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Authors: Michelle Clay

The Bad Wolf (9 page)

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
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He flopped down beside her and made a strange noise deep in his throat. It wasn’t exactly a growl, but more of a yawn. Goosebumps formed on her arms and the fine hairs stood on end. There was something so familiar about this wolf. It was as if they’d known each other for some time. He seemed comfortable around her and she didn’t sense any danger.

Perhaps
it had escaped from the zoo or wandered away from one of the wildlife preserves up north. That might explain his willingness to be around humans.

He laid
his head across her legs. Silken fur tickled across her thighs as he rolled onto his side and stared up at her. Eyes half closed, pink tongue lolling, he looked like a family dog in the lap of his favorite person. His nose quivered as he turned gorgeous blue eyes up to her.

The hand nearest his head lifted then stilled. Would he allow her to touch him without nipping off her digits? His
moist tongue lashed against her fingers in answer. Somehow, she relaxed enough to lean back against the tree. She certainly wasn’t going anywhere with the big canine lying across her legs. Her fingers stroked lazy circles in the fur of his neck and the underside of his jaw. When they smoothed across his ear the wolf snuffled with contentment.

A little braver now in the silence of the animal’s mind, she placed her palm flat on his side and stroked across his ribs. He lifted his head
to look at her then allowed it to fall back to her lap. Then he rolled to his other side and licked her shin. His back was to her and even under the umbrella of branches his thick fur seemed to glisten like a wet seal’s.

Chloe’s legs tingled and numbed beneath
his weight, but she didn’t dare rouse him. She sighed as he rolled again, this time presenting his chest and belly. His big paws rested on his chest as he looked up at her with intelligent, somewhat sleepy eyes. Long ears flattened to his head and he yawned again, exposing sharp white teeth. They looked dangerous and she wondered what the heck she was doing sitting on the forest floor, petting a wild animal.

“I wish everything was as sweet and quiet as you,” she murmured as her fingertips traced
over a thin, silvery white scar. It ran from his chest down to his tummy. A few smaller ones criss-crossed the worst one and she thought he must have been in a terrible fight.

After a few moments, the wolf’s eyes closed and he even snored softly. Thankfully, he’d rolled from her legs and now lay curled beside her. Every now and then his ear would twitch or he’d make a soft noise. She almost laughed out loud when his feet jerked as though he was chasing after something in his dream.

Then a memory, she realized it was from the wolf’s mind, invaded hers. He tracked a medium sized deer through the dark forest. Chloe’s heartbeat accelerated as the deer cut to the right just as the wolf leapt. The wolf’s teeth sank into the back of the animal’s neck. He gave it a fierce shake and bones snapped in his powerful jaws.

The
memories and emotions kept coming now that he was asleep and unable to block them. Jenna was there, staring at her or maybe the wolf. Chloe had just placed cookies onto a table then leaned over…. Was that Ryan Neal? He intended to kiss her and run fingers through her hair until he spotted Jenna grinning at him. He’d been embarrassed and somewhat annoyed that he hadn’t acted upon his wishes.

A
nother image flickered in her mind’s eye, followed by strong, confusing emotions. The wolf sat outside her house amongst the shadows, studying the yard and the trees beyond. He seemed to be searching for something in particular, something that worried him.

After he sensed no danger, he inched closer to the house to watch
her move around the kitchen and later the living room. An emotion she didn’t quite understand filtered through her best attempt to block it out. Hunger, strong and conflicting, burned into her mind and twisted in her guts. This wolf wanted to devour her. He also wanted to possess her and keep her for himself. These needs were strangely visceral, sexual and absolutely terrifying.

Scared and confused
, Chloe scrambled to her feet. She had to get away from this creature. Something was not right and she’d been a fool not to recognize it until now.

The startled wolf awoke
, sprang to his feet and looked ready to attack. His fur bristled and teeth flashed in a ferocious snarl. Feet wide and ready to spring into action, the wolf looked for danger. When he glanced her way, he immediately relaxed. His tail wagged and he whined as if asking what had happened.

