Damn Sandy!

“National Novel Writing Month, what an excellent idea,” I thought out loud. Talk about a senior moment; I totally forgot Sandy was in the room. He’d come over for a little quality time with his attitude in tow. Normally we’d spend every night together, snuggled under the blankets, remote control in hand, half watching something on the Discovery Channel. That was before I got a second chance at a writing career. Since then, a lot has changed between us.

“Uh uh, not this again. Between work, the kids and your on-and-off again movie nights, I hardly get to see you anymore.” Hurt battled with hopefulness over his normally gentle and seductive expression. After forty-two years on the back burner, he’d more than served his time. Though he wasn’t ready to call our relationship quits, enough was enough.

Sandy stood in the middle of my bedroom like some mythological god. His arms folded over his chest with legs parted in a warrior stance, I knew this argument was going to the mat, or my pillow-top mattress if he had anything to do with it, which of course he did.

“Hon, don’t be that way. It’s really not going to be all that bad. I’ve already done my research and outlining. The scene sketches were done weeks ago, and I’ve dreamed of these characters for so long, I know every pimple on their collective butts.”

“Damn.” Sometimes it’s easy to forget, especially when we disagree, how very sensitive he can be. I didn’t need to see the sudden glisten of his eyes or stillness of his hand-tooled pecs to know I’d wounded him deeply. We had a long-standing agreement that unless he invited them, no one else could visit with me on his time. How ugly this was going to get, I wasn’t sure. It didn’t really matter. I had it coming.

With teeth clenched so tightly, air barely passed through, he reached for the overnight bag he’d earlier flung to the floor. Quicker than a blink he snatched out a blackish-blue velvet pouch, and without even a sideways glimpse at me, stomped through the bedroom sabotaging my newly acquired determination.

First, he sprinkled my laptop with doze-ease, professional strength. He then spritzed every pen and pencil with a violet colored solution, I immediately recognized as essence of daydream. Next, he used a peacock feather coated with procrastination to dust the pillows. As if this weren’t enough, he slathered my bed with crème-de la-fatiguetigue. Only then was he satisfied and returned his attention to me.

Before I’d inhaled my next breath, he’d stripped out of his clothes, ripped the cellophane off a small silver flask and sauntered toward the bathroom. Just as he was about the go through the door, he turned and nailed me with the sexiest lopsided smirk I’ve ever seen. Afraid to move, I waited until I heard the shower before I chanced a peek at the discarded label on the floor.

“Wet-dream by Phantastique? Aw, hell no!”

Karma Is A Bitch

Concrete walls and lacquered floors scented the corridor with a dank freshness from their recent hosing. Security lights and monitors lit the long walkway, as steel bars glowed with fairy-dusted sheen. Midnight, start of third shift, and all was quiet in the pen.

Marvin Purvis stood inside the cage of a new arrival, an investment banker, badly abused by the other animals. Wide-eyed it cowered in a corner.

Marvin shook with rage at the inhumanity before him.

“I lost my home, marriage, and retirement,” Marvin barked as he stomped toward the stunned creature and unzipped his fly. “Assume the position.”

Tell Me What You Want

“Ring, damn you,” he spat at the disobedient contraption. Three hours before his flight to the East Coast, and Nathan hadn’t slept a wink. Frustration and desire competed for dominance over his common sense, as he paced his empty bedroom with the temperament of a hounded wolf.

For the umpteenth time, he went over the scenario in his head. He had twenty minutes to get ready, a forty minute drive to her place, maybe fifteen minutes together, another forty minutes to the airport, and thirty minutes tops to check-in and catch his flight. “FUCK!”

Visions of Desia on all fours, warm and inviting, raced through his mind. His already stiffened member jolted. So strong was his need that he’d half dressed, and begun a frantic search for his shoes, before the demon timepiece on the nightstand doused his intent with cold reality: three twenty-six a.m.




“I know it’s incredibly early to be calling, baby–but I really needed to hear your voice.”

