Leila and Vincent’s troubles lead them from the cold grasp of death and into the proverbial fire. The trail leads them to a small town where the quaint picket fences hide dark secrets. The leader of the citizens, Dean Celo, welcomes them with open arms, but Leila notices the warmth of his words never reach his eyes. Circumstances force them to remain in the town, but the shadows grow deeper with each new revelation. A climax of truths brings about a resurrection of the gray werewolf, but Leila finds herself the sacrifice to honor those truths. Her only hope is Vincent, but can she trust the monster within him?
I knew only pain and darkness.
One mixed with the other in a blending of horrors. I was chilled and hot, weak and tense, alone and yet not. My sole consistency in the muddied waters of my mind was the feel of a warm, firm chest against my side and strong arms under me.
The touches of darkness were interspersed by moments of lucidity. The world around me would return for brief moments, but they were bitter glances at life. My mouth would fill with a horrible taste and I would return to the darkness.
Eventually the heat and darkness faded, and I emerged from the darkness brought upon me by the witch. My eyes fluttered open and I was greeted by a clear sky full of bright, twinkling stars framed by pine trees. I lay on my right side atop my coat, and with a familiar red overcoat draped over me. In front of me was a warm, crackling fire.
“Thank goodness you’re awake,” a voice commented near me.
I turned my head to look above my head.
Close beside me sat Vincent. The firelight cast shadows on the black spots under his eyes, and his face was gaunt. His pale skin glistened in the light. I couldn’t help staring at the scars over his body.
He shifted beneath my gaze and wrapped his arms around himself. “How are you feeling?”
“What. . .what happened?” I croaked. My throat was parched.
“One second and I can get you some water,” Vincent offered.
He turned away to our blanket on his right side and grabbed a small plastic bottle. “I found this on our way here. It should be okay because I cleaned it in a stream,” he explained to me.
Vincent scooted closer and pulled me up so I leaned against his side. He unscrewed the top and held the bottle out to me.
“Do you need help?” he asked me.
I shook my head and raised my arm. My limb was heavy, but obedient, and I took the bottle from him. The cool, refreshing creek water quenched my thirst, but not my questions.
“What’s happened? Where are we?” I asked him as I returned the bottle.
Vincent set the bottle back and sighed. “You’ve been asleep for three days with a high fever. I did the best I could to keep you warm and gave you some water.”
“I guess that curse of hers wasn’t all that great,” I commented. I looked around the camp. We sat in an open space just off the path. Nothing looked familiar. “How far are we from where I fainted?” I wondered.
“About half a day’s walk. I-” He hung his head and closed his eyes. “I thought we’d be safer here.”
Vincent averted my eyes and instead looked at the fire. He pursed his lips and shrank into himself. His hands grasped his upper arms and his fingers clenched the pale skin. He spoke in a low, firm whisper.
I narrowed my eyes and scrutinized his face. “Dead how?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. All I know is that she’s dead.”
I frowned. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
He shut his eyes and cringed. “I just don’t know, okay?”
“No, it’s not okay!” I argued.
I still leaned against Vincent’s side, but I tried to raise myself onto my arms. My feeble limbs buckled beneath my weight and I fell forward onto the pine needle-laden dirt.
Vincent shifted onto his knees and grabbed my upper arms. “You shouldn’t move too fast.”
I tried to shove one of his hands away, but my weak slap only clapped against his hand. “Don’t patronize me. I know what you are. I saw you change.”
The color drained from his face. I felt his hands shake. “I. . .you saw me change into a werewolf?”
I furrowed my brow. Images of those final moments flashed through my mind, but they were all blurry. I turned my face away from his wide eyes. “I’m not sure, but I can’t believe that the werewolf would be following us and always appear when you disappear.”
“I see. . .” He released me and leaned back. I glanced up and saw that his gaze was cast down on the ground in front of me. “Then. . .then there’s something I want you to have.” He reached into the side of his waistband and pulled out my gun.
My eyes widened. I reached back and patted my empty holster. The effort nearly cost me my balance. My eyes narrowed at Vincent.
“It never falls out of there. Why’d you take it?” I questioned him.
“I was afraid you’d use it on me, but after what you said I want you to have it,” he explained. He held the gun out to me.
I blinked at the gun and raised my eyes to him. “But why?”
Vincent pressed the gun into my right hand. His gaze caught mine and his emerald green eyes were firm and unwavering. “Because if. . .if I’m really a werewolf, I don’t want to hurt you. This will keep me from hurting you.”
I winced. “I. . .it was never-”
“I know,” he interrupted. He enclosed my fingers around the weapon and smiled at me. “But I still want you to have it.”
I pursed my lips, but nodded. The gun was heavy, so I reached back to slip it into its holster. That’s when I lost my balance and nearly toppled face-first into the hot coals that surrounded our sole source of heat.
Vincent grasped the front of my shoulders and chuckled. “Let me do it, and you can go back to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll try reaching a town.”
He placed the weapon in its holster and lay me down. I hated this babying.
“Tch. How do you know there’s even a town?” I questioned him.
His smile never wavered as he held up the water bottle. “This doesn’t look too old, so it must have come from somewhere, right?”
I rolled my eyes. “It might have blown in here from anywhere.”
He shrugged. “Maybe, but we can look for that ‘anywhere’ tomorrow.” I furrowed my brow and studied him. He noticed my eyes on him and blushed. “Is something the matter?”
“You’ve never talked like that before,” I commented.
He blinked at me. “Like what?”
“Like you actually know what you want to do instead of just stumbling along this trail,” I explained.
He sheepishly grinned and shrugged. “I guess that’s your influence.”
“Or you’re close to getting your memories back,” I suggested.
Vincent’s face fell and he shook his head. “No, those haven’t come back.”
I laid down my head and closed my eyes. “Well, whatever the reason, keep that attitude. It looks good on you.”
“Y-you really think so?” he asked me.
I snorted and the corners of my mouth twitched up. “It’s better than the apologies, now let’s get some sleep.”