“I’m not afraid of you,”
Chloe said on a shaky whisper. The truth was she felt more than frightened. She was also puzzled. This wolf’s mind was so unlike any animal’s she’d touched upon before. It was hard to explain, but they didn’t have human qualities like the big black wolf did. Most simply acted and thought like the animals they were. The wolf seemed capable of keeping his thoughts to himself. For once he’d awoken and realized something was wrong, it was like a metal door had slammed in her face. She could no longer feel any emotion or thought coming from him at all.

“I have to go,” she stammered.

Chloe half expected him to follow as she moved past trees and flowering bushes. Instead he sat down, tilted his head and watched her go. He didn’t wag his tail or whine, but wondered just what she’d seen to cause such alarm. By the time she’d lost sight of him over her shoulder, she broke into a run.

Chapter
Nine

 

Jenna stirred the simmering pot as water bubbled over the edge then sizzled onto the burner. She dumped in dried white blossoms and shriveled stems. Next she consulted an open book lying on the table. There was a yellow discount sticker on the spine.

“Did you hear me?” Chloe still
had the jitters. “He was the biggest wolf I’ve ever seen!” The only other real, live wolf she’d ever seen was at the zoo.

“Strong is my magic, strong as my will.”
Jenna dropped more items into the bubbling brew. Finally she said, “Don’t you think you’re over reacting?”

Chloe
finished grating the orange peel Jenna had asked for. Her friend took a generous pinch of zest then sprinkled it into the makeshift cauldron.

“I am not.”
By now she’d lost count of how many items Jenna had put in. “Don’t you think his thoughts were kind of weird for just an ordinary animal? And it seemed like he was shutting me out.”

“Maybe
there are extraordinary animals out there.” Jenna added more water. “What were you doing in the woods anyway?”


My dad is getting remarried.” Chloe’s citrus scented fingers found their way to her hair and twirled it. “Mom and dad got into a fight over me.”

“Oh
wow, that sucks.”

“Then when
my dad finally left, Karen tells me she has a lunch date with guess who? Mike Lewis!”


Coach Lewis?” Jenna looked surprised. “He seems like a nice guy.”


I know she and dad aren’t going to reconcile, but she needs time to adjust. She’s just moving too fast is all I’m trying to say.” Chloe fingered the sachet Jenna had given her upon arriving. A puff of cinnamon and other pleasant fragrances arose from it. “What did you say this baggie full of yummy smells does?”

“Protection charm,” Jenna said
as she stood on tiptoe and rummaged through the cupboard. Finally she selected a dark herb and dropped a pinch into whatever she was making. Next she retrieved a plastic bag filled with dark pink flower petals from the fridge. She dug out enough to fill her palm then rinsed them beneath the faucet before dumping them into the steaming mess. “With these words my power grows. With this spell it binds and holds.”

Chloe peered uncertainly at the steaming pot.
“What is that?”

Jenna
smiled as she removed a strainer from a nearby drawer. She held it over a coffee mug then poured the liquid into it. “It’s something special. It will enable you to see the truth. Like maybe if someone is in love with you and you didn’t know it. Or if there was something someone wanted to show you.”


A love potion?” Chloe interrupted with a raised eyebrow. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Jenna, but this witchy stuff was just weird. She didn’t believe in magic, at least not the fanciful Harry Potter kind. Chloe accepted the cup then peered at the pink liquid. Dark floaty bits drifted to the bottom. “I’m supposed to drink it?”

“Yes,” Jenna
answered in a patient voice. “Repeat after me, then drink.”

Chloe examined the brew then frowned. “Wait. How will I know if it works?”

Her friend consulted the book once more. “You’re supposed to see things in a new light.”

“What does that
mean? Is my true love supposed to glow?” Her nerves wouldn’t allow her to tip the cup to her mouth. What if it made her sick? Or worse, what if it worked and her true love was someone appalling? “What if they’re standing under a light or the sun is shining right on them? That might be confusing.”

“You’ll just know, Chloe
, but you have to believe this will work. Now, say everything I say,” Jenna said over her own cup. Her bright blue eyes were wide with excitement. “Allow the answer to find me. Show me the truth and set me free.”