“Don’t worry about it. I guess the same thing kept you up too?”

“Do you mean a raging hard-on that won’t quit until I make you forget your name. If so, you’ve done a great job at tucking, since I’ve never noticed we had the same plumbing.”

In spite of his maddening state, the Demi Moore huskiness of her voice always did something for him, and he couldn’t help smiling at the good-natured chuckles that filtered through the line.

“Ah poor thing, maybe I can help? You’ll need to tell me what you want.”

“You, naked on my bed, face down, ass up, but since that’s not likely…”

“Tell me what you want, daddy.”

“Undress for me, baby.”

Intently he focused on the temptress at the other end of the line, as memories of her rod-hardening cocoa skin, mouthwatering full breasts, and spank-me behind streamed across his closed lids in agonizing high definition.

Transfixed by her voice and varying states of undress, Nathan found himself unprepared for a spasm that shot through his member, with the intensity of a kick to the groin. Using both hands, he gripped the length of his engorged shaft, and fell back onto the bed in utter surprise. Buttocks taut with tension, helm coated in expectation, Nathan desperately fought to keep his passions in check. Tears of frustration welled in his unfocused gaze as he stuttered his plea. “I-I-I don’t think I can w-w-wait. Sing for me baby, p-p-please.”

She too had been close to climax, and it wasn’t long before he heard her love song in ear-piercing decibels. Her serenade was all the permission he needed.

His palms became slick with sweat. “That’s it baby.”

His scrotum tightened. “Only for me, baby.”

Back arched, toes clenched, Nathan erupted with molten abandon. “Fffuuuccckkk! Baby, I love yyyooouuu.”


Startled by the alarm’s high-pitched bleating, Nathan snatched the clock from the nightstand and hurled it against the nearest wall. Aroused by the sight of the ruined device, he headed for the bathroom and a cold shower.

No Mercy General – Installment 11

Clang, clang, chatter, chatter, clickety-clop, quiet.  Ah, quiet!

No more thunder of metal to rattle the railing or quake the glass door.  No more blaring lights to weaken resolve or blind purpose.  No more bothersome humans with their ridiculous bickering and proclamations of self import.  Only peace, quiet, and the cool dark comforts of shadow.

Under the stairwell, beyond the reach of light, crouched in the furthest corner she waited.  Stiller than stone, every muscle cemented in place, without as much as an involuntary spasm.  So shallow her breath, not even a highly polished mirror could detect it.  Though chlorine stringent and cloying hung low in the air, neither an eye teared, nor a nostril twitch.

She was death.  Relentless.  Unforgiving.  Patient.  As years became decades, and decades became centuries, she waited.  Death and justice claimed mortal and immortal alike.  In this everyone must pay their due.

Deceptions of the father learned well by the son.  Her enemy was cunning.   Hidden in the open among patients and staff complicated matters.  Another innocent had fallen, one of many, during this age old pursuit.  All the more severe the sentence when meted out.

The aura of dual-natured beings like herself overlaid the drabness of the natural plane in vibrant and rhythmic primal energy.  Though the majority of humans were ignorant of such splendor, a few over time developed the ability to attract another’s aura onto themselves.  Like a coat borrowed on a bitter night is soon retrieved by it’s owner, so too does the aura dissipate and return to the ether that birthed it.  A tragic lesson relearned.

Bang, bang, stomp, stomp, chirpity-chirp, panic.  Yes, panic!

Heavy metal doors slammed against concrete walls.  More humans, annoying and unnecessary piled onto the landings above, pounding their feet like defiant juveniles, as they progressed toward the basement.  Walkies, cell phones, and the overhead system chirped, clicked, and buzzed with all the frenzy of a playground after last bell.

Anger and disbelief joined together, as curses and prayers further displaced the unnatural quiet.  While an undercurrent of panic charged the air with why, how, could it, and what if.  Lots of what if.

Wasn’t him.  Must think. No escape next time.

