Dillon’s a hunter, and a lone wolf, but not by choice. He was bitten by a werewolf and forced to watch his cousin’s death. Since then he’s suffered the curse. His freedom will return if he finds the wolf that turned him and send it to the eternal death.
His hunt draws him to a club Wolf Bait. There he meets the beautiful yet elusive alpha female—Namina. She seduces him into her den, weakens him with her kiss. And before his job is done robs him of his thirst for vengeance, staking claim to make him her own.
The neon sign blared: Club Wolf Bait.
Dillon’s gaze lifted to the blinking letters. He kept his gaze trained on the words for long minutes until his eyes stung and watered. He blinked and dropped his gaze to the line of twenty-somethings impatiently waiting to be one of the chosen.
Half would die on a night like tonight. It was close to midnight. Feeding had begun six hours ago.
Dillon’s line of vision lowered to the rain-slicked pavement, and he trained his eyes to adjust and reach beyond the approaching beams from arriving cars. Raising his hand, he stroked the newly grown stubble on his chin; this time of night, he grew hairy. The shift was imminent. The split of pores and cells as follicles broke through and the shadow of a beard formed. He was powerless to prevent these changes. But the beast in him whispered that change was good at times. To be free to roll out of his human form and run for the desert then drag down a kill and rip its flesh from its bones between his teeth.
Dillon’s elbow rested on the inside window panel of his black-on-black ’67 Impala. He parked discreetly across the street, and despite the chill of the night, he kept his window down to inhale all the warnings and messages carried in the breeze. He’d been watching the entrance to the club for three hours now. He was close. This had to be it. Two years of searching ended there. His nose led him there. He licked his dry lips and swallowed. Soon the blur of lights and others faded under the flutter of his lashes before they closed. Here is where he’d find salvation or damnation; this was to be his end.
December 12, 2007
“She was hot. I’m telling you she was sexy-hot, man.” Peter laughed. He turned and walked backwards, his backpack stacked high on his shoulders. He offered his infamous lopsided grin that left Dillon questioning the truth of his beer-induced tale.
Peter, his first cousin, was like his twin. They were the same height, same build, had the same eyes, and the same Scotsman tan.
Dillon gripped the straps of his backpack to the front and held on to the weight he carried across his shoulders. The walk to the hostel was a shorter one through the village, if they crossed the fields and went through the forest.
“If she was so into you, how come she was nowhere in sight when I returned from the loo?”
“Mixed signals, I think.” Peter shrugged, carefully stepping backward through the grass and fallen branches. “Don’t know, but she was giving me the eye. And she was different—African American different.” Peter smirked. He turned and walked ahead.
Dillon looked up to an amazing sight; a moon so large it filled the sky. It was big, really big. He frowned. “She’s not African American if we’re in Perth.”
“She was American. With legs like that, she’s from the states. Yes, she was….definitely.” Peter chuckled. “They don’t grow them like that in the hamlets. I’d know about that. All I know is this was an American lass.”
“Hey, check it out.” Dillon tossed his chin upward to the sky.
Peter turned, nearly running into the branch of a tree. He knocked it out of his way. “Check what out?”
His cousin’s head went back, and he slowed to a stop. The moon hovered so large and close that it owned the sky. Even Peter was temporarily silenced. After several long minutes he said, “Shit, that’s a helluva moon.”
“It didn’t seem that big, did it, when we left the pub?”
Peter laughed. “You saying it’s growing?”
Before Dillon lips parted to answer, a howl ripped through the air with piercing sharpness. Both men froze. The moon with all its brightness did not penetrate the shadows that gathered between the trees and up in the thick, leafy branches.
“What the fuck is that?” Peter whispered.
Dillon frowned. “Do they have wolves in Scotland?”
“Fuck, man, what do you think? It sounded close.”
“Right, it did. It sounded really close.” He turned in a full circle, expecting to see the unexpected. Whatever it was, he sensed it. It was close, and getting closer.
* * * * *
Dillon reached over to his right. His fingertips brushed the spine of the journal—Peter’s journal. When he awoke in the hospital shortly after the attack, there were few things left of Peter to claim, including his body. This was all that he had of him. So he continued the story of his cousin’s life to replace the one robbed by what shouldn’t exist. He survived many a full moon since by putting what was left of his soul on the pages of paper between. It gave him comfort and a sliver of hope that maybe he’d finally get the chance to right the wrong. Dillon picked it up and untied the weathered string that bond it shut, opening the pen from his inside the glove box he wrote:
October 24, 2009 – Saturday / midnight
The boy said my search ends here. I met him two days ago in another club, a den. Only seventeen, he was rumored to be over two-hundred years old. I thought he was the one. I was wrong. Killing him gave me no satisfaction. It did give me answers, maybe the truth. When the dying boy normalized, he confessed all he knew. In the end, I was left with one name: Loramendi. The name I needed to hear to confirm I was on the right trail. Now, I can find the beast that had turned us both.
