Werewolf Apocalypse is the fourth book of The Amazing Werewolf series, the story of a teen werewolf growing up in South Florida. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.
June 27, 2008 Loxahatchee, Florida
I ran through the sawgrass, my sleek, silver paws eating the miles. Ayanna stayed on my flank. Perhaps she thought I planned to ditch her in unfamiliar territory. True, alpha werewolves tended to kill other alphas, but I wasn’t going to harm Ayanna.
I was her pack master. Even thinking the words made my stomach ache. I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone. I didn’t want to boss anyone around. I couldn’t imagine why the pack would want to follow me anyway. I was just a sixteen-year-old kid. All I wanted was to listen to my tunes and spend time with my girlfriend, Brittany. I wished things could go back to the way they were.
But I was pack master. A kind of mental web connected me to the others: five werewolves, three witches, and two medicine men who could turn into bears. I felt their presence in the back of my mind. Always there.
And just like that, something twanged in my head, and I knew William was nearby. I pulled up short, bristling. It was the middle of the night in the middle of the Everglades. What was my apprentice medicine man up to? I turned in the direction of the link, Ayanna trotting at my side.
We came out of the trees into an area of scorched land. I recognized where we were. I remembered this place as a sea of sawgrass—until a brushfire destroyed it. Acres of sweeping yellow-tipped grass became clumps of misshapen charcoal. Ash made me sneeze. As I stepped, puffs of black dust rose around my feet. Ayanna hesitated. I nuzzled her to keep moving. My responsibility.
Ahead, I saw the charred remains of a fishing cabin. William’s campfire flickered. We crossed the basin of a dry pond, the mud scarred and cracked. William’s voice drifted on the breeze, some sort of incantation. Then the breeze intensified.
Crap. I knew what he was doing.
The unnatural wind rose to a whirlwind of soot. Ayanna huddled against my side in the screaming air.
William’s voice bellowed, “To me.”
The wind dropped, ash bouncing down. William stood with his arms raised. Three golden panthers stood outside his conjuring circle. They snarled. William’s eyes widened as they attacked.
With a maddened roar, I leaped onto the panthers. They were quick, but I was bigger. And I had Ayanna, the she-devil. She fell upon them, all fangs and claws. We pulled them off William and chased them away. Ayanna wanted to pursue, but I called her back.
William was bloodied. He staggered to his feet. As he did, I shifted into my human form. That used to be a painful, drawn-out process, but now I could transform with barely a grunt. I stormed toward him. I don’t think I ever felt so angry.
“What did you think you were doing?” I yelled. I’d seen him conjure before, but smaller animals—like bunnies.
William’s eyes flashed. “I had it under control.”
“They would have killed you. Are you an idiot?”
“I was summoning,” he shouted. “I’m trying to learn.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should ask your dad for help instead of winging it alone out here in the middle of nowhere.”
Howard Shebala, William’s father, was a Navajo medicine man. I knew he wouldn’t approve of what William was doing.
“His talents lean in a different direction,” William said. “He has no interest in controlling nature.”
“Maybe you should listen to him. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”
“And who are you all of a sudden, my second father?” he yelled. “Cody Forester, our great pack master. You think you can lord over me, tell me what to do?”
“I’m trying to help.” You’re my responsibility. I sighed and rubbed my face. “Look. Next time, wear your hide belt so you can transform into a bear if you get into trouble.”
He looked like he wanted to argue. Then he dropped his head. “Yeah.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “What do you say you go home now?”
“Perhaps you should go home as well. And put on some pants.”
My stomach sank with dawning realization. I was naked. I looked over at Ayanna. She gave me a doggy grin. Crap. Why did everything happen to me?
It hurts to become a werewolf. Your bones shift, your joints pop. A tail grows out of your spine. Because of that, I learned to transform quickly. Much faster, in fact, than any of the other werewolves I knew. It still hurt, but then it was over.
