Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

By Elena

Disclaimer:

Just your average run of the mill standard disclaimer. The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and all their friends belong in their entirety to Universal and Renaissance, and to their writers and whoever else owns the property. No copyright infringement was intended. I just want to borrow these lovely characters and play with them for a bit. I promise to pick-up my toys when I'm through. Any other characters in the story come from somewhere inside my grey matter, and are not taken from any literary source or any other source whatsoever. If you're going to blame someone, blame me. But be warned I'm still paying off my student debt so I ain't rich!

Violence:

Well, yeah. Quite a bit of slice and dice, some may be a bit graphic. Werewolves are rather messy you know.

Sex and Subtext:

Not in this particular one. Not everyone jumps in the sack on the first date. There will be just a wee bit latter on. One warning though. This series involves the idea that love knows no gender. So if homosexuality or bi-sexuality bothers you click the back button, delete, close, or whatever and move on.

Type: This is the first story in my new werewolf series. No, it's not complete. This is just the start. It is the first in a four part interconnected series. There will be Xena-Uberness in this for those who know how to watch for it.

Constructive comments can be sent to: elena@beltran.nu


 

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the lord my soul to take.

  • Childís Prayer

 

Prelude

A lone figure walked cautiously through the wooded park. His head darted quickly from side to side, nostrils flaring to catch any hint of the presence that was stalking him. As his breath came quicker he could feel the tangy steel of cold fear seep through his jacket and clothes to permeate his skin. All around the woods for a several meters now he had been aware of the haunting stillness. The predatory instincts that had been honed over Marcus Bradyís life time now told him that someone or something was stalking him.

Normally this would be highly amusing. The feral look about the manís eyes told of toughness that no one would want to test. No one sane anyhow. A low growl escaped through his teeth, and he mentally clamped down his throat when he felt a slight whine on the end of the deep rumble.

This is ridiculous. Whoever the hell is stalking me is going to get one big, furry surprise! He thought, quickening his pace unconsciously. Probably some spook, board with houses and deciding to have a little fun in the woods tonight. Definitely not lupine. Flaring his nostrils again, he failed again to detect any hint of one of his kind. What in the HELL is that smell?

His last thoughts fled his mind as all of his instincts screamed at him to do something and to it fast. A tall, vaguely human like blackness suddenly appeared on the path in front of him. Rearing back in shock and surprise Marcus triggered the magic within him. Magic passed down through generations that made Marcus and his family, his clan, something most modern people dismissed as fantasy and myth. The change ripped though his body as branches and small plants parted way for the immense form now occupying the spot where Marcus last stood. A nine-foot, fur covered, powerful form with ripping teeth and claws now stood in his place with Marcusí eyes.

A deep, nasty laugh issued from the black form as the beast gathered itself to pounce. Pulling out what appeared to be a small sword the tall form slashed easily down in front of him just as Marcus descended. The figure sidestepped the falling beast as it crashed to the ground.

"Piece of cake." He said, as he extended a toe and rolled the now prone beast onto its back. He then reached inside of the perfect vertical slash that had penetrated the sinew muscle and bone of the beastís chest to remove its now still heart.

Smiling as he stepped away from the cooling flesh, he turned and walked down the path and out of the park. The final change coming over the beast as Marcus now lay on the path in its place. A gaping wound in his chest, eyes glazed over in fear.

 

Chapter #1

A young man walked up to the front door of the huge house. His short brown hair ruffled slightly in the breeze as he stood on the stoop after pressing the doorbell. As he stood waiting the gentle breeze brought to him the smell of horses. He looked out to the side of the house to see the vast expanse of land that was bordered by a picket fence. The young man turned back towards the door as a tall slightly grey hair gentleman in a non-descript navy suit of the butler variety opened the door wider to admit him, after recognizing the young man.

"Is she in her office?" Jessan, asked, handing the butler his long coat.

"Yes, Master Jessan." Alfred answered, in a clipped English accent, "Though you may be taking your life into your own hands if you disturber her. Iíve heard a few crashes from the room in the past hour." The butler finished, moving to a side closet and hanging Jessanís coat on a hanger within.

"Iíll heed the warning and go in low." Replied the younger man with a roguish grin and wink as he headed down the hall to the work office. As he neared the door to the office he heard a sudden string of explaritives followed by a large thump. Cautiously her opened the door and peeked inside the large room.

Looking around the room Jessan took in the two far walls lined floor to ceiling with books. A small ladder stood near the farther wall next to the built-in bookshelf. Next to it was placed two huge overstuffed leather chairs arranged before a small fireplace; a breakfast table stood to the side of one of the chairs. The remains of a fairly hearty lunch cooled on dishes on top of the tray. Daring to step further into the room Jessan finally laid eyes upon his quarry seated at the large oak desk.

Jamie McConnor sat at her keyboard typing angrily at the keys. The compact black hair woman clenched and unclenched her jaw repeatedly as she stared at the laptop screen in front of her. Papers were strewn around the desk, as well as a few pencils and pens. Stepping further into the room and closing the door silently behind him Jessan could see various crumpled pieces of paper along with some of the nick-knacks that he knew to have previously rested on the desk scattered in a semi circular pattern outward from the large oak desk. At that moment the woman before him let out a primeval growl and slammed her hands solidly into the desk at either side of the laptop.

"Take it easy cuz! Youíre scaring old Alfred." Jessan chided the young woman, who was now looking at him in complete surprise.

"Jessan! I didnít think youíd be back from LA so soon!" Jamie exclaimed. Suddenly she vaulted over the desk and stood in front of Jessan before he could reply. Throwing her arms around her cousin she embraced him with surprising strength.

"Ooof!" Jessan huffed as his breath left his lungs in a rush. "Not so hard!" He chided, though his grin grew wider and he returned his cousinís hug with loving vigor.

"Getting soft?" Jamie pulled back from the embrace to look at her cousin with slightly narrowed eyes. Jessan almost had time to react as he caught the gleam in her deep blue eyes. Suddenly he was being thrown to the ground as Jamie then pounced on to his chest, effectively trapping him. Dancing blue eyes met his own slightly lighter blue ones as his small cousin grinned down evilly at him. He bunched his muscles to push himself up and away from her as she sat back on her heals.

Jamie laughed as Jessanís eyes widened in surprise as he found himself unable to shift her off of himself. "You are way to strong for a female!" He exclaimed.

Jamie simply laughed and rose to her feet. She then extended a hand to help her cousin off the floor.

"Donít hurt Jessan to much, Jamie." A deep voice came from the doorway. Jacob McConnor glanced briefly about the room and walked further into the small office. His eyes came to rest on the disheveled form of his nephew, secretary, and general errand boy, Jessan. The youth returned his gaze ruefully.

Jacob greeted his nephew, inquiring about the business that had sent the youth on his recent trip to the cost. "Were you able find out about that stone?"

Jessan shook his head in the negative. "No, Uncle. Your friend had no idea what it was."

"HmmÖwell I didnít think he would but it never hurts to make sure." Jacob replied, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

Drawing back slightly to look at his niece Jacob raised his eyebrows slightly. ""Any more nightmares?" He asked.

Sighing Jamie moved away from him to her desk. "Iím actually getting use to them now. Besides, as you can see, Iíve gotten a bit of my aggressions out and I feel a lot better." The crocked smirk didnít quite reach her eyes.

"A bit of aggression?" Jessan asked, "Iíd hate to think of the fate of this house if you let any more out!"

"Hmm, how about the fate of the city?" Jacobís deep voice added.

"Hey! I heard that!" Jamie exclaimed, "Iím not that bad."

Once again, two sets of eyebrows raised at that. "Not that bad, cuz?" Jessan voiced. "You are only the clanís best warrior. Hell, you kicked all of the Fenris army last year. With a broken arm!"

"Hmm, perhaps weíre lucky youíre not the PMS type." Came her uncleís surprising rejoinder. "Now let go eat before everything gets cold, hmm?" He continued on into the dinning room before either of them could recover from his last statement.

Jessan and Jamie followed their uncle into the dinning room where Alfred had laid out their meal without another word.

It was as the three of them were finishing dinner that they received the news. Jacob was just rising from his seat as a group of rough looking teenagers walked in through the double oak doors. They were all dressed in rather worn looking black leather jackets with a faded silver full moon flanked by claw marks on the backs. The five visitors looked somewhere between fifteen and twenty years old. The leader of the small group stepped forward as Jacob raised his eyebrows expectantly.

