Wolves' Bane (The Order of the Wolf, #3)

Wolves' Bane (The Order of the Wolf, #3) by Angela Addams


Dedication

This is a very important dedication because this book is an achievement of a life goal for me. When my editor, Holly Atkinson, offered me a contract for Wolves’ Bane I wanted to cry (and I’m not a crier). Not only was she offering to continue the series we started with Cursed and Wolf Slayer, but she was offering me my first full-length novel contract—a dream come true. I cannot thank her enough for that.

The journey to publication for Wolves’ Bane has been a long one, with many people helping me along the way. The usual suspect, Dianne Waye, helped me with her keen editing eyes as my beta reader. D.B. Reynolds has always been a strong support for me with her experience and advice, but she also gave me some valuable editorial feedback and helped me write my original blurb. To my husband, Yendor, who is my voice of reason, who manages my website, creates beautiful bookmarks and who I don’t thank enough. To my parents who are determined to read every raunchy thing I write, no matter how awkward it gets during visits. And finally, to some of my closest friends (and colleagues): Beverly Woodfine who taught me a lot about MMA fighting, Michelle von Enckevort and Kate Riddell who helped me brainstorm title ideas and ultimately came up with Wolves’ Bane, Anne Michaud, Tammy Crosby, Michelle Beaton, Leslie Leamen and Karen Sorbera for being novel pimpers and cheerleaders. I can’t thank you girls enough for your help, support and enthusiasm.





Chapter One





Predictions


It seemed like a good idea at the time. At least that was what I kept telling myself as I scanned the ghoulish interior of the psychic’s tent and stifled yet another shiver. Sure, ten bucks for a reading, greeeaaat idea! I shifted in the uncomfortable wooden chair, my uneasiness growing as the smell of some pungent herb assaulted my nose.

I eyed the jars that ran along one of the tent’s lopsided shelves, wondering if there was something dead—or deadly—pickling in each of them, imagining that I could see an eyeball pressed against the cloudy glass of one of them. My stomach clenched at the thought. Get a grip, you wuss. I blew out a long breath and ran my fingers through my hair. This was definitely one of the more elaborately decorated psychic spaces I’d encountered. So what if the place was creepy?

“I’m going to kill Rachel,” I muttered as I pulled my jacket tight around my waist. I was the worst person to be sitting in a psychic’s tent. Thanks to my crazy drunk of a mother, I was certifiably superstitious and a self-admitted gullible dope when it came to the all-knowing fortune-telling scams.

And yet, even knowing this, I didn’t dare get up and leave. I couldn’t walk away, not when there was a chance that this might be the one psychic who got it right—who could tell me what I needed to do to fix my life, get back on track with my grad work, find love, and become a whole person again.

“Um, excuse me? Ma’am? Miss…uh…Mistress Fiona?” I said as I craned my neck, trying to see beyond the back panels of the tent. I knew there was someone in there. An old, gruff-sounding, disembodied voice had bellowed for me to take a seat when I’d first come in. “If you’re too busy, I can always come back.”

“Nonsense.” The word came from right behind me.

I spun on my chair to find an impossibly short woman standing at the opening of the tent, incandescent blue eyes and luxurious long locks of dark curls making her look like some kind of fairy.

“I thought…” I stumbled for some words. I could have sworn the voice I’d heard earlier had come from the back of the tent. Now this beautiful, little woman was standing between the open panels at the front, the sparkling lights of the carnival games and rides cascading over her olive skin with a shimmering glow. “Mistress Fiona?”

The little woman nodded, her generous mouth lifting into a bewitching smile. “I am.”

She moved closer to me, the panels of the tent closing behind her, deadening the thudding sounds of the carnival rides and music. I closed my eyes and drew an involuntary, deep breath. Fiona’s rich, warm fragrance enveloped me, easing my tension.

“You have come for a reading.” Her words were accented with thickly laced French undertones.

