a given,” he nonchalantly replied.
I glared at him. “Thanks for the comforting words.”
“You’re going to try to kill people, but you won’t because I’m going to be there to stop you,” he insisted.
“And if you’re not around when that happens?”
He lecherously grinned. “You think after last night that you can keep me away?”
“Yeah, um, about that. We really did it, didn’t we?”
“And you’re not at all ashamed of it, are you?”
“And you’ll do me again at the first chance, won’t you?”
“How’s tonight sound?”
“I’m sure I’m unavailable.”
“I doubt it, but this talk isn’t getting us dressed and out of here to food,” he pointed out. That was an idea we could both get behind, and in a few minutes we were dressed. There was one problem with his suggestion of food.
“You got any money on. . .you?” I was midway through asking that question when he rummaged through the box and pulled out a roll of bills. I wondered what other magic tricks he could perform with that box, but that could wait until after food.
“Just a few odd bills,” he teased. He returned the box to its hiding spot and brushed off the loose hay on his clothes. I, too, was covered, even though I’d tried to be careful, and he watched my brushing with interest. “Care for some help?” he offered.
“I have a feeling if you helped me we’d be back to where we were when we woke up,” I quipped.
He sighed and shrugged. “Just thought I’d try.”
“Uh-huh, nice try but let’s get going.” I tugged him outside and we headed down a dirt road for a few miles before we hit the highway.
The diner was one of those old-fashioned joints from the fifties, complete with red cushioned bar stools and an eggshell blue sign outside. There was only two cars outside, and since those were both farm trucks we weren’t worried about them being from the city. Greg led me inside and to a pair of the stools at the far end. A bell above the door jingled and an old man stepped out from the kitchen with a cleaning rag in one hand and a cup in the other. He smiled at us, and his eyes lit up when he noticed Greg.
“My God, but you’re still around!” he softly exclaimed. “I thought you’d left here a long time ago.”
Greg smiled and warmly shook the man’s hand. “I guess I’m fond of the area, and especially your cooking, Wilson,” he replied.
Wilson nodded his head at the compliment. “Ain’t nobody can cook like me anymore. All those new-fangled squirts cook with too much lard or not enough of it. What’ll ya have?”
“Remember the usual?” Greg asked him.
“Yep, can’t rightly forget that much bacon. Is this your misses?” He nodded at me.
Greg shook his head. “Not yet, but could you make that order double? We’re kind of hungry.”
Wilson’s eyes widened and his hands froze. “How hungry?” he wondered.
Greg laughed, and leaned over to pat the man on the shoulder. “Not that hungry, but we haven’t eaten for a while.”
Wilson’s shoulders relaxed and he smiled again. “Sure thing. Gimme a few minutes and you’ll be up to your eyeballs in bacon.”
He was nearly right. The tall-sided plates he brought us were filled with thick sausages, strips of bacon, and a single pancake. I looked quizzically at the pancake, and Wilson caught my eye with a chuckle. “Can’t be smothering your plate without a pancake to help soak it up.”
“Smother my plate. . .?” I repeated. That didn’t make any sense until I glanced over and watched Greg drowned the whole thing in thick maple syrup. There were no survivors. That also explained the tall sides. “I think I’ll just take a little butter on mine.” We ate our way through our plates, and I was shocked when I managed to tear down the stack of meat. The other patrons filed out and Wilson came up to us with his hands ever-washing a cup or glass.
“I didn’t want to say this in front of the regulars, but somebody was asking about you two, or people that looked a lot like you,” he informed us.
Greg paused in his wolfing and raised an eyebrow. “Really? What’d they look like?”
“It was a small guy with beady eyes and a handkerchief over his head.” I paled at the description. It sounded a lot like Servino. Greg slipped his hand beneath the counter to hold my hand.
“Was it green?” he asked him.
The old man rubbed his chin. “Now that you mention it, I guess it was. You know him?”
“Maybe. When he left which way did he go?”
Wilson nodded down the road where we were headed. “That way, but he crept along so slow you can probably catch up to him walking.”
“How long ago did he leave?”
“Only about ten minutes before you got here. Didn’t even stay for food.”
Greg chuckled. “Well, that’s his loss.” Greg finished his plate and tossed down a large roll of money, but Wilson smiled and shook his head.
“You know my prices aren’t that high.”
“Yeah, but you can’t beat a good friend,” Greg countered.
Wilson shrugged and slipped the money beneath the counter. “I guess I was looking at buying a new truck.”
Greg laughed. “You still got that old beat up one?”
“Yep. Runs real good still.”
“Mind if I borrow it?”
“I ain’t getting it back, am I?”
“Then I might be needing another one of those rolls of bills to cover the towing.”
“You drive a hard bargain for that old clunker,” Greg replied, but he tossed another roll on the counter.
“It’s like family,” Wilson protested. I had a new, and wary, respect for a man who’d sell family.
“Like the crazy old uncle nobody talks about,” Greg joked.
“Well, thanks for the grub and a pleasure seeing you again,” Greg replied. They shook hands and Wilson gave a nod.
“Nice to be meeting ya after so long, and I hope you and the future misses don’t get yourself into too much trouble on the road ahead,” Wilson returned.
“Not any more than usual.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
Greg led me outside and glanced down the road. “We should be able to catch Servino if we hurry.”
“Do you have a plan for when we do catch him?”
“Mind letting me in on it?”
“Follow me to the truck and I’ll tell you when we get on the road.”