Chapter 24: The Vision

I awoke much earlier than usual, the blue digital display of the VCR flashing two thirty in the morning, which meant it was two hours later since no one in the house actually knew how to set the clock. Sleep had mostly eluded me, and I lay next to a contentedly snoring Simon while staring at the psychedelic posters he’d crookedly stuck to the walls with mounting putty. The black light on the other side of the room gave everything this hippie-nightclub vibe that was really starting to grow on me. 

There was little fear of waking Simon, so I threw off the covers and scooted toward the end of the bed. The sheets and mattress had the werewolf’s signature unbathed stink, but I grew weary of harping on him about it. Even Derrek, as clean as he was from swimming in the ocean all day, had a rather interesting funk to him when we stayed in his little beach house—it was actually similar in some ways to Mosavi. That kind of smell was just something that wouldn’t wash off, but with Simon, it was always worse to my human nose. 

When the smell came directly from the source, it didn’t seem to bother me that much, but when it rubbed off onto fabric, it was awful. Simon’s hoodie was almost back to its original state, and I couldn’t get near him when he had it on. Adam didn’t seem to mind at all; in fact, I’d catch him sniffing that ragged orange thing after Simon would put it on the coat rack. Since he was so close to turning, he probably had a much different sense of smell than I did. 

The floorboards made their usual light creaking sounds as I tiptoed through the hall, stopping at Adam and Austin’s bedroom door, which was open. Adam was sprawled out on the bed, having been fucked into exhaustion by a sound-asleep Austin lying next to him. The entire room was thick with werewolf semen, which also had a very potent and unusual smell. 

Why was I so hyper-focused on the way everything smelled this morning?

I gently closed the door so I wouldn’t wake them, and I walked into the kitchen to begin my usual routine of making a pot of coffee. I was going to need a mega dose of caffeine for what I was about to do today. After four large scoops of cheap, ground java landed into the filter, I filled up the chamber with water and yawned. While scrolling through my phone, I made my way into the dining room and plopped down on a chair.

Willa had texted me her number, and I didn’t even find it strange that I hadn’t given her my information. Why would it? They knew everything about each of us. I finally set the number as a contact and laid the phone off to the side while staring into the darkened living room, lit only by a nightlight from the hall and the subdued glow of the light over the stove in the kitchen. Between Austin and me, we somehow managed to make this dump a home. 

Our room was Simon’s domain, and while his taste clashed with the rest of the house, there was a comfort to it that I enjoyed. Not only that, his mood had changed. He seemed relieved, like he’d finally found his permanent nest after so many years of living on the streets. Even though the room was ours, it was his little den, and I loved it—mostly because I loved sitting next to him on that couch, every so often staring up at his grin and bright eyes as he watched his old movies with his arm around me. 

It was hard to imagine not wanting this to happen months ago—that I’d fall in love with someone who begged me for spare change. Simon wasn’t going away anytime soon, at least not while I was half-turn.

Then there was Adam. Austin fell into his role in the pack, but Adam was a wild card. With the way we clashed, he felt more like an annoying little brother than a friend—and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’d grown on me, too, but this was temporary for him. I could tell by the way he talked, the way he never cared to make our house a home. This was all transitory. A means to an end before the change. 

I dozed off right as the coffee maker beeped, startling me back awake. Before grabbing a cup, I opened the living room window, letting in the crispness of autumn as it mixed with the rich brew from the kitchen. If anything, the cold air and coffee would keep me awake. 

Sitting back down with a full mug, I grabbed the phone as it vibrated once against the table.

what r u doing up?

I guess I hadn’t been as quiet as I thought I was, but I also wasn’t the only one not able to get a full night’s sleep. 

Coffee. Want some?

There was a five-minute lull between that last message and the door to Adam’s bedroom slowly squealing open. The half-turn stepped into the hall and closed the door before limping to the kitchen. 

“Rough night?” I asked, talking over his loud rummaging through the cabinet. 

Adam grunted in response. Several spoonfuls of sugar and creamer later, he slowly made his way to the dining room table, spilling some of it on the floor. 

