Sample Sunday – The Bear, The Werewolf, and The Blogger

The Bear, The Werewolf, and The Blogger is the fifth book in my Amazing Wolf Boy series. Its predecessor had a lot of violence, as werewolf books sometimes do, so in this book, I decided to focus on non-violent issues. No werewolves were harmed in the making of this book.

The story takes place in 2008. It’s fun to look back and see all the changes we’ve been through. Today, blogs are commonplace. Not so much in 2008. Early bloggers were celebrities. So, I pitted Cody, my teen werewolf, against Storey Evans, a popular blogger who views herself as an investigative reporter.

When she was young, Storey witnessed her father being torn to shreds by a pack of werewolves. The horror of that night turned into a vendetta. She now runs a blog called Noneties—The Non-Human Entities Among Us. She is obsessed with exposing werewolves and other shapeshifters for the good of the public.

Now the blogger is after my werewolf, and he must outwit not only her but the multitude of monster hunters who follow in her wake. He does so with his usual bumbling humor.

If you read the previous books, you’ll remember that I like to use authentic Wiccan rituals in my stories. In The Bear, The Werewolf, and The Blogger, however, I detailed a Native American wedding instead. I hope you find it interesting.

And now, without further ado, here is an excerpt from The Bear, The Werewolf, and The Blogger.

BWB eCover

THE BEAR, THE WEREWOLF, AND THE BLOGGER

ONE

July 25, 2008, Loxahatchee, Florida

Brittany held my hand as she led me to the back porch. The stench of chlorinated water permeated the air. The filmy curtains stirred, letting in snatches of starlight. I slipped my arms around her. She pressed against me. Her lips found mine. Her kiss was grape-soda sweet. The wolf within me stirred, and it was all I could do to keep from transforming right there.

She pulled away, fumbling with her shirt. I stilled her fingers and undid the buttons. One button. Two buttons. She wore a bathing suit underneath. I slid my hands down the warm contours of her waist. With a little sigh, she pulled away and turned her back. I closed my eyes.

She gasped. “This feels so good.”

I unzipped my jeans and let them drop. I wore an old bathing suit. It was too small to begin with, but after Brittany’s kiss, it was noticeably snug. The only way to hide my bulging enthusiasm was to get into Aunt Lynette’s new hot tub. But as soon as my nethers hit the hot water, I was off like a rocket. My eyes crossed.

I said, “Uh.”

“Cody? Are you all right?”

I said, “Uh.”

“Don’t be such a baby. The water isn’t that hot.” She splashed me.

Behind us, a voice drawled, “That’s enough, you young’uns. This water’s for meditating, not splashing.”

I moaned and slipped sideways off the little plastic seat.

Aunt Lynette approached carrying a flickering candle. “Move your hairy legs, werewolf. This here tub’s supposed to hold six people.” She set the candle on the edge, climbed in opposite us, then dropped a muslin pouch into the water.

I sat gingerly beside Brittany. “What’s in the sack… er, the bag… er, what’s that?”

“Calming herbs,” she said. “We got to keep you under control, wolf boy.”

“I’m under control.” I glanced at Brittany. “Mostly.”

Just then a whiff of the stinking herbs hit me in the face. I sneezed. Brittany laughed and splashed me again.

Aunt Lynette leaned back. “This will be good for our rituals.”

“Better than that blow-up pool we had,” Brittany said. “Is Myra coming in?”

“She’s cleaning up supper.”

I stretched my arms over the top of the tub.

Brittany used my bicep as a pillow. “This is so relaxing.”

I felt like a teabag.

Aunt Lynette said, “I hear tell you’ll be moving soon.”

Not if I can help it.

“Actually, it’s been delayed,” I said. “There’s been some trouble at the construction site. Someone stole the kitchen sink.”

Brittany giggled as if incredulous. “The kitchen sink?”

“Yep. Still in the crate.”

Aunt Lynette said, “Where are you gonna be living again? In a barn?”

“An old stable. At the Richardson place.” I smiled at Brittany. “It’s supposed to have a hot tub, too. But only for two people.”

She gave an exaggerated pout. “I still don’t like the idea of you living so close to Ayanna. I’ve seen how she looks at you.”

Ayanna had had a crush on me since the day we met.

“She’s a member of my pack. And a friend,” I said. “But she knows it won’t go further than that.”

Brittany snuggled against me. “Better not. I’ll turn her into a toad. I’m a Witch Queen, you know.”

Aunt Lynette barked a raucous laugh. “Not yet you ain’t.”

Brittany cast her an angry glare. Aunt Lynette shot her one right back.

Uh-oh. Touchy subject.

Hurriedly, I said, “I thought Eileen was going to join us.”

“She was on the phone with a florist,” Brittany said. “Wedding stuff.”

“Ah.” I nodded. It was hard not to be excited about the wedding. William’s joy was contagious. What would it be like to have someone promise to stay with you forever? Even my own mother hadn’t managed that feat.

“In a Wiccan wedding, everyone would bring flowers to decorate the altar,” Aunt Lynette said. “Just go out to a field and pick ‘em.”

“Must be a beautiful ceremony,” Brittany said.

“We call it handfasting,” Lynette said, “and in the eyes of the goddess they would be one. But she insists on observing tribal ways.”

“They aren’t actually getting married, though, right?” Brittany said. “I mean it isn’t legal.”

“In the eyes of the American government, no, it ain’t legal.”

“It could be,” I blurted. “You can get married in Florida at sixteen.”

Aunt Lynette snorted. “Well, her aunt refused to sign off on her, and her poor mother ain’t here to tell her no.”

“They’re in love. Would you tell them no?”

“Durn tootin’ I would. They ain’t knowed each other but a matter of weeks. Takes longer than that to recognize love.”

“I disagree,” Brittany said. “I believe in love at first sight.”

I said, “I fell in love with you the first time I saw you crossing the parking lot at Video Stop.”

She smiled. “You never told me that.”

I kissed the top of her head.

“That’s smitten,” Aunt Lynette grumbled. “There’s a difference between being smitten and being in love.”

“Cody?” Myra called from the doorway. “Bob and Rita are here. They said they’d wait for you in the truck.”

I sat up straight. “They’re early. Or am I late?”

Brittany moved to stand up. “That was a short soak.”

“No, you stay. I can see myself out.”

“Okay. Remember, tomorrow’s Saturday. We’re going down to Tamiami with Eileen in the morning.”

“I’ll be ready.” I climbed out of the tub then leaned for a goodbye kiss. “Smitten you.”

“Smitten you, too.”

I balled up my clothes, picked up my shoes, and stepped out the back door. The night air felt cool on my overheated skin. Eileen and William’s impending wedding played in my head. Could there be such a marriage between Brittany and me? Every time I mention it, she just smiles. She says she loves me—but only after I say it first.

I circled the side of the house and passed the carport where Brittany’s lime green Beetle sat parked for the night. As I walked, I glanced around for Haff, Brittany’s dog. There was no sign of him. Probably out chasing rabbits. I approached my uncle’s truck.

“Hoo-whee, boy.” Uncle Bob waved a hand as if I stank. “What have you been doing?”

