New Orleans was a welcome sight, mostly for the promise of anonymity it held. Marcus had talked about coming here after Katrina though whether that was because he had a … Continue reading Welcome to New Orleans
Riding home from Martha’s Luna tried not to fume. The woman could be so damn stubborn! A tired smile tugged at her lips.
“Pot meet kettle.” she murmured against Emma’s hair.
Emma didn’t stir, she was so tired, and probably confused, too, but Sam must have heard her whispered words, he glanced over in her direction. He could probably guess what she was thinking, but Luna told him anyway.
“Martha can be stubborn but I never dreamed she would cut herself off from…” Not wanting Emma to realize she was talking about her, Luna let her eyes falls to the dark head snuggled against her.
“Well, ya never know, she may come around yet,” Sam told her.
Luna considered debating the point but held her peace. He’s been right before when he urged her to let Martha play a role in Emma’s life. She hadn’t wanted to hear it then. Tonight, Martha hadn’t wanted to hear she wasn’t the only one who made mistakes. She supposed she could understand that. But if Martha thought she was going to get another apology she was sadly mistaken. Luna had offered her hand. Now it was up to Martha to take it or not.
Glancing out the window, Luna realized they weren’t heading back to Sam’s trailer. It wasn’t long before they pulled up to her house. Luna looked at Sam quizzically.
“Thought you ladies might want your own clothes,” he explained .
“Now that you mention it,” Luna smiled. “Not that I object to wearing your clothes, but they don’t really fit Emma.”
Sam smiled, she could tell from the heat in his eye that he liked that she liked her in his shirt. She opened the door and hopped out, only to discover Emma had fallen asleep.
“Want me to carry her to bed?” Sam asked softly, so as not to wake her.
“If you would,” Luna told him, like the idea of him coming inside. Maybe she could talk him into staying…
It has not been the best night. Actually, that’s an understatement. It’s been about the worst night I can imagine.
First Sam surrenders to a bunch of angry Weres out of some misguided idea that he owes to Alcide not to reveal who really killed Marcus. I mean come on! Alcide killed Marcus! Exactly how is keeping that a secret a good thing for anyone?And besides, isn’t it Alcide choice as to whether he tells his Pack or not? Frankly, I surprised he hid it at all, since he’s now the Packmaster.
Then, once we get that straightened out, thanks to Alcide himself setting the record straight, we get to watch the wolves eat Marcus. Sometimes I really have to wonder about Were traditions. Talk about disgusting. Marcus had been dead and buried for days!
I thought things would be ok once I got Sam out of there and back to my place. Instead things went from bad to worse. Not only did Martha have the gall to come calling, Sam let her in! There is no way that woman is coming anywhere near Emma. She just ate her son! That is not the kind of influence Emma needs, I don’t care if Martha is Emma’s grandmother.
And Sam…i can’t believe Sam would condone it. But apparently, he does. Well, he doesn’t know Martha. I do. And he doesnt’ know what’s best for Emma, either. I do. If sam doesn’t have my back, well, I don’t need him. No matter how much I may want him. Right now protecting Emma comes first.
So I threw him out. Yeah, not smart but…what was I supposed to do?
That should have been the end to my night. I was emotionally drained from a roller coaster rider of fear and anger. All I wanted was to go to bed and wake up tomorrow and have this whole mess be nothing but a bad dream.
Assuming I can get Emma to settle down and fall asleep, that is. What the heck is she doing in there?? *opens Emma’s bedroom door* Oh….
It wasn’t all bad.
Sitting here with a box of old photos, it’s easy to remember why I fell in love with Marcus. The face smiling up at me is a young wolf, ambitious but free-spirited. The Marcus I met was always on the move, going wherever the wind blew him. One day, it blew him into the Navajo Nation and then it blew out a tire on his bike.
It’s not easy to find a motorcycle repair shop on the Rez. There are plenty of shade tree mechanics. It’s the parts that are hard to come by, or were before the casino cash started rolling in. Even now, with all that new income, there are parts of the Nation without running water or electricity.
He spent nearly a week waiting for parts and almost another making repairs. Most of the locals avoided him, saying he was dangerous and mean. They didn’t come right out and call him a crook, but they made sure to count the change and lock up the valuables, especially their daughters when he was around. My father warned me, I’ll give him that. But I wasn’t valuable enough to lock away. Sometimes I wonder if they didn’t want me to run off with Marcus.
They couldn’t have been surprised when I took the first chance for escape that crossed my path. Marcus made it so easy. He was charming and funny. He told me I was beautiful and smart. He didn’t sneer at me for being a shifter, even though he was a Were. He didn’t understand why my own people treated me like an outcast. I don’t think he knew, then, that I was a skinwalker.
