Wolf's Night Out
By Nancy Brandt, Meredith Gayle and Josephine Templeton
(The picture above was taken at Anne Rice's Vampire Ball on 10-25-13; note: I had a dream a few nights ago that I stepped out onto my back patio at night, and on the other side of the lake stood a werewolf in the moonlight ...)
She tripped over the body in the dark, and a muffled exclamation of pain rolled out of the prone figure on the floor.
Macy rolled her eyes. “This is the lamest haunted house I’ve ever been in, Callum. I mean really, whoever heard of a one-eyed Werewolf anyway? And the music bites, too.”
“Okay, Miss Maestro, not everyone has a master’s degree in music. What did you expect, Bach?”
Callum smiled to himself. Surely, he earned points for remembering her favorite composer.
She snorted. “This coming from a furry stripper who dances to Who Let the Dogs Out.”
“Woof, woof, baby, woof, woof." He laughed and wiggled his eyebrows. "Didn’t hear any complaints last night when you were throwin' dollar bills my way.”
Macy suddenly had the urge to strangle him. What the hell was their pack leader, Dante, thinking when he’d paired them to mate? And sending them to this out-of-the way haunted house in the deepest part of the swamp for their first “real” date?
The body on the floor jerked up and scowled at them. “Could you please move along? There are people behind you.”
She sneered at the actor. “Whatever. Who does your make-up, Mimi from The Drew Carey show?”
The actor slowly raised his hand in a one-finger salute and lay back on the ground.
Macy growled. “You’re lucky this ain’t a full moon, Blondie.”
Callum took her arm. “Come on.”
They walked into the next room and froze. It was choc-o-block of clowns. Each one held a silver bucket full of wolf’s bane, and stuffed wolf heads hung as trophies on the wall. Some were still in half-human form.
Callum grabbed Macy by her wrist, pulled her to his chest and wrapped his arms around her. Seconds later, they materialized under a large cypress tree outside the Horror House.
Macy stepped back from him with wide eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. “Only Alphas can dematerialize.”
A splash in the murky water near the bank of the bayou distracted them. A seven-foot, well fed gator waddled toward the weres. Callum nudged Macy behind him and bared his fangs at the beast. Strange tufts of white hair covered the gator's head. The gator locked eyes with him, inhaled deeply, and slowly exhaled. Hissing, he slowly disappeared into the shelter of the bayou’s blanket of marsh.
Macy took a step back from Callum as he turned to face her. “You’re an Alpha.”
“Yea, I guess I’m not the mangy street pup you thought I was.”
She cocked her head to one side and put her hands on her hips. “How come you didn’t materialize us at the car or in your apartment?”
“You’re welcome. I did just saved your fancy little hide there, baby.” Callum ran his hand through his black, unruly locks. “I’m young. It takes a while to master it.”
“Does Dante know?”
“Yeah. He’s been mentoring me.”
“Thank Luperca. Seriously, a respected member of the National Orchestral Association and a stripper just don’t mix.”
Callum flashed her a smile. “I guess not.”
Macy bit her bottom lip while she deliberated how to apologize for her earlier behavior. It all made sense now. Maybe Dante did know what he was doing. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have never spoken to you so disrespectfully, even though you are, I mean, were a stripper.”
Callum’s lips parted as he started to respond but something stopped him. His head snapped to his left. “They’re coming.”
He grabbed Macy and materialized them into his Hummer3 Alpha, but it was too late. The clowns were waiting for them. Callum wasted no time. He turned on the ignition and threw the vehicle into reverse.
Macy fumbled and failed to fasten her seat belt as the monstrous hunk of metal rolled over three clowns. She peered out the rear window. “They’re not following us.”
“Good deal.” Callum’s rough voice sent shivers of desire down her spine.
She flopped in her seat and buckled-up. Watching him drive, she wondered what those rough hands would feel like on her skin. She lifted her hand toward him, but her fingers froze inches away.
He glanced in her direction before focusing back on his driving. “Are you okay?”
Her hand dropped back to her lap. “I’m fine. Are you okay?”
Macy rolled her eyes. “No, Callum, you’re not okay. Those clowns weren’t just looking for their missing red noses. They were after wolf … they were after us.”
“Don’t worry, babe. I got this.”
“Oh you got this? Mr. Big Alpha with the fuzzy red dice dangling from the rear view mirror? If you’re going to be a real Alpha, you’d better start looking the part. ”
Callum slapped the dice, making them swing wildly. “I like the dice.”
