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Publications… “To the Sea, To the Sea” in LIKE A COMING WAVE

So, it’s been awhile. Two deaths in the family and a big move and a holiday season will do that, I guess. Rough few months, at the very least. I’ve missed out on a lot, but am excited to be back to blogging. Starting with today’s announcement regarding my latest release, which came out during my hiatus.

My story, “To the Sea, To the Sea”, is available now in LIKE A COMING WAVE from Circlet Press.

Blurb: The ocean is a vast playground of creatures real and imagined, rife with power and depth. In LIKE A COMING WAVE eight of fantasy’s best writers explore the erotic potential in the world of water. Mermaids and -men, selkies, Greek Gods, and even kraken cavort in these pages, featuring stories from Nisi Shawl, Julie Cox, Marie Carlson, Pepper Espinoza, and more, representing various sexualities and styles.

Table of Contents:
Breathing by Julie Cox
Extremiad by Nisi Shawl
Helios and Ceto by Pepper Espinoza
To the Sea,To the Sea by Marie Carlson
Wet Medium by Beryl Falls
A Requiem for Poseidon by S. C. Mitchell
Silk Skin by Elias A. St. James
How Much Water, How Much Air by M.E. Comstock

“To the Sea, To the Sea” brings together a mermaid whose song won’t lure any humans to the sea, and the kraken she must feed, who chooses her not for her voice but for the temptation of her body.

I’m excited about this anthology, a theme I love, and in particular because I adore Nisi Shawl’s writing, and am so glad to be in an anthology with her. I hope you guys enjoy!

Publications…Full (Moon) Flash Fiction Let It Burn (Part 1) available free online

Full (Moon) Flash Fiction

May Milk (Super) Moon: “Moonlit”
June Strawberry Moon: “Great Wide Open”
July Thunder Moon: “Lone Wolf (Bound)”
August Green Corn Moon: Let It Burn (Part 1)

The corn is dead already, dried husks withered and browned by sun and heat and drought. Sweat drips down the back of her neck; the wind whips against her, driving dirt and bits of dead plants against her skin, but still the air settles in her lungs thick, hot, damp. Despite the wind and debris, she wears her black hair loose, the fall of it covering her back, the ragged ends twisting against her hips.

She sniffs the air; ozone, a storm coming, but there’s little wetness to it. Rains come hard and fast, gone before they do any good. Microbursts that wash away everything in one place while leaving all else dusty and dead.

When she says, the world is burning, the others bark laughs, tongues lolling out, and yip, let it burn.

The wind carries the smell of shit and animal musk and, as they creep closer, a pinch of fear, just enough to make her mouth water. The scents of herd animals, sluggish with thirst and not enough fresh green food. She licks her chops.

Herds of deer are on the move, looking for food and water, even venturing into the suburbs, but they’re rangy, and chasing them down feels like too much work when the farm animals are right there.

She can almost hear Mom growl. Easy hunt meant they’d be discovered, hunted until the pack died out. It’s been such a long year, hot, dry; she’s tired. One easy meal will make them all feel better, stronger. Then they can hunt outside town, find new territory.

Dead grass at her toes, and the others near silent between cornfield and cows.

She drops, lets the change sweep through her, breaking bones, snapping sinew, tearing flesh; grinds down on the howl that threatens to rise from her throat. This close to the house, one noise will bring the humans running.

Four sleek dark gray shadows slip into the pasture. They are downwind and near silent, but something sets off the cows. The soft lowing grows louder, full of fear. The young to the center, bawling. Faster the wolves run, caught in hunt-lust.

She turns so fast she stumbles, only her speed keeping her on her feet. Again that cry, and she can nearly hear the all-too-human mama in it.

It’s just a cow. She’ll break some rules, but that is taboo.

Just a cow, and she leaps, snaps, blood gushing along her tongue.

The rest of the herd moves on, fast and loud; the pack settles in, gulps meat, tender, juicy. They make short work of it, gorging until their bellies hurt. Even so late, it’s hot, and she lounges after, licking her chops.

The same wind they used betrays them, hunter turned prey. Crack, and bright fire nearly takes the tip of her ear. One of the others yelps; she can’t tell which, and she twists, looking for the alpha, for direction. Then it crashes back.

