Bad Moon Rising–Free Read

BAD MOON RISING is a round robin story Cynthia Eden put together for her Halloween month-long celebration.  (Cynthia LOVES Halloween!)  :)

So Cynthia started the story and passed it along to Shelli Stevens, who added to it before sending it to Juliana Stone and then Jess Granger.  Finally, it arrived in my in-box and I wrote the ending.  Here are the five parts of the story….I hope you like it! 

Cynthia also created a funny video:  http://www.cynthiaeden.com/romance/halloween-greetings/

PART I – Cynthia Eden

Confession was supposed to be good for the soul.

It wasn’t. Sometimes, it was the worst damn thing that could happen to a soul.

Karen Harvey stared at her husband. Husband. They’d been married for less than twenty-four hours.  Now this…

“Don’t say anymore,” she told Jon and refused to look at the ridiculous heart-shaped bed that waited behind them. They’d wrecked that bed last night. The sex had been incredible—all fire and passion. From the moment they’d met, everything had been fire and passion.

Until this morning, when she’d woken up and taken a good look at the marks he’d left on her neck.

How could I be so stupid?

“Karen…” A muscle jerked along his jaw.  That sexy, strong jaw that she’d stroked so many times. “This is going to be hard for you to understand, but I need you to trust me.”

She almost rolled her eyes.  There was very little that she didn’t understand about this world. 

“I’m…not human.” 

Her hands fisted. Hadn’t she told the guy not to say anymore? She glanced away. Looking at him hurt too much. Why did I fall for him so fast?  “What are you?”  Though she knew. The instant she’d seen the bite marks, she’d known.  

Not a vampire. There would have been puncture wounds if he’d been a vamp. But when she’d been having the best climax of her life, Jon hadn’t been drinking from her. Instead, he’d been claiming her. She knew a claim bite when she saw one.

“I’m a werewolf.”

Damn, damn, damn.  She spun away and ran a hand through her tangled red hair.  Her suitcase was open, perched on a chair just a few feet away.  “Yeah, I figured that one.”

Mated to a werewolf. Her family was going to flip out over this.  Even if she lived to be a hundred, she would never live this one down.

Silence behind her. She shoved her hand into the suitcase.

“You don’t seem surprised to find out that werewolves are real.” Now a new tone had entered his voice. Anger? What—he got to be the mad one? Hell, no. 

She’d dated him for a month and hadn’t suspected the truth. Not even once.  Or had she?  “I’m not.”

He grabbed her arm and spun her around. Ah, there it was—that fast werewolf speed. He’d been holding back on her. Tricky. Then again, she’d been holding back on him, too. 

“How do you know about werewolves?” Jon demanded. Handsome, sexy Jon. With his rugged features, that thick mane of dark hair, and the greenest eyes she’d ever seen…She’d wanted him from the first moment she saw him.

We can’t always get what we want.

But she’d taken him anyway.  Now he stood before her, his muscled chest bare and a pair of jeans riding low on his hips.  She could still taste his kiss on her mouth.

Slowly, she lifted the weapon that she’d taken from her suitcase. A knife made of solid silver. She pushed the blade against his chest—right above his heart—and watched as his eyes widened. “I have a confession, too,” she told him, even as she felt stupid tears well in her eyes.

She’d thought she could escape her past. New city, new name, new life. No more death and blood.  No more monsters.

A new life—a fresh start.

He glanced down at the knife. The tip pressed against his flesh and already a soft plume of smoke was rising where the silver touched him.   Werewolves could never handle their silver. “What the fuck?”

“I’m a hunter,” she told him, voice quiet. The old story about Red Riding Hood had been so wrong. Twisted. A big, bad hunter hadn’t come out of the woods to save Red—Red had been the hunter.  She’d also been Karen’s very distant relation.  Hunting was in her blood. She’d been trained to kill monsters since she hit puberty. Trained to kill them on sight.

Not fall for them. Not marry them. Not…love them.

She saw his canines begin to lengthen. Figured that it would come to this. Hunters and Weres were mortal enemies.

Then Jon smiled, showing off his fangs, and her blood chilled when he said, “I know, sweetheart…why do you think I married you?”  He glanced down at the knife. “Now do you really think you can kill me—or are you ready to hear what I have to say?”

