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Thin sheet like clouds stretched out like a lazy cat. Silver light from the full moon outlined the thinning edges, and only a few stars could be seen dabbed carelessly across the sky. I breathed in a sharp deep breath. I was thankful that the night was cold enough to keep my tired body on edge. A light breeze rustled through the leaves. I made my way through a short overhang of pine needle branches along the sidewalk. I felt like I was walking through a tunnel. As I stared ahead, I felt the dread that something bad was going to happen. I listened intently on the sounds around me.
I halted in mid step as the gates clanked against their chains as though by some ghostly force. I stood in front of them feeling fear begin to slither through my body. I wanted to believe or even pretend this was all some nightmare. Ashley's father, Detective Kenzley, had been here two days ago when her friend was found slaughtered in the older part near the woods. Tonight the grief of finding his notes and pictures had sent her spiraling out of control. I knew her father and the police were on their way. I also knew in my heart that standing across the street, while she explored dangerous territory, with a murderer on the loose was out of the question.
I entered the gates squeezing through the one bent bar that someday needed to be fixed. I began to walk slowly. I willed myself not to run. I sucked in another breath using all my will power to scan the area before entering into the true part of the cemetery. Thick green foliage and twisted trees gave way to so many easy hiding places in the dark. I tried to keep my heart from thundering in my ears knowing that the noise could drown out the sound of someone lurking near. As I walked up the hill, my heart started to pick up pace. I would soon be entering the oldest part of the cemetery.
If there ever was a ghost to be found, it would be in the area with all the crumbled tombstones and statues. This was the one place that I felt the most uncomfortable in. It was hard not to be nervous in a place where bodies were buried beneath every patch of grass. I was always a little jumpy in cemeteries, but the darkness of night seemed to heighten my paranoia.
"Oh Ashley," I whispered beneath my breath hoping that I would find her alive and well.
I felt chilled as I entered the more shaded areas. I slowed my pace trying to dim the sound of my shoes against the gravel. I stopped near the top and braced myself against the thick trunk of a tree. I needed to try to calm the tight feeling in my chest, and I began to take deep breaths trying to mentally reassure myself. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and my head twisted trying to follow it. The shadow was gone. I looked to my left peering into the darkness where it was last seen, and slowly I made my way around the tree onto the soft earth. I stopped at the sight of a low head stone next to my foot.
I was standing on someone's grave. I backed up feeling my chest grow tighter, and I knew that panic was setting in. I was not good with cemeteries. My childish fears still came back to me, even when I tried to block them; they still curled up like ghostly wisps of fog. It didn't help that I had seen a massive shadow, and I was here with a killer on the loose. The crackle of shoe against gravel caused me to turn around knowing that someone was behind me. I knew I was too late, even before a solid mass rammed into me. I went sprawling down the hill. Gravel bit into my soft flesh, and the world seemed turned upside down until I landed with a painful thud on my back.
I tried to rise only to find a thick dark boot planted square on my chest. The long silver edge of a blade pressed against my throat. Panic was finally taking hold on me, but I couldn't let it consume me. I didn't even dare to breathe. I felt as though any tighter and the blade would break skin. I forced myself to look up. A pair of ice blue eyes danced like fire set in a rugged face tight without emotion. He was a handsome brute. His raven black hair caught glints of moonlight as the silver orb began to creep from the clouds.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded pressing the edge just a little closer.
He stood above me. He was on high alert as though any minute I would spring from under him. I realized I was holding his boot in my hands. I held the black leather harder feeling the traction of the bottom beneath my hand. I was trying to give myself a mental shake. I knew that, if he would just move the blade, I had the advantage of my hold to trip him and escape. Only I didn't know how to make that happen. He slackened enough for me to gulp in air, and I felt my body began to shake.
"I'm looking for something," I told him still breathing deeply. "I know it's here somewhere."
I couldn't believe how calm and foreign my voice sounded to my own ears. I bit my lip trying to take my mind off the fear that was slowly creeping up my body. I had to stay calm. I had to keep focused.
"A young lady like you should not be here in the cemetery in the dead of night. There is a killer on the loose. You should go home," he told me with a grunt.
I felt shock replace the fear. I couldn't believe this man was trying to lecture me about being safe. After all I was underneath him. I noticed the slight movement of the blade in time, and I took the opportunity knowing it may be my last. I wrenched his foot sideways, and rolled out from under him before leaping up and taking off full speed. I ran dodging statues, tombstones, and trees, and for the first time I didn't care where I was stepping as long as I didn't fall. I sped up nearly catching my shoulder on an angel statue as I took a sharp turn.
Then from outta the shadows something moved ahead. I stopped dead run and nearly toppled over my own feet. My breath caught in my chest. A fierce pair of yellow eyes shone bright in front of me. The creature inched from the shadows with a sleek body rippling with muscle. The beast halted only inches from me. Standing at five feet it looked up at me, and its long pointed claws glimmered silver beneath the light. The beast seemed to smile, flashing long sharp pearly teeth. Its head was huge, and the tail moved back and forth. The beast was a massive package of fur, muscle, and death.