She’s alpha now. There’s a human with a gun.

Run.

To be continued with August’s blue moon.

Publications…Full (Moon) Flash Fiction “Great Wide Open” available free online

Full (Moon) Flash Fiction

May Milk (Super) Moon: Moonlit

June Strawberry Moon: Great Wide Open

The road unfurls like a river of black blood, slick and dark in the dusk. The sky stretches above it, above us, as big and wide as anything I’ve ever seen, more shades of blue than the ocean we left behind two weeks ago. Storm clouds rise like mountains, grey-black and heavy with water. Despite the threat of rain, the top’s down, and the wind whips around us, carrying the smell of wet, green things growing and, just at the edge of the rising storm, the scent of ozone.

Thunder rumbles. I press my feet into the dash, the cracked vinyl warm and rough against my toes, and tip back my head. We’ve been driving for months, and I thought I’d seen every version of the sky, but this opens up above us unending in its darkness, like I could start running now and never reach daylight again.

For the first time since we left my pack, I don’t feel lost, not even in this great wide open, just free.

A thin track runs off to the left, into the corn fields – the plants aren’t sky high yet but big enough for the cover we need – and we turn onto it, sliding the car between rows of genetically modified super plants, rah rah rah technology’ll save the world.

It smells off, wrong, and I wrinkle my nose against it.

Don’t matter how bad it stinks. Moon’s rising, we’ve got to stop. I have to shift.

One at a time, I press close, breathe in the scent of them: mouth, armpit, crotch. I suck the air in through my nose, again through my mouth and over my tongue, memorizing the smell I’d know even asleep and three quarters dead.

That’s the idea. Breathe them in as a human, slide my scent along their skin, and the wolf in me would let them alone once I changed.

Three months, we’d been on the road, circling and circling the USA, staying away from other wolves’ territories, and I hadn’t come close to hurting them, but each month, the possibility was there. It’d always be there, until my boys gave up their humanity in a slick wash of pain and teeth and blood.

I strip and leap from the car, one hand on the door frame pushing myself clear. Soon, I promise myself, already panting, soon,, and then the pull of the moon is on me. I’m alone when I start running, mud squishing between my toes, and as it rushes through me, I leap, into the corn, into the darkness, into the sadness of hunting alone.

They’ll wait in the car, tranq gun at hand just in case, music off, voices low. Sometimes I leave little gifts on the hood and then don’t they grumble, blood on the paint, and by the time the sun comes up, I’ll be curled up somewhere, thirsty and sore and dirty and alone.

But they’re always there when I come back, and I will never not return.

Publications…Full (Moon) Flash Fiction “Moonlit” available free online

Oh dear. Apparently last month’s new experiment was left a draft and not an actual post. That explains so much! So here is May’s Full (Moon) Flash Fiction, “Moonlit,” and in a moment, I will post the entry for June.

At this point, technical issues and time constraints have led to such a lengthy delay of “The Rise and Fall of Cassandra Jones” that I am a bit overwhelmed at trying to recreate what was lost and catch up. I am shelving it this year, and instead will be writing flash fiction. Or at least my take on flash fiction, which I have randomly decided will mean 500 words not counting the title for this project.

To kick off Full (Moon) Flash Fiction for May’s Milk Moon (Supermoon), I present:

“Moonlit”

I felt swollen, my skin stretched too taut, too thin. I would burst soon like an over-ripe piece of fruit. Not quite there, still safe to eat, but almost not, sweet and heavy on the tongue, one breath, maybe two, from the rot lurking just beyond the wash of juice. I licked my lips, tasted metal and dirt, and rolled over onto my back. The hot air sank into me, sweat springing up beneath my breasts, along the curve of my stomach and thighs. I pressed bare feet against dry grass and stared up into the creeping darkness. Sunset was seven minutes after the (super) moon rose. I shivered at the thought of sunlight and moonlight (sunlight reflected, refracted, twisted, broken into something new) kissing in the sky.

