My name is Stefano Rossi. I’ve been hunting werewolves most of my life and it’s a dangerous job – but now it’s almost done. There are only a few left in the entire world and when they’re gone, the curse will be over.
I may have saved the worst for last, though. Now I’m hunting the biggest, baddest wolf of them all. The one savage and strong enough to escape every hunter before me. It’s going to take every weapon I have and every trick in my spellbook to finally bring her in.
And to make this job even worse… this time I have a partner.
Howling For More takes place after the events of Sealed With a Kiss and Magic Max, and should be read only after finishing the rest of the Lily Quinn series.
This and all Lily Quinn stories contain graphic depictions of sexual acts. Lots of them. There’s other stuff, too, like fun stories and crazy adventures, but these books are definitiely for adults only.
You have been warned. Enjoy!
Myrrh and cinquefoil to capture my target. A circle of salt to isolate and wormwood to banish, with runes in pearlash and blue vitriol to guide the way.
The sweet smell of herbs wasn’t enough to overpower the thick, wet musk of the bayou. Moss and lichen and tangled leaves floated on the murky water. I inscribed interlocking raido and ehwaz runes across the deck of the rental boat, my ebony charcoal scratching the wood’s already peeling finish.
So much for my security deposit… but the boat’s deck was the only place to draw out my spell in the damp green of the Louisiana bayou. I had dragged it up onto the muddy shore, scraping the hull on submerged tree roots and soaking my pants to the knee. But I could buy a new boat and a whole wardrobe of designer clothes with the reward money that the College was offering for this werewolf’s capture.
Most bounty hunters work for gold, but I would have caught werewolves for free. My name is Stefano Rossi and I will spend my life hunting them. I’ll probably die chasing lycanthropes and it will be a life well spent. There is no monster on earth more destructive than werewolves and no one that knows it better than I do.
The uneven ground and shifting waterways of the swamp were making this a complicated hunt. After four days in the bayou, my clothes and hair were permanently soaked with sweat and water. I hoped the humidity and cacophony of earthy scents wouldn’t throw my target off my trail, but the terrain and weather slowed me down, making me that much easier to track. The werewolf had to be close by now.
I slashed lines of seared ebony across the runed circle, binding them together. The demon wolf had my scent and last night’s divination showed it here at noon. At least, I hoped this was the spot. There was a huge cottonwood tree on the other side of the slow-moving brown water that looked familiar from my magical vision, but I couldn’t be sure. Still, the wolf had been tracking me for an hour or more. Doubtlessly preparing to pounce even now.
I was the bait in my own trap, hunting the wolf as it hunted me. Being both hunter and prey made an already perilous task suicidally dangerous, but I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and I’m the best bounty hunter in the College. Well, I might have some competition for the number one slot, but she’s not a wizard.
The orange afternoon sun turned the still air hot and heavy, but overlapping cypress branches cast deep, crisscrossing shadows that rippled across the murky water. Ripples…? Something was moving out there in the swamp. A brackish wave slapped against the side of my beached boat, rocking the deck beneath me. Whatever moved through the water was big – too big to be an alligator. Not that the local wildlife had made me feel particularly welcome, as the bite marks in the boat and the leather of my boots could attest.
I balanced on the balls of my feet and inscribed the final runes of my spell circle, then straightened to inspect my work. It was a potentially costly second of preoccupation when there was a werewolf nearby, but a single error in my magic could be equally disastrous. All four interlocking rings of angled runes – written out in ebony charcoal scorched under the new moon – were dark and neat. My spell was ready. I had nine minutes to finish and execute the teleportation before the myrrh lost its potency and I would have to start all over again.
A heron burst from the tangled Spanish moss with a soft thunderclap and a white blur of motion. And then another wild shape bounded through the swamp on four long, powerful limbs. Upright, I guessed that the werewolf was eight and a half feet tall – a little on the small side for a lycanthrope, but no less deadly. The wolf’s fur was slicked against its muscular body with water and yellow-gold eyes gleamed like lanterns in the shadowed afternoon.
The werewolf leapt over a fallen cypress tree, kicking up huge sprays of water and mud as it raced toward my boat. I stood my ground in the center of the runic circles and drew the revolver from under my arm. The forty-five caliber bullets were pure, alchemically tempered sterling silver. Nothing else could slow a werewolf down.
Only silver could kill a lycanthrope, and even then only if I put enough of it straight into the beast’s brain or heart. But I didn’t fly all the way out to Louisiana and boat for days through the bayou, fending off mosquitoes and alligators equally intent on eating me alive, just to kill this werewolf.
Like all werewolves, this was an ordinary human, transformed by a cruel demonic curse into a savage killing machine. I was here to save them.
The werewolf charged at me through muddy water and weeds. It tore a low-hanging branch out of its path with one paw the size of a dinner plate and tipped in two-inch-long claws. Those molten gold eyes were fixed on me with a hatred burning like hellfire and the werewolf let out a growl so deep that it shook my bones.
