The club wasn’t bad, for a fang bar. Noisy, of course, but not
excessively so. Not as many monkeys as he’d feared. Costumes were a bit
more restrained than on South Street. The interior reeked of basil, simian
sweat, desperation and overexcitement. Just the sort of place gormy Eugene
would pick to hold a family get-together.
“Place is slow tonight,” Eugene remarked in an irritated tone, as if this
were a bad thing. They had a table just off the main aisle, just small enough
for Roderick to feel cramped. His cousins ringed him—hyperactive Eugene,
cool Lucy, quiet little teenaged Emma. Charlie was on duty and wouldn’t be
joining them. Lorraine, next eldest after Charlie, had married since Roderick
had seen her last, and now lived with her mate’s pack in New Jersey. He
wondered if Eugene had dared bring her here for her last night as a lone
“Hang in there, Rod.” Eugene clapped him on the back. “After midnight
we’ll head home and have a run. We might even scare up some game, but
don’t hold me to that. The park’s overrun by coyotes these days, and you
know how they are.”
He didn’t, having never met a coyote, but the thought of a good, long
run in wolf form made his limbs ache with yearning. He sipped his drink, a
frothy concoction heavy on the goat’s blood, and politely shook his head at
the ape girl trying to entice him to dance. Eugene claimed her instead.
Roderick watched them move onto the dance floor and engage in jerky
movements that resembled a three-legged dog attempting a hump. He didn’t
watch for long.
He tried to make small talk with Lucy and Emma. His cousins remained
polite but reserved, intimidated by his alpha presence. When a couple of
were boys came to their table and nervously asked them, through him, for a
A London Werewolf in America 32
dance, Roderick wasn’t sure who was more relieved. He nodded permission,
and the girls gratefully made their escape.
For a time he watched the staff at work. Two wolves and a Japanese fox
tended bar. They doled out straight liquor to the apes but kept a separate list
of blood-based, nonalcoholic drinks for their real clientele, the steady stream
of vampires who drifted in and out. Their noses told them who was who,
monkey, were or bat. An efficient system.
Lycaon bite it, what was wrong with him? The apes with Eugene was
comely enough. Two days ago he’d have moved on her without a second
thought. He wasn’t one to think too deeply with a she involved.
That was then. Now had become downright uncomfortable.
He growled and downed a stiff gulp of his drink. Face facts: He’d quite
lost his taste for casual romps since he got Darinda’s scent in his nose. The
witch must have put a spell on him. This restlessness, these thoughts, were
all her fault.
He glanced around the dank interior. Eugene and the monkey had
finished their dance, or whatever you wanted to call it. The girl had
disappeared. Eugene was attempting, with little success, to chat up a
disinterested bat. Lucy and Emma giggled at the bar while their conquests
bought them drinks. No age restrictions on service, as weres could not
The wolf lads appeared harmless enough, and Lucy would look after her
sister. Bugger Eugene. No one would miss him, Roderick decided, if he
stepped outside for a bit.
Free of the fang bar, he stood on the pavement and sucked in the brisk
night air. It made a sorry statement indeed that a city’s grimy air outranked
the club’s. At least the street had decent circulation. He took in a long
breath, slowly, through his nose, and let it sigh out again with only a little
Tomorrow night he would meet his intended. After that, his days of
freedom would be numbered. Mother wanted this transaction wrapped up
quickly. Tighten up the choke collar, cut off his air completely.
He supposed he could always slip the collar, abandon the family, run
lone. And die or go mad, cut off from pack support. He could have
challenged Bernadette, but what good would that do? Even if he won he’d
A London Werewolf in America 33
still have to marry, because the family would never accept an alpha of his
age without a she and the promise of pups. Check and literal mate.
You had to hand it to the Queen Mum, she always covered all the
angles. No doubt the reason she’d remained alpha so long.
That skipped his thoughts back to Darinda. She’d faced him down when
he’d cornered her in her den. Confident, eye straight to eye, not an inch of
give. Now that was an alpha. Think of how magnificent she would be in
bed. He sighed. If only she’d been were.
