Chapter 21: The Nor-Witch

Howling laughter erupted from the werewolves sitting at the wooden tables outside the barbeque restaurant. They all went quiet, turning to look at me in unison as I approached the entrance. 

“Hey new guy,” a smaller black werewolf called out to me as I reached for the door handle. “Wanna come sit with us?”

“I’d love to, but I have some hungry guys at home,” I called back. They seemed very welcoming, their ears up and tail wagging. It was an enormous difference from the city where most werewolves were so shifty. “Maybe next time.” 

“We’ll hold you to it,” said a larger gray one sitting across from the black. “You should bring the pack with you next time.”

“I will,” I said before pulling the door open and stepping inside the warm restaurant. Austin and I sat outside at a far table last time, so we didn’t actually go into the place. It was such a strange atmosphere for this type of establishment. Barbeque usually meant open, well-lit foyers and dining areas lined with wooden seats and western décor, but this was the opposite in every way imaginable. 

They leaned in hard on the whole ‘Halloween Town’ theme with cast iron pentagram candle holders lining the walls of the entryway. All the windows were covered with thick black drapes, and the walls were painted blood red, with fake cobwebs lined along the corners—at least I assumed they were fake. 

The food smelled amazing, and a woman greeted me as I walked through the foyer, the candle light too dim to see her face clearly. 

“Well look who it is.” The low and seductive way she spoke gave her voice a cat-like purr. She wore a black gown so long it hid her feet, and her upper body didn’t move as if she were floating across the floor toward me. The alabaster makeup was perfectly contoured, giving her slender cheeks more depth, and it all popped with her ruby lipstick, long lashes and black eyeliner. The woman was stunningly beautiful, with her long, straight hair as dark as a raven’s feathers. She had a confidence in her posture that made her seem much older than she looked in that outfit. “It’s nice to see you again, gorgeous.”

Her flattery made me blush. “Have we met?”

“Briefly.” With both hands, she traced the backs of her slender fingers along my cheeks before combing my thick sideburns with her nails. Her touch made me freeze. “I bought you a drink the other night.”

She leaned in and kissed me on the forehead. Her lips were like ice, but left behind a strange warmth before she pulled away and glided back to the counter. The concept of personal space seemed almost offensive to her, like she owned everything and everyone that walked through the door.

“Sorry, I don’t remember. There were a lot of people trying to buy me drinks that night.” She must have been one of the women I thought was flirting with me, and with her obvious boundary issues, I made the right call in rejecting the drink she ordered. “I hope I didn’t seem rude.”

“You were direct,” she said with a sharp smile that sliced a bloody gash through the flickering darkness of the room. “Your friend seemed rude to you though.”

“You picked up on that?” I asked, grabbing a plastic menu from a large, fake skull shaped like a bowl. “I had a bad night.”

“Well, let me make this evening more pleasurable,” she said, leaning over the counter, purposely letting her cleavage heave forward. “And by that, I mean the food is on the house.”

“For real?”

“It’s my way of welcoming your pack to our town.” Her stare ravaged me the longer I stood there. 

“You won’t get in trouble, will you?” I held up the menu and started reading, but she pulled it down and wagged her finger.

“Why would I? I own this place, and I like the company that frequents here. You’ll get the howler’s special feast, and when it’s done, I’ll have our driver deliver it.”

“Oh—okay.” I backed away from her toward the door. 

“I’ll have him deliver you, too.” She waved me through the lobby toward a corner booth in the back with two lit candles and two glasses of ice water on the table. There wasn’t another soul in the dining area, as if she were expecting only me. “Make yourself comfortable while you wait. I can bring some appetizers.”

There was this tight feeling in my guts as I followed. The surrounding air turned thick, and it was hard to catch my breath the deeper into the darkness we went. It was like being lured into a black widow’s web. 

As if by instinct, I stopped and backed away. The intensity of the fear was primal; it was the werewolf side of me screaming in terror. What could be so frightening enough to scare a monster?

“Who are you?”

“Willa,” she said, her sanguine lips pulling upward into a wicked smile, “Mosavi.”

