First a headsup: I’m launching Wolf Trap a bit differently than usual. It will go live exclusively on Amazon early next week, which means Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow for free — yay! Unfortunately, that means I can’t share it anywhere else (like Apple, Nook, Kobo, etc.) for at least three months after that date — boo!
My workaround is simple. You can “preorder” on Patreon until January 23. Patreon supporters not only get an early version (it’s going out to existing subscribers today!), they also get a bonus short that won’t be available anywhere else for at least a few months. I hope that makes up for the slight hassle of buying in a new and different way.
Okay, enough about business. Here are the first few chapters so you can see if Tru’s adventure floats your boat…
Flee! Scary Guy!! demanded the scrawl of black ink up the inside of my left arm, the words at just the right level so my opening eyes couldn’t help but fixate on the written advice. Blearily, I noted that my sleeve had been pushed up to reveal even more tiny letters decipherable only because they matched my own handwriting: Light sleeper!!! Get out now!!!!
I blinked away grit and tilted my head to consider the situation. Scary Guy didn’t look particularly scary. His head rested on the neighboring pillow, my breath just barely fluttering his long, ebony lashes. Equally dark hair atop his head was mussed as if he’d tossed and turned in the night, and no wonder since his broad, fully dressed body indented the covers rather than resting beneath them. Still, he’d managed to curl protectively around me while never quite touching the lump I made beneath the luxurious duvet, all while wearing a formal lounge suit that had not been made for sleep.
In other words, nothing appeared to have happened here last night. Nothing that would risk my standing in society…other than our completely inappropriate proximity without benefit of a chaperone, of course.
Still, if I couldn’t trust my own words, what could I trust? The marked-upon arm was stretched up under my head and sound asleep, but I eased it down in preparation for a sneaky exit.
Or, rather, I tried to.
Something soft yet unyielding held the arm in question exactly where it had been when I awakened. Something that made no sense, then suddenly did as my understanding of the world twisted on its axis, unlocking knowledge that felt at the same time old and brand new.
The item restraining my motion was a sex toy, the mere phrase making me blush. Absurdly fluffy pink handcuffs wrapped first around my wrist then around the bed frame. I’d been locked very gently yet very firmly in place.
The puzzle of last night—why was I here? Who was Scary Guy?—tickled my mind like a sword umbrella found in a thrift shop with a price tag far less than a collector would have paid for it. But my racing pulse demanded flight rather than puzzle-piecing, so I focused instead on potential tools within easy reach.
Lamp on a bedside table. Alarm clock with huge glowing digits that tried to consume my attention with its marvelousness but which I ignored as unhelpful. Drawer that I guessed from the hotel-like atmosphere might hold branded stationery and pen.
No flexible wire was in evidence, and I couldn’t quite recall what I intended to do with the item if I found it. But I trusted the shred of memory promising a solution, so I kept searching. Perhaps if I was very lucky the hotel would have splurged on one of those newfangled retractable pens…
After one quick glance to ensure Scary Guy was still sleeping, I bent my body slowly, slowly, away from him then eased the drawer open to reveal exactly what I’d expected. Bingo. Not only information about my location—“Lexington, Kentucky” was helpfully typed beneath the hotel name on the expected stationary—but also the exact item I needed to free myself. Tucking the ballpoint beneath my chin, I let muscle memory guide me as I unscrewed the top from the bottom and tapped out the metal spring.
Straightening even a small part of the curved wire was a bear with Scary Guy asleep on the bed beside me. Each time I moved, his breathing hitched and I froze. But eventually I held a length of semi-straight metal pinched between thumb and forefinger. Eventually, I was ready to work myself loose.
Hairs prickled on the back of my neck as I turned my back on Scary Guy completely this time. The posture was necessary to reach the handcuff, but a niggling memory promised that long eyelashes were false advertising. The man sleeping on the bed beside me was a predator and if I woke him…
Quieting my breathing with an effort, I inserted the wire into the hole then bent it into a V shape. Out it came then in at a different angle. Twist. Click. Success.
I grinned then froze as Scary Guy moved on the bed behind me. I couldn’t tell whether his eyes had opened. Could only feel the possessive weight as a huge hand slung itself across my shoulder and neck.
The touch should have been distasteful or worrisome, but his skin smelled like lemon-meringue pie. Sweet and tart with furry undertones.
Werewolf, my foggy memory suggested. Alpha. Danger!
