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Hunter's Moon (Chapter 37)

Edward's gun was pressed to Damien's head the next instant.

"No!" I shouted, tugging at the ropes. "Edward, you promised me you'd take care of him."

Edward frowned, confused. "I am taking care of him."

"You know I didn't mean for you to kill him."

"I do?"

The room was suddenly pandemonium, everyone talking at once.

In the midst of everything, Damien's eyes met mine. I saw no one but him. He'd revealed himself for me.

Knowing Edward, he would die for it.

"Silence," Elise snapped.

Amazingly, everyone complied.

"I don't need the blood of a live werewolf in human form right now." She lifted her hand out of the bag.

Her fingers held a full syringe. "I already have it."

"Oops," Damien murmured.

"Yes." Edward shoved the gun into Damien's ear. "Oops."

"Take it outside," Elise ordered.

"No." I struggled, again to no avail. "Don't hurt him. He's not what you think."

"Not the fanged and furry?" Jessie asked. "What exactly does werewolf mean, Leigh?"

"He's different."

"That is what they all say," Edward murmured.

"Why don't you tell us what you're talking about?" This was Will, a voice of reason always. Despite his Forrest Gump manner, he was starting to grow on me.

"The brown wolf," I blurted. "The one that was killing the others but not eating them."

"You?" Jessie asked Damien.

He tried to nod, but it was a little hard with a gun in his ear.

"Him," I confirmed. "He's been helping us."

"No, he's been helping Hector." Jessie drew her weapon.

"He didn't know about the legend."

Jessie rolled her eyes. "Are you that naive?"

My body stiffened as if I'd been hit with a cattle prod. Every muscle, every joint, tightened in agony. My eyes bugged.

I saw the moon, felt its sheen on my skin like a caress. Then it was gone, and I lay there panting, aching, bleeding, but there was no blood.

"I'd like to inject this before the first change," Elise said. "Upsetting her is only making that happen more quickly. Perhaps we could let him live until I'm done here?"

"Fine, whatever." Jessie put up her gun.

"Edward?" Elise murmured.

Edward's gaze flicked toward her, then away. "I will not shoot him. Unless he makes me. But I will not put away my weapon."

He removed the gun from Damien's ear – barely. With Edward, that was the best I could hope for.

The fit, or whatever it had been, passed. I was covered with sweat. My skin seemed too small, the hair on my arms too big. My scalp tingled, as did the base of my spine. Hell, I was probably sprouting a tail.

"Get on with it," I ordered.

Elise stuck me. Frowning, she depressed the syringe and shot every last drop into my vein.

She pulled the needle out, pressed a cotton pad to the prick, lifted it, scowled. "No blood," she murmured. "The wound healed already."

"Is that good or bad?"

"I have no idea."

Oh, yeah, I was the guinea pig.

I waited for… something. What I got was nothing at all.

Everyone stared at me. I stared back. We waited for what seemed like forever but was probably only an hour.

"How do you feel, Leigh?" Elise asked for the fifth time.

"Fine," I repeated.

"Any strange visions, odd pains?"

"Not anymore."

"I'll stay with her," she said.

"No," Edward stated, gun still pointed at Damien.

"If she hasn't changed by morning, the serum works. There's no reason for all of us to stay here. Don't you have something to do?"

Edward glanced at Damien. "Why, yes, I do."

"No!" I said. "If the serum works, we can use it on him."

Damien blinked. His eyes met mine; something flickered in the gray-green depths. I think it was hope.

"She's right," Elise murmured.

Edward scowled, but he lowered his gun. "Do not make me come after you. You will not like what happens then."

"I'm not leaving Leigh. Ever."

"If the serum does not work, I will kill you."

"If the serum doesn't work, I'll let you."

The world receded, but at least I didn't smell the forest, hear the trees, feel the wind. I didn't taste blood; I didn't even want to. I had to sleep. But before I did, just in case I never woke up, I wanted one last kiss.

"Damien," I whispered.

He knelt by the bed. His fingertips brushed my hand. I turned my face, and his mouth was there. How had he known what I wanted without my saying a word?

The kiss was gentle, sweet, everything I could ask for in a final embrace. His tongue tasted of mint –

fresh and clean, new. He nibbled my lower lip, rubbed his thumb along my cheekbone.

"Reverse Sleeping Beauty complex," Jessie muttered. "His kiss puts her to sleep."

I fell into the satin darkness with a smile on my face as his breath mingled with mine.

There was a tunnel or maybe a cave. Dark, not a flicker of light to stay away from – or perhaps run to.