“We’re gonna get ants,” I muttered as he sat across from me. 

“I’ll clean it later,” he said, taking a sip that was likely lukewarm since half the cup was sugar. 

“Are you okay?”

“I guess.” He took another sip before setting his mug on the table. “I just want this to be over with.”

“The transformation?” That question prompted an immediate look of annoyance. “Are you still in pain?”

“No. Just tired of being like this. I want to be bigger and stronger, and I want to be the one to tell Austin what to do.”

“You can still—” 

“You know what I mean,” he snapped. “I want whatever you have.”

“Why are you so hung up on this?”

Adam’s sharper, white canines slipped from behind his upper lip as he put the mug up to his mouth again. 

“I need to get help for Austin. That’s why I’m visiting the mayor today. I haven’t been able to sleep right lately because of this.” He still didn’t respond, so I softened my tone a little more. “I just want to help.”

“By stealing my kuu mate?”

“I’m not stealing him.”

“Yes you are!” Adam scooted back from the table and folded his arms. “You might not have done it intentionally, but you did it.” He looked down at his hands. “I was going to leave him the moment I changed, but now I can’t.”

“What do you mean, you can’t?”

“Exactly what I said, Art. He’s gotten softer, and he’s all I think about lately. I’m scared of being alone.”

“You’re never going to be alone, Adam. Just because you turn doesn’t mean you have to leave here. I don’t want you to leave.”

“That’s not what I mean.” He tugged at the choker around his neck. “I’m afraid that if Austin rejects me, I won’t be able to find anyone else. If I can’t give him what he wants, he’s not gonna stay with me.”

“Listen, I want you guys to stay together, but not like this. You shouldn’t want to be with him out of some obligation. If it doesn’t work, there are plenty of other werewolves and half-turns.”

“You’re not understanding this.”

“Then explain it. I don’t know what’s going on with you.”

He slammed his hand against the table, but stifled his voice. “I don’t know, either. I’ve never felt this before.” His eyes changed to a lighter color before dimming back to blood orange. “I have to stay with Austin.” His tone went from passion to an almost zombie-like resonance. “So I have to learn what you did, and if you and Derrek won’t teach it to me, I’ll learn it from someone else.”

“Derrek? What does he have to do with this?”

“He can do it, too. He hardly ever does, but I have seen him use it to break up fights. Before we moved, I tried to get him to teach it to me so I could punish Austin, but he gave me the same excuse you did. That it’s dangerous, and I’d just fuck it up.”

So Derrek was like Mosavi. I knew there was something familiar with the scent the mayor gave; it had the same nuance. 

“I’m going to fix this,” I said, standing away from the table. “You don’t want whatever this is. No one should have it, not even me, and I’m not using it anymore after you turn. When you become a werewolf, you’ll be big enough to give him commands and dominate him the way he wants. But that’s not going to work if you want the same thing.”

“I don’t,” he muttered. “I hate being small, and I hate being dominated.” The half-turn glared at me. “And I hate being treated like a child.” 

“I’m not treating you like a child.”

“You always do. Okay, so I’m not a sixty-year-old trapped in a twenty-two-year-old’s body. That doesn’t mean I’m some kind of teenager you can boss around.” 

I looked down at the floor. 

“If that’s the case, you’d have cleaned up your spill earlier.”

“It’s just driving you nuts, isn’t it?” Adam said with a smug grin. “I left it there to prove a point. You’re so uptight and anal about everything. The ants aren’t going to infest the house after a few minutes, Art.”

“That doesn’t really make the case you think it does. You never help out more around the house, and you keep asking me to teach you how to brainwash Austin. I apologized for what I said last time, but you also need to think about these things. You’re so quick to act on emotion that you could end up really hurting someone, especially when you turn into a full werewolf.”

Adam’s face got angrier as he stood up from the chair.

“I’m not saying this to piss you off. Don’t you see the issue here?” I asked, standing up to place a hand on his shoulder. 

“The issue is that my kuu mate can’t even touch me without you telling him to. That’s the problem.” He pulled away from me. “Ever since I went with Simon to return that truck, Austin changed. He went from taking his anger out on me to treating me with total indifference, and I don’t know what’s worse.”

