Read an Excerpt
"How cool is that? It's Halloween eve and there's a full moon." Samantha looked up at the night sky as she stepped out of the rural Mississippi restaurant. The moon had always fascinated her, even as a young girl.
"Wow, that's rare." Her younger sister Jane stood next to her, looking up.
"What do you mean?"
"That's the second full moon in one month and tomorrow's Halloween. In the old days, it was a powerful omen." Jane's brow furrowed.
Samantha chuckled. "You're so full of it, sis. What do you know about the old days or omens?"
"I told you, Sam, I'm really getting into this Wicca stuff. And if you'd just accept your heritage, you'd be into it, too." Jane pointed at her. "It's in our blood."
"Just because we had a crazy grandmother doesn't mean we're witches." Sam rolled her eyes. If it wasn't Wicca, it was something else. Jane had always been the one searching for something to believe in and Sam had been the reasonable, calm, steady one. As far as she was concerned, feelings and hunches about people were not supernatural.
Just good intuition.
"Sam. She had dreams that predicted the future." Jane put her fists on her hips and glared at her sister. "You don't get any more witchy than that."
"She used her so-called powers to pick horses at the track, for God sake," Sam shot back. All Sam's gift ever did for her was give her a sense of who people were inside and even that had failed her monumentally. She had the unused wedding dress to prove it.
"Well, Grandma always won, didn't she? Besides, who says witches can't do that?" Jane laughed. "If I could, I'd dream the lotto numbers and win the big jackpot!"
They reachedJane's car. Jane leaned over, gave Sam a kiss on the cheek and a quick hug goodbye. This was their halfway place between their homes, splitting the distance between Alabama and Louisiana, where she lived. Both had a long drive ahead of them. Jane would drive straight through, but Sam had gotten a motel room nearby.
"Same time, next month?" Sam asked.
"Same bat time, same bat channel," Jane laughed, got into her car and gave a last wave as she pulled away.
Turning to her car in the deserted lot, Sam hit her remote and slid inside. As her lights came on, a man stood against the wall of the building, illuminated by her headlights. Her mouth went as dry as cotton and her chest tightened as she hit the door locks and fumbled to insert the key, afraid to take her eyes off him.
He gave her a jack-o-lantern smile, and her alarm bells clanged. In one long, heart-stopping glance, she took in long scraggly hair, old t-shirt, dirty blue jeans and the skull tattoo on his bare arm.
All he was missing was a chain saw and a hockey mask.
She half-expected the car to not start, but it fired up and relief flooded through her.
He raised his hand in a salute and her stomach dropped.
Throwing the car in reverse, she stomped on the gas, slinging gravel. The man shuffled over to a motorcycle as if he had all the time in the world, swung one leg over, and sat.
Shifting into drive, she whipped the car around, her head swiveling from side to side as she checked the highway for traffic. She pulled onto the quiet rural blacktop and accelerated towards her motel on the outskirts of Meridian, Mississippi, twenty miles away.
Glancing in her mirror, only darkness filled the rear window.
Exhaling, she took a deep calming breath, shook out the tension in her shoulders and punched in a CD selection. Soft classical music filled the cabin of the car, and Sam relaxed back into the seat, easing her foot off the gas pedal.
Really. The guy had just waved at her, not tried to kill her.
She'd over-reacted. Instead of being the calm, confidant woman she'd once been, she'd felt vulnerable, unsure and on edge.
Damn Robert. It was all his fault. After two years of dating, he'd finally admitted right before their wedding that he'd had a vasectomy without her knowledge and that he never wanted to have children. He'd known how much she wanted kids. Her eyes burned with her fury and hurt. Betrayed by the one person she'd trusted most, she'd almost gone crazy wondering what else he'd lied to her about.
Where the hell had her powers been then?
As she drove down the dark two-lane highway, her teary gaze flicked to the mirror. As if she'd been injected with ice water, the blood in her veins went cold.
A single headlight followed her.
Duke sat on the stool at the end of the bar and nursed his scotch. He'd come there to get a break from his house and the aching loneliness it held. Unable to stand the memories anymore, he'd finally put the house on the market. Everything he'd had to live for was gone. Dead and buried eighteen months, eight days and 12 hours ago.
Grace had been the most beautiful woman he'd ever known, so young and full of life. They'd had less than two short years together before she'd been diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was gone in the instant between one breath and another, leaving him with a hole in his heart that felt as if it would never heal.
Christ, he missed her, the way she'd felt in his arms, the touch of her hands, her scent. He sipped his scotch, feeling the amber fire slide down his throat, building his resolve and his courage.
The first year after Grace had died he'd struggled through his daily routine thinking time would make it better, that the paralyzing hurt would go away. It only got worse.
Now, halfway into the second year, he could no longer deny what was happening.