That didn’t sound much like a quest for love, but she dutifully repeated the words.
The syrupy sweet tea made her wince, but she managed to swallow what was in her mouth. Jenna sat her own cup aside. She had only pretended to drink and now had a pink crescent above her upper lip.

Chloe
picked what looked like orange zest or a soggy stem from of her mouth. “You didn’t drink yours.”

“I made it for yo
u so you could accept the truth,” Jenna said as she dumped the remaining mixture down the drain. She rinsed the cups then placed them in the drainer.


You said it was a love potion.”

Jenna
wiped her mouth with a paper napkin. “I didn’t say that. Well, not exactly.”

Chloe
snatched the open book from where it lay. Jenna yelped and scrambled to grab it. As she scanned the page, she noted there was no love potion listed. “What did I just drink?”

Jenna’s nervous laugh
ter did little to appease her. “It won’t hurt you. I promise.”

Chloe sobered
, suddenly curious. “Seriously, what kind of spell was it?”


It’s for clarity. It helps you see things more clearly.”

Chloe dropped the book as a slow smile formed on her lips. It wasn’t as though she believed in this crap
anyway. “If I suddenly sprout hair on my back you’re going to help me shave it off!”

“Waxing is faster.”

“And more painful!”

Jenna settled in the chair
next to her. She grasped Chloe’s hand and smiled. “I’m just saying things will be become clear for you. Whether it concerns who likes you or the things happening around you … just give it a chance.”

Chloe stared at her
best friend, expecting her to bust out laughing or something. She swallowed past the overly sweet aftertaste the tea left in her mouth. “I don’t know what was in it, but I don’t think it worked.”

Jenna
smiled wistfully. “You have to believe, otherwise it won’t work.”

She pacified her friend with a nod. “Okay, what other witchy things can you do?”

“Simple glamour spells.” Jenna grinned then held her hand in front of her own face. When she lowered it, crimson red lipstick had replaced the dark plum she’d been wearing before. “So, do you think I’m a total freak?”

“Don’t be silly. You aren’t a freak,” Chlo
e said then rubbed her eyes. She must be hallucinating or Jenna had figured a clever way to trick her. That was the last time she’d drink any of Jenna’s potions!

Her friend plucked the strand of fuchsia hair from her head and ran fingers over it. When she let it fall again, it was a lovely shade of turquoise.

Chloe’s eyes widened. “Cool.”

Jenna
gave her a quick hug. “I knew you’d be okay with it.”

When
Chloe looked at the clock, she was startled to find it was nearly seven o’clock. “When will Ryan be back?”

“Want to see if he glows?”

Chloe wrinkled her nose. “Not after that crap he pulled this morning.”

“Look on the bright side,” Jenna smiled coyly.
“At least he believes you now.”

“Like I care? Anyway,
I didn't bring my overnight bag. Can you take me to get it?” She pointed out the window. “His Jeep is here.”

Jenna’s
eyebrows flew up to her hairline. “He’d kill me if I took his car. I’ll walk across with you.” Chloe must have made a face because she added, “Don’t worry there’s nothing to be scared of out there.”

She
knew different, but didn’t want to look like a coward in front of her new best friend.

Jenna
found a flashlight in the hall closet before they set off toward the woods.

Chloe’s
skin prickled and she forced herself to take shallow breaths. The forest was alive with activity. Small creatures scurried across the ground around her feet. Something moved in the tree above their heads. All of their thoughts and emotions hovered over her like a black cloud. It took an extra bit of concentration to keep them out of her head.

Although it wasn’t
full dark yet, Chloe’s eyes had difficulty adjusting to the murky shadows thrown by the trees. Jenna thrust the flashlight into her hand then turned left. She moved past downed branches and debris with a purpose. “I want to show you something.”

Chloe hesitated. She didn’t want to tr
aipse around out here at night. “Can’t it wait until morning?”

