grimm a novel in the nate temple supernatural thriller series (the temple chronicles book 3)

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The family classic, Grimm's Fairy Tales, is not the collection of bedtime stories Nate Temple thought it was, but actually the keys to a veritable prison housing the most dangerous bloodthirsty hit men of the supernatural community. Nate must find a way to lock up the prison for good before his people become a buffet table for the Brothers Grimm…

 

Discover Nate’s origin story, and get a sneak peek into the events that lead up to GRIMM, Book 3 in the Nate Temple Supernatural Thriller Series. To get your copy of FAIRY TALE as well as a free copy of OBSIDIAN SON (share it with someone who loves to read!), and lots more exclusive content, all for FREE, you just need to tell me where to send them. Click
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Nate Temple Series

 

 

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Blood Debts

 

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Grimm

 

Chapter 1

A
lot can happen between
now
and
never
.

I once read that the phrase
it’s now or never
was first coined to describe that moment that if one doesn’t act upon right
now
, that they will
never
again get a second chance to do so. They would miss their one opportunity. Usually through their own fault, but sometimes that vindictive bitch named Karma could ninja flip out of a closet to give you a solid monkey fist to the stones.

You know…

Perhaps you had been facing a once in a lifetime opportunity – saying hello to the cute girl at the bar before anyone else; or maybe you had stood in silence for twenty seconds too long during your oral presentation in front of the classroom and desperately needed to formulate words that even closely resembled anything intelligent.

Basically, you needed to do the thing
right freaking now
.

Carpe Diem.

Like me.

Right
now
I was standing in the chilly sewers beneath the fine city of St. Louis in order to check off something on my
to-do
list. Something that was likely going to get my fancy new coat all smelly and icky in the process. Still, getting my coat
smelly
and
icky
was better than getting it
bloody
and
hole-y
. That’s why I had brought backup. But the night was young. And I never counted my chickens before they hatched.

Especially when hunting vampires.

But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Right
Now
, I was getting ready to do something marginally dangerous, and even with accomplices to watch my back, I wasn’t quite ready to strap on my big boy pants. I was stalling.

I was here –
hopefully
– to save some lives. The victims didn’t have Batman coming down to save them, or even the fine police persons of St. Louis. None of those upstanding people knew anyone was in danger down here, or would have even believed the intel that had led me here: a Greek hero gossiping at the bar over a beer. And all those victims had was one scraggly wizard, a disgraced werewolf FBI Agent, and a vanilla mortal to come save them.

Now
was a brief period of time that was full of choices that would later result in more choices – harder ones – that would lead to penultimate consequences. The
now
part was pretty cut and dried for me. It was the
consequences
I was thinking about.

This whole mess had all started because of a favor I thought I owed to Achilles.

Yes.
The
Achilles. The legendary Greek hero with – what some may call –
vengeance issues
.

And when one smashes up his place of business – allegedly – he could be known to display said vengeance issues by inflicting gratuitous amounts of pain upon the accused.

No thanks.

So I wanted to make it up to him before the thought crossed his mind. It wasn’t like I could blame the
Angel
for fluttering into Achilles’ bar and picking a fight with Death – one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse – and I a few months back. Angels were Holy, above the law, beyond reproach,
blah, blah, blah ad nauseam
.

So.

Rather than tattling on the
pigeon
, I had nervously waited months for the chance to gain his gratitude by doing him a solid.

Over drinks at his bar earlier tonight, Achilles had idly mentioned rumors about a vampire kidnapping young girls to bring them down to the sewers, after which they were never heard from again. The most recent disappearance was one of Achilles’ own bartenders, and he feared the worst for her.

That was how I found myself in the sewer with my girlfriend and my childhood best friend on a perfectly cold November night. To possibly prevent my sad rear end from being dragged across St. Louis behind Achilles’ chariot.

I glanced at my dismal surroundings. Maybe the vampire was just looking to
Netflix and chill
in his spacious tunnel home. I studied the slick, slimy walls with a look of disgust. No, not a
home
… a
lair
. Definitely a lair.

But this was par for the course in my experience. Find bad guy. Exterminate bad guy. Keep young pretty girls safe.

Or avenge them.

It’s what we wizards did for a living. Well, most of us. The one’s who didn’t make millions of dollars per year on interest income from their daddy’s technology company.

Ahem
.

So maybe I was just doing it for the thrill. The challenge. Or maybe even to do the right thing. I grunted.
Who knows these things
, I thought to myself reproachfully. I shook my head before my inner Freud could psychoanalyze that too much further.

After the
Now
comes the
Never
part of the phrase. You know, the part where you won’t be
here
anymore. The part where all of your family and loved ones have moved on and left you six feet under while your soul is astral projected to the afterlife. Heaven. Hell. Atlantis. Nirvana. Or on a nice long boat ride with the Charon – the chatty drunk Greek
Boatman
– who ferried souls on their trip to Hades in his Underworld funhouse.

Been there, done that. It didn’t stick.

The point is, you’re
dead
, so the consequences of your actions won’t be your problem anymore. They will be felt by others, or by no one at all, leaving you with the peace of mind that you did all that you could, that it was worth it. That you made your move. Kissed the girl. Muttered something vaguely English in your speech class.

