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Dark Moon (Chapter Twenty Three)

The shrill ring of the phone nearly made me jump out of my skin. Following the sound into the hall, I snatched up the receiver. "Hello?"

Static came over the line, so loud I pulled the phone away from my ear.

"Hello?" I tried again.

"Junkyard."

Screeech!

"Edge of town."

More static.

"Edsel behind a blue school bus."

I could barely understand the words. I couldn't recognize the voice.

"What?"

Snap.

"Research."

Crackle.

"Serum."

"Edward?" I asked.

Pop.

The line went dead.

I hung up and considered what I'd heard. Edward hadn't called in, perhaps because he was back. In the junkyard. Waiting for me to come and get my research.

But what if that hadn't been Edward?

Shaking my head, I headed into the bedroom, got dressed, checked my pocket for the icon – still there –  then grabbed my shoes.

Outside Nic's door, I paused and listened. I could hear him breathing, slow and steady. Asleep.

Good. I wasn't going to take him with me. Not this time.

I had to retrieve my research and create more serum, or I'd do a lot more than change. I'd kill. I wouldn't be able to stop myself.

I jogged north on Midtown Road. When the buildings ended, there was a junkyard. No fence encircled the area. If anyone wanted to drag away a wreck, more power to them.

I'd slept through the day dreaming of Billy, and the cool caress of the moon trickled over my skin. Only a few nights from full, the orb was growing along with my hunger. With that thought driving me, I waded into the jungle of metal.

For a tiny town, they had a lot of old cars. It took me ten minutes to locate a blue bus. Behind the vehicle, half-covered by the low-hanging branches of a very old tree, sat an Edsel. Or at least that was what the nameplate said. I'd never seen one before.

There was a bite to the night, a chill in the air. I could have sworn a ghostly howl rose toward the stars, but when I turned my face upwind, I smelled nothing but motor oil.

Edward was nowhere to be found.

Unease trickled over me. The darkness pressed down; a sudden silence seemed to pulse with secrets and questions. My shoulders twitched as if I had a neon bull's-eye painted on my back.

walked around the Edsel. Where would I hide research, if I was the one doing the hiding?

I went through the car, the trunk, the glove compartment. Nothing there but leaves, so I crawled underneath, checked the carriage, the tires, the ground, but there was no sign of any recent disturbance.

1 began to get the drift that the phone call hadn't been on the up-and-up.

Crawling out from under the car, I jogged back the way I'd come. I'd reached the main thoroughfare through the center of the junkyard, little more than a large space between the wrecks, when I stopped.

Clouds danced past the moon, spreading a ghostly, flickering light. Shadows danced among the dead vehicles. Something slunk low in the tall grass at the edge of the clearing.

The breeze whispered, caressing my skin, making me shiver. Something was here. I turned in a slow circle and my fingers brushed fur.

Glancing at my hand, I scowled. I could still feel the tactile impression, but I saw nothing.

A body thumped into the back of my legs, sending me forward. I tripped over an invisible barrier and slammed into the ground.

Flipping onto my back, I tensed in expectation of an attack. None came.

More edgy than I'd ever been, I got to my feet. The hair on my arms and at the back of my neck vibrated with awareness. I couldn't run; I couldn't just stand here and let whatever was stalking me do its worst. I had power of my own, but in human form I was as helpless as everyone else.

As I tilted my face to the moon, Jessie's jeans split at the seams; so did her shirt. My shoes cracked open with an annoyingly ripe shriek, and I was free.

The odd, faint scent of wolf distracted me. I heard them growling, pacing, hunting, but all I saw were wisps and shadows.

Nothing concrete. If I hadn't smelled wolves, heard them, too, I wouldn't have been able to distinguish just what it was that wavered here and there like ghosts.

A slight movement and I spun just as a shimmering shade blew through me. I was cold, then hot. I heard the whisper of a voice I couldn't understand, caught a glimpse of… something I couldn't quite place.

As I turned slowly with a stiff-legged gait, wavering entities surrounded me. I darted at one, but it danced out of my way. Another levitated, then flew off into the trees. A third let me catch it, but when I encountered the strange cold spot, the whisper, I yelped and backpedaled with all my might.

"Who's out there?"

I froze at the strange voice and ducked behind a rusted pickup truck. A graying, grizzled old man wandered through the wrecks. The night watchman or maybe the owner, he carried a rifle; however, that wasn't what made the ruff on the back of my neck lift.

A low rumble spread across the night. A distinct io warning, which the man didn't appear to hear, even when the growl increased in volume and was joined by several others.

Shadows flickered, circled, converged.

Torn, I perched near the left truck tire, hoping whatever stalked the junkyard would go away. A pained whine erupted from my mouth, and the man's gaze swung in my direction. Me, he could hear.

I ducked low and hid behind the bumper. The shadows inched closer; the growls escalated to snarls. I had no choice.

Though the ghostly wolves might not be able to hurt me, they might hurt him. I couldn't let an innocent civilian be bitten or killed by Lord knows what.

Bursting from cover, I ran straight at the first shadow in my path. I braced for the disturbing cold spot; nevertheless when I thundered through it I lost my footing, then tumbled across the grass, snarling, snapping at half a dozen other cold spots.

I reached my feet, spun about, saw nothing and felt even less. Were they gone?

Panting, I paced. Too much power, too much adrenaline. I had to fight something. Kill it and now.

I caught a faint scent and followed it to the trees. Diving in, I sensed them all around me. My lip curled. I showed them my teeth.

Come on! I wanted to shout. I can take you. I can take all of you.

The foliage shivered. The odd smell faded. They had run because they were afraid, and I loved it.

Tingling, I shook my fur as if I'd just stepped out of an icy river. Unable to contain myself, I tilted my nose to the moon and howled.

As the sound of my exultation faded, the wind whispered, and this time I understood the words.

Give in to the power. Embrace what you are and discover the secret you seek.

I contemplated the message as the rushing of my blood and the racing of my heart lessened. The air seemed cooler, the moon brighter, the trees taller, and the grass softer, more fragrant.

My head buzzed with the glory, the mystery, the strength, which was the only reason I forgot about the watchman until the squelch of a shoe against wet earth made me remember. By then it was too late.

He shot me.

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