"My liege," the young girl with long blond curled hair addressed him. She made a fist with her right hand and thumped her chest, saluting him. "And Lady." The teenager added as she made the same salute to Jamie.

"What brings you here tonight, Ephany?" Jacob asked after returning her salute.

Brown eyes looked solemnly at the older man, "Marcus is missing." Ephany replied.

Jamie raised one dark eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. "Marcus is often Ďmissingí." She drawled, "Heís probably wandering around one of the more open parks, hunting."

Ephany shook her head, "I donít think itís that simple this time." She was about to say more when one of the other of the five spoke up.

"He was supposed to meet us at the Foundlingís Moon last night for the bandís performance." The other young woman said, looking out from a mop of unruly brown dread-locks. "Marcus never misses a show. This was an important one since that recording agent was there. The one he got a hold of for us."

"Well maybe this was the first." Jamie said. "Not like he hasnít missed other important engagements in the past."

The brown hair young woman ground her teeth slightly before replying, "Look, I know you and Marcus have some history Jamie but weíre serious about this. Something doesnít smell right."

At that Jacob narrowed his eyes and turned to address the young man, "How do you mean Pony?"

The twenty-year-old looked at him, unconsciously standing straighter. "I mean, thereís a weird sent in the air. You know? But not in the main city. More like you can get a whiff of it as you get further out towards the woods. But not just in the outer woods. We were over at Central Park earlier and got just a hint of it."

Ephany shifted slightly and said, "Itís likeÖhell! I canít even describe what itís like." Pony nodded. "But every one of us knew weíd smelled something like it before. Just canít remember where."

The three other gang members behind Ephany and Pony nodded in agreement. Jamieís nostrils flared slightly as she unconsciously tried to pickup any strange scents. Although, if what the gang members were saying was true, with her uncleís house in the middle of the city that would be unlikely.

Iíll just have to do a little Ďrec and orderí latter I guess. She thought with a barley perceptual smile. Itís been a long time since I went hunting. Maybe itíd help get rid of this excess energy and I can sleep in peace tonight.

All assembled in the large dinning room jumped slightly at the doorbell. Jessan flashed Jamie a sheepish grin as he wiggled a finger in his ear. Ah, the curse of using heightened senses! She thought looking towards the door just before Alfred entered with a nod to those gathered.

"Officer Barns to see you, sir." He said nodding once more towards Jacob.

Well thatís a bit prophetic. Jacob thought as his internal alarms began to go off. Outwardly he maintained a calm demeanor. "Thank you Alfred, please show him to my study. Iíll be with him momentarily." He replied; at which Alfred bowed slightly and left the room. Turning to the five gang members he said, "Iíll be back shortly. In the meantime, why donít you enjoy a drink with Jamie and Jessan? Hmm?" With that he left.

Taking a deep breath Jessan asked aloud, "What can I get everyone? Jamie, Ephany? Guinness isnít it?" To which both women nodded. "What about the rest of you, hmm?" Requests spoken in his direction as he turned to retrieve the various drinks from the small bar at the back of the room.

Two police officers awaited Jacob as he entered his large study. The taller of the two officers he knew as Kenneth Barns. The dark blond hair man smiled and nodded at Jacob as he entered the room. Barns turned to introduce the other officer at his side. "This Robert Andersen, sir. Heís from part of the northern clan. Andersen, this is Jacob McConnor. Heís the head of the Midwest tribe."

"Hello, sir." The younger officer steeped forward to shake Jacobís hand. His grey eyes suddenly widened in recognition. "Oh! I thought you looked familiar!" Andersen exclaimed, giving Jacob a friendly smile.

"Have we met? Iím afraid I donít recognize you." Jacob answered as he returned Andersenís greeting.

"Actually, we didnít get introduced or anything like that. I heard you give a speech up at the northern convention last year." Andersen explained as Jacob indicated for all of them to have a seat.

"HmmmÖyes. That was quite an interesting convention." Jacob said as he took his seat. The group of leather wingback chairs and full size leather coach was situated around the brick fireplace. "Now then, Barns. What news do you have for me? By your expression, I assume Iím not going to be too pleased."

Barns cleared his throat as he flipped open his notebook. "No, sir. I donít think you will." He shifted slightly forward in his chair as he read his notes to Jacob. "Donít suppose youíve heard about Marcus Bradyís disappearance yet?" When Jacob nodded his head yes, Barns continued. "Well, I should suppose them band friends of his got word to you. Anyhow, weíre keeping a few things out of the Ďpublic-eyeí on that one. Seems that Marcus managed to run up against something a bit bigger and badder than himself last night. We just got done at the autopsy before coming here."

Jacob raised an eyebrow at the silence that followed. "Something else you boys want to tell me?"

Barns continued grimly, "Something ripped his heart out before he died. Coroner has no clue what could have managed that seeing as how he was in wolf-man form at the time."

"Johnson do the autopsy on him?" Jacob asked.

"Yup. Said it had an odd smell too." Andersen answered him.

Jacob regarded the two for a moment, "Odd smell? Are we talking figuratively here?"

"No, sir." Barns said, "I took a peak too. The chest cavity had a sort of funny smell to it. Like when you blessed Amy and the little guy last month, only a hell of a lot more sinister."

"Thatís not all, sir." Andersen said, fiddling about with the zipper on his over jacket. "We found Steve Lang last night too." He handed Jacob the folder with the two reports he had been holding.

At this Jacob sat fully upright in his chair, "What?!?"

"UmmÖbunco guys found him down by the old mills around eleven last night. Johnson did his topsy to. Same condition. Same weird smellÖ" Barns answered, trailing off nervously as Jacobs eyes began to glow a dangerous red.

A weighted silence settled over the group. Jacobís throaty growl cut through the room, making Barns and Andersen nervous as their primeval cores responded to the noise. Rising abruptly, Jacob began to pace in front of the two officers.

"Steve has been incommunicado for a week now, but he had just begun a spirit quest so I thought heíd be away for a bit anyhow." Jacob informed the two men who watched him as he wore a path in the thick carpet.

"UmÖIím afraid thatís not all, sir." Andersen spoke up, interrupting Jacobís furious pacing. "Thereís been some rumblings in the community too. What with the weirdness of the killings and all." He trailed off as Jacob stared at him intently.

"I thought this was being kept out of the media." Jacob asked.

"Well, yes and no." Barns answered, when it appeared that his younger partner could not. "Marcusí death will be released in tomorrowís paper. It just won't have all the gory details. The department has no intention of releasing any information for Mr. Langís death."

"Then how did the community find out about this?" Jacob asked, resuming his seat but sitting on the edge of the worn leather chair.

"We donít know." Andersen answered, finding his voice again. "There were no leaks from within the department that the Captain could detect." He took a steadying breath as the older man across from him fixed his eyes once again on him. The powerful presence of the man was unsettling him, to say the least. "We believe that someone from outside the community, a non-werewolf, has been spreading the information on the two deaths around."

Jacob leaned back in his chair as he considered the young manís last words. Dammit! This is getting weirder than snake shoes! Aloud he spoke to the two officers, "Well, Iíll take this to the council tomorrow and we will decide what course of action to take." He rose from his seat. The two officers stood as well, realizing the meeting was over. "In the meantime," Jacob added, as he walked the two to the studyís door, "Please keep me informed if anything else is found. Keep all information underwraps as much as possible. We do not need a panic on our hands."

After seeing the two men to the front door Jacob returned to the dinning room to let the others know that Marcus had been killed. After a shocked silence Ephany and Pony tilted their heads back in a full mourning howl. The sound filled the large room, being picked-up by the rest of the gang members. Jamie and Jessan lowered their heads in respect as the howls began to die down.

Clearing his throat Jacob announced that he would make a general announcement to the community to call a day of mourning for Marcus. He added that although Marcus was clanless he had often helped the Children of Gaia in the past, and that was the least he could do in the manís memory. Satisfied with this Ephany led the gang silently out. Jamie squeezed Ephanyís shoulder in sympathy as she passed her. The blond gave her a sad smile in return as she followed her friends out the door.

After the group had left Jacob turned to his niece and nephew, chewing slightly on his mustache as he thought about how to tell the two the rest of his news.

"Looks like thereís something else youíd like to share with us." Jessan observed wryly.

"And I bet weíre not going to like it either." Jamie said, still subdued.

Taking a deep breath the elder told them the rest of officer Barns and Andersenís news. Jamie sucked in a breath as she realized just what her uncle was leaving out when he mentioned that the information about the deaths was not leaked from the department.

"You think a mage group is doing this?" She asked him.

