Sorrows:  Book One of The Rogue Saga



Wrenched from his ordinary life by a violent madman and turned into a vampire against his will, Jayson Wallace must learn to adapt to a world he never knew existed; a world full of magic and wonder, where vampires, donors, and shapeshifting rael-shaa travel between quantum realities. It's a dream come true... but not his dream. His sleep is haunted by blood and fear, and a terrifying voice that he cannot shake from his memory. The Circle who rescued him do their best to help, but a terrible betrayal sets off a cascade of events that give them problems of their own to deal with.

Despite a growing relationship with a beautiful young donor, and a strong friendship with a lupine shapeshifter, Jay finds it difficult to accept the contrast between the idyllic reality before him, and the brutal torture he endured. To make matters worse, somewhere, out there, the monster who changed him still runs free...

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Cover Art Credits (click for artist websites):
David MacDowell Blue - Simple Cover
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A bit about the book:

Sorrows is an 'intimate adventure:' what some folks call a 'character-driven plot.' It's about the people in it, more than it is about the activities going on around them. It deals a lot with issues such as recovery from traumatic experiences, and trust. I suppose in that respect, it's kind of deep. On the other hand, it's also a fun book about vampires who can travel between quantum realities, and it's an introduction to my Worldwalkers Universe. If you want a vampire novel where vampires, donors, and shapeshifters have equal positions in a complex society, that's what this is about. Despite the darkness of this book, it's not depressing - problems have resolutions, and things get better, even if the outcomes aren't always perfect.

Oh, and it's got some fun scenes, and some hot scenes, as well as some brutal and horrifying scenes (Not suitable for youngsters). So, there's plenty there to entertain, as well.  Sound like fun? 

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Chapter One

Jay woke in terror. Agony and terrible need wrapped around his stomach like a vise. A piercing ache throbbed through his upper jaw, sharp points brushing his lower lip. He stumbled to his feet, breathing in painful gasps.

Sounds magnified with terrible clarity: the high-pitched whine of electronics, roaring car engines, voices, footsteps, shuffling, rustling, all of it far too loud. The stench of decay and animal musk mingled with the reek of fuel, exhaust, old food, and stale beer. They swirled and tangled, a barrage of odors that assaulted his senses. Ice etched his veins and consumed his mind, forcing him to action. He had to move.

Jay's thoughts spun, the sensory overload disorienting him further. His steps were uncertain. He squinted against the painful points of light from nearby street lamps. There was something he shouldn't be doing. It was wrong. It was impossible to focus. Despair wavered through him, behind the overwhelming compulsion. Make it stop. Oh, God, please, make it stop.

The sound of a foot dragged across pavement captured his attention. A scent of alcohol and sweat, stale urine and vomit; wretched odors, but, oh, yes, something else. Something that drew him. He had to move, to get closer, to... Jay blinked his burning, watering eyes against the glare. A man sat against the rough brick wall in the debris of the filthy alley, his clothes ragged and stained, homeless. A vague word; an identification. A person. Oh, no. Oh, yes... he had to...

Jay staggered toward the old man, an uncontrollable growl of frustration and need rising unbidden from his throat.

Tires screeched, too close, too sudden. Startled, Jay spun around to face the threat, hissing and snarling instinctively. A black passenger van rocked to a halt beside him. The side door slid open, too loud; a rumble of protesting metal assaulted his ears, but inside... heat... he needed it. Jay lunged for the open door. Hands reached for him; he was lifted, then other hands were on him, shoving him down against rough carpeting. The smells of plastic and upholstery stung his nostrils, and close human warmth tormented him. Metal screeched; a loud bang produced sudden darkness, relieving his aching eyes.

Jay struggled against the steely arms pinning him, fighting their grip in an uncontrollable panic. Voices he couldn't understand assaulted his ears. A whine of agony emerged from his throat. He had to get free!

Heat penetrated from a warm, soothing touch on his shoulder. He needed to turn to it, to grasp it, to take it into himself, to erase the pain, the cold ache... then he had it. Jay's arms wrapped around the source of heat, the softness. More voices drifted by, words beyond his grasp, his mouth touched... he had to press his mouth to her throat, to taste her skin; sweet, so warm, throbbing. His teeth sank in reflexively, deeply.