But you know what’s in the middle of
now
and
never
?

Life
.

Or in my case, annoying questions that interrupted my well thought out inner philosophical monologue.

“Remind me why we are standing in the literal filth of St. Louis in the middle of November, rather than back at
Chateau Falco
tipping one back before a roaring fire. Or why I’m here instead of curling up with my fiancé looking at wedding magazines and drinking a glass of wine.” Gunnar complained. He lifted his boot with a disgusting squelch, emitting a whole new level of foulness to the brittle air. The dingy environment only seemed to amplify the stunningly royal bearing of my Viking friend. His golden hair was tucked up in a golden man bun, and his beard was impressively thicker than usual, as he had been growing it out for his upcoming wedding. Or so he had told me. I had recently had a nightmare where we were wrestling over a
Monopoly
argument involving my rapid construction of hotels, and I discovered that he was actually growing the beard out in order to hide a secret guardian inside – a leprechaun-sized werewolf willing and able to defend his master’s honor in the event his master lost the wrestling match.

In my dream, I had lost to the violent little bastard.

So far, Gunnar’s sniffer hadn’t located any vampire scent at all, so I was appointed navigator based upon my eidetic memory of the scant information Achilles had provided.

“Well, if we’re speaking of the latter, you should thank me.” I muttered.

Indie punched me in the arm, scowling. I shook it off with an idle grin, glad that she had accepted my jibe at surface level. After all, I had been reading over every damn wedding magazine ever printed these past few weeks, which seemed to make my mother deliriously happy.

Yes, even a mother who recently died still went bonkers mad at the topic of gowns and weddings. You just had to find a way to talk to her spirit. Which I had. And she had commanded me to use her engagement ring when I asked Indie to share my life.

Which was the other reason I was down here, and the biggest reason I was stalling.

I was distracted. Conflicted. The vampire part of the trip was secondary in my mind.

Which wasn’t good.

But I couldn’t seem to shake it. I was going to ask Indie to marry me!

My stomach made a little flip-flop motion at the thought. I shot her a discreet glance, but she was too busy fidgeting with her gear to notice. She was so god damned beautiful that I found myself simply staring at her at times. Like now. Her long golden hair fell past her shoulders to frame her perfectly shaped curvaceous upper body, but tonight it was tied up in a pony tail and sticking out the back of a Chicago Cubs baseball cap.

The St. Louis Cardinal in me growled territorially at that.

She was about my height, a hair under six-feet tall, with legs for days, and curves that most men would drool over. Her face was narrow with a thin nose and icy blue eyes like sun-kissed sapphires. I averted my eyes as she glanced up, seeming to notice my attention.

I pretended to scout our path as I mentally ran over my proposal plan. I had made reservations at
Vin de Set
, her favorite French restaurant. Two days from now. I had cleverly used the excuse that we were past due for our regular date night where we usually ‘recalibrated’ our relationship. We typically did this once or twice per month, but so far it had stretched into month two now without either of us bringing it up.

It might or might not have started as a result of Othello’s visit to town a few months back when Indie had been out of town caring for her injured mother. Injured because of my enemies, we later found out. Either way, several events from that visit had created a bit of friction between us. Not because I had been unfaithful – not by
choice
, anyway – but because Othello had openly admitted her ongoing infatuation with me. One that she had secretly harbored since our brief romantic relationship in college several years back.

She had admitted this to Indie. In front of me. Without giving me any warning at all.

Which had required some deft maneuvering on my part, let me tell you.

The two were amicable now, but boy oh boy had it been interesting for a time.

My thoughts drifted back to my dinner plans as Gunnar began sniffing down one of the halls, hoping to catch a whiff of fanger, AKA
eau de corpse
. Vampire. Indie was still fidgeting with her gear.

Before the dinner proposal, I wanted to see how she handled tonight, because, well, this was my
life
.

Hunting.

At least a big
part
of my life. And even though she had told me before that she could handle it, I needed to
know
that she could. There’s a difference, folks. The proposal details were all set. The venue picked. Dinner dishes and wine already ordered. Her favorite dessert, strawberry shortcake, ordered from a local bakery.

Everything was set.

Well,
almost
everything… Which led me back to my
third
reason for jumping on tonight’s opportunity.

Indie readjusted the contraption dominating her cranium, tightening one of the straps so that the headlamp mounted on top didn’t jiggle around so much with each movement. Despite me being chock full of power, able to cast a ball of light to float beside us and illuminate the darkness, and Gunnar’s near night vision thanks to his werewolf genes, a girl needed to accessorize to feel complete in this world. Practicality and logic be damned. And no man would ever get in the way of accessorizing.

Ever.

Indie looked grim at the unexplained dangers of tonight’s extermination – seeing as how I hadn’t yet explained it to either of them in depth – but was also conflictingly excited to be included in the boys club. Even if she was completely mundane – as without magic as a boiled egg – it really didn’t seem to bother her. Where Gunnar and I were at the opposite end of the spectrum. Dare I say that Gunnar and I were legen-

Wait for it…

Dary.

Indie and I had been binge-watching
How I Met Your Mother
lately. So sue me.

I smiled to myself, which only made Gunnar’s eyes tighten, as if it confirmed his sneaking suspicion that I was as mad as a hatter.