“Is he still treating you that way?”

“Only because you told him not to.”

“The only thing I tell him to do is what you do in the bedroom. How he treats you outside of that is him trying to fix what he broke.”

His features softened again. “You’re not lying to me about this, are you?”

“Why would I ever do that?”

“Because none of my friends ever do anything nice for me without stabbing me in the back.” He took a deep breath and looked out the open living room window as dawn was beginning to break. “Every time I’ve ever had real friends, they never actually cared about me. They just used me because my family had money. When I started to go half-turn, and I left home, I realized how it all really worked. All those people I thought I was tight with didn’t care anymore.”

“And you think I’m like that?”

“Why not? I meet you in a café and then I find out my auntie’s giving you a job. I have one of the hottest werewolves for a kuu mate, and he treats you like a damn prince. Even Derrek wouldn’t shut up about you when I went back to visit him. That night at the bar? Everyone kept coming up to you, and you didn’t even want their attention. I had to keep working the place, and I still didn’t have fun.” He looked back at me. “So yeah, forgive me if I’m a little suspicious of your motives.”

“That night at the bar, all I wanted was to spend time with you.” He looked away again. “I wanted us to talk and get closer, but I guess now I know why you kept avoiding me. You’re trying too hard for all the wrong reasons. Derrek and I had common ground with Simon, so we became friends. And the thing with your aunt was pure coincidence.” I let out a chuckle. “I’m not even going to take that job, anyway. It’s pointless now.”

“I’m just tired of being used and thrown away,” Adam said. “I try so hard to get attention because Austin sure as hell isn’t doing that much these days—aside from lately.”

I held out my arms, and Adam smiled before walking forward for a hug. “Well, I’m not going to do that to you, and Austin’s really trying.” For the first time in a while, it felt like things were moving the right way. This could have turned into another big argument, but thankfully, it hadn’t. “We just have to get through this rough patch. To be honest, I can’t wait to see what you’re gonna look like as a werewolf.”

He pulled away. “You think I’ll be a hot one?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said, as Adam walked into the kitchen to dampen a paper towel. “What are you doing?”

“Cleaning up my mess.”

The conversation with Adam earlier put me in a more positive mood, but I still took my time walking downtown. Being around Mosavi gave me the creeps, but he was the only one who could really help us—or make things worse. I was about to find out either way. 

Willa’s barbeque restaurant stood empty this early in the morning, and most of the werewolves in town were likely still asleep or working. I never really took the time to learn what they all did here. Obviously, they weren’t all police officers, and I never saw werewolves at the small-town fire station. They didn’t seem the type to work office jobs, but I did see a lot of farms on the opposite side of town, away from the forested areas. If there was one thing everyone wanted a werewolf for, it was menial labor. 

Perhaps when I turned, that would be the only thing anyone would ever hire me for. What a dreadful thought. Then again, if I took that path Mosavi laid out for me, it could be a life of wealth and prestige. How did he get his wealth? Was it even his, or did his symbiosis with a witch have anything to do with it?

As I passed the building, an unusual gust of wind hit me from the front before dying back down. When I took a few more steps, a dainty hand fell to my shoulder, causing me to jump and let out the most embarrassing yelp. 

“Jesus Christ,” I whispered, holding my chest before turning toward a smiling pale woman wearing a maroon gown instead of black this time. “Don’t do that.”

“You’re so adorable,” Willa said, taking me by the hand. “Did you come by to see me?”

“Your husband,” I muttered. 


“Not for that reason.”

“No one ever visits my husband for much of anything else,” she said. “He’s very good at what he does.”

“Shouldn’t he be running the town instead of fucking everyone?”

“People multitask, Arthur,” she said, dragging me closer to the restaurant. “Come. Stay with me for a while.”

“I really need to talk to Mosavi.”

“About Austin?”

I stopped and stared at her, not entirely surprised that she already knew. 

“Do you guys have cameras or something in our house? This is beyond creepy.”