I scraped the lining of my brain in search of further information but found nothing I could put words to. Just oddly mixed emotions and a complete absence of tangible puzzle pieces.
Meanwhile, behind me, Scary Guy’s breath had eased back into the regular susurration of slumber. He was unaware of my imminent escape…for the moment at least.
Enough puzzling, I warned myself. On task, please.
With the full use of all my fingers, it was simple to unlock the other handcuff from around the bed frame, even though I had to be fastidiously slow now that Scary Guy’s heat pushed into my skin through layers of fabric. The hotel had very helpfully chosen a bed with a slatted headboard, which meant I could move the handcuffs down the line, reattach them, then.…
The pink fur was so soft that Scary Guy didn’t wake when I slid his wrist into the unlocked side of the restraining device. He didn’t wake when the latch clicked shut. That success made me cockier than I should have been.
Easing a pillow into the space beneath his arm where I’d reclined one moment earlier, I crept out of bed and came erect on high-laced boots. No wonder my toes had complained so adamantly. It would have been entirely inappropriate to undress last night, but surely I could have at least slid off my footwear?
I paused to consider…and a huge hand lashed out to clamp shut around my billowing skirt fabric. “Wait,” Scary Guy rasped, the single word as harsh as sandpaper against my skin.
I was caught. Then I wasn’t.
Lunging sideways, I used the release of spring-like tension in one leg to rip myself free of my captor’s grip. “I’d rather not,” I rebutted, dancing out of reach then continuing toward the window that offered escape into night just on the cusp of dawn.
The crash behind me could have been the headboard being ripped apart or just a display of temper. I didn’t dare slow to check. Only once I’d pushed the window open and slammed my shoulder through the screen—such a shame to ruin astonishingly fine craftsmanship—did I dare turn back to assess the situation I was leaving behind.
Flat gray eyes bored into mine and now I understood the nickname I’d scrawled up the inside of my arm. This man was scary. Not because of his size and his muscles but because of the emotionlessness behind those pupils as he patiently wriggled the headboard slat back and forth and back and forth again. Brute force hadn’t broken the wood but it wouldn’t be long before patience won him free.
Still, I found myself succumbing to the temptation of the puzzle rather than fleeing. “Who are you?” I demanded.
The tiniest crinkle of humor formed on either side of his otherwise emotionless eyes. “Tell me your name and I’ll tell you mine.”
That seemed like a fair trade so I opened my mouth to oblige him…and found nothing where my identity should have been. No given name, no family name, no knowledge of who I was and why I was here in this hotel room.
A lightning bolt of terror spun through me. Then, on its heels, something I could cling to. A female voice slicing through the fog of memorylessness like a remnant of previously uttered breath.
“You are strong. You can do this.”
The sounds didn’t quite match the words, but I understood them anyway. And even though I still didn’t know who I was, the remembered voice of my mother was immediately recognizable. I knew on an instinctive level that her belief in my abilities had buoyed me up in the past. If I so chose, I could let that maternal trust buoy me up now.
The first ray of early morning sun struck my back like the warmth of maternal kudos. A sharp whistle from the street almost jogged more reminders loose inside my head.
Almost, but not quite.
“No idea, huh?” Scary Guy’s rasp was louder than it had been a moment earlier. And while he hadn’t shared his name, I somehow knew this man wouldn’t raise his voice without good reason.
He was covering something up. The sound of slowly splintering wood maybe?
I didn’t wait to find out. I jumped through the window—first floor, thankfully—and obeyed my own instructions. Feet against pavement, I fled.
I was running flat out when someone pounded up beside me. Not Scary Guy but a woman. Ignorable, I decided, then found myself veering toward her instead of away as something huge and rumbling sped by so close on my other side that the breeze of its passing whipped hair into my face.
That thing was tremendous. Loud. Dangerous.
I shook my head as I realized I was mistaken. That thing hadn’t been a monster. It was just a very fast motor wagon. Or rather…
“Car,” the woman said, nudging my shoulder in what seemed like a companionable manner, all without breaking stride. “Have you forgotten them today? Bad morning, I see, but I’ve gotcha.”
By this point we’d reached a corner and she turned right, the opposite direction from the one in which I’d intended to travel. After all, the area straight ahead seemed busier and more likely to hide me from my pursuer.
But curiosity instead sent me following the stranger. “How did you know I’d forgotten?” I demanded.