"Yes, at least thatís what my gut is telling me." Jacob answered her. "Could you get a hold of those friends of your, Jamie?"

Cool blue eyes regarded him as the young woman nodded. "Iíll call them tonight and see if I can talk to them tomorrow while you and Jessan head over to the elderís meeting."

Jacob rubbed his hands together briefly. "Ok then, boys and girls. This is probably going to get more messy before itís over, but lets try and keep as much of this to ourselves as we can, hmm?"

The younger werewolves agreed with him, as they departed each otherís company. Each with their own task to complete before the night's end.

 

Chapter #2

She was falling down into a blood filled haze. Sound and vision took on a hellish bent as she felt herself step sideways into a realm that she couldnít even fathom.

Where am I? Jamie thought as she scanned the lush green forest around her. Tall pines spread out around her where she stood in a small clearing. What is this place?

The smoking remains of a large fire stood in front of her. The dark hair womanís senses twitched as her keen nose picked up the lingering stench of burnt flesh. Ice blue eyes widened as her mind somehow recognized the smell. Oh Gods! Horse!

Deep cackling laughter echoed through the woods, as Jamieís head snapped up in alarm as she heard hoof beats pounding towards her. The young werewolf spun left and then right as she tried to place their approach.

Suddenly, she spotted a large jet-black stallion standing rigidly still about one hundred paces in front of her. The hairs at the nape of her neck bristled as she spotted the horseís black leather clad rider. Red eyes glinted back at her from a skull like helmet as rider and horse stared at her.

Jamie tried to move to attack, but found that her body would not obey her. To her utter disgust she felt fear flood through her. Strange images pounded through her brain as instincts screamed through her nerves while heavy hoofs pounded towards her.

A shrill metallic beep filtered through her hearing as she jerked awake. Reaching out a hand to slap the irritating beeping into submission Jamie fought to control her ragged breath. As she worked to get her breathing under control the young woman swung her feet over the side of the huge bed to rest on the floor. Her T-shirt was soaked with sweat and she felt as if she had been running full out for hours.

Itís just a dream, Jamie! Get hold of yourself! Jamie chided herself in order to throttle down the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. The visions that had flooded her mind at the end had brought an overwhelming sense of terror and pain that confused her. Nothing in them had seemed familiar; they were images belonging to someone else.

The young woman stood up and walked around the large room. There was a slightly spartan look to the huge bedroom. A four poster bed was placed against one wall while a small fireplace, in front of which dark furs were placed on the hard wood floor, faced the bed across the room. A small wood desk sat in one corner of the room, and a large armoire in the other. Heavy glass double doors were set into the outside wall, out which a rolling countryside could be seen. A small inner door next to the desk led to a bathroom, and the young woman walked through this to get ready for the day.

As she brushed her teeth Jamie firmly pushed away the dream and thought back to her little bit of reconnoiter the past night. ĎRec and orderí. She thought, smiling slightly at the phrase her father had come up with to describe his only childís rather high-spirited ability to get into trouble. Memories of her fatherís warm deep voice dispelled any lingering effects of the dream as she turned on the water and jumped into the shower.

No sign of that weird smell. Nothing spooking the wildlife, no foot prints but Marcusís and Steveís. Jamieís memory replayed her search of the woods where the two killings had taken place. All she had sensed was the strange and vague feeling of someone hunting. Either hunting her of someone or something else, she had not been sure.

Jamie dressed quickly in jeans and a light wool sweater to keep out the fall chill. She hurried down the stairs to see Alfred shutting the front door. The old butler handed her mail and the morning paper as he greeted her.

"Lord Jacob left with Master Jessan this morning for the conclave. Would you like breakfast now, my Lady?" The grey hair butler asked.

"Sure, Alfred. Iíve got to check on Thena this morning before I head downtown."

 

After the hearty breakfast that Sarah, affectionately known as Cook, served her Jamie headed down to the stables. Her favorite mare Thena, short for Athena, had been laid up for the past three weeks after kicking a glass bottle which had been left behind by some vagrants camping out on their property. Jamie had been livid at the irresponsibility of the three old bums, tracking them down to an abandoned grain silo after walking the limping horse back to the stables. She had curbed her desires to hunt the idiots down as she stood with a gentle hand on the mareís bridal, while waiting for the vet to treat the injured hoof. Then she had strapped Flash, her war sword that had a line of silver running down the middle of the blade, to her back and went in search of her prey.

She found all three of them at the old wood sided silo. Outcast Garou who turned to look at her over the small fire they had been sitting around. Menace and furry passed over the three in waves as the woman before them drew her sword and stalked towards them. Cold blue eyes flashed red, and the three old men nearly wet themselves as they began to grovel on the ground.

At one time, not too long ago, Jamie would have slit each of their throats quite cheerfully without bothering to listen to the heartened pleas. NowÖwell she was getting better. The dark hair warrior stood before the three pitiful creatures, letting them grovel a bit before she had extracted a promise from them to cleanup the whole of her familyís property.

Thena proved to be healing very well. The stable veterinarian had been out in the field checking on the brood mares and their colts, so Jamie had talked to one of the stable hands. Removing the burlap wrap and bandage from Thenaís foot she inspected the hoof herself, pleased with the healed puncture site. Perhaps she could take the rambunctious mare out for some exercise in a couple of days.

After re-wrapping the wound Jamie stood and gave the horse the second apple. The large ghost white mare quickly reduced this apple to small bits as well, lapping the remains from her mistresses hand. The dark hair woman smiled gently at the horse as the mare butted her shoulder a bit with her large head. The woman gave the horse a good scratch right up to the ears, which flicked back and forth at her low voice. With a final pat Jamie left the horse and the stables to make her way to the dark blue Range Rover that was parked next to a few other cars in the yard.

Jamie drummed her fingers in time to the beat coming from the radio as she navigated around down town in search of a place to park. Finding one, she pulled in and hopped down from the large sport utility vehicle. After setting the car alarm she walked off down the block, adjusting her leather jacket against the strong down town wind.

The bookstore was at the end of a block of rather eclectic stores. Being an occult bookstore, Jamie thought it fit right in. Bells jingled merrily as she entered the bright and rather cheerful store. Low rows and display cases filled the store in an apparently haphazard pattern. A few over stuffed armchairs were also scattered around the walls. The woman at the main counter glanced up from where she was helping a customer and waved at the new arrival. Jamie waved back and raised her eyebrows pointing towards the curtain-lined back room. Diane nodded her curly shoulder length dark head and gave Jamie another smile before turning back to answer a question from the customer.

Jamie walked through the curtained door way and into the storeroom. A large man was bent over a box of new books in front of her. Dark eyes peered up at her from a bearded face, which broke into a grin as she moved further into the room.

"Hey! Jamie, come take a look at this." The man gestured her over to his side as he maneuvered a bit to allow her room to look at the book he had pulled from the box in front of him.

"Hey, Ted! How are you?" Jamie asked solicitously as she accepted the book and started to look through it.

"Ah now, canít complain." Ted Caffrey stood to his full six feet and some height and stretched his back with a pop. "How are you and that Uncle of yours doing? Heard you had just made a big sale to the Italians."

Jamie nodded her head in the affirmative as she finished perusing the book. "Yup, they wanted one of the two year olds from our Arabian stud. Thatís going to bring in a bit more after he gets shown over there."

Slapping the book against her hand lightly with excitement over those prospects she answered the rest of her friendís greeting. "Uncle Jacob is doing good. He wants to meet your brother some time and talk shaman stuff with him."

Ted folded his hands over his belly and grinned. "Yeah, Peter would like that. He likes not just having to hear himself talk."

Surprise wrung a bit of laughter out of her and she handed back the book to Ted. "I think you hit the nail on the head there. Here, this is interesting." She continued, pointing at the book. "Iíll have to look at it more sometime."

The large man moved with surprising grace for all his bulk as he shifted the box over to the side of the room and placed the book back into it. Turning back to Jamie he regarded her with a bit of humor.

"Ok, spill it. Itís not like you to not just come out and say why youíre here."

Jamie winced silently as she was reminded about her rather brash and direct nature. "Well, itís a bit of a delicate matter." She said, rubbing the back of her neck uncomfortably.

Ted regarded the smaller woman and wondered just what problem she could be having that would make the normally very confident young woman so evasive.

"Hey, this is me. I can keep a secret too you know." He said, wiggling his eyebrows up and down at her as he steepled his fingers together in front of his face.