Warm liquid, a bright, exquisite, salt-iron tang, hit the back of his tongue. He needed to get closer, somehow; he didn't know how, but it happened. Jay found himself inside her, rushing in desperation, searching for her. He had to fill her with himself, had to find all of her. Her thoughts stretched beneath him, embraced his consciousness, reached back to embrace him. He felt the peace, welcome, sympathy and desire. She wanted him to be with her. He felt it, felt all of her, and they were so together; no space existed between them. He swallowed without volition.

Ambrosia spilled down his throat, erasing pain. A powerful surge of pleasure ran through him. Jay felt it echoing through her, consuming them both. The steel bands constricting his stomach eased, as he swallowed again and again. It seemed that each time, some hidden belt of pain or tension was released, in a flood of overwhelming, irresistible relief.

Jay felt her, too, sharing with him; electrical waves of pleasure that coursed through them both, radiating from his touch, from her throat. Her thoughts, too, were reassuring, gentle, passionate. Yes, take it, all you need, no more pain. Was it her thought, or his? He wasn't sure. It was their thought now. She was bright and vibrant, a motherly, practical person with a core of strength. He knew she was--could feel that she was.

Broken images passed through Jay's mind, sliding away before he could grasp them. Smells of cooking and the sound of laughter one moment, gunfire in the darkness of a city street the next. Riding a horse fast along a trail. Whipping winds and storm sirens over a beach. Tumbling memories of places he'd never been, people he'd never met, experiences he'd never had. Her thoughts touched his shattered life with a whisper of sorrow, but the pleasure rose so high it eclipsed everything. It banished all other emotion, leaving no room to analyze what they shared.

So good, God, it's so good.

A gentle slope down, and he stopped drinking. He felt no need to continue, but just to relax now, to let go, to slip away. Jay's tongue touched her throat with a final caress, then he was alone, and could think again.

Clarity. He was in a van. It was still, but lurched into motion as he looked around. Clean upholstery in midnight blue surrounded him, and a stifling new car smell permeated the air. The woman before him; her name was Chara... Charlene. Her short, curly red hair sat atop a round face, smile lines framed her hazel eyes. Her body was compact and sturdy with ample breasts, dressed in dark jeans and a black knit shirt... and he knew her. Somehow he knew her name. Jay knew she was feeling sympathy, caring, and concern. His own confusion reflected back to him, muted, like an echo. Jay stared at her in wonder. He was on his knees, his arms still around her. He let them fall as she moved back up onto the wide bench seat.

He took a breath. There were others in the van, too. The driver: a male with short, light brown hair. In the passenger seat, a shock of dyed purple hair. Beside Chara sat a young black woman with long wavy hair, her face tense. A middle-aged athletic-looking man sat on the other end of the bench seat, his eyes closed. A young man with dyed black hair and murky gray eyes was reaching over the seat from the back to clutch the man's arm. The black-haired man let go, sitting back. Jay moved away to sit on the floor of the van, studying them, trying to remember and wrap his mind around what he had just experienced. He was feeling concern that, somehow, wasn't his.

Memories flooded back to him on a wave of terror. Chara's eyes widened at the powerful surge of emotions, which he felt echoing through her. A flare of alarm erupted from the others, imposing itself on his senses. Jay gasped, shaking his head violently.

“No! No! I'm not... I can't! I won't be that! I won't be like that!” Jay couldn't control the hysteria that gripped him. The word pounded in his mind like an evil jackhammer. Vampire. You're a vampire; you're just like him now, you drank her blood. You did it; you drank her blood, and you liked it, and now you're like him.

He wanted to flee, glancing wildly toward the door. Chara slid from the seat, putting her arms around him as if to restrain him. Jay sensed that she could never stop him, but it felt good, and it was soothing. He stopped, and let her hold him. Where could he go?

“Easy,” Chara murmured. “Easy, calm down, you're safe. Easy... no one can hurt you now, and you didn't hurt anyone. Look... I'm fine. I'm not hurt at all. It didn't hurt. Just calm down.”

Jay whimpered, wanting to protest, but let her soothe him. His eyes filled with tears. He was lost; his soul felt hollow and numb, and he began sobbing uncontrollably. There was nothing more to the world than terrible despair, the horror of what he had done. Relief and residual pleasure hummed inside him in terrible contrast to his emotions. Chara held him, her hand smoothed his back. Sympathy. she was all sympathy, comfort and calm. When his sobs faded, exhaustion claimed him, and he fell asleep in her arms.