But the darkness was peaceful. There was no one there but me. No Jimmy, no family, but the best part
… no Hector. I went down that tunnel gladly and fell off the edge of the world.

The next instant, or so it seemed, I jerked awake. I was alone, and the gray light of dawn shivered on the horizon. I looked down. I was still me. No fangs, no fur. It was a good day.

A soft footfall drew my attention to the door. Damien stood in the entryway, barefoot, tousled, his chin shadowed, skin pale. For an instant I wondered what had happened to the good doctor; then I realized I didn't care. Damien was here. He was the only one I wanted to see right now.

"Did you sleep?" I asked.

"Of course not."

"Wanna come to bed?"

His eyes widened. His mouth opened, then shut. He shrugged.

"Untie me."

"Leigh – " he began.

"Do it, Damien. I won't bite." I let a slow smile spread across my face. "Unless you want me to."

He crossed the room, stood over the bed, staring down at me. Suddenly I was embarrassed. Wanting him at a time like this – what was the matter with me?

"You don't have to untie me," I muttered. "Maybe you shouldn't."

"We can't – "

"We can. I think we've proved that quite a few times."

"But we've never…"

He was having a helluva time articulating this morning.

"Are you trying to say that we've never been together when I knew what you were and I knew that you knew what I was?"

He gave a half-laugh. "Something like that."

"Why do you think I want us to be together now?"

He lifted his eyes. There was that hope again.

"Why?" he whispered.

I'd awoken this morning a human being. No tail, no snout, no savage bloodlust. Maybe, one day, Damien would, too. And if he could, then we might have a future. All I had to do was kill the demon who wanted to mate with me beneath the full moon.

My life – what can I say? – it wasn't for sissies.

"Why?" I repeated. "Because I love you."

I hadn't planned to say that. What if I had to shoot him? But what if he died – what if I did – before I told him the truth? At least Jimmy had known how I felt and he'd died without discovering how I'd betrayed him.

I pushed away the thought. I needed to let the past go and focus on the future. I'd been close to death and worse last night. Every day from now on was a gift.

Dwelling on what I'd done, punishing myself with it, was getting me nowhere. I needed to live or get out of the game. With Damien in my life, I knew which one I would choose.

He knelt by the bed. His clever fingers released the knots. My hands went around his neck and pulled him close.

"Tell me again," he demanded.

"I love you."

Our lips met and I forgot everything but him. There was no one, nothing, else. No werewolves, no demons, no power eaters. Just Damien and me – until Edward walked in.

I had my tongue down Damien's throat; he had his hand up my shirt. A gasp from the doorway made us freeze. I glanced past Damien's shoulder and met the shocked eyes of the man who'd saved, then given me back, my life.

"You have lost your mind."

Damien yanked his hand out of my shirt and tried to pull away. I held on, kissed his cheek, smoothed his hair, then let him go.

"Maybe." Standing, I crossed the room and stopped right in front of Edward. "But it's my mind."

"I see now why you didn't want him dead." He shook his head. "I thought better of you, Leigh."

I frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Werewolves are…" He seemed to struggle for the words. "Accomplished at the physical."

"Is that your way of saying they're great in the sack?"

He winced. "If you must. They are carnal creatures. Their senses are heightened. They have lived long enough to learn many things."

I glanced at Damien. He shrugged. What could he say? He knew how to make me scream. Let's shoot him.

"I should have warned you of their allure. But I thought after Hector you would understand."

"Leave Hector out of this. They're nothing alike."

"No? Did they not both seduce you while in human form? Hector killed everyone you ever loved in order to have you. How do you know this animal will not do the same?"

"Because he won't."

The excuse sounded lame, even to my own ears. Edward actually laughed in my face. "If you needed a boyfriend, why not pick one with the same interests as you?"

"I did. He's been killing werewolves for months."

"So he says."

"So I've seen. Tell him, Damien. Tell him what you told me about the magic woman in Arkansas."

Edward stopped laughing. His faded blue eyes sharpened. "What is this?"

Quickly Damien told him his story. I give Edward credit: he listened. He no longer laughed, so I pressed the advantage.

"He was with you last night. Did he kill anyone?"

The two of them exchanged glances.

"What?" I demanded.

Edward cleared his throat. "You've been asleep longer than one night."

"How long?"

"The hunter's moon is tonight," Damien told me.

I let that sink in. Well, at least I wouldn't have to wait around to find out if my life was over or just begun.

I scowled at Edward. "That just makes my point stronger. What true werewolf could hold back from killing this close to a full moon?"

