Dark Moon (Chapter Three)

Werewolves are nocturnal – just like the wolves they resemble. Even underground, beneath fluorescent lights, they continue to behave like the animals they are. Therefore, at this time of the day, the majority of my guests were sleeping.

I hurried down the corridor. While most rooms held a hint of light, the better to simulate the muted rays of the sun, the last was completely dark.

As dark as Billy Bailey's soul would be, if he had one.

In front of each cell stood a table with equipment appropriate for that subject's experiment.

I checked the slides I'd made with Billy's blood. I wasn't sure what I was looking for; I only hoped that when I saw it something would click. But after years of searching, I wasn't sure I'd ever find the answer.

A body slammed against the wall with enough force to shake the barrier. Calmly I lifted my gaze from the microscope to the naked man plastered against the see-through sector of his prison.

"Billy." I made a notation on his chart.

"She-bitch," he said in a conversational tone.

"Redundant," I murmured, and he slammed his fist into the glass.

He wanted me to shriek, to gasp, at least to jump. But I rarely did. Why give him any more satisfaction than he'd already had in this lifetime?

Out of the corner of my eye I watched Billy slither back into the gloom. Only then did I release the breath I'd been holding.

Billy Bailey scared the living hell out of me. I never should have asked that he be brought here, but I was desperate.

I'd tried everything I could think of to devise an antidote that would put people back the way they'd been before they were bitten. I kept coming up empty.

I had invented a serum that eased a werewolf's craving for human blood on the night of a full moon. As well as a counteragent that eradicated the virus if the victim was injected before their first change. Sadly, the remedy didn't work on the already furry.

I glanced into the darkness where Billy hovered, waiting for me to make a mistake.

"You need more blood," he said.

His voice slid out of shadows, and I stifled a shiver. Billy was always watching me. He knew I was something, but he wasn't sure what. Because I was like him, and then again I wasn't.

As in the legends, most werewolves are created by being bitten. There are other ways for humans to become furry, of course. The list is as endless as the monsters.

I was a perfect example. I'd spent the first twenty-plus years of my life blissfully unaware of werewolves.

Then one night I had just… become.

I was a werewolf, but I didn't have the demon –  shorthand in the J-S society for the psychotic joy in murdering anyone who crossed our path.

Killing sickened me. Nevertheless, I was still possessed every month by the lust for blood. Hence my first invention.

Yet even when I took my medicine, I continued to change whenever the moon was full. I had little choice. However, no one but myself and Edward were aware of my secret. Which was why my very existence was driving Billy more insane than he already was.

I glanced up as he materialized again from the darkness. Billy refused to wear clothes. I'm sure he sensed that his nudity disturbed me, though not because of any sexual interest.

His extreme height, incredible breadth, and large… feet would disturb anyone, even without the crisscross of scars that peppered his chest and back.

Since any scars received before a person became a werewolf remained, I'd come to the conclusion that in his previous life, Billy had been a very bad boy.

"Your arm, please."

Billy's lips tightened. Despite the bulletproof glass, I felt the fury pulsing from him like a flame. Yet his gray eyes were the coldest I'd ever known. Just looking into them for an instant could make me nauseous for an hour.

"What if I don't want to give you my arm?"

With Billy everything was a struggle.

"You know I can make you."

He ran forward, banging against the clear wall again. Sometimes I thought Billy wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. How many times did he have to test the glass before he believed it was impenetrable?

"It's no use, Billy."

Billy had been a trigger away from oblivion when I'd requested his presence in my compound. After chasing him for decades, Edward hadn't wanted to let Billy live.

He was a very old werewolf. No one knew how old, and Billy wasn't saying.

He'd been very difficult to apprehend since he didn't play well with others. Wolves are social animals, werewolves, too. Very few live their lifetimes alone. They seek out those like themselves and create a pack.

A lone wolf is not only a dangerous animal, but mighty hard to find running loose in the forests and large cities of the world. A needle in a haystack had nothing on Billy.

His size made me think Viking, except he was as swarthy as a Hun. The shape of his face recalled Cro-Magnon man, accented by his shaggy black hair.

No matter when Billy had been born, no matter when he was made, the fact remained, he was ancient, deadly, and he'd had practice being crazy for longer than I'd had practice at anything.