Pressed into the juncture of concrete walls the temperature of Hades frozen over, not a goose-bump disturbed her fish-belly white complexion .  Absorbed by the mission, complete within herself, the outer world with its distractions ceased to exist.

No Mercy General – Installment 10

Who knew doing laps had such ball builder properties? It would explain a lot about the Olympic Swimmers from the West Block. Think about it. From birth, only children with great form, endurance, and aggression made the cut. Fast forward a few years, and the lucky few who’d survived multiple injuries, emotional overload, and immeasurable hours of physical conditioning are rewarded with a spot in the world‘s arena.

Why do it?

The layman would answer “for victory, bragging rights, or endorsements. “ True, though a very small part of it. An athlete with a lifetime of training behind him might answer, “To prove while loosing may be inevitable, defeat is never an option.”

Even money bet, Scotch did a lot of laps after hours.

For a moment it seemed the partly shifted Were had accepted his loss, and more grudgingly Ryland’s dominance. Except for his elongated canines, and the tawny peach fuzz that covered the decadence of his chestnut skin, Scotch appeared to focus the remainder of his strength on the simple task of breathing.

It’s all he should have been able to do, after the last blow Ryland delivered. Yet, with every heave of his broad chest, the level of primal energy ramped up, and charged the air around us with static electricity.

I didn’t know what to make of the sudden show of force, unlike my leopardess who envisioned several lascivious outcomes. For her nothing was ever too complicated. Defiance meant strength, strength meant a good mate, and a good mate meant lots of sex until little ones arrived. Startled at first, my inner alley cat became very aroused, and I knew if I weren‘t careful she‘d find a way to make a three-way a real possibility.

I summoned a bit of my own primal energy and prepared to douse the trifling pussy with a bucket of psychic cold water. Just then Scotch spoke, in a baritone that bottomed out to the undersides of his toes, and triggered a familiar throb south of my border.

“I swear Ry, if you did this, I’ll fuck you up.”

“Operative word is, IF, asshole. Now earn your damn paycheck and order a sweep of the entire facility.”

“Finally, for real this time, we’re back on track”, I thought. My relief unfortunately was short lived. For in a flash my leopardess turned on me, with a smug snarl and psychic garden hose set to full blast.

No Mercy General – Installment 9

Sometimes a single moment reveals too much. Like an intimate touch between my fiancé and best friend at a dinner party. Or the glimpse of a gun butt in the waistband of a colleague I passed on the way to grab a Chia Latte. In the spans of a few seconds, I knew absolute clarity, and with it came an undeniable truth. Ryland Hynes was indeed a killer.

I no longer heard the water lap against the sides of the pool, nor the constant whir of jets from the four hot tubs. Only the thunder of my pulse, lodged in my throat, registered to my ears like a B-Movie soundtrack. Even my eyes soured at the seascape, so painstakingly hand brushed, in pale blues and corals onto the massive walls. This room constructed for gentle healing, forever tainted in my eyes, and the current insanity threatened to diminish it further.

Both men went unnervingly still, as if a breath would tip their fragile truce, a thing made up of slim hope and faint sensibility. One man lay partly sprawled across the floor, his massive biceps and well-honed forearms, trembled with the effort to keep upright. The other man, down on one knee in a predatory crouch, prepared to strike with the slightest provocation. At a distance, the two combatants resembled a piece of classical art. Each figure cold and unyielding, suspended between recklessness and reprieve. From a few feet away, cracks in their facade began to appear, as the atmosphere around them crackled with finality.

Ryland maintained the hydraulic grip on the downed hyena’s throat. His left hand scored by purple veins, flexed with lethal intensity, while agitated fingers danced in Morse code over the jugular of a once good friend. Even his well-tailored suit shimmered with an energy Kenneth Cole never intended, as his six-foot frame debulked to its pre-battle form.

Maybe the loss of Eric Prentice, the wrongness of the fight, or a cramp developed in his hand as well as his conscience. It really did not matter; Ryland acted out of character, and offered a compromise of sorts. Though a wisp of uncertainty troubled his hardened features, Ryland’s eyes remained amber fury. After less than a heartbeat to reconsider, he retracted the talon, and eased his grip by a fraction.