“Aw, they put some herbs in the hot tub,” I said. “I’ll shower when I get home.”

“We aren’t going home.” Rita turned her dazzling white smile on me. “The Richardsons invited us over for drinks and to see the latest improvements on the stone cottage.”

Oh crap. Was the thing finished?

“I’ll thank you to ride in the back,” Uncle Bob said.

As if I rode anywhere else. I climbed into the truck bed and settled in, still dripping, next to the toolbox. And just like that, we were off to see the Richardsons and the stable/cottage.

* * *

Dick, Chloe, and Ayanna Richardson lived on an old horse farm on the outskirts of the small town of Loxahatchee. No horses, of course. Horses weren’t fond of werewolves. Their house was Spanish style, as were so many others in the area—red-tiled roof, beige stucco walls, arched windows. It was a distance away from ours, which was one of the reasons Uncle Bob was so keen on moving into their backyard. By the time we reached the long, dusty slope of their driveway, I was dry, although still reeking of herbs. I squirmed to pull on my t-shirt and jeans without standing up.

Dressed in a colorful dashiki with a kufi cap, Dick Richardson stood in the yard admiring the row of spindly flowers lining the front porch. The weather-beaten plants looked more suitable for Africa than South Florida. Dick loved anything African. Behind the house, the silhouette of a huge baobab tree rose over the roof. The trunk was easily fifteen-feet wide. It was made of concrete and rebar, but it looked real.

Uncle Bob pulled his truck behind the Richardson’s mustard-yellow Winnebago, and Dick walked over to open the door for Rita.

“Halloo,” he rumbled. “Welcome, welcome.”

“Thank you, kind sir,” Rita said.

Chloe stepped out of the house. She was dressed as brightly as her husband. A turban tamed her thick hair. The two women hugged as if they hadn’t seen each other the day before.

“What’s that odd odor?” Dick asked.

“Cody,” Uncle Bob said.

All eyes turned to me. Like I was the puppy who had been rolling in it. Without another word, they traipsed around the house to the backyard, Rita and Chloe arm-in-arm and Dick and Uncle Bob side-by-side. I climbed down from the pickup and slunk after them.

The backyard was wide and flat. The only sound came from the splashing of the fake waterfall and the crickets around the koi pond. The only light was starlight. A shadow moved on the patio, and Ayanna glided silently toward me. She took my hand. We followed the adults to the dreaded stone cottage.

We’d started calling it the stone cottage because the walls were made of big round stones, probably excavated from the horse pastures. As homes went, it wasn’t bad. Low to the ground with small irregular windows. I wiped my feet as I stepped over the threshold. The living room smelled faintly of horses. There was no electricity and so no lights, but werewolves didn’t need light to see.

“What I wanted to show you is this,” Dick said with his booming voice.

Everyone crowded into the kitchen. The skylight above showed the starry sky.

“Well, what do you think?” Dick waved a hand as if performing a magic trick. “We have a kitchen sink. The workers cannot or will not say what happened to the original. But no matter. This is a nice upgrade.”

“It’s beautiful,” Rita cooed. She ran her hand over the tiled interior. It looked like a blue and gray mosaic.

“Imported from India by way of Home Depot,” Dick said. “I now declare this abode occupant ready.”

I groaned. Again, all eyes turned to me.

“I sense apprehension from you, young master,” Dick said.

Ayanna elbowed me and whispered, “Tell them.”

I cleared my throat. “It’s just that… Well, my father always says familiarity breeds contempt. We’re all friends now, but how friendly will we be when we start living together?”

“We’re more than friends,” Uncle Bob growled. “We’re packmates. And we’re moving in.”

He shot me a glare that struck me cold. His reprimand was not only in his eyes and words but in the link, the telepathic bond that connected the members of the pack. Uncle Bob was the pack master, but it didn’t seem to agree with him. The weight of command made him sullen and authoritarian. I nodded and took a half-step back, although I hated myself for doing it. Uncle Bob was my friend. What was happening between us?

“This calls for wine.” Chloe’s smile was as bright as her turban. “Come to the house. I believe Concepcion is ready for us.”

I led the way, fleeing the cottage as if it held my doom. We filed onto the patio of the main house.

The Richardson’s housekeeper, Concepcion, was lighting a pair of citronella candles she’d placed at either end of a platter of finger sandwiches. My favorite was her fairy bread. White bread heavily buttered and dunked in sprinkles.

I sat at the table and looked out at the silent yard. A few lightning bugs flitted around the flowers surrounding the koi pond.

Dick pulled out a wine bottle. “You won’t have tried this one. It is Ifrikia Rouge Reserve from Tunisia, produced in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.” He poured a measure into four glasses. The wine had a deep maroon color.

Rita took a glass, sniffed, and sipped. “It’s delightful. Tangy aftertaste. Is that… raspberry?”

Dick laughed and sat. “You have a discerning tongue.”

Concepcion came out with a couple of root beers for Ayanna and me.

Chloe passed over empty wine glasses. “Don’t drink out of the can, Ayanna. It is unseemly for a young lady.”

“Which brings us to our next announcement,” Dick announced. “In one week, our little flower will turn fifteen.”

“It is a milestone birthday,” Chloe said. “In Africa, the celebration would draw a hundred people. Or more.”

“Here, it is only us. But our celebration will be no less heartfelt. I invite you to join us next Friday for our party.” Dick raised his glass. “To Ayanna.”

“To Ayanna,” we answered in unison and drank.

Ayanna looked both embarrassed and pleased.

 

TWO

Saturday morning, I was up at daybreak. Time to meet the fam. It was an hour drive to the Tamiami Trail Indian Reservation, and Brittany and Eileen wanted to get an early start. Technically, my presence wasn’t necessary since I wasn’t a member of the wedding party. I was Support Guy. I combed my hair and tied it into a tail and put on my white dress shirt and good shoes. The ones that squeaked when I walked. No tie. I wasn’t worried about impressing the tribal elders. I just wanted to make Brittany happy.

Uncle Bob and Rita were still asleep, their bedroom door closed. My father slept on the couch where he’d put down roots ever since he left my mom. He snuffled a soft snore. I tiptoed through the living room and out to the front porch. Even at sunrise, the air was hot and muggy. Birds squawked in the trees, and rabbits stirred the underbrush. We lived in a sub-division that backed into a forest. Loxahatchee was in the northern tip of the Everglades.

I closed my eyes and stretched out with my senses. Brittany and I had a sort of link, a bond that tied us together. I felt her across the distance, knew she was on her way. Her presence was as warm as a hug. A few minutes later, the girls drove up in Eileen’s woody station wagon.

I bounded down the stairs and leaned in through Brittany’s open window. “Good morning. You look nice.”

She did, too. Her spiky hair was tipped in blue, and her lips were blue to match. She wore a dark, sleeveless dress that showed off the creamy paleness of her skin.

Brittany smiled. “So do you.”

She slid over on the bench seat, and I slid in. From the driver’s seat, Eileen gave me a strained smile. Not her usual laid-back self. I wanted to ask why she was bothering to get married when the preparations made her so miserable. Then I thought about marrying Brittany. I would endure anything to be with her.

