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Authors: Michelle Clay

The Bad Wolf

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
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The Bad Wolf

A novel

 

By
Michelle Clay

Published by

Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.

Novi, Michigan 48374

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, duplicated, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

Text Copyright © 2013

 

Published by

Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.

 

Cover by Rue Volley

 

Chapter
One

 

The last brilliant reds and purples stained the horizon as the late afternoon sun sank below the hills. Suburbs dwindled to nothing but wilderness as mountainous hills and tall, dense trees replaced home and industry. To some, it might have been a beautiful portrait that blurred past the windshield. To Chloe Williams it was harsh, ugly and totally unfair.

Karen and David, her parents, had just divorced. In fact, it had been finalized Thursday afternoon. By Friday, Karen had
all of their belongings packed. Their toiletries and a few changes of clothes were crammed into boxes and bags in the back of the car. The rest of their lives would arrive via moving truck sometime tomorrow.

No one asked her what she wanted. The
so-called adults made all the hard decisions—like which parent she’d go with. She still didn’t understand why they had to leave. Wasn’t Fort Collins big enough for them both?

Chloe glanced at her mom.
Karen squinted through the windshield as the diminishing sunlight created a strobe effect through the trees. She hummed along to the eighties radio station and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. If she was the least bit anxious about moving out of the city, she didn’t show it.

The floorboard was sticky beneath Chloe’s tennis shoes. She shifted them amongst fast
food wrappers and Karen’s purse, which at some point had encroached upon her personal space. They’d been travelling for a little over an hour, but it seemed like days.

Towering pines finally smothered the remaining sunlight and cast long shadows across the
two-lane highway. Karen glanced at her then back to the twisty road ahead. She flicked the headlights on then sighed heavily. The illumination didn’t quite reach the deep ditches and Chloe couldn’t help but wonder what kind of beasties lurked in the dark.

Karen often told her that she had
a too fertile imagination, but Chloe knew a thing or two about what prowled the night. She watched the Discovery channel and saw more than her share of scary movies. Monster Quest was one of those shows that she loved to hate.

Chloe pushed her bangs out of her eyes.
“Remind me again why we have to leave civilization?”

Karen frowned.
“Don’t be so overdramatic.”

She waved a hand to indicate the trees that blurred
past. “You know I don’t like all this outdoorsy stuff.”


Won’t it be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle?” Karen glanced her way, a wary expression on her face. “There’s plenty of room at our new house. We could finally get a pet. Maybe a dog?”

A tiny shiver rac
ed up her spine. “I hate dogs.”

Karen took a deep breath
then let it out slowly. “Okay, a cat then.”

“I don’t want a
stupid pet!” It was a lie, of course. She didn’t hate animals. What she hated was being able to read their minds and feel their emotions. It was all the same whether it was a dog, cat, bird or a pony. As long as it had brain waves, she could read their emotions and occasionally, their thoughts.


I think we’re almost there.” Karen’s voice rose with excitement. It reminded Chloe of a kid who was about to do something super exhilarating like a riding a rollercoaster or kissing a boy for the very first time. This absolutely was not that exciting.

Chloe straightened in the seat. She was scared and confused about how life would be from now on. There was so much she wanted to say, to ask, but all that came out was, “Why couldn’t you and dad just…” She
clamped her mouth shut and wondered what exactly she was asking her mother to do. Would it be selfish to ask her to overlook everything he’d done? Looking past his lies and absences wouldn’t make the hurt go away. It hadn’t worked for her, why would it be any different for her mother?

“We’ve already been through this,” Karen said with an exasperated sigh. After a moment she added, “This is a good opportunity for us.”

“For you.”

Karen sighed again,
a long, deep exhalation of air. It was a sure sign that she was irritated. “Stop it, Chloe. This is a chance for you to start over too.”

“I’m not the one who needed a fresh start. I know lots of people whose parents are divorced. It isn’t that big of a deal.” But it really was and being mad at Karen felt much better than the emptiness she felt inside when her thoughts drifted to all the things she’d lost.

“It’s okay to be mad,” Karen said. “I’m hurt and angry too.”

Anger didn’t
even begin to cover what Chloe felt. “Everything is gone.”

“Like w
hat?” Karen asked in a tight voice.

“Everyone and everything I care about
!” Chloe’s voice broke, but she managed to hold back the tears that stung her eyes. “They’ll forget me. It’ll be just like when Danielle moved last year and everyone just kind of stopped talking to her.”


You’ll make new friends,” Karen’s voice was quiet, contemplative. “I’m really looking forward to beginning life again. This could be a great thing for the two of us.”

Several
excruciating moments of silence stretched between them. Chloe refused to look at her mother and instead squinted at the road ahead.

Karen continued with a false sense of cheer.
“Hunde is a beautiful area. It sits at the edge of a national park.”

“So?”

“So there should be plenty of activities to keep you busy this summer. You can go hiking, swimming, whatever you’d like. Maybe we can plan a weekend camping trip?”

Pressing her lips together, Chloe
glared at her mother. Karen was crazy if she thought she'd willingly subject herself to any of those activities. She was not an outdoorsy person. Never was, never would be.

Karen sighed. “This isn’t
easy for me either, you know?”

Thick, oily guilt filled
Chloe’s stomach and it felt like live things were squirming around in there. Karen and David were getting a divorce and it was all her fault. It was her big mouth that told Karen what she’d seen David do.

She wiped
the sting of tears away with the heel of her hand. It was stupid to get emotional about it. It was done and short of a miracle, there would be no fairytale ending. She didn’t believe in those anyway.

Chloe allowed her head to flop back against the headrest. She loved her dad, despite his many flaws, but the reality was that
she’d be better off with Karen.

