Authors: Emily Neily
WEREWOLF: IMPOSSIBLE LOVE
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Talent Writers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication is allowed to be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Only reviewers are allowed to brief passages from this publication.
The snowflakes turned to tiny starbursts as they spun out of the darkness and caught the beams of the headlights. When she was younger, Serenity had liked to imagine that they really were stars, and that her mom was a brave space pilot on an important mission for the Rebel Alliance.
There was no time, no energy for imagination tonight. Serenity’s hands shook on the wheel, knuckles white and palms sweaty. She had fled into the mountains precisely so she could get past the reach of radio signals; there was no sound to cover up her tense breathing and the quiet sobs that still came with it.
She squinted at the winding road ahead of her, struggling to discern icy patches from plain snow with her left eye nearly swollen shut. The pain was irrelevant. The tears, though unstoppable, were irrelevant.
The fear was relevant.
It was 2 AM on a lonely highway deep in the Beartooth backcountry, and the snow wasn’t even close to letting up. This was the price of fleeing at midnight. This was the price of fleeing past the reach of an FM signal. This was the price of freedom, of safety, of—
A strange calm came over Serenity as she realized that the car was no longer responding to the steering wheel, no longer responding to the skid-stopping motions that she’d practiced on suburban streets.
She realized that she was airborne—then realized that this was what it felt like to truly give up. She thought she’d done that already, but no. You hadn’t really given up until your only response to your car flying off the road in a blizzard was to drop your hands from the wheel, take a deep breath, and wait.
The impact either knocked her out or woke her up. Maybe it did both, one after the other. As Serenity lay on her back in the snow, her mind began to flood with things that suddenly mattered: the pain in her left eye, the new pain in her right leg, the razor-tipped cold of the snow melting against her bruised and broken skin, the stink of fr
ee-burning gasoline, the hiss of snow melting on hot metal. These things
, and for a brief moment Serenity thought that she might have the willpower to stay alive after all.
As she struggled to her feet, that illusion faded. She could not see the road. The smell of burning gasoline came, not from an inferno of twisted steel, but from a weak red flame that was already choking on the snow that had drifted in through the car’s broken window.
Serenity did not come up with a reason to start walking, her bleeding hands stuffed down in her parka’s pockets and her right leg dragging behind her. It briefly occurred to her that something was sprained or broken. She wondered if she was bleeding. She kept squinting into the darkness ahead. Kept limping forward.
A memory crept into her head of the summer her cousin gave her all his Tolkien books. He’d dog-eared a story in
about one of the heroes of mankind facing down a whole army of trolls and orcs and fire demons all by himself. It did not have a happy ending. The hero knew it was not going to have a happy ending. But as the orcs and trolls and balrogs dragged him down, the hero never once stopped shouting
Aure Entuluva! Day will come again!
All these years had gone by, and Serenity had thought that story was about hope. Every brittle, pained step through the snow reminded her how stupid that was. There wasn’t any hope here, at the bottom of her willpower and the end of her fight. If the blizzard and the forest and the night didn’t kill her, then Marshall would.
Serenity would be
if she was going to let Marshall do it.
Beneath the snow, her foot slipped on a rock. She went crashing to the ground on her injured leg with a ragged, pained cry. Serenity lay there for a moment, wondering if she’d gotten far enough from the car that she could die without any help from Marshall. The smell of burning gasoline told her that she wasn’t.
“Aure entuluva,” she growled to herself as she struggled back to her feet. It was just as much a warning as it was a motto. Daylight
come again. With it would come Marshall. With Marshall would come his hounds, and his flashlight, and—
Panic gripped Serenity’s throat at the very thought of Marshall catching up to her. She fought her brain’s efforts to shut itself down like a crashing computer. She let out a scream. She started running. She clawed at her face and pinched her arms and leapt through the snow, trying to shake the blind fear that threatened to drown her.
Another false step sent her crashing face-first into the snow. That was all it took to tip the battle in the panic’s favor. It rose like a sticky black tide over Serenity’s senses, drawing her breath in rapid, shallow gasps that whimpered on their way out. She tried to fight it, tried to fight the inevitable replay of Marshall’s wrath that came with the sticky, mind-choking fear.
All she could do was scream.
Serenity didn’t realize that she was going to pass out until she woke up. A moment of brief confusion gave way to the sickening realization that she could smell a man—that a man was touching her.
She screamed, flailed, fought to her feet, tried to take off; her legs only cooperated for a few steps before giving way. The panic was back. The panic had never left. She was trapped. Trapped in iron, trapped in mud, trapped in ice, no legs, no legs, no legs, no legs; she screamed as she tried to crawl through the snow, swim through the darkness, drown herself in it before—
“Oh, goddammit, will you
Serenity realized that she had never heard that voice before. A crack of clarity showed through the mind-clouding fear, and she turned around to see the shadow of a tall, broad-shouldered, and completely unfamiliar man standing over her.
She stared at him in silence for a few moments. The gas lantern he carried cast shadows over thick, dark brows and deep-set eyes—the only part of his face neither covered by a scarf nor by the furry flaps of his hat.
“Can you understand me?” he said, speaking slowly. “Me entiendas?”
“Uh, estas, uh, corriendo de la migra?”
She shook her head. “I don’t speak Spanish,” she said. “I—” she shook her head as the pace of her breath picked up again.
“You’re fine, you’re fine.” The stranger knelt in front of her. “Now, we’re gonna go back to my place, all right?”
Serenity recoiled from the touch of his hand on her shoulder.