Eileen was a nudist, but the last few times I’d seen her, she’d worn clothes. Today it was a sundress with bright green flowers. She was changing. For William. I wondered if someday she would resent it.

She backed the car down the gravel driveway, and we headed out. Eileen’s car didn’t have air conditioning. Worse, it only had AM radio, and the only station it got in was an oldies station. Brittany and Eileen sang along with the tunes. I didn’t join in, although I recognized a few of the songs. They brought to mind riding in the old convertible with Mom when I was a kid. She loved the oldies. But Mom lived in Massachusetts and I lived down here, so there was that.

We took I95 south toward Miami. Rush hour hadn’t even started yet, and already traffic was a nightmare. But we made good time, and soon we were taking side streets to the Reservation. Tamiami was more city than a town. Crowded and bustling.

“Wow,” I blurted. “It looks like anywhere else.”

Brittany laughed. “What did you expect? Tepees?”

My cheeks turned warm. “Well, no. Of course not.” Only I guess I kind of had.

“You’re thinking of the traditionals,” Eileen said. “They live west down Tamiami Trail. Look there.” She pointed to a four-story building with an orange overhang and flags out front. The sign said Miccosukee Administration Building. “That’s where I had to go to get permission to have the wedding on tribal land.”

“But William is a member of the tribe,” I said.

“They have a matriarchal society. Everything goes through the mother, and my mother was mostly Norwegian.”

“You should have the ceremony at home. At our house.” Brittany shrugged. “We have a nice, big yard.”

“Will wants it on the reservation. He wants us to live here.”

“Ah.” I nodded. “For all the free benefits.”

Eileen clucked her tongue. “There are no free benefits. You can rent a house pretty cheap, and the healthcare is good. Will gets a dividend check each month from the casino, but that’s money earned by the tribe. It’s not free.”

Brittany chuckled. “You sound like you’re already a member.”

“I’m starting to realize that I’ll never be part of the tribe.” She sighed. “I just want a place to belong, you know. Somewhere I fit in. Since Mom died…”

“You fit in with us. You have a home. We don’t want you to leave.”

“There’s no place for me there. Not now that Myra’s back. Whoever heard of a coven with four people? No one, that’s who.” Her sigh became ragged. “I love Will. I figured we’d get married sooner or later. Why not sooner? But Lynette wants me to have a Wiccan ceremony. Will wants tribal customs on tribal land. Lynette insists we marry on the new moon or the Goddess won’t bless us. Will says we can’t be ready that soon. I feel torn in half.”

We pulled into a sub-division. The houses were small, the yards large, some well-kept, others not so much. Just like any other neighborhood.

“Is this where Will lives?” Brittany asked.

“His mother.” Eileen stared out the windshield, her hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel. “I haven’t met his uncle yet. A mother’s oldest brother has a very important role in the family. If he doesn’t like me, I’m afraid the whole thing will be off.”

As we pulled into a driveway, William stepped outside. He also wore a white dress shirt, but his shirt was stretched over bulging muscle. Fitting, since he could turn into a bear. But that was a secret. I don’t think even his mother knew. He opened the door for Eileen then took her in his arms and kissed her like we weren’t there. Brittany smiled at me, crinkling her nose in the way that I loved.

I got out of the car then held out my hand for her. Sunlight caught her dark dress, drawing hints of deepest purple. She wore her usual combat boots and carried a kid-sized My Little Pony backpack for a purse.

A woman stepped onto the porch. Chelsea Osceola, Story Keeper of the tribe and William’s mother. She had long, black hair and wore a red-and-yellow patchwork skirt.

I gave her a little bow. “Chehuntamo.”

Her dark eyes sparkled as if she were suppressing a laugh. “Chehuntamo. It’s good to see you both again. Brittany, I understand you will be Eileen’s maid of honor.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Brittany said.

“Please come inside. Many of the family are already here.”

We followed Chelsea into the house. The living room was crowded. As we entered, everyone stood. I felt like I was at an inspection.

Chelsea said, “This is Brittany. She stands with the bride. And this is Cody, her plus one.”

That’s me. Support Guy.

A shriveled old man squinted at us through wire-rimmed glasses. “I see your auras. Oh, yes.”

My smile froze, belying the alarm that shot through me. Howard, William’s father, could tell I was a werewolf by simply looking at my aura. Was that an Indian thing? I couldn’t afford to have anyone else know my secret.

William and Eileen entered. The screened door banged behind them.

“And this is Eileen,” Chelsea announced.

A tall man stepped forward. He had bronze skin, gray-streaked hair, and wore a crisp dress shirt, long-sleeved in spite of the growing heat.

William said, “This is Michael, my mother’s oldest brother.”

Eileen held out her hand. “How do you do, sir?”

The man took her hand in both of his. “Eileen. We have many questions for you.”

“And we have questions for all of you,” William said.

Michael frowned. “You do?”

“I want my father to preside over the ceremony.”

Even Eileen looked shocked. A pervasive mutter rose.

“Nokosi!” someone spat.

Michael’s face darkened. “Your father is banned from tribal land. You know this.”

“I ask that the ban be lifted.”

The voices fell to shocked silence. Howard had been shunned after he got drunk one night and turned into a bear while in a bar. No one was hurt except Joseph Achak, his intended target. Still, he made a lot of people nervous.

“No,” one man said. “That isn’t possible.”

“He is not welcome,” said another.

“My father is a Navajo medicine man,” William said. “He is qualified to preside.”

Michael motioned at the shriveled man. “Barney can—”

William’s voice rose. “I am within my rights.”

From the back of the room, an elderly man said, “The council has already ruled on the matter of Howard Shebala.”

“If my father is not allowed,” William said, “then I will leave. That will be to the tribe’s detriment. The census is already dangerously low. This marriage is as important to you as it is to me.”

This was apparently jaw-dropping news to everyone but Chelsea.

“Coffee?” she asked us.

“I’d love some.” Brittany smiled.

We followed Chelsea to the kitchen, leaving William and Eileen to hammer out the wedding details.

The kitchen smelled like hot grease and sugar. Two women danced around as if choreographed. One fished doughy disks out of a countertop deep fryer while the other dusted them with powdered sugar.

Chelsea said, “These are my sisters, Marjory and Susan.”

“Hello,” I murmured.

“Frybread,” the younger of the sisters said. “Have one.”

My mouth watered. I wrapped a napkin around a six-inch round of hot goodness. A depression in the center held a spoonful of berry jam. I sat at a table that was piled high with paper plates and cups. Brittany joined me with her cup of coffee. A steady breeze streamed through the open window, making the checkered curtain flap. I couldn’t tell if it was hotter outside or in the kitchen.

“How long have you known Willie?” the oldest woman asked.

“Just a few months,” I said.

“Harrumph. He speaks as if he’s known you his entire life.”

“I’ve known Eileen for years,” Brittany said.

Laughter came from the backyard.

The woman cocked her brow. “Perhaps you would be more comfortable outside with the other children.”

Do we look like children?

Chelsea blushed and gave a sheepish shrug. “It’s cooler out there.”

We stood obediently. I snagged another frybread as we went out.