Anticipation, but a specific kind, sexual, sensual and warm. I stretched, languid, calling my lover to me. She crept across the edge of my (world) vision, (moon) woman reaching for me with pale fingers so gentle, so cold, and tugged me into the shadows underneath the old oak tree.

Her full mouth, slicked red, twisted into a smirk, and she crawled along me, lingering at the bone of my ankles, the dip of my knees, the long lines of flesh up the inside of my thighs. I canted my hips up at her, wanting, but she rested her hands on my stomach, digging her nails into my flesh, and leant forward, dark hair tumbling down across my breasts.

“Soon?” she asked, voice the quiet rustle of a soft wind through the cornfield. Any stronger, and it would drown out other noises, creeping through my senses and bringing the hair on the back of my neck up. (I ran through corn on four legs, on two, pushing aside the stalks, and at ten, at sixteen, at twenty-two, it chased me, wind-fast through the darkness.)

“Two minutes.” The words grumbled in the back of my throat, and I coughed to clear them. “Little less.”

“No time.” She sank into me, nudging her thigh between my legs, pressing into the hot, wet pulse of my cunt, and my heartbeat was so loud in my ears, her chest silent. She was right, we didn’t have time for this, I couldn’t come so fast, but still I arched into her, grinding against her (bad dog, no humping, and my laugh bubbled up, spilling out with the ferocity of a howl). “I’ll be watching.”

In the distance, the pack I would join once I shifted. She couldn’t get close to me then, my girl, bruised fruit mouth and (stolen) blood on her breath. The smell of her all over me kept me wary of my family, waiting for me to come to them beneath the moon.

“Oh,” I said, “now”

She dropped a kiss to my hungry mouth, tongue across the spot I’d chewed rough (bloody), and she was gone, lost to the sky. My back arched, a howl clawing up my throat, the monster rising from within.

Werewolf Wednesday…Alabaster: Wolves, Hemlock trilogy, Blooded and Full Blooded, Secret McQueen series, and Feeding Ground movie and graphic novel

This edition of Werewolf Wednesday is mostly things I haven’t read yet but would like to read soon.

Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlin R. Kiernan and Steve Lieber

Anyone reading this comic? I am intrigued, though from the preview, I’m not sure how I feel about the art. (Not even entirely sure it fully qualifies to be included in Werewolf Wednesday, but some of the reviews I’ve read have hinted that way, and now I’m curious.)

Hemlock Trilogy by Kathleen Peacock

I am really intrigued by the premise here.

Description from Peacock’s website: Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered. Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf. Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control. Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

A werewolf virus sweeping across the country? Infected hiding among us? Uncontrollable bloodlust? Main character sleuthing out the truth of her best friend’s death? Toss in some delightfully snarky dialog and I am there. I hope this ends up being as awesome as it sounds.

(Oh, damn, I think I like the UK cover better, though. Deadly Hemlock, beware the wolf within. Gorgeous red riding hood imagery.)

Blooded and Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson

(No relation.)

I hadn’t heard anything about this novella (Blooded) and follow-up novel (Full-Blooded) until today, but I am at least tentatively interested.

Description from Amazon: Jessica McClain was born the only female in an all male race. The only problem is-she’s no wolf. Called a curse, a witch and the Daughter of Evil by the superstitious wolves, Jessica decides to fight for her freedom, at age nineteen, the only way she can-in the ring. When she’s brutally attacked right after her fight, is it enough to finally earn her freedom off Compound, or will she be forced to endure the hatred even longer . . .

The review that brought this to my attention made me think that Jessica was a werewolf, but the Amazon description has me sort of doubting it. Either way, I’m interested, though I am leery of only-female-[whatever] in an all male race. Often that means one female character who never interacts with any other female character, and that sucks.

The bit about fighting in the ring does have me excited, though. I’ll have to look into whether the novella will be incorporated into the novel and I should wait until it is out, or if I should grab the novella first.

Secret McQueen Series by Sierra Dean

I am particularly intrigued by the description of the first book in the series, Something Secret This Way Comes.