I nodded, snapping my eyes open and found Fiona had somehow soundlessly moved to the other side of the tent and was now seated opposite me. A wave of excitement swept through me, fluttering in my stomach as I eyed the woman with a mixture of curiosity and nervous expectation.

“My friend thought it would be fun,” I blurted out. It was the same friend who’d refused to enter the tent herself, citing the age-old excuse of heebie-jeebies, though I didn’t tell Fiona that.

“Fun?” The woman narrowed her eyes. “Is this a joke to you?”

I flinched. “No, of course not, I take this very seriously.” Too seriously. With that sudden moment of clarity, uncertainty slipped in. I’d spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on psychic, palm, tarot, whatever, readings—anything and everything that would allow me a supposed glimpse into the future. Perhaps it was time to snap out of it, to accept the unpredictability of life, choose reality over superstition for once and get some prescription drugs to help me out of the slump I’d been in for so long.

Yes, that’s what I need to do, get up and leave. This is a foolish waste of time.

“I should leave.” With my mind made up, I tried to push my chair back but found myself stuck as it snagged on the carpet.

Fiona’s hand shot out, capturing my wrist and pulling me forward so that I almost fell across the table. “No!” Her intense gaze bore into mine. “You must stay. I must do your reading.”

Startled, I tried to pull my hand back, a thick lump of fear clogging my throat, preventing me from crying out to my friend. Fiona’s grip was strong. “Please…let me go!” I pleaded.

Her eyes lost their hard glare, and she relaxed her hold on my wrist as she gently began to stroke the lines etched in my palm.

“No, my dear. Don’t be frightened. I didn’t mean to startle you. Please stay. I have much to tell you. I will make it worth your time and”—she motioned to the small jar filled with cash on the side of the table—“your money.”

“You have information for me?” Knowing I was being baited but unable to battle the thrall, I swallowed slowly and nodded. “How much?”

Fiona’s smile widened. “Only twenty dollars, my dear.”

I frowned. “But your sign said—” The grip on my wrist tightened, and Fiona’s sharp nails scraped on my palm. “Ouch, okay, okay. Twenty, fine.” With my free hand, I dug into my pocket and pulled out a crumpled twenty, then shoved it into the jar with a frustrated sigh. It’s not like I hadn’t paid hundreds of dollars already on psychic readings over the years. What’s twenty dollars more?

“Ahhh, okay.” Fiona’s grip loosened once again as she slid her eyes closed and slowly began to trace circles with the pads of her fingers over my upturned palm.

This is different. Different but also nice—tickling me, sending tendrils of pleasure up my arm almost to my neck, disarming me and somehow easing the fear and frustration.

After a few more swirls of Fiona’s fingers, I closed my eyes too, reveling in the strange intimacy of a psychic caressing my flesh. The sensation slowly began to trail up my forearm, sending both goose bumps and tingles all the way to my scalp. A soothing kind of dizziness washed over me.

I wanted to open my eyes, to see what the psychic was doing, but found that desire fleeting. My mind became unfocused, as if I was drifting into a darkened room, my body sliding onto a soft, down-filled mattress, my limbs heavy and my eyes so firmly shut I didn’t think it would be possible to open them. So why try?

“You have been living in a world of sadness.” Fiona’s voice echoed in my mind, so light it was almost a whisper as her fingers continued to dance across my skin. “You have been living without really living. You lost something, something important.”

I licked my lips, my mouth suddenly parched. “Yes,” I croaked. Sorrow clenched my heart, reminding me why I hadn’t ventured out to be with friends for so long.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He was supposed to love me. I gave him all of myself, and he threw it away.

As if reading my thoughts, Fiona sighed deeply. “Yes, a common tale of sadness, I’m afraid. Young girls fall into this trap of heartbreak. I see it often enough.” The swirl of her fingers laced back down my arm, centering once again on my palm. “But there’s more to it than that.” She sighed again. “Do not be distressed by your past failures at love—there is only one man for you and he is coming. Oh, yes, he’s coming to claim you.”

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