“Shit,” I whispered, taking a shaky step backward, but it was like walking through tar. So she was his wife, and this effect on my body must have been some kind of magic. After what I’d been through, it was the only logical conclusion.

She huffed and rolled her eyes, grabbing my arm.

“Oh come on.” She pulled me along and pointed to the booth. “The food will be done in about twenty minutes. I just want to talk.”

“We have nothing to discuss.” 

Her flirtatious attitude simmered as she slid into the booth, pointing to the other seat across from her. 

“I told him to leave you alone.” She lifted a glass of water to her mouth and sucked it through the plastic straw, leaving a thin film of red lipstick behind. “I won’t force you to stay, but I would like to talk about what happened.”

“What happened is your husband is a sick fucking freak!”

Her eyes rolled back, and she wet her lips. “I know.”

“I didn’t mean it in a good way,” I hissed through my teeth, reluctantly sliding into the seat across from her.

“That makes it even more arousing. I heard you were really into it.”

“If you can call being a sadistic bastard’s sex slave really into it.”

She smiled again. 

“Ugh. Never mind,” I muttered. “I guess since you’re here, you can answer some questions.”

“I often have the answers.” She sat the glass back on the table, stirring the ice cubes meticulously with her sharp, manicured finger before sucking the water away with a gentle kiss. 

“Are you just in a constant state of being horny?” I asked. “I guess I can see why you’re married to him.”

She let out a quiet chuckle. “Most of the werewolves in town love being taken by my Darius.”

This was terrifying, and not just because she was Mosavi’s wife. She had this suffocating aura about here that made me think back to what that feral mentioned earlier.  

“Are you a witch?”

She sat up straighter in the booth seat, seemingly uneasy with my observation. “What a dreadful question.”

“Well, I’ve heard some things.”

“I’m not a witch, Arthur.” 

Her response prompted me to let out a relieved sigh. 

“I am the witch. The Nor-witch.” The woman let out a shriek of maniacal laughter, weaving her fingers through the air like spindly wands. She then stopped and rolled her eyes before taking another sip of water. 

“You could have just told me no,” I said, relaxing my clenched fists under the booth, trying to come across as nonchalant to her act—which I totally fell for.

“Any other questions?” she asked. “Do you want to know where I store all the children I eat?”

“Ha ha. I’m gullible, okay?” Of all the personalities Mosavi’s wife could have had, this was actually not as terrible as I imagined. She almost seemed like a smart, female version of Simon in a way. “Why is your husband so interested in me?”

“That’s easy. Look at yourself,” she said, pulling an ornate compact mirror from a hidden pocket against her right breast. 

“I’m hot. We’ve established that.” 

“No, I mean, actually look at yourself,” she said more seriously, sliding the mirror across the table. “This is what Darius sees.”

I gave her a bit of side-eye and grabbed the mirror before unfolding it, giving my reflection a careful look.

“Is this supposed to be some cheesy lesson of self-confidence?” 

The image in the mirror rippled before going still again, and my irises took on a silver glow similar to Mosavi’s. My face morphed and broadened into someone older and much more masculine, but I could still tell it was me. I’d never looked so handsome, so refined. When I smiled, my sharp teeth glistened with an ivory sheen in the dancing glow of candlelight. 

The more I stared, the more wolf-like I became, my face now warping into a full lycanthropic visage. Gray streaks gave my neat mane a distinguished appearance, and I was massive. 

“What is this?” I asked, still enamored by the reflection. “Another one of Mosavi’s enchanted toys?”

“Your potential,” Willa said, pulling the mirror away. She snapped it shut and stuffed it back into her brassiere. “Normally, you’d be too old for this stage of lycanthropy, but you’re a special case.”

“It doesn’t make any sense.” I picked up my glass of water and took a sip. “This wasn’t supposed to be my life.”

She patted my hand. “You can’t change it, Arthur, so embrace what you are.”

“That’s easy for you to say. It doesn’t happen to women.”

“When you were looking at your future self in my mirror, what did you feel?” she asked, pulling her hand away. 

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not a hard question. Were you satisfied with what you saw?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Your life before this was boring, and you were a nobody living in a bare studio apartment living paycheck to paycheck. You didn’t even have enough money for food.”

