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Blue Moon (Chapter 37)

I tossed my rifle into the Crown Victoria and climbed in after. Clyde raced out of my apartment building just as I left the parking lot. He tried to flag me down, shouted something, but I was on a mission. I didn't need any company while I kicked Cadotte's ass.

Could I kill him? I wasn't sure. But I could beat him bloody. He'd made me believe in love right along with the werewolves.

I'd wondered why love had come along so soon. I'd wondered why me? The answer was crystal clear.

He'd needed someone to love him fast, and what better patsy than a woman who'd never been loved before? I must have been so easy.

My hands ached from clenching them on the steering wheel. I welcomed the pain. It made me forget the one in my chest, the bubbling agony in my belly, the burn of tears in my eyes and my throat.

I'd been such an idiot.

I reached the turnoff to his place and left my car next to his. The sun was almost down; the moon was not yet up. Usually all this woo-woo shit took place at midnight anyway. If so, I had plenty of time.

I paused at the edge of the clearing. Lights yellowed the window/panes of his cabin. Either he was home or he liked to waste electricity.

I braced myself to cross the yard and walk inside. I didn't plan on knocking. I wasn't a complete moron. Or maybe I was. I took one step and someone grabbed me from behind.

My rifle flew into the underbrush. Strong arms pinned mine to my side. I struggled, kicked backward, tried to flip my assailant over my shoulder. Nothing worked.

I took a deep breath, and I smelled him. "Will?"

He nuzzled my shoulder; then his mouth latched on to my neck and his teeth grazed my skin. I shuddered.

"Let me go."

He lifted his head; his breath brushed my hair. My body went limp with wanting him. I was pathetic.

And suddenly I was free. My hand went to my gun, but it was gone.

I spun around. Cadotte had my pistol. He'd also managed to retrieve my rifle. He looked a little silly holding two guns while stark naked.

Well, he wasn't completely naked. He wore the totem around his neck. I guess he wasn't going to deny stealing it.

"You need to go home, Jessie."

"Ha. I don't think so."

"Please. I don't want you hurt."

"Too late."

He frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"I know about the ceremony. I know what you need to become the wolf god."

"Me? I'm not going to become the wolf god."

"Then what's that for?" I pointed to the totem.

"I'm trying to stop it."

"How?"

"I discovered a ritual." His hands clenched on the weapons. His gaze shifted behind me. His agitation was evident. "It's too complicated to explain right now. I need to finish before the blue moon rises."

"How do I know you aren't raising the wolf god?"

He sighed. "You don't. You're going to have to trust me."

"I don't think that I can."

Hurt flickered over his face and for a minute I felt bad. Then my gaze lowered to the totem, and I remembered one of Zee's favorite sayings that didn't involve a curse word.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

"Shame on me," I muttered.

He shook his head. "Sarcastic to the end. That's my girl."

"I am not your girl."

His lips tightened; his eyes narrowed. I'd managed to annoy him, and that wasn't easy.

"I don't have time to argue. Are you going to behave, or do I have to tie and gag you?"

There was no way I was going to let him tie and gag me, not even for fun. "I'll behave."

He grunted and took a wide berth around me, then headed for a cairn of rocks at the far side of the clearing. Since he had my guns, there wasn't a whole helluva lot I could do about it –  yet.

Besides, according to Clyde he needed my blood to do the deed. When he came to get it, I'd be ready.

I sat on the porch steps. Cadotte lit a fire in the center of the rocks. Sprinkled what appeared to be dirt on top, except the flame turned green, then purple, then blood-red. No dirt I'd ever seen could do that.

I couldn't take my eyes from the fire, from him. The colors of the flames played over his skin. His muscles flexed and released –  across his stomach, down his thighs, up his arms. He was so beautiful he made me yearn.

He began to chant in Ojibwe. The words ebbed and flowed, a beautiful song in a language I could not understand. As the fire burned higher, hotter, he danced around the stone circle.

The oddity of a naked man dancing in the forest snapped me out of my trance. I began to get nervous. I glanced at the eastern horizon, but the sky was still pink. Not a sliver of silver to be found.

A sound in the brush to my right caught my attention. When I followed the rustle, I saw the wolf. "Will!"

He froze, followed my gaze, cursed. More wolves appeared, sliding from the underbrush all around us.

At least fifty of them ringed the clearing.

Suddenly Will was at my side, shoving me toward the door. Good idea, since the wolves had begun to advance. Legs stiff, hackles raised, they snarled.

"What do they want?"

"What do you think?" He tapped the totem, which still hung around his neck.

We stumbled over each other and into the cabin. He slammed the door just as a heavy body thumped against it. My eyes went to the glass window just as Will slammed a wood shutter into place and flipped the lock.

"Help me!" he shouted, running from window to window.

He didn't have to tell me twice. What little light was left in the sky was blotted out as we boarded up all the glass.

I'd puzzled over the dual shutters. Now I thanked God for them. If Cadotte's cabin had only been equipped with outdoor storm protection we'd be dead or foaming at the mouth.