“Because you forget every day at dawn.” She pointed where the sun would have been if a four-story building hadn’t blocked our view of the horizon. “Sometimes you forget more, sometimes less. Major buzz kill, but whatcha gonna do?”
Despite the language that only barely made sense, her assertion seemed reasonable. Still, I wasn’t quite willing to accept daily memory loss on a stranger’s say-so. “And you know this because…”
The woman stopped dead, turning to point into a darkened shop window. “Look.”
I didn’t have time for extended chitchat. Scary Guy would be loose by now and instinct told me he could follow my scent trail around a corner as easily as if I’d been strolling along an empty beach with absolutely nothing to hide behind. Still, good manners dictated that I at least glance in the indicated direction. And what I saw froze me in my tracks.
Two young women were reflected by the glass-turned-mirror, two young women clad just as differently as I’d guessed at first glance. I wore a dress that covered my arms, neck, and ankles, precisely as societal mores dictated. She wore tight trousers—leggings, my erratic memory offered—and a bodice that revealed more than it concealed—tank top suggested another brief memory burst.
But it wasn’t the clothes that had startled me into stillness. Instead, I fixated on the eerie similarities between our two faces.
Straight dark hair on both of us framed features that were common in my homeland but not here in the States. Because those words from my mother hadn’t been English, had they? They’d been Japanese, just like me and this woman by my side.
Our similarities weren’t confined to a shared nationality either. No, we both boasted cheekbones a trifle sharper than was truly attractive, just like Okaasan’s. And we both sported that strange streak of white hair at our left temple, a streak that made us look older than the mid twenties I’d otherwise guess us to be.
“We’re twins,” I breathed.
“Not quite. You’re Tru. I’m Kami. Here, this should cheer you up.”
I hadn’t even realized the other woman was carrying something until she thrust it into my hands. But the object was mine, I knew, as soon as I touched the polished wooden handle. Because while it appeared to be an ordinary umbrella…
I snicked the latch and a sword slid free. The same sword that had sprung into my mind while I assessed the hotel-bed situation.
“Thank you,” I breathed, deciding then and there that I could trust Kami. After all, she’d brought me a sword that felt like safety, a solid link to a murkily obscured past. Plus, how could I not trust a woman who shared my own face? “Your kindness is noted and will be reciprocated.”
Kami snorted as if my wording amused her. But she had just enough time to say “If that’s a thank you, then you’re welcome” before a dull thud caught both of our attention.
The sound was so quiet it might have originated in my imagination. It hadn’t, though. Not when the scent wafting toward us was unmistakable.
Lemon-meringue pie and fur. Scary Guy.
I spun to find his dark shape rounding the corner and stalking wolf-like toward us. He wasn’t running, but he wasn’t stopping either. And Kami was biting her lip now, proof that the incoming danger wasn’t all in my head.
Save ourselves with sword or feet? Scary Guy’s emotionless eyes made the decision for me.
Slamming my blade back into its umbrella hiding place, I addressed Kami. “It’s been a pleasure making your acquaintance. Now run!”
Kami knew the city in a way I didn’t. Or, perhaps, in a way I once had but had since forgotten. We shimmied under a chain-link fence using a gap so small it had clearly been created by dogs or children. Our bodies barely fit, so we knew Scary Guy’s shoulders would be a no-go.
Rather than trying, he launched himself up the side of the fence itself, something I caught out of the corner of one eye in all its tendon-bulging glory. Despite myself, I slowed to watch the spectacle, only to be chided by a memory of my mother’s words.
“Dumplings above flowers.” When had Okaasan reminded me that substance trumps beauty? I itched to tug on this thin thread of memory, the only one that seemed willing to rise through the fog that shrouded the rest of my past. Now, though, seemed like the time to stick to the present and take the remembered recommendation at face value.
Because, yes, Scary Guy was unbelievably agile. He moved with skill few humans managed, all smoothness and lithe grace. But he was also running after us with the single-minded intensity of a predator. I didn’t intend to become his prey.
So I followed Kami across a combined playground and ball field as fast as I was able. Even in morning dimness, there was nowhere to hide if you weren’t a small child content to giggle in shadow. A gate at the opposite end swung wide, however, and who knew what lay beyond that.
Our time to find out, however, was rapidly wearing thin. We’d made it only two-thirds of the way to the gate when the faintest thud of bare feet on grass promised Scary Guy had completed his descent.
