Ardent Change

By Buffi BeCraft-Woodall

This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence. This free ebook is rated PG13, for violence.

Note: Any reference to works by Buffi BeCraft-Woodall as ‘Blue-Collar Books’ is an appellation given by the author, not a publisher. 

 

Dedication and Forward

This story is dedicated to all the fans of the Blue-Collar Werewolves.

Authors, as general rule, are pretty insecure. We write, then sit and wonder if anyone will enjoy what we’ve created. Then, that unsure part of us is surprised and delighted with every email we get, telling us how much you enjoyed the story. At least, I am. I still do the happy dance when a reader wants to know more about the world I’ve created. Without your interest, there wouldn’t have been a third book, much less the up-and-coming fourth Blue-Collar Werewolf book.

So, dear fans, this one’s for you!

- Buffi BeCraft-Woodall

 


He wasn’t a chicken. He wasn’t. Rice slunk out of his seat and started the long walk down the bus aisle. The aisle felt more like the corridor of shame than the way to escape to home.

“See ya later Rice-paddy,” laughed Chad Wilson, the most popular jerk in Cayuga Middle School. Days like today, he wanted to go Palestine school like his older brothers had. With a low growl, Rice stepped over the bully’s quickly outstretched foot. It was no problem really. Rice could out jump, out run, out anything those idiots at school could dish out. He was a wolven, born and bred, even if his ability to Change into a real wolf was late. “Rice Weis, Rice Weis,ha-ha-hahaha!” Chad sing-songed.

Rice rolled his eyes and kept walking. As if calling him by his adopted name was going to insult him. So what if his name made a stupid rhyme. His parents Adam and Diana Weis were the best.

“Shut-up Chad.” Mia Willowsong twisted in her seat. Her bluer than blue eyes outlined in swooping lines of black kohl promised dark mayhem. Rice stayed quiet as he passed her, but he couldn’t help but notice everything about Mia. Her hair, long and blue like an anime heroine contrasted with her pale, pale skin. It was a good thing that he was good in math, because Mia sat beside him in the next row. Too many times he missed what the teacher was saying as he thought about the dark red lipstick that outlined her lips. Her lacy black top and red undershirt were modest enough. Low riding black jeans and military style stomping boots completed the upscale Goth look. The scent of fairy and Mia’s own natural smell had become his favorite in all the world. Not that he’d tell anyone. His brothers would give him all kinds of grief.

Rice held his breath, willing himself not to react to her scent. Or to notice all the little things about Mia. Like the delicate silver chain and charm she wore around her neck. Tiny silver hoops decorated her ears. She curled her lip at Chad in a way that reminded him of his own people and sneered at the bully. “You are such a butt-head.” The females in his pack didn’t take any crap off of anyone either.

“Ooo! Mama-Mia, Queen of the Dark.” Chad grinned, “I’m so scared. You must really like Rice and beans. Rice and Mia sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g!” The rest of the kids, bullies like Chad took up the chant. “First come love…then comes marriage…Then comes Rice and Mia with a baby-carriage!”

Rice ducked his head and fled. He tightened his hold on his backpack and his anger and left the bus as fast as he could. If he could have just five minutes alone with that jerk, he’d make Chad wish he’d never heard of Rice Weis. Guilt followed the sentiment in a rush. That kind of talk always made his dad’s almost white eyebrows meet in a frown of disappointment that made Rice’s stomach clench and his chest ache.

He hadn’t had anybody until the pack wardens dragged him home and presented him to Adam and Diana Weis, the pack alphas. Since that first day, they treated him like he was somebody worth keeping. Not some flea-ridden dumpster diving stray. They’d protected him and loved him. His dad had even given him his own set of tools, the usual builder basics and a leather tool belt to keep them together. “A carpenter’s tools are his life, son. Take good care of them and they’ll take good care of you.” His dad told him. That day, Rice had felt like he’d passed some rite of passage. Wanting to be just like Adam Weis, he took very good care of the special gift. Rice would do anything for them. Even put up with dipwads like Chad Wilson.