“How the hell do you know this?”

She ignored my question.

“You want to be more than some boring human with little chance of succeeding in such a boring life. You want to be like my husband.” Though her words stung, she said them with such an understanding tone. “Darius seems like a cruel beast, but he’s more complex than that. He wants to protect you, but he also delights in depravity—a lingering side effect of his repressive religious upbringing.”

“Are you really trying to paint him as being a good person?”

Willa chuckled. “Do I look like the type of woman who marries a good person?”

“I don’t know what type of woman you are. I don’t even know why we’re talking.” I rubbed my forehead in frustration before going back to what she said earlier. “And what do you mean he’s trying to protect me?”

“Because you’re dangerous.”

I laughed at that. “I’m dangerous? Your husband assaulted me and my werewolves, and he’s using his position to threaten me.” 

“Trust me. Your very existence is dangerous. All elders still alive started out this way, but not all become alphas. If they do, they become the most potent and powerful creatures on this planet.” She reached for my hand and gently grazed her red painted fingernail over my skin. “Your presence attracts a lot of unwanted attention from those that crave the power you might possess, but it’s still too early to tell how you’ll end up.”

“Why does any of this matter to him?”

“It matters to both him and me, as we both have equal interest in your future.” She laughed and shook her head. “Now that I’ve met you, I know his usual methods of getting his way aren’t going to work. You’re too similar.”

I opened my mouth to protest again, but she cut me off.

“You want to be him, don’t you?”

“Hell no!” I snapped, but then looked away from her. “I mean, I’d like to be rich and handsome, but the other stuff—” 

“Makes him who he is,” Willa interrupted. “But his methods are driving you closer to the ones he’s trying to shield you from.” She paused and examined my face, which likely looked confused. “You don’t want to be caught by a witch.”

“Are witches evil or something?”

“No,” she said, her answer seeming finite until she went to speak again. “But they’re not exactly good either. They don’t bother humans because humans are worthless, but alpha werewolves…” Her eyes seemed to focus on me with an intensity that made me tremble. “They’re a source of immortality, power, and endless insatiable sex. It’s addictive.” 

A person from the kitchen staff poked his head out from behind one of the doors, nodding to Willa. 

She caught her breath and her countenance returned to normal. “Your food is done.” She slid out of the seat. “You’ll have leftovers for a few days.”

“You’ve never seen Simon eat,” I said, sliding out of the booth to follow her to the counter. “Why are werewolves all that to witches? What do they do to them?”

She stopped at the counter and gave me a nod. 

“That’s a lengthy conversation for another time.” Willa placed her dainty hand on my shoulder. “If you want to be a rich and successful leader, don’t fall in with the Whasha. And if you don’t want to end up a mindless husk, don’t chance an encounter with  witches.” She let go and walked the rest of the way behind the counter. “In other words, stay the hell out of the woods. Darius owns everyone he encounters, human or werewolf, but like I said earlier, you’re a special case. He knows he can’t control you like he can the others.”

“He did,” I said, rubbing the place on my finger where his ring used to be. “When he put the ring on me, I did whatever he told me to.”

“Really?” she asked, even though her expression seemed to know something more. “You think the ring did that?”

“I felt out of control the moment he put it on.”

She waved for me to come closer, so I took a few steps toward the counter and leaned in. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. Don’t tell Darius I told you.” 

“I’m listening.”

“Those trinkets do nothing but track your location. What you did the other night was all you, honey.”

“You’re lying. You weren’t even there.” 

The kitchen staff brought out bag after bag of food, setting them on the counter. There’s no way they could have prepared all of this in the short time I was here.

“You want something from me, don’t you?”

She said nothing for a moment, then looked up at me expectantly. 

“Why would you think that?”

I looked down at the full counter, the kitchen staff placing more bags on top of bags. 

“This is obviously some kind of bribe.”

“All I want is for you to come by again. I really want to get to know you better; plus, I know all of Darius’s weaknesses which you can use to get back at him.”

“Why in the world would you tell me any of that?”