Anyway, he asked me to leave with him. I’m ashamed to admit, I’d fallen in love in less than two weeks. When his bike was fixed, I threw a very few things in a duffle bag and walked out the door, vowing never to look back.
The first few months were amazing. I saw and did things I never even imagined before. We went to California and explored the coast before heading back East and south through the mountains. That was when things started to change. At first I didn’t notice. Then, the first time I got pregnant, we settled in Shreveport. I miscarried, which isn’t unusual for us, but I was terrified about what it meant. That’s when I told Marcus about the skinwalking. He wasn’t angry, at least not as angry as I thought he would be. There was more more calculated about his reaction. Things grew strained between us. He was already rising in the Pack and by the time I got pregnant with Emma, he was Pack Leader.
For little while things were perfect. Emma had him tied around her little finger from the moment the doctor put her in his arms. We stopped arguing, both lost in the pure joy of this perfect little person we had created. It was an idyllic time. Better even than when I had run away with him. We were just a happy family.
Looking at the photos, it’s so easy to remember. And so hard to forget….
A wolf finally knocked on my door. After all this time, the ghostly glimpses, the chases and the almost fights, a knock came on the door last weekend. Now, I don’t know whether to be relieved or even more frightened than I was.
To be fair, Alcide didn’t just drop by unannounced. He called a few minutes before he arrived to let me know he was on his way. It wasn’t much, but it was enough warning for me to get Emma into her room with headphones on. I knew, instinctively, this was one conversation I didn’t want her overhearing.
Alcide wanted to talk about Marcus. Not about how Marcus had run the Pack, who he trusted and who he didn’t, which I really didn’t know much about, but about some recent sightings of him in New Orleans. There wasn’t much I could tell him that he didnt already know. Marcus is dead. He knew, and I knew, that there is no way, if Marcus was alive, he would leave Emma and me alone.
I don’t think Alcide knows I’m a skinwalker. He suspects something, i’m sure, especially since he knows Tommy could shift into Sam. Maybe laying a false trail was a bad idea but with no word from Alcide or the Pack, I didn’t know what else to do. All I wanted was some breathing room. I had to accept a certain amount of possessiveness from Marcus, but now that he was gone, I just wanted to be left alone to raise my daughter. Is that too much to ask for?
I didn’t realize Alcide felt guilty about killing Marcus. I don’t really understand that. It was Marcus’ night to die. By killing him, Alcide saved Sam. Marcus never did fight fair. The question I asked Alcide was a valid one: who should have killed Marcus if not Alcide? I was mad enough to do it, but it would have destroyed Emma. Sam would have, too, either to avenge his brother or maybe to protect us. Neither one of us could take over the Pack however. And a leaderless Pack is a very dangerous thing.
That’s another thing I don’t understand. Why does Alcide still feel like an outsider around the Pack? Isn’t he Pack Leader now that Marcus is dead?
I wish I knew what was going on. I tried to ask Alcide, but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say much more than that the Pack would be keeping an eye on Emma until she shifted for the first time. That’s not reassuring. It’s not like I have room to complain, though. I wasn’t exactly honest with him. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I just don’t think admitting I was the one mistaken for Marcus in New Orleans would solve anything.
Marcus strode through the Quarter like he owned the place. He made sure he was seen, hitting the most popular tourist traps and jazz joints. The town was filling up with Mardi Gras and Lent barreling down on them. A lot of strangers were in town. Lots of pretty girls. People in a mood to party and get a little wild. Now and again, Marcus would pause just to watch, or see if the pretty little things who couldn’t take their eyes off him were brave enough to sidle up and say hello.
The krewes, be they human or supe, were gearing up for the parades but still keeping an eye on things. Marcus totally ignored the Weres shadowing him, never once looking into a window to catch their reflection, let them know he knew they were there. Every step, every sardonic lift of a lip, was an open challenge to the local Packs and he knew it. He just didn’t care.
A few people nodded at him or started in his direction. He didn’t quite encourage either, waiting until he was on his way back out the door before nodding back or just scowling as he slammed a beer or whiskey when someone looked like they might speak to him. The only ones he gave the time of day to were the bouncers and the bartenders. They had enough sense, or enough to do, to keep the chitchat to a minimum. The tips he left showed his appreciation and made sure they would remember him even in the crowd.
After a couple of hours, he saw what he was looking for. A dark haired Creole girl with skin the color of one of those fancy lattes Luna liked, hurrying through the crowds, eager to get home after work. He worked his way around so their paths would cross. A quick sniff and he knew she was no Were, though she hung or worked with supes. Their scent covered her. Marcus grinned and fell in step behind her.