“We have to stand and fight,” I gasped.
Kami was equally breathless when she answered. “Not quite. Trust me.”
Then we were at the gate and through it. The street we’d ended up on rose slightly to a set of railroad tracks where warning bars were even now lowering to block access.
To block vehicle access, maybe, but not foot access. The train was in sight, barreling toward us, but I’d gauged Kami’s and my running speed by this point. We could make it. Barely.
We ducked under the warning bars and shot across the tracks so close to the train its lights blinded us and its horn blared warning. Then we rested with hands on our knees, catching our breath while large bare feet appeared and reappeared in gaps between huge metal wheels.
The train offered a longer delay than the fence had, but I knew my scent trail would continue to attract Scary Guy’s attention. So I was surprised when Kami slipped into a darkened alcove in a long stone wall three blocks later. The indentation had once been a doorway, I guessed, but now the erstwhile entrance was bricked off while broken bottles on the ground suggested others had used this spot to gain a degree of seclusion. We wouldn’t be immediately visible to passersby, but I had no doubt Scary Guy would smell us the moment he stepped onto the block.
“Strip,” Kami demanded while I was still working through why we’d paused.
“You’ll be late for work if you don’t head to the mall now. I’ll draw the Executioner away, but I need to look and smell like you to make that happen.”
“The Executioner?” I asked, shivering even though I hadn’t started unfastening the long row of buttons down the front of my dress. “That doesn’t sound promising. Are you sure you’ll be safe on your own?”
When Kami snapped her fingers instead of answering, I leaned my sword umbrella up against the wall and obeyed her orders. After all, she seemed to know much more about the mess I’d woken up in than I did.
She might’ve known more, but her motives came into question rather abruptly. I looked up from the dress I was trying to step out of without dragging it through the dirt to find her snatching my umbrella, winding a mass of dark fabric around its handle, then tossing the combination up over the wall behind us. The entire grab-twist-throw happened so quickly, I only had time for a single word. “Hey!”
“You’re going after it.”
I was? Certainly not directly after it since the wall was well built and offered few obvious footholds. But, yes, Kami was right—I was definitely going to find a way to the other side to regain my most prized possession, all while rethinking the trust I’d so blithely granted to the woman by my side.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” Kami chided, cocking her head as if she could hear the train even though we’d come too far for the sound to carry. “Ditch the dorky shapewear and shift.”
“I don’t have the foggiest idea…” I started. But my skin was tingling, my body twisting.
Abruptly, my eyes were far closer to the pavement than they had been a moment earlier. The puddled dress beside me was no longer rose but pale yellow. And scents that had whispered secrets when we arrived now yelled overwhelming knowledge of everyone who had passed this point for several hours prior.
I was a fox. Of course I was a fox; how could I have forgotten? The hard stays of my corset prodded my fur as I wriggled free of the tunnel cautious humanity dictated.
I appeared to owe Kami an apology, not that I could offer one now that I’d ditched human vocal cords. I whined instead and she seemed to get the gist.
“No worries. I get it. It’s weird not remembering.” Then, before I could try to broach any other topics, she returned to my previous question. “And yes, I’ll be fine. The Executioner will lose my trail in no time then I can spend the day busking.
“Here’s what you need to know,” she continued while shedding her own clothes without a single glance at the empty street. “I wrapped your uniform around the umbrella. Rosa is your friend and co-worker. She’ll fill the gaps in your memory and I’ll pick you up at the end of your shift.”
I was listening, but I was also paying attention to the twitch of my whiskers that told me the Executioner was approaching. The train had passed and even though I couldn’t smell or hear our pursuer, I somehow knew our time was running out.
The sooner I left, the sooner Kami could take herself to safety. Fox feet found the wall’s ornamental bulges as easy to traverse as a wide staircase. I was up and over before she stopped grousing at the buttons of my dress.
Bright lights in the mall’s parking lot made up for the fact that only a handful of cars graced the pavement at such an early hour. Which was handy since I had no idea what the woman I was meeting looked like.
For my own part, I was newly two-legged, dressed this time in the strange one-piece suit Kami had provided for me. Thus covered, I ignored the twinge of impropriety at my lack of a skirt and headed toward the only current sign of life. A minivan had pulled up around back as I approached, its taillights facing me. And for one split second, the woman emerging from the driver’s side door matched the only person my memory held dear enough to name.