Without looking at Ayanna, I changed into my wolf form. I didn’t want her to know how embarrassed I was that she’d seen me naked—but she probably knew. The link again—the pack could sense my emotions. I shook myself from snout to rump, then glanced over my shoulder. William climbed onto his dirt bike. I heard the whine of its motor and smelled a gust of exhaust.
I trotted across the charred land into charred forest. The trees were black and broken. There were no raccoons, no armadillo. No wildlife at all. It struck me how far those panthers had to travel to answer William’s call. No wonder they were testy.
Even amid so much destruction, however, there were sprouts of green. Mother Nature was reclaiming what was hers.
Abruptly the forest became lush again, as if a line had been drawn. I nipped Ayanna’s ear and loped ahead. I would have loved to play tag, but it was getting late. I had to get her home.
By the time we reached our clothes, the sun was rising. All it meant to us was that we might be seen. Ayanna and I were both alphas. We could shift our forms even without a full moon. Ayanna’s father, Dick Richardson, crowed in delight at her abilities. In contrast, I think my uncle was a little leery of mine.
Ayanna stepped behind some bushes. She coughed and gagged as she shifted back into a girl. I quickly transformed and put on my pants. I’d hung my shirt on a branch as a sort of marker. I pulled it down and popped my head through. Ayanna stepped out of the bushes fully dressed as I was tying my shoes.
“That was exhilarating.” She grinned. “I never met a bloody cat like that.”
“Florida panthers,” I said. “Big ones, too. I don’t know what William was thinking, summoning them all by himself.”
“I think it’s brilliant he can do it at all.”
I nodded. It was kind of amazing. Maybe I should tell him that the next time I saw him. “Let’s go home. Your mother worries.”
“That stroppy cow. I’ll not have her squashing my fun.” But she followed me through the woods anyhow.
Her parent’s ranch wasn’t far away. It was only a ranch in the technical sense—there were no horses. They planned to renovate the vacant stable into a home for Uncle Bob, Rita, and me. I hoped they wouldn’t go through with it—I didn’t want to live within shouting distance of the Richardsons.
But as we stepped from the trees onto the wide expanse of yard, I saw a large dump truck pulled onto the grass and workers buzzing around the structure. My shoulders slumped.
Ayanna laced her fingers with mine. “It will be okay.”
We walked together past empty corrals and the fake baobab tree her father had made to mimic the ones at Animal Kingdom. Water danced in the waterfall my uncle and I built—but I couldn’t hear it over all the pounding coming from the stable.
Ayanna’s father stepped around the corner. Tall and dark, dressed in a bright African dashiki, Dick Richardson looked as out of place as his baobab tree. “Haloo,” he called to us. “Back from your midnight run?”
“You’re up early,” I said.
He rubbed his hands together. “First day of construction. I thought it best if I supervise.”
“I’m sure they appreciate that.” I winced at the noise. A worker came out the wide door carrying a load of wooden planks that he tossed into the dump truck. I shook my head. “I hate to see good wood go to waste.”
“Bah. It reeks of horses.”
“Maybe you can have them build a deck in the back. Rita would like that.”
Dick bowed. “As you wish, young sir.”
“Please don’t call me that,” I muttered, but he was already striding away into the stable.
Ayanna said, “Will you come in and break your fast? I’m sure Concepcion can fix us something.”
Concepcion was a great cook, and I was starving. But I didn’t want to watch the dreaded renovation. “I have to get home.” I led her to where I’d left my bicycle propped against the waterfall. “You did good today. Thanks for the help with those panthers.”
“My pleasure. Shall we go out again tonight then?”
I hid a grimace. I was responsible for her training, but I didn’t want to spend every night with her. “I’ll let you know.” I climbed on my bike.
As I pedaled across the grass, Dick called after me, “We shall have to get you a motorized bike. It is unseemly that our illustrious leader should pedal in such a manner.”
I raised a hand to let him know that I heard, and continued riding down their long private road.