Ready to hear—

Her eyes narrowed and in an instant, she brought up her left hand. She always kept supplies tucked in her bag. She sprayed the liquid silver right at his eyes and when he howled, she jumped back. 

“I can kill you,” she’d killed plenty of wolves before, “but I won’t.”

While he cursed, she leapt for the door.

Bones snapped behind her.  His curses became snarls, and she looked back just once…

And saw that her husband had transformed into a big, bad wolf.

You can find Cynthia Eden at:  http://www.cynthiaeden.com/

PART II – Shelli Stevens:

Shit. That quick glance had cost her. Karen opened the door, but couldn’t get out before it slammed shut once again. Razor sharp claws dragged through the wood beside her, leaving gashes that again made her damn happy that his credit card was the one they’d checked into the Love Shack hotel with.
             Why couldn’t he have just let her go? Resignation swept through her as she tightened her grip on the silver knife and turned to face him again. Jon shifted back to human, fur receding and his body morphing, until he stood before her in full male human form again. She clenched her jaw, determined not to let her gaze slide over the rock solid body she’d come to know so well.
             Instead she held his gaze–bloodshot from the silver spray–and even though it had been years since she’d feared a werewolf, the savagery in his expression sent a cold shiver skating down her spine.
             “You should’ve killed me when you had the chance, wifey.” A humorless smile flickered across his face as he backed her up. His hands slammed on either side of her head, pinning her between him and the door.
The man before her should’ve been her nemesis. Someone she was trained to kill at the first chance. Even though he’d been damn stealth at hiding any hints of a paranormal side, she still should’ve picked up on what he was. Surely there must have been some clues in the month they’d been together.

She may not have picked up on what he was, but he’d known all along who she was. So what the hell had the last month been to him? Foreplay to an epic battle to the death?

            She could feel the bite marks on her neck begin to tingle and warm at his possessive, furious stare. Jon was now her husband. Her mate. But none of that mattered at this moment. Her heart twisted with an emotion she refused to analyze.

She was a hunter and he was a Were. And it was pretty clear only one of them would walk out of this schlocky hotel room alive. She had no choice. Like it or not, there would be death and blood tonight. And she’d do whatever it took to ensure it wasn’t hers.

“You know, I could blame me agreeing to marry you last night on a ridiculously strong Bloody Mary, but it’s irrelevant. You’re right. I should’ve killed you.” A familiar cold calm settled over her, as she replied, “And I still will.”

***

Jon was ready for her this time, stopping the knife before it was just inches from his heart. He tightened his fingers around her slender wrist, not squeezing hard enough to break her bones, but enough to make her drop the knife with a sharp cry.

Bitterness swelled in his throat and he swallowed it back down. For the past month he’d waited for Karen’s assassination attempt. Expected it. And now here it was. The morning after he’d broken from the plan and lost his mind long enough to mark her, she decided to make herself a fucking widow.

He’d started to think maybe he was wrong about her. Maybe Karen had retired from her hunting days. But unfortunately–or maybe it was fortunately–he wasn’t wrong. Karen was exactly the skilled, heartless Hunter he’d set out to wed last night.

Before she could blink, he had his hand around her neck and her imprisoned against the door once more. He had to give her props, because there wasn’t even a trace of fear in her hard gaze.

“Come on, Karen. Surely by now you’ve realized there was a little more in that drink that tomato juice and vodka.”

She sucked in a swift breath and he could practically see the wheels in her head spinning as she put it together.

“You son of a bitch,” she snarled and clawed at his hand, trying to free herself. “You slipped me wolf blood.”

“And you liked it. Best damn Bloody Mary ever, I believe you said.”

Fuck you.”

“Yes. You did.” His glanced at the broken bed and his mouth curved into a smile. “Pretty well, actually. But then that’s just one of your numerous talents, isn’t it?”

By the way her blue gaze could’ve frozen boiling water, he knew she’d picked up his reference to her little side job of sending Weres to meet their maker.

“I’m not going to beg for my life.”

“Now, angel face, it would only disappoint me if you did.” The endearment had caught on soon after they met. Because even though she had the cunning, bloodthirsty mind of the devil, the kicker of it was she did look a damned angel. With her heart shaped face, soft red curls, full lips, and striking blue eyes. But her body left angels in the dust and headed straight for the Goddess category.