“Okaasan,” I murmured, hurrying forward to join her. I knew before she took a step that my mother would move carefully due to age biting into her bones. Knew, even from this distance, that her hair would smell like cloves and cinnamon. Her arms around me would be as warm as sunbeams and…
I was almost close enough to suck up that beloved scent when the woman turned with just as much care as I expected and shattered the heartening illusion.
Yes, this woman was my mother’s age—sixtyish—and her dark eyes twinkled like Okaasan’s, making her appear much younger. But her facial features were clearly Latina, not Japanese. Unless I’d not only lost memories but chopped others up into confetti, this wasn’t my mother after all.
“Rosa?” I guessed, ignoring the sinking sensation in my stomach as I reached out to take the heavy tote of cleaning supplies out of her hand. After all, even if this wasn’t Okaasan, she was old enough to demand assistance and respect.
Welcome imbued every feature of her face as she nodded. “None other.”
She might have intended to say more, but just then the back door of the minivan slid open. And muscle memory whipped my sword out of its umbrella sheath in response to the overwhelming aroma of fur.
Male. Young. Fit. That was all I saw before the human-form werewolf flung himself at me with a one-word growl. “Fox.”
“Wolf,” I rebutted, slicing at the air in front of his nose.
Then Rosa was pushing her way between us so abruptly I had to turn my blade sideways to prevent it from cutting into innocent flesh. “Benito! Tru! Stop it!”
“Tía, you don’t understand.” Despite the aggressive scent flowing off him, the young man’s voice was low and restrained. “This woman isn’t who you think she is.”
“I could have said the exact same thing about you,” I rebutted. As I spoke, I angled my body to place it between him and Rosa, well aware that the older woman was only human and no match for an angry werewolf. The tricky part was deciding when the erratically moving Benito might spring in her direction…
Before I’d won more than a few inches of progress, however, Rosa slammed one palm into my shoulder and one into Benito’s chest then straightened her arms in unison. “Enough. I mean it. Both of you, calm down.”
Her strength was no match for ours, but any resistance on our part might result in her injury. So I let myself be shoved, and my estimation of Benito went up when he retreated as well.
And now that we finally had some very real physical distance between us, I was able to notice what I hadn’t earlier. The boy was years shy of his full growth, perhaps only a tall fourteen and skinny in the way of teenagers who’ve gained height so quickly they haven’t managed to match it with muscle.
He was also clinging to humanity with clear effort while menacing no one directly. Instead, he appeared to be angling to protect the older woman the same way I was.
Which meant—“I overreacted,” I admitted, sheathing my sword. “I apologize.”
The young man vibrated for one long moment, then he jerked his chin down in a nod that appeared almost painful. He didn’t meet my eyes, however, and his response was aimed at his relative. “I can’t do this right now.”
“Walk it off then,” Rosa agreed. “Come in when you’re ready.” Then, dismissing Benito and heading toward a smaller, less flashy door than the one I’d passed while rounding the building, she tossed over her shoulder, “Fox, huh? I didn’t see that coming. Didn’t realize introducing you to Benito would provoke such fireworks either.”
Looked like Rosa wasn’t going to fill all of my memory gaps after all.
Rosa might not have been privy to my complete history, but she did know how to smooth my way through a job that my muscles found familiar but my conscious mind struggled with. From the locker where she stashed her purse and I reluctantly parted with my umbrella to the best way to clean without bothering the few early morning business owners, Rosa led me through a work day that should have felt familiar but definitely did not.
At first, I stared at the huge television screen in the mezzanine every time I passed near it and blushed at the skimpiness of my coveralls. But modernity faded from amazing to run-of-the-mill within a few hours. Soon, I was more interested in guessing why my vocabulary sometimes made Rosa chuckle then point out that plimsoll was deeply archaic.
“The word you’re looking for,” my mentor said gently, “is sneakers. Here, you’ll enjoy this.”
And I did. The vacuuming robot entranced me so thoroughly that I had to force myself to actually do my job rather than stare at it awestruck. Following the machine across the floor like a cat stalking a mouse, I almost failed to notice the security guard cornering Rosa when she returned from refilling the cleaning fluids in her tote.
“I’ll need to see some ID.” He swaggered closer, boxing her into a bend in the hallway with body language that proclaimed he was a lion slapping his paw down over a cockroach. In contrast, thick glasses and a potbelly made him an unlikely predator.