The backyard was a wide expanse of green. No fences. Children ran everywhere. One group played an informal version of lacrosse. Another group took turns climbing a tree and jumping from the branches. Brittany and I sat together at a patio table. A wide overhang shaded the porch, and ceiling fans kept the breeze moving.

Brittany sipped her coffee. A short distance away, a group of twelve-year-old girls huddled together, grinning and glancing over their shoulders at us. When they noticed I was looking at them, they giggled.

I sighed and leaned toward Brittany. “Look, I have something to tell you, and I don’t think you’ll like it.”

“Oh, boy.” She set down her cup.

“Last night when my uncle picked me up—”

A girl appeared at the table. She wore a pink dress and had ribbons in her braids. Her dark eyes trained on Brittany. “Is it true you’re a witch?”

Brittany smiled. “I am. But not the Halloween kind. I use my powers for good.”

The girl nodded. I gave her an indulgent smile, and she returned to the knot of giggling girls.

“Anyway,” I said. “Last night, we went to the Richardson’s and… The stone cottage is ready for us to move in.”

“Oh.” She looked stunned. “Did you tell them you didn’t want to?”

“Yeah. I said it was a bad idea and that it would ruin our friendship and—”

“Oh my gosh, it’s true?” Two more girls appeared at the table. “Can you put spells on people?”

“I can,” Brittany said, “but that’s not what being Wiccan is all about. We want to understand nature and live in harmony with the world around us.”

“Ooh,” they crooned.

I smiled and nodded as they slipped away. “So, yeah, I told them I didn’t want to. Then my uncle gave me the look. I really don’t see how I’m going to—”

Three other girls approached. They hung on each other as if needing support. “Can you ride a broom?”

“What kind of question is that?” I bellowed. “Go on. Get out of here. All of you.”

They squealed and scurried away, laughing.

I realized I was halfway out of my chair and sat back down. “You can’t, right?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I never tried.”

The door creaked open, and William stepped out. He sat at the table with us. “Thank you both for coming. It means a lot.”

“No problem,” I said. “Did you get everything straightened out about your Dad?”

“I think I have them convinced.” He grinned.

“Excellent,” I said.

“Will you have the wedding here?” Brittany motioned to the swath of grass behind the houses. The lacrosse game was breaking up.

“There’s a nearby park,” William said. “The land must be consecrated, blessed every sunrise and sunset for seven days. The problem is, they play lacrosse there, too. We had to wait until after a scheduled game to start the blessings.”

“That’s why you couldn’t have the wedding this weekend.”

He nodded. “It’s the perfect place, though. Should be plenty of room. Eileen wants a maypole.”

I frowned. “Isn’t that supposed to be in the spring?”

William raised his eyebrows.

“Hey, you! Stop that!” Brittany leaped to her feet, glaring at a tall boy who was shoving around a smaller one.

The kid scowled at her then pushed his victim again. The boy fell. Like a shot, she was down the green slope and in his face. William and I hurried after her. Turned out, the tall kid wasn’t a kid after all—he was our age. He towered over Brittany.

She poked him in the chest. “Who do you think you are?”

“I don’t answer to the likes of you,” he growled.

“Is that right? You think you’re scarier than me because you’re Native American?”

His ruddy face darkened further. “I may be Native, but my people were here long before yours.”

One of the girls snickered. “Better watch out, Thomas. She’s a witch. Turn you into a toad.”

He took a half-step back. “A witch?”

“You hurt?” Brittany helped the younger boy to his feet.

“No, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am.” He stared wide-eyed for a moment then ran off. A group of lacrosse players ran with him.

William said, “On your way, cousin.”

Thomas snorted and trudged off. Three cronies trailed in his wake.

“You know him?” Brittany crooked her thumb.

“Aunt Marjory’s youngest.” William nodded. “He’s a bit of a bully.”

“I’ll say.” Brittany huffed out her breath.

“C’mere, fierce one.” I chuckled and kissed the top of her head.

The door slammed, and Eileen hurried toward us. “Y’all come in and get some brunch. Don’t you leave me in there all on my own.”

“Sorry.” Brittany hugged her.

William clapped me on the back. The four of us traipsed back to the house. I noticed Thomas and his cronies eyeing us from a distance.

Did that whet your appetite for more? I hope so. You can buy The Bear, The Werewolf, and The Blogger at your favorite eBook store or get it in paperback. And be sure to leave a short review. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

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The Amazing Wolf Boy – Cody Forester plans to become a doctor. Instead, he becomes a werewolf. The first time Cody shows fang and fur, his parents ship him off to Loxahatchee, Florida, to live with his black sheep uncle. His revised career choice is social hermit. As the new kid, he makes more enemies than friends. His high school teachers label him a troublemaker. The whole town hates him. Except Brittany. She’s beautiful, with her eyes painted black and her lips dark purple. When Brittany discovers his secret, she tries to cure him using crystals, candles, and magic potions. Cody falls head-over-tails in love. But he can never tell her. Girls like her aren’t for him. He’s the amazing wolf boy. Astound your family and mystify your friends. While Cody moons over Brittany, a murderous pack of lycanthropes howls into town. They want Cody to join them. When he refuses, they kidnap Brittany and threaten to kill her at moonrise. Cody must master his untried superpowers or the girl he loves dies. Can he defeat the pack and save both their lives?

Werewolf Asylum – Sixteen-year-old Cody Forester is a werewolf. He lives in Loxahatchee, Florida, where his horrified parents banished him. He works hard at keeping his superpowers secret, yet the circle of people who know about him is expanding. Now a bona fide mad scientist is taking an interest in him. Cody learns that her posh werewolf retreat is actually a secret laboratory. Her inmates endure tests and torture to further her megalomaniac dream—while their unwitting families pay dearly in the hope of her finding a cure for lycanthropy. Cody doesn’t want to be her science experiment. Moreover, he doesn’t want to be taken away from Brittany, the most beautiful girl in the world. Brittany is the love of his life—even though she is no longer speaking to him. She wants a normal boyfriend. Desperate and alone, Cody faces the evil doctor. He has one chance of saving himself. Will his reckless ploy be enough to free him from her clutches? Or will he face certain death in the Werewolf Asylum?

Wolfsbane Brew – Cody Forester is a sixteen-year-old werewolf. He only found out six months ago, and already he is showing powers that Uncle Bob, his mentor, cannot match. His closest friends begin to think he is dangerous. Even Brittany, the girl he loves, says he is scary. Cody learns to keep his new abilities under wraps. Until another super-werewolf comes to South Florida. Vilk Bodark owns Georgia. He has a hand in a variety of illegal ventures: loan sharking, money laundering, gambling. He has police chiefs, judges, and even sorcerers in his employ. He conscripts werewolves by force—join or die. He wants to expand his operations to Florida—and he decides Brittany, a fledgling witch, would make a fine addition to his staff. Cody can’t defeat Bodark in a straight-up fight. He must take his new powers in a different direction—in ways that scare even him. If he doesn’t succeed, Brittany will be lost forever. Will his hidden superpowers be enough to save her?

Three complete books for less than the price of two!

The Wolf Boy Box Set is now available at kobo, iBooks, nook, and kindle.

