Crescent Moon (Chapter 35)
I couldn't stop muttering, couldn't stop staring. How could this be? I'd touched Adam with silver. He hadn't minded.
The thing in the cage appeared mad, throwing his body against the metal, trying to chew a way out. Blood marred the white spittle dripping from his snout. Maybe the wolf was rabid after all.
"That's not a wolf," I whispered.
Absently I shoved the key into my pocket, and my fingertips brushed the gris-gris. The animal howled as if in pain and began to change.
The transformation was something from a horror film; at first my mind refused to accept what my eyes couldn't help but see.
The sleek, dark fur receded, becoming shorter and shorter as if it were being sucked through the skin. Paws became feet at the ends of legs and hands at the ends of arms. The claws evaporated the same way the fur had.
The neck twisted; the spine lengthened; the animal moaned. Going from quadrapedal to bipedal couldn't feel good.
His snout shortened, dividing into nose and mouth as the canine teeth shrank. The tail disappeared with a thick, wet thunk. The eyes remained the same.
Inside the cage stood a naked Adam Ruelle.
He didn't appear upset to be revealed a monster. Didn't seem to care he was in his altogether for the world to see. In fact, he seemed to like it, or maybe, if the size of his erection was any indication, he liked me.
What he didn't like was the cage. He slammed both hands against the bars and growled, "Let me out"
I shook my head. I couldn't speak.
"Goddammit, bitch, set me free!"
I blinked. That didn't sound like Adam. Of course, what did I know? I'd believed him when he said he wasn't the loup-garou.
He tilted his head to stare at the crescent moon. "How did you do it?"
"Make me shift."
His voice was heated, his gaze anything but. Staring into his eyes, I was reminded of Lazarus – cold-blooded and empty of emotion. This man would kill without flinching and forget about it before the blood dried on the ground.
The Adam I knew wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy, but he wasn't evil. Or maybe I'd just been too busy getting my brains screwed out to notice.
My hand ached from clutching the gris-gris. I glanced down, opened my fingers, and understood. I'd been unable to see the truth until magic cleared my eyes.
"I ran as a wolf under de crescent moon. I have no choice."
I lifted my gaze. "The curse."
"Oui. But I become a man when I choose, or when de sun comes." He swept a hand down his body. "This was not my choice."
I folded my fingers around the gris-gris. I had asked for the truth.
"Why you lock me up like this?" he whispered. "You know I'd come to you in de night. I like to hear you scream when I fuck you. You didn't have to put me in a cage."
I winced at his language and the thought I'd been sleeping with a monster. I'd believed myself in love with him, had begun to imagine a life together.
I was a fool.
"Let me go, and I'll do you right here."
He took himself in his hand and pumped, then moaned a little. The sound was more of a growl and marched along my skin like biting red ants.
"I've been imagining such things, Diana. You, me, this way and that. Have you ever wanted to mate with a beast?"
My eyes widened. I couldn't speak. Adam seemed like a completely different man. Was he possessed by Satan under the crescent moon?
"I'll shift again. It'll be doggie style like you've never had before. And if you make me howl, I won't even kill you tonight"
I took a step back and he smiled. Were his teeth growing longer along with his – ?
I yanked my gaze away, but not before he saw my unease and smirked.
"With de flower I marked you as mine."
How could that be? Adam had taken the fire irises away from me, thrown them into the swamp, told me not to pick them again.
Was he schizophrenic? That would make a certain kind of sense.
I'd read all of Simon's research into lycanthropy. Many psychiatrists and other physicians believed the historical reports of werewolves stemmed from the behavior of the insane. Back then mental illness was labeled possession.
I stared at Adam, locked in a cage. I could understand the theory.
"I watched you whenever I could. De others knew you were mine to keep or kill."
I guess I hadn't been crazy when I'd heard more than one wolf in the swamp, seen slinky shadows hi town. History often repeated itself, and one of its great lessons is that evil loves to beget evil.
'I wanted to be inside you that first night," he continued, "but de crescent moon called. I had to make do with a few touches."
No wonder I'd had such an erotic dream at the hotel on Bourbon Street My skin went clammy at that memory and several others.
"Set me free. I'll get out sooner or later. But if it's later, you'll pay. I will do tilings you never imagined. I will keep you alive forever. You will beg to die, Diana, and I will never let you go."
I wasn't stupid. If I let him out now, obsession or no, he'd kill me.
I rubbed my thumb over the outline of the key in my pocket. If I had my way, he would never see freedom again.
"I have to get back to de boy," he whispered. "He expects me come morning."
Black dots danced in front of my eyes. Luc. How could I have forgotten?
I couldn't connect the man who'd so tenderly held his son, who had refused to allow me near him lest the boy be hurt when I left, to the one who spoke so calmly of both killing and fucking me.
Definitely possessed by Satan.
Without another word, I walked away. Adam's voice followed me down the trail: "What de hell? You think you can leave me here?"
"Just did," I muttered.
"I will kill you!"
"I will tear out your guts and strangle you with them. I will drink your blood; I will bathe in it."
And pretty scary. Nevertheless, I had to get to Luc and take him away.
I ran all the way back to the mansion, grabbed my stuff, and tossed everything into the trunk except the dart gun, Cassandra's knife, and my cell phone. Those I placed on the front seat. I stared at Adam's pistol for a second, then realized he wouldn't have helped me out by loading it with silver, and left the thing in the trunk. Around my waist I secured a fanny pack with my money and travel documents.
As I climbed behind the wheel, a howl rose toward the descending moon. Uneasy, I glanced at the swaying swamp. That had sounded close.
I floored the accelerator, spewing grass and dirt until I fishtailed onto the highway. Then I used one hand to dial
Frank. Since it was the middle of the night, I wasn't surprised when his machine answered.
"Your loup-garou is confined in a cage in the swamp about a mile east of the Ruelle Mansion," I said. "If you have a problem finding him, call Detective Conner Sullivan and have him take you to the place where Charlie died." I hung up and muttered, "The first time."
I didn't consider where I was going, what I was doing, or how I would hide from Adam for the next fifty years. I focused all my attention on getting to Luc and getting him gone.
The moon was nearly down; the sun would soon be up. I parked in front of Adam's trailer. I'd walked halfway to the door before I went back and grabbed the knife.
"Better safe than sorry," I murmured, and tucked the weapon into the pack at my waist
I decided to make that my mantra.
A few seconds later, hand poised to knock, mind occupied constructing a stupendous lie for Sadie, the babysitter, I hesitated, then tried the doorknob.
The door swung inward without a sound.
After glancing over one shoulder, then the other, I scampered inside. I'd been bent on doing anything it took to get to the child and then kidnap him, but strolling into a house uninvited made me uncomfortable.
I crept down the hall. In the first room, Sadie slept on the bed. I pulled the door shut and moved on to the room illuminated by a night-light. A gaggle of boy toys – a football, a bat, a deck of cards that appeared to have been the victim of fifty-two pickup – were strewn across the floor, as well as several dirty T-shirts and a dozen smelly socks.
Luc lay on top of the covers, arms and legs flung apart with wild abandon. I let out the breath I'd been holding in a rush and Luc's eyes snapped open. He must have been a real treat to get down for a nap as a baby.
I put my finger to my lips, and he grinned as I hurried across the floor to kneel at his side. Before I could speak, he flung his arms around my neck and hugged me. What I wouldn't give to be able to trust like that. After this, I probably never would.
"We're going on a trip," I whispered. "Do you have a suitcase?"
"You and me and Daddy?" he whispered back.
"Just you and me."
"Is that OK with Daddy?"
"No," said a familiar voice from the door.