“Wait! Rice!” Mia hopped off the bus and ran in his direction. “Rice! Slow down!”

The bus doors slammed behind Mia as she hopped down and ran toward him. He stopped, holding his breath against the onslaught of her perfume. The bus groaned, lurching into motion again. Hoisting the ever sliding backpack down he waited, watching her practically glide over the ground to him. Chad may have dubbed Mia Queen of the Dark, but the idiot knew nothing. Mia smiled as she shifted her messenger bag to her back. Rice swallowed. He forced himself to concentrate on her blue eyes. “You shouldn’t have gotten off the bus.”

Mia wrinkled her nose. “Someone twist your tail, wolf?” Irritation tinged her scent cinnamon with anger and darkened her eyes.

“No.” and that was part of his problem. He wanted to be a wolf. He wanted to run with his pack. He felt stuck on two legs the way his nephew Justin felt stuck in his wolf body. He turned to trudge along the road leading to the long driveway to Packhome, where quite a few of the pack lived. Today, more than any, his skin felt too constricting. He wanted to run home and use his restlessness to hammer studs in place or the section of porch he was designing for his mom, not have Mia following him around.

“Fine. Be that way.” Sticking her nose in the air, she brushed by him. Like a dummy, he realized that her house was about a mile down the road, on the opposite side of pack property. They’d have to walk together anyway. She muttered something in her own language. It sounded pretty, but he suspected was anything but.

“Wait.” He sped up and matched her pace. He looked at his feet rather than at her long blue hair. “I’m sorry. It’s just…” he shrugged. Rice didn’t have an excuse for taking his bad mood out on her. “I’ll walk you home.”

“You don’t have to,” she still sounded and smelled angry, so Rice tried a smile that was more teeth than happy.

“I want to,” he said. “Really.”

Mia laughed. “Oh, goddess. With a smile like that, how can I resist?” Rice wiped the smile from his face. He had no idea what to talk about, so he didn’t bother to try. Thankfully, Mia didn’t press him on his mood. They walked in companionable silence while she led the way off the road and into the woods.

The scent of fairy was strong all around, proving that her family had settled on this property and made it their own. Rice lifted his nose in the air and sniffed again, he frowned as he picked up a low fetid scent. “What is it?” Mia’s question made him stop the almost constant growl he was making. He shook his head, taking a different path. Raising her nose, Mia tested the air. Fairykind had a decent nose as well. “Oh, no!” Mia dropped her backpack and began running.

The fetid smell became worse. All kinds of warning bells went off in his head. Instinct took over and he began freeing himself of unneeded encumbrances as he ran. He leaped over fallen trees and rammed through underbrush. Clothes, shoes, he had to be free of the constriction. All of it. He ignored the fire ants that seemed to crawling under his skin. His concentration focused on following Mia. Barely missing running into her, Rice skidded to a halt.

In front of them, a skinny person wrapped in what looked like a ratty blanket crooned over a wadded bundle of canvas and cloth. Rope kept the canvas in place. “Mine, mine, mine.” The reedy voice could have been male or female. He had no idea, except that this was where the nasty smell emanated. The ragged person looked up, revealing a wrinkled, stringy haired old lady with a slight hump and a double rowed mouth of sharklike teeth. The thing hissed, letting the bundle fall to the ground as it crouched into attack position. Black needle-sharp claws tipped her hands.

“Demon,” Rice growled, almost deciding to take the lead. Mia’s calm competence kept him at her side. “Nighthag,” Mia corrected with absolute disgust. Rice thought it strange, as it was the middle of the afternoon.

He kept quiet, waiting for her cues on how to combat this thing. Good sense told him that in this, Mia would lead best. His raging instincts may be pushing him to be the dominant, but he planned to fight smart, not blind. Mia’s hands began to glow neon purple. The magic resonated deep inside Rice. “You are not welcome here,” she spat out. Her hair crackled with energy.

“I am as welcome as any of our kind you little chit,” the Nighthag  hissed, pointing an evil claw her direction. “Our lord gave me leave. I was told to be here now, at this time. You and your pet werewolf can just go or I’ll be dining on your flesh come moonlight.”