A werewolf mates for life and when his mate dies he only has a short time to find another before he dies too.
Goddamn it, he was a cop. He'd never been afraid to die, but this slow, inch-by-inch death was bullshit. He could see it in the mirror, the slow wasting away. He'd dropped twenty pounds and had been sick three times this year. Shit, he was never sick, even when he'd been a kid. Werewolves just didn't get sick.
There were other ways to die.
During the last six months he'd driven down to the lake four times, parked under the stars and sat holding his Sig in his lap, a bullet in the chamber. Whether cowardice, fear, or foolish hope, he'd never pulled the trigger. Just when he'd work up the nerve and hold the gun to his head, he'd hear Grace telling him to wait.
Give it time, Duke.
Waiting sucked the big one.
Time wasn't his friend, that's for damn sure. Each day that passed drained a little more life from him. Even his wolf form had weakened, its sides had grown thinner, fur had lost its luster and thickness and his footpads had cracked so badly it hurt to run.
The only thing he felt was the driving need to mate. Not just fuck, but reproduce. Give his seed to his mate and create the next generation. The sexual tension building deep in his loins was driving him crazy, making him reckless at work, and when the moon was full like tonight, downright explosive.
Grace had been the only woman he'd wanted, and she was supposed to have had his children, carry on his line, but she'd never conceived. The fucking cancer had robbed him of her and their children.
She was still the only woman he wanted.
Christ knew the aching need was there and he'd had plenty of opportunities to fuck. His body quivered, as if he was a junkie needing a fix, but all the drugs were the wrong ones. Nothing got to Duke. Not magazines, porn, not even real women. Shit, he couldn't get it up even to jack off. He was beginning to think he was dead below the waist.
A man who couldn't get it up was not a man. Fuck, not at thirty-three.
Tonight, he would finish this drink, get in his truck, go down to the lake, and pull that fucking trigger.
No more waiting.
Sam's eyes flicked to the rearview mirror. It was still there, a single light in the distance. Her hands clenched the wheel. She needed to calm down. This was ridiculous. She'd definitely seen one too many slasher films.
She reached for her cell phone. Her hand dug in the black hole that was her purse and came up with her compact, a hairbrush and dental floss, but no phone. Panic flashed through her. She dumped it onto the passenger seat, shaking it to get everything out. Flinging wadded up tissues onto the floor of the front seat, her eyes darted from the seat to the road but there was no phone.
She was on an isolated, dark, country road with a crazed biker following her. Oh, yeah, and there was a full moon. A second moon, to boot. A nervous giggle escaped her lips, and she bit back the urge to say, "Could it get any worse?"
In the movies, once the too-stupid-to-live heroine said that, everything went to hell in a hand basket. The car would break down, it would start to rain, or a hook would dangle from her door handle.
She scanned the night through the tall pine trees as they whipped past. Clear and cool, the stars filled the sky. The moon raced her as she flew down the road toward...
"Great, just great," she muttered. She was narrating a horror movie with herself as the star.
Sam took a deep breath. She had to be smart about this. The last place she should go was to her motel, it was the kind where you parked outside your room. He'd find her car and it wouldn't take him long to locate her room. The lobby closed at ten p.m. and it was quarter to twelve, so there'd be no one to help her at the front desk.
Halloween. Almost midnight. The witching hour. A tingle flashed through her, embedding itself in her mind, forming a single thought.
Tonight, she'd find what she'd been waiting for.
Sam snorted and rolled her eyes. She wasn't waiting for anything. Really, she had to get a grip on herself. Jane had put all sorts of wild thoughts into her head.
She should go to a well-lit place with plenty of people and get help, like a gas station. A police station would be even better. Right. As if she'd find one on this god-forsaken road. The only lights she'd seen were from the occasional on-coming car and the one that haunted her in the rearview mirror. Wishing she'd paid more attention, she tried to remember if she'd passed anything coming here, but she came up blank.
She kept driving, the motorcycle pushing her ahead of it. The road took a long curve. She almost wept with relief when she spotted the sign for the bar up ahead. 'The County Line' was nothing but a small cinder block building with its name flashing in neon on the tin roof, but she didn't care, it looked like sanctuary to her. She sped up, pulled into the almost empty parking lot, and nosed the car into a spot just outside the door. Shoveling everything back into her purse, she got out of the car, locked it, and made a dash for the bar.
She tried to push the door open, but it wouldn't budge. She grunted as she threw her body against it. Panic bubbled up in her throat. Stepping back, she looked up at the neon sign. It was supposed to be open. Why wouldn't it open?
The door opened outward and knocked her to the side as a man exited. He gave her an irritated look as she stumbled, recovered, and dove for the opening before it closed. With her last look down the dark road, a single headlight rounded the curve.