Something splashed behind me, up on the shore, but I didn’t dare take my eyes off the werewolf closing in at roughly freeway speeds. Another alligator, maybe? No, the sound was coming closer. Most animals ran, flew or swam as fast as they could away from a werewolf. Even alligators – being the apex predator means jack shit when a werewolf enters your ecosystem.
No time to worry about that now. The werewolf was moving too quickly, even through the weed-choked swamp, and hurling up an impressive fan of brackish water. It would bury its claws to the wrist in my guts before I could complete my incantation.
I squared my shoulders, sighted down the revolver and pulled the trigger. The barrel kicked skyward and the shot rang in my ears. My prey didn’t recoil at all from the impact – it takes a lot to stagger a six-hundred-pound werewolf – but its loping gait faltered. The third of an ounce of silver in my shot would slow it down for sixty-seven seconds. Approximately.
The werewolf slammed hard into the side of my boat, sending it sliding several yards back through the mud and moss. I rocked on my feet, but managed to stay upright. There was more splashing, now coming from beside my boat, but then the werewolf’s hooked claws sank into the deck railing, throwing splinters into the air.
Time to finish this. It would be close, but it always was. I raised my empty hand and began to chant.
I almost stopped chanting. What the hell…? Werewolves can’t talk. I’ve only heard a demon wolf speak once and only then because he was possessed by a ghost… Long story.
Besides, I knew that voice. I wasn’t stupid enough to take my eyes off the werewolf vaulting up over the boat’s railing – that was just as dangerous as halting my spell halfway done – but I turned to catch a glimpse of the movement in my peripheral vision: a mud-covered man wading through the waist-deep water as fast as his long legs would carry him.
The twenty-something bottle-blond clutched a shotgun against his chest to keep it dry. Dominic wasn’t a wizard or a bounty hunter, but he had been cursed with lycanthropy. Twice. The second time, the idiot boy had actually volunteered for it in order to help a mutual friend. The College of Merlinic wizards had lifted his curse both times… So what the hell was he doing out here?
I didn’t dare interrupt my incantation long enough to answer Dominic, so I waved him urgently away with one hand as the werewolf slammed down onto the deck. The rental boat was beached and mired in about a foot of mud, but the whole thing rocked hard under the impact. Dominic slewed to a stop in the water and raised his shotgun.
“Stefano, look out!” he shouted.
Dominic aimed and fired. Buckshot ripped through the werewolf and flung bright red blood up into the air, but unless that shell was packed with silver, he was only pissing it off.
And that was exactly what happened.
The beast skidded to a sudden halt and spun toward Dominic. Rage burned in the werewolf’s yellow eyes and it reared up to let out a long, terrible howl. Then the lycanthrope dropped back to four paws and leapt at its new prey.
Dominic swore, but he stood his ground, pumped his shotgun and then fired again. The werewolf snarled and more blood spattered the bayou, but the beast didn’t slow down. My silver shot was swiftly wearing off. There was no stopping my incantation now… but if I didn’t lure that werewolf back into range, I would succeed only in teleporting a few mosquitoes to the waiting magical prison while a monster busily tore Dominic into bite-sized pieces.
I dropped my revolver and drew a knife from my belt. The blade was coated in silver, too, but that didn’t matter right now. Dominic fired off a third shot, but then he had to throw himself down into the mud as the werewolf closed and slashed out with its long meat-hook claws. Dominic rolled onto his back in the muck and raised his shotgun again. All signs of his previous hits had vanished from the werewolf’s wet pelt, healed away within seconds.
I sliced the knife blade along the outside of my forearm. It hurt, but I couldn’t spare the time or breath to swear. I was already slowing the spell incantation as much as I dared. Blood ran down my arm and spattered at my feet inside the charcoal circles.
Snarling, the werewolf whirled toward me again, drawn inexorably by the scent of fresh blood. It bared sharp teeth and growled out a low, hungry sound. I raised my cut arm and tightened my fingers into a fist. Red streamed down my skin and soaked my sleeve.
The werewolf leapt away from Dominic and charged at me. Between one heartbeat and the next, the mud-slicked monster was across the waterway and leaping onto the boat once more. Its lantern eyes burned with savage hunger and violence. The werewolf flexed its claws, ripping deep gouges into the boat’s deck, and then lunged at me.
With a final shout, I finished the incantation. Drops of blood and water floated up into the air like beads on invisible strings, and my gun rose gently from the ground. Even the werewolf’s deadly pounce slowed and then stopped. The beast howled in fury, but there was a flash of colorless light and then the werewolf vanished.
Swamp water and gun and rotting cypress leaves splashed down around me. The charcoal and herbs were all gone, consumed by my spell, but the rental boat was still trashed. Well worth it to get the job done, but…
I jumped down to shore as Dominic managed to right himself and come sloshing back to more or less solid ground. I grabbed the boy by one shoulder and gave him a hard shake. Mud and water flew from Dominic’s hair.
“Dude, that was badass!” he announced with a wide grin.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I snarled.
“Helping,” Dominic said. “I’m your new partner!”
To be published 05.01.2018 by Loose Leaf Stories