“Of course not. We’re not that devious.” Willa led me into the restaurant, which was a lot brighter than last time. Red curtains had replaced the black fabric covering the windows, tucked to the sides to let light stream into the main dining hall. “Darius is going to be tied up for most of the day.” 

My shoulders slumped forward. “If he’s going to be in meetings all the time, why bother offering to give me advice?”

“Oh you misunderstand. He had to be punished for seeking you out yesterday after I told him not to.”

I tossed her a narrowed glance. 

“Oh, don’t look at me like that. He loves it when I demoralize him.”

“That…doesn’t sound like Mosavi at all.”

“Once you get to know him better, you’ll see beyond that alpha male veneer, and you may even find some common ground with him.”

“I doubt that,” I said, sliding into the same booth as last time, her sliding in on the opposite side. “What do you know about Austin?”

“What you did to him was something he needed,” Willa said with a more comforting expression. “Some werewolves rely on it to work through past trauma. I don’t know what your friend has been through in life, but when I saw him on camera that night, I could see an all-too-familiar dark aura. The moment you did what you did, it vanished.” 

“I can’t do this for the rest of his life.” 

“And you won’t need to. Think of this as a form of therapy that only works on werewolves. When you give him commands and use the…” she became almost breathless as she licked her lips, “potent magic that flows within you, it rips away the scar and allows him to heal the way he should have from the start.”

“So this is normal?”

“Is it normal for a half-turn to possess this ability? Not at all. But this is a normal technique all leaders can do for their pack. You may not understand how you’re doing it, but you don’t need to.” She let out light laughter. “This is going to sound really cheesy, but as long as you’re doing this out of a place of compassion and not control, he’ll get better, and one day he won’t need it anymore.”

My body actually felt lighter as I took in her comforting words. 

“So I’m not screwing him up more?”

“Hardly,” she replied, shaking her head. “I think I may have been wrong in our meeting last time.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re nothing like my Darius.” 

“You sound disappointed.” I waited for her to respond, but she just sat there with an almost motherly smile. If expressions could be out of character, that would have been it. “What?”

“You came seeking his guidance, but I think he may come seeking yours one day.”

“Now you’re being ridiculous.” Her eyes seemed to shimmer as she gazed into mine, and I needed to ask her something that had me concerned upon our first meeting. “Why are you interested in me?

“Why do you think?”

“Your husband told me about the reason we exist, and that you’re a witch. Why should I trust you?”

“You shouldn’t,” she said without hesitation. “You shouldn’t trust any witch. I didn’t save Darius all those years ago out of love. I wanted a constant source of power at my fingertips, and with him, I would never go hungry again.” 

“If I shouldn’t trust you, why am I here?”

“Do you often put your trust in people you just meet?” She asked.

“Well, no.”

“I say this because I know the hearts of witches in the woods. Since you arrived, they know what you possess. They feel it—they smell it. You being here even awakens something in me that has lain dormant for over a century.”

The uneasy feeling returned, and the softness of her face went rigid. 

“Why are you protecting the town from them? Are you doing this out of kindness or greed?” I asked, half knowing the answer.

“Because…” She let out a sigh, waving to one of the male kitchen staff peeking through the door. He gave her a nod and scurried to the back. “I fell in love.”

That wasn’t the answer I had expected after all. 

“I thought you said—” 

“That was then,” she interrupted. “When witches join a coven, we give up all weak emotions that would anger Asmodeus. Compassion, empathy, kindness—even love was forbidden, and we locked it all away with the vilest magic that was nearly impossible to reverse. Darius knew my intentions; he wasn’t a fool. At first, I thought the beast simply craved what his instincts desired, and being a witch, I wanted his essence.” She reached into her cleavage for the intricate, folded mirror before handing it to me.

“I don’t want to look at this again,” I said, handing it back to her, but she held up her hands. 

“Words are boring.” The waiter placed two cocktails in clear plastic cups on the table before hurrying away. “If you really want to know if you can trust me, that will say more than words will.”

I narrowed my eyes in suspicion before taking a sip of what tasted like sangria. 

“I don’t see how an enchanted mirror is going to make me trust you.”