“Puh-leeze,” Mia raised her purple hands . “What a ridiculous lie, soul-eater. Your kind is the scum of fairykind.”

The nighthag made a grating noise and leapt into the air. The blanket robe fluttered raggedly around her in the afternoon light. Stench and magic swirled to gagging density in the air as the shadows deepened. Darkness crept across the ground with a life of its own. Rice’s senses went into overdrive as the nighthag darted to the side and pointed a finger at them. A flash of Mia’s purple neon light flew through air, stopping the hag’s spell. The hag dodged the next purple bolt. He recognized the screeching torrent aimed at them as Mia’s language. The sounds weren’t pretty at all coming from the nighthag.

Claws extended, long glittering needlelike claws, the nighthag dropped out of the sky, practically on top of Mia. Ignoring his physical discomfort, Rice roared a challenge and jumped to intercept the creature. He swiped at the robe, missing because of the awkwardness of a hand now ending with brand new claws. Discomfort? Rice wanted to throw up, not from the nighthag’s smell, but from pushing and pulling in his body. His mouth felt as though razors ground from inside his gums.

He threw himself into the nighthag, wrapping his arms around and pulling back. Mia cried out in pain, causing Rice to bury his teeth into the enemy. Lines of hot pain opened up on his thigh and back. Teeth buried deep, he shook what piece of the enemy he had like a dog playing tug-of-war. But this was no game. The nighthag chuckled low.

Suddenly his breath became difficult to drag in. The thin stream was pathetically too little to do more than tease. A flash of purple told him that Mia was doing her best to help. “Rice! No! let go!” Mia’s scream was a faint warning. “You have to fight her kind from a distance. Darn-it!”

Wolven were all about close quarters and hand to hand fighting. Sounds from the forest competed with a rushing in his ears. Finding a new purchase for his teeth, he used his claws, both sets, to rake and dig. In his chest something insubstantial pulled free and began to trickle out with his tiny stream of breath. Rice bit down harder. Spots floated in his wavering vision.

The hag tried to pull then shake him free. Rice hung on tighter. It seemed a long time since Mia had hit the creature with her purple magic. “You are going to die alone little werewolf,” the nighthag whispered in his ear. “Your girlfriend has run off and left you to me.” He hadn’t figured Mia for the type to run from a fight. He moved his bite closer to the neck and was rewarded with a crack of collarbone. He twisted as hard as he could, bringing a squeal of pain from his enemy. “I am a soul-eater, werewolf. You are dying even now. Your life healing even as you damage me.” She laughed painfully. “So young. So s-s-s-sweet.”

She was right. Rice could feel each tug on the bit of nothing being pulled from his chest. Even if he survived the fight, he was still going to die. So, he had better make this good. Thinking frantically, he tried to think of what his Uncle Chase, the warden, would do. Even better, his big brother Brandon was kind of crazy. Bradnon would do anything it took to win. “So do whatever needs to be done to win the fight.” Brandon said during their mock fights. “There’s no honor in dying when there’s no coming back from dead.”

Rice climbed up the hag’s body, his powerful half-human/half-wolf jaws fit easily over her face. He bit down, finding that he was too weak to crush her head. Instead, wrapped his body around her shoulders, digging in as he bit and chewed, glad that Mia wasn’t there to see. Keeping her image in his head, he gave himself completely to the task of gnawing the nighthag’s head from her shoulders.

Beneath him, the hag stiffened. She jerked, swatting at herself as she cried out with real pain. The scream vibrated in his soul. She twisted. Still he hung on. His breath came back in a lung burning rush as he hit the ground. The nighthag’s piteous screams raked at his ears and the tattered remains of his soul. A fall of blue silk obscured Rice’s vision and he felt himself being dragged a distance away. “Mia.” The words sounded oddly garbled. Her long fingers touched his muzzle and Rice realized he’d Changed. For real. He’d really Changed.

