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Blue Moon (Chapter 41)

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I sat next to Zee for quite awhile. No one bothered me. She'd been my best friend. My only friend. And I had loved her.

I didn't trust many people, but she had been one of them. Look where that had gotten me.

"Jessie?"

I glanced up. Mandenauer and Will hovered over me. There wasn't a wolf in sight.

"I've called my team," Mandenauer said. "They'll be here within the hour."

"Your team?"

"We have to do something about this, yes?" He indicated the empty clearing.

"What's this?"

He sighed. "Jessie, the wolves ran off when Zelda died."

"Won't they be cured now that she's dead?"

"There is no cure but the silver."

"Oh." I saw what he was getting at. "How are you going to figure out who's a werewolf?"

"A few of them I know. Miss Cherry, for instance. Karen Larson."

I shook my head. "I saw Karen get her brains blown out."

"With lead. She walked out of that morgue, and her principal, too."

"Clyde shot her," I insisted.

"Exactly. He knew better than to shoot one of his own with silver."

The conspiracies just kept on coming.

Mandenauer leaned over and removed the totem from Zee's neck. He held the thing aloft. The icon no longer glowed with evil, otherworldly light. It was a black stone, nothing more.

"Elise will want to study this." He pocketed the totem. Picking up Zee's torn trousers, he glanced at Will.

"Take Jessie home."

"No, wait. I'm okay." I shoved away Will's helping hand. "I don't understand. Why did she die? She said she was invincible."

"That is what they all say, but I have never found it to be true."

Mandenauer withdrew a creased sheet of paper from Zee's pocket. His eyes moved back and forth rapidly as he read it. Then he lifted his head and held the paper out to me.

I crossed the short distance and took the missing page from Will's book of ceremonies. Quickly I scanned the contents. There was nothing there I didn't already know, except for one last thing.

"As the blood of the one who loves gives life to the wolf god, only by that person's hand can the god be destroyed."

I let the paper flutter to the ground. "She died because I shot her."

"Yes."

I wasn't sure how I felt about that.

"Go home, Jessie. Sleep. We will talk tomorrow."

"Won't you be halfway across Canada chasing wolves by then?"

"Not yet." He nodded to Will. This time when Ca-dotte put his arm around me I let him.

I awoke to the sunshine and my own bed. I didn't remember how I'd gotten there. Will's car had been nearby; Zee had made him drive. I'd climbed into the passenger seat, and I must have fallen asleep or passed out, because the last thing I did remember was driving through the darkened forest in the direction of the highway.

I was alone and wearing nothing but my underwear. Not only had Cadotte carried me upstairs; he'd undressed me. Again.

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I took a shower, made some coffee. He'd left the note in the kitchen.

If you ever need me, you know where to find me.

Will.

What was that supposed to mean?

My mind tumbled back to last night. He'd been angry and hurt. I'd been a little preoccupied since. No time to discuss that anger.

What did he want from me? Could I give him what he needed?

I'd managed to use the L-word, but I didn't know if I was capable of actually loving someone.

Will still scared me more than the werewolves had. With him I had no control over myself. I gave him everything; I held nothing back. I wasn't sure if I liked that in me.

The doorbell rang. I didn't realize how hopeful I'd been until the sight of Mandenauer in the hallway made me sigh with disappointment.

"Come on in." I got him coffee. We sat at the kitchen table. "Any news?"

"We found a few."

I opened my mouth, then shut it again. I didn't want to know the details. At least not right now.

"The rest have scattered. My Jager-Suchers will disperse. We will hunt them down."

"I'm sorry." I rubbed at the ache in my chest, the one that bore Zee's name and probably always would. "I froze last night. You could have gotten them all and none of this would be necessary."

"You think this is your fault?" He appeared genuinely surprised as he shook his head. "No. The fault is mine. I was more careless than usual. My age, perhaps. A certain arrogance." He sighed. "Which is why I am here this morning. I wish for you to become one of us."

"A Jaeger-Sucher?"

"Yes. I must cut back on my field time. Not only because I appear to have lost my edge." His shoulders slumped. "But there is so much more administrative work to do now."

"Now?"

"The werewolf army Zelda created has increased the wolves a hundredfold. They will spread, as will the virus within them."

Hell. I hadn't thought of that. Mandenauer had been hunting and searching since WWII, and now there were more wolves instead of less. No wonder he was depressed.

"I have begun your training. With a little more work, you could do us proud. You would enjoy being a hunter-searcher. We make up our own rules as we go along."

I'd always liked rules, but in the last week and a half all I'd done was break them. Could I ever go back to the way things had been? Obviously Mandenauer didn't think so.

I got up and walked to the window. The sun was hot and strong. I couldn't believe how bright and cheery the world appeared. How could that be after all that had happened in Miniwa?

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"Does everyone in town know what went on here?"

"Hardly."

I turned. "How can we explain Zee and Clyde being gone –  just like that?"