Description from Dean’s website: Some secrets are dangerous. This Secret is deadly. For Secret McQueen, her life feels like the punch line for a terrible joke. Abandoned at birth by her werewolf mother, hired as a teen by the vampire council of New York City to kill rogues, Secret is a part of both worlds, but belongs to neither. At twenty-two, she has carved out as close to a normal life as a bounty hunter can. When an enemy from her past returns with her death on his mind, she is forced to call on every ounce of her mixed heritage to save herself—and everyone else in the city she calls home. As if the fate of the world wasn’t enough to deal with, there’s Lucas Rain, King of the East coast werewolves, who seems to believe he and Secret are fated to be together. Too bad Secret also feels a connection with Desmond, Lucas’s second-in-command…

I am a fan of stories about bounty hunters, werewolves, and vampires, at least until they go so very very wrong. This sounds like it might be fun, and if it is, there are a number of stories already available. (As much as I love discovering a great series from book one, I also love having plenty to read when I discover something awesome and new to me.)

From Fangoria.com: Ed Pressman is Feeding on Werewolf Project

Description from Fangoria: The FEEDING GROUND graphic novel, created by Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski and Chris Mangun, is about a “coyote,” or trafficker of illegal immigrants across the Mexico-U.S. border, who has to smuggle his own family into the States when his younger brother crosses a gangster. Their trek takes them into an area known as the Devil’s Highway, where they’re stalked by supernatural creatures. The book was published simultaneously in English and Spanish last year, and the movie will feature a mix of dialogue in both languages.

Something about this sounds really, really familiar. I think I’ve read a short story like it recently, but I cannot put my finger on where. (Hee, were. No pun intended though.) I think the one I read had either a woman shapeshifter or a woman hunting the shapeshifters. I will have to check my files, I know it can’t have been that long ago.

Anyway, I think Feeding Ground has the potential to be an excellent movie, and I want to get my hands on the graphic novel.

Have you been reading anything great lately? I really need to take inspiration from Eliza Reeve and start working my way through books I already own before I buy anything else, but (a) I desperately need to organize my book collection, both hard copies and ebooks (I am seeing the appeal of a dedicated ebook reader) and (b) so little time, so many stories (to read, to write).

Publications…Excerpt from “Hunter, Prey”

Don’t forget, you can still vote for “Hunter, Prey” to be included in Circlet Press’s Best of Circlet’s Digital Library Print Anthology. Vote here! Voting runs through March 15, and I thought I’d share an excerpt from “Hunter, Prey” here. If you like it, the full story is available in Like Tooth and Claw.

Meanwhile, come meet feisty, sexy Aisha and her new golden boy Finn.

Excerpt from “Hunter, Prey”

The last native wild mountain lion in Missouri was killed in 1927. Hunters have been telling stories of mountain lion sightings ever since.

One

I met him at the sixth stop on a Halloween bar crawl. My friends and I had a list of ten bars, but at six, we were almost done. It was my favorite, and I felt good enough to stay put.

Better than good. I was sobering up, but still riding a delicious buzz. I noticed him because he was still and silent when everyone else moved around the room, their voices loud and bright.

I twisted my glass of water against the top of the bar and shifted my weight so I could bounce my right heel. I had too much energy to sit.

“We could go dancing,” Shelley offered. She’d been my best friend since birth, when our dads took us to play dates together, and knew my moods better than anyone else.

I shrugged and cast another quick glance in his direction. She followed my gaze, then raised her eyebrows. Didn’t say anything, just took a drink of beer and carefully wiped her mouth after. The understanding between us went both ways. I knew what she was thinking, and she was absolutely right. I didn’t hook up with strangers. I didn’t have much time to date. Anytime I wanted uncomplicated sex—which I frequently did—one of my friends was up for it, too. We were a casual, open bunch.

Shelley glanced at him again and nudged me. I stepped to the side, sure she wanted me to make room for Erica—one of her partners. Trace, the other one, was at work—to join us, but she only nudged me again, harder.

Oh. It was a go get him, tiger nudge.

“He’s hot, Aisha. Go for it.”

I drained my water and looked over again. This time he looked at me, too, and our eyes locked. His corner was so shadowed I couldn’t tell what color his were.

It gave me an excuse to take a closer look.

I took my time crossing the room. I thought it was clear I was headed his way, and I wanted to give him time to give me a signal he didn’t want company. Plus, people kept stopping me to talk.