Jamie took a slow steadying breath and began to tell her friend about the recent murders. She went on after pausing to try and carefully word just what her Uncle had told her about what the officers in charge of the case had found. Ted raised his eyebrows in alarm twice but otherwise remained silent throughout her story. After the young woman finished he pursed his lips together as the thoughts formulated in his mind.

"I think this may be a high magic group. Although there is no one that I know of, or have heard of, working in the city right now who would want to go after werewolves. The smell you said was at each scene might have been shamanic if there were no substance left in the area. The power that would have had to have been raised would leave something like that."

"HmmÖyou could be right." Jamie regarded him with a slight furrow in her brow. "You might want to warn some of your friends to be careful. The community is getting a bit stirred up about this. Theyíve been pretty skittish lately."

"Heh. Yeah, they have at that. This might just send them over the edge. You sure these attacks werenít done by a werewolf?" The older man shifted slightly.

"That sort of thing leaves very visible signs. No, this was human. No half breed either." Jamie answered gravely. For a human to be able to approach a werewolf in full form and not flee in terror was practically unheard of. The coroner had been able to determine that both Marcus and Steve had changed to the half-wolf half-human form before they had been killed.

"I have some more ideas about this, but I need to check on a few things first. Could you come over after dinner tonight? Iíll fill Diane in on this latter." The bearded man said as he started to lead the way out of the storage room.

"Sure, I can make it tonight." Jamie answered, following behind his tall form.

They walked back out to the front of the store to find Diane Caffrey in conversation with a young blond woman. The noon rush was over and the store stood in peaceful quiet, low music from the storeís stereo floating around. As the two of them approached the counter Tedís wife and the blond looked up from the book on the counter between them. Time seemed to slow down as Jamie saw the blond turn a friendly smile towards first Ted, and then locked eyes with her.

Jamieís eyes widened in surprise and a jumble of memories rushed through her synopsis as she stared back in to the most incredible green eyes she had ever seen. The blond woman before Jamie raised her eyebrows and stared with wide eye recognition.

Time snapped back to its normal pace with a sudden jolt that left Jamie a little sick to her stomach. She blinked and tried to reorganize her thoughts, becoming aware that Diane was saying something to her.

"Oh, hi!" The blond woman extended her hand towards Jamie. "For some reason you look really familiar, but your name doesnít sound familiar."

Jamie reached out in reaction to return the handshake as she struggled to recall what name Diane had just told her. "UmmÖJenny Lyden is it? No, I donít think Iíve ever met you. Your name doesnít ring any bells."

"Really? Huh, oh well." Jenny smiled at her and another flood of images shot through her mind. The images were to quick to make out, and the rush brought on another sick jolt, as she became aware she was staring at the blond woman.

"You ok, Jamie?" This from Diane as she looked over in concern at her friend who had gone a bit pale.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Iím fine, just got a lot on my mind. I better get going. I have to meet with my publisher in a little bit." Jamie focused on her breathing as she fought to control her hammering heart. Strangely enough she didnít feel threatened. Only a curious tingle passed through her to leave her buzzed with a sort of joyous energy.

Jamie said good-bye to Ted and Diane, telling them she would see them latter. She nodded towards Jenny saying that it was nice to me her as she turned and headed out of the shop door and down the sidewalk.

Diane watched her young friend leave, then turned back towards the other two standing before her counter.

"Jenny was just telling me that she had been having some weird dreams she wanted to talk to you about, Ted." Diane said, looking up at her husband.

Ted raised his eyebrows inquiringly as he looked at the blond hair woman in front of him. Jenny was dressed in a rather conservative outfit for her and he wondered a loud if she had been to a job interview.

Jenny blinked at the change in conversation. "Uh, yeah. Actually I just came from one this morning." Then she made a face, "I wasnít what they were looking for though. They were doing more with networking than database right now."

Ted and Diane smiled in sympathy for their young friend. Many of the technical companies in the city had been downsizing lately and the green-eyed programmer had been caught in the rash of layoffs.

"Anyway, I stopped by to talk to you and Diane about those two murders in the news today." Jenny continued.

Ted went very still as the instincts that made him a good witch and even better high magician screamed at him to pay attention to the woman before him. Diane glanced up at her husband as she noticed the slight look pass over his face.

"The two men?" Ted asked as he worked on schooling his face into a mask of neutrality.

"Yeah, I had a dream Monday about that which is really weird since you know I sometimes have prophetic dreams." Jenny said as she regarded the large man in front of her. Being very good at reading body language she had not missed the odd look.

"You mean, you dreamed about the murder as it happened? Or, did you dream about two people being murdered?" Ted asked her.

"Sort of as it happened, I think." Jenny answered him, frowning in thought as she tried to recall her dream in more detail. "I saw this really tall person with some sort of head dress on holding a human heart in one of their hands. They were standing over the body of one of those guys. UmmÖthe one whoís picture was in the paper. Marc something or other. Anyhow, this figure was just standing there when the dead guy suddenly turned into a wolf."

"Then what happened?" Ted asked after a brief silence.

"Thatís it. I woke up after that." The young woman concluded with a shrug of her shoulders.

Ted regarded her for a long moment. Jenny was beginning to wonder just what was wrong when he spoke up.

"Do you think you could come over after six or so tonight? The woman who was just here, Jamie, sheíll be there too." Ted didnít fail to notice the way the mention of the other womanís name had made the young blond perk-up. "She was talking about those murders with me earlier and Iím getting the feeling that something is trying to bring us all together on this."

"Ok, no problem." Jenny assured him, wondering at her excitement over the prospect at seeing the dark hair woman again. "Iíll see you latter then."

Ted and Diane waved her good-bye as a group of young teenagers pilled into the store. Diane turned to her husband as the teens headed over to scan through the books lining the shelves.

"Youíre getting a feeling?" Diane asked quietly. "You donít just get feelings unless something is very important. So, spill. Whatís going on?"

Ted looked back at his wife, his dark eyes telling her that the subject was one that would have to be discussed without an audience. More customers were coming in to the shop now and Diane signaled him back with a nod of her head that she would wait for him to tell her latter.

 

Chapter #3

Deciding that a good walk ought to clear her mind and senses, Jamie left the Rage Rover parked down from the bookstore and headed out on foot towards the publishing house. The tall building was situated about a mile from the bookshop. The brisk fall air ruffled through her dark hair as she walked confidently down the street, hands stuffed into her coat pockets. The small scene of meeting the green eyed woman played through her mind.

If someone had been attacking me I could have been cold cocked and not even realized it. The werewolf thought chagrined. What happened?

Jamie wasnít sure what disturbed her more. The fact that she had utterly let her guard down or the incredible pull of the blond womanís presence on her very soul. The dark hair woman contemplated the woman she had just met further, as she arrived at the publishing house.

Ridding up the elevator to the tenth floor she regarded the other passengers of the lift briefly. They seemed to give her a slightly wide berth for the crowded space. Jamieís lips quirked slightly as she noted the stark contrast between her rough leather and jeans and their severely cut business suits. Deciding to have a bit of fun, she let the menace radiate more to the surface. One of the women closest to her looked like she was trying to press herself into the wall behind her. Jamie pegged her as a middle-aged secretary from her less expensive dress and memo pad.

Hey lady, wanna take a memo from me? Jamie bent her head forward slightly and looked sideways at the hapless woman, leering at her when she caught her eye.

The secretaryís eyes went wide and then quickly tried to find something, anything else to look at. A blush crept up her neck and flooded her face, as she was aware the rough looking young woman was still leering at her.

Thankfully, the elevator stopped at the tenth floor and the leather-clad menace stepped off, heading down the hall. Elevator doors closed again to continue on and the occupants heaved a collective sigh of relief.

Jamie continued on down the corridor to an office at the end. Entering, she unzipped her jacket and marched past the slightly startled receptionist to one of the small offices that lined the back wall. Since she heard no sounds of protest, Jamie assumed that the woman remembered her quite well from last time and was keeping out of the situation.

A swift knock on the door and the dark hair woman let herself into office. The man behind the desk jumped and looked up at her entrance, only to roll his eyes as she flung herself down in the plush office chair facing his desk.

"I hope you behaved yourself with Stacey this time, Jamie." The man warned in a slightly effeminate tone.

Jamie regarded the whinny man in front of her with cool blue eyes. John Drover, 56, slightly balding, human, publisher, whiny and devious. The description ran through her mind as she brought up her whoís-who catalog of acquaintances. For some reason she had just never liked the man. She had really no idea why.

Maybe itís because he looks like an over fed weasel. She mused.