“Well, someone’s got to knock him down a notch, and after watching you handle yourself the other night, I think you might be able to use his kinks against him.”

My eyes widened and my face grew hotter. “What do you mean you watched me?”

“Honey, it’s a jail. There are cameras everywhere.”

I stood still, bewildered as my mouth hung open. The driver stepped into the lobby, and the kitchen staff silently carried the food out to the car. Willa slid across the floor toward a darkened hallway before stopping to look back. 

“I’ll keep my husband away from you for now, but don’t go back into the woods again.”

Were there cameras out there, too?

She winked before disappearing into the shadows, her rose-scented perfume lingering in the air as the driver eagerly escorted me out of the restaurant. 

The four of us stood around a loaded table, the scent of mesquite and rubbing spices filling the house. Austin and Simon gawked at the buffet, drooling, while Adam turned to me with a suspicious squint. 

“Arthur Black,” he said with a sharp-toothed smirk. 


He slapped my ass hard. “I’ve done my share of favors for things, but there’s like a thousand dollars’ worth of meat here.”

“Wait a minute! I didn’t—” 

“Hell yeah,” Simon interrupted as he shifted through the paper bags. “If yer gettin’ fucked for this much free food, we gotta capitalize on it.”

“I am not—” I paused and shot him a disgusted stare. “Did you really suggest I whore myself out just so you can have free brisket?” 

Simon took in a deep sniff, closing his eyes. “Brisket’s soooo good.”

My look of disgust shifted quickly to something more threatening. 

“I’m just jokin’,” he said, nervously scratching his head. “I hid that briefcase after you left, so don’t get any funny ideas.”

“How did you get all this?” Austin asked, pulling out a chicken quarter before tossing it into his mouth, bone and all.

“Mosavi’s wife.” 

Simon and Austin froze, but Adam kept rummaging through the food. He was still in the dark about the encounter the other night, and there really hadn’t been a good time to fill him in. 

“Getting kind of chummy with the mayor, are we?” Adam said jokingly as he piled food onto his plate. The three of us remained stiff and silent, and the half-turn took notice. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Let’s eat,” I said, grabbing a paper plate.

“You three are keeping something from me.” He flashed his sharper teeth for a second before holding back. Perhaps our conversation earlier got to him. “If we’re all going to be this family, don’t treat me like I’m on the outside.”

“I’ll talk to him,” Austin said, with an unusually compassionate tone, “after dinner.” 

The werewolf’s dark, orange stare pierced me as he waited for my approval. I smiled at him and nodded, which prompted an immediate tail-wagging response. 

“How ‘bout you guys talk in the living room, and Art and I’ll eat in the bedroom,” Simon said, balancing a ridiculously high pile of food on his flimsy paper plate. 

“The food’s not going anywhere, Simon. You can always come back for more,” I said, handing him another plate to reinforce what he was carrying. “And we’re not eating this mess in my bed.”

“Didn’t say nothin’ about the bed.” He gave me a wide grin before padding toward the hallway. “I got a surprise fer ya.”

Simon’s surprises often worried me for good reason. I followed him into the bedroom, and the first thing I noticed was a curtain of hanging beads in the doorway followed by a musty smell, like cloth that had been left out in the rain and then left out in the sun…for a month. 

“What the hell did you do?” I asked, looking around the room, though most of my attention focused on an old loveseat pushed against our bedroom wall. It was a vintage dark brown, orange, and tawny flower pattern I hadn’t seen since childhood. The fabric was faded, and the cushions had a thin layer of what I assumed was either mildew or dirt. There were also slight tears along the tops and sides, like they had been clawed by a housecat. 

“Would you believe someone was just throwin’ this away?”

“Yes,” I muttered. “It’s disgusting. What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you keep bringing other peoples’ garbage into my house?”

“Try it out,” he said before pushing a loud switch on an old nineteen-inch CRT television that had been in our closet since we moved here. It sat atop the dresser with aluminum foil capped rabbit ear antennas that weren’t actually hooked to anything. They wouldn’t have worked anyway since the stations were digital now. Next to it lay an ugly faux wood-paneled VCR and a stack of VHS tapes with acid-stained labels marked with writing in faded blue ink. 

