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Hunter's Moon (Chapter 32)

"Fuck me," I muttered.

"I think that's what he has in mind."

"Now what?" I asked, which seemed to be the question of the week.

"Now we keep blasting wolves whenever the opportunity presents itself, search for their lair, keep an eye out for Hector night and day, and dig, dig, dig some more for a way to end this before the moon gets full."

"Because if we don't?"

"You get to do the dirty in front of every werewolf in town."

I wanted to say something flippant, but my voice betrayed me. All I could do was move my mouth. No sound came out.

Jessie appeared concerned. She moved closer and patted me on the back, hard enough to make me choke, then cough. At least it was something.

"I'm OK," I managed.

"Will wants to go back to Cora's. Borrow some of her books. Wanna come?"

She was babysitting me. I wasn't going to let her.

"No. I've got things to do."

Jessie frowned. "But – "

"If what you say is true, I'm safe until the full moon. If it's even Hector."

"We both know it's Hector, Leigh."

I shifted my shoulders. Pain flashed across my skin. Yeah, we did.

"I need some sleep," I said. "Why don't you come back here with the books. I'll order pizza. We'll brainstorm, then go out and kill things. It'll be a girls' night out."

She hesitated. "You promise you'll stay inside until we get back?"

"Yes, Mother."

Her eyes narrowed, but she got off the couch and moved toward the door. She seemed to have no ill effects from her own shoulder wound. I was glad.

Jessie paused with her hand on the doorknob. "We know what they're up to, Leigh. That means we're one step ahead of them. I've got a good feeling about this."

"Well then, everything's gonna be all right."

Her lips twitched. She almost laughed. "Keep on being a smart guy. You know how I love that."

The door shut behind her. I looked around the rented room, took in my bag and my laptop. I had no address but .com, no closet but a suitcase. I was suddenly sick of having nowhere to call home. When had that happened?

I lay down, tried to sleep. Drifted in and out. But every time I closed my eyes I saw the mine, those human bones. There was something weird about that. They were almost like a warning.

I sat bolt upright in my bed. We'd never gone past those bones and suddenly I wanted to.

I glanced at the window. Night was falling. I must have drifted further than I'd thought.

I'd promised Jessie I wouldn't go outside, definitely shouldn't at this time of night. Oh well, I'd never been very good at keeping promises. Remember the one I'd made to Jimmy?

I got dressed, grabbed a few guns, some ammo, then walked downstairs.

Damien's cabin was dark. However, the bar was lit up like a major-league baseball field during the seventh-inning stretch.

I headed in that direction. Even Jessie couldn't get mad at me for investigating with Damien at my side.

What better backup than a werewolf? Too bad I couldn't tell her that.

Stepping inside the tavern, I frowned. The place was empty, except for the shoes, wallets, purses, keys, and little piles of clothing.

My fingers tightened on my rifle. Their lair had been here all the time.

Damien had to have known. Why hadn't he told me?

Of course, I hadn't asked. Who'd have suspected they were changing right underneath my nose? Talk about hiding in plain sight.

My plans changed. I'd just sit down and wait for them to come back.

I thought of how many I'd kill tonight. Maybe even Hector, though I doubted it. He wouldn't be dumb enough to show his face here.

So why was my scar burning as if it were a fresh, new wound?

"Waitin' for someone?"

I gasped and spun toward the bar. Cowboy stood on top, leering, snarling, or whatever the hell it was he did with his lip.

"Uh, yeah, well, I was looking for Damien."

Cowboy narrowed his eyes. "He ain't around."

"I see that."

"Yer not gonna ask why everyone's clothes are all over the floor?"

"Why?"

He snorted. "You know why."

Cowboy jumped off the bar, his boots clicking on the wood floor as he meandered toward me. I kept my hands on my guns, my eyes on his face. I'd crossed him off as a werewolf long ago, but maybe that hadn't been such a bright idea. I'd figured if he was a shifter he'd have cured whatever ailment had made him a midget in the first place. But maybe he hadn't. Maybe he liked being small. Maybe it got him ignored.

He stopped only a foot away from me. "I got some-thin' to show you."

He began to unbutton his shirt. I backed toward the door. "Uh, no thanks."

He smiled. "You don't mind seeing Damien's chest, but you don't want to see mine?"

"That about sums it up."

"Believe me, Leigh, you're gonna want to see this."

Somehow I doubted that. I reached for the doorknob. My hand touched the brass just as Cowboy's shirt fell open.

The pentagram tattoo on his breastbone gleamed black against his pale, smooth skin. I couldn't move.

Couldn't breathe.

I lifted my gaze from his chest to his face. His eyes were weird – water flowing under dark ice. I stood there staring as Cowboy's black irises turned blue.

"Oh, God," I whispered.

His face was flowing now, the skin rippling like Silly Putty. I could see another face beneath, fighting to get out.

Was he getting taller? Broader? When had Cowboy grown a goatee?

The tavern spun. Tiny black spots flickered in front of my eyes. I fought the weakness, but it didn't do any good.

"Querida,"  he murmured. "I've missed you."

I passed out cold at the toe of itty-bitty boots, which had suddenly burst open at the seams.

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