“Why go through a wedding, claim me as your mate, if you’re just going to kill me?”

Her voice cracked slightly, and his heart softened just enough to send alarm racing through his blood. There was no time left for lenience or regrets.

“You’ve made it clear that you have no qualms about carrying out my death, Karen.” He curled his upper lip up to flash his sharp canines. “However I have no intention of killing you. I need you alive, angel face.”

Her mouth parted slightly and her brows drew together. He felt the pulse beneath his thumb quicken as she swiped her tongue over her bottom lip.

“What exactly do you want from me, Jon?”

“Besides what I’ve already had?” He gave a humorless laugh.“Tell you what. Lets throw on some clothes and take a ride in that souped up little Porsche of yours. We need to talk, and this time you will listen to what I have to say.”

You can find Shelli Stevens here:  http://www.shellistevens.com/

PART III – Juliana Stone: 

They dressed in silence.

         Modesty had found Karen and she kept her back to him, though the mirror to her left allowed study as he rooted through his bag for an extra pair of jeans.

         Why was it the most attractive men ever, were also the biggest assholes?  Why did she have to go and marry the bastard?  Couldn’t the bed breaking sex have been enough?

         Oh yeah, the wolf blood infused drink.  Nice.  She gritted her teeth.  He was so going to pay for that.

         She tightened her belt and slipped denim clad legs into kick ass boots.  An image of her foot, planted firmly against his butt made her smile, if only for a second. Once her leather coat was in place she arched a brow and sneered.  “So where we headed?”

         Jon slipped a black t-shirt over his head, grabbed his bag and smiled.  “Black Magick.”

         Karen’s eyes widened.  “Seriously.” It wasn’t a question, so much as a statement.

         Jon opened the door and stood back, motioning with his hand.  “After you.”

         If looks could kill the werewolf would be a toasty mess of burning fur.  Fuck.  She’d not seen that coming.

         Karen slipped past him, face blank, while inside her mind was freaking out.  How the hell had she gotten herself into this stinking crap situation?  She’d not pulled such a newbie boner since she’d swapped spit with wolf boy Caleb Nelson at her high school prom.

         And that had turned into a fucking fiasco, resulting in murder, mayhem and her ass grounded for months.  Christ would she never learn?

         Twenty minutes later she was behind the wheel of her sleek, black, Porsche and they pulled out of valet parking, slipping into the throng of traffic that clogged Las Vegas’s strip.   She was aware that Jon kept his piece—a modified glock—close to his heart.  It was in a holster beneath his leather jacket.

         Motely Crue blasted from the speakers and he snorted.  “Really?”

         “Hey,” she snapped, “the 80’s might have been before my time but the music fucking rocked.”  She increased the volume and smiled to herself as they roared down the strip.  Shout at the Devil, indeed.

         “So,” she began, licking her lips as a frown furrowed between her eyebrows.  “You targeted me.”  She glanced toward him—big mistake.  His dark eyes were settled on her in a way that screamed possession.

         Karen jerked her head back and gazed at the road ahead.  It was bumper to bumper.  Shit, this could take awhile—not that she was in any hurry to get to Black Magick.  Her gut tightened at the thought.

         “I didn’t target you per say.”

         Why the hell did his voice sound like aged whiskey poured over cool ice?  Totally wasn’t fair.

         “Oh?  What exactly is your, um, per say.”  Good.  She sounded calm. Neutral.  Slightly sarcastic.

         “I work for Del Degatto.”

          Okay, that’s not what she’d wanted to hear.  Karen’s fingers gripped the wheel tightly, so much so, her knuckles were white.  Her breath hitched at the back of her throat and for a second she was afraid she’d choke.

         She exhaled a ragged breath, caught sight of her face in the mirror and winced.  She looked like a weak kneed, wet behind the ears, scared out her mind newbie.       

            Damn but she needed to keep it together.

         “Degatto know you put your mark on me?” Anger erupted inside her chest.  “Was that his plan all along?”  Her eyes flashed as she snarled the words.  “Screw the hunter and then really screw her over?”

         “No.” He answered tersely.

         She snorted.  “What’s he going to say when he finds out we’re mated, you and I?”

         Karen paused, angry and curious.  “Why did you do it?”  They were stopped at a traffic light, surrounded on all sides by people, cars and noise.  “You didn’t have to bite me.  Hell, you’d already screwed me over, and then some.  Why the claiming?  Was it some nasty ass joke?”