“This whole room needs to be doused in Febreze.” I looked at the boxy television and shook my head. “Why do you even still have this?”

“Cause it’s comfy,” he said, setting his plate of food down on one of the two foldable TV trays in front of the couch. 

It was like our bedroom had become a portal into the past, though I wasn’t exactly sure what decade. A red lava lamp bubbled away on our nightstand, and an Art Deco-styled three-tiered lamp with red, black, and green bulbs brightened the corner next to a few creased posters with tie-dye colors and peace signs. 

“I knew you had the TV, but where were you keeping this other crap?”

“The shed,” he said, smiling at me. “You don’t like it?”

“I hate it,” I muttered, setting my plate on the other TV table. “If you brought bugs and rats into this house—”

“Nah, I checked it all before bringing it in,” he said, popping one of the VHS tapes into the cassette player. “Just some roaches, but a few bugs ain’t gonna kill us.”

I froze and furrowed my brows. 

Simon’s ears folded downward. “I’ll get it clean tomorrow.”

The Last Starfighter theme song whined and warbled through the speaker as Simon adjusted the tracking, the faded, staticky picture of the standard definition screen clearing. 

“Ever see this?” he asked. 

“When I was a kid.” I hesitated to sit on the dirty sofa, but Simon plopped down and patted the pace next to him. 

“What day is it today?”

“Sunday,” I replied, checking the cushion thoroughly for any critters before sitting. “Why?”

“This’ll be our old movie night,” he said, squirting a packet of barbecue sauce onto a pile of pulled pork and brisket. 

As disgusting as was, this was oddly romantic. The mood was enticing and comfortable sitting so close to him, eating while watching a movie. Simon was right; there was something to all this. Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe it was nice to look at something other than cold lighting on bare walls. 

The opening credits of the movie faded, and I stared at Simon while he chewed and watched. He was genuinely happy at that moment, and he caught me staring from the corner of his eye. 

“I promise I’ll clean it tomorrow,” he said, turning to me, his lips coated in grease and sauce. 

“This was really sweet,” I said, leaning against him while biting down on a forkful of shredded meat. 

The tip of Simon’s tail thudded into the space between us as he leaned in and kissed my cheek, leaving behind a thick, sticky mark. 

After the movie, I got up and collected our trash before heading into the dining room to put away the leftovers. Austin was sitting alone on the living room sofa, blankly staring at the television.

“Where’s Adam?” I asked. 

“The backyard,” he grunted, changing the channel. 

“Did you talk to him?”


It was like pulling teeth to get him to converse sometimes. 


Austin shrugged. “And…he went outside. What else do you want me to say?”

I chewed on my lower lip and headed into the kitchen to throw the garbage away before sprinting to the back door. Adam was already in a very temperamental state, but I wondered if Austin managed to push a little too far. If they had fought, Simon and I would have heard them from the bedroom, but there was nothing but calm throughout the night. 

The back door creaked open, and I stepped out into the cool, smokey air, Adam sitting next to the lit fire pit, poking the flames with a stick. 

“Oh no,” I said, sitting next to him. “Are you angry with me?”

“Huh?” he looked up at me, tilting his head. 

“Nevermind. I thought you were upset.”

“No,” he replied. “It’s a pretty night, and I wanted to make a fire.”


“Austin said he’d come out, but he never did.” He shifted one of the flaming logs, letting it fall against another one, sending tiny orange embers fluttering through the air before they disappeared into the blackness. “I wish I could make him do stuff, like you can. Maybe I can convince Mosavi to let me in on the secret.”

“So Austin did tell you.”

“Kind of. He wasn’t really making much sense, but apparently, you’re pretty rough.” He flashed me a lascivious glance. “I’d have never pictured that when I first met you, but you’ve changed lately.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re just…different; I can’t explain it. It’s like you’re so confident that Simon and Austin do anything you say, and I have to beg for anyone’s attention.” He looked back up at me, and while he smiled, his eyes shimmered with tears he held back. “It’s like you’re the one sucking away all the air in the room, and you’re not even trying.”

I wanted to reply, but instead, I stared at the fire. 