He was still in place when I got away from the others. A hopeful sign, but there was no guarantee he knew I’d been giving him an out.

“Want some company?” I put my hand on the back of an empty chair, but didn’t pull it away from the table.

He stared at me for a second. I didn’t mind. It gave me a chance to look at him. Up close, he was golden—the long hair in varying shades of blond, the beard and the scruff across his cheeks, and the way the dim light played off his skin—as if he’d been dipped in honey. ost striking of all were his eyes, golden-brown but strangely lit from within, like a candle behind stained glass.

He breathed in through his nose, then nudged the chair toward me. I pushed it closer to the wall and sat sideways in it, one arm looped over the back.

“Werewolf?” he asked. It took me a second, frowning, before I got it, and heat rushed to my cheeks. Probably he wouldn’t be able to tell in the low light. I touched the pointed ears sticking up from my twists. Shelley had made them out of soft black fur only slightly darker than my skin. It didn’t look like wolf, but most people couldn’t tell.

“The Big Bad Wolf.” I grinned and pointed out Shelley. “My best friend is Little Red Riding Hood. There’s a woodcutter around somewhere, too.” I half rose and angled my body so I could shake my ass at him. “Even got the tail. Sexy, huh?”

He chuckled and grinned. It flashed a deep dimple on the right side of his face and teeth that were crooked and sharp. “Very.” I wanted him to speak more. His voice was deep and slightly growly, but it had a hint of an accent, and I couldn’t yet place it.

“What’s your name?”

“Finn. Yours?”

Didn’t he ever use more than one-word sentences? “Aisha. You’re new around here.”

“That obvious?”

Okay. Two words. His reticence wasn’t horrible, though. I didn’t want that lush mouth of his for conversation.

“It’s a local bar. There are plenty closer to the highway. That’s where people stop if they’re passing through and where the college kids go.”

“I noticed. Too crowded for me.”

“So you made it all the way out to this little hole in the wall. Lucky me.”

He scratched the stubble on his cheek. “Want something to drink?”

“Water with lemon. I want to be sober for this.” I flashed him another smile and was inordinately pleased when he grinned back. I bit the inside of my lower lip to keep my joy from bubbling up. It was just a smile. I hadn’t caught him yet.

I made sure to watch him carefully. He might have been hot, and his jeans fit close to nice thighs and a firm butt, but he was still a stranger. Better safe than sorry when it came to drugged drinks. Shelley was watching us, and she stood next to him when he ordered. I trusted her to keep an eye on my drink. She stopped him when he turned away from the bar, all bouncy blonde ex-cheerleader, grinning and tossing her curls and ruffling her skirt at him. I looked good as a modern Big Bad Wolf, leather pants and boots and a distressed gray wrap shirt with a forest of pine trees trailing down the side—another of Shelley’s handmade items, she was so artistic it sometimes made me sick—but she was absolutely gorgeous in her black leather skirt and her tiny red hooded T-shirt. It showed off the shiny jewel in her belly button.

I’d left my truck a couple blocks away at the start of the night, pretty close to the last few bars on our list. There were streetlights, but all my windows were tinted, the back doors limo dark. I hit the unlock button on my keychain, but before I could open the door, Finn pushed me against it and put his mouth on my throat.

He ran his hands up my sides, under my shirt, until his thumbs brushed the bottom of my bra. My nipples tightened still further from the mix of his touch and the cold air. I hooked a leg around his calf and urged him closer, up between my thighs.

His hair was rough and thick around my hand. I palmed the back of his head and forced his face up. His mouth was open, his breath heavy, and I brushed my lips against his once, twice, before kissing him deeply.

He tasted like lime and beer. He shoved my bra up and strummed his thumbs across my nipples, catching my moan and swallowing it. Swallowing me. I rocked my hips forward, rubbing against his thigh. My bra was tight against the top of my chest, constricting the blood flow, and my breasts tingled.

