Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Excerpt from my December BITE


Courage of the Wolf, copyright 2010 by Bonnie Vanak

Just another day in a tropical paradise filled with demons. Right. If only it was just a typical day and not the very one he’d been dreading..

Ambling backwards on the roadside, Michael Anderson scanned Florida’s Alligator Alley for a silver Lexus. As always, Sabrina Kelly was late. The Draicon werewolf would be late for her own funeral.

The thought sobered him.

Minutes later, Michael pushed a hand through his long, ragged hair as Sabrina’s car pulled off the road. He breathed in her scent of fresh lavender as the Draicon werewolf hurried toward him.

Dressed in a pink sweater set and a floral skirt, she looked like spring. Cut razor straight, her black hair swung just below her jawline. Wide, sea-green eyes shone with intelligence.

When she threw herself into his arms, he hugged back, feeling a lump rise in his throat. The vision came to him again. Blood. Death. Sorrow.

Michael set her back down on her feet. As much as he wanted to use his powers as an Immortal Justice Guardian to direct destiny, he could not. Punishment would be severe if he broke Guardian laws. He’d already broken a big one to buy Sabrina time.

Years ago, when he was still a Draicon werewolf, he’d made a promise to keep her safe. The burning need to protect her had never stopped. It wasn’t love, but a fierce admiration of her strong spirit and honoring the deep friendship they’d shared in the past.

“Why did you want me to pick you up on this road? Forget how to dematerialize?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I like walking. And I thought it would be nice to ride with you in the Lexus to your grandparents’ anniversary party.”

“You knew I was taking the Lexus and not the Expedition? Oh, of course, you know everything.” She shook her head. “Even what type of underwear I have on.”

“I don’t know everything.”

When she turned, he flicked his fingers. A microburst of air sent the fabric swirling upward.

“White lace,” he noted with a grin. “Very nice.”

“Michael!” she scolded him with a smile.

A faint blush raced across her cheeks. It was like watching the sun chase away the night. Enchanted, he watched her moisten her pink lips. What would her petal-soft mouth feel like beneath his as he took her, hard and fast?

He swallowed hard at the startling, sexual thought. Sabrina was off-limits.

He was a Phoenix, an Immortal Justice Guardian who’d died and been reborn to his powers. Michael patrolled the earth, doling out justice and destroying predators of paranormal creatures.

He’d succeeded at his job until a year ago, when the Hellfire demon Ambrosis slaughtered Sabrina’s parents and five siblings as Sabrina tried to save them. Her family had been heading to visit her grandparents when the demon attacked them as they took a brief respite from driving.

If he could, he’d die to keep her safe. But he couldn’t die again. Sabrina had to face her own demon. Guardian laws demanded he must not interfere.

“Let’s go,” he muttered.

The sun sinking toward the horizon warned they were running out of time.

Inside the car, his senses drank in her scent as if he were still a Draicon werewolf. Trees, palms and scrub brush passed in a blur as the car sped toward Florida’s west coast.

“Michael, you’re the only friend who still bothers with me. Thank you,” Sabrina told him.

“I’m not just your friend, Brie. I’ve watched over you since I became a Justice Guardian. You’ve shut yourself off from the world.”

She blinked hard. “If not for you, I’d never have done this. I can’t bear the memories.”

White showed on her knuckles as her fingers tightened on the steering wheel. “All I can recall is fighting. Pain, and then nothing. Nothing except waking up to see my family was dead.”

“You still don’t remember what happened to you?”

“It’s a blur, except I have the scar to remind me. I have nightmares about Ambrosis, and this voice keeps telling me I must have the courage to face him again. But ever since I lost my family, I’m terrified of something else happening.”

Michael looked away. “You should pay attention to your dreams. Often, they contain messages.”

She inhaled deeply. “Dreams are just dreams. Let’s not talk about it. It’s hard enough for me to drive on this road again. I haven’t been this way since Ambrosis killed my family.”

A fist of guilt slammed into his guts. He stared out the passenger’s side window.

I’m sorry, Brie, but I must do this. It’s my duty as a Justice Guardian.

Familiar landmarks appeared on the roadside. Sabrina’s hands shook. “This is the place. If I’d never insisted on Dad stopping so we could hunt in the swamp, they’d still be alive. I’m going to speed up .…”

“Pull over,” he told her.

“Here?”

“Now.”

Blood drained from her face, but she steered the Lexus onto the narrow shoulder.

“Stay here,” he ordered, hating her fear, smelling it like burnt wood.

He got out. Clouds the color of lead hung low in the gathering dusk. He breathed in the fertile scent of dank earth. The task before him lay on his wide shoulders like twin weights. A haunting loneliness gripped him.

He hated this part of the job.

In the canal paralleling the Alley, an alligator swam by in silence, its eyes peeking through the dark brown water in cool indifference.

Michael vaulted over the chain link fence, and walked a path through cypress and pine trees until he reached a tree island surrounded by shallow swamp water. At the northwest side, he touched the earth where a great battle had raged. Sorrow squeezed his insides.

From his backpack, he withdrew a single white gardenia, the blossom fresh and preserved by magick. He laid it on the ground where the blood of Sabrina’s family had been spilled.

A mocking crow cackled overhead. Michael fisted his hands as he walked to a small pool. No animals ever drank from this vile water — the home of Ambrosis. Michael had imprisoned him here after the battle that claimed Sabrina’s family.

Hellfire demons were attracted to paranormal beings possessing enormous integrity, strength and courage. They siphoned off those qualities for energy then killed the victim.

Beneath his palm, the dark water rippled. His immortal senses “saw” Ambrosis. With his index finger, Michael traced a sacred pattern in the muck below the shallow water. The ground vibrated.

An eerie, haunting scream rent the air. Disturbed by the sound, a great blue heron resting in a nearby cypress tree flew off.

The face of Sabrina’s nightmares appeared in the pool. Nasty laughter echoed through the swamp. The demon vanished below the water.

It was done, consequences be as they may. His duty as a Guardian was fulfilled.

“Forgive me, Brie,” Michael whispered.

He stood, dusting off his hands on his jeans. Shouldering his pack, he headed toward Sabrina’s car, but not before the earth gave a mighty shudder and the demon’s triumphant roar echoed through the silent clearing.

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