“We’re all mad here.” I whispered softly.

“What?” Indie asked, having successfully completed readjusting her straps.

I mumbled nothing in particular, putting my head back in the game. “Alright, gang. We’re hunting an Alucard named Dracula.” I answered distractedly, turning my ears towards the two tunnels that branched off ahead of us. One of them led to our target. The other led to more smelly things and my third reason for entering the sewers tonight.

“Are you drunk?” Gunnar asked very seriously. Indie blinked, having not been around me for the past few hours and realizing that it could very possibly be a valid question.

“What? No. I’m not… I had one drink with Achilles, but…”

“You just keep staring off into the distance as if distracted. And you’re not making any sense. It’s… unsettling.” He folded his arms.

“Yeah, sorry about that. Few other things on my mind.”

He waited. And I realized what else was bothering him as I replayed our conversation in my head. “Oh. I see what you’re getting at. I meant to say
a Dracula named Alucard
.” They stared at me, still not getting it. I rolled my eyes at Gunnar. “A vampire. The name
Alucard
is
Dracula
spelled backwards, you uneducated mutt,” I turned to Indie, “And beautiful, intelligent lady.”

Indie rolled her eyes. The silence grew before Gunnar finally let out a soft chuckle. “He seriously named himself
Alucard
? Does he have any idea how pretentious that is, or is it really his name?” He grinned hungrily. “I think I should ask him.” He added, flexing his muscles. Or maybe he
hadn’t
flexed. Regardless, his coat stretched along the seams of his arms and shoulders with a slight creaking sound.

“You’re right. We should ask him. Word from Achilles is that he’s kidnapped some girls. One of them was his. A bartender. I’m here to see if it’s true. You two are here as witnesses. Especially you, Indie. No heroics. I’m serious. If he really is a vampire, stand back. Gunnar and I will handle it.” She nodded her agreement, breath quickening slightly.

I consulted the mental map Achilles had shown me and took a left.

My posse followed me.

Which was good. Posses are supposed to do that sort of thing. It messed up the cool factor when they didn’t.

We continued on for fifteen minutes or so until I began to hear faint whimpers coming from what sounded like only a dozen feet away. Still, with echoes it could be a mile. Gunnar took a big whiff of the air and nodded at me one time, looking suddenly relieved. Apparently his sniffer was back on track. Or the vampire’s apparent concealment spell didn’t work this close up.

“Not far now. A few hundred feet at most.” He whispered. “Won’t they be able to sense us?”

I shook my head, mentally checking our map. “No. I masked our scent.” There were two bends before any kind of opening that could house what might be used as a living quarters.

I rolled my shoulders and patted my hip reassuringly.

Magic was suave and all, but I hadn’t really mastered my new abilities yet. A few months back during
Mardi Gras
when my friends had been out of town, Othello and I had had a run in with Heaven. And Hell. And my previous governing institution, the Academy – which ruled and dictated the laws of the wizard nation. They had thought I was working for the demons. Heaven thought so too. I hadn’t been, of course. But everyone and their mother wanted to get their grubby hands on the secret project my father had gifted to me prior to his death. An Armory of the deadliest supernatural weapons in recorded history.

During the struggle, my own people had taken away my magic, permanently, but my father had given me something else alongside the Armory. A new, strange power that had historically been placed higher on the food chain than even a wizard’s magic. To be honest, even months later I was still struggling to wrap my head around it.

So, having not mastered my new abilities as a Maker, I liked to be reassured by the hundred pound gun at my hip. Not really a hundred pounds, but the SIG Sauer X-Five Gunnar had given me a while back was definitely reassuring, and right now it really did feel like a hundred pounds of confidence.

“Alright, gang. It’s now or never.”

I lifted my foot to take a step, and a silver ball of light – I somehow had the presence of mind to notice that it resembled a stunningly attractive, anatomically correct, naked
Barbie
doll – struck me in the dome, knocking me clear on my ass and into a puddle of nastiness. I quickly scrambled to my feet, shivering, ready to obliterate the creature. She hovered where my head had been, staring directly at me. It
was
a naked Barbie.

And I recognized her.

“She looks familiar…” Gunnar murmured to Indie, who was staring wild-eyed at the silver sprite.

“What
is
she? She’s beautiful.” Indie said bluntly, cocking her head sideways as she assessed the creature.

“A sprite. A fairy. A very dangerous fairy. Looks can be deceiving,” I warned, shaking off the cold sewage from my coat.

The sprite smiled in approval at the warning, flashing needle-like teeth at Indie, who flinched back a step. “He’s back, and he’s coming to murder you and all your friends.” The glowing sprite hissed darkly to me. “It’s time.”

Like I said, a lot can happen between
now
and
never
.

Chapter 2

I
shook my coat off again with a growl, trying to detach at least the larger pieces of filth. Wet splashes marked my successes, adding to the fragrant stench filling my nose.

“Right before you suckerpunched me into that pile of defecation, we had been stealthily approaching the vermin in order to exterminate him. So
shoo
, Barbie.” I growled darkly. I didn’t know what name she went by in casual circles, but I knew her True Name, the one able to compel her to obey if used three times in conjunction, which I was very tempted to use at the moment just to make a point. But I didn’t. So in my mind she was now
Barbie
, whereas before I had called her Nympho Sprite.