Chapter Two

Cheerful children in straw hats danced along the wall, with fishing poles and bait buckets in hand. Puppies bounded playfully behind them in a procession of nostalgic earth tones. Jay eyed the wallpaper reproachfully, the absurdity of it a bit more than he felt ready to handle.

He lay on a comfortable double bed with a patchwork-patterned comforter in brown, tan and beige. A homey, old-fashioned wooden nightstand beside the bed supported an iron goose-necked lamp. A small table in the far corner with a brown cloth cover held a vase containing an arrangement of dried flowers, while a tall, antique dresser with brass pulls stood against the wall across from the foot of the bed. Faded earth-tone rag rugs softened the hardwood floor.

He rolled over and saw, through a brown ruffle-dressed window, bright, terribly bright points of light in the dark purple sky. Jay stared in confusion until the realization hit him; they were stars. It was night. They were so bright; he could see everything so clearly! Jay jerked a glance back at the lamp. It was off.

He took a careful deep breath, and sat up. He could hear voices from somewhere in the house. The door was closed. With a surge of trepidation, Jay catapulted off the bed, grabbing the knob. It turned easily, and he released it without pulling the door open. He sighed, feeling shaky, leaning against the wall, his eyes tracking back to the window.

Great thinking Jay, he chided himself. Big old window there, no bars, and you're worried they locked the door on you. And hey, look, it's nighttime, and you just woke up. Of course you did. You're a vampire. What more did you think they were going to do to you now, anyhow? He paced back to the bed, sitting down heavily, burying his face in his hands.

A woman's voice, one he didn't recognize, murmured from somewhere downstairs, “Sounds like our guest is awake.”

“I'd better go get him, then.” The more familiar gentle Southern drawl was Chara. “He might never come out.”

“Or he'll take off out the window,” suggested a male.

“You going to handle the introductions?” A second male asked.

“I expect so,” Chara answered. “I'll see how he is. If he's ready for it. He might be less nervous knowing who we all are, at least.”

Moments later, footsteps sounded on a staircase, approaching his room. With wonder, he realized he could hear the person's breathing, and even their heartbeat. The doorknob turned, and Chara walked in, flipping the light switch.

“GAH!” Jay buried his face in his hands, blinded.

“Sorry,” she chuckled, and he felt apology from her, somehow. “Didn't think about that. How are you feeling? Once your retinas recover, that is.” He heard Chara move into the room, and squinted at her, rubbing his eyes. She bustled over to the window, straightening the curtains absently. She wore a pair of faded jeans and a simple light blue pullover blouse.

“I... I'm not really sure, actually.” Jay blinked rapidly as his eyes adjusted. “How should I be feeling? How...” He choked on the words, voice lowering to a near-whisper, “...are vampires supposed to feel?”

Chara turned back to him with a frown, tilting her head to one side, eying him with sympathy.

Jay felt sympathy.
Am I sensing her feelings? He analyzed the sensation. He could tell that they weren't his own emotions; she seemed, somehow, to be surrounded by a 'texture,' an energy, that was uniquely Chara, some indescribable property that identified her as clearly as her face or her voice, and carried her emotions to him. The tone in his voice, he realized with a touch of self-pity and anger, had been a whine. He was still too frightened to care much. Jay's thoughts flinched away every time he tried to think about the future and what might be coming next for him. He met her gaze with a hint of challenge.

Chara studied him for a moment. “Come on, then,” she said, with a decisive nod. “I'm guessing that vampires,” Chara smiled gently, “would feel a lot better after a shower and some clean clothes. Let's get you some things. I expect someone has something that'll fit you. What size are you?” She grabbed his hand, pulling Jay to his feet, and with the irresistibility of a locomotive, dragged him out of the room, down the hall.

The large bathroom had a private dressing room foyer with an enormous luxury shower stall tiled in light gray ceramic in the far left corner. A square Jacuzzi bathtub dominated the right corner, and broad, frosted windows occupied two walls. Potted plants marched up the tiled stair and around the tub, with several more on stands, lining the windows. On the left wall, twin sinks on a wide dark gray granite counter were reflected in a tall, broad mirror, which extended its length. The floor was warm beneath his feet, covered in smooth, patterned gray travertine tile.

“I'll be back with some clothes, right quick,” Chara assured him. Jay's gaze was captured by the mirror, and she left him standing before it, as he tried to figure out why he could see himself.

