A moonbeam found its way through the blinds and speared me awake at around three o’clock. I rolled away from it, but my movement was echoed by a thud downstairs. I sat, all senses alert, and heard a scratching sound like boots scrabbling in sand.
I pulled the T-shirt I’d slept in over my head just before my hands curled into paws. My fingernails turned into claws, and the change came on from my extremities. It felt like I curled inward and folded into shapes no human body should endure. The fur itched as it pushed through pores I hadn’t had before, but I couldn’t control my paws enough to scratch it.
The final thing to change was my face, and that was the worst sensation, of someone taking my nose and pulling so hard it brought my skull with it.
Then the pain stopped, and a sense of strength, grace, and deadliness unfurled like a flag in my middle and filled me with purpose. To my wolf eyes, the room seemed awash in daylight—not moonlight—and my lips curled.
There was an intruder in my house, and I wanted to tear him or her apart.
No tearing apart, I reminded myself. Not unless I want a visit from that nice policeman later.
I jumped off the bed with as little noise as possible and slunk into the hallway and down the stairs. My fur was the same color as my hair—almost black—so I knew I would blend into the shadows.
Whereas the sulfurous smell had dissipated to my human nose, it was still very strong and present to my wolf nose. But that wasn’t what made me stop, all fur on end, when I turned toward the front hall. The sand I had stepped in glowed an opalescent blue, and I saw it was in a circle shape about three feet in diameter. I could see the panes of the front door through the ghostly figure that struggled in the middle of it.
My wolf brain, eminently practical, noted that I couldn’t do anything about a ghost because it wasn’t solid enough to be afraid of me, so I should just turn around and go back to bed.
But then I heard my name.
My ears perked up, and I moved closer, sticking to the darker patches. Why was the ghost calling my name? Was it a deceased family member visiting for the Festival of the Dead? What was I supposed to do about it?
“Kyra, where are you? I’m trapped. I just want to talk to you.”
The ghost pushed against some sort of invisible barrier. When I got close enough to make out its features, I gasped, which came out as a canine huff.
Jared Steel was the ghost trapped in the circle.
“What are you doing here? Are you dead?” I didn’t know if he would hear my mental voice, but he spun around.
“Where are you? I can’t see you.”
“I’m right here. It’s nighttime. Why are you here in my parents’ house? Are you dead?”
“No, I don’t think so. I think I’m dreaming.” He looked at his hands and grew more solid. I moved out of the shadows to sit in front of him, and he tried to back up, but he bounced against the back of the circle.
“Kyra, wherever you are, go! There’s a wolf.”
He looked so bewildered I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at him or comfort him. I still didn’t know whether he was dead, but I suspected not. If some wolves could spirit-walk, then I supposed some humans could, too.
I did want to know who had made a binding circle in my foyer, but I guessed it wasn’t my confused astral projection house guest.
And if he was projecting while he was asleep, I could have some fun. My instincts told me he didn’t realize he had this ability and would just write all this off to a strange dream in the morning.
As he came more into view, his attire resolved itself into shorts and a tight-fitting T-shirt that hugged the muscles of his upper arms, shoulders, and chest. Dark hair showed above the rim of the v-neck collar, and I licked my lips at the sight of his lightly fuzzed and nicely shaped legs.
Yes, Jared Steel was quite nice out of his work clothes, and I found myself disappointed that he didn’t sleep naked.