Nympho
for nymphomaniac. Emphasis on
maniac
. I had met her once before when running into her on an impromptu case that led to me opening my arcane bookstore, Plato’s Cave – currently still under renovation from the gentle affections of a brawl involving a demon, an angel, and a Nephilim during
Mardi Gras
a few months back. This little light of mine had a thing for helping wizards in exchange for… well…
sexual favors
.

Look, I know, she looked all of twelve inches tall right
now
. But it’s not as weird as it sounds. She could become
bigger
when she wanted to by shape shifting to match her summoner’s size. She had even hinted that she could shape shift into other
creatures
, so being a werewolf for example wasn’t an impediment to her,
erm
, bargaining price. I had also gotten the distinct impression that many didn’t survive her affections, and that didn’t seem to bother her in the least. If anything, it
pleased
her.

Creepy.

“Bah,” she waved a hand at my comment. “Not the vampires, wiz-” She hesitated, eyes widening with sudden confusion. She stared at me more closely, assessing me on a deeper level than the mortal eye could, as if calculating a new equation in her mind. She must have realized I was no longer a wizard, but I didn’t know how. She continued on a few seconds later, shelving the topic of my abilities, and returning to her initial purpose. “Interesting development.” She murmured to herself before continuing. “The Grimm. Jacob is back. And he brought his brothers. To kill you and all your friends. I warned you of this when we first met.”

An icy fist seemed to suddenly clench my vertebrae. Indie gasped.

The Brothers Grimm. They were back. For me. And my friends. Because I had taken their book from them a few years ago, and rather than destroying it like the sprite had advised, I had hoarded it away. And now I was going to pay for it.

As were my friends, apparently.

“I
knew
I recognized her. She used to work for Alistair. The book guy.” Gunnar hissed. “Remember, Nate? Back in the old days.” He looked at me.

She turned suddenly arctic eyes onto the wolf. “If you ever refer to him again as
the book guy
I will feast on your sclera.” She licked her lips eagerly.

“No offense.” He offered genuinely, taking a step back as he held up his hands to idly touch his eyes, which she had casually mentioned eating.

“Too late, wolf pup.” She bared needle like fangs in a hungry snarl.

Indie chimed in before the sprite could do anything. “Did you say vampires? As in,
plural
?” Gunnar and I froze, turning to the sprite.

She merely stared back, shaking her head in disbelief at our obviously limited mental capacity. “Good thing you brought the Regular along. She actually has a brain.”

Gunnar and I began to sputter angry responses, but Indie beat us to it. “That’s why they pay me the big bucks,” she grinned.

Then I noticed the change in our surroundings. A faint rustling. And no more whimpering. Damn it. The sprite grinned in anticipation, looking eagerly delighted at the likely violence to come. “You seem to have stumbled upon a nest.” She smiled.

Before I could respond with a sarcastic retort, a blinding flurry of tattered robes struck me like a Mizzou lineman. I purposely let him. A surprise counterattack.

No, really. It was on purpose.

So was the next part, when I let him slam my head into the brick wall behind us, eliciting an explosion of stars to swim across my vision. I dropped the pistol clutched in my hand and heard it splash deep into the muck at our feet. “Attack!” I managed to groan. Now I had him right where I wanted him. I heard Gunnar grunt in surprise and then the sound of two bodies splashing into the sewage. I briefly managed to wonder why I hadn’t heard the explosion of fabric that resulted from him shifting into wolf form from human clothes. His giant snow-white mountain wolf form was much better suited to fighting vampires. In fact, it was designed to do
just that
. I don’t know how I managed to notice any of this, seeing as how I had a frothing mad vampire chomping down towards my necksicle, but I did. I also saw Indie’s flashlight go sailing off into the darkness before landing in a puddle of ick.

Barbie’s ambient glow was the only thing protecting us from the natural darkness of the tunnels. For which I was grateful, but she apparently didn’t have the patience to wait for a little thing like the result of a life or death fight to conclude our conversation.

“All because you took their book. I told you to destroy it. Admit it.”

She folded her arms. I managed to get a forearm against the vampire’s neck, barely keeping him from gobbling up my tender throat. Despite still coming to grips with using my new power, I somehow managed to cast out a weak spell of air and bowled over the pair of vampires that had attacked Indie. She looked unharmed, but to be honest I couldn’t see very clearly, what with the animated Disney birds and stars dancing across my vision and the strain against keeping the vampire from tasting my esophagus. Since it was now pointless to continue masking our scent, I dropped the small spell I had held to get us here undetected. Twin shots shattered the air as Indie let loose with her pistol.

Hollow-point, Oak tipped bullets worked like cupcakes on a vampire. They dropped in a puff of dust. I heard fists striking flesh, and wondered again why I heard no howling or growling from Gunnar. Had they gotten him? My vision began to turn red in anger, and then for the first time ever, the well of power that I presumed was available only to Makers called out to
me
rather than the other way around.

A river of molten lava flowing just beneath the surface of my mind invited me to play, and my vision pulsed from red to blue.