Jay stared morosely into his reflection, listening to her movements in the other room. Light blond hair, dirty and tangled, fell to his shoulders. Haunted clear blue eyes stared back from fine-boned features. He didn't look any different.
No pointed ears, no glowing eyes, no... He swallowed heavily, baring his teeth. No fangs. He blinked in confusion. How...?

Leaning forward over the counter, Jay peered more closely. Okay, they do look different. His canines were so sharp, and thinner. They didn't look the same as they had before, but they weren't any longer than his other teeth.

Jay leaned back again in puzzlement, running his tongue gingerly over the points, surprised by the pinprick keenness. His probing tongue found a break in the smoothness behind a canine... the back of the tooth was ridged somehow, a bit past the point. No, he realized, there was a deep groove there. The ridges weren't raised, they were just where he felt the edges of the groove beginning. He clenched his jaw, eyes squeezed shut as he realized what use those grooves would have...

He heard Chara return, as he stood before the mirror, eyes closed. She walked over to him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “What's wrong, hon?” Chara's voice was low and calming.

Jay opened his eyes, glancing at her, then staring at the floor. “Eh, I was just...” He blushed. “I don't understand. I thought I remembered...” he gestured at his mouth.

Chara studied him for a moment, then realization rolled through her to him. “Ah. Trying to check out your fangs?” She smiled and winked. Jay flushed harder, in confusion.
How can she be so casual?

Her gentle humor and kindness were soothing. Jay sensed no cruelty at all in her words. Wanting to sink through the floor, he couldn't bring himself to answer.

“They retract, hon,” Chara said. “You can extend them if you try. Just takes some practice, as I understand it. Don't scare yourself, though.” Jay couldn't bring himself to look up at her.

“Well, in any case, I think I've found some clothes that will fit you for now. Why don't you get cleaned up? Take your time. You'll feel better, I guarantee it.” She smiled at him again, slipping briskly out of the room, pulling the door closed behind her.

Jay glanced at the mirror unhappily, stared into space for a moment, then decided that the shower looked pretty good. Yeah, I feel like the bottom of a trash dumpster. He stripped out of his clothes, trying not to look at the broad, brown patches and spatters staining his shirt and jeans. He wadded them up into a tight ball, leaving them on the sink counter, unsure of where else to put them.

The broad, rainfall style copper shower head was a luxury he hadn't experienced before, and the soap and shampoo were vanilla-scented. He used a lot, trying to get clean. Jay wondered if he was trying to wash away everything that had happened, and not just a few layers of grime, but it felt better. He didn't figure Chara would really mind if he washed his hair five times.

The light gray towels that hung beside the shower were thick and soft. He found black jeans and a T-shirt on a chair in the dressing foyer. They smelled a bit strange to him, but Jay put them on. A minute or so after he had finished dressing, a knock came at the door. He opened it to admit Chara. She studied him for a moment.

“Come on, hon,” she moved into the room, taking Jay's arm and sitting him down in a padded beige vanity chair, retrieving a black plastic bristle brush and comb from a nearby maple wood cabinet. Chara set about taming his hair with deliberation.

“Uh,” Jay flinched. “I can do that.”

Chara deftly avoided his grab for the brush. “Nope, I've got it. You just sit tight. Consider this my hobby and humor me for now.”

“Vampire-grooming is your hobby?” Jay asked sardonically.

She gave a hearty laugh, and Jay caught a wave of approval. “I spent a year working as a hairdresser during college.” She expertly wielded the comb to release a stubborn tangle. “Gotta have cash for pizza and beer.” Chara paused. “You know, I don't even know your name? I think you picked up mine, but I don't know what to call you.” She smiled.

“Jay. Jayson Wallace.” He opened his mouth as if to say more, then closed it again.
Why did you tell her your last name? Because you trust her. But why? How do you even know her name?

“All right, Jay.” Chara put a few finishing touches on his hair, which was already half dry, and studied him critically. “You'll do.”

Jay caught a hint of mild attraction from her and blinked in surprise, blushing again.

“You haven't asked many questions, hon,” Chara pointed out softly. “No one here means you any harm. If you want, why don't you come downstairs now and meet the other folks. I know you've heard them talking, and they all know you're here. You don't have anything to fear from us.”

Jay stilled, eyes focused on the cloudy patterns in the square tiles on the floor.