"Didnít say a word to her." Jamie replied, in response to Johnís comment.

The manís eyebrows receded with his hairline. "As if you actually need to say anything! Just one look from you tends to send people quivering to their knees."

"Isnít my fault she couldnít handle the pressure." She replied from behind slightly narrowed eyes.

"Well, you just need to learn to have patients Jamie. She was really quite busy with the phone and all." John sighed dramatically as he pulled out his clientís folder and placed it on the desk in front of him.

Jamie refrained from commenting on the receptionists Ďurgentí conversation with her boyfriend and tried to pay attention as her publisher, once again, went over every possible detail for her new book. She tried, but it was a loosing battle. Her attention span seemed to fly out the window when presented with such mundane matters.

The young woman made quiet listening sounds as the man across from her droned on and on. Her mind bringing up the blond hair womanís pixy like face. A slow smile crossed the werewolfís face as jumbles of half-wishful dreams passed before her blue eyes.

Donít be dumb, Jamie! You know it never works with humans. Not even half-breeds. She chided herself. Of course itís not like you have a real good track record with full breeds either. At this last she winced, recalling her last fling with a werewolf with long almost white blond hair. The woman had not been real pleased to find that Jamie had wanted to keep the affair simple and had kept their relationship, to her, too distant.

What is it that Jessan says? That I have Ďissuesí? Yeah, got that right in one there cuz. Jamie sighed a bit. I am one fucked up piece of work!

Johnís near shout of her name made her aware that he had been calling on her for an answer for a few minutes now.

"Jamie! Please attend me while Iím speaking!" The man huffed in exasperation. "Do you have the papers I asked you to bring with filled out?"

"Uh, yeah. Right here." Jamie mumbled and passed over the folded papers to her publisher.

Frowning with annoyance at the haphazardly folded papers he took them from her and proceeded to reiterate the importance of the purpose of the forms.

Jamie rolled her eyes as he warmed to his subject, going so far as to site every cases of precedence he knew of.

A painfully long time latter Jamie breezed out of the office and down the hall to the small reception area. Giving the receptionist one last Ďlookí she breezed out the door without a backward glance at the woman who had started to shuffle papers in a flurry of busyness.

Noting that it was almost dinnertime Jamie decided to head over to an Irish pub that was situated in the bottom floor of a large building near by. The pubís outside seating was closed now for the season and she entered through the outer door to be greeted by a blast of warm air.

"Hey Jamie! Howís it going?" The bar tender had spotted her entrance and had looked up from his task to greet her.

Jamie smiled slightly and nodded a greeting in return. She walked further in to the slightly dim interior of the surprisingly large pub and restaurant, letting the warm and cozy atmosphere wash over her. Walking between the tables and nodding to a few greetings from some customers she found her way to a booth at the back near the kitchen. All the regular patrons knew that this was her preferred table and always found seating elsewhere.

As she settled into the booth a woman with dark slightly graying hair and a bit shorter than herself came over and set down a pint of pale ale in front of her. Jamie looked up and gave her a warm smile.

"Hey Kate. That from this weeks tap?" She asked, reaching over to lift the pint and take a sip, humming with pleasure as the golden liquid made its way down her throat.

The matronly woman looked down at her and smiled at the young womanís obvious love of beer.

"And you should know it, Jamie McConnor! You had five pints of the brew Monday night." Katherine OíBrady chided the now relaxed younger woman. She knew that Jamie generally preferred the house tap, which only made sense seeing as how the blue eyed woman before her always planned the best drafts to be sold under Ďhouse specialí.

Jamie grinned from ear to ear and ordered a large stew. Kate hurried off without bothering to write down her order. As she waited for her meal to arrive, Jamie cast an appraising eye over the establishment.

Her establishment, she thought with some pride. Her parents would be proud of how the old place was running. Continuing to pack customers in, especially on the Wednesday night and the weekends when live bands would play everything from lively to haunting Celtic music.

It had been three years now since the title and responsibility for the place and been turned over to her on her twenty-first birthday. When her parents had passed away after she had turned ten the old pub had fallen into a state of ill use. Her uncle and guardian having no time to look after his brotherís pet project to bring a bit of the old country back to the city had assigned some of his lesser clan members to run the pub. When Jamie had taken over the operation she had made quite a few changes.

After firing the old worn-out management and hiring her motherís friend Katherine along with the older womanís sons, Sean and Brian, the pub had finally begun bringing in the crowds. Irelandís sons and daughters, local werewolves along with the completely oblivious human patrons. Gathering together for the camaraderie, music, and good food and drink. Just as her father had envisioned when he had started the place, shortly before he and her mother died.

Jamieís eyes settled on the large, muscular fellow with short dark hair and grey-blue eyes pulling drinks for customers at the bar. Sean, Kateís eldest son, who managed the day to day operations for her while his mother oversaw the kitchen. Jamie knew him to be a good man, hard working with a quiet easy disposition. His younger brother Brian often helped out at the pub, filling in for the other workers when he was on break from his studies at the university. Brian also ran various errands for her uncle from time to time. Though Brianís brashness sometimes got on her nerves Jamie liked the OíBrady family. Kate had filled in some of the empty motherly void after the accident.

Jamieís eyes were brought back from their scanning of the place to the huge bowl of lamb stew and fragrant herb bread that were placed before her. She turned and thanked Kate, who stood to the side of the booth with a frown of though.

"Whatís wrong Kate? Have you got enough help in the kitchen tonight to handle this crowd?" She asked as she begun to dig into the delicious stew.

Katherine moved to sit across from her, sliding into the leather booth and folding her hands on the table in front of her. After a pause she looked up from her hands at Jamie and begun.

"Well, you know that my Brian does the odd job for your Uncle now and then?" At Jamieís nod she continued. "Jacob called him last night after we closed to ask Brian to see him early the next morning. He was supposed to help out tonight after he took care of whatever errand Lord Jacob wanted him to do."

Jamie frowned a bit as sudden concerned made her nostrils flare. "Maybe heís running late from whatever it was Jacob was having him do."

Kate shook her head. "He always phones if heís going to be late. He told me after he talked to Jacob that he didnít think it would take very long."

"When was this?" Jamie asked.

"Brian called me about four a.m. Right after talking with Jacob." The worry showed on the older womanís face as she rubbed her fingers together unconsciously. "Iíve got this horrible feeling something awfulís happened to him."

Jamie sat back, her now empty bowl before her. "Iíll see if Jacob isnít back from his meeting so I can ask him just what he sent Brian off to do. In the mean time, just keep calm, Iím sure weíll find him." At the last comment Jamie forced herself to speak with a confidence she didnít feel. No use giving the woman anything else to worry about.

"Do you think it might have something to do with those murders?" Kateís grey eyes stared at her across the table.

"Iím not sure." Jamie replied carefully. "But Iíd appreciate it if youíd spread the word for me in the meantime that under no circumstances are any Garou to go out into wooded areas. This is just a precaution until we find out who is behind the murders."

"Iíll tell any of the people who come in here. But Jamie, you should know that there are quite a few rumblings from other clans as well. Thereís some are saying that the Children are behind it all somehow. That Jacob and you are making a play to expand our territory. That thatís the reason youíve got the information bands out"

Just what I need. A war between the clans. Jamie thought in annoyance, aloud she said. "Well, thatís just what it sounds like. A rumor. My Uncle and I are just looking into the murders as theyíve occurred to members who have strong ties to the clan."

"I know that lass. I just wanted you to be aware of whatís going on behind your back, so to speak." The older woman gave her a sad smile, showing how terrible she felt about the unkind rumors.

Both women moved from the booth to stand. Jamie pulled on her leather coat, settling the short but heavy jacket on her shoulders with a shrug. Bidding goodnight to Kate, then Sean, she made her way out of the pub and into the darkening street. It was nearing six and she walked quickly back to where sheíd left the Range Rover. Once in the SUV she pulled a mobile phone from the pocket of her coat and dialed home.

After a brief conversation with Alfred she was able to determine that her Uncle and cousin were scheduled to be in meetings with the elder's council until Friday. Jamie knew that there was no way, short of Armageddon, that she would be able to disturb Jacob during the meetings. That put her in charge of the clan for two days. Two days might be too late to talk to him about Brianís mission and subsequent disappearance. Coming to a decision she dialed another number and waited while it rung through.

Finally the other end was picked up and Jamie could just make out the short greeting over loud drums and guitar. Shouting into the receiver she waited while the person on the other end went off in search of her request. The noise in the background cut out and voices traveled back and forth, suddenly loud in the absence of any instruments.