Before, as a wizard, I had essentially used the available elements around me to manipulate into magic. When the elements I needed were absent, I could draw from my own body for a limited time. But it was taxing.

The Maker power didn’t quite work like that.

A constant pool of power resided just below the surface of the world around me, available to be manipulated into whatever the Maker saw fit to, well…
make
. To me, the well seemed bottomless in comparison to my old magic, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t. It also wasn’t as reliable, or I wasn’t as gifted at using it as I had been with my magic. But then again, I had been a veritable force to be reckoned with as a wizard. Still, when the Maker power was harnessed, it could pack a punch that made a wizard look like a schoolyard bully. I began weaving the power together messily, still struggling against the vampire.

“Admit it, Temple.” Barbie continued.

The vampire above me froze completely still. “Temple?” He hissed in alarm. I grunted an affirmative and he violently threw himself away before I could do anything. I fell into the muck at the sudden motion.

“The Maker!” One hissed from near Gunnar, who was holding a vampire’s head under the filth, drowning him as he stared down the speaking vampire.

The one that had attacked me hissed again. “Retreat. None must harm the Maker.”

I paused.
That
was never a good thing to hear. It usually implied worse, deadlier things were in store for you down the road. And they knew I was a Maker. Even though
I
didn’t fully understand what that actually meant. Yet.

They disappeared back down the tunnel as fast as cockroaches when the lights turned on. Vampires were
fast
. I took a deep breath, shook the stars from my eyes, and began to race after them, not wanting to give them a second longer than absolutely necessary with the victim I had heard whimpering earlier. I heard the clomping steps of my posse following me, and I felt Barbie latch onto my shoulder, getting a free ride.

Gunnar caught up to me easily so I shot him an angry glare. “You know, it would be really awesome if we had a werewolf to run them down right about now.” Indie gamely let off a few pot shots as we ran.

He grunted in response. “Can’t shift. Don’t know why.”

That dialed back my anger real quick. What could prevent Gunnar from shifting? I hadn’t even thought that was possible.

“Admit it, Temple. Admit you should have listened to me and I will take care of this… nuisance.” Barbie spoke in my ear, interrupting our conversation.

I ignored her pointedly. We entered a cavernous space, and skidded to a stop. The vampires were scrabbling at a locked door, their fingers gouging at the wood to no effect.

“Rule number one, fangheads. Always have a back door ready.”

They stopped, and then slowly turned to face me.

“We will leave you in peace.” They offered, looking nervous.

“Not playing out that way.” I muttered. The smell of blood and offal filled the space like a physical presence. My gaze swept the room quickly, searching for survivors.

But we were too late.

The girls were dead. I counted three bodies in direct sight. Two had been recently killed judging by the still wet pools of blood around their crumpled bodies.

Gunnar growled, taking a step forward. Indie lifted her guns, pointing them at the vampires with a humorless grin on her beautiful face. “Why can’t I shift… fanghead?” He tipped an imaginary hat in my direction without averting his eyes from the vampires.

“Let us go and I will tell you. I’ll even give it to you.”

I laughed out loud. “Not too good at negotiating, are you? You just admitted that you have something that prevents my friend from letting his fur fly. That was your only bargaining chip. And you tossed it into the game without looking at your hand.”

The vampires clammed up.

“We really do have more pressing matters, Temple.” The sprite complained lazily. “Let’s speed things up. They have a moonstone.” She had drifted from my shoulders to float beside me. Most likely to avoid becoming collateral damage if they rushed me. I blinked at her. “Moonstone. A chunk of rock from the moon. It prevents a wolf from shifting.” She elaborated. I exchanged a look with Gunnar. He shrugged with an arched brow. He hadn’t heard of it either. I hated not knowing things.

“Why would you have something like that?” I asked them.

“Because he isn’t the only wolf down here.” The vampire snarled.

A piercing howl echoed throughout the tunnels. Followed by several answering calls.

The vampires tensed, arching up on the balls of their feet as if preparing to make a run for it. They weren’t interested in tussling with us, let alone a pack of werewolves. The leader quickly reached into a pocket and pulled out a small stone. Before I could react, he slammed it into the wall, shattering it. Gunnar instantly sighed, his fists flexing into white furred claws.

“Admit it, Temple, and I will resolve this disagreement. You know you can’t fight the vampires and the wolves at the same time. Time is wasting. They have your scent, and they will now be able to maintain their form when they get closer.” The sprite whispered hungrily. I sighed.

“Okay, fine. I was right, you were wrong.” I muttered. The howls grew closer, but silence still reigned supreme in our little alcove.

She shook her head, but didn’t move. I saw the vampires tense up, ready to make their move.

“God damn it.
Fine
.
You
were right, and
I
was wrong.” I shouted at her as the vamps took a step.

She beamed down at me for a few seconds, gloating, and the vampires were suddenly halfway out the room, escaping. But Barbie snapped her dainty little toothpick fingers.

And a wave of pure silver light crashed down over the top of our heads like a heavy feather pillow. Not strong enough to knock me over, but enough to let me know it was definitely there. I heard an exclamation of surprise from my posse.