It was enough for Scotch. He began to breathe deeply of air fragrant with chlorine and death. Labored at first, each exchange became easier, as his chest moved with rhythm and purpose.

“Finally”, I thought, “they’re done with this crap.” Until another spike of primal energy prickled my skin.

To be continued…(yes next week)


No Mercy General – Installment 8

I struggled to remain calm. My leopardess vibrated with excitement. I tried to push them apart. She wanted her backside pressed against their packages. I demanded they stop. She devised how further to provoke them. I cried out for help. My cat asked “what for? “ That’s when I prayed not to be killed, and hoped the message didn’t go straight to voicemail.

“No, damn it. We don’t have time for this idiocy”, I roared at myself as much as to anyone else. If what I suspected proved to be true there’d be a hell of a lot more to worry about than some sordid love square. For the umpteenth time I flattened my hands upon each man’s chest and pushed with everything I had.

“Worthless bastard!”

Scotch snarled and threw his shoulder into the punch.

“Pissed she wasn’t into you?”

Ryland backhanded the blow and shifted to one side.

“You took advantage, Ry.”

Scotch swung again. I ducked.

“Liz came to me, and it fucks with you.”

Ryland grabbed his arm, turned momentum against Scotch, and yanked the two hundred pound security chief forward.

The hardness of him slammed into my back, and for a fleeting moment, my cat was elated. Heat radiated across my cheeks. An arrhythmic pattern dictated the rise and fall of my breasts. As an electro-erogenous charge raised the hair on my skin, and began to overload my analytical circuits one by one. Goodness knew I understood her need, a year had passed since our last lover, and well Diehard just didn’t make a battery THAT strong.

I had to clear my head fast, or find myself on the floor presenting my behind to whoever was left standing. It took all the will I could muster to send my leopard’s trifling-ass deep into my psyche where she normally slept. That faint act of will gave me just enough presence of minded to act.

I shifted my weight to the opposite leg, pushed off with as much strength as I could without evoking primal energy (or my cat), and pushed off on the opposite leg.

Scotch utilized the momentum and energy from the shove to break Ryland’s hold. He then propelled himself with the aid of my shoulders four feet above our heads, to land on the opposite side of Ryland.

“You used her.”

“No, Scotch, I gave her what she needed.”

Ryland kept his back from Scotch with a half turn to the right, as he lowered himself into a partial squat. Scotch overshot his next swing, by a handful of whiskers, which he corrected a millisecond too late. Ryland made use of the opening to lunge forward and deliver an open-palm strike to the center of his adversary’s chest.

Scotch backpedaled a few feet, recovered his footing, spun in the direction of his fall and landed in a three-point stance. Within a breath, he’d rushed the wall and managed a three-foot vertical climb, before he launched himself through the air.

Ryland once more pivoted to one side causing Scotch to torpedo past him. As his belt buckle came into range, Ryland raised both arms over his head, cupped one hand over his fist, and with precision accuracy brought an elbow down into the defenseless man’s gut.

Finally, I saw Ryland without his mask of humanity. It chilled me to my very core.

Ryland never hesitated, hadn’t held back. He had one friend dead at his feet, and appeared content to add another. With the exception of a few stray hairs, he looked as immaculate as he had during my interview. I understood then what had concerned Dr. Lynn. Scotch was a much closer friend to Ryland than the deceased. Yet in spite of the obvious pain and guilt his friend displayed, Ryland had shown about as much concern or remorse as the very dead Mr. Prentice.

I immediately placed myself in front of Ryland, and took hold of his left arm. He would have to fight me if he wanted to continue, a premise that suddenly felt very likely.

“Mr. Hynes please stop this. I believe Chief Landers is partially correct in his assumptions. I think I can demonstrate that it had to be someone in-house who killed Mr. Prentice.”

“I already knew that, Kitten. What do think we were discussing before you showed up?”

