Excerpt from WOLF BONDS
Paige’s shrill scream woke Eli with a jolt. He threw back the covers, flew from the bed, his sleepy gaze searching their room for an assailant, before he realized she’d had another nightmare. He came around her side of the bed, sat down, and pulled her into his arms. “Are you all right, sweetheart?” he said, frowning into her welling eyes.
She pressed her fist to her mouth, shaking her head, her body trembling, the tears spilling now.
Eli flicked on the bedside lamp, plucked a tissue from the box sitting in front of it, and wiped Paige’s tears. “You’ve been having these dreams since you told me you were pregnant. Maybe it has something to do with the Lycan genes.”
Paige didn’t want to be analyzed. She needed to be held and comforted. “I don’t care what’s causing them. I just want them to stop. I can’t imagine what my anxiety is doing to the baby.” Another tear slipped down her cheek.
Eli brushed it away with his thumb. “Why don’t we get away from Moon Grove for a while? Go on vacation somewhere tropical? Lay on a beach in the warm sunshine?”
“I wish I could, but I don’t have anyone to take over my patients while I’m away. My appointment schedule is choc-o-block.” She let out a heavy sigh.
Eli pulled her into his arms again and stroked her hair. “Do you have any idea why you’re having these dreams? Apart from the obvious, that is.”
“I have no idea.”
“Maybe talking about it will help.” He slid his index finger under her chin and raised her face up to meet his gaze. “I’m here for you, you know that.”
“I know.” She frowned. “The strange thing is, once I’m awake I can’t seem to remember what it was about. I only know it’s the same dream every time. And it terrifies me.”
“You could always make an appointment with the shrink in Bellehurst. Perhaps he can help.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s hormones or something.”
“Paige, if you need to see someone then go see them.”
“I don’t. I’ll be fine.” She gave him a thin reassuring smile to mask the anxiety she felt.
He kissed her forehead. “Want some warm milk? Maybe that’ll help you sleep better.” Eli headed for the bedroom door.
“Thank you. It might.” She gave him another smile and watched him walk along the hallway to the stairs. Why am I dreaming about Stephanie? It’s been almost two years since she ended our friendship. And why is the dream so frightening? I wish I could remember it.
Eli had gone to the station early, leaving Paige alone at the house. She busied herself with some light housework before heading upstairs to the nursery they were preparing for their new arrival. They had decided to keep the color neutral because they hadn’t learned the gender of the baby… it would be a surprise for them all. As Paige folded white baby clothes and placed them carefully in the drawer a knock echoed into the downstairs hallway. Paige’s frowning gaze moved to the open nursery door. I wonder who that could be.
Walking out into the hallway on her way to the staircase, another knock sounded. Paige let out an exasperated huff. “I’m coming, just a minute.” She made her way down the carpeted stairs over to the front door and opened it. A gasp left her lips and her eyes widened. “Stephanie!”
Eli sat behind his desk in his office, nick-named ‘the fishbowl’ and gazed around the faces of his deputies. Things had been quiet for quite some time and Cooper, Taylor, and Rick had very little to keep them occupied. They went out on their normal patrols, but with nothing going on in their sleepy little township there was never anything to report. A distinct difference to when Remus ruled their town. Alistair had kept to his word of governing their rural community fairly, without violence and it seemed to be working for the good of everyone.
While out on patrol, Rick and Taylor had been checking out their theories. They both felt something wasn’t right with Moon Grove and, after the encounter with the animal that had bounded across the road in front of their car that night, their suspicions had only increased. Rick had thought at the time that it had been a large dog. Now he believed it was a wolf, although wolves didn’t roam the area. So what had it been? Something they’d continue to look into while out on patrol.
“I think we’re going to have to divide the patrolling of Moon Grove with more desk time. Right now, there isn’t enough going on to have you all out on the road at the same time.”
Taylor folded her arms. “But…” She knew if they were restricted to their desks, she and Ryan wouldn’t be able to continue their personal investigation.
Eli raised his hand. “I’m sorry. I’ll work on a new patrol roster and you’ll be informed once it’s done.” He liked that the town was quiet. It was a far cry from what they had experienced the past couple of years. It felt good not to have to look over his shoulder every time he left the station, wondering what supernatural creature would arrive to wreak havoc on their town, or him personally.
Rick raised his hand. Eli gave him a nod. “I think it’s important to keep a police presence in the town. Just because it’s quiet now doesn’t mean it will stay that way if we’re not out there doing our job.”
“I understand what you’re saying, Rick, but no one has broken the law in Moon Grove for the past few months.”
“Yeah, I know. But that’s because we’re out there.”
“Maybe.” Eli’s frowning gaze moved to the open doorway. Rosemarie stood in it with a tray of coffee and a plate of cookies. “Come in, Rosy.”
With Paige working less hours now while waiting for the arrival of her and Eli’s baby, Rosemarie had gone back to the station on a part time basis.
The receptionist crossed the office and set the tray down on Eli’s desk. “I have to agree with Rick, Eli. If we remove police presence from the town people will think they can do whatever they want. And we can’t have that, now, can we?”
Eli gave a heavy sigh. He didn’t want to jinx the good fortune they’d been having over the past few months. Maybe Rick and Rosemarie were right. “Leave it with me. I’ll let you all know what I decide when I’ve come to a decision.” He picked up a mug of steaming coffee and took a cautious sip, then reached for a choc chip cookie, home made by Rosemarie. “Help yourselves,” he said to his deputies.
Rick and Taylor gave each other a conspiratorial grin. Maybe they would be able to continue their quest to find out the secret of Moon Grove after all.