"When I get out of here I'm going to fuck you. First in this form and then the other." He lowered his hand and began to massage himself. "I'm going to screw you until you scream. I'm going to fuck you until you die."

Though my hands were trembling, I lifted my gaze and met his without flinching. "You're never going to get out of here, Billy. Never."

He recited his fantasies of rape, bondage, and torture every time I came near him. They did wonders for my guilt over keeping men and women in cages. They weren't human.

Not really. Not anymore.

I snapped on a pair of gloves, lifted a syringe, and pushed a button on the wall of the cell. A whirring noise preceded the presentation of the contraption for Billy's arm. He was supposed to place his forearm in an indentation. Manacles would clamp down, and I could draw blood without risk of injury.

Instead of following procedure, Billy ripped the device from the wall. Sighing, I tossed the gloves and syringe onto the table, as a steel door slid over the hole in the glass.

I'd wanted Billy for this very reason. He was the oldest living werewolf on record. He couldn't have existed for the centuries I suspected without incredible strength. I was hoping powerful blood would allow me to cure a powerful virus.

I considered my options, which were few. I'd tested the other werewolves throughout the cycle of the moon. None of them had been any help. I needed to test Billy's blood tonight, and every night for the next week. I couldn't drug him; that would throw off the results. I'd have to restrain him, which was as frightening as it was difficult.

Billy smirked. He knew what I was thinking, planning, and he couldn't wait.

A frantic howling erupted from the speaker on the wall. The real wolves, which I kept outside.

Glancing at the clock, I bit my lip. Not even close to their usual feeding time. Perhaps a raccoon had trotted past the outdoor run. Done a little "na, na, na, na, na" dance on the other side of the fence. That always set them off.

The howls turned into yips, then lowered to whimpers. Something wasn't right.

"They sound upset." Billy bared his teeth in a grin that was more of a snarl.

The wolves erupted again, and the hair on my arms tingled.

"You'd better check on them." He tilted his head. "But that isn't your job, is it?"

I frowned. How did he know so damned much about me when he was locked in down here?

"I wonder what you're afraid of. Then I imagine bringing it to you."

Billy sidled close enough to the glass that his ever-present erection thumped against it. He started giving himself another hand job, no doubt excited at the prospect of my fear.

"Big, bad J��ger-Sucher" His voice had gone breathy. "Oh, yeah. Be scared, baby."

I turned away. I was going to have to take Edward's advice and get rid of Billy. He was too crazy, even for this place.

The elevator's whir was a soothing sound, as was the click of my heels along the tile floor leading to the back door. I was headed away from Billy, the basement, and the compound. What wasn't to like?

After punching in the code to release the alarm, I stepped through, then lifted my face to the sky. Dusk approached. I'd been downstairs longer than I thought. I always lost track of time when I was working.

A security camera shared wall space with a machine gun that could be operated from the inside. Edward spared no expense to keep the compound impenetrable –  except from the FBI.

I slipped off my heels and shoved my feet into the ancient sneakers I kept near the back door. I didn't come out here very often, but when I did I always changed shoes. High heels and a dirt trail went together like spaghetti and tuna fish.

I set off down the path, my feet sliding around inside shoes that were made to be worn with sweat socks.

The fence began about thirty yards from the compound and encircled a living area of several miles.

Though much smaller than the typical territory of a wolf pack, the reduced size was necessary in order to keep the animals close enough for observation. Still, a prison was a prison no matter how we pretended otherwise.

Inside, the four adults and two pups had stopped howling, although they crouched at the edge of the trees as if frightened.

I'd done some initial experiments with them, but wolves weren't werewolves. Just as werewolves weren't people. These hadn't been of any help.

As soon as they saw me, the wolves scuttled even farther into the shadows. Like Billy, they knew I wasn't what I appeared and stayed as far from me as they could. Sighing, I turned, and my heart slammed against my chest.

Nic stood a few feet away.

How had he snuck up on me? No one did. Perhaps my senses had become muted from too much easy living.

"They wouldn't let me in," he said.

My mouth moved but nothing came out. Nic didn't seem to notice my sudden inability to speak. He jerked his chin at the wolves. "What's with them?"

"I – I'm not sure." There. I could talk. "They were howling. Upset." I frowned. "Have you been lurking around out here?"

That might explain why the wolves were acting strangely, although they were used to humans. The guards took care of their needs, so Nick's presence alone shouldn't have set them off.