Lost in hopeless fantasies, at first he didn’t notice the scruffy pair in
battered denim creeping up on him. Their primate stench alerted him. He
whirled on them abruptly, and they froze. They were done up in vampire
leathers, their faces painted like Kabuki actors. Headed for the club, no
doubt. He stepped away from the entrance, but they kept coming toward
him. Why, he couldn’t fathom. “Can I help you with something?” he asked.
The male opened his mouth, then hesitated. Sweat poured off him like a
cataract. The sullen female shouldered him aside. Her dirty blonde hair was
streaked with purple. She stood with her hands thrust into her coat’s baggy
pockets and her eyes thinned to slits. “You Roderick Chase?” she
He raised a brow. “Yes. How did you—”
“Told you,” she said to her partner. She yanked a knife from her pocket
and lunged at him.
Sheer dumbfoundment rooted him in place. She thrust her blade directly
into his unprotected chest, right for his heart.
Except the knife seemed to hit something that wasn’t him. It skidded
right over his sweater without even leaving a crease.
The girl’s eyes widened, but she didn’t lose her pluck. She took a blunt
jab at his neck. Given her proximity she couldn’t possibly miss, yet
somehow she did. The blade whispered right around his neck without even
touching the skin.
This time the both of them gaped at the knife. “What the hell?” the girl
“What’d I tell you? He’s a werewolf. You gotta use silver.” The male
charged in to try his luck. His knife belonged to the butcher family, with a
tarnished patina on the blade. In addition he wielded a length of chain, not
silver but nonetheless deadly.
A London Werewolf in America 34
No need for resistance with the likes of this. Roderick simply
sidestepped and stuck out his foot. The male belly-flopped on the pavement
with a painful-sounding thud. Both knife and chain went skidding into the
That left him only the stupefied female to deal with. Roderick seized her
wrist and twisted. Her knife clattered on the cement. He opened his mouth to
question her. She stared up at him, and screamed.
Oh bugger. Of course it was the teeth, long and getting longer by the
The change was a common enough response to mortal danger,
automatic, instinctive. Just not what he wanted right now. Not only couldn’t
he interrogate his attackers without a human voice, he’d had no time to shed
his clothes. To the girl’s shrieks were added the immensely painful ripping
noises of a perfectly good pair of trousers shredding off his werewolf body.
He also lost his grip on the girl, as paws aren’t made for grasping. She
backed off frantically as he pitched forward to land on all fours.
Phhhhtttt. There went the seams on his pullover. By Lycaon, these
murderous monkeys were going to pay for this.
He shook off the rags that had been his outfit and bared his fangs at the
girl. Yes, you’d better scream, you sodding ape. Damn his tail, where was
Eugene? At this point the primate was terrified enough to babble all the
answers he wanted. Once she realized he couldn’t do worse than snarl at her,
they could bid cooperation good-bye.
Something whistled over his head. He’d all but forgotten the male. The
monkey had abandoned his knife in favor of the chain. A landed blow would
be damaging, but none of the blows landed. Granted they were monkeys, but
could even apes be so incompetent?
Enough of this. He needed only one to question. He eyed the male’s
crotch and licked his muzzle. The baboon took the hint. “No amount of
money’s worth this,” he said, dropped the chain, and fled.
That left the girl, crab-scrabbling away from him and screaming her
painted face off. Their performance had drawn quite an audience, with their
pointed fingers and cell phone cameras. Not what he, both a were and a
foreigner, needed. He caught the girl’s shirt in his jaws and dragged her
toward the fang bar. He suspected it wouldn’t be the first time some wolf or
bat had hauled a struggling victim inside.
A London Werewolf in America 35
It seemed a workable plan, shattered like the bullet that struck the
doorjamb just above his head.
Roderick dropped the girl and stared about. Another bullet pinged off
the sidewalk just short of his right forepaw. The gathering crowd added their
screams to the girl’s.
There. The beat-up Chevrolet across the street. The one with the rifle
barrel poking out the window. He scented gunpowder and exhaust but
couldn’t get a fix on the gunman. It might be a monkey; it might be a bat. It
might be one of his own.
A third shot parted the fur on his shoulders. The man in the car cursed
viciously. Like the chain and the knives, the bullets couldn’t seem to hit
No sense in pushing his luck. Roderick whirled and bolted.
Shots followed him up the block. He plunged across the street. Brakes
squealed and drivers cursed. Pedestrians scattered. Sirens wailed in his
direction, and he flattened his ears against their shrillness.
