Not all things who roam the night are dark, as the newly-turned werewolf Gwen Rogers is about to discover.
Gwen finds herself a prisoner to the whims of William Fox, a man who both shelters and cages her. Her only breath of freedom comes when he enlists her help to capture the creatures of myths and legends that were inadvertently freed by her actions. Even as he teaches her hard lessons through her electrified collar, she finds her mind unwillingly bending towards a truce of sorts with her new life, and with him.
Innocence is as fleeting as a perfect spring day, but unlike the seasons it doesn't come around once a year. Once it's gone, you never get it back. Ever.
I had a lot of non-innocent thoughts as I sat on my bed and pulled at the collar of my shirt. I wore the outfit given to me by my jailers. It was a dark ensemble of a black blouse, black dress pants, shoes, socks, and a gray tie. The collar of the shirt was a little high to hide the metal collar I wore. The clothes annoyed me, the tie completely baffled me. I had no idea how to manage a tie, but I had plenty of ideas of whose throat I wanted to wrap it around.
The day-old full moon still hung high in the sky, but for me its allure was gone. I only felt tired and defeated. My muscles still ached from the electric shock therapy administered by both William Fox and Aldus Emery the night before. I hadn't seen either of them all day because I'd slept through most of it.
That was after I'd dragged myself to the bed wearing only a sheet. Now here I sat on the bed pulling at these strange clothes and with my stomach complaining of being empty.
There was also the problem of my hands and eyes. I looked down at my hands and frowned. They were almost as fury as that of an ape, but with the hardened nails of a wolf. I had to scratch myself carefully or I would end up giving myself a nice gash. The problem with my eyes was less disturbing, but still troublesome. I glanced to my right at the vanity and its mirror. My yellow eyes stared back at me. They weren't a brilliant yellow, but golden-hued. The change was enough that people would stop me on the street for a picture and to ask where I got the contacts.
I whipped my head to the left as the door opened. Emery stepped inside. He had a tray with a plate of rare meat tucked in one arm. Fox's assistant only partially closed the door behind him and walked over to me.
"Good evening," he greeted me as he walked over to the bed. I glared back, but he didn't seem to notice. He set the tray on the bed in front of me. "Mr. Fox assumed you would like something to eat before tonight's training exercises."
I arched an eyebrow. "What training?"
He glanced at my hands. "The training that will assist you in controlling your new self."
I tucked them underneath me. "And if I say no?"
Emery pushed his glasses against his face and looked me in the eyes. "Then Mr. Fox will be forced to assume you no longer wish to abide by your agreement and you will remain in this room."
I snorted. "‘Agreement?' If I'm not a prisoner then I'm a lapdog for his orders."
"Nevertheless, you agreed to assist in regathering the collection, and Mr. Fox expects even his lapdogs to abide by their agreements," Emery insisted.
I frowned and glanced down at the meal. None of the meat was cooked. I reached for a steak, but the sight of the wolf hair and nails made me retract my hand.
Emery held out one of his hands palm-up towards me. "May I?"
I blinked at him. "May you what?"
"You seem to have a problem with your hand," he pointed out.
Something boiled over inside me. Maybe it was the stupid bit of pity I saw in his eyes, or maybe it was that my hands itched like crazy. Either way, I snapped. "A problem? A PROBLEM?" I shoved my hands in his direction and showed off their fur and sharp nails. "This is more than a problem!"
"Perhaps this may be to our advantage," a voice spoke up. Emery and I looked to the door. Fox leaned against the doorway, and in his hands was a pair of black-colored pieces of cloth. "You may no longer have identifying fingerprints."
"But I've got very identifying hands for anyone passing by me on the street," I bit back.
"Not with these." He shook the clothes, and I realized they were thin, smooth leather gloves. "I noticed your unease on the cameras."
I frowned and glanced around the room. I saw nothing but stone and wooden furniture. "What cameras?"
He smiled and walked over to me where he held out the gloves. "Just a necessary precaution, but try them on."
I folded my arms across my chest and tucked my hands into my armpits. "So now I have to wear gloves? What next, a tutu?"
His eyes danced with mischief. "As pleasing as you would be in such an outfit, it would clash with the color scheme I've chosen for you."