I’ve learned to be cautious of the Lycans. They are suspicious by nature and master manipulators. So this lead could be a trap. I’m prepared for that as well. You must go into the bowels of hell to meet the devil, and for me it may be a one-way trip. Killing the Lycan that delivered the cursed bite frees every soul he’s claimed. It will free mine. That makes it worth it. I’ll finally be free.
Dillon stared at the word free. He closed the binder and released a burdened sigh. He wanted that freedom; he’d rather die trying for it than be what he’d seen, what he knew walked amongst everyone in the day. It fed on flesh and blood and innocence. It polluted and corrupted then seduced its survivors into slavery. A slave to the moon.
His palm itched. A fiery sting that webbed from the center then sent pain through every nerve in his hand to the tips of his fingers. He squeezed his hand shut then opened it, then raised it to eye level, studying the bubbled surface of his flesh and the carved pentagram like a brand in a circle in his palm. The mark of the beast is what the doctor said.
December 15, 2007
“Noooo,” he screamed from his hospital bed, his body bucking and convulsing. The nurses, both male and female, struggled to hold him down. He growled at them. A canine, throaty growl that had him foaming at the lips.
“Hold him still! Hold him!” the doctor ordered as he raised an abnormally long needle.
“Omigod! Look at his eyes!” One nurse cried, stepping back, leaving the others to the battle.
Dillon snarled, snapping at the one closest to him, nearly ripping her throat open. The pain had him howling in agony. He felt his bones snap and break and bend. He howled as tears bled down his face. His skin continued to bubble and grow hair. He felt his flesh stretching and peeling away from his bones. “Arghhhh,” he screamed.
The doctor came in close with the needle. “Son, we are trying to help you. You’ve been taken by the beast. Pray we aren’t too late. Trust us…”
It was all he heard before liquid heat was injected into his veins and darkness came. In darkness, he could remember. He could remember what happened to Peter…
* * * * *
“Walk! Fast! Go,” Dillon said to his cousin. The howling was different, something wicked and mocking. To Dillon the sound was closer to laughter. He scanned the shadows in the forest, in the direction it came. He kept expecting to see it—the animal or thing that stalked them. It laughed at them, toyed with them. He kept bracing with each fast step to be taken down. He was so focused on the pending doom, he was blind to the immediate danger.
“Dillon, I think something is—”
Dillon’s head turned at the rushing sound of crunching leaves and branches in front of Peter. Something inhumanly big leaped out, taking down his cousin mid-flight. Peter hit the moist, leafy earth face first, screaming and swallowing clumps of dirt.
“Peter,” Dillon yelled in shock and panic. He grabbed a fallen tree branch, brandishing it at the animal. But he didn’t know where to strike; it was covered in hair and shaped oddly, almost man-like. Dillon attacked the hairy creature, the size of a grizzly, from behind. The thing clawed at Peter’s backpack, ripping into the rolled tent and the stuffed luggage of jeans and T-shirts.
“Help me! Help me,” Peter yelped.
But the animal turned. It stood upright on its hind legs, at least eight foot tall. With the face of a wolf and eyes glowing a bright gold, it had an elongated snout and too many extended fangs to count.
Dillon froze under its gaze. He imagined hell flames not to be red, but gold like the hottest core of molten lava, gold and deceptive. They glowered down on him. The animal dripped drool as it snapped its jowls and growled deep in its throat. It was part wolf, part man, part demon from hell. Dillon stumbled back in shock. The thing had arms longer than its torso, with hands like talons, and claws that extended razor sharp out of each finger. It snarled.
“Run, Pe-Pe-Pe-Peter. Run…” Dillon mumbled, stumbling back. And the thing…it smiled at him. It definitely smiled. He was sure of it before it delivered a backhanded smack that ripped flesh from the side of his face and shoulder. I knocked him off his feet, slamming him into a thick oak, his backpack cushioning some of the impact. The pain nearly took him out. He wished it had. Because if it had, he wouldn’t have had to lay there semi-conscious, bleeding from his face and chest, while watching the monster eat Peter.