"Yeah?" A womanís voice came through to her over the line.

"Ephany? Itís Jamie." Jamie addressed the leader of the Black Furies. "I need you and the Furies to go look for Kate OíBradyís son Brian."

Silence filled the next few seconds. Jamie was beginning to wonder if the connection had been cut when the voice finally replied. "How long he been missing?"

Taking a breath Jamie spoke. "Iím not to sure. Jacob sent him on an errand at around four a.m. and no oneís heard from him since."

"Shit." Jamie was surprised at the gang leaderís quiet outburst. As far as she knew Ephany only vaguely knew of Brain, having met him once or twice at some function or other. The Black Furies as a whole were an exclusively female group. Tending to stay away from men and male werewolves outside of the clan in particular. Marcus had been the exception, but then, for all of his large muscular form he had had a rather gentle side.

"Weíll start looking for him now, Jamie." Ephany continued. "I just hope we can find him before something else does."

"My thoughts exactly." Jamie affirmed the unspoken thoughts of the Furies leader. "Look, Iíve called a ban on any hunting Ďtill this thing is over. Spread the word that none are to go into any wooded areas Ďtill further notice."

"Will do." Ephany replied.

"Donít you guys take any chances either. I want you to stay in at least groups of two or more." The dark hair werewolf spoke low into the phone as she pulled out into traffic.

After Ephany had assured her that they would take precautions and rung off Jamie dialed up Officer Barnsí number to inform him of another possible victim.

The phone rung through to his voice mail and she left a message telling him to get in touch with her as soon as possible. Hanging up, Jamie concentrated on the road as she headed away from downtown to Ted and Dianeís house on the outskirts of the city. A sinking feeling started in her heart and she pushed away the problem of Kateís missing son until only a clinical detachment remained. The Black Furies would find him and report back to her. They were good trackers, almost as good as Jamie herself. Theyíd find him, whatever his condition.

 

Chapter #4

Jamie pulled up to the curb across from Ted and Dianeís white single level house. As she slipped from the vehicle she noticed a hint of rain in the air. The dark hair woman inhaled the cold damp sent that lingered in the atmosphere and turned to walk up the front steps of the quaint little house. She knocked twice and heard a womanís voice yell for her to enter from within.

"Getting to look like itís going to rain." Diane commented as she greeted her guest upon entering.

"Yeah, hopefully that will keep everyone inside for a bit." Jamie replied as she moved further into the house and hung her leather jacket on one of the pegs by the door.

The blue eyed woman took a seat on the couch as Diane continued to comment on the Ďickyí looking sky. Dianeís husband Ted wandered in from the back yard and also commented on the unusual weather patterns. Jamie had just opened her mouth to concur with their observations when a knock was heard at the front door.

Moving once again to open the door and let a figure into the house, Diane greeted the newest arrival. "Hey, Jenny. Looks like you just managed to miss the rain." She said as the blond woman removed her slightly damp coat and hung it on an empty peg.

Jamie looked up in alarm at first the green eyed woman and then Ted. The latter motioned her to remain calm, then winked and quirked one end of his mouth upward. Jamie raised a skeptical eyebrow but remained silent, watching the scene intently to see what was about to unfold.

"You met Jenny this afternoon, Jamie." Ted said as Jenny and his wife both took their seats. Jenny sat in a comfy armchair situated next to the couch that Jamie was seated on, while Diane joined Jamie on the large couch.

"I asked her here since she has been having some lucid dreams regarding those killings you and I were talking about earlier." Ted continued as Jenny and Jamie nodded a greeting to each other. The blond gave Jamie a genuine smile, and the stoic young woman found herself returning the smile with a small one of her own.

Jenny blushed a bit. "Well, they really are pretty weird. The dreams I mean." The small blond woman looked over at Jamie as she spoke and green eyes met blue. "Iíve had quite a few prophetic, vision type dreams since I was very young. This was pretty freaky though since it was a bit surreal, with that wolf thing and all."

Jamie inhaled sharply at the womanís last words. Jenny, however, did not seem to notice and continued on. "It was like that guy was actually a wolf or something, but that doesnít make much sense."

Seeing the furrowed look of confusion on the other womanís face Jenny told her what she had told Ted and Diane earlier. As the blond woman re-told the tale, Ted stood listening silently.

"And then, he just sort of turned into a wolf. Well, a dead wolf, just lying there in front of the shadowy figure." Jenny concluded her tale, smiling hesitantly at her audience.

"Well, I have no doubt that you dreamt of at least Marcus Bradyís murder." Ted spoke up. He moved around the room as he went on to relate some of the facts that Jamie had given him earlier. It took a moment for Jamie to realize that he was indeed relating all the facts. Including those that the local news had not published on the murders. The fact that both of the victims were werewolves.

Diane stared at him in shock as Jenny raised both eyebrows, trying to figure out if he was being serious or not. Jamie had simply stared open mouth at the man, unbelieving that he would blurt out such sensitive information with a human present.

"What did you say?" Jenny asked breaking the tableau. "Did I hear you right?"

"What did I say about what? The werewolves?" Ted asked, continuing after her slow nod. "Yeah, the two people who were killed were werewolves. Matter of fact, so is Jamie here."

Jenny gasped and swung her head around to regard the young woman now standing. Jamie was growling softly, beginning to move towards Ted in order to shut him up one way or another.

"Itís ok Jamie." The big man told the bristling dark hair woman in front of him. "Go ahead. Take a Ďlookí."

He gestured towards the seated green-eyed woman, who was watching them intently. Jamie looked at the strange human who had managed to turn her world quite upside down with each glance. Narrowing her eyes Jamie peered closer and twisted her mind sideways to view the womanís life force.

Eyes widening, Jamie turned bright blue eyes back towards the large man and lifted both eyebrows. She had seen in the swirling mass of color that for some reason warmed her to the core, a thin line of gold that indicated Garou influence. The blond hair woman had Garou blood within her distant ancestry.

Knowing what Jamie had just Ďseení Ted spoke softly. "When I had first met Jenny, while she was studying Wicca with us, I noticed that she had werewolf ancestry. I was going to ask you if someone with such a small connection could be influenced by the delirium."

"Whatís the Ďdeliriumí?" Jenny asked, curiosity overcoming her fear.

"Itís what happens to humans who see Garou, or werewolves in crinos form." Jamie supplied. She was feeling a bit overwhelmed and her natural defenses forced her to accept the situation for now.

"Does having thisÖwhatever you can see in me make me a werewolf too?" The blond asked.

"No. Some humans like Diane and I have some Garou blood in our ancestry but that amount is so small that the powers of the shape shifter are lost." Ted folded his hands atop his stomach in a familiar way. "You have an even smaller amount in your aura, so I didnít know if you would be affected or not."

"But, what is this Ďdeliriumí thing?" Jennyís shrewd attention to detail would not let her drop the subject until her question had been answered.

"She wonít suffer it Ted." Jamie said. "No matter how small an amount of the connection she shares with the Mother, it will protect her so that she can see the truth."

Ice blue eyes turned in Jennyís direction as the woman answered her. "When a human sees a werewolf in crinos form it creates such a blinding, instinctive terror that they will create any rational excuse rather than acknowledge the existence of us."

Trying to absorb the information, one thing still bothered her. "What is crinos form?" Jenny asked.

Jamie cocked her head to one side. Stepping slightly away from the three humans she called up the magic within her. A shimmer appeared around her as she changed into a nine-foot tall half-wolf half-human creature. Jenny focused on keeping her breathing steady, at the same time trying to keep her eyes from bulging from their sockets. An impossibly large dark furred creature with huge fangs stood before her.

"Jamie, could you please not scrape the wood floor again?" Diane asked in feigned exasperation. "It took me forever to get the claw marks out last time."

Blinking in surprise at the other woman, Jenny could not believe she had just heard her friend scolding a nine-foot monster. Suddenly she heard a low humorous laugh in her head as the creature before her turned to look at Diane. Then she realized that it was Jamie who was laughing.

"Does that answer you question?" The voice, low but slightly familiar, reverberated in her head and Jenny turned to look up at the werewolf. The blond nodded dumbfounded and the creature shimmered again. After a moment Jamie once more stood before her.

Finally finding her voice Jenny asked, "So, donít you go through a lot of conditioner?"

It was Jamieís turn to blink. After a moment she through her head back and laughed heartily. The tension was eased from the room at that, and the other three joined her in laughter.