Finn kissed the corner of my mouth, the edge of my jaw, the curve of my shoulder, and then licked the hollow of my throat. His tongue traced designs on my skin. I tilted my head back, gasping for air, and my breath hung in a white cloud overhead, melting away slowly. I tugged hard on his hair. He groaned and pulled against my grip, but I knew that sound, that movement. He wasn’t trying to get away. I fisted my hand and twisted it in his hair, giving myself a much better grip, then pulled again, hard and steady, moving him where I wanted him to go.

“I want to see you naked,” I ordered and reached behind me to open the door. I shoved him inside, scrambled in after him, and locked the doors behind me, trapping us.

Publications…The Rise and Fall of Cassandra Jones Pending Technical Issues

Watch this space for the second half of February’s story and March’s full moon story, not available online yet due to technical issues.

In the meantime, I hope you all had the chance to take a look at the full moon. It’s gorgeous.

Publications…Vote for “Hunter, Prey” for Circlet Press’s Best of Circlet’s Digital Library Print Anthology

Vote for “Hunter, Prey”

Circlet Press is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of “celebrating the erotic imagination,” which is a damn fine thing to celebrate. As a part of the celebration, Circlet is releasing a print anthology of the Best of Circlet’s Digital Library. The editors have shortlisted stories from Circlet’s ebooks, and now readers get to vote on their favorites for inclusion in the print anthology and some monetary prizes.

My story “Hunter, Prey” was shortlisted! Originally published in Like Tooth and Claw, “Hunter, Prey” is the story of Aisha, a black woman in her thirties who loves to hunt, both animals and sexual partners. Her Halloween fling with the strange and sexy Finn becomes something much more when she’s attacked by a mountain lion while deer hunting in the wilds of Missouri and suddenly she’s faced with a whole new meaning for the word hunter — and the word prey.

Asylumgirl at Night Owl Reviews had this to say about “Hunter, Prey”: The attraction between the characters is immediate and something that the reader can feel and be a part of. The sex is hot and rough, with bites and bruises to go around. Hunter, Prey is an excellent example of shapeshifter romance, full of raw animalistic eroticism.

I love kinky, dominant Aisha and golden big cat Finn, and am absolutely honored that “Hunter, Prey” was shortlisted, particularly because I did receive some negative feedback about it because Aisha was a dominant woman and Finn willingly submits to her. I normally try to take what I can from negative feedback to improve and don’t let it bother me, but since the core of some of this feedback was simply that women shouldn’t be dominant, it got to me, a little. Being shortlisted like this reminded me that not everyone feels that way. (I talked about this in more depth here.)

I would really appreciate your vote for “Hunter, Prey” if you enjoyed reading it. Other stories I particularly recommend include “A Woman of Uncommon Accomplishment” by Elizabeth Reeve, the story I love despite disliking Austen, and “The Dancer’s War” by N.K. Jemisin, which is breathtakingly hot and made me want to dance.

Vote for “Hunter, Prey”

Writing…The Rise and Fall of Cassandra Jones: Snow Moon (1/2), available free online

Day job interfered with finishing the second half of this, so you will get a chapter in two parts this month.

Happy Snow Moon!

The Rise and Fall of Cassandra Jones
Wolf Moon

Previously:

“Turning back—” Cassie cuts herself short and eases off the gas, letting the car coast. It’s nearly silent, and she can hear something moving whip fast through the big field on the other side of the road. The corn’s been cut down, of course, but there are still enough stalks she can’t quite make out what’s there.

She draws her gun and lets it rest in her lap, her right hand curled around it, then kills her headlights with her left hand. Her eyes adjust fast to the lack of light, but she doesn’t see anything else, not even a shadow moving. With the window down, she can hear the harsh blow of the wind – it rocked the car the whole way out – but nothing more.

Her instincts are good, her skills honed. She’s been hunting werewolves for more than a decade, she’s got the best team in the field. Once she gets a glimpse of the hair on its chinney chin chin, she’s never let a wolf live more’n a couple full moon cycles, tops.

She’ll kill them all, she will, even if it takes her forever and a day.

Snow Moon

Werewolves hunt beneath the full moon because, well, werewolves, but also because more people are out, taking advantage of the extra light, at least when the weather is warm enough. Werewolves don’t need the light to hunt, but the extra prey helps.