“What are you doing here?” Paige asked, unable to believe her ex-friend was standing on her front door mat after two years, especially with the bad dreams she’d been having and knowing Stephanie had been in each one. There was something different about her. Something that made Paige’s solar plexus tighten and sent a chill down her spine. Had her dream been some kind of premonition?
“Now, is that any way to greet an old friend?” Stephanie gave Paige a peculiar smile, her eyes dark and ominous.
“You ended our friendship even though what happened at the Christmas fair wasn’t my fault. Eli’s father thought you were me but I didn’t cause what happened to you. You wouldn’t even give me a second chance. You just walked away.”
“Part of that was my parents’ doing. They didn’t want me to stay friends with you after I was attacked for fear it could happen again.”
“Don’t lay blame on your parents, Stephanie. The choice was yours. You’re a grown woman, you know.” Paige folded her arms over her loose robe. It stretched tight across her stomach. “I’ll ask you again, why are you here?”
Stephanie’s eyes widened when she noticed Paige’s protruding belly. “You’re pregnant?”
“Not that it’s any of your business. What are you doing in Moon Grove and why are you here on my doorstep?”
At that moment, Clarissa came across the street and up the path to the front porch. She had sensed something was wrong. She climbed the three steps, passed Stephanie, stepped into the entry hall and stood beside Paige. “Everything all right here?”
Paige’s gaze moved from Stephanie to Clarissa. “Yes, Stephanie was just leaving.” Her eyes returned to her ex-friend. “Weren’t you?”
Stephanie’s right eyebrow arched. “We’ll do this another time.”
Stephanie turned on her heel and walked down the path to the rental car parked on the street. Before climbing in, she glanced over her shoulder at Paige and Clarissa. “You take care now,” she called.
Was that some kind of warning?
Once the car pulled away from the curb, Clarissa wrapped her arms around Paige and gave her a tight hug. “What was that all about? I had a feeling something was wrong over here.”
Paige eased out of the older woman’s embrace and looked into her concerned face. “To be honest, I have no idea. She didn’t tell me why she’s in Moon Grove. But I have a terrible feeling I’m going to find out.”
Stephanie stepped into her room at the Moon Grove Inn, shrugged out of her knee length, chocolate brown jacket and tossed it onto the bed with a frustrated huff. Her visit to see Paige had not gone at all as she’d expected – and now she discovered her ex-friend was pregnant. That threw a spanner into the works of her plan. She wasn’t the same person Paige had known and loved, a lot had changed in her life since then. Too much.
She walked across to the window, folded her arms, and gazed outside. Eli’s grandmother would pose a problem, especially if she kept sticking her nose where it didn’t belong. How could she remedy that? Food for thought. A smile spread across her face. Yes, food for thought.
A knock on the door pulled her back to the present and Stephanie crossed the carpeted, Victorian-style room to open it, her left eyebrow arching when she discovered Clarissa Baker, the offending grandmother of Eli Blackwood standing at the threshold.
“What can I do for you, Ms. Baker?”
“I want you to leave my granddaughter alone. I know you’re here to make trouble for her but let me assure you I’ll be keeping a close eye on you.” Paige was her granddaughter by marriage.
“Why would you think I’m here to cause trouble? Couldn’t I be here to rekindle our friendship?” It wasn’t the reason but the old woman didn’t need to know that.
“You may think I’m old and stupid, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve seen your visit in the cards and nothing about it is good.”
“Why don’t you come in so we can discuss this in a more private setting?” Stephanie motioned for Clarissa to step into the room.
Clarissa chuckled. “As I said, I’m not stupid. You’d do well to pack your belongings and leave Moon Grove before…”
“Before what?” Stephanie folded her arms.
“Never you mind.” Clarissa turned and headed along the hallway, stopped, turned around. “If you stay you’ll find out.”
“Is that a threat or an invitation?”
“You work it out.” Clarissa continued to the stairs.
Stephanie closed the door, a smug smile crossing her lips. She loved a good challenge.
When Eli walked through the front door, hanging up his jacket and Stetson on the coat rack beside it, he heard Paige upstairs. He climbed the stairs two at a time and headed to the place he knew she would be. The nursery. “Hey, sweetheart, how was your day?”
“Very strange.” Paige pulled herself from the rocking chair, stood on tiptoes and planted a kiss on her husband’s lips.
Eli frowned into her eyes. “Oh, how so?”
“Stephanie’s in town.”
“Your old friend?”
“The very same.”
“Did she come to mend your friendship?”
Paige crossed the room to the open doorway. “I don’t believe so. She didn’t exactly give me a reason for her visit.”
“Clary knew something was wrong and came across the street to be here for my protection. So, I’m assuming Stephanie isn’t here to rekindle our lost friendship.”
“I hope she’s not holding a grudge for what happened to her. It certainly wasn’t your fault my father tried to kill her by mistake.” He crossed the room and followed Paige back to the stairs. “Do you want me to go speak to her? Let her know I’m watching her?”
Paige headed downstairs, Eli in tow. “No. Whatever the reason, I’m sure she’ll make it known eventually.”
“That’s what troubles me. What if she’s here to exact revenge of some kind?” He followed Paige into the kitchen. Dinner smelt great and he was hungry. “I don’t want you and our baby in any kind of danger.”
“What can she do? It’s not as though she’s a supernatural creature with any kind of abilities.”
“That hasn’t stopped people before. I should know.”
Paige sat two plates on the kitchen counter and proceeded to dish up dinner.
Eli came over to her. “Here,” he said, taking the spoon from her hand, “let me.”
“Why thank you kind sir.” Paige kissed his cheek, walked over to the table and sat down.
After a moment, Eli set a plate in front of her then took his seat opposite. “I’ve had a feeling something was coming. I’d hoped it was my imagination, but now I’m sure it isn’t.”
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© 2021 M. A. Anderson
Bella Luna Books, Australia
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