Slowly I watched the blondish fur bristle as it began to hunker, and I knew it was going to pounce. I was rooted in place, to shaken to even lift an arm to defend myself. In slow motion it moved down on its hunches, and the eyes locked with my own. The monster roared before leaping in the air for me. My heart leapt, my body went weak, and I felt my legs begin to buckle. Its eyes widened, and the head flew past me. The body slumped falling hard only inches in front of me. I could see the meat and bones. I felt dizzy and almost sick from the sight. The man stood above the body like a maddened hunter, his blade glistening red with blood, and he scanned my face before giving me a cold angry look.
"I told you not to be here," he said, and I felt my mind whirl as I tried to comprehend what was happening, but I was so fuzzy. "I suggest you leave now."
I wanted to listen, to just walk away. I was trying to come to terms with my near death experience by a creature that couldn't exist. I shook my head thankful for the sudden gust of cold sharp wind that brought me back to reality, and the thought of Ashley caused my heart to thunder. She was out there somewhere, and this thing had nearly killed me. I could only hope Ashley had not run into it as well. The man tried to reach for me. I didn't give him the chance. My feet had come back to life, and I ran like hell.
"Ashley!" I shouted tears pouring from my eyes.
Blind painful terror was ripping through me, and I strained calling out for her shouting at the top of my lungs. My side ached from the running, my legs hurt. I was nauseous and jittery. I was bawling now, the tears blurring my sight. I yelled out again. I really had to find her.
"Jen," my name stopped me at once.
I turned finding a tomb with five stairs leading to a bolted door. I raced up the stairs. A small window offered a view inside the tomb. I could see a pair of startled green eyes and a pale face staring back at me. I had found her. I tried to pry the thick door open, as we both sobbed. We were afraid and unable to speak to each other. I fought the damn door, but it was stuck. The door wouldn't even budge an inch. I realized she was locked in.
"Ashley," I said trying to calm myself as well as her. "You need to open this door, please open this door."
I stepped back trying to find a way to express the urgency I felt. My voice kept catching at the thought that somewhere out there, one of those things was waiting to get me. I choked back the lump in my throat, and I squeezed my eyes shut. I fought internally with myself. I had to get a grip, or Ashley didn't have a shot in hell of getting out of here alive. I opened my eyes, angry now.
"Open this damn door!" I shouted pounding hard against the door until finally it creaked open.
I gasped at the sight of my friend leaning against the wood. Her arm was bloodied beyond belief. The limb was barely attached and blood flowed everywhere. I hadn't noticed the trail up the steps, but I had been in a state of panic. I turned to see the thick red goo splashed across white stone. I knew the loss of blood was too much for her, unless I did something, she was going to bleed to death. I hooked my arm around her supporting her weight. We tripped down the stairs. Somehow I managed to keep our balance.
"Ashley," I sobbed as we reached the bottom steps. "I am so sorry girl. I should have been here sooner."
"They will find us," she said with wide eyes. "They will kill us. You need to leave me here."
"No," I told her firmly, "No way in hell I am leaving you here to die. We will make it. Your dad and the police on their way."
I tore off my jacket. I needed to stop the bleeding or at least try to. I tied it around the gaping wound, and I knew if we didn't move fast I would lose her. I tried to drag her towards safety, but she bore more weight against me. We fell hard to the cold wet ground. I hadn't even noticed how damp the grass was until now. I tugged hard, using all my strength and we were on our feet again. Out of the blue, I felt the weight slacken. I looked to the other side to see that the maddened hunter was supporting her weight.
I felt relief at the sight of him, and he offered a grim smile my way. His face was soft for once. I heard the sirens in the distance. This gave me renewed hope and energy. I was so relieved to just hear that there was help. There was safety ahead. I pulled harder wanting to get her to her father. I finally saw the red and blue lights flashing above police cars. They were the most beautiful sight to see. Her dad raced for us. The exhaustion struck me too quick. Heavy warmth enveloped me, and then beautiful darkness.
I woke slowly to an aching body. I grunted as I rolled over feeling the satin sheets against my bare legs. I felt at peace for only a moment. The smells hit me, and I froze. This was not my bed. I reached up finding my hair damp. Fear prickled through me like tiny annoying needles. I felt the thin cotton robe that wrapped around my naked body. Where the hell was I? My eyes flew open, and I found myself staring at the man from last night. The man that I had sworn was only a part of my nightmares was sitting comfortably watching me.
"You," I growled, and he offered a charming grin.
"Well good morning to you," he said rocking in the soft cushioned chair.
"Where the hell am I?" I demanded sitting up in anger.
I realized, a little late, that the robe was loose revealing my body to him. I glared at him as I wrapped it tight around me. I noticed the spark of enthusiasm that crossed his smug face. I wanted to hit him or just scream. This could not be happening to me. I tried hard to believe this was some dream brought on by stress, exhaustion, anxiety, or anything. Hell none of this was real; it just logically could not be true.