David was like a big kid, mostly concerned with what made him happy. He bought expensive toys for himself like a motorcycle, stacks of video games, and
even a boat. He seldom thought to consult Karen on these big purchases and if Karen bought something extravagant like a new purse or a pair of shoes, he pitched a fit. After her dad moved out about a month ago, Chloe saw him maybe two or three times. It seemed each visit had been shorter.

“Why didn’t you keep the house?”
Chloe demanded.

Karen might have made a face. It was hard to tell in the blue light cast from the various buttons and dials on the dash. “We both wanted it, so
the attorneys decided it would be better to sell it and split the money. Look, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore, okay?”

She crossed her arms over her chest and continued to stare at her mother.
“I want to talk about it.”

“It isn’t always about what you want, Chloe.”

“It never is.” Chloe muttered with a scowl. “School’s almost over. Why couldn’t we have waited until summer to move?”

“You’ll be fine. Just give it a chance.”

“Stop saying that.” Chloe couldn't hold back the tears any longer. They rolled down her cheeks and dripped from her chin. “Everything
won’t
be fine. You and dad messed everything up.”


Hey, we’re here. Didn’t that sign say Hunde?” Karen was clearly tired of the consistent argument.

Chloe fumed in silence and took in the sights, few as they were. Most the buildings were old and some were dilapidated. Aside from the sprawling courthouse, it didn’t look as though much renovation had been done over the years. They passed a convenience store, a discount shop and a small grocery store. Chloe’s mouth hung open in surprised displeasure.

When Karen turned onto Main Street, Chloe’s lip curled in disgust. This was so unlike what she was used to. This country-bumpkin town was not where she wanted to call home.

“Look,” Karen pointed to the well-lit shops lining the street. “We’ll check those out this weekend.”

“I can hardly wait.” Chloe’s weekends were usually spent shopping and hanging out with friends. Now she had no one but her mother for company. How fun. No, how lame.

A small hunting and outdoors outlet flanked a gift shop that boasted something called antiquables. It
more than likely meant the shelves were stocked with a bunch of crap no one could sell at a yard sale. Just beyond that was a law office, chamber of commerce, and a realtor. Two clothing stores that looked as though they catered to dumpy old women in their sixties sat side by side. Both appeared to be competing to see who had the ugliest clothes in the town.

At the end of the bl
ock sat a small yellow building. An old, weathered sign hung above the door. It read:
Nan’s Beauty Shoppe
. Chloe rolled her eyes at the spelling. It was probably meant to give the place a touch of class, but in her estimation, it failed miserably. The sign out front claimed they had both, stylish cuts and tropical tans.

“Yeah right,”
she grumbled under her breath. She already hated Hunde with a seething passion.

There were other businesses, but most had closed at this hour. She smirked with the revelation that the entire town probably closed by
five o’clock. Worse, the closest mall was in Fort Collins and that was an hour east of here. Hunde’s population was something like five thousand, if she remembered correctly. She had Googled it, but there just wasn’t a lot of information to be found. It reminded her of all the horrible D-grade horror movies she’d watched. Big city girl moves to small, nothing town and gets killed by mutant mountain people. Great.

“This is going to take some getting used to,” she said in a not too pleased tone.

“It has a drive-thru burger place and a Casa de Taco. Look, there’s even a cute little mom and pop cafe,” Karen offered as they drove past a busy little hole in the wall diner. The paint was peeling from the bricks, but it didn’t seem to deter people. The parking lot was at full capacity.

A few minutes later, they reached the opposite end of town. Karen pointed to a newish, tan metal building perched atop a hill. “There’s the clinic. The house is behind it.”

While the clinic was visible from the road, the house was not. A cold lump of dread filled her as the drove past the dense trees lining the gravel driveway. They really were in the wilderness and that meant animals would be everywhere. It wasn’t the fear of being bitten or maimed that worried her. It was far worse than that. She might hear them.

“This sucks.”

“Chloe…” Impatience crept into Karen’s voice.

“Mom, watch out!”
She gripped the dashboard, squished her eyes shut and waited for impact.

A frightened young deer flashed past the car’s headlights at the last possible moment, followed by something l
ower to the ground and darker. Karen slammed her foot against the brake. The Outback shuddered to a stop, but not before the bumper clipped the animal’s hindquarters. A yelp of surprise pierced the night as the canine was jarred to the ground.

Ka
ren jammed the car into park. “Quick, grab a blanket.”

They were packed in cardboard
in either the backseat or trunk. Chloe reached up and flicked on the overhead light, but it would be of little help. “Where? Which box?”

Karen undid her seatbelt
.

Chloe grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”

“I’m a veterinarian, remember?” She got out of the car.

It was impossible to see over the hood. Chloe waited for the sickening fear, the pain or any emotion to
slam into her. Nothing happened, but it was still too soon to breathe a sigh of relief.

Outside, Karen stood then brushed the knees of her jeans. She turned to squint into the areas where the headlights didn’t reach. Fin
ally she shrugged. “It’s gone.”

After some deliberation, Chloe opened the door and got out. She moved to the front of the car and squinted past the headlights. “Where’d it go?”

“Into the forest, I guess. I don’t think I was going fast enough to seriously hurt it. It’s probably just bruised.”

“What was it? A dog?”

Karen shrugged again. “I don’t know, didn’t get a good look at it.”

Something moved just beyond the
trees. A low, dark shadow slunk through the undergrowth, crunching leaves and snapping twigs only feet from where they stood. Wariness slammed into her and she was unsure whether it came from the silhouetted creature or if it was her own. A deep growl of warning bristled the animal's fur.

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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