The windows shattered as the wolves tried to get in. The shutters shimmied, but they held.

"Hell," Cadotte muttered.

I glanced at him and found myself distracted again by all that smooth, perfect skin and those supple muscles. I turned my back. "Can you put on some clothes?"

"What? Oh, yeah."

He went into his room and returned, pulling a bright yellow T-shirt over his head. The top button of his jeans hung open, and I swallowed the urge to put my mouth against the strip of skin.

This wasn't the time. There might never be a time again. That upset me more than it should. Cadotte had used me, lied to me, and I wanted him still. I loved him.

The shutter behind my head rattled. I flinched. "Can I have my gun back?"

"Are you going to shoot me?"

"Are you going to bite me?"

He wiggled his brows. "Maybe later."

I made an impatient sound and he sighed. "I thought you loved me."

"That's what you wanted all along, wasn't it?"

He appeared confused. "Of course I want you to love me."

"Because you need the blood of the one who loves you to become the wolf god."

"I do?"

"Don't tell me you didn't know that!" I shouted. "Don't lie to me anymore, Will!"

"You think I've been lying to you? That I told you I loved you… why?"

"You made me love you."

His lips narrowed. "No one has that power. Either you love me or you don't. I can't make you feel anything. No matter how much I might want you to."

The eternal sadness that had drawn me to him so many times before was back, but I wasn't going to let him seduce me again.

I stalked into the kitchen, shuffled through the minutiae on the counter. Found the bag of plastic and held it up.

Confusion pushed away the sadness in his eyes. "Where did that come from?"

"Don't play stupid with me. You stole this from the evidence room."

"Me? If I went anywhere near the police station your boss would have a stroke. Someone planted that."

"Spare me the O.J. delusion." I moved into the living room and picked up the book on Ojibwe ceremonies. "What about this?"

"What about it? I've had that book for years. It's useless without the page that's missing, which is why I ordered another one." He frowned. "But it hasn't arrived. That's what I get for ordering a used copy off the Internet."

"Isn't it convenient that the one page we need is missing?"

"It's weird, that's for sure. I picked that book up in a secondhand store, never even looked through it until last week when I found a page missing." He shook his head. "You actually think I was trying to raise the wolf god?"

"I don't know what to think."

"Those wolves attacked us both. Why would they go after me if I made them? If I were a werewolf, wouldn't I have changed? Like them?"

I spread my hands and shook my head. I wasn't sure of anything anymore.

He crossed the room and I tensed. I didn't want him to touch me. I wasn't sure what I'd do. Slug him or hold him –  neither one appealed at the moment.

Cadotte handed me my pistol, shrugged when I lifted my gaze to his. "If you want to shoot me, Jessie, go ahead. I'm tired of trying to make you believe that what we have is special."

I opened my mouth to say… I'm not sure what, and my cell phone rang. It was Mandenauer.

"I am waiting for you, Jessie."

"You'll be waiting quite a while. I'm a little… trapped."

"Where?"

"Cadotte's place."

"I will be right there."

"Bring a lot of ammo. There are at least fifty of them out there. And… "

"Yes?"

"Be careful."

"Fifty is nothing to me, Liebchen."

Then he was gone.

Cadotte had moved to the other side of the room with my rifle. His back to me, the set of his shoulders was dejected. "I didn't finish the ritual," he said.

"I know."

"We can't let them get the totem."

"I know that, too."

Silence descended, broken only by the intermittent thud of wolf bodies against the door and the windows. I wanted to ask him so many things, but he was right. I didn't trust him.

Gunshots sounded outside. Our eyes met. "It's too soon to be Mandenauer," I said.

Cadotte flipped the lock on the window in front of him and peeked out. "It's the sheriff."

He must have followed me here. Damn.

I crossed the room and glanced outside. It was Clyde all right. He shot a few wolves. They whimpered, but they didn't die.

"Lead bullets," I murmured. Clyde must not have had time to find any silver.

He shot his way through the circle, then backed toward the cabin. The wolves advanced again.

I locked the shutter and hurried to let him in, taking my pistol along. I remembered how Clyde had tried to convince me that Will was the werewolf leader –  and I wasn't exactly unconvinced of that yet –  but I wasn't going to let my boss kill him. I couldn't.

So as soon as I opened the door I asked for Clyde's gun. He froze, frowned, stared at the pistol trained on his chest. "You nuts?"

"Hand it over, Clyde, or stay outside with them."

"Fine." He slapped the weapon into my palm and stomped into the house.

"What are you doing here?" I demanded.

"What do you think?" His attention was captured by something behind me. "You've brainwashed her, you bastard."

Before I could stop him, Clyde charged Cadotte. They went down in a heap. Clyde was bigger, heavier, but Cadotte was younger and stronger. They rolled across the floor, banged into the furniture. Papers and books flew every which way.