When I got home, I was drenched in sweat—even seven o’clock in the morning was hot in South Florida. I dumped my bike in its appointed spot and skipped up the porch steps. My uncle and I rented a two-bedroom house that was set back from the street. It was similar to a shotgun house because the front door and the back door were in a straight line—you could shoot a shotgun through and not hit anything. I figured that was a Southern thing. We didn’t have houses like that in my old home in Massachusetts.
As usual, the door was unlocked. But I was surprised to find it was cool inside. Uncle Bob had turned on the air conditioner. I wondered if he would have done that if Rita hadn’t started living with us.
They were both still asleep, so I went into the kitchen and poured a tall glass of chocolate milk. Haff came around the corner, nails clicking on the tile. Haff was Brittany’s dog, but he was staying with us while he recovered from a beating from a nasty werewolf named Bodark. I patted his head, then filled his bowl. I sat at the table, drinking my milk and eating a red Pop-Tart.
Someone knocked at the door.
“Who could that be so early?” I asked Haff, who perked his ears and wagged his tail.
I walked to the front room and caught a whiff of a familiar scent a moment before I opened the door. “Dad?”
“Hello, son.” My father smiled sheepishly. “Your mother and I have separated.”
Brittany huffed out a breath. “Dad? My dad?”
“And your ma,” Lynette told her.
“But why would they come to dinner today? It’s Saturday.” She sighed. “Will Butt Crack be with them?”
“’Fraid not. He’s found himself a little playmate and he’s spending the afternoon on a real live fishing boat.”
Brittany sank onto the bench behind the kitchen table. It had been little more than a week since her mother and brother moved to West Palm Beach to live with her father. Brittany missed her little brother terribly and worried about him all the time. Who would have thought? He was always such a butt crack. “What are we going to eat?”
“I plan to have us some country ham and hushpuppies.”
She perked up. “Grandma’s hushpuppies?”
“The very same.”
“That ought to put Dad in a good mood.” Although she wasn’t certain he had a good mood. “I suppose I’ll have to tell them I quit my summer job.”
“That will be a problem. We can’t very well tell them we decided your time was better spent studying to be a witch.”
Brittany smiled, then fell silent at the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs.
Eileen came in, mussed and naked. “Good morning.”
Eileen was a nudist and a member of their witch’s coven. She was also Brittany’s best friend—but being friends and living together were two different things.
Without looking at her, Brittany said, “You’ll have to put on clothes today. My parents are coming for dinner.”
“Oh. Okay.” Eileen poured herself some orange juice.
Just then, Lynette’s cell phone rang.
“Who could that be so early?” Lynette said. “Hello? Blessed be. Myra? Here, let me put you on speaker.” She set the phone on the table. “It’s Myra.” Myra was Lynette’s ex-girlfriend and a member of Lynette’s old coven.
“Hi, Myra.” Brittany grinned. “How are you?”
“Hi, Myra. It’s Eileen. Remember me?”
“Of course, I remember,” Myra said. “It’s so good to hear everyone’s voices. All together.”
“This here’s the beginning of my new coven.” Lynette nodded at them.
“Oh.” Myra sounded surprised.
“I miss you,” Brittany said.
“We all do,” Lynette told her.
“Oh, Lynnie, I miss you, too. It’s so beautiful in the mountains this time of year. Remember how we used to hike? And the mornings would be all misty? And that time we found a field of wildflowers? And remember the deer?”
“How’s the candle shop?” Lynette asked.
“Fine. About as well as can be expected. Of course, without you here to keep us in line—”
“Glad to hear it.”
There was a pause, then Myra said, “So tell me, what’s happening with that werewolf problem you have down there?”
“All resolved,” Lynette said. “There are no more hostiles about.”
“Yes’m. Brittany’s beau really came through.” Lynette smiled at her. Brittany smiled back.
“Oh.” Myra sounded perplexed again.
Brittany laughed. “Don’t sound so surprised.”
“It’s not that, it’s just… There were rumors, but…” She sounded like she was starting to cry.