He ran flat out for several blocks until noise and panic faded with
distance. Eventually he slowed to a trot, then a complete stop. He stood
panting, ears back and tail at an uncertain angle, and took stock.
He had no idea where he was.
All right, think it through. The fang bar was on Arch Street, near
Chinatown. Eugene had said so. Which meant next to nothing to Roderick.
He could back trail himself to the fang bar, although, judging by the scream
of converging sirens, that probably wasn’t the best of options at the moment.
He had no clue how to return to Fairmount Park, and couldn’t ask directions
in this form. His other form now had no clothing. He imagined the prudish
monkey authorities would take a dim view of that.
They’d known his name. They’d known he was were. They’d confirmed
his identity before they attacked him, and they’d come at him to kill.
His first day in the City of Brotherly Love. Growling under his breath,
Roderick began walking.
Luckily this part of this blighted city was nearly free of pedestrians. The
few apes he encountered and sidled around paid him little attention beyond
snapped fingers and “Here, doggie, doggie.” Nobody seemed upset by the
sirens, or the sight of a wolf on the street. Life in the big city, as Eugene no
doubt would put it.
A London Werewolf in America 36
Then, like a ray of sunlight bursting through fog, he caught a whiff of
grass and trees. Eagerly he loped in that direction.
He spotted the outline of Independence Hall and breathed a whine of
relief. The only spot in this ape-infested jungle he was familiar with. He
couldn’t find his way back to Aunt Letty’s from here, but he could make it
to South Street. He oriented himself on 5th and broke into a trot.
* * * *
After dark, Set A Spell’s mortal trade slowed to a trickle, and Darinda’s
real customers came in. After five years of serving an otherworldly clientele
she thought she’d seen it all, but a vampire with a broken fang was new.
“This happened how?” she asked him.
“Pnchth innuh muph,” the vamp said around his hand and her fingers.
She dabbed a bit of gel on the stump. “Ouph! Wch whuttuh doinph!”
“He got punched in the mouth,” the vampire’s androgynous human
companion translated. “The vic had a set of brass knuckles. He looked like
an accountant. Who knew?”
Darinda tsked while she smeared gel. “This will regenerate, you know.
When you wake up tomorrow night it’ll be good as new.”
“Hrts now,” the vamp complained.
She took her hand away. “Still?”
The vampire considered. “Um, no. Not any more. Thanks.”
“Good. Like I said, it’ll regenerate by tomorrow. And don’t lick it.” The
vamp guiltily tucked his tongue back into his mouth. Darinda shook a
handful of white pills into a packet. “Calcium,” she said. “Toughen up the
The vampire took the packet. “You wouldn’t happen to carry blood,
would you? I missed dinner.”
“I don’t do the Dark Arts. Try Schuman’s.”
“Hope he has straws.” The vamp counted out a trio of bills. “Brass
knucks inna face. From a vic. What’s the world coming to?”
“Yeah, tough town,” his companion agreed. “I say we go back to Ohio.
Hey, you got a werewolf out here.”
Darinda came to attention. “What’s he doing?”
A London Werewolf in America 37
“He’s scratching on the door. Now he’s trying to work the knob with his
teeth. Should I let him in?”
He’s got his nerve, Darinda thought with a huff. Of course it would be
Chase. Couldn’t he take a hint? Or a flat-out refusal? She stalked across the
shop and opened the door herself. The wolf ducked inside.
The sight of him squelched her indignation under a burst of awe as well
as a thrill of fear. Her vision at the airport hadn’t done him justice. In wolf
form he was enormous, with rich black fur and a huge brush of a tail. His
form resembled an Alaskan Malamute more than the slender American
wolves she was used to: broad chest and forehead, compact muscular body,
blunt muzzle, small round ears. It was the ferocity in his yellow eyes that
almost made her recoil. This was no simple wolf, said those eyes. This was a
lord of the forest, used to power and command. This was the monster that
once kept frightened peasants cowering in their huts, that Irish wolfhounds
had been bred to kill.
Roderick stopped before her, reared up on his hind legs and shifted.
Little changed from shape to shape. He still radiated dangerous power. He
was still covered in black hair. And he was still enormous.