Cassandra Jones hunts beneath the full moon because, well, werewolf hunter, but she does her reconnaissance under the new moon. Most people fear the darkness, and fewer people outside means fewer chances that she’ll get caught. She slips through shadows, easing her way between houses and down dirt roads, checking out all the places she thinks the werewolf will likely strike.

(Back in black, she thinks, and laughs. She spends so much time alone, it’s a good thing she’s learned to amuse herself.)

She thought being stuck in this small Kansas town between full moons would suck, but it’s not been so bad, really. They’re the only people staying in the motel (which is really more of a bed and breakfast, as tiny as it is), and the owner’s a little old lady with skin worn by sun and wind and a sweet smile. She was a farmer’s daughter, and then a farmer’s wife, and when they sold the farm to some big conglomeration, she bought and fixed up a house and turned it into the little motel. It was her dream, she says, and she’s happy to have it at last. She makes the best biscuits and gravy and coffee Cassie’s ever tasted, and even gets Miguel’s bacon right. (Miguel likes it crispy, but not too crunchy, cooked well, but not overdone, and even with all the cooks in all the places they’ve hunted together, Cassie can count maybe five times he’s been satisfied. Maybe less than that.)

Down the street (there’s really only the one main street, but the rest of the town meanders around it, tiny streets weaving together and apart, and it really doesn’t make much sense at all, but it’s been fun exploring it), Samantha finds a diner with big burgers and sweet potato fries and fresh sweet tea. They meet up there late in the afternoon — Cassie sleeps during the middle part of the day, grabbing breakfast-for-dinner when she comes back to her room — before Cassie heads out at night.

The unseasonably warm weather lasts and lasts. Cassie still doesn’t think 50 or 60 degrees is warm, but it’s gotten all the way up to 70 a couple times, and seeing pictures of the big blizzard a few years back (and even just pictures of last year’s snows), well, she’ll take 50s and 60s over that any day. In the afternoon, she goes for long runs, keeping in shape, and sometimes, once she clears town, she’ll stop by the side of the road and tip her head back and bask in the sunlight.

It’s not a perfect place. She gets the side-eye from some of the locals (Miguel does too), and a couple nights, she’s gotta take extra care to make sure she doesn’t get caught snooping around. Samantha gets harassed by some of the local boys. If they got close enough, Samantha could lay them flat, but they never do, and she shrugs and keeps on. The law’s good, though, none of them seem to have any problem with Cassie and her team.

They’ve been in better places, but they’ve been in worse, too.

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Cassie takes a couple of side jobs while she’s waiting. Place like this, she’ll drive a day or two for a side job just to keep busy until the next full moon. Samantha finds two of them, one a nearby haunted graveyard (she debunks that one easy, it’s not hardly any work at all; she doesn’t expect it to be real, not with the vague descriptions of the woman in white. Mostly it’s teenagers hanging out and pretending to cast spells. She takes the job because she likes graveyards, finds them pretty and peaceful. It’s a good thing she takes it, though. She likes teens, too, and appreciates the opportunity to make sure they’re not messing with things bigger and more real than their fake spells. This time, they’re not) where Samantha spends an afternoon making grave rubbings and a night recording Cassie searching for ghosts.

(They bust ass during the summer to get enough filmed to last the rest of the year. Samantha used to do the editing herself, but it’s amazing what a little popularity will do. They’ve got a producer now, and if you would have told Cassie back when she started hunting that people would actually pay her more to debunk the stories than to save people’s lives, well — she might have believed you, she always was a cynical little shit, but back then she would have hoped you were wrong.)

The other one Samantha finds is fake, too, and that’s to be expected. Cassie’d bet, if there was anyone around willing to take it, that every state has some sort of goatman story: the devil, a witch, a monster, whatever it is, always lurking. It’s a good drive down into Missouri. Miguel goes with her, leaving Samantha to keep watch. There’s nothing to this Goatman’s Grave, and the worst thing that happens is she gets thick, grainy mud all over her favorite boots. She’s slogged through worse in them, and it’s always worth the time it takes to scrub them clean.