Jenna grabbed her hand and dragged her along.
Although Chloe pointed the light at the ground just ahead of them, it didn’t keep her from stumbling over things hidden beneath the leafy carpet.

“When Ryan was little and his family used t
o visit, we’d have picnics out here,” Jenna said in a whispery voice. “I still come out here when I want to be alone. It’s my special place and I want to share it with you.”

“Why did
Ryan come to live with you?”

Jenna didn’t answer for a long moment. W
hen she did, her reply was an utter disappointment. “That’s something he should tell you.”

She
clutched her friend’s hand and followed along in sullen silence. Too many emotions floated to her. Chloe tried not to focus on them, but it proved difficult. Deer bedded down for the night while owls and bats awoke. Small mammals, perhaps rabbits or rodents, cowered as they passed.

To
take her mind off things around her, she asked, “So Ryan used to be friends with the pack huh?”

J
enna said, “Yes, they have a lot in common.”


A boy in art class told me he’s just as mean as they are.” She said in a nonchalant manner. It was believable, look at what he’d done just this morning.

“Some people think he’
s worse. And maybe he used to be, but he has changed. Travis and the others just can’t seem to accept it.” Jenna sighed, but continued walking. “Ryan shaped them into what they are now. And since he doesn’t hang with them as much, Travis took up where he left off. I think there are jealousy and abandonment issues that need to be dealt with.”

Chloe had heard all sorts of rumors regarding Ryan.
The stories ranged from silly pranks to cruel behavior. Supposedly he’d been so deplorable, even Travis and his cronies had discussed kicking him out. She also got some cautionary advice to stay away from Ryan by a girl in history class. According to her, he’d been quite the playboy last year. He dated only the pretty, popular girls and if they didn’t put out after a couple dates, he dumped them.

It seemed no
one had anything nice to say about him. Still, she couldn’t overlook that he’d prevented her from bumping her head in biology or when he’d given her his shirt. He couldn’t be all bad, could he?

Finally, Jenna
said, “I guess he finally realized what a monster he’d become. Everyone, including me, was afraid of him. Since then, he’s tried to turn himself around. He’s not the same person.”

“Wow,” was all she could say.

“Yeah,” Jenna agreed. “We’d had enough of his crap. Mom and dad were thinking about kicking him out, but he didn’t have anywhere to go. They were going crazy trying to come up with a solution. That was around the time he stopped Josh from taking advantage of me. I asked them to give him another chance.”

They hadn’t gone far when
they approached a small clearing. Jenna stopped just before she reached the last few trees. Darkness had enveloped the forest and it didn’t help matters that Jenna had taken the flashlight and snapped it off.

“What’s he doing here?” Jenna grumbled.

“Who?” Chloe asked as she squinted into the darkness.

A thin beam of light shone up from
the ground and illuminated someone’s jean clad legs. Was this supposed to be the glow she was looking for? The one Jenna’s spell claimed she would see? Jenna clearly hadn’t expected anyone to be in her secret place. Chloe’s stomach churned as she peered through the darkness. She hoped he picked up the flashlight so she could see his face.


I know you’re there.” Ryan’s voice floated across the clearing and seemed heavy against the darkness. Chloe’s spirits fell just a little. This was not a special light. It couldn’t be.

His bare feet turned to face opposite of where they
stood. In the dim halo of light around his lower half, she saw him shove hands into his pockets.

Jenna pulled Ch
loe down behind a prickly bush.

“Come out
,” Ryan called in an annoyed voice. “I can hear you.”

“Is he talking to us?” Chloe whispered, not at all sure why they were spying on
him.

Jenna shook her head. “I think he’s
expecting someone. We’d better go.”

Just as she rose from a crouch, she saw another
light move across the clearing. Travis and his sister seemed to materialize out of the dark trees. Amy carried a lantern in her right hand. She sat it on the ground at their feet, but the glow made a small halo of light around them all.

Ryan was
shirtless and his hair was a wild mess. Amy moved toward him then ran an intimate hand along his back and shoulders. He did not react. Instead, he glared at Travis. “You were supposed to come alone.”

BOOK: The Bad Wolf
8.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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