Book Excerpt – Werewolf Asylum

Were Asylum New (Medium)

 

WEREWOLF ASYLUM is the second book of my Wolf Boy Series. I was originally going to title it “Problem Parents” because that is what the story is about–three teenagers and the problems they have with their parents. Of course, the teenagers in question are difficult as well–one is a werewolf, one can turn into a bear, and one is a fledgling witch. Add a mad scientist into the mix, and the story really takes off.

You can get WEREWOLF ASYLUM in print or ebook at your favorite bookstore. It’s also available at Audible. Did you know that exercisers who take an audiobook to the gym work out 51% more often than those who don’t? They can’t wait to get back to the story.

Listen to this!

WA ABcover

 

And here’s an excerpt from the book to whet your appetite.

WEREWOLF ASYLUM

by Roxanne Smolen

 

ONE

April 8, 2008, Loxahatchee, Florida

When I shifted into my wolf form that balmy April night, all I wanted was to escape the hassle of the day. You know, romp through the sawgrass, maybe chase a rabbit or two. I never expected to run into a bear. But there it was, up on its hind legs like it wanted to give me a big hug.

I froze, staring, my teeth bared in greeting. I knew there were black bears in Florida. I lived in the northernmost region of the Everglades. We had panthers, gators, pythons, and bears. But I’d never seen one before. All my fur stood on end, trying to make myself appear bigger, but the bear had me on weight alone.

It swatted me with one frying-pan-sized paw, catching my shoulder. I yelped and tumbled. At that point, any sane person would have run. Unfortunately, the wolf in me took offense. With a low-pitched growl, I leaped at it.

Here’s the difference between bears and wolves. Bears fight with their claws, and for good reason. They’re like a fist-full of daggers. Wolves fight with their teeth. I caught its forearm in my jaws and clamped down. The bear roared. It swung around, trying to shake me off. My backend swished through the air. Blood filled my mouth, hot and slick. I lost my grip and flew against a tree trunk.

Floridian forests aren’t like the forests up north. Back home in Massachusetts, I remember feathery grass, carpets of pine needles, and smooth-barked trees. Down here, we have porcupine palms and saw-palmetto. The ground is spiked with spiny cones. I struck an Australian pine, which isn’t a true pine tree at all, and slid down the trunk. The bark felt like concrete wrapped with razor wire. Tufts of fur scraped off as I fell—which only served to make me madder.

I launched myself at the bear, my jaws snapping at its throat. It batted me away with the strength of a major leaguer. I sprang again, this time spinning in mid-air and striking its chest with my hind legs—a move sure to impress any ninja warrior. My attack staggered it, and it came down on all fours. I climbed aboard, biting the back of its neck. My fangs penetrated the heavy fur. The bear rolled to knock me off, exposing its soft underbelly. I dodged its weight and went for its gut. My teeth caught something strange. I pulled back with some sort of belt in my mouth.

As if it were melting, the bear morphed into a kid. My jaw dropped, and the belt hit the ground. The boy scrambled to his feet. His expression went from shock to alarm and then to determination as he took a fighting stance before me.

My wolf chuckled at that, but my human side filled with questions. Who was he? How did he shift into a bear? I couldn’t wait to tell Brittany, the girl I secretly loved. I started the change back to human before I even made a decision to do it. My muzzle flattened painfully, sinking into my face. My fangs receded. With a liquid sensation, my ears slid down the sides of my head. My transformation was not as smooth as his, but moments later I got to my feet as a sixteen-year-old boy.

His eyes widened, and he took a step back. He looked like he feared me more as an unarmed kid. Then he squared his shoulders and lifted his chin. He was about my height with a weight lifter’s build. Probably had twenty pounds on me. He looked a bit older than I was. We faced each other, and it was weird because we were both naked, yet we weren’t in the shower room at PE or anything.

“Hi.” I tried to sound nonchalant. “I’m Cody Forester.”

“William.” The boy eyed me warily. “I never met a werewolf before. I thought your kind only changed on the full moon.”

I felt a twinge of panic. True, most werewolves only change with the moon. My ability to change at will made me an oddity. A super wolf, my Uncle Bob called it. And a super danger if it got out. Like gunslingers of the Old West, everyone would want a piece of me.

I shrugged, then motioned at the blood dripping down his arm. “Sorry I hurt you.”

Anger flared on the kid’s face. “You didn’t hurt me.”

“Well, you hurt me.” I rotated my shoulder, wincing at the score marks. With a grunt, I picked up the bear hide belt and sat on a nearby log. “So, what are you, like a were-bear?”

William gave an indignant snort and raised his chin even higher. “I am a medicine man, like my father before me. We are able to change into many animals.”

“With this?” I held out the belt.

His eyes flashed, but then he seemed to deflate. He took the belt and sat at the other end of the log.

After a few moments, I said, “Medicine man, eh? What tribe? Miccosukee?”

“I am half Navajo,” he said as if challenging me to deny it.

A creepy feeling crawled into my stomach. My uncle’s best friend was a Navajo medicine man. Without looking at him, I said, “Really? Who’s your father?”

“Howard Shebala.”

“Garage Sale Howard?” I blurted.

He jumped up, face dark and hands clenched. “My father is a great man.”

“Chill,” I said. “I just know him, that’s all. He’s my uncle’s best friend.”

“Then speak of him with respect.”

“Does he realize you’re out here turning into a bear?”

William shook his head and slumped back down on the log. “He was voted out of the tribe. An outcast. The tribal council says I cannot see him or make contact.”

“That stinks.” I knew all about being an outcast. My parents banished me to Loxahatchee the first time I showed fang and fur.

William said, “Now my mother has taken up with another.”

“Top knot guy.” I met Howard’s rival during a trip to the Miccosukee Indian Village in the Everglades.

“Joseph Achak,” William said with a scowl. “I hate him.”

“No doubt,” I said. “But why are you here?”

“I left. Wanted to be nearer my father. Sometimes I see him.”

“So you live here? In the woods?” I remembered news reports about bear sightings in the city. “Hate to see the media blitz if Child Services finds out.”

“Do I look like a child?”

“Okay,” I said, “so you get hungry and you turn into a bear to eat. I get it. But where do you sleep? You can’t be a bear all the time.”

“I found an old fishing cabin in the Glades,” he said, then looked sorry he told me. “That’s a secret. I don’t want anyone to come looking.”

I nodded. Now we both knew secrets about each other. “You could stay at my house. I live with my Uncle Bob. Howard stops by pretty often.”

“No.” He stood. “No contact.”

“So you’ll defy the tribal council enough to run away from home, but you won’t risk seeing your dad?” I rose to face him, royally ticked off. How could he act like that? I would do most anything to see my dad again.

“Don’t comment on what you don’t understand.” With a scowl, William stomped off into the trees.

All I could do was watch him go.

TWO

The next morning dawned blue and breezy. Since I was out late the night before, I overslept my alarm. I made a Cap’n Crunch sandwich to eat in the truck as Uncle Bob drove me to school.