 

Rice’s strength drained away, taking the precious power he’d finally tapped into. His body slowly reversed, reforming back to human form. The fur pelt pulled back into his body with the prickle of a heavy brush. His teeth receded, reshaping into their normal human shape. His hands lost the claw-tipped heaviness. Rice reached up to touch her smooth fair jaw. He didn’t have the energy to go higher. “How old are you fairy princess?”

She smiled, pulling her lips in a mysterious curve. Her makeup had smeared a bit during the fight and tears welled up, drawing dark tracks down her pale cheek. “Relatively speaking, about the same, my brave wolven knight.” He shook his head in disbelief. Mia bent her head to his ear. “Sixty-four,” she whispered. Her warm breath stirred his hair. The hag’s cries had turned to groans of death. Turning to the sound, he knew he’d outlive the hag by a few minutes. “Shhh. Don’t listen.” Mia shifted him so that his head rested against her lap. Her fingers were a soothing caress in his hair. “My mother was the mistress of Lord Morgan’s most loyal honor guard. Like a true fairy tale, my parents made Lord Morgan my godfather. When I was born, he bestowed three gifts on me. Elven longevity and soul-fire.”

“Used the soul-fire on the hag, didn’t you?” He asked. Mia nodded, the makeup stained tears dropped on his bare chest. Great. His first time naked with a girl and he was dying. For once he agreed and understood what his Uncle Mack always said. “The fates were twisted bitches, every one of them.” Rice had finally gotten he girl. He’d gotten his wolven abilities. Now he was going to die. He felt bad for the pack having to deal with another death again so soon. It would be bad. He hoped they didn’t blame Mia. He didn’t. “Glad you killed her.”

“I didn’t kill her. You did.” At Rice’s confusion, Mia kissed him. It was light and warm. His first non-family kiss. Better than he’d imagined it would be. “Nighthags feed off of the soul. So my ability wasn’t doing much, except knocking her around. I ran back for your backpack.” Shaking his head that he still didn’t understand, Mia touched his forehead to keep him still. He was tired. Real tired and having trouble catching his breath again. “Shhh. Don’t move. I’m fairy, remember? I smelled the iron and steel you always carry with you. I used the nails from your tools and stabbed her with as many as I could.”

With his waning strength he touched her hand, pulling the delicate digit into his sight. Her whole palm was raw blisters and red inflamed skin. Iron was as bad for fairykind as silver was to the shapeshifting lycanthropes. “Sorry.” Rice closed his eyes.

“No, I am. I shouldn’t have let you fight.” Another tear dropped on his chest. “I-I care about you.”

Patting the hand, Rice smiled. “I’m the knight remember? Can’t let the princess do all the fighting.” He stopped to catch his breath, knowing why people dragged out the death scene in movies and books. The guy dying had to cram all his living into the last few minutes he had left. “Really like, care, ‘bout you too. Sorry ‘bout being a jerk.” Dying made his earlier fears unimportant. “You’re so pretty, Mia. Wanted to ask you out. Didn’t know how.” He tried for a smile and failed. “Maybe next time. You never said what the third gift was.”

“Oh, Rice.” With her blue hair wild and the makeup trailing all over her face, she looked like a heroine in one of the romance adventure books his packsisters liked to read. She bit her bottom lip, frowning hard. The tears stopped. Mia suddenly looked older than fifteen human years. “My third gift is this.” With that, she bent down and kissed him again, mingling their breaths.

The hollowness in his chest filled. Understanding, Rice struggled. He was still weak and she held him easily, pushing her life and some of her soul into him. For a moment, the business end of the kiss turned into more. Hel held her closer. When Mia pulled back, Rice let go, marveling at the blue glow in her eyes. The effect was like really cool CG effects or gems lit from behind. Breathing harder for a completely different reason, he stifled a grin at her embarressment. Mia’s pale cheeks blushed pink and she studied the area around them. “You…ahhh…”

“It’s okay.” Rice had ditched most of his clothes in the headlong run. He wobbled to his feet. Getting dressed would give Mia some time pull herself together. Eventually, they’d have to talk about what she’d given up to save him. Her elven immortality. The part of him that was fully wolven knew better than she did what had happened. He was smart enough to know they were too young. Both he and Mia had a lot of growing up to do. His mom was going to be majorly ticked, but Rice figured he could handle that.