The vamp’s companion gasped. “Oh! Hello, sailor!”
While Roderick withered the vampire’s boyfriend with a glower,
Darinda was able to compose herself. C’mon, she mentally chided herself,
it’s just a naked man. You’ve seen those before.
Not so often, though, her inner self admitted. And this one was a naked
werewolf, which made him a whole other animal.
Not interested, Darinda thought firmly. Her inner voice scoffed. She
slammed the gate shut on it and met Roderick’s eyes. Maintaining her eye
line proved harder than anticipated. “What are you doing here?”
His pale face and quivering nose belied the force of his voice.
“Somebody just tried to kill me.”
“Oooh, poor baby. Who’d do such a thing?” the vampire’s boyfriend
gushed. “You stick with us, honey. We’ll—”
“Let’s go,” the vamp snarled. He grabbed his companion’s arm and
propelled him out the door.
This left Darinda alone with a panting, highly agitated and thoroughly
naked werewolf. “Uh…you’re sure…”
A London Werewolf in America 38
“Yes, I’m sodding sure. Somebody shoots a rifle at you, it’s hard to
mistake their intentions.”
Good point. Crap, still hard to concentrate. She darted to the clothing
rack and grabbed a wizard’s robe. “Here. Put this on.”
“I’m not—oh, of course.” He shrugged into the robe. “One forgets
propriety when one’s nearly murdered. Hmm. Roomy.”
“Most of the wizards I get are full-figured. Are you hurt?”
“No, they missed. Repeatedly. Which is odd.” He stopped. His
expression darkened. “Where’s the cat?”
“He went home with Peri. Come here. Sit down.” She steered him
around the counter and onto the folding chair behind the register. The shock
of his outrage and adrenaline hit her even through the thick wool robe. “Stay
here. I’ll be right back.”
Unfortunately, nightsiders getting shot at wasn’t new to her. She kept
emergency supplies to deal with a number of species. Within minutes she
returned with a mug of steaming beef broth, a were’s equivalent of a hot cup
of coffee. He all but snatched it out of her hands. His own were trembling
from delayed reaction. He angled his body so she wouldn’t see, and she
pretended not to. He downed half the mug at a gulp. “Thank you,” he said
Quietly, Darinda went to the door and turned the hanging sign from
Open to Closed. She returned to the counter and leaned against it. “Tell me
“I already have. Somebody tried to kill me. Knives as well as guns.” He
peered up at her sharply. “This isn’t some pretense to get at you.”
“No, I believe you. You’re clearly in shock. What was it? A drive-by?
“They established my identity before they attacked. Called me by name.
They knew I’m were. Is that how muggers operate in your country?”
“Noooo, not usually. So this was a hit. Was it other weres? Vampires?”
“Humans. At least the ones with the knives. I can only assume with the
gunman. I couldn’t catch his scent.” He polished off the broth. “Life in
danger. You called that one right enough.”
Darinda indicated the wall phone behind him. “You want to call Charlie,
or should I?”
A London Werewolf in America 39
He barely glanced at the phone. His mouth was tight, his eyes cold as a
winter moon. “Nobody outside the family knows I’m here in America.”
“Big Alex knows,” she reminded him. “He could have ordered this as a
“He wouldn’t know I’d be at that club tonight, unless one of my cousins
tipped him off. Is he in the habit of employing apes to do his dirty work?”
She had to shake her head. Hiring non-weres for a hit wasn’t Big Alex’s
style. Roderick set his empty mug aside. “So it’s family. You were right.
Someone in the family wants me gone.”
“Or your fiancée’s family,” Darinda pointed out. “Maybe she didn’t
agree to the marriage. Maybe she has a human boyfriend with serious
objections.” When Roderick still didn’t reach for the phone she headed for it
herself. “I’m calling Charlie.”
His hand shot out and caught her wrist, stopping her. “We can’t trust
Her heart stuttered at his touch. She forced herself to ignore it, and
overlook his automatic “we.” “He’s a cop.”
“Yes. Trained to use firearms. That aside, he’s a wolf first. You’ve no
idea of the politics. Rank-shifting’s as natural to us as changing shape. It
goes on constantly. Even for someone like Charlie. If he saw an advantage
in killing me, he’d take it. So would any of them. That must explain why
they waited until now,” he went on, more to himself. “Isolate me in a
foreign land, then go for the throat. You’re right, it probably isn’t Charlie.
