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Dark Moon (Chapter Thirty-Four)

"You raised witchie wolves to bring the J��ger-Suchers to Fairhaven?"

"Of course not. There's a reason for everything I've done. When the dark moon comes, all will be clear."

"As mud," I muttered.

"I knew you'd come to Edward. Then I'd have to get the others to leave so you'd be alone." Lydia spread her hands. "Werewolves popping up all over the place, and wham, the good doctor is on her own."

"But I'm – "

"Not. I know. I didn't figure on the FBI showing up and refusing to leave. Some idiot werewolf again – giving the Feds a tip, trying to screw up your life and instead screwing up mine. Heads are going to roll once I'm in charge."

I could imagine.

Lydia glanced at the sky, then into the trees. "Come on."

She shoved me farther into the ravine. As we walked through the sleeping ghost wolves, they awoke and milled around our legs. The sensation was creepy –  like a chilly brush of wind that scrambled straight through my bones.

A rustle from the forest was followed by the murmur of voices, the measured tread of human feet.

Edward and Nic pushed their way through the brambles at the edge of the clearing. They gaped at the witchie wolves. Their ability to see them made me uneasy. When they caught sight of Lydia, they pointed their weapons at her head.

"Just in time to watch the show." She put a knife to my throat.

Silver, it burned like fire. Smoke rose in an unpleasant stream in front of my face.

"We will kill her to get to you," Edward murmured. "It is our way."

"Not my way."

Nic stepped forward and the ground shifted. The witchie wolves howled so loudly my ears rang, then as one they stood and encircled the ravine. Nic's cell phone rang, the sound shrill and alien in the warm, waiting silence.

"Could be Will," I managed.

With information that wasn't crap. Nic punched the on button.

"Stay out of the woods."

I heard Will's voice as clearly as if the phone were pressed to my ear. This increased-power deal was very handy.

"Too late," Nic said.

Will cursed. "Definitely stay away from that ravine where most of the bodies are buried. The greatest concentration of spiritual power is there. The witchies will protect that ground, since it was by far the most desecrated. It's where they'll come to power."

"In two weeks?" Nic asked.

" 'Fraid not. In some legends the dark moon is when the moon is new. In others, the dark moon shares the sky with the sun. The moon is always there, you just can't see it in the daytime."

"The dark moon is now," I whispered.

Nic's gaze met mine. Understanding filled his eyes, and his grip tightened on the phone.

"The witchie wolf army can't be killed," Will continued. "They're already dead. You need to stop Lydia from… whatever it is she's going to do."

"How?" Nic asked.

"The most powerful shaman commands them."

"Lydia's not an Indian."

"Shit," I muttered, as I remembered Will's explanation about shamans. "Blood has nothing to do with it."

"You're wrong." Lydia pricked my neck. "Blood has everything to do with it."

The ground trembled, and Lydia released me. I spun as she lifted the talisman, marked with my blood, toward the sun-drenched sky. "Blood to the earth, flesh to the flesh, spirits arise."

"Go!" I shouted to the others. "Run."

Nic snorted. "I don't think so."

"I live for this," Edward said.

The two started forward, and the witchie wolves snarled. Both men shot at the nearest wolf. Their bullets went right through the bodies and into the ground.

"Uh-oh," Nic muttered.

Together they turned their weapons on Lydia and the wolves charged.

"No!" I shouted, but they didn't seem to hear.

Instead they knocked the men to the grass. Considering how the bullets had gone through them, the witchies were awfully solid. One wolf sat on each of their chests, while two others yanked their weapons away and dragged them into the trees.

"Keep everyone out." Lydia lowered her arms. "Now it's just you and me."

The witchie wolves howled. "And them. They want to be led. They don't know what to do all alone."

Lydia inched closer. "I need more blood. I'm thinking, all of it."

Fury shot through me. What good were years of ly-canthropy if I couldn't defeat one crazy witch?

With anger came strength, and energy rumbled along my skin like a flaming wind. I couldn't prevent the growl that tickled my throat from coming out of my mouth.

The sun was shining. I should not feel the call of the moon, but I did.

"Don't fight it," Lydia murmured. "Shift. In the daylight. You'll feel a whole lot better."

"That is what she wants," Edward shouted. "Do not do it."

Lydia's laughter tickled my spine like a feather. "Aren't you tired of him telling you what to do?"

"No," I lied.

"If you knew everything there was to know, you'd change your mind."

"I doubt that."

"Let's find out."

I blinked, and she was gone.

"Do you know who your mother was?" Her voice seemed to come from everywhere. The trees, the sky.

Where the hell was she?

"She was a werewolf," I answered. "Edward killed her."

"Yes, but do you know why?"

"She was a werewolf."

"Not why he killed her; why she was a werewolf?"

"Bitten."

"Because of who her father was."

My mother's father. My grandfather. Who had he been? I'd never asked. No one had ever offered. I was an orphan, my entire family wiped out by werewolves. Maybe that was true. Then again, maybe it wasn't.

"They came after him, but they found her." Lydia's whisper was like a serpent hissing in my ear. "Death was too easy after all he'd done. Edward arrived too late to save his daughter, but he managed to save you."

I glanced in his direction. The witchie wolves had moved back, allowing Edward and Nic to sit up but not to stand. The old man stared across the ravine. One look was all it took to see the truth.