I glanced toward the compound, narrowed my eyes on the security camera. However, Nic's presence should have alerted the guard – especially since I'd told him Nic wasn't welcome here.

"I left," Nic answered. "When I came back your goon wouldn't let me talk to you."

"There's nothing else to say."

"I disagree." He crossed the few feet separating us and flicked a finger toward the animals. "Are these wolves infected?"

His shoulder brushed against mine, and I nearly blurted "Infected?" as if I had no idea what he was talking about.

That single touch, which wasn't a touch at all but an accident – cloth against cloth, not skin against skin – made me remember far too many things.

The taste of his mouth in the darkness. The scent of his hair covered with rain. The length of his legs tangled with mine.

We'd never had sex, but we'd done just about everything else. I'd wanted him with all the pent-up passion of a deprived youth. Never having had him only served to make Nic Franklin the subject of every one of my fantasies.

"No," I snapped, clenching my hands until my nails bit into my palms. "These aren't infected."

"But – "

"I need healthy wolves, too. I can't cure a disease if I don't know what its opposite looks like."

Which was true. I was trying to cure lycanthropy, a virus that made men into wolves – or something like them.

Nic stared into the woods along with me. The man I remembered would pick at a problem until he had the answer, an annoying trait, which would have made him a terrific trial lawyer. Probably made him an even better FBI agent. I only hoped he wouldn't pick at the mystery of the J-S society until it unraveled.

My boss would do anything to keep us in business. He knew, as did I, that we saved more lives than we lost. What we did was important, and we had to be allowed to keep doing it.

I rested my palm against the chain-link fence. I should go inside, but out here in the forest, with my back to the stone compound, I could almost forget what life was like in there.

Nic's fingers covered mine. His hand was large and dark, both gentle and rough. Startled, my gaze flicked to his, and he kissed me.

In an instant I was young again; I still had hope and a future. All the love rushed back, filling me up yet leaving me achingly empty. No matter how much I touched him it had never been enough.

He tasted the same – like red wine on a cold winter night. His heat had always melted my ice. With Nic I'd been warm, safe, alive. I hadn't felt that way since.

Which was the only reason I didn't shove him away as I should have. Opening my mouth, I welcomed him in, trailed my tongue along his crooked eye tooth. He moaned and crowded me against the fence, aligning our bodies just right.

I forgot where I was, who I was, and who he was, loosening his jacket and tie, then several buttons of his shirt, so I could slip my fingers inside and trace the soft, curling hair that matted his chest. His muscles shuddered and flexed. Calluses he hadn't had seven years ago caught on my panty hose as he traced his hands up my thighs and beneath my skirt.

We shouldn't have been doing this for more reasons than one. The most important, the security camera through which the guard was probably getting a year's worth of jollies.

The thought made me stiffen, but I couldn't escape. My shoulders to the chain link, my front was plastered to Nic. He tugged on my lip with his teeth, then lifted me just enough to grind us together in the best, or perhaps the worst, possible way.

I forgot all about the camera. Right now, I didn't give a damn who saw me. I needed… something. Or maybe someone.

A body slammed between my shoulder blades, and I grunted at the impact. If not for Nic, I would have fallen.

He lifted his head; his eyes widened and he loosened his hold. "What the hell?"

I spun around. The four adult wolves had gone berserk, throwing themselves at the steel fence, growling and snarling. The two pups slunk back and forth at the edge of the tree line. Whining periodically, they waited and they watched, but they didn't come any closer.

"You said they weren't rabid."

Nic's arm was still around me, my right side pressed to his left. I moved away. I couldn't be close to him and think straight.

"They weren't. I mean, they aren't"

"That looks like rabid to me." He frowned at the spittle dripping from their muzzles and the rolling whites of their eyes.

I'd tested these wolves inside out. There was nothing wrong with them. Present psychotic outbreak aside.

I studied the animals more closely. They were scared but not of Nic. They were angry but not at me.

Instead, they continued to hit the fence, slaver, snarl, and stare at the compound as if it held something they'd enjoy tearing into bloody pieces.

Contrary to popular belief, wolves aren't vicious –  unless starved or rabid. My wolves were neither. I'd bet my life on it. Which meant…

I took one step in the direction of the compound, and the building blew sky high.