         Jon growled. The air around him shimmered and his wolf shifted beneath his skin. His handsome face was tense.  The shifter was on edge.

         “Claiming for a wolf is never a joke.”  His eyes narrowed and he ran his hand through the shaggy mane of hair at his nape.

         Traffic started to move.   Ahead Black Magick, taunted. It was the newest casino on the strip and one she’d vowed never to enter.  She had minutes to formulate a plan.

         A spot opened and she changed lanes, her eyes ahead, focused.  She saw her chance and took it, accelerating to top speed in seconds.  The car jumped the curb, narrowly missing a pack of tourists—their pasty white legs were a dead giveaway.  They crashed into a large cement structure and then there was silence.

         “What the fuck?” Stunned, Jon turned to her but Karen was out of her seat, her hands clutching a mini crossbow that had been hidden beneath her seat.

         Time slowed down and did that weird slow motion thing as she sailed over the hood of the car, narrowly avoiding a swipe from the wolf’s hand.  She pressed the trigger, letting rip a barrage of small silver arrows.

         She landed in a crouch, ignoring the howl of pain that erupted from Jon.  The radio blasted suddenly.  Karen was up in an instant.  She was running for her life, but spared a smile as the heavy beat of The Crue followed in her wake.  Kickstart my Heart.

         She hazarded a glance back and felt her mouth go dry at the fury that laced Jon’s dark eyes.  She turned and raced past Black Magick, flipping the bird at the security cameras as she did so.

         “Kickstart that, assholes.”

You can visit Juliana Stone here: http://julianastone.com/

PART IV – Jess Granger: 

Karen raced down the strip, dodging through the bewildered pedestrians and drunk frat boys with long plastic tubes of neon colored drinks hanging around their necks.  A pair of Degatto’s thugs on sleek black bikes peeled out of one of the service entrances to the casino.

The engines roared as the lights from the strip reflected off the black visors covering their faces.

Damn it.

Karen switched direction, doubling back toward the casino.  The bikes couldn’t turn around for another block and it would give her time.  Ahead two more black clad morons ran out from the casino, wearing sunglasses at night.  Perfect.  What was it about frickin’ vampires and their sunglasses?  Honestly?

And why the hell was a werewolf mixed up with the bloodsuckers?  In the history of all things unnatural, that never happened.  Ever.

Karen took a deep breath and centered herself.  She still had a trick or two up her sleeve.  She just hated exposing herself on the Strip.

Unlike half the other drunks in the city.

“Degatto wants a word with you.”  One of the vamps held out his hands, and she could feel the power draw toward him, a rush like air being pulled into a tornado.

“Tell your boss, he’s going to have to do better than that.”  She let her true form blaze, shining as brightly as the sun.  The Vampires hissed, covering their faces like cheap leather-clad imitations of Bela Lugosi.

She smiled.  Someone had to put the fairy in fairy tales.  She transformed, shrinking into an insubstantial point of light, no more conspicuous than a firefly.  In the lights of Vegas, she was as good as invisible.  She floated above the Strip, drifting over the sound of the tourist’s applause.

Yeah, well, when she returned, she’d really put on a show.  It had been too long since someone imploded a casino on the Strip.

***

The stars above the desert stretched overhead as Karen trudged through the sage and twisted Joshua trees of the high desert.  The journey would have taken her maybe an hour and a half by car, but on foot, she’d been walking all night.  The first gray light of dawn nearly broke on the horizon.  There was only one place she could go.

Karen stumbled up the long gravel drive of a patched together little stucco house with a red tile roof and a scraggly cactus garden in the front.  She let her fairy light out, burning with the glow as she inspected the outside of the house.  Nothing seemed disturbed, except the fresh scuff of tire treads through the gravel.

A knot twisted deep inside Karen.  She rubbed the mark at her neck.

Had she killed him?

She shouldn’t have felt guilt.  She never felt guilt.  She was a physical embodiment of the light.  It was her duty to destroy the darkness, wasn’t it?

She couldn’t stop thinking about Jon’s eyes, the way he closed them in the grips of passion.  Passion for her.  There was no hiding it, no masking it.