“Do I need to knock you out?” he said. “Your leg’s a—”
The thought of him striking her sent Serenity back into panic mode. Like a fear-maddened horse, she tore away from his grip and started throwing her body away from him however she could. She limped, she fell, she crawled—
She came to on a woolen blanket, in a yellow-lit room that smelled vaguely of ham. Her vision was too blurry to make out many details of where she was; her head felt heavy and swam with sleep.
Serenity tried to call out for—for help? for information? but all that came out of her mouth was a soft murmur. It occurred to her that someone had given her a painkiller or five. She shut her eyes again.
“Are you awake?” the stranger’s voice said.
Serenity opened her eyes and blinked up at his shadow until he came into focus. He looked even bigger indoors—well over six feet, with wide square shoulders and a broad chest. Shadows deepened the furrows of concern on his broad, craggy features.
She managed to nod at him, still not sure how speech was going to work out.
“I went and got your bag out of the car,” he said, pointing to the floor by the bed. “And, uh, your teddy bear.” He reached toward Serenity’s lap, picked up Mr. Binky, and set her beloved childhood relic in her arms.
Tears rose in Serenity’s throat at the touch and the smell of Mr. Binky’s plush cotton fur. She hugged the teddy bear close and buried her face in its belly, muffling the sobs that rushed out of her chest.
The stranger snorted. “Guess I’ll leave you two alone,” he said. “Oh, also—your leg is fucked, so don’t try to walk on it. If it feels better, that’s because I dosed you good with some morphine.” He snorted again. “And, uh, I siphoned all your gas out and torched the car. Stuck some deer bones in there while I was at it.”
Serenity looked up at him and blinked. His intense grey eyes were fixed on her; his jaw was working beneath the short beard that edged his face.
“Feh. You don’t want to talk about it, do you?” He shook his head and turned to walk away. “Women.”
The stranger was right. The only thing on Serenity’s mind—well, besides a boatload of morphine—was how badly she wanted to relax and go back to sleep. She nestled against the pillows and held Mr. Binky close as she drifted off.
When the stranger woke her again, he had a giant plate of bacon and eggs balanced on one hand and a lantern in the other.
“I don’t know if you eat meat or not,” he said, “but, uh, you’re eating meat while you’re here.” He set the plate down on Serenity’s lap. “You need protein to heal your leg, and I ain’t got any soybeans up here.”
Serenity shook her head and scooted up. Her head wasn’t as foggy now, and she was aware of a powerful ache radiating through her leg. “Thanks,” she murmured, setting Mr. Binky on the bed next to her and staring at the plate. She had no appetite.
“Don’t worry about it,” the stranger replied. “Name’s Yandel, by the way.”
“Hi, Yandel.” She looked up at him, still too drug-dazed and tired to question where they were, why he had saved her, and what was going to happen next. “I’m Serenity.”
Yandel nodded. “Hi.” He gestured to the plate. “I’m serious. Eat or stay bedridden.”
Serenity picked up the tarnished, worn-handled silver fork he’d given her and cut off a tiny bite of egg. It was all she could do to get it down, but Yandel’s hard gray stare stayed fixed on her. By the time she finished both eggs and all four slices of bacon, the plate had gone as cold as his eyes.
“Good,” he said, taking the empty dish from Serenity. She watched him as he trudged across the log-sided room they were in. It was about the size of a garage, dimly lit by the curtain-covered window above her bed and a wood stove in the corner across from it. An old refrigerator was plugged in to the wall next to the stove; beside it was a countertop and a set of the ugliest industrial cabinets Serenity had ever seen.
Yandel was quiet as he fixed her a cup of tea and brought it over. “You’ll meet the girl who makes this,” he said. “Just need to wait for the snow to quit so I can go get her.”
“Where are we?” Serenity asked.
“We are at my house,” he replied, handing her the cup. “You were lucky the snow came when it did—I would have been ten miles away from that gulch when you flipped your car.”
“Are we close by, then?”
“I was getting to that.” Irritation flicked across his face.
“Sorry.” Serenity gripped the cup in both hands and took a sip.
“We’re a good twelve miles from where you crashed,” he said. “
Thankfully, my mules know the way from there and wanted to get the hell home.”
“I’m up here on an SUP from the Federal Gubmint,” Yandel replied with a thin smile. “No roads in, no roads out, and Uncle Sam pops on by every now and then to make sure I’m not running around the place on a motor vehicle.”
Serenity sipped on the bitter, ginger-tart tea in silence, eyeing her rescuer and wondering whether he was going to be her captor, too.
The shadows exaggerated the concern on his face, making it look like some stern, ancient god was standing over her with his brows knitted.
“Now, I don’t know exactly where it was you came from,” he said, “but I have a pretty good feeling in my gut that you don’t want to go back there, and seeing as how my gut is usually right about things, I’m going to just assume that you want to get your leg fixed and get the hell out of Montana.” He raised his eyebrows. “Maybe even
the hell out of the US, if I talk to my guy up in Regina about getting you over.”
Serenity stared at him with her mouth open. “You—” She blinked. “You’d do that.”
Yandel shrugged. “Wherever you go, I want you the hell out of my house before the Forest Service comes snooping around this place again, and I don’t want your blood on my hands,” he said. “Drink that so I can go feed my mules—it’s almost seven in the goddamn morning.”
Serenity sighed and finished her tea as fast as she could. She wanted to ask about the girl who made it, wanted to ask why he was up here all alone in the woods, wanted to ask about his guy in Regina—but she was still so drowsy, and
Yandel was starting to look annoyed.
When he was satisfied that she was done with the tea, Yandel took the cup from her. Without another word, he went to the door for his long, heavy coat and wrapped it around his big, square shoulders. Snow whirled into the cabin through the door as he stepped outside into the early morning darkness.