It’s more likely Mother or Tamra.”
Carefully Darinda pried his hand off her wrist. “Who’d benefit from
He shrugged. “All of them. My sister and mother would be free of a
rival. The lower ranks could advance. You need suspects? Let me list my
relatives. We haven’t even gotten to my betrothed’s family or your Big
“That doesn’t leave you too many options.”
He slanted a calculating look up at her. “There’s you.”
“No, there isn’t. I’m—”
A squeal of tires interrupted her. Both she and Roderick looked up. A
police cruiser had pulled up to the curb just outside the shop. The chair
scraped back as Roderick stood. “Cousin Charlie.”
A London Werewolf in America 40
“Saves us a call.” Darinda trotted to the door and opened it just as
Charlie’s hand hit the knob. “Hi, Charlie. I’ll bet you’re looking for him.”
“Rod! Lycaon, this is a stroke of luck.” Charlie Meadows was a tall,
trim wolf with chestnut hair and a thick moustache. “Eugene called me, told
me what went down at the club. Why the hell didn’t you call somebody?
Mom’s going scatty.”
Roderick opened the wizard’s robe. “I seem to have misplaced my cell.”
“Uh huh. Darinda. Thanks for watching him. Mom told me you two
met. I was hoping maybe you could track him, but I see you’re way ahead.
Now.” He advanced on Roderick, all cop. “You want to fill me in? I
couldn’t get scat out of Eugene.”
Once again composed, Roderick recited chapter and verse of his recent
adventures. Darinda learned some additional facts, and noted the ones he left
out, such as his attackers’ awareness of his name and species. “Fortunately,”
he finished up, “I was able to find my way here. I was just about to call Aunt
Letty. Sorry for the delay.”
“Any idea who they were or why they went for you?”
Roderick shrugged. “They were monkeys. Who knows why monkeys do
“Probably a robbery. Kids after dope money. Speaking of which…”
Charlie pulled a leather wallet from his pocket and tossed it to Roderick.
“We recovered it from in front of the bar. You’ll have to tell me if
anything’s missing. Looks like the money’s intact.”
He riffled through the wallet. “Were my assailants still there when you
“Are they ever? Of course not. Probably took off when you turned into a
wolf right in front of them. I realize you were under duress, but— Lycaon’s
guts, Rod, this isn’t Chase Manor. We don’t do that in public here. The
humans are already leery of us. We don’t need any more bad press.”
“I’ll try to remember that next time I’m shot at.”
“Yeah.” Charlie sighed. “Sorry.” He glanced to Darinda. “He’ll never
tell me, so I’ll ask you. Was he hurt?”
“Not that I could see.” And she’d seen everything. The memory made
her quiver inside. Mind out of the gutter, she ordered herself.
“Yes, that’s the strange bit,” Roderick said. “I can understand how the
shooter would miss. Cars whizzing back and forth in the street and all that.
A London Werewolf in America 41
But the girl had me dead. Twice. And she missed, both times. Same for the
other’s chain. Nothing could touch me.”
“The weapons bounced off?” Darinda said. “Like they’d hit a force field
“More like slid around. It was awfully odd.”
Darinda nodded. “I think I know what happened. When you approached
me at the airport, did you notice anything unusual? Any strange sensations
“Well, when I first saw you, my heart sped up.” He smiled disarmingly.
She didn’t smile back. He let the smile and the charm both drop. “Now that
you mention it, I recall the color violet, of all things. And feeling full, like
after a big meal. Feeling…”
Great-aunt Sophia. That was it. His mind leapt to a pack gathering in the
deep forest, back when he’d been a small cub. He’d been drowsing in Greataunt
Sophia’s lap, full-fed and secure. Great-aunt Sophia wore her favorite
violet dress. “Safe,” he concluded. “I felt safe.”
“That must be it, then,” Darinda said to Charlie. “My brother was flying
back to Chicago. I put a protection spell on his plane. Roderick came up to
me while I was at it. He must have gotten caught in its sphere.”
“And it’s still operating?” Charlie said doubtfully. “After over a day?”
“It was a big plane. I cast a potent spell. It should fade by morning.