I stumbled a bit on wobbly legs, feeling oddly sensuous, as if all my senses were on high alert. I realized distantly that I was very definitely… in the
mood
. Like, instantly. I shook off the mental cloud and glared at the sprite. “If you hurt my friends, I’ll roast you on a kabob.” I took a threatening step towards her. “Or a toothpick, I guess.”

“Tut, tut.” She smiled, and I was knocked back on my ass, feeling dazed, and my pants just three sizes too small in the groin area. Indie let out a pleased whimper followed by a sharp exclamation of ecstasy. Then she folded to her feet with a dazed smile on her face. I blinked and turned my head to the sprite.

“That one was for free.” She grinned.

“Did you just-”

“Granted, women are easier to please than men, if you know how we work. It just so happens that pleasure is my forte. Even
lethal
pleasure when the situation arises. But that’s more for
my
enjoyment. This was just foreplay, a gift for your apology.” She glanced at Indie, who was only now getting to her feet on shaky legs, looking excited and confused. She hadn’t even commented on the filth covering her. “I think you may have an interesting night ahead of you, Temple.” She smiled down at me. I shook the euphoria from my head, struggling to my feet. “You’re welcome.” She answered smugly.

Well, I didn’t have anything to say to
that
. Thank you? A cigarette?

The vampires lay motionless on the cool stone floor. Their bodies slowly transformed into ash that was lighter than the air before further disintegrating to nothing. Gunnar climbed to his feet, very obviously aroused, and even more obviously pleased at the situation. Great, everyone else seemed to get a happy ending, where I only got a case of metaphysical blue balls.

My life.

More howls punctuated my situation in a piercing lament.

Chapter 3

A
lright. Time to scat.”

“Where? If they don’t have our scent yet they soon will.” Gunnar answered, eyes darting back and forth anxiously.

“Follow me.” I retraced our steps in a light jog back to the first intersection of tunnels, and veered down the other fork this time. The howls were coming from a different part of the sewer, which was a blessing, buying us a few minutes. The sprite whispered in my ear, having apparently hitched a ride on my shoulder again. Lazy freaking fairies.

“We have more pressing matters to discuss.” She urged.

“I think survival is the most pressing issue.” I argued. She grunted in disagreement. “Besides, I’m already working on the Grimms.” She went silent, apparently satisfied at my answer and content to enjoy her free ride.

After several more turns we began to hear sounds above our heads.

“Is that a jackhammer?” Indie asked from my left shoulder, breathing heavily.

Gunnar tilted his head as we ran, remaining at my other shoulder. “It sounds like a construction site. Are we beneath roadwork?” He whispered softly, knowing how well werewolves could hear. “Is it safe for us to be down here?”

I grunted, spotting our next turn. They flowed with me. “Of course not. It’s never safe down here. Remember all the signs I told you guys to ignore at the entrance?” Gunnar’s eyes tightened, but he made no comment, focusing instead on our immediate survival.

We finally came to a gnarled iron door and I stopped. Water stains trailed down the brick surrounding the door, feeding a rather large patch of moss and algae of some kind. The construction sounds were louder now. I could imagine the familiar smells coming from the building above us. “It’s louder now. It’s definitely construction. Why did we stop?” A distant howl punctuated Gunnar’s question.

“You’re right. It does sound like construction. In fact, if I had to guess I would say we are directly underneath Plato’s Cave.” I reached into a pocket and nonchalantly withdrew an old school iron key.

Gunnar muttered a curse. “This was your intention. You had this planned. No way we accidentally ended up underneath your bookstore.” I smiled and shrugged innocently as I took a step forward and used the key to open the door to my hidey-hole.

Indie held up a hand, stalling Gunnar’s impatience. “I got this. I speak Nate.” She didn’t try to hide her words. She turned to me, face deadpan. “Oh, Nate. You’re so witty and clever. Why did you take us to your oh-so-secret underground lair? No, please, tell us. We can’t take the suspense.” She said voice monotone and dripping with sarcasm.

I scowled, and she winked, cracking a smile as she lifted her hands in a bow as if to tell Gunnar,
See
? She took all the fun out of it. I turned my back on them to address the door.

“No, really. Why are we here?” Indie asked seriously this time, peering over my shoulder with an affectionate squeeze as I struggled with the rusted lock on the door. I began to answer with the prearranged, carefully-crafted lie on the tip of my tongue, but then I had a thought. Thanks to the sprite, I now had a justifiable excuse for wanting to stop by here. I didn’t need to lie to cover the truth from her.

“I have a small vault down here as a precaution against the bookstore ever being robbed. I keep several things down here. The books the Grimms want are here. Lucky us, right?”

Gunnar studied me suspiciously, but didn’t speak the question on his mind. If the sprite’s visit was unplanned, why had I coincidentally known how to get to this place so quickly on a convenient vampire-hunting trip? I shrugged at him with a smile, silently urging him to drop it.

I finally wrestled the door open to loud screeching, which made me shiver.

The wolves had to have heard
that
.

I strode over to the hidden safe, the room comfortably illuminated by the sprite’s presence on my shoulder. Several bookshelves lined two walls of the small storage room, filled with important looking books, but they were just a front. I plucked a seemingly random loose brick free from the far wall to reveal a digital safe keypad. I heard grunts of surprise behind me but ignored them as I punched in the code. It beeped once, and a three-foot section of the brick wall swung silently towards me on well-oiled hinges, but the brick affixed to the small safe’s door scratched the floor loudly. It had to be a tight fit to remain hidden, so there was nothing to do about it or else it would have been pretty obvious that it wasn’t part of the wall.