Uncle Bob had steel gray, over-the-collar hair and a thin build. He was known as the Fix-It Guy, a handyman who did odd jobs around town. In his spare time, he was a werewolf, although not many people knew that. I’d lived with him for only four months, but I felt pretty comfortable. He didn’t try to replace my parents. He was more like a close friend looking out for me.

Seminole Bluffs High School seemed blindingly white under the bright sun. Its expansive concrete courtyard had small holes cut out for trees to grow through. The only grassy area was the football field. Home of the Hawks. As we pulled into the drop-off area, I noticed Maxwell and Lonnie hanging around. They looked decidedly nerdy in their button-down shirts. It made me smile. At my prep school back in Cambridge, all the kids looked nerdy. I wondered what they’d think if they saw me now in my garage-sale t-shirt and jeans.

I hopped out of the truck and circled around to pull my bicycle from the back. I’d have to bike it home. My uncle drove me to class most mornings, but he was rarely able to pick me up again. Usually I made plans with Brittany after school. We were study partners, but in my head, we were more. Since she had just gotten out of the hospital, however, she’d probably take off a few more days.

My wolf sense seemed to be on high; I could hear laughter and conversation as far away as the buses. The stench of car exhaust assaulted me, mingled with a miasma of hair gel, perfume, and cigarette smoke.

I bounced my bike onto the curb and raised a hand in farewell. Uncle Bob drove away as Maxwell and Lonnie approached.

“Hey, where you been, man?” Maxwell asked.

I was ready for that. I’d missed the past two days of school, and I’d concocted a story about having the stomach flu, complete with illustrations. But Maxwell didn’t give me time to get into it.

He said, “Is it true your girlfriend was kidnapped by a serial killer down by the old rock quarry?”

“B-Brittany?” I spluttered, not knowing how to answer. I couldn’t tell him the whole story, that the serial killer in question was actually a murderous werewolf, and Brittany was kidnapped to punish me for not joining the pack.

Lonnie said, “Don’t try to deny it, man. It was all over the news.”

“No,” I said, “I mean, she’s not my girlfriend.” Not officially, my thoughts added.

Maxwell blinked and gave his glasses a shove. “Really? I thought you were together.”

“I’d like to be, but—”

“Hi, Maxwell,” a female voice purred. Alitia Carpenter smiled over her shoulder as she walked by, her blonde curls ruffling in the breeze.

“Later, man,” Maxwell told me.

“Seeya,” said Lonnie.

I grinned, shaking my head. As I walked my bike to the rack, I thought about Brittany being my girlfriend. It would be too good to be true. She once told me that she loved me, but I couldn’t count that. We were running for our lives from the pack of werewolves at the time. However, when I visited her in the hospital on Monday, she kissed me. In front of her mother, no less.

Did that mean we were together?

I glanced at the student parking lot. Brittany’s lime-green Volkswagen Beetle wasn’t there. Her car was wrecked in the kidnapping. I felt as responsible for that as I did for her safety.

No. I wouldn’t tell anyone that she was my girl. I didn’t want to jinx it by blabbing it around school.

I left my ratty old bike unlocked, certain that no one would bother to steal it, and headed to Trig. As I had been absent for two days, I was a little behind and had to pay attention in class. It was torture. Mr. Varney had to be the most boring teacher in the world. But I was rewarded for my efforts when I got to World History an hour later and found Brittany there.

She was stunning. Her hair was black and streaked with purple today, and her lips were deep violet. Her dark tank top showed off her pale shoulders and long slim arms. Her miniskirt accented her perfect legs. My heart skipped in circles as I stood there watching her. She was surrounded by a group of chattering, giggling girls. Perhaps they thought she was cool for having her life threatened. She looked up, saw me, and rolled her eyes. I smiled and let her have her moment of fame.

I didn’t see her again until lunch. She sat at our table with her customary tray of yogurt and an apple. I felt so relieved to see her there. It was like everything was back to normal. I picked up a bag of chips and a couple of Dews.

“Hi,” I said as I reached her.

She motioned at the chips. “Is that all you’re having?”

“Hey, it’s potatoes. It counts as a vegetable.” I sat across from her, basking in her smile. Her long bangs trailed into her eyes, not completely hiding the Band-Aid over the stitches on her forehead.

“What?” She laughed, and I realized I’d been staring.

“I like your hair,” I said, “much better than the pink.”

“Oh, I only did that for my mother.”

“Your mother likes bubblegum hair?”

“No.” Brittany grinned. “She hates it.”

I opened my Dew. “I’m really glad to see you, but don’t you think you should have taken off a little more time?”

“I couldn’t stay at home with Grandpa Earle hovering over me. He means well, but…” She cut a slice of apple with a plastic knife and handed it to me.

Earle Meyer was old but a decent guy. He took in Brittany, her little brother Butt Crack, and their mother after a messy divorce.

“Anyway,” Brittany said, “I feel much better. Except my stitches are beginning to itch.”

“Hear anything about the car?” I remembered the panic I felt when I first saw Brittany’s Beetle at the bottom of the cliff at the old rock quarry. Double that when I realized she wasn’t inside.

“It’s not totaled or anything. The bumper is dented, and the trunk is dinged. One headlight is smashed.” She took a bite of apple, leaving purple kisses on the skin. “Because it’s a bug, they’ve had to special order everything. They’ve already got the windshield in. They tried to talk me into the tinted kind, but that didn’t suit Baby.”

“Baby?”

“Yeah, as in come on Baby, you can do it.”

I chuckled. I never knew she named her car.

“The real problem is that the tie rod is broken, and it will take time to get the part in,” she said. “Mom got a loaner from the insurance company, but she won’t let me drive yet. She’s making Grandpa chauffeur me around like a little kid. Parents can be such pains.”

“Speaking of parents,” I said, “did you know Howard had a son?”

“He does?”

“I met him last night. I was—”

“Hi, Brittany,” a girl said.

Brittany looked up. “Oh, hi, Katie.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard about you on the news,” Katie said. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Brittany said. “Glad it’s over.”

I smiled and nodded as Katie walked away. “Anyhow, I was in the woods and I came across this bear. Only it wasn’t a bear, it was—”

“Brittany, I’m so glad you’re all right.”

Two more girls stopped at our table.

One of them asked, “Were you scared?”

Stupid question. I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead.

“Maybe we can go to the mall after school today,” the other girl said.

“I’d better not,” Brittany told them. “I still get really tired.”

“Oh,” they both crooned and patted her back.

After they left, Brittany said, “So, you met a bear in the woods.”

“William the Bear,” I said.

“He talks?”

“No. He turned into a boy. He uses some sort of magic belt.”

She nodded. “A hide belt. Remember? We read about those when we were researching werewolves.”

“Ohmygod, Brittany, you were kidnapped?” a girl squealed as she led three more to our table. “Was he cute?”

“No, Amber. What are you thinking?”

“What kind of thing is that to ask,” I said, my voice rising. “Get out of here. Leave her alone.”

“Well, check out Mister Jealous,” Amber said, although she seemed more amused than miffed.

They walked away.

Brittany said, “Don’t look now, but you have an admirer.”