Macy narrowed her eyes. “You know, Callum, you can be so stupid. You’re gallivanting around like some orphan when you know our numbers are dwindling. In this new age of monogamy, less pups are being born. You’d better Wolf up if you’re going to survive in this pack.”
Callum slowed the Hummer as they approached a yellow light. The whining sound of the oversized mud tires lessened as they stopped. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel.
Macy pulled an elastic band off her wrist and secured her hair into a ponytail. “Do you know how long I’ve been trying not to like you? All this time and not a word about who you really are. I thought we were so Lady and the Tramp, but now I feel like the tramp.”
The light changed, and the Hummer jerked forward. "There is one problem,” he said through clenched teeth. I’m an orphan, Macy. An Alpha orphan, but still an orphan.”
Macy lifted her chin. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to prove you’re not.”
Well, that was easier said than done. When would she learn to think before she spoke?
Macy slammed the laptop closed.
"Hey," her roommate Kelly called from the kitchen. "That's my computer you're abusing in there. Careful, okay?"
Kelly walked into the living room with a tray of cookies and some fruity looking concoction in a pitcher. Two martini glasses rounded out the assortment.
"What's wrong?" Kelly began pouring some of the drink into one of the glasses. "Couldn't find anything?"
"I don't get how anyone gets anything done on the crappy Internets." Macy took the drink and snagged a handful of chocolate chip cookies.
"Internet," Kelly said sitting in her favorite chair, a recliner they'd taken off the curb when a neighbor moved out. "Singular. No one says 'the Internets'."
"Whatever, Ms. Geek-head. I couldn't find anything on Callum." Macy sat back on the sofa and took a sip of the drink. She wrinkled her nose and set the glass on the coffee table as if it had cooties. “What is this? It’s not as sweet as it looks.”
"It's a wheat grass, barley and apricot infusion with a little strawberry and cucumber for flavor. It's supposed to be good for your skin and memory."
"Well, it's foul." Macy shoved a cookie in her mouth, trying to ignore the hurt look on her best friend's face.
"I don't think it's that bad." Kelly took another sip, and Macy saw her try to repress a small grimace of distaste. "Maybe it just takes a bit of getting used to."
"No thanks." Staring at the far wall, Macy broke her second cookie in half. "How can someone be an orphan these days? I mean, with everything computerized. Wouldn't birth certificates be there, too?"
"The records would be there, certainly. Do you want me to do some digging?"
Macy hesitated before responding. Kelly knew about the pack, but she wasn't a Were. Macy knew Dante wouldn't be happy to know she was searching online for information about Callum. The last Were who snooped around Dante’s back had to shovel Werecat poop for six months. Dante was Alpha, and his word was law.
Just thinking about defying him made the wolf inside her whimper. His pull on her and all the pack was that strong.
Kelly raised a single eyebrow. "I could do it discreetly. I know how to cover my tracks."
After a moment, Macy shook her head. "Never mind. I don't want you getting into trouble."
"Dante doesn't control me, Mace, and he doesn't scare me. I have some sources. Let me look into it."
The cookies were gone, and Macy was still hungry. "I gotta get to rehearsal." She stood. "I'll drive through the Chicken Shack on my way to the concert hall. Thanks for the cookies."
Half an hour later, the baking supplies were cleaned up, and the fruit and herb infusion had been dumped down the sink. Kelly sat on the floor of her bedroom, the carpet rolled up to reveal a circle painted on the hardwood.
Something was going on with the Weres in town. Callum being an Alpha wasn't as much of a surprise to Kelly as it had been to Macy. The Watchers had seen this coming for months. Kelly's only surprise was that it had taken him this long to reveal himself.
The incident at the Horror House was troubling on numerous levels, but tonight, Kelly was more interested in that alligator Macy had mentioned. From the reports of Watchers near the scene, she feared what Callum and Macy had experienced wasn't a normal alligator attack, if there was such a thing.
Kelly feared someone knew about the new Alpha and wanted him out of the way. Now, though, after doing more research and hearing from another Watcher, she had to admit the truth.
The alligator, and whoever had sent it, were after Macy.
Callum pulled up the collar of his leather jacket before shoving his hands into the pockets. He hesitated at the back door of the strip club as his fingers enclosed around the wad of bills - tips from the women in tonight's audience. He twisted his lips. He didn't need the money. While it was true he was an orphan, he had omitted to Macy that his parents had just died. They'd raised him as an alpha and had left him a shitload of money.