After that the four returned to their discussion about the two murders. Ted wanted to try and do an astral working on Saturday with the other three in order to try and find out more. Jenny hesitated for only a moment before agreeing. Jamie and Diane agreed as well, and the four of them decided that they would meet again in three days.

As they were wrapping up their discussion Jenny noticed how late it was and mentioned that she needed to hurry to catch the bus. Jamie looked up at Jenny as the two of them prepared to leave.

"I can give you a ride." The werewolf said, surprising herself.

"Uh, ok." Green eyes met blue. "That would be great." Jenny smiled at the younger woman.

The two of them moved to the door, pulling on coats as they left the warm house.

"Good night, guys." Jamie waved at Ted and Diane who had seen them to the door. "See you Saturday."

"Thank you for coming!" Ted replied, giving a goofy grin and waving wildly. Beside him, his wife smiled warmly and waved as well.

Jenny and Jamie walked down the wet sidewalk to where Jamie had parked the Range Rover. The dark hair woman pressed a button on her key chain and the car doors unlocked. She moved to the driverís side door as Jenny opened the passenger door and climbed in.

"Wow! This is a huge car!" The blond woman exclaimed after her companion had climbed in and shut the car door.

"Mmhm." Jamie grunted affirmatively.

"Itís quite the climb in too." Jenny grinned as Jamie started the car and pulled out into the light traffic. "Oh, I suppose I should tell you where I live."

"Not to bad, itís good at handling corners. And yeah, that would help." The dark hair woman grinned slightly.

"UhÖok." The blond blinked as she processed this and then told her driver her address.

"Do you know where that is? Iím not real good at giving directions. I donít drive myself." Jenny continued looking at her quiet companion.

"Yup. No problem." Jamie nodded and turned on to a main street.

"I donít know why I never got my license." Jenny felt a need to fill in the silence. "Just never got around to it. Here I am, twenty-seven years old and I still havenít gotten a driverís license yet! Isnít that the weirdest thing you ever heard?" She paused and turned towards the other woman.

Sensing that her companion was looking for some sort of reply, Jamie grunted again and nodded her head.

"Well, itís not like I can afford a car now. What with insurance going through the roof now days and all." Jenny continued again. "That and the fact I have no job right now. My company just laid off a bunch of programmers. Downsizing, you know how it is."

Jamie nodded her head again. Her eyes were on the road but she found herself listening intently to the small talk the blond was making.

"Yeah, I got to be one of the lucky ones who got cut." Jenny made a face and stuck out the tip of her tongue.

Jamie, catching the look on the other womanís face out of the corner of her eye, laughed in surprise.

Jenny smiled at her. "Now I get to find another hell I mean job, so my cat doesnít starve. Anywho, enough about me. What do you do to keep yourself busy? Besides brushing out all that hair?"

Jamie glanced at the small blond and smiled wider. "I breed and train horses. Iím also working on a book about our Arabian breeding program right now.

"Really? Cool! I use to love riding the pony my parents had for my sister and me when we were little." Jenny enthused.

"You ride often?" Jamie asked her.

"Not anymore. I havenít since I was in high school." Jenny replied her tone a bit subdued.

Coming to a decision Jamie turned to ask her companion, "You wanna go ridding some time?"

Jenny looked at the dark hair werewolf and smiled. "That would be great!"

"How about tomorrow?" Jamie asked, before she realized what she was really asking.

"Ok. That would be neat." The blond replied.

Having reached the duplex where Jenny had indicated she lived Jamie pulled the SUV up to the curb and threw the transmission into park.

"I can come get you at eleven. Is that a good time?" Jamie asked, turning towards her passenger.

"Yeah. That would be great. Iíll see you at eleven tomorrow then." Jenny said as she got out of the car, waving at the blue eyed woman and shutting the car door behind her.

Jamie waved back and waited a moment until the small blond unlocked the front door of the duplex and entered safely. Then the werewolf put the Range Rover into gear and drove off. She could not believe herself. She had asked a near stranger to go ridding. More than that, the woman had accepted.

Amazing.

Jamie turned on the radio for the short drive home as her thoughts turned to the other woman who would be her ridding companion tomorrow. She was looking forward to learning more about her.

Jenny locked the front door behind her and stooped to pick up one of the papers inside the hall. Tucking the evening edition in with her mail she ran up the stairs two at a time to the second level apartment. Her apartmentís front door was at the very top of the stairs. An architectural design which had made it difficult to get some of the heavier pieces of furniture into her apartment when she had moved in. It also made the spy hole set into the door defunct. Anyone outside the door would never be seen unless they were tall enough, as they would be standing a step lower than the actual door was set.

Not like I need a spy hole anyhow. Jenny thought as she stepped up and into her apartment after unlocking the door. Any visitors would have to be let in the main door by her. Jennyís landlord had never put in a paging system, as there were only two apartments in the building. Jennyís and his.

Consoling her fluffy tabby with some cat treats she quickly got ready for bed. Looking forward to getting to know the enigmatic werewolf more tomorrow.

 

Chapter #5

Turning off the alarm clock Jenny stretched and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her movement displaced the grey tabby cat perched on the end of the bed, tucked under the quilt.

"Whoops! Sorry Arti!" The small blond reached down and scratched the upset feline between her fluffy ears.

The small tabby regarded her evilly before relaxing into the attention. Arti, short for Artemis, allowed the human to pet her for a while longer before deciding that it was now time for breakfast. Then she let out a meow and stalked from the room. Clearly expecting the human to follow her.

Jenny yawned through a smile and followed the cat into the kitchen. After starting the coffee maker and placing a bowl of food down for Arti she wandered into the bathroom to get ready for the day.

Her confidence of last night seemed to have fled in the light of the day. The prospect of spending the day with the young woman she had only met the day before now made her quite nervous. For a moment she was tempted to call up the dark hair woman and cancel. Yet, for all of the womanís stoic nature there was a gentle side that intrigued Jenny. StillÖ

"Oh goddess! What was I thinking!" Jenny exclaimed into the water streaming down from the showerhead.

Try as she might she could not explain away the strange attraction she felt towards Jamie. There was something about the werewolf that seemed so familiar. When they has first met at the bookstore she had almost blurted out about the possibility of knowing the dark hair woman in a past life.

Ugh! That would have sounded weird. Jenny thought as she toweled her hair dry. Like, could you get any cornier? Talk about lame pick-up lines.

Stopping in mid-stride as she walked from the bathroom into the bedroom, Jenny blinked. Yes, she admitted to herself she was attracted to the dark hair woman physically.

Who wouldnít be? The blond thought as she pulled out jeans and a turtleneck. Silky dark hair, pale blue eyes, smooth voice, wry sense of humor.

Jenny pulled on hiking boots and stood. "Though after this draught I donít think Iíd care if she didnít have a personality at all." She looked in the dresser mirror and pulled her shoulder length blond hair into a ponytail. "Ok. Itís official. I, Jenny Lyden, have a pathetic love life. I admit that I have a pathetic love life and that only I can empower myself to overcome this."

The woman smiled at her reflection and sighed. Turning away from her twin in the mirror she walked back to the kitchen and fixed a quick breakfast of cold cereal and coffee. It was ten oíclock and Jamie would be by soon to pick her up.

Not an early riser by any means Jenny had woken up late after a fitful night of dreams. The dream she had had a week ago was back again with a vengeance. Unlike the previous time she could not shake herself out of the dark nightmare.

It was the same haze filled forest. She was dressed in buckskins, a knife clutched tightly in her hand. The place had an eerie familiarity, yet for the life of her she had no clue where she was.

As she turned in slow motion claw like hands reached out of no where to throttle the very soul out of her. She kicked and struggled in the iron grip of her attacker. The face of the person holding her was obscured in shadow but she could make out a pair of dark possessive eyes.

Jenny shuddered in recollection. The feeling of being watched had remained with her after she had woken up in the early morning hours. So much so that she had taken the baseball bat under her bed and had walked around the small apartment, peeking out the windows and checking that everything was secure. It had been several hours before she was able to get back into bed and fall back to sleep.

Finishing her light breakfast the blond hair woman decided to give her Ďpimpí a call. Dialing the number she waited for the tech headhunter to pick up the other end. The call rang through to the headhunterís voice mail and Jenny left a quick message with her number, asking if the woman could find any job openings for her. As she hung up the phone Jenny wondered just why she bothered staying with a programming career.

Like many of her peers she had chosen a technology-based career to land a well paying job after college. Now, five years latter and nearly board to tears she was wishing that she had gone into a different field. Throughout high school and college she had been interested in a wide variety of things. The only problem was she had no idea what it was she wanted to do.