Edward Mandenauer had killed his own child – my mother – then raised me as a charity case, without love or affection or honesty. I couldn't believe even he could be so cruel.

"That's it." Lydia's voice tempted me. "Get mad. Get very, very mad. Shift in the daylight. Imagine the power."

"How do you know so much?" I managed, my voice more a beast's than a woman's.

"My grandmother and Edward were… close."

"Maria?"

"Maria was his wife. My grandmother knew him first, loved him best, but then he left her in the lab with Mengele and married Maria, a slut from the city. Granny made sure she discovered all of Edward's secrets. Which she shared with me."

Fury, red, hot, and bubbling, bolted through my blood, giving me strength, lending me focus, a clarity beyond anything I'd ever known. I felt the moon, despite the sun, because the moon was there, but it was dark.

Opening my mind, I embraced the ebony sheen. I welcomed the darkness, both in the sky and in me.

My hands became paws, claws shooting from my fingertips like razor blades. The hearing, the sight, the speed of a wolf was mine. When she spoke again, I was ready.

"Secrets are always useful. Eventually."

My arms shot out. A pained gasp whistled through the ravine. I opened my eyes and saw her. My claws around her throat, I'd made kind of a mess. She wasn't going to die from that wound, but she sure was going to bleed.

She moved her mouth, pointed at her throat. I was loath to release her in case she disappeared.

Wait a minute. Why didn't she disappear?

As if in slow motion, I watched a drop of blood fall through the air, soak into the dirt, as the witchie wolves howled.

The ground rippled like water, then spilled outward like the Red Sea. I saw skulls and bones unearthed.

Talk about desecration.

Blood to the earth, flesh to the flesh, spirits arise.

That damn incantation.

I looked at the witchie wolves. They were really wolves now. I could no longer see through them, and according to Will, they were unstoppable.

Lydia began to struggle, and her peasant blouse shifted, revealing the talisman.

"Mine," I growled.

Tangling a paw through the loop, I yanked, then tossed Lydia across the ravine. She hit the ground and lay still.

Suddenly everything was quiet. I glanced at the others. Edward winced. I looked at Nic. He pointed toward his eyes, wiggled his fingers.

My eyes, my hands, were still wolf, so I took a deep breath, imagined myself human, and I was.

The talisman's rope was wrapped around my wrist. I left it there.

"I have never seen such a thing in all of my life." Edward stared at the witchie wolves. They were frozen, uncertain.

Nic crossed the ground in four quick steps and yanked me into his arms. Edward went straight to Lydia.

"Is it over?" Nic asked, his lips against my hair.

"Not quite."

Billy strode into the ravine, along with several other men. I recognized them. The werewolves from the basement disarmed Edward.

"Is there anyone not after you?" Edward snapped.

Before I could answer, Billy grabbed Nic by the back of the neck and tossed him away as easily as I'd tossed Lydia.

"I promised you the flesh of the J��ger-Suchers," Billy said. "Take him, too."

I started to go after Nic, and Billy backhanded me across the face. "It's our time now."

Before I could think, concentrate, shift as I'd done with Lydia, Billy hit me again. Then he grabbed me around the waist, yanked me against him and kissed me, sucking the blood from my lips.

The guy was just not right in the head.

I struggled, but Billy was both a very large, muscular man and an ancient and powerful werewolf. He lifted his head and stared into my face. "I've been waiting so long for this."

I closed my eyes against the madness in his. I couldn't feel the moon, couldn't concentrate past my fear.

His body against mine, his scent filled my nose. His teeth nibbled at my throat as his hands clutched my breasts. There was no way I could focus well enough to marshal the power needed to defeat him, and Billy knew it.

Sounds of a battle rose nearby. Edward was fighting the basement werewolves for his life, and I couldn't help.

"I knew you'd kick Lydia's ass," Billy said. "Then I'd kick yours, and the army would be mine."

A chill trickled over my skin. Billy in charge of the witchie wolf army? The world would no longer be fit for anyone or anything. I doubted he'd care.

"The witchie wolves."

The voice was Nic's – faint, groggy, but alive.

Billy snarled and turned toward him.

"No." I grabbed Billy's arm.

He punched me, right in the nose, and I flew across the ravine, hitting the ground so hard my teeth rattled.

But I'd gotten my wish, he came after me instead of Nic.

I tried to get up, but my head spun. My nose bled. My teeth felt loose. Billy grabbed me by the shirt and slammed me into the ground.

"Lydia was right. I'll just do you when you're dead." He wrapped his huge hands around my throat.

"You'll be a lot less trouble that way, and really, I could care less what I fuck."

I tried to speak, but he was squeezing too hard, so I grabbed his fingers and pulled. He laughed. "You aren't strong enough. You never were. Hell, you killed me once, and it didn't stick. You'll never get another chance."

"You're wrong," I managed. "I am stronger."

Billy smirked and released me. "Prove it."

I didn't have to fight him. Nic's words had made me remember. Only the most powerful shaman commanded the witchie wolf army. But a shaman's power had nothing to do with physical strength and everything to do with magic, mystery, and belief.

I captured the icon between my fingers. Either this worked, or we all died.

"Kill him," I whispered.

Then, as the witchie wolves howled and understanding rolled over Billy's face, everything went black.

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