His true reason for playing the part of stripper was to keep an eye on Macy, who worked at the bar part-time as a server. Callum knew her music career paid the bills, but tips from Wolf's Night Out kept her nicely fed and clothed.
He recalled the night Dante had called to cash in the favor owed. Apparently, a few members of the pack had disappeared right before Dante received an anonymous note saying Macy was next.
So far, Callum had been able to covertly keep the she-wolf safe. Chills went down his spine. He couldn't believe she’d never noticed the close calls despite all of her wolf senses. How could she be so naïve?
Pushing the door open, he stepped into the alley and looked around for the homeless man who usually lurked in the shadows. Tonight, the man had retired early and lay curled up beside the large dumpster. A cardboard box lay over him, but Callum recognized the purple and gold striped socks sticking out.
He nudged the man's foot. "Hey. You awake?"
The man laid still, so Callum knelt beside him. "Hey, man, I've got some money for you."
The body stirred, but just as it sat up, something kicked a can behind Callum. He turned around, but before he could see who was behind him, a cloth bag slid over his head. A needle slammed into his forearm.
Macy’s little red Mustang rolled to a stop at the swampy crossroad. The weak headlights barely showed the other side. She had never felt so alone. Even when she ran in wolf-form, it was always with a pack member.
The paper in her hand quivered as she searched the inky black letters. She re-read the ransom note. Midnight. Bayou Road. You for Callum … or he dies.
Macy knew this had something to do with the clowns. The hair on the back of her neck rose as a huge alligator crawled in front of the car. Oddly enough, the gator had a brown backpack strapped to his back. Little white tufts of hair stuck out on top of his head. His beady eyes focused on her before he yawned.
Enormous blood stained teeth gleamed in the headlights. Snapping his mouth closed, the gator hissed and whipped its tail wildly. The air shimmered as he rose on his hind legs and transformed into an old man with long white hair. Behind him, two clowns shoved Callum out from the swamp into the middle of the road.
The old man crooked his finger at Macy. "Get out."
Her hands shook so badly she had trouble getting the door open. She finally managed and stood before him, lifting her chin. "What do you want with me?"
The old man's golden eyes were still in gator-form, and they gazed at her hungrily. "Trophies for my room. Your white fur will add a nice touch to my collection."
From out of nowhere, a little red VW Bug slammed into the old man. He flew through the air, changing into alligator form while he did so. His head smashed into a tree, rendering him unconscious.
The clowns scattered, running like the devil was after them. The souped up Bug slid to a halt just inches from where Callum knelt with the hood still covering his head. The tinted windows made it impossible to see the driver.
The door flew open, and a red haired girl climbed out. Wide-eyed, she looked from Macy to Callum before settling on the unconscious old were-gator. She scrambled over to him, snatched a book from his backpack and hauled butt back to the Bug. Without a word, she dove in and took off in the opposite direction. Her license plate read Ally G Ator.
Before Macy could take a step toward Callum, several gigantic wolves stepped out of the swamp. Relief filled her as one of them transformed into Dante. He stared at the cloud of dust left by the Bug. "Who was that?"
Macy rushed to Callum's side. "I have no idea, but I'd love to give her a big hug."
She pulled the hood off and peered into his glassy eyes. "Are you ok?"
"Noooo," Callum slurred. His goofy smile eased her freaked out emotions. "I feel greeeaaat. Seriously …"
The other Weres picked up the unconscious (and hopefully dead) were-gator and disappeared into the swamp. Dante helped Callum into Macy's Mustang and secured him in the seat-belt before turning to face her. His warm brown eyes inspected her, and he picked up a tendril of her hair, sniffing to further insure she was alright. "He's a good match for you."
Macy's heart caught in her throat before plummeting to her feet. "But Father … I thought you didn’t want me with an alpha."
Dante's smile filled her with ease. "I never said that. I said I didn't want you with an alpha of this pack." He jerked his thumb at Callum. "It's time you start your own pack."
Macy stared at her father as his blessing sunk in. She threw her arms around Dante’s neck and kissed his cheek. "Thank you."
She practically danced to the other side of the car. Sliding into the driver's seat, she paused before taking off. Macy looked at Callum and hoped the love in her heart showed in her eyes. "No more stripping for you, wolf-boy."
* This was a fun collaboration between Nancy, Meredith and Josephine that began at The Jambalaya Writer’s Conference in Houma, Louisiana. The idea was born at one of Heather Graham’s writing classes, and we spent a lot of “rowdy” times filled with laughter!