Her fingertips trailed just beneath his mark, and she felt the slight touch shoot through her body, a white-hot lance of pleasure and pain that shimmered inside her as brightly as the light.

He couldn’t fake what she’d seen in his eyes.

Karen swallowed the lump in her throat and knocked on the scuffed up door.  “Is anyone home?” she choked out, her voice catching.  She tried to convince herself it was only the dust caught there, and not her clawing guilt.

Karen opened the door.  It was unlocked.

“Hello?”  She gripped her knife, easing into the familiar living room.  The worn rust-orange shag caught on the heel of her boot.  After forty years, it was about time to redecorate.  Something stirred in the back.

Karen crept down the hall, the faded pictures of a lifetime of memories closed in on either side of the narrow passage.

“Grandma, is that you?”  Apprehension slithered up her spine as she pushed open the door to her Grandma’s bedroom.

A pair of glowing green eyes stared at her in malice.

Her heart leapt, relief coursing through her blood before she fought the annoying sensation with every ticked off bone in her body.  “Why wolf, what big eyes you have.”

He huffed as he struggled to raise himself on an elbow.  His chest had been neatly bandaged.  “I’d love to say I’m happy to see you too, angel face, but under the circumstances…”  He pulled out his piece and aimed it between her eyes.

“What did you do to Grandma?”  I gripped the knife tighter, ready to throw it at his heart should the need arise.

“Well, I didn’t eat her, if that’s what you’re implying.”  He gave her a wolfish grin as his burning gaze drifted down her body.

“Enough, both of you!” The iron-like voice of Grandma Harvey shot through the dark. Karen jumped and wheeled around to face the awesome power of the elder fairy.  “You’ve both screwed this up bad enough as is.”

You can find Jess Granger here: http://www.jessgranger.com/

PART V – Rebecca Zanetti 

“Screwed this up?”  Karen gasped, her hand going to the bite mark on her neck.  The bite mark that suddenly throbbed along with her entire head.  “You knowhim?”  Her voice waivered.  Damn it.  Her voice never wavered.

Jon stalked closer, his eyes a pissed green, his scent of spiced pine filling her senses.  “Not as well as you do, sweetheart.”

A shiver wound down her spine.  Desire, fear, anger.  Karen shifted, pressing her back against the wall, keeping them both in her sights.  “Grandma?”

A blue glow surrounded her grandma as the fairy reached out and slapped Jon on the back of the head.  “I told you not to approach her yet, you dumb dog.”

Karen pivoted, muscles bunching to defend the elderly fairy and then she stopped, dumbfounded, as Jon dropped his head.  “Sorry, ma’am.”  He lifted up, his gaze cutting to Karen.  “But she’s mine.  I’m done waiting.”

“Yours?”  Fire swept through Karen until temper made her ears ring.  “No fucking way.”

“Ah, darlin’,” he reached out and ran one calloused finger over the mark on her neck.  “Don’t make me bite you again.” Before she could react, an arrow crashed through the window aimed at her head.  Jon yanked her to the side, emitting a low growl when it pierced his chest.

He dropped to his knees.

Oh god.  She rushed forward and eased him back against the wall.  The arrowhead was buried in his flesh.  Blue rings began to cascade out.  “The tip is silver.”  Dread and fear slammed into her so hard her mind fuzzed.  She measured the single inch from the wound to his heart, glancing up at the slight smile playing on his full lips.  “What’s so funny?”

“You like me.”  While his words remained light, his jaw clenched hard.  The wolf was pissed.

No, she loved him.  Damn it.  “You’re not going to like me in a minute.”  She grasped the vibrating wood and planted one boot against his solar plexus.  “So.  How do you know my grandmother?”  She yanked, falling on her ass as the arrow sprang free.

“Holy mother f—” Jon bellowed, grabbing his chest and throwing his head back, the cords of his neck turning purple.  Shimmers filled the air as his wolf stretched to life beneath his skin.  He took several deep breaths until his shoulders relaxed and his head lowered.  His gaze pierced hers.  The hole in his broad chest slowly closed.  The blue rings lightened.  They’d remain for a week or so.  “You enjoyed that.”

She smiled.  “Maybe a little.”

Her grandmother grabbed a bow from the bedroom, lighting an arrow tip on fire with a butane lighter.  She took aim outside the now broken window and let the projectile loose.  A furious howl filled the night.  “Got the blood sucking vulture.”  She cocked another arrow, glancing over her tiny shoulder.  “You two going to help or what?”