"That is true," Edward murmured. "I'd hoped he would lose his patience so I could – " He broke off.

"No wonder you were so agreeable. You thought he'd be unable to resist all that tender meat. Then you could kill him."

Edward shrugged, unrepentant.

"But he didn't."

"No, he did not." Edward stared at Damien as if he were a bug under a microscope. "Maybe what has happened to him could be of help to Elise."

"Maybe. If you don't shoot him."

"Fine. He lives. For now. But please refrain from sucking face around me. It makes me ill."

"Sucking face?" Damien asked.

"He hears things on television." I shrugged. "He's still lost in the forties."

"Me, too."

It hit me then that Edward and Damien were compatriots. They would be of an age if Damien hadn't become a werewolf. Still, I doubted they'd embrace and become best friends – even if Elise's serum was a success.

"When will Elise test the cure on Damien?" I asked.

"When she returns from the lab with more."

I frowned. "She's gone?"

"As soon as she knew you were all right, she left for Montana to make more serum and…" He hesitated.

"There are some other issues she must deal with at headquarters. She will return after the hunter's moon."

Footsteps pounded outside. Jessie and Will spilled into the room. "We figured out how to get Hector,"

Jessie said.

Will's glasses were crooked, his hair all mussed. It appeared that he and Jessie had been sucking face, too. "He doesn't know about the serum."

The light dawned. "He thinks I'll change. He'll be coming after me."

"No, Leigh," Damien said. "He's dangerous."

My eyes met his. "He'll be coming after you, too. You're the sacrifice."

Our eyes met. We had to do this together if we wanted any kind of future.

Damien took my hand. He'd be right next to me tonight. Suddenly I felt as if I could accomplish anything.

I doubted the feeling would last.

You'd think we'd have all sorts of preparations to make, but since we were basically going to let Hector get away with it, our business was to wait. Not my strong suit.

"You cannot go out and about today, Leigh," Edward warned. "Hector could be anywhere. He could be anyone."

"I thought we wanted him to snatch me."

"We do not want him to know you have been cured. What would you do if you had been bitten, then changed?"

"Kill myself."

"Besides that?" Jessie asked.

"How should I know?"

Everyone glanced toward Damien, who shrugged. "You wouldn't kill yourself, Leigh. Not once you'd changed. Then you'd be different. You'd no longer be like you; you'd be like him."

Swell. "What did you do? That first time?"

"Went mad in the woods. Munched on Nazis. A few Allies, too. It was a werewolf buffet over there."

"The good old days," Jessie muttered.

I shot her a warning glare. Damien was trying to help us. She needed to let him.

"He was in the war?" Edward glanced in my direction. Why he couldn't just ask Damien the question I have no idea. Except he wasn't used to conversing with werewolves – only killing them.

"He was bitten after the invasion," I explained. "He was a soldier."

"Bitten by one of Mengele's wolves."

"Looks that way."

Edward sighed. He still felt guilty that he'd been unable to prevent the release of the monsters in the Black Forest. He'd dedicated his life to righting what he considered his greatest wrong.

I returned my attention to Damien. "What did you do in the days after you'd shifted the first time?"

"Slept. The physical changes take some getting used to."

"Sleeping sounds good."

Even though I'd slept most of the night, I was exhausted.

"Then you will sleep," Edward ordered. "The rest of us will watch."

"Like hell."

"I didn't mean watch you sleep. I meant watch this place."

"You don't think Hector will be watching us, too? Or one of his wolf boys?"

"I know how to watch a residence, Leigh. I am not completely senile. Yet."

I had a thought – one I should have had before, but I'd been a little busy.

"Did Cora have any fascinating ideas on how to kill Hector?"

Jessie and Will shook their heads. "Nothing more than what she told us the first time."

"Terrific."

"I have an idea," Will said.

"I'm glad someone does."

"Often doing the opposite of a ritual will reverse the outcome."

"English, Slick."

He blinked and adjusted his glasses. "I thought that was."

"Do you have any idea what he was talking about?" Jessie asked.

I shrugged.

"If the ritual is…"

Was he blushing? I kind of thought so.

"The ritual is doing me under the hunter's moon in front of all the other wolves."

"Right. So not doing you will keep him from becoming all-powerful."

"That works well for me. But how do we kill the son of a bitch?"

"He became a Weendigo by killing, then eating the flesh of his enemy. Reverse it."

I thought about what he'd said. "His enemy kills, then eats him?"

"Can't hurt."

Yes, it could. Because Hector's enemy was me.

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