“Then for the love – can we stop this stupidity and work together? The institute isn’t the only thing at stake here, Mr. Hynes.”

“I don’t need you to remind me of that, Kitten. Tell that asshole.”

I thought to reason with him. I hoped his bloodlust would temper when confronted with his obvious passion for Tepes Memorial and it‘s staff. It might have worked, if not for a fragile spike of energy that emanated from behind me.

Intermission it seemed was over.

Scotch lay sprawled on the floor, breathless, a few inches from the deceased. For a full minute, he remained as he’d fallen, a slight trembling of his midsection the only clue he hadn’t followed poor Mr. Prentice beyond this realm.

The first twitch started in his left cheek, moved across his massive chest, and down his right arm. As expected, a cascade of spasmodic eruptions followed intent to claim their own pound of flesh.

Eyes wide and unfocused, chin thrust toward the ceiling, Scotch bared his fangs and rent the entire room with silent rage.

“Don’t,” was all I managed.

Ryland flash stepped past me, snatched Scotch from the floor by his throat, and yanked the partly shifted hyena to his knees.

“Are we done with this yet, or do you wanna dance for real?”

Ryland held Scotch firmly in his hydraulic grip, as the impulse to snap the Were’s spinal cord bled into his eyes like amber fire. With a control few shifters possess, Ryland sprouted a single black talon that he trailed down the back of Scotch’s neck.

To be continued…..

No Mercy General – Installment 7

One unbearable night I took my vibrator in hand, and fantasized I was sandwiched between two rivals competing for the right to mate. Both males were proud, had traveled far, and endured many hardships for a chance to assert their claim.

Testosterones spiked and biceps flexed, as would be conquerors assumed battle stances. Unwilling to yield, each stood his ground, and took in the measure of the other.

I trembled uncontrollably with anticipation, as my heart raced and breath stilled. The intensity in each warrior’s glare nearly buckled my knees, much as it were with Ryland and Scotch.  And goodness knew if I cried out it wouldn’t be due to the double-A batteries.

Their battlefield of choice bode well for gilled shifters, for land bound combatants, not so much. An Olympic sized pool, as in ancient Greece, spanned at least thirty feet from one end of the room to the other.

The layout and design were as I expected for a place that healed through aquatics. The main focus was the pool, surrounded by marble and concrete, which encompassed ninety percent of the usable space.  Four surface top whirlpools tucked into each corner, ran with jets switched to full throttle.  Next to each tub mounted on the walls were chrome racks loaded with therapeutic devices.

A Caribbean seascape in rich blues, corals, and alabaster adorned the ceiling and walls. Froth capped waves lapped sandy beaches, as small fishing boats set off from the shore. Much thought and care had gone into the hand painted mural; it flowed from the pigments into your very soul.   The only blemish of its splendor the visible outline of another exit carved into the opposite wall.

As in the corridor, I spotted the mirrored balls, anchored to the ceiling in similar fashion.  Once more I felt that sense of wrongness I tried to ditch creep a little closer.

Scotched seemed the most eager for confrontation, his welterweight build thrummed with the tension.  So much primal energy danced across his skin that my fingertips began to tingle. His clean shaven head and Zambian features glowed with the promise of spilled blood.  Beneath the florescent lights his second nature peaked through, and no amount of pretense could disguise it.

Under different circumstances his chestnut hue and noble presence would command my not so clinical examination. But circumstances were what they were, and one look into the near onyx of his gaze revealed a deep shame hidden behind his grief.

“He was our dawg, Ryland, our brother. No way he should’ve gone down like this. Especially after the matter was supposed to be squashed.”

“Dogs don’t eat where they shit, Scotch. If I were going to take Eric out, you’d never have found a body.”

“I gave Eric’s remains a once over, Ryland. No marks, no bruises, nothing.  Bet if we get him under the knife there’ll be a lot of ruptured organs.”

“Don’t mistake me for some whipped bastard, Scotch. I’ve never had a piece of ass worth killing over. And definitely none worth the life of a friend.”