I rolled my eyes and snatched the gloves from his hand. I pulled them onto my hands. The fingers fit perfectly over my long nails and the leather prevented me from cutting myself. I flexed my hands and the leather stretched with them.
"You seem to be having trouble with your tie, as well," Fox commented.
I glared at him out of the corner of my eyes. "Now you're going to play dress-up with me?"
"No. Emery will help you with your tie, as well as various other chores related to your training," Fox replied.
I sniffed. "What's this whole training thing for? I helped you get the dragon, didn't I?"
"We were fortunate then. We might not be so lucky the next time," Fox argued. "That's why you'll be going through training and strength testing." He looked to his assistant. "See that she eats and then take her to the gymnasium. I need to make a few calls and will join you later."
Emery bowed to Fox. "As you wish, Mr. Fox."
Fox left, and I eyed Emery with suspicion. "You don't have to babysit me. I'm not going to waltz out the front door."
"That's fortunate. If you were to do so without first receiving Mr. Fox's permission the collar you wear would electrocute you," he informed me. He looked at the tie in my lap. "Would you like some assistance with that?"
I glared at him and tossed the tie at him. "You can tie this stupid thing. I don't know how."
"As you wish," he agreed.
While he tied, I chomped. Like I said before, I was famished, and being stuck as a werewolf worsened the appetite. I skeletonized a few steak bones, and by the time I satiated my appetite Emery had long ago finished tying the tie knot. The tie now had a loop through which I could stick my head and tighten the knot. He held the tie out to me, and I took it and cinched it around my neck.
"Why do I have to wear this stupid thing, anyway? Another dragon's just going to singe it off," I pointed out.
"There was only one dragon in Mr. Fox's collection," he informed me.
I raised an eyebrow. "What exactly was in his collection? Besides one dragon and one unwilling werewolf?"
"Many of the creatures originated in mythology. Mr. Fox hunted through many old pieces of literature to find them," he replied.
"Yeah, but what are they?" I persisted.
He pressed his glasses against his nose. I took that as a sign of annoyance. "You saw, of course, the bird that destroyed the rooftop?"
I gave a nod. "The one with the colors. What about it?"
"That was a phoenix."
I snorted. "Phoenix don't exist."
"Neither do werewolves," he pointed out. I frowned, but said nothing. He took the tray of half-eaten meat. "If you are finished with your meal then we can proceed to the gymnasium."
He turned away, but I held out my gloved hand. "Wait." He looked back at him, and I nodded at the plate. "Why no potatoes? Why just meat?"
"The changes to your system make you better suited to eating meat rather than tuberous vegetables," he explained.
"So I can't eat potato chips anymore?" I asked him.
"That is uncertain. We would need to try a small dose to see the effects," he replied. He turned away to face the door. "Now if you will come with me."
I slid off the bed onto my unsteady legs. My body hadn't processed the meat yet, and after that electric shock therapy they still weren't sure they wanted to support me. I stumbled after Emery who led me outside my room and into a hallway. The decor was still medieval, with stone walls and floors, and wooden doors, but the lights on the walls were electric.
"Why does Fox live in a castle?" I asked my guide as he led me down the passage.
"Mr. Fox is fond of Arthurian legends. The blueprints of this castle are based off the original design of King Arthur's Camelot," Emery told me.
"This guy really likes his fairy tales. . ." I mumbled.
"I can assure you Mr. Fox is well-versed in the realities of such stories, as well as their more fantastical elements," Emery argued.
The halls were too many to keep track of and I soon found myself lost in the sea of gray and brown. Emery led us down to the ground level and to the rear of the castle. We arrived at a pair of large wooden doors. Emery opened them and revealed a small gymnasium. To the near left was a large area filled with all sorts of weight-lifting equipment. On the right was a wall of doors with windows, and through them I saw a padded room like a dojo. At the rear of the area was a small track and an Olympic-sized pool.
"Wow. . ." I murmured as we walked inside.
Emery set the tray on a nearby table and turned to me. "Mr. Fox believes a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Now if you will follow me we will begin the tests."
I cringed. "I can't wait. . ."