“Just say what you want,” Adam snapped. “I already think I know.”

“I don’t think you do, and that’s my fault. I’ve been trying to push you guys closer together so that you both don’t move away after you turn.”

The furry half-turn’s face softened in the flickering glow. 

“You want us to stay? I thought you couldn’t wait to get us out of your hair, especially since I put you in an impossible situation without talking to you first.” He muttered the words, mocking my tone from earlier, when I was berating him.

“I still stand by that, but I love having both of you here. You guys are my family, and while it can be annoying at times, I don’t want our family to break apart.”

“Then teach me,” Adam replied, his irises glowing an intense dark orange. 

“Teach you what?”

“If you don’t want Austin and me to leave each other, then teach me what you did to get him to listen to you. Derrek knows, too, but he didn’t tell me everything. He said I’d never be alpha material, and that it was stupid of me to try. He apologized when I went with Simon to visit him, but I still think about it, and it pisses me off.”

“He probably told you that because that’s not how a healthy relationship works.”

“And you think it’s healthy now?”

I sighed. “Adam, I don’t understand what I did. Mosavi never explained it, and I don’t think he will. I think his wife knows, though.”

“Perfect,” he said, shooting up from the lawn chair. “Can you take me to her tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, Adam. This is not exactly giving me good feelings.”

“Then I’m gone once I shift and the kuu breaks. There are a lot of werewolves out there that would love to have me—”

“As a half-turn, yes. Do you think you’ll have the same luck as a full werewolf?”

“Are you saying that werewolves aren’t interested in other werewolves?” He crossed his arms. “Because that’s bullshit.”

“I’m saying, I don’t know if you’re going to have the same mass appeal you do now. I don’t know enough about any of this, but I do know that turning Austin into a mindless thrall isn’t going to make either of you happy.”

“He sure seems happy when he’s obeying you.”

“I don’t understand that either. Is he really happy, or is that just some fucked-up side effect? It supposedly wears off after a while, too. So it’s not even a permanent thing, and when it does wear off, I’m not doing it again. Austin’s got a lot of problems.” I shook my head. “I can’t force him to open up to you. He’s gotta make that choice, and he’ll only do it if he feels comfortable talking to you.”

“So he feels more comfortable talking to you,” Adam muttered. “He tells you stuff he won’t tell me, and you want us to be together? I find that hard to believe.”

“You know why he tells me stuff? Because when he’s a hysterical mess, I don’t tell him to stop bumming me out. I listen to him.”

“Are you saying this is my fault?”

“Yes,” I snapped. “You don’t know how to listen to people, you just want people to listen to you. It’s the whole reason you want me to teach you a shortcut. You don’t want to work on a relationship, you just want someone you can talk at while they do anything you tell them. Grow up, Adam.”

His eyes flashed. “How dare you.”

“If you want to leave, I won’t stop you, but I’m also not going to teach you how to fuck up Austin even more than he already is.”

Adam didn’t respond. His glare didn’t leave me as he stormed over to the back door, nearly yanking it off its hinges as he disappeared inside, slamming it behind him. 

I sat back down on the lawn chair and slumped forward, staring at the fire. It was time to stop playing counselor. They didn’t want to be together, but I had been so invested in making their relationship work. That was selfish. I wanted a family so badly that I was willing to throw what was essentially a cat and dog into a small box, expecting them to learn to be friends. 

I wouldn’t be able to change Adam’s mind, but I wasn’t going to give up on Austin. He was so close to recovery, but I still had a lot of work ahead—especially once Adam made the shift.

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One thought on “Chapter 21: The Nor-Witch

  1. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck this chapter was so good.
    First, it’s great that Art is trying to make Adam be and do better with Austin and it’s also a relief that what happened to Austin that night in chapter 17 will were off soon.
    Second, it’s good to know Darius Mosavi will get a taste of his own medicine soon.
    Third, cool that Art may have Alpha potential. Bet Simon would love to take advantage of that in bed~ lol. And forth, Willa Mosavi seems rather interesting. Would love to see more of her. Love this chapter loads, Aeron. Things my favorite novel you’ve ever done. Look forward to much more.


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