“Damn it, Ryland.  His mate!   Liz was his life mate.”

“Not in my bed, she wasn’t.”

A sudden shift of his chest followed by a brief snort of indignation was all the warning that came. With a sharp thrust of his shoulder, Scotch shot his right arm over me in a slight arc aimed at Ryland’s jaw.

To be contiued…..

No Mercy General – Installment 6

Minutes felt like weeks as we finally neared the end of the stairwell. A sense of urgency piggybacked the stringent odor of chlorine and our pace quickened. I reached the platform at the end of the thirty-sixth floor, half leaping, half running, as I descended the remaining two flights. Ryland vaulted the railing on the same floor, his slim build clearing the narrow space between flights, before he nailed a perfect landing on the concrete below.

Without question, he possessed impressive speed, but I was no tortoise to his hare. I managed to pass through the glass doors as they continued to swing open, in time to spot Ryland wrench open a similar door further down the corridor.

Bright halogen lights, white walls and tiled floors, replaced the dishwater gray of the stairwell. Straight lines and panoramic windows that stretched from ceiling to floor enhanced my sense of wrongness. Nothing marred the pristine passageway, save the black mirrored balls partially sunken into the ceiling at each end of the corridor. A dreadful thought turned over in my mind and my stomach immediately followed.

My heels clicked across the high glossed tiles like a locomotive at full steam. I needed to address my concerns with Ryland. I also didn’t want to remain in the corridor alone. I grasped the handle of a door labeled “Aquatic and Fitness Center” before it completely closed. Only then did I again scan the area in hopes that my suspicions were wrong.

Too preoccupied with my own thoughts, I’d rushed through the door and stopped short of rear-ending Ryland and one of the security staff. Both men stationed themselves on either end of the body. The body. What a clinically correct and callous term. Less than an hour ago, he’d been a person, with a future and potential. Robbed of his life’s spark and individuality, society no longer allowed him to retain the title of person. It was cold blooded, but it was also a necessity.

“My apologies gentlemen, I was in too much of a rush.”

“Don’t think about it Ma’am. I’m Scotch Jefferson, Chief of Security here at TMI.”

“Dr. Mykael Xanders,” I said and offered my hand. “I’m very sorry for your loss, Scot. Did you know the deceased well?”

“It’s Scotch, Ma’am, like the candy,” he replied after a strong brief shake. “And, yeah, we knew Prentice. Better than some would like.”

“Oh.” It never occurred to me that Ryland might know the deceased personally. It would also explain the bite in Scotch’s remark, and the fine layer of tension in the room. As a para-forensic psychologist, I understood that grief sometimes manifested itself through anger and blame. With what little I knew of Ryland, I could be certain several staff members would attempt to scapegoat him. Just as I was, certain he’d only tolerate it for so long.

“Mr. Hynes, my sincerest sympathies. It never occurred to me that you had a personal relationship with the deceased.”

“Personal about sums it up,” Scotch remarked.

Ryland surfaced from whatever memory had enveloped him. A slight tick above his ear began to tap out Morse code, as his entire being went deathly still.

“You know, Scotch, I’m trying real hard to be patient with you. I know Eric was your road dawg, so I’m trying to cut you some slack. Don’t abuse it, brother.”

“Don’t let the scent of new meat get you twisted, brother. We can always step off property and knuckle-up.”

Scotch respectfully stepped around his friend’s remains and came within jabbing distance of Ryland. Instinctively I placed myself between the two men, who each towered at least twelve-inches over my five-foot two-inch frame. I knew that sometimes grief expressed itself as anger. I just hoped it didn’t express its way into a back alley beat down.

To be continued…..

No Mercy General – Installment 5

Stunned. I think I had an out-of-body experience. I heard the words. Yet, I needed a second or two to sweep for hidden booby-traps. Ryland to my surprise reacted better than I expected. It would only require one elephant tranquilizer to settle his nerves.

“Congratulations, Dr. Xanders. Your ninety day probation starts now.”