Chara sighed. “I'm not going to make you do it, hon. If you don't feel you're ready to face a room full of people, I can respect that.” She hesitated. “I don't know how much you really understand about all of this. It must be quite frightening for you. I'm willing to talk to you about anything you want. Just ask, and I'll do my best to explain it all to you.”

Jay stirred, the motion jerky and agitated. His eyes widened in distress. “I just...” he closed his eyes. “I do want to know,” he continued. “I know what I saw and I can't... can't live with that.” He sighed. “This isn't... it's not what I was... expecting.” He hesitated. “I'm not sure I can deal with this.”

Chara put a hand on his shoulder again. “Come on, there's a sitting room across the hall. I'll tell you what I can, and we'll see what we might want to do after that.” She walked to the door, turning back to watch him until he stood self-consciously, and followed her.

An overstuffed taupe sofa dominated the large sitting room. Beige high-pile carpet contrasted with pleasant sky-blue-and-white rag painted walls. White lace curtains framed the large bench window, which contained a taupe corduroy cushion in the same shade as the couch. A stereo system in a metal rack stood against the wall, with potted ferns softening the severity of the electronics. Chara perched on the window seat, allowing Jay to find his comfort zone on the couch.

She studied him for a moment. “Well,” she said. “I guess I'll start with the 'important stuff'. Maybe you should start with what you know, and I can fill you in on the rest.”

Jay stared at the small fine leaves of a fern. “I know I'm a vampire now.”
A killer. A monster... “I don't know much else,” he finished in a whisper.

Chara sighed. “Then you probably want to know exactly what's happened to you, how it was done, and what it's going to mean for you. Don't let me run over you if there's something you really need to know.” She clasped her hands in front of her, as though gathering her thoughts between them.

“It's true. You're a vampire now. The person who did this to you is a criminal. He doesn't do the things he does because he's a vampire; he does them because he's a sick, twisted son of a bitch who likes to hurt people. You're not like him, and you never will be. You don't have to be a killer, and you're not evil.”

Jay was trembling now, a welter of fear, disbelief, painful hope, and confusion boiling up in him. Chara moved to sit beside him, and he clutched at her as she put her arm around him. He buried his face in her shoulder, silent, still shaking in reaction. She held him until the tremors eased, and he began to relax again.

Jay laughed humorlessly, a breathy sound. “And I'm sitting here, surprised that he lied to me.” He buried his face in his hands.

“Ah.” Chara hugged him, continuing, “We're not monsters, Jay.”

He listened, unable to bring himself to ask more than a few questions, while she explained the rest to him, then retreated to the bathroom to wash the tears from his face. Chara wanted him to meet the others.
I guess I owe them a lot, and it would be rude not to at least say thank you. He didn't want company, didn't want the stress of meeting new people, but he also didn't want to appear ungrateful.

Especially not to Chara. Chara: a donor. Not a normal person, but one who carried the same virus responsible for making him what he was. A person who would eventually become a vampire herself.
A person who let me drink her blood; who thinks there's nothing wrong with that. Jay shuddered, trying to meet his own eyes in the mirror again.

The things she had revealed to him were hard to grasp. He could never have his old life back. In eight days I'll have to do it again, to... feed, again. Jay closed his eyes, as though he could shut out the thought by switching off his senses. It didn't help. He took a deep breath to steel himself, hesitantly opening the door again.

“Are you ready to meet the others?” Chara asked, radiating sympathy.

“I guess so,” Jay managed, stepping into the hallway.

“Ah, I should tell you who we are, too. It wasn't an accident we happened to be there when we were. We were tracking the vampire that we're pretty sure did this to you. We're, well, vampire cops, I guess you'd say.” She laughed. “Sounds like a TV show. We're a Law Enforcement Circle.” She quirked her lips. “We named ourselves The Mavericks. Our job, sanctioned by the Council of Justice, is to track down and catch vampire criminals. Human law enforcement wouldn't stand a chance, and we don't want them trying. We're not ready for the world to know about us here, just yet. We police our own. We're all volunteers.” Chara paused again. “They're a competent group of people, down there. I feel good working with them, and they're my friends. Don't expect typical cops, though. Everyone's got their own reasons for doing this.”

Jay stared at her, his jaw tightening as sudden determination and anger rose in him. “So, how do you join?”

“Beg your pardon?” Chara asked with some confusion.

“How do you join a Law Enforcement Circle, or whatever?” Jay's voice was strained.