“Myra,” Lynette said, “what’s wrong?”
“Werewolves are in McCaysville,” Myra blurted.
Eileen gasped and covered her mouth.
Brittany’s eyes widened.
Lynette said, “But that’s why we moved the coven there. To get away from them.”
“I never thought they’d come this far up the mountain.” Myra sniffled. “The scuttlebutt is that the head werewolf, Bodark, is no longer making a move on Florida. He plans to go north into Tennessee.”
“And McCaysville is smack dab in the middle.”
“They’re here, bold as you please, hanging out on street corners, hassling our customers. I don’t know what to do.” Her voice rose to a squeak. “There are reports of people gone missing, and I just know it’s them taking thralls.”
“That’s horrible.” Brittany remembered her encounter with thralls—they were Night of the Living Dead-ish.
Lynette stiffened. She folded her arms.
Myra cried, “Please, Lynnie. Please come home. We need your help.”
“I can’t,” Lynette said. “I have responsibilities in Florida. But you can come here if you like. We’d love to have you.”
“Sure,” Brittany said. “You’ll be safer with us.”
“No.” Myra took a shuddering breath. “This is home. I can’t leave my sisters.”
“The offer stands if you change your mind,” Lynette told her. There was a lengthy pause. “Myra?”
“Lynnie, please,” she whispered. “I’m so afraid.”
“Talk to the others about everyone coming down.”
“All right.” Myra hung up the phone.
Lynette returned her cell to her pocket.
Into the silence, Brittany said, “I feel responsible. If we hadn’t booted Bodark out of Florida—”
“Don’t think that way,” Lynette said. “He must’ve been planning to go north all along, or he wouldn’t have gotten his men in place so quickly.”
Eileen said, “Maybe it was Plan B.”
“We couldn’t have let him stay here in any event,” said Lynette.
“But what do we do, now?” asked Brittany. “We can’t just leave Myra to—”
“She left me,” Lynette said. “I just hope she has the sense to come back.”
I gawked at my dad. “You’re back?”
He raised his eyebrows. “May I come in?”
“Oh, yeah.” I opened the door wider. “Come in.”
As he stepped into the house, Haff circled him, sniffing his shoes and smiling in welcome.
“You have a dog,” Dad said.
“That’s Haff,” I told him, not wanting to get into the particulars. “He seems to like you.”
Dad set a suitcase and a computer case inside the door then embraced me. “It’s good to see you.”
I relaxed into his warm arms in spite of myself. “What’s this about Mom?”
He pulled away, looking chagrined. “We’ve separated. Actually, things have been a bit rocky between us ever since you moved down here. I didn’t agree with the way she treated you.”
I groaned. Great. Something else I was responsible for.
A bedroom door clicked, and Uncle Bob strode down the hallway. He was dressed, but his gray hair stood up at all angles. He did a double take. “David. This is a surprise.”
They shook hands.
“Didn’t mean to barge in on you so early,” said my dad.
“Nonsense. Come into the living room. Have a seat.”
We stepped out of the doorway and into the house. As usual, Haff stretched out in front of the television.
My dad sat on the red couch. “The old place is looking like a home.”
I winced. He’d sent a bunch of furniture down after he lost the custody battle. Uncle Bob didn’t approve, although he never said so. I knew he liked to live light in case he had to get out fast.
“What brings you to sunny Florida?” my uncle asked.
“I was just telling Cody that Marie and I have separated.”
Uncle Bob blinked. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
The bedroom door opened again, and Rita came down the hall. “I thought I heard voices.”
“Oh.” My father stood. “I didn’t know anyone else was living here.”
“Yeah, this is Rita,” I said. “She’s great. And this is my father, Dr. Forester.”
“David.” He stretched out his hand.
She flashed him one of her dazzling smiles. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, David. I was just going to make some coffee. Would you like a cup?”
“I would. Thank you.” He sat back down.
“So, where are you staying?” Uncle Bob asked.