Rosa’s attention, however, fixated on his right hand and I strained to see what had her curling in on herself. The same woman who’d stood between my sword and an angry werewolf was doing her best to look innocuous as she murmured apologies. Why…?
Gun, my slippery memory informed me after a moment of intense concentration. Far more dangerous than a sword.
Rosa might not be my mother, but there was no way I was letting this man threaten her. I started toward the pair, but Rosa met my gaze and gave the tiniest head shake. Meanwhile, she obeyed the security guard as easy as if he wasn’t bullying his way into her personal space.
“You’re new,” she said, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a rectangular card. Her voice was firmer now than it had been before she noticed me watching. “But I’m not. I can assure you, everything is very much in order.”
Rather than answering, Mr. Potbelly snatched the card and turned it over in his hands, considering it far more intently than the small surface seemed to merit. As he did so, Rosa took advantage of his lack of attention to widen her eyes at me. “Take a break,” she mouthed, jerking her chin toward the exit door, outside which we’d shared beef jerky with Benito not so long ago. He’d been four-legged at the time, keeping his distance from me but accepting the snack from Rosa’s fingers as gently as if she was made of glass.
And that was only relevant because it meant now was very much not the time for another rest period. On the other hand, it was true that my pockets didn’t contain any rectangular cards. If asked for ID, I’d have nothing to share with this armed bully.
I didn’t obey immediately however. “Will you be safe without me?” I mouthed back.
Rosa nodded once, rolling her eyes in a way that made it clear she’d moved on from fear to disgruntlement. Just about then, the security guard gave up on trying to turn the card into something it wasn’t. He handed it back, then frowned and swiveled to find out what Rosa was looking at…
…But I was already gone. Speedwalking past barred shop entrances and sliding into the break room Rosa had led me in through. I snagged my umbrella from the locker then vacillated in front of the back door.
Yes, Rosa had seemed in control of the situation when I left, but how much of that was a facade donned for my benefit? Was I really going to leave Rosa alone with a man who threatened unknown trouble? A man using a dangerous weapon to bolster his weakness?
The gunshot that made up my mind came from in front of me, not from behind me. From outside where we’d left Benito pacing fifteen minutes earlier.
Time slowed as I shoved my way through the doorway. But I was too late. By the time I reached his furry body, Rosa’s nephew was dead.
He was dead and a vehicle was speeding off around the corner. I got the impression of something dark and blocky, then the shooter was gone far faster than feet could follow.
Still, I took off after the vehicle anyway, or tried to. Three steps in, a different car screeched to a halt directly in front of me, disgorging the same man I’d woken up handcuffed beside.
“What’s wrong?” the Executioner demanded, the saw rasp of his voice sharper than the part in his hair. This morning, long lashes had hinted at innocence, but that illusion fragmented as his gray eyes bored into mine in daylight. A stark memory of a losing battle with a dogpile of snarling werewolves drifted through my mind like smoke before a fire. Alpha. Danger. Every instinct demanded I run far and I run fast.
Still, I wasn’t about to abandon evidence of Benito’s killing. Not when Rosa would need answers to fill the hole her nephew left behind him. Not when Rosa might be in just as much danger from the Executioner as I was.
Instead, I spat questions back in his direction. “Why are you following me? How did you find me?”
The third potential query—was it coincidence that he’d shown up so soon after a deadly shooting?—wasn’t asked in words. Instead, I swallowed my fear and closed the space between us, hairs standing up along the back of my neck as I approached the werewolf that rubbed shrouded fear raw.
To my surprise, he didn’t move as I grabbed his wrists and yanked his hands up toward my nose. It was hard to force myself to breathe, not just through fear of his proximity but because of the way those gray eyes considered me in silence for an endless moment before he rasped out an answer to questions both asked and unasked. “I followed you because I didn’t want you running scared all day. I found you by driving a grid between the points where I lost your trail over the last three days. Now it’s your turn. What’s wrong?”
I only half listened, paying more attention to my nose than to his explanation. This man stank of the mouth-puckering astringency of alpha, yet lemon-meringue pie overwhelmed that more generic aroma. Sweet-tart deliciousness enfolded me in its embrace like the warmth of the hotel bed I’d woken in not many hours earlier. Despite myself, I found my urge to flee receding along with the half-memory from my past…