(Miguel drags her to this minuscule pie shop in a nearby town so crowded inside that claustrophobia tightens her throat even though they’re the only people there. He read about it in one of his guidebooks, and it lives up to the praise. He gets a slice of cherry and a whole dutch apple to share with Samantha. Cassie hates fruit pies, but the chocolate creme is rich and decadent and just the treat she wants after another bum job. Local hole in the walls brimming with surprisingly tasty food, and enough video footage to keep the money rolling in, those are the best parts of false alarms.

Of course, if Samantha hadn’t been the one to suggest it, she would have guessed Miguel tracked down a local legend just so they could get the pie, but hey, it’s good, she wouldn’t even really fault him for that.)

The third job, Cassie finds herself, a millionaire family down on a big ranch in Oklahoma, and the monster tearing up their livestock is very real. Real, and driven by a curse, she figures out, and it takes three whole days to find all the charms buried around the perimeter. Once she burns them with the proper herbs, it’s no big thing to take out the monster, fangs and claws and horns be damned.

They don’t charge every person who asks for help, but some they do. Millionaires, definitely. And she’s learned to get money up front. Half down, she says, and they pay that willingly enough, but after she tucks the burned charms into a bag — the ashes might be useful for something else — they don’t want to pay her the rest.

Cassie figured at the beginning that would happen. Big part of being a werewolf hunter is knowing human nature and reading people fast, even if werewolves aren’t human and most of them don’t fake it very well. She has to be prepared for the ones that do. She mentally doubled her price about a minute after sitting down with them — all those rules about where she could and couldn’t go and what times she could and couldn’t be on their land, most of which she ignored anyway — so she’s already got the amount she really wanted for the job. However, it’s the principle of the thing, and she lets the monster tear up their land one more night. It’s no longer bound to their fields by the charms. Cassie lurks, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t hurt the family or head toward anyone else’s land. It does go close to the house, and they fire off some shots, but even though they hit it — or so they claim — the bullets do nothing.

They’re happy to pay up after that. Cassie gets her money, makes sure they don’t see what she uses to treat her weapons, and kills it with ease. She burns the body herself, too, mouth and nose covered. It doesn’t stink the same way werewolf fur does, but it smells bad enough.

That’s enough time down, she thinks, and heads back to prepare for the next full moon.

(to be continued)

Writing…The Rise and Fall of Cassandra Jones: Wolf Moon, available free online

Happy Wolf Moon!

The Rise and Fall of Cassandra Jones

Wolf Moon

The 2012 Farmer’s Almanac sets the full moon at exactly 1:30 a.m. Central USA time on Monday, January 9, but that means almost two entire nights for the werewolves. From moonrise on Sunday – 4:57 p.m. – to moonset on Tuesday – 8:17 a.m. – as long as the moon is in the sky, visible or not, the werewolves can hunt.

Monday morning, 5:00 a.m.

It’s dark, and the moon sits far to the west. Kansas stretches beneath it, flat land harvested and cut down and torn open, flexing on and on in the pale moonlight. Crossroads are shadows, and the sound of the train – the clickety-clack of wheels and the harsh cry of the horn – carries long into the darkness.

The neighborhood still sleeps, even the dogs silent, not yet awake to howl out their greetings and wake the world, when Cassandra Jones steps off the porch of the house closest to the railroad tracks, drawing her long wool coat tighter around her. It’s been warm lately – warm-ish, at least, no way forties and fifties are actually warm — but when she breathes deep, the air is cold enough to bite into her lungs.

She flexes her toes in her shoes, wishing for thicker socks, and clutches her keys tight in her left hand, the metal edges biting into her fingertips. She ticks through her to do list and pats absentmindedly at her pockets with her right hand, brushing against the wool coat again and again. She’s a long stretch of shadow, black coat on black clothes on black hair and skin, only the red of her lips standing out in the chiaroscuro of full moon light, bitten raw.

The moment she steps off the porch, there’s one loud exclamation – “Fuck, that’s cold!” – and then only a scowl and the occasional vague muttering into her scarf. It’s too thin for the chill, more decorative than anything, but she tucks her mouth down into it, covering her lips. They ache some, and one corner is cracked. Fresh blood rises sluggishly, just enough that the werewolf three houses away looks up from the empty backyard and sniffs the air.

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