Protection spells are always temporary. I can give you a charm to improve
your luck, but that’s the best I can do.”
“Why?” Charlie pounced. “You think these people will try again?”
Should she mention the reading? She glanced at Roderick. His
expression begged her to keep quiet. “Maybe not them specifically,” she
said carefully. “Let me get you an amulet. Couldn’t hurt.”
“Yeah, okay.” She could tell Charlie had his suspicions, both as a wolf
and a cop. But without cooperation, he had to let it drop. “Lycaon bite it,
this better not be targeting. Rod, don’t walk the streets alone for a while.
There are places in the city even we stay out of, and you don’t know them
yet. And no more shifting in public. The were community tries to keep a low
profile. Big Alex’s orders.”
“I won’t shift if they don’t shoot.”
A London Werewolf in America 42
Charlie broke off at Darinda’s approach. She held a small pendant, a
simple red stone on a thin bronze chain. She handed this to Roderick. “For
luck. It won’t deflect a knife, but it might increase your chances.”
He bounced the pendant in his palm. It held a faint warmth, perhaps
from her hand. Her scent washed over him. He shot a grin at her. “So I’m
going to get lucky?”
With an almost lupine growl she shoved Roderick toward Charlie.
“Take him home before I shoot him.”
“The station first,” Charlie said, taking Roderick’s arm. “I want a full,
official account of what happened tonight. Humans, vampires, I don’t care.
Nobody jumps family and walks away clean. Thanks, Darinda. For
everything. You ever need help, just howl and we’ll hear you. I’ll send the
robe back in the morning.” He checked the street before he herded Roderick
outside. The two climbed into his car.
Darinda watched them pull away. Roderick’s smoldering stare was
locked on the window, and on her. She stepped back. She’d done all she
could to protect him, all any witch could do. It was up to him and his pack
now. The same pack that might have just tried to kill him. “Not my
problem,” she muttered to herself.
If only she could get the memory of those piercing yellow eyes out of
“Not my problem,” she repeated. It sounded even shakier this time.
Irritated at herself, she picked up Norman and cradled him, basking in his
warmth. “Wolves,” she crooned to him. “Let them chase their own tails,
Norman sighed. So did Darinda. Tonight wouldn’t end fast enough.
* * * *
Darinda was with a customer, and so couldn’t dash to the wall phone
when it rang at midmorning. She kept up her spiel on which herbs could do
what and tried to look more chipper and wide-awake than she felt. She’d
closed the shop at two a.m. and gone home to a fitful sleep, full of dreams
about wolves getting shot by gorillas. She thought about calling Charlie for
an update but didn’t want Roderick to hear about it. He didn’t need any
A London Werewolf in America 43
Peri snagged the phone. “Hey there! You’ve reached Set A Spell,
purveyors of all things witchy. I’m Peri. What can I do for you? Who?” She
glanced over her shoulder at Darinda and smirked. “‘Dahrinder’? She’s with
somebody. You want to hang on, or leave a message?”
He must have picked message, because Peri stayed on the phone but
turned her back for privacy. Darinda masked both a curse and a yawn and
focused on her sales pitch.
Ten minutes later, with a satisfied, herb-laden customer safely out the
door, Darinda steadied her voice and asked, “Who was that on the phone?”
“Like you don’t know,” Peri said with a maddening grin. “That was
your werewolf buddy. I said you’d call him back.”
“I don’t want to call him back.”
“I think you should. I don’t think he wants a date. He sounded all
Darinda came fully awake at once. He’d found something out. “Did he
leave a number?”
“On the pad.”
She didn’t dial right off. Don’t look too eager. Oh, Goddess. What was
she, in high school? She stabbed in the number. The strain in Aunt Letty’s
answering voice wiped all the vexation out of her. “Darinda? Oh, thank you
for calling. It’s been so horrible. Poor Roddy’s just beside himself.”
“Is that her?” Roderick came on the line. “Darinda. Thank you for
returning my call. I’ll be blunt. I want to hire you.”
“For what? I told you last night, there’s nothing more I can do.
Protection spells work, but only short-term. I know you think it’s a risk, but
really, you should confide in Charlie and let him—”
“Not as a witch, per se. I want to hire you as my bodyguard.”