"All that matters is you are safe," he said standing up. "I'll go make us some breakfast. You can change if you like." He paused before winking at me, "I picked that robe out just for you."
He walked out the door leaving me grasping for calm. He had bathed and dressed me. He had put me to bed like I was a small child. Rage coursed through my veins like hot liquid fire. He had no right even giving my body a second glance let alone exposing it without permission. I could have strangled him, but he was already out of the room. The thought of Ashley caused all anger to flee from my body.
Concern washed through me. I noticed the phone on the nightstand. I needed to check on her. I could very well have the cops come arrest his ass, but I knew that he had saved me. I knew that Ashley's condition last night was bad, so I decided to call the hospital first. A receptionist with a cheery disposition answered the phone, and I felt my voice catch.
"Is Detective Kenzley there with his daughter?" I asked.
"I'll need your name Hun," she said in a sweet voice.
"It's Jennifer Priel I'm his daughter's friend."
Elevator music drifted over the line. I felt my throat tighten as I clutched the phone in a death grip. If he was there that was good news right? I held onto the hope that I would hear his gruff voice over the phone. I heard the music drifting over the line end.
"Sorry dear, he's not here."
"Can I talk with Ashley Kenzley?" I asked, and there was a long moment of silence.
"She passed away this morning, poor girl to much blood loss. Looks like the Slasher has claimed another one."
"Oh God," I moaned.
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked.
"Are you serious! You tell me my friend died and then ask me if I am okay!" I hollered before slamming the phone down on the table.
Anger was a red hot rush like a fire burning in the skin above my heart. The flood came in a painful numbing wave. I stood up. I felt bile rise in my throat causing me to dart for the bathroom. I spent time throwing up and crying. I sobbed on the cold tile floor like a small child. I felt alone. I felt isolated and lost. The man appeared in the doorway. He instantly came to my side pulling me close to him.
"I didn't want you to find out like that sweetheart," he said brushing my hair back and grabbing a cloth to wipe my face off. "I wanted to tell you after you had gotten over the panic of everything that had taken place last night."
"The Slasher, he killed her!" I cried.
"The Slasher is no man," he told me.
Memories of last night floated into my mind. They crept through my vision like a ghost, and I felt my lungs tighten. The creature in the cemetery fit the description. The creature could slash its victims the way the police described the injuries. I shuddered at the thought of what Ashley must have gone through. She had to have defended herself, which meant unlike me, she had fought to survive. I gulped in a breath feeling the ache swell within my heart, and I fought back another waterfall of tears. She had fought to live!
"No," I groaned pressing into his arms.
"It's okay, you're going to be okay," he crooned.
I cried while he held me for hours on the bathroom floor. His face remained steady as he reassured me. I screamed and bawled. Exhaustion struck me into silence sometime later. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. I stood up needing a shower and some food. He stood up following my lead. Anger was replacing the hurt that tore at my soul. I knew what I had to do. I had to get my head on straight and go see her father. He had a right to know what happened last night. Would he believe me? I doubted it, but it was worth a try.
"My name is Jen," I said realizing we had yet to introduce ourselves. I had already spent time crying like a fool in front of him. "Jennifer Priel."
"I'm Grant Madrix. When you are ready come down and eat. I am going to go downstairs. Feel free to shower, and there are clothes in the other room," he replied in a soft tone. "Take all the time you need."
He left closing the door behind him. I thought of the name Grant and how well it suited him. I climbed into the shower. I was afraid to be alone to long, afraid to remember, and I knew I needed to fight with myself to keep from dwelling in misery. I rushed through my shower, and I was out within a matter of minutes.
Back in the room, I noticed the big dresser with a door ajar. I went through the drawer and found very few clothes. There was not a pair of jeans in sight. I had the choice between a number of summer dresses and short shorts. I chose one of the dresses. It covered more than the other outfits promised to. I glanced at myself in the mirror. My brown eyes were dark from sadness. My pale face had blotches from crying. My brown golden hair hung loosely around my shoulders framing my face.
Excerpted from Blood Wolf by MORNING DOVE. Copyright © 2013 Morning Dove. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Chapter 1.................... 5
Chapter 2.................... 17
Chapter 3.................... 24
Chapter 4.................... 30
Chapter 5.................... 35
Chapter 6.................... 45
Chapter 7.................... 59
Chapter 8.................... 73
Chapter 9.................... 87
Chapter 10.................... 98
Chapter 11.................... 106
Chapter 12.................... 115
Chapter 13.................... 120
Chapter 14.................... 133
Chapter 15.................... 146
Chapter 16.................... 154
Chapter 17.................... 165
Chapter 18.................... 183
Chapter 19.................... 197
Chapter 20.................... 211
Chapter 21.................... 218
Chapter 22.................... 227
Chapter 23.................... 237
Chapter 24.................... 252
Posted January 15, 2014
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