“Nowhere, yet,” he said. “I don’t want your sister to track me down. I was hoping you could give me the name of a local bed and bath. Just until I get on my feet.”
Uncle Bob stroked his stubble. “I can ask around.”
“You can stay here,” I blurted. “Take my room. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“I wouldn’t want to put you out.”
From the kitchen, Rita called, “David, don’t be silly. We’d love to have you.”
Uncle Bob gave a strained smile. “Until you get back on your feet.”
Or until we have to go live in the horse barn.
“All right,” Dad said. “But I take the couch.”
“We wouldn’t hear of it,” Rita called.
“I insist.” He thumped the cushion. “Me and this couch go way back. I’ve spent many a night on it.”
That was news to me.
Rita brought in a tray with three cups of coffee and a refill of my chocolate milk. “So, which one are you, David? The heart specialist or the brain surgeon?”
“I’m the heart specialist.”
“You must have built up quite a practice. What are you going to do with it if you move down here?”
“I sold it to a colleague.”
She snuggled next to my uncle in his big old recliner. “That must have been a tidy sum.”
Oh-oh. I could see where this was heading. I shot Rita a disgruntled look then cleared my throat. “Ah, Dad, what happened to my support payments?”
“What do you mean?” He set down his coffee and looked around at us.
Uncle Bob said, “I haven’t received a cent.”
“That’s impossible. I know they’ve gone out.” He retrieved his computer case from beside the door.
We sat in silence as the laptop booted up. My cheeks heated. I shifted in my seat. I hated bringing up the subject of child support so soon after he arrived. Hated having to bring it up at all. But I knew Rita was about to say something. It was a sore spot with her. Then Uncle Bob might have gotten mad at her, and my dad might have gotten mad at everyone, and—
“Here.” He showed me the computer screen. “Right on time.”
I goggled at the numbers on his bank statement.
“Wait a minute,” he murmured. “It appears they’re being diverted.”
Uncle Bob gave a mocking laugh. “My wonderful sister.”
“I’m sorry, Bob. I had no idea.” He tapped the keyboard. “Yes, here they are. She set up a trust fund for Cody. Everything’s going in there. I suggest we just let that ride. Make a nice nest egg for you, right son?”
I frowned. Didn’t he understand? “We need the money now.”
“And you’ll get it. Bob, if you’ll give me your bank account number, I’ll set up the payments from my personal account.”
Rita leaped up. “I’ll get the checkbook.”
“And of course, I’ll pay you for the use of your couch.”
“David, no.” My uncle looked embarrassed. “Really. Just bring in a little food now and again.”
My father smiled. “That’s a deal.”
“Here you go.” Rita came around the corner and handed him the checkbook.
He leaned over the laptop. “First I’ll transfer the funds you are owed. It might take a couple days to settle.” His fingers tapped loudly in the falling silence.
“Um, Dad? While we’re on the subject of money, I had to buy a new phone a little while ago, and there was still cash on my debit card.”
“Of course.” He kept working on his computer. “We never stopped your allowance. You’ve accrued a nice balance.”
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t see the statements.”
He looked at me. “Then we should fix that. Do you still use the same email account? I’ll have them copy you in.”
I grinned. “That would be great.”
“I think I’ll make some pancakes. Is everybody hungry?” Rita bustled from the room.
Dad said, “Done and done. The full amount has been credited to your account and new payments will start on the first.”
Uncle Bob sighed and spread his hands. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“No thanks are necessary. I’m just sorry it took so long to straighten out. Marie can be…”
“Domineering?” my uncle offered. “Aggressive? Reactionary?”
“Sometimes I wonder if she has a bit of the wolf in her.”
“She’d tack it up to PMS.”
Both my father and my uncle laughed, but I was alarmed. I’d heard of people who weren’t full-fledged werewolves. They never transformed, just got achy and grouchy with the full moon. Did my mother wish she were a true werewolf? Was that why she hated me so much?
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