I glanced around and saw Efrem Higgins sitting at a nearby table. I hated Eff. He hated me, too. Enough to call his football-playing cronies together to play piñata with me. When Eff posted pictures of the beating on MySpace, his coach found out and turned him in. The courts saddled him with one-hundred and twenty hours of community service. And he was kicked off the school football team.

“Yeah,” I said, “he was hanging around in PE, too. All his friends seem to have abandoned him.”

Brittany muttered, “Serves him right, the psychopath.”

“It’s no fun being alone.”

“You’re too forgiving,” Brittany said. “Anyway, I didn’t know Howard had a son, and I think he would have told us. After all, he introduced us to his ex-wife. Maybe we should talk to him about it.”

“Yeah,” I said, and finished my Dew.

Lunch ended, and I reluctantly said goodbye. I kept Brittany in my thoughts the rest of the day—the crinkle of her nose when she smiled, the tilt of her head to keep her bangs out of her eyes. It was almost as good as having her with me.

My last hour was Shop. I dreaded taking the class at first, but I found that I liked working with wood. Besides, all you had to do was show up and you got a passing grade.

I joined Maxwell and Lonnie at their worktable. We’d finished making birdhouses and had progressed to decorative mail caddies, the kind you might set on the kitchen counter to hold the day’s bills.

“No, stupid,” Maxwell told Lonnie as I sat down. “The top is supposed to look like waves, not pumpkin teeth.”

“So,” Lonnie said, “my waves are just a little choppier than yours.”

Maxwell jostled him. “Let me fix it.”

“No.” Lonnie pushed back.

“What do you think, Cody?”

“Well,” I said, studying the misshapen box. “If you paint it yellow, it would look like the sun. You know, the way little kids draw it. Your mom would love that.”

“Yeah.” Lonnie smiled, his eyes lighting as if with fresh inspiration.

Just then, an annoying tone crackled from the intercom, and Vice Principal Overhill said, “May I have your attention, please.”

Maxwell gave Lonnie another shove. Lonnie hip-checked him, sending him staggering. They laughed in hissing whispers.

“Boys,” said Mr. Conklin, the Shop teacher.

“Due to recent tragic events,” said the intercom, “grief counselors will be available to all students for individual sessions from eleven until two. We encourage everyone to make an appointment.”

In an undertone, Lonnie said, “I’ll be grief stricken if it gets me out of class.”

“Right,” Maxwell said. “Our poor, dear friend Brittany. She might have been killed.”

I smirked. “You guys don’t even know Brittany.”

“We know she’s hot,” Maxwell said.

“Double hot,” said Lonnie.

“Besides, what do you care if we get to know her better? Seeing how you two aren’t together.”

“Yeah, man. Study partners. Lunch buddies. You better make your move.”

I nudged him with my shoulder. “I’m working on that.”

Eventually, class ended. I hung around in front of school, hoping to wave goodbye to Brittany, but in the crowd, I must’ve missed her. Disappointed, I hopped on my bike and pedaled down the street.

I didn’t feel like going home to an empty house, although you’d think I’d be used to it. I grew up that way. Both my parents are doctors, and they were never home when I lived with them. Now that I was older, I had choices, so I headed toward Howard’s house.

Howard Shebala lived on a street lined with pink and aqua houses. Between drought and water restrictions, the usually immaculate lawns looked brown, the flowerbeds sparse and wilted. In Howard’s front yard, the shaggy grass lay in worn out lanes between rows of tables. The Garage Sale sign was a permanent fixture.

As I pulled my bike up the driveway, I noticed only one shopper, a woman with a small boy. The kid kept reaching up on tiptoe to drag items off the tables. I leaned my bike against the garage door and walked to where Howard sat with his customary lemonade. He stood as I approached, his ponytail swinging onto his shoulder. He was short and stocky—and a Navajo medicine man.

“Howdy. Good to see you.” He shook my hand. “I’m sorry to hear of your recent trouble. Is Brit all right?”

“She’s amazing,” I told him. “So brave.”

“The rest of the pack got away?” He said it as if he thought they were a danger, but I knew they weren’t. They were followers. Sycophants. They wouldn’t be back.

“The sheriff has the leader,” I said. “He’ll never get out. Brittany plans to testify against him, but even if she doesn’t, they still have him on the other murders.”

Howard shook his head. “The wolf in him cannot be incarcerated. Come the full moon, who knows what will happen?”

My face grew warm. This was the first time Howard spoke openly to me about werewolves. It was a touchy subject, not only because he knew my secret but because I should have realized he knew. His pet name for me was Mai Coh, which meant shape shifter.

I said, “Between you and me, I don’t think that wolf will be coming out any time soon. You see, your wife, er, ex-wife, Chelsea, told Brittany and me about a potion to change a wolf back into a man. We used it on him.”

Howard stared at me. Then he threw back his head and laughed. Great resounding guffaws. I’d never seen anyone laugh so hard.

When he quieted, I said, “I didn’t tell my uncle that part.” I hoped Howard would take the hint and not mention it. I didn’t want to have to explain to Uncle Bob that I’d been trying to cure my own lycanthropy; he seemed quite content with his werewolfism.

Howard wiped his streaming eyes and slapped me on the shoulder. “A wise decision. So, young Mai Coh, what brings you to these parts?”

“Socks. I’m running low.”

He nodded and led me through tables of neatly folded Levis and stacks of t-shirts. He stopped at an open box. “I know I saw socks around here somewhere.” He pulled out belts by the handful and draped them over the table, trying to peer to the bottom of the box. “Nope. Not this one.”

As I watched him replace the belts, I said, “What would you do with all this stuff if it started to rain?”

“Not likely. Worse drought I’ve seen in many years.”

“Has it ever happened?”

“Certainly. But not often. Florida weather is predictable. It hardly rains in winter, and in summer it rains everyday like clockwork. I just set my alarm clock and clean up when it goes off.”

I shook my head, gazing over the many tables. “You need an assistant.”

Howard grunted and moved to another box. The lone shopper waved to him and, kid in hand, walked off without buying anything. They left a trail of fallen Tupperware and paperbacks on the grass.

Howard said, “She never picks up after him.”

“Do you have kids?” I said as if just thinking about it.

He buried his nose in the box. “Why do you ask?”

“The first time I saw all this stuff, I thought you must have a whole slew of kids to have so many castoffs.”

Howard grunted again. “EBay.”

“Excuse me?”

He looked up. “I’m running a business here. Most of my inventory comes from EBay. I stock the items I figure I can sell, up the price a bit for profit, and make a living.”

“No kids, then.”

Howard sighed. “I have a son.”

“Really? What’s he like?”

“Dead.”

I blinked, not sure if I should apologize or call him on it. Before I could respond, he held up two white socks bundled with a thick rubber band.

“How many do you need?” he asked.

“Five or six pairs.”

He pulled more socks from the bottom of the box. Some had red or blue stripes on the tops and some were plain white. “Two dollars a pair.”

I grimaced. “But they’re used.”

“No, they aren’t,” he said. “My friend’s an amputee, gives me all his left-handed socks.”

I pulled a five-dollar bill out of my pocket. “This is all I have.”

“The magpie flies even in rain.” Howard muttered one of his indecipherable sayings and took the five. “Don’t tell anyone I gave you such a good deal. They’ll all want something.”

