UNEDITED (This is book 2, grab Hounds of God here. This contains SPOILERS if you haven’t read book 1)
The werewolf groaned, and Katherine lowered him to a sitting position against the gate, where he transformed back into a human. His clothes were tattered, the look in his eyes terrified.
“Who was he?” Katherine asked the werewolf, but then her enhanced hearing picked up the sound of police sirens approaching. “Damn, cops must’ve heard the shots.”
The man tried to use the distraction to swing at Katherine, but Triston stepped in this time with a well-placed kick that sent him sprawling on the cement, next to his dead buddy.
“Take us where you were going,” Katherine said. “That, or join your friend here.”
“So die now, or die when they kill me for betrayal?” the man asked.
“Yes, that sounds about right.” Triston stepped up beside Katherine and shrugged. “Seems like an easy choice. At least if you wait, you’ll have a fighting chance of survival, here… not so much.”
“Come on,” the man said, with a grudging look at him. “It’s not far.”
He led them down the rest of the street, then around a curve in the road and to a large, brown house. It had stairs leading up to a patio, but when Katherine started walking up the stairs, the man said, “No, there.”
He pointed to the side of the stairs near the rear, where there was a door. He opened it for them and motioned to the stairs. “They expected me to return with you anyway.”
“Smart thinking,” she said, and put her hands behind her back so he could pretend to have captured her.
“Kat, what’re you doing?” Triston asked, worry creasing his face.
“Relax, you two will be right behind. We have to catch them by surprise. Just be ready.”
Triston didn’t like it, but he shrugged and kissed her on the forehead. “Be careful.”
She turned and started down the stairs, the man behind her, while Triston and Matthew waited to follow in a few moments.
The stairs were dark and cold, and stale air brought the scent of mildew. The closer to the bottom they went, the louder the noise of people shouting and cheering grew. Not too far down, the stairs led toward to a low opening. She ducked to enter, and found herself in a large basement.
Almost a dozen men and women were gathered around two men, shirtless and going at each other with punches and kicks. One began to transform, then so did the other, but at that moment a slender man with black hair and pointed eyebrows stepped forward and said, “Stop!”
“We’re not here to kill each other over hurt egos. We’re here to train.” At that moment, he paused, noticing Katherine. His smile widened. “So, Clyde, you’ve succeeded.”
“Not exactly,” Clyde said, and then he stepped aside to reveal Matthew, silver gun at the ready, knife in his other hand, and Triston.
The dark-haired man’s smile faded instantly, and the others turned, half of them transforming as they saw their company.
“Wait,” the dark-haired man said, stepping forward. He smiled at Katherine. “We will of course kill you, but I’m intrigued. What brings you here, if you weren’t captured?”
“I have questions,” she said. “Like who’s in charge now that Aldrick is gone, for one.”
“Aldrick?” The man spat on the floor. “That’s what I thought of him. He wasn’t really in charge, not after his gift spread to those in authority.”
“You’re telling us he wasn’t in charge before he died?” Triston asked doubtfully.
“Oh, he had his followers, that’s for damn sure. Still does, since not everyone has received word that he’s dead. But this has risen much higher than him.”
“And the sorcerer or whatever that was out there?” Matthew asked.
“The what?” the man asked.
Clyde nodded and explained what had happened to him and his partner. Or what he could figure of it, anyway. Most of it had been a blur, like he wasn’t in control.
“And then the man disappeared,” Katherine said.
Everyone looked at each other with concern, some even changing back to human form.
“This doesn’t add up.” The man with dark hair assessed them and then said, “Listen, all we know is we were told to get you when you showed up for your friend’s burial.”
“And you just follow orders?” she asked.
The man smirked. “Lady, we’re all soldiers, or were, before this pack was formed. We’re used to following orders. Only, now it means our life is forfeit if we don’t.”
She looked at them, tilted her head, and then glanced back at Triston. He nodded, so she figured he was thinking it too. Turning back to the man, she said, “I propose a truce.”
“You want to stay alive, fine. Keep looking for me, but not really.” She held up a hand to interrupt him. “Meanwhile, we look into who’s controlling your men and stop him. Something tells me he’s a tad more powerful than your boss is anyway, and therefore a bigger threat.”
The werewolves looked among themselves, and then one stepped forward. He was short compared to the others, with fiery orange hair.
“And if we just wanted to join your side?” he asked.
“What?” the dark-haired man demanded. “Rumos—”
“Let me hear him out,” Katherine said, hands up. “Mr…?”
“The name’s Aaron.” He spat at Rumos’s feet. “And we reward traitors with death.”
“Keep saying that, and we can see who from this room walks out alive,” she said. “Anyone who threatens my followers is threatening me.” She waited, and Aaron took a step back. He had more followers, but apparently they’d heard of her powers, and of Matthew.
“Maybe not just me,” Rumos said, glancing back at the others. A blonde man stepped forward, and the two shared a moment, then Rumos turned back to Katherine. “We weren’t made this way by our choice. And yeah, we’ve heard all about you. We wanna be on the winning side.”
“You traitor!” Aaron said, lunging for him.
Katherine stepped in and lifted him into the air before slamming him on the ground. “What did I just say?”
Aaron gasped for the breath that had been knocked from him, while the others stepped forward. Matthew cocked his pistol and smiled.
“He really does like to kill our kind,” Katherine said. “Please don’t give us reason to.” She stood, seeing that none were making the attack, and addressed Rumos. “So just like that, you two would abandon your Alpha? Why should I trust you?”
“We want to follow a leader worth following,” Rumos said. The other one stepped forward, taking Rumos’s hand. “One who’d accept us as is.”
Aaron’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared, but he didn’t say anything.
“You’re not leaving this room,” Aaron said. “And there will be no truce.”
“Very well.” Katherine nodded to the pair, and said, “I accept you. But this won’t be like before. I will be your Alpha, and I’ll not have anyone doubting my decisions or standing in my way. Is that clear?”
They both nodded.
“And the rest of you, too, can make this choice.” Her smile faded to a glare. “But if you don’t, if you stand with Aaron here against me, you die this night.”
A moment passed, and then the room filled with kneeling men. Only Aaron remained, and one man who had yet to transform out of werewolf form.
“You all are traitors!” Aaron said, and then he pushed up and leaped for Katherine. But Rumos attacked at the same time, knocking his former pack leader out of the air and landing with a knee in his neck. They both transformed, as did the others, and Katherine turned to the door.
“We’ll wait outside for this,” she said, and then exited to the sounds of Aaron’s screams.
FROM JUSTIN >>> Okay, I almost just lost this and a LOT of other writing. So scary. My computer just started deleting things like crazy! For the record, it’s a mac. For the other record, I’m an idiot and probably did something dumb, but I have no idea what. Ugh! So… a bit frazzled. Meaning — I hope you like this! It’ll make me feel better 🙂
And at risk of repeating myself, I want to share one of my favorite fantasy books with you all. Will Wight’s …
Simon can only watch, helpless, as his family is killed and his friends captured by enemy Travelers—men and women who can summon mystical powers from otherworldly Territories. To top it off, another young man from Simon’s village discovers that he’s a savior prophesied to destroy evil and save the realm.
Prophecy has nothing to say about Simon. He has no special powers, no magical weapons, and no guarantee that he’ll survive. But he sets off anyway, alone, to gain the power he needs to oppose the Travelers and topple their ruthless Overlord. It may not be his destiny, but Simon’s determined to rescue his fellow villagers from certain death.
Because who cares about prophecy, really?