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Dark Moon (Chapter Thirty)

"Let's take this one day at a time," Nic said.

A good idea. Lord knew what tomorrow might bring.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed. Where once sex with no strings hadn't sounded bad, now it no longer sounded good.

Nic lifted my tangled hair from my neck and pressed his lips to the sensitive skin at the curve.

Or maybe it did.

"For years I thought you were dead. Now I'm so scared you might end up that way, I can't sleep at night."

Not exactly a declaration of everlasting love, but it was something.

"I don't kill easily," I murmured.

"Maybe I should sleep in here from now on."

His mouth drifted lower, hovering just above mine.

"Maybe you should." I lifted onto my toes and kissed him.

He tasted both familiar and new, the past and the present in just one man. Everything I knew of sex and love, I'd learned from him.

I wanted him now as I'd wanted him then, loved him the same, if not more. Could I hope again for a future only to have it snatched away? Was it better to dream the impossible than never to dream at all?

Regardless of what tomorrow brought, we had tonight. I planned to make the most of every opportunity.

Hooking my ankle around his, I tumbled us onto the bed. We fell in a heap of limbs and new clothes with me on top. Nic laughed, and I stared down into his face.

"What?" His laughter faded, leaving a puzzled smile in its wake.

"I haven't heard you laugh like that since – " I broke off.

"Stanford?"

I shrugged.

"I don't laugh much anymore. Life without you hasn't been very funny."

With me wasn't going to be too ha-ha, either.

He touched my cheek. "Stop."

"What?"

"Thinking so much." He slipped his hand around the back of my neck and tugged. "Come here."

I went gladly, touching my lips to his. But when I tried to deepen the kiss, he wouldn't let me, instead making the embrace more tranquil than arousing, more gentle than passionate. That single kiss, which went on and on, moved me more than the sex ever had.

"Elise!"

Edward slammed the door, and I scrambled off Nic as if I were fifteen years old instead of twenty-nine.

He appeared in the doorway, lifting his brows at the sight of my tangled hair and twisted sweater. I smelled smoke – he had taken care of the body in the woods –  then his gaze went past me to Nic, and he grimaced before turning away.

"Kitchen," Edward snapped.

I turned to see what had annoyed him this time and had to hide a smirk. Nic might have been kissing me gently, but he still had a hard-on that was clearly visible beneath his jeans.

"If he thinks he's going to force me out of town again," Nic said, "I'm going to kick his bony ass, then shoot him. With silver, just to be sure."

I started to laugh, then I choked as a thought hit me, sending a nasty chill from head to toe.

"Stay here," I said, and followed Edward into the kitchen.

He'd set a package on the table – my research, thank goodness. One less thing to worry about. On to the next.

I crossed the room, hesitating as I neared him. Could I shoot Edward? He could certainly shoot me.

I touched his arm. He jerked back, nearly knocking over a chair in his haste to get away. But it was enough. I glanced at Nic, who had followed despite my orders.

When our eyes met, I shook my head and he lowered his hand from his weapon. I took comfort from the knowledge that he would have shot Edward if I couldn't.

"You thought I was bitten?" Edward asked.

I shrugged. "Better safe than sorry. You have been acting odd lately."

"How can you tell?" Nic muttered, earning a glare from Edward.

"I would shoot myself if I was infected."

"You know damn well if you were bitten you wouldn't be you anymore," I said, "you'd be them. Or us.

Whatever."

"Don't you have an antidote?" Nic asked.

"Only if the victim is injected before the first change."

"A concoction that would be more useful," Edward pointed out, "if it did not spoil within twenty-four hours of mixing it."

In that moment I understood that nothing I ever did would be enough for him. And suddenly, I didn't really care.

"Getting back to our present troubles," Edward continued briskly. "I did not know this Basil Moore."

"Why would you know him?" Nic asked.

"To be a traitor, to know some of the things our enemies now do, the culprit would have had to be one of us once."

"Rogue agent," I supplied. "Once J��ger-Suchers, until fired by Edward for inappropriate behavior."

"What kind of nutcase do you have to be to get ousted from a monster-hunting society?"

"I have rules." Edward sniffed. "If they are not followed, out you go. If you are lucky."

Unlucky people disappeared.

Many former J-S agents were adrenaline junkies. They couldn't give up the danger, or hold down a regular job, so they went hunting on their own. After searching out and destroying monsters most of mankind didn't even know about, it was kind of hard to adjust to life as a librarian.