He walked back to his lemonade, pulled a plastic Publix grocery sack from under the lawn chair, and placed the socks inside.

“Thanks,” I said, accepting the bag. “See you later.”

“Tell Bob my Rummy cards are lonely.”

I slung the bag of socks over my handlebars and took off, feeling bemused. I didn’t really need socks, but I knew there was no getting information from Howard without buying something. Only I hadn’t gotten much information. All I knew was that either Howard or William were lying to me. Maybe both.

It was late when I got home. My uncle and I live in a small, two-bedroom house with almost no furniture. It’s set back from the road, surrounded by woods. The neighbors can’t see or be seen. It’s a perfect den for a couple of werewolves.

I dumped my bike in its usual spot on the grass. As I clomped up the wooden steps to the porch, Uncle Bob arrived. He parked his truck on the gravel drive and climbed out with several Publix bags of his own. His held groceries—chocolate milk, instant coffee, bread, and what smelled like a family-style fried chicken dinner.

I opened the door to the house and held it for him, and my stomach growled as he passed. It smelled great.

We didn’t often cook in my new home. Of course, my mother, the brain surgeon, rarely cooked either. Our housekeeper, on the other hand, could’ve been a Japanese chef. Lots of greens. Fresh seafood. I missed the comforts of my home. But I was pretty much a vegetarian then. I couldn’t go without meat now.

I followed my uncle into the kitchen, and we sat down to fried chicken, potato salad, and baked beans. A breeze blew through the open window, flapping the curtains. Uncle Bob insisted on keeping the window open regardless of the heat, a habit I was coming to appreciate.

“Heard you go out last night,” he said as if reading my thoughts.

“I just needed to unwind.”

“Have you heard from Brittany?”

“She was at school today. Looks great.”

“Good. Now you can stop worrying about her.” He poured me a tall glass of chocolate milk.

Glasses were a recent addition to the household. I guess Uncle Bob felt more domestic now that we both decided I would stay. The adjustment period was as difficult for him as it was for me. I hated Florida at first, but now I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I would never run away.

Which made me think of William.

“I stopped by Howard’s today,” I said, tossing chicken bones into the empty bag. “I asked him if he had any kids, you know, with all the junk he has around, and he said he had a son but he was dead.”

“Willie.” My uncle nodded. “I suppose he is dead, figuratively speaking. I don’t know if Howard told you this, but he’s a full-blooded Navajo. He lived among the Miccosukee for many years. When his wife divorced him, the tribal council banned him from their land.”

“They can do that?”

“Guess so. Willie was thirteen at the time. A tough age. A tough situation for both him and his father. He must be seventeen, now. Lives with his mother. Howard never talks about him.”

I took a long pull of milk. How could Howard neglect to mention he had a son? Was he happy to disown William, or was it too painful to think about him? I wondered if my dad ever spoke about me. Did he tell people I was dead? “What would happen to Howard if he defied the council and visited his son anyway?”

“Who knows? Maybe they’d excommunicate the entire family.” Uncle Bob got up to make a cup of instant coffee with hot tap water.

I watched him for a moment, then shook my head. “That’s brutal. What did Howard ever do to them?”

“There was an incident,” my uncle said, slurping his mug.

When he didn’t elaborate, I knew the subject was closed. I gathered the trash from dinner and carried it to the garbage can behind the shed. My unofficial chore. The sun was down, and the surrounding trees looked black against the pink sky. I listened to birds settling in for the night. Field mice scampered through fallen leaves. Farther off, I heard peacocks calling, making the place sound like the set of a movie.

For a moment, I wanted to slip out of my clothes and into the wolf, romp through the trees and swampland. But that was a dangerous habit to get into. Just because I could change into a wolf anytime I wanted didn’t mean I should. After all, I had a human side, too. I couldn’t be a wolf all the time.

I wondered about William living in the woods as a bear. Why would he refuse to see Howard when clearly he loved his dad? It wasn’t like he had parents like mine. My parents banished me to Florida without a clue. They never told me that lycanthropy ran in my family or what to do if I suddenly turned into a wolf, like I had in that restaurant in France. They were all about secrecy. From their neighbors, from society. From their only son. I would never forgive the way they abandoned me. Still, I wished I could see them, if only to tell them that.

When I went back to the house, I found Uncle Bob in his beat-up old recliner in front of our twelve-inch black-and-white television. Watching Jeopardy was one of his nightly rituals. We exchanged nods, and I hurried to my room to call Brittany. My nightly ritual.

She picked up on the second ring. “I wondered when you would call.”

I smiled as I always did when I heard her voice. “Did you miss me?”

“Always,” she said, “but that’s not it. I have to tell you that I won’t be at lunch for the next few days because I have appointments with the school grief counselors at that time.”

I winced as if she’d slapped me. “You’re still that upset?”

“Not me. It’s my mother. She thinks I’m repressing the horror of the ordeal and need to let it out. Her words.”

I groaned. “I feel so responsible.”

“That’s silly. You couldn’t know what would happen. Maybe you should talk to a counselor, too.”

“Yeah, I can see it now.”

“Don’t make fun. I wonder if they have werewolf therapists or werewolf doctors.”

“Why would they? There’s no such thing as werewolves, remember?”

“Or were-bears.”

“Now who’s poking fun?” I said. “I’m telling you, he’s out there. He said he’s living in an old fishing cabin.”

“I know where that is. At least, I might. There’s a fishing cabin in the Everglades out on State Road 80, kind of community property. Grandpa took Butt Crack and me there when we first moved down. The original owner must be long gone. Of course, you can’t really own anything in the Everglades.”

“Howard told me his son was dead. That really bothered me.”

“Because he lied to you?”

“Sounds kind of harsh, that’s all.”

“I can’t imagine how anyone can live by themselves in the woods,” Brittany said. “We should take some groceries to him.”

“Whoa,” I said. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I was supposed to keep the whole thing a secret.”

“It’s no big. I’ll just raid the pantry.”

“But—” My mind whirled, searching for a way to derail her. “You aren’t driving yet. How are we going to get there?”

“Maybe my friend, Eileen, can take us.”

I frowned. “Does she go to our school?”

“No, she’s homeschooled. Eileen Beamer. I’ve known her since I moved down. She lives at the Sunspot.”

“A fulltime nudie?” I blurted. The Sunspot Naturist Resort bordered Brittany’s house. I had a quick image of Brittany’s grandfather sitting with his pellet gun, shooting nudists who strayed from the nature trails into his yard. “I thought only tourists stayed at the Sunspot.”

“Not all the residents are tourists,” Brittany said. “Remember the fortuneteller we went to? She lives on the resort.”

“The grandmaster. How could I forget?” The grandmaster scared the life out of me by predicting that I would sacrifice Brittany for the greater good.

“Then it’s settled,” Brittany said. “Let’s plan a trip to the old fishing cabin on Saturday morning.”

I ran my hand over my face. William the Bear wouldn’t be happy.

Like what you’ve read so far? Werewolf Asylum, Book Two of The Amazing Wolf Boy, is available in print and ebook at Amazon. Kindle it today! Or pick up a copy at these other fine stores.