I reached inside and plucked two books wrapped in silk from a jumble of random items. I also palmed a loose sapphire ring, glittering with a collection of tiny loose diamonds around its antique edges. The sprite – the only one close enough to see my hands and the contents of the vault – frowned at that, turning her gaze to the side of my face to regard me thoughtfully. I was too close to her physically to return the gesture so I merely pocketed the ring and lifted a finger to my lips, requesting her silence.

“Um, Nate? They’re onto us. Did you get the books yet? If not, maybe we should come back later.” Gunnar asked from out in the tunnel, speaking over his shoulder as he kept an eye out for us. Growling could be heard in the near distance, picking up on the sound of his voice and probably our scent too. They were close.

“Yes, I’ve got them.” I tucked the books into my other coat pocket and shut the vault, carefully replacing the loose brick. The two books weren’t particularly large, more journals than anything. Indie stepped closer to me, but hadn’t seen the ring, thank god. It had belonged to my mother and I was going to use it when I proposed to her.

The growling suddenly ceased and I turned to find five figures facing Gunnar beyond the doorway.

“Wow, did I shake a bag of puppy chow or something?” I asked loud enough for everyone to hear as I stepped out of the room.

The leader stepped forward with a snarl. “Does he have it?” He asked one of his compatriots, staring past Gunnar and directly at me. He was a large specimen of a man, and sported a thick black beard that just touched his chest. They were dressed in casual clothes, grays and blacks, loose fitting, and unremarkable. They all wore heavy hiking or combat boots, as if they had known they would be down here tonight. Which told me this wasn’t a coincidence. The vampires had also been prepared for wolves. Blackbeard’s eyes glittered expectantly in the darkness as he watched me.

One of the other wolves – a leaner, whip-thin scrapper, by the looks of it – took a deep whiff and nodded. “Yes. But he said nothing of the Maker being present. In fact, we are to avoid the Maker at all costs. Punishable by death.” Scrappy warned Blackbeard.

I was more startled to discover that yet another flavor of Freaks knew about my new powers, but I didn’t have time to ask about it. Things escalated rather quickly.

“I know what our fucking orders were, pup!” Blackbeard bellowed as he backhanded the lean wolf without taking his gaze from me, sending the skinny werewolf into the wall with a hard thud. The other wolves shifted their shoulders reflexively but didn’t avert their gaze from our party. They were all different flavors of Hard Ass.
Blackbeard, shorty, rhino, Arian, and scrappy
, I silently nicknamed them in my head.

“Orders. Taking commands.” I waved my hands to enunciate. “Wanting something of mine while tucking your tails between your legs in order to avoid a confrontation with me.” I spoke softly but clearly. Gunnar grunted in agreement.

Indie piped up. “Gunnar, didn’t you tell me werewolves were brave and honorable?”

He nodded. “I had thought so, but we’re just people. Some good,” he studied them each with a glare, “Some who shouldn’t be let off their leashes.” He yawned. Indie looked thoughtful, idly tapping a lip.

I nodded. “Not very impressive at all. In fact, you’re boring me. Getting on my nerves, even. If you want to scrap, shed your human skin and let your fur fly, pups. We’ll oblige. If not, Daddy’s got important things to do. So,
shoo
.” I flicked a dismissive hand.

Indie cocked her guns in the silence. Mr. Arian took a step forward. “Our orders were not to kill you. I can handle that.” He took another step.

Gunnar growled, fists shifting into long black claws sheathed in thick white fur. “One more step and you’re a sack of meat.” He warned, looking resolved but distantly sickened at the potential for upcoming murder. The wolf snickered in doubtful reproach and took another step.

Before his foot touched the ground, Gunnar shifted entirely to wolf form in an explosion of tattered fabric. All I saw in the dull illumination was the Arian looking man standing upright with his throat ripped out. Gunnar stood in his impressive wolf form, muscles bristling, on the other side of the pack, but still between the thieves and us. He growled a warning. The other wolves responded with menacing growls of their own.

Then the body thudded into the water.

Two of the others, Rhino and Shorty, instantly threw themselves forward and Indie’s pistols
boomed
, sending Shorty back into the darkness with a cry. The other sailed right past Gunnar and Indie, straight for me. Of course it was the bigger one, Rhino. I was fueled with plenty of rage at the moment, having anticipated a much calmer walk in the sewers than it had ended up being. The wolf’s outstretched arms had been aimed at my feet, but since I had dropped to my knees, his fingertips managed to instead hit my side before time seemed to freeze. He was reaching for the books, but his hand got caught in the wrong pocket. The force of the burly werewolf’s attack would have folded most people or slammed them to the ground. But I’m a wizard, and I had let him get close enough to touch me on purpose.

You may not know this, but wizards are dirty cheats.