“Big mistake,” Ryland snarled, as if he’d registered a threat only dogs could hear. His eyes once again became amber napalm, as primal energy radiated off his swimmer’s build like lethal gamma rays.

To pick a fight with a leopard was dangerous; to irritate Dr. Lynn further was suicidal. My excuse, simple, I had no friggin idea who I was dealing with. Ryland, he just couldn’t be content to court danger, he had to invite it up to his place for the night. Clearly, the man had sociopathic tendencies.

“She won’t last a month, Merryl. I promise it.”

“Dr. Xanders’ tenure will be dependent on her performance, period.”

Silence, it only lasted for a few breaths, yet suffocated the room with so much anger and regret. A look passed between the two men, an agreement struck with a slight nod from each. The gauntlet thrown, I expected, over my dead body.

I waited for Ryland to rush Dr. Lynn, he didn’t. I expected Dr. Lynn to throw Ryland across the room. He couldn’t be bothered. Instead, each man remained in his perspective seat, chins held high, chests puffed with the rightness of their own convictions. I felt the weight of their regard, like opposing fans at a playoff game. No matter how close the final score, someone had to lose, and both men were betting with my skin.

“I wish I could ask your forgiveness of Ryland’s theatrics, and offer assurances they won’t be repeated. However, that would be too obvious a lie to tell with a straight face, so I won’t bother.”

“Apologies aren’t warranted, Dr. Lynn. Mr. Hynes merely demonstrated his great affection for Tepes Memorial Institute. I can only hope that I too develop a measure of his passion during my tenure.”

“When I need your assistance, Kitten,” Ryland crooned, “I’ll unzip my fly.”

“Give me a head’s up,” I shot back, “I’ll warm the tweezers.”

The remark lingered in the air, like the expensive cologne Ryland wore. A minute passed before full appreciation of each syllable sunk in.

Dr. Lynn broke first. The heat of determination that clouded the clear pools of his gaze, were washed away by a flash flood of bemused surprise. A sudden fit of coughing seized him, as he futilely attempted to suppress it behind his clenched fist. A crack in his omnipotence appeared, and through it, I caught a glimpse of his true warmth and compassion. My female intuition screamed to keep guard against Dr. Lynn, or a broken heart would be the least of my worries.

Perplexed, Ryland leaned forward and gave me the true weight of his glare. He scanned me from the top of my sun streaked brunette crown, across my toffee hued features, down the length of my plus sized frame, with only a minor delay over the expanse of my breasts. He continued past the slight paunch of my stomach, along the full curve of my legs, to settle on my size eight feet, clad in two-inch heeled pumps.

As if the data he’d mentally uploaded didn’t quite compute, Ryland returned his attentions to the raw honey of my eyes, in search of that missing fragment of information.

It was all too much, the interview, news of the orderlies’ death, the scuffle between Dr. Lynn and Ryland, the forced trip down memory lane, the black out, and the sniping. But the sincere look of puzzlement etched across Ryland’s’ handsome features, pushed me over the edge.

Goodness help me, I laughed.

I looked right into Ryland’s bedroom brown eyes and laughed in his face. It wasn’t a demeaning or spiteful guffaw, which he so rightly deserved. No. I simply leaned toward him and let loose with an old fashioned-stress relieving-belly busting laugh. I couldn’t help myself, and I didn’t care. With everything that transpired, I needed the release, and in the name of full disclosure, it felt too damn good to stop.

He smiled then, with the barest upturn at the corners of his full lips, he smiled. Once again I saw Opie, hints of him in Ryland’s softened expression, the gentle shake of his head, and the slight shrug of his shoulders.

Ryland seemed to have found his missing fragment of information in my release. Contented for the time being, he reclined against the leather back of his previously abused chair, and waited for me to regain my composure.

After another minute, we managed to return to our original roles, minus a level of the previous animosity, as I recounted the Reader’s Digest version of the war that killed my parents and scarred most of my early life.