"But since Basil was not one of us," Edward reiterated, "he could not be a traitor, though he may have bought information from one who is."

"And now we'll never know, because someone killed him," I said.

"A werewolf, not a someone," Edward pointed out. "Now tell me what you have learned about witchie wolves."

Lydia's book lay on the table. Nic picked it up and started paging through as I filled Edward in.

"Have you spoken with Jessie's lover?" Edward asked.

"Why do you call him that? He has a name."

"What is it again?"

I rolled my eyes. He knew damned well what Will's name was.

" 'Witchie wolves sleep in the sun until ,' " Nic read.

Edward and I glanced at each other, then at Nic.

"And what do they plan to do under the ?" I frowned. "What's a ?"

"I have never heard that term before," Edward said.

"We should really call Will."

"Wait." Edward went into the hallway and came back with his briefcase. He pulled out an electronic device I'd never seen before.

"Speaker phone?" Nic asked.

"Of a kind. This is a prototype. Not only can those we call hear all of us, but it magnifies the other line so we can hear them."

Edward was provided with the latest technology from the U.S. government – usually double-nought spy stuff like this.

"It will be easier to discuss the case, ja?"

" Ja," I said. "I mean yes."

Edward hooked the contraption to the phone line, then dialed Jessie's number.

"This had better be good," she answered, the slur in her voice making me glance at my watch.

midnight. Why was she asleep?

"We need to have a conference," Edward said. "Set the phone on a flat surface so we might hear both you and your – "

He broke off, glanced at me, scowled and muttered, "Cadotte."

"My Cadotte? Well, he is kind of mine." The phone clunked once. 'Okay. Go ahead."

"How up-to-date are they?" Edward asked.

"Werewolf in human form biting the dead, disappearing bodies, invisible ghost wolves – "

"Whoa!" Jessie interrupted. "I never heard anything about ghost wolves."

The rustle of sheets preceded Will's voice. "Are you talking about witchie wolves?"

"We think so."

"They're supposed to live – well, not live exactly, exist, I guess – on the shores of Lake Huron."

"Apparently they don't know that, because they're here."

"Fascinating," he murmured.

"Off he goes," Jessie said. "Computer Boy to the rescue."

"Hold on, Will," I ordered. "Have you ever heard of the ?"

"No," Will said. "Where did you hear it?"

"In a book Lydia gave us. 'Witchie wolves sleep in the sun until the .' Mean anything?"

"Not yet."

Sounds of a computer turning on, booting up, came over the line. This prototype phone was pretty cool.

Tap-tap-tap.

"There's an Ojibwe expert on witchie wolves," Will said. "He doesn't live too far from here. He wrote a book."

Nic turned the cover so I could read the title. " Witchie Wolves of the Great Lakes by Raymond Banks?"

"That's the one. He's very knowledgeable about obscure legends. I'll head over and talk to him in the morning."

"Can't you call him?" Jessie asked. "Send a fax? How about E-mail?"

Will coughed.

"He lives in a cave, doesn't he?"

"Wigwam."

"Same difference," she said. "Why can't your people step into the twenty-first century?"

"Most of us did, and it wasn't all that different from any other."

Silence ensued. I felt compelled to fill it, so I told them all we'd learned about the mystery in Fairhaven.

"The witchie wolves come to power under the dark moon." Will tapped on the computer some more.

"Then their army rules all until the end of days."

"I always get nervous when the end of days comes up," Jessie said.

"Armageddon. Apocalypse." Edward sighed. "I have thwarted a hundred of them."

"Let's make it a hundred and one," Nic said.

"Another werewolf army," Jessie muttered. "Can't they find a new tune?"

"Why?" I wondered. "When the old one plays so well."

"If the witchies are the brave new army," Will continued, "you could be in big trouble if you don't find out who plans to command them before the deed is done."

"We always are," I said.

"Whatever happened to the totem you found in Montana?"

Everyone went silent.

"It's gone," I said. "Not sure where."

Edward scowled.

"I had pocket issues. Sue me."

"Let's not worry about the totem now," Will interjected. "You haven't needed it since the first time."

Who knows? – maybe I hadn't even needed the icon then.

Nevertheless, I wished I had the thing in my possession or at least knew who did. But if wishes were horses, et cetera, et cetera.