As luck would have it, she was headed for one of the quiet streets leading away from the Quarter. He followed close enough that she knew she was being tailed and it made her nervous. Not nervous enough to turn back to the Quarter, however. Marcus guessed she must be heading somewhere close by or put too much faith in herself or her supe friends. His shadows wouldn’t follow him here, not unless they knew the girl, which, apparently, they didn’t. Marcus didn’t bother hiding a feral smile. The girl must have seen or sensed his smile because she picked up her pace, almost running towards her destination.
The porch light was on, someone was waiting for her. As she swung onto the porch steps, her backpack swung free, caught on the decorative railings. Marcus sprang into action, grabbing the bag. The girl had decent instincts. She let him have it and scrambled for the door, her keys in her hand, eyes on him. For a moment they stared at each other. Then the door behind her opened, a thin young man with a reedy voice stepped into the night, asking what was going on.
Marcus freed the backpack from the railing with a violent jerk that tore through the heavy canvas like cotton gauze. The message was clear. This could end much differently and that choice was his, not theirs. Without a word, Marcus handed the girl her kit. Her jaw trembled though she raised her chin defiantly as she took it. Their eyes locked once more, Marcus nodded a ghost of a smile touching his lips. He was rewarded by a confused blush as he stepped away and headed back towards the Quarter.
A few houses away he ducked down an alley and stripped, shoving his clothes into trash cans, dog houses and under cars. The only thing he kept were his boots which he tied together by the laces before shifting into his wolf form. Taking up the boots, he began to run, easily leaping over hedges and racing across streets to where he had buried a bag earlier that night. With powerful paws he dug it up, yanking it from its hiding place. He took a good look around, drawing in deep breaths of air, seeking any sign that he was being watched. Confident he was alone, he began to shift again.
I would have loved to have just lain there forever. My skin and mind crawled with the knowledge of what I had just done. Even the cold dirt beneath me felt cleaner than i did. Not for long, though. My stomach rebelled and I retched until there was less than nothing in it. With shaking hands I buried the vomit and pulled on my own clothes. Stashing the boots in my bag, I began the long walk to the bus that would take me back to the airfield. I pulled a mini-bottle of whiskey out and swished it through my mouth before spitting it out. I knew I looked awful, hopefully the whiskey smell would fool everyone into thinking I was just drunk or something. It was a good thing I’d already called in sick for Friday. I wasn’t going to be in any shape, mentally or physically to deal with other people.
Skinwalking was bad enough. Skinwalking as Marcus was a whole different level of disgusting. I didn’t want to know I could pull it off, that I could make people believe I was him. But I didn’t have any choice. Wolves were watching Emma and me. They were probably watching Sam, too. I couldn’t risk that they would do more tha watch, so I had taken Marcus’ form and begun sowing seeds of doubt that the Pack Leader was gone. I knew Marcus was gone. I also knew he’d never be forgotten. It made me want to kill him, again. Maybe I would.
Sam was so sweet to think of going for a run. The wind whipping through my mane as my hooves pounded over the earth felt so good! For the first time in a long time I began to think things might actually work out…then he had to go and ruin it.
I saw the wolf pacing us. He tried to stay downwind and out of sight but the way we were running, that wasn’t feasible. It’s not like we were running to something. We weren’t running away, either, which was kind of a novel experience for me at least. We were just running for the joy of it. That made us hard to predict, at least for the wolf following us. I guess that’s why they run in packs.
Deep down I knew Marcus’ Pack wouldn’t, couldn’t, leave me and Emma alone. She’s half Were, after all. She could go either way when the time comes. Part of me hopes that by living with me, and spending time with Sam rather than the Pack, will tilt the odds in favor of her manifesting as a shifter but I know it’s a crap shoot. I can’t blame the Pack for wanting to keep an eye on her, on us. But really, they could be polite enough to ask.
Running with that wolf was as close as I’d come to the Pack since Marcus…. I’d been trying hard to keep my head down and not do anything that would attract their attention. I thought I’d done a good enough job that Alcide, or whoever had become Pack Leader, had forgotten all about us. The presence of that wolf said otherwise.
There was another possibility. I have no idea what Alcide told the Pack had happened to Marcus. It was possibly, although highly unlikely, they didn’t know Marcus was dead. If that were true…there were possibilities. If it weren’t true, I guess that was what worried Sam.
I want to think Sam was sniffing around my back door because he wanted to make sure Emma and I were safe. I want to think that he came around as a dog because he’d be able to find and track any strange scents or stray wolves he found. I want to think he didn’t want to give my neighbors any more reason to talk than we already have. Trust a guy to try to do the right thing in the wrong way. That’s what I want to think.
The problem is, I’m not sure that is what I think. I didn’t fight free of Marcus just to get caught up in another similar situation. Sam is great. What we have is great but can I really trust it, trust him, to last?