Satisfied that I’d be more of an asset than a liability, at least for the moment, Ryland began to explain the seriousness of our situation. It appeared the death of the orderly was just the tip of the shoe, the rest had yet to land.


“What have I missed, Mr. Hynes? If the U.S. Government is working with the supernatural community, why would either side have arranged such a drastic contingency?”

“You’re thinking with your heart, Kitten. A habit you’ll want to break if you hope to last at TMI.”

I let the “Kitten” remark go. I knew he’d chosen the slang term to get under my skin, as much as to refer to my Were-Animal. I wouldn’t allow him to goad me into a sexual harassment charge, or run off because my feminine sensibilities were infringed. Ryland Hynes could call “Kitten” all he wanted, this was one pussy he’d never lick.

“If the civilian government used paramilitary forces,” I continued, “especially trained to hunt dual natured species, how could a conflict between the two not erupt?”

“Exactly what we would hope to avoid,” Dr. Lynn interjected. “Imagine a culture that revered the Norse God Loki, suddenly faced with the existence of Were-Wolves.”

I didn’t need to imagine it. Dr. Lynn’s tactful reminder not withstanding, I knew first hand what could happen if such a thing occurred. The under-privileged and malcontents in that society would be the first to whisper “coup“. Soon everyone with a parking ticket or overdue tax bill would talk of it openly. All it would take for mass carnage would be a lycanthrope, with claims to Fenrir’s lineage and aspirations of grandeur.

“Seriously, Kitten, the civilian world isn’t ready to learn what lives beside them,” Ryland stated, with an exaggerated nod toward Dr. Lynn. “Our PR department has worked hard to develop a believable cover. As far as the public is concerned, TMI is a private facility for the mentally ill.”

Through my own experience, I knew few outside the supernatural community who were even aware of Tepes Memorial. And of those who were, few cared. Most societies regarded the mentally ill as disposable. “I’d say the cover is more than believable, Mr. Hynes. To the general public the institute is all but invisible.”

“Bet you didn’t know, we’re the only such facility in existence.”

The bats in my stomach stirred, as full realization threatened to empty my bladder. Ryland couldn’t be right. The supernatural community was a minority population, only when compared to the civilian world at large. I’d always assumed there to be numerous facilities for our kind, well concealed of course, in sparse numbers depending on the region, but at the very least one facility per country.

Ryland had to be wrong; he just had too. I looked to Dr. Lynn for affirmation. What I got was the ugly truth, as concern once again clouded his crystalline gaze.

“Now you understand our situation, Dr. Xanders. We’re not the heartless S.O.B.s you think. The loss of any life is tragic. The loss of this institute to our community, along with possibly the lives of every staffer and resident would surpass catastrophic.”

“What I think, Dr. Lynn, is that we’ve wasted enough time determining if my balls are big enough for this position.”

“Double-Ds are always the right size for any position, Kitten.”

Alright, the time had arrived to kick Ryland’s sexist tight ass. I shifted on the couch to ensure a good aim at his crotch, only to find an empty chair. Blast that friggin speed of his. The bastard leaned against the opened door and had the audacity to tap his watch toward me.

“Now move your ass, you’ve caused enough delays,” Ryland snarked, then headed down the corridor.

The jerk spoke part of the truth, which galled me to no end. I didn’t waste any more time with niceties. Not wanting Ryland to get too far of a head start, I immediately sprinted toward the door. I had one foot across the threshold when I heard Dr. Lynn’s request, inside my head.

“Please keep an eye on Ryland. It’s been a while since he’s been around anything that aroused his beast.”

The expression “stopped dead in your tracks” multiplied by infinity. I forgot how to breathe, and feared what I’d see even though I had to look. I managed to swallow a fraction of my fear, and turned my head enough to see inside the office. The very empty office, with only one exit, the door where I stood.

I nodded in agreement to no one, turned, and then broke the sound barrier to catch up with Ryland. The ass was right the world wasn’t ready. Hell, I barely was, and I knew what went bump in the night.

To be continued…