Perhaps I should have gone with law school. The woman thought as she sat on her overstuffed couch, idly petting Arti. I was pretty good on the debate team in high school.

Her parents though had disapproved of their oldest daughter getting a degree in law. At least in a technical field she would meet some eligible men who would be able to provide a stable home life for future children. As a lawyer, or so Jennyís fatherís argument had gone, she would intimidate any potential husband and not be able to get married sooner.

I wonder sometimes if I actually gave Daddy that heart attack. Jenny bit her lower lip and grimaced. I suppose it didnít help his stress level any when I said I was gay.

She remembered the scene at her familyís Thanksgiving dinner last year. Kimberly, her younger sister, for once doing the smart thing and remaining quiet while their mother and father harped on endlessly about the lack of any suitable men in their lives. After several minutes of trying to unsuccessfully get a word in edgewise Jenny had stood up and yelled at her parents that she was a lesbian.

Sure glad I had decided to stay with Kim at her apartment. Gods! That was not fun! Jenny sighed as she also recalled the tense voice of her mother a month latter.

After her rather dramatic announcement Jenny had not seen nor heard from either of her parents. Some weeks latter her mother had called her during dinner, the older womanís voice controlled and direct. Telling her that her father was dead, after being rushed to the hospital from work.

Jenny had been in a state of shock, flying down for the funeral. Her mother had been distant yet polite. That was nearly a year ago, and besides a few brief conversations on the phone every month, she had not seen her mother since. Her younger sister had moved up to attend graduate school at the university near by. She was the only link to her family that Jenny had now.

A knock at the door interrupted her musings. Eyes widening slightly she rose from the couch to answer the door. If that was Jamie, how on earth could the woman have gotten inside? As she unlatched the security chain and unlocked the door, voices drifted though the door to her.

Jenny opened the door to reveal a leather clad back. Soft, short dark hair reached down just to the collar of the worn leather jacket. Her landlord was saying something as he stood at the doorway to the lower level apartment. As he saw her standing in her doorway she smiled and waved.

"What a nice young woman you have for a friend, Jenny!" The older man smiled. "Helped me carry in all these grocery bags." He pointed to one of the bags sitting just inside his doorway.

"No problem, Jethroe. Glad to help." This from the figure standing on the stairs in front of her.

Jamie glanced back at Jenny wryly as the landlord rambled on about how nice it was that Jenny had such helpful friends. After thanking Jamie once more for her Ďtimely rescueí, the older man retreated into his apartment.

The dark hair woman turned fully towards Jenny and shrugged ruefully. Jenny grinned back at her and asked if she often played the Ďknight in shinning armorí. Glancing down in embarrassment Jamie rubbed the back of her neck with one hand. Mumbling something about not just letting him struggle with all those groceries.

After a nervous pause the werewolf asked, "Shall we go?" and jerked a thumb over her shoulder towards the outer door.

"Sure, just letting grab my coat." Taking her jacket from the clothes tree just inside the door Jenny flipped off the light and shut the door behind her. The two women walked down the steps and out of the building.

Jamie maneuvered the Range Rover smoothly along the country road towards the mansion. The further they got from the city the more relaxed the werewolf felt. Her kind had always had a deep connection to the earth and forests. The wolf within her was infinitely more at home in the lush green countryside.

The dark hair woman glanced over at the lighter hair woman next to her. Jenny had not been as talkative during the drive as she had been the previous night. Not one to usually initiate a conversation Jamie found herself asking her companion questions just to here the smaller womanís voice.

"So, how come you never got your license?" Jamie asked, her pale blue eyes on the road ahead of her. "Isnít it a pain having to take the bus everywhere?"

Jenny turned in surprise; this was the most she had ever heard out of the other womanís mouth at one time. "Uh, yeah. The bus is kind of a pain." She looked down at her hands. "But, itís not like I really ever have any place important to go."

The blond turned her head to lookout the passenger window once more. Jamie tried to think of something else to say, for once not comfortable with the lull of conversation. Not able to come up with anything profound at the moment, she gestured to the large house and surrounding grounds as she turned the SUV into a driveway.

"Here we are."

Jamie drove up the long drive to the stables at the left side of the Victorian looking mansion. She took notice that her companion had become a bit more animated. The blond was looking out the front window, craning her neck to take in the vast property.

"Wow! You live here?" Jenny exclaimed.

"Yup." The werewolf answered as she pulled the large car into her usual parking place. "All my life."

As the two exited the SUV Jamie debated with herself if she should show her guest around the grounds first or the house. Not being big on protocol the young woman nonetheless wanted to make a good impression on her guest. As they moved away from the car, however, Jenny seemed to solve the little dilemma as she made directly for the stables. All the while the smaller woman was looking around in wonder, exclaiming about the pristine beauty of it all.

Jamie followed behind her awestruck guest, smiling warmly at the enthusiasm of the other woman. Her childhood home was taking on an even better appearance as she began to look at the old as new. The little blond was waxing poetic about the white picket fences surrounding the yard and stables. As they made their way to the main stable Jamie wondered idly if Jenny wrote poetry as brightly as she spoke. The random thought made the dark hair woman pause and wonder just where it had come from.

"Oh wow! Sheís beautiful." Jenny turned to her companion as she indicated the white mare that was gazing at the two new arrivals.

Jamie smiled with pride as she walked over to the ghost white horse, placing her hand on the mareís neck fondly.

"This is Thena. Sheís one of my favorites." The mare snorted at this and tossed her head a bit.

"Ok, my number one favorite." Jamie laughed, slapping the horse affectionately on the shoulder.

Jenny moved up to stand next to the stall that the mare was kept in. It was larger than the areas that the other horses were housed in, taking up most of the main stable. Various ribbons adorned the walls and a few pictures were hung about as well. Most featured the beautiful white horse alone, dressed in full show regalia. A few others were shots of the mare and a rider. Jenny looked closer and recognized Jamie immediately as the rider in each of the pictures. One was a shot of both rider and horse in a dressage competition. Two others were pictures of the pair receiving trophies for jumping competitions. The last one puzzled her and she moved closer to get a better look.

"That oneís of one of the reenactment camps Thena and Iíve gone to." Jamie told her as she gave the horse in question a sugar cube she took from a tin box on one of the shelves along the front wall of the stable.

"Whatís a reenactment camp?" Jenny asked, turning towards the woman and horse.

"Like what they do in those civil war shows. That oneís when we were reenacting the battle of Hastings." Jamie said.

"Really? Thatís cool. Did you guys camp out like they did back then too?" The small womanís green eyes were alight as she imagined the scene.

"Yup. Even caught small game and fished, just like they would have done back then." Jamie confirmed.

"I thought I heard someone in here." Both women turned to see a long dark hair, dark eyed very Greek looking woman walk further into the stable. "I took the wrap off Thena earlier, Jamie. Though you should wait one till tomorrow to ride her."

Jamie leaned against the mareís stall once again. "Yeah, I saw that. Jenny, this is Pamela Anderson. Sheís our resident vet. Does a good job keeping all the horses healthy."

Jenny blinked as she reached out to shake the womanís hand. "Pamela Anderson?"

"Yeah, and no not related." The veterinarian grinned down at her. "My dad was Norwegian and my mom was Greek. Nameís from dad, lookís are from mom."

"Pam gets a lot of flak for her name." Jamie said, trying to suppress a grin. "Weíre going to take Borius and Perdy out for a ride." This last she directed towards the veterinarian.

"Well, have fun you two!" Pamela said as she turned and headed off on her task.

Jenny looked at Jamie expectantly after the veterinarian left. The dark hair horsewoman motioned for the blond to follow as she gathered up tack and saddles. Moving towards the end of the long row of stalls Jamie opened one of the doors and entered.

"This is Perdy, heís pretty good natured. He wonít give you any problems." Jamie fitted the tack on the brown gelding and put the saddle on as she talked.

"Perdy?" Jenny asked looking into the large, liquid brown eyes of the docile horse.

"Uh, yeah. Jessan, my cousin, named him." The werewolf smiled in chagrin then led the gelding out of the stall.

"Iíll just saddle up Borius and we can head out." Moving farther down the row of stalls the dark hair woman stepped into the last stall with the second saddle and tack.

After a moment Jamie and a large, midnight black Arabian horse stepped out of the stall. The huge stallion pranced around a bit, but after a single word from the woman he stood patiently.

"Ok, letís go." Jamie smiled at Jenny and the two led their mounts out of the stable.

 

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