“We're volunteers, hon. But...”

“I want to join, then,” he stated implacably.

She blinked at him. “Jay...”

“I want to get him.” His voice was rising with tension and beginning to break. “I want to get the son of a bitch that did this to me. I want to see him fucking
dead.” Jay was shaking, tears blurring his vision.

Chara folded him into a hug, her emotional field full of renewed sympathy and sadness. He trembled, remaining tense, but did not pull away.

“All right, hon. Look here, you're pretty damned young, but there
is something you can do. Something that'll help us and maybe get you what you want. You have every right to that. It's going to be damned hard for you. It's not going to be nearly as easy as blowing the bastard's head off. But, you just might be able to get it fixed so we can. Legally. Right now, we're supposed to take him alive. I don't like that, but it's our law. We know this asshole ain't doing this out of ignorance, but we can't prove it.” Chara clutched him tighter. “You can, if you have the courage.”

“Whatever it takes,” Jay insisted. “I'll do it. I'll do it.”
But how?

Chara pulled away, patting him on the back. “Well, hon. I'll hold you to that. You're going to need to wait about a week, though. Your body's still stabilizing, and for what you'll have to do, you need to be in top shape. Are you ready to come downstairs now?”

Jay closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and releasing it in a long sigh. He was very still. Finally, he nodded. “Yeah. Okay, I'll meet them. I guess I owe them a 'thanks,' anyhow.”

“Naw, hon, you don't need to thank anyone. It's our job, and we're damned glad we were there to do it.” Chara ushered Jay toward the stairs, following as he made his way slowly down.

The rest of the Mavericks were trying to appear engaged in various activities. Chara headed toward the kitchen, leaving Jay to stand awkwardly at the base of the stairs.

The room was huge, with a fireplace set in the wall across from where he stood. It was surrounded by comfortable sofas, which framed a heavy coffee table. Additional chairs were arranged in corners, and a television set in the far right corner stood before another couch, with two overstuffed chairs augmenting the seating. Two small tables, each with two chairs, were arranged to the left. The front door was on the wall to the far right, and to the left, the room led into the kitchen. A hallway led deeper into the house from the left of the staircase, and another continued on between the living room and kitchen.

A young, pretty black woman in a red blouse, with long, wavy hair loose around her shoulders, looked around at the others, rolled her eyes, and approached him, holding out her hand. “Lara Smith. Good to see you looking well.”

Jay looked down at her uncertainly, recognizing her voice from the conversation he had overheard earlier. “Um, Jay... Jayson,” he replied ducking his head, returning the handshake automatically. He remembered her from the van. Lara seemed strange to him, somehow. The feel of her hand, or something less definable, was not so comfortable as Chara's.

Lara kept hold of his hand. “Let me introduce you to the others.”

Jay also recognized the middle-aged man with silvering temples. The older man had been next to Lara, closest to the door of the van. He was now seated at the small table nearest the stairway, in front of a chessboard, and wore a practical dark tweed suit. The man looked up, nodding politely as Lara approached.
He even looks like a cop.

“Russell Norton, there. He means to beat me at chess one of these days.” Lara smiled at Russ, reaching over to move a chess piece. “Checkmate.”

Russ's jaw dropped. He began intently studying the board.

A tall, heavily built, long-faced, and imposing middle-aged man, and a mature, attractive, green-eyed blonde woman who had not been in the van, were introduced as 'Morton Almherst' and 'Millicent Greenburg.' The two appeared to be cross-referencing newspaper clippings, and were dressed in pullover shirts and jeans. They were seated at the other small table, in a couple of padded chairs.

A man with large, liquid brown eyes, and wheat colored hair and mustache, was seated in an easy chair, reading another newspaper. He was introduced as 'Nicholas Tell.'
He was driving the van, Jay thought. Wearing a button-down gray shirt and black slacks, Nicholas also looked a lot like a typical cop. He appeared to be around thirty years old.

The purple-haired man and his companion with the black dye job occupied the couch in front of the TV, and were introduced as 'Dave Williams' and 'Tate Mitchell,' respectively. They seemed to be only a few years older than Jay. Neither looked up for more than a few seconds from their video game, in which they appeared to be engaged with whole-body motions and muttered swearing. Dave wore black jeans and a plain black t-shirt, and Tate was wearing black leather pants and a torn black band t-shirt with a faded decal.
They just look like a couple of ravers or something; they don't look like cops at all.