She shrugged. “I’ll let you decide that. I want you to experience what I did on the first night Darius and I were together, and the events that happened years after.” 

I held up the mirror. “This can do that?”

“Honey, I’m a witch. If you think this is amazing, you should see my bedroom.” She looked over at the clock and back at me. “Which reminds me. I haven’t fed Darius yet. Why don’t you take that home, and we’ll meet again tomorrow?”

After slipping the mirror into my pocket, I slid out of the booth, but not before Willa held up my drink. 

“For the walk home,” she said, standing to meet my gaze. “I meant what I said about Austin. You’re doing what instinct leads you to do. It’s what any pack leader would do, and I’ve been around enough werewolves to understand this. Trust in your power.”

Trust in your power…

Willa’s words repeated as I lay in bed, trying to take a late-morning nap to catch up on the sleep I didn’t get last night. Austin was in his garage, and Adam was outside planting flowers in the front yard. Our conversation earlier held more weight than usual, and he was actually doing something other than watching TV or playing on his phone. I didn’t even know he liked flowers. 

Simon was in the kitchen making his baked ziti, and that was something I was really looking forward to. The sauce was home made and took seven hours to cook, for some reason. One thing Simon loved more than food was cooking for other people. He would always wait in anticipation to see our faces when we took our first bites. The way his tail would wag with every satisfied moan always made me smile. His passion for cooking even surpassed his terrible hygiene. When he was in the kitchen cooking for everyone, he was clean. 

The mirror Willa handed to me felt warm in my palm as I held it against my chest. She said not to trust her, but her words contradicted her actions. Perhaps that was the point. Showing rather than telling. Still, I’d take whatever vision I saw in this mirror with a grain of salt. Last time, it showed me images she wanted me to see to bolster my confidence. This time, she could be wanting me to see an alteration of the past, but why would she do that? Why would she even want to gain my trust if she could easily have her way in this town?

I cracked open the mirror and peered into its clean reflection. Aside from a brief flash of light, nothing more happened. I stared into it longer before finally snapping it shut, laying it on the nightstand. Perhaps I’d try again after I woke up. 

I opened my eyes to see a strange, dark brown werewolf in my bed. He stared at me with knowing silver eyes, using his giant clawed finger to gently brush away the strands of black hair in my face. 

My body didn’t obey me as I tried to get up. Even my mouth didn’t speak the words I wanted to. 

“Beast,” I said, as if being controlled by a puppet master. That was Willa’s voice, but much colder, devoid of emotion. “Are you that insatiable?”

“Yes,” Mosavi said with a low whisper. “I could take you again and again. Fill you with my seed until you beg me to stop, but you would still be empty.”

I rolled over, looking up at the log ceiling. We were in a small cabin, the hearth glowing bright orange on the other side of the room. 

“Your point?” I asked, annoyed. “You would fill me with power, per our agreement. How would I be empty?”

His rough hand rested upon my bosom, and he rolled closer, his thin lips caressing my neck. 

“Because you have traded your soul to a devil for a bit of power. But what if I could help you get it back?”

“What does one need with a soul?” I asked, sitting up on the bed, my bare breasts exposed. “Such a useless concept. Souls do not exist.”

“Perhaps not in the literal sense.” He sat up next to me, close enough that I could feel his breath. “Do you really feel nothing?”

“I feel the warmth of the fire and a pain in my loins. I want to feel that pain again, beast.”

“My name is Darius. You have not told me your name.”

I pushed him down and climbed on top of him, guiding his half-hard cock to the aching space that desired to be filled. 

“I have no name, and neither do you.”

The vision faded, and this time we were in a different place. The cabin was slightly bigger, and I lay naked in the bed as Mosavi stepped into the room. He wore a white dress shirt and black slacks, and he was human, though he looked a little younger. 

“Why do you take that ridiculous form? The other elders are supposed to teach you potency and strength. Humans contain neither.”

“It is a new skill, and one that may prove useful. I thought this would please you.”

I could feel myself growing hot with rage. “You thought wrong. I only hunger for the beast, not—whatever this is.” 