 

“What’s that?” Ditching his plan to give Mia some space, Rice walked back once he had some clothes covering him up. As steady as possible, he crouched down to see what Mia was poking at. Scenting was out of the question with his over-stimulated senses. The nighthag’s stench all over the place made him keep his breathing regulated to nothing more than a bodily function.

“The nighthag dropped this.” Her hand moved the heavy wrapping of canvas and terrycloth aside to reveal a tiny arm and hand. Pulling away the rest uncovered a very still baby girl with a fine blue fuzz on her head. Mentally comparing her to the babies in his pack, he figured her to be a few months old.   

“Is she dead?” Rice asked his hand hovered, but he was afraid to touch the tiny baby. It was one thing to haul around his little sister and cousins. “Is it a hag baby?” he didn’t think so, but there was no harm in making sure.

“No. She might be hurt from the fall. I have some healing ability.” Mia closed her eyes and picked up the baby. The movement jostled the little one into making a small sound of protest. Relief flooded him as she laid her cheek against the baby’s chest. Whatever magic she did tingled in the air, intensifying the natural fairy-scent she put off. When Mia opened her eyes to meet his, they glowed with the same blue intensity as they had when she’d shared her soul with him. “No. Smell. She’s both fairy and wolf.” She frowned, bending her cheek back to the baby while Rice searched the bundle. The continued buzz of along his senses and the overwhelming burst of fairy scent told told him that Mia was still working her magic on the baby. Whatever she did seemed to work as the baby began wriggling with a happy squeal. Rice glanced up as Mia cuddled and cooed at the baby. An odd feeling lodged in his chest. Shaking it off, he bent back down to his task.

“I found a letter.” He lifted the envelope out and opened it, scanning the contents with the same confusion he often found in Chemistry class. For sure, he’d never be a doctor, as often as he had to take after school tutorials in order to just pass each six weeks. “I can’t read this,” he said, trading the letter for the baby. Now that she wasn’t possibly dead, he had no qualms about holding her. Being the oldest kid gave him plenty of opportunity to do a lot of babysitting. He didn’t mind. Pack hierarchy worked that way for safety’s sake.

The baby’s brilliant blue eyes stared back at him with solemn trust while Mia murmured the foreign words in her cool accented language. Magic tingled briefly in the air, distracting him while he tensed. Rice waited, expecting something to appear out of nowhere and attack. After a few minutes and no horrible drooling demon attack, he was able to relax again. A little squeal caught Rice’s attention. He couldn’t help but smile in return.The baby was adorable. With her blue hair and eyes, she looked like a little mini-Mia. Grinning, the baby gave him a gummy grin and cooed.

“It’s part of a location spell.” Disgusted, Mia let the letter fall and reached out to touch the baby’s cheek with a finger. “Useless. We’re going to have to take her to my house.”

“You said she was part wolf. That makes her part my responsibility too.” Rice’s protest slipped out before he knew what he’d said. But really, once he thought about it, he felt the truth. Even part wolf, the baby should have the protection of the pack.

Mia glared at him, giving him a glimmer of what she might be like in a few years. She opened her mouth, probably to tear him a new one, but a woman’s voice answered from the wrong direction. “Actually, she’s not quite your responsibility yet.”

Rice’s hackles raised at the same time as he shoved the baby at Mia and stepped in front of them. Rice faced the newcomer while providing her with a route to escape. He reached inside, but the power to Change shimmered just out of reach. His mind raced as he crouched in a defensive position. Rice flexed his fingers. He’d have to fight it out the hard way.

Two figures, the woman and a man stepped into the clearing. The woman’s blue hair was cut to her shoulder, shorter in back than the front. Artistic black streaks mingled among the blue. Surprise choked the growl in his throat. Amusement glittered in her kohl lined sapphire eyes and gave a tilt to her dark red lips. Respectfully, he kept his eyes off the rest of her Halloween themed t-shirt and jeans.