"I'll talk to Mr. Banks in the morning."

"We'll talk to him, Slick. Together."

"He may not speak freely with a stranger there."

"You're a stranger."

"We're of the same tribe. Never strangers."

"Whatever."

"You could head back," Will suggested. "They might need you in Fairhaven."

"I'm not letting you traipse off alone to meet some guy we don't even know. He could turn into anything.

Sheesh, you think I'm an idiot?"

I glanced at Nic to find him staring at the copy of the victims' list we'd taken from the sheriff's office. In all the excitement, I'd forgotten about it.

"We have a list of the victims," I announced.

"Why didn't you say so?" Jessie asked. "Read them out. Will can probably find something."

Nic was already booting up Jessie's laptop. He cracked his knuckles and winked at me. This sudden, yet familiar, lighter side of him was almost as fascinating as the darker, sexy side.

"It'll only take me a minute. You wouldn't believe what the FBI can find out about people."

"I'd believe it," Will muttered.

Will had been an activist before he was a J��ger-Sucher. His name was on a whole lot of watch lists. The FBI's certainly.

While Nic clattered away, I checked my research. Not only were my formulas and notes on a disc, but there was an emergency dose of serum, which was going to come in handy far too soon.

I pocketed the vial, just as Nic murmured, "Hello."

"What?" Jessie, Will, and I asked at the same time. Edward merely waited.

"All the people who've disappeared owned their own homes, businesses, or a plot of land in Fairhaven."

"Each victim owned a part of the town?" Jessie asked. "And they died for it. Why?"

Nic typed in a few more words, then squinted, straightened, and said, "Uh-oh."

"What is 'uh-oh'?" Edward demanded. "I hate 'uh-oh.' "

"Fairhaven was built on top of an Ojibwe burial ground."

"There are more graves than the one where we found the sheriff and Cora?" I asked.

"According to this, the greatest concentration of bodies is in a ravine right outside of town."

I'd been to that ravine, along with Lydia and Basil. Coincidence? Nah.

From the glance Nic threw my way, he didn't think much of the coincidence, either.

"Why arc so many bodies buried there?" Nic murmured.

"Because rather than bury them individually," Will spat, "they tossed everyone into a hole. Much easier that way, and really, why spare the time for some Injuns?"

"Massacre?" Jessie asked.

"Probably."

Will sounded disgusted. I couldn't blame him.

"At least we know why the witchie wolves are here," Will continued.

"We do?" I glanced at Nic, who shrugged.

"They protect the burial mounds of warriors from desecration."

"What desecration?" I asked. "I don't see any turned-up earth or ancient bones dragged around."

"To buy their graves, to own the land – which isn't for sale – is desecration enough."

"Everything's for sale, Slick. Get used to it."

"You can't buy the earth. Or purchase a bird, a stone, a tree."

"He gets like this sometimes," Jessie muttered. "Give him a minute, he'll find the right century."

"Building a Pizza-Rama, or a Super-Mart, or a Gas-and-Dough on someone's grave…" Will paused.

"They were just asking for it."

"Oh, yeah," Jessie said. "Begging."

Will ignored her. "You've theorized that the bite of a werewolf in human form causes the dead to shift into ghost wolves." He began to type again, talking at the same time. "The theory makes even more sense if the victims are doomed to protect that which they have desecrated."

"And the punishment shall fit the crime," Nic murmured. "But if they've desecrated an Ojibwe burial ground, wouldn't it follow that the murderer is – "

"Ojibwe," Will finished.

"Well, yeah."

"We're back to Lydia again," I said.

"Why would she give us a book on witchie wolves if she was raising them?" Nic asked.

"The book is pretty vague."

"Ojibwe legends often are," Will agreed.

"Which is why the werewolves use them, Slick. They can easily manipulate vague into evil."

"Except Lydia isn't a werewolf," I felt compelled to point out.

Silence settled over us, broken only by the clatter of Will's fingers on the keyboard. "I can't find anything concrete about the , but I'm betting it's when the moon is darkest, or new. Since tomorrow night is the full moon, we'll have two weeks before the witchie wolf army gains power."

"Then we've got plenty of time to figure out what they're planning," I said. "Who knows, we could even stumble over the werewolf tomorrow night, blow his brains out, and be home free."

Both Edward and Nic turned a bland gaze on me.

"I know." I sighed. "Like that'll happen."

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