“This is who I was, Willa.” 

“I told you not to call me that,” I said, pointing sharp nails at his body. His new clothes tore away from him, leaving his dark, handsome figure naked in the middle of the room. “At least that is still the same size.”

“You will not tell me your name, so Willa is your name now,” he growled, climbing into bed with me. “And I will not be your beast tonight. My name is Darius.”

“Does your cock still work?” I asked. “Or has it been crippled by this new form?”

Darius sighed. “Do you really feel nothing for me?”

“I only feel hunger,” I said, blankly. 

The room faded again until I was in yet a different location, the cabin morphing into a larger house. Mosavi stepped into the bedroom in his human form again before removing his shirt. 

“I’m on the council,” he said, but his voice lacked any enthusiasm. “I made the proposal for the enchantments to keep werewolves from being drawn into the woods. The others agreed.”

“Why do you care?” I asked. “Witches need that power. Why do you disrupt the natural order?”

“Why did you?” he rebutted. 

“I told you already.” 

“And you lied.” He removed his pants and shoes before his body began to grow and morph back into his werewolf form. “You do not know why you lied, but you did.”

“This again. Why can you just not be content with lust? Asmodeus—”

“Do not mention that name here,” Mosavi shouted, his voice shaky as he grabbed my arms. “You broke your coven, Willa. He no longer has any hold over you.”

“You tread dangerously, beast.” 

“I do not care. I know you will not enslave me, or you would have done it when you helped me escape.” His eyes glowed silver again. “I always sense the real you with the elder sight. His influence has been slipping year-by-year, and yet you still fight to keep it. Why?”

Despite the ice in my stare, I could feel tears trickle down my face. I dabbed one with the tip of my finger. 

“What is this?” I asked. 

His smile was warmer than the Mosavi I knew in the present time.

“Your soul.”

The room went dark and brightened until I was lying in a canopy bed surrounded by high ceilings and lavish décor, but I wasn’t naked. Darius walked into the room in his suit, but as a werewolf. 

“Are you not hungry for the wolf, Willa?” he asked, loosening his tie before rubbing the long, thick bulge running down the inseam of his pants.

“Perhaps later,” I said as he climbed into bed, still fully clothed. This time, he smelled like he usually did. Spicy cologne mixed with tobacco. 

“I have been worried about you. You do not seem well.”

“I am a fool,” I whispered.

“I do not understand.” 

“Why do you love me, beast?”

Darius gently caressed my cheek, his eyes glowing silver again. “This is what I am, Willa. I have taken you for my mate, and I cannot stop what I feel.”

The room faded away until all I could see was Mosavi lying on the ground in the middle of the woods, blood pouring from a hole in his chest. I knelt next to him, emotionless aside from the tears reluctantly streaming from my eyes.

“They know about you,” he gasped out, his words slurred as he lost more blood. “You need to run.”

“Beast,” I said, covering the fist-sized hole with my hand. “We had an agreement.”

“One that I must regretfully break,” he whispered. “Rescue another, and maybe you will grow to love him. I am sorry.” 

I shuddered, running my fingers along the hole. This wasn’t just any wound, and his rapid healing had been shut down by something. 

“I am a fool,” I whispered as heat traveled from my chest, down my arms and into his body. 

“What are you doing? Do you realize—”

“Silence,” I interrupted, keeping my hand over the pulsing wound as more of myself flowed into him. It felt as though the life was being drained from me, and it became harder to get a lungful of air. “Darius.”

His eyes widened. 

As the life poured out of me, something flowed back into the void in my chest, coming up from my arm. An overwhelming sensation had me sobbing as I fell against the werewolf. 

“Willa,” he whispered. “You can have me. Even my soul.”

His voice echoed in my mind as everything faded to white. 

A large hand shook me awake, and my eyes snapped open to see it had grown dark outside. 

“Dinner’s ready,” Simon said excitedly, leaning in for a sloppy kiss. “Wanna eat now, or fuck?”

“Can you lay with me for a little while?”

“You okay?” he asked, slipping in beside me under the covers. 

“Just had a bad dream.”

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