The man was familiar. Freakishly familiar. A someone’s-walking-over-my-grave shiver worked its way down Rice’s spine. The wolven’s slightly shaggy dark hair and shadowed jaw gave him a dangerous edge. He wasn’t bulky in his worn jeans and denim shirt, but the smooth fast shift of claws to hand told Rice that he was powerful. Lesser wolven could only shift into the wolf and wolfman forms and back to human. There was no picking and choosing. “Thanks for the help, kid. Hags are nasty business. It wouldn’t have been much longer before she’d forgotten her oath to save Mimi and just eaten her.”

“I think she was about to do that when we surprised her.” Rice didn’t resist as Mia brushed by him to approach the couple. In fact, he followed, driven by his own curiosity and what he felt for the baby. “Why call her Mimi? That’s a little strange, don’t you think?” He asked, not at all offended by the woman’s laugh. He couldn’t be mad at anyone that happy to have Mia carefully hand the little one over. The joy could be felt from both the tough guy and his mate as they gazed down at the baby. It was a nice little picture perfect moment. Mimi cooed again, waving her arms, as if she recognized her parents.

The guy looked up. Amusement glittered in his He raised a single eyebrow like Rice had seen his dad do many times before. The eyebrow thing was a cool move that he sometimes practiced in the bathroom mirror. “Yeah. Right. Like Rice Weis isn’t the goofiest name to get stuck with,” the stranger commented with dry self-depreciation. He dropped an arm over his mate’s shoulder. After glancing once more with possessive affection at the baby he met Rice’s eyes and nodded. Already, Rice felt a pang of loss. Mia’s hand slipped into his. He squeezed once, letting her feel that he understood. “Thanks again,” said the man. “Don’t worry about the cleaning up the hag. Thankfully, she’ll finish decomposing in about an hour.”

The blue haired lady smiled mysteriously at Mia and nodded as well. She hugged the baby closer to her breast. “Yes, Mia. It was entirely worth it.” She looked up over her shoulder, love in her eyes. The silent communication of mates passed between them before she turned back to Rice and Mia. “It’s time for us to go now.”

The air flared with light of a sun at close range. Golden energy flooded around him. When the light receded, Rice and Mia stood alone in the woods. The rank smell of dead nighthag lingered in the air, already fading a little. At least he hoped it had. God, that thing stank. Uncomfortable, Rice didn’t resist as she tugged her hand free. He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. What did a guy say when faced with that? Weird and kind of cool at the same time. “Uhhh.” he felt heartened, feeling a bit of Mia’s emotion through the faint bond created by her sacrifice. “You want to go out Saturday? Catch a movie?”

Mia crossed her arms, studying her red nails, as she appeared to think it over. Rice already knew her decision. “You think I should cut my hair?” she asked.

“I think your hair is awesome.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. He should probably check his backpack to make sure she hadn’t accidentally dropped his hammer on the ground. He raised one eyebrow, waiting.

“There’s that new vampire movie showing,” Mia started walking in the direction of her family’s small house. “That would be nice.”

“I’ll pick you up at six then.” He only had a learner’s driving permit. Rice would have to get one of his older packbrothers to chaperone. But enduring the inevitable teasing would be worth the time spent with Mia.

Looking back over her shoulder, Mia’s lips moved into a mysterious smile that would only get better as she got older. “Make it seven-thirty. I am the Queen of Darkness after all.”

The End…for now.

 


Buffi BeCraft-Woodall lives close to the East Texas woods that her werewolves roam. Still, she admits to being much more the hotel staying kind of girl, rather than the camping in a tent sort. Juggling a pack of her own filled with family, friends, and an ever-changing menagerie of pets, Buffi is working on another book.

Website: www.buffibecraft.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/buffibw
Email: buffibecraft@ymail.com

‘The Blue-Collar Books’
Weremones
PMSing
Making Tracks
*Creature Comforts- coming soon