"I have an entire division that deals with explaining disappearances. You need not trouble yourself over it."

I turned back to the sunshine. A secret society sanctioned by the government. Disappearances explained away by covert operatives. People who turned furry beneath the light of the moon. Little old ladies who wanted to be gods. And a whole host of other things I had yet to discover.

I had never liked woo-woo. If there was another world out there not rooted in a reality I understood, then the safe, rational universe I cherished crumbled. I liked things to make sense, because so little did.

But refusing to believe in the unbelievable didn't make it disappear. Instead it only got stronger.

I didn't think I could stay here and continue to pretend Miniwa was safe. I couldn't write traffic tickets and break up bar fights when out there werewolves roamed free.

A flash at the edge of the woods caught my attention. Something white bobbing along, coming closer and closer. I slid the glass door open and stepped outside, but the movement was gone.

"It's Cadotte," Mandenauer said from right behind me.

Since I'd been thinking, hoping, the same thing, the ache in my chest lightened as I leaned over the railing.

"If you decide to be a Jdger-Sucher you cannot have such an attachment."

It took me a moment to realize he hadn't been referring to the white flash in the woods but to Cadotte in general.

"Jager-Suchers must hunt supernatural evil, things that kill horribly. We cannot allow anyone to be used against us. Or hurt because of us. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

I understood. I had to choose. Will or the job. In the past it would have been an easy decision. Today, not so much.

As strongly as I felt about chasing werewolves, I felt more strongly about Will. I didn't want to go back to the life I'd lived before he'd come into it. I didn't think that I could. I needed him to be whole. The woman I'd become once I knew William Cadotte was the woman I wanted to be.

I turned away from the woods. "Thanks for the offer, but I'll have to chose Cadotte."

He blinked. "You what?"

"You heard me."

"But… but, Jessie. The world is being overrun."

"And I'm real sorry about that. But I love him. I never thought I'd feel that way about someone or have someone feel the same about me. I'm not giving that up. Not even to save the world."

He scowled and heaved a long, aggrieved sigh. "It has been nice working with you. You would have made a stellar addition to my team."

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He shook my hand, bowed over it with stiff formality, managed to refrain from clicking his heels; then with a final nod, Edward Mandenauer left the building.

"You tossed the world to the wolves for me?"

I shrieked and spun around. Cadotte stood on my balcony. "I hate it when you do that!"

"I should make more noise when I sneak up on you?"

"Damn straight," I grumbled, rubbing at my sternum, where my heart thudded and raced.

His ear had a Band-Aid; his arm was wrapped in gauze. One eye was nearly swollen shut. He'd never looked better to me.

Snaking his good arm around my waist, he yanked me against his body and kissed me –  for a good long while.

When he lifted his head, my eyes were heavy, but my heart still raced. He nuzzled my temple, kissed my hair. "No one ever gave up anything for me before."

"Yeah? Well, don't let it go to your head, Slick."

"I doubt you'll let me."

We stood there in each other's arms. I held on tight. I didn't want to let him go –  ever. "What are you doing here? Your note said I was supposed to come to you."

"I was afraid you wouldn't."

"You were wrong."

Will took my hand and led me into the apartment. I figured we'd head straight for the bedroom, but he surprised me by sitting on the couch and pulling me into his lap. "Tell me," he whispered.

I almost asked, "What?" except I knew. "I need you, Will. But –  "

"No buts. Just let me wallow in that awhile, hmm?"

I shook my head. If we were going to do this, and it appeared as if we were, I wasn't going to start with a lie. He had to know.

"I've never loved anyone before," I admitted. "I'm not sure I know how."

"Me, neither. We can learn together." He was annoy-ingly cheerful. I didn't think he was taking my doubts very seriously.

"I don't know if I can be what you need."

"You already are."

My belly went all warm and mushy. God, he was good at this. "I –  "

Will put his hand over my mouth and the doubts lay on my tongue unvoiced. "Jessie, I love you. I need you. I chose you. Do you feel the same way?"

I looked into my heart, my head, my past, then I looked at him, and I saw my future, I kissed his palm, and his hand fell away from my mouth. "Yes," I whispered.

"Then that's all I need."

Later, much later, as we lay in my bed and watched the sun dance on the ceiling, my phone rang. I ignored it, letting the machine pick up. Mandenauer's voice filled the room.

"Okay, Jessie, you can have Cadotte and the job. I suspect he can take care of himself anyway. In fact, ask him if he'd be interested in working with my research division. Then report to my cabin tomorrow morning."

The phone clicked off. I cuddled closer to Will's side. "Well?" I asked. "What do you think?"

"I am soon to be unemployed."

I twisted my head so I could see his face. "Why?"

"Summer school doesn't last forever."

"Interested in Mandenauer's offer?" I held my breath. I wanted that job, but I wanted Will more.

"Sure. What the hell?"

I couldn't believe my luck. I got to save the world and get the guy. Hey, not every girl finds a love that comes along once in a blue moon.

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