Clyde yanked Cadotte's earring from his ear and tossed it across the room. The golden feather skittered into a heating vent. Damn, I'd really liked that earring.

Blood flowed down Cadotte's neck, a graphic illustration of the dangers of pierced ears –  one reason I didn't have them.

I took a step forward just as Cadotte hooked his leg around Clyde's and flipped the larger man onto his back.

I blinked, and he had his knee on Clyde's chest, his forearm at his throat.

"Aanizh��tam?" he growled.

"Fuck you."

Cadotte pressed harder, and Clyde turned purple.

"Aanizh��tam?" Cadotte repeated.

Clyde gave a sharp nod and Cadotte jumped up. He held out a hand, but Clyde smacked it away and clambered to his feet on his own.

Blood spattered across Cadotte's shirt and Clyde's. There were drops all over the floor. I resisted the urge to get a towel. This wasn't my house.

"What is your problem?" Cadotte asked.

"This." Clyde reached out and yanked the totem from Will's neck.

Will grabbed him by the shirt with both hands and lifted him off his feet. "Give it back."

My mouth fell open. My boss had to weigh 300 pounds.

"Jessie!" Clyde called. "Don't you think I should hang on to the totem?"

I looked back and forth between the two of them. I honestly didn't know.

Another volley of shots sounded from outside. This time they were followed by surprised yips and agonized howls.

"Let him go, Will," I ordered.

"No."

Mandenauer pounded on the front door and shouted my name. I didn't have time for these games. I cocked the gun. Will's gaze flicked to mine. He shrugged and let Clyde go.

"Play nice," I admonished, and let the old man inside.

He was wearing his Rambo outfit again –  commando chic, with a whole lot of bullets. I couldn't conjure up a snappy retort. I was too damn glad to see him –  and his ammo, too.

Before I could grab a bandolier for myself, Manden-auer stalked past me and into the living room. The expression on his face made me hurry to keep up.

"Which one of you is wolf clan?" he demanded.

"Why?" I asked.

"A member of the wolf clan must take part in the ceremony."

I flicked a glance at Will. "Did you know this?"

"Sure."

I let my breath out on a long, slow sigh of disappointment.

"Before you get all bent out of shape, I'd like to point out something."

"What?"

"He's wolf clan, too."

My head jerked up. Will was pointing at Clyde.

"You are?"

"So what? Nobody holds with that stuff anymore. Except for him." He jerked his head at Will. "Most people don't even know what clan they are these days. Don't you find it interesting that he does?"

Mandenauer drew his revolver and pointed it at Will.

"Hey!" I grabbed his arm just as he fired.

Training took over and I cracked his wrist over my knee. The gun fell to the floor. I kicked the rifle out of his other hand, then pulled his arms behind his back. He didn't fight me. Instead he stared at Will.

Terrified, I followed the direction of his gaze. There was a neat hole in the fleshy part of Will's arm. He was a mess, but he was alive, which also made him human. I could breathe again.

I tightened my grip on Mandenauer. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Proving that he is not one of them. And quite nicely, don't you think?"

"No," Will snapped.

He pressed a hand to the hole, but blood seeped through his fingers. Black dots danced in front of my eyes. Since when had the sight of blood bothered me? Since it was his.

Mandenauer had just proved Will wasn't a werewolf. The knowledge wasn't as comforting as it should have been. We still didn't know who was.

Mandenauer tugged on his hands, which I still held behind his back. "Give me back my guns."

"I don't think so."

"Then shoot the other so we know."

I glanced at Clyde. He frowned and shook his head.

"Isn't there a less bloody way to go about this?"

"I have never found one."

I was at a loss. I wanted to bandage Will's arm, but I couldn't leave Mandenauer alone. I couldn't hold on to all the guns myself. I couldn't bring myself to shoot Clyde and be done with it.

A chorus of howls rose in the yard. Others joined in, louder and louder, until I wanted to put my hands over my ears to blot out the sound. But I couldn't do that, either.

At last the noise stopped. The resulting silence seemed to echo with their cries.

"How many are out there?" I whispered.

"There were more than seventy when I arrived," Mandenauer answered. "Probably well past a hundred by now."

"That can't be right."

"What part of ' werewolf army'did you not understand, Jessie?"

I dumped Mandenauer's guns on the couch, holstered my pistol, and took him with me to the front window. I unlatched the shutter. We stared at what appeared to be a sea of wolves in the yard.

"What are they here for?"

"This."

The voice wasn't Mandenauer's; it was Clyde's. I glanced toward him just as he opened the front door.

"No!" I shouted, but the wolves didn't charge. Instead, they sat like dogs, tongues lolling.

I released Mandenauer and ran, but I was too late. Clyde tossed the wolf totem high above the crowd.

All heads tilted up, then followed the stone back down.

Before it met the ground a small ash-blond wolf leaped into the air and caught the rawhide between her teeth. She hit the ground running. The others followed.

I could do nothing but stare at Clyde. His face bathed by the silver light of the rising moon, he began to sweat, to shake.

To change.

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