Jay had the uncomfortable impression everyone was paying a lot more attention to him than they appeared to be. Lara led him over to sit on the couch across from the empty fireplace. She paused, considering him. “You'll do fine, son,” she said, returning to her seat near Russ to watch the older man try to work out what had gone wrong (for him) in the chess match.

Chara reappeared, shoving a glass of water into Jay's hand. She sat down on the couch, to his right. He eyed the glass with some uncertainty, deciding she wouldn't have given it to him if it would do him any harm. He took a sip.
She said that food would make me sick, but I guess water's okay.

Mort held up an article clipping for Millie murmuring, “I think this was one of Malachi's, but these over here probably weren't.” He gestured toward another pile of clippings.

The name raised every hair on Jay's body. His stomach roiled. He clutched at the cushion on the couch, squeezing his eyes shut, fighting back the memories. Concern ran through Chara's emotional field. He opened his eyes to find her, Lara, Russ, and Dave all staring at him. A rising beeping from the television accompanied an exclamation of triumph from Tate, who took advantage of Dave's distraction.

The purple-haired man swung back and shoved his friend over, barking “DAMNIT!” Tate laughed like a loon. Ignoring the man, Dave rose and paced over to Jay. “You okay, kid?”

Jay glanced up into the faded blue eyes to find surprising sympathy there. He felt Dave's genuine concern. His hands tightened into fists. “Yeah, I'm okay. I think I'm just... kind of tired. I'd like to get a bit more rest if you don't mind,” he said diffidently, feeling tense. His emotions were boiling up under a landslide of remembered horrors. He set the glass down carefully on the side table.

Dave blinked, mild alarm threading through him. “Sure, kid, go get some rest, and don't worry about us, we don't mind.” He clapped Jay on the shoulder, pacing back to his game.

Jay found Chara watching him, and felt her increasing worry. She pulled him to his feet, leading him back up the stairs to the small room he had awakened in earlier. “Get some rest, hon. Tomorrow's another day, and maybe we can see about getting you some clothes and things then,” she said, closing the door behind her.

Flopping down on the freshly made bed, Jay noted absently that the bedclothes had been changed. He stared out the window at the too-bright stars. Memories rushed at him from the darkness in his mind, threatening to swallow him alive. He pulled the pillows over his head, curled into a tight ball, and sobbed.

Chapter Three

Jay startled awake the next night as something cold and wet brushed his nose. The confusion of sleep cleared, revealing piercing greenish eyes set in a broad, hairy face topped by two raised, pointed ears. A long, fur-covered muzzle was just inches from his nose. The muzzle parted.

“Ooorrrlllddoooaallggrrrrr,” the hairy monster growled.

“AAAAAYYYYAAAGGGHHHH!!!” Jay shrieked, trying to climb the wall behind him. A long gray-furred tail exited the room in a blur and the sound of a four-footed gallop down the staircase pinpointed the creature's departure route. Jay slipped from his perch atop the headboard and fell back to the bed shaking in reaction, willing his heart to slow to a rate less likely to induce immediate cardiac arrest.

A sour-toned voice from downstairs opined, “Nice going, Ryan, you probably scared the boy half to death. Laugh it up, but that was cruelly done. I should think he's been through quite enough.” Jay identified Russ' voice. An odd, growling canine whimper responded. Tate laughed maliciously.

With rising irritation, Jay slid off the bed, brushing himself off, and started out of the room to confront his early-evening assailant. He stomped down the stairs to the family room, stopping dead at the bottom. The gray canine approached him, ears flat, head low, tail tucked down and wagging fast enough to be a blur. The long muzzle was open, tongue lolling in an ingratiating smile which he remembered seeing on the face of the dog he'd had when he was a child; but this animal was clearly not a dog.

It was a wolf. An extremely large wolf.

Jay's scowl gave way to astonishment, and he held very still as the animal approached. Not so inhibited, the wolf flopped down submissively at his feet. It moaned appealingly at him, licking his ankle. He gaped at the animal, turning toward Russ, who was still standing with his arms crossed in an attitude of disapproval, glowering at the beast.

“You have a pet
wolf?!” Jay challenged. “What the hell is this: Dracula?”

From the kitchen, Tate cackled louder. The wolf murmured again, eying him reproachfully, regaining its feet to walk across the room, sniffing around the base of a sofa.


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