I had needed him to make physical contact with me in order for me to add his momentum to my magic. My fingertips broke the surface of the frigid water. As time seemed to stand still, I exploded upwards, a single drop of frozen shit water resting in the air before my face. My sudden motion caused his hand to tear open the pocket of my coat, but luckily the books were in my other pocket. I flicked my finger and the wolf was abruptly engulfed in a vortex of icy, stinky water. I used the rotating momentum to cast him straight back the way he had come. The explosion of frosty air hit the tunnels like a snow blower, coating the walls and ground in icy hoarfrost, a shining surface that was as slick as quicksilver. The wolf hit it.

And kept right on going at warp speed, right past Blackbeard and the others, fueled by the maelstrom of my magic.

He disappeared from sight and slid down the tunnel quite a ways before the chill began to wear off and the friction increased, hopefully giving him one serious rug burn. I heard a final yelp and then a crumple as he struck a wall that was no longer slick, well out of sight.

I brushed off my hands and turned to the remaining wolves. Only Blackbeard and Scrappy remained in sight, looking startled. “Stomach shots. It won’t kill him, but it will slow him down.” Indie spoke clinically, thrusting her jaw at Shorty’s groaning body.

Blackbeard growled menacingly and turned to Gunnar. “You will pay for that, rogue. Every wolf needs a pack. It’s time you learned your place. The night is dangerous for a lone wolf.”

Gunnar responded by shifting back to his human form. He stood from the ground, looking like a Viking from Norse legends, blood dripping from his mouth. The sprite murmured appreciatively.

He only smiled. “I’ll take my chances.” His pecs glistened with the victorious sweat of a Roman Gladiator.

Either that or icy shit water.

But that kind of killed the sexy factor.

Blackbeard’s eyes were murderous. “Gather the wounded. This wasn’t as we were told it would be. No one else needs to die.” He assessed Gunnar hungrily. “Tonight.” He promised.

Then they were gone. Well, except for the dead werewolf. I looked at Barbie and then at the body. She rolled her eyes at me and he was suddenly gone. Disappeared or destroyed, I shivered to think about. Indie gasped too, and Barbie smiled darkly, licking her lips. I turned away from her. I had plenty of nightmare material already.

A few moments went by before Gunnar confirmed. “They’re gone.”

“Well,” I sighed, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m exhausted from kicking ass all night. Let’s head back. Gunnar, you’re on point. Indie, in the middle. Barbie, watch our six.”

“Oh, I’ll definitely be watching
his
six.” She pointed bluntly at Gunnar’s prominent nakedness. He blushed. Indie burst out laughing.


Professionalism
…” I muttered, shaking my head as they began to follow me. I idly patted my pockets as we moved, my mind struggling to decipher why the sewers had been such a happening place tonight. And the coincidence that Achilles had sent us here, this night of all nights. Then I blinked, slowing my steps. I patted my pocket again more frantically as another second ticked by, feeling only the torn fabric hanging free. I halted, checking my other pocket now, turning it inside out.

I growled a curse as I came up empty handed. “Son of a bitch!”

The ring.

I searched the ground like a madman, scraping the puddles, ignoring everyone’s incredulous faces and questions about what I was doing. I even cast out a bit of my new power, searching with magic for any traces of a small metal object under the filth, but I found nothing but a dented soda can. It was no use.

It was gone.

Rhino must have managed to swipe it when his hands got stuck in my pocket, tearing open the fabric.

I growled darkly as I climbed to my feet, glaring murder at the direction of the retreating werewolves.

Things can always get worse.

Chapter 4

W
e sat in my BMW X5, Gunnar behind the driver’s wheel and Indie in the passenger seat as we headed back to
Chateau Falco
. Gunnar had thrown on some loose sweats and a tee that he always carried around with him in case of needing to re-clothe after a shift. I had also changed into an old gym outfit buried in my trunk, but still stunk to high heaven. Barbie had stuck by our side and was now hovering beside me in the backseat, looking pleasantly naked. I turned my head in embarrassment, which elicited a small smile from her silver lips.

Having survived the night, I was ready for a drink and a long massage, especially after Indie’s very obvious innuendos on our way back to the vehicle. It seemed the sprite’s magic had definitely lit a match in her that I wanted to explore. I cleared my head with a gentle slap to my cheeks.

Later. Business first. Beneath the more life-threatening situation, all I could think about was the lost ring. Had Rhino managed to nab it before I sent him on his icy waterslide? It seemed unlikely, but the bottom line was that I had assumed I was quicker than the lycanthrope gene, and now the ring was gone. I was confident it hadn’t fallen into the muck. I had silently tested the tunnel with magic to no avail. I shook my head. I would just have to ask Rhino about it before my dinner date with Indie in a few days.

He and his pack weren’t likely to want to see me.

I wasn’t likely to be too concerned about that. I would just have to ask nicely.

Also known as
walking loudly and swinging a big stick
.

“So… the Grimms,” I began, desperately needing to distract myself with something other than the ring. Barbie watched me hungrily as if waiting for me to finally tear off my clothes and submit to her allure. Dark sex may be appealing to some, but that was taking it to a whole different level. I shivered at the thought. “I take it that they aren’t too happy with me?” In hindsight, it was a good reason I was down in the sewers tonight. It hadn’t been my intention, but it seemed awfully coincidental that things had gone to hell the very night I had decided to make a trip to my previously secret vault for personal reasons.