Karen crept toward the window to peer into the darkness.  “It’s dawn.”

Her grandmother pointed at angry thunderclouds rushing across the desert sky.  “Bad storm.  Should last hours.  The vampires are safe from sunlight, for now.”

A whistle pierced the air outside.  “Come on out, folks.  Don’t make me huff and puff,” a low male voice bellowed.

“It’s Degatto.”  Jon leapt toward the window with a deep growl.  “I’m the wolf, you asshole.  Get your legends straight.”

“You’re a damn traitor,” Degatto yelled back.  “Do you really think I didn’t know about the alliance?  The peace declared last spring?”

Karen gasped, her gaze shifting to her grandmother.  “Peace?  You declared peace with the werewolves?”  What the hell was going on?  “Wait a minute.  Last spring we sent you on that singles cruise for three months.  When did you have time to broker peace?”

Her grandmother cleared her throat, a fine pink spreading under her pale skin.  “Well, I mean, I met Jordan on the ship.”

“Jordan Sirius?  The fucking Alpha?”

“Watch your mouth, dear.”  Her grandmother lit another arrow, squinted into the darkness and took aim.  A shriek filled the abyss.  “Jordan is retired.  We’re going on a year-long cruise next month.”  She cocked another arrow.  “You mated the current Alpha.”

Holy freaking crap.  “I don’t believe this.”  She was a hunter.  Not a wolf mate.

Jon edged toward the door.  “The war is stupid and began with a lover’s quarrel three centuries ago.  Werewolves and fairies are meant to mate; we’re both stronger for it.  And we need an alliance against the damn blood suckers, who are making a move.”  He leaned against the wall, settling his stance, his gaze on the oak.  “I love you.  We’re meant to be together.”

The words sent a rush of pleasure through her to thump her heart.  Hard.  “So why the secrecy?  Why not just tell me?”

Her grandmother sighed.  “Well, dear…you’re a dedicated hunter.  And rather stubborn.  We sent Jon undercover with Degatto to figure out the vamp’s strategy, and then Jonny was supposed to contact you for help.”  She glared at the wolf.  “Not mate and marry you.”  She sniffed.  “At least right away.”

Karen exhaled her gaze on her husband.  “But you tried to take me to Degatto yesterday.”

Jon shook his head, keeping his focus on the closed door.  “Yeah.  I figured you’d be enough of a distraction that I could kill him and be done with this.”  A low growl emerged from the wolf.  “Then you shot me.”

Before Karen could respond, the front door shattered and a seven foot vampire rushed inside.  Degatto.  Jon lowered his lead and leapt forward to tackle the monster to the floor.  The entire house rocked on its foundation.   A blaze of silver glinted as Jon’s blade slashed into the vampire’s neck.  Jon twisted his wrist, and Degatto’s head rolled off his body.  Poof.  Only a fine sheen of dust remained.

Jon stood, wiping particles off his face.  “I knew he’d come in the front door.  Obvious bastard.”

Three more vamps rushed inside.  Karen leapt for one, jumping on his back and digging her knife into his jugular.  Two hard pulls and she decapitated the creature, landing on her feet to assist with the others as it disintegrated.  Only Jon and Grandma remained, both covered in light dust.

Sunlight began to filter through the clouds outside.  She replaced her knife in her boot.  “So what now?”

Her grandmother shrugged, sidling toward the bedroom.  “Now?  I’m going to take a nap and when I awaken, I’m going to live my life.  I suggest you do the same.”  The door shut with a smart snap.

Karen took a deep breath, her gaze traveling up the hard thighs, flat stomach and massive chest to her lover’s face.  Her mate.  “Well?”

He smiled, slow and sure.  “First we nap.”  The glint in his eye promised there would be no sleeping.  “Then, I’m thinking a honeymoon.  A real one on the beach with no clothes and lots of sex.”  He grasped her arms and tugged her toward him.  “I love you.”

Acceptance settled on her shoulders as warmth spread around her heart.  A honeymoon sounded perfect.  “I love you, too.”  She yelped as he swept her off the ground.  “My.  What large muscles you have.”

He chuckled.  “All the better…”

Damn but she loved her big bad wolf.